The Importance of Whole Relationships
Making relationships a priority
Few things in life are more difficult than keeping our priorities in the right order. As humans, we tend to live in the moment so much that we miss the big picture. For us men it is especially difficult due to our tendency to focus on only one thing at a time. My wife is amazing in her ability to handle several things at once. On the other hand I must focus on one thing, before moving to another. If I try to do two things at once I mess everthing up. A friend of mine recently lamented the fact that he has difficulty maintaining the relationships in his life, because he is so focused on work. He is speaking on behalf of most people who want badly to focus on the important aspects of living, but often find themselves distracted by the "little foxes". I want to encourage you to make developing and maintaining relationships with those people in your life a top priority.
Like many I was so caught up in the crush of making money, staying on top, and just trying to survive the rat race that I allowed the people in my life to drift away. My relationship with my wife and kids was suffering. My friendships were surface at best. Thinking I was being a good husband, worker and all around good person, I failed to realize that I was terribly lacking. There was a huge hole in my life. But it wasn't just me that was lacking. The people who love me were lacking as well. After experiencing a wake up call, I now realize the absolute importance of developing relationships. As humans we were created to be in relationship with each other. God created Adam, then allowed Adam to name the animals. There was more to this than just figuring out what to call each animal. For Adam, it was an opportunity to realize that something was lacking. He realized that he needed another person in his life. So, God created Eve and in her Adam found wholeness. There is a reason why there are so many people on this planet- we were made for relationship with others.
Obstacles to authentic relationships
Before we can understand how to develop and maintain relationships we must understand the obstacles that get in the way. Here are some of the obstacles that prevent us from enjoying authentic relationships:
In this world we are surrounded by so many systems that choke out our ability to enjoy the people around us. For example, religious systems get in the way of authentic relationships. The focus in religion is on achieving a good standing with God. Since our focus is on achieving, then we tend to overlook the people around us. As a Christian, I came to realize that Christianity (the system referred to as Christendom) was preventing me from developing meaningful relationships with the people in my life. A few Christian friends and myself walked out of the traditional church and began meeting in homes, and one of the main reasons was that in a "church service" we could not relate to each other. Staring at the back of each other's heads just wasn't cutting it. We have come to realize that being in a place where we can look face to face is a great help in relating to each other. Too, rather than focusing on performing a church service we focus on being together in the presence of God.
Another system that hinders relational development is corporate America. We work with others to achieve wealth for ourselves. I realize that the reason we go to work is to make money, but often we end up seeing others as a commodity to be used for gaining wealth for ourselves. Instead, we should view our coworkers as people given to us to share the journey of life with. This may sound fanciful, but I see it happen daily.
There are many other systems I could name, but do not want to take the time. Just be aware of the systems around you that threaten to choke the life out of you by isolating you from other people.
This one obstacle spreads it's poisonous tenticles into almost every life. We could learn to relate with others more, but we are so consumed with busyness. Some of the tasks that keep us busy are legitimate, such as family, work, and even play. But so many things rob us of time to develop true relationships, and could be cut out of our schedule. Examples include, overtime at work, excessive time in front of the television, taking on more responsibilities than we can reasonably handle, and all the little things that scream for our attention but are not really that important to living. In making realtionships a priority, we need to figure out what other aspects of life are real priorities, and what can be let go of.
Yes, you can get in the way of developing authentic relationships. As humans we are so self-centered. I cannot count the number of times someone has called me on the carpet for acting in a selfish way. To develop relationships we have to focus on the other person. There is someone in my life who wants a friendship with me, and complains that I won't pursue the friendship anymore than I do. The problem is that when we are together the entire conversation is them talking. Also, the conversation is all about them. They want a friendship, but do not realize that they are getting in the way of that. Many of us, including myself, are also guilty of thinking about other things when someone is talking to us. We need to clear our mind and listen so that we can learn about their life.
How to develop and maintain relationships
Now that we understand some of the obstacles to relationship development, let's look at how to develop and maintain lasting relationships with the people in our life.
1. View others as a gift
This is one I did not get for the longest time. Now, however, I have come to realize that the people around me, be it my family, friends, coworkers, or others, are gifts from God. As gifts they are not to be used or abused. They are not a commodity, and they are not disposable. They are gifts that should be treated with care and love.
2. Learn to focus on the other person
This step is difficult, as we tend to be self consumed. Just as you want them to listen to you, and learn who you are, so you should do the same for them. To focus on them you need to clear your mind so that you can listen with interest. Too, you need to clear your agenda. I find myself, when talking with someone, wanting to accomplish an agenda. I want to talk about whatever it is I met with them for, and then move on. Cutting out busyness allows us time to be together without having to dump each other and move on to the next agenda which ends up with the same result- no relationship.
3. Make relationships a priority
This is the theme of the article, but if being in relationship with others isn't important, then you won't put the effort into it. We make time for what is important to us. Football is important to me. Though one game lasts 3 hours, I make the time. Too, if your family, friends, and others are important to you, then make the time to be with them.
4. Realize the importance of relationships
Since we were made to relate with other people, then that alone make relationships important. We cannot be whole alone. We are only whole as we are in whole relationships with others. Other people complete us. Their strengths make up for our weaknesses. We make up for their lack. In the Bible, Solomon (king of Israel) talked about how futile it is to be alone. In the book of Ecclesiastes, he shows a man who worked and lived alone, and how miserable that man was. So, he states in Ecclesiates 4:9-12 (N.I.V.)- "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Solomon realized the futility of trying to live life alone. I encourage you to open your eyes and see the value of sharing the journey of life with others.
5. Begin at square one
This may seem a bit simplistic, but we can get overwhelmed with trying to do everything at once. Start small, and move forward from there. I tell people that as long as you are making progress, then it doesn't matter how much progress you are making. Take the relationship one step at a time, and be content with the journey together.
If you will put these principles into practice, your life will take on more meaning, and you will begin to experience the fulfillment of life with others.