Understanding Faithfulness
We live in a society where relationships are transient. Marriages, jobs, friendships are often seen as a “stage in life” rather than a long term commitment. Yet at the same time we have an inner longing for longevity. As human beings we show loyalty – be it to brands, footy clubs, traditions. Yet we need to learn to translate this innate desire for long term commitment (“faithfulness”) into building healthy family relationships.

“Faithfulness”, the value that we use as foundation for this part of the series on families, is not a word we use much in everyday life. It is defined as “freedom from fickleness in affections or loyalties”, “unwavering determination”, “loyalty”, “devotion”, “commitment”, “trustworthiness” or “reliability”. When reading this, we might be reminded where people have fallen short of their commitments to us. Marriages break apart. Children no longer talk to parents. Parents abandon their responsibilities for their children. Close friends may have betrayed us. We have all experienced the “negatives” of how people fail us. However, let’s look at ways how we can do our part to make a difference in the relationships that form such central part of our lives.

Faithfulness is rooted in God  
Values need to be rooted in something eternal to give them the authority to govern our lives. “Faithfulness” is not only commanded in God’s word, the bible, but is actually God’s nature and being.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT): “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” - Nature reflects what God is like. We experience God’s faithfulness every morning.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV): “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” - God is faithful to keep all he has promised – he has not broken one single word he has spoken.

God is faithful in how he deals with us in the challenges of life – he has promised be with us even when we “go through the water” (Isaiah 43:2) or “walk in the darkest valley” (Psalm 23:4)

How do we display “faithfulness” in family life to build lasting relationships?

1. Let’s do what we say we will do
We make so many promises in family life – from cleaning up the room to going on a family holiday to staying with someone in the good and bad times. However it is a mark of a faithful person to do what you committed to do, even if it has a price:
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
Every time we keep our commitments, we pay into an invisible “piggy bank” that builds the wealth of our relationships. 
 
2. Let’s show grace and speak the truth
Family relationships require essential components – showing grace and speaking truth, and in this way reflecting how Jesus dealt with people (John 1:17; John 8:1-11; Matthew 16:13-23). In daily life we have to “show grace” in many situations – from cleaning up after someone, dealing with moods, sickness…
Healthy relationships also require “speaking truth”. Actually, the bible tells us that speaking truth in love is crucial to grow into maturity: “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

But how do we “speak the truth in love”? John Gottman, a psychologist, observed newlywed couples and tried to predict the stability of their relationships. He observed that in conflict situations, couples that had six positive interactions (such as expressing affection, showing you care, indicating your concern, conveying empathy) for one negative interaction were likely to stay together. He further observed that in non-conflict situations this ratio had to be 20:1. Clearly, “speaking the truth in love” requires a lot of love to share some truth!

3. Let’s work it out
Family relationships will experience conflict… often! Since it cannot be avoided, it has to be dealt with in a mature manner to avoid its potentially destructive effects. 
Anger is an “indicator light” and in itself not sinful. However, we need to consider the way we respond to anger. Nicky and Sila Lee developed the concept that people react in one of two ways to anger: Either we become aggressive, lose control, shout and scream, blame the other party (“Rhino”), or we withdraw, become sarcastic, become cold and clinical (“Hedgehog”). Neither reaction is mature and can lead to hurt in the other party. Instead, we should be the one the reaches out the hand for reconciliation. The bible encourages us: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26) 
 
Discussion Questions 
1. Have you recently experienced God’s faithfulness in your life?
2. Why do we fail our promises in family life? How can we address this?
3. How can we balance “showing grace” and “speaking truth” in family relationships? Which area do we need to grow in?
4. Am I a “rhino” or a “hedgehog”? What may I be able to do to deal with conflict in more mature ways?

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