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How To Build Authentic Relationships

Written By Blake Wisz, USA

In the world of instant messaging, “emojis” and “likes”, it’s easy to have a lot of “friends” but never have honest or encouraging conversations with them.

Often, while listening to others while I sip my cup of coffee, I can’t help but think, “What do they really need to talk about?” We tend to dance around the conversation we really want to have, perhaps to preserve our relationships and avoid points of tension or conflict.

As an extrovert, I’ve always wanted deep-rooted relationships with my friends. I believe there needs to be a sense of openness in relationships, so that we can open the door to an honest conversation.

There have been times, however, when I’ve probably put too much pressure on others to share things they might not be ready or willing to share because of my candor. It can be hard to admit the shortcomings, anxieties, frustrations, and struggles in our lives to another person. But what I’ve learned is that overcoming these initial hurdles can build up endurance and authenticity in our relationships.

 

Be willing to open up

During this season of life, I’ve come to realize that I tend to share with others about God’s grace and love but do not allow those same truths to soak deep down in my own life. The feeling of needing to perform, to do things perfectly, and to never make a mistake are some pressures I can put on myself which I don’t often talk about.

It has also exposed the need to deal with my inner struggle against perfectionism and to be open with others about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my own journey. I’ve found that if I am truly honest with people about my struggles, authentic relationships can be built.

 

Be humble

One of the best ways to grow our relationships is to put others’ troubles, wants, and needs before our own. A letter by the Apostle Paul has challenged me to pursue authentic relationships from a place of encouragement and understanding of our unity in Christ.

While jailed in Rome for proclaiming the gospel, Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi (modern-day Greece), saying: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 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.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

For me, I’m learning to focus on actively listening, being present in the moment, and letting others have my total attention.

Be encouraging

Early this year, I wrote a mission statement on my bathroom mirror that read, “Encourage others”, because I knew I needed to change my approach. My sensitivity radar was out of whack and I realized that I had not done enough to help others “do their thing”, even though the latter has always been something that brings me the most joy.

I can also use what I’ve experienced in my life to encourage those in my sphere of influence—the guy sitting next to me at the coffee shop, a co-worker, family member, or that person in a social media bubble. And I have been learning that when I encourage others from a place of compassion and humility—by putting their needs before my own by actively listening or sharing a kind word—I am stepping into a love designed by God and by which the world will know Him. In that space, authentic relationships are rooted and can blossom in that space.

As I look at my own life, I see the value of authentic relationships. My friend Jamie is a passionate photographer, husband, and soon-to-be father. Our friendship started in a local coffee shop, where we talked shop about photography.

Since then, we have traveled to different parts of the world together with our wives. Our personalities are vastly different, but we share plenty in common. We graduated from Cornerstone University, married our college sweethearts, and lost our fathers suddenly. Jamie and I were fortunate that our common interests made it easy to start a conversation. We both knew we were working through some trials—the biggest of which was the loss of a loved one. We’ve been honest to one another, always transparent about what is going on in our lives.

In the Bible, one of the words used for friend in the original Greek translation is the word Adelphos, which has been interpreted as, “a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection”. Jamie and I share in Adelphos which drives us to bring out the best in one another and encourage one another. If we had never been honest or willing to wear our raw emotions on our sleeves, we would have missed out on the true support of a friend.

7 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Friend

Title: 7 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Friend
Materials: Hand Illustration
Description: 
We love our friends, but our actions don’t always show it. Let’s talk about how to step things up in the friend department. Here are 7 simple ways to help us become better friends.

Written by Blake Wisz
Illustrations by Elizabeth Huang

01_Better-friend 02_Better-friend 03_Better-friend 04_Better-friend

05_Better-friend

06_Better-friend 07_Better-friend

I Was Jealous of My Best Friend

Written By Natalie Hanna Tan, Singapore

I have something to confess: I was once jealous of my best friend.

I didn’t mean to feel this way, and I’m not quite sure how it happened. We’d grown up and shared everything since we were young: our joys and tears, our secrets and dreams. We were pretty similar in many ways—our interests, personalities, and passions all matched. We even had strangers believe we are sisters (and we often played along with it).

But things changed in 2013 when I began to feel a strain in the friendship. It started off with a small thought: “Why is she part of the planning committee (for a church event) and not me?” This thought grew into something bigger as the months went by.

As I tried to sweep the thought under the carpet in the hope that it would somehow magically disappear, the devil, in his subtle ways, started to tamper with my thoughts and emotions. As my best friend became a more prominent figure in church, he capitalized on my feelings of inferiority, causing me to grow jealous and bitter towards her. She was pretty, likeable, talented . . . and perfect; she was everything I’d ever wanted to be, and she had everything I’d always wanted to have.

I became frustrated with God, and regularly asked Him why He seemed good to her, but not to me. Why did she have so many opportunities to serve? Why was I not succeeding in my ministry while she was receiving so many blessings? Why did everyone seem to like her more? I constantly tried to prove myself to others, striving to “up my game” and to be better than her. Before I knew it, I had given in to jealousy and selfish ambition; I had given in to the flesh.

The truth was, I had lost sight of what true success was. To be successful in the church setting, I had thought, was about how active I was. I thought I should serve in many teams, plan various events for the youth congregation, mentor younger girls, speak eloquently in youth meetings, and touch many lives. But God revealed to me that it was not about external appearances, and showed me what it truly meant to be a successful follower of Christ.

In Galatians 5:19-21, the apostle Paul lists out the practices of the flesh which will cause us to not inherit the Kingdom of God. Essentially, if we continually indulge in these practices, it shows that we have not submitted to Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s renewal.

The opposite of living by the flesh is to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). This is shown when our lives display fruit of the Spirit instead of sin, which includes envying each other. As God works in our lives to renew and transform us, we grow in our desire to please Him and reflect His heart and character through our lives.

In allowing myself to be overcome with feelings of jealousy, I’d unknowingly given myself over to the world; I was not allowing God to work in me and through me. I wasn’t living by the Spirit.

During this time, my best friend felt the tension in our friendship as well. We stopped meeting because we both knew there was something wrong—but we didn’t know how to fix it. I confided in my mentor at church about the frustrations I had. If not for her pulling us together to talk things through, we might have given up on the friendship entirely.

It took a whole string of prayers and heart-to-heart talks before we had our breakthrough. It wasn’t the usual “let’s-sit-down-and-talk-about-life” kind of talk we had before. Instead, we had to honestly tell each other what we weren’t happy about and the various hurts we’d felt.

On my part, I had to manage my expectations of the friendship and of her. I needed to understand that as much as we seemed to be completely alike, God had different plans for us. Our strengths were different and I should not compare myself to her. Instead, I ought to support her—not just in her ministry, but in all that she’s involved in.

To be honest, it wasn’t easy at all. But through this time, I learned to take captive every negative thought and surrender it to God. It took many sleepless and painful nights to let go of all the emotions and to rebuild our friendship from scratch.

But I can now say that it was all worth it. It’s been three years since it happened, and by God’s grace, I am happy to say that our friendship has since matured, and we’re growing and journeying on through life, stronger than before.

ODJ: What a Friend!

July 8, 2016 

READ: 1 Samuel 20:30-42  


Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever (v.42). 

Soldiers who have fought together will tell you that the relational bond they share with their fellow soldiers is incredibly strong. In fact, some veterans report that the friendships they share with fellow veterans, although different in character, are as important to them as the relationship they have with their spouse. This doesn’t minimise the importance of marriage, but points to the depth of friendships forged in the crucible of sacrifice.

This reflects the fullness of Jonathan and David’s friendship. They were fast friends who fought alongside one another on behalf of Israel. Because of this, their bond was unbreakable. When it became clear to Jonathan that his father wanted to kill David (1 Samuel 20:30-31), he risked his own life to protect his friend (vv.32-33).

This is all the more remarkable when we remember that Jonathan was the heir to the throne of Israel, a position that was threatened by David’s rapid ascension (v.30). Still, nothing could break Jonathan’s loyalty to his friend, not even the thought of losing the throne, because their friendship had been made even stronger by the fire of adversity.

Believers in Jesus share a powerful, loving friendship with Jesus, as He declared in John 15:15. Similar to the relationship between Jonathan and David, this is an unbreakable friendship that has been refined through hardship and sacrifice (Romans 3:25), so perfectly exemplified by Jesus’ death on the cross. So when we call Jesus our “friend”, this doesn’t mean someone we simply hang out with. No, as seen in the friendship between Jonathan and David, Jesus is a friend who gave His life for our own—One who will never leave our side.

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: Matthew 12:22-50

MORE
Read Proverbs 18:19-24 to see how we can maintain godly and lasting friendships with other believers in Jesus. 
NEXT
What does it mean to you to have a friend in Jesus? How can you grow your friendships with believers in Jesus—seeking to sharpen and encourage one another? 

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