Read also Connecting with People – Part 1
Good relationships take time. They don’t happen by accident. They take cultivation, work, a lot of time to build a deep connection with somebody. That requires commitment. There are going to be times that the relationship carries a cost. That cost might be inconvenience. That cost may be difficulties in the relationship. It may be time. But all good relationships carry a cost.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” A good friend is always loyal. There are going to be times of adversity in which true friends are needed. This will be the time that many of your friends will disappear. But a true friend is always loyal. When you’ve made a mistake, friends are in your corner when you’re cornered. And they see you through when everybody else thinks you’re through. They walk in when everybody else walks out. They are there with you even when you don’t deserve it. Every close relationship begins with a commitment.
This is especially important for men. Many men tend to deny their needs for deep friendships. It’s easy to coast and to talk about the weather and about sports. But we need accountability. We need deep friendships. We need to be able to open up to a few good men. Gordon MacDonald, in his book When Men Think Private Thoughts, points out that men begin to relate to others competitively. They feel that the investment of time is too costly. But he writes:
“You, my male friend, are a relational being; you must connect. God has made you to share life with a host of people, not just your wife. You are meant to share life with other men as you work with them, fight the battles of life with them, and discover the world with them.”
You need friends. Who are the two or three people that you will stick by no matter what? If you’re married, is your spouse one of these people? Once you promised that you would stick with them until death do you part. Somebody’s said that a lot of marriages start off as an ideal, quickly move to an ordeal, and eventually become no deal. Can you apply this principle of commitment to your marriage?
Who are you committed to? And who knows it? Have you ever gone to any single individual besides your spouse and said, “I just want you to know that I will always be there for you.” Have you ever said that to anybody? Have you ever established that kind of intentional commitment and said, “I want to grow close to you as a friend”?
Be Constructive With Your Words
Proverbs 11:9 says, “Evil words destroy one’s friends.” Your words have tremendous power. They have the power to build your friends up. It’s amazing what a few, well-spoken words can do to cement a friendship. But your words also have tremendous power—power to destroy your friends.
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Proverbs 12:18 says it best: “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” Cutting or sarcastic remarks—even in jest—can be very damaging to a relationship. A few misplaced words can do serious damage. We need to choose constructive words—words that build up and heal—rather than destructive words.
What are some of the ways that we can be constructive with our words? The first thing that we need to do is to control our anger. Some of us are very quick-tempered. Others of us let things bottle up, and then one day—watch out! But our angry words can be incredibly destructive. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back.” We need to learn better patterns of relating than to just vent our anger.
Sometimes we underestimate the power of our words. We say things without really thinking. People remember them. Think back in your own life to some very hurtful things that were said to you years ago. We can still feel the pain from these hurtful things even today.
We need to think of our words as power tools. Have you ever read the instructions that come with power tools? Here’s an example of what you might find in a power tool in your garage, and see how closely these instructions relate to the other power tool that God has given us—our mouths:
- Know your power tool.
- Keep guards in place.
- Be careful around children.
- Store idle tools when not in use.
- Don’t overreach
- Never use in an explosive atmosphere.
Another step that we can take, besides controlling our anger, is this: we can talk less. Have a look sometime at Proverbs 17:28: “Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” Your mother probably told you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” That’s biblical advice. If our words are a power tool, you don’t have to use it as much. Talk less. One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes. We talk before we think. We need to talk less.
The third step that we can take is to look for building words. Proverbs 25:11 says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewellery.” Look for ways to build other people up. In every situation, there’s a positive way to say something, and a negative way to say something. Our world has enough negativity. People are torn down enough. Look for a way to build others up. Your words are powerful enough to do that!
Be Honest About Problems
Do you think that you will have problems in your relationships? One of the keys to developing healthy relationships is to know how to handle the problems that inevitably come up. That takes honesty.
Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” In other words, it’s better for a close friend to be honest about a problem in the relationship, than for an enemy to tell you that you’re great when they don’t really mean it. Sometimes friends are the only ones who love us enough to tell us what we really need to hear. Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is like a warm hug.”