We have all heard the term. If you think about such things as how the human mind processes difficult life events, the word broken inevitably arises. A great metaphor for the pain of love lost; it would seem popular culture has taken control of the word, especially in the arts. However, when we think about the human condition, broken could describe other maladies, as well. Mental discord or temporary trauma-induced behaviors could also be deemed as 'broken'. Deep depression could be indicative of brokenness; the inability to function and hope breaks, or interrupts, the stride of a life lived with purpose, direction and meaning.

I like those analogies using the concept of broken, however, I have a different perspective.

Human relationship is built on a number of things, both good and bad. We could say that we are attracted to someone, either romantically or for the sake of friendship, for selfish reasons such as a dislike of loneliness or a desire to feel popular or well-liked. 'Friend collecting' on social media is a good example of manifestation of this type of thought; if I have a lot of friends, I must be likable and worthy of friendship. In this mindset, friendships are shallow and risky - only a shell of what friendship could or should be. But, just because one is not a 'friend collector' doesn't necessarily mean their motivations for friendship are not based in a self-serving attitude. Always relying on others to maintain and give in relationship will result in a very one-sided friendship without substance, hence easily forsaken. Without a firm foundation of mutual respect, humility and gratitude, loss is inevitable and 'friends' come and go. Friendships built on consistent availability, willingness and care are powerful, substantial and long-lasting, albeit fewer in number due to the effort and time required to build healthy, edifying relationship.

With the motivation of friendship firmly in mind, I would like to suggest that brokenness may be deeper than simply a broken heart or a handy way to describe a mind that is not functioning at capacity. Since I am keen on definitions, let's look at the actual definition of the word broken:
bro'ken, adj., reduced to fragments; fragmented; ruptured; torn; fractured; not functioning properly; out of working order.
I like how this definition goes from the concrete of the physical reality of something being broken, such as a mirror, to the more abstract concept of not functioning properly or out of order, which may be very subjective. Thus, as we contemplate this metaphor of a broken individual, I could easily say that a broken heart due to broken relationship, or the dysfunction of the human brain due to illness or lack of orderly chemical function, would be considered a physical reality of brokenness. But, if we were to take it to the abstract, not functioning properly and/or out of order could mean something more.

Truly, relationship (friendship) cannot exist in an atmosphere of self-focus. If one or both of the individuals involved are only able to focus on their own needs, wants, desires or agenda, then the relationship will falter or die (definitely 'not functioning properly' or  'out of order'). Hearing every conversation as an opportunity to bolster one's self-esteem or perceived worth in the eyes of others is a recipe for disaster, for lack of listening (hearing and understanding) will kill conversation quickly. Engaging in activities only when it benefits ourselves leaves others feeling used, disrespected and taken for granted, even if it wasn't overtly intended.

For me, the definition of brokenness in an individual is the inability to selflessly shift the focus off of self and onto the needs of others for the mutual benefit of relationship, for whatever reason. In fact, the reasons matter little; if the damaging self-centered focus is not acknowledged and dealt with appropriately, either by getting (professional) help or by sheer will-power and self-help, (even prayer and supplication), the broken individual will perpetually feel a distinct lack of relationship and friendship in their lives. It is as simple as that.

If you are a believing person, you really didn't need all those words and explanation to convince you that our focus needs to be on others as opposed to ourselves. The greatest command of the Holy One is to love Him and to love others as ourselves. Love others as much as we want to be loved by others. Serve others as we would want to be served ourselves. Care about others like you want to be cared about and spend time looking for ways to be available and willing as much as you would like others to consider you. Simple in word, but most difficult in deed, especially if debilitated by insistent and sabotaging self-focus such as self-pity, martyrdom, and arrogant pride.

Healing is available for brokenness by this definition, I am convinced. We don't have to wait for someone to show us how - we can decide to make little moves, each day, to consider others. We can reach out in kindness and reject self-absorbed thoughts. We can change the focus from the inward to the external, and see who around us needs an encouraging word or a smile. We can be grateful for those in our lives, tell them, then show them by being available and trustworthy. I fully understand sometimes there are limitations of past trauma, dysfunction, abuse, etc. However, even with those limitations, if an individual desires relationship and friendship on any level, they absolutely must make an effort towards that goal. Anything less will result in (feelings of) loneliness and worthlessness which is an easy road to depression and anger.

We were meant for relationship. It is most worthy of our time and effort to change our focus and to strive to be whole and healthy in order to offer the priceless gift of friendship to another.

A man that hath friends must show himself friendly - 
Love begets love; and love requires love as its recompense. 
If a man do not maintain a friendly carriage, he cannot expect to retain his friends. 
Friendship is a good plant; but it requires cultivation to make it grow.
~Clarks Commentary


Ari C'rona said…
As we've discussed brokenness from all perspectives and talked through relational struggles, I agree It takes a willingness to change and a lot of hard work.

Can I say how worthwhile it is, though? I am so very grateful for all I've learned in this area... thanks for posting this, my dear friend.
Netanya said…
I love this post. Much truth in here. Dysfunction and hurtful past experiences, to me, are NO excuse for not changing. I don't like excuses, especially in relationships. If you want healthy ones badly enough, you can and will change. It all depends on how important it is to you to have it. Anything worth having is worth working hard to get. I've had much brokeness, and I don't afford myself excuses . I want to BE a good , valued friend. I've had to change a remake myself several times over the years, bit by bit allowing G-d to show me hard things about myself and working with HIm to make changes. Very worthwhile it is.