Many people know the truths of the Bible relatively well. They can recite many of the Ten Commandments and articulate key principles for Christian living. They believe wholeheartdly they should be living them. The problem is they don’t know how!
The following is one simple, common scenario:
Almaz is a gifted manager in her company. She has been a Christian her whole life and loves spending time with God. When the vice presdient of her company was making schedules for mangers to meet clients out of town, he asked Almaz to pick up the weeks she would prefer to travel over the next three months. Within the week Almaz emailed him the dates and eagerly awaited his confrimation. None arrived. Almaz called his office the following week.
His administrative assistant answered. “Well, according to the schedule I have infront of me, the next three months are all full,” she said. “I guess this means he does not need you right now. But thanks for calling.”
Almaz sat stunned in her chair. “Thank you, “she replied robotically and hung up.
For the next two weeks Almaz wrested with God and herself. She asked God for forgiveness for the anger she was feeling. She tried to figure out why the vice president had changed his mind. She humbled herself to God. She cried out in prayer for love toward her coworkers. She lost sleep.
Finally, she concluded God was dealing with her stubborn self-will.
Over time Almaz distances herself from the vice president and other managers, avoiding them whenever possible. During the next two years she worked hard, but she felt like she had hit a ceiling in how far she could go with this company. Eventually, she took a position with another company.
Even though, Almaz is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, her commitment does not include relating well to people in an emotionally mature way. Instead, she misapplies biblical truth and follows, most probably, the relational skills learned unconsciously in her family growing up.
What assumptions is she making about her vice president? His administrative assistant? About God’s will for her life? What might she have done to prevent her pain? To preserve her relationships at work? Unless Almaz receives equipping in this area, she will likely repeat the same pattern over and over again.
Part of growing into an emotionally mature Christian is learning how to apply practically and effectively the truths we believe.
Here is a brief summary of a mature emotional adults
. Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer—clearly, directly, honestly
. Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings.
. Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial.
. Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect.
. Appreciate people for who they are—the good, bad, and ugly—not for what they give back.
. Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others.
. Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves.
. Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others.
Almaz did not have the skills and emotional maturity to resolve her conflict maturely. She also did not have the ability to state her feelings and beliefs without thinking adversarially. The end result was an isolation and coldness in her relationship at work that resembled hell more than heaven.
A tragically misinterpreted verse in the New Testament is Jesus’ proclamation: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Most people think that Jesus calls us in this verse to be pacifiers and appeasers who ensure that nobody gets upset. We are to keep the peace, ignoring difficult issues and problems, making sure things remain stable and serene. When, out of fear, we avoid conflict and appease people, we are false peacemakers. For example, Achame is engaged. She would like more time to rethink her decison but is afraid that her fiance’ and his family will get angry. She goes through with the wedding. She is a false peacemaker.
The way of true peace will never come through pretending what is wrong is right! True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace. Jesus models this for us.
Many of us believe loving well is learned automatically. But we need to have some tools and excercises to learn how to love. We need to ask God prayerfully to help us to love and relate well with others.
Besides prayer, we need to look two things very carefully namely assumptions and expectations.
Checking Out Assumptions
Checking out assumptions is a very simple, but powerful tool that elimnates untold number of conflicts in relationships. It enables us to check out whether what we are thinking or feeling about others is true. It enables us to clarify potential misunderstandings.
Every time we make assumptions about someone who has hurt or disappointed us without confirming it, we believe a lie about that person in our head. This assumption is a misrepresentation of reality. Because we have not checked it out with the other person, it is very possible we believe something untrue. It is also likely we will pass that false assumption around to others.
When we leave reality for a mental creation of our own doing (hidden assumptions), we create a counterfeit world. When we do this it can properly be said that we EXCLUDE God from our lives because God does not exist outside of reality and truth. In doing so we wreck relationships by creating endless confusion and conflict.
Almaz, in our opening illustration made all sorts of assumptions about why the boss failed to schedule her to meet with clients. Her life was driven by these assumptions in her head, which mostly likely were false.
Unmet and unclear expectations create havoc in our places of employment, classrooms, friendships, dating relationships, marriages, sports teams, families and churches. We expect other people to know what we want before we say it. Expectations are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon. We all know the unpleasant experience of other people having expectations we never agreed to.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our world is to be a community of emotionally healthy adults who love well. This will take the power of God and a commitment to learn, grow, and break with unhealthy, destructive patterns that go back generations in our families and cultures—and in some cases, our Christian cultures also.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Lord, we have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in us. Please change us. Make us a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom we come in contact sense Your tenderness and kindness. Deliver us from false peacemaking that is driven by fear. Lord Jesus, help us love well like you. Grow us, we pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Your Holy name, Jesus. Amen.
Excerpt taken from a book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.