Living Grace: Building Relationships First | Lifestyles


The third key to creating a safe and calming environment is to focus on relationships rather than rules.

Truth without relationships leads to rejection, rules without relationships lead to rebellion, discipline without relationships leads to bitterness, anger and resentment. … But I’ll tell you this, you can pray all you want but if you don’t build a relationship with them forget it. They will leave.” – Josh McDowell

Most of us have a vision of how we want our day or our home to be experienced. Among the many challenges is that not everyone in your home and community has the same vision. This is where dedicated parents come to make rules.

The program I was part of at the start of my job had over 100 rules, all packed into a nice, neat manual. Rules define accepted behavior so that those who cherish order love them.

But there are difficulties with communicating the rules. Many years ago my family was visiting a botanical garden and there was a sign that said, “Don’t touch, hug, stroke, stroke, stroke…. plants.” The list went on to 20 or more ways to tell people not to touch plants. I can see how this sign came to be. don’t touch the plants. One day a diligent member of staff noticed a customer touching the plants. They took the time to show them the sign. There would most likely be a bit of tension in their voice because they can’t believe that people can so ignore a clear and definite rule.The client didn’t ruffle the statements at all: “I wasn’t touching the plant, I was patting the plant.”Over time, the other words have been added and if I went back today I’m sure they would have added several more ways to say leave the plants alone.

Our culture seems to assume that everyone wants to do the right thing. In front of the Gospel Rescue Mission where I work, the youth center has put up no trespassing and no smoking signs, mainly because the people I work with like to hang out there, feeling free to do whatever they want because they are offsite. But almost every day, those who want to break the rules sit in front of these signs, puff on cigarettes and swear loudly. The sign means nothing, and our rules mean nothing.

However, for many of our clients, we have been able to build relationships with them. We talk to them and find out what is going on in their lives. Yes, finally, we can point to the sign and ask them if they saw it.

But our first contact is something like, “What’s your story?” We seek to find out who they are. When the discussion about the sign comes up, we talk about being a good neighbor and trying to be a good example for the young people who come to the center. We also discuss how those experiencing homelessness feel when people see them openly defying societal rules.

When we maintain relationships, it is our shelter guests who go and have those conversations and redirect behavior for the good of the community. The sign like the Ten Commandments and other guidance given to us by the scriptures often shows us where our hearts are in rebellion. I am not saying to have rules or even consequences. There are dangerous situations where you may need to start with the rules, but almost every time, if you can build rapport first, you will be more effective.

And U.S ? We will spoil. Most of the time we want grace for ourselves and truth for everyone else. Recognize regardless of my justification, sin always hurts others. Look for the harm we have caused. Then commit to making things right. It has to be more than saying, “I’m sorry. It should be action oriented and focused on gaining forgiveness. Whatever it takes.

Rich Schaus is the executive director of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Muskogee.


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