Relationships can really complicate one’s life, can’t they? I recently got an email from a dear friend of mine explaining how complex his relational life has become. That lead me to writing this newsletter, with a more generic focus. I am going to address three general challenges that, if not managed well, can keep you (and perhaps others) trapped in a toxic and unhappy environment. I write this, not in a dogmatic, I-know-it-all kind of way, but as a student of life, still learning while inviting you to reflect and learn with me.
Firstly, the challenge of ego and woundedness. All human beings grew up in an imperfect world where imperfect people interact, disappoint and wound each other. Most of us have our triggers. You have learned to cope and relate in healthy and unhealthy ways, so have others. You show up with your ego and so do others. A pastor friend once said “the I must die” and (in Afrikaans) “die ek moet vrek”. He meant that, in order to relate well, you have to let go of some of those unhelpful walls and ego-strategies. Ego refers to your false-self, the self you believe yourself to be, the self that you want to protect and defend, the self that can be so oversensitive and fast to react or put you in a victim mode.
A life that revolves around oneself can become very lonely, empty, dysfunctional and troublesome. We build emotional walls and hide behind them in all kinds of ways. And often we can be so stuck in this. To deal with the past and its pain, letting go of past failures and self-fulfilling prophecies (even if it means help, therapy or counseling) is a continuous process. From there we can re-focus, become other-focused, and start living a life of contribution, giving and serving. You can also love knowing
realistically that others are hurting and struggling too. This kind of life is liberating and far more meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding – full of love, intimacy and joy.
And then there is the perspective challenge. So often we see life only from our own perspective as if that is the only possible and true view. If I draw the number 6 between you and me, I will see a 6 and you will see a 9. The challenge is for us to truly listen and being willing to step into each other’s boots to see life from another perspective. In this way we build collective truth that allows us to relate and collaborate towards solutions much easier.
The third challenge is that of boundaries and expectations. Some people can be difficult, and at times even risky to love. (I am sure some people have put me in that category at times). This topic is too wide to address in depth. But let me say this: Some people in your intimate circle of friends and family you can and should love freely and unconditionally in proximity. Others you should love with lots of wisdom. I am referring especially to those who tend to be self-entitled, dysfunctional, and maybe abusing or trouble-making. Lowering all your walls and welcoming them into your personal space with all you are, do and know, can be dangerous. Yes, I know vulnerability has, with Brené Brown’s help, become the in-thing, and I support what she stands for – especially realness and authenticity. But you should be wise and realistic in this – even Jesus, I think, had “different strokes for different folks”. You, as a mere human, can not be everything to everybody. We should strive to love and care for everybody, but let’s do it in a way that is appropriate, wise and helpful.
These are only three of many relational challenges. Let’s use our heads and hearts in this. Let’s be wise and loving, and keep on learning. You need other people and we need you. Go then, and unselfishly be a blessing to those around you! And do it while making sure that you stay healthy, energised and happy yourself so that you can keep on being a blessing in a sustainable way!