Your life will ultimately be defined by your relationships.
I learned this life-defining principle when I was a kid. My mom was a hospice nurse and I would occasionally tag along on her house calls as she compassionately cared for her dying patients. As I hung out with people who knew their time on earth was short, I was amazed at how similar their priorities were.
Whether we are rich or poor, young or old, black or white, male or female, educated or illiterate, when we come to the end of life, what matters most is remarkably similar for everyone. Love is all that matters.
I never heard a dying person talking about money, or hobbies or work or the stuff that tends to add stress to our daily lives. They wanted to be surrounded by people, not possessions. I learned that every joy a person has at the end of life will be the result of a relationship and every significant regret a person has will be the result of a failure in a relationship.
So, if life is truly defined by relationships, then how do we create stronger relationships?
Thankfully, God gives us the answer. He is the one who made love the central focus of life, and He’s also the one who shows us how to do it well in our relationships.
As I read the Bible (the World’s Greatest Relationship Manual), I see “7 Life-Defining Relationships” that are clearly taught throughout. Technically, every person on earth will fit into one of these seven relationships, which make sense, because we’re supposed to love everybody.
Love will look differently based on the nature of the relationship, so below are the seven relationships and the key to thriving in each of them. For more on these principles, plus other tools to help you build stronger faith, family and friendships, check out my new book “The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships”
How to thrive in your 7 most important relationships:
1. Your relationship with God requires wholehearted devotion.
Your relationship with God is the foundation on which all other relationships are built. One of the most beautiful truths of the Bible (and life itself) is that God loves us. He wants to be in relationship with you. He doesn’t want to give you “religion”; He wants to give you a life of love.
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” —Matthew 22:37–38
2. Your relationship with your spouse (for those who are married) requires lifelong commitment.
Love, by its very nature, is a commitment (not a feeling). Of all human relationships, marriage is the one where the commitment of love is most sacred. Remember, a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!
“But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.” -1 Corinthians 7:10-11
For tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, you can download our new Marriage App on iTunes by clicking here. A Facebook login is required to access the app.
3. Your relationship with your family requires your time.
Time is the “currency of relationships,” so to invest in your family, you need to invest your time. They need more of your “presence,” not more of your “presents.” We display our love, honor and affection for our families by being there for them not just in the moments that are convenient for us, but the moments most important to them.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” —Romans 12:10
4. Your relationship with your friends requires loyalty.
Loving your family means having their backs. A strong friendship isn’t made up of two strong people. It’s two people, devoted to each other, who take turns being strong for each other in the moments the other feels weak.
“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” -Proverbs 17:17
5. Your relationship with your “neighbors” requires compassion.
In the Parable of the “Good Samaritan”, Jesus teaches that a good neighbor is one who has compassion and concern for his or her fellow neighbors (even if those “neighbors” are strangers who don’t live anywhere near your neighborhood).
For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:14
6. Your relationship with yourself requires both confidence and humility.
God wants you to be confident in your eternal value in His eyes, but He also wants you to be humble enough to put others ahead of yourself. Humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself; it just means thinking of yourself less.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” -Philippians 2:3-5
7. Your relationship with your “enemies” requires grace and compassion.
It’s been said that “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person dies.” God wants to give you the strength to not just “tolerate” your enemies, but to genuinely love them. Only God’s grace can make this possible, but once we embrace it, we can find true peace. Read Jesus’ words about loving enemies here.
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” -Romans 12:17-18
For additional relationship-building tools, please connect with me on my new Facebook page by clicking here and you can also connect with me on twitter and check our my books.
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