The relationships in our lives, are like our eating habits. Our interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and our community can be considered similar to the need to consume, be sustained and to provide nourishment to others. From simple snacks, wholesome fruit and veg, fad diets, ‘bucket-list’ cuisine, and the ‘sometimes only’ indulgences that should be taken within moderation….or maybe not at all, all form part of our life experiences.
An important part of our spiritual maturity involves learning the tough lessons that relationships may not always turn out as we expected them to. Humans are flawed and broken. The chilli chicken wings may be a pleasure on the way in…but could burn on the way out! For those of us who are the people-pleasing type, the hard reality that some humans choose to discard, can be difficult to process.
Christians are particularly vulnerable at being manipulated in this area due to the mis-teaching of forgiveness, the tendency to be exposed to judgment, and the high value put on achieving holiness, and prosperity preaching which is believed to be achieved through sacrificial love.
Whether relationships initially begin for romantic, friendship, family, or work purposes, some are life-long, mutually giving and enhance the quality of our lives. Others may begin like this however naturally lose energy and fail to survive as circumstances change. Then there are relationships that exist purely to provide a supply of attention, image, and power which often follow a trajectory of idolisation, depreciation then discarding. Experiencing this can be soul destroying, therefore it is crucial that as spiritually mature Christians, we learn how to identify these traits within our relationships and manage the effects.
The Discard Detox
- ½ cup of firm boundaries
- A dash of emotional highs and lows, seasoned according to taste
- 4 tbs staying connected to others
- 2 tsp of movement and sensory input
- 500g of positivity and remembering who you are in Christ
The only way to move forward, is to remove the harmful substances that are causing your demise, similar to that of a fasting period. Just like any detox, there will be emotional sensations and withdrawals that will be initially intense and confusing, especially if you have been ‘idolised’ during your relationship. Where possible, go ‘cold turkey’ (no contact) and put in place clear boundaries to protect yourself. If this is not possible, rely on written contact (with at least a 24-hour gap between drafting and sending communications) and limit interactions for when trusted people are there to provide a buffer and accountability.
Your recovery will not be linear. There will be times where you are on top of everything, can see the relationship for what was with clarity, can pursue a clear direction for your future, and feel empowered. Then there will be times when your insecurities and emotions will get the better of you, and you will struggle with feelings of grief, rejection, and despair. Stay with all feelings and ride them out, they will become less painful over time. Try not to avoid feeling the lows by returning to the bad diet, as this will slow your personal progress to emotional freedom. If you do cave and indulge in a sample, go easy on yourself, and allow it to be reflected on as part of your cleansing ritual. Consider activities such as journaling, listening to music, escaping into a good book or movie, or the slightly more controversial but highly therapeutic ceremonial purge of items that represented the relationship!
Feeling discarded is a huge threat to your self-esteem. Counteract this by surrounding yourself with safe people who have been there for you long term. Keep communicating with others through visits, phone and video calls. Substitute activities from the old relationship with new ones, even if it is only to ‘fill a gap’ until you find a new direction. If you used to go for walks together, keep doing it while listening to a podcast or speaking to someone on the phone. If you used to have date nights, do similar activities by yourself, with others, live or virtually. If you worked on projects together, come up with new professional goals for yourself that you can pursue. The other important part of this it to also connect with yourself. Take yourself out for coffee and do things with your inner self that make you happy. Take delight in the kind people that cross your paths each day, whether that be a hello from someone in your street, the care of a health professional or light conversation with the check-out chick.
Movement is key to mental wellbeing and a great way to counteract a change in affection if your relationship was the romantic type. Some days a gentle walk will be enough, but other days you may benefit from high intensity cardio to get the feel-good hormones pumping. Exercise will increase your positivity and self-reliance, regardless of whether you were in the mood to do it in the first place. Sensations of anxiety may be experienced if you are still required to interact with the person, therefore also consider what self-care and sensory needs you can alleviate. Sunshine, fresh air, hot showers, a walk on the beat or rugging up in something cosy are all methods of calming and grounding yourself.
Lastly, you are strong and you will get through this, no matter how sour the detox juice tastes and how much you crave a chocolate delight. You will learn from this and it will form an important part of your life journey. Similarly, regardless of whether you have supportive people by your side or not, you are not alone. Jesus 100% understands the phases of idolisation, depreciation and discarding more than anyone….and even more than you! His experiences were such to the extreme that he nailed himself to the cross to end the lifetime effects of it, for all humanity. Your long-term happiness, has already been paid for and your new, liberated lifestyle free from the distasteful toxins, is awaiting you.
“We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Through his blood our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God’s grace is so rich.” Ephesians 1:7
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
May your future self-thank you for the healthy relationship diet choices you begin making for yourself today!