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Running again? Do This Instead:

Ok, straight up. I am not talking about literal running–like when you put those colorful shoes on. I am talking about running from disappointment in life.

Recently when experiencing some hurt in a relationship, I suddenly became aware of something interesting that happened in me: I could feel my mind turning to other matters–almost as if it had to for some reason. I wondered why and then understood: I was shifting my focus. I was turning my attention from that which was causing the pain, to more pleasant matters so I would no longer hurt.

And at that moment I caught a glimpse of the answer to a question I have had time and again as I have worked with couples where one spouse or the other simply walked away. Oh, I know it is never that they “simply” walked away. I know there is much anger, pain, and despair. But still, I have always wondered–especially when kids are involved–how do they walk out and run from the situation? How do they deal with their pain by running?

They do what I did on only on a much greater scale. In running as fast and as hard as they can, they turn their focus to other matters, to deaden the pain.

It makes sense.

I understand.

No one likes pain.  Selah (often meaning, “pause and think of that.”) Sadly, however, that’s not the end of the story.

When running to avoid pain, we end up pushing away those whom we love the most.

We push them out of our minds; we push them away from our presence as we busy ourselves with other concerns. It is a very subtle step taken in the direction of self-preservation, often something we don’t even realize we are doing. The more it happens, the more distance it creates in the relationship, until there is a great chasm that seems impossible to ever cross again.

At this point, things often go from bad to worse. The disappointment in our relationships surfaces again and again in spite of our greatest efforts to keep our minds focused on other matters. The temptation to run to even stronger distractions seems completely justifiable. Even a must. The stronger distractions–working longer hours, drinking, sex, eating, gambling, spending money–become addictive. They are relied upon again and again as seemingly the only way to dull the pain. Ultimately they destroy, the person and their relationships.

I am reminded of the truth, “whoever seeks to save his life (by running) will lose it.” (Luke 17:33)

The solution?

We must face the disappointment, hurt, and pain in our relationships at every level.

We must learn to stay engaged without reacting or running away to other distractions. We must discover how to relate throughout our conflict in good, strong, and healthy ways to those around us even when hurt. As my son wrote in the Foreword of my book,  “…people most effectively resolve conflict when they become strong communicators.”

Understand my son is NOT saying strong in the sense of standing up for our rights and telling others where they are wrong. No, he is saying strong in the sense of not giving in to fear, but learning instead how to speak the truth with love and respect. We must be strong in the sense of not giving way to our reactive tendencies, but rather mastering the ability to listen well and learn what we might be missing in any given conversation.

This is not an easy task. It will take much work, and require much learning. But it is good, right, and God-honoring.

It is why we created PLEDGEtalk–to train people how to use principles that are vital to our everyday interactions and to guide us through the most difficult moments in conversation.

If you are reading this and have not already signed up for my PLEDGEtalk blog, you can do so at  http://pledgetalk.com and download a FREE and complete overview of the PLEDGEtalk process to healthy communication and conflict resolution guide. (And if you do get my blog but did not get the PLEDGEtalk Guide and want a copy, email me for your FREE copy:  mark@pledgetalk.com)

Don’t run or even walk from your pain. Learn from it. Learn in the midst of it. You will grow stronger when you do and discover more of what it takes to build strong relationships. Recognizing I was running from the pain in my relationship enabled me to stop in my tracks. It helped me to see that I had and always have a choice–to stay and love well even when it hurts or to run. Staying is harder at the moment, but leads to joy later; running is easier at the moment, but leads to sorrow later. We either must choose to endure whatever pain we are experiencing in a relationship as we seek to lovingly work it out, OR we become someone who now inflicts pain on others through reacting or pushing them away.

Ouch! That’s something to really consider.

If you have found this blog post or the PLEDGEtalk process helpful, would you share this with one friend today?

Thank you!

This is CRITICAL When In Need of Forgiveness:

A friend who betrays you. A boss who loses his temper and shames you in front of others. Infidelity by your spouse. A father who abused you. A parent who abandoned you. With each wrong done, and pain endured, there is a person who stands in need of forgiveness.

Most of us have experienced pain like this at some time in our lives, or we know someone who has. Many have also been the cause of great pain to others.

When seeking forgiveness you must communicate patience!

It is a stirring moment when one who has done great harm comes to recognize what they have done and truly seeks forgiveness and restoration. A wrong assumption however, often accompanies the occasion. It is this: “if I confess my wrong and ask forgiveness, the one I am speaking to must not only forgive me, and do it now, but must be willing to move on from what has happened and not look back.”

Not so.

I understand why we want to believe that. When we realize we have hurt someone, we hurt too. Often however, our apology is motivated by the hopes of closing the case so we don’t have to hurt anymore. We don’t want to enter into the pain we caused the other or stay with them for as long as it takes to forgive us and come out from under the damage that was done.

What must be understood, however, is how critical PATIENCE is at this point in the relationship!

When we ask another to forgive us for the wrong we have done and pain we have caused, we must be patient for the healing process to run its course.

A general rule of thumb might be: the amount of time given to heal must be commensurate with the severity of the wrong done.  

Examples:

  • You forget to pick up the butter on the way home? No big deal.
  • You forget to pick up your child from daycare on the way home, a bit different.
  • You forget to do either of the above 10 times, even more different.
  • OR, you lose your temper with your employees once in the last 3 years vs. you lose your temper every week. If the latter, you better believe it is going to take quite a bit longer for your employees to believe you when you announce that you are going to change the way you communicate and no longer lose your temper!

We have a tendency to minimize wrongs we have done and even more so, the effects of a wrong we have done.

Take the example of an affair–a great and painful wrong that happens quite frequently in marriage. Think more carefully with me about just a few of the effects:

  • Mutual trust is broken. What enables all relationships to endure is trust. From the moment a relationship begins, the question of trust is foremost in each one’s mind. Is this person who they claim to be? Am I willing to entrust who I am and all I have to them? Most marriages start out with a good if not full amount of trust. What enables that relationship to grow stronger throughout the challenges of life is the assurance of trust in each other. When that trust is broken, the offended party thinks: if I can’t trust him or her in this area of life, how can I trust them in any area of life together? Over time, this is likely lead to a serious decline in the relationship.
  • Then of course, there is the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Many who have had affairs don’t even seem to think about this. Furthermore, they don’t stop to consider the likelihood of passing on to their spouse–the mother or father of their children–a disease that could even shorten their life!
  • The introduction of fear into the relationship. What was once not even a concern, now becomes one every day throughout the day. Will he or she do this again? What are they up to now? Why isn’t he or she returning my texts or phone calls more quickly?
  • The effects of the affair are suddenly multiplied when the children find out. They are afraid. Trust is lost. Hurt and anger brew. They need to talk but don’t know who to talk to, so they bury what’s going on inside. A whole new set of problems emerge if they aren’t told until later in life: How come you didn’t tell us ‘til now? We have trusted you all our lives, and now we hear this? Now I am not sure where or how or if I can trust you anywhere!
  • Of course, then there is the question of divorce. Will the offended party forgive or will they seek a divorce? And in the latter case, the problems simply multiply exponentially.

I have listed only five of the effects of the great pain caused by the wrong of an affair. I didn’t talk about the feelings that will have to be deal with such as anger, hatred, confusion, or loneliness; or the effect on extended family members or friendships; or the effect on the other person’s self-image. And what about the possibility of pregnancy that could have taken place? And even blackmail? The list goes on!

Such great cost that one great wrong can have in a relationship! Simply apologizing to the offended party is not enough.

To heal a relationship from a wrong done, yes you must have genuine sorrow and seek forgiveness. BUT THEN, you must communicate you will be patient as long as necessary for the other to heal!

If now or at any time in the future, there is a need for you to confess a wrong done such as I have written about, I would urge you to communicate in a way similar to the following:  “I have hurt you by doing __________. What I did was wrong, and I am so sorry. I grieve for the pain I have caused you and the damage that has been done. I ask your forgiveness, giving you as much time as you need to be able to forgive me and reconcile our relationship.”

Then pray. Pray that God would give you the patience you need, and pray for the one whom you offended. When forgiveness and restoration of relationships take place, it is truly a grace of God!

Though forgiveness is only one key to a successful marriage, it is certainly one of the most important. What would you add to what I have written in regards to the need for patience when asking forgiveness? What makes it so hard to do?  I welcome your comments below!