Building Bigger Hearts Part 2: Relationship Management
On Sunday 1st November at our morning services, we started our series Building Bigger Hearts with the topic 'Emotional Energy Management'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
Talk Notes and Summary
Almost everyone wants to increase their capacity to love others. We know that by increasing our capacity to love, we will also increase our capacity for compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness and other positive characteristics. We will lead better lives, be more fulfilled, and be active in helping others. So how do we ensure that our hearts are getting bigger? One of the key areas to focus on is our relationships, and in particular, the number and the nature of our close, personal, meaningful relationships. We must ensure that we keep these in balance.
Some of us don’t feel complete or fulfilled until we are involved in many meaningful relationships. Others are born with a much lower relational capacity and would feel overwhelmed by having too many relationships. In terms of the number of relationships, there is no right or wrong, no “magic” number. Also, it’s not more spiritual if we have many! The question that we each need to answer is, what is my God-given relational capacity?
But, does it matter? Yes, it does! If we exceed our relational capacity, then we feel panicky and overloaded. We can also start to feel guilty because we are not involved and intimate with a bigger group. In which case, rather than our hearts getting bigger and our capacity for love growing, our hearts shrink. This is because because our God-given relational capacity is exceeded.
For others who have a much greater God-given capacity for relationships, the opposite can occur. There are too few, and they relationally starving! Again, the heart shrinks and the capacity for love diminishes. If that’s you then you need to consider joining a small group, a cluster, or serving on a ministry team. You need to build up the number of meaningful relationships.
The point is that the number of relationships in our life is a critical factor as to whether or not our heart is going to be getting bigger or smaller in future years.
The nature of the close relationships that we have, and keeping them in balance, is also very important. Broadly our relationships are in three categories: Draining, Neutral, Replenishing.
Almost all of us have some draining, needy people in our lives, and we don’t always realise how draining. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have any hurting, struggling, needy people in our life; that would go against biblical teaching. However, our hearts can shrink a size or two if there are too many draining types of relationships at one time in our life
We all have a lot of neutral relationships, which are neither draining nor replenishing: the person on the supermarket checkout, the café assistant, and so on.
Replenishing relationships breathe life back in to us. After spending time with these people, we feel refreshed, and uplifted and we think, where did the time go? We love being with these people.
The really important point, if we want to grow our capacity to love, is to keep these relationships in balance.
Even Jesus needed to do this. He helped and served a great number of people; needy people, broken people, but he often retreated with his closest friends for replenishment. He also spent time alone with God in prayer. In the following passage, Jesus tells us how to grow our capacity to love others and to build a close relationship with him; how to become his friend John15:5,9-17. You can read this by clicking here.
Are your relationships balanced? Or perhaps, you’re experiencing the problem of a strained, slowly shrinking heart because you have involved yourself up to your eyeballs with too many relationships that fall in the draining and neutral categories, to the neglect of developing and enjoying replenishing relationships that tend to breathe life and vitality and hope and love back in to you so that your heart stays fresh and growing.
You need to follow Jesus’ example of having an appropriate number of replenishing relationships going on in your life to offset the draining relationships. And of course, you need to be grafted on to Jesus, to ensure that you develop the most important relationship of all. If you obey his command your heart will get bigger and your capacity to love will grow. We will lead a better life, be more fulfilled, and be active in helping others.
Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. What is you God-given relational capacity?
2. Currently, is your relational capacity being exceeded or are you “starving”?
3. What would you suggest to someone who is exceeding their capacity; how should they adjust?
4. How would you describe the nature of your relationships? Are they in balance?
5. Do you know of people whose relationships are out of balance? How do you know?
6. What would you observe if someone’s heart id growing/diminishing?
7. The demands on Jesus were huge. Specifically, how did he maintain the relational balance in his life? Can you give examples?