A hurtful situation a while back caused me to see that someone did not feel the same way I did for them. Through the blur of tears, I had a lightbulb moment: this was history repeating itself in my life. “Why was it,” I asked myself and God the following Sunday during worship, “that I have repeatedly assumed someone’s good feelings towards me, even when their actions proved otherwise?”
I’m intelligent, logical, and analytical—a deep thinker, intuitive, and discerning. So, with all this going for me, I was confused. My strengths had not kept me from this unsafe pattern. With tears running down my cheeks, I begged God, “Please show me where this weakness started and help me to root it out?”
I scheduled an earlier-than-usual meeting with my Christian therapist to discuss this. In the following months, we talked through some hard things. I have since been doing the follow-up work outside of therapy, and the Holy Spirit has brought clarity and wisdom explaining why I had fallen into a pattern of believing my thoughts about people instead of believing their actions. It has been sobering, and I’ve come out of it with a more profound sense of discernment.
All of that to say, I now understand Samson, the Old Testament judge. He had so much going for him, too, including his supernatural physical strength. And yet, he couldn’t see Delilah for who she was and what she wanted, even though her actions were unmistakable. Samson believed in himself and his strength and was sure he could get out of trouble.
Samson was Israel’s judge for twenty years, but leading up to the story in Judges 16, we see that he was constantly looking for love. When Delilah peppered him with questions about the source of his strength, he told her lie after lie for an answer. Soon after each lie, his enemy, the Philistines, would come using the same information Samson had provided Delilah to try to bring him down. Finally, Delilah’s need for him to prove he truly loved her broke his resolve, and he trusted her, the wrong person, with his greatest secret. It was the beginning of the end of Samson’s story.
This was not the first time Samson had trusted a woman he shouldn’t have with a great secret. His wedding (Judges 14) had a similar storyline many years earlier. At that time, Samson had concocted a riddle that he intended to use to outsmart the men from his bride’s village and bring some gain to himself.
The men threatened Samson’s wife with death for her and her family, so she tried to get her husband to tell her the answer to the riddle that the men couldn’t guess. Finally, Samson broke down and told her. She passed on the information to the men who had threatened her, leading to quite an unexpected series of violent events.
One might think that Israel’s judge would have been once bitten, twice shy. As a leader of people, he should at least have seen the similarity between Delilah’s pestering for the truth about the source of his strength and his wife’s nagging for the solution to the unsolvable riddle.
It is human to read Samson’s story and think we would never have fallen into such traps. However, if we were less judgmental and more introspective, we might see a similarity between Samson’s faulty placement of trust and our own decisions. I see it in mine. Until the incident the Holy Spirit used to open my eyes to the unsafe pattern in my life I saw my strong attributes as strengths that would keep me from being gullible in any way.
We all have strengths and attributes that can blind us to our susceptibility. How often have we trusted people we shouldn’t, even though the evidence lay right before us?
How often have we repeated the same mistakes thinking that this time the outcome would be different, but it isn’t?
How regularly do we look for love in people and places that are not good for us, but we keep up the search, perhaps because it is all we’ve ever known?
There is a meme that says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Sometimes we don’t believe them because an unrealistic hope blinds us, and we expect it all to turn out in our favor. Unfortunately, we have a hope based not on the reality in front of us but on the unmet needs in our hearts – and so we see a person through the lens of who we want them to be to us instead of who they are.
As Christians, I think sometimes we interpret Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek and to forgive 70 x 7 times to mean that we should let people walk all over us. But something Jesus also said was, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6.
One of the things I admire so much about how Jesus lived is that He was so self-aware. He knew who He was, what His purpose was, and what His long game was. He loved people, but He was not a doormat. Sometimes He didn’t teach or perform miracles in certain places because He read the room and knew His message would not be received there. His compassion was deep, but He also overturned tables in anger.
We, too, can be self-aware. Sometimes, like Samson, it takes a long time to recognize a harmful pattern of behavior in ourselves. But if and when we do, the Holy Spirit is there to help us.
We have this hope: we don’t have to keep going around in the same circles of mistakes, repeating the same stories with increasingly more harmful outcomes. Instead, we can take charge of doing the inner work by allowing the Holy Spirit to examine us and then take the steps that are within our control.
Talk to God about the pattern He’s revealed to you, and seek wise counsel. Speaking to someone about it will require vulnerability as you acknowledge the deeply rooted pattern of behavior that you no longer want in your life. Read the books that can help you. Acknowledge the source of the pattern. Go to Celebrate Recovery if that is what is needed. Above all, allow the Holy Spirit to examine you and supernaturally help you take the steps that will lead to a change in your life.
As we practice loving God and others, may we also show compassion to ourselves. One way to do this is by breaking patterns of self-destructive behavior once we are aware of them. We can do that with the Holy Spirit’s help, assistance from others, and a commitment to the process of doing the hard work to put the destructive pattern in our past.
© Debbie Mendoza, May 2023.