Supportive relationships mean being in regular interaction with people who encourage you to keep working on your Christian growth. These types of partnerships are important because we are at our weakest, when we are alone. But we are stronger, when we are in helpful partnerships (see Ecc. 4:12).
Too many people fall by the way side, because they don’t have enough support. Here are some suggestions regarding supportive relationships.
1. Be a supportive friend. Even if you could find a supportive friend, it would be difficult to keep him/her, if you simply take from but don’t give to the relationship.
Be willing to be the friend to others that you want others to be to you. But BE the friend that others want you to be to them. These are two separate ideas.
First, be willing to be what you want. If you want to receive weekly check-ins then be willing to give weekly check-ins. If you want friends who can drop everything and go with you on a short trip then you have to be willing to do the same for them.
Second, actually be willing to be what the other person wants you to be. The person may not want a weekly check-in. They may want monthly or daily. They may not want spontaneity. They may like to plan things in advance.
I heard someone say that the golden rule is to “treat others the way ‘you’ want to be treated.” But the platinum rule is to “treat people the way ‘they’ want to be treated.”
2. Seek supportive relationships. Too often people pray for relationships but don’t actively seek them. I am not a fan of putting ads in the newspaper or even a flyer on the church’s bulletin board. However, you should learn how to engage a chat.
The acronym FORM may be helpful to you. F stands for family. O stands for occupation. R stands for recreation. And M stands for mission or the person’s goals for the next year or so, especially in relationship to Christian growth.
These are good discussion topics. Don’t interrogate a person. Don’t feel as if you have to cover all of the FORM or even use this order.
Use wise judgment about how you approach the opposite gender. If you are “courting” then do that. But if you are simply looking for supportive relationships then stay focused.
Listen and share your FORM with people with a mind to see who is worth pursuing. Some will become disqualified with a quick five to ten minute chat. Others will be disqualified after a cup of coffee. And others will prove to be friends for a season.
3. Cultivate supportive relationships. You should have some type of plan in mind. You cannot go from “hello” to pouring your heart out to your new found friend, in one step.
I suggest that you start with introductions, a couple of greetings (when you see each other), a five to ten minute chat in a public place, and then maybe a coffee appointment, not necessarily a date. See if there is some type of project that you all can do together. You all might go to a movie, go shopping, go walking, or even car pool to Bible study.
If it seems comfortable, try a three month accountability partnership. The idea is to touch basis with one another, as peers, to talk about Christian living goals and plans that you all have shared with one another.
Three months may grow to six months, a year, and a great friendship. Or it may grow to finding a nice way to go back down to greeting each other when you see each other.
4. Always take responsibility for yourself. In my almost two decades of pastoring, I have seen so many people who want to blame someone else for the decisions and actions that they took. You must always take responsibility for you. If you are driving the car and ask your passenger, “Is it clear?” and end up in an accident, you are at fault. Please look for yourself (smile).
Every human being is a sinner (see Rom. 3:23). Some are saved by God’s grace. And many are not. Those who are saved have good days and bad days, as it relates to living by God’s will. So don’t just let go and blindly follow or even trust your supportive relationships. Let trust grow over the months and years. And then keep your ultimate trust in the Lord.
When I was a child, my mother would tell me to be in the house when the street lights came on. If I were to tell my mother about the other kids, she would interrupt me and remind me that I am not the other kids. She was trying to tell me, as I trying to tell you, take responsibility for yourself.
5. Don’t be afraid to stop what is not working. Life is a journey of hills, valleys, detours, and turn-arounds. If you believe that you are on the wrong road, going the wrong way, often the best thing to do is to get off on the next exit and turn around.
If a relationship is not working, sometimes you have to turn around. Your life is too short and God has too much for you to be wasting time with someone who is not compatible with what God is leading you to do. Exercise wisdom and courage to stop what is not working.
In summary, be a supportive friend, as you seek supportive relationships and cultivate those that you have. Always take responsibility for yourself, and don’t be afraid to stop what is not working for you.