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Relational Sabotage and Self-fulfilling Prophecies

So what does it mean to sabotage a relationship? Sabots were a type of wooden shoe worn by peasants in Europe. The word sabotage comes from intentional destruction that was done to machines owned by their employers during labor disputes. They would kick the machines with their wooden shoes to cause damage to them in order to hinder their employer’s success. Some probably held up their feet with wooden sabots on them and said, “Ok Gentlemen. Let’s go sabotage those machines.”

People who sabotage relationships are those who intentionally, but perhaps somewhat subconsciously, manufacture traps in their relationships that people can fall into without knowing. And even though they want and need the relationship, their subconscious intention is to destroy the relationship by setting this trap for the other person to fall into. Then they can blame the other person for the destruction. It is classic relational sabotage.

Proverbs 11:30 tells us “wise people make friends.” And if that is true, wise people also don’t do things that will sabotage relationships. It’s a pretty simple idea. Since wise people make friends, anyone who would sabotage relationships would not be wise.

Have you ever had a relationship go south and you started to feel that everything they do and say is wrong? At that point, they could say something as unassuming as, “Hi, how are you?” And you’re thinking…”Why did they say that? Sure they care. I know what they are trying to do. They are really trying to say that they don’t care about me at all.”

It is strange what our minds will do. But it is the way we are. In our minds we have set a kind of trap for the other person where they can’t do anything right. However, where relational sabotage is concerned, that is the tip of the iceberg. There are other ways that we sabotage relationships. And it usually starts with an insecurity of some kind.

Some years ago we were leading a team of people and a person on the team had been going through some family crises and was feeling vulnerable emotionally. One day this person presented an idea at a meeting. When she did, someone laughed at something unrelated and someone else chuckled because the person knew the private joke. However, this lady thought everyone was laughing at her idea. So from that point on her mind was positioned to interpret every team member’s response to her from that perspective.

For the next three meetings she interpreted everything that was said from the angle that the people on the team thought she and her ideas were a joke. She had set a trap and everyone on the team was falling into it. Finally, at the end of the third meeting she pulled me aside and exploded with all her evidence and the settled conclusion that we thought her and her opinions were stupid. And she wouldn’t hear any other explanation. We were shocked and saddened.

Have you ever heard of self-fulfilling prophecies? That is another term for sabotage. Because of the turmoil in her life and resulting insecurities, she sabotaged her relationship with the team and us as her pastors, such that we could do no right.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are very real. A man may hope for a promotion. But his insecurities start getting involved. He assumes the boss doesn’t like him so the man starts acting differently in response to what he believes are intentional treatments. And he starts criticizing the boss and complaining about his job because of these perceptions. It gets back to the boss who, before all this was planning on giving the promotion to this man. But now the boss doesn’t feel good about giving it to him. So when someone else gets the promotion the man says, “See, I told you he didn’t like me.” It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that sabotaged the promotion and the relationship.

And we will do the same thing in our relationships with the people we know. We will allow our insecurities or our fears to cause us to assume things that change our behaviors, our attitudes and our body language. And it will eventually result in a sabotaged relationship and self-fulfilled prophecies.

Honestly, it is dark and it is scary. But we do it all the time. It is why we need Jesus, His love, His healing touch, and His Spirit to guide us into all truth about Him and who He is, and about us and who we are.

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” It is no coincidence that this verse says wisdom increases in our lives as we grow in our relationship with God, while the proverb we’ve been addressing says it also takes wisdom to make friends. Jesus put these ideas together as well saying, “There are only two commandments; love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It is just another way of saying loving God and having friends go hand in hand, and both reflect wisdom. The result will be a fuller, richer, wiser life.

Are you sabotaging any of your relationships?

So how does one sabotage-proof his or her relationships?

1. Become convinced of the value of relationships.

2. Develop an understanding of ourselves by getting to know Jesus better; through prayer, Bible reading and feedback from relationships we now have.

3. Identify from this growing understanding, patterns of insecurities in our lives that we allow to set traps in our relational interactions.

4. Refuse to allow those insecurities to influence our interactions with people with whom we desire or need to have enriching relationships with.

Love, pure love. It’s simple – but we have to work at it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this - I'd love to hear from you!

Pastor Chris


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