If there were 12 of us sitting around in your living room, and we were discussing relationships, how would you classify the level of the people you relate to? Who would be at the top of your priority list of people that surround you? If this question were to come up in a group session, you would have little time to reflect on what to say, but right now, you are reading this alone, by yourself, so you have time to think about it. You might also ask yourself, “how much time do I invest in the people at the top of my list”? May I suggest that it is impossible to live in today’s world without relationships. Even God said to Adam, “…it is not good for man to be alone…”. Relationships help me round out my life. They can make me an angry person because of the way others relate to me, or they can add beauty and fresh air to my world, like a flower on a spring day. I think it is tragic that we can destroy another person’s life by the way we relate to them. Amos, the Old Testament Prophet asks the question, “can two walk together except they agree”? The Apostle Paul says we are to get along with others as much as is possible.

I will agree that there are impossible relationships. This does not mean we are to be enemies, but our goals and the very purpose of our lives are running on two different rails. An example is The Apostle Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts. These two men were both zealous for the spreading of the Gospel, but they would not come together on how to do this. They parted ways, and Barnabas took John Mark [his nephew] and Paul takes Silas, a fellow missionary, and these go in separate ways.

One of the ingredients in a successful relationship is the sharing of yourself with the other person. This is something that some cannot do. This is so true in a marriage and in a family. We do not get our own way, but we give of ourselves In an attempt to bring harmony and fulfillment to others. How many families have failed because of this and how many businesses have been broken because of an inability to give what was required of me? The life of Ernest Hemingway, the great American novelist tragically found this out. Hemingway was a child of privilege. He was the only child in a very successful family. His parents were extremely wealthy. Hemingway’s mother was extremely kind, loving, and affectionate. Over the years she had invested heavily in her only child. She invested herself emotionally and also financially. The only time Hemingway came home or contacted his mother was when he was in need of her approval or her money. This one-way street could not last forever, and it didn’t. He received a letter from his mother [before the days of texting and facetime] explaining the negative side of this one-way relationship. The letter said in part “I have invested so heavily in you as my only child, and I keep looking for a return on my investment. Thus far there has been no return on what I have invested, only more withdrawals. If you love me, please at least pay something on the interest”. That was the last letter between mother and son. Within days, Hemingway was found dead. He had committed suicide. His own emotional bank account was empty.

Relationships that are based on you investing in my empty emotional bank account are doomed to failure. One-way relationships may exist for a short period of time but are eventually doomed for failure. There may be a friendship, but not a relationship. A relationship must be more than another person putting their straw in my emotional life and drawing energy from me until my batteries are dead. This is where the exchange takes place, people investing in people.
Some relationships become competitive. There is a difference between a competitive relationship and a supportive relationship. The competition involves winners and losers. In a supportive relationship, I seek to help you find your gifts and support you as you seek to refine them. I think of great athletic coaches. It is a great skill to bring together great players and help them use their gifts for the overall support of the team. They do not compete with their gifts, but they become a team, working together.

It is tragic to arrive at a place in life feeling that no one wants me. I end up in the dumpster of life and I have lost all value and feelings of self-esteem. I think we all go through periods of life when we relate to this. I think of the adolescent trying to become an adult while still carrying the baggage of childhood. I think of the transgender person, trying to figure out if I am a male or a female. There are crucial periods in life for all of us. But more tragic is to reach midlife and still have an empty emotional bank account. I have no one to turn to, to help me find my way through this maze of life. I need a relationship. At times this relationship looks me square in the eye and helps me find myself. I learn to walk through life with confidence, that I can do this, and I have a person to whom I am accountable. We must know that we all possess value. I am a creation of God, indeed, I am a Temple, where God lives.

There are three issues that come to my mind in regard to relationships.
First, not all relationships are our choices. We are thrust into some very significant relationships. I did not choose whom I would relate to in my family. That was a relationship I was born into. It molded me and shaped me into the person I am today. This same thing is true today. The neighborhood in which I live, the place where I am employed, and in many other places in life are not my choice. However, I can learn skills to relate and adapt to my surroundings. I can live a happy life.

Second, relationships, to be nourishing, must bend. Not only must they bend, but there must be an adhesion that holds me to the relationship during times of stress. We are living in a throw-away culture. Use it until it is broken, then throw it away. This is not true in a relationship. I learn to bend, and I learn to cling.

Third, relationships must not be selfish. In a true relationship, I will never get my own way all the time. I will not give away my values and ideals to save a relationship but I am willing to share who I am with you.

It is my personal belief that God is revealed through a relationship. Jesus came to reveal the Father. Now I have come to know the Father, and I am willing to share that with you so you may also know the best relationship possible.

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