The Termites of Relationships
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. | Romans 12:18
Have you ever been misinterpreted? If so, did it leave you bitter or angry?
I have. Most recently, by a boy. I wanted to be his friend, terribly. He painted a picture for me of who he was and I wanted that painting in my life. I’d never seen the art he described before, so I admired it. I wanted his guidance, his counsel, his approval. Most of all, I simply wanted this guy to value me the way I valued him. But…he didn’t.
If you’re anything like me, sweeping things under the rug is passive and irrational. We’re going to talk about the elephant in the room and carry on like adults. Our friendship started because I hadn’t seen him around as often. I reached out in an effort to get a pulse on how he was doing and based on his response did what no wise woman should ever do: I offered accountability.
I realized the naivety in my decision quickly thereafter and, in true “address the elephant” fashion, confessed that I was attracted to him and needed to guard my heart. Now, by heart, I quite literally meant flesh. (Dear Men: women are unfortunately capable of compartmentalizing too!) And there began a war I’d eventually learn I can never win.
You cannot change the mind or heart of someone convinced in their own version of the truth.
In my mind — I’m also attracted to men on TV I’ve never met. Unfortunately, since I war with the flesh, I’ve lusted after those individuals a time or two…maybe three. (Don’t’ judge!) However, heartbreakingly, I never expected this honesty to create a stigma of who I was and what my motives were. I never expected that with this honesty, I would be placed in a box.
Perhaps, the most maddening thing was listening to this guy vehemently claim that he treated me the same despite displaying on his own accord the contrary. I was never invited to hang out at a social activity. I was never reached out to for a gauge on how I was doing. Sometimes, when I reached out, I received no response. And even when I made an attempt to crash an activity, I was provided with the bare minimum details. Friends, I had done all the above and never had it reciprocated. I spent time convincing myself otherwise of what I knew deep down in my compass to be true.
Now, fast forward a bit and imagine dragging one of your best gal pals into this guys territory and hearing her verbally say that she wants to leave because she feels no effort being made to include either of you.
Everything you’ve vocalized to that guy immediately comes rushing and in an instant, it’s confirmed that you’re not as irrational as you were made to feel. Someone else now personally recognizes the distant behavior. It was affirmed that I wasn’t crazy and an anger crept in that could only result in complete silence as not to verbally assassinate someone’s character.
Friends, we hurt others when the way we treat them is based off of our assumptions. Even innocent ones:
When you assume you know what they meant, without asking.
When you assume they know where you stand, without asking.
When you assume you’re on the same page, without asking.
When you assume you understand who they are, without asking.
Get my drift? Every one of those sentences ends with “without asking” intentionally. When you don’t ask clarifying questions, you leave room for confusion, room for hurt, and room for Satan to play!
It reminds me of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Remember her advances?
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. | Genesis 39:9–10
The Bible tells us that Joseph was well built and handsome. (Haha, thank you for those details God!) Potiphar’s wife sees something she likes and advances. Pay close attention to “day after day.” This tells us that she approached Joseph more than once and Joseph repeatedly denies her because of his obedience to his Lord & Savior. Not because she is not beautiful. Not because she’s being a savage. But out of obedience to whom he serves is the only reason we’re provided.
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. | Genesis 11–12
This time, she grabs him and Joseph not only walks, but runs away from her! aka Pride destroyed. She had to have a pretty solid grip on this young man to be left behind with his cloak! Now, even though Potiphar’s wife is most certainly being a trollup, let’s put ourselves in her shoes for just a very brief second.
- You put yourself out there and you have been rejected on multiple occasions.
- You hear him talk about a God you don’t serve, so there is a misunderstanding of his priorities.
- You’re used to getting whatever you want and this guy not only walks away from you, but runs!
Misplaced emotions start to arise, and from a heart not postured to ask or understand comes this:
“She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.” | Genesis 39: 16–20
When we are unable to humbly ask questions we reveal a lack of maturity; a misunderstanding of Joseph’s intent leads to a gross overreaction.
Have you ever done the right thing and been punished?
As you can imagine, a multitude of days have gone by where I regretted ever confessing I needed to guard my flesh. It seems like the moment I did so, I ruined the chance of ever having an authentic friendship with this person. However, I know that of all the things that went wrong, it was perhaps the most important thing I did right.
I’m guilty of going above and beyond to prove that I was “safe.” Over explaining every single thing I said as to avoid another overreaction. I wanted nothing more than for this person I valued to simply see that I was not as complicated as he interpreted. Countless conversations replayed themselves on the exact same topic because I was trying so hard to change a mind. Every time I asked for the same effort I saw displayed with others, I was made to feel as if I was asking for a ring.
Man has often convinced himself that he is capable of changing another; only to be humbled by God for trying to play His role.
It’s not the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned, but certainly not lacking in it’s hurt. The painting is not as finished as I thought it was and I wish I could tell you I’m like Joseph and have accepted the smudges on my hands with a pure heart. I wish I could speak to you as I write this from a place of forgiveness and healing. But the truth is, there lies a nasty bitterness and an anger in my heart, still. Satan plays in the space where assumptions were made and tells me I was not worthy of the same effort others received. Friends, we go to town boxing with one another and here’s some truth I’d like to share with you if you’re battling the unbelief of bitterness:
If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. | Matthew 6:15
No one is forgiven who is unwilling to be forgiving:
I am not perfect and this is my side of the story. I wish I could tell you the other side, but I’m not owed that narrative. While I cannot own the entire demise of this friendship, I know in some way I’ve contributed. I consider myself a Christian, and if I believe what I say I believe, then I must forgive seventy times seven; for I have been forgiven of much.
The battle against bitterness in our hearts is not an effort to work our way to heaven. It’s a battle to believe the Word of God, and bank on the promises of his grace. The reality is, to remain unforgiving is to put our salvation in question. The reason being is not because we don’t work hard enough for God, but because we don’t trust in his willingness to work hard enough for us.
Friend, this entire letter is confession of one of the easier sins to hide. No one who sees me or spends time in my company would know this hate is festering, lest they be trusted counsel. So today, if you’ve made it through reading this far and can relate, I’d like to intercede on your behalf to my Abba and I ask that you do the same for me:
Father, your wisdom is seldom heard in our society…and far less heeded. If my friend has gotten this far, then you have his/her attention. Give them whatever it takes to refrain them from carnal reactions. Make us a people who desire to grow closer to you in what may sometimes feel like painful obedience than apart from you in temporary fleshly satisfaction. Remind us that unforgiveness only poisons our hearts and separates us from you. May it never be that we would desire to hurt another over choosing eternal life with you. Soften hard hearts and open closed ears. Make us a people who desire your version of peace, no matter what the cost.
Friend I cannot wait to write to you again when I can sincerely let my anger go. I cannot wait to profess how much protection is in this rejection. I’m not sure how long it will take me, but I promise you not to stay in the sin Jesus died to free me from.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” | Romans 12:19 — 20