Emotional triangles or triangles in relationships contribute to us getting stuck in anxiety. Let’s learn to identify them, respond to them, and “detriangulate.”
1:53 – The triangles of relationships
4:28 – Examples of triangles in action
1. When you don’t want to tell someone what you think, so you pull in a third person instead of just sharing your point with the person you wanted to talk to in the first place. It might help in the short term, but it doesn’t help build trust in the long run.
2. It could be the flip side: Someone makes use of a third party (or a “ghost mob”) to communicate their message to you. You end up anxious, not knowing how to respond.
3. A team member doesn’t want to confront another team member so they talk to a third party about it. This third party provides relief by allowing grievances to be aired, but the person who is doing the offending stays oblivious.
Triangles are normal. But when they go wrong, they spread anxiety while disempowering us from taking responsibility over ourselves.
13:08 – What makes triangles go wrong?
1. When you can’t stay emotionally neutral. When you hear something bad about a teammate and it affects the way you interact with that person, even though you weren’t the one offended.
2. When it steps over or makes us give up our responsibility. We either disempower the one who’s being the victim, because we keep saving them instead of letting the Holy Spirit move through them. Or we disempower ourselves when we play the victim and run to someone to save us, when God gives us the power to act.
3. When we are hindering two people from having a real relationship by getting in the way.
We always have to ask: God, what are you telling me to do? How should I respond?
Pastors, church leaders, small group leaders, volunteers—we are very prone to this, because people pass us their problems all the time. It’s difficult, but participating in triangles doesn’t solve the problem.
The most powerful leadership is when we empower to people to take responsibility for themselves.
17:15 – Jesus in triangles (examples and quotes from The Leader’s Journey by Jim Herrington, pages 61 to 63)
1. Luke 12:13–15: “When a man asks Jesus to arbitrate a dispute between himself and his brother over an estate. Jesus chooses to stay out of that one and calls the man to examine his own motives of greed.”
2. John 21:22: “Jesus refuses Peter’s attempt to focus his attention on John, instead keeping the spotlight on Peter’s own relationship with him… Notice how he deals with the other two parties personally and focuses on maintaining his own position with each.”
3. Luke 10:41–42: “Jesus’s simple response to an anxious Martha effectively removed him from the triangle she was forming to change her sister’s behavior He called her to examine her own priorities and to allow Mary her choices.”
19:56 – Detriangulation
What does this quote tell us?
1. Don’t automatically take sides.
2. “The togetherness force will become intense, calling for you as leader to arbitrate.”
3. “Instead, you must learn to stay focused on God, your principles, and your reactions.”
4. “You must also learn to avoid taking responsibility for the relationship of the other two. Only by doing so can you ultimately be helpful.”
26:00 – Statements to hold on to
27:55 – Identify common triangles in your life. Start by asking these questions—
Other resources mentioned in this podcast:
The ENC Leadership Podcast is hosted by Joseph Bonifacio.
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