In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of Christopher’s post, “One Goal Every Teen Should Set For the Summer” here.
This summer we’re building healthy relationships, because we realize the best investment of our time and energy is in relationships.
Now, for some of us–especially us guys–all this relationship talk sounds kind of mushy. We are builders and protectors–give us something we can get our hands on!
Well, that’s exactly what I have for you today.
If you’re ready for some hands-on material you can take home and start building stuff with, this article is for you.
Here are five tools to build healthy relationships.
Tool #1: Live honestly.
In an age where you could literally create any identity you want for yourself online, it requires even greater diligence to live honestly.
Without honesty you can’t have intimacy. Not with God, not with your spouse, not with your friends.
You can only be loved as deeply as you are known.
This is extremely hard because it takes tremendous vulnerability. We don’t like vulnerability because it is, by definition, risky. But if we want healthy relationships–the stuff of meaningful lives–we have to risk vulnerability.
If you choose to live honestly, you will likely experience some pain, possibly rejection, gossip, or slander. The idea isn’t to carelessly trust your story with any old joe, but to live truly from your heart without deception or facades.
Let me explain.
The first step to living honestly is removing the masks we hide behind to protect ourselves.
For example, at some point when I was a child, I believed the lie people wouldn’t accept the personality God gave me. I was quaint and obnoxious–not friend material.
Therefore, I developed tricks to perform whenever I sensed people weren’t impressed by me. Cool tricks like cracking jokes or engaging in spiritual conversation. These things aren’t bad, but I tend to use them to get people to like me. Rather than offering the true Chris (whether funny or spiritual), I offered a “Chris” I knew people will like.
Being funny or spiritual, then, became a mask to protect myself from rejection. But it’s lonely behind a mask. Nobody knows you, and thus, nobody can actually love you.
You can only be loved as deeply as you are known.
Tool #2: Build with integrity.
Integrity is really an extension of honesty. Integrity means consistency, sound structure, and being “whole,” not divided.
When a building lacks integrity, it lacks soundness and consistency–it’s in danger of collapsing.
If who you are on the inside is different than who you are on the outside, you’ll feel torn and divided, as if you’re about to collapse emotionally.
Again, strive towards honest consistency. Test your structure to see if it lacks soundness. If it does, reinforce it with Truth. Living in the Truth will resolve the feeling of being torn inside.
After all, Jesus did say “The Truth shall set you free.”
Tool #3: Value privacy.
There are two aspects of privacy: the privacy of others and the privacy of your relationships with individuals.
First, the privacy of others.
Have you ever found out that people are gossiping about you? That people are spreading hurtful rumors about you?
Gossip is born when people don’t respect each other’s privacy. Information about other people should be protected and handled with care. If it is necessary to divulge information it should always be done carefully and with honor.
Gossip occurs when private information is passed around like communion bread: Ripped apart, misunderstood, and chewed by everybody.
Where gossip is shared, intimacy is killed. Because you can’t trust a gossip.
If you want to have healthy relationships, you have to honor everyone’s privacy.
Second, the privacy of individual relationships.
In order for intimacy to exist, there needs to be privacy. The world just doesn’t deserve to know about some things. When we share everything we do in private, we destroy intimacy.
Intimacy is built on common experiences shared by individuals. We should enjoy the private experiences we have with our friends. It’s hard to explain, but there is something sacred about relationships and when those relationships are paraded all over social media, it loses its sanctity.
Tool #4: Follow the instructions.
Relationships are organic in nature. In other words, they are alive and dynamic. But just like nature follows laws we can study and uphold, so, too, relationships follow laws we can study and uphold.
We call this God’s moral law. When we break God’s moral laws, our relationships decay and fall apart. When we follow them, relationships are strong and fulfilling.
Unfortunately, our relationships in this life will never be perfect. Just like the rest of the world, they will tend toward decay and chaos unless we intentionally renew them according to God’s instruction.
Tool #5: Walk humbly.
I struggle to be humble. Multiple people have told me that I run over other’s ideas, as if I can never be wrong. It’s probably true, though not because I consciously devalue them–I don’t think of myself as never wrong.
It’s true because I get passionate about things and don’t think about the fact that people might feel trampled.
I share this because it is a blind-spot for me, and might be for you, too. I don’t see it, because I know my heart and deep insecurities: I don’t think of myself as proud.
And yet I am.
Proud people don’t think of themselves as proud.
Last year, my friend Andrew and I went out for coffee and did one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. We pointed out the areas where we saw each other’s pride. It wasn’t something we enjoyed–it certainly isn’t something we do regularly. But it was worth it.
We won’t find our blind-spots on our own. We need others to point them out.
The hardest part? Not defending myself, because there’s always a “legitimate reason” for my pride. The greatest irony? It took humility to point out my friend’s pride.
Work on killing your pride and walking in humility and your relationships will flourish.
What tools have you used to build strong relationships? Are there any I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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This is a wonderful article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, as I did your previous article on relationships. I especially loved the part where you wrote, “You can only be loved as deeply as you are known.”
Also, I really liked the section on humility, which is something I have to work on sometimes. 🙂 One of my favorite quotes on humility comes from C.S. Lewis, who said: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Thank you so much for writing this article, Christopher!
Thanks and your welcome, Olivia!
That’s one of my favorite quotes from Lewis. Thanks for sharing it!
Love that quote by C.S. Lewis! 🙂
This a great article, Christopher! One of the struggles I have in dealing with relationships is being fake! Whenever I’m not comfortable with a person or just want to impress them, I put on a mask and try to be how THEY might like me to be, and not focusing on being how God made me. I’m a bad people pleaser! I care lot about what people think and I hate having enemies! But in the end, I believe most people are going to know the real you (or should) and there either going to like you or dislike you. That’s just how it is! I’ve realized that caring about what people think too much can get in the way of sharing the gospel, being true friends to people, and building strong relationships.
Be who God made you! 😉
This morning I was reading about the importance of having friends. Matthew Henry said “Two are better than one, and more happy jointly than either of them could be separately, more pleased in one another than they could be in themselves only, mutually serviceable to each other’s welfare, and by a united strength more likely to do good to others.” For a biblical example check out 1 Samuel 18:1-5
Relationships are so very important!
Amen! Right on! I’ve found that “taking off the mask” is a life-time struggle. Everyday we have to choose to be real. Your on a good journey! God bless!
I loved what you said in tool #2. Well, actually It was all pretty fantastic 😉 Thanks for this article, Chris. There’s some great stuff here to not only think about, but put into practice.
You’re welcome, Haylie! God bless you as you put it into practice!
Dude, cool profile pic 🙂
This is a great article
You welcome! 😀
Yes! Yes! Yes! Christopher, you are right on!!!! I needed every single one of those points/tools. They are definitely things to work on for me.
Glad it was helpful!
Great article, Christopher! I can definitely relate to what you were saying about being fake. I used to pretend that I liked or thought certain things or I even said or did certain things because I thought people would like me better for those things than if I just was real with them. I actually did that all the time up until I was about a year ago, so I’m still trying to learn how to not be fake and I have to be very careful and ask myself whether I really do like or think something, or if I say I do because someone else does.
Thank you! Yes! That’s such a real struggle, Sarah. It’s certainly something I’m still growing in, myself. Sounds like your on a good journey! Keep it up!
Very good advice Christopher! Will defiantly be using it 🙂 Oh, and yeah its hard building relationships but I am finding its worth it, like you said.
Thanks, Bekah! Keep it up! =)
Wonderful advice! I will be using these tools in my own relationships. Living honestly can be hard sometimes, especially around people I don’t know well. I can be totally myself around my family and close friends, but put me with people I’m not really friends with, it’s hard to be myself. Defiantly will be working on #1. Thanks for writing! 🙂
I’m so glad you found it helpful! Yes, it can be hard but it’s so worth it! Keep it up!
Thank you, Chris! Such a great follow-up to your previous article! I’ve been thinking a lot about building relationships since I read your challenge for the summer. I’m so glad you continued it with some practical ways to do it!
You’re welcome, Amanda! Glad it was a blessing!
Honestly, I was skeptical when I read the first article and unsure after the second part too. Not that you didn’t do a great job with it, but, well, let me just explain…
Ever since we switched churches about two years ago, I haven’t had friends. The other kids in youth group almost all knew each other and were already friends. Even now when I know them better, I still feel like I’m looking in from the outside when I constantly hear about what so-and-so #1 was with so-and-so #2 at so-and-so #1’s house during the week or how so-and-so #1 went to Great Wolf Lodge with so-and-so #2 and on and on. I feel like they have each other as friends, their families all know each other except for my family, and they don’t need me as a friend.
I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me; that’s not my point. You see, I’ve gotten used to keeping to myself and enjoying things that don’t involve other young people. I like my life the way it is, and I’ve come to accept that if God doesn’t want for me to have friends at this time then that’s ok. I’m happy just the way I am.
But have I been thinking about this the wrong way the whole time? Is it that I’m supposed to specifically go beyond what I normally would to talk to people a lot, get to know them as well as possible, and invite them to do things if I can, even though they might not even want to be my friends?
I think that I’m right in thinking that if God wanted me to be friends with someone, then that other person would be the one to show that they want to be my friend, the one to take initiative first. But, if you think that I’m wrong, tell me.
Do you happen to live in the South, say, in a city obsessed with golf? Because your story sounds almost exactly like mine. I’ll share what happened to me and you can decide if it’s any help.
I moved to a city where everybody was really nice and friendly, but they were also settled. I tried to make friends, but the people I called would never call me back, and those I talked to would never approach me to start a conversation. Friendship is a two-way street, but I was the only one walking on it. They weren’t trying to ignore me; they were just unaware. And I grew to accept it.
I’m an introvert, so it was easy for me to withdraw into my world of books and writing. But then my mom and I had a conversation that convicted me and I tried once again…with the same results. That continued about four years (with a lot of tears), and the whole time I wavered between trusting God to give me friends at the right time and believing that it was all my fault.
At the beginning of last school year, though, I met five other people through a writing class that met at the teacher’s house (actually, that was the whole class). Our group immediately bonded.
I still don’t know if part of not having friends was me not trying hard enough, but I look back now and see the blessings God brought from it. I grew a lot closer to my family (my siblings were also having trouble making friends), my skill in writing grew, and now I can honestly say that Jesus is my best friend (for a while there He was my only one). All the practice also made it easier for me to talk to people, and now I’m more aware when someone is being left out.
This would be my advice: Focus on God. Don’t give up, but be yourself, even if yourself isn’t cracking a lot of jokes and being the center of attention. Pray. Don’t feel like you need to invite everyone over to dinner and don’t feel like you need to force friendships. Sometimes God just wants you all to Himself. Even if you don’t see it now, God is using this to shape you into the person He wants you to be.
Wow, sorry, longer than I planned. I’ll be praying for you, Olivia.
Wow! I don’t know if this helped Olivia, but it sure encouraged me. Thanks! Friendship has always been a heartache for me. Not so much that I can’t make friends but their just isn’t anyone to be friends with. I totally get the getting closer to my family thing. Me and my Family are super close! I loved what you said, “Friendship is a two way street, but I was the only one walking on it”
Thanks so much Cricket! I do live in the South, not sure about the golf part though 🙂
If I understand what you are saying than I don’t think it is right to say that one should reach out to you first if they really wanted to be your friend. That other person could be thinking the exact same thing and wishing you would reach out to them first and assuming you must not want to be their friend.
As an introvert myself and a really shy girl in my teen years, I struggled with this a lot, especially when my family switched churches when I was 14. I was expecting people to come up to me and make friends with me, but I never really got any close friends that way. It was not until I was willing to reach out to a new girl myself that I was able to make a real friend at that church.
It does, however, sound like you have tried really hard to make friends and I admire you for that, but I would encourage you to not give up just because no one has responded to your reaching out to them. Keep reaching out and loving others just as Christ loves us. Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart, but the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. I would encourage you to keep loving and reaching out to these people in your youth group or whoever is placed in your life. God does not promise us that people will love us back in response to our love towards them, in fact, we are even called to love our enemies, those who we know won’t respond to our love. You still may not end up with any close friends, but we are all called to be a friend to others no matter how they treat us.
So I pray that you won’t give up, Olivia, and that you would keep on reaching out and loving and being a friend to these people God has placed in your life even though they may refuse to be a friend to you. Whether they respond to your love or not, I know that God will richly bless you for it because of your obedience to him. And you never know how much you can impact someone through persistent love and friendship.
John 15 has been really encouraging to me this past year and has helped me to understand God’s love for me and how that should affect how I love others. it may be encouraging for you as well.
I hope you will find my comment helpful and encouraging.
God bless you, Olivia! And praying for you tonight!
Hey Olivia, thanks so much for sharing your story! The struggle is very real and your journey legitimate!
Loneliness is hard to walk through. When my family moved to L.A. when I was twelve, I didn’t have any friends for a good 4 years. Even then, I didn’t have any good friends my age (they were all older).
For me, it wasn’t so much a struggle of not having people respond, but I just wasn’t reaching out and looking for friends (I guess I pretended not to care).
Looking back, I see how God used it, but at the same time, how I lost something, too. It’s okay to grieve loss. Because the fact is, God did create us to live in community, and when we lack that, we lack a fundamental part of human experience.
I love your attitude about it. I bless you for the way you hold it with an open, surrendered hand!
I’m not sure that I have much to say. I agree with what some of the others have said. I appreciate that you trusted your story with the rest of us.
I don’t think seasons of loneliness or “alone-ness” are permanent. I think God will eventually bring good friends into your life at the right time. Until then, keep doing what you know is right. Keep being yourself: kind, thoughtful, generous, faithful to Christ.
Hi Olivia! I’ve struggled with loneliness before, and I’ve had times when I thought I would never make good friends. I was a very shy little girl and preteen. In response to your last paragraph, one key thing I’ve learned is that in order to make friends, you often have to take initiative. I used to wait for people to reach out to me, but I think I sent the message that I wasn’t friendly or didn’t want to be friends with people. In order to make friends, you have to be a friend. Friendship has to be a two-way street.
Recently I’ve gotten bolder…I’ve emailed some people just saying, hey, I’d like to get to know you better, let’s get together! Most people will be thrilled that you want to spend time with them and be their friend. Give it a try!
I have struggled with the same stuff, but I have come to believe that it really is wrong to give up on relationships! Sometimes, obviously, there’s a person or two that you aren’t called to be friends with, and most people you won’t be close with. But one of my mentors had me look at it this way: God believes you’re special and He has given you gifts to share with the world. If you actively decide you’re going to stop sharing those gifts with others – which is ultimately what they were created for – it is a selfish action on your part. Not that it’s easy to be friendly at all! But as others have said, we were made to live in fellowship with one another and when we decide people don’t care enough about us for us to pursue relationships with them, we are giving up a valuable gift from God. So I’d really encourage you to go out of your way to be friends with these people, even though it’s do hard at times and it may not always pay off. Also, I noticed you said a lot about people going places together. You see, experiences together are the basis of relationships. So invite people to do things with you outside of church! More than likely they’ll be flattered at this and love to spend time with you. Then you can really grow your relationships. In addition, reaching out to other lonely people is often sort of seen as pathetic or something, but as Christians, this is a wonderful and beautiful thing to do, and we are able to see that God values these people as well and they have a lot to give and share with us. So don’t take that opportunity for granted either! I’ll be praying for you!
I really like what you said in tool #1 about honesty. This is good stuff.
Thanks for writing this Christopher!
Really loved it
I’m not in a good moment in my relationship with a friend and it’s sincerly very hard to follow these steps. She’s a very proud person, and I’m afraid of pointing her blind-spots cause she just can’t admit it!
But I’m sure all these 5 tools are helping me building new relationships
God bless ya
I’m sorry to hear that, Duda! I pray your relationship will be restored with your friend. Just keep loving them like Jesus. Blessings!
Thank you very much! Most of my friends aren’t really caring about this situation, and it hurts me a lot, cause I was looking for help and people seem not understanding 🙁
It’s so good to know there’s people who care about this, even I know we’re probably miles and miles away
Thank you again 😉
Thank you for such an insightful post! This is certainly something God has been teaching me lately, almost to the point of redundancy. 🙂 It is often so hard to be open about who you are, instead of the person you think everyone else wants or will like. Thanks for challenging me!
You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful to you! Yes, God has been teaching me the same lesson!
Great article, Christopher!
Witmer… this name sounds familiar to me. Do you happen to know if your ancestors came from here in Switzerland? For some reason, a lot of the people who emigrated from Switzerland into the US were Zimmermans and Witmers.
Yes, from my limited knowledge, my ancestors did come from Switzerland/Germany. But that’s going way back in history. =)