Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Do You Do When Growth Brings Conflict?

Personal growth is exciting. It energizes and delights the person making positive changes. But it can also cause pain and friction with their closest friends if they’re not growing at the same rate. If you’ve recently given your heart to Jesus, are in recovery of any kind, or are learning and maturing, this friction might come as an unexpected jolt. You would expect your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, family, and friends would be overjoyed at the changes you are making, but that’s not always the case.
In the movie, When a Man Loves a Woman, Meg Ryan plays the role of a recovering alcoholic. Contrary to what one would think, it’s her recovery that brings discord to her marriage. Her husband doesn’t know how to relate to her other than their established dysfunctional roles. Their entire relationship has revolved around her being the crazy, party girl and him being the rescuer. When she emerges from rehab, she is herself for the first time in years and her husband isn’t sure how to relate to this new person.

This is such an excellent portrayal of the dynamics of change. Our relationships follow established patterns. If one person deviates from that, it confuses and even angers those closest to them. Even if their behavior was previously dysfunctional and in need of change it disturbs the status quo. If there’s to be peace in the relationship, the other person will also need to change, but they may not be ready for that.

Amos 3:3 asks a very important question: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” If you have just become a Christian or rededicated your life to Christ it may be upsetting to those closest to you. Your new mindset and behavior confuses them. The best thing you can do is invite them to join you on the path of freedom and forgiveness. If they see how much joy and peace it brings to your life, they just might come along.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic, druggee, gambler, porn user, overeater, homosexual, shopaholic or whatever, you have chosen a road your closest friends and family may not be ready to travel yet. You will need a support group who will help you in your resolve to form better habits and rely on your higher Power (God) for strength against temptation.

If you’re growing in Christ and gaining insight on how to deal with hurt, anger, abuse, parenting etc. those around you may not appreciate your ideals and enthusiasm at first. Try not to take it personally; they’re just used to the old you and the comfort of established patterns. If you know you are on the path God wants for you, stick with it. Explain why you’re different and give others freedom to respond and adjust. They may back away for a time; they may even decide they don’t want a relationship with a healthier you. However, they may also be drawn to the new you and start making a few healthy choices of their own.


  1. Dear Beth,
    Just reading your blog this morning. Your writing is really wonderful. You are a gifted writer, and your words are wise and lovely.

  2. Hi Beth,
    I enjoyed reading the epiphany on what to do when growth brings conflct. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time. About the exact time you posted was when I was really struggling to figure things out. My best friend and I have been having conflict and it's so hard for me to understand. We've been good friends for years. But now I've really been practicing setting boundries and not allowing others to take advantage. But when I set boundries with her, she gets upset with me and makes me feel bad. It makes me want to give up.
    Lately things have just been a bit of a struggle for me, yet I feel I can't tell anyone & just pretend everything is fine.

  3. Dear Friend,
    Don't give up. It is hard when you begin to practice healthy boundaries, especially in long term relationships. You need a support group where you feel safe sharing your struggles, where you can be loved and encouraged and prayed for. Church is an excellent place to meet friends and get involved in a small group where you can share your heart.
    I will be praying for you.

  4. I found that out years ago... even though supportive, some people just don't "get" it.

  5. That is so true and very encouraging to be reminded about that fact. Thank you for your gift of writing your ideas down, it can touch many people!

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  7. Just came across an excellent quote: "Some will not understand you as you move with the Spirit. Don't allow their unpleasant response to deter you from what you know in your heart is true. don't abort the flow of the Spirit for the desires of men." from The Bait of Satan