How are your relationships with your family, your friends? As a culture, I wonder if we have strong relationships the way that we used to. In the past there were very strong communities. Generations stayed in the same area and spoke into each others’ lives. It takes years to build the type of friendship that we can speak truthfully knowing it will be received well.
Today, we are bombarded with the quick, instant and fast. Relationships are none of these things, they take time to cultivate. Sharing from the depth of our hearts requires trust, built over time. The only shortcut to trust that I’ve observed is going through a crisis together. Although effective, I don’t recommend this approach.
As we invest more of ourselves in the people around us, we have richer more fulfilling lives. In the long run, with more fulfilling relationships, family (immediate and extended) and friendship we will also be more productive. Think for example, how much productive time is lost due to grieving a broken marriage.
Here are some ideas for building into the lives of the people around us:
Be the initiator. Ask someone, don’t sit back and wait for others to ask first. In my own life, I am usually the one to initiate friend time. I could let this bug me, but why waste the time and energy? Instead I pick up the phone or email and make it happen. I invite someone into my life. Don’t give up, try another friend if the first says no. This applies to us married people too. Invite your spouse out on a date, even if it is a walk. It says, “I want to spend time with you” and that speaks volumes.
Be Loving. Love is patient, kind, protects, trust, hopes, perseveres, and rejoices in the truth. Love is not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. It does not keep a record of wrongs done, or delight in evil. Compare the two lists and take inventory about yourself and what you bring to your relationships.
Be discerning. Consider your relationships ahead of time. Think about where you want the relationship to go. Sometimes we are in a relationship to be the primary giver. Other times we are the receiver. Other times it is a both give and take relationship. There are some people whom you don’t want to share your heart with, nor should you. Don’t step into every relationship that is offered to you. Discern where it will go and what season you are in.
Be balanced in not blabbing everything to everyone, yet sharing at a deeper level with someone you trust, because they have earned it. When sharing about children or spouses, remember we are a big part of that person’s reputation in the community. What we say affects the way others will treat them. We may feel better having vented, but the listener now has a different perspective on our loved one. Will we feel good about that conversation next week?
Be real, there are enough plastic people out there, be who you are and be authentic. Let’s avoid being a chameleon depending on what we think the other person wants to hear. No one is perfect, authenticity enjoys life’s journey together, whatever that brings.