“No man is an island,” somebody once said and those few words sum up the essence of mankind. We thrive on relationships. One of the worst punishments is to deprive a person of contact with others.
However our relationships are often fragile and sometimes fall apart. Some people strive for positive relationships with others but always seem to make a mess of it. Others end up in destructive relationships where they are used and abused.
There are three key types of relationships that together promote positive, strong and wholesome relationships. All three need to be developed if your relationships are to be successful.
Jesus described these three types in Mark 12:28-31. A scribe came to him and asked which was the greatest of all the commandments. Jesus responded saying that the first and greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength,” and a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” He said there is no other commandment greater than these two.
Now if these are the two greatest of the commandments, they are worth consideration to for they contain wisdom. They both deal with relationships and define the three most important relationships of all. They are:
- Our relationship with God
- Our relationship with others
- Our relationship with ourself
All three work together to enable positive relationships. It may be possible to have a relationship with just one or two of these, but really good, strong relationships are best achieved when all three work together.
These three are underpinned by love, which is the key to a successful relationship for love is the foundation of positive and up-building relationships.
There are many kinds of love. The love you have for a brother is different to the love for a friend, parent, wife or child. The love of God is best described in 1 Corinthians 13. It shows love as active, as something you do. It says things like, “Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or boastful, it does not insist on its own way, etc.” All of these we can do and people exhibit love through such actions and attributes.
Love is the glue that binds the three types of relationships together. Consider this:
Relationship with Ourself
If we lack self-esteem and allow others to walk over us we will end up in abusive relationships. To have positive relationships with others we must first love ourselves to strengthen our own self-image and self-respect. If we have no love for ourself we have no relationship with ourself, so how can we have positive relationships with others?
Relationship with Others
Is it possible to have positive relationships with others if we use and abuse them? If our primary purposes with others are to get our own way all of the time, those relationships will not last. Love does not use and abuse other people and most people will be “once bitten twice shy.” If we do not show others the respect they deserve, then we cannot have a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. Good relationships may not always run smoothly, but they weather storms and grow stronger as they work out issues.
Relationship with God
Many ignore a relationship with God not realising its value. A relationship with God strengthens all of your other relationships. A person in a relationship with God learns behaviours that build positive relationships. They learn to take relationships to a deeper, spiritual level with God giving them an inner strength, peace and calm. They become humble and strong at the same time and importantly they learn to recognise that others, like themselves, have flaws. They aim to overlook those flaws while seeking the best for others and enter relationships with consideration for the other person rather than, “What’s in it for me?”
The real potential for successful relationships can only be achieved when all three of these key areas are working together in harmony and are bound together with love. Strive for this in all your relationships and they will surely flourish.