Why Are Relationships So Hard?
By Ed Delph
September 27, 2021
Here’s a concept attributed by some to Mother Teresa about life. Her attitude, compassion, work ethic, and incredible belief in God have inspired the whole world.
"Life is a challenge; meet it. Life is a promise; fulfill it. Life is a duty; complete it. Life is sorrow; overcome it. Life is an adventure; dare it. Life is a struggle; accept it. Life is a tragedy; confront it. Life is beauty; take time to admire it." Don Kraft, an old acquaintance of mine, added two more thoughts about this. "Life is an opportunity; seize it. Life is chaos; organize it."
I like this upgrade in perspective. It's authentic and inspiring. It's realistic about the present, but it makes way for a future. It says one door may be closed, but another door opened, and I will find it. The challenge adjusts our attitude and outlook. It assures us that we can get back up given time, commitment, and perseverance, if we fall. So please permit me to add one more perspective to this list. Life is about relationships, value those relationships. Consider this neglected family relationship.
It was a couple's 60th anniversary. The couple's three grown children, all successful, agreed to a Sunday dinner in their honor.
"Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad," gushed their oldest son. "Sorry, I'm running late. I had an emergency at the hospital with a patient, you know how it is, and I didn't have time to get you a gift." "Not to worry," said the father. "The important thing is we're all together today." Their second son arrived. "You and Mom look great. Dad, I just flew in from Montreal between depositions and didn't have time to shop for you." “It’s nothing," said the father. "We're glad you were able to come." Just then, their daughter arrived. "Hello and happy anniversary! Sorry, but my boss is sending me out of town, and I was swamped packing, so I didn't have time to get you anything."
After they had finished their dessert, the father said, "There's something your mother and I have wanted to tell you for a long time. You see, we were poor, but we managed to send each of you to college. Through the years, your mother and I knew we loved each other very much, but we just never found the time to get married."
The three children gasped and said, "What? You mean we are illegitimate?" "Yep," said the father, "And cheap ones, too." Well, as they say, the truth will first make you miserable, but then it sets you free. Free from what and whom? Free from yourself.
So, why are relationships so hard? "We were raised to think that everything revolves around us. We learned we could get whatever we wanted when we wanted it, and there would be no consequences. We cried. We manipulated. It was all about us. "I deserve and am owed the best." We didn't want green grass; we wanted green grass with a horse on it. But, then, the horse was not enough; it had to be a unicorn with a hat, standing on a flowery carpet. Then the hat was not enough; it needed to be a flower on top of the hat." Thanks to the Huffington Post for this observation.
Then, when we got married. Or we met someone else or work with someone else with the same upbringing and expectations we have, who is taking our spotlight. Suddenly the focus is on someone else. Then we competed. We demanded attention. “My need matters the most." As a result of this, we radiate our self-absorption to others. “Wait until the world sees how amazing I am. I'm special. I don't want the American dream; I want the American dream my way, and don’t get in my way.” That creates dissatisfaction, envy, jealousy, shame, conflict, and coveting. The result is relationship issues from the consequences of broken or neglected relationships that should have lasted years. "Ego anger” not transformed is ego anger transferred.
Here's our takeaway. I said, and I'm pretty sure Jesus would say, life is about relationships; value those relationships. But, first, understand that there is nothing wrong with having a good self-image. That’s a good thing. But, good things, taken to extremes, become bad things. Self-centeredness and happiness don’t play well with each other.
"You have an ego – a consciousness of being an individual. But that doesn’t mean that you are to worship yourself, to think constantly of yourself, and to live entirely for yourself.” (Billy Graham). “I have more trouble with D. L. Moody than anyone else I have ever met.” (D. L. Moody). That's a challenge; meet it. That's a struggle; accept it. That's an opportunity; seize it. That's a tragedy; confront it.
Second, maybe it’s time to re-establish the relationships with your parents, siblings, or others who you think have hurt you. Or, almost as likely, your ego was bruised by them, just being them, because you believed the lie that life is all about you. Perhaps the offended is the offender, and the perceived offender is the offended. That's sorrow; overcome it.
Most of us don't like self-evaluation because we don't want to open a letter that has bad news. Hint: Look at yourself, and you will look at others differently. That's a duty; complete it. That's a promise; fulfill it. That's an adventure; dare it. That's chaos; organize it.
These days life is too often defined by Y-O-J, which means You – Others – Jesus. The definition of J.O.Y. is Jesus – Others – You. That's beauty; take the time to admire it. Your JOY depends on it.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com