Thursday, October 15, 2015

Corruption and relationships

I'm using the term corruption as where data gets mangled, and it becomes unusable for its initial purpose. A corrupted file can be salvaged, but without a fix it will not function properly. In lots of cases, the corruption will cause other things to break because they expect it to be functional. So then you get a cascading failure, where one bad input breaks a whole system.

I picture our broken world state like this. Our lives are corrupted, and we need some repair function to be run to be restored. Maybe we can limp along, maybe it's so minor that you can get most of it without and issue, or maybe it's so bad that it breaks everything and everyone around you.

Regardless the degree, if there is a master copy, then you can be restored.

This to me is a good analogy of what sin looks like. It's the perversion of good, as C. S. Lewis put it. It's the corruption of valid data. Instead of interpreting and acting as we were once designed, were now damage, in need of repair, and may cause damage to others.

Recently I've been talking with lots of people about relationship issues. And one of the things I've really noticed lately is how much they are exacerbated by the damage we have. You're attempting to merge together two injured people to make a functional one. But if you ignore the corruption, all of the output will be negatively affected.

Relationships open up and expose more of us to others. It's an incredibly powerful function, and therefore dangerous to us. A decent analogy would be running as root, or some sort of privileged user, on a machine. It means you can accomplish great things on the system, upgrade and fix it, or you can also destroy it and take actions that would normally have some safeguards against it.

In our relationships, were opening up ourselves to this other party to either bolster us, or tear us down. And we hope we choose wisely, but sometimes it's hard to tell until its too late. And if we remain too closed off, we never give them the opportunity to show how well we could work together.

So when I hear relationships where one of the parties refuses to open, or engage in deeper conversation, or assess the state of their own heart, it pains me. And when some, in their corrupted pain, hurt others as a defensive technique, that's even worse. That's using this power we ought to respect and cherish and abusing it. A hammer and chisel can be used for carving works of art, or for smashing a china shop.

There's a Depeche Mode song I think that goes well with this, called "Precious":

"Precious and fragile things
Need special handling
My God what have we done to you
We always tried to share
The tenderest of care
Now look what we have put you through

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give"

It's worth asking yourself the cost and whether you're willing to pay it before diving into a relationship. If you're looking for someone to put on a shelf, for someone who fits into your schedule and fits your needs, and not another human being who is growing and changing as dramatically as you are every hour, then you're probably not ready for this challenge.

And let's be honest, most of us aren't really ready to pay this price. But if we're totally unaware of the complexities necessary, then the complex needs with catch us off guard and we'll end up hurting ourselves and others.

There was dream I had a while back that really summarized well:

The Dream

The bits I recall are a man and woman I am friends with invited me over for something, like a game and I was sitting at their table painting stuff for it. Then they started fighting over some trivial issue. But it snowballed and they just got more upset with each other until the man took his car and left and woman told me to be like the man and leave. (It was sort of an implied "like all men" indicating the common absent husband/father trend.)

I go home, but it bothers me so I send them a short text to how they make amends soon and figure out how to reconcile as best I know how to, because I want them to work it out. I know they both care so they just need to talk it out.

Then I get thrust into my own relationship turmoil. There's some woman I love and I am pursuing. The situation reminded me of Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time, and seems like I have a Finn-esque background with her. But she withdraws and runs away and tells me not to follow because it hurts.

But I'm a hero! So I pursue because I don't want to see her in pain. And I fight through all sorts of weird rooms and mental things that want me to quit, all the while having her voice in my head narrating, explaining why the worlds around me are part of her defenses and she urges me again to leave because it's just too hard. I don't, I fight through, and eventually the fighting stops. She even says in my head "I realized I want you to see this." I open a new room, and there are a few people at a folding table, it's a gaming type room, and to one side is a small monitor. They tell me she's letting me watch what has happened and is happening, and that I should be prepared for a rough ride if I choose to sit. I purposefully stride across the room sit down at the desk. (And then I woke up)

Interpreting the dream

Now comes the interpretation parts, and why this dream stood out to me. The first relationship is a problematic one. It's a minor issue that is really about a much bigger set of problems but they are only addressing the surface and not delving deeper as really both of them actually want to but don't seem to know how to.

The second part is where opening up after initial conflict shows deeper pain, and instead of asking them to understand, they run, afraid of both what others will think and how hard it will be to look at it themselves. The pain of opening themselves up is overwhelming and makes her want to run, to return to comfort.

The third part is when you trust someone enough to know they want what's best for you, they care, they love you. So you open the painful parts to them, and they willingly look to see what's happening, to find 'you'. That's when my dream self stepped into the room to watch. To say with actions "I am here for you regardless the cost."
Waking up during the third part to me was a note that this will not be something that is completed in a day, or even have an obvious resolution. It is the struggle of a relationship for the rest of it's lifetime. It requires a fight and a struggle and perseverance.

And now to apply this to myself. It's time to go beyond the surface, delve into the deeper parts, and show them it isn't their past or their pain that defines them but who they are as a whole being. And God shows us we have an intrinsic value that He put in us, so why wouldn't we also want to find out that value? To restore ourselves from the corrupted state?

It also means that the parts that hurt me are not completely without merit, but they aren't the entirety of me. What I think might stop others from caring about me are just details, and if someone does care they will also pursue. It's a two way street, but each of us with go through phases of wanting others to see and understand, and withdrawing as we ourselves are uncertain what that looks like. Like the section where I pursue her through pain, she'll need to do the same for me. There will be times when I'm scared, I'm vulnerable, and I just want to hide it all. She'd have to pursue, to show she will fight alongside me to help me, to be willing to sit at that same table and see the past and present pain, and accept the cost.

More than just romance

It's also worth noting in this that applies to more than just dating, marriage, etc. Our relationships with other people can hurt or can help. we have friends we trust, and when they break that trust it can hurt in ways just as painful. I used dating/marriage type relationships here because it's usually where we are most vulnerable, but its really applicable to them all. Even at work, putting too much power into a boss' hands let's them destroy your being just as much as any corrupted relationship would.

I hesitated writing this because at first read it sounds terrifying, but I find it sounds far more exciting to be open, known, and work on restoring the corruption together. That's important to bear in mind here.

1 comment:

  1. This is really courageous--thank you for opening your heart and sharing your reflections--they really make one think deeply about what counts in life!