Where we focus first in our relationships is inevitably what grows. If you’re focused on things that are going wrong, things that aren’t meeting your needs or expectations, you might find yourself more frequently sharing words of disappointment or criticism.
Maybe the person you’re having trouble with seems to ask more regularly, “Why are you always so defensive?” or “Why are you always so critical?” It hurts our hearts to hear those questions, but it’s possible that in your efforts to make your relationship better, you’ve fallen into the habit of focusing so much on what’s going wrong that it’s blocking your view of what’s going right.
The things we focus on are the things that grow.
The things we nurture in our relationships – what we plant and what we water – are the things that take over and fill our heads and hearts.
For example, suppose I’d like to be closer to my adult child. I might choose to tell him, “I’m really disappointed that you don’t call me more often,” or “I was really hurt that I had to hear the news about your recent job opportunity or vacation from someone else.” These are real feelings that can’t be ignored. But these are words that plant seeds of criticism and disappointment. Hard ground for growing relationships.
There’s a better way to build bonds with the ones we love.
We can speak words that edify. We can choose words that communicate our admiration when we look for the good in the people we love. Not only noticing the good but also saying so out loud and often. A better way in the example above might be, “I see how hard you’re working and I admire your hustle. If you could use a break, I’d love to see you. How about dinner?”
When we start noticing the good in others and affirming them with our words, we start building trust and affection, and a gate opens up for us to have conversations – both easy and hard – about all kinds of things.
When we focus first on the good, we water the ground where our relationships grow.
Philippians 4:8-9 tells us to fix our thoughts on what is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely. To notice and think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Then the God of peace will be with us.
By focusing first on the things we love and admire about our spouse, child, sibling, or friend, peace takes hold in our relationships, too. Because when we speak words of affirmation naming the goodness we see, fondness and mutual respect take root. And from that root, a deeper love grows – one that covers a multitude of mistakes and disappointments.
Start today. Pick someone you love and notice something good in them – something you admire or respect. Look for ways that God has gifted them and tell them what you see. Send it in a text, leave a voicemail, make a call, or tell them in person. Just be sure that when you see something good, you say something good. And watch the seeds you sow grow into a stronger, better bond between you as you focus on first things first.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)