How to Fix a Toxic Relationship: 8 Bible Verses to Consider

Looking to figure out how to fix a toxic relationship? Here are 8 Bible verses to consider while deciding if the relationship has any hope of continuing.

Being stuck in a toxic relationship

The cause of all toxic behavior is sin, which entered the world when Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, rebelled against God (Genesis 3). Because we are children of our first parents, we are all stained with this original sin.

We feel anger, pride, and selfishness, and we feel trapped. This causes us to constantly search for something to hope in or a way of escape. There is one hope only of escaping this sin: Jesus Christ who died for us so that we could be saved (Romans 5:8). With His grace, we can find out how to fix a toxic relationship.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul admonished the church in Corinth for their lack of love and indifference toward him. This was because of their close connections with unbelievers. This had corrupted their spiritual growth.

Does this other person indulge people that distract from the gospel in your relationship? If this person or spouse is not being built up by believers, and is instead satisfied with being poured into by unbelievers, it is likely that you have a toxic relationship on your hands. Prayer is a great place to start as God promises He gives wisdom generously to all, without reproach as we ask Him with faith that He will provide it (James 1).

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. – Hebrews 13:14

This was one of the final exhortations by Paul to his followers in his epistle while imprisoned. He wanted them to show hospitality to strangers, remember those mistreated in prison, shun the love of money, and be content with what they had, remembering the Lord is always there to love and guide you. He is there for us in marriage, too.

God founded the institution; therefore, its vows must be upheld. Nothing is to come between you and loving your spouse and holding them in high regard – not their attitude or behavior, not your kids, not a job or other activity, not another person in any way.

Today, this type of behavior is too prevalent, often resulting in the break-up of marriages. If you find there is anything in the way of loving your spouse, you need to pray to the Lord for help to fix this toxic relationship and help you to rely on Him to help you do it His way.

Do not be deceived; ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:33

This is true in all relationships – family, friends, and work. Who are your “friends?” Do they support you in times of want; are they there for you no matter the circumstances? Or do they disappear, making you wonder who you can trust? The Lord will never leave your side. He is incorruptible.

As a Christian, you are called to love others. Loving means taking the right course of action, in accordance with God’s Word, and to not be corrupted or change your views. He is the Lord, and He will let you know how to fix a toxic relationship with others. Conform to God’s law, not the world’s.

If your brother sins against you, go, and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

These are strong words, but they ensure accountability and effective conflict resolution. You must look at others as souls. Forgiving a person (family, friend, co-worker, etc.) or spouse means looking at them as a fellow “brother” or “sister” in Christ, a soul that has been redeemed and is called righteous just as you are.

Forgiving someone who is not a believer is loving our enemies just as we are instructed to, and looking at them as souls in need of a Savior. Wading through the consequences of the wrongs done might take longer. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship can involve deeper issues that will take time to understand. Take it to the Lord in prayer, search His Word for wisdom, and seek out good, God-centered counsel.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:8

When it comes to sex, we see that nothing is new under the sun. In Paul’s day, sex of all kinds was normal for most people. This included adultery, prostitution, pedophilia, homosexuality, etc. Sex outside of marriage was accepted as normal, just as it is today. Paul states you must flee from sexual immorality. It’s wiser to escape from this sin than be subdued by it (Genesis 39:7-12). You are only harming yourself and others involved.

Paul fought against the casual attitude toward it by some Christians and the pain it causes to both spouses. Today we still commit these sins. This causes friction, bad attitudes, and bad relationships. You will need to learn how to fix this toxic relationship.

Rely on the Lord. Pray for a resolution that will return the love you feel for your spouse and an escape from any relationship that does not honor God by respecting the design of sex to be between a married man and woman. Seek counsel to help point you to God’s will.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Paul once more tells us to treat others’ needs as more important than our own, and other people as greater than us. By doing this, you will achieve the kind of humility that results in love and unity. His goal was to center attention on other people, not yourself. We need to do this in our personal relationships and marriages.

By treating people with respect, you will be influencing the relationship out of toxicity. There will be the most opportunity for harmony and understanding of each other’s needs when at least one person is honoring the Lord. There may still be conflict, but true love will, with God’s help, see you through such times as you look to suffer well and seek out the other soul’s good above your own.

I appeal to you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. – Romans 16:17-18

Paul begs the Christians in Rome to be on their guard against false teaching, by holding to the truth they know and protecting it at all costs. He knew that others would come after him and try to sow division and confusion in the church, seeking after their own selfish desires.

Fixing a toxic relationship is a manner of speaking the truth to one another, whether at home, the office, or with anyone. Cling to the gospel to see your way through any measure of toxic relationship. Put everything to the test of Scripture to make straight your paths.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

With this chapter, it’s easy to see that love conquers all. There is nothing it can’t overcome. This is the love of Christ. As followers of Christ, we strive to love like this by the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship is using this love for every relationship. The Lord will show you how if you ask Him. Evil is overcome by the power of love.

It is quite clear in these verses that love should dominate our thoughts and actions. How to fix a toxic relationship then becomes a simple matter of understanding God’s love and loving the other person with it.

Get help with your relationships today by reaching out to a therapist on our website.

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One Thing I Do to Improve My Mental Health as a Christian Therapist

As with life, highs and lows, tragedies and excitements, trials and redemptions are normal. No one is born with the readiness to handle such things. Though there are several tools, there are no guarantees and no perfect formula for all of life. Here is one thing I do to improve my mental health as a Christian therapist.

Narrowing down the tools I’ve used over the past decades was a struggle, but to keep it simple I wanted to select just one. Keep in mind, this one has many by its side throughout every situation isn’t a cure-all. To select the most effective tool, over the years I’ve decidedly used the Bible as my sieve to week out the tools and pieces of advice that lead to nowhere.

Doesn’t a therapist have the advantage?

You might ask, “Does training to be a therapist make a difference?” The answer is “yes,” and “no.”

There’s an advantage to training for something. In this case, it gives greater exposure to a wide variety of tools. There’s also the requirement to practice putting this wide collection of mechanisms for battling mental health woes to use. Simply put, being a Christian therapist means one is likely to have been doing this longer and know a bit more about tools that do and don’t work than the average person.

There’s also a real chance that there is absolutely no advantage to training as a therapist in the way of knowing how to improve one’s mental health. What training provides is exposure to many different tools and areas of thought about what might help with each struggle. Anyone can gain exposure to as much or even more of these tools in their everyday lives.

That being said, the world cannot offer any better wisdom than God. So simply spending more time studying the Bible can lead one to have a greater advantage over a trained professional. Finally, there’s no end to practicing the tools, they are lifetime assistants for everyone, and many develop the art of them naturally.

The one thing

One thing I do to improve my mental health as a Christian therapist, above all others, is to focus on connection. Every high and low in mental health brings the temptation to disconnect. Whether it be to God or others, connection matters most in improving, balancing, and weathering the ups and downs of our mental health.

Our mental health consists of our thoughts and emotions. Our emotions set off like alarms to tell us something is happening. Our thoughts decide what to make of it and then our behavior follows. I’ll explain more about how to engage the tool of connection, below.

Connection to God

Each time you experience the elated, happier-than-can-be feeling, you may have no thought of trouble. Why bother working on our mental health when everything seems grand? This is where the temptation to disconnect comes in.

The messages of this temptation come with some variation of “I don’t need God right now,” and so we relax our diligence in connecting with God and are vulnerable to the inevitable trial to come. Feeling that mountain high is a great indicator that it is time to connect with God through praise and worship.

Similarly, when you feel the alarm of anxiousness ringing loudly in your ears, this is the time to connect with God through prayer. Use anger as a reminder to wrestle with the Spirit in your own space (Proverbs 4:4). Use the sadness alarm as a reminder to lament.

Connection to others

Connection with others is next in importance. When our emotions and mental health seem to be in the clouds, alerting us that all is well, we can be tempted to disconnect from others just as much as from God. The message comes across within as, “I am having too much fun to connect with them, maybe later.” The emotional alarm of happiness and contentment is helpful if we use it as a reminder to connect with and invest in other people.

If your anxious alarm is going off, use it as a reminder to reach out for prayer. This connection with others is an opportunity to feed the good and helpful thoughts. Try to resist venting or emoting on others which weakens the connection.

If it’s anger that’s sounding the alarm, use connection with others to communicate the need for space. Schedule a time for reunification or for that person to check in with you. Neither isolation nor pursuing a fight will build connection.

As for sadness, this alarm can be helpful when used as a reminder to reach out for prayer. Similar to anxiety, praying with others is an opportunity to develop the good and helpful thoughts that are necessary for improving mental health.

Keep connected

Everyone can benefit from having a space and time to talk things out. Whether it be to gain a new perspective or to find direction. Connecting with God and others is an intentional regular practice for all levels of mental health.

It is one thing I do to improve my mental health as a Christian therapist. It looks like having a time with God through prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading. It also looks like having a person or small group of people to talk with.

If you are looking for or in need of a therapist to be this connection for you, connect with us online. Connection may be just one out of many tools, but it is a powerful one. It is accessible to all with the most basic to the most pressing mental health needs. Keep connected.

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3 Steps to Start Getting Your Mental Health Back

Christians who struggle with mental health experience a multitude of symptoms. One of the biggest hurdles to starting to improve mental health functioning is a shame complex.

Shame says, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” This message can come from ourselves or those around us. No matter where the shame comes from, it creates a trap. This trap leads to isolation and isolation increases mental health issues.

Another message created from shame is any variation of “I don’t deserve to be better,” or “I’m not good enough.” These messages are more unhealthy self-talk that, again, leads Christians into a trap and more isolation.

A final variation of the messages the shame complex creates is slightly different from the first two. It’s the message of “I can’t shake it.” The shame that results from this is similar to “I’m not good enough” but it destroys any last bit of hope one may be grasping at. This message for the Christian, however, is more easily overcome than the first two in light of the following truths of Christianity:

  • God’s timing, not your timing.
  • God’s timing, not other’s timing.
  • There’s grace for that.

To overcome the shame complex and start getting your mental health back on track, you have to start focusing your mind on Christian messages like these. To break it down even further, here are three steps to start improving your mental health: evaluate, build, and connect.

  1. Evaluate your situation

To start getting your mental health back, you have to know how far gone it is. Take some time over the next week to evaluate how ingrained the negative mental habits are by asking “How long have I been thinking this way and battling these emotions?”

Another way to evaluate is to take notes about how pervasive the negative thoughts and emotions have become. Ask yourself, “Has this impacted my relationships? My daily life? My output at work? Are there any thought patterns I’ve noticed are repeating? How has my general mood been?” Finally, in taking the time to evaluate your current mental health status, if you are a Christian, you have a few extra questions to ask yourself.

The additional questions start with this: “Even if the problem with my mental health starts with someone else, is it really just a mental health issue or is it instead a heart issue?” The Christian’s heart needs constant examination. We may find a plank of bitterness, lack of grace, pride, selfishness, idolatry, and other sins blinding us to the best way to remedy the situation between us and another. The Bible’s teaching is your key, here.

If the problem with another continues to happen, we as Christians need to keep going to God, our heart doctor for both frequent heart checkups and support. A second step in this type of evaluation is to get a second opinion. This second opinion can come in the form of a pastor, a trusted Christian mentor, or a Christian therapist who can help you figure out what type of issue it is.

  1. Build the right supports

To start getting your mental health back, you must have support. With the shame complex, and any number of emotions, it can feel difficult to plug into support-especially the right supports. As difficult as it may be, to start getting your mental health back this year needs to be the year where you work on avoiding isolation.

Avoiding isolation may mean cutting screen time and getting in front of people in real life. It may also mean ditching the people who make you feel good but aren’t healthy for you.

Adding to the support of actual connections with healthy people in real life are routines and accountability. What you consume while trying to get your mental health back matters most. Take small bites of those healthier habits and over time you’ll grow in satisfaction. Look over all of your routines, from daily to weekly and beyond to adjust toward the goal over time and in every way.

Examples of “right supports” for getting your mental health back include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading the Bible (not a devotional).
  • Communing with and involving yourself with a fellowship group.
  • Develop a prayer team for yourself.
  • Attend church service in person weekly.
  • Play worship music.

These examples may seem less desirable or even trivial at this time. You may even think that you’re engaging with all or most of those supports and things are still hard. For the Christian, these supports are trustworthy and timeless. If these are in place and you feel you need even more support to start getting your mental health back, consider whether it is time to get counsel from a pastor or Christian therapist to see what else is missing.

  1. Connect with counsel

A final part of my top three ways to start getting your mental health back this year is to connect with wise counsel. Council adds to the daily and weekly supportive activities you already have been doing or are starting.

The more intense the needs of your mental health, or the more impactful your needs are, the more layers of support they will require. There is no guarantee or perfect formula but, generally speaking, counseling for the Christian increases from reading the Bible on your own, to talking with friends and family, to seeing a general practitioner or pastor for counseling, to seeing a specialist (therapist).

You may find benefit, as many do, in engaging in all of these levels of counsel. The source of counsel matters. For marriage, keep it out of the family ties unless following the teaching of the Bible to address a specific situation. For the Christian, it is important to check all counsel against the Word (even the counsel in this article).

Building support and counsel from the basics up diminishes variables of what could be missing and boosts mental health to weather the most difficult circumstances. These include trauma, physical deficits, difficult relationships, etc. All of which negatively impact mental health.

Take the time to work through these three steps to start getting your mental health back this year. If you want someone to help you with these steps or know you need a therapist to work with you, contact us at HuntingtonBeachChristiancounseling.com.

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9 Benefits of Life Coaching

Life coaching, as a practice, has not been something that people have traditionally considered for their self-development. Throughout history, coaching has primarily been associated with sports.

We have marveled at how athletes credit their coaches for helping them become the best versions of themselves. However, this concept has now extended to various areas of our lives, making it possible to have a coach for any aspect of life.

Coaching can be defined as a practical strategy that helps individuals improve their performance. A coach serves as a facilitator of growth and learning, rather than an expert in the client’s field. The coach’s role is to guide their clients toward progress and unlock their untapped potential.

Unlike counseling or therapy, which often delves into the past, coaching focuses on the present. It asks questions such as: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? While counseling and coaching can work together, with counseling addressing past psychological barriers, coaching helps individuals reach new heights once those barriers have been addressed.

In today’s world, coaching is available for all areas of life. It depends on individuals to determine in which areas they want to empower themselves. Coaching can be sought for relationships, finances, career, dieting, fitness, and practically any area where one wants to enhance one’s abilities. Coaches are trained professionals who may specialize in a specific field or take a more generalized approach.

Why coaching is important.

People seek the services of a coach for various reasons. Here are some advantages of having a coach in our lives:

Conflict resolution strategies.

Sometimes, when we don’t know how to resolve conflicts, we can feel stuck. Coaching empowers us to develop better conflict resolution strategies by asking the right questions, challenging our thinking, and offering alternative options.

Professional and leadership development.

Advancing professionally comes with challenges. Coaching can help navigate these challenges and develop leadership styles. By identifying strengths and providing insight into weaknesses or blind spots, a coach brings out the best in individuals as they lead others.

Goal definition, creation, and clarity.

Coaching provides individuals with insight into their goals and assesses their current ability to achieve them. Based on this assessment, a strategy is formed considering skills, reality, values, and vision.

Creating or managing change.

Navigating change without support can be challenging. Coaches step in during chaotic times, realistically evaluating the situation and helping clients develop new habits, insights, and actions that enable them to cope and thrive in the face of change.

Improved relationships.

As coaching progresses, clients acquire effective communication skills, mature conflict resolution abilities, and commitment. This, in turn, improves both personal and professional relationships.

Provision of accountability and encouragement.

Having someone who checks on us and provides feedback and motivation can make a significant difference. Coaches are invested in their client’s success and offer the necessary support. They are there not only during smooth times but also provide encouragement when clients face obstacles.

Self-discovery.

Through questioning and assessments, coaching facilitates self-discovery and self-awareness. Knowing our authentic selves allows us to make informed decisions about our life trajectories.

Fine-tuning skills.

Success requires a variety of skills. To excel in our chosen fields, we need to refine and improve these skill sets, ultimately enhancing our performance.

Confidence and autonomy.

Confidence is something for which we all strive – to be secure in who we are and what we can achieve. Coaching provides an opportunity to learn, grow, question, and gain exposure to different perspectives. All these aspects contribute to building confidence as clients take ownership of their lives.

Professional life coaching

If you find yourself in a place where you believe the services of a coach would be beneficial, reach out to us today at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling. The qualified professionals in California are ready to assist you in becoming the best version of yourself.

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Breaking Free from the Perfectionism and Anxiety Cycle

It is one thing to strive for excellence in our lives. But when the exertion turns into the quest for perfectionism, it becomes a beast that can drive our motivations and cause difficulties in our work-life relationships. Anxiety can rise and cause a vicious cycle. But you can break free from the perfectionism and anxiety cycle with a Christian counselor’s help.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a person’s concern with flawlessness accompanied by critical self-evaluation and hyper-concern over others’ evaluation. It can lead us to be overly critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. Alternately, perfectionism can push us to do our best as we strive for maximum performance.

The trick is to be aware of when we tilt too far and begin to demand expectations from ourselves and others that are impossible to meet. No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. Mistakes help us learn and grow. Failure opens doors to new opportunities.

Some of the behaviors associated with perfectionism are an excessive concern for mistakes and errors, critical self-evaluations, and unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism concerns itself with the discrepancy between one’s expectations and performance. If we struggle with this, sometimes we project an image of flawlessness, which compounds the problem because we know deep down we are not flawless. This internal battle can create anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a sense of uneasiness, dread, or distress. Normal levels of anxiety help us notice danger to keep us safe.

We will ask someone to hold a ladder while we climb it. We recognize that it’s good to teach our kids basic safety skills in the kitchen. These are good expressions of a healthy level of anxiety. Disorders occur when distress impedes our ability to function at work or in our relationships.

Anxiety will often reveal itself in through physical symptoms such as gasps for air, a rapid heartbeat, or insomnia. Sometimes what we refuse to think about in the daytime keeps us up at night through worry loops. In these loops, we repeat the same what-if questions like a broken record playing the same part of a song. Too much anxiety raises our cortisol levels and blood pressure, which affects our physical health.

We can become anxious when we dwell on the uncertainties of the future. We don’t know what the future will hold and anxieties about it can overwhelm us. Real events can trigger an anxious response too. Some doctor’s visits don’t carry good news. Inflation is a real problem. Family conflicts can break our hearts and contribute to anxiety. Our desire for a conflict-free life can drive our levels of anxiety up.

The perfectionism and anxiety cycle.

Perfectionism and anxiety work together to create unhealthy patterns in our lives. They have a cause-and-effect relationship. Perfectionism drives us to chase unreachable goals which lead to anxiety. An uptick in anxiety can drive us to extreme self-criticism, a sign of perfectionism, which leads us to more anxiety. Self-criticism with perceived failure heightens anxiety.

Fears of criticism from others increase anxiety in work performance or hold us back in social situations. We might stifle our opinions because we’re afraid of potential criticism. This builds anxiety within us and drives us further to perfectionism. This perfectionism and anxiety cycle plays on our fear of failure.

Anxiety and perfectionism can lead to low self-esteem where our desire for flawlessness can cause us to believe that we don’t have good to offer others. These thoughts can cripple us and set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which can lead to an overly defensive reaction when someone offers us feedback on our work performance or in our personal relationships.

What does the Bible say about perfectionism and anxiety?

When we consider what the Bible says about perfection and anxiety, we can be left confused and riddled with guilt. We know we’re not to be anxious, yet we struggle with it. Then we wonder how to not be riddled with anxiety. Later, we read that we are to be made perfect in Jesus, but we know we’re not because each day leaves evidence of our imperfection. How do we make sense of these words?

Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:38, ESV

This statement from Jesus came at the end of a section from The Sermon on the Mount. He opened that sermon series with a list of Beatitudes, followed by how the law was fulfilled, and how to deal with anger, divorce, oaths, and retaliation.

Jesus’ sermon turned their beliefs about these issues upside down. He did not command them or us to be perfectionists. Instead, He tells us that one day we will be complete, but in the meantime to grow and mature in His ways.

For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14, ESV

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers are considered perfect in God’s eyes. At the same time, we experience sanctification—cleaned up, made new, set apart as holy—while we walk with Him through our days.

Perfectionism isn’t the goal, obedience to God and focus on the day when He makes us wholly perfect in our eternal home is. In the meantime, the work of Jesus in each of us has the full power to bring about life transformation.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Peace sounds far off when we’re in anxiety’s grip. But the command to not be anxious about anything can feel impossible when our heart races and stomach flip-flops. It’s in these moments when the rest of the passage lays out a plan for us to consider.

Supplication means to humbly petition. It’s difficult for a perfectionist who struggles with anxiety to admit flaws, but there is great peace and power when we recognize that we are not and cannot be perfect. We can bring our requests before the Lord in prayer and receive the peace He gives.

How to cope with perfectionism and anxiety.

When you explore your personality, you will begin to understand your God-given nature. When we understand it and how to use it in an appropriate manner, we grow. We can identify our tendencies and then take a moment to reset our expectations for ourselves. This helps release the anxiousness that arises when we don’t meet them.

We can learn to be flexible and less perfectionistic when we realize that God made us different from each other because He has an individual purpose for us in the body of Christ. When we lay down our unrealistic expectations of what that looks like and seek Him with our whole heart instead of perfect outcomes, we experience release from the persistent cycle of perfectionism and anxiety.

When we have a heart that is right before God, the perfectionism and anxiety cycle begins to break. It’s possible to portray perfection in what we do or how we look, but that distracts us from what God wants to accomplish in our hearts.

Perfect in heart means that we grow ever closer to the Lord as we put into practice the Biblical knowledge we already have. He covers our mistakes with His forgiveness and is interested more in our obedience than our contribution to perfect outcomes.

The desire to want to do everything well honors the Lord, but when we find our worth in what we do rather than in who we are in Christ, we experience perfectionism and anxiety. God calls us to find our worth in Him and allow Him to mold and shape us to reflect His glory in our lives. He provides a way for us to let go of the anxiousness that comes because of our misplaced understanding of perfectionism. We can rely on Him to help us overcome.

If you need additional support for perfectionism and anxiety beyond the contents of this article, please contact our reception to set up an appointment. It would be an honor to meet with you.

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How to Address Negative Body Image Issues in Women

Negative body image issues in women are common. They can hold you back from living a full, positive life. These issues are worth addressing with a counselor.

You may have thought, felt, or done these things if you have negative body image issues:

  • Looked in the mirror and didn’t like something about yourself
  • Took issues with your nose, lips, eyes, or any other body part
  • Stepped on the bathroom scale with bated breath wondering what the numbers would say, and feeling like that reflected your worth
  • Wished you had a slenderer body, a fuller chest or fuller lips, a smaller waist, longer legs, or any other change that is largely out of your control
  • Wondered why you have all those thoughts about your image
  • Convinced yourself that a nip here and a tuck there would fix your problems
  • Compared yourself with others and wondered why you are doing so
  • Thinking about the ideal body, nose, waist, or chest size and how it applies to you
  • Wondering who determines and sets the body image standards against which you often measure yourself

These thoughts can be exhausting and discouraging. That’s why it’s good to learn about negative body issues in women and how you can overcome them.

Understanding Body Image

Body image is defined as “the mental picture one forms of one’s body as a whole including its physical characteristics and one’s attitudes towards these characteristics.” Various studies and surveys show that more women than men are likely to be affected by body image issues.

There seems to be a social worth that attaches to women’s bodies. This is probably because different cultures have always had opinions on what it means to be an ideal woman physically.  Because beauty is largely a social construct, there is a particular complexity that comes with body image. Not only is a woman limited to reflecting on how she feels about her own body but often, she also wonders how other people perceive her.

In some cultures, women’s fuller bodies are seen as ideal and attractive. Yet in other cultures, the thinner and slender a woman is, the more attractive she is deemed to be. Despite this obvious difference in definitions and perceptions, the standards are more subjective rather than objective.

These ideals are often perpetuated by the traditional media including television and magazines, the beauty and fashion industries, and social media. How a woman perceives herself is shaped by a myriad of sources, including what her society pushes and portrays as being the ideal body. Depending on each woman’s societal and media interactions, and her personal interpretation and understanding of such, she can either have a positive or negative body image.

Negative Body Image Issues

Negative body image can best be described as having an extremely unhappy and intensely dissatisfied view of one’s physical appearance. Due to the attention that is placed on women’s bodies and what it means to be beautiful and physically attractive in contemporary society, women start forming perceptions of their bodies at rather young ages. Often without realizing it, a woman internalizes those beauty standards to which she is most exposed.

A woman may start having internal conversations about whether or not she is attractive, worthy, and acceptable. These conversations will sometimes start to deepen and increase as her body undergoes natural changes and as she interacts more with the outside world.

For example, if she was teased about her looks or received negative feedback about her body parts or her weight, skin tone, or hair, she might start harshly criticizing herself and wishing her body or specific body parts were built or shaped in a certain way.

Likewise, if you spend most of your time immersed in traditional or social media you may find yourself comparing yourself with the “perfect” people that you see there and wondering why you are not like them. You may even start thinking of ways that you may attain such looks.

Signs and Symptoms

Although this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the common signs and symptoms of a negative body image:

  • Low self-esteem stemming from comparing yourself with other people whom you view as having the ideal body or physical features
  • Obsession with mirrors for purposes of scrutinizing oneself and finding more fault
  • Spending too much time on social media for purposes of trying to keep up with beauty trends
  • Harsh and judgmental comments about one’s own body
  • Investing an extreme amount of time, effort, and money in trying to change your image
  • Resorting to drastic dietary and exercise regimes or cosmetic surgery to attain the “ideal” body

4 Ways to Improve Body Image

Here are four ideas to help you improve your body image issues on your own. But if you need more help, a Christian counselor can show you how to address these issues on a deeper level.

Be kind to yourself.

You can start by being kinder to yourself and avoiding some of your known triggers of negative body image. Stop comparing yourself to those perfectly curated people you see on television or social media. Limit the time you spend on social media. But while you are there, unfollow the pages of people who portray unrealistic beauty and body goals. When you feel tempted to compare yourself with others, say one kind thing you like about yourself instead.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercising, getting enough sleep, and seeking help from qualified healthcare practitioners and counselors. This will help you preserve mental, emotional, and physical health. Consider pursuing different hobbies which do not involve screentime. Try to surround yourself with people that keep your focus on other important life aspects instead of just physical looks and fashion trends.

Embrace your body.

Contrary to what popular culture will have you believe, there is more to a woman’s body than just being admired, Embrace your body and all its capabilities because, by its very nature, the human body is amazing regardless of its color, size, or shape.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 NIV, “I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” As a Christian, you should intentionally focus on that verse because your body is a testimony of God’s greatness.

While it is true that society, media, and the beauty and fashion industries have a lot to say about women’s bodies, there are enough scientific facts that can be used to push back against some of the unrealistic ideals that are often forced on people’s faces.  The following are examples of biological facts about women’s bodies that need to be normalized:

  • Genetics play a significant role in how people look and there is no fighting them.
  • Women’s bodies undergo different changes due to puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and other hormonal changes.
  • Sagging breasts are natural as they lose elasticity due to aging, multiple pregnancies, and hormonal changes.
  • Some girls and women develop acne due to hormone changes during puberty and adulthood.

Repeat these truths to yourself when you need to embrace your body just the way it is.

Do not forget who you are in Christ.

It is important to reflect on Romans 12:2 NIV, Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Instead of chasing after the often-unrealistic man-made standards of beauty that constantly change, it is more fulfilling as a Christian to focus on God’s will for your life. You must never forget who you are in Christ and that you are called for a greater purpose.

The battle to develop a positive body image can be difficult. If you or anyone you know is struggling with body image issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a coaching appointment. I would be honored to walk this journey with you.

References:https://dictionary.apa.org/body-images

Photos:
“The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Sage Friedman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reaching”, Courtesy of Rowan Kyle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Abandon”, Courtesy of Nathan McBride, Unsplash.com, CC0 License 

Cultivating a Positive Body Image

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we may find ourselves satisfied and happy with what we see. In the last few years, as selfies and other cameras have gotten higher and higher definition, and in the last few years of the pandemic, as we’ve had to look at ourselves in online meetings, we’ve become more aware of our looks.

That awareness can be a good thing if it is met with an appreciation of what we see, but it can be frustrating and even devastating if we don’t like what we see. That freckle or the slight crook in our smile, our skin tone or hairline, the shape of our nose or of our legs – it’s possible for us to begin looking at these things and wanting to change them because we aren’t happy with them. There is, however, another way to go, and that’s to cultivate a positive body image towards yourself.

What is body image?

Your body image simply refers to how you perceive your own body and your assessment of your physical appearance. It encompasses your emotional responses, your attitude, beliefs, and perceptions of your own body.

If you have a negative body image, that means you feel dissatisfied with what your body looks like. When you compare yourself to other people or to the standard that you believe society holds concerning our bodies, you feel you compare unfavorably.

A negative body image can lead a person to have a distorted image about certain parts of or their whole body, and it can often lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. It means that you’re literally not happy in your own skin and probably walk around wishing you were someone else.

When you have a positive body image, on the other hand, it means that even when it doesn’t match other people’s ideals, you accept your own body for what it is and feel comfortable in it.

That doesn’t mean that you never want to look a little different; on some days, you might wish you could change how you look, including the desire to lose a bit of weight or have a bit more definition. But a positive body image means that on most days you feel confident and are happy with the way you look.

There are several things that influence our body image, and it goes beyond what we see in our bathroom or hallway mirror. How we perceive ourselves is a complex combination of our beliefs, the experiences we have in life, the generalizations we make, and the influence of our culture, friends, family, the fashion industry, and popular culture, as well as the social and other media we consume.

By conveying positive and negative messages, all of these can combine to shape our views on what is beautiful, ideal, and acceptable, as well as what is not, thereby affecting how a person sees and relates to their own body. These different influences encourage us to adopt certain beliefs about bodies – those of others and our own – and often we end up possessing idealized images of the body that are often unrealistic and usually unattainable.

If a person suffers an illness or undergoes an accident that changes their appearance, that can make them reconsider their body image and generate a negative body image. Having breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy can affect a person’s body image, as can having a skin condition such as acne or eczema, or having a limb amputated due to an accident.

When a person has certain experiences such as discrimination based on their race, body size, or age, that too can undermine their confidence and deliver the message that they are not worthy of respect or that they are somehow lacking something and do not measure up.

Cultivating a healthy body image

There are a lot of cultural voices that militate against having a healthy and positive body image. As our broader culture has become more visually oriented, mediating our communications and interactions in increasingly visual ways, whether through our portable devices, our televisions, laptops, and so on, we are constantly bombarded by images from across the globe.

We upload hundreds of millions of photos online on various social media platforms, and that’s to say nothing of the millions of videos that are uploaded on sites like YouTube. A decade ago, around 2012, more pictures were taken every two minutes than were taken throughout the entirety of the 1800s, and that number has only continued to grow.

The point is, that we see a lot of images, and those play a huge role in shaping our self-perception. We see what gets likes, retweets, and what gets reposted, and that shapes our value system. The body positive movement has helped immensely to ensure that a greater diversity of bodies get coverage in our different forms of media, but it is still grossly disproportionately skewed toward the supermodel and hunk side of things.

We are exposed daily to images of people we don’t know, whose lives are glamorized, and have that sheen of unreality that makes them all the more desirable and simultaneously unattainable.

To cultivate a healthy and positive body image, here are a few things that you can do:

Avoid comparisons. When we compare ourselves to other people, we can land ourselves in a bad space. On social media, and other forms of media in general, people put their best selves in their feeds, offering that up for consumption by the public. That snapshot of a person’s life is all we get, but we can make a meal of it, comparing the entirety of our lives with that one moment.

We should avoid comparisons with others in general because the grass usually looks greener on the other side, and it stirs discontent within us. It’s even worse with social media, because we become hyper-focused on these snapshots and slices of a person’s life, and we can easily begin to feel uncomfortable about our own bodies, leading to distress and ill health.

Exercise, but for fitness and not appearance. Just as avoiding comparison can help us avoid the trap of measuring our lives on the basis of appearances, it is far better to work out for your health than it is to look good. If, in working out to get fit, more flexible, and so on, you start to not only feel good but begin enjoying how you look, that’s a welcome bonus.

A study in 2015 found that people that exercise for functional reasons such as getting fit and staying healthy tend to have a more positive body image, while those that pursued exercise to improve their appearance felt less positive about their bodies.

Exercise in general makes you feel good, boosting your mood and making you more aware of what your body can do, and that’s a great thing. But when it’s aimed at looking good, that can detract from the many benefits of working out. Get a workout in and focus on the amazing things you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

Appreciate what your body can do. Your body is there for you. With it, you can laugh, create, dance, embrace your loved ones, feel the breeze or the surf, and enjoy the feel of grass and the smell of flowers. These are all wonderful gifts, and we can turn our minds to appreciate the many things that our bodies can do.

It’s true that we often take our bodies for granted; we only really notice them when something gets hurt or stops functioning as it should. The rest of the time, we don’t notice it except to notice what might not be the right size or shape.

Instead, a healthier way to go about things is to appreciate all the things your body can do. Do yourself a favor and curl your toes in bed, give yourself a nice big stretch, lift your child or hug your loved one. Take a look at the things you can create, at the problems you can solve with your body and mind, and celebrate them.

Learn self-acceptance. You are who you are, and your life is what it is. Perhaps it doesn’t need a filter, whether in posting only your best photos or in applying a literal filter to your pictures to look other than what you really do. It also helps to embrace positive self-talk such as reminding yourself that you are wonderfully and fearfully made by God, and therefore precious in his sight (Psalm 139).

Get comfortable with yourself. Being comfortable with yourself may mean doing something as simple as finding clothes that are comfortable and help to make you feel good about your body.

More than ever before, there are fashionable and varied choices out there, and unless your job has a strict dress code, you can be eclectic in your fashion choices to arrive at what works for you. You can also do something nice for your body, including daily self-care, or getting a massage and a haircut to take care of your body.

Keep your eyes off your body and on the Lord. One of the downsides of the body positive movement is that it continues to place an emphasis and focus on bodies. While they are an important gift that we need to take care of, there’s more to life than our bodies and what they look like. We are served well by keeping things simple for ourselves.

Paul reminds his young protégé, Timothy, that the pursuit of excess and riches can bring sorrow, saying, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6: 7-8 NIV). We can become so focused on what our bodies look like, whether they conform to some ideal, that we neglect to attend to what our bodies are for – God’s glory.

In another letter to the believers in the city of Corinth, Paul wrote, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” and he goes on to say, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 19-20 NIV).

Instead of being overly concerned with our bodies, about what we wear and eat and what size we are, we can rather pool our energies into developing our character and being the sort of people God desires us to be. We can focus on others and their needs, and how we can serve them well as we work for the kingdom.

Talking about the kingdom of God may make people think of ethereal, floating existences where bodies don’t exist or matter. The Christian faith is not a disembodied faith that is uninterested in bodies. Bodies matter immensely, but excessive or misapplied focus on them is decidedly unhealthy.

If you need specific encouragement for any issues you have about body image, consider meeting with a Christian counselor. There may be unresolved problems behind the way you see yourself, and a caring counselor can help you heal from the past and overcome your hang-ups.

Photos:”The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Runners”, Courtesy of Fitsum Admasu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Bible Verses About Relationship Problems

Relationships can be complicated to navigate even though they are a gift from God. When they go right, they can be encouraging and uplifting. When they go wrong, they can be hurtful and confusing. Bible verses about relationship problems will offer you guidance on how to proceed when you are struggling in a relationship.

The Bible has solid advice for you whether you need advice for a romantic relationship, friendship, or work relationship. Here are several verses that will apply to different types of relationships. You can learn what Scripture has to say about relationship problems as you study and meditate on verses.

Bible Verses About Relationship Problems

The Bible provides examples of all types of relationships. Family relationships partnerships, friendships, and romantic relationships are reported in scripture. The life of Jacob has lots of stories about family dynamics. David and Jonathan enjoyed an amazing friendship. Boaz and Ruth have a beautiful romantic relationship. Paul and Barnabas are an example of a partnership.

This is where God offers principles so we can navigate the complications of relationships. The relationships that existed in Bible times are just as challenging and difficult as our relationships today. When you view relationships through the lens of the Bible, you can learn many truths about how God wants you to handle relationships.

Scripture can help you no matter what type of relationship problem you’re facing now. You can study biblical principles in Bible stories to understand how God values relationships and ways that you can make your own relationships better. While you read the following verses, ask God to show you how you can properly apply them.

Love at All Times

A friend loves at all times. – Proverbs 17:17, NIV

Love is the most important ingredient of a lasting relationship. We must love each other at all times, not just when times are good. Some people will support you when times are going well, then leave you when times are not going well.

That’s when you can look to God, others, and a Christian counselor for help in connecting with people who will love you well no matter what is going on in your life. You can also learn more about showing unconditional love to all the people in your life when you get encouragement from others.

Relationships Are for Sharpening
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Friendships are meant to sharpen us. To sharpen a knife, you must grind it against hard metal. The motion of grinding against the other hard metal smooths tiny grooves in the knife and it makes it sharp again. This is what friendships are intended to do for us.

They are meant to smooth away our imperfections and improve our service for our intended purpose. Friends who do this for you will speak the truth in love. The constructive criticism will help you grow to be the kind of person God wants you to be. You can also be this kind of friend to others to help your friends be the best they can be.

Forgive Each Other

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9, NIV

All relationships need forgiveness. Each one of us is imperfect, and eventually, we will fail other people. Likewise, others will fail us. When you choose to forgive, you promote love in your relationships.

Otherwise, if you dwell on the hurt, you could experience separation or division in your relationships. Whether you have been hurt in your relationships, or you have been the one who hurt other people, forgiveness is the key to healing.

Refrain from Arguments

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. – Proverbs 18:19, NIV

In your relationships, you will most certainly run into disagreements, but you can choose not to argue. You may have grown up with an unhealthy conflict style that creates more problems. Whether you withdraw, explode, or allow feelings to leak out in passive aggression, these methods perpetuate problems instead of providing solutions.

By being direct yet loving, you can handle conflicts with others with greater respect. In this way, you can avoid offending your friends and build bridges in your relationships.

Betrayal Destroys

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. – Psalm 41:9, NIV

If you have experienced the pain of betrayal, you know how David felt when he wrote this psalm. The pain is intense when you open your heart to someone who later rejects or betrays you. If you don’t handle your feelings after betrayal in a healthy way, you can suffer from bitterness and resentment. If you need help getting over rejection and betrayal, you can speak with a caring counselor.

Serve Others

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13, NIV

We are free from sin and death when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is wrong to use our freedom in Christ to mistreat others and serve ourselves. God wants us to serve others in our relationships. To be like Jesus, we should always consider other people’s needs before our own and give selflessly. To learn how to do this, study Jesus’ example in the Gospels.

Love Like Jesus

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34, NIV

Jesus loves us perfectly and he wants us to strive to love more wholeheartedly. On the night before he died, he chose to wash the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas who would betray him.

Though Jesus knew his disciples would desert him in his greatest time of need, he continued to serve them in love and forgive them. Only God can empower you to live this way in your relationship, even pouring the love of Jesus into you so you can truly love others the way Jesus did.

Don’t Pretend

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9, NIV

God wants us to love authentic in all our relationships. He does not want us to hide behind masks of pretense. Others know when we are faking our love for them. To truly love others, you must set your mask aside and be real, taking risks and being vulnerable. True and lasting connection is only possible if you decide to start and not hide behind a mask. A Christian counselor can help you learn to love courageously without pretense.

Lay It Down

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13, NIV

You don’t have to literally lay down your life to demonstrate great love for your friends. However the greatest love requires sacrifice, and you will need to train yourself to make your relationships the best they can be.

When you put other people first, you need to sacrifice such things as time, money, emotional energy, or personal preferences. Doing this shows that you are loving the way Jesus did.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

These Bible verses can guide you in your relationship problems. However, if you feel stuck in a relationship issue with your romantic partner, friend, coworker, or partner, you may benefit from additional help offered by a Christian counselor. Your counselor will listen to you and provide specific guidance for your unique relationship problems. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our offices to make an appointment today.

Photos:
“Sunset on the Mountain”, Courtesy of Roberto Nickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Ryan Franco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Swans”, Courtesy of Nick Fewings, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Friendship Matters: The Definition of a True Friend

What is the definition of a true friend? In our increasingly lonely society, friendship matters more than ever. In this article, we’ll probe both of these ideas and give you tips on looking for a true friendship.

Making friends is something we typically learn to do when we’re young. In one sense, it’s easier to make friends when you’re younger for a variety of reasons. You’re at the same stage of life, occupied by and involved in pretty much the same things; you probably live close to one another, and you see each other quite often because of school and other activities. All this makes it possible to make friendships within your peer group.

These commonalities become more complicated the older you get. The guys you play ultimate frisbee with may be married or unmarried, divorced or widowed, unemployed, or have significant work. They may have kids, but also maybe not. Some may be Ivy League-educated, while others didn’t go far with school. They may live close to you, or much further off.

You may or may not be in the same economic bracket. Some may be believers, while others are staunch atheists. You may have people across the political spectrum in one team. In other words, there may be one point of intersection – ultimate frisbee – with a thousand and one other points of potential divergence. You can still make friends there, but it’s a bit trickier to manage than in grade school.

Americans of working age are often quite busy, finding themselves consumed by their work. The recent pandemic certainly did not help in our opportunities to retain and make new friendships, and in recent years there’s been an increase in friendlessness, particularly among young American men.

According to a recent study by Survey Center on American Life, “Americans report having fewer close friendships than they once did, talking to their friends less often, and relying less on their friends for personal support.”

According to that study, around 36% of young men reach out to their parents first when they’re dealing with a personal problem, compared to around just 17% in 1990.

Because of Covid, “nearly half (47%) of Americans report having lost touch with at least a few friends over the past 12 months” with almost 59% of women saying that they fell out of contact with close friends during the last 18 months or so. It’s never been more important to cultivate friendships and to understand what a true friendship is.

The Definition of a True Friend

These are some of the most important elements of a true friendship:

Common interests 

A true friend is a person with whom you have things in common. While friendships certainly do develop between two or more unlikely people, what we often find is that the group shares things in common, and they are able to carry on as a group by cultivating those things.

One of the most articulate expressions of what friendship is and how it grows was explained by C. S. Lewis. In The Four Loves, Lewis says,

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”

Friendship can be forged because you love the same authors, sports, movies, food, and many other things. That seed can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Mutual support

One of the ways a true friend shows up is that the focus isn’t solely on them, but your relationship has a strong core of mutual support. It’s a poor friend indeed who keeps the focus on themselves, or who makes the foundation of the friendship their own needs.

A true friend is there to bring out the best in you, just as you do in their life. You stand with one another in your seasons of need, joy, and mourning. Friendship is a mutual appreciation society – you appreciate the things you have in common with one another, and you appreciate each other.

Presence

Friendships can get complicated by distance. But one of the joys of a true friend is that they make a gift of themselves and their presence in your life. There is a huge difference between relating to someone through a screen versus them being physically present.

While we can gain much from our online acquaintances, there’s something about an embodied presence that simply can’t be replicated. When you’re going through a tough time, a text or facetime call from a friend will do in a pinch. However, their presence in the room with you is priceless. There is something irreplaceable about being together with your friends, about giving one another the gift of our presence.

C.S. Lewis also gives us this gem of a quote: “In a perfect Friendship, this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.

Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”

The pandemic has certainly made it harder for us to be present for and with one another, but it has hopefully highlighted that it is more important than we could have ever known. We can be creative in how to be safely present with others in this season, but we have an appreciation for why it’s important to be present for and with our friends, to enjoy being in the same space as them.

Accountability and loving truth-telling

Proverbs 27:6 (DRA) reminds us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” A true friend may wound us with their truth-telling, but we must remember that when the truth is told to us in love, there is no more precious gift we can be given. A true friend isn’t there to simply hype you up and sanction everything you say and do; they also challenge you to be a better version of yourself.

This vision of friendship is something we can better appreciate if we understand how it’s possible that God is using our friendships to make us into better people.

Again, Lewis’ The Four Loves helps us out here, “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart.

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

Our friends can help to keep us accountable and bring out the beauty in us, and we do the same for them.

True friendship seeks other likeminded souls

Our hearts often want to cling to good things in a selfish way. We don’t always like to share, and that’s a common human foible. A good friendship, and a good friend, will not curve in on itself and become self-serving. Instead, we find that we enjoy meeting other like-minded people and bringing them into our circle. if we are secure in ourselves and our identity, bringing others into our friendship circles is something that brings delight.

What’s the reason for this? One last bit of wisdom from C. S. Lewis on this subject:

“In each of my friends, there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love to divide is not to take away.”

A true friend isn’t selfish in their love toward you. They know that the love of others can bring you more fully into yourself, and so there is always room for others.

Need help cultivating true friendship? You can meet with a Christian counselor for individual advice based on biblical principles to help you find a true friend.

Photos:
“Friends in a Field”, Courtesy of Melissa Askew, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Posing for the Picture”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Chat”, Courtesy of Prisiclla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

Relationships are beautiful, but slightly fragile things. We thrive when we’re in meaningful relationships with others, and that is how it should be. Our relationships are a major part of what allows us to flourish, and likewise, when our relationships are out of joint, we find that our life loses color. That’s when we need to learn what to do with a broken relationship.

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

It can take years to build a relationship with someone – a long-cherished friendship, an open and mutually supportive parent-child connection, or a solid and fulfilling marriage. However, the unfortunate reality is that what takes years to build can be undermined in a matter of mere moments.

Whether through a betrayal of trust, unkind words spoken in anger, or the failure to meet expectations, a relationship can end up facing serious challenges. Though sometimes the damage done is hard to repair, relationship challenges can often be overcome in healthy ways.

The older you get, the more you come to understand how precious relationships are, and their fragility as well. Broken relationships are a sad fact of life, but thankfully we aren’t left without options for what to do if things go south. Whether you are the one that has made a mistake that leaves a relationship in shambles, or you’re the one that is on the receiving end, here are a few things to consider about a broken relationship.

Recognize how brokenness is a part of life.

The world is a messy place. It’s not okay that it’s a messy place, but it’s just the reality. Part of the messiness of the world and ourselves is that our relationships are less than perfect, just as we are less than perfect. Disappointment and heartbreak are just some of the seasons we can expect in life (Ecclesiastes 3).

Sara Teasdale wrote, “It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.” The messiness and brokenness of our world hurt, and our hearts will be broken many times in our lifetime, but there is one small comfort in the face of all this – we can learn and grow even amid these painful experiences, and our hearts can become more resilient and wiser.

This means that broken relationships aren’t the end of us – they don’t close our doors to other opportunities, and they certainly aren’t a unique occurrence. While it can be devastating and hugely challenging to suffer from a broken relationship, we don’t have to be overwhelmed and entirely undone.

Try to find out what happened.

When a relationship breaks down, it may come as a complete surprise to you. Or, in some cases, perhaps you know or can make a good guess at what happened and how things fell apart in your relationship. Perhaps you can pinpoint the precise moment when things crumbled and the relationship was changed forever. While it may seem like dragging yourself through unnecessary pain – doing a post-mortem of your relationship can help you in several ways.

Taking time to discern what happened can help you in making a meaningful apology and in changing certain things if that’s what’s needed. For instance, If you betrayed your friend’s trust by telling someone else a secret, you can take several steps.

You may need to work through what you did, why you did it, and exercise empathy for the other person. These steps will help you understand on a deeper level what went wrong and how you find yourself in your present predicament. When you make your apology, all these things are elements to consider.

Knowing what may have gone wrong will alert you to things you should avoid in other relationships. We want to grow as people, and one way to do that is to learn through our own mistakes. Whether you’re the one responsible for the broken relationship or not, we can learn important lessons about ourselves and other people in the wake of a disruptive event in the relationship.

You may need to adjust expectations, communicate needs more clearly, or establish clearer boundaries with others. These are valuable ideas to ponder because they help us understand ourselves and our relationships better. Understanding why this particular relationship broke down can help you get back on track more securely, or it can help you better cultivate your other relationships.

While it’s important to understand what happened and how things fell apart, we must also recognize that understanding what happened does have its limits. In Mend my Broken Heart, Jocelyn Soriano wrote “Yes, I understand why things had to happen this way. I understand his reason for causing me pain. But mere understanding does not chase away the hurt. It does not call upon the sun when dark clouds have loomed over me. Let the rain come then if it must come! And let it wash away the dust that hurt my eyes!”

If you’re the one who has been betrayed and hurt, understanding what happened and why may be cold comfort. Sometimes, understanding helps us come to grips with our new reality, but it can only go so far.

Ask for forgiveness.

We all make mistakes. But we don’t all make the same mistakes in the same way, nor are we consistent in dealing with others the way we would want to be treated. This makes for messy relationships, self-righteousness attitudes, and often an unwillingness to change.

Asking for forgiveness is one important way to try and restore a broken relationship. When you acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, recognize how you’ve hurt the other person, and can clearly see ways of doing better in the future, that can create room to repair a broken relationship. An apology might not fix everything, but it’s a great starting point.

If trust was broken, it may be a long road to get back there again, if you can manage it. One of the ways an apology is powerful is that it lets the other person know that you’re on the same page about your behavior. They now know that you know that what you did was wrong, and for them that can be an important step in finding healing.

If you’re the one whose trust was violated, you can consider what your options are, including extending forgiveness to the person that hurt you. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). This verse is a powerful reminder of our own brokenness and need for forgiveness. It allows us to empathize with those who have sinned against us.

Forgiving the other person might not mean that things completely reset, but it does mean that you’re choosing to let go of any resentment or bitter feelings toward that person. It’s a way to begin the work of rebuilding the relationship, should you so choose.

Additionally, if you’re the one who was hurt, you might need to redraw or restate your boundaries with other people. Every healthy relationship requires healthy boundaries, and when one or more of those are violated, that situation can provide you with an opportunity to either restate or redraw those boundaries as needed.

Pick up the pieces.

You need to decide for yourself how the relationship is important to you and what you’re willing to do for it. True friendships, familial relationships, and other meaningful connections with others aren’t easy to find or replace, especially if they’ve been the work of years to cultivate.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t move on from these relationships if they are harmful, but it does mean we need to weigh carefully what we do with them. In some cases, walking away may be the best thing you can do, while in others working on things is what wisdom dictates.

Take time to heal and process what’s happened. Picking up the pieces of a broken relationship is hard work, whether you’re picking up those pieces to try and put them back together again, or you’re picking them up to set them aside.

Whether you’re the cause of the broken relationship or not, when a significant human connection falls apart, it hurts. If you need help processing a broken relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trustworthy individual such as a friend, family member, spiritual advisor, or trained Christian therapist.

Photos:
“Just Married”, Courtesy of Nikita Shirokov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Daisy from Below”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Ronak Valobobhai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible”, Courtesy of Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License