Recently I have found myself engaged in dealing with a number of incidents where 'love' has been replaced by vitriol, spitefulness and rancour. Relationships have soured and many things have conspired to bring actions and words together with the intention of hurting others. The sad thing is that those who have acted thus appear to have not only achieved their goal but have also, somehow, become part of the collateral damage from their actions as well.
The Bible tells us that those who dig a pit for others are destined to fall into it themselves (Proverbs 26). Those who seek to wound others might achieve their goal but when the target of their hatred has long gone, the melody lingers on and they are not only damaged but find themselves unable to engage in secure or fulfilling relationships ever again. They blame the person who has gone and the more the estranged combatant appears to be be successful and happy in their post-them life the greater their pain.
We live in a world where people want revenge rather than justice and appear to put more energy into the destruction of relationships than the maintenance or restoration of them and this is wrong. I see people excuse, and accept, the breakdown of relationships amongst their friends with not a thought to encouraging the couples to reconcile and resolve. The ease at which relationships are entered and left and the speed at which some join together and then break apart is something that speaks of a worrying lack of fidelity and commitment.
I often find myself using a formulaic explanation of what marriage (and non-married but cohabitational relationships - so you're not off the hook because you're not married) should be about. I call it the 'F Plan Diet' and it goes like this (perhaps I should (c) it :-) ):
FAITH - regardless of what has happened, you need to keep faith with one another - to trust and believe in the other person and even when this is difficult, to find a way through the situation to restore the belief.
FACTS - The reality is that once you are together, you are together. If this is a a married relationship then regardless - you are married and this brings some serious elements of commitment, sacrifice and engagement.
FEELINGS - Feelings are the most easily manipulated of all the things that influence our relationships and attitudes. Often they bear little relation to the facts and are often fuelled by well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) friends, misunderstandings, selfishness and a host of other factors (tired, drunk, absence and the like). When the feelings conspire to damage or break a relationship - or to bring a third-party into the mix - refer to the two points above!
FORGIVENESS - The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. If there's a problem then discuss it and bring about some resolution and reconciliation before you go to bed, for if you don't you'll wake up to a worse situation! Forgiveness requires us to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and the other person to do the same and to repent (Turn away from, stop, accept that their actions were wrong) and bring about a restoration.
FELLOWSHIP - The Bible tells us to 'love our nearest neighbour as our ourselves' and the person with whom we are in a relationship is that 'nearest neighbour' (and the act of sexual congress makes us 'one flesh' too). Being in fellowship - doing things together, sharing interests (yes, even going shopping!) is not just important but is the very glue of a relationship (and you perhaps thought it was merely the sex!).
FRUIT - The Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) is:
'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.'
Having these attributes in our life (individually and corporately) can only be good - after all, theyt are all highly desireable (aren't they?).
FUN - Regardless of how much money you have, or how much work you have, there are always way that you can have fun TOGETHER!
So many relationships appear to fall because of the many nights out with friends and the few out with you partner or at home. Relationships take time and need fun - when we were married and broke (still are) we used to walk along the river bank and feed the ducks - the important thing was that we were together and enjoying each other and the place we were in.
So here's a quick outline - the people I have spoken to this past week will hopefully find something within it to build their relationships and mend the broken bits, this is my hope and prayer for you :-)