Relationships are essential to every human being. In fact, Maslow marked it as third in his hierarchy of needs. Our relationship with other people is vital in order for a person to thrive in life. That’s why the older we grow, the more we yearn for genuine relationships.

According to Franklin D. Roosevelt, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together in the same world at peace.” Even the Bible talks about the beauty of when all people live together in peace (Psalm 133:1).

Our relationships with people are beautiful when it is life-giving. However, cultivating life-giving relationships is hard work and entails sacrifice of time, energy, and resources. If not properly guarded, relationships may cause unnecessary heartbreaks and bitterness, which could eventually make it harder for us to trust people and build life-long friendships.

Here are some warning signs that we may need to look out for as we guard our relationships.

Warning Sign #1: You easily get offended. 

In friendships, we all have many opportunities to be offended. A simple remark, a thoughtless action, or a tactless statement can make us go nuts and think negative thoughts about your friend or a family member.

Offense, when left unguarded, is a voice that spits anger and accusations in our relationships. It may reduce a person or a group of people into labels without hearing them out. Unresolved offenses lead to bitterness. The longer we harbor it in our hearts, the harder it is to forgive.

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” In another verse, Proverbs 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

To choose to love the person by choosing to forgive is the only way that we can truly set ourselves free from bitterness. Let us not hold on to bitterness, but instead, let’s give ourselves a chance to heal and build deeper relationships. We live in a fallen world where we can always get offended. I hope we choose to be the bigger person by being an instrument of reconciliation in this broken world.

If you’re the one who has offended someone, initiate reconciliation by asking for forgiveness. Do not allow offenses and bitterness to burn the bridge of friendship.

Warning Sign #2 : You are defensive.

Have you ever been corrected by somebody and your knee-jerk response was to explain yourself or prove them wrong? I had countless of those experiences. In these situations, we are left with two choices—either to apologize and restore the relationship or to prove ourselves right and alienate the people we love.

This is one of the greatest lessons I learned: Regardless of who is right, I can choose to swallow my pride and allow God to work in my relationships.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 

Proverbs 16:18

This serves as a warning whenever we choose to act in pride rather than humility.

Pride builds big walls that will eventually kill our relationships. Jesus exemplified what true humility is when He willingly offered His life so He can redeem us. In the same way, we are to value people and relationships more than our pride.

In times of conflict, never underestimate the power of an apology. A simple sorry can bring healing to the human soul.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Proverbs 27:6

Who are the people in your life that you consider as true friends? These are the people who will speak the truth in love and are committed to point you to pursue God above all else. These are people who are not afraid to wound you by telling the truth so you can go back to the right path.

Pray and yearn for those kinds of people. Welcome them into your life. Most importantly, be that kind of friend to the people around you.

Warning Sign #3:  You are not honest with your feelings.

Honest and positive communication is a vital component of any thriving relationship. Most of the time, conflicts and misunderstandings arise when we fail to communicate our true intentions and emotions.

Genuine relationships require authenticity, and authenticity builds trust. When trust is present in a relationship, we can be honest about our thoughts and emotions. Trust breeds security and creates a safe space where we can freely express and communicate.

Are you truthful to others and openly tell them what you think and how you feel? Do your friends feel safe to speak truthfully when they are with you?

You can begin cultivating that kind of relationship with your family and friends by initiating conversations, being vulnerable, and encouraging them to share their feelings and thoughts with you without fear of judgment.

If you’ve ever been hurt by others and are having a hard time trusting others and being honest about your feelings, I hope that you will allow God to help you release forgiveness so you can finally walk in freedom and enjoy life-long relationships with others.

Warning Sign #4: You isolate yourself.

Life is not meant to be journeyed alone; God created us for relationships. We were made to be part of a community.

Instinctively, we long to be with people, share our thoughts and emotions with others, and build memories with those who we love. Our need for belongingness goes beyond just physical community; we also long for emotional connections.

However, hurtful experiences create wounds in our soul that drive us away from people. We develop trust issues and fear, causing us to isolate ourselves and shut people out of our lives. These unhealed wounds in our hearts keep us from walking in genuine, life-giving relationships with people.

If you fear rejection, Jesus can fully empathize with your pain. He was rejected, denied, and was mocked by the very people He loved and invested in. But in spite of this, He still trusted and commissioned His disciples to do His mission. In the same way, God can give us the grace to trust—to trust Him and the people He placed in our lives.

It is my prayer that you allow people to speak into your life and guide you through your blindspots. A life lived in isolation and secrecy is a dangerous path. But when we have people who are committed to protect us, guide us, and lock arms with us in pursuing God’s purpose for our lives, we will be able to enjoy life to the full, together with the people God has blessed us with.

In all our relationships, whether we think it’s God-ordained or not, may we love the way Jesus loved us and fight for our relationships. As we love one another, Jesus says that we truly emulate to the world what it means to be His disciples.

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