Disloyalty: The Relationship Squasher

Disloyalty: The Relationship Squasher

I stood on the back porch of our small gray bungalow on the street corner of Alexander and Johnson Street, wondering if my twin friends thought I looked any different. Our family had just returned from a year-long sabbatical to Argentina and they were one of my first visitors since arriving home. After being apart for the entirety of our third grade year, they were now tan from swimming at the pool all summer and their blue eyes danced with excitement. We stood exchanging chit-chat while our moms stood nearby catching up. This was when email… text… even long-distance calls were difficult. We had relied on snail mail for our communication… and it would take months sometimes to arrive in Venado Tuerto from the States.

“There’s two new girls that are gonna be in our class this year!” Sarah told me, her face lit up. New people were rare to our small town… so anyone new, was exciting and usually immediately popular. You must realize, I had grown up with 28 of basically the same kids in my class since I was in preschool.

“They’re both from California…” Abbie whispered. And to those of us kids who were born and raised in Nebraska? California was an exotic place… full of Disneyland, Hollywood, surfing and beaches.

Those two California girls were seated at the same table with me that first week in 4th grade. Over the next couple of months, I found myself becoming friends with both of them: one with beach-blond locks and a carefree attitude and another with dark hair, dark eyes and a sweetness I had never seen.

 

But I remember the exact moment I chose to be disloyal to one of them. With all the change of moving back home, realizing that friend loyalties had changed in a year, and moving into the 4th grade (with all its new responsibilities), I made the choice to distance myself from the sweetest girl I’ve ever met. In a mad scramble to stay in the “Cool Girl Group”, I gossiped about that sweet girl and ignored her for the rest of the year. Maybe the next 4 years.

How awful was my heart in those moments? I am acutely aware at how insecure, powerless, and out of control I was: that lanky, skinny girl with green eyes and hair she’d spent an entire year worrying over as she grew out her bangs.

And in my desperate attempt to fit in- I alienated myself from a sweet and lovely girl who continued to show me grace and love, even when I did not.

 

Had my adult-self been able to sit that terrified 4th grade girl down and have a conversation, I wonder how much different my life would have been. Because that dark haired, sweet girl? She became one of my best friends in high school, once I decided I no longer needed to fit in, but began opening my eyes to the people Jesus led me to.

 

The Choice

C’mon. You’ve been there.

In that moment, when you make the choice to abandon all loyalty to something or someone and pick something new. It could be as simple as a skincare line, brand of chips or deciding to attend a different church. But, you cannot deny at least at some point, you’ve been disloyal.. to someone… or something.

Now, it could be that at some point, these things are not worthy of our loyalty. I mean, a chip brand… really? Unless, your grandpa used to work for them, or it’s your family’s company, I get it. But, when we choose to be disloyal to things that truly matter, we can lose out on a crazy amount of good. And I’m not talking about chip brands here. I’m talking about deciding to walk away from a person. A family. A job. A church. A responsibility. A calling. You name it. When it comes to relationships of any kind, disloyalty does no service for you.

It may seem to temporarily fix the problem. You can go YEARS without noticing any hurt or angst for yourself personally. But, it will catch up. Just like it did my freshman summer, when I looked around, and realized that there was one person who had consistently been kind to me. A sweet, dark-haired girl who continued to reach out and ask me to hang out to watch a movie or go shopping. I had missed out on years of friendship with this girl. Thankfully, we have the type of friendship that I can call her at the drop of a hat, and we pick up right where we left off.

 

The Connection of Faith and Loyalty

“So, what’s the problem with disloyalty, Meg?” you may be asking. I mean, we do live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with the next best thing. I am guilty of not being loyal to skincare lines. I give them a month, tops. If I’m not seeing results or the cost is crazy high, I move on to something else.

When the thoughts began forming in my mind regarding disloyalty, I looked up synonyms on it. Because, surely, there’s a cooler word than disloyalty that I can use to title this thing with- right?

The words that stared back at me hit me like a ton of bricks.

  • Infidelity
  • Fickleness
  • Betrayal
  • Unfaithfulness

Ouch. Disloyalty is similar or the same as these words? And when I went to scripture to see where disloyalty was mentioned… it wasn’t much better.

Psalm 78:8

They would not be like their ancestors- a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.

If we look closer at this verse, there is so much wisdom to be found. Notice how loyalty and faithfulness are almost succinct with each other. And the behavior that accompanies that disloyalty and unfaithfulness? Stubbornness and rebelliousness. If we pretend to have faithfulness to our God, but then choose to be disloyal to relationships around us? What does that make us?

Hypocrites. Yikes!

 

Because when it comes to relationships, disloyalty does more harm than good. Disloyalty halts your ability to grow or mature. You will never have to look that person in the eye and own up to your portion of the problem. You won’t have to ask for forgiveness or allow the offender try to apologize to you. When you choose disloyalty, you are choosing to alienate yourself from a possible relationship. And in a world where we are so disconnected, especially now, why would we choose that? Why choose loyalty when disloyalty is so much easier?

Why? Because loyalty means staying with it, no matter how hard… how dire it seems… no matter how frustrating. But what do you gain? Commitment. Deepened appreciation. Thankfulness. And trust begins to build. (More on that to come…)

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Here’s that thing about love and relationships again… and its pretty intense. Now, maybe your brain is going in circles with all I’m trying to connect for you. I mean, asking for you to lay down your life for your friends? Yep. Intense.

 

But here’s the real predicament.

How can you learn forgiveness, if you choose to walk away from every relationship the minute that they show their imperfections? How can you learn to give grace to those we come in contact with, if we avoid every possible chance of conflict?

When it comes to disloyalty, we may be missing out on a grander plan. There may be things that we are not maturing in. Could it be that if we were to choose loyalty to those relationships… that job… that responsibility… that church… that family… that we may gain so much more?

We can never fully mature if we cannot truly love others, forgive and give grace to those we live life with on a daily basis.

So, how do we push past disloyalty and move into loyalty?

It’s pretty simple actually. Just choose to be loyal. Stick with it. Push through. It comes down to endurance and patience. Now, that may sound simple… but it’s far from easy. Choosing loyalty means you may have to get some abuse from those who don’t understand loyalty. It means that instead of looking out for you, you’re looking out for others. It means that you may have a tougher life while you navigate awkward conversations and begin to look conflict square in the eye.

But the reward of loyalty? It could mean you will find:

  • a friend for life
  • a safe place within your family to rest in
  • a relationship that stands the test of time and hardship
  • a job that you can grow and learn in
  • a church family that will stand beside you in love, no matter what
  • a calling that leads you to unimaginable joy

On top of that, you may find:

  • commitment in your marriage
  • true appreciation in your workplace
  • genuine thankfulness from your family and friends
  • others who trust you

I mean, if these things don’t excite you… then don’t choose loyalty. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

What’s the Deal with Context?

I remember it vividly. A well-known and loved professor screaming at the top of his lungs, “CONTEXT IS KING!” At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt out of the loop, like he had this private club that I didn't have the key to. But the more I learn...

Jealousy: The Relationship Killer

Jealousy: The Relationship Killer

I could feel it creeping up. That feeling that makes you almost feel green… like an alien in your own body. I watched her curl her brunette locks and effortlessly wind it up into a perfect messy bun (and this was before the time of the “messy bun…”). She turned with a smile, and in that moment, I made the choice to let go of my jealousy. To just be her friend. It was hard, and it sometime creeped up again… but I’m glad I fought through it. We remain friends to this day… and I’m a better person with her in my life.

Looking back at my childhood and teen friendships, I notice pattern after pattern. And even now, in our 18 years of ministry, women come with tears in their eyes and frustration in their voices. The biggest question I am asked in regards to women and relationships has nothing to do with marriage.

“Why can’t we just be friends?”

These same words spilled out of my mouth to my Mom as I navigated the friendship game in my growing up years. The questions that flowed after that mostly came down to…”Is she mad at me? Why doesn’t she invite me over anymore? I think I heard her whispering about me behind my back…” and these questions and statements were just the beginning. Too many nights I cried my eyes out wondering who my true friends were. And honestly? I’ve done it as an adult while my husband listened.

This jealousy keeps women from building friendships that could blossom into something powerful.

As a good friend so eloquently put it, we as women can be very jealous of each other, in every possible way. This jealousy keeps women from building friendships that could blossom into something powerful. Isn’t that the truth?

Another good friend of mine pointed out, we need strong relationships with women, especially when we’re not surrounded by family. You will need friends who have your back and will support you through hard times. They become your sisters.

Too often we miss potential friendships and sisterhoods because of our own jealousy towards other women. Maybe they have a better job, or their kids are better behaved… or maybe they just have kids. Maybe they were picked for the leadership role at church that you wanted. Jealousy can be as trivial as the fact that they can make a perfect “messy bun.” (Remember my previous story??) Why are we letting these things hold us back? We know that no one is perfect. We choose to let our own insecurities and jealousies drive us away from each other… and division is only caused by one being… Satan.

Don’t miss potential friendships!

The biggest complaint we’ve heard from women since planting a church is how hard it is to break into community with the other women at church. Some have joined our church and then immediately think that there is a “friend clique” in place already… when that is a perception they walk in our doors with. Too many times, I hear women complain that they have no supportive community to speak of… but then in turn, they won’t show up to bible study… or discipleship groups… or any church events where women are desperately trying to find community. It seems preposterous to me. Unintelligent. And self-damaging. Why is it so hard to get women to be friends?

Why is it so hard to get women to be friends?

I understand that some women are introverts. But at some point, all women must choose for themselves to take a step or a leap of faith. Believe God that He will watch over you even when you’re in awkward situations. Trust that community is what God desires for us.

There are also women who are so extroverted that they believe that people don’t like them because they are so outwardly opinionated or very driven.

Ladies. It doesn’t matter who we are at our core. We need to give each other some grace in knowing that none of us are perfect. None of us ever will be.

I myself am a self-forced extrovert… because I’ve learned that I won’t have community if I don’t try. If it were up to me, I would stay home all day, every day… cleaning, writing, playing with my kids, painting furniture… the list goes on. I love being at home. But I love the feeling of family/community I get from those that surround me at church on Sunday more. I love feeling that taste of heaven that lifts you up when you have friends laying hands on you in prayer. I love it when I can laugh and joke with friends over a meal after we’ve dreamed about the vision that God has laid on our hearts. I love community with the body of Christ more than my own selfish wants and desires.

The Missing Element

Cliques have no place in Church. Why? Because we’re not a high school. We’re not a middle school. We’re a family… broken and healing… where love, grace, truth, and forgiveness are always sought after. At least that’s what we are CALLED to do. And if we can’t PERSONALLY seek after that… then we are missing out on eternal life here and now; the kind Jesus talked about. (But more on that later!)

I think we’re missing out on something in our Christian walk that we think we’re really good at, but we’re missing it… completely.

There’s a passage of scripture that is quoted FREQUENTLY… and yet, I think, we have yet to master it. And the evidence of this is obvious if we are still failing in our friendships and relationships.

 Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.  Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (TPT)

Here’s our main relationship killer. Our lack of love for each other. If we truly loved the way Christ loved us… jealousy would be a distant memory. If we focused on love, we would be patient with those we were developing relationships with.

We would be kind and gentle even if others weren’t always kind and gentle back. We would high five, hug and congratulate others when they succeeded, even if it meant we received nothing in return. We would stop asking for honor when we thought we deserved it, and we would stop always being irritated at others no matter how many pet peeves they triggered.

If we truly loved, we would forgive immediately… even if an apology never came. We would find a firm foundation in our relationships where support and encouragement reigned supreme amidst all odds. And most importantly, we would never give up on believing a person could be our next friend. No matter how long it takes. Love wins in the end. Jealousy only brings defeat.

We would never give up on believing a person could be our next friend. No matter how long it takes. Jealousy only brings defeat.

Love wins in the end.

Lesson #6: It’s Super Lonely

Loneliness

If you’ve ever been in ministry you know that at times, it can get lonely. Having the “stigma” of the preacher’s wife allows people to think that you are perfect. You are unapproachable. You will judge them for being human. (All of which are completely untrue—but that doesn’t stop people from thinking it.)

 

When my husband and I were in our previous ministries, I was undoubtedly lonely but I always found a true friend within the first year; a friend that I could cry with, laugh with uncontrollably at ourselves, and be completely transparent with. These friends welcomed me with open arms into their lives and expected me to come over to play dates at their homes bedraggled, in yoga pants and not showered yet. We talked about discipline (sometimes lack thereof) in our homes, getting angry at our children, realizing our selfishness, giggling about our husband’s latest antics and what was the fastest (and best tasting) recipe we could whip up in a moment’s notice. These women became some of my best friends… and they still are even though we are hundreds of miles apart. A quick call to them and we are right back where we left off.

 

Jumping into the church plant was a completely different ballgame. (I’m sure by now you’re picking up on it!) Not only was I lonely, I almost felt singled out. Although I have friends on our team, when they became angry at my husband or at something the team decided on, they distanced themselves from me. I almost felt like I was on the outside looking in at times.

 

Another thing that isolated me was that awkward moment when you introduce yourself (or more likely are introduced by another) as the wife of the man who’s planting a church. Congrats. You are now officially an alien in their eyes. (Okay- not always… but about 80% of the time!)

 

Here is what helped me to survive those first beginning months:

 3. Find someone to confide in.

This can be another church planter’s wife (one who’s been in church planting longer), a friend outside of the church who holds you up in dedicated prayer, a seasoned mentor who can give you wisdom and encouragement for your spirit, and/or a Christian counselor who can lend a helpful ear and advice in how to cope through the loneliness.

2. Tell your husband that you’re lonely.

Let him know that you are struggling. He should be your ULTIMATE best friend and you can confide in him.   If you do not want advice from him (and only want a listening ear), make sure you preface your conversation with that.

1. Turn to the Father.

He will comfort you with his Holy Spirit more than anyone else can. Pray to Him to send you a friend that will be with you through thick and thin, someone who will continue to encourage you, your husband and the church plant.

 

God hears you. He does. He will not forsake his child. He will lift you up and carry you to high places. Take heart!

 

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;

   be strong and take heart

   and wait for the Lord.

Lesson #4: Trust and (Hard At Times) Friendships

I wanted to believe that church planting was going to be smooth sailing.  That I would make solid friends, not be known as the “pastor’s wife” and everything would remain peachy keen.

I seem to have forgotten that I was dealing with human beings.  When planting, you are with the same people… A LOT.  Meetings, cleaning the church, dinners with the community, events, bible studies, meeting for coffee, play dates, etc… the list goes on and on.  I am a person who needs a chill day at least once a week… so when I had been around people non-stop for three weeks at one point in the planting process, I could barely function.  (Literally.  My brain had decided to shut down and I could no longer remember anything.  See ya, short-term memory!)

I remember as a child, my Momma telling me, that when you “hang out with the same person for a long while, you will get tired of them.”  Now, whether or not, I truly was “tired” of being around people… I was definitely having a hard time knowing how to act around them.  Satan began whispering in my ear, emotions flared (on everyone’s part) and I ran away.  (Again, literally… well… at least I didn’t leave my house for a week… not even to get groceries!!!)

7 Ways to Heal When You’ve Been Hurt

Through this time, I sought God’s counsel in knowing how to handle certain situations.  These are what He shared with me.

1-    Keep Your Cool

  1. Spend some time in prayer asking God for help before a situation with that person arrives
  2. Don’t let them “get under your skin.”
  3. Take a breather.  Don’t feel like you need to be around them all the time.

2-    Evaluate… am I irritated because we are too much alike?

  1. No, seriously.  Look at this.  You may be surprised.  (I was!)

3-    Am I hurt because of something they did or said?

  1. Acknowledge your feelings
  2. Confront the true reason you were hurt
  3. Prepare to tell them
  4. Maybe spend more time in prayer and in the Word… ?  Just a suggestion…

4-    Share with them your frustrations in a loving manner.

  1. Don’t blame.  Don’t point fingers.  Just tell them how you feel.
  2. DON’T (and I really mean this one) bring up times they frustrated and hurt you from further back than one month.  Anymore time than this shows that YOU have a problem with HOLDING ONTO GRUDGES.  (This should be something that you need to speak with God about if you do in fact have a huge rap sheet of hurt and frustration toward a person.)

5-    Don’t expect an apology.

  1. Just don’t.  It’s not your place to convict them.  It’s God’s.

6-    Ask for any forgiveness that you may need from them.

  1. You will need to ask God to convict you of something that you may have done to hurt them .
  2. Be willing to hear from their hurts/frustrations if they voice any.  (This is the part that terrifies me…. yes.  Me- who’s dishing out the advice.  I have a terrible fear of hearing if I’ve hurt someone… mostly because I know that I am not perfect.)

7-    MOVE ON.

  1. This is the hardest part.  Once the exchange has occurred (LOL.  Sounds so business-like!), you need to work EVERY DAY to forgive and move on.
  2. Try to act and treat them as you would if they had never hurt you.  This is so much easier said than done… but if you succeed you may in fact win a friend for life.  Most true friendships are built upon trust… trust in each other… trust to be strong enough to speak up with hurts arise… trust that the other person will not purposely hurt you again… trust… trust… trust…

Proverbs 17:9,17“Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and- good-bye, friend!….Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.”