The Art of Relating

By Pastor Ay Nee Ng

Can we like everybody? Should we? How do we relate to people in general? How do we relate to those from other cultures? Let’s watch “The differences between Western culture and Eastern culture”. This message is only a teaser. Next year early March, look out for the “Heart of Marriage” seminar.

“One of the most vicious and destructive communication techniques is silence. It can be devastating. Each of us need to be recognized and acknowledged. But when our partner retreats into silence our very presence, existence and significance are ignored by the most significant person in our lives. In fact, many people would consider such silence an insult”.

As we come from different nationalities with different cultures, relating to each other would be different. Even those from the same cultural background relate differently because of different upbringing and schooling. I did not say difficult but different, yet in every language and tribe, and among Christians, we have the same meaning and language of love.

Relating begins with one on one and then the masses. In order for relationships to grow, there are a few life lessons to learn. When relating with each other, whether as husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, workmates and so on, relating is an art. You may never relate to everyone the same way, but thank God we are in His kingdom because the Holy Spirit does the work for us in reaching out to the tough people around us. First and foremost, we need to know who we are in Christ Jesus, and then relating is so much easier.

The life lessons I want to share today are:

1. Overcome Differences and Embrace Diversity.

a. Recognise that man and woman are made up differently. Just look at your frame and that of the opposite sex. Relating requires that a man who is very different from a woman finds common ground with her and vice versa. We are meant to balance each other by attracting people whose strengths may be our weaknesses. Peter is one half of the quadrant. As a result of our differences and unique distinctions, we complement each other. Understanding only comes when you have a real desire to know, love and comprehend the other person, embracing the uniqueness of who they are. Growing our relationship with others requires mutual understanding and growing in our relationship with God. We are wonderfully and fearfully made (Psa. 139:14).

b. Value and accept the uniqueness of each different personality.

c. Be patient and understanding to cultural differences and different upbringing.

d. Value the different seasons in each other. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

2. Be in Agreement.
Amos 3:3 asks: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Someone said: “When something is important enough for one person to discuss, it is also important for the other person. One partner may need to say: ‘I know this topic is important to you and I do want to hear this even though it’s a bit difficult for me’”. We can all disagree agreeably.

3. Develop Healthy Communication and Listening Skills.
Whether it is oral, written or non-verbal, they all send messages to another party. It is not “the longer couples are married, the more they have to talk about.” It is more accurate to say that “the longer the couples are married, the more they learn what not to talk about”. And in doing this, they erect barricades, which soon are rebuilt into walls, and they live with certain areas of isolation between them. Sensitive listening and hearing are open mine shafts to intimacy. Too often the potential for listening lies untapped within us like a load of unmined gold. All of us have barriers that inhabit our listening. Some are simple and others complex.

Even God listens to us. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). “I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!” (Psa. 66:17-20).

4. Resolve Conflicts Creatively.
“Many men do not have a sufficient vocabulary to express their emotions. As they are learning to be men, they learn to value expressions of masculinity and to devalue what they label ‘feminine’ expressions. These men are locked up emotionally…. An indicator of being a man is, ‘I can do it by myself. I don’t need any help’”.

There are some negative ways of dealing with conflicts. When we withdraw, always try to win, give in easily, or stand neutral and compromise, we do not resolve conflicts. We may abate frustrations and anger as we do not deal with the issues. The ideal way of dealing with conflict is resolving it. It may take longer, but the relationship is strengthened and the felt needs of both parties are met. Let us understand the power of God’s Word in resolving conflicts.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

“This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind hearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, the one who desires life, to love and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Pet. 3:8-11).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

5. Have Courage to Really Love Someone.
If we have learned certain pattern of behaviour in the past, the good news is that we can also unlearn them and begin to respond in a new way. The result will be a change for the better in our ability to communicate. Deciding to love gets harder as you get older. Some people are more lovable than others. We all had relationships that did not work out for one reason or another, or relating was tough.

The loss of a relationship can be a traumatic experience and can affect our lives for months and sometimes for years. It takes two to do tango, so we need to understand what role we have played in the relationship’s demise and then work to come to peace with our partner’s behaviour as well as our own. No matter what has happened to us, the only hope of a healthy future relationship is to let go of the past. It cannot hurt anymore if it is forgiven and dealt with. Time is a healer for pain.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7).

6. Change and Safeguard What Is Important.
In order to maximize our life and relationships, we must change our perspective and minimize our load. As Matthew 11:28-30 puts it, we must bring our burdens to the Lord. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

Church, we must focus on what is important when it comes to relating with others. Lightening our load means knowing when to release things, when it is within our own hands. We can move ahead and keep our strength for things that count, the things we can change and control, and then change. Let’s have the wisdom to see the importance of giving our all in relating with others today!

Change my heart O Lord, make it ever true
Change my heart O Lord, may I be like You

7. Evaluate Who We Are.

  • Are we valuable enough to deserve love and attention from others? If yes, then we will form a boundary that we will not compromise.
  • Do we have self-esteem? If yes, we will have the courage to ask and answer questions that reveal who we really are and what we really want.
  • Are we real with ourselves? If yes, we are capable of making sound decisions.

Read Psalm 139:8-18.

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you”.

Many of us are still struggle in relating to each other or even in applying these life lessons. But let’s remember Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. It will greatly help us in relating with others with tolerance, patience, love and understanding.

“Be indebted to no one, except to one another in love, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law” (Rom. 13:8).

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). In the art of relating, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Let’s pray.

Lord, change our hearts and let us live a full life for You. We want to relate to all kinds of people in all walks of life and we need your help and anointing, Lord. Fill us once again with Your love that reaches out and help us to grow from strength to strength. We give thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.