Building Relationships That Bond
- 2002 19 Sep
The relationships in our lives are continually changing. Kids grow older, parents enter new phases of life, friends and spouses respond to the challenges around them. If we aren't careful, we can miss important moments, opportunities to build relationships that bond.
Here are a few principles to get you started.
There are many ways to communicate unconditional love, but one of the most powerful is through our words. Your kids and those you love need to love need to hear often, verbally, "I love you ..." especially when they have disappointed you. They need to hear very clearly that their value to you is not dependant on their behavior, that no matter what they do or how they act, you will love them. Without exception.
We talk a lot in our culture about the difference between "quality time" and "quantity time." The truth is, we need both to build relationships that bond, and both require intentional planning. That which gets written into our schedules is that which we will really do. Sit down and decide who really matters in your life and schedule time in with them first, before work and other obligations take over.
Psychologists tell us that there are few things that communicate love more powerfully than when we are actually present when we are with people. The classic opposite of this is the dad who can't stop watching the Cowboys and the Rams long enough to find out how his son's day went. Or the mom who keeps one eye on a magazine article while her teenage daughter talks about her life at school. Relationships just can't thrive this way! As a personal discipline I try to block everything and everyone else out when I am with someone I love. Focused attention is important. When you're with people, be there. It will pay huge dividends.
If you want someone to believe you, to listen to you, to feel listened to, look them in the eyes. If you want your children to feel valued and important, get down on one knee and talk to them eye-to-eye.
During the Second World War a classic study on this subject was done in a European orphanage where the infant death rate was astronomically high. In an attempt to reverse the horrible trend, researchers scheduled nurses to hold and touch the babies on a regular basis. The results were amazing, as the infants responded to loving touch by clinging to life. God created us with a need to give and receive love through all five of the senses. When your children are small, dads, it's important that you wrestle with them. When your little girls become preteens and teens, don't stop hugging them! That appropriate, affirming touch from you offers security, and communicates love, appreciation, and fondness.
Notice the word is "communication," not "talking." As most kids will tell you, people hate to be lectured to, but they love to be listened to. Communication is the "meeting of meaning," not just talking. The only way communication happens is when you both ask questions and listen - not only for the words, but for what's behind the words.
Loving has to do with high intentionality, and planning. But it also requires cutting loose, goofing off, playing games, going out to eat ... doing a few impractical things. Life can't be about staying on a rigid schedule, sticking to the plan, eating vegetables and whole grains all the time! Just give yourself freedom, the permission to spontaneously have fun, and laugh!
Prayer time together:
There is a focus here of regular, intentional time when we can get honest, bringing both needs and praises to God. As my family has grown older, we've designated every Wednesday night after supper as our prayer time. We clear the table, and each family member writes a specific prayer request on a 3x5 card. We exchange them, and then pray for one another. We usually also give thanks for one special thing. We've made it a point to keep prayer in the lifeblood of our family.
The people God has placed in our lives are His gifts to us. I hope these reminders will serve to help you along on your way to strong, healthy relationships with those you love.
Excerpted from EdgeNotes, the bimonthly newsletter of Living on the Edge. Used with permission. Copyright 2002 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.
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About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.