Dealing with our relational blind spots

One the biggest blind spots we humans seem to have is the ability to “do unto others as we would want done to us.” That’s what makes Jesus’ admonition so interesting. What we’ve called the golden rule, one of the most highly regarded relational principles, we continuously fail to do. In fact, we rarely consider it…unless, of course, someone else is not doing it for us. 

Let me give you an example. My wife and have counseled with hundreds of married couples over the last 25 years. Many sessions have been quite humorous and sad at the same time. One such instance, the wife told us she wanted a divorce because her husband cheated on her and that was unforgivable. After a few questions, she mentioned offhand that she had cheated on him to get back at him, not realizing she had just lost any higher moral ground by doing so.

I’ve also had couples where one was constantly verbally abusive, only to turn around and call the police because their spouse hit them. Again, the cognitive disconnect is astounding.

We rarely think of the consequences of our actions with regard to how it will affect others when we think we have the right to do something morally wrong.

Some get mad because nobody comes to visit them, yet they never seem to think that they should probably visit someone once and a while. As Proverbs says, a person who wants friends must himself also be friendly (Prov.18:24).

The first thing we should probably honestly ask ourselves when we get angry with someone is, “Have I been doing the same thing?

These particular blind spots are what Jesus called the “log in your own eye.” We have no ability to correctly “see” other people because our self-serving perspective has made us blind. And this kind of blindness doesn’t make one righteous, it makes us a hypocrite (Matt.7:1-5).

This relational dysfunction seems to start with our relationship to God. When Adam and Eve judged God’s intent for them, the first thing they did was hide. They hid because they projected their own judgmentalism on Him and, thus, made God in their own image. And we’ve been painting God and other people with this same brush ever since.

We Christians like to preach on Romans 1 and angrily point our fingers at the world’s immoral lifestyle, but the point Paul is actually making follows in Romans 2:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Rom.2:1-4 NIV, emphasis added)

As soon as we set ourselves up as judge to condemn the world around us, we condemn ourselves. To know the heart of God is to know it’s His kindness that leads one to change their mind about the trajectory of their life, not by rubbing their nose in their sinful behavior.

Many anxious souls respond to altar calls so they can escape hell and go to heaven when they die, not because they love the One who makes heaven, heaven. So, when their expectations of what God should do aren’t met, they drop this “god” of their own making with the same superficial conviction.

Other people get mad at God because He “allowed” some tragic thing to happen in their life, yet seem totally oblivious to the fact that they also don’t want God interfering with their “freedom” to do whatever they want. Sorry, you cannot have it both ways. Either you have freedom, which requires choice, risk, reward, and even tragedy, or you have no freedom whatsoever and your life is micromanaged and scripted for you.

We get uncomfortable when others don’t act like us. We don’t want any unexpected responses to what we think should happen. And when our will gets thwarted, we get angry. This is true in every kind of relationship, but especially in politics. Someone we disagree with gets elected and we demonize them and have our tantrums until the next election. If we had our way, there would only be one political party…ours.

We seek certainty and fear mystery. This is why science is so compelling to us, yet science cannot address the biggest mystery of all, why we should exist in the first place.

God is not looking to control us, and we should not look to control others either. As Danny Silk says, it’s our job to manage our relationship with God, and He manages His relationship with us. True freedom in any relationship comes when two relationally powerful people, who take responsibility for their own actions, come together and willingly give of themselves for the other. This is love.  Otherwise, you don’t have love, you have self-serving demands and manipulation through fear, which is the opposite of love.

Real love creates intimacy or “in-me-see.” Intimacy happens when there is honest and transparent communication, no hidden agendas, in an environment of other-centered devotion. Being disconnected from intimacy in relationships creates anxiety.

And when we feel anxiety, like Adam and Eve, we hide. Two great hiding places are anger or emotionally shutting down. We’re afraid of what will happen if we’re not in control of our “world,” afraid of being abandoned, of being alone, so we manipulate people to control our world.

It’s God’s perfecting love that drives out this orphan-hearted fear (1 John 4:18). On the other hand, it’s a very frustrating thing to demand that everyone, including God, be us.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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6 Responses to Dealing with our relational blind spots

  1. It is a really hard process because it first takes admitting that our childish stubbornness might just be that… stubbornness. Typically arrogant, myopic, or just ignorant of the whole picture.

    Specifically lately it has been when I know something I see is “not right” or “not the way it is supposed to be done” at work and it seems like no one listens to the observations I’ve had. My orphan heart comes raging back in and I get to see another layer of the onion pulled back and reveal it’s stinky face.

    I pull back into “shutting down” mode and just want to cut ties and move onto somewhere else where “someone” will listen to me or people are “doing things the right way”. LOL

    Luckily, God has been opening me up to a few things. I might be right about what I see but, it is ultimately up to me to either work to change things or work to change myself. Letting my guard down and letting go of my “it must be this way” attitude helped me find the things that I wasn’t seeing. The “whys” of some of these upsetting things and the difference between those small things and some of the big stuff that actually is a problem.

    If I really can’t do anything about it and God doesn’t change it than I need to have a more open faithful posture. It is the way it is and if God wants it to change I or someone will be shown a way to change it. If God doesn’t want it to change or it isn’t the place for me and could be time to change work place, He will lead me to a new path when that time comes. Either way… my pouty childish “turn my back and cross my arms with a *hmmf*” attitude was not doing me any good stealing my peace, affecting the quality of my work, and isolating the relationships I had with the innocent people I work with that have no control over the big picture stuff.

    Great article Mel.

    God Bless!

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s about the size of it. Welcome to the process where God deals with our spoiled inner child. LOL! That is, if we’ll ever stop pouting and let Him.

      Great points. Blessings to you as well.

  2. Lily Pierce says:

    Mel, interesting post with several good points that are all basically connected by the theme of human hypocrisy. The point about us wanting God to stop evil but wanting to be able to do anything ourselves is something I’ve thought about lately. We want God to stop things WE deem evil, but what about when we do sinful things like tell a bold-faced lie or have a one-night stand or cheat on our spouses or drink to get rip-roaring drunk…do we want God to be able to stop us? It’s so hypocritical. I realize as I contemplate it that people’s expectations of God are extremely selfish and subjective.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Lily. Good examples of how one-sided our ideas of justice and grace are. It’s a really good thing God doesn’t judge us the way we judge others! It’s all part of making God in our own image, which has been the human problem from the beginning. We are the center of our own universe.

  3. Oh,good post, Mel! This is why humanism, thinking you can build a world around the “golden rule” just doesn’t work. Many people tell me they don’t need the Lord because people can just, “do unto others as we would want done to us.” The problem being all those relational blind spots, and our projections, solipsism, narcissism. It’s virtually impossible to do unto others if you think you are the only one in the equation.

    Grace is really reflective and unfortunately so is condemnation. Often what bothers us the most about other people is going to be something unresolved within ourselves. And those judgments we make, as the bible says, you will be judged by them. They are always going to be looking right back at you. So if you are being judgmental, condemning, you are walking in judgment and condemnation yourself. That’s a good thing to remember if people start attacking you, it’s often about them trying to use you as a mirror and they don’t like what they are seeing in themselves.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Many people tell me they don’t need the Lord because people can just, “do unto others as we would want done to us.”

      That’s probably the funniest thing of all. We admire ourselves for our “progress” but we haven’t really progressed at all, and we don’t follow the golden rule at all! Even where they think we do, we’re just doing unto our own people, people we like or think deserve it. We’re still hiding the bodies; they’re just hidden in third world countries making our “stuff” now. There’s more human slavery today than ever before in human history. The 20th Century was the bloodiest century of all. All of this under the glories of secular progress. LOL!

      That’s a good thing to remember if people start attacking you, it’s often about them trying to use you as a mirror and they don’t like what they are seeing in themselves.

      Very true. How people attack you says a lot about them. We do treat others the way we feel about ourselves.

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