HOW TO GET OUR RELATIONSHIPS RIGHT
Edet B. Effiom
Relationship is the essence of human existence--God created us to have fellowship
with each other, and also with Him. This implies harmonious co-existence between a
couple, family members, friends and associates, neighbours, and all those we are
directly or indirectly in contact, ourselves, and above all with God.
With complexities surrounding human existence--different culture, family
background, values, striving for survival, urge for recognition, our egotism, ignorance
of the importance of self-love, etc; the achievement of harmonious co-existence,
which our survival both here on earth, and having eternal life hereafter depends, is a
Herculean huddle--one that we should strive to overcome.
How could this be achieved? You may ask. Jesus answered your question when he
gave the "Golden rule" in the Gospel of Luke 10:27, which states, "Love the Lord
your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and
with all your mind. And you must love your neighbour just as you love yourself" (The
Living Bible version).
The just-mentioned rule portrays three types of relationships: with God, neighbours
(all other men and women), and ourselves.
Quite often, many people believe that their relationships with God is the starting point
to getting their relationships right. What do you think? Personally, I believe that
inevitably, we have to begin from ourselves, because first, as we cannot give what we
do not have, we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves--a principle that most
Christians ignore (because of the doctrine of self-denial), and others misunderstand;
yet, it is very important to our relation with both God, and other men and women.
Second, it is not possible to love whom we have never seen--we have never seen
God; our basic knowledge of God starts from ourselves, because he created us in His
Before loving ourselves, it is imperative to know our identity. If somebody asks you
who you are, what would be your answer? I guess that you will identify yourself with
your profession, family, birthplace, nationality, and even personality, to mention but a
few. While these characterise identity; none relates to our subject, or our real identity,
which is embedded in our Creator and his purpose for our lives.
Our ultimate identity is who we are in God. We are the beloved children of God
whom he created in his own image, and whom he loves infinitely. He demonstrated
his love for us by sacrificing his only Son Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, so
that we might have an intimate relationship with Him. On the cross, Jesus died a very
shameful and humiliating death on our behalf, just to pay the price for all our
misdemeanours. This is just our limited knowledge of God's love for us--limited
knowledge because we are finite beings. It is only God that is infinite.
God loves and cares for all areas of our lives: spiritual, emotional, material, physical,
relational; the list is endless. This is the reason he invites all those with heavy burden
to come to him; that he will liberate them. Heavy laden here embraces all spheres of
our daily lives.
When we become conscious of the infinity and unconditional love of God for us, and
then accept that love with humility, we will find it easier to open up to him, and
entrust our lives, career, family, future, etc. to Him
On discovering who we are in God, we will appreciate our person--every aspect of
our lives: personality, strength and weaknesses, physique, and so on. Whomever God
has made us to be, and whatever abilities he has given to us; is to be used for the
accomplishment of his Will for us in particular, and that of the humanity in general.
How is your relationship with God? Is it cool, warm, or hot? God expects only a very
warm relationship with him. Warm relationship with God radiates automatically to
that with ourselves, and others.
When we understand the facts mentioned above, we will accept ourselves as we are;
thus, loving ourselves profoundly. Our relationship with ourselves is the determinant
of that with God, and others, because it is the root of our values; hence, it affects all
other relationships, including even the inanimate ones.
With the discovery of our identity in God, and our love and openness to him, it would
be much easier to love others, as we know that God has commanded us to do so, and
that he created them in his image. When we love our neighbours as ourselves, opening
up to them becomes quite easy. It is important to point out that; opening-up to others
is risk-taking, because as William Shakespeare says in Julius Caesar, "There is no art
to tell the mind's construction in the face, he was a gentleman in whom I built an
absolute trust", sometimes, many people may not actually be who they may seem.
Nevertheless, the ultimate solution is asking God for Divine guidance.
However, to foster an intimate relationship with God, others, and ourselves there are
four questions we need to ask ourselves:
- When we retire to the solitude of our bedroom, what are our dominant
- How do we communicate with ourselves?
- Can we easily forgive both others and ourselves?
- When we sin or hurt others, do we have the humility to apologise, and ask for
On analysing our answers to these questions, we will see the necessity to open-up to
God, and others.
Now, it is important to discus a subject whose importance to our topic is paramount,
because without it, our relationships as God expects of us will never be right. This
subject is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is 2-dimensional--outward and inward. Unfortunately, most people only
think about the outward forgiveness, which involves God's forgiveness, forgiving
others, or others' forgiveness. While this is very important to getting our relationships
right, inward forgiveness--forgiving oneself is equally very important.
In spite of our daily disobedience to God, on apologising to him, asking for
forgiveness, he unconditionally forgives us, and with the blood of Jesus, he erases out
completely all our transgressions. Repentance, which is the complete turning away
from our action or the path that led to our forgiven action, should follow forgiveness.
Another aspect of outward forgiveness is when we have been offended; irrespective of
the seriousness of the offense, if the offender apologises, it is imperative that we
forgive the person, and this involves forgetting about the situation. Conversely, if our
offender fails to apologise, it is advisable to create a situation for dialogue, so that the
issue could be discussed, if possible settled.
I know that forgiveness is easier said than done. Nonetheless, knowing its advantages
would encourage us to strive harder to achieve it. Advantages of forgiveness are; first,
it sets us free from heavy heartedness, which could bring about sleeplessness, anxiety,
even illness. When we fail to forgive, we suffer more than our offenders--we impose
suffering on ourselves.
Second, we have to forgive because God commands us to do so; else, he will not
forgive our innumerable sins, and this will obstruct our relationship with him; thereby,
preventing our prayers from being answered. Lack of forgiveness could be an obstacle
between God and us. The feeling of emptiness and misery that ensue by distancing
ourselves from God is the last thing we should desire, as in our daily life, we are
marching towards our ultimate destiny--answering our master's call; when we will
have to give an account of our stay here on Earth.
Also when we offend others knowingly or otherwise, it is necessary that we have the
humility to apologise to the offended, and ask him or her for forgiveness. If the person
refuses to accept our apology, that would be left between him or her, and God. Before
God, we have played our part--heeded to his command. Apology is a practical
manifestation of humility and boldness, and not a weakness. God blesses the humble.
These lead us to the inward aspect of forgiveness. Sometimes, when we offend God,
or others, even after they have forgiven us, we find it very difficult to forgive
ourselves. Our inability to forgive ourselves is even more dangerous than failing to
forgive others, because besides all the disadvantages of not forgiving others, it can
slowly, but consistently destroy our self-confidence, and deprive us from discovery
our identity in God, which is paramount to all achievement. You cannot forgive others
without being able to forgive yourself, because you cannot give what you do not have.
As it is often said, "Charity begins at home"; thus, for you to love others, you must
first love yourself, and this is also applicable to forgiveness.
One of the most effective ways of liberating oneself from the burden of inability to
forgive: inward, and outward forgiveness, is to share it with a trusted person--partner,
intimate friend, family member, associate, Pastor, or whomever, you think would
have the patience to listen to you, and encourage you to open-up, without condemning
you. How could this set you free? It is because as you harbour the bitterness and anger
in your heart, it remains a secret, and Satan: Master of secrecy, uses that issue to
condemn you--making you to feel guilty, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. By
talking about those issues, you destroy Satan's chances for manipulation. Most
importantly, praying after having exposed it, God will flush out the heavy
heartedness, and illuminate your heart and mind.
I have been trying very hard, but could not forgive, you may point out. Do not
despair, for you are not alone. Majority of people have the same experience.
Personally, quite often, I have to struggle before I can forgive. Forgiveness does not
come naturally, but by Divine grace. The good news is that, God whose desire is for
all his children to have a forgiving heart is ready and willing to give us the Spirit of
forgiveness, if only we ask him with humility, and have a burning desire for it.
It worth pointing out that acquiring the said Spirit does not come so easily; it is a
slow, sometimes painful, and a progressive process. This is so because on asking God
for the Spirit of forgiveness, he will expose us to situations that, on passing through
them, we will acquire it. Even after obtaining, we will still have to nourish it for
growth. This would be done, only as we would be regularly exposed to difficult
situations that necessitate forgiveness. Jumping such huddles brings about the gradual
strengthening of our Spirit of forgiveness.
You do not have to wait until you are offended before you seek the Spirit of
forgiveness, because by then, it might be more difficult, if not impossible to acquire it.
As it is often said in Africa, "It is better to find a black goat, when it is not yet dark", I
implore you to pray and ask God for the ability to forgive, no matter the circumstance.
May the Almighty God; Creator of Heaven and Earth and all therein, whose
supremacy, love, grace, and mercy abound, grant us the ability to obey His command
to love him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and
with all our mind, and also to love our neighbours just as we love ourselves. Amen!
N/B: This article remains the property of the author.
The author also has an inspirational book entitled, "In search of Success", that
he's yet to get a publisher, for its publication.
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