Relational Junk Drawers

Can’t everyone just get along?! Are you convinced that happiness awaits when you get all your relationships fixed? The reality is, there will always be someone mad at you or blaming you for … {insert dramatic event or dysfunctional situation here}. If your goal is total harmony with the people in your life, you are on a crash course with disappointment and misery. Cleaning out relational junk drawers is a must-do for achieving the life you want, so is letting go of perfectionism but that is a topic for another day.

Complete harmony is a myth when it involves other people. You can only control part of the equation – you and what you bring to the situation – your actions, behavior, emotions and words. You are responsible for cleaning up your side of the street. Depending on the situation, you may even need to hold out the olive branch and offer to make peace. Whether or not the other person reciprocates is entirely up to them and they need to do their part.

A warning about mending relationships:  Making peace involves both parties doing their part.  Trying to manufacture or keep the peace is very different. It crosses over into doing things to/for/with others that you should not be doing, essentially you are doing your part and theirs too. Unhealthy people are all too happy to let everyone else do their work and experience their consequences for them. For these kinds of people, the time comes when the only choice is to stop the madness by establishing relational boundaries or even ending a toxic relationship. You have to remove the poison to start getting better.

Real and lasting change begins with a choice. Contentment requires figuring out what to do with all the relational messes surrounding us. Hoping that everyone will eventually resolve all differences and get along is not a plan. There are really only two options:  stick with the status quo or decide to change it.

Status quo — The most common course, and the one I tend to follow, is to just accept the unhappy endings, allowing negative effects to infect every area of our lives and even become part of our legacy. It’s not even a conscious decision, just the result of being passive and letting life happen to you. By reliving a past failure, disappointment or heartbreak the fear of it is allowed to limit future possibilities.

Decide to change — To get to the place of letting go of past pain, first do a mental inventory of things that are hindering you and keeping you stuck in the same old rut. Think about where they came from, how they got started. Actively decide what to keep and what you need to leave behind. Keep the good memories and lessons learned. Re-frame failures, disappointments and heartbreaks into how they shaped and strengthened who you are today. If necessary, seek some counsel to work through the details and heal. Then have a great big bonfire in your mind and throw in everything you need to let go of.

“I’ve done this already but what about those people who just keep bugging me?” Repeat as needed.

Appreciate the past but don’t let it have your future.


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