How To Screw Up Relationships Pt. 1

I have had the privilege of screwing a lot of relationships up. I’ve screwed up with my girlfriends, my family, my friends, probably with my dog too. I have found that my life has been transformed a lot over the last few years. I give credit to three things: Pain, Being engaged with Intelligent people, and all of my relationships (especially the failing, messy ones).

My friend likes to joke around that when we see a hot woman, he’s going to ask her out and “missionary” date her. Which often translates into her, dragging him down into sexual play (which is what he wanted all along), after making  some weak attempt at trying to convert her into Christianity. I, on the other hand am far too good to ever engage in such foolish, and immature behavior. No, I have endeavored into what I like to call “the messianic complex.”

I have made very poor choices in my life in regards to who I allow myself to be in relationships with. I have chosen friendships and dating relationships out of “the messianic complex.” Deep down inside, I was only with them, because I wanted to save them. I have found a lot of people who engage in this complex. They, like me, pick up needy and broken people and try to rehabilitate them into life. This doesn’t work.

What happens is a long, draining, painful relationship where they take everything from you, and you get nothing in return. You resent them. You hate them. They fall back into the patterns that they need to be saved from. We can’t save them… (Right now, there is a smart aleck Christian going “well duh….. only God can.”)

You may love the person you want to save, just as I love/d the few people scrolling in my mind. No matter how much we love them, we can’t save them. They have to want to be saved. By trying to save them, we are only enabling them to continue being victims. We may want to rescue them from their pain, from their bad behaviors, but they have to do it for themselves.


We can’t save our husbands from their physical abuse. You have to leave.

We can’t save our drug addict friends from their self-destruction. You have to leave.

We can’t save people from the world, from themselves. All we can do is love them and most of the time that means from a distance. We love them by getting them counselors, into rehab, and listening to them when we can afford to. Trying to save them from their life not only screws up ours, but it also enables theirs. We must learn to surrender to the God who is already present because he comes in the shape of our life. The abuser, the addict, the broken must find God in the shape of their abuse, addiction, and their brokenness in order to be saved from it. Trying to save people will screw our relationship with them up.


14 thoughts on “How To Screw Up Relationships Pt. 1

  1. This is difficult to respond to — it’s true that we can’t save people…by ourselves. But we *are* agents for change in the world, including the change in our friends’ lives. It’s true that people sometimes don’t want to be helped, and we do sometimes have to let them go their way until they do. Endless arguing and haranguing will do not good. If there’s nothing else to the friendship, it has to end.

    But there are people who *do* want to be redeemed, and we need to stay with them patiently, the way God stays with us, and the way we need others to stay with us. It can be so frustrating, even maddening — but we really do need to be willing to be uncomfortable (even VERY uncomfortable) for the sake of love. I am *not* talking about staying in dangerous, abusive relationships, here — though in some cases it might be possible to get yourself safe without cutting the other person off completely.

    I think we need to be careful about the boundaries we draw, which is not to say we don’t need boundaries! Just be careful about what you mean by what you can “afford.” Sometimes we give financially more than we think we can. Sometimes that’s true with friendship, too.

  2. I think your points are valid. I also think that sometimes we can give others a call to be healed, perhaps giving the permission they can’t give themselves if they are hurt, lost or stuck. Love them, and yourself, unconditionally. A healthy relationship can only exist between two people when individually they have engaged God in filling those spaces with love, where love been denied before. And I agree, sometimes loving ourselves means putting distance there. The only thing any of us can do is engage God in healing ourselves and it will become obvious who is healthy and healed to enter into a relationship with.

  3. […] th&#1077 rest here: H&#959w T&#959 Screw Up Relationships Pt. 1 | Mike Friesen's Blog Share and […]

  4. Absolutely indited articles, appreciate it for entropy. “In the fight between you and the world, back the world.” by Frank Zappa.

  5. Lanie says:

    I don’t think that the redemptive and restorative response is distance. In fact, Jesus got pretty close to the broken… uncomfortably close in the eyes of the religious elite. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your tactic, if there can be such a thing, should be to “flirt and convert”. And if ever you’re entering a romantic relationship with someone with any intention to change them- you’re doing a major disservice to that person. Fortunately, you don’t have to put significant distance between yourself and the broken of the world if you simply choose to approach relationship with them with no ulterior motives to “save them”.
    You aren’t the Holy Spirit- you can’t convict.
    You ARE part of the Body of Christ- his hands and feet. Hands to bring healing, feet to bring Good News.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Lanie, you’re right. When you try to save people, you try to enter the role of God. Rather, than just being the instrument of grace. Your job is to be present to God, yourself and others.

  6. I think you should be in relationships with the people, be authentic, love them hard. But its the mind frame behind it all. Its about doing it in spirit and not in flesh. If i let my heart, my depravity, then my fleshiness get involved (though at times i do) in every relationship i may have with a drug dealer, gang member, prostitute, stripper, or non-believing 20 something…. id end up walking in a broken daze, experiencing paralysis by the pain. But when i love these people by spirit, with the Love of Christ, and not by Jenny’s Love… then i see life change, and if i see them fall deeper in the hole i don’t hurt as bad. I just see it for the good. Don’t be scared of going out on the limb, but guard your heart. Don’t let people like that fill your inner circle, let safe people be near you, people who fill you up… so that you may be poured out again. So that those broken can be healed by the Love you show them. Isn’t that the point of this life anyways, to be filled up so that we may be poured out again?

  7. Nice piece. And I hear you.

    I was a prolific saver. Then, after I realised I seemed to be always attracted to the bird with the broken wing, I was forced to look at myself. I indeed had an ‘addiction’ to saving people… which taught me more about my own ‘brokeness’ than anything else…

    It’s been an interesting journey since God’s been healing my heart – with my eyes wide open.

    Awesome writing bro! Chur!

  8. jeremiah says:

    Definitely there is wisdom in your words. I think like other commenters, I want to caution against NOT pursuing relationships with the broken and needy who you recognize are in desperate need of Jesus. It sounds like, as you recognize, the issue is less in the relationships and more in your messiah-complex. It is possible to have relationship with unhealthy people, be close to them, and not let them take advantage of you, use you, consume you, overwhelm you, wear you out, or make you feel guilty and/or responsible for their lack of transformation. But we will always be worn down if we are trying to be a messiah or trying to do for them the things that they need to do for themselves.
    But it is very possible to have long term relationships with those who are broken and will take from you (whether they think that’s what they’re doing or not). We have to make sure we know our own boundaries. We have to make sure that we aren’t allowing the person depend on us for something they need to do themselves or for anything that we can’t handle. We have to make sure our soul is not, in a similarly unhealthy way to the people who need salvation, trying to get some value, worth, or meaning in our attempt to save them. We then become selfish takers that are trying to acquire in a way that has the appearance of selflessness. And we have to point toward Jesus constantly. We have to be able to honestly call out the disparity between their life and the way of Jesus, painting a picture of the kingdom that captures the beauty of its freedom, joy, and peace. It’s our job to point toward Jesus, not be him. It’s not draining to point.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I absolutely agree Jeremiah. I get that addicts are going to be addicted and abusers are going to abuse. I can’t change this. In this complex, you become obsessed with saving people and exhaust yourself. What the victims of this world needs are people to love them and accept them as they are. My mindset before was just pointing to myself and not at them finding the grace of God. It was definitely a narcissistic fix. Broken people, which is to some extent all of us, need people who can love them and accept them as they are, not with an agenda as I did.

  9. ~ calista ~ says:

    I have tried this in the past – mainly because I wanted to be the most important person to one person {the one person I was supposed to be the most important to didn’t have the same views}. I realized though that while I cannot save people {honestly, I would do a rather crappy job of saving them anyway}, I can show up and be there for them when things get rough, I can love them as they are and not as I think they should be, and I can give grace to them as I have been given grace.

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