I watched a fly land on a spider web. It intended to take flight again almost immediately but found itself stuck. The very makeup of the web held the fly’s feet in place. The harder the fly worked to free itself the more stuck it became. It was mesmerizing to watch…unsettling but mesmerizing. I know it was nature being nature but I so desperately wanted to free the fly from the spider’s web.
This is the very picture that comes to mind sometimes when I talk with people who find themselves trapped in relationship issues caused by someone else’s ‘web.’ Our emotional and relational brokenness can spin a web that traps others and holds them in unhealthy ways. We can be trapped by co-dependence, addiction, fear, lust, pride and so many other unlovely issues. And we can trap others with the same things. I actually heard a young woman say, “I don’t care why he’s with me, I just want him.” What a sad and ultimately destructive way to live. Neither person would ever feel loved. He was trapped in her web of neediness.
How do we avoid getting caught in such a trap… or setting such a trap? It begins with the work of knowing yourself and loving yourself…becoming a whole person. There is an oft-quoted line from a movie, “You complete me.”1 That sounds so romantic, right? It’s not sound. If you need someone else in order to be a complete person you will spend your life spinning a web to trap others into trying to fill your emptiness. It is not sustainable. Please understand that you will always be a work in progress, but you can continue to grow into a person who knows and loves themselves, and thus grows into wholeness.
In my experience it is much easier to know what we want from others than it is to find out what we truly need. When I was young I just wanted someone to love me completely. I had so many wounds from an absent father and abusive grandfather that I wanted someone who could fill and heal those wounds. I married a man who truly loved me. But I began to resent him and ultimately realized that I didn’t respect him because he loved me…a person who, at the core of it, I didn’t believe deserved that kind of love. By my attitude and action I spent too much time and energy trying to prove to him that I wasn’t worthy of such love. I caught the poor man in my web of insecurity and brokenness. It took years for me to learn to love myself and to believe that:
- God loves me just as I am
- I could love and accept myself as a work in progress
- I was love-able to others, especially my husband.
The order is important here: God, myself, others. When steps 1 and 2 are in place, then even if a person rejects me I am not utterly destroyed. They are not the love that completes me. Please don’t think I’m belittling relational love. I think it is wonderful and vitally important. It just isn’t THE most vital and important.
The love that keeps us free of others’ webs of emotional need and co-dependence is the pure, untainted and soul-filling love of God. It is in that love that we truly become whole and complete. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
1Tom Cruise’ line in the movie Jerry Maquire
Romans 12:9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
Ephesians 3:17-19 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
1 Peter 1:22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sister. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
John 15:9 I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.