Marriage and fatherhood have both taught me a lot about the importance building great relationships, and what it truly means to establish ones that thrive rather than run dry and fade away. I want my family to create meaningful relationships with people that will stand the test of time, not crumble during times of pain and uncertainty. Throughout the Bible, we see Jesus cultivating relationships with all different types of people from all different types of backgrounds. He did this by doing four key things: listening well, loving well, serving well and forgiving well. Jesus is the ultimate example of a great relationship maker, and I think applying these four keys will help you establish long-lasting connections.
1. Listen Well
Anyone who has been married for any amount of time will tell you that there is a big difference between hearing someone and listening to them. And even though I’ve been at fault for this more times than I’d love to admit, the difference between the two remains the same. When we listen to someone instead of simply hearing them, we focus our attention on their words, we feel the emotion behind each word, and try to make a connection to the why behind each emotion. Our hearts are focused on the heart of the individual instead of wondering when the conversation will be over.
Whether the relationship is work-related, a family member, a friend or even your significant other, listening well will help any relationship flourish to its potential. Don’t let the distractions around you get in the way of listening to someone sitting right in front of you. You cannot build healthy relationships with half-hearted listening skills. Put down your phone, get off your computer, lower your music and fixate your attention on the importance of listening to the people talking to you. Give them the attention they deserve. Your relationship depends on it.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” —James 1:19
2. Love Well
Love is one of those things everyone talks about, but very few people put into action. When we look at love as it pertains to the Bible, we see that the love of Jesus has no boundaries, is without limitation and is referenced an average of 250 times depending on which version you read. Jesus loved people in a way that was radical and scandalous. The act of love is important because the Bible says it to be so. Loving people well means going out of our way to let them know it, and not withholding love from someone just because we disapprove of their actions or way of life. True love has no limitations, and we must allow this form of love to exude from every part of our existence. Loving well means every part of our life should exude the love of Jesus.
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” —Mark 12:31
3. Serve Well
Service comes in various shapes and forms, but one of the ultimate examples of servanthood was Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17. Jesus went out of his way to help the disciples, serve them in a time of need, and show them that there was nothing too big or too small that he wouldn’t do for them. In the same way, great relationships thrive when people are continuously trying to out-serve one another.
We serve not to gain recognition, but because Jesus came to serve us first. We’re called to go out of our ways to help people each and every day. This could be something as simple as opening up a door or as monumental as helping someone pay their rent. Regardless, we’re called to serve well. Servanthood and thriving relationships go hand in hand.
“So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” —Galatians 6:10
4. Forgive Well
When we forgive people, we’re freeing ourselves just as much as the person we are extending grace to. Forgiveness is a vital part of thriving relationship. There are many people in my life who I have had to forgive regardless if I’ve agreed with their decisions, and I base this forgiveness on the reality that Jesus forgave you and me while we were still sinners. We didn’t deserve it, but it was a gift that has brought our relationship with Jesus to a whole different level. It’s incomparable to anything this world can offer. When we incorporate forgiveness into the forefront of any relationship, we are indefinitely setting up that relationship for success.
Every time we install forgiveness into a relational quarrel or mishap, we help build trust and understanding with each individual at hand. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it in the long run. Don’t let any relationship fall prey to grudges and resentment.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” —Colossians 3:13