Tips for Growing Family Relationships
Tip #1: Understand each other
How many of you own a VCR? How many of you know how to program it? There is a big difference between owning something and understanding how it works. People who have a nodding acquaintance with a second language know the gap between hearing words and understanding the meaning of those words.
1 Peter 3:7 states You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB)
Husbands we are directly instructed to understand our wives. Now I know some husbands who would say that it would be easier to understand quantum physics than to understand their wives. And guys, I know some wives who would say the same thing about us!
Now while the text is directly addressed to husbands it is not bad biblical interpretation to suggest that the principle of understanding one another can be applied to other relationships as well.
What does it mean to understand another person? It means to “make what is important to the other person as important to you as the other person is to you.” (2)
How do we develop an understanding spirit? By making the time to really get to know each other. And by making it a point to really listen to each other.
James 1:19 states that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (NLT) Parents I don’t know of any child that would be repulsed by a parent who was quick to really listen to them.
Tip #2: Keep commitments
Parents we need to do everything we can to keep promises we make to our children. Spouses we need to do everything we can to keep our promises to our one another. Children you need to do everything you can to keep your promises to your parents.
Why is keeping our commitments and honouring our promises so important? Because we all tend to construct our hopes around promises.
When a man promises to love a woman until death they do part, that gives the woman security to become all she was meant to be in the marriage relationship.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says 4 So when you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. 5 It is better to say nothing than to promise something that you don’t follow through on. (NLT)
We can infer from this text that same holds true in our commitments to others. In other words, we are to be loyal. Proverbs 3:3-4 says 3 Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them down within your heart. 4 Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation. (NLT)
When we keep our commitments it builds trust. And there is no such thing as a healthy relationship apart from trust. Trust is the firm foundation upon which a family is built.
But keeping commitments can be costly. I remember one time this past year I was invited to a dinner meeting where the pastor of the largest Protestant church in America was going to be speaking. I really wanted to go, but when I looked at my calendar I saw that I had made a previous commitment to some students in our church. That was tough for me, but I felt my previous commitment was more important. I know some parents in this church who travel as a part of their profession. They will drive all night long in order to make it to a child’s school program they promised they would be at. You can be assured when the child sees them not only are they happy, but that parent has instilled within the child the importance of keeping commitments.
Got any commitments needing to be kept? Husbands and wives, when was the last time we visited the vows .we made on our wedding day? When we married we made a commitment that next to God our spouse would be the most important relationship in our lives. Does our time and attention reflect that?
Tip #3: Give some respect
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. it something all of us in any relationship want. In fact it is next to impossible to have a deep relationship with another person when there is no respect.
Could it be the reason some of us are not experiencing the kind of relationship God wants to have with us because we do not have respect for him? And could it be that the reason some family relationships are not secure is because God is not respected? Proverbs 14:26 states Those who fear (or respect) the Lord are secure; he will be a place of refuge for their children. (NLT)
Another word for respect is “honour.” Romans 12:10 states that as Christ followers we are to take delight in honouring each other. Did you catch that? We are to “delight” in honouring another person. It is not supposed to be a hassle or something to dread. When we delight in honouring another person it boosts their feeling of value.
How can we show that we are honouring the people in our family relationships?
• By respecting each other’s property
• By respecting each other’s privacy
• By respecting each other’s time
The people who have the most difficulty respecting others are those people with an inflated idea of their own importance; the sinfully proud. Philippians 2:3 tells us to be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Tip #4: Offer encouragement
Perhaps the easiest way to grow a healthy relationship is to offer encouragement. A well known actress once said, “We live by encouragement, we die without it, slowly, sadly and angrily.” (3)
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.(NIV)
How can we encourage one another in our homes?
• By smiling
Never underestimate the power of a smile. A smile not only increases your face value, but it warms the heart of those you give it to.
• By our words
Someone noted, "Man doesn’t live by bread alone. He also needs buttering up." (4) Words are power in that they can do enormous harm and amazing good.
• By pointing out the positive.
Start today to look for gold in your child, in your spouse and in your parents. Jesus certainly must have seen the gold in the disciples he chose.
• By giving gifts
Are their any Barnabas’ in your house? In Acts 4:36-37 we read there was a man named Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need. (NLT) Joseph, because of his behavior, was given the nickname “Son of Encouragement.” One of the ways he practiced encouragement by giving gifts.
I saved the best tip for last.
Tip #5: Ask for and offer forgiveness
Anyone who lives in a family of any kind knows that people will disappoint and hurt you. I asked my mom and dad, who’ve been married for 54 years, what were the secrets to their long and happy marriage. One gem of wisdom was “you overlook at lot of little things and you forgive each other.”
Colossians 3:13 states Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Forgiveness is not natural. It seems to be more natural to carry a grudge; to record all wrongs in read on a legal pad in our minds; to think of ways of getting back at those who hurt us.
Yet the Bible is clear in its instruction. As we have experienced forgiveness from God we are to forgive others.
Families today are filled with people who desperately long for reconciliation.(6)
Some of you need to experience that kind of forgiveness from God. You can. God has sent out a letter of forgiveness – his name is Jesus. If you will receive him forgiveness will be yours.