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About this series
God's Wisdom for Building Great Relationships
Relationships can be tough. Everyone has expectations of how relationships should work. Whether it's our behaviors, words, spending habits, how to raise children, or views of God - these factors affect how we interact with others. In this series, Chip explores eight essential life lessons that will help you build GREAT relationships that last!More from this series
Principle number two: recognize everyone is desperately insecure. That may sound a little crazy but recognize everyone is desperately insecure. Not some people, but everyone. Some may be a little bit more insecure than others. My paradigm shift of looking at every, single person in every situation completely changed when I realized everyone, the people that seem to have it together, the people that are upwardly mobile, the people that are smart, the people that are athletic, the people that are beautiful, the people that seem to have everything in a way that you think, Oh, it looks so wonderful. Let me tell you, behind all that, they are desperately insecure just like you and just like me.
And that will change how you process their words, how you relate to them, how you think about them, and how you think about yourself. And I hope many of you are saying, Well, you better have a verse for this one, buddy. Because that’s a pretty radical statement.
Turn in your Bibles, are you ready? This is an easy one. Genesis chapter 3. Go all the way back to the beginning. Genesis chapter 3, verses 8 to 10. You got it? Okay, let’s follow along. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.’”
Circle the phrase: hid themselves. Now, you know the context is: God gave them a perfect environment. God said, “All of this is for you. There’s only one restriction: don’t eat from this tree.” They do. This is the result of sin.
“In the day that you eat, you will surely die.” And they didn’t physically die. Death in Scripture has to do with separation from God. It always brings separation. And notice that after sin has entered the world, God comes and He wants to fellowship with them, they hear God’s voice and the man and the wife, they hid themselves.
Then God calls out. He knows exactly what has happened, but He asked a rhetorical question and He says, “Where are you?” They were afraid – why? “Because I was naked, so I hid myself.” The fall brought guilt and shame and the result is fear-based relationships with God and others.
You need to understand the human species, you know how we relate? We relate out of fear. I’m afraid you’ll – what? See me for who I really am. Isn’t that what naked is? It’s physically naked here, but they were psychologically naked. They were emotionally naked. They were afraid God would see them. They knew they had imperfections now. Before, they were secure. They were safe.
And now, sin has entered and now they are non-safe or insecure, which makes them – what? Insecure people. And insecure people relate out of fear, they spend their energy hiding from God and hiding from one another.
And so, every, single person you meet is desperately insecure. They are trying to cover up who they really are because down deep, here’s my thinking, here’s you’re thinking, it’s the human species. Down deep, my greatest fear is that you’ll see who I really am. And if you see who I really am, I’m convinced you wouldn’t like me.
In fact, most of us spend our lives in relationships playing games, posturing, pretending, and image-casting so that people can’t see who we really are and we try to figure out what others will like or what we think will be accepted, and then we try and project that, all the while, hiding who we really are to protect ourselves from being rejected.
And I’m telling you, if you ever get that and understand that, it’ll liberate your life. The people that you are most intimidated by, the people that power up and they just, you just feel like you want to cringe – here’s what you need to understand: all of us have tools or methods to create distance between us and other people so that we feel safe, okay?
Now, if you want to, it’s out of print but I can save you reading the whole book. A transformational book, a Swiss psychologist – Paul Tournier – a Christian, wrote a book called The Strong and the Weak.
And the whole book’s thesis is: everyone in the world is desperately insecure. And we manifest it either in strong responses or in weak responses. And the whole book is cases of all the clients that he has. And so, people that power up, people who have to dress absolutely perfect, people who tell you how many people report to them, what kind of car they drive, how much money they have, and all the stuff that make you – they are really, really big.
People that are arrogant, people who talk about themselves in the third person, a la, ESPN. What you, see, what we feel like is, we either feel really turned off by those people, or we feel intimidated by those people. People that have strong outbursts of anger, “Who are you to say that I’d ever like that?” What are they doing? They have figured out a way to create distance – why? So it’s safe.
Very strong reactions are carried out by very insecure people. That’s just how some people express it. But the goal is the same. It’s just to keep distance so you won’t know who they really are.
On the other hand, ultra-weak reactions, you say “hi” to someone and they look at their feet. “I’m a victim. No one ever likes me. No, I can’t talk to you right now.” People who withdraw, people who won’t look you in the eye, people who avoid people, people who won’t get involved in relationships, people who isolate themselves to extremes – what are they doing? Their underlying belief system is: “If you ever knew who I was, you wouldn’t like me. And I can keep you from knowing who I really am because, like a shellfish, I am closed tight. And I’ll be superficial, but you’ll never get me to open up and see who I really am.”
I was in the very first pastorate and I only had two and I grew up, my parents were schoolteachers, okay? And my parents’ combined salary when they started teaching school was about forty-six hundred dollars. And even back then, that wasn’t much.
And so, my roots are a little rent house with two bedrooms. My parents slept in one room and the three of us kids – two girls and me – we all slept, I was small, in the other room. And then little by little by little, my dad was, he came out of the Depression. At thirteen, his father died of gangrene because he wouldn’t treat an accident on his leg. And my dad watched all the farm equipment and the farm be sold out from under him. And him, as a sixteen-year-old, sign in to go into the Marines in World War II because, “What am I going to do with my life?”
So, frugality and the idea of working hard and this sense that you don’t have much – my dad was the kind of guy that checked the locks about five times each night before he went to bed. And I thought, Man, you are weird, dude. And then I thought, Maybe if I had been in Guam and Iwo Jima, maybe I would check them five times too.
And all that produced was someone who lived with a mentality that, I just save, save, save money, and had eight or ten lawn mowing jobs and two paper routes and then I ended up in this pastorate in a rural town, but it was really a misnomer because it was about thirty-five people, but they were people that all worked in Dallas and they wanted a nice church out in this rural area, thirty miles outside of Dallas.
But one guy owned a Yamaha shop, apartment complexes; another guy owned an insurance agency. Another guy owned one of the largest CPA firms. So, they would have these trucks and ranches and play cowboy on the weekends, and they would all get dressed up and run Dallas.
And so, we would go to their homes and these are my roots, okay? And Southern Living magazine and I would look at all the stuff they had. And then I was so intimidated. And I just felt like, there are only thirty-five people, but, man, I’m so over my head. These are wealthy people and wealthy people must be really smart and really smart, wealthy people must be a lot better than me. And I’m just a regular guy. I’m shopping at K-Mart and they’re talking about Neiman Marcus has a sale on and I’m not sure who Neiman Marcus is.
And I’m just overwhelmed with being insecure and I’m uptight and this one guy, we meet for breakfast for discipleship, he pays every time for everything. And I’m feeling like, Man, this is, I don’t know what is with this, but this is dysfunctional. And I remember reading that book, The Strong and the Weak. And then after two or three years I started counseling those families and those real together, wealthy, very smart, from great universities, with kids going to great universities with high SAT scores, that were pillars of the community – I’m underneath dealing with the junk and the dysfunction.
And what I saw was, You know what? There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, but it doesn’t solve your relational issues. And what I saw was, you know something? They had a lot more stuff than I had, but I think they had as many problems as I did. My dad was an alcoholic and Theresa’s dad was too. And I remember the very first time I got breakfast with this guy and I got there early and I knew what we always ordered and I paid in advance and I paid in advance and then we got ready and he was going to write the check and I said, “I already paid.” “No, no, no, no!”
See, what he did is, what he had learned to do is control and power up on people by always paying the bill so people were indebted to him because he was very insecure and very powerful and the way you express that when you have a lot of money is you control everybody with your money and then when they don’t come through, then you cut off the money and you play lots of games and you don’t even know you’re doing it.
And so, I told him, “No, no, I’ve already paid.” And he goes, “No, you can’t do that! You’re the poor, little pastor.” He didn’t say those words, but that was what he meant. “And I’m the big, rich, godly guy.” And then I looked him in the eye and I had one of those moments and I said, “Look,” and, by the way, right now, he’s one of my closest friends in the world, I said, “do you want to be friends or not?” And he looked at me, “What do you mean?”
I said, “I’m not playing the game. I have watched what you do with your children, I have counseled you and your wife, I see how your kids are. The strings of the money happen everywhere. Tell you what, when we eat at a place like this, I’ll pay at least half the time. If you want, we go to some country club and it’s, like, forty bucks a dinner, you can pay. I don’t have that kind of money.
But I’m going to pay half the time or you’re the big hot-shot and I’m the little dinky guy. And I want a friend. And if you don’t want a friend and there’s not peer and we’re not going to be on the same ground level of the cross, then let’s stop meeting. But if you want to have a real man to a real man and a real relationship, you pay sometimes and I’ll pay sometimes. I get to make sacrifices for you and you get to make sacrifices for me. And, by the way, I think a lot of this chaos in your family is, man, you’re desperately insecure just like me.” And he looked at me like…
And thirty years later, we are just like best friends and he has been one of the great mentors of my life. But I’m telling you, everyone is desperately insecure. There is no one that has it all together. Everyone is hiding, everyone is pretending, everyone is posturing, everyone is projecting to some degree or another.
And so, let’s get to the solution side. So, well, how do you deal with this? When uncomfortable or threatened or afraid, simply admit or verbalize appropriately and refuse to play the game. That’s how you deal with this. What you do, once you get this on the table, then we get to the practice. And the practice is: take off your mask, authenticity builds genuine relational intimacy; hypocrisy destroys it.
You’ve got to take off your mask. Jot in the corner of your page somewhere there: Acts chapter 5. It amazes me that the very first sin recorded in the Early Church was – what? Hypocrisy. And the judgment was death! And sometimes you read that and, especially like me, I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, chapter 1 of Acts, chapter 2 of Acts, chapter 3 of Acts, chapter 4 – oh, really exciting, the Church is growing – really exciting.
And then Ananias and Sapphira and they just told a lie, but the lie was pretending that they were something that they weren’t. They projected a level of commitment that they weren’t. And what did God do? Whoo! Because once authenticity is gone, all you have is a charade.
People – non-Christians – see, I grew up as a non-Christian most of my life. Non-Christians aren’t looking for perfect Christians. They are looking for real Christians. That doesn’t mean you’ve got it all together, it doesn’t mean you have all the answers, it doesn’t mean you’re always perfect. It means when you mess up, you say stuff like, “Man, I am sorry.” Are you ready for this? “I really messed up.” Take off your mask. Authenticity builds relational intimacy; hypocrisy destroys it.
And it never ends. I guess you get better at it as we grow and find our security in Christ. It never ends. I remember early on as the radio ministry started growing and then I got invited to these dinners. Now, imagine with my roots. I grew up playing little league baseball and blue-light specials at K-Mart and then going from the little eight hundred square feet house to the twelve hundred square feet house and my parents, little by little, and playing at a little NAIA school.
And now I’m sitting at the table with Tony Evans and Chuck Swindoll and all these Christian leaders and I’m invited to this thing. I’m in – now, here I am. It’s, like, fifteen years later; twenty years later and I have all the same feelings I had in that little town. These are the really big shots. These are the Christian leaders of the world. They have written all these books. They are so spiritual and I’m this little peon, right? Does anyone else, you’re looking at me like I’m on drugs or something. Does anyone else have these feelings? Anyone else ever get…right? Okay?
And so, but now, the question is: well, how do you deal with this? You know what you do? You admit it as soon as possible and verbalize it appropriately so that it’s like taking a needle and get the air out of the phony balloon.
And so, I don’t know how it happened, I’m sitting next to Chuck Swindoll. Well, he’s one of my heroes. And I’m thinking, So what am I going to do? Am I going to pretend and tell him how many stations we are on and put my chest out and try and tell him all the good things that have happened? What? Why?
Because I’m insecure, I’m afraid that if he really knew who I really am and how afraid I really am in this situation, he’s going to think I’m a little nobody, which is exactly how I feel. Or am I just going to figure out, Now, how can we get the mask off here?
And so I sat there very uncomfortably, and my wife equally uncomfortably, and I turned to him and I said, “Excuse me, Dr. Swindoll,” and he’s so neat, he goes, “Actually, my name is Chuck.” “Okay, hey Chuck.” And we did a little chit-chat.
And then I just said, “Could I ask you something?” And he said, “Sure.” I said, “I’ve just got to tell you, man, this whole environment just intimidates me to death and I bet it was new for you once. How do you learn to be yourself in a situation like that where you feel very intimidated? Could you help me out?”
And the atmosphere went, tchoo! And pretty soon, since that dinner, they had this special dinner that I end up with him every year, every year, he just finds me and he puts his – “Okay, coaching lesson number thirty-two. Okay. Here’s what we learned last year. Here’s how you do it this year.”
And it just became – and you know what I found out? What is so attractive about that guy is he is so real. That who you hear on the radio and who you meet up close is just a regular guy.
But what broke the bubble was admitting that you’re afraid, admitting that this is a problem. Usually when I do pastors’ conferences I figure out somewhere in that message, even if it has nothing to do with the message, I talk about, “Basically, we are all insecure here and da-da-da-da-da,” and I tell a couple stories on myself where they go, You’ve got to be kidding.
Because now, it’s hilarious. There are actually some people that are fifteen years behind me and they think of me like I thought of Chuck Swindoll. And I’m thinking, Oh brother, these poor people. Are they deluded?
And so, I tell them how insecure I am and I said, “Guys, can we make a rule? Let’s not talk about the sizes of our church, the sizes of our budgets; let’s not try and impress one another. We’ve all got struggles.” If we could eliminate that the first couple days, we could really hear from God. And you just get it out on the table and you watch the whole atmosphere change. You got it?
Principle number one: It all begins with God. Principle number two: recognize everyone is desperately insecure. Take off your mask; authenticity builds genuine relational intimacy. Hypocrisy destroys it.
And the last means of application would be, on this one, catch yourself and own it when you start to posture or image-cast or, by the way, when I am defensive I am usually hiding or running, okay? Outbursts of anger, withdrawal, give someone the silent treatment – anyone do that in your marriage? Oh good. I’m glad.
Very spiritual group here this morning. Having to explain to people, “Oh, what you’ll understand is, see, the reason I was, this happened and this happened and this…” When I have to explain a lot, when I am defensive, when I have strong anger feelings that people pick up, even if I don’t explode or anything, or if I give people the cold shoulder or I withdraw, usually that tells me there is something inside that I am feeling very threatened by and these are defense mechanisms.
And I need to get with God, own my stuff, and if I postured in a meeting – if I told you the number of times I have had to get on the phone that night or the next morning after I have been in a meeting with a group of guys and say, “You know something? About the middle of that meeting, remember when I got off on da-da-da-da-da-da-da? ‘This is the way it is,’ and da-da-da? Yeah. I think I was probably a little threatened. And I’m sorry. That was not Christ-like. Would you forgive me for my little attempt to power up there?”
And here’s what I can tell you: I don’t think people think less of you. I think it creates an environment where we can be who we really are and I think the most attractive thing about the Lord Jesus was that when He looked you in the eye when He walked upon the earth, and when you looked in His eyes, He knew exactly who you really are and He would know exactly who I really am and He just still accepts us.