The Elephant in the Room
There’s no denying it and unfortunately, there’s no avoiding it. No matter how hard you try, a relationship can become so contentious that there seems no avenue for resolution.
Whether it is with a spouse, child, sibling, parent, in-law, or neighbor, the conflict can become unmanageable when one or more parties become unreasonable. As much as we are called to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18 NIV ), there are some instances when this isn’t possible. (And God knew that from the beginning because He included in this verse “If at all possible, as far as it concerns you…”)
What then? How can we possibly move forward when we are in a relationship with someone who is unreasonable, unrealistic, untruthful, or unwilling? Are we stuck when someone else refuses to be honest or responsible?
Absolutely not! And praise God for that!
The Gift of Healing
Recently, God brought to my mind the gift of my healing and how often He gives opportunity for me to share the way through that process with others. (I view it as a “gift” because it is from the Lord that a person is able to overcome relational turmoil and move forward in life with peace, joy and freedom.) It is not something I am to enjoy just for personal benefit but to richly offer encouragement and hope for those going through similar trials.
No one enjoys feeling broken- overwhelmed with a particular conflict in their life. We can experience any number of emotions as we try to claw our way out of our desperation.
Therefore, it is all the more fruitful to share hindsight- the failures, successes, and wisdom, with those in need around us. The resulting peace that comes from suffering is too good NOT to pass along to someone else who may be earlier in their season of hardship.
So here are some reflections that are serving me well from God healing my brokenness.
Why do we lose our peace?
I think a large component of our turmoil can be from the rejection we feel from someone important to us. If you have a complicated relationship in your life (such as someone who is dysfunctional, toxic, narcissistic, accusatory, mentally ill, etc), it can offer a quick trip to brokenness. What does this process look like though?
6 Ways We Lose our Peace Through Relational Turmoil
- Confusion– Why is this not working?
- Misidentified Motives– Why don’t they understand me?
- False Accusations– Why isn’t truth solving this?
- Withheld Affection– Why won’t they love me?
- Fruitless Striving– Why can’t I make this better?
- Damaged Identity– What is wrong with me?! Why am I not worthy?
This process can cycle for YEARS. When we are at a loss from trying our best and yet unable to relationally have peace with someone, it can cause a never-ending cycle in our minds. We replay each and every interaction, trying to analyze it for the solution to the problem of our conflict. The fact that we want to love and be loved in return motivates our incessant effort.
The sad reality though is that “effort” is not enough to resolve some issues because truth/reality is not equally agreed upon.
Just look at what happened with Jesus and some of the important relationships in His life from Mark 3:20-22, 31-35 NIV.
Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” ………
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
The two groups of people that should have known and supported Jesus the most were His family and religious leaders. Yet, we see their accusations and condemnation. We already know that the fault was not with Jesus but with everyone else. So if it can happen to someone who is perfect and sinless, how can we expect any better experiences in our life?
Therefore, we have to understand the nature of our turmoil. Some conflict is not rooted in truth or wisdom. As we see with Jesus, it can be unfounded. That is an important aspect to come to terms with.
In essence, we cannot make sense of what DOESN’T make sense. If the conflict is rooted in untrue assumptions or allegations, or if we are dealing with unreasonable people, then no matter how much we try to resolve our relational turmoil, it will be fruitless.
I had a turning point when I realized that facts/truth didn’t matter to some people as they do for me. Once I understood this then the part of my turmoil that didn’t “make sense” began to have more clarity. As someone who values factual information, realizing that not everyone operates in this same manner was a game-changer for me. Jesus told His disciples when He sent them out (Matt. 10:16) to be as innocent as doves and shrewd as snakes. It has helped me to remember this as well. Operating in uprightness towards others while not being naive are the standards of Jesus.
I have also recognized that whatever our circumstances are requiring of us, that is what God is trying to teach us. Consider what your trials are requiring of you? Patience, self-control, courage, forgiveness, steadfastness, boundaries, being willing to be at peace with being understood, loving others who are unloving in return? Think of all the Christlikeness that we can learn from the relational turmoil in our lives.
God uses trials in our lives to mature us in our faith, which ultimately makes our lives better. The lessons gained from earlier challenges have served me well since then and brought about a more peaceful, joyful life thereafter. So I have begun to see how profitable “pain” actually is to my overall maturity as a Christian. Growth in our emotional, spiritual and mental wellness brings freedom and what a gift that is!
The Path to Healing
One thing we have to be careful of is to give way to fear regarding the other person/people involved. Fear of man is never warranted in the eyes of God. It can be tempting to fear interaction with those involved in your relational turmoil because you never can control the outcome, no matter how hard you try to keep the peace. Increased anxiety can become routine as we encounter those we feel are against us. Whether they are in our church, our work, our neighborhood, or in our homes, fear threatens to control us.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
If fear is not glorifying to God, then what can we do to move forward without it?
We turn to God first and foremost! We look to Him to help us process this turmoil and it can look like this-
8 Steps to Find Healing and Restore Peace
- Recognize the turmoil– What’s wrong?
- Identify the heartache– What am I feeling?
- Examine yourself– What part is mine?
- Apply Scripture– What needs to change?
- Seek truth and understanding– What’s really going on?
- Stand firm– What is God teaching me?
- Draw necessary boundaries– What is required of me?
- Live at peace and enjoy the freedom!
We can feel hostage to those who are unable to acknowledge truth/facts or take responsibility. But to God’s glory, we can still move forward. As I have gone through these steps, God has used them to bring about my healing, wholeness, and holiness. It has grown me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
What I have learned is that mindlessly stewing about relational conflict, trying to figure out what doesn’t make sense in the first place, only draws you into the dysfunction as well. Once you have examined yourself for sin, for your part of the conflict, then you can keep moving forward even if the other person does not.
I have found that although I cannot always gain a satisfying resolution from a conflict, I can gain something even better- peace. This ultimately ushers in an additional benefit- freedom. I don’t NEED an apology, vindication, understanding, approval, or even the relationship itself. Amazingly, I don’t even NEED love from that person any longer.
When God heals you, it changes you. He becomes enough for you and what a glorious thing that is.
Some of the resources that have helped me, besides finding a good Christian counselor, are listed below. (A good indicator of where the source of conflict resides is in anyone who is unwilling to seek wisdom and accountability through Biblical counseling or their church. Also looking at patterns of behavior brings clarity. If your relationship turmoil is with a person who has a history of this with other people then that should change your expectations of them in general. )
If you are willing to read, learn and grow, you can find healing as well. It takes time but boy is it worth it!!
Studying Jesus in the Gospels is a great place to start and very helpful for learning how to address conflict. Here are some other resources-
When Pleasing You is Killing Me Book
Dr. Carter has probably 75 or more videos that are extremely useful for equipping you if you are dealing with a narcissistic person. I encourage you to watch as many as possible. They are practical and can provide immediate help because you will better understand what you are up against with narcissism.
Here are a couple of posts that you might find helpful from my website as well-
How we can forgive a repeat offender
Why it just isn’t working with some people
I also recommend you reach out to your church leadership for their guidance and accountability.
I hope you find these resources helpful. These are just a few but they are a good start.
In closing, because we are Christians, there is never an excuse to NOT do right by others. We are to forgive everyone, no matter what. But that doesn’t mean we are doormats to those who are operating in falsehood, hypocrisy, or who are verbally or emotionally abusive. Truth and love are our goals.
Follow Jesus friends. He will show you the way.
Adelyn Brown-Doig says
Such a powerful article on the hope of our healing in Jesus, and in Him alone. Thank you for sharing Gretchen!