Updated: Jun 17
One thing that can be a little bumpy is pursuing new relationships. I think as I've gotten older, I've realized we humans tend to develop conflict or harm-aversive behaviors. That is, there are various basic human fears (most tied to relationships) - rejection, betrayal, abandonment - and so as an attempt to cope or self-preserve, we might become closed off, passive-aggressive, or cold and distant in order to avoid getting hurt.
To some extent, these fears and anxieties are completely normal. It's scary opening up to somebody with there being a risk of harm. But choosing to give in to that fear and allowing it to prevent you from opening up and loving others fully, deprives you of the fullness of life, love, and relationships.
So what's the solution? Some might argue that you need to be really careful with who you open up to, and how much you open up to them so that you don't have to worry about getting hurt. However if we are constantly in a state of apprehension, analyzing whether it's a good time to open up to somebody or not, we are missing incredible opportunities to engage in and experience relational depth. And if we are cherry-picking when and what parts of us that they get to see, that's not fair nor is it very real or honest.
So what alternative do we have to remedy-ing these anxieties and worries over openness and vulnerability in our relationships so that we can open our hearts and love fully?
Understanding Human Relationships
Let's check out a story. In the book of Hosea, God commands Hosea to marry an "adulterous woman," meaning someone who is unfaithful. Often when I think of someone being unfaithful, I think of cheating partners, nasty affairs, divorces, etc. None of it is pretty. Many of us probably wouldn't go out with somebody or wish to marry someone if they knew they had a track record of cheating either... I mean, would you? So why would God command Hosea to marry someone like that?
Gomer and Hosea's marriage is symbolic. Gomer's unfaithfulness and rebellion are comparable to the relationship God has with us (Gomer representing ourselves). Some of us might argue "I would NEVER cheat on my spouse!" Adultery, in fact, isn't just seen as unfaithfulness within a marriage or romantic relationship. Adultery can be committed through idolatry or worshipping things other than God. When we start to look at adultery/unfaithfulness as being more about where our hopes, desires, and attentions lie, it isn't just something riddled in sexual sin like cheating on your partner. It's about any behavior that would dishonor a relationship, or worship, and/or place our loyalties in something or someone else. Many of us do this daily with celebrities, politicians, ourselves, brands, etc. When we look at it for what it is, this definition of unfaithfulness starts to blur the lines between someone like Gomer and the rest of us, don't you think?
Part of why we have these fears of abandonment, rejection, or betrayal in the first place, is probably because we all know deep down that human nature is sinful, imperfect, and rebellious. We know, whether we'd like to admit it or not, that we're all capable of rejecting, betraying, or abandoning someone or something.
You have every right to feel hurt by betrayal, rejection, or abandonment. It's not ok, and it's not fun to go through. But you should operate from a lens of compassion and understanding when engaging with that person, knowing that it's human nature to fall into all sorts of sin.
So Human Relationships Are Broken and I'm Prone to Get Hurt in the Process... Now What?
In the story of Hosea, God commands Hosea to take Gomer back after learning of her unfaithfulness. Now, we could imagine how broken up Hosea would have been - his wife had betrayed their relationship and had fallen into sin that had harmed both of them! But God is trying to illustrate the power of His compassion through symbolism; God is saying that although our rebellious, sinful human nature harms our relationship with Him and breaks His heart, rather than getting angry with us and exacting justice, He wishes to accept us back out of compassion and mercy.
God isn't saying that you should accept back every single relationship that's been negatively impacted by betrayal, rebellion, or unfaithfulness. Some relationships may feel unrepairable after that. Certain relationships, like marriage, are meant to be honored "until death till we part," but even marriage can end when adultery occurs. Adultery, or sexual immorality, is one of two instances where God gives expressed permission for a marriage to end in divorce (source).
When someone harms you, it's easy to take it personally. But we all do it at one point or another in our human relationships and especially in our relationship with God. As we pursue God, holding onto the pains of harm done to us, inhibits us from being able to grow spiritually, be close to God, and love fully. Opening up our hearts in a world that's full of evil and brokenness is frightening, and we can't ignore that brokenness infiltrates our human relationships too. But we can't live afraid of brokenness when God's love and healing are so much more powerful. God's love covers a multitude of sins, heals old wounds, and moves us into places of incredible compassion, forgiveness, and joy.
God wishes for us to "love like Jesus." We aren't meant to play judge and condemn somebody for their wrong actions - that's God's job. It's our job to forgive, treat everyone the same - with love and respect - and move on from it. Easier said than done, I know.
No matter the harm that is done in our own human relationships, when we place our everything in God, we can rest assured that we'll never be abandoned, rejected, or betrayed. God is perfect, therefore His end of our relationship with Him is perfect.