Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Relationship Choices

I share a ridiculous amount of text messages with three people I met in junior high school. When I think about the years that have passed, the life events that have shaped us, and how much we've grown since we carelessly walked the halls of Dwight Rich Middle School, I am touched by the close relationships that we continue to share. As a silly, unaware, needy twelve-year-old, I had no idea that those I met in junior high school would impact my life so intimately so many years later.

There have been countless posts, tweets, and email forwards about people being in our lives for either a reason or a season. While I see some truth in that notion, relationships are not that simplistic. A more accurate conclusion is that we make choices and our choices impact the length, depth, and significance of our relationships.

A few relationships that I assumed would be lifelong have deteriorated and they did so because of a series of actions reflecting decisions we made. We actively participated in the relationship changing or ending. Someone decided not to extend him/herself. Someone decided not to make the investment. Someone decided not to forgive. Someone decided to wait until a later that never came to send that text message, make that phone call, or send that card. Someone decided that the passage of time or the memories created weren’t enough to carry the relationship into the next year. Someone decided that after subtracting the value of history, what was left wasn’t worth the effort it took to maintain the relationship.

What’s the difference between relationships that have deteriorated and those that have grown stronger over the years? Is it only a matter of growing in different directions? Is it simply because people are destined to be in one category or another? While I believe that my friendships are gifts from God, I also believe that my long-term relationships have lasted because we continually make choices. We choose to invest in each other and the emotional health of ourselves. We choose to extend ourselves and be vulnerable. We choose to tell people that they matter and that we care. We choose to send that text, pick up the phone, and send that card. We choose to make those in our lives feel appreciated, thought of, and loved, and we make those choices again and again.

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time to not only think of those we are grateful for, but also to share our gratitude with them. I’m not referring to some blanket, generic, public post, either. Tell individuals that they are loved and appreciated. Take the time to share the warmth, goodness, and love you experience from the presence of others. Give thanks to those who make you feel the most thankful. Make the choice to actively maintain your supportive, positive, healthy, and loving relationships.

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