The beginning of a relationship is full of excitement, nerves, fear, joy, hope and opinions. Lots of opinions. The input of friends and family during this time is crucial, valuable and life-giving. But it can also be totally overwhelming!
None of us want to be the giver or receiver of input that doesn’t build up during this fragile, vulnerable time. I’ve been on both sides, and found that whether you are in a new relationship receiving opinions or the friend giving the opinion, there are three truths that are helpful to navigate the excitement of when the Lord is writing a love story.
1. Recognize Hope
Receiving: When in a new relationship it’s important to remember that people give opinions because they care. It’s easy to become hurt and defensive if someone’s opinions and input surprise us or if we don’t know how to process them. More often than not though, opinions about new relationships (negative or positive) are expressed out of love, driven by a great hope and a wishing of the ultimate best for the friends entering into the new relationship.
Giving: On the other hand, when offering an opinion about a new relationship, we must also recognize hope. In all of its complexity, the framework of a new relationship is crafted in hope. Its foundation may be the Lord’s leading, love, friendship, or any number of things, but anything built above that foundation is made of hope. A hope that is akin to raw, new skin; moist and pink with vulnerability. In the crafting of our opinions for others, this hope must be handled with care or we can severely bruise them, even to the point of shutting down communication.
2. Let Him Be Creative
In both receiving and giving advice and opinions, it’s a joy to remember that the Lord created creativity! His very nature is to bring unique things to life, and He enjoys doing it immensely. Part of that enjoyment is writing each individual story. An easy trap to fall into is to think that all stories should be like ours, or the ones that we have seen. It’s natural to compare stories because it’s our frame of reference, but a new love story is…new. New in all of its beauty and difference. Tried and true wisdom is needed! But as long as the relationship is not in sin, resisting the temptation to put it into box may be the best gift we can give those in the relationship. The Lord is writing a new frame of reference in which to display His love and creativity.
3. Context is Key
Receiving: We all have different starting points in life and also in relationships. Some people start as friends, others as near strangers. Love is chosen, other times it grows, or is there immediately. When you’re the one in the new relationship and opinion is given about it, it’s wise to consider where the friend giving the opinion is coming from. Is their opinion birthed in truth? Is it coming from preferred personal experience?
Giving: As friends offering opinions, when we encourage each other with advice, the most important thing we can do is to first listen and understand the context of where the relationship is starting, and where our own opinion is birthing from. Another’s story can seem scary or strange when its different than ours and it is important to remember that there is absolute Biblical Truth, but within that the Lord may be calling your friend to walk love differently than He did in your story.
Seasons of life and experience (personal history, maturity, etc.) are also unique and important to consider in context. How a relationship looks between 20-somethings can be drastically different than one between a couple in their 30s. Some good questions to consider before giving your opinion include:
- Will this help our friend?
- Are we speaking from fear, or encouraging toward wholeness?
- What could be their the specific hopes and fears in the context of this unique story?
- If it is unlike my story, what could God be doing here?
And the best question to consider for both friends in giving and receiving opinions: what is the Father’s heart for this relationship/story? It takes work, prayer and discernment to seek the Lord for His heart, but His heart and compassion are not hidden from us. Each friend listening to the others hearts is the key to communicating in this tender stage.
We will always want to be a part of others’ love stories because we were designed to love and be loved. This is a good and beautiful thing! Let’s handle the pen with care and honor, whether another’s words play a part in our own love story, or we are handed a pen to contribute to someone else’s. The ink is full of Hope!
Photo Credit: JenniMarie Photography