At the beginning of this chapter, the question was asked: Do I hurt people, or am I too easily hurt by them? If you answered yes, then you need to answer a second question: Am I prepared to work through my issues and get beyond my pain? Here’s the key. Most people just want a quick fix, something to give them some relief in the moment. That’s why some choose to lash out; it makes them feel better temporarily. Others use alcohol, food, sex, or something else to lessen the pain. But as my friend Kevin Myers says, “If you want to become well, you need more than a fix. You need to become fit.”

People who seek emotional fitness don’t look for momentary relief. They search for what’s right. How can you tell what kind of person you are? People searching for a fix stop working at resolving a problem as soon as the pain or pressure is relieved. People seeking fitness continue doing what’s right and improving themselves even when the discomfort goes away.

Delving into your old hurts and emotional issues often takes the help of a professional counselor and can be a messy proposition, but it’s worth it. I recently read a story that provides a good analogy for what it’s like. In March 1995, the New England Pipe Cleaning Company of Watertown, Connecticut, was working under the streets of Revere, Massachusetts, to clean out a ten-inch sewer line. The workers found many of the usual items that clog those kinds of pipes. However, they also discovered many other things: sixty-one rings, vintage coins, and silverware. The bad news is that the workers had to do an unpleasant job. The good news is that they were allowed to keep the valuable things they discovered in the process.

If your relational capacity is all “clogged up,” you, too, may have to do some digging to make things right. And you may have to deal with some pretty nasty stuff. But the reward is that you may discover some treasures that you didn’t know existed. And at the end of your hard work, you can develop a healthy capacity for relationships.

John C. Maxwell, Winning with People: Discover the People Principles That Work for You Every Time (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).