Relationships are at the very core of our existence and something we deal with every day and on every level of our lives. We have very superficial relationships with many people, such as merchants we may meet, and relationships that we consider intimate, such as the ones we experience with our immediate family and our mates.
Relationships provide us with both the most positive as well as the most negative experiences we have in our lives. There are those who, though they may never achieve fame or fortune in this world, will be remembered very highly by all who came in contact with them. Their funerals will overflow with people they have touched.
The pain and joy that can come as children remember their deceased parents is determined by the lives those parents lived and how well they maintained the relationships with their children.
And what it all comes down to is the ability to maintain healthy relationships.
I want to share with you the key components of establishing relationships that will allow you to leave a fantastic relational legacy.
Be Purposeful. People are busy and time flies. Put these two together and you have a recipe for disaster in the relationship department. Pretty soon you and your best friends have had months go by between times spent together. In order to have quality relationships we have to be purposeful.
This is especially true with couples and even more so for couples with small children. They need to be very purposeful in making sure they spend quality time together communicating and enjoying one another.
Be Proactive. This is the opposite of reactive. Reactive is when your spouse says, “We never spend any time together,” and you respond by saying, “Okay, we will this week.” It would be to sit down at the beginning of each month or week and schedule the time, or better yet have a weekly “date night.” The key is to take control and schedule your relationships. Otherwise, they are going to get away from you.
Be Disciplined. Yes, it takes discipline to maintain healthy relationships. The discipline is to make investments regularly. This means the monthly lunch with a friend. It means the yearly hunting trip with friends from high school. It means cutting out of work early to go to your child’s game. It means disciplining yourself to work harder during the day in order to leave at a set time so you can eat dinner with your family. All of these are acts of discipline. Just as we have to discipline ourselves in other areas of our lives, like exercising for health or investing for wealth, we have to discipline ourselves into actions that will produce strong and healthy relationships.
Value People Above Possessions, Schedules and Achievements. The sooner we realize that we leave behind all of our stuff when we die, the sooner we will be able to focus on what matters most—relationships. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we shouldn’t do our best to become successful financially or that we shouldn’t enjoy material possessions. What I am saying is that should be secondary to healthy relationships. I can’t imagine someone on their deathbed who says, “I wish I would have left an estate of ten million dollars instead of five million.” No, people get to the ends of their lives and wish they would have invested more in their relationships.
Be Loving. I don’t mean to be guided by emotional feelings of “love.” Feelings come and go. This is what I mean when I say loving: to always act in such a way as to do what is best for the other person. Love is not feelings, but actions. When we say that we love someone, we mean that we are committed to their best interests. If we are lucky, those commitments are coupled with strong emotional bonds as well.
Be Forgiving. The fact is this: Where there are people, mistakes will be made. I don’t care if you are the nicest guy on earth (or married to him), you will have some breakdowns in your relationship on occasion. That is the nature of being human. Other people will fail you and you will fail people.
And when this happens we must face a decision: Will we let the relationship remain broken or will we learn to forgive? An analogy might be in order. A relationship is like building a house. It has to have a strong foundation.
That is where you start. Then it must be built step by step until it is finished. During the building process there may be times when a beam falls or the two-by-fours break. The builder has a decision to make. Will he repair the building or let it go? If he chooses to let it go, the house will be weak and eventually fall into disrepair. Unfortunately, too many people let their relationships break and do not repair them by practicing forgiveness. People who leave successful relationships behind them practice the art of forgiveness.
Follow the Golden Rule. The golden rule of life is, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” What is most interesting about this is that Christ was the first religious leader to say this in a positive way. Other leaders had said before to “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” Relationships are about being proactive and doing for others.
When we wake up each day with the goal to follow the golden rule and do good in people’s lives, we set ourselves on a course that will allow us to build a strong relational legacy.
Think of how you want to be remembered, and then live in such a way that you will be. If you want to be remembered as kind, then be kind. If you want to be remembered as strong, then be strong. If you want to be remembered as friendly, then be friendly. If you want to be remembered as forgiving and patient, then be forgiving and patient. What you do and how you act will add up to how you will be remembered.
It is possible to leave a wonderful relational legacy. If you follow the principles above, you will surely do so.