One last thing: The relationships of women


People / Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

I enjoyed your insights and confessions in the past week or two on lady friendships. Thank you for joining in. We’ve hashed a lot of aspects, and I’m ready to move on. You?

But there is one final thing I want to say.

People are what you believe them to be.

This applies to more than friendships with women. It applies to marriage, and child-raising, and colleagues, and all manner of things. People are what you believe them to be.

Perhaps a better way to say it is Or they very soon will be. People become who you believe them to be.

If I believe my husband to be a sorry no-good derelict who can’t get anything done and can’t do anything right (and even with the best man ever, I have my moments), he will become what I think he is. First, he will become that in my mind, and I will start talking to him and acting toward him as if he were a sorry no-good derelict who can’t get anything done and can’t do anything right. And then he will begin to wonder if he is one, and then he will begin to believe that he is one, and someday, he will be one.

May the Lord have mercy on the creations of his people. This is not the procreation he had in mind, to reproduce in other people the fallen images of them we carry in our minds. But it is shockingly effective.

The flipside, thank God! is also true.

The ability to influence people by my belief in them (not control or fix or force people, just influence people) is a powerfully creative tool for good. If I believe my husband to be a man of God, the best thing that ever happened to me, an amazing leader and father in spite of his mistakes – he will become what my faith and love tell him he is. First, he will become it in my mind, and then he will become it in his mind, and then he will become it more and more in himself.

That is the power of relationships. That is why they are so damaging and detrimental, and why they are also so healing and wholesome – because another human looks into us and says, “I see you, and you look like this.” Relationships are transformative mirrors, held up to us by others who love us or hate us as we are, and who watch us change into what they know us to be. Relationships reshape identity. Relationships have the power to create better versions of everyone around us.

So my question for you is –

What do you believe the women in your community to be?

21 Replies to “One last thing: The relationships of women”

  1. I have to say, this is hard for me to grasp….. what about disloyal and backstabbing women, who in spite of others giving them chance after chance, never do change?? At what point do we give ourselves room to have some space from toxic ppl while still treating them as Christ commands, with love? I realize that if one is wary and thinking the worst of ppl, it will be sensed somehow. But now I’m thinking of a relationship that was causing me great stress in which my husband and my sister said ‘you are trying too hard to make this work. You need to have some distance from this person.’ It actually salvaged the relationship. Today it’s not my favorite relationship but it is pleasant and the I have learned how to handle things so the former stress isn’t an issue.

    Sorry to play the devils advocate 🙃 this series has given me much food for thought and I’ve realized a trend in my stressful relationships that I’ve been a bit the sort to think optimistically ‘whatever could go wrong??’ and enjoy myself immensely. Often that works out very well. But a handful of times in my life, it has been terrifically painful, and a look back would indicate there were warning signs about this person. I realize there’s no such thing as a guarantee with ppl……maybe your series isn’t done yet. 😉 want to grapple this through with me??

    1. Sure thing! I like thoughtful pushback.

      Like all proverbs, mine here is imperfect: that is, there are certainly times when it is not the best rule of thumb. I thought of abuse cases, where no amount of loving “mirror” on the part of the victims would make it okay to ignore the abuse and remain in relationship as before.

      However, I would argue that in abuse, or in the repeated offense/ cruelty/ backstabbing you cited, the mirror is working just fine – the strongest mirror wins. The recipient of the sin will work for many days (or years) to recover a healthy sense of self. There are certainly times when the damage caused to a person by another person is justification for removing oneself from immediate relationship. I’m a foster parent. I believe in protecting people from relational harm.

      But I hope as we live our lives with our sisters in Christ, those times are few: the aberrations, not the norm. How does Jesus see the repeat offender? What loving transformation does he have in mind for the woman who has failed her way through countless relationships? Even when we set boundaries, and rightfully so, can we see with his eyes and love with his love? There is a better version of her, and someone needs to love her into it.

      1. “There is a better version of her, and someone needs to love her into it.” There are tears welling up in me….Yes! Yes! Yes! Where would I be if someone wouldn’t have done that for me?

  2. I thought I was done commenting on this topic, but then you wrote this final (?!) post, and I have to say thanks again. Sometimes I look at the dear people I fellowship with each week, and think ”Oh how sweet it is that I get to spend eternity with them!!” And then other times, because I’m a fallen creature, albeit redeemed, who doesn’t always have the Christ-like attitude that should mark me, I think “how on earth is it I’m going to get along with them for all eternity? There’s gonna be some serious changin’ between now and then!” In Shari’s reply to Sherri’s comment, you said it exactly “how does Jesus see” and “can we see with His eyes, and love with His love”, and it makes all the difference. When in my relationships (with other sisters in particular), I remember He sees them “in Christ”, perfect, complete, the perfect version of who they currently are, it’s a good view, and one I need to glimpse more often.

  3. Pondering, and agreeing, for the most part. I can think of two very good examples of this. My teenage son is naturally more outgoing than I am, and he says, “ Mom, people are so nice!” I watch him interact with them in town, and he’s right! They light up when he interacts with them.
    The second is a dear person I’ve watched struggle through relationships and eventually alienate nearly everyone who has tried to be a friend-there is an underlying mistrust and negativity there that cripples.
    I find this idea especially fascinating as I think of my children. What do I believe about and expect of them?
    And I’m a little nervous to explore what I believe about the ladies in my community. 😋

    This post does leave me with some questions. Does what we believe about other people reflect who WE are even more than who they are?
    And another question, similar to what Sherri mentioned above: is there ever truth about someone that goes beyond my positive or negative thoughts about them? I suppose I’m thinking more of people we have less interaction with or influence over.
    Thank you for this inspiring series and all the good food for thought!

    1. I have questions too, and again, my thoughts here are not absolute truth. I am speaking about “in relationships,” though – not people at a distance. You have a very good thought on whether our own characters are reflected in our responses to other people. I think the one word I would use to encapsulate the changing power of relationships is HOPE. It’s not sure-fire; it’s not immediate or guaranteed or painless; but we always have hope.

  4. Thank you, Shari, and the rest of you that weighed in……Shari, your comment about the strongest mirror winning is absolutely fascinating! I’m not sure it’s something I’ll get my mind around til next month, but it’s starting to shed light on my struggle…..

    Identity informs almost everything in our relationships. If my identity is not secure in an unshakable God, another person’s mirror held up to me with negativity could be almost devastating. Yet, I don’t have to be shaken when I know who I am in Him. So many of these relational questions are so difficult and complex, but the answer is so simple.

    I’ve wanted to figure out these patterns so I can avoid being hurt by these kinds of ppl. But that’s self protection, not love. Rooting myself and my identity, in Christ gives me a place from which to respond well. It is a place in which I can trust my outcomes in relationships to Him, knowing that they don’t have more meaning than Him. When a painful, negative relationship bears the potential to reshape my identity, may I always turn back to God’s mirror of me. May I consider what kind of mirror I am turning on others…..

    I am afraid I’m saying this badly. I *think* I know what I mean! 🙂 thank you for wrestling this with me! It has been really helpful!!

    1. Sherri – Thank you for taking time to write out these thoughts. They are BEAUTIFUL and well put. God bless you as you think further (pray for me too, I’m still sorting), and as you relate to difficult people in your life.

  5. Yes, what you said is true. Does that mean that if the harmful person doesn’t change for good, that it’s my fault for not believing in them enough?
    My influence > her free choice?

    So when someone causes great relational harm, we set up boundaries to protect ourselves (or children), and I believe that distance/boundary is actually a way of believing in them. “By God’s grace you can be more than this. I know it. That’s why I’m distancing myself until you’re safer to relate with.”

    1. That is very well said, Lisa. I agree.

      In all cases of severe relational damage, it seems to me that the best chance of healing for both sinner and sinned-against is in relationship with other people: people strong enough and loving enough to say to the first, “Jesus loves you. He can heal and forgive you. You don’t have to live like this,” and to the second, “You are priceless and beloved and held in the hand of God. This is not your fault. There is healing. I believe in God’s redemptive work in your life.” I’m not saying that the abuser and abused should be the first ones to say this to each other. God forbid.

  6. I love this post! For lo! she cometh back around to my thoughts after the original survey. . . That idea of blessing others having great power. And words begin with those thoughts we think. Around the time you started this series, my eyes were opened to how negatively I view life in general, and people in particular. Having grown up ‘taught’ to think this way, it has been very eye-opening, not to mention challenging. Thank God there’s hope for relearning thinking patterns! But I will vouch for the incredible blessing of others believing the best for me. And I truly desire to reciprocate that in all my close relationships.
    Thanks for sharing so much of your time and energy on this- and I can’t wait to see what subject is in the wings. 🙂 You’re allowing yourself to be a blessing to many. 💜

  7. Overwhelming truth in this concept. It has convicted me. It has gripped me! I’m one of those who is guilty of going into most of life’s relationships, and the circumstances surrounding them, negatively. I believe I’ve convinced myself that I’ll be safer this way? But, how terrifying it is to realize once again how much potential our beliefs about people have towards either their ultimate success or their ultimate downfall. What has my track-record been? Do I breath life and wholesomeness into people? Do I reflect back onto them their ultimate potential and seek to build them up, or do I carelessly project back onto them their dark side? Do I see people with God’s eyes? Do I view them through the lens of The Gospel? Death and life are in the power of the tongue, the book of Proverbs says, and I think we could also say that death and life are in the power of how we handle our relationships too. What we project onto our fellow humans matters, people. I would do the world in general and all of it’s humans in particular a huge favor if I would take heed to your instruction here, Shari. Thanks for shaking me up a bit.

  8. Reading this post made me think of two relationships in my life. The first: you described very near exactly to mine with my thoughts toward my husband. Thank the Lord he opened my eyes to what my thoughts were, and what they were doing to us. The second: one day I decided to vocalize a good strong trait I saw in each of my children. I said to my daughter that she is very friendly and makes friends easily. Is was true before, but me confirming that in her encouraged her and she has blossomed and grown in it. So yes, I can see in my life that what we believe others to be does have an effect on them.

  9. It is quite true that people often rise to ones expectations of them. I have pleasant memories of the old ladies at church giving my adolescent self complimentary words of encouragement when they could have been aghast at my immaturity. People are often spurred to better things by another’s trust.

    Believing the best of people and showing them honor and respect are Biblical principles. [We are of course warned to be discerning and cannot blindly trust every human we come across, though we show them respect.]

    Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things..I Cor. 13

    Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted… Eph. 4:32

    In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Phil. 2:3

    But what happens when people do not become what “you believe them to be?”

    Dr. Ed Wheat, in Love Life gives some perspective on this that can be applied to much more than his focus, which is failing marriages. Our main goal in interactions with others should not be to change that person. Our main goal should be to act in obedience to God for His honor and glory. If our actions and responses are according to God’s direction, it will give God freedom to work in the situation.

    Our viewpoint needs to be, “This is what I am going to do, no matter what, because it is God’s way to do it. I can count on His wisdom, and I can trust Him with the results of a course of action based on His Word.” I see a lot of freedom in this—the blessing of a close relationship with God and the blessing of knowing He is at work for our good.

  10. You know, it would be so good to just hear a weeks worth of meetings on the subject of ‘relationships and how they work’. 🙂 🙂 Not that I’d remember everything that’s said tho. It is good to hear these things every so often.

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