Onion Theory: ALL relationships take time, experience, and trust

So now, let me return to what Sherman taught us in high school. “You will never be satisfied in your relationship with another human being until you are satisfied in your relationship with God.”

I did not understand this question at the time. I thought, “Well, aren’t we supposed to never be satisfied with our relationship with God? Aren’t we supposed to always want more?” Now, I understand. Well, at least more than I did when I was that age.

You see, American discontentment should not be applied to our relationship with God. God has chosen that our relationship with Him shall deepen over time. He never intended us to be “there” right from the moment that we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, mediating the connection between us.

Observe as Carson randomly begins to talk about sex

The best metaphor that I can think of to explain the “why” is marital sex. (Of course. Did you expect different?) A lot of married couples are worried about their honeymoon night. Some are simply worried because it’s the first time, but some are worried because they want it to be amazing. In fact, non-Christians (and even some Christians, too!) will justify premarital sex by saying “Well, you need to experience each other first. You wouldn’t want your honeymoon night to suck!”

NEWS FLASH: YOUR HONEYMOON NIGHT IS SUPPOSED TO SUCK. For two reasons.

a)      Speaking as a guy, of course…sucky sex is still sex. Sucky sex is great! Great sex is…indescribable.

b)      You are married, right? YOU WILL BE HAVING LOTS OF SEX. You will discover each other and how to make it better and better, right?

c)      You know what would really suck? To have GREAT SEX on your honeymoon night…and to have “kinda adequate” sex on the other nights.

For fear of embarrassing my wife (who is far shyer than I am), let me put this in cryptic terms that are not detailed. We loved our honeymoon. We loved EVERYTHING that we did on the honeymoon (and I mean everything). As for our skill level in bed, we tend to laugh when we think about our honeymoon. But at the time…we didn’t know. We just liked it. Now, we laugh. We’ve gotten better.

What does this have to do with God?

Phil 1:6 (NASB)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God will not give you IMMEDIATE intimacy with Him. He does not measure your spiritual walk by some ideal standard that you are short of at any given moment. You are supposed to GROW and MATURE and become more intimate with Him. You are not supposed, nor are you ever expected, to start out at maximum intimacy with him.

In fact, Scripture even tells us this…

Luke 2:52 (NASB)

“And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Jesus increasing in wisdom and stature?! Jesus increasing in favor with God and men?!?!?! I don’t know what this means or what theological implications or whatever the heck, but I know that Scripture says it, and God intends to communicate something to me by saying that.

Here’s what I think it is…Jesus is the example that I am to follow, right? I should increase in favor with God (and men, but God first). Oh, and wisdom. I’ve already stopped growing in stature…I’m like the only person who isn’t taller than his dad.

God has chosen that your relationship with Him shall not be immediately intimate but progressive.

Concerning other people…

People are the same way, and this is why we are calling these posts the “Onion theory” posts. Invade too deep of the layer of the onion before that person willingly lets you in, and they get uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough, relationships (with others and with God) are deepened by the following 2 or 3 things…

Trust, Time/Experiences

I put time an experiences on the same line because relationships need time…but time itself does not deepen a relationship. The experiences you go through are what deepen the relationship. However, because of this, I mention time. Don’t expect a two month friendship to be as deep as a two year friendship. But don’t expect a relationship to be deep just because you’ve known them for five years.

It is the experiences together that deepen a relationship. No one seems to be closer to each other than military guys who fought together: They risked their lives together, so suddenly their relationship is far deeper than anybody imagined (Think “Band of Brothers”). Friends who experience stuff together become deeper friends.

In a similar fashion, my relationship with God is deeper because of what I’ve been through with Him. The stupid decisions I’ve made in the past…He was there through them. He was with me, and He pulled me out of them. God was with me at my wedding to Sarah. God was with me when my mom died of cancer.

The main point

So are we never supposed to be satisfied in our relationship with God? Well, how can you have “more” God than you have now? Could it always be better? Or is that an American concept of “bigger/better” that is interfering?

Is Jesus mad that you are not more intimate with Him? Wait, mad is a strong word…is He sad? Disappointed?

I can’t answer for Him…I’m not Jesus. But as I understand Him, no, He’s not disappointed. Are you disappointed in a 1 month old baby for not being able to walk? Are you disappointed in a 12 year old child for not being able to do calculus?

My line-of-thought abilities are not working because it is 2:45 in the morning, so let me jump straight to what I am trying to say. Do not be depressed that you are so far from perfect…be overjoyed that Christ is perfecting you. Do not be depressed that you lack grace…have faith (ooh, a Biblical word!) that God WILL (fact) form you into a more gracious person. And let this faith in this FACT give you JOY!!! Not depression that you aren’t there yet.

And apply that to your friends. It’s okay if you don’t talk about everything that’s going on yet. This will come with time, experiences, and trust. It will happen naturally, so look forward to it, and don’t rush things. Let it go their pace.

Don’t be cranky that you aren’t a perfect human being yet…be joyful that He who began a good work in you will complete it!!!

Onion Theory: I want to be trustworthy

…and trustworthy means more than “I will keep your secrets and not tell people.” It means more than “I will do what I say I will do.”

It means…well…worthy of trust. If someone trusts me, I want to treat them well.

Socialization is always a two-way process. You teach people how to treat you (without even knowing it!), and people teach you how to treat them. So, to put it simply, in order to be the type of person that people trust, you must reward them for trusting you. This is the opposite of punishing them for trusting you.

So here are some guidelines that I have learned from watching people.

1. Be wise and careful making corrections.

As a taekwondo instructor, I once saw a diagram of four types of students, and how they should be treated. With searching (The internet changed the world, did it not?), I found that this is referred to as “Situational Leadership Theory”. Check this out…

If the student has low motivation and low competence: Direct them

If the student has low motivation and high competence: Support them (Be less task-oriented and more relationship-oriented)

If the student has high motivation and low competence: Teach them

If the student has high motivation and high competence: Delegate to them

I bring up this example not necessarily to apply it but to illustrate an attempt as wisdom in an approach. As a taekwondo instructor, if a high motivation/low competence student makes a mistake, and I punish/discipline them for that mistake, I am an idiot…that decision is a) totally unnecessary because, since they are high motivation, simply telling them would fix the technique and b) will kill their motivation. However, if a kid who is pretty good at taekwondo, pretty competent, is slacking off, I need to approach it differently, do I not?

So before we make any rash decisions about what to do if someone chooses to trust us, we need to evaluate the scenario with wisdom. Will telling him to stop accomplish anything? How difficult was it to confess it in the first place? Is he looking for accountability? Does he need a kick-my-butt friend, or does he need a shoulder? Maybe he needs some Scripture. Maybe he needs encouragement.

As a taekwondo instructor, I have often encouraged a student who really, what they needed was a butt-kicking. However, more often I have seen people directed and bossed around when really, what they needed was a double-dose of encouragement.

2. Step back and actually put yourself in their shoes.

Paul, a 16 year old, just admitted to his parents that he has been having sex with his girlfriend. Paul is a Christian, as are his parents. So, put yourself in Paul’s shoes for a second. You will probably find…

a)      Admitting that to his PARENTS must’ve taken an immeasurable amount of courage.

b)      Since he admitted it, he probably already knows that it is wrong.

c)      Since he admitted it, he has taken an important action towards breaking free of this addiction.

d)      He probably feels trapped. He has probably tried to stop, but has fallen back into the temptation.

e)      There is probably a tension between him and his girlfriend, considering that they both have a secret. He will need all the emotional support he can get.

(In the above example, feel free to replace PARENTS with any word you want, like sister, brother, youth pastor, friend, teacher, whatever.)

Based on this, we can know that a) we don’t have to kick his butt, he is already kicking his own butt, and the Holy Spirit is probably working him over right now. Especially if he had the balls to tell you. b) we don’t need to tell him that it is wrong, or about the risks. He already knows.

What he needs is not for you to quote the “Flee from sexual immorality” verse but the “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” verse. And he needs to know that you are behind him, that you are there for him no matter what.

3. To trust is a difficult decision. Compliment them for it.

“Thanks for trusting me. That sounds like something that’s difficult to admit.”

“You’re a strong person, going through that.”

Some people are in the habit of punishing people for trust. You can punish them in several different ways. Correcting them when they haven’t asked for advice or trusted you with that task (that type of correction feels incredibly invasive), getting mad at them (whether it’s for something they admitted to doing wrong, or they just trusted you with their political position), or even just failure to listen.

Because remember: Getting mad at somebody or getting “offended” makes no correction in their behavior whatsoever. You didn’t correct their behavior, you “corrected” their honesty, their trust. You punished them for trusting you or for opening up to you, so they will probably make sure not to do that again.

Can you be the type of person who can survive this? Your wife tells you: “It FREAKING ANNOYS me when you leave the towel on the floor!” and you say “…thanks for telling me that.” It would take one heck of a man to do that. How about if your wife said it calmly? “Honey, it upsets me when you leave your towel on the floor.” Would you snap back at your wife? If you would, you are teaching her not to be honest with you.

Can you survive your girlfriend saying “Let’s just be friends” without complaining or playing the martyr? If so, you are a master at this.

In conversation, Fred says that “I don’t think abortion is wrong…some people shouldn’t be parents.” As a pro-lifer, do you get mad at him? If so, you don’t change his mind…you simply teach him that you are not somebody who he should have this conversation with.

Somebody at church says “I’m not really convinced that Jesus is the Son of God.” How do you handle it?

Can you reward trust, even in a tough scenario? Or do you punish trust?

I want to be the person who rewards it.

Onion Theory: To Trust or not to Trust – The consequences

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,     not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” -C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”

 

Social penetration theory says that a relationship only progresses from superficial to intimate through a gradual (in other words, not rapid-fire) and orderly process of self-disclosure. Although I am not a sociologist (think of me as simply an interested observer, reading articles, watching people, and recording my findings), I would like to add the word “mutual” to those words.

 

In the last post, we talked about choosing self-disclosure vs. self-concealment. People that you love, you tend to reveal yourself to as opposed to hiding yourself from. There is a great risk in that…and I am not for a moment suggesting that you should do this for everybody. Do not think that I am saying “It’s wrong for you to conceal yourself!”

However, if you make the choice to always conceal yourself, it will have an effect on your relationships.

Because remember, we all get to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose the consequences. Sally and Bob can say “Oh, forget all this waiting, let’s just start having sex!” They’ve made a decision. However, if they say “I have a great idea. Let’s start having sex, and let’s not get pregnant or get mad at each other despite the lack of commitment!” They don’t get to choose the consequences.

 

So let there be no doubt: Self-disclosure is risky. Let them know what you really think, how you really feel, what you really struggle with, and it is quite possible that you might be judged or bullied or treated like you need another mommy to tell you what to do or whatever.

However, if you never disclose yourself and you always hide yourself, don’t be surprised if you don’t have “deep” friendships. Don’t be surprised if the kids in your youth group don’t tell you what they’re really struggling with. Don’t be surprised if people talk with you less and less. These are the consequences of always concealing yourself. You can choose to always conceal yourself…you can’t choose whether your family, friends, or significant others respond well to it.

 

So what if your friends break that trust? Well, some of them will. But, not as many as you think. When I confessed my past errors (namely, sexual immorality) to other Christians, I was met with mercy, compassion, a listening ear, and often mutual trust.

Now, there were a couple who brought it up at their convenience as a beating stick, allowing themselves a sense of power (moral high ground, if you will) to win a debate or to offer their insights into what path I needed to take for my spiritual development. However, the joy of not having to keep secrets, the bond of friends who responded to my risky decision of trust, responding with the Christ-like qualities listed above, and the still-continuing encouragement of friends who said “Thanks for telling me that! I struggled with that too, and it’s so good to hear that I’m not alone!” have shown me that when considering the risk, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

If they break that trust, it will hurt. But what you will gain is greater than the hurt you might feel, trust me.

 

Being considerate with our self-disclosure

So should we trust everybody with everything? No. But I do not say that out of self-protection, I say this because Social Penetration Theory mentions that the deepening of friendship should happen gradually. If somebody walks up to me and starts talking about their five messy divorces within the first minute of us talking to them…it would make me feel awkward. Now, I would assume that if they are talking about it that early, then it is burning on their heart and I can be helpful by listening. However, since this situation naturally makes me feel awkward, then I should take note that spilling my guts out to somebody who hardly knows me would make them feel awkward, and I should refrain.

However, when the time comes, I would like to be the kind of person who takes the risk first. I feel that this is a considerate thing to do, because I don’t want them to have to take that risk.

 

Also, I would like to be the type of person who rewards this self-disclosure. And being that type of person, well, that is what I’d like to cover next post.

Hope you are still along for the ride!