Summary: . This message provides a few exhortations on how to have healthy personal relationships. How do I have close relationships that don’t become controlling or co-dependent? How do I handle times when relationships are rocky?
The two great commandments are: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”1 According to what Jesus said in Matt. 22:37-39, it is all about relationships: our relationship with God and our relationships with other people. Jesus reinforced that priority in Matt 5:23-25 when He said, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Is there a relationship in your life that needs tending to? Is there a person who comes to mind that you may need to talk with? I have seen a lot of people over the years lose ground spiritually, not because they rebelled against God, in fact they kept pursuing God; but it fell flat because they did not manage relationships in a healthy way.
I want to share with you five exhortations for improving your personal relationships. How can I do better at relating to other people?
I. Encourage Others.
Everybody needs encouragement. Everybody needs affirmation. There are times when we need correction; but we need a whole lot more encouragement than correction. In fact, it is difficult to receive correction if there has been no encouragement along the way.
After analyzing many surveys, J. C. Staehle found that the principle causes of unrest among workers, were the following:
1. Failure to give credit for suggestions.
2. Failure to correct grievances.
3. Failure to encourage.
4. Criticizing employees in front of other people.
5. Failure to ask employees their opinions.
6. Failure to inform employees of their progress.
Even the secular world recognizes the power of encouragement. The employer who fails to understand that is probably going to have some serious morale problems in the company.
But encouragement is not just a way to run a successful business. It is a way that we relate to one another as God’s people. Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We strengthen one another when we give a word of encouragement and affirmation.
Develop the habit of seeing the positive in other people and affirming what you see. It is very easy for our flesh to see flaws and shortcomings in others, especially if those flaws are making our own life uncomfortable. But we tend to see what we’re looking for. So, instead of looking for the weaknesses in a person, look for strengths.
Criticism, even subtle criticism, can undermine a relationship. Listen to Matthew 7:1-5 from TLB. “Don't criticize, and then you won't be criticized. 2 For others will treat you as you treat them. 3 And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? 4 Should you say, 'Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,' when you can't even see because of the board in your own? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.”
It’s amazing how easy it is to see faults in other people, and fail to recognize them in ourselves. When there is a conflict, the temptation is to immediately blame the other person. We have to be very intentional and honest with ourselves if we are to avoid that tendency. In his Peanuts strip, Charles Schulz had an amazing talent for communicating truths like this in humorous, memorable ways. In one strip Charlie Brown rests his head in his hands while leaning on the wall and looking miserable. His friend, Lucy, approaches. “Discouraged again, eh, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown does not even answer. “You know what your trouble is?” Lucy asks. Without waiting for a response, she announces, “The whole trouble with you is that you are you!” Charlie Brown says, “Well, what in the world can I do about that?” “I don’t pretend to be able to give advice,” Lucy replies. “I merely point out the trouble.”3
I doubt Charlie Brown was helped much by Lucy’s input.
Judging others has to do with our own condition of heart. It’s one thing to discern a problem. It’s another to pridefully place ourselves over that person and pass judgement. It’s even worse when we share that judgment with others.
Matt. 7:2 says, “For others will treat you as you treat them” At least to some degree, people respond to us in like kind. If I encourage others, they will tend to encourage me. If I criticize others, they will look for something in me to criticize. Once that cycle gets going, the relationship is in a downward spiral.