This is the first in a series of articles on Spiritual Partnerships.
Do you look up to, or down on your friends?
If you find that you usually find friends to look down on, you are probably a ‘fixer’ and fill the insecurities and voids of your life by maintaining relationships that make you feel helpful, and ‘better’ than others.
If you find that you usually look up to the people in your life (much, much more holy, right?), you are probably insecure, and unable to establish yourself as a whole, without the interactions and influence of others. This is not an indication of humility, as much as a red flag for a lack of wholeness in your heart. You are probably attracted to the people in the paragraph above.
I am struck by my own feelings towards friendships. I often find myself thinking that someone is like-minded and will be suitable for a friendship, only to find myself bored with their superficial thinking and lifestyle, or repulsed by their inability to be truthful and real. I have been blindsided by too many people that looked spiritual, but did not have the same goal for the relationship.
My #1 Relational Goal:
……………. to find spiritual partners for equal growth.
I want to look straight across at my friends!
My past history with friendships seems anything but normal, if you compare it with the shallow, fast-paced relationships that seem to be the norm, nowadays. I used to see groups or pairs of ladies having lunch, or shopping together, and I would wish, for an instance, that I had a group to hang out with. Those gals always seem to be laughing a lot, and having way more fun than I had in my life. I always ask myself at those times, “Holly, what is your problem? Why can’t you ever be the person that 5 other fun ladies want to gather around? What is the matter with you that you cannot seem to bond with other ladies, in a lasting, satisfying way?” This left me feeling down and like something was terribly out-of-sync, for years.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I have had long friendships and what seemed like deep relationships over the years. But almost each one, had to go, as I grew and changed, and my vision of what makes a great relationship varied. I also made some bad choices in those friendships due to my own lack of completeness. It left me utterly hurt and angry at times, and I often blamed them for the collapse of our relationship. Only until I was able to be truthful about myself, was I able to be truthful about my friends and to make better choices.
Recently, I have been able to voice my thoughts in this area, and to resolve the inner conflict in my soul. I no longer think there is anything “wrong” with my desire for deep, satisfying, and genuine friendships. On the contrary, I am finding that what I desire, is what God created us all to long for, but what is missing in our society and culture. Knowing what it is I am looking for in a relationship will help me avoid ending up with the wrong thing in the end. And, this type of honesty allows me to work on myself, to become the type of person that is ready for a really great relationship.
Lastly, knowing that my soul-longings are God-given, and that they are applicable for any type of relationship I desire for my life, helps me to put my trust in Him. I no longer fret about not being able to have a group of fun women to hang out with, as that no longer represents normalcy to me. Normal, perhaps, to those who have lost their God-given desire for things that really feed the soul, and cleanse it. Normal, to those who are afraid of “real”, and want to numb their pain, but not to those who have delved deeper and are more self-aware.
Part One: Friendships
Friends don’t rock the boat, but spiritual partners love to swim. They are not afraid of the water.
Have you ever noticed that your friends try to console you, make you feel better, and assuage the negative feelings you are experiencing? Have you also noticed that they expect the same from you?
Have you been in one of those relationships with someone that creates their own drama, but then expects you to listen, defend, and support their decisions? Did that feel like a huge turn-off? Did you eventually feel as though you were mismatched in your relationship with that person? Did you end the relationship at some point due to the misalignment of needs and feelings?
Perhaps you were really looking for a spiritual partnership with that person, but didn’t have the vocabulary or self-awareness to express that to yourself, or them. I have done this many times in my life, as mentioned above. I didn’t have a good understanding of what I was looking for, so didn’t have my antennae up and looking for the right type of person to be in relationship with. In fact, since I was in the dark about this, it is unlikely that someone that could be a spiritual partner for me, would be finding me, either. That person would know I was in the dark, and that would not be attractive to them.
We cannot hope to attract the right kind of people into our lives, if we ourselves are not the right kind of people. If you find yourself in a pattern of failed friendships, it is important to ask, “Am I the kind of person that will attract the right kind of people?
What is: “the right kind of person”?
- I am wholly my own person, without the influence or sustenance of another.
- I am aware of my personality, foibles, weaknesses, and strengths.
- I am willing to confess my sins with another. (Notice I didn’t say, TO, another. That would not be equal.)
- I am aware of the areas of my personality that are afraid, sad, insecure, or hurting.
- I am willing to share those areas with the right (safe) person. I know that sharing and uncovering those wounds is the only route to true joy and healing.
- I am adamant that truth be the center of my relationships. That cuts both ways, or I am unequally yoked.
- I am aware that platitudes are there to numb the pain, but truth is there to heal.
- I am looking for someone to challenge my thinking, and help me think another way about something that has me stuck.
- I am looking to grow as a separate, but inter-related person.
Friends want to huddle together to protect each other from the wind. Spiritual partners are the ones that will ask you why the wind is blowing.
Do you have a friend in your life who will challenge your current thinking, feelings and reactions? Does this person help you learn to respond, or react? Do they look down on you, try to fix you, or constantly look for your help, while offering none of their own? Is this person safe enough for you to pull back the cloak that covers your wounds, and show them the puss that is oozing from them? Can they look at your scars, and keep themselves from turning around and rubbing that area raw? But DO, in turn, bring your attention to the salve that is available to diminish that scar?
If not, here is an…
Read, Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t (Kindle Version here) along with the the companion workbook to learn if you are a safe person, and if the people you are allowing into your soul, are safe, mutual, and whole. This book is written by the dynamic duo of Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Christian authors, presenters and co-directors of the Minirth Meier New Life Clinics in CA.
Book description reads, “Countless individuals have invested themselves into people who’ve shipwrecked their lives in return. If you’re one who has chosen the wrong people to get involved with, or makes the same mistakes about relationships over and over again, then the Safe People Workbook offers you a hands-on remedy. The Safe People Workbook may be the most important safety manual you’ll ever read!“
- Take stock of the relationships in your life, and see if you are in spiritual partnerships, or spiritual shipwrecks. Is that other person pulling you down, down, down into the dark waters, or swimming beside you, cheering you on? Ask yourself if each relationship propels you BOTH to further growth, or if progress is one-sided. Create a written list of all you call friend, and see if they are in these important categories:
Pray about how God would have you deal with a mismatched or broken-down relationship. Some are so toxic, you will need to distance yourself, and sometimes, there is a little drama when that happens. That is okay. Do what you need to do. Everyone will survive.
If you are being abused in a relationship, I advise you to make your immediate exit to a safe place, while you work on yourself, and become the “right kind of person”. You will be much more able to make a decision about the relationship, when you are away from it, and working on yourself. What you thought you could accept from another person will not look so appealing with some time and distance. Give yourself the gift of those two things, and ask yourself again in 6 months, if you think you can deal with the lack of equality in the relationship.
Some are worth salvaging, but will tempt you into unsafe behaviors, unless you work very hard at your own change. A correction in course, by one person, WILL change how you relate. The ship will not continue in the same direction. You will know if you can be the “right kind of person” and still be in relationship with them. Trust your gut. It will be correct, even when your mind and emotions say something else. (This is called being self-aware.) Listen to it, keenly.
If you feel like proceeding with a salvage attempt, be aware that it can be the most frightening and yet, exhilarating experience you will ever be part of. To roll over and bare your underbelly fully to someone is horribly frightening if you have been hurt in the past. And yet, you will never know full confidence, freedom and joy, if you cannot ever achieve this position. To know I have faults and to be loved anyway, is the closest example of God’s love for me that I can enjoy here on this earth. We yearn for this love, and yet get into relationships wherein we cannot possibly trust the other person with our completeness, hurts and all. Therefore we can always say, “I just don’t get that kind of love. It just isn’t for me.” Perhaps, my friend, it is that YOU are not for that kind of love. Unless you know yourself fully, and stop trying to hide your angry and hurt areas, you cannot be in a spiritual partnership.
I encourage you to seek and enjoy many spiritual partnerships over your lifetime. They will change as you get to know yourself more, and as you get to know what it means to be in one. Start today being the “right kind of person” that will attract the kind of people into your life that will help you feel safe, secure, and able to grow into the person that God can use to benefit others. We cannot do kingdom work, when we are crippled.
Remember the parable I am referring to? Why does Christ ask the crippled man, “Do you want to be made well?” in John 5:6? You would think that his being at the pool would indicate that the man wanted to be made whole. However, Jesus realized that human nature is such that we tend to get sympathy and attention when we are not well. We use these things as a crutch, or as a human shield to keep others at arm’s length, but don’t realize how much freedom and exuberance we lose doing so. He also tells the healed man to “go and sin, no more.” Jesus was telling him to stop being a cripple and to do the hard work of being a whole person.
Ask God today, to help you lay aside the crutches you walk with, and to run and jump and praise His name for healing you!
Stay tuned for my upcoming articles on this principle at work in your marriage, your children, and your church.