How Do I Build Strong Relationships?

By Emily W.

When I was growing up, my dad loved sharing little life lessons whenever he could. He often found the best opportunities while we were gathered at the dinner table. One of his favorite analogies, in particular, had to do with a spoon. He would pick up the one next to his plate, hold it up, and say, “Have you ever looked carefully at your reflection in a spoon?” At that point, I’d roll my eyes in a “Yes, Dad, I know this story” kind of way. Despite my disinterest, he would continue, “If you look inside the spoon, your reflection is upside down. If you look outside of it, your reflection is right-side up.” He would always explain this in the context of serving others. When we are focused inwardly, on ourselves, we won’t be happy. The world will feel a bit upside down. But, when we look outside ourselves and focus on those around us, everything is better.

That repeated but simple lesson, compounded with the example of my parents, has taught me how to build strong relationships.

It comes down to being selfless. Everything my dad does is for others. Everything. He dedicates his time at work to support us financially and spends very little of his earnings on things he wants. When he is home, he focuses his time on us. My mom isn’t a step behind him. She is always there to listen no matter the hour and she dedicates her time to making our family comfortable and happy. I have seen both my mom and dad serve outside our home as well, taking time they would probably prefer to use sleeping or reading a book or just relaxing with their family. Instead they help neighbors and friends. My dad has dedicated the last nine years of his life serving as a leader of our church (all leadership positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unpaid). Some days, he would leave at 6 AM for work, taking his church clothes with him so that he could change at 5 PM and drive straight to the church building where he would serve until late in the evening. This responsibility of his required an extreme amount of unselfishness from both him and my mom, who was often left to run the show at home without him. She did this faithfully because she, like my dad, knows that life is always better when we are looking outside ourselves.

This lesson on unselfishness and building relationships is something my parents taught as a result of our family’s foundation. Because my parents are deeply rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which teaches us to be charitable and unselfish, my family’s relationships are strong.  Our Savior is the ultimate example of this kind of selfless love. He taught, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus Christ shows us by His example that the surest way to happiness and strength in our relationships with others is selflessness.

My parents’ example of Christ-like service has helped me to understand how to build a strong relationship with anyone, be it family, friends, boyfriends, colleagues, or neighbors. When we forget ourselves and do all we can to make someone else happy, that person trusts us, loves us, and feels safe with us. I have always felt that way with my parents. I can talk to them about anything and there is so much love and peace in our home. When I left for college, I learned how to apply the same principles. I remembered how much I appreciated my mom spending time listening to me and so I made a conscious effort to be the same way with my roommates. I was more concerned about listening to them than being heard. I believe some of my best friendships have come from that approach.

The funny paradox about this is that when we are focused on others, it makes us happier. It seems almost unfair that we gain a reward when our main goal is the welfare of someone else. We aren’t serving them because we want something out of it, but the side effect is inevitably happiness for all involved. I have seen how selflessness in serving others has blessed my family with stronger relationships and brought us a wealth of peace and happiness. Everything is better because of it. I now truly know that looking outwardly is the key to keeping life, like my reflection in the spoon, right-side-up.

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