“Oh, ghosting,” I sucked in a deep breath. “That’s what it’s called.”
As I pulled into the vacant parking spot at Hobby Lobby, I swung my head to my right to look my teenager square in eyes. “That describes it perfectly.”
Ghosting. Erasing. Pretending one never existed or is dead.
Does that make your tummy twist, your chest hurt a little? Have you ever been erased from someone’s life? I dare say everyone has been “ghosted” at some point in your life.
I’ve heard the pop psychology on the matter. “If a relationship is not working for you, then just move on.” “Your happiness is all that matters.” “Surround yourself with positive people.” “If someone becomes a drag on you, cut them free.”
It all sounds good on the surface. Yet, the world you end up creating is one centered on you – a rather selfish existence with a trail of broken relationships. In the end, are you better off, truly happy?
There are times to have strong, healthy boundaries. Yes, absolutely.
With those who are truly abusive, you may have to set very strong boundaries for the purpose of safety.
There is one person in my life that I have cut off completely, because this person has proven to be an abuser who consistently demonstrates manipulation, control, and an unwillingness to ever consider wrong on their part. In a situation like this, it is appropriate to block, not take calls, etc…
There are others who I have had to have strong boundaries with because they are not healthy relationships for me to have. They may have chosen to attempt to manipulate and control me, or to be abusive in their language or actions towards me in lesser ways. I may have to block or not take calls, etc., but I have not completely cut these people off and will still reach out on occasion to test the waters.
Even with this, let me be clear, I may hold these relationships at a distance because they truly would be toxic for me, but I still pray for them and bless them when I’m led to.
I try to live in a way that my heart is clear, not holding on to hurt towards anyone.
It’s a life of walking in forgiveness, which means that though I may have to hold someone accountable for their actions, (Keeping strong boundaries may be one consequence.) I ultimately leave the judgement of that person to God.
Only He knows all the reasons why a person acts the way they do.
Many times manipulation and control are actions based in fear. Some abusers step into that because they have been abused, and they are afraid of that happening again to them, so they seek control over their world, acting abusively in an attempt to either control others or to push others away. Even seeking power in an inappropriate way is often an overreaction to powerlessness.
Everyone is not my assignment. It’s not my job to fix anyone. That is God’s job, but I can love and value others, even those who I don’t agree with, have different political opinions than me, or have a different cultural back ground than me.
Yet, it has become the norm to throw others who don’t agree with us under the bus, taking up opposing sides whether it be culturally, religiously, or politically. It has become expected to ghost anyone who doesn’t agree with us or who we deem not on our side.
Over the last decade this practice has not only become acceptable, but viral in our society. Erasing people from our lives because they just don’t fit anymore is like tossing out an old shoe that has grown too tight or is scuffed up. We use people for our benefit to walk on, then when they become uncomfortable, we place them in the Goodwill box.
The problem is people, all people, are valuable and made in the image of God. Treating someone like an old shoe that can just be tossed away is deeply wrong.
Weekly, I stroll the halls of a retirement home to care for a loved one. Many days, my eyes meet the sadness in the eyes of those who have been tossed away from families and society, because they aren’t seen as useful anymore.
As covid hit, many of these precious ones, even in independent living, hid in their apartments for fear of the dreaded virus.
One day, a nurse and elderly lady rode past on a golf cart as I entered the building. The receptionist explained to me that the elderly woman on the cart had been hiding in her apartment for a year without coming out, having her meals brought to her door. When the nursing staff finally realized her absence, they convinced her to come out to get some sunlight. She had been forgotten for a year, and no one even knew.
The place I’ve experienced this the most and that has left the deepest wounds is in the church – the one place we should be the most accepted and loved unconditionally.
So many times, the same story is on repeat, over and over. “Well, I just didn’t fit in. I tried to live up to what was expected, but I just couldn’t, so I left the church.”
Where do many go? Into the arms of those who will accept them…the occult, the new agers, etc… By the droves.
Even someone very close to me told me recently, “My non-Christian friends accept me. They love me for who I am. I don’t have to perform for them and try to fit in like I do with the Christians I know.”
Another situation was relayed to me by a close friend – a story I’ve also heard over and over.
She saw a potentially dangerous situation of a child predator being in the children’s ministry area of her church. She had been through similar things as a youth, so her guard was up. When she brought it to the elders of the church, the tables were turned against her. She was condemned for trying to cause trouble, and then ostracized; eventually, she was told to leave the church and others were told not to communicate with her.
In two different rounds of church abuse, I’ve been “ghosted” by several I love. These were not casual friendships, but close friends, some of whom promised to always be there, that we were the “family” kind of friends.
Until… Until maybe I asked too many questions, and was “rebelling” against authority. Until maybe I saw warning signs, and loved people enough to say, “Hey, you might want to watch out for that.” Until, someone else put us on an opposing side, and we were never given a voice, a chance to share our heart.
If leadership of any organization puts themselves above the common people and demands you do what they say with out questioning or else you are “rebellious”, threatening that you will be “ostercized”, that my friend, is abusive leadership. It’s wrong and dangerous.
If leadership has told you to block and have no communication with others because they are “spreading gossip”, I would question the leadership first.
Sure. There are some who may be truly “spreading lies and trying to legitimately tear down leadership”, and in those cases correction and separation may have to happen, but all too often, it is more that the leadership doesn’t want to be challenged, and so they remove any opposing voices. At least, this is what I’ve experienced, not just with one story, but with many, across the board.
You see, when we make ourselves the center of our world, conveniently dismissing, ghosting, erasing anyone that challenges us, opposes us, or is trying to warn us of something they see up ahead because it exposes us or is threatening to what we want to do, even if the person coming against us is wrong in what they are saying, then we are in essence removing the brakes from our train, stepping into pride and elitism, becoming uncorrectable, self-centered gods of our own little kingdoms.
We all need accountability. We all need those people in our lives who challenge us, who are brave enough to correct us – true family that helps us stay the course and keep us humble.
When others who I love have just discarded me without even an explanation as to why, with out even a goodbye, it has left me disillusioned with holes in my heart, like sudden deaths without goodbyes – except you know those people aren’t dead, but that they have chosen to pretend you don’t exist anymore. This to me is far worse than death. It is devaluing of someone, not just as a friend, but as a sister/brother in Christ, as a fellow family member.
The faith of countless have been sacrificed to the enemy on this altar. Countless.
Recently, a friend of mine had a hard conversation with me. She poked me in several tender spots and challenged me. At first, I bristled, seeking a place to hide from what felt like an assault, but then I took a deep breath, and looked into her eyes, and listened, really listened, past the words coming out her mouth, but to the intent of her heart. She loves me. She’s proven it through the years. Her intent for me was to be a better version of me. So, I took what she said and considered it. I countered with some different perspective for her to consider. I took it to my heavenly Father and asked Him for truth about me, the situations. It helped me to grow. It helped her to grow. Instead of putting up walls of defense, we grew closer in our friendship that day. I’m not saying I’m perfect in this. There have been plenty of times I pushed others away because I got offended. But I hope I’m growing up a little.
Many times instead of being known for our love and unity, we have been known by our pride and division.
How many different denominations, sects, little kingdoms do we have to have, because men want to rule their own little world?
Jesus is coming back for one unified bride, one church, one body.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” But quite the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are [absolutely] necessary; and as for those parts of the body which we consider less honorable, these we treat with greater honor; and our less presentable parts are treated with greater modesty, while our more presentable parts do not require it. But God has combined the [whole] body, giving greater honor to that part which lacks it, so that there would be no division or discord in the body [that is, lack of adaptation of the parts to each other], but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-26 AMP
The truth is we all need each other. We need our unique giftings, callings, personalities, quirkiness, strengths, and even our weaknesses, because we have a strength to someone else’s weakness, and we can learn together through weaknesses, through differences of opinion.
If we never feel safe enough to let our guard down lest we be kicked out of the family because we aren’t producing or aren’t a “team player”, then we will never be able to experience true love – the God kind of never ending, unconditional, run to meet you, chase you down til the end of your life kind of love. This is the kind of love we are supposed to be known for.
In fact, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (works against) his [Christian] brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should also [unselfishly] love his brother and seek the best for him.”
1 John 4:20-21 AMP
So, my goal is not to condemn anyone for their decisions, but to shed some light and maybe offer a hand in healing some breaches. Again, I long for the day of restored relationships, of reconciliation.
I also realize there have been some that have pushed others away out of self-protection and deep woundedness from past hurts. I get that. And I’m not really addressing those situations, though I would hope we can come to a place of maturity that even in those situations needed space can be given, safety achieved, and hearts heal in open, loving relationships as family.
Unconditional love should be the fruit of our lives as lovers of God. May we be known by our fruit, by our love.
““Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” Matthew 12:33 CSB
What does love look like?
It looks taking the low road, washing some stinking feet, crossing the road to help the wounded one on the other side, humbling ourselves to consider a different point of view, seeking reconciliation by offering the “Please forgive me first”, putting aside my right to be right in some situations (There are times to stand for what’s right.), wrapping the robe around the prodigal who has come home, etc..
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 CSB
What if we truly saw each other, stopped to listen to someone’s story, and loved the one in front of us? What if we stopped ghosting each other?
What if we were actually known by our love and unity?
I dare say we could change the world.