Relationships are the greatest gifts we will ever receive. If all materials were stripped away and we were left with nothing. No home. No food. No clothes. No car. Nothing. We would still have relationships. Relationships are fostered between people. Connections that cannot be denied or ignored. We were created for relationships. We were intended to actively engage with other people we cross paths with. Even if you engage in a pattern of negative communication with another human being, you are in a relationship with that person. It might not be a good relationship, but you are in one. We are all connected.
My clients who are dangerously tangled in depression and anxiety are the most isolated individuals I know. Surrounding oneself with the power of relationships is essential to a full and healthy life.
So why do some people choose isolation? Perhaps they do not know how to enter into a healthy relationship. Because of poor self-esteem. Because of pride. Because of a warped perception of the world. Because of fear.
I have always been intrigued by the power of relationships. How different personalities can come together and create art. Just watch how children play together (as strangers!). Or how students act toward one another on the first day of school. Everyone has questions sunk in the pits of their stomachs, “will they like me?” or “will they see me?”
We ask that question because we want to connect with other people. We want friendships. We want intimacy.
And we were created for intimacy. Individuals contact me on a regular basis to ask questions about relationships. Can I be friends with the opposite sex? Can I do a long distance relationship? How can I make this last? How do I draw boundaries? How do I know if he/she is the one? How far is too far? etc.
First of all, I feel a surplus of confusion, wonderment and honor when people reach out to me for this advice. I’m still learning and I do not consider myself an expert on relationships. I feel I have learned a great deal through my schooling, my practice, and my existing relationships, though. And I do have the privilege of working with families and couples to achieve harmony and growth. So I’m happy to share the knowledge I currently have based on these experiences.
I will speak to romantic relationships in a future post. For now, I want to expose my value of all relationships. When we grow in understanding of our position in this world and our impact on others, we then begin to intentionally step into relationships and view them as windows to experience life and Love.
4 Keys to Enjoying Relationships:
- Your purpose in all relationships is to be a servant. Your mission should be to exhort, to love, to involve, to pray for, and to be a light in the other person’s life. You are a picture of Jesus to that person. Through interpersonal relationships Jesus expresses Himself tangibly. Serve without expecting anything in return. Serve until it gets awkward. That’s what Jesus did. He served and loved without expectation. Our cup is not filled by other people, our cup is filled by Him alone. If you find it difficult to love because you are nervous that your heart will run dry, look to Jesus and ask what He says about fulfilling your every need (including emotional needs).
- Guard your heart. First of all – hear me out – I believe we should always guard our hearts. But this is something you need to work it into the fabric of your being. Guarding your heart flows naturally from walking closely with Jesus and inviting Him to anchor your thought life in His Truth. This means it is important to cast down vain imaginations. Don’t assume. Don’t over analyze. If an idea is not communicated using words, then do not dwell on it in a way that causes despair. Take captive your thoughts and consider the overall purpose of the relationship – to expose His glory. To release His love. I have too often seen “guarding one’s heart” used as an excuse to disengage from a relationship due to fear, or in an attempt to avoid vulnerability, or because of pride, or because of a lack of vision. Proverbs 4:23 was not written out of fear. It was not written to give us permission to live in isolation or to give us an excuse to not learn confrontation skills. It was written to encourage wisdom. If you feel that you have lost balance or that someone or something has taken the throne of your heart in place of Him alone, then it is absolutely time to take action and draw boundaries. Consult a counselor or a wise/experienced friend to learn how to facilitate boundary making and heart guarding.
- Do not be afraid of confrontation. We were born into a world that requires confrontation. An obvious war between good and evil ensues. We need to figure out how to properly deal with interpersonal differences. Listen to Keys to Confrontation by Danny Silk for some great tips on healthy confrontation. The mp3s are available for free online.
- Honor. Honor. Honor. We should never be out to deface, hurt, slander, harm, or hate anyone. There is already enough negative energy floating around. Leave it to the Lord to deal with. Take your thoughts captive, draw your boundaries, and choose honor. Did you know that when the King looks at you He sees purity? He sees beauty? He sees your gifts and your strengths? God is not focused on our weaknesses but is, instead, always calling on our strengths, despite the fact that we can be a real jerks. Have eyes to see and focus on the treasure in other people instead of their downfalls. Another good book is Culture of Honor by Danny Silk
Be vulnerable. Be a good listener. Be in relationships.