Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
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Saturday, February 11, 2017

4 Practical Ways to Enjoy Better Relationships

Great relationships don't just happen. Like your golf game, they take a lot of time and effort to improve. Life seems to be rolling along just fine, and suddenly you hit a bump in the road. People mess up. We say hurtful things, betray a trust, overreact, and manipulate to get our needs met.  We turn to passive-aggressive behaviors instead of dealing with issues up front. Often, we are clueless how deeply our words and actions affect others. So why do we act like this?

Our ego and insecurities get in the way of healthy and respectful communication which prevents us from enjoying the close relationships we so desire.  It is tough to be on the receiving end of mistreatment but we are called to love another while setting appropriate boundaries.

After enduring many painful experiences, I realized I can't just give up on people. We all have our flaws so I dug into the subject and today I am sharing 4 ways to help us enjoy better relationships.

1. Learn to confront
Confrontation has gotten a bad rap, but when we use the term in regards to relationships, to confront simply means to come face to face. According to psychologists and relationship experts, John Townsend and Henry Cloud, confrontation is a skill we can all learn to preserve relationships by addressing issues with one another. For more on this, check out their book "Boundaries: Face to Face".

Rather than dumping people because our anger or frustration has reached the max, a better way is to confront the issue at hand and give the other person a chance to change their ways.

I once had a very close friend who called me up one day in a tizzy of frustration over something in our friendship. We had hit a bump in the road. I was trying to understand her concerns but she would have none of it. Then she blurts out this hurtful statement: "From now on, we are just acquaintances." I was stunned, shocked, and very hurt. Where was my chance to change? Why hadn't she said anything to me before? People are not mind-readers: not husbands, not boyfriends, and certainly not girlfriends. Unless we take the time to confront the issue, the other person is probably going on about their business clueless. One thing to remember in confronting, is to do it before you blow your stack or sever the relationship. This takes courage, skill, and maturity but it is a skill worth learning.

2. Learn to apologize
When someone confronts us with a problem, we need to be able to offer a sincere apology and offer to make amends. Some people think if they utter a perfunctory "I'm sorry", everything is hunky dory and they are ready to move on. Not quite so fast! The offender must take the time to understand and take responsibility for the pain he or she has caused the other person. They also need to make amends in some way. An apology is only the first step in reconciling the relationship and people receive apologies in different ways. For more on how to apologize, check out this insightful book, "The 5 Languages of Apology" by Gary Chapman.

3. Be willing to change our behavior
When we are confronted with an issue, the ball is our court so to speak. It is up to us to decide:
a)do we want to maintain the relationship and if we do,
b)understand what we have done that has hurt the other person.

This takes putting ourselves in their shoes. It also takes swallowing our pride and admitting our behavior needs to change. Personal story.

I once dated this guy, who was a strong Christian, went to church, read the Bible, the whole nine yards. But he had a jealousy problem. We would argue until the wee hours of the night about situations.

 During these heated discussions he would resort to unfair and hurtful tactics such as demanding gifts be returned, name-calling, etc. When I expressed how hurtful his actions were, he would invariably apologize, but it wouldn't be long before we'd be at it again. Finally I had had enough of this behavior and told him so. His response was "What ever happened to forgiveness?"

Talk about the guilt trip. I had forgiven him umpteen times so my response to him was "What ever happened to repentance?" Repentance is the biblical term for changing one's behavior. In order to achieve harmonious and enduring relationships, we need to be willing to deal with our fears and insecurities, so we can clearly see how our behavior is impacting the other party and make the necessary changes. When we truly care about the relationship, we will put loving the other person above our egos and pride.

4. Learn to forgive
Forgiveness is a process that seems to be misunderstood by many. True forgiveness is really a two part process: forgiveness and restoration or reconciliation. Forgiveness means letting go of the need to get back at the other person. It means surrendering our hurt and pain to God, and giving the relationship another chance. Forgiveness is for both our well-being and the well-being of the other person. It frees the offender from the toxicity of shame. The words "I forgive you" can do wonders for the healing.

Restoration or reconciliation cannot occur until the offender has demonstrated changes in his or her behavior. It is folly to continue to allow someone back into our lives, when they have given us no indication that they have changed. This process applies to people with addiction or anger issues as well. Repeated patterns indicate an unwillingness to change for whatever reason. Forgiveness gives the offender a chance to redeem himself and we demonstrate our faith in them to do so.

To summarize, harmonious relationships don't just happen. There will always be bumps in the relationship road, but I hope that these 4 tips have given you some tools to navigate the potholes we inevitably encounter. When we have the courage to confront and the willingness to change and to forgive, we can enjoy the relationships we all desire.

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Stay tuned for more on how to enjoy better relationships and until next time,

Keep looking up!