How do you foster healthy relationships?
Most people would agree that good relationships are vital for a happy life, but building deep, life-giving relationships can be hard. It's easy to form safe relationships that don't go very deep, but after a while we realise these don't sustain us. Yet opening up to others carries the risk of rejection. As the saying goes, 'Once bitten, twice shy.' Apart from the emotional risks of going deep, it takes time and effort. And yet we persist because to be human is to crave relationships with other people.
We're going to spend some time 'Relationships for Life'. How do we foster life-giving relationships?
One of the great benefits of healthy relationships is the people close to us can be a source of strength and wisdom. It can be especially beneficial when those relationships cross the generations.
Proverbs 4:1 says, 'Listen, sons, to a father's discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding.'
The writer isn't necessarily talking about biological family relationships. He might be addressing what we would call mentor and protégé relationships, here. These are relationships that don't form because you happen to live in the same space but flow out of respect and love. A valuing of the other person's character, wisdom and experience, for the protégé; and the protégé's potential and nascent qualities, for the mentor.
Mentoring is fairly common in business settings and mentoring programs are associated with workplace satisfaction and success. But mentoring need not be restricted to the workplace.
What if we sought out mentors for life?
As life becomes more complex and families become separated by geographical and, sometimes, emotional distance, we can find ourselves struggling with things that parents and older siblings might normally support us in. A phone call can be good, but when life is hammering us it's no substitute for having people physically present who can not only talk to us, but model wisdom and behaviour.
The thing is, for people to find those kinds of relationships, there needs to be others who live the kinds of lives that are worth learning from and who are willing to invest their wisdom and experience into others. It means being deliberate about our own lives and where we draw wisdom, so that we can pass it on.
Which causes me to ask myself, 'What am I doing to be the sort of person others might seek out and benefit from.'