Now the hard part! Why do relationships fail? Why are interactions with others so tough? At first glance, it seems easy to understand. One or both parties become self-absorbed. “I know best and this is how it’s going to be done”. Humility flies out the window. One or both parties become distracted by worldly things. “I want this for me and I can’t be in charge of what you want”. Courage is out the door. One or both parties make a mistake. “I shouldn’t have done that and there is no need for anybody to know”. There goes honesty. Worse yet, these actions distance ourselves from the relationship offered by a Supreme Being. We become alone in the world with no light at the end of the tunnel.
We are all human and we will all make mistakes. The question becomes what are we going to do about it. That depends! We need to understand the difference between bad character and bad behavior. Character is who we are; behavior is how we act. People can work together in changing their behavior. It is very difficult to change a person’s character. Bad behavior is being inconsiderate or selfish. Bad character is being manipulative, callous and unfeeling. There are people in the world, for whatever reason, who are bad. They tear down others and physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually abuse people for their own benefit. In thinking about relationships, avoid these people and distance yourself from them. In his song “Piano Man”, Billy Joel said, “They’re sharing a drink called loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone”. Forget that, for loneliness is better than being torn apart at the seams. All we can do for the abusers is to pray that their hardened hearts become softened by understanding forgiveness and learning how to forgive themselves and change.
As for bad behavior, we, too, must understand forgiveness and see if a relationship can be restored or renewed. To do that, we must consider some things. First and foremost, has the bad behavior been recognized by both the giver and receiver and have they agreed that it was bad behavior. Have they admitted remorse for the behavior? Next, are the parties involved resolved to never give or accept that behavior again. Have they learned from their mistake and will it never be repeated? Whenever I’m confronted and dealing with bad behavior, especially in the business relationships that I had, I always asked, ”What is your motivation? Did you think what you did was right? Did you do the best you could? And did you treat people like you would like to be treated?” If you are satisfied with the answers, then forgive and move on. This, in reality may have been an opportunity for growth. However, I must stress again, that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. If this situation was/is a character flaw, then get away from it as soon as you can.
I am not a priest, but allow me a small sermon; a real-life example. A woman has an unwanted pregnancy and bears a child. She marries another man, hard-working, caring and loving. He accepts the child as his own and they have other children. She comes to the conclusion that she will never have more than the small house they are in and her status will never change. She decides to divorce. She attends school and gets her degree which puts her working in a “white collar” environment. She meets a man substantially older than she is, but he has both status and, oddly enough, one of the most desired houses in a lakefront community. He falls in love with her and they decide to get married. The problem is, she does not love the man and has attested to that fact with others. It is difficult for her to get physically, mentally or emotionally close to her husband. As time goes on, he, too, realizes that she does not or ever will love him as he loves her. Some years later he dies of an unforeseen, unexpected heart attack. Because of his status in the community, the woman now gets to live a narrow, darkened life vicariously through his death. At any given time, she posts on Facebook how she is acting, not living, behind her painted walls. Yes, relationships are tough and complex. If done correctly, they can become one of the most rewarding accomplishments a person can have. Incorrectly, a family could be ruined.
One last example! A woman in a married relationship with one child has an unwanted pregnancy. The relationship has become abusive and highly toxic. She decides that she does not want to bring another child into her relationship and decides to have an abortion. Immediately after the abortion, she realizes the egregious mistake she made. No matter how hard she tries to rationalize her decision, she cannot find it in her heart to forgive herself. As expected, the relationship ends in divorce, arguably much later then it should have been. She remarries into another relationship and, although she has misgivings, she decides to have another child. Unfortunately, that relationship ends in divorce. As anyone who has had a child knows, rearing one is tough and the more children, the tougher it gets. Because there is the absence of understanding forgiveness, she finds it difficult to make the tough decision with some of her adult children’s behavior. In her heart, she knows it’s wrong but she rationalizes that her past does not put her in a position to judge anybody and allows this bad behavior to occur. Again, relationships are tough and complex. It is necessary to have God as part of every relationship and it becomes important to understand the concept of infinite mercy and love. Only then can a person comprehend forgiveness and the ability and necessity to forgive oneself. The further we distance ourselves from God by our sins the more we become incapable of love. That is what relationships are all about; loving God, loving yourself, loving others with humility, courage and honesty.