30 August 2006

Of all the difficult issues we encounter while navigating our way through the oftentimes-rough-terrain of “relationship dynamics”, allowing ourselves to become part of triangle relationships is one of the most common.

A triangle relationship exists when three people begin to act with behavior that for the purposes of this note can roughly be labeled as PERSECUTOR, VICTIM and RESCUER. The magic of triangulated relationships is that as soon as all three people are within hearing distance of the other, it only takes the action of one to bring all three into their separate and specialized roles.

And this dynamic is especially true in the relationships addicts have with the “important people” in their lives – and by “important people” I’m referring to the people whose words and actions (whether they realize it or don’t realize it, admit it or deny it) enable and support the addicts addiction and/or their addictive behavior.

Triangles exist within nearly all relationship structures and they almost always replace clarity with confusion, peace with chaos, unity with division, and building-up with tearing-down. So while triangles might make a “sweet, bell-like sound” when they’re part of a 3rd grade rhythm band … when triangles are part of our relationships, the “sound” they make is usually anything but “sweet.”
  • Parents can have triangles with children … parent 1 + child + parent 2.
  • Spouses can have triangles with in-laws … husband + in-law + wife.
  • Teachers can have triangles with students … parent + teacher-child + student.
  • Friends can have triangles with one another … friend 1 + friend 2 + friend 3.
  • And addicts nearly always have triangles with the non-drug/non-alcohol-using “important people” in their lives … family-friend 1 + addict + family-friend 2.
For the purpose of this note, I’m offering you a common triangle relationship scenario. And while you may not see yourself “exactly” in this case study, I guarantee you that because you’re part of an Intervention Team, and part of an addict’s “important people” short-list, you will learn much about yourself if you’ll read through and think through the case study below with patience and thought.

Here’s who occupies the three corners of the made-up case study triangle relationship …

NAME ...
RELATIONSHIP ... Step-Father

NAME ... Stacy
RELATIONSHIP ... Daughter and Addict

NAME ... Jessica
RELATIONSHIP ... Biological

And here are some of the details of the triangle relationship that exist between Jessica, Stacy and Bill …
  • Since Bill began dating Jessica, he notices a pattern of rude behavior from Stacy to Jessica. Jessica seems to hardly notice how often she is put-down, lied to and marginalized by Stacy’s words and behavior.
  • Bill also notices how Stacy bends all the rules to suit her wants, desires, and addiction needs.
  • Bill decides that once he and Jessica are married and he becomes Stacy’s step-father, that things will change.
And things do change but not as Bill had intended. And by the time they sought out an Intervention for Stacy’s increased drug use, Jessica was being torn apart by her feelings and wanted to divorce both Bill AND Stacy. And yet, interestingly, Bill and Stacy seem to get along with tolerable respect when Jessica isn’t around.

Sound familiar? And I’m not just talking about “does it sound like a recent episode of As The World Turns?” This is what happens in “real life relationships”. So what’s happening in this all-too-common scenario?

When Bill married Jessica, things changed in their home in ways no one had really anticipated. For instance …
  • Stacy can no longer run through the house in her underwear.
  • Bill works a split shift – arriving home at about 2:00 A.M. Because of this, Stacy can no longer use Jessica’s car late at night to sneak out with friends because when Bill comes home he’ll know whether Stacy is at home or out “running around”.
  • When Jessica closes the bedroom door, Stacy can no longer barge in when she wants to talk, ask a question, or when she wants to borrow Jessica’s clothes.
After Jessica’s divorce from Stacy’s father, Stacy had very happily occupied the central role in Jessica’s primary circle of intimacy. But now that Jessica has married Bill, Stacy feels outside Jessica and Bill’s new inner circle of intimacy – leaving her feeling distant and disenfranchised.

And so with this plethora of new-found feelings firmly in tow, Stacy easily moves into one corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of VICTIM, Bill moves into a second corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of PERSECUTOR, and Jessica moves into the final corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of RESCUER.

Now when Stacy says or does something that isn’t in line with the new rules that have been established, Bill corrects her with a firmness that Stacy calls “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Stacy then runs to Jessica with a cry for help and tells her story with some embellishment (you know, “creative American fiction writing”) to frame Bill as the “bad guy”, as the “reason her life is miserable” and as the source of her hurt feelings about no longer being at the center-of-mother's-attention, as the PERSECUTOR.

Now Jessica steps in and saves Stacy by telling her that “everything will be okay, and that Bill is a scoundrel,” but “what can she do because she loves him?” And while this makes Stacy and Jessica feel closer to each other and “on the same team”, it makes Bill feel like his authority has been under-cut and leaves him feeling embarrassed, frustrated, and angry – which of course, Stacy loves because his protesting defense makes him look even more guilty.

And so the triangle relationship cycle is born and continues as Stacy enjoys a false sense of finally being back in Jessica’s inner circle and Bill becomes relegated to a less important role.

Initially Stacy probably doesn’t have any idea how much pressure this triangle relationship puts on Jessica, but eventually her use of this new power becomes a weapon to drive out Bill and restore the old equilibrium of her “pre-Bill” relationship with Jessica.

Under her “pre-Bill” relationship, Jessica was particularly at risk for being manipulated by guilt. Already feeling exceedingly sad for being at least partly responsible for the pain that Stacy experienced through the divorce, Jessica compensates and becomes a target for guilt manipulation. All Stacy has to do is win one argument using this triangle relationship strategy, and she will use it for years and years … trying to win again and again. This is not unlike a person winning at gambling once and then finding it hard to stop gambling.

So what are some the detrimental results when addicts are in the role of the VICTIM?
  1. They develop a skill at manipulation – in fact, it can become a fine art.
  2. They develop a habit of drawing in other people who seem to have power in a relationship to solve their problems for them and will do the same on the job, OR in a marriage.
  3. They fail to develop the interpersonal skills needed to facilitate one-on-one negotiation and/or conflict resolution.
  4. They develop a victim mentality – and this mentality becomes the lens they use to look at all of life through. Once this fear is set in place, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps producing more "evidence" that the “important people” in their life are only there to abuse them and take advantage of them.
  5. They reduce optional responses to conflict to one of two choices … persecute or be persecuted … justifying their responses and the addictive cycles they kick-start by saying to themselves, "It's them or me. So I’ll just do unto others before they do unto me."
  6. They teach triangle relationships in the next generation by modeling it well, and by passing on another string of broken relationships.
  7. They seek counseling from a therapist, pastor, priest, rabbi or friend, and tell their story in such a way that whoever is in this “counselor” role feels like affirming all the bad feelings of the VICTIM or rescuing the poor VICTIM – often doing for the person the very things they should be doing for themselves.
What are some the detrimental results when the “important people” in the life of addicts are in the role of the PERSECUTOR?
  1. They easily get into a vicious circle of defending themselves – allowing their emotional exhibitions (which usually arise out of their frustrations and sense of failure) to confirm all the false accusations made against them.
  2. They begin to view others in their triangle relationships as "the problem" and end up making “power moves” – trying to change them or remove them through manipulation.
  3. They often fall into an "all or nothing" way of communicating, leading, or tending to others (i.e. offering ultimatums like “If you do that one more time I’ll call the police!” but then not following through), and at the same time they easily feel under-empowered within their own sphere of influence.
What are some the detrimental results when the “important people” in the life of addicts are in the role of the RESCUER?
  1. They feel besieged by all sides.
  2. They don’t feel intimate, honest or trusted with any side.
  3. They fail to see the one really helpful role/s … which is the role/s they can play as coach, teacher, mentor or friend.
The best way to move out of the ruts and traps of triangle relationships is to find your center, or place-of-peace in relationships through meditation, prayer or fasting. For out of learning to live into this place-of-peace will come a clarity, a discernment and a poise that will help you stop assuming either roles of PERSECUTOR and/or RESCUER.

Healthy people aren’t frightened by the exploration of new ways to “do relationships”. Of course, the “one size fits all” idea is as mythical in the relationship realm as it is in the clothing market. So will all the ideas I’ve shared with you in this email be “a fit” for you and the road you are walking? Of course not. But some of them will. And so I invite you to try them on.

Let me close this note with an insightful piece by Portia Nelson entitled, An Autobiography in Five Short Paragraphs

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes
forever to find a way out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. I fall in. I can't believe I'm in the
same place, but it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to
get out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. I still fall in. It's a habit. My eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down a different street.

God bless you as you continue on the journey of learning to walk down different streets. Godspeed.



16 August 2006

To fill a personal blog with the writing of other people is kind of like inviting people over for dinner and then ordering take-out. It works, but it's kind of weird. I mean, why not just meet at the restaurant? But by the time a person hits the 48th year of their life, chances are pretty good that they've run across pieces of writing that mean a lot to them.

Pieces that have offered wisdom in a crisis, a kick in the butt during a funk, or spoken with elegant grace during a chapter marked more by discouragement than discernment. God has used the following piece to do all that and more since I ran across it about ten years ago now.

I have come back to it often during the past decade, and I've read it over and over during this past year of prayer, assessment, doubt, honesty-seeking, and waiting. And so today I pass it onto you.

This "back-door" article was written by Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialities and a magazine originally called The Wittenburg Door and now just called The Door. After Mike's words speak to you, then I'd encourage you to read more about him at www.wittenburgdoor.com/archies/yaconelli/htm ... or pick up one or the other or both of my two favorite books by him, Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality.

Proving once again that truth ages well, I believe that Yac's words really connect with "who I am," "how I think," and "what I wrestle with" as a man, a husband, a father, and as the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR.

"Reader's Digest" Selves
by Mike Yaconelli
1996, The Door (formerly The Wittenburg Door)

"When people look at us, what do they see? Not us. We are all secrets to ourselves. Mysteries to each other. "We are all perceptions," said William James – conclusions based on partial knowledge, reflections, pieces, impressions, opinions, but not ourselves.

The me who is reflected in this column is not me. The you who is reflected in your response to this column is not you. We are all edited selves – "Reader's Digest" versions of our real selves.

These huge gaps in our knowing one another allow us to form opinions, which are always incomplete, and always inaccurate. These fabrications of our selves became the matrix of our relationships with others that leave only impressions of our real selves, and paralyze our ability to fully know each other. And by the time we weave our way through the tangle of others' misconceptions, we are so exhausted that we surrender to the self others think we are – which is, of course, the self we are not.

We are a mystery to ourselves, but we are not lost in the dark. We know where to look to unravel this mystery, except for the great obstacle – pain. Because the pain of knowing who we are is so great, we spend a lifetime running from ourselves. We have become experts in dodging, avoiding, hiding, pretending, covering, running, protecting, eluding, escaping, averting, evading the real us. The "Great Escape" from ourselves is the way most of us have chosen to live our lives, Christian or not, because it is the way of less pain.

That is why the "Good News" of the Gospel is so painful. Jesus wants to do much more than forgive our sins; He wants to capture our real self – and for us to face who we are. For not only is our real self … full of sin, flaws and brokenness – but it is also full of hope.

To see who we are meant to be, who we are capable of being if we will stop running and start looking, is what conversion is all about. Knowing ourselves is not a warm fuzzy; it is a frightening encounter with the tension of ourselves – who we are and who we are meant to be.

When we are truly "by ourselves" and "with our self" – we begin to see what we have kept out of sight … what we have worked so hard to hide. We see our hopes and our fears. We see the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. We see the unedited, the unretouched, the unfixed – the "genuine self." And when we have seen our "genuine self", when we have really seen ourselves, that we then begin to see Jesus Christ for who He really is – our Savior.

The daily battleground of our lives and the struggle of our faith, is the facing of self and the knowing of self that results in surrender of our self to Jesus. Surrender is not a mindless recognition of the truth, a wrestling of our will with His, or a humiliating admission of reality. Instead, surrender is embracing the truth of ourselves which allows us to find help and hope in the person of Jesus Christ.

Surrender is the battle of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 when he said that "many of the things he didn't want to do he kept finding himself doing, and the very things he wanted to do, he never seemed to pull off." And surrender is the battle of Mike Yaconelli each and every day. Am I willing, each day, to come face-to-face with a self who wants to keep playing hide-and-seek, acknowledge my reluctance to admit who my hiding self is, and bring that shy, rebellious self into the light of Jesus, who patiently shows me the self I was meant to be?

Do you see battles in the Church today? Ultimately, it is not abortion, it is not pornography, and it is not homosexuality. It is reality. It is honesty.

We are afraid to be ourselves, to let ourselves be known, to come out of hiding. What the world is longing to see in the Church is not moral purity, as much as moral reality. The world wants [and needs] to see a Church that is made up of people who are not afraid of their blemishes, because they believe that their blemishes only point to the unblemished character of Jesus Christ.

What we don't understand is that when people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus Christ who are real, they can then begin to see a Jesus who is real. The Church does not need to fabricate holiness. It needs to seek holiness. And holiness is not so much a place where we arrive, as it is a place to where we are going.

The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for them. The Church points to Christ – not to us."

The Yac has spoken.



15 August 2006


Besides being the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR, I also do some writing for the AfterCare work of Intervention Specialists, based out of Manhattan, NY. Today and for the next few postings I will be sharing some edited versions of these writings in my blog ... with the prayer that God can use them to move the readers who connect with them toward greater healing and restoration.

From the time we're little kids we start learning that trust has to be built. And as we follow the unwritten rules of our families, and honor the sometimes-fuzzy-boundaries of our relationships, day-by-day, through our one-at-a-time choices, trust is “banked” into the different trust accounts of our lives.

And just like the balances of actual savings accounts, our trust account balances increase and decrease based on the deposits and withdrawals made by the various people we're in relationships with.
  • When people keep their word, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people lie to us, a trust withdrawal is made.
  • When people use words to build us up, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people use their words to wound or manipulate us, a trust withdrawal is made.
  • When people honor confidences, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people take us for granted, a trust withdrawal is made.
Healthy people check the trust account balances of the significant relationships in their lives during the significant chapters of their lives because keeping a finger on the pulse of relationships, and caring about and tending to that which is “important” is normal, sane behavior.

But when brokenness leads us to be driven by pain instead of by conscience or reason, we easily become unaware of how overdrawn our trust accounts with have become.

When this reality is brought to our attention, it's one thing to admit what's going on and become aware of these trust account deficits ... and yet doing the next-step-work of fighting through the anger and betrayal, and the deceit and hurt of our lives and through surrender make the conscious choice to stay in the light of truth ... that's a whole 'nother story all together. And yet as these steps are taken, we graciously move toward having the pieces of our lives put back together again.

Think with me for a minute back to the story The Wizard Of Oz. After the flying monkeys attack the Scarecrow, Dorothy finds him all torn apart and asks him in a panic, "Oh, my Mr. Scarecrow, what in the world happened to you?!"

And the Scarecrow, desperate but not without hope replies while pointing to big clumps of straw scattered out in every direction in front of him, "Oh Dorothy, part of me is over there, and part of me is over there, and part of me is over there." And what does Dorothy do? She lovingly gathers up the straw and begins stuffing it back into her friend.

God's love for us is both compassionate and honest -- and it reveals to us how brokenness has torn our lives apart. And “gathering up the pieces of our lives" while speaking to us words measured equally with grace and truth, God's equipping and encouragement helps us begin taking steps into wholeness.

Learning to keep our trust account balances high, visible, and dependable is key to you and I being "put back together". And not allowing others to make more "trust withdrawls" than "trust deposits" is a good way to learn to live.

Sometimes when we begin making and maintaining these new boundaries for our lives, people who've become used to making frequent and hefty "trust withdrawls" from us freak out. If they want to follow our lead and learn new ways of living
there's often a desire on the part part to make quick amends, and swiftly rebuild bridges. New promises are made. New oaths are sworn. New behavior is guaranteed. But you will know if these new goals are sincere as you begin to see [both in your life and in their's] …
  • Consistency in behavior ... and
  • Accountable for choices.
Consistency shows that what is changing are not just habits or will power -- but that what is changing is the heart, the mind and the soul. For consistency will bring to the surface the real us, the us that's been covered up, squashed down, and almost annihilated by our brokenness.

Consistency means “actions that are visible over a lengthy period of time”. And the greatest re-builder of the deficit in our trust accounts in the days, weeks, months and years ahead will be consistency. And the right hand of "consistency" is "accountability", for without it, "consistency" is nothing more than will-power on steriods.

Becoming accountable for one's choices isn't just a part of sane behavior; it's part of adult behavior. Accountability means, “Honestly owning our own stuff … the good, the bad and the ugly. It's the surrender of deceit so that the beauty and freedom of truth-speaking can begin to grow.”
And with increased consistency usually comes a willingness to embrace increased accountability.

Is it hard to move from brokenness to wholeness ... to see trust, consistency and accountability become, not peripheral realities in our lives, but core realities? Sure it is. Of course it will take time. But as we begin seeing the choices in our lives and in those close to us reflect a desire to become consistent, and a willingness to be accountable, the trust accounts of our lives will begin to have more deposits given than withdrawals taken. And of course, that will be a very, very good thing.

Let me close this note with the words of JRR Tolkien's Gandalf The Grey from his famed book The Lord Of The Rings

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.




05 August 2006

"But you need to stick it out, staying with
God's plan so you'll be there for the promised
completion." (

It's really easy for the destination to become more important than the journey.

In The Old Testament a priest named Samuel anointed David to become the next King of Israel – but it took ten years for what God had planned and announced to come to pass. If the destination was all that was important, then those ten years could easily be labeled as "wasted."

But God doesn't waste anything, and so in His economy those ten years were full of redemption, change, transformation and healing – and through them He proved to David, to the nation of Israel, and to you and me that the journey is nearly always more important than the destination.

For even though that decade was no bed of roses for David and his companions, in the end, David became the exact kind of King God wanted and needed for His people – a man described by Samuel in FIRST SAMUEL 13:14 as "a man after God's own heart."

In other words with all of David's ups-and-downs, and with all of David's flagrant sinning and rambunctious holiness, he raised the "with-God" bar for all the kings to follow – so much so in fact, that for the next 400 years every Jewish King was described in his epitaph as either "following after the way of David" or "not following after the way of David."

Or look at another chap from The Old Testament. On the outside, Elisha earned his living as a farmer, but on the inside he was an on-purpose follower of God. So when God needed to let the prophet Elijah retire, He scoped out potential replacements and cast Elisha. And while God's calling came one day while Elisha was out in the field plowing, like the journey David took, it was about ten years before Elisha wrapped up his full-time internship with Elijah and got the complete promotion.

All this to say, that God is looking for people who aren't afraid of the journey – because they know in their hears that it's in the journey where we cultivate patience, discover purpose, and begin to live into commitment.

God wants to shape the character of His Son Jesus Christ into each one of us. But for us to arrive at that destination, we must learn to value the journey.

I don't know what destinations God is preparing for me down the road, but I'm grateful and excited about taking the journey – and along the way discovering the beauty, the power and the perspective that The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described when he said that as we "wait for God, we will gain new strength; mounting up with eagle-like wings, running and not becoming tired, walking and not growing weary." (ISAIAH 40:31). Godspeed.


Gregg Lamm