I was at church this morning, trying to comfort a woman whose dear friend has only a few days left to live. Her beautiful inside-and-out friend who was beloved by so many of us went from feeling a little run down to having a terminal diagnosis in a matter of weeks.
We know where our friend and sister in Christ is going. We know that she will be in perfect health and peace when she gets there. But it’s hard to let go. We talked about our prayers for her husband and family in light of this loss. I promised to pray for the woman who is losing a close friend, too.
Then I saw something through the glass doors of our church that disturbed me. An elderly couple whom I have loved for more than fifteen years was outside.
The two of them have been leaders in our church for years. I remember him telling someone who was upset about a potential church move (which we did eventually make) that it was God’s church and not his. I remember their faithful presence in Bible class and their commitment to witnessing to our neighbors. I remember her oohing and aahing over my babies.
I remember so many church services that ended with them asking how I was and what was happening with our family. As my kids grew older, I remember my gratitude for their intentional conversations with my teens and their compliments of them, sometimes when I needed to hear them the most.
I remember the first stroke he had. I remember his acceptance as he described the results and his prediction that his symptoms would eventually get worse, not better. I wondered if I would have as much grace and a smile in his circumstances.
I remember the day she seemed confused and couldn’t find their car. I wondered how they would get along if she had dementia. I remember my relief when she remembered the lost car incident from the week before.
This morning when I saw this beloved couple outside before I had had the chance to say good-bye, I ran. They don’t move quickly any more, but I couldn’t take the chance of missing them. Anything could happen. And I wanted to make sure I saw them and hugged them and said good-bye. She thanked me for running out. It was as though she knew what I was thinking.
I was thinking that we never know when it’s the last time we’ll see someone this side of heaven.
It’s so easy to continue talking on the phone or staring at a screen or walking to our own car and miss the opportunity to say good-bye. I didn’t want to do that and live with regret.
I ran. And I’m going to keep running. I’m going to run to my husband’s car if I’m busy and cranky and didn’t say good-bye before he goes out of town. I’m going to run after my college kids as they get ready to go back to school. And I’m going to run after my friends if they slip away during a party at my home. Saying good-bye is too important not to.
That’s why I ran. I hope that from now on, you will too.
You’re shocked. Livid. Devastated.
When a friend betrays you–takes something or someone precious to you, lies to you or about you, or rejects you without cause–you can become completely disoriented. Someone you loved and trusted has become your worst enemy. What should you do?
Stop asking why. Why would she do this? That’s what you want to know. It makes no sense. So you try to think about her past, her insecurities, and stress she may be under. But the answers you try to cobble together do not comfort you. She was jealous. She was duped. She didn’t realize how much it would hurt you. But it still hurts. The why question will just prolong your pain.
Stop blaming yourself. If you know you did something to provoke the betrayal, you’re not likely to be devastated. If you don’t know what you did to provoke it, you may wonder if you didn’t pay her enough attention, didn’t encourage her enough, or if you talked too much. Believing you are responsible can give you a false feeling of control. You think you can prevent this from happening again. The truth is, if you had done something unknowingly to offend your friend, it was her responsibility to tell you and not to take revenge. Blaming yourself just adds insult to injury.
Stop imagining your revenge. If only you had said just the right words when you discovered the betrayal. You could tell everyone she knows about it. Then she’d be sorry. You could do something–anything!– to make her regret what she has done. But like asking why and blaming yourself, imagining your revenge just makes you feel worse. You’re not a mean-spirited person. Don’t let your friend’s sin cause you to stumble.
Start praying. You have other friends who will react to the news of your friend’s betrayal the same way you did — with disbelief. But Proverbs 18:24 reassures us:
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Jesus will understand and will comfort you when nothing and no one else will. Cry out to the Lord with your heartache and ask Him to heal you.
Start meditating on Scripture. The Bible is not a dictionary–just a book of information. It is medicine for the soul. In the pages of Scripture we learn that Jesus knows the heartbreak of betrayal, too:
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21
Reading Scriptures that concern betrayal will help you know that you’re not alone. Meditating on verses that affirm God’s faithful love can bring healing.
Start loving. It’s natural to want to protect yourself from being hurt again. But refusing to give and receive love is the most hurtful. You can become bitter and depressed, leading people who would normally love you to keep their distance. The love that is lavished on us by our Savior can and should provoke us to love others:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
Don’t deprive yourself and others of the joy of friendship because of one person.
These steps will lead you to peace, healing, and even forgiveness in time.
Do you have other suggestions for those coping with betrayal?
What is it about the holidays that makes us want to be close to family? Close enough to beat them over the head with a turkey drumstick anyway.
I would argue it’s the food.
The Food Fight History is a Long One
All our problems began with food.
We were cursed after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, yes. But more salient to this discussion, the first marital spat then ensued over who caused whom to blow their specific-fruit-free diet.
One brother stabbed the other in the back when the Father liked the food he brought to the table better.
The Israelites complained about nothing more than the lack of food variety in the desert.
And early Christians bickered over what foods were okay with God to eat.
The Food Fights Continue
Today, everyone seems to have their own diet: organic, vegan, raw, allergy-free, clean, low-carb, low fat, sugar-free, two-year-old (only what you don’t want me to eat) and my dad’s favorite–seefood (you eat only what you can see).
While it can be annoying to accommodate all these preferences and necessary restrictions, the friction we have about food in our families isn’t really about the food.
But you just said it WAS about the food.
I know. Irritating. If I were your family member, I’d give you plenty of reasons to come after me with that drumstick.
It’s NOT about the food, but we act as though it is. Why?
- It’s easier to gossip about Aunt Ginny bringing one can of corn to the feast than it is to admit she’s disconnected from the family, much less to wonder why.
- It’s easier for your sister-in-law to complain about your cooking than it is to admit she’s incredibly jealous of you.
- It’s easier to complain about the food being cold than it is to talk to your brother about showing up late for every gathering.
Food becomes a displacement for hurts and hostilities that are too threatening to admit or deal with. Remember that next time someone asks you to stab them a potato.
Stuffing: the Ultimate Food Fight
There may be no food more subject to personal preference than stuffing. You love it, you hate it. You make it from a box or from scratch. You have regular, cornbread, or gluten-free. You put in giblets, sausage, cranberries, or none of the above. You drench it in gravy or you don’t.
And most people think their stuffing (even if that’s NO stuffing) is the best stuffing. Why?
Because stuffing represents the holidays and holidays represent family and deep down we’re all still little kids who believe my-dad-is-bigger-than-your-dad and my-mom-cooks-better-than-your-mom and we’re willing to get a black eye to prove it.
Don’t believe me?
How do you feel if I tell you that my mother’s stuffing recipe is hand’s down the BEST stuffing ever? As you scan down to check out the recipe, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that YOUR (family’s) recipe is better or that I’m stupid to even eat stuffing. Am I right?? Am I, huh?
My Mom’s Best Ever Stuffing
1 Box Turkey flavor Stove Stop Stuffing Mix
1 package hot dog buns, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight
1/2 loaf of bread, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight
4 stalks celery chopped fine
1/2 medium onion chopped fine
1 stick butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp sage
1 32-oz box chicken broth plus 2 14-oz cans chicken broth
Tear up bread and leave out overnight to dry. The next day, preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray one oven-proof, deep casserole dish if you plan to stuff your turkey or two dishes if you don’t. Saute celery and onions in butter until almost transparent. Meanwhile, put Stove Top stuffing, sage, and eggs on top of stale bread. Add sauted onion and celery. Warm 32-oz chicken broth on medium heat and pour on top of bread and mix well. Add additional chicken broth until it’s soupy. You’ll think it’s too watery, but if you bake it without enough liquid, your stuffing will be dry. If you plan to stuff your turkey, first make sure the stuffing and turkey are the same temperature (both warm or both chilled). Bake stuffing for one hour, covering with foil the last 20 minutes.
Beyond Stuffing It: How to Avoid the Family Food Fights This Year
You can’t control whether a family member forgets the rolls, whether Uncle Dave has a few too many, or even if your mother-in-law makes a nasty face when she bites into your dish. But you can control YOU and that’s a lot.
- Don’t Confront at the Holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a little like weddings. Most people wouldn’t think of starting something with the bride before she walks down the aisle. Why? Because all her hopes and dreams are pinned on that day that she will remember forever. Your family has high hopes for happy holidays, too, and they are remembered like no ordinary days. Do you want everyone to remember the Christmas of 2012 as the one where you finally lost it and told the big mouth off and sent her running in tears to her car after having too much to drink in a snow storm… You get the idea. Save any necessary confrontations for a less emotional time.
- Keep Your Expectations Under Control. We’d be better off watching the beginning of A Christmas Carol than the end before a family holiday. Unfortunately, people aren’t on their best behavior at this time of year; they’re usually at their worst. They’re tired, stressed, strapped for cash, bombarded with the temptations of food and alcohol, and feeling pressured to eat someone else’s substandard stuffing (i.e., yours). Instead of envisioning a scene of peace and joy, imagine you’re walking into a room of toddlers who’ve gone without a nap. If you get out of there without raising your voice or hitting someone, you’re doing well.
- Avoid Resentment. 1 Corinthians 13 says that our good deeds are worthless without love. If you’re going to be bitter about hosting the holiday ONE MORE TIME or if it makes you crazy that your lovely homemade gifts aren’t appreciated, don’t do it. Avoid doing or giving anything that will make you resentful. Romans 12:18 says as much as possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone. Sometimes that requires avoiding someone. Keeping suggestion #1 in mind, either avoid seeing someone if it won’t create undue conflict or spend the majority of your time talking with people who don’t push your buttons.
- Create Your Own Holiday. Even if you’re single, you can plan a celebration to include the food, decorations, and mood of your choosing. Don’t limit yourself to a certain day either. Would you like to have a peaceful Thanksgiving meal with friends or with just your immediate family? Plan it for another time so you won’t mind as much if the family holiday itself isn’t all you hoped.
- Invite a Loving Family Member. Cain took it personally that God didn’t approve of his offering, but deep down Cain knew it was because he hadn’t brought what God asked. God absolutely loves your stuffing, even if that’s no stuffing at all. Invite Him to your holiday celebrations this year and you won’t even notice all the racket the relatives are raising. Spend extra time in prayer and worship, asking God to help you be on your best behavior. I know He will.
I plan to take my own advice this year, but I want to hear from you. What do you do to make family holidays less stressful? Please share in the comments.
You borrowed money that you never paid back.
You didn’t show up. You didn’t thank me. You didn’t keep your promise. You didn’t return the favor. You didn’t include me. You didn’t apologize.
You hurt me.
You rejected me. You talked about me behind my back. You forgot me. You judged me. You didn’t ask about me. You didn’t encourage me. You believed the worst about me. You didn’t love me.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’m furious. I’m depressed. I’m exhausted. I’m sick.
Every time the phone rings, an email comes in, or there’s a knock at the door, I think maybe you’re going to give me what you owe me. But you don’t.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18)
I have borrowed without paying back.
I haven’t shown up. I haven’t shown gratitude. I haven’t kept my promise. I haven’t returned the favor. I didn’t include you. I didn’t apologize.
I hurt you.
I rejected you. I talked about you behind your back. I forgot you. I judged you. I didn’t ask about you. I didn’t encourage you. I believed the worst about you. I didn’t love you.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’m so sorry. I hurt for how I made you feel. I want to repay you.
Our relationships, like money and time, are gifts from the Lord. I’ve never tried to dye the clothing I’ve been given as gifts. I’ve never tried to reconstruct a present of jewelry. I’ve never edited a gifted book. But I’ve tried to change the people God has given to me as gifts many, many times.
I could blame it on my profession, I suppose. But more likely my desire to change people has to do with my pride (my way is better) and lack of understanding (he is purposely trying to make me miserable!). Only recently did it occur to me that all of our upsets with spouses, kids, friends, neighbors, bosses and more are symptoms of our discontent.
The Apostle Paul was someone who dealt with a lot of difficult people. Acts 16 details Paul’s encounter with a demon-possessed girl who annoys him. He drove the demon out of her, but was then beaten and thrown in jail –into stocks, no less! Yet what does he do? Praises the Lord in song.
If I were Paul, I would have:
- complained about the demon-possessed girl and demanded that God get her to stop annoying me so I could get on with life. When we are discontent with our relationships, we want the person who’s annoying us to chage.
- begged God to save me from beatings and incarceration. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don’t want people to change us.
- had the world’s biggest pity party in jail. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don’t want to serve the Lord.
I’m so glad that Paul had contentment with his relationships. As a result, a young girl was delivered of a demon and a jailer’s family was saved.
Who’s annoying you lately? Let’s practice the contentment of Paul and:
- pray in the name of Jesus Christ for our annoying person. Let’s be more concerned with them than we are with ourselves.
- understand that God is using the difficult person for our good. Although painful, the changes challenging people can make in us are more valuable than gold.
- give God thanks for how He will use a tough relationship for His glory. When Paul was annoyed with the slave girl, He had no idea that God was setting in motion a sequence of events that would have glorious consequences. I believe the Lord is still working in our relationships this way.
Has the Lord ever used a difficult relationship in your life for your good and His glory?
The Secret to Learning Contentment
We’re always being told not to try and be Wonder Woman, but that’s exactly who I want to be! While we are ordinary women who will never be perfect, God created us to be extraordinary in His Super Power.
This blog and the book that inspired it, So You’re Not Wonder Woman are dedicated to helping women:
- Get organized
- Increase productivity
- Achieve optimal fitness
- Find joy in daily living
- Improve relationships, and
- Grow spiritually
I’m a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six who writes and speaks for myself first. I research what I most need to know as a woman who struggles and then share my best tips with you. If you’re a fellow Wonder Woman (or even just a wannabe), please leave a link to your blog here. I’d love to learn from you!