Dear Ministry Friends,
Everyone desires to have some deep,
committed, satisfying relationships. But this is the ultimate
challenge because those we deal with have a free will! However,
God's Word gives us many keys to improving the quality of relationships
with those that we feel we should work at developing. And the
holiday season is a time when we often interact a lot with family,
friends, co-workers, and neighbors, so it is a pivotal time in
our world of relationships.
The first key from scripture is our
quantity and quality of communication. The shallower the commitment
toward you from the other person, the shallower the conversation
must be in order for the other party to not feel uncomfortable.
But the deeper the commitment, the deeper the conversation must
be in order to be satisfying to both parties. See the chart below
The goal is to use the "right tool"
for the job. For example, dumping deep emotional feelings on strangers
in an elevator may cause them to get off on the next floor! But
being shallow and trite with a close family member that you have
known for 10 or 20 years will cause him or her to close their
heart toward you and minimize the relationship.
Some people actually try to "minimize"
any relationships because they are afraid of being rejected. But
like Job admitted in Job
3:25, what they greatly fear will come to pass. Because if
they refuse to communicate at a significant level, people will
end up "rejecting them" unintentionally as they go off
looking for deeper, more fulfilling relationships with people
who will really communicate.
All people around us fall into three
categories. There are those who build us up (usually a small number),
those who are really a neutral influence (most people), and then
those who "drain" us (the ones that bother us the most).
We need to plan time with those that build us up (both in person
with our friends, and through various media for ministers who
help us in some way). The "energy" we receive from the
first category prepares us to deal with the third category —
those that bother us. Generally, these are people who are "shouting"
that they need ministry. It is just that they bother us so much
we are usually not thinking about finding ways to minister to
them (maybe you have been thinking about ways to clobber them!).
But that is what Jesus was addressing with His commands to turn
the other cheek and go the extra mile, and the Apostle Paul was
dealing with this when he wrote "walk in love" (Ephesians
Now some people really don't want
any relationship with us (or most anybody else), so we should
not force ourselves on them. But the quantity and quality of communication
can often be carefully managed to produce the best possible situation
with people where relationships are necessary or desired.
The second key follows right along
after the first issue. The key is to love and accept others unconditionally.
This means that we overlook people's performance in the kindness
and compassion we demonstrate toward them. This
would require more space than we have here to explain and illustrate.
But loving others unconditionally does not mean we become a "doormat."
We also should not give ourselves as a "martyr" trying
to keep negative consequences from occurring in other people's
lives. What real unconditional love is means having an absence
of bitterness, anger, and resentment (which are the outward symptoms
of unforgiveness) when we are dealing with others whose performance
related to us has been bad.
The third key to better relationships
is to accept and fulfill your particular responsibilities. Whether
you are a husband or wife, parent or child, employee or boss;
there are particular responsibilities you should fulfill. If you
don't fulfill them, you will probably be resented. It is natural
for people to feel that way.
The fourth key is to crucify selfishness
in relationships. Many people don't realize they have a problem
with greed, control, ambition, abuse, or taking advantage of others
in some way. Selfishness comes very natural to most people, and
it poisons their relationships. Selfishness especially surfaces
when there is some type of crisis (financial, vocational, emotional,
Many people are afraid if they don't
"grab" first, someone else will get it or take it. To
them, people are really just objects to "get things from."
Their fear or greed drives their decision making, and they ruin
chances for good relationships by watching for opportunities to
"take" from others in subtle ways. We all tend to distance
ourselves from people like this. You might be asking, "If
we don't aggressively promote our own well-being, who will?"
The answer is God! But we have to exercise great faith and patience
for God to do His part, and most people are not in the proper
spiritual condition to succeed at such a spiritual task. (Obviously,
we need to maintain our spiritual condition.)
Last, the fifth key is to make a
general commitment to working at building good relationships.
This often requires giving. Proverbs
19:6 says, "Every man is a friend to one who gives
gifts." If we give gifts of time, love, care, help,
attention, understanding, etc., we will discover we can have many
good relationships. The key is to truly give — not expecting
something back, or planting a favor to collect from later. People
can see our motives often much better than we can. They are usually
just too polite to inform us when our motives are selfish. Romans
12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly
love." It is certainly easier to say this than to
do it, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens
We pray that God will help you in
your relationships with those around you especially during this
Growing in relationships,
P.S. — We have several
teaching tape sets that give much more helpful information
than this short letter has room for. Please consider investing
in one or more of these information-packed series for yourself
or someone you care about.