For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with relationships. Not just the intimate, romantic kind – though that is not an area of life I personally excel in – but ALL relationships. Family, friends, boyfriends.. you name it. I have very vivid memories of being singled out in elementary school by my “best friends” in front of our entire class – which I later learned is actually a form of bullying, being the last to get invited to outings in middle school and the worst of them all, getting the friendship boot over speaker phone while my friends were out drinking and I was home alone.
It came as a total surprise to me when I gave my life to Christ that I would still experience this burden. I thought for sure that as soon as I got baptized and my slate was wiped clean, all of the pain and insecurities of my past would go with it. That I’d never again feel the weight of hurting. Boy, was I totally wrong.
I’m very experienced in being chosen last or not chosen at all. I’m very experienced in knowing what it feels like to have people you love more than anyone tell you that they just don’t want to be around you anymore. I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider in a group of people, even if those people are supposed to be the people who ride or die for you. Relational pain is not new to me. But I’ve learned a few things on this journey of healing that I think can be helpful for anyone who feels like no one cares about you as much as you care about them.
SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Being treated poorly by people is a real thing. Bullying, in all of its forms whether discreet or direct, is a real thing. But sometimes, we really have to be honest with ourselves and ask, “is this person really treating me in a way I don’t like or am I overanalyzing this situation?” If you come from a background of repeated offenses, it can be really easy to project your own issues onto someone else who has not even considered hurting you at all. It can be easy to say, “of course they didn’t text me back. They hate me!” instead of looking at the bigger picture and thinking that maybe they just haven’t read it yet. Before you freak out over another heartache, ask yourself if what you’re feeling is rooted in truth or not.
People are fickle. They don’t always see how they are affecting others because truthfully, we are too self absorbed. If there is a situation holding weight in your heart that you can’t seem to shake, or a person hurt you in some way and you’ve been carrying it for weeks, say something! It can be very easy to hold in your feelings and think that if you speak up, it might end poorly or they’ll hate you or your impressions of them would prove to be correct after all but ultimately, we’ll never really know for sure unless we’re able to say something. There have been times where I’ve shared my feelings on a particular situation only to find out that the situation was totally not what I thought at all! After having the conversation, I was able to see that we can conjure up all kinds of issues in our own heads and they are often a-lot smaller or non-existent if we have a conversation about it.
KNOW YOUR WORTH
Every single one of us was born perfectly and completely in God’s image so the way that other people treat us should be a total reflection of how God sees us or those relationships have to go. If you know that you are beautiful, strong, smart and loving just as you are, worthy of nothing by the very best in all avenues of life, don’t let anyone treat you like anything less. I’ve found that none of the relationships in my life that involved toxicity still stand today. And that may have very little to do with me and more to do with God. I’m convinced that God removes people from our lives for a reason and that could have everything to do with Him seeing that we deserve better. If God sees that, we should too. Also, I’m convinced that anyone we put on a pedestal higher than God – made into an idol of some kind – will be taken away too. After all, God is a jealous God.
ALLOW YOURSELF TIME TO HEAL & LEARN TO FORGIVE
I’m definitely guilty of closing off whenever I feel even remotely angry at someone. I’m often the one who says “Nope! I refuse to text them first. If they don’t text me, I don’t need to speak to them!” That kind of mindset could be the reason you have a poor interpretation of your relationships. If you’re playing the silly game of I’ll do what they do to me back, you’re most likely only hurting yourself. But also, if you’ve experienced a-lot of pain in the past, know that you will need time to heal. Healing does not happen overnight and it surely does not happen once you’re reborn. Healing requires prayer. Healing requires vulnerability, communication, trial and error. Don’t be afraid to share your shortcomings with your circle of friends. If they love you the way they should, they will support you. If you find that dependency in others is becoming a pattern, step away for a bit. Allow yourself some time alone with God to really understand what’s going on, who you are in Christ and where you want to go! Sometimes, separation and seclusion is a necessary part of healing. In that time, you can ask for the pain to go away but also, ask God to teach you how to forgive those who have hurt you. Holding onto hate, anger or resentment is not doing anything to them but only poisoning you. You will fall many times. But know that pain isn’t permanent and God will use your pain to not only make you stronger but will also use it to build His Kingdom.
KEEP AN OPEN HEART & ACT THE PART
Allowing past pain to dictate your future is a mistake and a huge disservice to you. You are not subject to a life of bad friendships, abusive relationships or negative internal perspectives. You are not a slave to pain. Keep an open heart and allow yourself to seek opportunities to welcome love into your life. Surround yourself with people who uplift you, even if you’re not sure how to receive it. Trust that God is not going to pull you out of pain to just put you back there. But also, as the famous saying goes, “be the change you want to see.” If you’re not being treated with absolute love, check yourself and see if you’re giving it. Are you more focused on what people aren’t doing for you than you are on what you’re not doing for them? Love people as God loves you and those who deserve to be in your life will not only know how to respond to it but they’ll be led by example on how to reciprocate. If they don’t know how to receive or reciprocate your love for them, that’s okay too! Love them anyway, forgive them and pour grace onto them.
Relationships are part of God’s wonderful and beautiful design for our lives. We are not meant to do life alone. If healing is what needs to happen before we can learn to fully embrace that from people, then let’s work on that. Leave the pain at Jesus’ feet. Leave the people of your past in the past. God knows the desires of our hearts and He also knows the baggage we choose to carry. He’s willing to help with the load, you just have to hand it over first.