“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15
Relationships require a consistent investment. If we want our relationships to be healthy and stand the test of time, our relational investments need to be both intentional and multifaceted.
Throughout my life, I’ve experienced a wide array of relationships. From friendships — to loved ones, from partnerships — to bosses, employees, team members, coaches, teachers, students, acquaintances, and much more. The one thing all these relationships seem to have in common is they all require effort to maintain. This also holds true for our relationship with God.
There are 7 Key Ingredients commonly found in healthy relationships, including the one we have with our Heavenly Father.
Presence, Commitment, Sacrifice, Communication, Forgiveness, Boundaries, and Blessings.
Being present, giving another person our undivided attention, is critical to all relationships. If we want to foster, nurture, or repair a relationship, is imperative we take time away from our phones, emails, text messages, and even our jobs, hobbies, and careers to spend quality time with others. A lack of “time” invested in a relationship puts distance between two people and can be a contributing factor to its downfall. Jesus was fully present and spent quality time with his disciples, friends, and followers. God loves to spend time with us and wants us to spend quality time with him. Therefore, we must be “present” around others and we must “set aside time” in our busy schedules to invest in and nurture our relationships.
If we desire a healthy, long-lasting relationship that can weather life’s inevitable storms, we must make and keep commitments. It’s easy to say, “things have changed,” “the other person has changed,” or “circumstances have changed,”— but do these realities give us permission to neglect the commitments we’ve made? In some cases they do — but in many cases, they don’t. Jesus made commitments to his disciples, friends, and followers — and kept them. God has made many commitments to us — and will always keep them. Therefore, with self-evaluation and prayerful consideration, we must evaluate our relational commitments and be willing to persistently maintain them even when it’s difficult — unless they threaten our emotional or physical health.
Relationships require sacrifice. A sacrifice can be defined as giving something up, that we consider important or valuable, in order to meet the needs of someone else. There are times when we simply don’t feel like doing for others when we’re just too tired to be nice, too busy to go out of our way, or too upset to compromise. But, healthy relationships are about give and take, understanding, adjustments, concessions, and downright sacrifice. God sacrificed his one and only son for our salvation and Jesus endured abuse as a result of his unconditional love and sacrifice for us. Therefore, we must carefully consider our willingness to lay aside our wants, wishes, and desires, and challenge ourselves to regularly make sacrifices for others.
When communication breaks down — relationships deteriorate. Poor, ineffective, or a lack of communication, causes relationships to drift farther and farther apart. There are two major players in any communication — 1. talkers and 2. listeners. There are two important rules we must follow if we desire healthier conversations that lead to healthier relationships — 1. We must choose our words carefully, and 2. we must listen to others attentively. Words have the power to build up or tear down our relationships. Jesus chose his words carefully, he was mindful of what he said, and he listened carefully to what was being said, in order to properly respond. Therefore, we must pay close attention to our mouths, choose our words very carefully, and strive to be better listeners at all times.
Forgiveness is canceling a debt someone owes us, it’s no longer focusing on the wrong that’s been done to us, and it’s a willingness to let go of our negative thoughts and feelings so we can view our offenders with more grace and compassion. When we truly forgive someone, we begin to see them in terms of their needs rather than their sin. And —although forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation, it does open the door for trust to be rebuilt and relationships to hopefully one day be restored. God graciously forgives us for every transgression and through the sacrifice of his son, has demonstrated the most extraordinary example of forgiveness to ever be extended. Therefore, we must be willing to always forgive our offenders and give second, third, and even more chances to those who are genuinely repentant and striving to change their ways.
Healthy relationships consist of healthy boundaries. Each member of the relationship clearly knows where each person’s boundary lines are drawn, lovingly respects them, and is sincerely remorseful when they accidentally offend or cross those lines. God established right from wrong to clearly communicate our boundaries with him. When we cross a boundary line and sin, there are always consequences that help deter us from making the same mistake again. Therefore, we must have clearly defined boundaries in our relationships, they must be effectively communicated, and they must be accompanied by appropriate consequences that help deter boundary breakers from becoming repeat offenders.
How often do you give an unexpected gift to someone you care about? How willing are you to say yes when someone asks you a favor? When was the last time you called someone out of the blue just to tell them you care? When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really want to know, or are you just asking out of habit? God genuinely cares about our wellbeing, he loving provides numerous blessing in our lives – sometimes we are just so consumed with the things we perceive are “wrong” in our lives, that we take for granted, or completely overlook, the many blessings he provides. If we want to build long-lasting, healthy relationships, we must be willing to bless others along the way.
How many of these 7 Key Ingredients do you incorporate in your everyday relationships? How many do you incorporate in your relationship with God?