As inherently social creatures, we humans thrive on relationships. Even with all our brainpower and survival capacity, we’ve still always needed each other. Our ability to communicate, share ideas, and work together brings us safety, comfort, and prosperity. The character of our relationships, therefore, makes all the difference in our lives. And nothing is more conducive to our overall growth and well-being than a truly loving relationship.
Relationships in Character Disturbed Times
As I assert in my book Character Disturbance, we live in an age of widespread character dysfunction. That’s one of the main reasons relationships don’t do well or last very long. But there’s an interesting connection between character and relationship. You have to have some decency of character to make a relationship work. But there’s also nothing more powerfully character-building than a truly loving relationship. So, this poses a real conundrum. How do you become a better person in a relationship so devoid of character to start with that the relationship can’t be sustained?
Dr. Kathy Armistead and I wrote How Did We End Up Here? in large measure to answer the question posed above. People can and do change and grow in relationships. Loving, committed relationships make all the difference. But certain essential character qualities must be present from the beginning. Otherwise, folks can’t weather the inevitable storms that accompany all personal growth.
Judging Rightly The Willingness to Grow
We humans are inherently flawed creatures. We make mistakes. Sometimes we make those mistakes inadvertently. Sometimes we make them with our eyes wide open. How we respond to making those mistakes makes all the difference in the world. To learn from our mistakes we have to humbly admit them. And we have to commit to doing differently. When two people love each other, they forgive one another’s shortcomings. But heartbreaks result when someone in a relationship abuses their partner by repeating the same problem behaviors and inflicting the same injuries over and over again.
Some people think that merely loving someone can fix their ill health. That’s always a recipe for disaster. Growing out of character ill health requires a sincere commitment to do better. You have to have conscience for that. And we measure commitment objectively by a person’s displayed attitude and behavior. I’ve written before about how to help judge when someone is really working to change and grow. (See, for example: Shame, Guilt, Regret, Remorse, and Contrition.) (See also: What Real Contrition Looks Like.) And in the coming weeks’ articles, I’ll provide some examples that illustrate when it’s wise and beneficial or folly to remain in a relationship plagued with character immaturity.
Character Matters will air live this Sunday June 4 at 7 pm EDT. (6 pm CDT, 4 pm PDT.) And, as always many thanks to all who’ve recommended my books and the articles on this blog to others.