The art of relationship: things I’ve learned from making and cultivating friendship

There are seemingly a million ways to keep up with people these days. Things like facebook, twitter, text messages, email, cell phones and the like connect the world in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined as a child. Yet, in the midst of all of these forms of communication, I fear we may have lost the art of relationship and I believe it is time to find it once again.

I am not saying that I think technology has been the demise of human relationship. In my world, these things have actually been quite helpful. But what I am saying is that I’ve noticed that people long for real relationship and yet don’t seem to know how to be in covenant, transformative relationships. These tools for relating seems to become the solution to relationships on the go, as well as simply for keeping up, but they are not filling the void of meaningful relationships that are needed.

Mother Theresa once said that the most poverty stricken people she’s ever encountered were those found in America who suffered from the poverty of loneliness. This I have seen. We fill our lives with noise, activity, social gatherings, and social networks to fill the loneliness without often developing transformative friendships that actually feed into the relational needs we each posses.

Throughout the years I’ve learned a few things about relationships that I think are important as you and I seek to fill our relational reservoir.

I’ve learned that relationships take time. They often mess with our schedules. And, that we must allow for interruptions in our lives and generosity with our time as we experience relationship with others.

I’ve learned that relationships grow through conflict. Conflict is not something to be avoided but it is something that when addressed, worked through and resolution is found that the intimacy level of that relationship is deepened.

I’ve learned that relationships that are transformative are relationships that are vulnerable. Each of us carries with us both an area of poverty and an area of abundance. We must be willing to receive in our area of poverty and give out of our area of abundance. Through this exchange there is a natural and healthy need that is developed and our inclination to be strictly independent is challenged.

I’ve learned that good questions lead to deeper knowing. I’ve learned that conversation that stretches beyond to do lists and have done lists engage the heart building bonds that are surprisingly intimate. I’ve learned that idea sharing and dreaming create a sense of movement and purpose in relationship.

I’ve learned that we at times must celebrate with friends when we want to mourn and we must mourn with friends at times when we would rather be celebrating. I’ve learned that this happens when we look at ourselves with sober judgement. Take a look at Romans 12 to get a picture of how this works.

I’ve learned that in transformative relationships there is mutual submission. When I submit to a friend, I am showing that person that I trust their love for me and visa versa.

I’ve learned that love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 is not only for newly weds, but is very important for me as I seek to be a good friend. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude, is not self-seeking, does not keep record of wrong, it trusts, hopes, protects and perseveres.

I’ve learned that in relationships communication is key. Not necessarily how much we communicate, but what we choose to communicate. I can talk to a person every day and still not know them. I may know a lot of their schedule or what frustrates them of what they think of the person at work, but I may not know them in a capacity that speaks against loneliness.

I’ve learned that in relationships that fill me, there are often shared experiences where we risk, play, recreate, or live well together.  I’ve learned that an experience can sometimes speak for itself. And, at time being quiet is often as powerful, if not more so, than talking.

I’ve learned that transformative relationships take work, time, risk, and challenge our innate sense of self- centeredness. It is out of such relationships that we experience a depth and richness that speaks against the loneliness most of us carry.

I’ve learned too, that relationships do not fill me completely. I was created with longings and desires that people are not meant to fill alone. Thus, I’ve learned that when I seek to make a relationship, or idea of community be the thing that I rise and fall on for my sense of being okay, I will always come up short or disappointed.

I’ve learned that God designed us with longings that lead us to deeper relationship with Him and others. These longings are cravings and cravings do not have an instant fix, but with each experience of the craving being filled, the craving grows.  I’ve learned we often don’t recognize the craving as something good and seek to isolate or idolize the craving, rather than using it as a guide to draw us closer to God and thus to others in our lives.

I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn about relationships and people and I desire to love well and invite others to experience a life rescued from the poverty of loneliness.

What do you think?

What have you learned about transformative relationships?

One thought on “The art of relationship: things I’ve learned from making and cultivating friendship

  1. Good one Jenkins… 😉 Thanks for being my friend. Loving me when it’s hard, and being there… you are amazing…. xo

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