Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.
Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us.
Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.
We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.
I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen.
(1) I will act, not react.
We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful.
Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down.
I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking.
Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying.
This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM.
But he wasn’t going to talk to her.
He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning.
In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM.
He’s missed his flight.
He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up.
Point for the wife.
Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]
It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react?
Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?
Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Asking clarifying questions.
When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them.
Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always –
These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident.
And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell.
Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently.
Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical.
It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago.
As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical.
In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume.
All of this is acting, not reacting.
(2) I will focus on the good things in you.
Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person.
Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life.
Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship.
We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it?
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [Philippians 4:8]
Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse.
In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up.
Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.
This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:
Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become.
The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them.
(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.
We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us.
One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.
Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount.
If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]
As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person.
If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.
People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them.
Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others.
Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like.
I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.
Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.