The secret to great relationships is to give what you want to get. It’s your best chance to find joy in being the person God created you to be. Hello everyone and welcome to episode 103.

When I first started reading the Bible as a young adult I remember reading it out of a red-letter edition, you know, the kind where all the words Jesus said were printed in red. I must confess, I found this annoying. It was harder to read and seemed to interrupt the flow of things. And maybe it’s just me, but I found it easier to gloss over whatever was written in red.

Fast forward many decades, I have another one of those red-letter Bible. But it’s a lot different now. Several months ago I started reading through the Gospel of Matthew, but this time skimming over any words printed in black, and instead really focusing and meditating on all the words printed in red. All the direct words of Jesus. And I’m taking it slow this time. It’s just the opposite of what I used to do.

Even atheists quote this Bible verse

Not too long ago a verse in Matthew 7 I’ve read dozens of times stopped me in my tracks. It’s where Jesus said something that people have been quoting for nearly 2,000 years, even people who don’t believe in God.

Here’s what Jesus said in verse 12 of Matthew 7:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

My reading of this verse took me aback because as I meditated on it, letting it simmer in my mind like your favorite crockpot recipe, it raised an important question in mind. One that we should all be asking. And that’s what the rest of this episode is about. So keep listening.

Beyond being nice

At one time or another, I think most parents have quoted the first part of Matthew 7:12 to their kids who were fighting with each other. I’m pretty sure I did when our two kids were little, and I’m pretty sure my parents said the same thing to my siblings and me.

“Hey Johnny, if you want your sister to be nice to you, you’re going to have to start being nice to her.” Something along those lines.

It always revolved around the word, “nice.” Being nice to each other. If you want your brother to be nice to you, then you need to be nice to him. It’s the “golden rule” after all. That was the goal, be nice, don’t argue or fight, so mom and dad can have some peace and quiet.

The bar isn’t very high if all we want is people to be nice to us. Nice is not enough. It's certainly not the secret to great relationships.

I want more in my interactions with people than niceness. And this is what led me to question: what exactly do I want from others?

How do we want to be treated?

How do I want people to treat me? To answer this question I started a list. I came up with 28 ways in which I’d like to be treated. I think if I spent more time on it, the list would be even longer. It surprised me; I didn’t think I was that needy.

To make this list more manageable for our purposes today, I combined a few things, and here are the top 6 on my list. I would like the following from people:

  1. Kindness
  2. To be included
  3. Listened to
  4. Try to understand me
  5. Rejoice with me
  6. Bring out the best in me

I wonder what would be on your list, what do you want people to do to you and for you? How do you want to be treated? Go ahead, make your own list.

It’s one thing to know what I want from people; how to get it is quite another matter. The answer has been around for nearly 2,000 years. It’s to do what Jesus said: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” It’s the secret to great relationships

This means I’m first going to have to give something of myself

If I would like people to treat me with kindness, I must be kind to others.

Since I want to be included, to be chosen, I will need to help others feel the same way, included, to be part of things. I’ll have to try to make sure others don’t feel left out.

Because I want people to listen to me, I better listen well to others myself.

Knowing how it’s important for me to be understood, it makes sense for me to extend myself in trying to understand others.

If I want people to rejoice with me, I better be sure to share in the joys of others. I need to be happy for what other people have, that I don’t have. I can’t be jealous and thinking I wish I had what they had.

Since I would really like my relationship with someone to bring out the best in me, then I need to be concerned with bringing out the best in others.

No guarantees

I notice though, in what Jesus said, Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you, there is no guarantee that because you treat people the way you want to be treated they will reciprocate.

There’s no quid pro quo (literally “this for that”) when it comes to “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

Could it be that Jesus is telling us that the secret to great relationships is to give to others what you want from them, even if you never get what you want? Could he be telling us this? Where’s the joy in that, and is it even a relationship?

I have a hunch that the joy in treating others the way we want to be treated – even if the favor is never returned – comes from being the person God created us to be, which is a reflection of his image and character. That’s where the joy comes from. In being all that we were meant to be. We were made for this.

And if what we do to others is never extended to us, and leaves us feeling a bit hollow, that’s okay. Because it is enough that Jesus sees us. He knows. And the ache in our heart that comes from not getting what we need, well, he’ll surprise us in soothing over that ache in another way. It’s just the way it works. This too is the secret to great relationships.

So what does all this mean for YOU?

How can you use what you’ve heard today to improve the relationships in YOUR life? Here are a few ideas:

It starts with asking yourself, what do you want from others? To what extent are you willing to relate to others in the way you want them to relate to you?

How willing are you to give to others what you want for yourself?

And then realize, we can’t do any of this on our own, we need Jesus. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can do it on our own. With him living inside of us he gives us the desire to Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

So if you’re finding it difficult to treat others as you would like to be treated, ask Jesus to help you. Ask him to help you obey his teaching, and then ask him for the power to do what he’s called you to do.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.

The secret to great relationships is to treat others like you would like to be treated. But you need the Spirit of God living within you to do so. It’s your best chance to find joy in being for others what you want them to be for you.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to I may share them in a future episode unless you say otherwise. You can also share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.

Related episodes you may want to listen to:

091: Keeping your resolution to do good for others
086: How to begin the new year with joy
049: Sacrifice in relationships
004: The gift of even though


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I hope today's show stimulated your thinking, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

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