Relationships: Gaining Ground
Be honest with yourself. You've been disappointed in some way with every relationship you've ever had. It's the universal experience of everyone this side of destiny. No, it's not that you've met the wrong people or that you lack relational skills. It's that every relationship you've had, you've had in a fallen world. You never get to hang out with perfect people. You never get to have those perfect relationships in a perfect location and with perfect circumstances surrounding you. No, all of your relationships are with flawed people in a flawed world. And don't forget, you're one of those flawed people as well! So how can you gain ground? How can your relationships become better than they are right now? Let me suggest four ways.
1. Determine to be realistic. I love how shockingly honest the Bible is. It's a book that really doesn't pull any punches. You see, what damages our relationships is not having a realistic acceptance of our own weaknesses and struggles. What damages our relationships is our delusions of perfection and strength! The first step in any kind of change is admitting that change is needed in the first place.
2. Determine to be honest. One of the things that gets in the way of healthy relationships is silence. Maybe our problem is that we simply don't love one another enough to have the hard conversations that are what good relationships are all about. If you are in a relationship with a flawed person, you will be touched by those flaws. Maybe it will come as an unkind word, an act of selfishness, or an outburst of irritation. Quick and loving honesty in those moments can keep a relationship from being distorted by bad habits and subverted by bitterness.
3. Determine to focus on yourself. No, I am not counseling you to be selfish, I am encouraging you to be humble. Good relationships are the result of both people being committed to personal change and growth. Self-examination is a key way you demonstrate love for the other person. It is very easy to be all-too-satisfied with yourself, while being irritated and impatient with the weaknesses of another. When you have two people who are committed to heart change, the relationship will change and grow as well.
4. Determine to live and give hope. There is a reason you don't have to settle for the relational status quo. There is a reason you don't have to panic. There is a reason you don't have to pack your bags and give up. The cross of Jesus Christ is the epicenter of hope of every relationship. Jesus was willing to face the ultimate in suffering, the rejection of his Father, so that we could experience reconciliation with him and with one another. No, you don't have what it takes to make you and the other person do the right thing, but he does! He is the Prince of Peace and he is able to bring lasting peace to where conflict once reigned. How does he do this? By doing the one thing we can't do for ourselves! He changes our hearts, and the result is radical change in our words and our actions. Look for ways to point the other person to this hope as well.
So be determined. Don't settle for way less than what Jesus suffered and died to give you. Be honest about your relationships and be hopeful about change. You can do both, because in Jesus Christ you really do have everything you need to live in peace with God and the people he has placed in your life.
Originally published November 14, 2011.