Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good Relationships are Painful

I was talking with a good friend of mine recently, and this song was brought up. Out of curiosity, I listened - and was struck by the theme of the song.

The relevant lyrics (at least for my purposes) are as follows:

Don’t wanna break your heart
I wanna give your heart a break
I know you’re scared it’s wrong
Like you might make a mistake
There’s just one life to live
And there’s no time to wait, to waste,
So let me give your heart a break…

Like most modern music, the song reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of healthy human relationships. For strange as it may seem, good relationships are involve inflicting pain on others. As Christians, we are not called to give other's hearts a break, per se, but challenge others to greater holiness.
Relationships – that is, serious relationships – often require a willingness to cause pain to others when necessary. People in serious relationships – whether friends or family or lovers – must be willing to inflict pain on those they love in order those they care about to spur maturity and self-growth.
The modern age suffers from an excess of kindness – or more accurately, an unwillingness to cause even necessary pain. And out of kindness, we do more harm to our friends than good.
But strong, healthy relationships require more than kindness to build upon. We Christians MUST want what is good for others, not merely what is convenient or pleasant to them. And often, what is good for people is painful; people must suffer pain that they would rather not face in order to become stronger and better. 
The athlete must undergo physical pain in order to become great. The student must be challenged and confused in order to become learned. The Christian must be tested in order to become virtuous. This is also true in the social realm. Friends, lovers, and acquaintances must tell others painful truths when necessary - even when those truths are painful to hear.
But lovers often hold back what is bothering them about their partner for fear of inflicting pain, until resentment builds and explodes in paroxysms of rage. Friends often watch their friends in bad situations (say, drug abuse) and refuse to say anything for fear of hurting their friend's feelings. Christians often are asked whether a particular activity (say, gay marriage) is sinful, and are afraid to say yes (and tell them why!) for fear of offending their inquisitor.
By refusing to inflict salutary pain, people wound those they care for deeply, by allowing him or her to remain unchecked in free-fall.
As Christians, we are called to remind others of painful truths. Let us be willing to inflict salutary pain on those we care for, if such pain is necessary.


  1. Did it occur to you when you wrote this how wrong it sounds?

  2. In the sense that it is paradoxical that goodness can sometimes result from pain? Absolutely. But does that make the argument wrong?


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