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Friendships

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Under Advisement

In my devotions this morning, I was reading the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 10 and it amazed me that Rehoboam was foolish enough to disregard the good advice the elders were giving him and instead following the advice of his counterparts. Rehoboam was Solomon's son who  succeeded him as king immediately following his death. The Israelites had been subjected to heavy labour under Solomon's rule and they, along with Jeroboam, went to Rehoboam to request that their burden be lightened. Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had advised his father when he was alive, and they told him to listen to the people since in doing so they would be loyal to him. However, that advice didn't cut it for Rehoboam so he consulted with his peers and they told him to increase the Israelite's labour. He followed their advice and,as a result, the only Israelites who remained with him were those from the tribe of Judah. If he had listened to the advice of the elders the kingdom would not have been divided under his rule. When I began to reflect on the story, I realised that I often do the same thing. I will listen to the advice of someone who is saying what I want to hear and reject the advice of someone else who has my best interest at heart. Advice is something that we freely give to others, but when it's time for us to take some for ourselves we have a major problem accepting it. Older and more experienced people usually give the best advice but sometimes our own friends can be pointing us in the right direction but we are too blind to see it. So, how do we know when the advice we are being given is the best advice? Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Does It Contradict What You're Thinking? This may not be true in all cases but sometimes we know deep down in our hearts that something is wrong with the way we are thinking. If someone is giving you advice that really causes you to do some soul searching, that advice may just be what is best for you. For instance, someone may be advising you to invest in a particular project because of its potential for profit. However, although you know that the person is right, you neglect the advice because you are afraid of the risk and you therefore miss an opportunity.

2. Is the person speaking from an informed position? I am not necessarily saying that the person has to be experienced. To be honest, experienced people can give the best advice but they can also give the worst. What I am trying to point at is the need for us to discern if the person has truly thought about the situation and is giving us advice based on that information that he or she has processed. Sometimes, people tend to overlook the real underlying issues that are causing the problems and therefore give advice that isn't helpful. When someone takes the time to understand the situation and then provide you with advice then this shows that he or she is interested in providing you with the best advice he or she can possibly give.

3. Does the person have your best interest at heart? Sometimes, people can be very vindictive and can only be looking for ways to tear us down. These people could even be our own friends or family members. It is therefore critical for us to be able to discern what the person's intentions are for giving the advice. Will they benefit and you suffer if you follow the advice? Or if they are not involved in the problem, will they give you advice that will make you suffer?

The advice we take can make or break us. If Rehoboam had followed the advice of the elders then he would not have had more than half of the Israelites rejecting him as king. Be careful of the advice you take and closely follow these steps to know if the advice you're being given is right for you.

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Trust

The key element of any relationship (intimate or platonic) is trust. We believe that we can trust our friends and our spouses with our secrets. We trust that our parents will look out for our best interests. We trust that our spouses will remain faithful. We trust so many people in so many ways. But what happens when that trust has been broken? With valuable relationships, especially with our family and spouses, is it right for us to just give up? Here are some things that I think we should do when trust is broken:

Forgive

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do especially when someone has hurt you deeply. Colossians 3:13 says "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." We have wronged God in so many ways yet He still forgives us. Who then are we to hold grudges against others?

Nevertheless, we cannot neglect the fact that there are some things that are very hard to forgive. Think about a friend who has molested your child or a man who has murdered a relative. How do you really forgive those wicked acts? God is a god of justice and He never lets the wicked go unpunished. You have to allow yourself to let go of the hatred and anger you feel, give everything over to God, and trust that He will take care of it. You will never forget but you have to learn to let go in order to forgive.

Believe in Second Chances

We always think that once someone has wronged us then that's it. The friendship or relationship is over. If the relationship you share with the person is something valuable then you should not give up on it so easily. Yes, there is a saying that states "Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me", but you have to be willing to give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Lay Down the Law

The person needs to know how much what they did affected you and why it affected you. They then need to know what your ground rules are because if they slip up again then that's it. Although Jesus basically said that there should be no limit to our forgiveness (Matthew 18:22) we have to be practical. If your man cheats on you once (and you lay down the law and work on your relationship so that it doesn't happen again) and then he does it again then that is a major red flag. Clearly he is not interested in the sanctity of the relationship and the commitment it requires so why should you give him a third chance?

Be Willing to Play Your Part In Dealing With the Issues

Sometimes trust is lost because of underlying issues in the relationship. Our friends may feel neglected and begin to confide in other people or our spouses may feel that we are not putting enough effort into the relationship and therefore seek love elsewhere. We have to be willing to talk to the person and understand where he or she is coming from in the same way that we would want him or her to do the same. After the issues are outlined, you need to do your part to fix whatever needs to be fixed on your end in the same way that you expect the other person to do the same. It really goes both ways.

Measure the Value of the Relationship

Let's be honest. There are some people who really cannot be trusted. If you firmly believe that the person who has wronged you is such a person and you believe that the relationship means little, then it may be time to let go. Some people are just not worth holding on to. However, if the person is worth holding on to then both you and the person need to be willing to do whatever you can to rebuild the trust.

Trust is something that I have struggled with but as I get older I am learning how to deal with the issues. I hope that this post can help you in some way to deal with your own issues.

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The Value of Friendships

As time progresses and our lives take us in different directions, it often gets harder to maintain the friendships we have formed. There is one very important thing that I have learnt in life regarding friends however...no matter where you go or who you become your true friends will always be by your side. Distance has been especially hard for me because as friends migrate to other countries we correspond less and seem to grow distant. I know that there may be quite a few people who are going through this and I would therefore like to propose some strategies we can use to hold on to these valuable friendships. Effort goes BOTH ways You may be wondering "Why doesn't she/he Skype me or send me a FB message or a little tweet?". The real question is...why aren't you? It doesn't hurt to be the first to initiate conversation. If he or she is your true friend you will get a response as soon as he or she sees the message.

Don't take things personally Sometimes your friend may be extremely busy with a new job or adjusting to a new environment. Don't get offended if you don't hear from him or her often. Keeping that friend is more important than getting upset with him or her and risking losing that friendship.

Send weekly or daily encouragement Depending on the type of person your friend is, he or she may be annoyed with daily messages from you. Nevertheless, it does help when the person can see that you are thinking about him or her. Additionally, your friend is trying to adjust to a new environment and this can lead to stress and depression. Seeing a message from you to encourage them can make their day brighter.

Make plans to visit Depending on how far your friend is this may not be possible. However, I believe that it is important for friends to spend time together away from Skype and FB to strengthen their friendship. Link up and do the things you enjoy doing together. It will be money well spent.

I have come to realise that life is too short to allow things to affect your friendships. Your friends are the most important people in your life (after your family). Never underestimate their value and always keep the friendship alive.

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