They’re hard. I have lost friends over them. They have caused some of my deepest scars. They have included harsh arguments and tears. They have made me feel small. My confidence was lost because of them. They also have made me feel on top of the world. They have provided me with love and support. They are one of the biggest blessings in life. They have ultimately made me stronger and helped me to grow as a person. Relationships.

I’m talking about any and every kind of relationship. In our life, we have relationships with friends. We have them with our significant others. We have them with our parents. The list goes on and on. And relationships have a strong power over us. Who you are associating with usually has an influence on who you are. If you grew up with abusive parents, chances are you’re going to have your guard up in order to mask the pain. If your relationship with your significant other is toxic, you may have a negative self-view of yourself because of words that were said in that last fight. Relationships clearly have such a stronghold on us. However, this isn’t always a bad thing. Since relationships are so powerful, they also have the ability to lift us up, bring us confidence and make us feel as if we are not facing life alone.

I’m taking a class called “Adolescent World” that devotes study to the things in life that influence teenagers. We are looking deeper into the hardships adolescents face and the lives they live. Yesterday we wrote down and discussed all of the things we believe impact adolescents’ perceptions of themselves. As we were doing this activity, something stood out to me. Almost everything that impacts a teen’s life revolves around relationships. Their family, coaches, friends, teachers, and even social media influencers impact them. Their relationships often define their answer to “Who am I?”. They might believe they are a certain stereotype because of their friend group. They might think they have no chance at being successful in their sport because their coach said so. They may even believe they are a failure because that is what their parents call them. And I believe this doesn’t stop at adolescence. I definitely still let my relationships define who I am, and I have no doubt there are times you do the same.

Personally, I am a very guilt-driven person in my relationships. What I mean by this is if I do anything wrong (or if I feel like I did something wrong), I shut down. There was a very extreme case of this I had a couple years ago. I felt guilty, and it made me hurt deep down all of the time. I was broken to pieces because of all the guilt I felt. Honestly, I didn’t even have much of a reason to feel guilty, but I still felt it. This has been a cycle in other relationships within my life. In my relationship with my parents, my boyfriend and friends. This is something I have trouble with and something that makes me put my guard up. What about you impacts your relationships? Do you let them define you? Think about what relationships really impact who you are and why they affect you. Are you in toxic relationships? Or do you feel confident within your current relationships?

Whether your relationships are great at this moment or not so great, I am going to give you three tips on how to approach relationships.

  1. Discover who you believe you are instead of allowing your relationships to define you.

Really try to discover who you truly are. Get rid of the other opinions for a little bit and focus on yourself. Believe me, this makes all the difference in the world. If we go into our relationships confident in ourselves, things are just better. You will be able to stand up for yourself. Most importantly, you have a better chance at loving yourself despite what that relationship brings into your life.

Going along with this, we need to find out who God says that we are. And God says we are worthy, loved and qualified. We are children of God. With that definition of ourself, we can have a drive to face whatever comes our way in our relationships. God is the only being that can truly define us. So don’t let others define you. Be confident in who God says you are. If someone else says otherwise, know your worth and don’t let them drag you down. Let me tell you, confidence in yourself will make all the difference in your relationships. So try. Try to discover who you are and be confident in that before jumping to the conclusion that your relationships say who you are.

“I have called you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1

2. Build others up!!!

Make sure that you are doing your part in all of your relationships. People need to know that same promise of them being worthy, loved and qualified for what they do in life. SOO let them know it!! Support them in what they love. Relationships are something that could last a lifetime. Instead of shutting people out because you’re always “too busy”, actually try to make time. It’ll be worth it. In order for relationships to be healthy, you have to commit time. It’s not always easy, but it’s vital. How will a person be able to come to you with problems they’re facing if you’ve never taken the time for them? There are many of times when I shut out everybody I love because of the craziness of life. But if there is anything I’ve learned from living that way, it’s that it only leaves me full of regret.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

3. Look out for yourself.

There are some relationships that just aren’t healthy. They break us down, and they take away from our confidence. Instead of these people pouring into us, they are constantly thinking of themselves. It’s important to love these people, but we don’t need to live in the toxicity. Sometimes it’s just better for your own well-being to let go. If there is anything I’ve learned throughout my life, it’s that you can’t go into relationships wanting to “fix” people. You can always love people to the best of your ability, but you don’t need to be constantly trying to change who a person is. And sometimes it’s best to love at a distance. Relationships can tear you down if you aren’t careful. Do me a favor, and just look out for yourself. Pray for those who hurt you. You can even send them nice “how are you?” texts, but do not live a life where you have forgotten about yourself.

“For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church” – Ephesians 5:29

I don’t know where you are in your relationships right now. Only you know that. But I do know relationships are a beautiful thing. There are so many good and wonderful things that come through our relationships. But there are also some hard things that come with relationships. However, good things are sometimes very hard. There are days when I’m rude to the people I love most and vice versa. But we grow from those moments. Those moments make us learn lessons and learn how to be better as a person.

Love yourself. Build others. Look out for YOU.

 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

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