Are you in a relationship that is......hard? It may be with your sister or brother, a parent, friend at work, someone at your church, or maybe your relationship with your husband or child is going through a difficult period and when you are together it is just..hard.
A relationship that is "high maintenance" can affect every single part of our lives. Ever loose a good night's sleep because you kept reliving in your mind the angry words, the strained silences? When a difficult relationship goes on too long, it can even affect our health; we can't eat or...we eat all the time, our work and productivity suffer, and...we take our feelings and emotions out on those we love.
Maybe one of your New Year's resolutions ( I prefer to call them goals) is to work harder at those hard relationships and the place to start is with ourselves. In Proverbs 8, Solomon has some great advice on lots of things pertaining to life, but especially on how to improve our relationships with those we love and care about. The New Year is a great time to purge some old feelings and "hang ups" as we used to call them, and look at life from a different perspective. But good relationships don't "just happen". They take work and a lot of love. There are so many things that go into building strong marriages, good parenting, life long friendships, and strong family bonds, but here are 3 things every believer can build into every single relationship we have and we can begin to see an improvement almost instantly. You may have others and I hope you will share them with us, because every woman I know struggles from time to time with a relationship that is "high maintenance."
In v6 Solomon said, "Hear;" And in my Bible there is a semi-colon after the word, hear. Solomon says to his sons: "hear;" and then he pauses. And when the wisest man in all the world, (not to mention the richest and most powerful) says "hear" then doesn't immediately say anything else, I'd stop what I was doing and "hear"!
The first thing that will make or break a relationship is: Truth.
In v7 Solomon says: "I am going to tell you the truth."
Always telling the truth is the cornerstone of good relationships. Without it, we have no integrity. In our marriage, truth is everything. In parenting, truth is everything. In our relationships with friends, co-workers, church family, if we aren't known for our honesty and truthfulness, we cannot be trusted.
Ladies, it is difficult to say the hard thing. It is difficult to speak truth when a lie would get us so much further down the road. But Solomon also wrote in chapter 31 that a husband's heart can safely trust his wife, and he can trust her because she tells him the truth.
Children need to know Mom tells the truth. They listen when we talk on the phone, when we talk to their Dad and grandparents, the pastor, our neighbors, and they hear the discrepancies. Truth equals trust, and without truth we have no trust.
I have little patience with moody people. I look at it this way; we all have troubles, we all get mad, but that doesn't give me the right to ruin your day with my bad mood.
So here's the scenario: you and your husband have a silly argument on the way to church. You walk into your SS class with the "look" on your face, don't speak or if you do it is a short answer, and that is the signal to "stay out of my way."
But please get this: Being moody is another way of bullying people to do what you want them to do. It is a way of controlling people and situations and it will do more to alienate people than just about anything else you can do. When someone is in a bad mood, what do we do? We try to get them in a good mood by giving them what they want. And when we do that, we are enabling them to abuse us. Yes Ma'am we do. And the more we give in the more they control others by their moods and it is a vicious cycle that we can't break out of. And Mom, kids catch on very quickly. Teens soon learn that a "mood" can work on just about anything. A "sulled up" face in the grocery store can get a Milky Way. And a few tears can get bedtime extended another 30 minutes. But here is the sad thing; moody people sabotage their own relationships and they don't even realize it. Ladies, we don't speak or act wisely when we are moody. And.....we loose the respect of others. Get out of that bad mood, fake it till you can actually smile, and don't put your family and everyone else through another one of your "moods."
If you are sick; say so. If you are angry: say so. If you are in trouble: say so. Someone will appreciate your honesty and actually want to help you through it. It really does work! Lack of consistency in how we treat others is a form of evil peer pressure and it will destroy relationships. Ask God to help you approach every situation, every relationship with consistency. Consistency in our speech, in our actions. You will be amazed at how instantly your relationship with your husband and kids will improve when they see you responding (not reacting) consistently to everything, no matter what it is, with the same quiet, gentle, trusting spirit every single time. Yes, we will get upset. Yes, we will get scared, frustrated, concerned, even angry. But when we determine to respond in a non-threatening way, not hold a grudge, it builds respect into our relationships, not to mention tons of trust.
Memory is a wonderful thing. The older I get, the more sweet memories I have. But memory ceases to be a good thing when I remember the hurt someone caused me. The untruths, the criticisms, the hurt feelings can soon become a grudge and if left to itself, a grudge can become bitterness to my soul.
The only way to blot out a bad memory is to forgive. Proverbs 10:12: "hatred", or holding onto a grudge will stir up a fight or trouble in a relationship; but what will love do?
When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, there was not one single sin that His shed blood did not cover. Jesus forgives all sins. There are no big sins, no little sins, they are all sin.
In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus how many times should I forgive someone; 7 times? And what did Jesus say, verse 22?
The point is, forgiveness should be so automatic, so part of our forgiven nature, that we forgive. We forgive when we are asked to forgive, and when we are not. We forgive when the other person acknowledges what they have done, and when they do not. We forgive when we want to, and we forgive when we do not.
Marriage will not survive without forgiveness. We cannot be successful parents without forgiveness. We cannot have good relationships in our church, with our friends and family, in our job, without forgiveness.
We forgive because "love covers all sins." Proverbs 10:12.
You may be starting this new year with a difficult relationship looking you square in the face. You've tried being nice, you've tried getting along to just get along, you've told them what they wanted to hear, you've looked the other way. Try these 3 things in that relationship and don't just try them once;
allow them to become who you are.
Build integrity into every relationship by being someone who can be trusted to tell the truth.
How you live your life; consistent. Don't try to control people and situations by your moods. Pay attention to how you treat people, put a smile on your face and don't let your mood dictate how you act or react.
How you respond; forgiving. And every time that memory or bad thought about someone comes up, say out loud if possible, or in your heart if you can't say it out lout, "I forgive." Forgiving isn't for the other person and forgiving doesn't mean it was ok for them to hurt you and it doesn't mean you'll just forget it and go on; it means I am releasing myself from holding a grudge and allowing bitterness to eat a whole in my heart.
Ladies, God wants you and me to make an impact on our world. He wants us to be women of truth, consistency, and forgiveness. In this new year, don't be content with those "high maintenance" relationships that drain you physically, spiritually, and mentally. Invest some truth, consistency, and forgiveness into each one and watch how God can turn that high maintenance drama into peace.
Happy New Year, I'd love to hear from you!