Fostering Nondisposable Relationships

Christopher Benek

Trust among people seems to be at an all-time low.

Maybe this is so because the Internet gives us intimate access to one another’s thoughts in ways that we’ve never experienced before in human history. Regardless of the reason, I think that the world needs nondisposable relationships now more than ever.

I don’t know about you, but to me, sometimes the Internet feels like an ideological war zone. I don’t think that this is because it actually is one. I think it just feels that way because most people want to fix problems in the world and in order to do so, we have to identify the issues that we think need reformed. Often times the way we identify these problems then is via the Internet where they are disseminated among the general public.

Now, it may take us time to address such ills but, truth be told, things are getting better. Never before in culture have so many people been as well cared for as they are today. Think of something bad in society and it is likely better than it was even fifty years ago. Moreover, even if it isn’t better it is likely the case that more people are aware that the issue is a problem than ever before.

In the midst of such global bettering and goodness, we still aren’t satisfied. There is good reason for such dissatisfaction. Our discontent arises out of the knowledge that there is still much more that needs to be reformed in us and in our world.

What makes this frustration feel even stranger is that, in spite of all the good that humanity has done, the world also seems to be more engaged in conflict methodology in the public square than ever before. Sure, in most cases it doesn’t come to actual blows (nor should it ever), but even still, trust seems to be at an all-time low. Why is this?

I think the answer is rather straightforward. It isn’t that things are actually getting worse. The reality is that we are just getting a more in- depth and nuanced view of who we are as people.

What has created the conflict methodology is that, even in a bettered state of being, we still don’t like the reflection we see. The fact that we now see a bit more clearly only heightens that dislike. We’ve come so very far and yet it still almost feels a little depressing at times how far we know we still need to go.

This feeling isn’t uncommon. Actually, I believe that it is simply the continued fulfillment of the redemptive purposes that began with Christ. And since that process began in humanity we have yearned for a better version of ourselves.

The challenge now is that we’ve come to another new level of technological progression that has further, and even more clearly, revealed our unfinished business. As such we’re now on the precipice of another season of painful refinement. As if in a digital parallel to CS Lewis’ classic fiction The Great Divorce - emerging tech is like the grass that hurts our feet or the raindrop that hits us with excruciating pain. We know in our hearts we aren’t quite ready for this new technological world but, it’s here, and now we must summon the courage to face it.

I’ve written before that Tech Will Expose Us All - So We Must All Become Experts in Love. Folks, mark my words, in the future there will be no secrets. Now is the time to look within and repent for those things about yourself that you don’t want people to know. We all have them.

Now is a time to learn to show people grace. Now is a time to learn to show forgiveness. I say this because I am fairly certain that only those who can truly show forgiveness will be able to emotionally survive the technological future that is to come.

But maybe more profoundly - now is the time to begin forming nondisposable relationships with one another. Now what am I talking about exactly when I say this? I am suggesting that we need to begin to consider: Is there anything in the world that is more valuable than our connections to other human beings?

Now if you read my article: Learning to Block to Avoid Social Media PTSD you may initially think that I am contradicting myself. I assure you I am not. There are reasonably times when humans must take breaks from one another in order to process emotions and discern proper action moving forward. There are times when we need to “retreat in order to advance.” Allow me to provide an ethical example…

Consider a child whose parents are abusing them. Fundamentalist teaching may insist that the child “honor their Father and Mother” to adhere to the Scriptures in honoring God. Such misinterpretation only leads to more abuse. How then does one maintain a nondisposable relationship in this instance?

Well the appropriate action is for the child to tell someone who can legally discipline the parents. It may take blocking the bad action for the parent to eventually understand the wrongdoing that they were perpetuating. This is a prolonged “time-out” to try to get the parents back on track.

Such action doesn’t negate a potential forgiveness or even a restored relationship in the future. Such action doesn’t imply a lack of love for the parent. Actually quite to the contrary - the discipline of the parent is truly an act of love by offering an opportunity to better him or herself. The action is honoring thy mother or father by preventing her or him from dishonoring themselves.

A thoughtful, prayerfully discerned social media block can have the same effect in what is usually a far less dire circumstance. This is not to discount alternative options. It is simply to say that one genuinely has choices in protecting oneself.

What I am not suggesting in such a scenario though is that we should seek to dispose of any of our relationships entirely. We may need a thoughtful pause for a moment or even a season to process, adapt or protect ourselves. But we also shouldn’t be seeking to disengage altogether either.

You can disagree and even dislike someone without forfeiting the relationship in total. You can struggle to understand a situation, step back to work through your emotions, and even publicly oppose another’s viewpoints but still pledge to ultimately never leave them.

I recognize that in our modern context this may sometimes seem to be a near undoable task. Our world seems to want to fight and distrust at every turn. But that is exactly why we need nondisposable relationships – because it is only when we commit to loving one another for eternity that reconciliation, and ultimately redemption, finally arrives.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How many nondisposable relationships do you have in your life and why?

Q2. How does someone else’s action ultimately prevent you from showing someone boundary-oriented unconditional love?

Q3. What are the types of situations that you struggle to form nondisposable relationships in and why?