For five years Wolfgang Dircks had received little notes from annoyed neighbors at his little Hamburg apartment. One read, “You have again failed to sweep the staircase.”
There were 17 families who shared the same apartment complex. They knew little about Dircks, except he was divorced, disabled, and difficult to get along with. Left crippled after a hip surgery, he was a bitter, lonely man. Yet the neighbors would put his name on the rotation for chores and he always missed his turn. They simply dismissed it as the inconsiderate and stubborn man he was. No one thought about ringing his door bell and asking, “Why?”
Then one day, to their surprise, they discovered why.
Wolfgang Dircks was dead. For 5 years!
His rent and utilities had been paid from a debit account that finally ran dry. When the landlord went to the apartment to find out why the rent hadn’t been paid, he discovered Dircks skeleton seated in front of the TV set. In his lap was the TV guide opened at the date December 5, 1993. The TV was burnt out, but the Christmas tree lights were still twinkling away!
While none of us are as isolated, introverted and abandoned as Wolfgang Dircks, it does bear asking, “How are your relationships?” “How do you get along with others?” “What are you doing to improve your relationships?”
Relationships can either make us or break us. In a business survey of more than 2,000 employers, they were asked “For the last three persons dismissed from your business, why did you let them go?” Regardless of the business or the section of the country, 2 out of 3 were fired because they couldn’t get along with people.
This year our theme at Hickman Mills where I preach is BECOMING LIKE CHRIST. This quarter we are focusing on relationships. Last Sunday I spoke on 7 principles that will improve our relationships. In bullet form, here are a few simple suggestions from that lesson.
1. Take the focus off of Yourself. People who are self focused are rarely successful in building positive, lasting relationships. It is true in our homes. Churches. And social relationships. The wise man advised, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”
2. Care about others. It is almost a proverb that “People don’t care how much you know until the know how much you care.” Paul’s admonition is appropriate. “So that there may be no division in the body, the members must have the same care for one another.” When we care we rejoice in others successes and weep when they hurt (Rom 12:15).
3. Don’t underestimate anyone’s value. Look who God used. Moses who was a fugitive from justice. David a shepherd boy. Esther a Jew in exile. And consider the people who came to Jesus. Matthew the despised tax collector. Peter the common fisherman. And women who had no social standing in that society. Remember that everyone has worth. Value. Dignity.
4. Build up other people. The world is full of critics, political pundits and consumer advocates whose job is to criticize. What folks yearn for is a kind word. Encouragement. A smile. A pat on the back. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification,” penned Paul.
5. Be cheerful. No one likes a sourpuss. I’m reminded of the quip, “Some folks brighten a room just by entering. Others by leaving!” Be the former. Not the latter. The wise man was right, “a joyful heart makes a cheerful face…”
6. Be credible. Few things damage a friendship or fellowship more than breaking trust. When a person is inconsistent, unreliable, and untrustworthy, relationships are harmed, if not severed. Be honest. Honorable. Truthful. (Eph 4:25)
7. Practice the Golden Rule. Jesus’ said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…” (Matt 7:12). This principle is profound beyond explanation. Lectures have been given, books written and sermons preached on this simple statement. When in doubt, just practice the golden rule, and you can’t go wrong.
Few will die like Wolfgang Dircks. But unfortunately too many choose to live like him. Relationships require work. Effort. Diligence. But the result will bless your life both in time and in eternity.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman