I’ll admit it—I’m terrible at choosing favorites. Whenever people ask me questions like, “What’s your favorite movie or song?” I truly cannot offer one answer because I feel like I am leaving too many other good choices out!
However, when it comes to my marriage, both Michael and I firmly hold true to one motto: “Love Flourishes in Freedom.” And the second part of our motto, “Control Breeds Contempt,” coincides with the first. This motto helps us keep our marriage balanced, but it also guides us in putting the broken pieces back together after we’ve allowed our messy humanness to get the best of us.
We first heard this core relational truth, “love flourishes in freedom and control breeds contempt,” from our premarital counselor, wedding officiator, and Psychology professor at the university where we met and later graduated from. He taught Michael and I how to form healthy boundaries with one another. However, our marriage motto can also be applied to any and every kind of relationship, not just the marriage relationship!
Allow me to expound on our motto. I’ll begin with the first part, “Love Flourishes in Freedom.” Do you have a relationship with a family member or friend in which you feel most comfortable and most accepted for who you truly are? In this relationship, you probably feel relaxed and secure in being 100% yourself, even on your worst day. Now think about how close you feel to that person. He or she is probably one of your most faithful confidantes… Your best friend. You probably truly love him or her.
However, our marriage motto can also be applied to any and every kind of relationship, not just the marriage relationship!
When we develop a relationship with someone and we don’t have to put up any defenses or false faces, we feel wanted and therefore free to express ourselves candidly. It’s such a human tendency to put walls up in relationships where the other person hasn’t earned our trust. Trust is not a given, rather, it has to be earned. And when trust is earned, love flourishes.
True, unconditional love says, “Come as you are, not who you’re expected to be.” It’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be okay, but also remember that love doesn’t enable others to stay broken… But rather, it helps bind them up. And when we feel fully accepted for who we are in the present moment, we come alive! The most freeing relationships possess an attitude that says, “Whatever mess you’re going through, I’m with you, in fact, I deal with messy stuff too. Let’s encourage each other along the way.” I believe this is true community at its core.
Trust is not a given, rather, it has to be earned. And when trust is earned, love flourishes.
Now think about a relationship you may have with someone where you don’t feel like your true self is welcome or “enough.” This relationship is most likely strained or not as intimate as you’d like it to be, right? You may feel like he or she is controlling and/or manipulative. The pressure to act differently when spending time with him or her may also be present. If this kind of relationship lasts long enough, contempt will start to form towards your counterpart, which leads us to the second part of the motto, “control breeds contempt.”
When we express our dreams, ideas, or even our struggles with someone else and are rejected, we begin to dislike spending time with that person, and that’s natural. When we feel controlled and/or manipulated, we might even start to hate that person. This a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship.
We were not created to control or to be controlled, even though control is a daily struggle for most of us. In order to have thriving relationships, it is crucial to make the everyday choice to show others grace and love, especially when someone may approach us with enough trust to reveal their brokenness, or vice versa. Healthy relationships are never perfect, but they’re always inspiring and freeing. Unhealthy relationships are often filled with rejection, pressure, and manipulation.
What if each one of us put an emphasis on creating relational environments where people feel free to be themselves around us? Can you imagine how others would thrive? Let’s strive to be women who heal others’ wounds through acceptance. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?