Red, Yellow, Green: The Relationship Traffic Light

Red, Yellow, Green: The Relationship Traffic Light

When I was in elementary school we sometimes played the game of “Red Light, Green Light.” One of us would be “it,” and call out the signals to the rest of us lined up at the starting line. You could move as fast as you wanted when the “light” was green, but if you took even one step after the “light” turned red you had to return to the starting line and start over. The first one to reach the finish line without moving on red was rewarded with being the next “it.”

I doubt elementary students today play “Red Light, Green Light” during recess any longer. It was a simple game, and with sophisticated playground equipment and sports programs in place now they have more entertaining things to do.

But we as adults still play “Red Light, Green Light” in our relationships. And the stakes are so much higher than they were in childhood!

Think of the other people you know. I would guess you could quite easily tell who is giving out a “green light,” indicating they might be open to an intimate relationship. And they don’t have to say a word for you to know who they are! By the way they carry themselves, the way they look at someone, the smallest things they say or don’t say, it’s not hard to know what color relationship traffic light they are displaying.

Perhaps a more important question – and one a little harder to recognize – what color relationship traffic light are YOU showing? With the people you interact with at work, friends you meet socially, others at church, even on-line relationships, what color is your light? And remember, the color of your light is likely obvious to others without you saying a word!

Do you show a red light? Are you “taken?” If you’re married, or preparing to be married, are you indicating you are definitely closed for business? Intimate advances are clearly unwelcome. Even if you might appear a little stuffy and reserved, you are showing to everyone else that your heart is taken.

Or perhaps you have a yellow light. Sure, the door isn’t wide open, but then it might not be so tightly shut either. Maybe, just maybe, a little intimacy would be accepted. Ok, nothing physical, but a little open crack in your heart that if just the right key were found, perhaps someone might find entry.

Or is your light green? Green means GO, right? Your words might not say so, but your actions indicate that your heart is open. In some degree you’re searching, hungry, even fishing for the right response in someone else, indicating further intimacy would be welcome. And if a few choice intimate personal words open the door further, who knows – you might welcome a little more.

The heart is a vulnerable thing, even fragile. We can easily deceive ourselves that a “green light” is OK, and that we can stop things any time we want. Or at least a yellow light, right? “I’m being cautious: nothing will happen. I’m just having a little fun, and being nice.”

But do you really want to risk the collision that may come if cross-traffic is going too fast?

Many years ago, before I knew my husband, I got to know someone who had a green light. This was in a professional setting distant from where I lived. He was married, with children, and I was very single. Our professional activities afforded some opportunity for occasional contact.

On one particular occasion I got a “green light” invitation from my professional friend. And I’m sorry to admit I did not immediately flash a red light in response. Thankfully I put the breaks on fast enough to prevent any actions I would later have to regret. And I’m grateful that my relationship with God gave me the strength to stop things while I still could.

But that experience showed me that my light had undoubtedly been yellow. While his “green light” invitation was his problem, I was responsible for ensuring that the only thing I displayed to a married man was a red light. And I’m very certain that now that I am married, my husband is the only person who sees my green light!

The heart is a vulnerable thing, very precious, even fragile. Something that precious and vulnerable needs to be guarded carefully. I hope you value your heart as much as it is truly worth!

Your turn: What color is your relationship traffic light? What color light would other people say you have? If you need to change the color of your light, how can you do so? Leave a comment below.

P.S. I saw this “red light, green light” concept discussed by Dr David Hawkins. He has a number of relationship resources available that you might find helpful HERE.


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