By Talya Flowers
We are all seeking and searching for something.
For some, it is fame, fortune, happiness, a rewarding career, or if your path is similar to mine, a deeper relationship with Christ. Whatever it is, I would argue that above all else, we are searching for love. Once we receive the fame, fortune, happiness, or a rewarding career, then what else? We begin to seek someone with whom we can share our lives with. We want someone who accepts and approves of the life that we have built or are building for ourselves. With that knowledge in mind, consider the following:
Imagine my hypothetical relationship as it unfolds: I become more and more critical of my significant other. By my actions and by my words, I tell him that I don’t like the way he dresses, I don’t like who he hangs out with, I don’t like his family members, I don’t like the way he thinks, I don’t like the career he has chosen, I don’t like the way he cooks, I don’t like the fact that his spiritual life is not on the same level as mine. Would my relationship go very far? Am I fostering an environment for intimacy? Am I displaying Christ?
If I constantly did that to my significant other, I am killing the very core of who he is. I have taken it upon myself to change who he is by demanding that he become more like me. When the problem is not him, it’s me. The scripture tells us candidly that we are made in the image of God. We are not made in the image of one another. I cannot tell someone to change (this is not for abusive relationships. If someone is being abusive, they will have to change to stay in a relationship with you or they will have to move on without you). Giving more of yourself does not eradicate the abuse, tolerance worsens the abuse. I cannot demand, manipulate or control someone to change because abuse is a heart problem, and Christ is the only one with the ability to transform hearts.
So, in the process of lording over someone, I’ve damaged the one person who I’ve claimed to love. Why, when I chose him? I have a choice in the matter. You have a choice in the matter.
Here are my five suggestions for ways to be more accepting:
1. Stop criticizing
Constant criticism coming from someone who claims to love you becomes emotionally draining over time. There is one thing to offer constructive criticism but another to just be criticizing for the sake of criticizing. If someone is making an effort to learn, don’t criticize his or her efforts. If anything, praise them. In your praise, they will be willing go above and beyond for you.
2. Stop judging
Judging is damaging. I’ll say it again, judging someone is damaging. Judging someone for who they are and the choices that they’ve made is detrimental to the relationship. Why destroy something that you are trying to build by judging another person, unless you know, of course, that you won’t be sticking around to heal their emotional wounds.
3. Allow growth
Acceptance/growing together is a process because it does not happen overnight. I once had an acquaintance tell me that his mom and dad could read each other thoughts. He was expecting/demanding that in his present relationship. Slow your role; couples do no wake up and start reading each other’s minds. That requires time, effort and vulnerability—none of which he was giving in his relationship.
4. Be realistic
Everything in life is a choice, choose wisely. The more you are able to understand someone for who they were in the past and who they are in the present; you’ll be able to learn and to understand their behaviors and attitudes. Time is your friend. Be patient, be gentle and most of all take your time.
5. Be open
Communication is the glue that keeps couples together. Intimacy is formed by communication. Being verbally demanding, manipulative or controlling stifles all forms of security. Do not get in a relationship if you are going to use your words, on your spouse, as a punching bag. Do not get into a relationship where the person treats people poorly but worships the ground you walk on. Everyone, from the janitor to the president, deserves respect and to be treated kindly.
Acceptance forms the foundation for love, for without it, all relationships will fail. Christ accepts and loves us just as we are. Then he begins to shape and mold us into his image after we begin to see the beauty of giving our lives to him. Do the same for your significant other. Allow them to fly and to grow into who God called them to be before you start berating and belittling them for who they can never be. Luckily, we can change by making a choice. It just depends on the path chosen. if you are searching to find love: look within. If you’re already in a relationship, instead of criticizing and condemning the person you chose to be in a relationship with why not take the time to grow together?
Always remember that no matter what, you are more than enough not because of who you are but because of whose you are.