Most vices we recognize right away are the things that trip us up and hold us back; things we can and should do without. But what about something we all have to live with every day of our lives? Can that be a vice, too? Absolutely. I’m talking about relationships. We all have them because we’re all relational at some level. Whether you’re extroverted or introverted, we are all human. Created in the image of God, who is a relational God. His greatest desire is to be in relationship with us. And therefore, we are all relational people with relationships woven into the fabric of our lives.
There’s a sense of freedom, belonging, connection, and value that comes from relationships done right. But today, I want to break down three main categories of, well, breakdowns. Where relationships become a vice is where the enemy works out his plan through these breakdowns to kill, steal, and destroy what God has meant for an abundant and full life (John 10:10). Together, we’ll look at some ways we can move from the dangers of relation-shipwreck to stewarding healthy, whole, and fulfilling relationships.
Vice #1: Absence of A Relationship
The void. We’ve all felt it. A longing for someone, or to be somebody for someone. Maybe for you, it was growing up without a father or mother, or losing them too soon. Maybe it’s a deep longing for a best friend to confide in, laugh with, and grow close to. Maybe for you, it’s seeing another woman enjoy the joys of motherhood, all the while having to deal with complications of your own. Most all of us have felt that pangs of wanting to be or have a significant other—and all the happy couple photos flooding our Instagram feed these days doesn’t really help, right? We want what we believe we lack, or what we see others happy with. The danger is this: When we see life through the lens of what we perceive we lack, we lose our grip on trusting in God’s Sovereign plan. We lose our footing on our firm foundation and begin sliding down the slippery slope of embitterment, envy, coveting, and deprivation mentality. We get lost in comparison and start believing the whispers that break us down. The enemy invites us to a pity party, and we pull up a chair. Friend, your name may be at his table, but what he’s dishing isn’t nourishment for your soul. It’s poison—stealing your joy, destroying your confidence, and killing your fight to become who God made you to be. God has a place for you at His table and a plan for your life that is complete with a roadmap to the specific relationships He hand-picked for you. Focus on your relationship with Him, talk to Him about your heart’s desires, let Him shape you into a healthy and whole person, and allow Him to lead you into the relationships He will inspire and bless in His timing.
Vice #2: A Toxic Relationship
A void isn’t the only poison that the enemy of our souls tries to taint our relationships with. There are toxicities in some relationships that could merit a whole other post… check out our recent Blog Series deep diving into all things relationships. Like any poison control center will tell you, there are symptoms of exposure to a toxic substance—or in this case, a toxic relationship:
- Behavior changes: The people closest to you will usually pick up on these first. Have you become more closed off towards anyone outside of your relationship? Have you picked up new habits, especially ones that aren’t exactly promoting a healthy lifestyle? Does your temperament shift when you’re with or have been around that person? Do you find yourself becoming defensive when people approach you about it? Are you dodging the people you love?
- Fatigue: Are you drained after spending time with that person? Physically, mentally, emotionally, socially… Watch out for relationships that literally suck the life out of you.
- Loss of appetite: How’s your relationship with God doing? Are you hungry to spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word? Does that relationship draw you closer to Him or promote distance?
- Loss of control: Do you lose your sense of control when you’re with that person? Are you able to confidently make choices that align with your moral values? Do you feel pressured to do or say things thing you normally wouldn’t? Do you feel regret, shame, or heaviness after spending time with that person?
- Difficulty breathing: Is there a healthy sense of space in the relationship? Are you two independent and whole people who are content on your own and add to each other, or is there one smothering the other?
- Blurred vision, confusion, and disorientation: Does your relationship have clear direction and a vision for the future? Foggy relationships filled with gray areas will cloud your judgment and end in wreckage. Have you ever driven in thick fog or before car defrosts, trying to look out one small portion of your windshield? It’s dangerously unwise. And there’s too much at stake in life to risk that. The smart thing to do it pull off to the side and get some clarity. In relationships that means defining lines, boundaries, who you are to each other, and where you’re going.
All of these don’t have to only pertain to romantic relationships. There are friendships, work relationships, and family relationships that need assessment through these filters. Not all symptoms will show up at once, but even one being flagged is enough to take a look at if a relationship has toxic tendencies. In most cases, it helps tremendously to talk these through with someone outside of that relationship who is close enough to offer some perspective, without being emotionally charged in the situation. Ultimately, ask God for wisdom in knowing what relationships will require open and honor at conversations that lead to healthy restoration, what requires pruning of time and emotional energy, and what requires being cutting off entirely.
Vice #3: Good Relationships Gone Bad (And It’s Not What You Think)
This third vice may be the hardest to spot because it’s cloaked in a good relationship. It’s a double-edged sword of being comfortable and getting our life focus out of order. God created relationships. And relationships done His way are good. But when we start focusing more time, energy, heart, and headspace around the created relationship instead of the Creator of the relationship, we need some recalibration. And that my friends is the vice where the enemy of our souls wants to take us out. If he can get us comfortable, complacent, and happy in our relationship dynamic, he can swoon us into days with shallow meaning and little Kingdom impact. It’s an easy trap to fall in when we spend more time talking to people, hanging out with people, and seeking out that feeling of being loved and belonging in people… We can get to a place in life where our day to day relationships feel complete and amazing, look like the stuff of dreams on social media, are praised and sought after by those around us—and yet we are missing the most vital component of all. That is a thriving, authentic, and personal relationship with Jesus that is built up by spending daily time with Him and keeping Him at the center and forefront of all things. Especially our relationships. We must fight against becoming comfortable in our relationships and complacent in our responsibility to carry out God’s plan for our lives. And keeping our relationship with Him on top does just that.
And there we have it. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience the fullness of life God has for me. That requires stewarding the gift of relationships well, a diligence to identify and destroy our vices, and a commitment to keeping our relationship with Jesus as the most important thing in our lives. It’s a fight, but we are equipped to win with the Word of God, the open communication channel of prayer with the Master of relationships Himself, and the Spirit working in our hearts to help us become the whole and healthy people He created us to be.