Whether you have chosen one person or a series of people who are bad for you, you can stop doing this to yourself. By understanding some reasons through which we choose bad people, and by living out what God wants for us, we can extricate ourselves or avoid further involvement with people who choose to hurt us. For the purpose of this article, I am referring to a bad person as someone who repeatedly uses or abuses you.
There are a number of reasons we choose people who are harm us, and the dynamics of each relationship are unique. The following are several basic factors, that, as a Christian counselor, I hope will be helpful to you.
We choose bad people when we seek, from human relationships, the love, healing, and completion which only God can give us through Jesus Christ. The depth of His love for us is much more fulfilling than human love. We need to let Jesus love us through the Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through others who love our Lord. The Holy Spirit reveals to us what Jesus tells Him to say (John 16:15
). Reading the Bible not only teaches us how God wants us to live, but also reminds us that God wants what is good for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17
). People who are good for us will strengthen our relationship with the Lord.
We choose bad people because we do not think like a bad person thinks. We do not anticipate the unpredictable, incremental pattern of mistreatment. Someone who loves you will not knowingly, habitually treat you badly. God has given us the evidences that a person who loves you exhibits (1 Corinthians 13:4-7
). The Bible gives us what we need to know about whether people are good or bad for us. Jesus said that you will know whether people are good or bad by their deeds (Luke 6:43-45
). Even when we do not think as a bad person thinks, we have criteria in the Bible for evaluating whether we should choose to be in a personal relationship with a particular person. The presence of good qualities, abilities, or achievements do not erase the presence of those which are not, or the harmful effects of bad deeds.
We choose people who are bad for us when we feel unworthy of being truly loved. The closer we are to Christ, the more awe we have of what He did in giving us eternal life through taking our sins upon Him as he was dying for us before He rose to eternal life. The more we realize how pure He is and how impure we are, the more difficult it can be to understand with our hearts that He loves us not because of what we do or do not do, or any of the qualities we have, but because of Who and how He is. Our worth is God-given, not man-driven. He knows us completely, and yet He loves us completely. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39
). God loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Jesus said so Himself (John 17:23
We may choose people who are bad for us out of guilt for past sins from which we have turned away. Although we no longer do what we did, we see ourselves as stained, and thus undeserving, of people who are good for us. There is a difference between abstaining from those sins and asking God to forgive us for them. Having His forgiveness makes all the difference in who we choose to allow into our lives. God removes our guilt about sins from the past when we confess them to Him (Psalm 32:5
). He replaces guilt from past sins with gratitude for His rescue (Philippians 3:13-14
), and enables us to let go of who and how we were. We cannot let how we acted in the past define us in the present. We cannot let Satan influence us to condemn ourselves. We can let go of who we were, and cling to who we are in Christ, by His mercy, grace, and love. It is impossible to fathom how we could be loved so much that every single sin of the past would be wiped away at the moment we ask God for forgiveness and accept the wondrous, eternal gift He gives us through Jesus Christ. Yet, God indeed loves us so much that He does this for us.
We choose people who are bad for us when we do not seek God and believe He will deliver us from our current sins. Even after we ask for and receive God's forgiveness, we live in conflict between the carnal nature and what God wants for us (Romans 7:14-25
). Rather than asking, trusting, and believing in the Truth of God, we choose what is bad for us rather than what is good for us. The Bible says that whatever the temptation is to sin, God will show us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13
). It is at the moment we are tempted to sin in the present that we need to call on Him to rescue us. Immediate Prayer for strength and wisdom are critical. When we do seek the help of Jesus, His flood of love causes any current sins to be undesirable. He causes us to want for ourselves what He wants for us. Jesus gives us the desire and strength to turn away from sins that bind us to seek or stay in relationships with people who treat us badly.
We also choose people who are bad for us when we allow the early messages, or our perceptions of them, to negatively influence us. Sometimes what significant others have told us or implied to us is that we do not deserve people who are good for us. Even good intentions can be poorly delivered. Our parents and others who were important to us were also imperfect. And then there is the mix of knowing we are not yet all God has planned for us to be. People who were important to us in our early years may not have shown us what love is. They may not have taught us how to discern who is good for us and who is bad for us. Some of us who have chosen people who harm us have no idea that God treasures us and wants us to have loving relationships. He wants to love us through other people who also love Him. We let harmful early messages define us until we choose to call out to Him for His deliverance.
We choose bad people when pleasing people (including ourselves) is more important to us than pleasing God. While we are to live peaceably with each other inasmuch as lies within us, we are not to participate in others' sins by agreeing to what we know is wrong. The Bible says we sin when we do not do what we should (James 4:17
). Participating in sin and not confronting it are inconsistent with living for the glory of God, and both choices actually encourage further mistreatment. God's plan is for us to live to please Him, not ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:15
), and not those who do not honor Him. We will not answer to people at the judgment; we will answer to God when Jesus Christ evaluates our lives (1 Peter 1:17-20
Sometimes we choose bad people with a (perhaps unrealized) selfish motive of feeling good about ourselves. We pick relationships for what we hope we will receive, or for what we hope our love will do to cause them to become what they should be. Especially when we care for a person strongly and are yet treated badly, we try to do what only God can do. What a person should be is a matter only God can produce in his or her heart. We can reflect God's love to others, but God alone can pierce the heart and mind to the degree that a person is willing to change. Just because we do unto others as we would have done unto us does not mean we can persuade bad people to become people who are not hurtful. Even selfless love will not change a person who does not want to be good.
God wants what is best for us. He knows every secret thought, intention, and act. No one can hide these things from Him (Hebrews 4:12-13
). However, people can hide parts of themselves from us. This is one reason we need to depend on the Holy Spirit when deciding whether to choose or continue in a relationship. Jesus tells us what we need to know through the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27
We choose people who reflect what we think of ourselves. If we see ourselves in a way that is not consistent with God's love for us, we are more likely to choose people who are bad for us. We are to live in the love of God and care of Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1
). God wants us to be fully loved and fully live in what He gives us through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:17-19
). When we realize how much our Lord treasures us, we gain the strength to avoid choosing people who are bad for us, and disengage from them to the degree that the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts.
The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8, NLT
Listen to Him.
Copyright 2015 Jan Hughes, M.S., LPC www.profoundpathcounselor.com
Jan Hughes is a Christian Licensed Professional Counsel with a private practice in Tyler, Tx. She specializes in Christian mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational issues.