Have you ever seen someone’s relationship status on Facebook explained as “It’s complicated”? It seems an apt description for a multitude of scenarios for many relationships in life. Our interactions with others can get sticky sometimes. Relationships take work. And sometimes it seems easier not to work through the issues, call it complicated, and let it go.
Whether in friendship, family, or romantic relationships, there are many factors that can reinforce the strength of the bond. Deciding if you really want it to work is probably the starting point for change, because it may take a lot of effort to mend something that has been broken. Some situations may require outside help to mediate or counsel, but there are lots of suggestions from the Bible that are incredibly helpful.
Using a passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8a, I’ve compiled a few ideas:
Love is patient – It’s not tapping its foot, waiting for change. Sometimes the best changes I’ve encountered in someone I love have been because I prayed for myself to be what they need instead of praying for them to change. That helped changed my perspective in the waiting time.
Love is kind – It’s nice and thoughtful and helpful, friendly and sympathetic and honest.
It does not envy – It’s being happy when something good happens to another instead of being jealous. It’s easier to mourn with those that mourn than to rejoice with those who rejoice, but it is possible. Ask God to change your heart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bitten my tongue before the words, “I’m so jealous” came out of my mouth. I have learned to say — and really mean — “I’m so happy for you,” instead.
It does not boast – Bragging is usually not pretty, even if it’s with someone you care about. Thinking of others more highly than ourselves is difficult, for sure. But it is so valuable. Taking a humble but healthy attitude about ourselves is so important when we deal with others.
It is not proud – Puffed-up, full-of-myself, or arrogant might be good adjectives here too.
It does not dishonor others – Building up those we love through encouragement is almost a lost art in our world. Failing to respect or bringing shame upon someone else is how dishonoring plays out. We shouldn’t have to put others down to feel better about ourselves; it says a lot about our own character and confidence when we do.
It is not self-seeking – “Being concerned only about getting what you want or need and not caring about what happens to other people” is the definition, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
It is not easily angered – If I explode at the smallest infraction, I may need to figure out what is causing me to be so angry. It’s not ok to fly off the handle all the time with those that we supposedly love. If we care about others, we will work on our own needs too, and work to discover and correct the problems.
It keeps no record of wrongs – Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned; they are not necessarily interchangeable. Forgiveness is such an amazing gift. I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is giving ourselves a gift, rather than being a gift to others. Forgiveness is removing your right to extract a penalty from someone else and then releasing yourself from carrying the burden of it. It is a process, and it begins through the obedient act of choosing to forgive.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth – Love says that truth conquers evil every time. Plugging God’s truth into our own situations will shine new light on them, which can change everything.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes – Look out for the best interest of others. Encourage. Believe for the best in those we care about — it is so vital. Expect the best. The whole world will try to knock us down to size. We need to encourage and build each other up. We need to have each others’ backs.
It always perseveres – This word screams struggle and hardship, and every relationship experiences some at one time or another. Continue on in the face of difficulty, stand fast, and put one foot in front of the other: just keep trying. That might mean getting some help, too, when things get rough. Smart people know when to call in wise counsel.
Love never fails – God’s love is the measure, so it seems pretty hard to perfect. But if he says he will help us (and he does!), we can watch things work out better than we could ever have imagined.