It doesn’t take a professional psychologist, counselor, pastor, or leader to tell us that relationships are challenging at best, or deteriorating at worst. The problems that are threatening our important relationships (i.e., marriages, children, parents, friends, co-workers, etc…) are numerous. At times it seems as if we are inventing new problems all the time as if we didn’t already have enough.
I’ve read many articles and books that define the problems we are facing. The list of threats could go on for pages, but certainly include Finances/Debt, Communication, Pornography, Divorce, Abuse, Alcohol, Television/Movies, Lack of Sexual Intimacy, Shame, Anger, Drugs, Busy Schedules, and much more… However, what is the #1 Threat to your Relationships?
Let me share a powerful story, I read some time ago in a book entitled, Connecting, by Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. He writes,
A friend of mine spent a weekend with a Christian ministry for troubled young people. During a morning session of the residents and their parents, a young woman rose to address the group.
With trembling lips and tears of shame streaming down her face, she said, “I’ve been a prostitute for the last three years. I am so sorry.”
As she stood there, paralyzed by her vulnerability, her father left his seat, walked to the front of the room, embraced the shaking girl, and said, “When I look at you, I see no prostitute in you. You’ve been washed. I see my beautiful daughter. (xviii)
I can only imagine the sorry and sadness this father experienced in his daughter’s confession. He may have been embarrassed, felt like a failure himself, or even disgusted by his daughter’s behavior. Instead, he offered grace and acceptance. You see… the #1 Threat to your Relationships is REJECTION.
Now please understand me, offering grace and acceptance is not condoning one’s behavior, but REJECTION is the death-sentence to any relationship. REJECTION devalues the inherent worth of an individual, no matter how bad their behavior has been. It strips away the hope and healing that can only be found when grace and acceptance are offered freely, and unmerited.
Let me clarify something. When major pain is inflicted upon a relationship because of issues of repetitive physical/sexual abuse, or on-going unfaithfulness in a marriage it is necessary for some relationships to change. So when a wife experiences an issue like the two listed above, she may need to respond to her husband’s rejection of their marriage covenant through separation or divorce. These are the extreme situations.
On the norm, we should lead with Grace and Acceptance in our relationships. Without Grace and Acceptance, we send the message, “I love and receive you as mine, only when you’re perfect or meet my expectations.” Of course, this is an impossible standard causing most to either hide in the relationship or to run to a new relationship that makes them feel valuable or worthy of love.
Long-term, healthy and growing relationships Reject-REJECTION! The father in the above story was not accepting his daughter’s behavior, but he did accept her as a daughter. How might we respond in the same way to our relationships?