The 21 Laws of Relationships (P3)
Are the relationship precepts and concepts making sense? Are you having epiphanies of past and present relationships?
(15) THE LAW OF COMMUNICATION QUALITY
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to communication quality.
This is probably the most well-known fact, but least-practiced act. All relationships crumble or soar by communication, even non-emotional ones (business partnerships, work relationships, etc.), since the tongue is every ship's rudder (Jas 3:3-5).
Communication is the act of conveying information. Everything living depends on incoming and outgoing information to survive and thrive: animals, plants, humans, nations, organizations, armies, businesses, literally everything. Conveying information in its various forms is like the nervous system of the body. How many relationships are paralyzed because of a severed or malfunctional spinal cord and nerves?
Being a skilled relational communicator means understanding that each individual communicates for different reasons and with different vocabulary. Everyone has their own unique "soul dialect". Soul dialects can be discerned by listening with patient interest. Conversely, when conveying information, skilled relational communicators use the soul dialect of the listener--as much as possible--increasing understanding and receptivity.
Jesus often used agricultural terminology to connect with the agrarian Jewish mind. The typical Jew had a soul dialect filled with such imagery and vocabulary. When Jesus recruited Peter and Andrew, he spoke their soul's dialect also, analogizing their fishing experience with their evangelistic calling (Mt 4:18-20). Even in the Lazarus incident Jesus spoke Martha's language, helping her grasp the greater reality of spiritual life and death through the death of her brother (Jn 11:17-27). Just as God speaks our unique inner language to reach us, so also advanced communicators are multilingual, able to discern and dialogue with the inner language of their loved ones.
Soul dialects are possibly the foundation of relational communication. Upon this there are other communicational building blocks I want to mention.
Everyone communicates relationally in one of three ways: parent-to-child (talking down; directing, instructing, coaching), child-to-parent (talking up; revering, complying, deferring), or adult-to-adult (talking across; dialoguing, negotiating, co-creating). If the relationship is a mentorship, communicating parent-to-child/child-to-parent is appropriate. If it is a friendship or romance, communicating adult-to-adult is crucial. Relationships should be prayerfully pondered as to which approach is healthiest and ideal for all involved.
Communication should go beyond clichés and facts. Men, listen to wisdom! It should be meaningful, revealing honest feelings, reactions, and needs, especially in friendships and romance.
Much more could be said about communication. However, soul dialects, approach, and meaningfulness are crucial starting points.
(16) THE LAW OF PROCESS
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to the process mentality of each person.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Oak trees mature after several decades. Little by little Israel took the promise land (Ex 23:29,30).
Some things are developed only through time, like a fit body, a successful company, or a fabulous relationship. The more of a process mentality each individual has, the more steadily the relationship can grow, the faster it will reach a seasoned, fulfilling cruising altitude.
Relational development is seasonal. This means each season has certain challenges and pleasures. The relationship only grows if it successfully assimilates these seasonal elements. If it does not, the relationship will come to a standstill, a nagging sense of stagnancy and redundancy will plague the relationship. It will remain in that very season until it successfully assimilates the elements. Like Israel wandering in the desert, the relationship will wander in its present season until it does so.
Consequently, relational development is also sequential. As the relationship successfully assimilates its seasonal elements, it graduates into a new season and evolves. The relationship deepens, expands, and matures that much more. Intimacy and fulfillment increase that much more.
A process mentality is at peace with the fact that the relationship does not have to be There overnight. It does not have to be ideal or amazing right now. It does understand, however, that the assimilation and accumulation of seasons will progressively lead to There. The marathon mind of a process mentality silences the I-want-it-now demands and calms us with the fruit of patience.
(17) THE LAW OF TEAMWORK
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to the teamwork approach of each person.
In relationships we do not lose individuality, but we must lose individualism. Individuality is our personal uniqueness, while individualism is hyperindependent behavior. Many in relationship prison have not understood or embraced this fine distinction.
A relationship is a team in every way imaginable, and the goal of the team is to win. When the team wins, each team member wins. Everything, literally everything, that is felt, thought, said, or done must be mindful of our teammates. This is often a struggle for alpha males and alpha females in marriage, whose tendency is toward a detached lifestyle and unilateral decision-making. However, through repentance, truth, and Spirit-powered retraining, he/she can become the interdependent team-player God commands him/her to be.
Philippians 2:2-4 (NIV): Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
(18) THE LAW OF TASK DISTRIBUTION
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to the fairness and efficiency of task distribution.
This law may sound the same as law #7, the law of role integrity, but it is not. Every relationship has a "housekeeping" side--certain tasks and practical responsibilities that need to be done. These need to be assigned fairly and carried out efficiently. Who will pay what bills? Who will buy what food? Who will clean, and when? Who will pay for gas? Who will pick up the kids? Who will take the dogs out? Dishes? Trash? Prepare the taxes? Write the bulletin? Who will say/do what at the board meeting? Emotional intimacy is euphoric, but it will quickly dissipate under the frustrations of unfair or inefficient task distribution. Little foxes ruin the vineyard (Song 2:15). As General Omar Bradley put it, "Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics." Make and keep good practical arrangements satisfying to all.
(19) THE LAW OF LIFE EXPERIENCE
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to the overall life experience of each person.
Life experience is beneficial to a relationship's rhythm and flow. For example, managing personal resources, dealing well with different types of people, navigating change, social confidence, cultural literacy, physical health and excellence, basic economics, and other practical fruits of life experience affect the daily rhythm and flow between people. Much of Proverbs is devoted to this.
Many faithful Christians continue having relational frustrations because they are inexperienced at life in general. They can pray for hours but cannot balance a checkbook. They can quote Scripture but cannot sustain a conversation with different types of people. They can name every ringleader in their spiritual movement but they cannot take care of their physical health.
This type of finesse and refinement come from life experience, or practical wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but have you ever wondered about the middle and end of wisdom? The beginning of all wisdom is indeed God-centered and spiritual. However, from there, wisdom expands to deal with every area of life, even the most mundane. The longer we live on this earth, if we are open to new information and endless evolution, the wiser, the more refined, the more finesse we become in living life.
This Proverbs-type wisdom makes relationships flow a million times smoother. One less conflict about anything means one more opportunity for joy and success. Apply that equation to several areas of life and you have a relationship sidestepping many difficult days.
(20) THE LAW OF SOCIAL INVOLVEMENT
Relationships become holy, healthy, and happy in proportion to the wider social involvement of each person.
Everyone requires social connections beyond the relationship. Perhaps the most recognizable trait of a cult is that it seeks to isolate members from outside relationships. Though most of us have never been in a cult, we all know people who are controlling and cult-like in their relationships. That type of social suffocation is unspeakably dangerous. Not only does it snuff out the sparkle and joy from relationships, but any abuse happening can go undetected and unreported until something tragic blows the cover.
Several years ago I counseled a lady in her mid-30s who had been abused in multiple ways by her husband. They attended church every week. She was not allowed to speak in Sunday School unless spoken to. She was not allowed any outside connections, not even family, until one day she called her father from a motel room. Her husband had threatened to grind her up in farming equipment, leaving no trace of her whatsoever.
The lesson? The husband did not begin the relationship that way, with instant suffocation. From the beginning, though, he did slow-drip clues, like consistently speaking negatively of all her friends and family, planting seeds and grooming her for total disconnection. Little by little he closed off her wider social involvements. Eventually she was thoroughly isolated and terrified of resisting or running.
Never ignore the clues that people slow-drip. What you accommodate will grow.
Relationships are living organisms. They must breathe in and breathe out fresh air to be healthy and growing. They must have inflow and outflow to not become a stagnant and septic body of water. Maintain stimulating social connections outside the relationship to keep fresh air and fresh water in the relationship.
Proverbs 27:10 (ESV): Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend, and do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.
Job 17:5 (NIV): If anyone denounces their friends for reward, the eyes of their children will fail.
Hebrews 10:25 (NIV): Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another...
(21) THE LAW OF DISTANCE & TERMINATION
Relationships are subject to distance or termination when the immediate or longterm wellbeing of a person is at risk.
The Creator intended relationships to be life-giving, not death-causing. When the immediate or longterm wellbeing of a person is at risk, relational distance or termination is an urgent consideration.
Some Christians have an exaggerated understanding of unconditional love, forgiveness, and patience. They think God would applaud their relational martyrdom if they let themselves be beaten to a pulp day after day, physically or verbally or in whatever way. Essentially, they are licensing a destructive person to destroy them little by little, if not all at once. This is not admirable or Biblical. This is the fear of being alone, codependence, and low self-worth. Even Jesus would not tolerate certain treatment (Jn 2:23-25, Lk 4:28-30, Mt 13:57,58).
Harmful vs Hard
We need, therefore, to distinguish harmful relationships from merely hard relationships. A harmful relationship is one that will cause immediate or eventual damage to our wellbeing. The enemy is often, if not always, directly manifested in such relationships. Many scriptures warn us against such individuals and relationships: Psalm 101, Proverbs 13:20, Romans 16:17, 2Timothy 4:14,15.
Hard relationships are just that--hard--but not ultimately harmful. They have the Oily fingerprints of the Sanctifier on them, who organizes these uphill relationships to develop and transform us. We try to convince ourselves such relationships are "harmful", giving us an excuse to cut and run. However, deep down we know the Spirit is using that person like sandpaper to grind us down into something smooth. Deep down we know that, in the end, it will produce new, lifegiving attributes in us. Paul had a hard time with John Mark (Ac 15:37-40), but they both grew and eventually got it right (2Ti 4:11).