Relationships take work! The more significant the relationship is in a person’s life, the more effort and energy it takes to keep it moving forward in a healthy direction. For example, a person who is married would naturally invest a lot more time and energy with a spouse than he would in talking with his next door neighbor. And because he spends more time with his significant other, there are greater chances for misunderstanding to take place, offenses to form or for disagreements to arise. If these challenges and obstacles are not handled correctly, they can actually put a wedge between the couple and ultimately damage their relationship altogether.
I know couples who were so in love, but over time, they started having disagreements, which turned into blow out fights. Before long, things were said that damaged both of them emotionally and put distance between them. Instead of having patience for the other person, he or she was quick to point out the other’s faults and vice versa. Eventually, an underlying current of resentment, anger, unforgiveness and bitterness set in and destroyed their relationship from ever blossoming into all that God created it to be! This not only happens among spouses, but also with friends, family members, coworkers, business partners, church members and other various relationships. Is there any hope for relationships that have been damaged? The answer is a resounding “yes” – with God all things are possible.
Keep Communication Lines Open
One key element for successful relationships is the ability to keep communication lines open. While it might be difficult to express how one really feels toward another person or how one disagrees with something another person has done, getting it out on the table brings the issues into the light so that they can be dealt with. This might be a foreign concept for you, but healthy relationships require honesty, truth and the ability to express them openly in love. Another important aspect to consider is to pray about how and when to bring the issue up with the person. The Holy Spirit can lead and guide you with this. If we do things in our own strength, the majority of the time the relationship is further damaged and not restored. So, pay attention to the Lord’s leading and He will guide you on what, when and how to say it!
Recently, I had to learn this principle while leading a small group Bible study with another young lady. On many occasions we disagreed about how the small group should be run or at least it appeared that way. I could feel the tension underneath my skin, even though neither of us spoke up to talk about it. I did not want to discuss it with her either because I was afraid of conflict. However, things eventually came to a head and we needed to talk or someone would more than likely explode. As we laid our issues out on the proverbial table, I realized that we were much more on the same page than what I had previously thought. She just communicated things differently than I did. Over time, I began to understand the way she thought and processed information was unlike the way I did and that was okay. Our friendship deepened because we were able to discuss our differences and work through them in a civilized manner.
One important aspect to healthy relationships is learning to respect people and their differences. The Bible says, “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17 NLT). Christians should be examples to others by valuing people who hold differing opinions than their own. I had a difficult time with this because I felt attacked when people disagreed with me. I started to realize that these feelings came about because I was insecure and needed God’s touch to heal this area of my heart. As God started to restore me, I recognized that having people in my life that had different perspectives helped me see pitfalls more clearly. I could see from their vantage point and my vision was broadened!
Give and Take
Healthy relationships also exhibit give and take. The Bible says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT). When we love and honor others, we care about what they care about and will put their interests before our own. For example, you and a friend want to go out to eat. You really want to go to a Chinese restaurant, but your friend wants to go to an Italian restaurant. Because you love and value her, you choose to go where she wants to go – that is real love…that is honoring someone above yourself. When we place others in front of ourselves, it demonstrates to them the love of Christ and gives God room to move in the relationship.
Do you want healthier relationships with people? Keep your lines of communication open, respect others and be willing to give and take. Do things God’s way and your relationships will be taken to a whole new level!
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Cory can be reached at [email protected]