Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Relational Intelligence Resources on sale now.
About this series
Taught by Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, Relational Intelligence gives us a clear understanding of what it takes to develop intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationships where people share a rugged commitment to one another for the long-haul. Ryan exposes the flaws in relational thinking that result in broken, disillusioned lives. He provides alternative, biblical insight into how healthy, mature, and fun relationships can be nurtured and enjoyed.More from this series
As we begin this series, Relational Intelligence, I want to just make this opening remark: we all long, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the deep desire of your soul is to have this life-giving, intimate, character-shaping relationship that has this rugged commitment to one another.
Like, you are hardwired and designed for meaningful, rich relationships. And it’s not just any type of relationship, but it’s an intimate relationship. It’s where you really know someone and you are really known by someone.
Life-giving, like when you’re around them. You remember, maybe you have had friends like this or you have someone, like, when you’re around them and you’re just like, “Ahhh.” Like you’re just so full, you’re refreshed.
It’s character-shaping, like, when you’re around this person, you want to be a better person. As the proverb says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That there is this relationship that you’re just growing and you’re becoming more of who you were made to be through that relationship. And then that it’s not this, kind of like, you know, go-with-the-flow relationship, but it has this rugged commitment to one another.
Not a fair-weather friend, not a fair-weather marriage, but that you make this absolutely rugged commitment. You know that come hell or high water they are going to be with you through the storms of life. You may not always like each other all the way through it, but there’s this deep-seated commitment that we are with one another.
And we all have this deep longing and desire. And the question, the question is simply: how in the world do we get that kind of relationship? Right? How in the world do you get that type of friendship that’s life-giving, character-shaping, that you’re really known and you know them?
How do you get that type of marriage? Life-giving. Intimate. The other minute, I said “intimate,” and many of the guys’ minds went to sex. You’re like, Really? Intimate? Sex? Well, we can talk about that too. But where you’re really known. How do you get that type of relationships?
And here’s what I would say is in our culture and in our day, we do not need more relational information. It’s everywhere. What is needed for us to experience those types of relationships is actually what we are calling relational intelligence.
Said another way, it’s relational wisdom. See, we live in a world that is absolutely overwhelmed with information and, yet, starved for wisdom. Now, what is relational intelligence? What is relational wisdom? Why is this so important?
Because I think as we begin to unpack this, you’ll see why this is really the framework for us to experience those types of relationships. Relational intelligence or wisdom is the skill of navigating relationships well. It’s the ability, it’s the skill – it’s not just knowing. It is this absolute skill to navigate crisis well, to navigate conflict well, to navigate major decisions well, or maybe even financial or future decisions.
Wisdom, fundamentally, isn’t just information, it is a skill. Now, here’s what’s great about skills. You can grow and develop in skills.
Now, let me give you a little example to help us unpack this. Think about swimming. If I want to learn to swim, I can read a book – most of you are like, Well, you could just YouTube it. You’re right. I could YouTube it. I could YouTube all the information about, you know, the proper stroke and techniques and all of those sort of things.
Now, here’s the thing: I am not a skilled swimmer or really know how to swim until – what? I get in the pool, right? I know, intellectually, but I don’t know experientially, and there’s a massive difference between knowing intellectually and experientially. And when I hop into the pool, all of the stuff that I have learned is now, I’m beginning to put it into practice and develop a skill of swimming.
This is relational intelligence. See, relational intelligence is not merely the acquisition of knowledge. And this is why this series is a little problematic. Because for some, you want to put some nuggets of truth in your mind and walk away and feel like you’re better at relationships. It does not work that way.
Relational intelligence is the proper application of the correct or right knowledge. That’s wisdom. It is the proper application. It’s getting into the pool and swimming. I have to practice and put into practice. The way you develop a skill – think about this – the way you develop a skill is I have to begin to use it, get coaching on it, and then have this consistent repetition to grow in it.
It is the proper application of – what? The right knowledge. Now, think about this. Let’s say that you want to grow as a swimmer – I don’t know why I picked swimming; I just did.
And let’s just say I’m hosting a night that is a clinic, a swimming clinic. And then let’s say Michael Phelps is hosting a swimming clinic just down the road. Which clinic are you going to go to? Not mine! Why? Because I’m not the most decorated Olympian of all time, I’m just a guy that can swim.
Michael Phelps has the right knowledge that, when, if you really wanted to learn the skill of swimming, I would go to his and I would close my clinic down and go to his as well. Now think about this: the God of the universe who hardwired you and created you and actually understands how relationships were fundamentally meant to be designed and operate says, “I want to give you the skills and help you grow in this,” and we need to then begin saying, “Okay, you know what? I think I’ll take Your advice.”
This is a bad way to say it, so I’m sure I’ll get a few emails from this. That’s okay. God is the Michael Phelps of relationships. Like, you can’t compare that way! I know! I know it’s a bad illustration. But you get it? You see, it’s not merely the acquisition of knowledge, it is the application of the right knowledge.
And so, here’s what our series is really fundamentally about. Our series is we live in a world filled with sound bites and relational advice that we just tend to swallow whole. Never really evaluating: is it true? Is it good? Or is it wise?
And there is a massive difference between sounding good, feeling good, and actually being good for us. Now, if you flip to your Bibles, if you wouldn’t mind opening up to the book of Proverbs. Actually, all you have to do is take the middle, some of you have hard copies, most of you have a digital copy of the Bible. Flip to the middle, you’re pretty close, you might have to flip back a little bit.
Proverbs, it is the book of wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. And there are these pithy sayings that are principles for life. It’s important to know they are not promises, they are just principles. This is how life generally tends to operate. And if you apply them, you’ll flourish in different areas: relationships, finances, all the rest spiritually.
And so, if you would turn to Proverbs chapter 14, we see this incredibly powerful statement that I think is one in which we need to wrestle with afresh when it comes to our relationships.
The author says it this way. He says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.” There’s a way that feels good. There’s a way that sounds good. There’s a way that looks good, but in the end, it’s killing us. There’s a way that we are going about relationships, friends, listen. There’s a way that we’re going about our dating, there’s a way that we are going about our marriage, there is a way that we are going about our deep and core familial relationships that appear to be right and we can even justify them.
But in the end, it’s undermining your relationships. It’s killing you. And we don’t have to look very far to see this is true. In fact, let’s just step back for a moment and look at the state of relationships in America.
Think about marriages. In America, there’s this growing pessimism in finding a love that will last a lifetime. Fewer and fewer people are actually getting married and you think about it, if you look around and if, on average, forty, fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, well, there’s a good reason to be pessimistic about marriage.
Like, hey, man you got a fifty/fifty shot? I don’t know about that. Let’s think about friendships. Friendships, we live in the most socially connected time, and yet, people are more disconnected than ever. Americans are friendly, but lonely, according to the Barna research group. Gen Z has been identified as the loneliest generation. Wow.
Gen Z that has grown up as a digital native, always been connected, and they are just hoping and coping and trying to make it through. It breaks my heart. This is across the board. One out of five Americans have no person they can talk to. Socially connected but completely disconnected.
Well, let’s look at family. The average family spends thirty-seven minutes of quality time together. And then some families will go, “Well, that’s a lot of time. We just hope to get that amount of time. Thirty-seven minutes? Wow! Where do you get that time?” And maybe it’s just the car drive because if when you’re in my stage of parenting, [11:46] I have two teenagers and an elementary school, all we are are unpaid Uber drivers for our kids. Just drive them from one thing to the next!
The average adult spends three hours on social media per day. Andy Stanley, pastor and author, had this incredible, poignant statement about the families: “Our kids are growing up experientially rich but relationally poor.”
In fact, as parents, don’t we want to give our kids the experiences that we weren’t able to get? And so, we spend so much money and effort and energy to give them all these experiences and to keep them from experiencing the bad things we experienced, which are, you know, the things that helped shape us into who we were made to be anyway. And, yet, they are growing up relationally poor.
Or let’s look at dating in America. Online dating has become the dominant way people connect and there’s nothing bad with that, in fact, a lot of great things about that. Over half of all singles have created a dating profile. The great majority of people find dates this way. It’s interesting, only two percent find dates in the Church.
Here’s what online dating, though, has helped produce in our consumeristic culture: a swipe-right, casual, non-committal, hookup dating culture. The rules of dating are always shifting. Technology and how we interact and what’s – you know, do I respond? Is it the forty-eight-hour rule? Is it the seventy-two-hour rule? I don’t know when to text them back! Do I wait for him to text? I don’t know.
And so, as a result, singles report to being extremely confused. Gen Z and Millennials, however, still long to find a love that lasts. Gen Z and Millennials say, “Yeah, that intimate, life-giving, character-shaping, relationship that has this rugged commitment? That’s what we want!”
And here’s what’s amazing. In a hookup culture, only nine percent of singles really want to date casually. The vast majority say, “No, we want a real, significant relationship.” And here’s what we have to face: how we are going about relationships is not working.
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” There’s a way that looks good, may even feel good, certainly sounds good, but ultimately is undermining the very desired relationship that you long for.
Now, some of you might be wrestling with me a little bit and going, like, Okay, Ingram, if relational intelligence, relational wisdom is so great, why isn’t everybody doing it? Well, I’m so glad you asked, thank you. Let’s talk about, I believe there are two main challenges with relational intelligence and why this is looked past in our culture.
The first challenge with relational intelligence is it’s countercultural. It’s completely countercultural. This is not the way everybody friends, this is not the way everybody dates, this is not the way everybody does relationships.
Let me just say this real quick: if you like the results that everybody else is getting, then keep doing what everybody else is doing. If you don’t, you might want to consider relational intelligence.
Now, this is just a news flash. It might shock some of you. Following Jesus is countercultural. Christianity, from the very beginning – not just like in our day – from the very beginning is completely countercultural.
In fact, Paul the apostle, when he is writing his letter to the Romans, which is this incredible letter, the first eleven chapters are unpacking the mercy and the grace of God. Like, this is what Jesus has done for you. And then chapter he shifts, “In light of all that God has done for you,” and then he says, “therefore offer your bodies,” or, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
This is your spiritual act of worship.” And then he says this great line, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” That word conform literally means to be molded. Don’t be pressed in and molded to the pattern or the way that this world goes about dating. Don’t be pressed in or molded into the pattern or the way that people just tend to do marriage.
Don’t be pressed in and molded to the pattern of how everybody is going about friendship. He says, “No, no, no. But be transformed,” literally the word means: allow yourself to be changed and transformed – how? “…by the renewing of your mind.”
See, what we put into our mind is of principle importance. See, we put so much into our head that just conforms us to the patterns of this world.
See, like, I’ve got to get into God’s Word, I’ve got to get God’s Word into me, I’ve got to begin to have my mind being renewed on what is true and right, “Then,” notice this, this is so good, don’t miss this, “then you’ll be able to test,” that’s that idea of testing the genuine – genuineness of gold, “and approve,” like determine and see, “what God’s will is.”
Think about this: God’s will is not that He’s holding out. God’s will is not that He wants the worst for you. God’s will, His good, His pleasing, and His perfect will for your relationships, for your life – like, God wants what is best. And you get to experience that when you begin to go, “I’m going to embrace the countercultural ways of Jesus and relational intelligence.”