Reframed: People Problems
Updated: 6 days ago
“I feel like he doesn’t care about me.” This is a statement I heard far too often in my counseling practice. If I were to guess the number one reason people come to counseling, I would bet it would be due to their "people problems". Regardless of race, gender, religion, or region, our common frame of interpersonal conflict connects us.
We are all people with problems.
From the very beginning, we have been plagued by the reality of our human brokenness. Anger, dishonesty, abuse, manipulation, miscommunication, all find their roots in our imperfect interactions with one another. Just look back to the very few chapters of Genesis and you will read about the self-preserving, blame-shifting, and dishonesty that even today continues to influence our perspectives and complicate our interactions.
From a developmental perspective, our interpersonal patterns begin in our family of origin. Many theories suggest that our upbringing largely impacts how we perceive and pursue all other relationships. The roles and rules assigned to us within our families produce a unique system of emotional functioning. Within this frame, we learn how to communicate, handle stress, cope with strong emotions, and solve conflicts.
As you think about the rules and roles within your upbringing, you become aware of the dysfunctional patterns that have in many ways impacted your perspective on interpersonal relationships. As we begin to identify our faulty filters, reframing them with truth, we can begin repairing our relational hurts and renew our outlook on the people around us.
| Reframing our Relationships |
I want to unpack three primary ways we can begin to reframe our previous perspectives regarding “people problems” with the truths of scripture. I am learning daily that without the Spirit’s leading in my life, I am completely unable to make changes to my perspective. So, I pray we each continue to ask for the presence of the Lord as we seek to apply these truths to our hearts.
The Way We Handle Our Hurt
Think about a time when you were hurt by someone. Maybe a family member, a friend, or a spouse. These moments challenge our emotional responses and therefore our entire frame of mind. For many, the emotion that is often experienced within a painful interaction is anger.
We are quick to defend ourselves with hurtful words or shut down and fail to fully hear what another is trying to say. Interestingly enough, the feeling of anger is a secondary emotion, which means, there is a primary emotion connected to the responding anger, most often connected to hurt or pain.
With this new perspective of anger, as a defensive tool against emotional awareness, let’s align it with the words found in the book of James. Addressing the importance of managing our emotions, James writes,
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which can save your souls (James 1:19-21).
When first reading this passage we can become quick to make a list of Christian does and don’t but if we dig deeper into this passage, we will find several restorative truths for our souls.
James teaches some basic distress tolerance skills within the first verse of this text:
1. Be quick to hear
2. Be slow to speak
3. Be slow to become angry.
He adds to this rule of 3, challenging his readers to “put off” that which is filthy or wicked and receive the implanted Word of God.
This exchange is vital for our ability to reframe our emotions within our relationships. As we actively practice putting off the maladaptive coping strategies induced by anger and daily choose to receive the Word of God, we will begin the healing work of our souls.
I believe that emotional awareness and work towards effective emotional management are both a biblical practice and a therapeutic process. So, I encourage all who desire to explore their emotions, triggers, and experiences to obtain support from a licensed professional counselor. When exploring the new and uncharted territory of our souls, it is always good to go with a guide!
The Way We Use Our Words
A second major contributor to our challenges within relationships with others has to do with our communication. Whether it is the lack of effective communication or the distorted messages we receive within our verbal interactions, we are familiar with the feelings of frustration, confusion, and chaos that can surround our less than perfect verbal process.
This disorder within our relationships continues to cause hurt and hardships for many of us, blurring our perspectives and producing unnecessary pain. In James chapter 3, we are given a whole new perspective to assist us in evaluating our communication with people in our lives.
At the beginning of chapter 3, James talks about the power of the tongue. He states, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (v.10).
He then shifts the attention to the remedy for our wounding words by addressing our need for insight and understanding.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth (v.13-14).
If I am being honest, most times my communication breaks down when I lack the insight to acknowledge and name my raw emotions (ie, jealousy, pride, fear, insecurities, injustice, etc). James encourages his readers to evaluate their exploration of internal awareness- to identify the bricks that have slowly created the walls which discontinue our communication with others. James concludes this section of his letter by outlining the differences between functioning in disorder versus insight, saying,
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (v.16-18).
Wisdom, divine clarity, is as James notes, from God alone. With this new focus, we see the fruit of the Spirit that follows clarity. I am the first to admit, I am far from mastering the art of such insight which produces gentleness and impartiality, yet I yearn for it! May we begin to experience true peace in our communication with people, as we seek to sow seeds of peace through prayers and praise.
The Way We Choose to Respond
Whenever a client comes into session and says something like, “My partner and I had another fight this week," I eventually ask the obvious question to understand the context of the conflict. “What were you arguing about?''
99% of the time the answer is, “I don’t remember”. Although I tend to view this response as deflection, oftentimes what starts as a simple miscommunication or hurtful comment can expound into a full-on relational war.
So, the question becomes what triggers conflict? Here are my top 4 conflict categories:
Lack of communication/ miscommunication
Although there are several more categories we could add to this list, I believe these few examples are the most common and may help in broadening our perception of conflict within your relationships. You see, these areas within our relationships are often swept under the rug. And as we know, when left unaddressed, these distorted perspectives build the friction which increases relational conflict.
So, how does our text address conflict?
Let’s look at James 4:1-2...
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
James answers his question quickly with a thought-provoking reframe:
Is it not the passions at war within us!
With this statement, James directly connects our patterns of conflict with an internal issue.
conflict is a soul issue.
James goes on to say, it is our fleshly desires (wants, resentment, covetousness, pride, etc.) which prompts a fight-response. When we look at it within this frame, we can see how many situations related to conflict often occur due to our desire to meet our needs at any cost. This is our human tendency, a result of our broken proclivity, that is only redirected and redeemed by the gift of God’s grace.
James says in verses 6-8;
“...But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James challenges our natural response to provoking situations, by providing a grace-perspective. Oh, may we never forget this unmeasurable grace of God! For in shifting our attention to the grace we have been given, being forgiven of our sin and shame, we are redirected to focus our reliance on the Lord rather than ourselves. This internal healing is what changes everything. It changes our hearts, our actions, and our reactions. As we continue to draw near to the throne of grace, we become empowered to extend such measures of mercy to those around us.
Through my personal study through these passages in the book of James, I have been both encouraged and challenged to continue my soul work and daily press into the perspectives of truth as I seek to love the people God had graciously given me in this life!
Till Next Week...