In my last blog titled, "How Are You Doing?", I shared the importance of considering balanced health in the areas of heart (emotional/relational health), soul (spiritual health), mind (what we allow into our thoughts) and strength (physical health). If you missed it, you can find it here: https://www.stephanicook.org/post/how-are-you-doing.
Additionally I encouraged consideration of a short assessment to reveal a starting point in each area. If you haven't had a chance to look at that, you can find it here:
So now that you have a starting point, let's dive in with this week's topic: Relationships. As we continue to give thought to overall health and the balance of "heart, soul, mind and strength", we cannot ignore the value and impact of relationships for emotional health.
Why do relationships matter when it comes to emotional health? Because if we pay attention to Scripture, we realize quickly that we were created for relationship. "The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone…”" Genesis 2:18. The past year of isolation and strained fellowship has taken its toll on us, likely more than we might realize. The pandemic and political climate have made healthy relationships even more difficult to maintain and when our relationships aren’t healthy, we will struggle with feeling emotionally healthy. So as things begin to open up and we are able to gather more often in the coming months, this is a great time to re-evaluate your relationships and emotional health. With that in mind, here are five key questions you might ask yourself as you consider stronger relationships in 2021.
1) WHO DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WITH?
“You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn). Evaluate who those folks are in your life. Are they people who bring you joy and build you up or are they people who drain the life out of you? If they are not healthy relationships, how can you develop boundaries to protect yourself emotionally? How might you better communicate your expectations to them? Remember, you can’t control the behavior of another, but you can control your reaction and interaction with them. You DO have a choice.
2) DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU?
One of the healthiest things we can do for our emotional health is to develop friendships with people who believe, feel, act, and look differently from us; but also allow us the safety of being vulnerable and authentic with them (and vice versa). Far too often we assume our perspective, our experiences, our way of life is the right way – or dare I say it – the ONLY way. As a result, we grow limited in our thinking and our ability to show empathy. Honest, vulnerable friendships that allow us to ask the hard questions, say the wrong things without anger or shaming, and support growth are vital to emotional health.
3) HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOURSELF?
Self-awareness is incredibly important to emotional health. The more we are able to understand ourselves and others, the better our communication, understanding and empathy becomes. The Enneagram is an incredible tool for self-awareness and growth. By discovering your own core desires, core fears and passions, you begin to realize why you behave the way that you do – both negatively and positively. If you are open to it, you will experience growth as you develop awareness. By understanding the Enneagram types of others in your life, communication, empathy and acceptance will multiply in abundance. If you’d like to know more about the Enneagram and your type, I created an Introduction to the Enneagram Course available here:
4) DO YOU GIVE MORE THAN YOU TAKE?
Healthy relationships are those in which both parties feel free to give and free to take. I love the phrase, “Be authentic with everyone, but be vulnerable with few.” It can be scary to let your guard down and be your true self in relationships, and yet without that level of trust, your relationships will likely feel shallow and maybe even one sided. Be a friend to have a friend. Be present. But don’t always be the giver…or the taker.
5) ARE YOU OPEN TO NEW RELATIONSHIPS?
I have coached clients who longed for more friendships, better relationships or maybe even a romantic partner, and yet when we really considered what the barriers might be…they were forced to admit that they weren’t open to the work it takes to develop a new relationship and that they had inadvertently pushed away the very people they wanted to attract. If you can relate…ask yourself the question, “Am I open to meeting someone new?” Relationships are tricky. Strong, healthy ones grow over time, through trust. Pray and ask God to open your heart (and your eyes) to people He is bringing into your life and have open hands to receive them. I heard a pastor share with young adults in regards to dating, “If you want to catch a fish, you have to go to a pond.” Where are you looking for community? Are you open to small group Bible studies? Clubs or organizations? Put yourself in settings where you are most likely to meet the kind of people you desire in your life.
Finally, remember to give a lot of grace and forgiveness in relationships…especially over offenses that are completely unintentional. People will almost always let you down in some way…that’s why we need God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. No relationship apart from one with Him will ever completely satisfy your soul. Next week, we will explore this more as we consider the second quadrant of balanced health: Spiritual Health.
Stephani Cook is a life coach, speaker, writer and creator of On Purpose Coaching. Through On Purpose Coaching she helps others to improve relationships and to discover intentional abundant living. She does that through several services including group and/or individual coaching, live event speaking or Enneagram workshops in private and corporate settings.
To connect with Stephani visit her website http://www.stephanicook.org.