Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, July 20th, 2023…Interpersonal Relationship Skills 101

I noticed a video in my YouTube feed not long ago where the tagline was “What if you were the last person on earth?” The idea was supposed to address what one would find if they woke up one morning and realized they were the last person living on the planet. That got me thinking, what would it be like if I was tasked with being the last person to turn off the lights and lock the door?

As a happy, well-adjusted, bonified introvert, the first thought that I had was how peaceful it might be to experience complete isolation…for a while. How long would it take for the peace to morph into a longing for personal contact with others? Depends on who you are I guess. I think I might enjoy it for several days, maybe even a week or two. I know some people who would begin to experience anxiousness brought on by the lack of someone to talk to within a matter of minutes…if it took that long. The fact of the matter is that none of us really know how we would react in a situation like that because no one has a true frame of reference to compare it to. Many of us have some life experience that included solitude that we would draw on to decide how we might react in that scenario, but in each and every one of those experiences…eventually, contact with others was restored.

The fact of the matter is that none of us regardless of our personal situations can avoid having to figure out how to navigate interpersonal relationships. Even Tom Hanks had to figure out his relationship with Wilson. How successful we are in that endeavor depends on a number of variables not least, our motivation behind maintaining our various relationships. More often than not, we categorize our relationships by the value they bring to us and invest more of ourselves into the ones of higher importance and less into those that we deem to be more expendable. For example, we might put more effort into our relationship with an employer if we really enjoy and want to keep our job, and less effort into our relationship with a former college roommate we rarely see if ever. Immediate family members may get more of our interpersonal relationship efforts that a second cousin we haven’t seen in a decade. While this may be natural for us and we may not often even give it a second thought, our motivation or lack of, illustrates that in the natural we value some people more than others. Scriptures such as we find in the book of James, warn us against doing this. There we read that if we see one person as having higher value than another, we are in the wrong because we are commanded to love our neighbor as our self…all of our neighbors…equally. James points out that breaking any of God’s laws is as bad as breaking all of them. So what to do? We need to improve our interpersonal relationship skills by changing our motivation for maintaining our relationships.

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of how close we feel someone is to us, there are times when our interpersonal relationship skills are driven by how we feel about that person at the time. In other words, we pour into the personal relationships that encourage and uplift us and we pull back from those that we find hurtful in some way. No surprise there, right? If I get burnt touching the stove…who can blame me for wanting to steer clear of the stove when I’m in the kitchen? The problem with that reasoning is that the bible says we are to love those who hurt us and pray for those who are against us. The book of Romans teaches we should repay evil with good. Jesus Himself taught us that we must be forgiving if we are to experience the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father…and we all want His forgiveness. Right? So what are we to do when those who may be close to us are treating us in hurtful ways? We need to improve our interpersonal relationship skills by changing our motivation for maintaining our relationships.

One of the scriptures I find so helpful when I need to tune up my interpersonal relationship skills is found in Colossians 3:12-24. I find that to be helpful to remedy either my errant tendency to value people differently or my propensity to pull away from those who are not treating me as I think I should be treated. Verses 12-15 help me remember what God desires to see in me as I interact with those around me. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Verses 16&17 illustrate for me what it will look like if I allow Him to flow through me in my personal relationships with others. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Verses 18-25 give me the most help though. These assist me in having the right motivation as I interact with other people every day. They help me to correctly view everyone I come into contact with as having equal value as well as resist the tendency to interact positively only when I feel I have been treated well. In order to remind myself that there is one interpersonal relationship skill that its paramount to all others I like to recall these verses in a particular way. The first five of the verses in this section identify individual people in differing roles. The sixth verse tells us how to deal with each of them in a way that will always, always, be successful on our part. That is why I call it the most important interpersonal relationship skill of all. To make sure we keep in mind its importance to each of the relationships mentioned I like to add the sixth verse (vs. 23) after each of the five preceding it (vs. 18-22).

Vs 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. (Now vs.23) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Vs 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Now vs.23) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Vs 20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. (Now vs.23) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Vs 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (Now vs.23) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Finally, vs 22 Slaves [or employees], obey your earthly masters [or employers] in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. (one more time vs.23) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

When we relate with everyone as though we were doing so at Christ’s request, we will do so differently than we often do now. If we look at each new opportunity to interact with someone as a chance to do it for Jesus because He is asking us to, we will likely treat that person with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, just as the verses we looked at a moment ago suggested we should. We will be much more likely to make allowances for each other’s faults and be forgiving of one another. Working willingly at whatever we do, as though we were working for the Lord rather than for people, is the ultimate interpersonal relationship skill, because it leaves no room for miscalculating the value a person should have in our lives. If they are important to Christ (and they are), then they need to be important to us as well.

With that, we will conclude with verse 24. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. We don’t simply interact with others as if we were doing it for the Lord. Verse 24 points out we are doing it for the Lord. He is our Master, we are His servants. If we get that relationship right, odds are we will get the rest of them more right than we ever have in before.

So now, interacting with those around you in the same way you would if Jesus asked you to personally, because Jesus is asking you to personally, hone up on your best interpersonal relationship skill and…Go be Awesome!