The simple secret of relationships

Fourth grade was brutal. At least the other-kids-in-class part of it (is there any other?). That year I learned what a horrible person I was (!), how unlikable I was, and how ‘sticks and stones’ weren’t the things that drove painful wounds deep into my heart. I learned how important it was to carefully calculate my words and actions, knowing that no matter what I said, a mean arrow could fly straight back at me from the class bully. She was my discovery that there were people who didn’t play according to the ‘nice’ rules I’d been taught.

In distress and bewilderment, I would pour out my trouble to Mom after school. What do you do when you can’t play the game according to their rules? What had I done to bring her hatred on me?

And Mom would always come back to the same thought in her response. “Honey, we don’t know why she’s acting that way. It might not be because of something you’ve done. Maybe she’s unhappy inside and is taking it out on you. But the most important thing is not what she’s doing to you, but how you act back. Think about it—how would you want to be treated if you were her? Answer that question and you'll know what to do. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’!"

She was, of course, quoting Jesus’ famous words from Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”(NASB)

It didn’t make sense, being nice to someone who was deliberately hateful to me. But Mom wanted me to understand the simple secret of relationships—show love. Act with courtesy, respect, kindness, honor, patience, generosity, forgiveness. All the same things I want and need from people. And God’s promise is that following His example of giving grace and mercy to others when it’s not deserved will bring us great reward (Luke 6:35).

In my stumbling child way, I began to learn how to forbear and act out the Golden Rule. Things improved with my antagonist by the end of the year, and with each little victory, I began to see that God’s way diffused trouble with people in a way nothing else could. It was a process of learning to say no to my selfish need to be right or first, my desire to win or to taste the sweetness of vindication.

Jesus clearly taught us that the Golden Rule is the essence of love--giving, putting the other person first, being willing to give up our 'rights' to ourselves in a situation for the good of someone else. Isn't that how we'd want to be treated? If the tables were turned right now and we were in their place, what would we need? Patience? Understanding? Kindness? To be forgiven?

Our days are filled with choices to love or not. What if it were me who made a mistake in traffic and needed forbearance? What if it were me in the store needing to hurry through the checkout line? What if it were me who received bad news? What if I had a bad night and was struggling to focus at work? What if I was dealing with a terrible heartache and took it out on you? What if I was a child without the benefit of wisdom and experience and I needed the grace given me to try yet again?

It’s so easy to fall into a me-first-my-way attitude with people, but just as I learned in fourth grade, it really doesn’t achieve anything but more hurt and divisiveness. Mom was right (of course!). The secret to living well with others is to think about how I’d want to be treated—and then do it!



I'm learning in this unusual season of care-giving a life lesson I hope I'll never forget.

As a type-A-box-checker, I love a list, a plan, a logical progression of things. I love to know what's coming, and will come up with a plan for any and everything. (Can anyone relate?)

Problem is, this creates all kinds of personal stress--because as often as not, life doesn't go the way I'd like it to. Then I get frustrated, and might go try plan B, which may or may not work. Then, I might even get sick!  (Stress does that, you know.)

Of course, the Lord has been working with me for a long time about this besetting sin. (Yes, I'd call it a sin because if I'm managing things, guess Who isn't?)  I've learned often in the past—and keep forgetting—the value of "letting go and letting God.”

But this season of my life has required a "letting go" way beyond anything I've ever lived. I've been walking not only on the unfamiliar ground of care-giving, but there are very few days that go according to 'schedule.'

So what I'm learning is this. When I charge into my day with my plan and thought carefully laid out, it may or may not work.  If it doesn't, which is often, things just go south.

BUT...when I begin my day asking the Lord to orchestrate and order every part of it, and then LEAVE IT with Him, guess what?  I have a peaceful day filled with little God-touches that show how happy He is to take care of everything.

It'll be small things. I'm scrambling to find something for dinner and I discover a meal's worth of something in the freezer. I can't see how I can fit X into my schedule today, then it's canceled. Or my to-do list looms huge at the start of the day, but by late afternoon everything somehow got done and I can’t account for it.

A fresh lesson in this letting-go-letting-God happened recently. We were finally able to take a much needed mini-vacation to San Diego, and I had spent three full evenings online (read: waste of time) trying to find the right hotel at the right price in the right location. By late the third evening, not finding what we needed, I was exhausted and fighting a headache. In frustration, I finally prayed, "Lord, I just can’t spend any more time on this. You have the perfect place for us to stay, so I'm turning this whole thing over to You. Please arrange whatever is best."

A short while later, my husband remembered a special deal he’d forgotten about, found it online, and had our reservations done in short order--the straight, simple, perfect answer. Wonderful! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.

So that's what I think daily living by grace is all about. Living in the ability and power of Jesus in every situation, no matter how small. Stopping and committing each need to Him, trusting Him to give the wisdom, provision, direction, whatever, then waiting for Him to take care of it. And thanking Him for yet another evidence of His very personal love and utter faithfulness.

I'm learning. Just think what a life lived every day in this freedom would look like! It’s my new aim.