Last week I wrote about the list of people God has put in our lives to pursue. While I was writing, I thought about what it looks like to be on the other side…in the shoes of the one who is being pursued.
This week I was working through something with my dad and I pushed him a little too hard. Our conversation ended in a bad place and when he called me later, he expressed a desire to meet in the middle. I had to remind myself that in my relationship with him and others I am close to, it’s not about where we land, it’s more about the process of getting there. It made me think and wonder, “What does it look like to be the one who is pursued?”
The first thing that came to mind is that we shouldn’t have to be or do anything different or special to be loved fiercely and relentlessly by our people. Isn’t that the point, that we are loved “no matter what?” We all want to be in a place where we can be our authentic selves and be accepted, even when we are snappy, sad or angry. One hundred percent yes! But I’m going to add “with a catch” because the healthiest relationships I’ve seen are the ones that have balance in the pursue/pursuit arena.
Counseling has taught me this: I can truly be myself in any relationship but if I want to grow with that person, I need to be intentional in my behavior with a willingness to see and interpret the world from their lens.
I just read that sentence several times to really let it soak in and boy, does it ever contradict the world we live in today. I feel like we are living in a society that encourages us to say, “This is me, I have strong opinions and views and I don’t really care if you like them or not.”
But remember, Jesus’ last exhortation to us was to “Love one another I have loved you.” If our heart is to truly love others well (as we are loved by our heavenly Father), it will always be more about them and less about us.
So in our relationships as we pursue others—as we strive to understand their hearts and empathize with them—we make ourselves more pursuable. As we open our hearts to others and selflessly connect with them, we give them a safe place to land.
Let me highlight briefly some of the ways we put up barriers that make it difficult for others to pursue us. See if you can find yourself in any of these examples.
PUTTING UP WALLS:
Putting up a barricade that does not allow someone access to our heart makes it very difficult for them to pursue us. Walls are built over time as a safeguard against hurt. They are a natural protection that we have to constantly keep in check. Often we present someone with a wall that was built from past relationships and that person is blocked out not because of what they did, but because of the pain that others caused. Erin taught me that the goal is to implement boundaries (which can be moved as trust is built or broken) rather than walls (which prevent entry).
I sat with a friend one time and we pulled up her ex-husband’s online dating profile. The contrast of what he wrote vs. who he really is was shocking! Instead of pretending we are something or someone that we aren’t, we need to work on becoming that person we want to be. We can be honest with our people and let them know that we struggle in certain areas, but express that we are doing the work to change (and then actually do it). It’s so good for those who are close to us to see our flaws and for us to acknowledge them and express that we have a desire to change and a plan for growth.
LACK OF EMPATHY:
We have to set aside our own selfishness in order to have sincere connections with other people. When our desire is to understand others and allow ourselves to go to a place where we are willing to explore how they must be feeling, empathy is introduced. When my marriage fell apart, my closest friends patiently listened to me talk about insecurity, hurt, defensiveness and inner pain. They loved me through it and cheered me on as I pursued wholeness. But what if I would have gotten stuck in that? What if I was still bitter and broken after all these years? I had to come to a place where my wholeness was greater than my hurt so that I could then empathize with others going through the same kind of stuff.
Experiences and dysfunctional relationships can affect how we see the world and then how we express ourselves to others. Nothing sucks the oxygen out of a room like someone who is constantly sarcastic and who projects their cynical view of the world on others. Choosing to have a positive outlook on life is something that attracts others to us.
I see a lot of people wrestle with these things in their marriages. As they become comfortable and complacent with their partner, they no longer strive to grow in these areas. I speak from experience; this list was created from the struggles I had with my FH (former husband) and it has taken me several years to really understand the barriers I put up and how destructive they were. Let’s do the hard work that makes it easier for others to pursue us. Let’s keep our hearts open to grow and weed out the things that push people away. As we become healthier, we offer the gift of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship to those within our circle.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.