What is Love? (Part 3)

In part 3 on a series addressing “What is Love?” I want to dive into a fourth key component of love. And that is the power of commitment. In the context of relationship committment, we enter into the greatest environment where we can experience and learn to give and recieve love powerfully. In committed relationship, we learn to grow in love and experience the power of faithful relationship.

Yet at the same time, the word commitment brings up a lof of pain and brokenness in our lives. I do my best in this broadcasts to address the issues that arise when commitment is broken and when we’ve been taught distorted perspectives on what commitment is.

Video Broadcast:

Previous Episodes:

What is Love? (Part 1)

What is Love? (Part 2)

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#4 Love is a Commitment

In the previous video, I mentioned the importance of decision and choice when it comes to love. 

With choice and decision comes about the power of commitment, the journey of sticking to what you decided. 

We make a decision, but then we keep on making that decision. That is what commitment is all about.

The more you commit to a relationship, the more you invest towards love growing in your heart and growing within that relationship. When you commit, you make continual decisions to say yes to love and the growth that is involved in that love relationship. 

Committed relationship gives love a chance to grow in our lives.

Sounds simple on paper, but this is actually a very vulnerable and challenging aspect of love. For many, they can already start spiraling in condemnation, beating themselves up for their lack of commitment, struggle with commitment or pain regarding the subject of commitment. It brings up a lot of stuff in our hearts. 

My invitation is this, can we look at the issue of love and commitment through the lens of compassionate grace? Can we see our journey for what we need to see and not add on mounds of guilt, regret and shame? 

I say this because we all need to learn how to walk in commitment in fruitful ways. For many, you will discover that you have commitment issues in that you cannot seem to remain committed. Others may recognize their definition of commitment is actually codependency, people pleasing and taking on the full burden of a relationship that they do not need to take. 

You may notice you have been pressured by constant guilt to commit to things that violated your ability to make a choice for yourself. Others may stick around and remain in an abusive relationship all in the name of a distorted definition of “loving commitment,” but it’s not love. 

But regardless of what each of us have been through, we need to address the issue of commitment regardless, for it is an important aspect of remaining in relationship connection, to give love the environment that it needs to have so we may grow in its power. 

Ultimately, the power of commitment works best when two people give their full commitment. When one or both no longer lives out of commitment, the improvement of love begins to erode. 

Commitment Can Be Really Scary

The experience of relationship commitment is risky. It’s scary. 

Just me saying the phrase, “you need to commit,” can strike fear into many hearts. They have committed in the past and experienced the emotional burn marks that took place when a relationship went deeply sour. Someone they trusted in showed themselves to be unfaithful with stewarding a precious relationship. 

We all have in our history, seasons of our life where we trusted someone, put our hearts out there, committed for the long haul and found our heart to getting trampled over by betrayal, abuse or some kind of action that put the safety of the relationship in jeopardy. 

These experiences, if not processed and healed through, can leave us with a strong hesitation to ever take a step of commitment again. Put us all together with all our broken relationship issues and you’ll find us living in a non-committal or extremely “hesitant to commit” culture. It permeates everything. The struggle of committing to a friendship, committing to a job, a church, a group or even committing to a cell phone contract can be intimidating. I remember when buying my first home, the idea of committing to a mortgage felt so overwhelming! 

For so many, even more intense for many is the commitment to the covenant of marriage. Seems each new generation seems to struggle more and more with dating, engagement and marital commitment issues. We live in a world that keeps lowering the standard of commitment, quite often because it honestly scares people. 

We live in a day and age where quite often people bail out of commitments more and more. 

What is Behind Commitment Issues?

There are reasons for this commitment problem. 

It is mainly because your heart is broken. Fear has invaded the space where loving trust and commitment needs to be put into practice. 

Taking a step of commitment always has a bit of a fear factor to it. Add years of broken pain and hurt, it can drive us into deep patterns of self-protection and avoidance of any further steps of commitment. We just don’t wanna be hurt like that again. 

This commitment issue reveals our broken hearts and places where we have not been equipped in the maturity of loving commitment. 

Our commitment struggles also reveal our emotional struggles of bonding. If you grew up with healthy attachments being formed; if you were able to develop strong emotional connections and bond to your parents, studies have shown that in life, you are more equipped and empowered to handle healthy attachments in relationships, especially deep friendships and even romantic relationships that lead to marriage. 

When we get married and enter the domain of covenant commitment, it brings out our brokenness, especially the wounds from our upbringing and relationship history…. it tugs at the nerves where we did not develop healthy emotional attachments. The home life forms how we relate to people–are we comfortable in giving and receiving love? Are we able to form healthy and strong committed relationship connections? 

When you are comfortable with experiencing loving connection, then commitment becomes a more natural flow. When those bonds are not there, it drives people either into avoiding relationship intimacy or developing intense neediness, maybe even codependency. Our underlying issues that arise when the subject of commitment comes up, often reveal the deeper pain our hearts carry. 

Wherever there is relationship brokenness of any kind in our lives, rejection and fear seek to take over. A rejection mindset drives you into a self-survival mode; a way that you self-protect so that you avoid any kind of pain similar to what you experienced before. 

You develop an internal look out for that particular wound, making sure you are on guard to never let it happen. Fear joins in to make sure you remain in that super-guarded or even hyper-vigilant posture. In that self-protection, you come under the myth that you are safe, when in the long term, you may be imprisoning yourself behind those walls, because what you want, loving relationship, is not really given any room to enter in. You become too walled up. 

We often struggle with commitment because we want to control our sense of safety and certainty. But relationships bring about a lot of uncertainty. There is a lot of risk involved. In our drive for self-protection, we want to know the mapped out course of life and eliminate all forms of unpredictability. You may end up with a business transaction, but you don’t get an authentic love relationship. 

These are just a few of the important factors to become aware of. 

Healing is Available for Us

Commitment often brings out what needs healing.  So if you struggle with the subject of commitment, it’s understandable. Healing is available. Let it lead you into healing and maturing. 

There was a day I had to realize that commitment was bringing out my fears . . . fears of intimacy, being vulnerable, being rejected, having something go wrong . . . but I had to recognize those fears and face them. We live so much in self-protection we never get to experience the greater freedom that is available in love. 

If we let our fears dictate our life, then we will disengage from relationship intimacy, commitment and emotional maturity. We can disconnect from powerful opportunities to grow in the discovery of love in committed relationships. 

Now I have to say this: This message is in no way intended to condemn or shame anyone that’s been through a divorce, is processing out of an abusive relationship, breaking free from codependency or having to step away from a toxic relationship. 

In fact, going through a divorce is often at the top of the list of guilt and shame ridden issues that Christians face. It feels to many like a mark on their lives that leave them deeply condemned and in a lot of emotional conflict. 

There is no condemnation here. No judgmentalism here. No one grows under that. Only learning and new opportunities for healing. 

Marriage is a God-given arena of covenant that often reveals the unhealed wounds of our life that need attention. I’ve witnessed many who have had to make that tough decision. It’s hard. Believers, who are we to beat other people up who’ve had to go through tremendous pain in the breakdown of a marriage?

Our divorce rates are revealing to us that we have been ill equipped to deal with our relationship brokenness. My heart aches because we need heart healing like never before. Our families are evidence that healing is so desperately needed. The question is, will we see the signals in the body of Christ and let healing take place, or will we continue to mosey in status quo patterns? 

Love Grows in Commitment

From a foundational level, love grows in relationship commitment. 

Love involves commitment. 

Without commitment, love doesn’t have the chance to plant, germinate, grow and mature. 

You cannot learn to love and be loved without taking a risk and committing to the process. It takes a risky step of faith, of trust, opening your heart up and allowing yourself to become vulnerable in ways that will stretch you. In the context of commitment, you have an opportunity to heal, renew, learn and grow in the power of love. 

What Influenced Your Commitment Struggles?

So let’s get to what may contribute to commitment issues. 

Let’s go back to your models and references of loving commitment. 

Let me ask you a question (which I am always asking questions to lead you into greater healing and freedom) 

Who was committed to you growing up? 

Start off with that question. 

Who was the person that was most committed to you growing up? 

Who was committed to making sure that you knew you were loved, emotionally cared for and given equipping for life? 

How was commitment modeled to you? 

Look at your home, community and church? How was commitment modeled and exemplified around you?

Were your parents two people who committed themselves to working through their issues together, growing together, working on themselves and learning how to love each other powerfully. As each year goes by their love for each other improves? Did they model a life you wanted to emulate in many ways? Or did they have a marriage example that you wanted to run as far away from as possible? Did this absolutely scare you when it came to commitment? 

But look back at your family of origin and commitment. Was healthy commitment modeled?

Honestly, many had none of that growing up. Abandonment, massive neglect and abuse ran across so many homes. Performance pressures, unemotional homes lacking affection, parents lost in their daily torment. 

It has been my observation that a large percentage of “Christian homes” . . . meaning families that were a part of the church, were often living in more of a “roommate syndrome” rather than a thriving marriage. They may have called it commitment, but it was roommate. Love was not being grown further and deeper. stagnancy was ever present. 

What about leaders, mentors, coaches and teachers? Who were the people that committed themselves to add value, life and encouragement to your journey? 

Many people may be able to name a defining moment, that time in your life where someone spoke words of empowerment and love, letting you know they believed in you and were there for you. They become etched into our minds, mainly because so many of our hearts were starving for love, nurture and encouraging comfort. 

But ask yourself, what were the models of healthy, loving commitment? 

Now, I am not trying to create a long list of excuses for our broken relationship patterns. All I am bringing out is that if you do not have a model, you don’t know what you’re looking for. You either repeat what you saw or dive into an opposite ditch of dysfunction. For most, your map was blank as you set out to pursue relationships. 

What was your church commitment reference?

I remember growing up in the church I was in, they had a problem with what I will call a “youth pastor revolving door syndrome.” A youth pastor would get hired and very soon, move on. A lot of “professional ministers” see youth ministry as a stepping stone to what they “really want to do.” 

But I also found that it left some tough marks on the teens. Many kids look to their leaders, teachers or pastors like father figures. They can bring about an older brother kind of connection, someone you can look up to and learn from. 

But because the youth pastors kept coming and going, it created this emotional pain cycle in the teens where they would get attached and then have to suddenly see a person they looked up to vanish. 

On top of it all, churches don’t handle staff departures well. When someone leaves, you are often secretly or at times openly shunned. For various organizational reasons, they discourage people from having any ongoing interactions. 

I watched as many in the church did not have strong father relationships, so they often looked to these youth leaders as father figures. Meanwhile, the pastors didn’t necessarily mean to, but their actions of committing and quickly changing were representing the abandonment these kids already had in their home life. 

What is your experience of commitment in church life? I get emails constantly surrounding this area of deep pain . . . I’ve consulted churches and have watched the fallout that church pain brings about in people’s lives. 

Church/Ministry Commitment Pain

I can see in the eyes of people who have been in cult-like churches or ministries, where once you even mention the word commitment, a trauma recall rises up. They experienced the “bait and switch” where the church paints an amazing picture to draw people in, only to discover that behind the scenes, the operation is one highly organized cult. They instantly recall committing themselves to something that ended up chewing them up and spitting them out. Leaving to fend for themselves and pick up the pieces that a dysfunctional organization allowed or directly caused. 

I would even propose that our modern day performance driven church is using pressure tactics, guilt, shame and even emotional force to get people to serve the organization’s goals. While these ministry avenues mean well, I do believe we have lost track of what is important. I also believe we are using a lot of unhealthy means to drive people into a lifestyle of constant activity, chronic busyness, while neglecting the meaningful issues of relationships that need loving attention. I am not sure that Jesus died on the cross so we can make the main focus of church life be on numbers, finances and polished presentations. 

On top of it all, the dysfunctional goals we chase after leave a trail of people’s hearts in the dust. In order to achieve high number achievements, you have to almost always push people beyond healthy limits to do this. 

The Pain of Friendship Hurt

No one is exempt from the pain of friendship hurts and pains. It impacts how we relate, how we see commitment and can cause a great deal of emotional confusion, stress and heartache. Do you find yourself stressing over friendship pain that leaves you wounded, feeling lonely, confused and even insecure in how to move forward? 

I think there is some real practice things we can learn so we can activate the power of commitment, but also apply it with wisdom. 

I start with this. Deep friendship commitment is not something you engage at immediate high speeds. 

One of the huge things I have learned when it comes to commitment patterns is that, because of our immaturity and desperate need to find love and connection, we can often commit too quick. 

Maturity and wisdom with loving commitment involves not waiting too long or overthinking the relationship, but also not jumping into things too quickly. 

We live in a world that desperately wants to find connections, so we jump incredibly deep into a relationship that needs time for development. 

I have watched this often in ministry relationships. I watched an overwhelming percentages of ministry relationship jumping into deep committed work together way too soon. 

I would find that at certain times where I would be at the end of a speaking engagement, someone would come to the front and introduce themselves to me. They identified so strongly with my message and couldn’t wait to tell me. Their compliments and kind remarks were kind and well intentioned. But in that very same interaction, they would also tell me how they want to join my ministry, partner with me, come over to my house for dinner, intern with me, be trained by me and minister with me. 

This is all on the first introduction. You think I am kidding, but people do this all the time. 

Immediately it’s a warning sign of a lack of wisdom. 

I wanna say, “You want to get married and have kids and I barely know your name!” 

Many relationship hurts occur because they moved forward too fast. They don’t let time have a work for fruit to show itself. With great intensity comes about high expectation. You expect the person to live at a high level of standards towards you, because you are holding them to a high level relationship that hasn’t been given time to marinate and develop. 

How many of us can look back at relationships gone bad and soberly recognize, not in shame, condemnation or guilt, but just in sobriety; that the relationship moved a bit too quick? 

I know it seemed that Jesus picked His disciples quickly, but we don’t read about what lead up to Him deciding on these men. . . 

Besides, the Bible talks about taking your time when selecting people of leadership. Fruit needs to be demonstrated. Character needs to be seen. A witness of the body needs to develop. 

Relationships have levels of access and intimacy . . . there are strangers, people you do not know . . .acquaintances, people you know on a casual level, maybe even social media friend . . . there are general friends, people you could hang out with here and there, then there are close, intimate friends, this is small in number, maybe one or two . . . hopefully your spouse is that inner core person 

Moving from an aquaintance to deep friendship takes time . . . and many don’t work out to become that deep . . .. 

But can we all just admit that in our broken need to see something happen, find a tribe and have something great move forward in our lives that we rush committed relationship opportunities? In the meantime, something happens and both parties end up walking away with deep hurt and pain. 

It is a sober warning. Do not let your deep need for connection override the reality that deep relationships take time. You cannot rush or pressurize the good ones. That open up organically and they need time for seasoning. 

I also want to share that not every relationship is one that is meant to be kept for life. Many relationships are for a season. 

God often puts people in your life that carry a grace that you need to interact with. But this may not mean you are going to be friends for life. 

If you look back, you may find some amazing friendships that blessed your life and added value to your spiritual walk. But at some point, it just didn’t gel or flow anymore and it seemed like there was so much work to simply keep things going. It is at this point that strife, nit-pickiness and high maintenance drama seems to increase. 

It is just a thought, but could it be that the season of the relationship was coming to a close? It may be time to move on. 

When you see it from this perspective, it allows you to focus on gratitude for what the relationship brought into your life. You are able to connect to the grace you experienced during that certain time. . . .rather than getting lost in the upheaval of issues that may have been telling you it is time to move on. 

I know I am talking about deeper commitment, but it is also helpful in the process to do some healthy relationship auditing, simplifying and even detoxing. 

We need to ask ourselves, is there a relationship I simply need to let go of? Is there a relationship I am forcing to make happen, trying everything in my power? The more I try the worse things get? 

I want to encourage you to get clear on what you commit to and learn to grow in love. But you also need to learn what to let go of. Many times a powerful act of love is letting someone go. You acknowledge that you cannot force someone to love you or be committed to the relationship in the same way. 

But let me ask another question. Are your standards of relationship so intense and full of pressure that it makes it hard for people to remain in your life? Do you have such high standard of commitment, to the point that people will never live up to them? Do your standards of how you do relationship lack actual love and grace? If so, it is time that your commitment to growing in love may need a deeper understanding of what expectations look like. 

So Where do you go from Here? 

Wherever you find yourself, let God’s love empower you to see where He is developing your understanding of commitment. No condemnation and shame. He is here in love and grace to empower your love journey. 

We have to give ourselves space to heal and become aware of where our hearts need healing. 

I have found that in the healing process we also have to give room for healing opportunities. We may have been deeply hurt, but we cannot completely shut out the world in self-protection. We have to give room for love to have its work. As I heal and pick up the pieces, I have to be willing to give love a chance. I don’t have to rush it. I don’t have to pressure it. I don’t need to strive in it. I just need to be open. Closing your heart out will only make those places in your heart become concrete prison walls. 

Where you and I can start with commitment, is to be committed to your own personal healing and freedom journey. Have a conversation with yourself that encourages your heart to take the healing road.

At a basic level, if you want to learn what love is, you need to be committed to your own healing and maturing journey. 

Furthermore, many people do not remain committed to their own personal healing process. Many do not want to bother committing to a healing journey because they do not even want to deal with it. Others get very easily discouraged, leading them to bail out. Quite often things get really tough, we hit a lid that needs a new level of growing in what loves means. But we often pull back and go back to old familiar patterns. 

The next level of learning is often scary. Our journey of love leads us into a place of commitment, without knowing the full outcome. We all want to experience love, but allowing yourself to be vulnerable and trust, puts your heart out there. the possibility of being hurt can can be terrifying.

The reason that love is a powerful choice, is that it involves commitment. When I love someone, I commit to a relationship connection that is based on commitment to work on the relationship. 

When I love God, I make a decision to commit myself to Him. ….

God puts the challenge of commitment at a high level. Jesus himself called people to lay it all on the line to follow him. He never called people to commit in little increments. He called them to jump into the deep end right away.

It seems that Jesus wanted to get the commitment issue out of the way so that people would not take the easy way out when tough times arise. We make the decision to commit but we remake that decision to commit during times of turbulence.

We noticed this the most in marriage. It does seem in many ways that marriage is a Divine setup for God to heal us, sanctify us and matures in very powerful ways. We fall into love and make these god-given commitments into marriage. But once the marriage covenant is made, that is when the growing really begins. While we may wonder if if we married the wrong person, the real issue is that we need to learn what it means to grow in the maturity of love.

God uses marriage as a way for us to understand and mature our love relationship with Him. The commitment of love teaches us things that non-committal people can never understand. 

But even on your best days, your commitments are not always the strongest. 

In those times we learn that when we are not strong, God’s love is always strong and consistent. 

He is committed even when we are acting in non-committal ways. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. He is there even when we are floundering. 

He is strong and stable even when we are deeply broken and immature. 

This only scratches the surface as to how God sees us through His eyes of love. 

But we must allow his love to break into our hearts. We must make the decision to commit to the process because a true loving relationship will call you to growth. It will call you to maturity. It will call out the true potential of who you are. It will call you to face the issues of your life so you can blossom.

Immaturity will blame other people, blame circumstances and lead you looking for love in all the wrong places. When we plug in to the commitment process of love in our life we can learn things we would never have learned otherwise.

Commitment is important because when things get tough our first response is to bail out, to withdraw and to walk away. 

We often want to avoid pain as much as possible. When relationships gets tough, it hits on the broken issues of our heart. It touches our broken responses to run, hide or lash out. 

In those uncomfortable places commitment is tested. But we can choose to make a decision. 

So I leave you with some questions: 

Do I want to move deeper into what love means or do I want to avoid any discomfort that seems to arise? 

Am I willing to work on myself? 

A healthy way to commit to loving relationship is when I chose to first work on myself and bring that to the relationship to add value to who you are. I use the commitment I made to keep myself focused on the growth that is available. 

God works on our hearts, to grow us in the power of love, to work with our freedom to decide and commit to the process. 

I am committing my heart to the growth process even when it gets tough. 

I invite you to do the same.