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.
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.
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.