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By now in this series you should recognize a clear pattern for healing. Healing is a flow. Healing is a by-product. Healing is integration. Healing is convergence. It brings together separated things. Healing goes beyond the immediately broken thing. To heal something, is to somehow get beyond what we see, feel or touch. Healing flows inside-out, not outside-in. It comes from another dimension, that of consciousness, word, presence and spirit.
Our world sees relationship problems as multi-variable. In one sense that is true, it does take two to tango. We are also told that it takes a lot of time to work through issues and that healing is gradual. But there is one variable that changes everything immediately: love. It’s the subject of every song, it’s the longing within every heart, yet our world knows so little about accessing its power. Love heals every rift. We need healing in our relationships because we don’t know how to love.
The fastest way to heal broken relationships is through self-awareness. Knowing oneself is the heart of all spirituality and psychology. If the problem in your relationship is “the other person” then you still have far to go. There is an undeniable correlation and, in this case, causation between self-awareness and the ability to love and thus have healthy relationships. The road from toxic relationships to healthy, thriving relationships is the road of self-awareness. It’s a road that reveals how unloving we actually are, which erodes our strongholds of self protection. Love should rewrite our theories on relationship compatibility, but it doesn’t. Instead we are told that in relationships, love is not enough, when in reality the Beatles were right; love is all you need. Love scours and scourges us until we learn to move with it.
No two parties in a relationship are ever at exactly the same place, nor do they grow at the same pace, therefore it’s common for one to outgrow the other. This imbalance can be a challenge to navigate. In such cases, grace towards the other works the best. It’s not unlike loving a child or pet with a lower consciousness. There is a necessary and loving condescension (self-emptying/ kenosis) that is required to inspire growth in the other. This is how scripture depicts God loving us (Philippians 2:7). The path to healing a relationship is not the misguided attempt at equality nor uniformity through negotiation, but loving acceptance of each other’s strengths and the critical illumination of each other’s weaknesses. Like headlights on a car, sometimes we need high beams, and other times we need low beams. Compromising our highs and lows weakens the relationship. Avoiding critical examination is to drive in only one mode. Compromising is bad advice, being headstrong is worse still, but self-emptying changes everything.
Our culture is stuck on the idea of equality, balance, and finding a good fit. This is understandable, but presupposes the relationship is static. An equally yolked couple in January may not be so in November. So often we focus on compatibility which is great at the beginning, but which steers us off-course into negotiating how to stay in non-loving relationships. A healthy loving relationship is marked by two people who are constantly adapting for the sake of the other. Healing promotes freedom and growth of the other. That freedom is then used to serve the other. This takes competition out of the relationship. It eliminates the scorecard. Love is not one-sided.
Relationships are a daily choice.
Couples don’t fall out of love, they choose something other than love. Love is patient, kind, conscientious, it doesn’t demand its own way, it’s not self serving, it is (kenosis) self-emptying and always giving itself away (1 Corinthians 13). The simple reality is that it takes tremendous self-awareness and soul to truly love, and most people don’t have the depth to sustain the practice of love. Love is learned by being in love, vertically first, then horizontally. If love is replaced with a one-sided operating system, like power, satisfaction, pleasure, or self-promotion, the relationship dies accordingly.
Healing relationships is really all about recovering our practice of love. Healing a marriage is learning how to switch back to love as the operating system. Healing a rift with a family member, coworker or friendship is a return to the practice of love. By refusing to love, we stop the flow of healing. Hurt people cut off access to the heart as a means of self-protection. Hurt people cannot love and treat others in unloving ways. The hardened heart is only opened from the inside, we cannot love those who are not open to love. There cannot be the dynamic flow of love if one heart is guarded. Love is the willingness to be hurt by the freedom of the other.
Love doesn’t have a score card. It carries no grudge. Love says, “I’m not going to hold your past against you. Let’s move beyond this together into a better place.” Love doesn’t bring up the past. Those who do such things know nothing of love. Because love self-empties and condescends, it isn’t worried about being controlled. Because love isn’t desperate or needy, it will never accept someone who seeks to control it. Love cannot be captured, caged, or manipulated. Two loving people are safe while completely vulnerable. One self-empties entirely into the other, and is entirely filled by the emptying of the other. Love is both completely full and empty at the same time. Anything else is a mirage. We mirror the pattern of God.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11
Much of our society and its advice in relationships is really all about how two false selves should relate to each other. It knows almost nothing of authenticity, vulnerability, love, and integration. False can’t love false. This approach allows people to manage relationships, but there is no real healing. If you think tip-toeing is as good as it gets, then you are settling for a relationship with a fake ID. Healing is not the same as negotiating a relationship. Healing is mutual surrender. Healing is loving someone through their blindness not despite it. This is easily tested by addressing the fault of the other. Offended, hurt or angry people are not in the flow of love.
Poor communication is the hallmark of a relationship’s need for healing. Fear prevents love’s rigor and benevolence. Behind our fear is our unhealed insecurity. We can’t communicate because we are weak and our childish ego cannot bear the exposure. So we learn to deflect, blame, or mask our desperate need for validation, acceptance, approval with some Oz-like light show or distracting behavior. Fear causes us to hide our compulsions, cravings, and our ugliness from the other because of our need to save face and appear better than we actually are. We essentially enrobe ourselves with a giant fig leaf garment instead of the nakedness and vulnerability of love. We put on a good show instead of talking and trusting. It’s amazing just how profound poor communication patterns endure and become habits. This is easily healed by sharing our heart.
Like healing our demons, speaking truth to the power puts us on our path to healing. “Can we talk?” is the question that can alter our trajectory. A self-aware person becomes healed when they self empty and let the ego die. Love will let the entire house of cards fall, it has no interest in pretense. The conversations that used to erode into napalm, argument, and bloodshed now possess no self-protection, and accepts what is. Healing has no need to be right, or to win, or to overpower. Healing accepts responsibility for being an imperfect, weak, flawed, confused, angry, hurt person and somehow doesn’t use it as an excuse. If we connect at this level, we fall instantly in love again. Love is joined by letting go.
Can I encourage you to make that call, write that text, meet for coffee, or go on a walk with that person with whom you share a broken relationship? Ask if you can talk. Offer no defense and start the process. Hear the pain and then own it, embody it and help them share it. Self-empty. Become safe again. Offer no agenda, no solution, no strategy. Just be weak, naked, vulnerable and open to the free fall of love. If this other person is violent, dangerous, or destructive, then obviously, they are not ready for love. Let them go, give them time, create space. But if they are a normal, ordinary, regular, person, then you may be surprised at just how healing love can be.
You’ll be amazed at just how fast things can change. You’ll be convince once again that love really can change the world.