If we are at peace with God and ourselves, we have a great foundation for fostering healthy relationships. The principles here apply to every type of relationship, from family dynamics with our spouses and children to lifelong and new friendships, colleagues at work and all other social dynamics.
Before enumerating positive insights, there are three boundaries that will help ensure that sacrificial love does not become self-destructive.
- One: Serving those that cannot return the favor is the height of agape of love; however, such service must never be at the expense of the dignity and integrity of our God-designed being and purpose. Put another way, biblical self-denial (good when we surrender our selfishness) is not personal self-destruction.
- Two: We must forgive readily without excusing real transgressions or pretending the traumas did not occur. Forgiveness is powerful because we are desiring the best for another who sinned against God, us and others. We must not keep a “rap sheet” of grievances against others or ourselves.
- Three: There is no merit in unwise vulnerability that leads to abuse and co-dependence. Psalm 16:6 declares that God puts boundaries in pleasant places. This reference to property lines works for our souls as well. Minor irritations are one thing; constant emotional rejection and subjugation is not something we must willfully engage.
Four positive insights will help guide healthy relationships – and love wisely expressed is the mark of the followers of Jesus.
- One: Release unhealthy expectations and learn to receive whatever others can give. When we stop our “emotional accounting” and choose the good of others over our own momentary feelings, life becomes richer.
- If married, enjoy God together and discover the shared mission/purpose of your marriage and your family (when and if children are part of household). If you cultivate a rich inner life and can connect your daily activities with divine callings, then issues of communication, romance and economics are faced and conquered together.
- In the world of work, decide ahead of time that your advancement will never come at the expense of integrity and fair treatment of others. Diligence, honesty, teamwork and genuine concern for others may cost you occasional promotions, but your opportunities for influence will grow and sleeping at night is a good thing!
- Self-care is not selfish. Proper diet and exercise, time for solitude, boundaries with hurting and selfish folks (while serving them) and replenishment in the presence of God and his Creation help us serve others. There is no glory in unnecessary burnout.
Integrating the spiritual, emotional and relational dimensions of life requires clarity and focus, some emotional discipline and, above all, love and humility. Adulthood is more about discipline than income and maturity is expressed in the unselfish quality of our interactions more than information acquisition or positional attainment. Let enjoy growing up!