Written By Raphael Zhang, Singapore
Have you ever wished for a perfect relationship with a family member, friend, or romantic partner? One where you are completely understood and loved by the other person in the exact way you want, and vice versa? One without conflicts, anger, or frustrations—just perfect reciprocity and bliss?
Well, I certainly have, because more often than not, relationships do not turn out the way I want them to. When that happens, I would think that the problem lies with the other person. If only they would change, I tell myself, this relationship would be perfect.
Recently, I’ve been learning that the challenges I face in a relationship are not always because of the other person—I am equally at fault. Instead of always expecting or waiting for the other to change, I ought to improve myself first. I’ve also learned that God uses our imperfect relationships to reveal something deeper about ourselves, to humble us, and to show us what it means to love another.
1. Relationships Reveal Something Deeper about Ourselves
“Triggers” or “buttons”, as some might call them, are the things that get us riled up and cause us to feel and react in a certain way. Perhaps it is a person’s inefficiency, tardiness, or unreliability. In the face of these behaviors, we may react instinctively by showing our frustration or by ignoring the other person.
I get annoyed whenever I feel like I’ve been ignored by others. It also bothers me when someone has misunderstood or misjudged me. These things cause me to react and respond in an unpleasant way.
I have come to realize, however, that my perceptions are not always accurate. Others may not have intended to do what I thought they had done intentionally. For example, a friend whom I think has ignored me may have simply missed what I said. Of late, God has been reminding me to take a step back and think before jumping to conclusions and reacting angrily.
Ultimately, these “triggers” reveal an underlying issue that we may not see if we had not been “pushed”. Often, our triggers hide something deeper. God recently revealed to me that my frustration with being ignored by others is simply an outward response to my inner fear of rejection. I’m scared of being unappreciated by those I love and trust. Behind the displeasure I feel when others misunderstand or misjudge me, is a fear that others may not know who I truly am or what I’m like.
What are the triggers in your life? Are there deeper feelings and issues behind them? Reflecting on these questions will help us find out the real issues that affect us.
The best way to treat these inner wounds and fears is to apply God’s Word to our lives. Whenever I feel rejected, I remind myself that Jesus has already accepted me (Romans 15:7) and that nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38–39). When I feel misunderstood, I remind myself to stand on the truth that God knows everything about me (Psalm 139).
Triggers not only help us better understand ourselves, but can also be used by God to remind us of His truth and character.
2. Relationships Humble Us
When I’m agitated, my instinctive reaction is to lash back or pin the blame on the other person. It’s so easy to find fault with others instead of ourselves.
The Holy Spirit, however, has taught me to reflect on my own life before criticizing others. When I relate with others, I feel like God is holding up a mirror before me, asking me to evaluate my own life: Have I done this very thing to others before? Have I hurt another in this same way?
God uses these moments of self-awareness to lead me to repent and be humble. He helps me realize that I’m not as perfect as I thought I was, and that I too am flawed. With this realization, I’m more able to extend grace and forgiveness to others who have hurt or wronged me.
3. Relationships Teach Us to Show God’s Love
Our relationships with the people around us reflect our relationship with God. In the times I find it so hard to love people who have hurt me, God reminds me that I have likewise hurt Him with my sins, and yet, He still loves me deeply. I do not deserve such grace and love, but He gives them to me despite my shortcomings.
If God loves broken, unlovable, and unworthy people like you and me, to the extent that He sent His one and only Son to die for us so that we can have eternal life (John 3:16), how can we not try to love others around us? His unconditional love for us should compel us to reflect His love to others.
When Jesus says to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–48), He is telling us that loving those who have hurt us and are hard to love is the distinguishing mark of a child of God. If this is how my Father loves, then I also want to love others in this way, because I, as His son, want to be like Him.
Let’s take heart that God has given us the strength and grace to love and interact with others the same way He has loved us, even when it is hard to do so. When we work on the underlying issues in our lives with humility, our relationships will naturally improve and grow just as how God intended them to be.