Early in our career as parents, my wife and I read a book that taught techniques for childrearing. Over time, and not nearly soon enough, we discovered that some of those techniques do not work with all children. Following the teachings of that book caused conflict and tension with some of our children. After almost two decades and six kids, we have discovered relationships are not about technique.
Think of Art Class. High school and college art classes teach certain brush strokes, various types of paint, and different textures on which to paint. Even though you can teach a class of 30 students the same techniques, only a few will do art really well. Why? Because art is a lot like relationships: it is not about technique but about knowing how to communicate.
The Art of Communication
Great artists do not depend on tools and techniques. They use these things, but only as a vehicle to express what is deep within or to draw out emotions deep within someone else. Similarly, marriage, parenting, leadership, and other relationship books might tell you, “Put a misbehaving child in timeout,” or “Hug your wife often,” or “Look people in the eye when you speak to them if you want respect.” Unfortunately, some children only use timeouts as a chance to plot more evil. Some people feel smothered by hugs and do not like a lot of close personal contact—it even pushes them further away. In some cultures, looking a person in the eye is very rude and rather than respect you, they will find you annoying and invasive.
When it comes to personal relationships, you will never take a parenting class or attend a marriage seminar that gives you all the proper tools and techniques you need. You have to learn the art form to relationships. The various children in your home and individuals in your circle of influence are canvases of widely varying texture. You have to awaken your heart to know whether to use oils or acrylics, brush or sponge, pastels or bold colors.
Welcome to Heart Class 101
You will be handed your grade at your funeral. How deeply can you love? How much can you give yourself to the art of relationships? What can you do today to make others feel good about themselves? Don’t buy your kids something to make yourself feel good. Don’t make a loved one hug you just so you feel loved. Find out what makes him or her feel loved. Does he appreciate you just sitting down and taking time to talk? Does she light up when you compliment her and tell her how proud you are of her?
True artists have something in them that a classroom cannot put there. Such a class can only help improve that natural knack for artistic expression. Books and seminars are great for your relationships if you already have the knack. What is this rare talent? To care deeply. Find that first.
Do whatever it takes to become a person who cares more about those around you than yourself. Don’t punish your children because they embarrass you—that is destroying your relationship and giving them a perverted understanding of life. Don’t push your kids to perform in sports or music because you never got to. Involve them in things that shape their personal skills and help them reach their purpose.
This is true with God, too. It is not about quoting the right Bible verse or praying with just the right posture, tone of voice, and verbiage. It is what the Lord Himself said—to love with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Get that right and the details will fall in place. Oh, and about your relationships, Jesus also gave us the starting point for that also: make others feel the way you want to feel—loved.