Peel Back the Layers to Find the Truth of Healthy Relationship

The truth is the truth and the stuff we add onto it and around it is not. We take the truth, add our experiences, preferences, feelings and perceptions but that doesn’t change the truth. It just changes our foundation. When we alter the truth, we weaken our footing. To get back on solid ground, we peel back the added layers and get to the core.

God loves us and He loves community. He gives us a framework of truth to guide and lead us through the challenges that come with living in community. We sometimes add to it, subtract from it and twist it to fit our preferences but if we’ll get back to the foundation, we can relate in healthy community.

With some regularity, I experience people coming to me or observe them going to someone else to let the other person know that they are forgiven for some otherwise unknown offense. They will typically offer some detail to the thing that fueled the offense, followed closely by “but I have forgiven you.” While the exercise is well intended, it’s not based on truth. Whether or not the offense is legitimate or imagined, it’s not the way to handle forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not dependent on an apology nor recognition.Forgiveness is just given from within. If there was a thing against us, we have the power to choose to release it but we can do so without informing the forgiven of their pardon.

One of the times to go to another person to discuss offense is when you think they may be offended by you (Matthew 5:23). Think about that; when I think you’re upset with me, it’s legitimate for me to go to you. That’s a time when you need to know about it; when it’s my fault. The humility of that is noteworthy.

A different time for healthy confrontation is to call out sin (Matthew 18:15). This requires and presumes relationship. This is intended for community, not judgment or legalism. It is intended for the benefit of the individual who is struggling as well as the culture of the community as a whole. With the benefit of constructive confrontation, there is an opportunity to repent.

When it’s me that’s offended, I get to forgive. Forgive as I’ve been forgiven. I get to operate in the grace that I’ve received and grace doesn’t demand acknowledgment. Grace is sacrificial and feels forsaken. Grace gives without expectation and submits without reciprocation. Grace is the foundation for healthy community and grace is the fuel for personal transformation and nobody needs to know about it; they’ll recognize it without words.

Great Expectations Produce Great Offense

ux-beginner-set-higher-expectations-for-yourselfWhen I was practicing criminal defense law, my clients were split into two categories; court appointed and paying. I drew a flat, monthly income to represent court appointed clients and would get paid case by case by paying clients. My pay for a single paying client would often exceed what I made for 100 court appointed clients in a month. Despite the fact that paying clients were more financially rewarding, I loved representing those that were appointed. The opportunity to stand with those that nobody would stand with and give a voice to the otherwise voiceless was rewarding beyond finances.

Sometimes, there could be a pretty distinct difference in the attitudes of the two different types of clients. Court appointed clients were often very appreciative for your advocacy and the respect they received as displayed through your zealous effort on their behalf. Paying clients were more expectant of a certain result than they were appreciative for zealous advocacy. In practically every case, court appointed or retained, the client had committed some kind of crime. The attitude regarding their consequences, however, was often different based on the amount they invested in their defense.

In criminal defense law, there are more losses than there are wins. When the defendant did things that violated laws and the facts bear that out, there are consequences. The defense attorney works to win where they can to protect the rights of the accused, preserve the integrity of the system and ensure freedom for everyone. Consequences can vary and the attorney works towards the best possible outcome.

Expectations, however, can influence the client’s satisfaction with a good outcome given the totality of the circumstances. Practically identical circumstances and outcomes can produce different attitudes depending on the expectations. Expectations fuel offense. When we think we deserve a certain outcome and expect others to comply with our agenda, we are primed for disagreements where they can’t or won’t perform as we wish.

We all form expectations and they are typically very self-centered. We can form expectations for God, for family, for friends, for co-workers, and for strangers. Many times those others don’t even know what the expectation is, but the offense we harbor and bitterness we operate from punishes them and robs us of relationship. Healthy relationship requires that we set aside some of our expectations and operate through the grace that comes when we put others ahead of ourselves.

The selflessness that is required to avoid expectations and offense comes in the foundation of our identity. We won’t let others be them without imposing us on them unless we are comfortable with us. We’ll accept our consequences and examine our lives with a healthy sense of ownership. That mature self-awareness prevents immature projection.