When it comes to quality of the friends and family in your life, you have more control than you might think.

Have you ever received a gift from someone and you just knew deep down that it was not to be trusted? Maybe it was a friend or family member who just wanted something specific from you and this was his/her way of bribing it out of you. Or maybe it was someone being compelled by some other person or by some circumstances to make a show of good faith, but that is all it was: a show. Whatever the case, it is a truth we have all come to understand: some gifts can be trusted and some, well, not so much. The quality of the gift, as it turns out, is totally dependent upon the quality of the relationship.

There’s a great story in the Bible about the young man, David, receiving a coat of armor as a “gift”. Actually, in this story about the boy who would be king, it happens twice in a very short period of time. The first of the “friends” who offered him their armor was King Saul. David declined the offer. The second time, it was King Saul’s son, Jonathan, offering his armor to David. This gift, David gladly accepted. The difference between the two “gifts” is like night and day.

Jonathan, out of his deep love for David, made a covenant with him. He formalized it with solemn gifts: his own royal robe and weapons—armor, sword, bow, and belt. 1 Samuel 18:3-4 (The Message)

Saul offered his armor because it made him (Saul) look good to do so. That was huge for Saul: looking good in the eyes of the people. That motive drove virtually everything we know about him as a king, including his relationship with his successor, David. Jonathan, on the other hand, offered David his armor as a token of both his friendship and his loyalty to David as the next king. The two “gifts” could not have been more different, because the relationships behind them could not have been more different.

When you think about the relationships in your own life, i.e., which gifts you trust and which ones you don’t, how do you measure quality? How do you assess whether a relationship is worth protecting and investing in or not? At One Another Project, we measure the depth and quality of relationships in terms of the depth and quality of the conversations in that relationship. Specifically, we believe there are 5 Conversations for Healthy Relationships. And the exciting reality about relationships is, you actually have a great deal more control over the quality of the relationships in your life than you might think. In other words, you can actually choose which relationships matter to you and you can begin to make a difference in those relationships merely by the conversations you choose to have.

Don’t misunderstand. Relationships are messy…because you and I are messy. So, it is not an exact science, not exactly a “recipe” to follow. But still, as you learn the right conversations, and practice them and start getting good at them, you can absolutely deepen the relationship. And once that happens, the gifts take on a whole different meaning!

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