Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Handling Negative Relationships

I've been putting off this post for the greater part of the past year. It's something I've noticed all around me, yet I have been terrified to approach it because of fear of backlash, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. Hmm, maybe I do struggle with approval.....Anywho, what I'm talking about is the idea of cutting out the negative people in your life.

Here are some examples of this sentiment:

"Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy."

"You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life."

"I usually give people more chances than they deserve, but once I'm done, I'm done."

"Don't tolerate negative people. Separate them from your life and be happy. You don't need any extra stress in your life."

We seem to be cultivating an idea that if a friendship or relationship does not add to/benefit your life, you need to let it go. Get that out of your life because you sure don't need to let someone else's problems affect you! And I can't help but feel all twisty and weird inside when I hear that. And I know that's the Spirit telling me, "You know that's not right, I say to love others and I will provide you enough love to be able to do that." I spent roughly 15 minutes searching through scripture and here's what I found in that short amount of time:

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desire sthat are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions." Galatians 5:16-17

"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace." Ephesians 4:2-3

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32

"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do." Ephesians 5:15-17

"Brothers and sisters we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone." 1 Thessalonians 5:14

I could go on, but I will do a little more talking now. Scripture does a pretty good job of getting this point across and I have begun to realize that when the bible repeats itself, I should probably pay attention. The themes I am constantly seeing are patience, love, forgiveness, endurance. Those are all really hard things to do on your own. If a difficult friendship just hasn't been working and you feel like you are trying to help them in every way you know how, maybe you are trying to rely on your own patience, love and wisdom instead of God's. Try letting him do the work. I've heard it helps.

Negative, unhappy people are the ones who need Christ's love right this moment. They don't need to be unfriended because they "are a drain". They need to have God's love poured into them. And you know how that's done? Through you (Hebrews 4:12). YOU are the example of God's character to everyone you come in contact with. I'm terrified to misrepresent Him. He is a God of deep love, deep forgiveness, deep patience. Jesus was drawn to the weary and broken people then, and I think that's still the people he wants tended to.

Obviously there are situations and relationships that do need to be dealt with in a different way. There comes a point in a friendship that you may need to let them go, in love. An example would be if it becomes clear that their repeated intention is to do you harm. If someone is trying to undo you, it is wise to flee (this only pertains to friendship- not marriage). Regardless of your response to someone though (ie: to endure or to flee), love should be the key ingredient in that response. You can hear more about this in this 10 minute podcast by the CCEF (Is there every a time to walk away from a broken friendship?).

Now, what about a friend who isn't intentionally harming you? Example: Someone who speaks too bluntly, or someone who doesn't speak at all into obvious problems in your life. We are all in relationships with broken people, we all enter relationships with limitations and weaknesses. Talk about someone's weaknesses to the extent that it is profitable. People don't change overnight, and sometimes they don't change at all. Accept them where they are, but wanting better for them. This is a long and patient walk, and this is true of all godly relationships. Sometimes, we are not ready or able to grow in a certain area that needs work. Which means forbearance and endurance in love for those that we are in friendship with.

This is something I struggle with a lot. I see things that need to change (often in others before I see it in myself...oof) and I want them to know about it and work on it immediately. But sometimes they just aren't ready. Or sometimes I could be wrong. I could be speaking out of my own hopes for selfish gain. The only way we will succeed in relationships is by living according to scripture, and letting the Spirit who lives in us guide our actions.

"Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 4:11

"Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No, not seven times", Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!" Matthew 18:21-22

I know I'm asking a lot in this post. But I want to make a specific call to those of you that consider yourselves deeply committed to following Christ, those of you that are leaders in relationships, those of you that claim to be mature believers:

"You have been believers so long that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid food if for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong." Hebrews 5:12-14

I say all of this with love and hope,

- Bethany


  1. Sweet Bethany, I adore and respect so much your adherence to truth throughout this entire post. You are clearly speaking from a heart saturated in scripture. I appreciate your honest vulnerability and courage in this! Love you, admire you.

    1. I love you!!! Thank you so much for the encouragement :)

  2. Bethany,
    You know I am not the best with computers but I read this entire post. I am so amazed at your wisdom that is truly a God given gift. LOVE YOU!