Life is about great relationships. But, relationships are an adventure requiring skill to be done best. The beauty, however, is that when done well our relationships provide the pathways for our influence. In other words, great relationships beget great influence. And, great influence is your destiny—that’s why you were created.
We are all fearfully and uniquely created beings created in God’s image with a unique walk or path. Yet, the billions of unique paths all converge towards a single direction—that is the stewardship of authentic and encouraging relationships.
The reality, however, is that relationships can be difficult—very difficult sometimes. Life surrounds you with difficult circumstances that can test your relationships with your family members who seem unappreciative, incommunicative, and disrespectful of you. The workplace frustrates you with tangled webs of relational distrust where everyone fends for his own self-interest and promotion. Even friends and fellow church members who you hoped to lean on through troubling situations often leave you feeling alone to find your own way. You might be wondering why is this happening.
A little more than a year ago, I made my first visit to a chiropractor. And, from this experience I gleaned what I feel is one of the central tenets for building healthy relationships at home, work, and abroad. Here’s the idea, great relationships require attention to posture. Let’s take a closer look at this notion of posture. Posture, in this context, and as presented in the dictionary is “a mental or spiritual attitude”. But, for a moment let’s use our physical posture to illustrate a concept.
During my series of visits to a chiropractor, he pointed out to me several ways in which I exhibit poor posture. He not only associated some minor symptoms (e.g., fatigue, muscle tightness) that I currently experience to poor posture. But, he also said that if not corrected, over time my poor posture may result in more serious health problems. The challenge of course is that my poor posture has been years in the making. It is mostly subconscious and not easy to change. But, I have to make a consistent and conscious effort to have proper posture if I want my physical body to function the way that God designed it to.
The same analogy holds true for our attitudinal posture. None of us can sustain the direction or health that God desires for our relationships if we have a poor mental or spiritual attitude. Over time, it is typically poor posture that causes those good intentions of ours to go awry.
There is a biblical correlate to my chiropractor’s insights. God’s formula for improved posture is found in the gospel of Matthew (18:3). In this verse, Jesus makes the profound declaration “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”(NIV)
Herein lies the amazing paradox which forms the foundation of successful relationships. What Jesus sternly conveys, particularly for those in pursuit of great things (including great relationships), is that real success can only be achieved through smallness—not of stature (as symbolized by the child) but of posture. But, that sounds strange. Isn’t bigger better?
Well, no, it isn’t. Clearly, Jesus is teaching a counter-cultural truth–the opposite of what our culture rewards. For those seeking God’s kingdom and fulfilling relationships the message is clear. Grow small—an oxymoron for sure.
Growing small is a hard concept to embrace because it conflicts with our tendency towards self-interest and promotion. This, of course, is why the disciples in the Matthew passage were trying to figure out how to out jockey one another to be seen as great in Jesus’ eyes.
Following the direction and maintaining posture that fosters great relationships and maximal influence is a process of relational and spiritual maturity. As such, you are at your best as you learn to develop a small posture in all of the relationships that God holds us responsible to steward.
Entering the kingdom that Jesus describes in the book of Matthew is not simply about you as an individual. It is about who you are in community—in relationship to others. Here are ten signs that you are poised for growing small–building an authentic and influential relational network.
As you reach them, keep Zig Ziglar’s famous quote in mind “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want.”
For each sign, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is “Hardly ever” and 5 is “Nearly always”.
10 Signs that you are Poised for Kingdom Influence
- You are slowing down your reaction time to incendiary comments directed at you from others
- It is getting easier for you to be excited for someone else who achieved a milestone that you are still working towards
- You can quickly apologize when you realize that you did something wrong and when other’s feelings are hurt even if it isn’t clear that you did anything wrong
- Your ability to empathically listen to others is getting better
- You have become more vulnerable in sharing your emotions and difficult life events with others
- You search for wisdom and seek to diligently practice what you discover
- You are increasingly more motivated by concern for the welfare of others beyond what you can get out of the relationship
- Your self-awareness is heightened and you are comfortable being your authentic self in whatever space you occupy
- Your life’s purpose and your unique voice have become clearer to you
- Your spiritual core affirms your physical and emotional decision-making
Which of these attitudes and behaviors are habit for you? Which are more difficult?
Each sign is a process or pursuit to influence others through genuine relationship building. Most of us have room for improvement. So, be encouraged.