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Chapter 6 - The Dilemma of Relationships
A dilemma (from the Greek meaning a "double proposition" such as a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is unambiguously acceptable or preferable) is a good way to describe relationships. On the one hand most of us have a desire to have a close relationship with another person. On the other hand the quote by Sartre that 'Hell is other people' reflects the difficulty of such closeness.
Elizabeth Elliot had a radio program called Gateway to Joy. This was a ministry to women. She once said that half the letters she received were from women who desperately wanted to be married and the other half were from women who desperately wished they were no longer married. This also captures a little of the problem of relationships.
Relationships can have various depths and some (like marriage) can be difficult to end. Because relationships expose our deeper real selves, a certain degree of trust is required to open up and there is the potential for being hurt. The phrase 'once burned, twice shy' captures some of the reluctance to open up to a relationship if one has had a previously painful experience.
If we knew ourselves and others accurately, relationships would be less of a problem. Often it is our assumptions, expectations, and desires that lead us to make poor relationship decisions. Contributing to this lack of clarity is a world where truth is held in less regard than feeling good. People who deceive themselves and others by projecting a persona or play a role that they wished were true can cause much relationship confusion.
Many of the problems that plague relationships should, theoretically, be less for Christians. Christians are supposed to be able to receive wisdom directly from God. They should have access to discernment. Christians should be led by the Holy Spirit and have reduced influence from our basic selfish nature. The reason this is so often not true for Christians is that few even know about, much less seek, Christian maturity.
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