Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Berube: "Relationships"

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Berube
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing Chaplain
A long time ago I ran across a gem of wisdom regarding the power of relationships. I don't remember where I heard or read about it, but it has stuck with me for over twenty years. It was simply stated: People don't commit to programs. People commit to people. In other words, because we humans are social creatures who are meant to be in relationship, our deepest commitments are to each other. Our other commitments - to ideals, organizations, and missions - flow out of and are greatly affected by our commitments to our relationships.

Healthy relationships, then, are important. So we are wise to invest quality parts of our time and energy into maintaining and enhancing our connection and commitment to other people. Whether those other people are family, friends, coworkers, or some other folks who come into our personal orbit, we can improve life for them and for us by maintaining and improving our relationships.

Of course, that can be easier said than done, because healthy relationships require ongoing attention. And relationships don't conform to a single-solution, one-size-fits-all rule. You might even say relationships require a sort of "ESP." And they do - Empathy, Support, and Perseverance.

Empathy is about truly seeing things from another's perspective, really "feeling with them." This is a valuable tool for relationship maintenance, because it communicates to others that we care about them enough to get a handle on their viewpoint. This doesn't mean we'll always wind up agreeing with them or fully understanding, but it does mean we'll almost always be able to demonstrate we see and hear others accurately. Empathy strengthens relationships by maintaining genuine connectedness and showing others they are valuable enough that we care about how life effects them.

Support is about "showing up" for others. This can mean everything from being a listening ear, to assisting with furniture moving, to providing childcare on short notice. Even in difficult times when we don't know what to do or say for others, simply being present is important support. Our presence with others communicates that we care, and when we combine that with a demonstrated commitment to help where we can we show real support.

Perseverance is about hanging in with others. Thomas Edison said, "The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense." It seems to me that is a great description of perseverance. Healthy relationships are worthwhile, and require long-term commitment and effort. Perseverance in relationships is about always giving some of the best parts of ourselves, our time, and our effort to others for the sake of the relationship. When we stand by others in good and bad times with care, hope, and support we make it clear that they really mean something to us. It's one thing to say, "You can always count on me." It's another to verify that as the truth.

In his book, The Sower's Seeds, Brian Cavanaugh tells a story about 19th century artist and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Cavanaugh says Rosetti was once approached by an old man carrying some artwork. The man asked Rossetti to look at the pictures and give his opinion regarding the artist's potential. Rossetti looked at the first few pieces and gently but truthfully told the man that the work was not very good and the artist did not show any promise of becoming better.

The man then asked if Rossetti would look at another set of works by a young art student. Rossetti indulged the old man and was quickly impressed. These works were good, and the artist showed great potential. Rossetti told the man that the second artist should be mentored and encouraged to improve his obvious talent.

This, Rossetti noticed, was obviously emotional news for the man. He asked the old man if the second set of artwork was from his son and, to his surprise, the old man said that both collections were his. The second set was from his days as an art student 40 years earlier. The old man lamented that because he was not encouraged to pursue his art as a young man he gave up too soon and never fulfilled the promise of his early talent.

We and the people we share relationships with need encouragement in order to continue to grow and find fulfilment in our individual and corporate lives. We all need the empathy, support, and perseverance of those we share relationships with in order to get through tough times and really celebrate joyful ones. When we commit to give and receive the blessings of healthy relationships, we make life better for each other and positively impact our world.