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    6 Steps Towards Whole Relationships

    Brett Vaden

    Dear Students,

    One poet has recently said about her friendships: “All you need to do to be my friend is like me.” That seems hollow, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt; maybe she packs a lot into the word “like.” Otherwise, she packs very little into the word “friend.”

    6 Steps Toward Whole Relationships

    God tells us that a friend is one “who loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17). Gaining a friendship like that requires a willingness to endure quite a bit of relational friction.

    It’s the small things that hamstring whole relationships. Small acts—a word, a look, an omission—stick in the heart like a splinter. Yet we feel it only as the slightest twinge of resistance: we can be with that person, joke with him, and work with him, but not wholly, not with our whole heart.

    What’s the solution? Many times, we just try to move on and put it in the past. But as the great philosopher Rafiki has taught us (see Disney’s The Lion King), just because something is in the past doesn’t mean it ceases to affect us, and we can either run from what’s happened or learn from it.

    The real solution to a roadblock in friendship isn’t “stuffing it” or withdrawing from it, but pressing into it with clarity and communication.

    With whom in your life are you experiencing a block? Think about the people in your home. The people in your workplace. God.

    Picturing these people, whose name or face brings up a sense of unease? If you can’t say with complete certainty that you are “clear” with that person, then press into it.

    To help you do that, I’m going to explain six steps to take you towards clarity and resolution. These steps can take the form of six questions about the blocked relationship: (1) What are the facts? (2) What are my judgments? (3) What are my emotions? (4) What can I own? (5) What do I want? (6) What do I need to communicate?

    In this post, I’ll focus on the first four.

    1. Clarify what happened.

    What are the facts? What happened between you and this person? Just the facts, mam/sir. No judgements or interpretations yet. If I had been there with you, what would I have seen or heard?

    Example: “When we were at community group, discussing the sermon from last week together, Tom spoke about 9 or 10 different times. I spoke once, and another time I started to speak but Tom interrupted me.”

    2. Clarify you’re judgments about what happened.

    Now, you can tell what your judgements were. How did you interpret what happened?

    Example: “I thought Tom was being a jerk. He seemed not to notice anyone but himself. I thought he must not have thought what I had to say was worth the time.”

    3. Clarify what you feel about what happened.

    Emotions arise from thoughts/interpretations in our hearts, mostly without our noticing. Ask yourself, “What was I feeling in that situation?” (If it’s hard to identify the emotion, choose from these main, overarching ones: anger, gladness, fear/anxiety, sadness, and shame.)

    Example: “At the top of my emotions was anger; I was ticked at Tom for being a know-it-all, interrupting me, and for not being able to get a word in.”

    4. Clarify what you need to own about what happened.

    How is this about you? In other words, what about you (not the other person) contributed to the way you interpreted the situation and felt about it? Also, can you own that you have done the same kind of think you’re seeing in the other person?

    Example: “I own that I’ve interrupted other people before, and that I have focused more on what I had to say than on what others could offer. I can see that what Tom did was probably not intentional, and that the way I reacted shows this was about me: I feel the need to be heard, and it’s hard for me to stay quiet when I’ve got something to say. I think I’m insecure about this situation; it seems like this sort of thing happens in other areas of my life when I don’t feel like my voice is heard.”


    If you’re not clear with someone in your life, start to get clarity now. Sit down and go through the four questions above. If you do this, it’s likely you will come away feeling a lot more clear and less blocked.

    Next time, we’ll look at the final two steps to move toward whole relationships.

    Shoulder to Shoulder,
    The 3:14 Team

    The six-step model we’re sharing here is from Bob Hudson, creator of Men at the Cross and Women at the Cross, a weekend experience designed to help men and women become more present to who they are, to connect with others, and to connect more intimately with God.