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by Christie Masters

Not too long ago, while worrying about one of my children and wondering how to approach her and attempt to solve a problem, the two words “build relationships” were like a whisper to my heart. Every time the worry tried to take over, these two words were the answer. You see, I couldn’t solve this problem for my grown daughter, and often as a mother I find myself in “fixing” mode, which makes it hard to slow down and just gently engage with those around me. Life can be so busy, even frantic at times, and while some problems demand immediate attention, I often allow “what ifs” a greater importance than they should ever have. The answer to this worry, longer lasting and more fulfilling, is to build relationships.

The reward of changing my focus from striving and worrying to gently pursuing a better relationship with others was powerful, and peace began to edge out anxiety over various issues. First and foremost, it changed my approach to others. Instead of immediately “starting in” on them and beginning a lecture about what should or shouldn’t have been done, I made finding out about them a priority. Not interrogating, but acknowledging them. “Good morning”, “How are you feeling”, “What’s on your agenda today?” and “Is there any way I can help you?” became relationship builders for our family. It built a foundation that could better support those moments when conflict occurred or correction was necessary.

Instead of worrying about the future, talking about one another’s hopes and dreams over a cup of tea, and then finding small ways to encourage each other in those dreams, was far more rewarding. Words of encouragement are powerful, and those around us flourish when this encouragement is sincere and loving. The stresses of life can be so overwhelming that it feels as if there is only time to solve the problems that inevitably arise. But a remarkable thing happens when we take the time to encourage each other; we slow down. Listening to one another, becoming aware of each other’s needs and hopes, finding ways to bless one another – all these things curb our rushed and consuming thoughts.

This change in focus – towards building relationships – began to affect how I related to strangers. Instead of looking at my phone while waiting in line at the store, I purposed in my heart to be aware of those around me. Fellow customers shared wonderful stories with me, and some heartbreaking ones as well. I found that some times the cashier needs to be told she looks nice, or to have a good day. Other times a young mother needs to be encouraged to hang in there, and sometimes just a smile will do. Connecting relationally with others, even when brief, can make all the difference in how someone’s day progresses.

There are many things in life that are beyond our ability to control, and this can cause so much suffering and anxiety about what the future may hold. Changing our focus to building relationships with those around us can bring peace in the midst of this turbulence, and it is something everyone can do. The quote “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family” is a potent reminder of the power of building relationships. Making connections, taking time for conversations, spur-of-the-moment adventures, or just listening – all these things can be “world changers” even for just one person. If you don’t know where to begin in solving life’s looming problems, begin simply with building relationships with those around you.

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