I have a favorite coffee shop in town that I go to when I get stuck in a creative rut. It’s an edgy place with great coffee. Sometimes a change of environment can make a huge difference in your thinking. I’m amazed when I go there at how all of the employees seem to be in constant motion. If they aren’t taking orders, they are making drinks. If they aren’t making drinks they are preparing food. If they aren’t preparing food, they head out amongst the patrons and wipe down any table that is open. I’ve seen them wipe the same table 3 or 4 times before anyone new comes to sit down. It’s almost impossible to sit at a messy table in that place.
It’s a good business strategy, but it’s a good relational strategy as well. Not the staying in constant motion part, but the idea of doing what you can, when you can. Sometimes we don’t recognize that our relationships are struggling until they are broken and bleeding. Waiting to attend to your relationships until there are problems is like waiting until your engine is smoking to get the oil changed in your car. By that point the damage is done, and sometimes the damage is irreparable. Doing what you can while you can may simply be starting a conversation. It may be making sure your wife gets a break from the kids. It might be stopping what you are doing so you can watch some TV with your son. It doesn’t take much to keep relationships healthy, but it takes a ton to bring them back when they become unhealthy. Here are a couple of the benefits of doing what you can when you can:
It Limits The Amount Of Unseen Damage That Is Being Done
One of the challenges of relationships is that the person you care for may be struggling without you ever being aware of it. Some people process internally, and they may be hurting a long time before it becomes visible. When it does become visible, there is usually a lot of damage to address. Relating in small ways when things seem ok keeps that sort of hidden damage from festering.
It Limits The Amount Of Work Needed
My best friend and I learned an important truth in high school. Neither of us had great cars. Cars are totaled when the damage done to them exceeds the value of the car. If either of us broke a cup holder in our car, they would have been totaled. So, we both had opportunities to push our cars (into the gas station, into a rolling start, etc…). We learned the crucial lesson that it’s easier to maintain momentum than it is to create it. Getting a car rolling is a challenge (especially if your best friend’s car is made of more steel than a battleship). Once you got it rolling, however, it was easier to keep it moving. The same is true of relationships. It takes less work to keep the fire of a relationship going than it does to start a fire once the it's out. Doing what you can, when you can keeps the fire going.
It Keeps You Relationally Awake
It’s easy to lose focus and become numb to things that have an everyday presence in our life. Continuing to ask, confess, invite, and listen keeps us relationally alive. It reminds us that we have relational work to do every day. Most days that work doesn’t seem like work at all, other days it might. The way to stay relationally awake and aware is to consistently make your relationships a priority. Give the time, say the words, do the work. It will add to you relational effectiveness and enjoyment.
When you do what you can, when you can, you'll find that a little bit of effort at the right time can go a long way. Take some time today to think about what you can do to add value to the people around you. Your relationships are worth the effort.