I read today that most Canadians consider marriage to be passé. At best, it’s a social event on a calendar designed to last as long as two people want it to. More than half of our country are not in a marriage relationship. Is it cost, culture, community or confusion which is pushing this trend?
Relationships all over the world are interrupted by guilt, fear and shame. The issues on the surface, which we think are driving us apart, are really covers for what is happening deep underneath. In our culture, fear of “not being enough” or of “being too much” are entry points for discussions about the heart of a struggle.
Gary Smalley, (The DNA of Relationships, p. 21) lists a wide diversity of core fears we might feel in relationship. Some of them include feeling ‘helpless, powerless, impotent, controlled, rejected, isolated, alienated, abandoned, left behind, disconnected, failure, unloved, defective, inadequate, pained, hypocritical, inferior, cheated, taken advantage of, invalidated, ignored, devalued, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, humiliated, lack of dignity, disrespected, manipulated or deceived.’ Identifying the core fear is an important part of understanding what is happening inside. If you had to circle two or three core fears which ones would you choose?
Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ”We may not understand ourselves as much as we think.
Smalley identifies a “Fear Dance” that we can easily get into in our relationships. A relational crisis might start when I feel hurt. I then want something. I fear the loss of relationship. I react in an effort to change the other person. Now they hurt. They want something. They fear the loss of relationship. They react so that I now hurt – around and around we go.
We can easily see the other person as the source of the problem and the source of the solution. We expect them to change so they can satisfy our needs or wants.
Smalley (p. 27) combines our core wants and fears when he says:
We want acceptance so we fear rejection; we want grace so we fear judgment; we want connection so we fear disconnection; we want companionship so we fear loneliness; we want success so we fear failure; we want self-determination so we fear powerlessness; we want understanding so fear being misunderstood; (see the rest of the list at the end)
You get the point. When we put the pressure onto someone else to deliver what we want we set up a tension which will ultimately get us dancing in circles with those we care about. The reason for this is that human beings in themselves are not able to deliver all we hope for on their own and this taps into their own fears.
A church is a body of believers all with their own wants and fears. If you’ve been in a church for very long you know that people you come to lean on will not always meet your wants and this will tap into your own fears. In addition, when you have others leaning on you then you will realize you are inadequate to meet their wants and this will tap into their fears. The easy solution tried by many is to run to another church and to replay this scenario over time – or just to isolate yourself and never reach out to anyone to avoid unmet expectations.
If we’re going to be one then honesty is key. What ‘wants’ are at the core of your life and what ‘fears’ do you seeing being played out in you and in the lives of those around you?
(The rest of the list)