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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Discordant Harmony”

In this rather interesting episode, Discord finds himself questioning if his normal chaotic behavior and demeanor might actually be putting Fluttershy off. To that end, when he invites Fluttershy to his house for tea, he makes an effort to make both himself and his surroundings as “normal” as possible to more suit what he presumes is her tastes. Only after he goes to excessive efforts to make himself totally average does he learn that Fluttershy, far from merely accepting him out of being a gracious and kind-hearted spirit, actually likes his chaotic and boisterous nature as it’s the opposite of everything she is–namely reserved and quiet.

There are many “common sense” maxims out there, and ironically many of them are untrue. One of the more popular ones is “opposites attract”. The truth is people are more usually drawn to others who are like themselves rather than the opposite of their nature. However, as this episode illustrated in a kinder and less severe nature than reality, people do tend to gravitate toward those who are a “match” for themselves and their own natures, and that’s not always a good thing.

This is seen all the time in relationships. One can probably guess that if someone is an addict, they will gravitate toward people who are, by their nature, enablers: individuals who mistake a need to constantly save people from their own self-destructive behaviors as compassion and kindness. They pair with them because they will allow their addiction to persist. Enablers, on the other hand, could be attracted to addicts due to a past where they were forced to watch someone they cared about be victimized and been unable to do anything about it, so that now they have to “save” others to make up for that. Likewise, relationships that are abusive often involve an element of low self-esteem on the part of the victim, where they submit to their tormentors out of feeling they “deserve” their torment, as well as the offender; where they don’t feel personal value unless they can “dominate” another individual.

Yet this sort of thing can happen, and does happen, in far less severe yet unhappy relationships. I know a certain individual who always “knows” the best way to do everything and sharply criticizes anyone who does things a different way. The reason is he’s insecure about himself and fearful of personal failure, so to make himself feel good about himself he has to constantly put down others and point out what’s wrong with what they’re doing. He’s unhappily married to a woman who is rather idle and shows little initiative or motivation for anything. It frustrates him to no end, and it has ever since their marriage. He’s quick (naturally) to blame her for everything that’s wrong in their relationship, but what he’s not realizing is the reason he married her in the first place was because she was an individual who has such an apathetic nature that she would just “take the abuse” no matter what, whereas anyone else would have never made that commitment or stood up for themselves. Both have a problem, and they ended up attracted to each other to make it worse.

Usually it’s not just one side to blame for relationship problems. It’s more often a situation of two unhealthy people projecting their symptoms onto each other and making each other more unhealthy. Quite simply…if we are sick, in the mental or emotional sense, and are not actively acknowledging and trying to correct it, we will be attracted to people who “feed our sickness”.

One of the key parts of Jesus’ ministry and His focal point for why He so easily came to the aid of sinners while the self-righteous received a stern condemnation was because the former group acknowledged their flaws and sought to repent and the latter group did not. He illustrated this in the following parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

And elsewhere:

“Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”” (John 9:40-41)

Instruction like this isn’t just to humble ourselves before God. We’re all “broken”, no matter which way you look at it. Everyone has some flaw. Yet only those who acknowledge them and seek help can correct them, and that’s important not only for miracle-working as Jesus did, but our own health and well being. Only to the degree that we are honest with ourselves can we be honest with other people. And so long as we go around not seeing what our own pasts or faults are and how they could be impacting us, we’ll continue to make bad choices based on our slanted world view–not only with who we form relationships with but with everything else.

If you want to be in a good relationship, start by becoming the sort of person you would like as a partner…not just “acting” like the sort of person you would like as a partner. For some of us, that might involve working a lot more on ourselves than on finding someone else, but the good news is to the degree that we ourselves are healthy and mature, so naturally will be the quality of our relationships–not only with others but also with God.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your instruction regarding personal honesty, and your assurance that it is our true selves that you wish to hear from rather than us attempting to cover up for our faults or sins. Please grant that I will always have the courage and responsibility to examine myself from time to time and see what kind of person I am showing to the world and what I may be unknowingly attracting or gravitating to, and help me always to remember that I can’t change other people but I can always change myself and how I respond to them. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”