When I was in college, I was a resident advisor (RA). My job was to make sure that people were following the rules and not being crazy. It was an interesting job, to say the least.
Living in the dorm where I was the RA, there was one individual who I had an opportunity to connect with and build a relationship. He was a lifeguard, so every time I went to work out in the pool doing my laps, he was there. He was a quality guy and a great potential leader.
Then things started to change. He made friends with people who were less than a positive influence on his life. His behavior became less than ideal and began to get in trouble…with me. This young adult, who I spoke with everyday early in the year, became someone who I had to write up on numerous occasions. Being written up is not a fun process and only happens when people do, well, dumb things.
Naturally, my relationship with him changed. There was even one point that I smiled when I had to write him up. Why, because I knew he deserved it. Certainly, my attitude needed to change. But just as important, my relationship with him was failing.
Relationships are at the heart of ministry. I learned that day that when a relationship fails or is in trouble, there are warning signs that speak loud and clear.
What are those signs of a failed relationship?
- Avoidance: I was avoiding this young man. I used to be intentional about striking up a conversation with him. Now, if I saw him coming, I would go the other way to avoid an interaction. When we find ourselves in this situation, the relationship is on the rocks.
- Take pleasure in their mistakes: I’m a nice guy. Really, I am! But the story above shows a side of me that I am not proud of (I was a college student at the time, too!) This young man was really making some big mistakes. My relationship with him had had deteriorated so much that I just smiled and actually enjoyed getting him in trouble. This is not a good place to be.
- Difficult to affirm them: Part of being a leader is recognizing and praising people when they deserve it. When our relationship with an individual is failing, we find it very difficult to find things to affirm them about. Not that they don’t have affirmable qualities. They do! But I’m not seeing them because my relationship with them is focusing on the negatives.
- Feeling drained of energy: Every time I encountered this young man, my energy would be drained from me. Life giving relationships are supposed to give life, not suck life out of me! When we start to feel this loss of energy, we need to address the relational issues at hand.
What are other signs that you have experienced in failing relationships?