by MIKE TRAYLOR, LMFT
Have you ever had a relationship with someone that seemed to be risky? What I mean by risky is a relationship where you were hurt, betrayed, frustrated, or disappointed in the relationship with that person.Was that relationship painful to you? How did that relationship make you feel?
One behavior I have noticed, in others and myself, is that many of us avoid painful relationships at all costs. Nobody likes to get hurt. That being said, how many risk-free relationships do you have? To my knowledge, I am not aware of any risk-free relationships that exist. All relationships involve some risk—and risk means the possibility of loss or injury.
Should we avoid loss or injury in our relationships? I believe this is a tricky question. Over the years, I have seen people in unhealthy relationships where it was evident they should have avoided them. These were relationships where there was abuse or addiction involved, or they were one-sided relationships where one person was the giver and the other always the taker. On the flip side, I have seen people who do not want to take any risk relationally. Some want to know for certain how life is going to turn out for them. Others, once hurt, will no longer take any risk at all.
So how do you determine whether to take a relational risk or to avoid it? I know I have asked more questions to this point rather than providing any helpful information, but I think we all struggle with one or more of these questions at some point in our lives.
Here’s another question: In looking at the life of Jesus in the Bible, did He take many relational risks with people? I believe He did. In studying the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we can find many occasions where Jesus took relational risks with people. We can also read stories of Jesus asking His followers to take relational risks.
How many of us would choose 12 men, teach them for three years, and then leave them responsible for the future eternal fate of the human race? This is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus took a risk by entrusting the message of His life—God’s message of salvation—to 12 guys. And what was the result? One of them (Judas) betrayed Him, others fled before His crucifixion, and one of His three closest disciples (Peter) denied three times even knowing Jesus! Again and again, we see that Jesus took risk after risk after risk relationally with His 12 disciples. Yet He never stopped believing in them, He never stopped loving them, and He never tried to protect Himself from being hurt, disappointed, betrayed, or even killed. It appears to me that Jesus was the ultimate risk-taker when it comes to relationships.
It’s interesting that the people closest to Jesus also took the most relational risks. Peter took a big risk in trusting Jesus about getting out of the boat and walking on water (Matthew 14:28-32). Eleven of the disciples died a martyr’s death for their commitment to the message about Jesus.
Often in the Christian life we are taught about the importance of being obedient to God’s commands. But how often are we challenged to take risks in our relationships so that we are obedient to the faith? Acts 6:7 says, “Then the word of God spread, and then the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of priests were obedient to the faith.” Becoming obedient to the faith means I must take some risks relationally with people. In reflecting on the idea of relational risk, it appears that the power of Jesus is made known and is seen most often where people have taken the most risk. Neither Jesus nor His followers appeared to play it safe at all where relationships were concerned.
So, what kind of life are we called to live as Christ followers? Should we choose to play it safe and protect ourselves from being hurt or rejected? Or should we be willing to lay down our lives for others and take some risks with them? My hope for you in 2013 is that you will be given the opportunity to take some risks relationally with others. Maybe that means forgiving someone who hurt or betrayed you. It could mean mending a broken relationship or befriending someone who appears to be different from you. Or it might mean opening up and revealing something about yourself that does not paint you in a positive light—with the hopes of bringing healing and acceptance with another person. Taking these kinds of risks won’t guarantee relational success, but assuredly your faith will grow in 2013.
Mike Traylor is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Summit Counseling and can be reached at 601-949-1949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.