A few lessons in relationships

relationships braceletSometimes lessons come from the most surprising places. A simple craft project with my daughter recently sparked some thinking on some important components to building lasting relationships. I’m grateful for the relationships God has blessed me with and I want to work to keep them strong, just like this bracelet.


I was away for a weekend with my youngest at a Y Guides camping trip. While there, we each made “survival bracelets”, which are woven bands of parachute cord. I decided to wear mine for the next few days as a reminder of the sweet times she and I had while away. We don’t get to do that sort of thing a lot. I wanted the reminder of the refreshing time we had spent together.

But there was a problem. Multiple times per day, I would look down and discover that the last knot had come undone when I was not paying attention. I had to regularly re-tie it to keep the bracelet together. Each time, I pulled tighter, hoping this time it would stay. I blamed myself for not tying it off more tightly when we first made them.

Shared Experiences are the Knots

The more I thought about it, though, I started thinking that those knots are like the special moments I had with my daughter during our time away. And the strength of the bracelet is a lot like the strength of the relationship. When we do special things together, it adds an extra knot to the bracelet. When I get impatient with her, or find myself too busy to invest in our relationship, some of those knots can easily come untied. We have a responsibility to keep tying those knots with our kids and in all of our relationships.

When we spend time doing something with a friend, family member, or coworker, it creates bonds that strengthen our relationships. This could be enjoyable activities like family vacations, guys’ or girls’ nights out, or just volunteering together on a community project.war-photo

It also happens with difficult work projects or less enjoyable experiences. Both types draw us closer together and intertwine our lives. You may have heard the phrase “foxhole buddy” which refers to individuals who shared cramped spaces on the battlefield in war. This phrase referenced a depth of relationship that goes beyond the surface friendships common in society. Going to battle together bonds you.

By appreciating the time spent doing things together, whether enjoyable or painful, we can make sure that our relationships are strengthened.

Shared Values are the Backbone

As I looked at the bracelet though, I also identified that there is the blue strand, a double strand of cord that runs down the middle of the bracelet. The knots cover this part which provides a “backbone” to the bracelet. I feel like in our lives this is similar to the values we share.

I have shared lots of experiences with friends in my thirty plus years of life. The ones that I am closest to and the ones who I can be far from and still feel connected to are the ones who have similar values. We care about the same things and have committed our lives to living in accordance with them. A commitment to family, to serving God and the world He created, to doing things excellently. These are values that are important to me; I bond more easily with others who value the same things.

Side note: Shared Values at Work

The people I work with have plenty of shared experiences. Even when someone first comes on the team, there is a level of unity that exists because we are passionate about similar things. As a church, we want to see people who are far from God come into relationship with Him. We want to see people who feel alone and isolated in this world get added to Christian community. We want to help people discover the gifts God has placed inside of them. And we believe all of those gifts are wasted if they don’t get turned around in service to others.

People rarely come on our team if they don’t value these things. Or if they did, we didn’t do a very good job of exposing them to who we are in the interview process. Because working together in relationships will be challenging when there isn’t a backbone of agreement around these items.

“The stuff that matters in life is no longer stuff. It’s other people. It’s relationships.” – Brian Chesky

Let’s make our relationships strong through shared experiences. And let’s identify our shared values so that we can build around them as we walk forward together! I have a simple brainstorming worksheet that I have attached here to help you think about ways to strengthen relationships. Please feel free to download it if it would be helpful to you.

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