J. Randall Stewart
52 - Common Ground
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Why do we tend to separate from others?
We have our reasons.
Are they good reasons?
Is separation ever a good option?
Separation is primarily a matter of the heart. When we don't feel like we're being treated fairly, or well, we will tend to want to part ways. We genuinely and rightly want to be treated in a respectful, dignified way. This is not wrong. The problem is when separation begins to be a self-perpetuating cycle.
There's this popular song called "born without a heart" that illustrates this well. Here are some of the lyrics.
"I don't really care, and I never will
That's the way I am, such a bitter pill
I don't really care, how much silence kills
That's the way I am
No, I wasn't born without a heart
I wasn't always like this, no
Watched you break me, no
Now you blame me
No, I wasn't born with all these scars
And that's what made me like this, no
Can you blame me, no?"
When it comes to separation, we often find that we didn't start out with a propensity towards division. Most of us started out with a fairly good amount of relational trust that, over time, got worn down and whittled away by a series of hurtful, relational experiences. The problem becomes when we perpetuate the cycle. Then, the problem of separation becomes something handed to us, that we begin handing off to others. And so the cycle repeats.
Who's to blame for all of this. We don't know, but we keep the cycle going anyway, even when we know we're doing the same hurtful thing to others that we didn't like done to us. "Born without a heart" is a sad song that makes excuses for repeating a sad cycle. The logic goes, "well, someone hurt me, so don't blame me for being so callused towards you." But is that really okay, and how do we stop the cycle?
When we feel hurt by others, what we really want is repentance and reconciliation. We want to heal the hole created in our hearts.
Separation is a deeply inhuman aberration to the way we're meant to live. Relational dissidence tears at our hearts, minds, bodies, souls, and spirits. There is no way to normalize this. It never feels good. It never feels right.
It reminds me of the story I heard about the father who made his daughter put a nail in the wooden fence on their farm every time she said something hurtful. After a while, when she saw all the nails she was amassing, she decided to change the way she talked. Then, her father told her to go and pull out all those nails from the fence. When she was done, there were still hundreds of holes in the fence created by those nails. That's how it is with relational hurt. It leaves a mark in our hearts and souls. It's something we should also take great care to avoid. And yet, we often find it natural to react in kind to unkind actions.
We instinctively know that hurtful words and actions are wrong. And we instinctively react in negative ways to such negativity. It's not wrong to say or show when someone hurts us. We need to be able to use our voice to speak up for ourselves. But we don't need to hurt or separate when we are wronged. That creates a second wrong, as many of our parents once told us. Two wrongs don't make a right. Right! What we need is to learn how to communicate the hurt and make space for the one who's hurt us to do the right thing. Separation reinforces the hurt, instead of resolving it. It leaves us still hurting and doesn't help the other person see what they've done wrong, or the need to make a change in their behavior. The lack of relational resolution leaves both parties stuck in bad behavior cycles.
Repentance and reconciliation pave the way for healing, and transformation. Sometimes, we simply need to say to someone, "did you know that hurt me." You'd be surprised how often the response is, "Oh! no! I didn't know that." When we take the time to communicate the hurt we've experienced, we're also expressing our love for the person that hurt us. We're saying, "I love you enough to give you the change to make this right."
Separation is a reinforcing action. It locks us in a bad relational cycle which says, "when I don't like what you're doing, I'm just going to shut down, and eventually leave." It doesn't give us the chance to heal, or the other person the chance to change. Sometimes, the other person won't change. Sometimes, they're just as locked up in their wounds as we are. Sometimes, it will take a long-term commitment, and a great amount of love, to stay with someone long enough to see their hurt begin to heal. It's an amazing gift if you can love someone through their hurt long enough to reinforce a better way for them to love.
We've all experienced a broken kind of love. We've all grown up with imperfect parents. We've all started out learning some degree relational dysfunction. But, we all want to get better and do better. We want others to love us better. But, if we want that, we also need to change ourselves. Be the change you want to see in the world, as the saying goes. Be the bigger person.
You don't have to keep repeating the bad cycle. You can do better. God offers us a better way, by loving us perfectly, just as we are. Connecting with that love can take time, but God is there for us to experience.
When I was twelve years old, I had a lot of sadness and hurt in my heart. My home life was chaotic and dysfunctional. My dad was abusive. I didn't feel understood or accepted by my peer group. I felt very alone. But I found a good friend in God. I would walk in the evenings, through a local park near my house, and just pour my heart out to God. Even at that young age, I felt God's comforting presence near and dear. I knew God heard me and cared about my hurt. I always left encouraged, and lighter in my heart for sharing my hurts with God. I knew God was helping me bear them. In God I found a perfect love.
It's taken me a long time to be able to connect with God in deeper ways, to know in more detailed ways God's heart for me, and for the world. One thing I've learned about God in that process is that God never separates from us, no matter who we are, or what we do. God loves us unconditionally. The more we connect with God's heart for us, the more we learn how to love unconditionally as well.
I pray you take that journey into the heart of God, and learn how to also be a person that loves unconditionally, never separates from others in your heart because of the hurt others sometimes cause you. That doesn't mean you won't need to distance yourself from those who are not healthy for you to be around. But you don't need to keep the broken cycle of separation going in your heart. Amen!