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Childhood Trauma leaves us, as far as relationships go, in a state of feeling uncomfortably comfortable with adult relationships containing trauma. Our lives need to be transformed so we live from our authentic selves and our power. Part of regaining our authentic selves and our power requires us to gain new knowledge and wisdom about healthy relationships.  Recognising our beliefs, how to identify unsafe people and how to be individuals who choose healthy and choose healthy relationships takes time and practice.

The following article by Shane Willard will give you clear understandings of the knowledge and wisdom you need, the practical points to have in place and examples of what genuine, authentic relationships look like. If you’d like to watch Shane’s work you can find him on YouTube or you can purchase his work here. Shane has degrees in Psychology and Theology, and I find his work so helpful in recovery from Complex PTSD as he combines both the mind and the spirit in his work. As we know from Science, accessing the spiritual part of the brain is helpful in recovery.

Please feel welcome to print the following article, highlight it, journal and take the information you glean to your Therapist or Coach and work out experiential strategies for your next steps in recovery.

Meaningful Relationships – Shane Willard

Has any word become more complex and multifaceted than friendship due to social media? Just 20 years ago, one’s friendship circle was much more easily defined. One could probably name the people one knew well enough to call and maybe even have memorised all their respective numbers. Enter our current world a complex network that digitally connects us all.
Now, the word friend means something entirely different. It leads to a few questions:
What if we all had to go through our list of friends on social media and report just two things about them without looking at their posts?
  1. Could we even say where they were from or how we met?
  2. Is our social network friends, followers, or fans?
  3. How many would stand with me in a crisis?
  4. How many would authentically celebrate if I were promoted?
  5. How many would secretly celebrate if I failed?
  6. How is it that we are more connected than ever, but feel more isolated?
  7. Do we have everyone to text, but no one to talk to?

“My greatest fear used to be being alone. Now it is being connected to people who make me feel lonely.”

                                                –Robin Williams  

 A Biblical approach is a multifaceted approach that includes texts from different genres and experiences. The three major areas that direct our discussion would be the following: the wisdom tradition as recorded in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon; the narratives including historical and parables; and the experiential.
The Bible has a lot to say about our relationships. What would you like to know? This is a short list from the wisdom tradition alone:
 How do I handle feelings of offence with a person while wanting revenge?
  1. How do I communicate with a friend, enemy, child, parent, or spouse?
  2. What is my role in comforting a friend in pain?
  3. What impact does bad company have on my life?
  4. What is my role in the redemptive process of another person?
  5. What is unity?
  6. Where does our call to love violate the redemptive process, or does love enhance the redemptive process?
  7. Can I have too many friends?
  8. What do I do when people repeat the same mistakes? 
  9.  10. How do I handle problem people?

 Relationships are beautiful, messy, complex blessings that give life more meaning.

As Richard Rohr says in his book, The Divine Dance, “Marriage would be so much easier if there wasn’t another person involved, but then it would be meaningless too. Relationships are entwined, entrenched, elusive, messy, enabling, enrapturing, maddening, exhilarating, frustrating, exposing, and too beautiful for words.” All it takes is a certain relationship to remind us that we actually don’t control our world, so the right connection can be confronting as well.   I heard a philosopher say that when one is interacting in their world with love, they can’t help but experience their world as meaningful. However, without love, one cannot help but experience the world as meaningless.
As one can see, there is so much depth and dimension to a relationship that a series of sermons on it are conversation starters. Here is some food for thought on friendship from one of the narratives in the Bible.
“David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.”
1 Samuel 23:15-18                                                                                                             
This story should send alarms off in our heads because of the subversive nature of the narrative. This story is not going how we would expect the world to work. It is upside down. Jonathan has nothing to gain and everything to lose by David being comforted. It would be best for Jonathan to turn in his friends’ whereabouts with a deal for it to end quickly and mercifully for David. In that world, competition for the throne was met with horrendous consequences. One would make sure that not only the competition, but also the competition’s relatives, were wiped clean. If you have ever thought, wow, politics is a bloody business, then ancient thrones would be cringe worthy ascents with a sword instead of a microphone.
This story works the opposite. The narrative does well to show us the kind of dynamics we should be looking for in an authentic friend. Jonathan shows up to help his friend before the covenant was made. The covenant was just the ancient ritual that evinced the dynamic that was true before. A couple of thoughts on this:

1. A meaningful relationship starts with an attitude to meet the other person’s need instead of simply having our needs met. This story shows us that a commitment to being a friend is more important than having friends. Jonathan goes into the middle of nowhere to help David with absolutely nothing to gain from it.   It is here we must remind ourselves that love is not the celebration of the Idol (an image we create that represents some object that will do something for us). Love is a celebration of the Icon (something that helps us see through to something deeper). If we see our friend, spouse, or co-worker as an Idol, we sabotage the love that makes it work with a self-serving fuel that clogs the motor. They are not Jesus. There is no vacancy in the trinity for them. When we intentionally surround ourselves with people who can meet our needs, it is just simply a modern day form of idolatry that will find itself as an empty cistern which can hold no water. Rather, there is a better way, to engage in relationships with what we can do for them in mind. How can we participate in the infinite possibilities God has for this person?


2. A meaningful relationship includes two people committed to being an encouragement to one another. Jonathan went to help strengthen David’s hand in God. A simple commitment to always be a positive voice in our friendships will go a long way in showing the world what God is like. The world system has plenty of negative messages built into it naturally. You are not smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, effective enough, or fit enough are messages that fill media and written material everywhere we look. What if friendship was the remedy to this? What if friendship was a counter narrative that forces the negative to lose its power? Are our friends stronger because of us?


3. A meaningful relationship will have a deep common interest. In this case, it was in the best interest of Israel. In this story, Jonathan is willing to put selfishness aside for the bigger story. Friendship requires that we never lose sight of the bigger story at the altar of one plotted point. When it comes to friendships, a few questions must be asked. What dominates our conversations? Is there a common cause? What is driving the energy into the friendship? Is that force permanent or temporary?

4. A meaningful relationship contains two people who help each other see their potential. Jonathan reminds David of his potential. Yes, he is sitting in a desert in the middle of nowhere, but Jonathan reminds him of his future. He decimates the idea that tomorrow is simply a repeat of yesterday. He just will not let David settle into the desert. Dostoevski said, “to love a person is to see them as God intended them to be.” In our commitment to be a friend, we must take seriously the challenge of unrealized potential. In the last 30 days, who have we assumed knew their potential and said nothing? Is there anyone who needs to be reminded of their potential by me today?

In conclusion, we all want to be close to people who are selfless and meet our needs. We all want to be close to people who are positive and encouraging. We all want to be close to people who share our common passions. We all want to be close to people who remind us of our potential. Well, if we all want to be close to people like that, would it stand to reason that people will want to be close to us if we develop into that kind of person. Having meaningful friendships really is a bi-product of developing into a meaningful friend.

Whose needs are you committed to meeting? Who are you intentionally encouraging? Where are you affirming their deep passions? Who are you helping see their potential?

To be surrounded by meaningful friendships requires us to develop into the type of person that others will seek out.

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