BY DALE E. GALLOWAY
A Staff member’s spouse who doesn’t like you.
A board member who seems determined to oppose everything you propose.
An unchurched neighbor or relative who won’t give you the time of day.
Getting along with others is a lot easier to talk about than to do. I used to think it was simple. People were either good or bad, likable or dislikable. You got along with them or you didn’t.
As the years went by, I learned that the problem is with me, not them. God wants me to learn how to get along with other people. Jesus, the wisest, most knowledgeable person on the art of human relationships, gives Christians the Golden Rule principle: “Treat others as you want to be treated” (see Luke 6:31).
If I want to build positive relationships with other people, then I need to put myself in their place and try to understand them. If I want people to like me, I need to treat them as I would like to be treated if I were in their place.
Whether your role is pastor, counselor, spouse, friend, or something else, the following five values provide helpful steps toward living out the Golden Rule. They form a foundation for treating everyone as you want to be treated.
People Want to Feel They Are of Worth.
During my summer between college and seminary, I pastored a struggling little church in a Chicago suburb. One day I visited someone in one of the area’s better-known hospitals. While there, I ran into the chief of surgeons, Dr. Howard Hamlin, a longtime friend of my parents. I remember feeling like a very important person walking alongside him. Not only a pacesetter in a major hospital in one of the world’s biggest cities, he was also a well-respected lay leader in our denomination.
As Dr. Hamlin and I walked down the hall together, something happened that made a lasting impression on me. He stopped and engaged the elderly hospital maintenance man in conversation. Calling the worker by his first name, he proceeded to ask about the man’s children. With a beaming face, the man responded to the doctor’s personal interest and shared concerns close to his heart.
This busy doctor, whom I idolized, had stopped to talk to a common, uneducated employee as if he were the most important person in the world. As we resumed our walk, the maintenance man went back to mopping the floor, smiling and whistling as if he had the most important job in the hospital.
Dr. Hamlin had given him the priceless gift of worth and dignity. He also gave that gift to me! I felt pretty special myself that day, walking beside this considerate, kind doctor.
As our greatest example of this attitude, Jesus never met an unimportant person. He met people from every level of society and treated them all as special persons in God’s eyes. He also taught that we should do likewise. He said, “. . . Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40, NKJV).
The way we treat others is the way we are treating Jesus. We should treat others the same special way we would treat Jesus.
People Want to Be Listened To.
“The road to the heart,” wrote Voltaire, “is the ear.” We’ve all had the experience of talking and suddenly realizing that those to whom we speak aren’t listening. The experience always deflates us.
On the other hand, when someone listens to me attentively with good eye contact and interested respond, it makes me feel good about myself and also gives me warm feelings toward that person.
If you want people to like you, start practicing the biblical admonition: “Don’t ever forget that it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry” (James 1:19, TLB). In other words, when in a conversation, stop worrying about what to say next and start listening with an interested ear to what the other person says, and you will gain a friend.
People Want to Be Appreciated.
It has been my privilege to teach and preach in some of the best-known pulpits across the United States and even in Korea. After I speak, people sometimes find me to express their appreciation. To this day, after some four decades of public speaking, I still love people’s kind words.
Getting along with others is a lot easier to talk about than to do.
William James has said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving for appreciation.” Mark Twain said he could live for three weeks on one compliment. Let’s face it: I like to be valued and so do you. Everyone relishes receiving appreciation.
If you want to get along well with people, then give them the words of praise they crave. Do this, and people will respond positively to you for it.
People Want to Be Built Up and Edified.
We live in a world of constant put-downs. If you become known as someone who builds people up and edifies them, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the crowed. Victor Hugo stated, “Man lives more by affirmation than by bread.”
When you affirm someone by positive words, it creates a bond of goodwill and good feeling between you. The Bible says that the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21). It also teaches that evil words destroy but godly words will build up a person (Prov. 11:9).
My friend Howard Hendricks recalls his elementary school days in his book Say It with Love. His fifth-grade teacher, Miss Simon, used a big rope to tie a rambunctious young Howard Hendricks to his seat. Then she placed mucilage paper over his mouth. “Now Howard,” she said, “you will sit still and keep quiet.”
As he entered sixth grade, the first thing his new teacher said was “Oh, you’re Howard Hendricks. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Then Miss Noe jarred by adding, “But I don’t believe a word of it.”
Miss Noe built her students up in a way that made a lasting impression. According to Hendricks, “That year I found the first teacher who ever convinced me that she believed in me, and, you know, I never let the woman down. I would knock myself out for her. I would work and do all kinds of extra projects. My most vivid memories of that class are of occasionally looking at the door with the little windowpane in it and seeing Miss Simon, my fifth-grade teacher, peeking in to see this thing which had come to pass. Here I was, sitting clothes and in my right mind, and working.”
By believing in him and treating him as she would want to be treated in his place, Miss Noe became an instrument of God to get him turned around and headed on the right path. To get along with other people, we stop looking at what’s wrong with them and start seeing what they can become. To get along better with the people in your life, make a conscious effort to build them up.
5. People Want to Be Treated with Empathy.
Did you hear the story about the rural doctor whose phone rang on a cold, rainy night? “It’s my wife,” the voice said. “She needs a doctor right away!”
“Can you come and get me?” asked the physician. “My car is being repaired.”
“What?” came the sputtering reply. “Go out in this weather?”
How often we expect from others what we are unwilling to do ourselves! Frequently we have this attitude because we have not tried to put ourselves in another’s place.
God’s way is for us to weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh (Rom. 12:15). When we really do this, people feel listened to, appreciated, built up, and helped. Close relationships spring from sharing joys and sorrows.
Someone has said, “The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of right relationships.” You can partner with Christ in bringing God’s Kingdom of reconciliation to this earth, just as Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:18. To whatever level you have experienced the transforming power, love, and grace of God, you can treat others with a similar empathy and concern.
This article has offered several basic implications of the most repeated commandment in the New Testament: “Love one another.” Christian leaders are tempted to believe ourselves exempt from needing help in this area. Unfortunately, reality proves otherwise.
Few people, if any, ever “arrive.” For most people, getting along is a matter of degree. Imagine each of us rating our ability to work with other people, using a scale of one to ten. Few of us would land at either extreme of the scale.
Wherever you are, if you will purposefully, prayerfully this every day apply these implications of the Golden Rule, your level on the scale will immediately rise. When that happens, your relationships will improve and will also be much more enjoyable.
As the song drawn from John 13:34-55 says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Five More Steps to Help You Relate Well To Others
6. Be willing to change.
7. Think of yourself the way God thinks of you.
8. Treat yourself as a best friend, accepting yourself unconditionally.
9. Find freedom by owning up to your faults, admitting when you’re wrong.
10. Care enough for yourself to share yourself with others.