“No one undertakes a journey alone. We depend upon others constantly–in ways both tangible and intangible–to move us toward our destination,” observes John Maxwell in his little book Relationships 101.
“We cannot succeed without the help of others, but forming positive relationships can be a challenge,” Maxwell opines. This is true in business. In politics. In sports. In the home. And in the church.
Major holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, all remind us of the importance of our relationships. Those times can become special occasions of enjoyment, bonding, and reminiscing. Or else they can be dreaded reminders of our fragile or ruptured relationships.
American business executive, Clarence offered this insight. “I sincerely believe that the word relationships is the key to the prospect of a decent world. It seems abundantly clear that every problem you will have in your family, in your work, in our nation, or in this world is essentially a matter of relationships, of interdependence.”
So, as we think about the possibility of renewing, restoring, or revitalizing our relationships, what steps can we take?
#1 Remember that people are important to God. So they ought to be important to us. Everyone we know is made in His image and His likeness (Gen. 1:26). Every person has the potential to partake of His divine nature. That makes people pretty important.
#2 Realize that you cannot do life alone. The lyrics from the 1960s Broadway musical Funny Girl, sung by Barbra Streisand belt out this truth.
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world
Actually, that’s everyone. Me. And you. We all need people. God created us for community. Formed us for family. And fashioned us for relationships. That’s life.
#3 Learn to really care and be others-focused. It’s human nature to think of ourselves first. For little children, their lives revolve around them–their needs. Their wants. Their happiness. And their toys. Every parent has worked to teach their children to share.
Hopefully, however, as we grow to adulthood, we learn that real life is not just about me. It’s about we. Togetherness. Companionship. Fellowship. Comradeship. Unselfish sharing. Sacrificial giving. Empathic comforting. And mutual responsibilities.
To that end, the Scripture offers this exhortation.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4, ESV)
#4 Improve your relationships by improving yourself. In almost every relationship conflict, it’s the other person’s fault. Preachers, pastors, and counselors have heard this repeated refrain by husbands and wives, parents and children, and Christian brothers and sisters.
Rarely, if ever, is any relationship problem entirely to be blamed on one party. Paul’s admonition to “examine yourself,” is usually a good place to start in healing a strained relationship. My friend and preaching colleague, Gary Henry suggested, “We improve our relationships by improving our character.”
What Christian graces can I employ that will soothe hurt feelings? What fruit of the spirit do I need to develop to heal a broken heart? What Christ-like attitudes do I need to imbibe to get along with other people?
Furthermore, this Biblical advice will prevent many relationship problems. “If possible, so far as it depends on YOU, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:17).
Finally, be advised, as Rick Warren reminds us that “busyness is a great enemy of relationships.” Slow down. Look around. See the people in your life. Love them. Embrace them. And connect with them.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman