Remember that day you butted heads with your husband? Remember the things your mother said that hurt you? Remember the lies your child told you that upset you? Remember the way they rebelled and talked back that broke you? Remember that nasty boss who only found fault and put you down? Remember how she walked out on you to date your best friend? Remember that teacher who intentionally denied you marks?
I have found that the hurts from past and present challenges make us more susceptible to hurting one another. They significantly change how we deal with life and respond to people around us. In time, we have lower bandwidth for people and things leading to very little patience. In life, we are the sum total of what happens to us and must be deliberate about how we deal with it. We must be careful to actually unpack and deal with things and do it well.
Hurt people, hurt others…
Life is full of opportunities for people, circumstances and incidents that make or break us. Every situation that challenges us shapes how we see life. Every event either brightens or taints our view. Every interaction significantly shifts our trajectory. We do not have much control of how others respond to us but our responses to them is all our prerogative.
I find that I have less bandwidth for many things. In the past, I would feel bad if I was not able to go to every memorial service, burial, wedding, get together etc. I would beat myself over calls missed and returned late, messages slipped through the cracks, the lack of an appropriate answer or even uncertainty where we stand. I took responsibility for other people’s responses so when things did not work, I would be sure I could have done more, but was that totally true? Not really…there are so many other possibilities beyond my control.
Relationships are two-way streets and must add value to life or they are not useful.
Relationships change as prevailing circumstances change. We could have been friends for a long time then one of us moves to another country or city and the relationship dwindles. Or a once great friendship changes when one or both parties go through a life changing experience. Or there is a disagreement that is not resolved that makes the relationship disintegrate. Or life just gets extremely busy and there is little to no time to cultivate the relationship and keep it alive.
The flip is also possible. Two friends are apart for a long time and one day you meet and reconnect as if you never stopped speaking. Or God places someone on your heart and though you have never met, you pray for them with clarity and certainty. Or a long-standing friendship gives stability to life and the respective parties are doing so well.
Either way, we are called to live and travel light so we must be vigilant.
To know where we are we must regularly assess our relationships. We must be honest with ourselves and find out what is working and why or what is not working and why. We must talk about things, deal with them and when we cannot deal, be honest about it. We must ask for what we need, be sure to be clear about and if not heard the first time, keep asking. Its is important to identify who makes us feel undervalued or less than who know we are then distance ourselves. Find out who makes us cringe when they come near and use that information to recalibrate our lives. Are there those who care about us and encourage us? Let us draw strength from them. Are there those who stand with us in prayer? Be sure to keep them close.
Sometimes the toxicity in our lives is from the nearest and dearest and we often say there is nothing we can do about it but that isn’t always true. Even if it is a toxic sibling, parent or spouse measures can and must be take to shield ourselves from the toxicity because it will kill parts of us in the long run. In the Afrikan context of always being nice to people it is harder to step away from toxicity but it is imperative to do so to keep mentally healthy. Have I done it? Absolutely! Was it easy? Nope, but it was necessary to guard my mental health so I did.
I strongly believe that I am better off with three solid growing friendships or relationships that are give and take than fifteen that do not push me to be the best I can be or that draw all my strength. I made a choice that I will no longer entertain relationships that do not grow me, that steal my joy or are just there. I will no longer be bound to people who I cannot help grow and who cannot help me become all that God has seen me to be.
There is no space in this inn for joy stealers.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. When Christ said “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,” He knew we would have to make drastic choices to ensure the work we are assigned gets done on time and well. He knew we would have to choose who to relate with, how deeply, how often, how long and why. He was also deliberate when He chose twelve to be with him all the time and he knew that one of them would not make it to the end yet he still made that choice.
I have chosen to find strength in my tribe and grow to the fullness God saw and established before the foundations of the earth. Join me and let us focus on being the best we can be so that when our work here is done, there will be only rejoicing and no regrets for things yet undone.