How To Have Healthy Relationships
How To Have Healthy Relationships
We were created for community. We’re wired for relationships. We’re made to go through life together with others.
The Bible says this, the top verse on your outline, Romans 12:5, “Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.” Will you circle that word “connected”?
You are connected to the person sitting next to. Now, you may be connected physically to the person sitting next to you, since most of us sit together with our families, but you are also connected spiritually if you are part of the family of God.
We are all connected in some way to others.
Here’s the problem: It’s easy to get disconnected in relationships. Would you agree with that? It’s very easy to get disconnected from your children, from your parents, from your brothers and sisters, your friends, your family, your husband and wife if you’re married, your friends.
It’s easy to get disconnected in our relationships with each other.
And so, today we’re going to look at what causes that disconnect. Why do relationships fall apart? Why do relationships go bad? What destroys relationships and how do you rebuild?
How can we have healthy relationships?
Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to have healthy relationships. Do you remember taking a class on this in school? Yet, that’s an important lesson to learn in life, wouldn’t you agree?
And I doubt that you’ve learned it from your parents, nor at church.
So, today, we’re going to look at how to have healthy relationships. We will see what destroys relationships, and what builds them. Learning how to have healthy relationships has so many applications in so many areas of your life...
You can apply it with your marriage if you’re married...
your family...your friends...in your work...in your small group...
We will discover this morning, that every relational problem comes down to one of 4 negative attitudes. Every problem you’ve had in a relationship comes as a result of one these problems. They are the enemies of community and healthy relationships.
Ready for #1?
1. SELFISHNESS destroys relationships
Selfishness is the #1 cause of arguments, the #1 cause of divorce, the #1 cause of war. Look at James 4:1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels, don’t they come from your desires that battle within you. You want something but you don’t get it.”
Now it’s very easy for selfishness to creep into a relationship.
You know when you start a relationship, you work real hard at being selfless or being unselfish. Like when you start out dating someone, “Oh here, please, you go first.” Right?
And you are very unselfish at the start of a relationship,
but then as time goes on, selfishness begins to creep in.
Would you agree we put more energy into starting relationships than into maintaining relationships?
Have you heard about the five stages of a married cold. [Excerpted from "The Seven Stages of a Married Cold", from Staying Close by Dennis & Barbara Rainey, Word Publishing, 1989] The first year: "Baby darling, I’m worried about that sniffle. So I’ve called the paramedics to rush you to the UCLA Hospital for a checkup and a week of rest. And I know you don’t like hospital food, so I’m having gourmet meals brought in for you." That’s the first year.
Second year of a marriage: "Sweetheart, I don’t like the sound of that cough. I’ve arranged for Dr. Knotts to make a house call. Let me tuck you in bed."
Third year of a marriage: "You look like you’ve got a fever. Why don’t you drive yourself over to the Quick Care, get some medicine, I’ll watch the kids." [You know, very magnanimous]
Fourth year: "Look, be sensible. After you’ve fed and bathed the kids, washed the dishes, you really ought to go to bed."
Fifth year: “For Pete’s sake, do you have to cough so loud?
I can’t hear the TV. Would you mind going in the other room while this show is on? You sound like a barking dog.”
Reminds me of the guy who said, “You know, in the first year of marriage, my wife used to bring me my slippers and the dog came barking. Now it’s just the opposite!”
We all know that selfishness destroys a relationship, don’t we?
We know this. So why don’t we change?
Or, better yet, why can’t we change?
Why can’t we be more unselfish?
Well there are a couple of reasons:
First, it is natural. It is human nature to be selfish.
I don’t think about you most of the time.
I think about me, my needs, my interests, my hurts...
How do I look? How do I feel? Who’s hurt me?
And you don’t think about me, you think about yourself more than anybody else.
It’s natural to be selfish, isn’t it?
By nature, I think of me first, not you. And it’s the same for you.
Not only are we naturally selfish, but we are also influenced by our culture to be selfish and self-centered.
Do you realize that every advertisement that comes out caters to your self-centeredness? It’s things like: “Have it your way!”
“We do it all for you.” It’s all about what’s best for me.
Sprite came up with this: "Obey your thirst."
Now if that isn’t a selfish, self-centered attitude toward life, I don’t know what is. Think about it: “Obey your thirst.”
That says: “Do whatever your urges tell you.
Forget about if it hurts anybody.
Forget about if it bothers anybody.
You’re just an animal. So obey your urge. Obey your thirst.
Live for yourself, regardless of what it does to everybody else.”
Or one that’s a little bit more sophisticated, but it’s the same thing, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Now think about that. So, it’s okay for me to cheat on my wife as long as I do it in Vegas. It’s okay for me to be immoral and rotten and do anything I want to, to be totally selfish because it’s going to stay in Vegas, sin city? I don’t think so!
Let’s read together Proverbs 28:25, “Selfishness only causes trouble.” It only causes trouble.
Now if selfishness destroys relationships, then what’s the counterpart to selfishness? What builds relationships?
SELFLESSNESS builds them [Repeat]
What does selflessness mean?
It means I think less of myself, and I more of you.
That is being selfless.
It’s finally realizing that I am not the center of the universe.
Philippians 2:4 says this: “Look out for one another’s interest, not just your own.”
That’s selflessness. Selflessness brings out the best in others.
It builds relationships.
If you start acting selfless in a relationship, it forces the other person to change because you’re not the same person anymore.
They have to relate to you in a different way.
Selflessness not only transforms a relationship, it also transforms you.
Now look at this next verse, Galatians 6:7-8 says this:
“The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others and ignoring God, harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for it in his life is weeds. But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life and eternal life.”
This verse talks about the principle of sowing and reaping.
I want to make just a few observations here about these verses:
Notice it talks about the person who “plants in response to God”
What does that mean? It means we respond the way God would respond. How would Jesus handle this situation? How would Jesus respond to this attack? And you can’t do this on your own.
Notice that we must let God’s spirit do the work in us...
We can’t do this naturally on our own. We can only do it through the power of God that works in us.
Notice also that it is a “growth work.” See it there in the verse?
It’s not going to happen overnight.
You don’t all of a sudden learn to be unselfish by being zapped.
In fact, you’re not going to learn it in 40 days.
It’s going to take the rest of your life! It’s a growth process.
And there is only one way you can do it, and that is with God’s spirit in you...God’s spirit in you.
Notice also the reward that comes to the person who responds the way God would respond. They will harvest a crop of what?
“real life and eternal life.”
Wow! What a reward! We are most fulfilled when we give ourselves away! Only those who learn to give their lives away will ever know what it means to really live.
We experience what real life is like. And we experience eternal life. I think of what Jesus said in John 10:10
“...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came so that you might really live.
So that you might live life to the max. How does that happen?
By trusting Him, letting Him work in you. And it’s only as He works in you that you will be able to live a life of unselfishness.
Look at the next verse in Galatians 5:16...
“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s spirit, then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.”
Did you know that all of us are compulsive? Every one of us.
We are compulsively selfish. We think about ourselves first.
And if you don’t think that, you’re really not in touch with reality because you do.
You think about you more than anybody else. And God tells us that the only way we can break that vicious cycle is if God’s spirit is inside of us.
Anybody can be unselfish every once in a while.
But God wants us to live a lifestyle of unselfishness.
And the only way you can do it is if God’s spirit is in you doing the growth work in your life.
Now here’s the 2nd thing that destroys relationships: Pride.
2. PRIDE destroys relationships
In says this in Proverbs 13:10, “Pride leads to arguments.”
Now pride shows up in a lot of different ways:
It shows up first in criticism.
...if you are critical of other people
...if you tend to be judgmental of other people
...if you tend to look down at other people
...if you tend to be a picky, picky perfectionist (guilty as charged) You have a pride problem!
The reason you are critical is that you have a pride problem.
If you tend to always compare,
“Oh look at her dress, compared to my dress.” Or,
“Look at his car compared to my car.”
Or houses, or children, or jobs, or anything...
You know what? You have a pride problem.
That comparing spirit, that judging spirit...that’s a pride problem.
If you have a stubborn streak in you
If you find it hard to say, “I’m sorry”
If you start choking on your apologies
If you cannot ever admit it when you are wrong
You have a pride problem.
If you have shallow relationships
If you keep everything superficial in your life
If you never let anybody get close to you
If you always keep people at an arm’s length away
And if you use humor to keep it all shallow
And if you never let it get too deep
And if you keep faking it
And you wear a mask
You have a pride problem!
The problem with pride is that it is so self-deceiving.
Everybody else can see it but we can’t.
When I’m full of pride, I can’t see it in my life.
Everybody else can see it but I can’t.
When you have a problem with pride, you don’t see it in your life. It’s self-deceiving.
Notice what Proverbs 16:18 says about pride:
“Pride will destroy a person. A proud attitude leads to ruin.”
Pride destroys relationships!
Well, if pride destroys relationships, guess what builds them?
HUMILITY builds them
That’s the antidote to pride: Humility. Humility builds relationships. Listen to these five things that build relationships in 1 Peter 3:8, “Live in harmony. Be sympathetic. Love each other. Have compassion, and be humble.”
Those five really are built on the fifth one, the ability to be humble.
I want you to notice that first one particularly, “Live in harmony.” That’s what God wants in relationships.
He doesn’t want this unison where we’re all the same.
He wants the harmony of us all being different.
Harmony and humility go together.
You have to have them together.
How are you and I going to grow in humility?
How does that happen in our lives?
It happens by letting Jesus Christ begin to control our thoughts and hearts and attitudes and reactions. He has got to be a part of this. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:23-24, “Let the spirit change your way of thinking, and make you into a new person.”
You want to have more humility? Spend time with Jesus Christ! He is humble. He wants a relationship with you.
He wants you and I to spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word and talking to Him. He is humble.
Look at this next verse in the outline, Philippians 2:3, 5-6, “Be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Your attitude should be the same as that the Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.”
You want to learn humility? Spend time with Jesus! The more time you spend with Him, the more humble you become, and that builds healthy relationships in your life.
There is a 3rd struggle we all face. It is the struggle of insecurity.
INSECURITY destroys relationships
Look at what Proverbs 29:25 says...
“The fear of human opinion disables.”
When I’m so insecure that all I’ve got to think about is your opinion and what you think of me...that disables my life.
What is the problem with that fear?
Why does insecurity disable relationships?
When I’m afraid, it causes us to try to control each other, and that destroys relationships.
It’s always easier to recognize that better in others than in ourselves, right? And what’s beneath that control?
Fear. And insecurity. Fear and insecurity destroy relationships.
You know, it’s an amazing dilemma that as human beings we have. We long to be close, but we also fear being close. Right?
We want it, but we don’t want it. We long to have intimacy with others, but we are also scared to death of having intimacy with others.
Would you write this down: Insecurity prevents intimacy.
You can’t get close to somebody if there is fear in the relationship.
What do we fear in relationships? We fear a couple of things:
1) We fear exposure.
We fear that someone is going to find out what we’re really like.
And we fear that. So we hide ourselves. This is man’s oldest fear, going all the way back to Adam, the first man, in Genesis 3:10. Notice what Adam says to God after he sinned...
He says: “I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid.”
When we’re afraid, we hide ourselves.
We cover up. We wear masks.
We pretend to be people that we’re not. We fear exposure.
But there is a 2nd fear even deeper than that, and it is this:
2) We fear rejection. And this may be the greatest fear in human beings: The fear of being rejected. We’ve all been rejected at some point, and we know how much that hurts. And so, we fear it and we close ourselves off and say,
“I’ll never let anybody hurt me again,” and we build up walls.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by rejection. Maybe you’ve been rejected by somebody, a boyfriend, a girl friend, your best friend, a parent, maybe even your spouse. And you’ve felt the sting of rejection. Maybe it’s been by a teacher or a coach.
Maybe a fellow Christian, a brother or sister in Christ.
I have felt rejected.
And I’ve discovered that it is one of my greatest fears.
Do you want to know what has helped me when I’ve been rejected? I think of Jesus. I think of how He was rejected.
Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow, and familiar with suffering.”
If anybody understands rejection, it’s Jesus Christ.
I beg you, please, please, don’t let rejection harden your heart! Don’t let any root of bitterness take root in your heart!
Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness...”
Don’t build up a wall! Don’t put yourself in a self-imposed prison! When you won’t let anybody get close to you because “I’ll never let anybody hurt me again,” you’re making a terrible mistake. You’re not living! You’re just existing!
And I believe it’s my job as your pastor to help you and to encourage you to say, “Take the risk. Have the courage to risk love again. Have the courage.”
Because if you will take the risk and open up your life and lower the barriers... you will come alive again in a way you have never ever experienced.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying you won’t be hurt ever again. I’m not saying that. But I do know that God risked even though He knew that He would be rejected.
So I would encourage you to ask God for the courage to take that risk again!
If you’re living in fear, then you’re not really living.
Insecurity destroys relationships. What builds them?
We all know the answer to this: Love.
LOVE builds relationships.
Look at 1 John 4:18, “Love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we’re afraid, it shows that His love has not been perfected in us.”
How does that work? How does love expel & drive away all fear?
Here’s what it does: It takes the focus off of you, and it puts the focus on the other person. That’s how it makes a difference. People ask me, “Don’t you get nervous when you preach?”
The answer is, “Yes, there are times.”
Do you know when I get nervous?
I get nervous when I focus on me.
When I start thinking, “Oh, no, what if I say something stupid? What if I’m misunderstood? What if...”
Do you know what makes the difference when I am not nervous? When I take the focus off of me.
When I start focusing on God and how much I love Him and want to serve Him, the fear goes away. When I start thinking how much I love you and want you to know and understand how much God loves you, fear goes out the backdoor. In any relationship, when you feel nervous and insecure, start to focus on the other person. When you begin to focus on the other person, there is no fear.
And how do we find that power to focus on other people?
Realize how much God loves you.
Realize that He loves you more than you could ever imagine.
The moment you begin to realize how much God loves you...
then you realize that you don’t have to prove yourself anymore.
you don’t have to spend your life trying to impress other people.
Why? Because you already know God loves you! Right?
Do you know how freeing that is?
Do you know how enjoyable it is to live life that way?
All of a sudden, my identity, my self-worth, they are not caught up in what you might think of me.
Instead, they’re caught up in my relationship to Christ.
I’m not pressured by everybody else’s expectations anymore.
Where do you get that kind of confidence? The Bible tells us.
Look at 1 John 4:15-17, “All who proclaim that Jesus is the son of God have God living in them.”
We know how much God loves us, and we put our trust in Him. God is love. And would you read this last part with me?
“As we live in God, our love grows more and more perfect, so we will not be afraid.”
You might want to circle the word “grows.”
This confidence grows. It’s a lifelong process. This is a journey. It’s something that grows little by little every day.
If you expect complete confidence tomorrow, you’re going to be disappointed.
But you can grow in it. You can grow little by little, day by day.
You can’t defeat insecurity overnight.
It doesn’t happen for any of us that way.
But you can take the first step to it. How?
Begin to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ.
When you say yes to Jesus Christ, you’re saying yes to a kind of love that can throw fear out the back door of your life.
Now the 4th enemy of healthy relationships is this: resentment. RESENTMENT destroys relationships.
Job 5:2 says this, “To worry yourself to death with resentment is a foolish, senseless thing to do.”
Now everybody blows it. We all make mistakes. We all sin. I sin. You sin. Everybody does. We are all sinners. We are not perfect.
So because we’re all imperfect, you’re going to hurt other people and other people are going to hurt you in life. It’s a fact of life. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, other people are going to hurt you in this life. You’re going to be hurt in life. It’s a fact.
What do you do with that hurt?
What you do with it is more important than the hurt.
Are you going to allow it to make you better?
Or are you going to allow it to make you bitter, resentful, and carry a grudge?
Often, it’s not the big things in life that make us resentful.
Most often it’s all those little things that just pile up.
And they pile up to the point that one more little thing becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When we hold on to all those little irritations, they soon turn to resentment.
Resentment is always wrong. Resentment is when you pile up anger in your heart. It’s frozen anger.
Notice what the Bible says in Psalm 73:21-22...
“Since my heart was embittered,” [that means resentful] “and my soul was deeply wounded. I was stupid and I could not understand.”
In other words, you don’t think straight.
You start doing self-defeating behavior.
One of the purposes of having other people in your life is to help you think straight when you’ve been hurt.
When you get hurt, you need other people around you.
And when you find yourself becoming bitter or resentful and not thinking straight, you need people around you who are not bitter.
They can help you think it through and keep you from doing dumb things.
the small group is to help you think straight when you’ve been hurt. Because when you get hurt, you need other people around you, who can think unemotionally and more rationally. And you come to group and you go, "You know what, I had this thing today and it was just so… I wanted to ring that guy’s neck!" And they’re going, "Now, did you really want a lawsuit? And have you thought about this?" You need other people. You’re going to be hurt in life. And when you start to get bitter and you don’t think straight, you need people who are not bitter around you to help you think it through and keep you from doing dumb things. Does that make sense? That’s what the Bible says.
Look at Hebrews 12:15, “Look after each other. Watch out that no bitterness,” [that’s resentment] “takes root among you, for as it springs up, it causes deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives.”
Oh, the deep trouble, and hurt that we’ve caused in others because of bitterness and resentment!
And think about all the lives and the relationships that have been ruined by bitterness and resentment.
Resentment destroys relationships!
So what’s the antidote? The antidote to resentment is forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS builds relationships
Let’s read Colossians 3:13 aloud together...
“You must make allowances for each others’ faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Why should you forgive other people?
Let me give you a few reasons:
1) Resentment and unforgiveness just plain don’t work. Resentment only makes you miserable.
Holding on to a grudge only hurts you.
2) You’ve been forgiven by God. How can you not forgive others when you think about how much God has forgiven you?
3) You’re going to need forgiveness sometime in the future. So you better offer it to others now.
And, just in case you think you can do this on your own by trying real hard – you’re wrong!
There’s no way you can do it on your own!
You need God’s supernatural love working in you.
Look at Titus 3:3-7, “Once our lives were full of resentment and envy, but then Christ saved us. Not because we were good enough to be saved because we’re not, but because of his kindness and love, by washing away our sins, everything forgiven, just wiped out. And giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit...all because of what Jesus our Savior did on the cross. So he could declare us good in God’s eyes.”
You need to have God in your life to be able to forgive like you should. You need God in your life to let go of that bitterness and resentment. You’ll never be able to forgive until God is in your life.
Who do you need to forgive? Before I answer that, I need to explain something. I need to explain what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not making excuses.
Forgiveness is not minimizing the hurt. It hurt!
Forgiveness is not justifying it.
Forgiveness is not saying, “Oh, it’s no big deal!” It is a big deal!
Forgiveness is not saying it wasn’t wrong. It was wrong!
So what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is letting go of the pain and letting go of my right to get even. Why would anybody do that? For your own sake. Because you are living in misery the longer you hold it on.
Some of you are still allowing people from your past to hurt you in the present. Listen to me: They cannot hurt you anymore!
The past is past! And every time you hold onto that grudge, you are perpetuating your own pain. They can’t hurt you anymore! They only hurt you if you refuse to let it go.
They only hurt you if you hold on to a grudge in resentment.
Listen to me: You’ve got to let it go! Forgiveness is the only way to really get on with your life.
You see, resentment turns your heart into a desert.
It dries you up emotionally. And you don’t have anything to give to anybody else, your boyfriend, your husband, your girlfriend, your wife, your parents, your kids.
You don’t have anything to give because you are so stuck in the past, you can’t get on with the future.
Look at the wonderful promise in Isaiah 43:18-19,
“The Lord says forget what happened before, and don’t think about the past. I’m going to do something new in your life, and I will make rivers on a dry land. I’m going to turn that desert into an oasis.”
Now you may have had some relational disasters in your life in the past. Welcome to the club! Everybody has had some sort of relationship disaster in their life. Everybody.
The question is: “What are you going to do with them?”
God wants to start something totally new in your life – today!
Right now. It starts with opening up your life to Jesus Christ and letting Him fill you with His love on a moment-by-moment basis.