The Value of Relationship: Keep It or End It?
By Stacie Costa, LPC
Grace Ventures, LLC Tulsa, OK.
918-212-8702 firstname.lastname@example.org www.gvcounsel.com
August 31, 2021
Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend, a sister in the Lord, a spiritual director. We were discussing relationships. I was struggling in determining if, and when, it is ok to say, “enough is enough” and end a relationship. If it is ok to end a significant relationship, what is the criteria for doing so? How do you know if you should continue to try, no matter how long the problems persist or painful it is to endure? If the struggle is with a spouse, is the criteria different? If it is with a parent, how do you end it and still maintain an honoring of them? The relational problems we were discussing were ongoing ones. They are the ones that are a constant part of the relationships.
This conversation ensued as I wrestled with finding permission, really freedom, to end some relationships. I believe that God has been preparing me to end them. Yet, I needed to confirm that it was God’s leading. My thoughts needed a biblical foundation. I have struggled to maintain some relationships across decades though they have always been shallow and strained. I kept working at it because I believed to end them would be contrary to God’s Word and a loss of some sort.
After the conversation with my friend ended, I went for a walk. I was praying a bit and mostly letting my mind wander in several different directions: the beauty of the sky, why people let their dogs run loose which bothered my walk, was the pavement too hot for my dog, what I was going to do for the evening, what the current progress was on a house being built on the street, oh yeah…and a bit of prayer.
Amid my mental wandering and plodding feet, a thought, really a question, captured my attention. That is often the way God speaks to me. “What is the weight and worth of the problem?” “What does that mean?” I asked. The response in my mind was “The problem has a constant component about it. It is a given in the relationship. It has weight or value to it.” I didn’t understand. Again, I heard a question “What is the measure of the problem and the measure of the relationship?’ I don’t get it! I don’t know the answer! It was a math problem. I couldn’t find the formula. I kept asking and trying to understand. The thought of the disciples shaking the dust off their feet entered my mind. That was followed by the story of the rich young ruler. Then I questioned the relationship Rahab had with the spies and the fact that she lied for them which seemed to be ok in the story. Why am I thinking of these stories?! The disciples including Judas joined the mental gathering. Then the thought of heaven and hell came into focus. I could not figure out how that fit. I let all of it swirl around in my head, with all the different stories bumping into each other and with each collision, some clarity.
Amidst this churning a formula came together.
Relationship value minus problem value = If positive value, then keep the relationship and work through the problem = If negative value, then end the relationship and the problem.
Could that possibly be what God was really saying? Was I understanding? I went to the Word.
Worthy of relationship or worthless as dust.
Matthew 10:11-14. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.
I looked up the word worthy in the original Greek. The definition read “weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much.” Wow!!!! Weight and value-the same words that I heard in my head earlier in the afternoon.
Next, I looked up blessing of peace. Definition: “Peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, tranquility, and concord (agreement).
Then I looked up shake off. Definition: to refuse to have any further dealings with, to cleanse self from.
What I see in this is that if there is a mutual and worthwhile relationship, nurture it. If it is not mutual and of the same worth to both, leave it in a manner that you maintain your own care and worth or value. It is ok to leave taking none of the “dust” with you and not leaving your “blessing of peace”. The Word says have no further dealing with people that are not committed to giving and receiving equally. What I heard in my dialogue with the Lord is that in loving others, I am willing to offer to everyone what I have. If they are willing to bring the same value, the relationship can be valuable. If they do not, I need to love myself enough to care for myself. An equal relationship is when both are committed to helping the other gain what God has purposed for them. It gives space for acceptance, encouragement, and accountability to be who God designed each to be.
Of course, value can come in many ways. It all needs to be considered. We will see that in looking at the relationship with Jesus and Judas. Some value is painful as it teaches us lessons or serves to put us in the place God is calling us.
Rich young ruler
Matthew 19: 16-22. And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
The problems with this duo carried a higher value than the relationship. So, the relationship was not to be, and they parted ways. Jesus highlighted the problems, not all of which the young man recognized. Yet the problem he did recognize carried more weight and value to him than being in relationship with Jesus. He wanted to keep his possessions and his ego. From Jesus’ standpoint, the young man did not have a heart to give and receive; only to receive. Additionally, he was dishonest with himself and others. He could not possibly have kept all the commandments. He was not authentic. He was not in a position of self-awareness to give honesty. Jesus did not pursue him when he chose to walk away. The problems outweighed the relationship, from the standpoint of both. The weight and worthiness of relationship was less than the weight of the problems which would have been ongoing without a heart change within the young man.
Rahab and the Spies.
Joshua 2:1-21 Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate. Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the Lord gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
Here is an example of giving someone an opportunity for relationship. She was a foreigner, an enemy, and a prostitute. She also lied. However, the relationship had great worth and purpose by God. The value of the relationship was greater than the value of the problems. It is true that we all bring problems into a relationship. The question is how they get dealt with. In this case, the spies accepted the relationship with the condition that she take on the responsibility for putting the red cord in the window to differentiate her family from all the others. Without that, they were not taking on the responsibility of finding her. There was a give and take; a sharing of value and worth. The problems were smaller than the relationship value within a given set of boundaries.
Jesus and Judas
Matthew 26:20-25 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” Being deeply grieved, they [f]each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good [g]for that man if he had not been born.” And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”
Matthew 26:47-50 While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
This is a hard one to look at. Jesus continued to call Judas his friend. Jesus was expressing the value of the relationship as greater than the heavy weight of the problems. Why? Because Jesus knew that He must be betrayed to fulfill His purpose and call. He needed a relationship with Judas.
Judas definitely needed Jesus. In the horror of what Judas did, his eyes were opened to himself. He recognized his messed-up priorities. He returned the 30 pieces of silver as they signified all that was wrong in him and he was remorseful. He experienced, maybe for the first time, that Jesus was worthy of relationship even if Jesus never gave Judas the position he sought. His regret and shame in it overtook him.
Sometimes the relationship equation can bring comfort. At other times it speaks to hardship. A relationship may help to position us for a calling or to invite us to investigate ourselves for the purpose of change and growth. Understanding the value of the relationship and the value of the problems is not an easy assignment. The determination of both the relationship and the problems values is something to be done with careful consideration and in prayer.
Heaven and Hell
Revelations 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Matthew 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
We don’t often hear talk of heaven or hell anymore. Yet, they need to be considered always. We know God created us and loves us. Why, then, is there a hell? Because there are relationships that have a higher value in the problems than in the relationships. God’s home, heaven, is a perfect place reserved for those that accept and obey Him. God is love and God loves God. Therefore, no sin or anything not of God can enter heaven. When a person seeks entrance without having accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, without possessing an ongoing and personal relationship of value with Jesus, then the value of the problem is greater than the value of the relationship. That person cannot enter heaven. That is not what God intended or desires. The person made evaluations across their lifetime, that the value of the problem of giving their life to Christ was greater than the worth of the relationship. God accepts that choice and then chooses that at their death, He cannot accept the weight of the problems by allowing the person into heaven. To do so would be to devalue His relationship with Himself, the trinity, all the hosts in heaven, and all the people that are there with Him.
Think about the word worthy that we talked about earlier. It is about giving and receiving a worth that is about equal. Jesus gave His life for us and asks that in return we give our lives to Him. Not an equal trade as He gave more. However, He gave all and expects us to give all.
In further thinking of a relationship with each person of the Trinity in the present rather than eternity, I realized that when big hurts have come, I have questioned the goodness or God, how trustworthy He is, why He did not protect me or stop the devastation. As I wrestled this within the context of the value of the relationship and the problems, I realized how quickly I elevated the value of the problem and minimized the value of the relationship. That is because I felt betrayed by God which is not the truth. I settled into peace as I accepted that no matter what is happening, the value of the relationship with God always is greater than the weight of the problem. I may not understand the “why” about the circumstances; that is reality with my finite mind. My lack of understanding does not elevate the problem, it elevates my need for the relationship. I do not protect myself by moving away from God in confusing and hard times. I heal when I draw close to Him.
How do we measure relationship and worth?
I do not know that I can answer that question adequately for each individual. We all will have differing scales, characteristics of relationship that are important to us, and issues with problems that are difficult to accept or navigate.
I think the starting point is to consider the pros and cons in the relationship for each person involved. Consider how constant the problems are and critically consider how that have gotten better or worsened with time. Also have you grown or regressed in the relationship and why? It is possible that we regress because we want to excuse our own behavior by blaming the other. It is also possible we regress because we excuse the other’s behavior by blaming ourselves.
This analysis must be done prayerfully to gain insight into the weights and measures of the relationship and the problems. One thing to remember is that we are each responsible for ourselves only.
I recently read a book by Henry Cloud called Necessary Endings. It was written for business and personal situations. It is a good resource as you consider the values of relationships and the problems related to them. One concept that really caught my attention referred to categorizing those we are in relationship with as wise, foolish, or evil where problems are related. In summarizing what he taught:
Wise people will be able to have meaningful conversations about problems and learn from the conversation how to adjust to find solutions so the relationship can grow.
Foolish people will not be able to hear what is being communicated. They will react with anger, blaming, minimizing, denial, etc. No change will come. Cloud said to quit talking about problems with them. Use boundaries and limits with them to minimize the effect of the behaviors on you. This may bring an end to the relationship if the boundaries are not respected. It may allow a relationship to continue on a different level.
Evil people are intentionally causing the problems and the pain. His advice-get out and away.
Using this may help to weigh the problems and the relationship.
As I have begun to utilize the formula, I have sat down and written out the pros and cons of the relationship. I have considered the ways I have grown and been harmed. I have asked God to lead me in this, and am open to hear what I want to hear and what I don’t want to hear. The results have been surprising and healing. As Cloud says some endings are necessary.
If a relationship is to end, it is good to grieve the loss in it. There will be some. Sometimes what we grieve is what we wanted and hoped for that was not. It was not reality; it was what we desired it to be.
I hope for you, good and healthy relationships, and the wisdom to know when to end the ones that are not.
PS. The picture is two of my precious friends! Thanks for letting me share your picture. I love time with you.