Sunday, 21 February 2010

How important is it to work on relationships?

The issue of how to build and maintain relationships has been fairly important to us over the last week. No, we are not having a relationship breakdown. What has been obvious is the ease with which we see people willing to allow relationships to fall apart. I am not denying that relationship breakups will occur and in some cases are possibly inevitable and necessary, but it seems that we may have reached a point that people don't want to work at making relationships work.

Any relationship has its ups and downs, its agreements and disagreements, its times of being able to work together and struggles with working together. However, the real test of a relationship is how it grows and develops over time.

Of course a relationship takes two people to make it work. If one really decides to opt out, the other no matter how hard they try won't be able to restore it. The point that I want to make is that to make a relationship work means making a commitment to that relationship. The problem that I see is that we too readily accept relationships falling apart. In the comments that we have had from people, there is almost an inevitability that all relationships won't last and that those that do are a real exception.

There seems to be little investment in working to foster working relationships or build lasting relationships. If we don't like what is happening in a relationship, we simply move on to the next relationship. There is no concern for the collateral damage or how the issues of the break down might be resolved. It is move on and forget rather than commit and build.

As I reflect, I see this same attitude happening on the world stage. The problem is that in this context when a relationship fails, the consequences can be far reaching for the people who in some respects need the relationship in order to survive. A lot of the tension that causes the breakup of these relationships is related to not obtaining what a party wants from the relationship.

Relationships that work are based on a willingness to give and take. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes “Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people's point of view” (J.B Philips translation). My PhD research into the perceptions of programmers to object-oriented programming has helped me see more of the importance of this statement and I believe that for international relationships, seeing from “other people's point of view” is the only way to resolve the threat of terrorism and hatred that seems to be building around the world.

So coming back to the question that I posed? Working on building relationships, is important. We learn through interpersonal relationships how to work and assist others. On the international stage the stakes are higher and more people are likely to be hurt. If we want to work for reconciliation and redemption, then we need to work on building relationships so that we can more easily talk into the lives of others.

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