If we’re not careful, life can get so busy that we don’t take the time to actually enjoy healthy, Christ-honoring relationships. We can become miniature “Marthas,” being too busy with serving that we miss the joys that come from true fellowship with others.
Currently, I’m on a semi-sabbatical – the first for me in over 26 years of ministry. I’m enjoying working on these human connections God has allowed me to have. Over the past few weeks I have been reconnecting with family, with friends, with former co-laborers – I’m truly grateful for the relationships God has allowed into my life.
As I’ve been taking some time to reflect, there are at least four key ingredients (and this isn’t rocket science!) that I see in healthy relationships.
Yes Jesus was full of grace – but He was also full of truth. We know that it’s not even possible for God to lie. The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of truth.” In the Mosaic Law, the Jewish nation was commanded to not “bear false witness” against their neighbors. In short, God’s standard is honesty.
When those we interact with believe we are “loose” with the truth, that we are “less than honest,” – that spirit puts a strain on a relationship that God doesn’t intend. Healthy relationships value honesty.
Full disclosure – I struggle here! My flesh wants the spotlight, it wants to take credit, it wants to be noticed. Yet, I know one of the things God “hates” (and that’s a strong word) is a “proud” spirit. I know that God “resists” the proud and gives grace to the humble. Theologically, I know that the position of servant, the position of humility, is the best option as a Christ-follower. Practically, I’m a work in progress.
When those we interact with sense that the relationship is more about “me” than “we,” they will eventually start to feel used, manipulated, or not an equal partner to the relationship. Humility is the soil in which healthy relationships nurture. Healthy relationships value humility.
“Humility is the soil in which healthy relationships nurture.”
This one doesn’t come hard for me! The difficulty is to not cross the line between good-natured fun and a sarcastic “bite” to put others down (in other words, a lack of humility!). Biblically, a merry heart does us good…it has medicinal value. There is a place for seriousness – and granted, I don’t always find that place! – but there is also a time for relaxation as well.
When those we interact with sense that we are all “business” and never free to “be real,” they can feel like we are closing them out of a part of our life. Healthy relationships value a sense of humor.
Have you ever tried to speak to someone, but you just know that they aren’t listening? What does that communicate? Years ago, I was trying to have a brief, but important conversation with a good friend. It seemed like every 30 seconds to a minute, he was saying, “Hold that thought…I need to take this…” After four or five interruptions, I pulled out my phone, dialed his number while I was speaking. Without even looking at the caller, he said, “I’m really sorry, Mike – I need to take this…”
As he put the phone to his ear, I lifted my phone as well. Standing two feet apart from each other, I said through my phone, “Hey man, I just need five minutes, so I’m going to tie up your phone line!”
What was I saying? “I just want you to listen for a few moments…”
We are in a fast-paced society. We have everything we need / want at our fingertips. In this environment, the art of listening becomes more difficult. Yet, we all know that healthy relationships value listening as well as speaking.
This isn’t an all-inclusive list by any means. However, I believe the ingredients of honesty, humility, humor, and hearing are staples in every healthy relationship. We’re all “works in progress,” but let’s make sure the work is still continuing!