During our message series, Holy Triage, we’ve been looking at several areas that create a considerable amount of stress and anxiety for people and offering some Bible-based advice about what to do. We’re encouraging you to reflect on those areas in which you might need some healing or at least a shot in the arm when it comes to spiritual wellness.
So far, we’ve considered the problems of setting good priorities, avoiding social competition, and committing to what matters most in life. To learn more about these topics, listen to related messages on our website. This week, we look at the problem of unhealthy relationships.
At the beginning of time, our Creator said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” and so made a “suitable partner” for him (Genesis 2:18). Indeed, God made us for communion with one another. Whether the relationship is one of marriage, family, friendship, colleagues, or teammates, we were created to be “intersubjective” beings that need each other in order to live fully.
Despite this, wherever people gather, there will be trouble. In the workplace, at school, in social clubs and groups, and especially in families and other close relationships, people will hurt and take advantage of each other, seek their own interests, trample boundaries, and tear down the ones they love most.
This is nowhere more evident than in the relationship of marriage, which in this week’s gospel Jesus says should never be dissolved. However, one key to managing unhealthy relationships can be found in the rather unexpected place of divorce. As a Catholic priest, I help divorced people seek the annulment of their marriages through the Church. Though difficult, annulments often bring a sense of healing because, unlike divorce, the process discourages accusation and assignment of blame, but rather asks each spouse to consider how he or she contributed to the problems inherent at the very beginning of the marital relationship.
Last weekend, I attended the annual conference of an international Catholic ministry called Retrouvaille that helps couples heal and renew their hurting marriages before divorce happens. That process begins with an intense weekend experience that also involves deep introspection into the brokenness that each spouse has brought into the marriage. Couples are not allowed to shift the blame to each other, but instead look to themselves, the masks they wear, and the personal issues they struggle with that have weakened the marriage.
You might call this “the problem of me,” and it applies not only to marriage, but to every relationship. Turning unhealthy relationships into truly satisfying ones is simple but definitely not easy, because it requires, first and foremost, to point the finger at yourself.
To learn more about the spiritual problem of unhealthy relationships and how to overcome it, listen to this week’s message at church or on our website.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson