Finding & Balancing Relationships that Last

How many friends do you have? 20, 50, 100, 200, 300 or more? Well, maybe if you are counting friends on Facebook you can say you have hundreds of friends. But I’m not talking about Facebook friends! Social media is not an indication of real friendship.

Won't you be my friend?

Won’t you be my friend?

I mean true friends—people with whom you can share your fears, your struggles, your hopes, and your dreams.  People who will pray for you and encourage you through the ups and downs of life.

Unlike many of my posts, this is not a reflective piece.  It is educational.  I hope it challenges you, as it has me, in the way you think about your relationships and who you invite into your circle of friendship.

One of my Favorite Speakers

Last summer, I attended the Celebrate Recovery (CR) Summit at Saddleback Church, California, in preparation for my mission to Europe. One of the speakers at the conference was Dr. John Townsend, a New York Times bestselling author, business consultant, leadership coach, and Christian psychologist. (John and Dr. Henry Cloud have been annual speakers at the CR Summit since it started over 20 years ago.)

Dr. Townsend wove his testimony into a talk about the six categories of relationship—the six ‘Cs’. Some of these principles are in his book How to be a Best Friend Forever and will also be in his forthcoming book The Entitlement Cure.

A few years ago, Dr. Townsend was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a temporary condition that affected the muscle control on the left side of his face. It was a wake-up call for him to reevaluate his workaholic lifestyle and who he was spending his time with. While his talk was geared to an audience of 3,000 Celebrate Recovery leaders, it was pertinent to anyone who wants to live well and succeed in their relationships.

Six Categories of Relationships

As you read this list of relationship categories, think about the people around you and where they may fall on the list. Our relationships should be focused heavily on the first 2-3 categories.

  1. Coaches—We need people with an expertise we don’t have. Examples of a coach would be a spiritual mentor, pastor, or a life coach. A coach is there for you, not for themselves. They can help you to see your blind spots, where your priorities aren’t properly aligned, and where you are not thinking right. (In CR lingo, this would be a sponsor.)
  2. Comrades—These are people who are in the growth process with you. They want to get better. They support you, and you support them. You challenge each other. It is not necessarily 50/50. There will be times when you rely on them more, or vice versa. It is organic and results in a give and take relationship. (In CR lingo, this would be an accountability partner.)
  3. Casuals—These are nice people that you pass the time with, maybe like your neighbors, or people from church. They are generally not into growth, but may be hungry for it. You can risk small amounts of vulnerability with them, and see if they are hungry for it. Often times they don’t know they need it because they’ve not witnessed it before. Casuals are a drafting pool for finding comrades.
  4. Care—These are people you have compassion for. They may be in a domestic violence shelter or be mentally ill. They have nothing to offer you, but you have a lot to offer them. It feels good to be in this kind of relationship; it is caring, but is not reciprocal.
  5. Chronics—These are victims—people who are whiny, full of blame, and clueless. They don’t want to change. They are attracted to people of Light because of their safety, truth and grace.
  6. Contaminants—These people are dark, toxic, judging, controlling, and destructive. They know what they are doing. We need to protect ourselves from these people.

Are you ‘top heavy’ or ‘bottom heavy’ on your relationship scale?

If your relationships are draining you, then you are spending too much time with people who are not pouring anything back into you. That is not healthy and leads to burnout.

friend-encouragement

Do you have a balance of supportive relationships in your life?

Guarding Your Heart

What John found out about himself is that as much as he liked to have his freedom, he realized that he needed to have some coaches around him. So he took a friend’s advice and hired an advisory board of people he trusted to help him with his priorities and to work more efficiently.

As hard as this was for him, he also realized it was biblical. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” He shifted his attention to the top three categories.  The fruit of those decisions led to John opening the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Huntington University, Indiana, a few days ago.

Dr. Townsend went on to say that Christians often confuse the ‘Care’ for the ‘Comrades.’ Because it feels good to care for others, we can mistake those we care for as our friends. These are hard lessons to learn. I know because I’ve been there before myself, and have gone through some painful pruning in my relationships as well.

Being Selfish?

John encourages people to push past the feelings of guilt.  To keep from getting emotionally drained, he recommends having a 30-minute conversation with three people once a week—at a minimum.  These are not conversations about what you did (like the feeding frenzy on social media).

The conversation needs to be about you, your life, your soul, and your feelings.  It’s about how you are experiencing life.  If you are a high performing leader, like those in CR, this is especially important as they have high performing needs.

This may sound selfish, but it is really a matter of investing in yourself so that you can minister to others—in your family, your community, or your church. The intent is to live well and end well in life.

It’s not a competition with a sprint to the finish line collecting as many friends on social media as we can along the way. It’s a marathon; and the prize is an eternal reward for the healthy care we have given to ourselves and others throughout our lives.

Comrades pressing on together.

Comrades pressing on together.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14, NIV)

Building Teams For Life

Have you ever given any thought to the how’s and whys of the relationships you have around you? As we go through life we connect with people and build relationships from a variety of sources. We have blood relatives, marital ties, work relationships, school relationships, church or ministry relationships and special interest or hobby groups—to name a few. If you really take a look at the people in your relationship circles, you can start to see patterns in the people you have around you. Those patterns can help you to determine your own areas of growth and pruning in your life.

Before I got into recovery, I didn’t pay any attention to the reasons people were in my life. I just blindly went through life doing all I could to cope with each new circumstance that landed in my path. When I started to realize that I had choices about who I could be in relationship with and what those relationships would look like, it was very freeing. I had to go through a painful process of pruning some of those relationships.

Safe PeopleOne of the guiding principles I use to build new relationships is based on a definition from the book “Safe People” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. They define safe people as someone who:

1. Draws us closer to God.
2. Draws us closer to others.
3. Helps us become the real person God created us to be.

As I recently began to lead a group of women through a Christian 12-step program, I was again faced with looking at the relationships I have around me. While I’ve been blessed to have some amazing spiritual women mentor me and befriend me, I still needed to strengthen the team of recovery relationships I have around me. That’s because as you work through the 12 steps you need to be connected with people who have walked this path before you. You need their expertise and guidance and to offer hope as you progress through the 12 steps.

But that is not the only team I am building around me. I am taking these same principles into my career and life goals as well. For my writing, I attend monthly Christian writer’s meetings so I can meet other writers and glean from their wisdom. For my scrapbooking and photography interests, I connect with others who have a love of those hobbies. I also have a group of trusted friends who I can call on for prayer and comfort in my darker times.

Building teams for life is a very rewarding process. The harder part is discerning when to prune those relationships. But if we go through life with the philosophy that there are seasons to our lives as Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, it is much easier to make decisions to prune our relationships or to let them go at the right time.

Who is holding you up?

Who is holding you up?

Whether you are working on a 12-step program or just dealing with life’s every day challenges, we all need a team of people around us to support us, encourage us and mentor us. When you think about the teams of people around you, do you see gaps that need to be filled or areas to prune? What’s your next step to cultivating the relationships you need in your life to achieve your goals? What are you waiting for? Just do it!

 

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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