Always remember, love is a choice. Our culture too often thinks of love as an emotion and, thankfully, it is but that’s not the whole story. Love is a verb. We can decide to love someone, to look for the best in that person, to discover how she/he was uniquely created by God. That offers a fair, solid foundation for developing a relationship.
Love as you have been loved by God, unconditionally. Extend grace as God has extended grace to you. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Jesus said that and it’s recorded in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you.” That has come to be known as “The Golden Rule.” It is certainly the Golden Rule of relationships. Remember, Jesus said, “in everything.” Do everything you can to inhale grace in your relationships so you may exhale gratitude for the gift of others in your life.
Try to see life through the eyes of the other person. We see things differently. Often it’s not that we disagree, it’s simply that the other person sees things differently than we do. Many things can cause us to see things differently – past relationships or experiences, hurts, joys, hopes, etc. Work harder to understand rather than putting all your energy into wanting to be understood.
Each of us has a love language we respond to and speak. If one person speaks a language he/she understands but the other person does not speak or understand that language, there can be miscommunication, even hurts. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages; The Secret to Love that Lasts, is a helpful resource to gain insights into which love language is ours and which love language another person hears and understands. Seek to discover the love language your spouse, son, daughter, and friends speak and respond to.
When something troubles you in your relationship with another person, be truthful, but be careful how you speak the truth. We can speak the truth in hurtful ways. That’s not a good goal. Speak the truth in love. The Bible says that’s one way we imitate Jesus. Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, . . .” The Bible tells us when Jesus came to earth, he was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). It’s difficult to strike a balance between grace and truth in relationships, but it should always be our goal. The Holy Spirit can help us be both honest and gracious.
When we do not talk about hurts or tensions in a relationship, it can harm that relationship. When we are open and honest with one another, in a loving way, it allows the relationship to grow. Part of that is also telling someone you love them, and look them in the eyes when you say it. Then show it. When another person speaks to you, look him or her in the eyes as well, pay attention to them, and listen without jumping to conclusions. Let them know she/he is important to you, and that you value what is being said.
Healthy relationships, particularly close ones in marriage and families, grow by thinking together, not thinking alike. If we think alike we miss the viewpoint of the other person that can expand our thinking. Know the difference between accepting another person and agreeing with them. You can understand what another person is saying and accept that person, without agreeing with them. That’s thinking together.
Remember a healthy marriage, family or friendship is always a union of good forgivers. Forgiveness does not overlook wrongs or willingly letting other people hurt you. It’s choosing to forgive, then moving on. The Bible points us to our mentor: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).