My elementary school pencil boxes were made exactly like my granddaddy’s cigar boxes. But rather than the Dutch Masters gracing the lid, brightly colored ABC’s and 123’s stole the spotlight. Every year, Mama filled a new box with all sorts of useful supplies. There were fat pencils, pointed crayons (my favorite), not-so-sharp scissors, rubber cement, and a wooden ruler. Emblazoned on the ruler were the words: The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Luke 6:31)
Being a good little church girl, I tried to follow that rule for the most part. Every now and then, I’d get the urge on the playground to punch a boy for pulling my hair or shoving me out of line, but I chose not to because I didn’t want to get punched back. Now that I’m considerably older, I’ve learned the Golden Rule is much more than simply not retaliating. It’s all about loving others the way you want to be loved.
And that’s the rub.
What if the way I choose to love you is not the way you want or need to be loved? And what if the way you choose to love me doesn’t instill that loving feeling? Disconnection happens in marriages, with children, in friendships, among co-workers, and even between church members. One gives all they’re capable of giving, while the other thinks it’s not nearly enough. One may give more than the other is willing to receive. Or, perhaps neither give much at all, hoping the other person will. So, what’s a relationship supposed to do? How do we take one to the next level?
Here are eight things we might consider once we realize God is for the relationship:
First, we realize we are not meant to be independent of one another. No matter how successful we are socially, financially, or vocationally, when we try to live independently on an emotional level we feel alone, worthless, and fake. We need each other. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”(Ecclesiastes 4:10, NLT)
Second, we need to see what could be. We should ask God to point out what He sees in the relationship. Often times, we sit on a mine of untapped potential. Rarely, does He form a relationship for just for one person. “So encourage EACH OTHER and build EACH OTHER up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT)
Third, listen to what’s going on with the other person. Listening proves you care. But sharing your feelings gives the other person a chance to listen to your heart. I like the way The Message states James 1:19, “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”
Fourth, say what others won’t say. We may not feel comfortable saying the hard things to those we love, but when thoughts and feelings are left to the imagination, most times they sow seeds of bitterness and hurt that grow wild. Don’t hold back out of fear of conflict. One helpful phrase to use when someone’s hurt you is, “When you did _________, I felt ____________.” (That even helps when the person has done something wonderful!) The goal of conflict is understanding, not winning. “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15, NLT)
Fifth, serve whenever possible. I heard it said long ago that love is the willingness to be inconvenienced. I’m sure this came from a person whose love language is acts of service, but nevertheless, it’s still true even for those of us who feel love through physical touch and words of affirmation. To use the simple words of Bob Goff, “love does.” “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18, NLT)
Sixth, feel empathy for pain and frustration. We don’t have to carry others’ pain for them. Our job is to hold them long enough to allow them time to muscle up beneath its weight. The stronger we encourage them to be, the better able they will be to overcome it. Mother Teresa said, “Empathy is your pain in my heart.” “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NLT)
Seventh, walk together in the tough times. If your friend doesn’t have the strength to walk, don’t push them from behind or try to walk for them. Stop, sit, and wait for their strength to renew. “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24, NLT) It’s wise and oh so helpful to remember that friends cannot give us something they do not have, and they will not give us anything they are not ready to give. Be patient.
And finally, my favorite! Number eight, don’t let The Golden Rule rub you the wrong way. When you or your hurting friend recovers, or when your relationship blossoms, CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS! HAVE SOME FUN TOGETHER! “A joyful, cheerful heart brings healing to both body and soul.” (Proverbs 17:22a, TPT)