Life is all about relationships. When our relationships are healthy, our lives tend to be healthy. When our relationships are strained or broken we are strained and broken. Our closest relationships are the ones that affect us the most. Having and maintaining healthy relationships takes work and constant learning. The reason relationships take work is because each of us tend to be selfish at times and that hurts our relationships. When we stop trying to improve ourselves, the people around us suffer. That is why we should always be working on ourselves and how we can strengthen our character. As I think about keys to healthy relationships, it really boils down to these three areas:
- Understand People – This is no small task, because people are very complicated. We all have different experiences, beliefs, hurts, habits and hang-ups. As we grow older these things all come out in our relationships. Things that happened to us as a child effect us as adults. Whether it is lies we are believing, hurtful experiences or our worldview, it all effects our relationships with the people around us. To better understand people we need to be curious about the people around us. We need to be able to connect on a deeper emotional level by talking about those past experiences, core beliefs and worldview. We need to discover what their love language is and then speak that language with them on a regular basis. We also need to read books about relationships that can help us to better understand why we do what we do. Here are three books that have helped me a lot in the area of relationships: “The DNA Of Relationships” By Gary Smalley – “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman – “Love & Respect” by Emmerson Eggrichs.
- Love People – Not many of us love people well. We tend to be judgmental, hold grudges, be selfish, rude, sarcastic and jealous. How to love well is clearly explained to us in the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He basically says that we can have all kinds of gifts and abilities, but if we don’t have love we have nothing. Listen to these words about how to love: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Read that again and put your name in place of love, does that describe who you are? If not start today to change that.
- Help People – To have healthy thriving relationships we need to have a servants mindset. We should be thinking about how we can serve and help the people around us. We can only do this well if we understand the people around us and are loving well. To help people we need to be able to add value to their lives. Are the people around you benefiting from knowing you, or are you the only one benefiting? When we add value to others we are building up our account with that person. They will want to be around us and spend time with us. If we are only taking in a relationship people will not want to spend time with us. Helping people starts with the mindset of serving. This does not come naturally to us because we are wired to look out for ourselves and not others. This needs to be balanced with taking care of ourselves, so that we are healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we are healthy, we can serve and add value to those around us. So that means going to a counselor, meeting with a mentor and working through our junk. That can be a great way of helping others by helping ourselves.
Relationships really matter and the harder we work on ourselves and our relationships the happier and healthier we will be. One last thought about relationships. Forgiveness is needed in every relationship in order last over time. We will hurt each other and let each other down, and the ability and desire to reconcile and forgive is vital to long term relationships. I will talk more about forgiveness later.