Think about your relationships: are they a source of stress you’d rather avoid, or do they encourage and fulfill you? We all struggle with relationships sometimes. For me, they are often a source of anxiety rather than the enrichment that God intends for me. I stress about them, grappling with questions of what I can do or change. I pin blame on myself, which leaves me feeling lost and guilty.
I try to have control over my relationships instead of relinquishing them to God and allowing Him to work through them. I don’t look up often enough, to ask the Lord of the universe for help. Sometimes I feel so exhausted that I just step away, thinking it’s better to be alone than to be weighed down by so much worry.
But God does not intend for us to be alone. God is always with us, yes, but God also desires for us to have relationships with others, and healthy relationships are pleasing in the eyes of God.
Since the beginning of the world God intended for us to have relationships – not just with God, but with each other. In Genesis 2:18 God declares, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NIV), and He created Eve, not only to be Adam’s wife, but also to be his companion, so that each received encouragement and support; a relationship built upon mutual worth and respect.
So, how can you improve your relationships?
1. Evaluate Your Relationships
In order to have good relationships, it is important to know what a healthy relationship is. Maybe you think all of your relationships are perfectly healthy.
Maybe you don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like or if it’s even possible for you.
Relationships are two-way streets. Are you the only one paving the road in your relationships? Or maybe you only sit on the sidelines, hoping the road will pave itself. The road may be smooth or bumpy. It may be full of potholes that need to be filled. What do your relationships look like?
Look at this chart to get a better idea of what makes up a healthy relationship as well as an unhealthy one. Does it seem that your feelings are often ignored? Are you able to engage in healthy conflict that promotes growth and learning in your relationships?
2. Learn to Compromise and Let Go
Do you engage in conflict in your relationships? Maybe you’re like me, with a tendency to avoid conflicts, even if that leaves you feeling hurt or ignored. Or perhaps your tendency is to be ruled by your emotions and fight each battle as it comes. At times it is good to speak your mind; others, it is better to just lay down your sword. You know what they say: choose your battles.
Conflict in a relationship is healthy; what is unhealthy is when we do not talk or listen to each other’s feelings. Be cooperative and make compromises. If it isn’t a big deal, let it go.
If it bothers you, be ready and willing to talk about it in a mature and sensitive way, aware of the other person’s feelings as well.
Don’t be accusatory, but rather, seek to understand the other side as you also explain your own feelings. Then, let it go.
Speaking up can help “minimize feelings of abandonment, rejection, guilt, anger, betrayal, and defensive thoughts.” 2
3. Recognize Your Own Value
You were created in the image of the Almighty God of the universe. You are not insignificant, despite what you may feel at times. Feelings of insignificance or of being unworthy could relate to difficulties in our relationships with people. What can be improved? Do some relationships need to be released?
Try first to establish communication. Honestly consider whether mutual understanding is possible, but if you are unable to be heard despite your efforts, it may be time to let go of that relationship and the expectations you have for it.
A relationship involves two people, so if your thoughts and opinions are always being ignored, you are not truly relating with the other person. Let go and move on.
Do not be afraid to ask for what you need from people who can give it to you. If a relationship is both give and take, you have to be ready and willing to take as well as give; don’t just do one or the other.
Learn to recognize and respect your boundaries, and the boundaries of others as well. This is healthy. It is good to spend time apart and connect with different people. Make sure not to neglect the relationship, either. Maintain a healthy balance.
4. Recognize the Value of Others
Not only did God create us to have relationships with others, but also having good relationships enriches both parties. If a relationship is healthy, you both will be participating, giving, and humbly receiving.
Try finding ways to incorporate others’ input to show you respect and value their ideas.
Humans are all beloved by the Creator of the universe and all have something to offer in this world. Others are valuable not necessarily for what you can receive from them but for what they are able to give. That is, the very act of giving, of participating in relationships, helps others recognize their own value.
Learn how you can participate in your relationships better, whether it’s by learning what others have to give or learning how to receive. Often, we feel blessed by being able to give as well as receive. Learn what people’s gifts are, and learn how to affirm and encourage them in those areas. Do not just be a leader in your strengths, but also learn to allow others to lead in theirs.
“Relationships reflect the great diversity of our world.”3
5. Give it Time
Give God time to work. Change takes time. Relationships change vastly over time – maybe growing closer together or further apart. Some relationships may need to be let go of when they do not fit into God’s plan.
Follow where He leads you, even if it’s away from what you thought was a great relationship. It takes time, and maybe you need time away, or God has something better planned.
Healthy relationships between people are pleasing to God, but only with God can we have a perfect relationship, and from our human side of it, there are still ways we can improve. Things change in life. Only God is constant, unchanging (see Heb. 13:8).
Our relationships affect everything and
can either drain us or fulfill us.
In order to have relationships that truly reflect Christ, it is essential that we evaluate them, know when to compromise and when to let go, see the value in ourselves and in others, and allow time for God to work.
Grace Lott is a senior at Samford University and currently serves as an intern at Christian Women’s Leadership Center (CWLC).
1 Linda Clark, 5 Leadership Essentials for Women (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2004), 74.
2 Clark, 88.
3 Clark, 96.