While it can be all too easy to live a hermit-crab lifestyle, God calls us to live in communion with others, love unconditionally, and reach out and minister to those around us. Relationships are the heart and soul of who we are, what our purpose is, and where we are headed.A relationship with Christ is vital to our future. He is our hope and salvation. He is the model of what our relationships should look like and the center of how we treat others and respond in times of crisis.
A relationship with our spouse is important to the health of our home and family. We must take time to prioritize our spouse, improve our communication, and come together when life gets difficult rather than distance ourselves from one another. A relationship with our children is the imprint of their emotional DNA and the building blocks for their future – who they become and how they raise their families.
A relationship with the church and other believers is influential to our faith and spiritual growth. We need each other to navigate the testing of our faith and to remind us that God’s plan is always greater than our own. A relationship with our family and friends is an instrumental part of life, making emotional connections, making memories, and having support through the difficulties of life.
6 Tips for Improving Relationships
As we work to grow the relationships in our life, here are some key elements to remember and apply daily:
1. Realize that relationships take work.
If you want your relationships to grow and thrive, it is important to remember that relationships take work. You must get into the practical details of who you are and who someone else is. You must be willing to share and let go of some of your baggage from the past to embrace the future.
You must be willing to let the chains of perfection break free and grow by sharing the heart and soul of who you are, where you have been, and where God is taking you. It was once said, “Relationships take work. Not during your free time, not when you feel like it – all the time.”
2. Start having difficult conversations.Too often, when things get difficult or conflict arises, people want to run the other way and avoid difficult conversations. The truth is, that is where true growth happens. Learning to have uncomfortable conversations and work through conflict, the right way, can help your relationships become lasting and authentic. Jeanne Phillips said, “Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in.”
If you are wondering how you can have a difficult conversation with someone:
Pray about it ahead of time. What is the purpose? What are you trying to convey? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, soften the hearts of all involved, and for growth to occur.
Let it come from the heart. It can be difficult to try to convey a wide range of feelings and emotions. Take your time and speak from the heart – that is more important than always trying to say the right thing.
Make sure it’s the right time and place. Ensure you are in a heart-healthy environment. A place that is not too loud and distracting, a place where you can think through what you are going to say, and a place where all involved feel at ease. Repeat after me: I am brave enough to start a conversation that matters. God cares for me!
3. We need people in our life that we can count on. While it sounds simple, it is so true! We need one another so we can stay grounded, help others, and ask for help. We need one another to help foster day-to-day stability and growth. We will face a variety of challenges, whether it be from a job, physical condition, trauma, grief/loss, marriage, starting a family, or working through baggage from the past.
Having people we can count and rely on is a game-changer as we face physical, emotional, and spiritual roadblocks on the road of life. We need someone we can call if we are battling depression. We need someone we can count on if we need help changing a tire because we are stranded on a dark road.
We need someone we can ask to pray for us when Satan is working overtime. We need someone we can ask to bring coffee when a newborn keeps us awake around the clock. We need someone who checks in to see what we are learning and how we are growing.
4. You do not have to run at the first sign of a different opinion.
Sometimes conflict is scary. The world tells us to run if we disagree with our spouse, friend, or to cut out family if we have different opinions. The truth is that different viewpoints can help you both grow if you take the time to have conversations and work through conflict. It might be uncomfortable.
You might have to stand your ground from time to time, but that does not mean you have to quit and walk away. Sometimes the most beautiful things in life are the things that take a little extra work. In-depth conversations can help grow and nurture your relationship and establish an unbreakable bond.
5. We must pour ourselves into the people God has placed in our path.
We are called to love and serve others. Someone once said, “You are either a missionary or a mission field.” Your relationships are an opportunity to help others, share the love of Jesus, grow in faith, seek healing, and establish a solid foundation for the future. When life is frustrating and defeating, we often want to retreat and wallow in self-pity; but having close-knit friends who can help pick us up and steer us back to Jesus is an irreplaceable gift.
Start pouring into your relationships by starting small. Send an encouraging text. Ask if they want to go shopping with you. Invite them to church (if they do not already attend). Send encouraging notes. Invite a friend to grab a coffee. See a movie together. Cheer on each other’s kids at their sporting events. Go on a double date.
Investing in relationships does not require some grand gesture – just a small pocket of time and a heart that is ready and willing.
6. Trust Jesus with your heart first.
The most important thing to investing in relationships is to ensure that you have a right relationship with God. Trust Him with all your heart. Look to Him for the words to say. Look to Him to soften your heart to those around you. Ask Him to intervene when things get difficult. Ask Him to give you the courage to put yourself out there.
If you have been scarred from relationships in your past, counseling is available to help you work through those open emotional wounds. The wounds from the past – whether it be a form of abuse, loss of trust, or severed friendships does not have to stand in the way of your future relationships.
Take time today to invest in your relationships by scheduling a counseling session and focusing on relationship wholeness. Take time today to invest in your relationship with Christ, spouse, children, church, family, and friends. Allow them a place in your heart and open yourself up to be a part of theirs.
Here are some Bible verses to aid you in your journey to relationships that have purpose, passion, and trust:
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:12-13
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. – Proverbs 17:9
Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. – Job 6:14
“Crabs”, Courtesy of Thomas Lipke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Difficult Roads”, Courtesy of Hello I’m Nik, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Seedlings”, Courtesy of Daniel Oberg, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “We Can Do Hard Things”, Courtesy of Jess Zoerb, Unsplash.com, CC0 License