Day 5: Toward Healthy Relationships.
The simple life requires focus in relationships. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Hardly.
Focus requires that we abandon everything that interferes with developing the best possible relationships. That means not just letting go of the bad stuff in our lives. It includes eliminating the not-so-bad stuff and even some good stuff. It’s possible to become so overcommitted to many good things that we do few of them well, including
relating to others.
Developing healthy relationships as part of the simple life requires sacrifice. What areas of your life might require sacrifice? Let’s look at a few possibilities.
Sacrificing the Material for the Relational
In the movie Fireproof alluded to earlier this week, Caleb is the neglectful and self-centered husband who verbally abuses his wife, Catherine One of his primary goals in life is to buy the boat of his dreams. But he finally discovers that the boat can’t be his source of happiness. He gives his hard-earned savings to Catherine’s parents, who have medical and financial needs. \/\/hen Caleb sacrifices his desire for the good of others he finds true joy.
13% have incomes below $20,000
24% have incomes below $30,000.
15% have incomes above $100,000.
28% strongly agree they are living within their financial means.
80% are concerned about their level of debt.
5% feel they are saving enough money.
The survey found that many people were chasing the material at the expense of the relational. And they weren’t happy. The material world was not bringing joy to families. On the contrary, the pursuit of material possessions often came at the expense of relationships.
Perhaps too many things are keeping you from closer relationships. Perhaps you are pursuing those things through long hours and tiring work. As a consequence, you have little time for the relationships that really matter.
The material items you possess and the long hours you work are not examples of bad character, unless they interfere with what really matters. Like relationships. If so, it’s time to focus. Time to eliminate. Time to sacrifice.
Sacrificing Self-Focus for Other-Focus
One of the greatest needs we have in all relationships is to focus on others. The apostle Paul said, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). The simple life means we sacrifice self for others. It means we are highly intentional about serving others. We should put others’ needs before our own.
Two of Jesus’ disciples presented Him an interesting opportunity to teach about the importance of serving others.
Read Matthew 20:20-28.
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What was James and Johns mother seeking?
What did Jesus mean by “the cup that I am about to drink” (v.22)?
What did Jesus identity as the key to greatness?
Jesus turned the tables upside down for the disciples. As they were seeking fulfillment through power and prestige, He told them a meaningful life is possible only when we put others before ourselves. The cross that was to come, the ransom for many, was to be the supreme example of self-giving.
Many relationships are suffering because one or both parties are focused on self only about one-third of the respondents strongly agreed that their spouses offer them words of encouragement. And nearly 100 percent wished they did. The problem is present in all relationships, not just the marriage relationship.
Perhaps the relationship needs more focus. And focus means we are willing to eliminate some things, even if those things aren’t bad in themselves.
Ascertain your self-focus or other-focus by honestly responding to the following questions.
Could I eliminate some activities that focus on my needs and desires so that I can give attention to others? Yes No
Do I often focus on what the other person should do for me instead of what I could do for him or her? Yes No
Is my pursuit of material gain and higher position coming at the cost of relationships? Yes No
Am I angry with someone because of what they haven’t done for me? Yes No
Do I intentionally do something sacrificially for someone each day? Yes No
Do others honestly see me as selfish or selfless? Selfish Selfless
Sacrificing Busyness for Relationships
As we discovered in week l, busyness creates relational problems. The simple life demands that you focus by eliminating much of your busyness. Your relationship with someone you care about is simply too important to keep doing all you’ve been doing.
13% strongly agree their families have enough relaxing times together
40% say they are on emotional edge because of their schedules.
25% strongly agree they need to spend relaxed time with their children.
Five Questions for Focus
Focus is usually the most difficult step to execute. Although we don’t offer a magic bullet, we are proposing some questions that can help you sharpen your focus.
If the party in your relationship could change some things about your life, what would they be? Allen was surprised to learn that his wife wanted him to get back into teaching. His income would be less, but she knew he would be most fulfilled this way. And she happiness affected all of the family.
Focus may seem to be an unrealistic goal because we think some things in our lives just can’t be eliminated. Have you considered asking someone close to you? You may be surprised by their suggestions for improving your life and relationships.
Could you eliminate a material possession that may be hindering a relationship? We know a guy who loved boating. Guess what he did recently? He sold his boat. Nothing was inherently wrong with boating, but he discovered he was so busy with those activities that he was neglecting his wife and two children. By selling that one possession, he made a major step toward the simple life.
Could you eliminate a job? Now that really sounds radical. But plenty of people have done it. Your current job may be interfering with your relationships by taking too much of your time or by keeping you on edge. A lack of happiness and fulfillment in our vocations affects our relationships. But sadly, most people live with the pain and drudgery of an unfulfilling job. Changing jobs may be necessary to simplify your life and improve your relationships.
Are any casual activities interfering with your relationships? Some of us are addicted to the e-world. others spend hours watching television. Some are totally consumed with sports. And others usually have their noses in books, newspapers, and magazines. At best these are distractions from healthy relationships. At worst these casual activities
may be causing deep fissures in relationships. Are there casual activities you need to eliminate or reduce?
Would your children like to eliminate some of their activities? If you still have children at home, have you looked at their activities lately? Are they busy? Are they too busy? Try asking them if they would they change their activities if they could and what changes they would make.
Granted, we can’t do everything our kids ask us. Many of them might eliminate school. Not a good option. Still, you might he surprised by their choices. You may have them involved in activities for their own good, only to find they’re really not happy with what they’re doing. When they are better focused the parents can he better focused as well.
Pray about any of the following things or activities you can eliminate to focus on your goal of healthier relationships. Write anything the Lord brings to mind.
Changes the other person in the relationship might suggest:
A material possession:
Activities your children might need to eliminate:
What Really Matters
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).