Have you ever pondered the Resilience of God?
God creates humankind in his/her image, male and female created in the image of God, glorious and magnanimous, BUT by the time of Noah, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5) What a disaster. The author of creation and all that was beautiful looked on in brokenness and said, (paraphrase) “Enough.”
The Bible’s recorded history is not shy about how men and women treated each other and their God. Though a sacred book, its sordid details were not left out. Dysfunctional relationships included liers, thieves, murderers, adulterers, betrayal, bitterness, jealousy, and sexual debauchery; along with brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, nephews, in-law’s, friends and enemies roiled in conflicts and irreconcilable differences. Sounds a lot like today.
Every one of us, including those seeking after godliness and/or pursuing love, grapple with the tension in our closest relationships. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Whew, I’m off the hook.
After all, Jesus, I don’t think I have any real, bona fide enemies but hey Lord, ….. I might have a few frenemies. You know those oxymoronic relationships you share with one whom is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. Or someone who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy. You might even be sleeping next to one.
I love the book of Psalms. I’m reading it again. David (King, shepherd boy, giant slayer) touches on every human emotion known to man. I have no doubt if he lived today, he’d be diagnosed a manic-depressive and told he needed pharmaceuticals. Instead, he embraced life’s highs and lows and the normal abnormal seasons of living, that we all pass through, with emotional honesty and resilience. Many times he wrote about (Psalms 41, 55) his mourning and grief over a betrayal, not of an enemy, but that of a close companion, a best friend, a son, someone he dined with; a frenemy.
Got any of those? Anyone? I do. I’ve lost sleep over conflicts with my frenemies, even though I’m trained, skilled even in counseling psychology. However, when it comes to close relationships and the volcanic emotions that come blasting up, it can be damn hard.
What’s a body to do?
I’ve put together a few resilient responses that I hope are helpful to you, as they have been to me. I’d also love to hear from you on what has worked or mitigated your trials and tribs.
1. Stand in Your Truth
First, Check your heart and yourself before God. We all have blind spots and areas where we lack knowledge. Ask people of integrity for their objective opinion and what you may be missing or not seeing clearly. If after a conscious evaluation you feel your heart is right before God, cast off both the accusation and the accuser. You may still be called a liar, amongst other things, but stand in your truth for your heart does not condemn you.
2. Set and Enforce Boundaries
This is still a TOP issue in both counseling and coaching. Generally, women struggle with this more than men but not by much. IF your frenemy is someone in your inner circle it makes life harder because you will constantly have to set and enforce boundaries for self-preservation. It’s toddler time all over again but with adults. AND, texting and email have not helped in the relationship department. How many times has someone read into your text some emotion that just isn’t there; or visa versa? How many times have you started a text war because it was easy to just blast away? Then there are emails and those who hide behind this communication modality and refuse to pick up the phone. Unfortunately, the flip side of life enhancing technology has created cowardness and more and more people, especially the younger generations, are being harmed by their inability to resolve conflict via tete-a-tete communication. Unnearth every option available for change but do what you can to limit your exposure to your frenemies. “Boundaries are alway about you and not the other person.”
3. If possible, negotiate a Win-Win.
This response is helpful in both personal and business encounters. It’s so simple and powerful to say, “How can we make this a Win-Win? Choosing this particular vocabulary can be a life-saver in marriages (where spouses often feel the injustice of a win-lose), for parents and children (this simple question gets kids to think about parity and sets them up for success in future relationships), and in business where parties are willing to negotiate. It does mean people have to be willing on both sides to be committed to the process.
4. Bless Your Frenemy
The blessing your frenemy, in my opinion, goes beyond praying for your frenemy. When we only pray, we can slip into beseeching God about all our frenemies faults and how God needs to change them because we just can’t stand this, that or the other. But when we choose to bless someone our prayers of blessing release something more. For example: “Lord, I bless Diane. I bless her marriage. I bless her family and her children. Lord, I bless her finances, in Jesus name. I bless her in all of her endeavors; her work, her goals, her challenges, etc.” So many times in scripture, we are commanded to do the opposite of what we think or feel as noted in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, your pardon; where there is darkness, let me bring light; and where there is sadness, joy.” Blessing our frenemies changes us; and me, myself and I are the only one’s we have any power over.
5. Reconciliation – It’s the heart of God
Well, I saved this for last because it should always be our priority, our deepest desire for every relationship but sadly, happy endings are not guaranteed. Back to David’s story. King David had a very contentious and painful relationsip with his third born son, Absalom. Absalom was banished by his dad, kicked out of his hometown, seperated from his family, siblings and way of life for murdering his half-sister’s rapist. He most likely lost his source of income and stability; everything gone in an instant. At some point, David tried to reconcile with Absalom and invited him back to Jerusalem but Absalom refused. For years, he fueled the rejection into white-hot anger that spilled over into bloodthirsty revenge. He was set to inherit the throne for his two older brothers were commoners. He built an army of men, 20k strong, and planned a coupe. But first, as a political act and to viciously shame his father, he had his men set up a tent on the roof of the city (where all were privvy to his actions) and proceeded to rape his father’s wives and concubines making an implicit statement that “he was the rightful inheritor of his father’s wives and concubines” just as David inherited King Saul’s wives and concubines when he overtook the throne. Messy stuff.
Absalom and his men attack; David and his men counterattack. Absalom is killed. David, hearing the news, dissolves into weeping and convulses with loud lamenting, “My son Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!”
Oh Dear God, help us. Help us to love our enemies and reconcile with our frenemies.
“Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” Lam. 3:22-23
As always, praying you find a new mercy today and everyday,
This is very sound and timely advice for these tumultuous times, Nannette, thanks for sharing your particular blend of common sense, spirituality and realism!
Thanks for your thoughts Mary.