Forgiveness - Lesson 6

Levels of Relationship

There are different levels of relationship, and with each comes a different level of vulnerability and risk. How you deal with forgiveness depends on which level your relationship with the other person is. A key issue in forgiveness is the level of the person's relationship and how that affects how you pursue forgiveness.

Ron Toews
Lesson 6
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Levels of Relationship

1. Three Levels of Relationship

A. Facts: Speaking about information

B. Head: Saying what you think

C. Heart: Speaking about your emotions

2. Coming Back and Dealing With the Hurt

A. How do you establish an appropriate level of intimacy in a ministry situation?

B. What level of intimacy can I risk and still be accepted?

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Ron Toews introduces the topic forgiveness, commenting on why we need to talk about it, what happens when we choose not to forgive, and when we do choose to forgive. The themes are "Justice" (what I want for others when I am wronged) and "Mercy" (what I want from others when I do them wrong. The past cannot be changed, but our present and future are set in place by our choices. Forgiveness is not about being nice; it is about not letting the past control our present and future.

  • When we decide not to forgive, our future is pretty fixed. It will narrow our possibilities and will be followed by bitterness and destruction. Ron also discusses what forgiveness is not, and when forgiveness is not relevant.

  • The more intimate the relationship, the more risk that is involved, and the more likelihood that forgiveness is going to be part of the picture. A pivotal concept is that pain and anger are not the message, just the messenger. When our lives develop cracks, the light of God is able to shine in a heal us. Ron covers the powerful example of a tennis ball. It is relatively small, but when we bounce it around the room it takes up alot of space. Likewise, when we rumninate about the past, when we reherarse the hurts, they take up bigger and bigger areas of our lives, and the past was never meant to be in charge of our lives.

  • When we are hurt, the anger rises. This is okay; anger is just the messenger that there is danger, it is an internal emotion and not the outward behavior. But what we need to do is step away from the event, calm down, and then deal with the actual event and the real issues. Painful things want to distract us, but they aren’t suppose to be in charge of your life. Rather, we should not blast off but rather manage our emotions. We walk in the same direction, day after day, and eventually we will reach our destination.

  • Once we have experienced pain, we have to get the intensity down and then come back and handler the event. Ron suggests a sample set of questions. (1) Tell the person what it was like for you. (2) Then ask the other person what the event was like for them. Remember, the behavior is the mesenger, not the message. The message is what you need to get to.

  • There are different levels of relationship, and with each comes a different level of vulnerability and risk. How you deal with forgiveness depends on which level your relationship with the other person is. A key issue in forgiveness is the level of the person's relationship and how that affects how you pursue forgiveness.

  • The process of forgiving someone follows a specific format, depending on whether they repent or not. But regardless of what the other person does, you can still forgive. But it may not mean the restoration of the relationship.

  • Questions and answers about what forgivness looks like in specific situations. 

"One of the most life-changing events in my life was a seminar I attended on forgiveness at Oasis Retreats. All of us have experienced betrayal and have had to learn forgiveness. This conference was the single most important event in my life that helped me start to learn what forgiveness is, and isn't. "There are only two things we can do with the past. We can either forgive, or we can let our past hurts control us. There is no third option. Many of us work under the false impression that if we could have justice, that would make all things okay. But justice does not bring back the child killed by a drunk driver, restore the girl who was violated, or return the ministry ripped from our hands. Whatever be your story, we all need to continue learning how to forgive." - Bill Mounce, President of BiblicalTraining

This seminar is presented by Ron Toews, a Therapist and Life Transition Coach practicing in Vancouver Canada. He has served on the Oasis Retreats team for fifteen years, helping more than a thousand Christian leaders in life and ministry transitions. Ron has recently co-founded Brighter Life Solutions, an online community dedicated to helping parents build their child's character for success in our increasingly challenging world. If you are a parent wanting to set your kids up for success in life, click on the link below to get this free blueprint on forgiveness and parenting.

3 Forgiveness Mistakes Parents Make That Secretly Keep Kids Emotionally Distant, Trapped in False Guilt, and Afraid to Learn.

Be sure to download the Student Notes and the Chart (to the right).

<p>Course: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/forgiveness/ron-toews&quot; target="_blank">Forgiveness</a></p>

<p>Lecture 6: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/forgiveness/levels-of-relationship&quot; target="_blank">The Levels of Relationship</a></p>

<p>There are different levels of relationship, and with each comes a different level of vulnerability and risk. How you deal with forgiveness depends on which level your relationship with the other person is. A key issue in forgiveness is the level of the person&#39;s relationship and how that affects how you pursue forgiveness.</p>

<h2>1. Three Levels of Relationship</h2>

<h3>A. Facts: Speaking about information</h3>

<p>So, the business about risking is a critical piece of the puzzle. I want to talk to you about different levels of a relationship. The part about coming back to the event and what the impact was for you; the way that you do that depends on the level of relationship that you have with a person. Don&rsquo;t simply go to the place of saying what you feel. This depends on who you are and who you are with. What I mean by the quality of a relationship can be shown on a grid. So there are three levels of relationships and the divider between the three is not exact. On different issues it may be different. There are low levels of risk and high levels of risk. I have low levels up at the top of this graph and venerability in a lower area. The first level is where you talk about facts and information. When I go to a wedding or a fund raising event or something that has to do with the community where there are people around the table, some that I have known before and four others that I have never met. When we leave, we have done that event and now I know something about them, their names, and their careers, perhaps something about their families and even perhaps something about their hobbies. So, somebody says to me later in a day or so, &lsquo;do you know so and so?&rsquo; Oh yes, I met them at that fund raiser. So, this is one level of relationship and I call that fact. People say that this is a shallow relationship. This is not negative or a critique; it is simply that kind of relationship. What is the emotional risk in that relationship? It&rsquo;s not very high, but I have been in those settings where someone says something about their career. Some such names and descriptions sometimes bring a negative response where the acceptance is low. So the acceptance isn&rsquo;t there; so what does that mean. With that person or people, we are not going to get past that negative point. That can be a cut off and we don&rsquo;t go any deeper.</p>

<h3>B. Head: Saying what you think</h3>

<p>The second level is where we increase venerability and we are saying what we think. I&rsquo;m telling you what I think about something. So you are getting head stuff from people, opinions and some people have rules in regards to what you talk about and what you don&rsquo;t talk about. Why don&rsquo;t you talk about that? For if you do talk about that, it isn&rsquo;t safe. I&rsquo;m not saying that is bad, I&rsquo;m just saying that you should be aware of how it is working. What is the level of the relationship and relationships works within mutuality. When you are in an environment where somebody overshares; there is immediate fear in regards to the level of that environment. What&rsquo;s happening? The person either doesn&rsquo;t know the social norm; they have listened to only part of the presentation and said to themselves what they were going to do and not do. They could be in a huge crisis and leave because they are so overwhelmed. This is not mutuality.</p>

<h3>C. Heart: Speaking about your emotions</h3>

<p>In regards to the third level; that is where I say what is going on with me. That is where the emotional part shows up. In a church community setting and care groups will typical have this happen. How much they go into this level, which may be limits as to its depth. I am not suggesting that you let the deepest part of your feelings all out. You need to know where the levels are. The goal is not to get all your relationships down to the third level. The goal is to know where the levels are at any given situation. Even from a Biblical and especially Jesus&rsquo; life, he had lots of people up in the top part that is the first level. Even his disciples often didn&rsquo;t understand what he was saying. And with those disciples, when the situation became really difficult, he ended up with on three. If we have three people at the intimacy level where we can spill our heart out to; we are very fortunate and I would say that you were very wealthy. So, within the context of this, I mentioned about coming back and dealing with the hurt. What is the level of the relationship and how much can I say even within this level? Now, the idea and business of saying that we need to understand and accept people where they are is kind of oppressing. You can know certain noxious facts about me; for example, I am afraid of water. I do like to go canoeing. This is a fact. I can tell you why I like it; it could be the preparation of it all but actually when I get on the water, something happens to me. All this surpasses by fear of the water; now, I am not very good at it but I do it. What makes you do this is what is going on internally. Where can I really say what happens at that point?</p>

<h2>2. Coming Back and Dealing With the Hurt</h2>

<h3>A. How do you establish an appropriate level of intimacy in a ministry situation?</h3>

<p>So when you are able to say in the correct level, this is what is going on with me. But, how much can you say about what is going on? That can be difficult. Because if it is not safe and you say it, it becomes simply talking and you immediately question, &lsquo;what was the point of that?&rsquo; You were already hurting and you say what&rsquo;s going on and you hurt more. A person from the audience is speaking: sometimes we are pulled into a certain level and I don&rsquo;t think it is a good time or a safe time and place. I don&rsquo;t have a relationship with them at that level but they have invited me into that level and I don&rsquo;t feel comfortable. I don&rsquo;t say anything and they take that out into another setting which is completely out of context and is not where I am. They want my opinion because of the brother/sister in Christ relationship but I find this very difficult to know what to do in such a situation. From my perspective, the intimacy level isn&rsquo;t very deep.</p>

<h3>B. What level of intimacy can I risk and still be accepted?</h3>

<p>People need to have more choices and what that looks like; they are inviting you into this level but you are not sure how to respond. You may be working too hard by trying to figure what this stuff is all about. Ask them to fill you in as to how they want you to respond as compared to thinking about them as adults. You are telling me about this and describing these things, can you let me know what kind of feedback to want. So you don&rsquo;t make the decision and see what they say. For myself, I&rsquo;m not going somewhere unless it is okay with them. One of my friends lost his wife two weeks ago and we had lunch on Tuesday. At the end of our meeting, we discuss what kind of contact and discussion he wanted with me. I care for him, but I don&rsquo;t have a plan for his life and then I don&rsquo;t have to work so hard. He can now choose to focus on what he wants to focus on. If they are inviting things, ask for them to point out what that looks like before you respond. Of, if they ask you to share and what you say, it isn&rsquo;t what they expect, but that is what comes with the territory; you just may not have the answers they seek. You can&rsquo;t take responsibility for everything, if anything. This is the challenging part. In pulling this part together, in terms of risk, what level can I risk and still be accepted and having that awareness advances you down the road somewhat. We work this through piece by piece in our minds and we become aware if we are going deeper or if it isn&rsquo;t going any deeper, perhaps it can&rsquo;t. You ask what kind of conversation we are having here. To know whether they are over sharing or under sharing is fairly critical. So, if you are in a workplace setting, how much do you say? What is appropriate at what emotional level? Is it primarily behavior? If so, I need to find a different place to handle the internal part.</p>