I’ve talked to a few people recently about what their 2022 was like and what they would like to be different in 2023. I’ve gotten some interesting answers.
A lot of people faced financial challenges in 2022. Inflation and the cost of living have weighed heavy on many people. Some people have been discouraged by politics or other issues, too. Health has been a concern for some.
The one thing I heard the most, though, was about relationships. People’s relationships have been under extra pressure this past year. Relationships have suffered, and in some cases splintered.
As people have shared their experiences with me, I’ve tried to glean some useful information. What can we all learn from these experiences? What can we do differently going forward?
Most of us can’t change the economy or political climate, and we might only have limited control over our health. We can, however, change how we function in the relationships with which God has blessed us.
Here are some things I came up with.
- Be thoughtful. We shouldn’t assume that people know we care and that that’s enough. When we take the time to tell and/or show people that we care, it brightens their day and outlook. It doesn’t matter if the person is eighteen or eighty – we all appreciate it when somebody sincerely expresses their care for us. Maybe this means letting someone have the last brownie because you know they love brownies. Maybe it’s something different. Regardless, we should be genuine in our care of others, and we should express that care in real ways.
- Do that whole romance thing. For those of us who are a little more introverted or even a little more practical – romance doesn’t necessarily come easy. We have to make a conscious effort to make time for that special someone. So do that. Make the conscious effort and make the time. Even if it’s just a lunch date on Taco Tuesday, we should be intentional. It’s amazing what a little intention can do to smooth over the rough edges in a romantic relationship. (And let’s face it. As long as we’re this side of heaven, our romantic relationships will probably have at least a few rough edges.)
- Remember stuff. Obviously, we should try to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and things like that. We need to remember other things, too, though. When a friend tells you she has a doctor’s appointment next week, follow up afterward and ask how it went. When your hubby tells you he has a meeting with his supervisor at work, shoot him a text beforehand and tell him you hope the meeting goes well. Those might seem like small and insignificant interactions, but they’re not. When we remember some of the *little* things in people’s lives, it shows that we were listening when they talked to us. It’s so very easy for us to hear with one ear while also doing something else (laundry, playing patty-cake, answering a work email, etc.). If we’re only half-listening, though, we’re going to half-remember. If we’re lucky. So listen better. Remember more. And in remembering, we can also better show care and thoughtfulness.
- Be present. This ties into the listening to and remembering to what people tell us. If we’re not present, we can’t do that. In the world of modern technology, it’s easy for us to escape from situations that we don’t like or that we find boring. Our smart phones can take us out of the situation via social media, books to read, games to play, or any other number of ways. We can be physically present with one person but mentally and emotionally somewhere else. And that doesn’t make for good relationship-building. People know when we’re not really there with them. Being present and actively engaged with the people God has placed into our lives is important. And when we need some extra motivation, let’s remember that these are the people God has placed into our lives; they’re not there by accident. In a way, by honoring the people God has placed into our lives (and honoring the time they spend with us), we honor God. So be present. Be engaged.
Please share your thoughts! What are some relationship things you can (or want to) do better this year? Do you need to make specific changes or just little tweaks here and there?