You can’t be everything to everyone.
Some of us exhaust ourselves trying to prove this truth wrong, and others give up and cut people out of our life because it’s just too hard to even try. (Not that I’ve ever done that…cough, cough).
You actually can love everyone in your life well—every single one of them. You just can’t love them all the same way. You are a limited person, and you’re going to run out of time, energy, and resources to give everyone everything all the time. Give up that goal right now and instead, start organizing your relationships like Jesus did.
Everyone around Jesus left better off because of him. Everyone around Jesus was loved. But not everyone in His life got the same things from him. Jesus was fully human, so he faced the same limited 24 hours every day and also felt the desire to be good to all his family and friends. I’m sure there were also a few He met that made him take a deep breath and sigh, fighting the eye roll. So how’d He love them all anyway?
Jesus operated in four different realms of relationship. The realm determined a lot about how He loved and invested in each person. Jesus had a core, a circle, a community, and a crowd. If you thoughtfully organize your relationships in this way, everyone in your life will get loved a little better.
A few years back, I felt overwhelmed with my own relationships. I always felt a sense that I didn’t have enough of me to go around—to my spouse, my kids, my friends, my coworkers, my parents, and on and on. I literally wrote all their names (ALL of them!) down in a notebook on a list and began to talk to God about who was in my life. I asked Him how to figure out who should be closest and maybe who needed to be further away.
This prayer exercise led me to read the gospels and take notes on how Jesus did relationships. I figured if God was going to show me how to do it, I should be able to find clues in the life of Jesus. I saw four different types of relationships and began to think of my own in this way. It’s been so very freeing! No more uber-high expectations crushing me. No more cutting people out because I’m afraid I don’t have time for them. I’m a better friend because of this for sure.
Here’s my brief description of each realm to get you thinking about this in your life.
Core: These are your ride or dies. You love them with unconditional love and commitment. Jesus had 3: Peter, James, and John. They literally saw more of Him than anyone else did and got all the inside scoop on his life and identity. You are intimately familiar with one another’s strengths and flaws. You show up and go all out for these people. If Jesus had only three, you better not try to have more (and your spouse counts as one if you’re married!)
Circle: Your people. Shoulder to shoulder daily close relationships. You must be moving in similar directions and cross paths on a daily or weekly basis. You love them by sharing and inviting them in close on a regular basis. They should be able to celebrate and challenge you. Jesus had 12 (three core + nine more!) Again, I wouldn’t think you’re going to be better at this than Him so keep it under ten. And maybe start with only a couple.
Community: Your intentional network of connections that you carry throughout your life. You love this realm by showing favor and preference whenever you are near them. They form a strength, stability under your life. Some might be closer, while others have moved further away due to time/distance. These are purposeful but not necessarily regular. You still share a sense of familial and general-life-direction connection.
Crowd: Everyone else. You might like them. You might just pass them in the hallway every day. You love by watching to see if/when/what God is doing in this realm and join him! (He often starts interesting new things or blesses you/others with people in your crowd). This is not proactive investment—it’s reactive. If you see God move, you move in this realm.
Let yourself off the hook for loving everyone like your bestie. Let’s go—better relationships are ahead!
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
4 Realms of Relationship Discussion Questions
What stood out to you most about this article? Why that? (Noticing what stands out to you can be the beginning of hearing from God. Lean into it. See where it goes.)
Which of the four realms are you most lacking? Which one is going well for you?
What do you think God might be saying about your relationships? If you’ve never heard from God before, it is less intimidating than you think. Just give it a minute and write down anything that comes to mind. Talk to a friend about it to help discern next steps.
What’s one way to take a step towards improving your relationships this week? Pick something small and doable. Forward this article to a friend, tell them your plan, and ask them to help hold you to it.
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(This stuff helps us figure out how many fruitcakes to make come December)
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