The number one resolution for the new year - getting healthy. Hitting the gym and eating properly are vital but it turns out your relationships matter as well. The depth and breadth of your relationships impact your health as much as diet and exercise.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found the size and quality of your relationships affect specific health measurements. Adolescents who are socially isolated are at the same risk from inflammation as those who don’t exercise.
Older adults are at higher risk for developing hypertension from social isolation than from diabetes. And relational strain even increases their risk for overall obesity.
The researchers used surveys that identified factors such as number of friends, marital status, religious affiliation and involvement in the community. They also looked at the quality of relationships by asking questions on whether friends and relatives were critical, loving, supportive, argumentative or annoying.
We all know relationships impact our emotional health. Now that we know the additional physical impact, having healthy relationships are even more crucial for each of us.
Relationship problems can develop because we are all a blend of our gender, background and personality. And when you add in some sinful behavior it can lead to various viruses that negatively impact our relationships.
Here are five relational viruses and the Bible’s clear antidote for each of them, derived from the greatest definition of love ever written.
C.S. Lewis once a wrote an essay entitled “The Trouble With X” where he pointed out how we many times focus on the faults of others while ignoring our own shortcomings. It is a very easy thing to do. We all seem to have a great aptitude for identifying the faults of others. Yet we know no one is perfect and we all have our weaknesses. The real issue with fault finding in a relationship is the underlying goal of trying to change a person. Fault finding is the drive to change a person and that will always result in relationship problems.
No relationship can be healthy where we constantly bring up past mistakes. Our approach should be to rub it out instead of rubbing it in. Letting it go and choosing to not constantly point out faults will keep this virus from infecting the relationship. The antidote is found in the classic definition of love from I Corinthians 13:5, “love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.”
This virus is evident in a relationship where one constantly threatens to break off the relationship. Security is a must for a strong relationship. The virus is revealed in a lack of authenticity and a lack of disclosure. Where there is no openness the opportunity for suspicion increases. This naturally leads to jealousy becoming the dominant characteristic of the relationship.
Security comes from being honest with each other about the important issues of the relationship. It comes from making and keeping commitments. Consistent honesty and commitment will root out any insecurity over time. The antidote is again found in the love definition of I Corinthians 13:4,7, “love is never jealous, love is loyal and trusting.”
The challenge of every human being is innate selfishness. This virus is one that keeps a relationship from ever being well. Selfishness makes true partnership impossible to foster. When one person consistently does what they want it is difficult for the relationship to survive. A focus on self keeps mutual respect from developing and can lead to a victim mentality. The result can be controlling behavior or an entitlement attitude.
The opposite of selfishness is servanthood. Friends look to serve each other. Serving helps to keep each humble, shows how they need each other and invests in the relationship resulting in mutual support. The antidote is found in the definition of love from I Corinthians 13:4,5, “love is never boastful, proud, love isn’t selfish."
When a person purposely pushes hot buttons you have this virus in a relationship. There is always the potential for conflict in any relationship we do not need to encourage it in any way. Purposely bringing up controversial topics, focusing on subjects that are known to be disagreeable and looking for opportunities to divide all lead to unhealthy relational dynamics.
Working to maintain harmony should be the goal. People can disagree without being disagreeable. Unity does not mean uniformity but it does mean a desire to move forward in the same direction toward a mutual goal. The antidote for this virus is discovered in the wisdom of the love definition in 1 Corinthians 13:5, "love is never rude, love isn't quick tempered."
This final virus is so common it may even go unnoticed. In our busy lives we don’t give enough time to our relationships. Neglecting the relationship can start seemingly small but grow to ultimately be fatal. Part of the neglect is ignoring the feelings of those you love. Another aspect is minimizing the feelings of those same people. A lack of investment means other activities are simply more important than the relationship.
Intentionality is key to keeping a relationship healthy and strong. Scheduling times together, prioritizing the relationship and making sacrifices will make the relationship thrive. The antidote is found one last time in the love definition of I Corinthians 13:7, “love is always supportive and hopeful.”
A virus can make a person very sick and could even kill them. And a relationship virus can do the same and even end the friendship. You can’t expect your relationships to make it unless you treat your friends with love and respect. But if you raise your current relationships to a healthier level and build a firm foundation for future friends you will be happier and healthier.