From several talks with young adults who have ended dating relationships, I noticed that most of them (especially women) keep tabs with the ex’s progress by occasionally stalking their social media. When I ask them what’s the motive, the answer is often something that sounds like this, “I don’t want to see them happy because that will make me feel sad.”
The stalker can’t imagine their ex progressing in life, that would crush them. They secretly hope that life is tough for their ex so that they can all suffer together. If the ex gets married before the stalker, then the latter is crushed, at times to the point of even being depressed. One girl told me, “How can God allow them to be happy while I am suffering? It’s not fair!”
And the stories can be mild such as one who laughed quietly to themselves when they heard their ex fell into some mud on their way to a job interview. Or they can be horrible such as one who believes that their ex was knocked by a motorcycle because karma was getting back to them for cheating.
However, some confess that they do not wish their ex any harm. “But why then are you constantly checking their Facebook and Instagram?” I ask. Some lie through their teeth. “I want to know how to pray for them,” they say while doubting their very words. Some confess truthfully, “I really don’t know.” But the heart is revealed when they hear that the ex is making strides in life. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. The worst is if the ex is getting married.
To this behaviour of keeping tabs with the ex, I will say a few things that I share with those I minister to.
1. YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY THROUGH SOMEONE ELSE’S MISERY
Our pain deceives us to think that we are suffering because someone somewhere is enjoying life. That is not true. If we have pain, it is because we have a heart; and that heart is ours. The pain is not exterior; it is within us. Don’t waste time trying to deal with interior pain using exterior means. The right way to deal with pain is to address your heart.
2. VENGEANCE ISN’T JUSTICE
Some people confess to being tempted to walk up to their ex’s house and doing something nasty to pay back for all the pain. You must know that the true need for your heart is justice. Pain deceives us to believe that what we need is vengeance. Those are two different things. Justice makes wrongs right. Vengeance makes wrongs even. And what ends up with a pursuit of revenge is that your heart is still broken.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA ISN’T ALWAYS REAL
I have counselled couples who in the past 24 hours have posted photos with hashtags that would make Cinderella and Prince Charming jealous; the very next day the same couples tell me they are tired and want to end the relationship because they’ve not been happy for the past two years. When I confront them on their social media, they respond as if to state that showing everyone they are happy (even when they are not) has become like a routine practice of hypocrisy. They want to show everyone they are fine while they are dying on the inside. Our generation of filters is by far one of the most inauthentic generations. Getting upset over someone’s progress as seen on their social media feed could be a real waste of time when this person could actually be sad, depressed and even suicidal in real life.
4. YOU MUST GRIEVE
The loss of a relationship is a loss. Duh! Losses must be grieved. The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, disillusionment and acceptance. Acceptance is where we all desire to arrive, but it takes battling with pain to do so. How you grieve is more important than grieving, period. You must have the right company to process your pain. Company that encourages you to plot vengeance is company that will exacerbate your pain. Company that encourages you to use drugs and alcohol to numb yourself and feel good is also company that will exacerbate your pain. Company that encourages you to start a new relationship to forget the past is also company that will exacerbate your pain. Rebound relationships are unhealthy and only prevent you from addressing your heart. You are a physical, psychological, emotional, volitional and spiritual human being. If you neglect these realities, your grieving won’t be done well. Company that helps these realities face the pain and get the antidotes of forgiveness and acceptance is what you need.
5. YOU MUST ADMIT YOUR PAIN
You’re bitter. At times you need to hear it to believe it. The fact that you get angry when you hear it proves it, at the very least. Conduct a self-audit of what exactly pushes you to your ex’s social media. And once you find it, admit it. Get rid of your dignity and self-importance that refuses to admit your heart is hurt.
6. YOU MUST MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE TRUTH
There is a reason I have concluded with this. The sooner you are in touch with the truth, the sooner you will recover. This is the truth; pain can reveal our deepest desires. It can reveal why we are so crushed. When we are debilitated on account of loss, it often reveals that the thing we lost was tied to our identity. Our identity is how we define ourselves as people of worth, success and significance. When pain overwhelms us and brings us defeated to our knees, it is a sign that we had pegged a lot of our identity on the thing we lost. We perhaps had put a lot of our sense of significance and worth on this person.
That’s why your friend suffered depression when they lost their job but moved on when they lost their boyfriend/girlfriend. And for you on the other hand, you moved on when you lost your job but were destroyed after the break-up. What is going on here? Your friend has their job as an idol; their job is their metric of success, worth and significance. And for you, you had your ex as your idol; they were your metric of success, worth and significance in this life. This is part of the truth you must make friends with.
The truth, Beloved, is that anything on this planet will fail you. If you seek a non-permanent thing to define your identity, be sure that future pain, worry, doubt and anxiety will always take the firmness and strength of that entity. You will suffer crushing defeats and the things you look to in this world will not sustain you. The truth that you need to befriend is simple; hook your identity on something permanent; something that can never fail and that can never be taken from you. Peg your identity on something permanent and constant to give you success, worth and significance that can never die. One reason we fall into depression is because our idols die. Get an “idol” that will never die. And that truth is the Gospel.
Make friends with the truth. Make friends with the Gospel. The Gospel affirms that your success is guaranteed a reward both now and after you die because Jesus lived a successfully sinless life for you. The Gospel affirms that your worth is guaranteed because Jesus died for your sins and gave you his righteous record. In the eyes of God you are now worth a perfect and sinless life because of the Truth, Jesus. The Gospel affirms that your significance is guaranteed because Jesus takes you into his Kingdom and presents us as his younger siblings; He is the first-born among many and he has given you his privileged status.
The truth is a person, Beloved. A person that laid down their life for your sins and gives you a free gift of eternal life. A person who you have hurt over and over on account of your sin yet he chooses to cancel your debt and grant you forgiveness by paying for that debt with his own life. Christ never fails. Christ has never failed. Christ is the sure worth, success and significance for your identity that can never be taken away from you. In him, you will experience the pain in this world but you will never be crushed by it. See a man dying on a cross for his enemies and see one who understands pain in its most raw form. He understands yours. Don’t Facebook your pain; face Him- the Healer.