SOURCE: Dr. Henry Cloud
When Katie broke up with her boyfriend, her crying troubled me. It didn’t seem like the normal pain of breaking off a relationship. That kind of grief is sad to be with, but I felt more disturbed at the tone of her sobs. There was a certain feeling of despair more than grief. I asked her about my concern, and she replied, “It just seems so hopeless. I thought he was ‘the one.’ Everything was so good, and I was wrong again. I don’t have any hope anymore.” I could see that the pattern of choosing men poorly had taken its toll on her. She was close to giving up.
I recalled the beginning of their relationship when she had told me how “wonderful” he was. This time she was sure. But, I also remembered being troubled even then. As charming and wonderful as he sounded, there were some scary things that were easily seen, if one were looking. What Katie saw was a person who was attractive, outgoing, witty, financially successful, etc. What I saw was a self-centered person who gave to get and would probably be unable to make a commitment to her in the end. I tried to warn her, but ultimately, she had to find out for herself.
And find out she did, when after pressing him a bit more for some kind of commitment, he began distancing himself more and more, ultimately to another woman. Katie watched “Mr. Perfect” go away, and with him her dreams for all that she had wanted. I had told her in the beginning that she was “flirting with danger” and that this guy was showing nothing worth committing to. But she continued to believe his charm, and gave more and more of herself — emotionally, spiritually and physically. And here she sat, with no one but herself to blame.
I felt sad for Katie, but did not share in her despair. I knew that if she could learn something that we do not hear enough about, evaluating character, then she would finally be able to find the things that she was looking for.
When evaluating people to share your heart with, ask yourself some questions about these issues:
- Are you able to be happy with the level of maturity the person now possesses, or are you hoping they will change? Many times people will see what is wrong, but think that the other person will grow out of it or that they can change them. You must be able to accept them for who they are at this very moment.
- Are you being honest with yourself about who they really are and what it really feels like to be in a relationship with them? Sometimes, either our wishes for who they are, our needs, or our past patterns can blind us to the reality of a person. Ask your close friends what they see and compare notes. Usually, they can see more clearly than you can.
- Do they possess the ability to see when they are wrong, confess it, apologize and then change their behavior? Your Creator does not require perfection, and neither should you. But, He does require us to own it when we are wrong, see how we have hurt Him or others, and then do something to change. You need to require the same thing in your relationships.
- Are there weak areas that you can live with over time in close friendship, dating or marriage, or are they areas that might break your ability to cope? We all have problems, but there are some issues that are too much for some people to handle, where they would have no trouble handling other faults. For example, if you were raised with perfectionistic parents and are still trying to recover from those hurts, do you want to be married to a perfectionistic person who repeats the cycle all over again? We cannot find perfect people, but we can find the imperfections that we can best live with.
- Are they a growing person who does not blame others, but instead is actively involved in the growth process? One of the saddest things that I see is when one person “hungers and thirsts” for righteousness and growth and is always trying to push the other along. Find someone you have to run to keep up with instead of someone you always have to goad into growing.
Remember, the time to evaluate character is before you get too deeply involved. Once you are involved, it is more difficult to get out. When the attachment deepens, so the reasoning weakens. I see a lot of people who instantly fall into things with people who are not OK, in relationships based more on fantasy than reality, and then find themselves in trouble. Give yourself and your heart to people who prove themselves trustworthy. You are then less likely to end up like Katie, flirting with and ultimately caught up in danger. Good character cannot produce bad fruit, and bad character cannot produce good fruit. Learn to tell the difference, and you won’t be disappointed.