Bad Relationships, Forgiveness and Walking Away

September 28, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

We are doing a relationship series  at The Grove Church.  We have been given people the opportunity to ask questions that they can post anonymously on the website.  The hope has been that people would be open and honest about the issues that they are struggling with and these questions would shape the specific content of the series.  I have been overwhelmed by the number and types of questions, but in a good way.  I’m always encouraged when people open up and are willing to ask for help.

sadnessI was also surprised by what was far and away the most asked question.  Nothing else was even close.  The question was asked multiple times in different ways.  What am I supposed to do when a relationship is not working? Is it ever OK to just walk away?  People came at it from multiple angles and  you can feel the desire to honor God in broken relationships but also the hurt over the pain and disappointment.

This clearly is a complicated issue that doesn’t have easy answers.  Hard questions rarely have easy answers.  The simplest answer is “It depends, and it’s complicated.”  A 30 minute sermon was inadequate in covering the topic and a 1000 word blog post is even more so.  However, if the questions that we received as a church are any indication, then this is definitely a topic that we need to be talking about.  So let’s at least get the conversation started with a few questions and steps to consider when wrestling with a broken relationship.

1) Is the relationship a mandatory relationship or an optional one?  If the relationship is mandatory and one that you have made a lifelong commitment to, then the answer to if you can ever be done is no.  You are a parent, child, spouse, brother, no matter what.  These people are your family.  In some very difficult circumstances, you may have to set some boundaries with these relationships but you do not get to say that you are all done.  You stood before God and said that you would be a husband or wife forever, “for better or worse.”  You already pledged how you would handle “worse”, if you are facing “worse” right now.  You have freedom in your friendships, dating relationships, even in your work relationships if you’re willing to walk away from your job.  You do not have the freedom in your family.

This is assuming that we are not dealing with abuse.  Abuse is another matter.  If you believe that you are being abused, talk to a counselor or pastor immediately.  I’ve seen it both ways.  I’ve seen people in abusive relationships think everything is ok.  I’ve also seen the opposite.  People believe they are being abused and really they are just yelling at each other.  Regardless, seek help and counseling immediately.  Do not walk through that alone.

2) Have you talked to the person about the problem?  Sometimes we suffer in silence or passive-aggressive weirdness and never truly come to the person and say, “this isn’t working.  You’re hurting me.  Something needs to change.”  If you have not done that, then you have failed in what God has called each of us to, which is to confront someone who has sinned against us.  Go to them first and see how they respond.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

3) Have they asked for forgiveness and humbly asked for another chance?  Usually there are 3 responses.  One is to not be sorry and therefore you know that the behavior will continue.  The second is they are genuinely sorry and they want to change.  In this instance, the way forward is fairly clear, you need to forgive and give them another chance. (Exception is dating relationships.  You still need to forgive, but you can step out of these relationships at any time.  You are not obligated by forgiveness to keep dating someone that you know you don’t want to marry.)  The third option is a little more difficult to manage.  They say that they are sorry but not in a genuine humble way.  They say “sorry,” but you know that it’s going to continue. This leads to the next step.

4) Have you forgiven them?  This needs to be true regardless of how sorry they are.  Forgiveness is not optional and bitterness is never ok.  If you are holding onto resentment and unforgiveness, then you are in sin and are not in a place to make a good decision.  You have some spiritual work to do.  Do that first.  Then you will more clearly be able to determine what is the next best step for the relationship.

5) Is changing or ending the relationship best for both of you?  It should be.  If you are hurting each other, then a change is necessary.  Even if just one of you is the primary cause, you would still need to make a change.  This relationship is causing them to lash out and sin, and it is not good for them either.  They may not see it, but it’s true.

6) Have you asked God for wisdom? James 1:5 says that God will gladly give wisdom to anyone who asks.  If you are in a difficult situation, there is nothing better to have than God’s wisdom.  He’s offering, so take it.

7) Are you trying to do this alone?  If so, then don’t.  You need friends, counselors, pastors helping you make good decisions.  We rarely make good decisions in isolation.  Reach out to some trusted confidants and ask for help.

8) Finally, if you now believe that a change is necessary, are you trusting and asking God to restore the relationship in the future?  Even the worst of relationships can be restored at some point.  I have had some relationships that seemed that would be broken forever come back after five years.  God is in the miracle business.  Changing your relationships doesn’t change that.  Move slowly away but expect God to do the unexpected and bring healing and unity to you and to them.

Again, this is just a primer.  You need help and wisdom to walk through this and God has offered and your friends would love to be there as well, I’m sure.

What do you think? What have I left out? Is anything here oversimplified? How do we walk through broken relationships?


2 Responses to “Bad Relationships, Forgiveness and Walking Away”
  1. Carolyn Loften says:

    You have hit on the truth in many areas. I’ve learned through the years that the Lord won’t allow you to have bitterness in your heart for long. It is your sin and must be confessed to Him to be cleansed. Don’t waste years with bitterness and unforgiveness it only hurts you and the other person rarely knows you are bothered.

    Keep up the good work, Pastor Charlie.

  2. Lois McCoy says:

    This was a very timely post. I will be sharing with others that it will surely help. Letting go and letting God work is simple but sometimes difficult to do. Thank you for your insight and words of encouragement. I enjoy these writings and look forward to them. I covet your prayers for relationship healing in our family. God bless you and your family and the ministry in which you are serving Him.

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