Foxes in the Troth

Foxes In the Troth

How old is a volcano? The first question should be asked is "Are you judging from when it started underground or when it was seen above ground?"

The same question could be asked about broken relationships "Did it begin to fall apart during the times of tension but nothing was said, or when the fights began to start?"

In America one thing that we all cherish is our rights. Our constitution gives us rights that few others have in all world. We have the right to free speech, the right to own property, the right to move about, and the right to seek compensation when an injustice is done (i.e. the right to sue.)

It is a great freedom, but as everyone sees the right to sue has been abused, greatly abused. Lawyers and many people look for reasons to sue and juries want to give them compensation. The mindset is that "I have rights and it is the other person's fault, so they must pay." When companies are giving outrageous penalties (example - In Alabama $3 million was awarded to a plaintiff for an insurance company not paying a $2500 claim,) it not only hurts the company but has lasting effects on the employees and the general public (insurance rates go up or the insurance company no longer offers coverage in Alabama.) Many suffer for the "rights" of one.

The reason many people sue is that they are not willing to forgive or work something out that is reasonable.(I am not condemning all cases, just judging the unreasonable.) The offended have the attitude of revenge, not restitution. Revenge is a sure way to destroy a relationship.

According to a marital counselor I recently heard, forgiveness (or the lack thereof) is the #1 issue in marriages today. It is not poor communication, finances, sexual tension or a host of other issues. It is forgiveness. I will venture to say, that the issue of forgiveness is the root issue in most broken relationships, whether marital, work or just a friend.

How to avoid building a volcano

In the book of Song of Solomon, the writer advises the couple to beware the foxes in the troth, (troth means faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty). Another translation says "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." (Song of Solomon 2:15) The foxes are the little things that annoy you and you let them build. You don't forgive these little grievances but store them away to be used as a weapon or a tool for manipulation in the future. Foxes can ruin a relationship, that is the vineyard of your marriage or friendship.

When foxes are left to roam freely, they grow and destroy the vineyard. They destroy not only the vineyard, but all future growth as well (i.e. others surrounding the relationship - kids, friends, co-workers.)

Harboring these little grievances is based upon the idea that "I have rights and my rights must be protected." That is the American way. In reality, our founding fathers had to give up a multitude of personal rights to come together to list the few rights that we ALL have. Our constitution focuses on the country as a whole (i.e. the relationships) versus just the individual. Unfortunately, our pride and ego don't want to view things from a group or relationship perspective, just our own perspective.

How to stop the volcano from growing

Forgiveness is to grant a pardon or to cease to feel resentment of another. Another definition I heard was one that can be applied but it is the most difficult.

Forgiveness - returning kindness for an injury whereas vengeance is returning injury for injury.

Creating an atmosphere of forgiveness in your relationships requires not holding someone to "your standard, your rights, the moral law," but relating to the person with mercy. Creating an atmosphere (the air we breathe) requires you to do this all the time, not just once thinking "There, I have forgiven them, they better not do it again." That is not real forgiveness because no mercy is shown; there is no attempt to understand. You are viewing the other person with contempt thinking to yourself "I am better than you." That atmosphere is all about you!

Self-righteousness leads to broken relationships

Only thinking "I have been wronged and need to be compensated" in a relationship just builds the volcano. Yes, you may be right and the other wrong, but ask yourself "Does my position foster or hinder our relationship?" "Does my attitude make us closer or separate us?" "Is this something worth dying on?" Self-righteousness separates.

Change begins with you

If really want someone to change, first start changing yourself. Start forgiving the person. Instead of vengeance, returning evil for evil, return evil with good. Focus on your own attitude and your own mistakes. When we really look in the mirror with an honest look, many times we are also very guilty ("WHOA... looking at myself and seeing that I am guilty is painful and it requires personal responsibility... It requires that I must change and that I might be also guilty of hurting the relationship. Bill, you are crazy!") Most people justify their position by saying "OK, I'm 10% wrong, but it is 90% their fault. (In reality, the two parts make a whole, no matter what the percentages are. Without your part, the problem would not exist.) You may be the match that starts the fire. Ask yourself "Do I instigate the fight? Do I do 'little' things to get my point across?" "Do I accuse instead of question?" Do you judge verses help? Do you have an attitude of superiority and talk that way? (The other person will tell you if you ask them unless they fear your retribution.)

Once you have determined to forgive and are focusing on your own mistakes, the next step is to seek forgiveness. Go ask the other person to forgive you for your mistakes. (Be aware that they may not see their own mistakes, so don't sit there and expect them to also immediately confess.) True repentance is totally focused on the other person, sadness for what you have done to them, not what they did to you. Stopping the volcano requires you to do something, not the other person. In relationships, it always begins with you for you are the only person who can change you. You can't change the other person, nor can they change you. But, the good news is that as you change, showing mercy instead of vengeance, it now frees the other person to drop their guard and examine their life.

Words alone won't heal. Steven Covey says "Don't try to talk your way out of a situation or problem that you behaved your way into." Actions promote healing.

One last thought on building an atmosphere of healing, no matter how bad you have been offended, the best question to ask is "What can I do to bring healing to the situation?" In a stressful relationship someone has to move and the only person that you can move is yourself!

Look at all your relationships: family, friends, work, neighbors and ask yourself "Is there a volcano growing under ground?" "Are there foxes running in the vineyard?"


Romans 9:15-21
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The key to living at peace in relationships is summed up in overcoming evil with good. The problem is that it is easier said than done. If you have anger, lots of hurt or pain, it is not "easier" to forgive. It is hard to not want vengeance.

In most cases, we can't change ourselves on our own power. We have to ask God to change us. He can, but, you must be available to work at the change. God does not zap us and make us better. The Apostle Paul said that "We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Here is how you can "work" by seeking God's help:

1) Ask God to help you forgive. Ask for an attitude of compassion and mercy. (Do this everyday as you start your day.)
2) Pray, not only by yourself, but with others. Pray that your heart will be changed and also pray blessings for the other person
3) You need to renew your mind. The only way to do that is a regular ingestion or feeding on God's word. God's word is able to change you. 5-10 minutes 3-5 times per week. (I put Bible verses on 3X5 cards and put them on my car's dash.)
4) Spend time praising God and being thankful for what you do have. Be thankful for all the good things in your spouse or friend. Be thankful that there is hope. Nothing is impossible for God (unless you believe that God can't change you and your relationship.)Lack of faith and unbelief is the greatest detriment to any restoration.

Just as a volcano grew over time, creating an atmosphere of forgiveness takes time. Change rarely comes overnight, with you or others. Persevere! Most marriages take 2.5 years to heal over a major issue. I have read from several reports that spouses regret divorcing about 2.5 years after the divorce. Time is a great healer. Stick with it!!! Many times you jump from one manageable, but difficult, situation, into a unmanageable, very difficult situation. The grass is not always greener by yourself, in a new marriage, new friends or even a new job.

Examine yourself and seek God's help for change.

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