Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Parts 1 and 2, I looked at the topic of connecting with people. I just want to take one step further in this last part. How is it that we get along with people? I think honesty is important.
Genuine, healthy, deep, meaningful relationships are built on honesty, not on flattery. They’ll tell you when you’re blowing it. They’ll tell you when you’re wasting your life, making a dumb, bad decision. Because healthy relationships are built on honesty. All of us have blind spots. The question that really matters is, do you have anybody in your life that loves you enough to point them out? Who cares enough to say, “You need to work on this.”
Now, you can be honest while still being constructive with your words. You can do this by watching your language. Don’t say things like: “You always do this” “You never do this”. Understandably, the conversation doesn’t usually go well when you do this. It’s a lot better to say, “When you did that, I felt this way. I know that you probably didn’t mean to do that, but that’s how it made me feel.”
Another way that you can be constructive and honest at the same time is to compliment in public, correct in private. With your spouse, your children, and in all your relationships, you owe them the dignity of dealing with problems in private. Praising someone in pubic does wonders for them. Correcting them in private makes them a lot more open. You can also wait for the right time. It’s almost as important to know when to say something as it is what to say. Ask a husband and wife about that issue.
There are a whole set of relational skills that you need if you’re going to deal with your relationships honestly. It comes back to commitment. Are you committed enough to the relationship to work through problems with honesty and integrity? Who do you need to get honest with? What problem in your relationship are you pretending isn’t a problem? Which of those issues do you need to be candid about? Sometimes you must care enough to confront.
Be willing to forgive offences
The fourth key is closely related: forgiveness.
If you’re in a relationship long enough, there are going to be times that you’re going to need to forgive. We need to learn how to forgive offences. Proverbs 17:9 says, “Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends.” Friendship requires the ability to forget. Harping on the past has destroyed many marriages and friendships.
Have you ever had a fight with someone, in which you’re tempted to bring up all the mistakes they’ve ever made? There’s nothing that will kill a friendship faster than doing this. You’ve got to forgive.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.” One of the benefits of dealing honestly with problems is that you can then move on and forgive them. You can forget how they’ve offended you. Why? Because first of all, Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” The Bible tells us that God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others. The two are linked. That’s why we need to forgive others. The other why is because it’s good for you. When you forgive, you release yourself from a burden that you were never meant to carry.
Well, how many times should you forgive? In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive, and he suggested a number: seven. That sounds pretty reasonable to me. It was more than the religious leaders of the day demanded. But Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.” The point is this: don’t even bother counting. Real forgiveness doesn’t keep track of offences. When you’ve worked through the issue honestly, it’s time to move on.
How? That’s the hard part. Forgiveness is an act of the will. It’s a command. The decision comes first; the emotions come later. If you wait to feel like you want to forgive, you’ll wait forever. But once you make the decision to forgive, the emotions will come along eventually. It’s amazing how the emotions will follow an act of obedience. Romans 12:21 says, “Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” You need to forgive if you don’t want evil to get the best of your relationships.
By the way, this type of forgiveness is impossible if you aren’t a follower of Jesus Christ. One of the best steps that you can take to improve your relationships is to begin following him. When you begin to follow Jesus, he transforms your relationships. He forgives you and gives you the power to forgive others. You can’t hope to have good relationships until you begin to follow him. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, the best thing that you could do to improve your human relationships is to get your relationship with God straightened out. How? By accepting what Jesus did on the cross to re-establish that relationship. He came to reconcile you to God. You need to accept that gift and begin to follow him.
Be confidential with information
The final key to connecting is confidentiality.
There were three pastors who got together and decided to work on being honest. They sat down in a small group and said, “Let’s just be honest with each other about what our greatest struggle, our greatest sin is.” The first guy launched things out by honestly saying, “I struggle with lust. I always have. And I’ve honestly had some very evil thoughts.” The next guy said, “To be honest, I struggle with materialism. And I’m in debt.” The third guy looked at them and said, “I struggle with gossip and I honestly can’t wait to get to a telephone!”
If you’re going to have good relationships, you need to learn to guard confidentiality. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” Proverbs 18:8 says, “What dainty morsels rumours are—but they sink deep into one’s heart.”
We tend to think of gossip as one of those little sins, a misdemeanour sin. But when God talks about gossip, he puts it on the list with things like sexual immorality and murder. Why? Because it is so destructive to relationships. Gossip can tear a friendship apart, a family apart, a church family apart. More churches have been destroyed by gossip than persecution. More friendships have been destroyed by gossip than any other kind of disloyalty. It’s incredibly destructive to relationships when you trust someone and then find out you couldn’t trust them. What’s so destructive about it?
There’s a story about the man who went to the rabbi and confessed the sin of gossip and asked him, “What penance can I do for this sin?” The rabbi said, “Here’s what you do. You take a feather pillow and walk up on this mountain, rip it open and let the feathers fly everywhere.” The man did that and came back and said, “Is that it?” “No,” said the rabbi, “Now I want you to go pick up every feather.”
That’s what gossip does. It just goes everywhere. You don’t know the impact that it’s having but it’s tearing relationships apart. It’s tearing you apart in ways that you don’t realise.
What is gossip? Definition: Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution or a part of the problem. If they’re not a part of the problem or the solution and you’re talking with them about it, that is gossip. If you have a problem with another person, the Bible tells you to go to that person directly. To talk to anyone else about that problem is gossip. It’s sin.
Now if someone comes to you with gossip—talking about a situation with you when you’re not part of the solution or the problem—what do you do? Simple. You tell them, “You should go talk to the person involved.” What if they don’t want to? Simple. Step two: you offer to go with them. Say, “It really sounds like you’re concerned about this problem, and yet I sense you’re hesitant to talk to the individual. Let me come with you so that we can deal with the problem together.” What if they still refuse? Then stop the conversation. Don’t be part of the gossip. Tell them as nicely as you can that you don’t want to hear that information.
Who would you like to connect to at a deeper level? What keys can you implement from this morning’s message? Is it to be more committed to the relationship? To be more constructive with your words? To be honest about problems in your relationship? To be willing to forgive? Or is it to be more confidential with information? What I’d like you to do is to select one, and to begin putting it into practice this week.
Father, thank you for our relationships. Thank you that you’ve made us to be connected with other people. I pray that today we would take whatever key we’ve identified as the one we’re going to practice this week to build better relationships.
I pray for anyone here who might not be connected to you. I ask that they would pray, “Lord, I realise I’ll never be properly connected with others until I’m connected with you. Thank you that Jesus came to restore our relationship. I accept what he did to pay the penalty for my sins. I accept him today and pledge to follow you beginning today.”
We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.