Character Creates Opportunity® – Relationships: Thursday, September 4, 2014

Life is meant to be lived in relationships.  We cannot live life alone for any significant length of time without becoming unhealthy emotionally and then physically.  An important factor in our own health is the presence of others. In addition, any meaningful achievement in business, communities, or our world, was accomplished with people working together.

There is a great deal of modern day research to demonstrate the value of relationships.  In addition, no matter what religious affiliation or spirituality discipline we subscribe to, there is a great deal of comment on the value of relationships.  In the book of Ecclesiastes it says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”   There is an old Swedish saying that I came to know during many travels to Sweden for business that provides a simple and powerful reminder of the importance of relationships; “shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”

We all enjoy those moments of relationship with others when times are easy going and comfortable.  Many of us can relate to the joy of having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a close friend or loved one when life seems a bit settled.  In addition, when we are in a difficult struggle, the companionship of someone who understands and cares is a huge source of strength during our time in need.

Like many experiences in life, relationships provide insight into our character.  It is often the difficult side of relationships that can be most revealing to us and a place where we can learn and grow. Most of us have been around the proverbial “block” a few times.  We have come to realize that all meaningful relationships have a fair amount of struggle and the fairy tale notion of “happily ever after” is not reality when life is in a constant state of significant transition in the home, the workplace, and the community.  Transitions bring new experiences and new experiences are a powerful door opener to stress and strain in relationships.

When relationships are strained (the unfortunate reality is they will be strained at some point), we have a real opportunity to build and strengthen our character.  Our effort focused on how we respond during that critical time has the potential to make all the difference in the survival or the demise of the relationship.  We probably can always find some fault on “the other side” of the relationship.  If we are honest with ourselves, they can always find fault on “our side” too.  There is little to no benefit in playing the blame game.

When our response, during times of struggle, is focused on patience (which is defined as long suffering by the way), understanding, and a desire to genuinely find a “better way” together, we will more consistently see the relationship survive the struggle. In addition, like any good workout routine, our strength to endure future struggles will be increased as our “muscles” get stronger with the workout.

As our thoughts, decisions, and actions are focused on rising above our situation and responding with patience, understanding, and genuine desire to find a “better way,” we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build healthy and meaningful relationships.

As we journey back to school in the fall to continue our education, as businesses fine tune plans to finish the year strong, and as schedules get a little more jammed with activities, we will most likely face a few struggles in these transitions and we have an opportunity to strengthen relationships, especially those closest to us.

A great quote from former First Lady Barbara Bush is a helpful reinforcement; “As important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer, or business leader will be, you are a human being first, and those human connections-with spouses, with children, with friends-are the most important investments you will ever make.  At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.  You will regret time not spent with a spouse, a child, a friend, or a parent…Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.”

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