It's all about relationship By: Dennis A Smith, 30 December 2009 01:13

As 2009, comes to a close, I am preparing to depart from the country of my birth and the land I've called home for more than five decades. The following message is a reflective personal encouragement for my friends and readers to focus on their building and keeping relationships, for life is all about relationships.

Essentially, I am moving to another country because of relationships. I have developed a close relationship with one Samoan family in particular, but I have also built relationships with other Samoan people. As a Palagi it is easy to make friends over there and I enjoy working and living in this environment.

When I think back over the many hundreds, of people I have interacted with throughout New Zealand, for a guy who really struggled to interact socially for almost thirty years, I've come a long way in the last twenty or so. Sure, I've burnt a few relationships over the years, but there are many more that have brought a degree of godliness to the fore.

It's very easy to look at the ones that have gone bad and soured a little - friends who do the dirty on you . . . business people who cheat and lie to gain an advantage . . . people that you help who end up using you . . . people who do their own thing or miss the boat at your expense and end up destroying intimacy. I talked about this previously in the Post: People in Business.

I was saddened towards the end of this year when Iris went to work for an opposition company, actually an ex-staff member who I really think should have known better than to poach. The main reason given for the move was money - a pay rise from $42,000.00 to just $45,000.00. It hurt, but the sad thing is that a couple of relationships will never be the same again. Treasure relationships people - it's not worth destroying a friendship over money things.

It's not just greed that kills a relationship. Lack of wisdom can also do it. I've been working with one guy for over six months to print my book Lipstick on a Pig. He owes me a lot of money and we've had a deal off and on and off and on. Basically the guy keeps changing his mind and messing things up to the point that I just don't want to deal with him anymore. His problem? He's lost the plot with age. He should have retired years ago but hasn't. I've had others in business who were supposed to be partners and ended up trying to change the rules unilaterally.

A few years back I bought a property from a Maori couple in Raurimu and the vendors did the same thing - change the agreement unilaterally. In the end we just walked after having possession for almost a year and there is another family that can't keep a relationship. It is so easy to kill a relationship.

I know that relationships are definitely hard work to maintain, but it's worth the effort to push through day after day to make them work. They are just like a piano. A piano may have a hundred or more strings and 99 of them can be perfectly in tune but just one string out of tune can sour the entire music. Tune the piano, people!

I was saddened earlier this year when a moment or two after opening my mouth my ex wife's shrink took the liberty of informing me in no uncertain terms that I had a narcissistic personality disorder along with a few other priceless "sentiments". What we actually needed at the time was someone to listen and to help establish relationship, not some knee-jerk feministic fatalism. Assumptions made in the first few minutes of the first counseling session don't bode well for marriage counseling in my book. It's harder but far better to go for maintaining relationship than judgment. Of course if the shrink was right and I'm close to certifiable, then separation was definitely the best thing for both of us* but again, it's keeping and maintaining relationship that is the key, not whether someone is right/wrong or a goose!

I've taught my staff and anyone else who would listen the importance of maintaining relationship for years. I've written a chapter about it in my book Lipstick on a Pig but basically when a relationship sours, no contract or agreement is worth the paper it is written on.

One of our staff "packed a sad" on us part-way through the year and announced his resignation effective immediately. After a little encouragement from our Production Manager, he recognized that he may have been a little hasty but the damage had been done and you could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and motivation and productivity were low from then on. The desire to maintain relationship had gone. When he finally left it was no surprise, in fact a cloud lifted when it did finally happen. It's sad to lose any relationship - through hard times, pride, a difference of opinion or even just changed circumstances - so work hard to keep them alive.

I think of the people who have variously been on the receiving end of my words. I was brought up to judge and criticise as a default setting, so it has been hard work for me to learn to encourage, mentor and exhort others. I've had dozens of homestay students, boarders and foster children for in excess of twenty years and am pleased to say that a good many of them do and will look back at their times with me here in New Zealand and say that the relationship they had with me was special. Every one of them received my best while they were in my care, and many of them had life-changing experiences as a result.

I've managed to earn the respect of many, in different ways and at different times but some relationships are a little more special than others. Some who share the Christian faith and recognise the biblical components of my life are special. It's not that everybody will always be your friend, but we should always work hard to be a friend to others.

There's another relationship that is vital to our wellbeing and that's our relationship with our Creator. It's not politically correct to talk about God things much in New Zealand, but whether we like it or not someday we will all have to meet Him. It's far better to establish a relationship with Him now, than wait until it's too late and hear Him say "Sorry, he didn't bother with Me", and miss out on something special in both Heaven and Earth.

I had been a Christian for several years and desperately wanted to hear God speak to me. I asked my church leader at the time, "How do I hear God?" His reply . . . "It comes from relationship, Dennis". I've experienced the reality of this relationship and have taught it to all I meet.

Seek, foster, build and treasure this relationship people. It's as important as life and death itself.

This is me signing out for a while. I'll update The Samoa Story as I am able.

Hopefully I'll see you in Samoa once I've settled in!

* For the record, at the time I questioned the diagnosis, I backed myself and pretty much lost a marriage as a result. Sad!

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