Yeah, I know, we've all heard it before. Relationships are a two-way street. Obvious! What's new? Well,
while it is true that it takes two to have a relationship, I'm thinking
that maybe relationships in themselves are more like a divided highway;
it does go both ways, but ultimately we have to own the responsibility
for our side of it.
One of the biggest personal challenges we face as Christians is
the balancing of our rights and responsibilities. On a divided highway we have two lanes to drive on. It's our right to drive on either lane, but we also have a responsibility to be aware of where the other drivers are and what they're doing. Traffic on the other side of the divide may not be in our control, but it's in our best interest to keep our senses tuned in to what's going on over there as well. We're constantly balancing our right to drive that road with the responsibilities of paying attention to the other vehicles that we are essentially in a relationship with while we're there on that road. Sometimes we may have to change lanes or slow down in order to be responsible drivers. We have a right to keep going or not allow someone access, but we yield that right in order to make the traffic relationship work. Our
personal relationships are no exception. In fact, in order for a relationship to
even survive, it's vital that we be willing to yield our rights.
The subject of yielding rights has a large circumference, but let's
pigeon-hole it for this column and look at it through the filter of
making relationships work.
They say that one of the reasons wood
is such an excellent building material is because it 'gives' under
pressure. Now, that doesn't mean it caves in or falls apart, on the
contrary; it is actually woods ability to give under pressure that makes it stronger and
more resilient. If wood were too rigid it would just split the moment
a nail was driven into it. According to a post on weak and strong materials by Christopher Murphy, P.E., a Mechanical Engineer at Air Force Research Laboratory, in Newton BBS's Ask A Scientist Service, "Wood is real strong as long as the load is at a right angle to the wood fiber." He says that if you want to split wood you go along the fiber length. In the same article, David Brandt states, "Wood has "give" to it because the fibers move out of the way when, for example, you put in a nail." We need to remember that yielding does not
mean being a door-mat or a
limp, wet noodle; and conversely, being strong doesn't mean being rigid or guarding our rights. Just like the wood, we can be strong and resilient
in our relationships when we're willing to look beyond ourselves and
yield our right to be right. When we yield our rights, we essentially 'move out of the way' of the nail; allowing our relationship to be solidified and strengthened.
What if we never yielded our right of way while we were driving? "Why should I yield?",
you could say, "I have the right-of-way!" That may be true, technically
you do have the right-of-way. But sugar, if there's a car comin' at
ya, you're gonna be puttin' on the brakes! One way or another.
is it then that we have such difficulty surrendering our 'right-of-way'
in our relationships? Obviously there is a base of selfish flesh that
we all have to die out to, but there are also a myriad of additional
reasons why we tend to recoil from the thought. Although the reasons
are varied, they reveal a common denominator: fear. Why are we so
afraid to let go of our rights? What is it that compels us to hold onto our need to be right or have things our way?
I'm amazed by the humanistic
advice we're surrounded by in our culture. The main theme seems to be
'You'd better look out for yourself because no one else is going to'.
That is such an errant way of thinking. It's self-centered, it's
contrary to the Word of God, and it spells distinct death for any relationship.
4:18 says "there is no fear in love" and that "perfect love casteth out
fear". Additionally we are repeatedly commissioned to "love one
another". So if we, as Christians, follow the Word and attempt to
follow the example of love Christ laid out for us, we have freedom from
the fear that keeps us from thriving in our relationships.
have a new saying in our house, "assume the best in love". When your brother
'steals' your seat because you got up to go to the bathroom, don't get
mad and hit him, assume that because he loves you he would never
intentionally do that to you. Assume that he must not have realized
you were sitting there or that you were coming back. We're in the neophyte stages of the practice, but can you see with me the
strife that could be averted if we lived all of our relationships that
way? Jesus asks us to even take it a step further. Applying His instructions from
Luke 6:30, if your brother 'steals your seat' you willingly let him
continue sitting there, yielding your right to have it your way, even
if he did do it on purpose! I wonder what would happen to our relationships if we all started living His way? That instruction definitely does not go along my fiber length!
Gothard told the story about having to share a room with his brother
growing up. Bill was a neat freak and his brother was not-so-much
neat. This was a constant source of strife for Mr. Bill. He tried
everything to get his brother to make his bed! Nothing worked. So
Bill yielded his right to have his brother make his bed. He took it a
step further though and started making his brother's bed! It wasn't
long before his brother began taking the responsibility for his part of
the room on himself. Now, not every story is going to have that kind
of a resolution for an ending, but it is an example of the kind of
changes that can come about in a relationship when we yield our rights.
we hold onto our rights so tightly, we are essentially telling God that
we can't trust Him and that we need to keep control of things and look
out for ourselves; essentially we are refusing to surrender to Him. But when we put our trust in Him and follow His word,
we can let go of
the fear that has us bound when we don't even realize it. Then we can
yield our right to be right and watch our relationships become even
stronger as He blesses them.
Next time you find yourself with a conflict in a relationship, take a step back and see if there are rights you're holding onto. Ask yourself why it matters so much to be right or have your own way. What is it you are afraid of losing? Remember to surrender your rights to the Lord and let His perfect love flow throw you and cast out the fear that has you bound. Flex with it! It's a challenge. Try it out and just see what happens. What have you got to lose?