One alarming fact about people today, both in the world at large, and within the church, is that they feel trapped in some way. People feel trapped in jobs, relationships, circumstances, financial struggles, addictions, habits, thoughts, behaviors, locations, etc. Trapped. Hopeless. Stuck.
In counseling conversations with people who are stuck I hear a common theme over and over again. Stuck people say, "I have to ..." (fill in the blank). They are quite sincere about it too. They believe that they have to cater to the whims and needs of oppressive spouses, bosses, family members, addicts, lazy people, etc. In co-dependent relationships, there is usually one person who seems to get off the hook in regards to being accountable for themselves while the other person takes full responsibility and accountability for two. Both are stuck. Both need freedom. Getting there isn't easy.
Moving toward freedom feels risky and full of pain. That feeling usually tightens the grip of the trap we're in. However, the scenarios we play out in our minds about how bad things will be if we break free from the unhealthy person are entirely imaginary. They are a fabrication of our minds designed to tighten the grip of the trap.
Jesus, Himself spoke of the personal accountability of each individual...
Matthew 12:36-37 NIV (36) "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. (37) For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Furthermore, the wisdom of Proverbs says this:
Proverbs 29:9 NKJV (9) If a wise man contends with a foolish man, Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.
While this is certainly not the end of the discussion concerning how to break free from such relational turmoil and toxicity, here are some prevailing thoughts about how to break free and stay free:
Consider this: If you don't change anything about the toxic nature of the relationship, then nothing changes. Making one small change could set you on the course to freedom.
The call of Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves wrestles with the desire to break free. Freedom from dysfunctional relationships feels like we're abandoning someone. You don't have to abandon a person to break free. Even physical distancing, reduced communication or ceased communication, removing of unhealthy financial assistance, etc. does not mean abandoning. Does a mother bird abandon her chicks when they are thrust from the nest against their will? No. She is being a great mom.
Freedom can be yours.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.