Am I really more Apathetic than Active when it comes to healthy relationships?
I mostly cried through the entire Sunday sermon at church. Feeling vulnerable and unable to hold back tears, I ended up expressing all my pent up frustrations to the first woman I encountered after the service. I knew I could trust her to simply listen, and was more than willing for her to pray for me after I’d cried out my list of all the things in my life that had kept me from writing during the past six weeks or so.
If I take an honest assessment of the root of every problem, it’s my attempt to avoid conflict in one form or another. What I didn’t realize was that I was building a wall between myself and every relationship in my life. I was actually acting out a form of apathy to avoid conflict.
Why? Mostly because I am tired. E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D actually! If I could avoid a conflict, then I could avoid the energy it would involve to resolve it. But some of the conflicts have festered for well over four years. The wall needs to come down now, or a fear it will crumble right on top of me.
So when my Pastor started his message, he had my full attention. He might not know my struggle, but God does. I’m not experiencing God’s abundance for my life because I have given in to apathy among my relationships.
And because my heart was willing and eager for an answer and a solution, I heard what I needed to hear.
Avoiding Apathy by Facing the Conflict
“Sometimes we’re not willing to enter the conflict to fight for the relationship.”
What did he mean by that? He was talking about the need to fight it out sometimes—put all the cards on the table, no holds barred, leave no stone unturned (or brick demolished).
If the relationship is worth having, it’s worth working through the conflict by talking or arguing for as long as it takes to get to the other side.
Because if we don’t do this with the important relationships in our lives, we may find ourselves in a place where we no longer care.
Then he said something even more profound.
“Apathy is a counterfeit to true relationship.”
My mind rushed through a mental list of all my relationships and how one or the other of us had avoided conflict in an effort to maintain the relationship. Did that mean none of my relationships were authentic?
Balance Between Transparency and Setting Boundaries
I jotted down three examples of how I or the other person in one of my close relationships regularly practice apathy:
- By avoiding (or denying) the conflict exists in either our personal struggles or the relationship itself.
- By criticizing or blaming the other either directly or indirectly and not taking responsibility for our part in the problem.
- By creating the appearance of “peace” and “love” by responding with positive (but empty) words or giving the “appropriate response.”
I need to feel safe to be transparent in my relationships. I need to have the ability to be vulnerable and not put off a “life’s perfect just because I believe in Jesus and go to church every week” attitude.
Toward the end of last week and my brink of breaking down, I summed up my feelings with this:
I used to be the kind of person to let things go easily. I try to forgive and move on and always examine my part in things. But I think it comes down to me trying to be someone I’m not. It’s okay not to be okay with less than ideal circumstances or people who expect more than I can give. But I need to communicate from the start and not let things build. If you’ve been on the other end of my “final straw” I hope you can forgive me. With that said, I need to know I can express my thoughts and beliefs without being ridiculed or talked to like I was born yesterday. If you care you will respect my perspective and not try to make me be like you.
In so many ways, what I am saying here closely reflects my pastor’s next point.
“Healthy boundaries are needed to sustain relationships.”
Perhaps you can see the connection here if I didn’t confuse you too much. All the questions and concerns and self-examination I’ve put myself through in recent weeks are answered here.
FIRST – I need to feel safe to be truthful and not avoid conflict because the person I’m talking to may not receive what I have to say in an ideal manner.
SECOND – If that relationship is worthy, then once the conflict is realized and both sides have had their say, we need to be able set boundaries and have them respected.
How to Remove the Wall of Apathy
All of this leads me to the conclusion of the message:
“Relationships are part of the abundance Jesus has for us.”
Okay, so we’ve covered the what and perhaps the why of things. But what about the how in moving forward?
Pastor Scott Suggests Four Steps to Demolish the Wall of Indifference and Find Your Abundance
- Honestly Look in the Mirror – this involves taking responsibility for my own life and assessing my honest expectations of myself and others and how I respond (or react) to their actions and words toward me. Each act of apathy has become a brick in the wall.
- Go Find a Sledge Hammer – demolish ALL the walls! It might be brick by brick and take some time, but the hammer needs to fall.
- Repeatedly Practice U-Turns – make a choice to change my ways as a broken person with broken walls. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others willing to support and encourage my efforts with God’s guidance.
- Re-Establish a healthy dialogue with God and the Other Relationships in my life – Be willing to explore the intimacy of deep discussions (even if it means staying up all night because the conversation is THAT good!)
I admit I’m still feeling pretty raw regarding all of it. I’m not at the point of not caring, but I am at the point of needing space so I can get back to who I truly am.
The Pastor Inspired message for this post can be found at Harvest Community Church Sermons Page, Part 2 of Breaking Free of Relationship Killers. Message by Pastor Scott Flanagan.