Last night I taught a class called Refocus Your Marriage. Really it could be called Refocus Your Relationships. I thought I would share a few of the opening comments I shared with that group.
Here are three important truths to remember:
- You are made for relationships – We are made to need relationships. We all have three primary types of relationships: With others, with ourselves and with God. Each of those areas needs our attention and development.
- You are made with the capacity to Choose – God gave each of us the power to choose. Choice equals change. Making a choice is often difficult because it requires change, and that change can be threatening. We choose how we react to everything around us. We choose the thoughts we have and those thoughts lead to emotions and behaviors. So in essence we can control our emotions and behaviors by the way in which we think.
- You are made to take responsibility for yourself – The only thing you have control over is yourself. You get to choose how you think, what you think, what you say and what you do. When you start to focus on yourself and how you can grow and change you will begin to make progress in your relationships.
I want to introduce you to the emotion that destroys relationships. This has been going on for thousands of years since the beginning with Adam & Eve. It has been destroying relationships and people very effectively. At the core of every person is a button called fear. That fear takes many shapes, things like fear of failure, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, you name it.
From where does this fear come from? Let’s take a look at the creation story with fresh eyes Genesis 2:17 – After God created Adam & Eve, he informed them about two special trees blossoming in the middle of the garden: The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Regarding the first he gave no commandment. But the second he said “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Why did God create a perfect garden and then put these two trees right in the middle? Why not outside the garden? I think it was because he created us to depend on him, not living an autonomous life apart from him. He gave that command to not eat of the tree so that we wouldn’t become self-sustaining and insist on stubborn control of our own lives. He wanted us to daily choose to trust Him for everything we need.
I believe that command created a healthy fear in Adam & Eve, the fear of being separated from God. It also created a fear of losing each other as well. Well along comes Satan, or the Serpent and he plays on this fear. “Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Eve replies exactly what God told them, we can eat from any tree in the garden except the tree in the middle of the garden, you must not touch it or you will die.
“You will not surely die, serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. My guess is that Eve thought that her fear of being separated from God was not true and therefore took the fruit. This caused a whole new fear to take root. This fear was unhealthy and destructive. When Adam & Eve heard God walking in the garden they hid, because they were afraid. There fear caused them to respond in a certain way. After eating the fruit their response became unhealthy, defensiveness, blaming others.
Our relationships are much the same way. We all have hurts from our past or guilt from us hurting someone else. Those hurts and guilt drive the fear that drives our unhealthy behaviors. That causes us to struggle to have healthy, happy relationships. To learn more about this idea of fear and relationships read the book by Gary Smalley called “The DNA of Relationships”.