Relational meltdowns leave me reeling. As weird as it may sound, I experience what I imagine suffocation would feel like: desperation turning to panic, then helplessness, hopelessness, and finally, defeat. I know, how dramatic. But perhaps you can relate on some level.
These are not relationships I can walk way from. Yet with some, I find that my efforts at understanding and reconciliation are often not particularly successful. That’s where the desperation comes from.
I lose a fair amount of sleep over my interactions with certain difficult personalities and I expend a great deal of energy trying to figure out my best emotional defense against others.
Conflicts with people I’m required to remain in relationship with affect me deeply.
I’ve tried the “drop the rope” technique, where you refuse to engage with the person provoking you (because you can’t have a tug of war if only one person is holding the rope). That may keep you from getting mud on yourself, so to speak, but it does little to resolve things long-term.
I’ve tried the “take a beat” technique, where you pause briefly before you react, with the idea that you’ll have an opportunity in that moment to measure your response and theoretically respond more appropriately. That works, but it takes a lot of discipline (and a Costco-sized supply of Tums).
I’ve tried “adjusting my lens”. Longfellow once said, “We may meet a man and think him cold when he is merely sad.” Good point, so you try to give the benefit of the doubt and realize you may not have the whole story behind the confrontation. Maybe the other person has other things on their mind and it’s not about you; you’re just collateral damage. Still, that’s not okay.
I’ve tried the “ostrich” technique, where you pretend they aren’t causing you pain. You basically ignore their hurtful salvos. You disable notifications or – if necessary – block them completely from your social media feed. Of course, you still have to interact with them IRL, but at least you’ve taken control of what you can.
“Techniques” are helpful, so I’ll keep practicing them. (In fact, if you have any to add, I’ll try those, too. Thanks.) But they’re never going to fully heal the challenging relationships in my life at their core. Probably not in yours, either.
At best, the above measures address the symptoms and maintain a semblance of civility in the moment. That’s a good thing. But you still find yourself in a powder keg environment where things could blow at any moment, right? All those Tums come in handy.
Here’s what I know: Only God can truly heal the underlying shame, blame, and pain that leads to the relational damage we all deal with. He’s the key to resolving this mess. But that’s all I know.
I don’t know how He’ll do it, or when, or even whether, this side of eternity. I just know He’s capable and He’s the answer.
Writer Michelle DeRusha says,
“Mumbling and chanting, begging and pleading, thanksgiving and praise, petition, song, gesture, breath and even wordless attention – all are ways to turn in the direction of God. All are prayers.”
So when I struggle, I turn in the direction of God and pray, rather inelegantly, I admit. At times, it’s little more than a gasp. I have no words, no suggestions, no answers. Just needs.
I exhale and surrender the person I’m in conflict with to the One who heals, the One who transcends every technique we can muster. Then I inhale Christ’s love, which is always available to me as His child, and invite Him into the damaged relationship.
It’s more than a conflict-resolution strategy; it’s a sweet, holy emptying-and-filling. I call it breathing Jesus.
This is what I’ll keep doing until He answers. And He will. He won’t let me suffocate.
How do you deal with the complicated relationships in your life?
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- Gosh, people are a mess - May 12, 2016
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- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
- The holiness of a four-way stop - April 13, 2016