Messy, Messy, Messy and More Messy: That’s Life, So Expect It

When you taste a measure of being able to love and enjoy the people in your life, without having to have any particular response from them, you are tasting bliss. Paula Rinehart

Love this quote so much that I started off one of the chapters in our book, Burdens Do a Body Good, with it.

I’ve pondered this quote quite a bit too…wondering how to engage other people in relationships that grow without having expectations from them.

Is it even possible?

On the one hand, it is right and proper to expect certain things from people close to us.

Mutual respect.

On the other hand, it is also just as important to expect that the people close to us will fail us. Because they will.

Unconsciously or consciously (or both)…every relationship is necessarily flawed.

Which always reminds me of one of Paul Tripp’s video series where he warns people that all relationships are messy. In this series, Tripp tells listeners that if you’re involved with an angry person, expect their anger to target you at some time. If you’re involved with a person who struggles with trust, expect that person to struggle trusting you. If you’re involved with a person who is fearful, expect that person’s fear to spill over into the relationship.

I know we’d all like to think that if we simply abide by the rules that another person’s messy struggles won’t affect us…but given enough time and enough interaction…it will. So expect it. Then deal with it.

Expectations don’t necessarily have to be the undoing of our relationships…we just have to know how to proceed once it happens and once our feelings get hurt.

Paul Tripp offers some suggestions here.

Relationships: Gaining Ground

Be honest with yourself. You’ve been disappointed in some way with every relationship you’ve ever had. It’s the universal experience of everyone this side of destiny. No, it’s not that you’ve met the wrong people or that you lack relational skills. It’s that every relationship you’ve had, you’ve had in a fallen world. You never get to hang out with perfect people. You never get to have those perfect relationships in a perfect location and with perfect circumstances surrounding you. No, all of your relationships are with flawed people in a flawed world. And don’t forget, you’re one of those flawed people as well! So how can you gain ground? How can your relationships become better than they are right now? Let me suggest three ways:

1. Determine to be realistic. I love how shockingly honest the Bible is. It’s a book that really doesn’t pull any punches. You see, what damages our relationships is not having a realistic acceptance of our own weaknesses and struggles. What damages our relationships is our delusions of perfection and strength! The first step in any kind of change is admitting that change is needed in the first place.

2. Determine to be honest. One of the things that gets in the way of healthy relationships is silence. Maybe our problem is that we simply don’t love one another enough to have the hard conversations that are what good relationships are all about. If you are in a relationship with a flawed person, you will be touched by those flaws. Maybe it will come as an unkind word, an act of selfishness, or an outburst of irritation. Quick and loving honesty in those moments can keep a relationship from being distorted by bad habits and subverted by bitterness.

3. Determine to focus on yourself. No, I am not counseling you to be selfish, I am encouraging you to be humble. Good relationships are the result of both people being committed to personal change and growth. Self-examination is a key way you demonstrate love for the other person. It is very easy to be all-too-satisfied with yourself, while being irritated and impatient with the weaknesses of another. When you have two people who are committed to heart change, the relationship will change and grow as well.


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