This past weekend, we opened up a big topic: Necessary Endings in Relationships.
Because, while this is obvious, relationships change. They don’t remain static. So, we looked at what happens when they become unhealthy.
In his book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud writes…
“Endings are necessary, but the truth is that we often do not do them well. Although we need them for good results to happen in life and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them.”
And, that’s just true.
It’s also what we hoped to change this weekend by learning how to recognize a bad relationship and what to do from there.
To help us, we opened up the book of Proverbs, which provides us with four general categories of people with whom you can have a relationship…
1. The wise – People who are growing, healthy and whole.
2. The simple – Innocent or naïve people (like children, who are growing).
3. The fool – Careless people, who cause hurt.
4. The mocker/scoffer – Manipulative, power-based people, who intentionally cause hurt.
In Proverbs, Solomon says we need to be careful with any relationship that falls into Category 3 and 4: The fool and the mocker/scoffer.
And, here’s why…
a) The Fool
Foolish people are quite literally careless people. They don’t think about the hurt they cause, or the consequences or damage that might occur.
This is what Proverbs says about them…
“Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” (1:32b, NLT)
“The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.” (10:21, NLT)
“Doing wrong is fun for a fool.” (10:23a, NLT)
These are people to be cautious around. Not because they aren’t fun, but because hurt and damage often follows them. The closer you get to foolish people, you’ll find trouble isn’t far behind. Solomon puts it this way…
“Associate with fools and get in trouble.” (13:20b, NLT)
So, that’s the first category of people with whom to be careful. The second is even more dangerous.
b) The Mocker/Scoffer
Mockers/scoffers aren’t people who are just foolish, but rather they are intentionally destructive, hurtful, manipulative, and self-focused. They just want to be right all the time, and quickly go on the attack against others to do so. In Proverbs, we read…
“The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury.” (21:24, NIV)
These are people who attack you and seek their own gain. They are out to win, not for friendship.
As we looked at these two categories of relationships – the fool and the mocker/scoffer, what we realized is something obvious that often gets missed in the mess and complexity…
Mocking and foolish friendships aren’t friendships; they are relationships that pretend to be friendships.
Our relationships with these people masquerade as friendships, but they aren’t. They are false friendships. Foolish people don’t care about the consequences of their actions on their lives, or yours. That’s not friendship. Mocking people don’t care about you, but rather how they can use you. And, that’s not friendship either.
So, this brought us to our main point: Some relationships have already ended, and we need to respond appropriately.
As Henry Cloud writes, “A necessary ending isn’t creating an ending, but recognizing one has already happened.”
But, how do we actually do this?
We ended by focusing on what it looks like to respond correctly. And, it certainly isn’t to start cutting people out all over the place. It’s also not allowing dysfunction to continue.
So, I gave a few simple steps…
First, we need to go to God in prayer. As in all things, we need more wisdom and guidance from God in this. So, pray patiently and consistently for a while before acting.
2. Talk With Others
Second, we need go to community for guidance. Because, it is in community with trusted people that Biblical wisdom gets applied to real life. Go to your small group and your trusted friends, and ask for their help. We make better decisions together, rather than alone.
3. Make Changes
Last, we need to go to our difficult relationships and make some changes.
a) With foolish people, it might simply be creating some good boundaries and changing expectations. If they can’t keep a secret and keep hurting you, don’t tell them secrets. You don’t have to cut them out, but rather you can change how the relationship works.
b) With mocking people, it’s more difficult. Proverbs gives us the wisdom to limit contact and create distance with intentionally hurtful people. And, that might be what’s needed in these relationships.
In all honesty, this sermon didn’t fix any relationships. It wasn’t designed to. It didn’t even address everything. And, that’s the point. The goal wasn’t to finish, but rather to start a conversation.
So, we challenged ourselves to pray, talk with others, and decide how to respond to unhealthy relationships. Basically, to continue the conversation, and move toward having better and healthier relationships.
Passage: Proverbs 1:32b, 1:7, 10:21, 26:11, 10:23a, 13:20b, 21:24, 9:7-8a, 13:1b, 14:7, 22:10.
Big Idea: Some relationships have already ended, and we need to respond appropriately.
a) Relationships always shift and change; they aren’t static.
b) How do we have necessary endings in bad relationships?
c) Loving others does not mean you need to continue trusting people who hurt you, manipulate you, or let you down.
d) People stay in bad relationships far past their expiry date.
e) “Endings are necessary, but the truth is that we often do not do them well. Although we need them for good results to happen in life and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them.” – Henry Cloud
f) Four Types of People…
. The wise
. The simple
. The fool
. The mocker/scoffer
g) “The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” – Henry Cloud
h) Mocking and foolish friendships aren’t friendships; they are relationships that pretend to be friendships.
i) “A necessary ending isn’t creating an ending, but recognizing one has already happened.” – Henry Cloud
j) It is in community with trusted people that Biblical wisdom gets applied to real life.
Challenge: Pray, talk with others, and decide how to respond to unhealthy relationships.