The next concept in healthy relationship and intimacy is practical application of some principles to our day to day lives. These principles are for safe relationships.
[tweet_dis]Healthy relationships are safe relationships. [/tweet_dis]Relationships involving abuse, control or domination, or that are one-sided, are not healthy or safe. If you are in relationships like that, there are times when, for your own spiritual and emotional well-being, you may need to separate yourself from a person you have considered a close friend. Do this carefully with God’s guidance in prayer.
This lifestyle of developing close and healthy relationships involves the principles of community, communication, change and commitment. This way of life takes time and effort, but the result is extremely rewarding.
Community is often referred to as “doing life together.” Relationship involves quality time spent together, and is formed and maintained in fun moments of joy and relaxation. This is done while walking through hard times with someone, or simply by sharing the ordinary and daily events of life together. Women often find this sense of community through sharing together over a cup of coffee or doing Bible study together. Men may find this at the ball field, fishing or praying with each other. There is no formula for developing community. It is what connects us together and builds relationship.
Secondly, there must be effective communication. Notice I did not say simply “communication”. Effective communication is two-way. It involves each person being willing to openly share their thoughts, emotions, ideas and dreams. It also involves the ability and willingness to listen to the other person as they share what is on their heart. Sometimes, we must listen beyond the spoken words to hear the heart.
Often, we think we are communicating one thing, however the other person is hearing something quite different. Most of us listen through our own life’s beliefs or “filters.” It is very important to learn to be a reflective listener. Reflective listening means that as you listen to someone speak, you ask them questions in order to make sure you understood them correctly. Friends of mine call this the “McDonald’s approach” to communication! Let me explain. You drive up to the drive-through and say “I want a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.” They repeat back “you want a hamburger, tater tots and a coffee?” That is your opportunity to say, “No, I said cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.” Then when they repeat it back to you correctly, you know you have communicated effectively.
True effective communication helps us to understand what the other person really means. Close relationships come from knowing a person and hearing beyond their words to what is in their hearts. This is especially important because in critical or emotional issues is it easy to misunderstand or be misunderstood. Effective communication involves speaking, hearing, asking and understanding.
When you hear someone’s words or see their actions, make sure to take into account what you know about their heart and their character. Keep in mind the desires and dreams they have shared with you. Again, ask questions if you hear something that does not seem to line up with what you know is consistent with their lives.
Thirdly, [tweet_dis]healthy relationships must have the elasticity to change and grow.[/tweet_dis] We each need the freedom to change. We need those who will encourage us to change and grow as God works in our hearts and lives. As people change, the essence of relationships may also change. This is to be expected. Major events in life such as health issues, a move, a new job or a loss will cause us to change. These changes may be challenging at first. However, they provide an opportunity to strengthen us and to bring growth in our personal lives as well as growth in our relationships. This freedom to change involves the growing process of community and of effective communication. Those are valuable parts of the journey that takes us to more mature levels of life and relationship.
Fourth, one must be committed. Commitment is the foundation of safe and healthy relationships. Commitment to a friend means that you determine ahead of time to work through any problems rather than turn and run. We all are far too human at times, and we fail each other. There will be challenges in any close relationship. But when a challenge arises within that close relationship which has been built on effective communication, we can more easily work through the situation. Commitment helps us to keep from being wounded and offended, and allows us to more easily extend grace and forgiveness.
There may be other specific things you must do during these challenging times. Ask God what is to be your response in every situation. Be open to hear from Him and act upon what He is saying.
These relationships do not happen overnight but they evolve. Just as our relationship with God is a journey and a process of getting to know Him, our relationships with other people also grow. It takes an investment of time and commitment to form intimacy where safety and transparency are evident. There, the giving and receiving of the deep parts of our heart are accepted with trust and joy.
True intimacy is developed over time and out of love. [tweet_dis]Love gives rather than takes or demands[/tweet_dis]Love gives rather than takes or demands. Love involves respect and honor, as you share your heart and life openly with someone. Love works toward healing and building up one another.
Action Steps: Consider the relationships in your life.
Scripture: Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times…” (NASB)
A Prayer: Dear God, I thank you for the relationships I do have in my life. I thank you for them and ask you to help me to be the best friend I can be to them, as You guide me. God, I ask you to add friendships to my life as You desire and I also ask that you help me to not only receive friendship from others, but help me to extend friendship with Your leading and guiding. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
(I encourage you to talk to Him in your own words. Share your heart with Him. He loves you and desires to hear what is in your heart and on your mind.)