4 Practical Ways to Improve Any Relationship

We once had some really odd neighbors. Odd is not an insult, I promise! Sadly, “odd” really is my accurate neighborly analysis. It’s the only way to say it—and here’s why.

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Every fall, a crudely constructed cardboard sign showed up in my neighbors’ front yard. They wrote across it in black magic marker, “Love Potion #9 for Sale.” It wasn’t a joke—at least not to them. The rest of us, well, we had no idea what it was or why they were selling it!

We wondered if this potion would help someone fall in love with you, or maybe it was the perfect formula to help you get those long-lost lovin’ feelings back into your relationship.

Maybe it was a “one-size-fits-all” potion to help you be kind and loving? If that last possibility was true, there are days I could use a gallon jug of the stuff. Loving someone well is often tricky because my own selfishness gets in the way!

When relationships are tricky, we can practice these 4 ways to love others better. [Click to Tweet]

Oh, girl, tell me you can relate. I think we all know firsthand that relationships are often tricky because we are all too human!

We all want to be loved well in our relationships, but we also really do want to love others well too, right?

If you are encouraged by this post, you might also be encouraged by the book of Hosea. It is a deeply personal and passionate love story, yet it’s a difficult story. As an account full of harsh judgment unfolds, we find in its midst a rare and pure gem: the truest and purest of loves. Learn more about my study, Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything here.

So, during this sentimental season when everybody is focused on hearts and flowers, I thought I’d serve you up a tall glass of my very own “Love Potion #Mine!” Ha!

Seriously, to love someone well, there really are ways we can do it. Here are 4 practical ways to l.o.v.e. people.

1. Listen

Listen more than you talk. The best way to say, “I love you,” is to keep your mouth shut! It requires us to be an audience who listens rather than a speaker who demands to be heard.

It does not mean we don’t open our mouths, share our opinions, or contribute to an ongoing dialogue. It simply means we don’t have to always be on center stage, chattering constantly.

Instead, we are slow to speak (James 1:19). Our first priority is to listen to the beloved.

We can love others better by listening more than we speak.
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To listen—to really hear—is to show them they matter. It shows you are willing to regard their opinion as highly as you value your own.

When you listen, you hear far more than words. You hear a person’s heart. So, slow down on the talking, and assume a listener’s position.

2. Observe

You may be just getting to know someone, or you may have known someone for decades. But mere proximity does not guarantee really knowing them.

To truly love someone well, you must know them. And, in order to know them, you must observe or study them.

Sometimes we love the idea of someone more than we love that actual someone. Instead of loving them, we are imposing our impression of who they are (or who we think they should be) on them. When they don’t fit that image, we may not extend the love they need.

Observe who they are and study them. When you begin to understand their nuances—their strengths and their struggles—you can love them where they are for who they are. That gives you the opportunity to apply the next way … V!

3. Value

We often don’t realize the reason we seek to love someone is not for that someone, but rather, for ourselves. We seek more to be valued and affirmed than we seek to value or affirm.

Love calls us to value others more than we value ourselves.
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When you know someone’s needs because you have observed them, you can value them for who they are and seek to affirm them. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love does not seek its own. It places more value on the beloved than on itself.

Love values others more than it values self. Paul put it this way, “Do nothing out of selfishness or vain ambition but in everything with humility, consider others as more important than yourself” (Philippians 2:3).

4. Encourage

To encourage means you literally “grant them courage.” With your words, actions, and prayers, you boost them and buoy them to apply all the courage within themselves to press on and become all they are created to be.

It doesn’t mean you constantly correct, teach, and guide them into becoming the person you have always wanted them to be. Often we think because we love someone, we must keep chipping away at them so they will become better. After all, isn’t that just encouraging them to grow?! Well, perhaps it is just our attempt to squeeze them into the mold we have for them.

Selfless love grants courage to others.
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Love really does believe in what is best about a person. It doesn’t dwell on what is worst. Yet, it does not ignore what is worst either. Love selflessly grants courage to another to become the best they are intended to be.

So, my friend, listen, observe, value, and encourage the people in your life this Valentine’s Day and every day. They will love you even more for the way you show them such practical, selfless love.

And … I love you, Sister!!

What practical ways to love others well would you add to this list?

Go deeper into this week's question in my Bible Study Bistro Facebook group. There's a community of 4:13ers waiting for you!