Spiritual Memoir and Understanding

Healthy Relationships

Age Thirty thru Age Thirty-Nine:

Consider the role of understanding healthy relationships in your spiritual autobiography or spiritual memoir. This page can help you explore these healthy relationships inside your spiritual journal and fit them into your spiritual autobiography. Relationships, good and bad, have a place in our spiritual story.

Iris Flower

I look back on my relationships and consider which ones have had an impact on my spiritual autobiography. It's not always the good relationships that shape my story. When I lived in New York I belonged to a play group with my daughter Emily. This experience with relationships was not a good one. I joined the play group so Emily would have a chance to play with other kids, and I could have some adult conversation. One of the playgroup moms had lost a parent just before I moved away from New York to Michigan in 1999. I don’t think I was as sensitive toward her loss as I should have been. I should have reached out more, but I was self-absorbed. I think my self-centeredness gave the playgroup moms an impetus to push me out of their group. There was good evidence that I wasn’t really wanted. After helping throw baby showers for a few of the moms, I got skipped over when I was pregnant with A.J. No shower was given for me. In the last weeks before we moved, I didn’t find out about events unless I picked up the phone to ask about them. I had been removed from the call list. I remember driving home from the very last play date I attended. It had become painfully clear that I wasn’t welcome. People turned their backs on me as I tried to initiate conversation. I heard two of the moms talk about me behind my back. The way they acted made me cry. It hurt a lot to be pushed away by so many people at the same time. 

If I had been nicer to the playgroup moms things might have been different in the end. Still, I think they carried pushing me away a little too far. I was moving away anyway. It wouldn’t have hurt them to stick with the basic social niceties for the few weeks I had left before we moved away. I know one of the moms was pretty depressed and another one was afraid of a lot of things. For sure, I knew it hurt to lose a parent so it wasn’t surprising that a grieving mom might lash out. If I were them I might backstab me too. I think I understand why they disliked me but it still hurts. This is a memory I'd rather not keep.

If I was less codependent I would have realized that it was time to find a new group of friends a lot sooner. I really didn't do anything to deserve the extent of this rejection. Still it's my fault that I chose to stick around. It's my fault that I now have these memories. In a sense I allowed them (the memories) to become: to exist. And, these are memories that will always be with me. Now all I can do to control them is to make peace with them and accept them. Today, these bad memories have power over me to the extent that I allow them to. I can choose not to be codependent. I can allow people to have their own feelings without letting their feelings reach inside of me and hurt me. I can accept that I am powerless over how others feel. I'm a thirty-something year old woman: I can grow up and exercise the power that I do have over my own feelings. My bad memories can become an opportunity for identifying codependency and becoming less codependent. Less codependent means less dependent on what others think about me. Less codependent means more dependent on God's truth about who I am in Him. Less codependent means more freedom from the challenges and difficulties of bad relationships. Less codependent means peace for me.

Which of your memories are more powerful: the pleasant ones or the unpleasant ones? What kinds of emotions do these memories bring with them? Can you keep, or discard these memories? What about memories that are attached to bad relationships? Even if you didn't do something to cause a bad memory is it any less painful? Consider identifying codependency in your own relationships. In what ways are you influenced by the feelings and expectations of others? How do your relationships, and your attitudes about them, fit within your spiritual autobiography?

Sharing My Journey 

My understanding of relationships:

I put some more paintings on the walls of our new home. They’re new paintings of my childhood home. They reconnect me with the good things I have left behind. I try to paint every space I can remember. I paint the nooks and crannies, corners and special places that could be forgotten one day if I don’t paint them. I paint a beautiful bunch of wild flowers that I picked for my mom from the backyard. I put them in a familiar vase that’s next to a familiar table which is on a familiar rug. It’s all the details and nuances that make meaning for me. I call forward the goodness of the past. I want to go back and there’s a way I can. I paint.

I can hold on to some of the pieces of my past. I can remember the people and places that shaped me. I can remember the moments that grew me and formed me. I can invite people into my life with sensitivity and enjoy them in ways that stay with me. I can reach out and remember how good it felt to move beyond myself. I can recall the people who haven’t pushed me away and have always made me feel welcome. I do my best to remember all of these things so the past doesn’t slip away. I paint so I won’t forget.

Vase of Flowers

I Can Go Back
Age 32 


Sharing Your Journey

Your understanding of relationships:

Do you feel responsible for the ways others have treated you? Is it hard for you to see that it’s not your job to take on the needs and feelings of others? Are you confused by the difference between helping others and enabling them? Taking responsibility for the wants and needs of others can be a sign of codependency in relationships.

Explore the nature of your relationships. Make a list of a few people that have both blessed you and brought you pain. List a few of the ups and downs of each of these “mixed bag” relationships.

Accepting the challenges and difficulties of relationships (without taking responsibility for the feelings of others and without trying to fix/change them) is the sign of healthy non-codependent relationships. Ask God to show you how He is at work in both the ups and the downs of connecting with others. Ask Him to help you find peace with people even when the friendship they offer you is a “mixed bag.” List five things you are learning about God and your relationships inside your journal.

How is "what you have learned" a part of your spiritual story? Is there a place for "what you have learned" about relationships within your spiritual autobiography? Are relationships a theme that fits inside your spiritual memoir?

Testimonies: The Power of Inspirational Christian Stories was formerly titled Dancing in the Doghouse. This spiritual autobiography has been renamed and redesigned to better reach its audience.


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Latest Work!

Fancy Chair,
Age 47

For the longest time, I couldn't look at my art and be satisfied. Most of the people around me like my work from 20 years ago better than they like what I make today. That's because I stuck to the rules back then. I believe these people don't understand the artistic maturity behind how I made this painting work. You try using all these elements (lace, paper, glitter, oil pastels, found objects, ink and acrylics) together and see what you can make. Chances are, you will have Macaroni Art. There's no shame in that: you have to start somewhere. But, you are remiss if you think that's what you see here. It took me a long time to get here and I'm done being ashamed.

Past Work! 

Flying Angel
Age 39 

I've known some people who taught me about redemption. They weren't perfect people, but they had a great capacity to love others despite their imperfections. They didn't define me, or others, by their lowest moments. They were a taste of God.

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