I grew up on my grandparents’ farm. I learned so much from watching my grandfather tend the land; everything he did in the natural realm of living has taught me so much about the relational and spiritual realms. Every year he would plant two crops: corn and soy beans. Every year when it was time to harvest, he would reap corn and soy beans. Never once in all the years watching and helping him farm did I hear my grandfather say something like, “I planted corn, but looks like the good Lord is giving us sweet peas instead for our harvest.” It’s an undeniable truth: if you plant corn, you can rest assured you will reap a harvest of corn; if you plant soy beans, you will reap a harvest of soy beans.
The relationships on your Life Palette will yield a harvest based on what you sow into them. It is a biblical principle that will add value to every area of your Life Palette once it’s understood and put into practice. “You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7) Make the next seven relational principles, seen in Jesus’ life and throughout Scripture, a part of your every interaction with others. This will ensure all your relationships are adding value to your Life Palette (and that you’re adding value to the Life Palette of others).
1. Always show respect to others.
While it may not be the cultural norm, the Bible teaches us to “respect everyone.” (1 Peter 2:17) You may think, “Peter didn’t know the people I have to deal with.” Remember, you will reap what you plant—and the harvest of your life is revealed on your life’s canvas. Disrespect will show up as a color that doesn’t belong. It will take away from the color harmony God is painting into your masterpiece.
2. Always respond to those who are rude by being polite.
It’s natural to want to retaliate against those who are offensive to you. However, retaliation never adds value to your Life Palette. It will only cause disharmony and make things worse in the relationship. When you’re rude, it’s as though you’ve thrown a big blob of black into the middle of the canvas and it has no business being there. Romans 12:17 says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”
3. Always be grateful rather than demanding.
You’ve chosen to take on the character trait of Jesus and serve others, yet there will always be times when you are being served as well. How you respond to others when they serve you reveals your character. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31) As a pastor, I like to take prospective leaders for the church to a restaurant and see how they treat the person serving them. Anyone can be rude and demanding, but only those who are living life as a masterpiece will consistently choose to be grateful and understanding.
4.Always speak the truth in love.
Ephesians 4:15 says as you speak the truth in love you will be “growing in every way more and more like Christ.” The relationships on your Life Palette will have greater success as you focus on the “in love” part of that verse. Someone may pride themselves on persistently speaking their mind. However, the key to this relational principle is the “in love” part. If you needed a surgery to remove cancer from your body, the skilled scalpel of a surgeon would be preferred to a chainsaw. Both would have the same result, but one would leave a smaller scar and cause less damage. The same is true of how you speak the truth.
5. Always show grace with those whom you disagree.
Don’t be judgmental just because you don’t see eye to eye with someone. In Romans 14:12-13, Paul gives insight into this principle: “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” The focus of this principle is how you respond to those in your life who make choices you believe are wrong. You should always speak in such a way to help them grow, develop, and change, but never beat them over the head. Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
6. Always choose to forgive.
When you feel you’ve been wronged or hurt, forgive. As you choose to forgive others, it will allow you to live your life in freedom. Follow Jesus’ example. Hear His words from the cross about those who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The color of unforgiveness will destroy a masterpiece. You will never be asked to forgive anyone more than you have already been forgiven by Jesus.
7. Always seek to add value.
The value of your relationships on your Life Palette will soar as you choose to add value to everyone in your life. You will be a person others seek out for relationship. Jesus said He came to give you a rich and satisfying life. How would your relationships change if you set out to be more like Christ to others?
Be generous with these principles in your relationships. Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
(Adapted from my book Life Palette, Chapter 6, to be released in early Sept. 2013)