Yesterday at gym, I watched as a middle-aged woman went through the paces with her personal trainer. I had earphones firmly plugged into my ears listening to some of my favorite songs in an attempt to distract me from the treadmill I was on, so I could not hear what they were saying to each other. I just watched their actions and I was impressed.
The trainer stood beside her through each set of exercises. He never left her side, moved along with her when she started on a new machine, nodded his head regularly and then patted her on the back when she finished. She left smiling. The next client was a man I estimate to be in his early twenties. The trainer changed his tactics somewhat. He again never left the man’s side, but his demeanor was different. He clapped his hands a lot, never scowled or shouted but seemed to push this client harder and demanded more. My workout finished before they were done but by all accounts, they were getting along famously.
I enjoyed watching this trainer and his methods. He was supportive, respectful and allowed for differences between his two clients.
I believe that the same three things this trainer used – support, respect and allowing for differences – translate into ingredients for healthy relationships.
- Support – an important way of letting others know that we value them as individuals is to support their aspirations and their efforts. When something is important to them we turn up; in body not only ‘in spirit’. That personal trainer did not sit in his office and watch his clients from a distance. He was right at their side. If someone I care about has a one-line part in an amateur production of Shakespeare, “support” means I’m there on opening night, front row center.
- Respect – words are powerful and how we chose to use them can build up or break down. Respectful words used in respectful tones with respectful body language are the load bearing walls of healthy relationships. Without respect, our relationships will become unstable and crumble.
- Embrace differences – to sincerely embrace another requires from us the generosity of allowing them to be different from us. The security that comes with this kind of unconditional love frees them to become who God wants them to be rather than what we attempt to make them.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that there have been times in my life when I have found myself stuck in a pattern of unhealthy behavior, either perpetrated by me or by a person I care for. Healthy relationships require intentional leadership on our part. They don’t just happen. Support, respect and embracing differences are positive steps forward.
Question: How do you feel when one or more of these three things are missing in your relationships? Is there any one more important to you than another? Your thoughts are valued.