Last night, I was thinking about relationships and how they sometimes fall apart before you even realize there is a problem. Have you ever had a friend suddenly get angry with you and then you realize it's been building for a long time and you didn't see it coming? Or, have you ever said something that you didn't know was received in the wrong way until months or years later? I've been thinking alot about that lately and last night, a passage of scripture came to mind that I had never before thought about in this context.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:13-15
Here's where I think this applies in our relationships. I think, sometimes, we get an idea planted in our head about how someone views us. Maybe something they say hurts us. Maybe they forget us on an important day or fail to make time for us. Whether intended or not, sometimes people hurt us and we have a choice what to do with it.
We could choose to address it right away.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. - Matthew 18:15
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. - Ephesians 4:25-27
Or, we could choose to nurse it. And, that's where I think that passage from James comes in. We are tempted when we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires. We think we can trust our heart and our emotions, but we forget that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). We let a seed of discontent, hurt, betrayal or whatever else take root in our heart.
"Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin". Once we allow the negative thought or hurt feeling to take root in our heart, it gives birth to sin.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. - Proverbs 18:21
But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. - James 3:8-9
"And sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death". I realize that in context, James is talking about spiritual death and how we make the progression from temptation to sin to payment for that sin (death). But, I do believe this principle applies to the progression of a relationship. If that initial slight (intended or not) is allowed to settle into the soil of our heart, if we nurse it and allow it to grow into sin (gossip, anger, bitterness), then it will, when it is full grown, lead to the death of the relationship.
Sadly, this happens all too often. There are definitely situations when relationships should end, but too often they end when there is no need. I have experienced this pattern of thinking in my own life at times. I have allowed an incorrect thought or assumption take root in my heart. I have fed it and talked to others who agreed with me and helped me feed it. I've worked myself up into such a state that I thought people who truly love me are actually out to get me. It takes someone with wisdom and compassion speaking the truth in love to me, sometimes, before I realize I've created a wall in a relationship out of absolutely nothing.
The death of a relationship is something I absolutely hate. It always grieves my heart.
So, again, I find myself back at a place of needing accountability and someone who will "sharpen" me (Proverbs 27:17). I need it in my life. I need someone who is willing to correct my focus or perspective when it's off. I need someone who will tell me that truth, even if the truth is that I'm being ridiculous. Fortunately for me, I have a few people who do that well in my life. I'm more grateful than I can even say for those women of God!
The devil is good at his job. He is the father of lies and the master deceiver. He revels in discord among the body of Christ. He rejoices when we are at odds with one another. So, let's "take every thought captive" (II Corinthians 10:5) before they take root in our heart. And, we will have less strife and discontent, and more energy to expend on the things that really matter.