Why do some people seem to have closer and more enduring friendships and marriages than others?
Why do they perform so well in the workplace and advance so quickly in their careers?
How do they maintain such a close and influential connection with their children and relatives?
Why do they seem to have less conflict, and when it does arise, why are they so good at resolving it quickly and completely?
Most importantly, why do they have such a relaxed and appealing Christian witness?
A Better Kind of Smart
Well, it’s seldom because they’ve got a higher IQ than others. Studies have consistently shown that high intelligence quotients do not automatically translate into success at home or in the workplace.
There is another kind of smart, however, that correlates strongly with success in all aspects of life. The Bible calls it “wisdom,” and God promises great blessings to those who pursue it earnestly.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Proverbs 4:7-8 puts it even more succinctly: “Get wisdom. Prize her highly and she will exalt you.”
God’s wisdom can be applied to all aspects of life, including money management, physical health, sexuality, politics, families, friendships, and employment. Having spent thirty years reconciling people estranged by conflict, I’ve been particularly interested in the principles of wisdom that apply to relationships in the home, church, and workplace.
I call this group of principles relational wisdom, or simply RW. These timeless concepts can improve every aspect of our lives.
RW Definition and Paradigm
Relational wisdom may be defined as your ability to discern emotions and interests in yourself and others, to interpret them in the light of God’s Word, and to use this insight to manage your responses and relationships constructively.
As you learn these skills, you can experience stronger relationships and less conflict at home, at church, and in the workplace, as well as improved team-building, better job performance, and a more credible witness for Christ.
The Bible’s teaching on relational wisdom can be organized in terms of six core skills or disciplines that are grouped into three pairs. One pair focuses on how we relate to God, another on how we relate to ourselves, and the third on how we relate to others.
• God-aware, God-engaging
• Self-aware, Self-engaging
• Other-aware, Other-engaging
These six skills are closely linked and reinforce one another in a circular direction (thus the “360” in our ministry name). The better we know and follow God (God-aware, God-engaging), the more we will know and discipline ourselves (self-aware, self-engaging), which opens the way for us to better understand, relate to, and serve our neighbors (other-aware, other-engaging).
To close the loop and spur us on developing relational wisdom, the Lord promises that the more we obey his command to love our neighbors, the closer we will draw to God himself (John 14:21-23). Thus, relational wisdom is a circle of interrelated skills that continually fuel one another.
As we will see in the Bible Foundation section, the Bible teaches extensively on each of these six skills. Of course it does not use expressions like “God-aware” or God-engaging.” Instead, it uses words like remember, faithful, humble, disciplined, compassionate, and serve. This teaching can be summarized in the following definitions and synonyms for each of the six core skills of relational wisdom.
God-awareness (remembering) is your ability to interpret all of life in the light of God’s character, works, and promises.
God-engagement (faithfulness) is your ability to faithfully trust, obey, and imitate God.
Self-awareness (humility) is your ability to accurately discern your own emotions, interests, values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Self-engagement (discipline) is your ability to master your thoughts, words, and actions so that they please God and advance his purposes.
Other-awareness (compassion) is your ability to understand and empathize with the experiences, emotions, and needs of others.
Other-engagement (serving) is your ability to serve, work, and resolve conflict with others constructively.
These definitions describe the biblical ideal for each skill. When we walk close to God and draw steadily on his grace, we are able to live inside the circle of relational wisdom. This generally results in peaceful and fulfilling relationships with the Lord and the people around us.
But if we ignore God and decline his grace, we are living outside the circle of relational wisdom. Instead of remembering God, we forget him. Instead of being faithful, we are fickle. We become proud instead of humble, indulgent rather than disciplined, insensitive instead of compassionate, and manipulative rather than serving.
The Good News of the Gospel
The good news is that even though we often fail in our relationship with God and others, God has secured a path for our full restoration. He sent his Son to pay the price for our sins on the cross, and he is pleased to forgive those who believe that Jesus died for their salvation and was resurrected to give them new life (Acts 10:43).
When we put our trust in Jesus, he delights to draw us back into the circle of his love and give us grace to reconcile and to relate to one another in ways that reflect his compassion, kindness, humility, and patience (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:12-15).
A Practical Demonstration
If you want to see how practical and life-changing even the most basic relational skills can be, I encourage you to watch a three-minute video clip in which Cinderella Man demonstrates outstanding relational wisdom.