Relationships-Journal Article


For happy relationships
Barbara M. Vining


Happy relationships ó ones that bring out the best in people, and that endure through thick and thin ó donít necessarily just happen. They are usually built with what each individual brings to them day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. This is true of relationships between spouses, parents and children, siblings, friends, neighbors, and even between nations.

We want relationships in which beautiful qualities and special talents find the freedom to bud and flower and come naturally into full bloom. In which the goodness of one complements and enhances the good of the other. There is joy in such relationships. And there is joy in building them, and in the commitment, unselfishness, patience, and self-control through which the building is accomplished.

Commitment

Commitment is foundational to the achievement of any worthwhile goal. And when it comes to building a happy, enduring relationship, we need a commitment to lean on God. He is surely capable of giving us the strength to deal effectively with the pressures in human life, including those that may arise in our interactions with one another.

To begin with, God loves us. In fact, He is Love. He governs by His law of Love. And He gave us the Ten Commandments to bring the stabilizing, joy-giving effect of His love consistently into our lives. In addition, He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to illustrate how to do this.

Take, for instance, Jesusí relationship with his disciples. Patterning his love for the disciples after Godís love for them, Jesus expressed this love by yielding always to the will of God, of divine Love. In doing so, he obeyed the Ten Commandments, which we might say he summarized when he reiterated two Old Testament commands: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . ." and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." 1 And he once explained to the disciples how they could cement their friendship with him and with each other. He said: "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." 2

This was Jesusí commitment: to abide obediently in the love of God. This gave him joy and strength, the joy and strength he wanted his disciples ó and everyone else ó to experience in themselves and in their relationships. This same commitment on our part ó to abide obediently in the love of God ó allows the best in us to come to full bloom without restriction, and supports this development in others as well. Such a commitment is entirely natural. For divine Love is the very Principle of our being.

Itís not expressing divine Love, not obeying Godís commandments, that is wholly unnatural and that brings neither joy nor strength to a relationship. For we can only be our best by being who we really are, the image, or expression, of God. The commitment to express the love of God in our thoughts and in morally upright conduct is a solid foundation for building strong relationships ó for getting along well with one another, and for dealing successfully with whatever would keep us from doing so. But, of course, this commitment is truly fulfilled only when we put it into practice as we interact with one another.

Unselfishness

One of the surest ways to undermine a relationship is to put oneís own interests ahead of anotherís.

Conversely, one of the surest ways to breathe life and love into a relationship is to value and honor anotherís interests unselfishly. And when this is done on the basis of trust in divine Loveís ability to meet all human needs, each oneís best interests are beautifully served ó often in unexpected ways.

Sometimes we perceive our happiness to be dependent on something being done in a certain way or at a certain time, and on the cooperation of the other person to make it happen. But if we get the other personís cooperation only at the expense of that oneís happiness, we can lose our own joy.

What has often helped me in striving to express unselfishness is this truth from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it." 3 Nothing can ever be lost by listening to and taking into loving consideration anotherís interests. We can then open our heart to God in prayer for a solution that will bring His joy to each one.

Patience

Itís well to realize that no human being reaches instant maturity. The more we are growing spiritually, though, the more able we are to be patient with anotherís need for growth. This does not mean, however, that we should be tolerant of unprincipled or immoral behavior, or give in to unprincipled demands. Rather, it means holding steadfastly to divine Principle ó and to the Ten Commandments, in particular ó to guide and govern each of us in the conduct of responsible lives while weíre maturing.

The patience thatís needed isnít passive. It is full of spiritual activity. It involves prayerfully acknowledging the love and all-power of God; willingly conforming to the goodness and grace that express Godís love; and lovingly appreciating and cherishing the goodness in the other individual. This is Principle-guided patience, and it is full of active, unselfed love.

This kind of patience makes room for us to work together in harmony while we consider each otherís needs and make adjustments that foster each otherís best interests. It helps us see Godís hand in the blossoming of one anotherís character and talents, as the relationship itself blossoms. In this, there is true joy.

Self-control

In his counsel to his disciples, Jesus made a poignant statement regarding the kind of love that characterizes true friendship. He said: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 4 Jesus laid down his life in the crucifixion so that he could prove ó for the sake of the disciples, and all humanity ó that divine Love is the actual and indestructible Life of every man, woman, and child.

Without a doubt, Jesusí submission to the crucifixion out of love for us was the highest demonstration of self-control, of yielding to Godís will and divine control, that the world has ever witnessed. Nothing so dramatic is required of you and me. But, surely, we are called upon often to lay down personal will, emotional reaction, pride, fear ó for the good of another.

Our relationships are truly blessed when we control our own thoughts, bodies, and actions by submitting to Godís control of our lives, and to His control of others. We can do this, because God is the only real power, and He alone has the authority to direct and govern anyone. Ungodlike tendencies and characteristics are ruled out by understanding that they are no part of Godís creation, and so no part of His spiritual image, man; therefore they have no foundation, no power. Likewise, uncontrolled impulses, such as temper, anger, resentment, which have taken a terrible toll in families through domestic violence and abuse, cannot take over and harm us or others when we realize that Godís man is spiritual. As we humbly submit to Godís control, temper or violence finds no place in our thought and life.

Our commitment to abide obediently in the love of God through unselfishness, patience, and self-control, enables us to prove each day that God, good, is the only power. As we practice this commitment in a relationship with another, in a significant way we lay down our life for our friend. We trust the other person to God, the source of real happiness ó the happiness that "cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it." This allows divine Love to bring that friendís beautiful Godlikeness, and our relationship, into perfect bloom.

1 Matt. 22:37, 39. Also, see Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18.
2 John 15:9Ė12.
3 Science and Health, p. 57.
4 John 15:13.


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