Are you looking for Christian relationship help to enable you to understand how fear affects your difficult relationships? This article will provide you with some answers.
If your loved one is acting in ways that are risking his/her health, safety, financial, spiritual or relational security, you naturally fear whatever consequences might occur. If your loved one is doing things that are negatively affecting you, you are naturally fearful of your own health, safety, financial, emotional, and relational security. If other people are involved such as children or parents, you naturally fear for them also.
This fear of unpleasant and possibly uncomfortable life-altering consequences leads you to do things that are not healthy for you or your difficult loved one. Here are three things:
Enabling means you do things that actually allow your difficult loved one to continue doing behavior that is not right, good, or healthy in the long run. It prevents your loved one from experiencing the natural consequences of bad choices by you fixing the problems or preventing the problems from occurring. Examples are paying bills, fixing legal problems, giving money, or making excuses to others. People need to bear the consequences of their decisions in order to learn from their mistakes. When you enable you prevent valuable lessons. God has established the law of reaping and sowing so that people will experience the effects of their decisions and learn from them (Galatians 6:7-8).
Triangulating means you jump in and intervene in your difficult loved one’s relationships to fix problems that occur with another person. You can do this by explaining, excusing, taking sides, mediating, or communicating on behalf of your difficult loved one. This prevents him/her from having to deal with other people and work out the relationship problems. Examples are preventing your spouse from dealing with your child because you don’t like his/her feelings, attitude, or methods; talking with your mother to explain your sister’s problems; taking sides with one of your children against the other when the siblings have problems. Triangulating keeps your loved one from having to work on his/her own relationships. Even God allows us to come directly to him to work out our relationship problems. He says we are to reason with him regardless of what we have done (Isaiah 1:18).
Reacting means you respond to your fear and anxiety by doing something in the moment to quell your own insecurity. Examples are nagging, threatening, bargaining, arguing, lecturing, or controlling in ways that attempt to change your difficult loved one’s choices. This keeps the focus in the relationship on you and makes you look like the problem. Your difficult loved one can focus on your behavior rather than his/her own, because you are the one who is acting badly. Reacting increases the dysfunction by adding in your emotionality into the mix. As a result, you don’t feel good about yourself, you feel like you are part of the problem, and you are less likely to be able to set clear boundaries when needed. God cares deeply about us, but he is able to detach from our choices; you need to learn to control your own reactions by detaching in love.
When you experience fear in your difficult relationships, you need to resist the natural desire to enable, triangulate, or react. Instead, you need to identify the cause of the fear, recognize that it isn’t your problem to fix, turn the person and problem over to God, and trust him to work in your loved one’s life.
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Karla Downing is an author, speaker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and Bible study teacher. Karla’s passion is to help people find freedom in Christ in the midst of their difficult relationships and circumstances through Biblical truths and practical tools.
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