Building Healthy Relationships – Part Four

We are looking at what makes for a healthy relationship within the family, with friends, and at work. Of course, not everyone will be your BFF in real life but we all need to be involved in a number of healthy relationships so we can continue to grow and mature and become all that God wants us to be. God created us to be social creatures. We need other people. 

Within the realm of relationships we have seen:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

4> You want others to listen to you and respond

I spend a lot of time listening to people and responding to what they are saying. That is not only part of my ministry but it is also what people must do if they want to have healthy and vibrant relationships. I was recently sitting in a coffee shop reading and there was a man siting there talking to a younger lady across the small coffee table that separated them. Recognizing me he said, “Pastor, we are having a great conversation. I have been telling her my story.” I realized at that point how important it was to him that she was listening attentively and showed interest in what he had to say. It made him feel that he had value.

There is a difference between hearing people and listening to them. Listening is wanting to hear. As believers we are to love people as God loves us. And because we love people we should want to hear from them. We need to learn to listen with our heart and not just our head. People will respond in a very positive way to that kind of loving and visible, real caring.

As people people gain more authority, they often develop a lack of patience in listening to those under them. A deaf ear is the first indication of a closed mind. The higher people go in management and the more authority they wield, the less they are forced to listen. The same is true in the church and in ministry. Yet their need to listen is greater than ever. The farther they get from the firing line, the more they need to depend on others for correct information. If they have not formed the habit of truly listening and actually hearing what is being said – listening carefully and intelligently – they aren’t going to get the facts they need, and the people will resent their decisions.

I saw a television sketch which, in some variations, might seem familiar in many households. A husband is watching television and his wife is trying to engage him in conversation:

Wife: Dear, the plumber didn’t come to fix the leak behind the water heater today.

Husband: Uh-huh.

Wife: The pipe burst today and flooded the basement.

Husband: Quiet. It’s third down and goal to go.

Wife: Some of the wiring got wet and almost electrocuted Fluffy.

Husband: Darn it! Touchdown.

Wife: The vet says he’ll be better in a week.

Husband: Can you get me a coke?

Wife: The plumber told me that he was happy that our pipe broke because now he can afford to go on vacation.

Husband: Aren’t you listening? I said I could use a Coke!

Wife: And Stanley, I’m leaving you. The plumber and I are flying to Acapulco in the morning.

Husband: Can’t you please stop all the yakking and get me a coke? The trouble around here is that nobody ever listens to me. 

A couple of side notes:

When someone shares with you it is good to respond to what they are sharing. Let them share, listen thoughtfully, and then dialogue with them about what they have trusted you with. Tell them what you are thinking and feeling about what they have shared. Otherwise, you may say you care and that you are listening, but there is no real proof that that is a fact. Your silence can be read as not caring and not interested.

When someone shares something that seems important to them, don’t use it to jump off into something you want to share. Keep the focus on them and don’t use what they have shared to turn the focus onto yourself.

When someone shares – they are wanting you to listen and care. They are not looking for you to fix it. Most people know what to do to fix a problem or get out of the situation they are in. What they want to know is that you are really listening and that you care. Yes, maybe you can help and ‘fix it’ but that will be later. Caring before fixing.

Remember, most of us are very poor listeners. You will need to learn how to listen with your heart and not just your head.