It Takes Two to Trust

This week I was listening to an audio book by John Maxwell when this quote about trust hit me right between the eyes! The funny thing is, this was a leadership book, not a relationship book per se, but John Maxwell is famous for discussing the important personal integrity qualities that equip us to lead, so naturally, relationships are involved. This quote caused me to contemplate for several days that there is something very dysfunctional and wrong with the way most of us process trust in our relationships. Not just intimate relationships, but also friendships, business relationships and even the trust we choose to give or take away in our hearts towards people in positions of authority that we likely have never even met face to face.

Most of the time when we think about trust, we place the majority of the responsibility of “earning” or maintaining our trust on another person, while considering ourselves the potential victim of what the other person may or may not do to us or for us. On one hand this puts us in a high and mighty sort of position when we believe we can be the judge to decide whether or not someone is “worthy” of our favor, support or continued trust. On the other hand, it also sets us up to see ourselves as a powerless victim of the outcome if things don’t go well. In other words, we are handing over a whole lot of emotional power to another person, and failing to take responsibility for much of it, if any at all.

To complicate things further, we also tend to tie in our respect with that trust so if we believe someone has lost our trust, they have most likely lost our respect as well. Since we are also somewhat skewed as a society on the topic of respect, the tendency is to observe behaviors (and/or rumors) and treat people accordingly. The problem with this is that we are not all-knowing so our system fails us when we mistreat or elevate the status or “value” of someone based upon our limited knowledge, or perceived experience of trust or reputation. Yeah, go ahead and re-read that! We don’t know the whole story, or the fine details about anyone or anything so we don’t have the ability to judge the value of a person based upon our experiences. This works both directions and we have all experienced the pain of being misjudged or even defamed by someone who simply didn’t know all of the facts. There is only one who knows all and he has placed his value upon every single human he created. Yes, even the ones who have done horrible, unthinkable things (-that’s all of us if you’re paying attention).

Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:7 of the “love chapter” that says “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things”. I struggled with the “believes all things” portion for a long time because it just sounded so naive! We all know of situations or have experienced situations where somebody believed someone that continually lied to them and they looked like a fool, were cheated out of, cheated on, taken for granted, abused or used. What I didn’t understand was that the bible wasn’t teaching a gospel of co-dependency and that this scripture passage is not about denial or living in a pretend world. How did I come to this conclusion? I read and read and read about the life of Jesus and I took note of how he handled people who loved him, as well as those who opposed him. I noticed that his only agenda was to follow the plan he and the father had purposed for him to accomplish on the earth. He was not swayed toward any other agenda- regardless of how noble it could have been. This often caused conflict for those who wanted to influence his purpose to something else. I watched his responses and found myself completely amazed at the things Jesus did, said, and often the things he didn’t say! I noticed that Jesus often didn’t feel obligated to answer “loaded” questions that were hurled at him and he usually answered those types of questions with a question of his own. This usually exposed the motive of the person asking, and sent them away in their own shame.

If you want to know how Jesus handled the issue of trust on a very personal level, read Matthew 26. Jesus had 12 disciples walking with him for his 3 years of ministry. They were a tight group and although he had crowds of thousands following him around everywhere, these 12 men were among his inner circle. They were always together and he always seemed to know what they were thinking- so much so that he often responded out loud to things they were only thinking internally. It should have been no surprise to them when they were eating the last passover supper together and Jesus announced to them all that one of them was going to betray him. I think it’s funny that none of them asked Jesus *how* he knew. Instead they were all shocked and concerned asking “surely it isn’t me?” So Jesus further explained the severity of the betrayal and said that not only was the betrayer one of his friends seated at the table and eating with him at that moment, but that the offense would be so bad that it would be better for that man to have never been born. Judas, who was in the middle of a betrayal deal with the chief priests and elders was at the table pretending to be as surprised as the rest of them. When they all started questioning Jesus “surely it isn’t me?”, Judas chimed in with the same question, trying to appear just as sincere and genuinely concerned as the other disciples but Jesus looked right at him and said “You have said it yourself”. Can you imagine what Judas felt at that moment? He was completely exposed! He had no way out of that and Jesus didn’t have to say anything else. Jesus simply pointed out the truth that somebody there was going to betray him, and allowed the truth itself to draw out the lie and the liar. What really strikes me here is that Jesus knew Judas was betraying him the entire time, but he still allowed him in the fellowship of the group and he treated him no differently. He didn’t secretly hold a grudge, or even keep a short leash of mistrust on Judas. He allowed the full vulnerability of the offense and treated him like a friend the entire time. He did, however, fully acknowledge the betrayal without pretending he didn’t know. This part is SO important!! This is what changes the situation from being one of co-dependent, enabling, “look the other way” naive, kind of denial relationship to a fully truthful, fully aware and fully vulnerable kind of relationship.

Jesus looked at that betrayal right in the face, acknowledged it for what it was and allowed the full vulnerability of it to happen without any self-preservation type of behavior.

I also find it interesting that Jesus didn’t make himself a victim in it. Obviously we all understand that this needed to happen in order to get to the cross, but this still would have been a painful thing for Jesus because he treated Judas like a friend in his inner circle for three years. When Jesus spoke about the severity of the consequences he talked about what this betrayal would do to Judas and not how hurt he was by the betrayal. This is a perfect picture of love. Later on when Judas showed up at the garden of Gethsemane with a large crowd armed with weapons, he gave Jesus the famous kiss of betrayal, and Jesus said to him “Friend, do what you came for”. This is more powerful than we realize. Jesus was not naive, he was not silent and he was not a doormat when he looked at Judas in the face during the very act of betrayal and still called him “friend”. I really believe this is why the guilt of this betrayal was so difficult for Judas that he returned the silver he was given to betray Jesus and ended his own life the very next morning.

Love is not love without full vulnerability and love is not love without full honesty. In order to fully give and receive love, we have to do it with the full acceptance of that vulnerability. If any of our relationships are struggling it is pretty much a guarantee that there is a deficit in the area of honesty or trust, but probably both. We can’t have love on any level without honesty and trust. Trust means that I take you at your word up to the very point that you betray me with it. When that happens I do not pretend it didn’t happen and I don’t make excuses for your betrayal. I love you in the face of it and allow you the opportunity to see it and make it right without overstepping my place by trying to devalue who you are because of what you did. You are still made in the image of God and the betrayal did not change your value. This is so important because the same scenario flips around when I am the one that is the betrayer in the relationship. (Notice I did not say “if”). Next comes forgiveness, and although this is a whole different topic, we can’t complete this relationship cycle without talking about it. We don’t have the luxury of holding back our forgiveness. We extend it, even when we don’t feel it and the responsibility of the betrayal (or offense) stays with the person that did the wrong.

We have to understand that withholding honesty, trust or forgiveness will not protect us from getting hurt. It will only ensure that we have no opportunity to experience real love and intimacy because we have denied the vulnerability that makes love valid.

By now you may be wondering how to apply this to something you have been going through for a long time. Me too! I want to be careful that I don’t portray this as a quick fix, magical remedy. Some of us have been managing relationships like this for years and years, and have developed, or learned a long pattern of co-dependent behavior. This pattern is not going to suddenly turn around with one honest conversation. This is going to have to be an intentional and very vulnerable choice made over and over again to reverse a pattern we made with not only ourselves, but with others.

We are the “other person” on the other side of our relationships, and we are going to have to be honest and vulnerable with ourselves and in our relationships without exception. This can only happen if the person that is face to face with us can trust us as well, and know that we love them enough to be fully honest and fully vulnerable in our relationship with them, even in the face of betrayal.

L♡ve is

Have you noticed that there are a lot of memes out there descrbing what we expect or desire to gain out of a relationship? Even as we view these biblical attributes of love, how many of us, if we’re honest would say we immediately looked at what we could gain in a relationship with someone who would love us this way before looking inwardly?  These traits are difficult and should put us all on blast, but this is how God loves us. Let’s make this a challenge for the month of February. That instead of looking for someone to meet OUR needs that we read these attributes and strive to BE that person no matter HOW others act or respond.. The tricky part is doing it without expectations in return. The truth is, people generally don’t know how to respond to real, healthy love so don’t be surprised if people respond a little rough and question your motives. Don’t forget to pray and ask God to do this work in your heart first. We have no purity of heart on our own so if we try to do this apart from God we might succeed at being nice for a short time but we will not have a lasting and genuine heart change. Who is with me in this challenge?




What is Love?


Love is the most sought after, yet the most elusive thing of all time. Not just romantic love, but love of all kinds. We were all created to need love and our desire to fulfill that need causes us to seek it out in any way that we think will scratch the deep itch within us. We often hear people say things like “If you really loved me you would ___”, or “If you really loved me you wouldn’t ___”.  It may not be said it in those words. Some of us might be a little more subtle in our approach, but in true human form, we strive to try to pigeon-hole other flawed humans to meet our needs by setting up certain parameters or conditions for them to meet. Everyone has an ideal list of how we wish to be treated. A sacred “do & don’t” list of ideals that we internally expect others to follow in order to make us happy. We fool ourselves into the delusion that if others would just play by our rules we could finally be fulfilled and happy. If that’s not crazy enough, we recognize that we don’t want to be held to anyone else’s standards, so we excuse our own failures by saying things like “nobody’s perfect” when at the same time we are holding a double standard by actually pointing the accusing finger at each other for doing the same things-completely blind to our own ways! What a set-up for utter disappointment, and so the cycle goes…

What is love really though? If you have ever been at a wedding, most likely you have heard a reading of 1 Corinthians 13, aka, “The Love Chapter”. Because of the association with weddings we tend to think this passage is about romantic love, but really the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about their love toward one another. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails”. This is only 4 verses of the entire chapter and that right there is enough to wreck us all! These are the attributes of love. It takes some maturity and self-honesty to read through this and examine our own hearts but it is also a very liberating thing to deal with our own heart issues and finally stop running away from them. The very first thing that jumped out at me through this passage was the pesky little line “it is not self-seeking”. Well, there goes my list of rules! That takes us right back to the beginning where we talked about the common “If you loved me you would___” and “if you loved me you wouldn’t ___” conditions. We are all guilty of trying to place expectations like these around someone’s neck like a noose. The truth is, whether we actually vocalize our expectations to someone or just inwardly resent them, holding expectations as an entrance or exit to our love is self-seeking behavior. If we are not willing to love that person freely, and assume the risk that they may not return love to us on our terms, or may not do what we want them to do, we are not actually loving them at all. We are simply making an agreement or contract with them, or holding them under emotional blackmail. This is why we come up feeling empty.  Having said that, this also does not mean that in order to love someone we have to tollerate undesirable or unacceptable behavior, nor choose to be around it. It simply means we do not let (good or bad) behavior  or conditions determine, influence or change our love. More simply put: we love (value) someone for who they are and not how they are. They can’t add more value by behaving better, nor can they lose value by behaving worse. Therefore, behavior may change some circumstances, and it may certainly bring consequences, but love does not allow us to change the value of a person based on their behavior. 

So what are we afraid of? We are afraid of emptying ourselves out and being left humiliated and empty in our vulnerable state. We’re afraid of being used up of the best of ourselves only to be unloved in return. In our fear we try to give only part of ourselves, but we hang on to the rest because the desire to try to protect ourselves is so overwhelming. Unfortunately, our attempts to protect ourselves actually cheapens the value of our sacrifice. When the sacrifice is cheap, so is the reward. This is why we are unfulfilled. It actually has nothing to do with how we are loved, and everything to do with how we are loving. Jesus himself, set the standard in his ultimate sacrifice. While the entire world rejected him, hated him, spit on him, tortured him and even his own closest disciples denied and betrayed him, Jesus took on the sin of all humanity and faced the epitome of being used up and completely “alone” when even the Father was forced to turn his face away from him because of our sin. He loved at the greatest cost with nothing in return for him. He loved us first with no expectations. Even if we never choose to love him in return (many don’t and unfortunately many never will) he will never stop loving and pursuing our hearts. We were created  with the need for God’s love. Without it, our relationships will be out of balance. We will fill our lives with things and come up empty until we truly come to know him.  The tricky  thing is most of us feel like we could do a little better in our relationship with God, but we are really good at telling ourselves we are ALL IN with our relationships with people. We are masters at deceiving ourselves. This is why it is critical that we have a daily walk with God, we need to read his word every day and ask him to show us the deceitful things hidden in our hearts. The word of God and our relationships with others is the  indicator that shows us where we are at with God. We can’t love God without loving people, but we desperately need God in order to love people. It’s funny how God made those two things so interdependent! There is just no getting around this and the most frustrating part is that other people actually reveal the selfish tendencies inside of us. This is not to say that other people will not do things that violate our trust or hurt us, but the amount of emotional turmoil we allow ourselves to entertain has everything to do with the amount of responsibility we are taking in our relationships, and how much we are blaming on others. Love recognizes pain as an indicator that we need God to change our own hearts, and in order for God to work change in us we have to be willing to surrender our will, our desires our attitude and yes, even our feelings. Our feelings will scream at the injustice of laying ourselves down unselfishly. Our feelings will always point blame the other way before accepting responsibility. Even if we feel like we are the only ones in the relationship accepting fault, or even if we feel our part is the smaller part in the equation, the moment we complain- even to ourselves, we are no longer sacrificing anything. The moment we expect something in return, it is no longer an act of love but an act of barter. When those feelings rise up and we instead ask God to help us, he can work in our hearts and do in us what we can’t do on our own. We can only take responsibility for ourselves and we have to trust that God will fulfill us when we do that. It doesn’t guarantee us that others will respond appropriately, but they stand a better chance this way, and most importantly, we become free from the empty cycle. 

I want to be very clear. I am NOT describing, nor condoning an abusive or co-dependent relationship. Love does not mean saying yes to everything or being manipulated to do things against our will. Healthy boundaries are vital in a healthy relationship so if someone you are in relationship with is trying to manipulate you, that is self-seeking behavior, and giving in to it is not loving to them or to you. Jesus is our perfect example of love and even he did not allow anyone to push their own selfish agenda. In fact, those who had a selfish motive around Jesus caught a shockingly aggressive side of him. He sharply rebuked them and made it clear that he was there only to fulfill the will of God and not man. Even the  sacrifice he made was the will of God and not man although it was fulfilled through man. 

 A beautiful thing happens when we lay our expectations down. The other person now feels the incredible freedom to choose  to love in return and because they chose it without anything  expected of them, there is now a genuine purity of their love to be enjoyed without any doubts. That is the most fulfilling kind of love there is, and is exactly what Jesus came to teach us. We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Distressed to Beauty

I love the look of distressed furniture and I’ve really come to enjoy the art of distressing my own pieces. But when I really think about it, what is it about taking something and intentionally making it old that we love so much? With real antiques (which few of us can afford to collect) the idea of “aged” makes us nostalgic, the story behind a piece is romantic, this makes it unique and therefore beautiful. The colors between the scarred layers make us wonder where it has been. The flaws and markings of something made by hand increases it’s value and the fact that you will not find two identical pieces makes it special. 
We are like those antique pieces and our lives tell a story marked with pain and scars that display the beauty and uniqueness of who we are. The very flaws and irregularities that we love so much and seek out as rare or special in an antique, we foolishly spend an entire lifetime shamefully hiding about ourselves. I’m not talking about character flaws that we need to address. We are accountable for how we treat people and we need to be in constant pursuit of God to work change in our hearts, but those petty flaws about ourselves that we hide, or perhaps even some deep emotional or physical wounds. When we embrace these layers as part of our story they become a beautiful display of art. We were created with unique purpose by a creative God who loves us.
This time of year can be very difficult for so many. While it is a time of family and celebration for many, it can be a very broken, painful, distressing and lonely time for others. Today I am very mindful of broken and hurting people. We have all been there at some point so if you know of someone who needs some encouragement, please share this post to let them know they are loved. If you would join me in praying for the broken this season, please comment and let me know that you are praying with me. ♡

 

There’s a Hole in My Boat

 

“You can’t blame the water for finding the hole in the boat…”

Blame is a weight of negativity that holds us captive in the boat of our circumstances. It lends complete control of our thoughts and emotional well being to the very person or thing in which we loathe. It stifles our creativity and our energy but it continues to sink our boat while we passively sit in it talking about our sinking condition. Accepting responsibility for our part in our chronic situations is the beginning of finding solutions. This isn’t to be passive or to say that we haven’t been treated unfairly or in some cases, even abused. It’s actually quite the opposite. It takes courage, character and backbone but we all carry a piece of responsibility in our own recovery process. When we are free from the weight of negativity we have the creativity to think of smarter solutions. If we take our focus off of the uncontrollable amount of water rushing into the boat, and look to the one who created us and wants to guide our steps, we will find the wisdom to address the hole in our boat.

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