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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
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. This is just a news flash. 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.”
The second reason I think this is a challenge and it’s probably the biggest stumbling block for many of us, it’s not just countercultural, it’s counterintuitive! It’s like, wait a second! You’re asking me to do what?
The path to experiencing intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationships is often contrary to what we expect. Now, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, and the ways that it means to follow Him, He talks about it, and it’s counterintuitive. In fact, listen to what He says to His disciples.
He says, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me,” which you’re going, Okay, I want to follow Jesus, which means I have to deny myself? That’s counterintuitive. “For whoever wants to save their life,” hold on preciously to their life, “will” – what? “lose it. And whoever loses,” or, “gives their life away for My sake will find it.” It’s counterintuitive.
And we see this. You see someone who is consumed with them, consumed with only their things and what they want and what they need and what happens is they ultimately lose their life. And Jesus says it’s counterintuitive. “If you want to find your life, lose it for My sake.” Give your life away.
He would say things like this, “The greatest among you is the one who serves.” See, we have to embrace that relational intelligence is counterintuitive.
Let me give you, return back rather, to the swimming illustration. There are principles of swimming that are completely counterintuitive, aren’t they? Remember back to when you were learning to swim. Can you think back there? Maybe some of you, your kids or you can think back to when your kids were learning to swim.
And one of the principles of swimming is to swim well, you have to put your head in the water, right? And you ever seen, like, a small kid really try to get this, it’s just so like, I need to do what? No! Our fight and flight response tells us: do anything but put your head in the water. I put my head in the water, I drown. That is a dumb idea. Hello?
And, no, it’s just like, you know what? It’s counterintuitive, but when your head is up, what happens? Your body goes down. And at very best, at very best, you can doggy paddle with the best of them. But you never will swim well. I have to put my head in the water, it allows my body to float and then I’m able to develop the skill of swimming. It’s counterintuitive.
And some of you are like, What is wrong with this doggy paddle? Nothing. Nothing! I just have never seen it utilized in the Olympics. It’s completely counterintuitive.
For the remainder of our time, what I want to do is look at an American relational belief that has informed much of the relational advice that we have accepted.
And the American belief goes something like this: I have the right to go about relationships however I desire and still get the results I desire. You know, as Americans, we are all about our rights. Freedom. I have the right! Nothing wrong with that, in fact, many of you moved to America for those rights and those freedoms and it’s like, “I have the right to…!” Don’t tell me what to do, I have the right! I have the right to go about relationships however I desire and still get the results, what’s the result? An intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationship that has this rugged commitment to one another.
I have the right to do friendships however I desire. Whether it’s being disconnected or just reaching out when I need you, and still get the results that I desire. I have the right to do relationships at the workplace however I desire, whether I’m engaged or disengaged and still somehow get the relationships that I desire. I have the right to date however I desire.
My wife and I were watching the opening episode of The Bachelor. Don’t judge. Don’t judge. The first episode is amazing because Bachelor Peter has watched his parents’ relationship and have this marriage, over thirty years, and he’s talking to all these women, many of whom he made out with on the first night.
And then talks about this love that he longs to get that will last a lifetime. I have the right to date thirty women at the same time, sleep with many of them, vote them off the island like Survivor, and then sit with the winning contestant – I mean, woman – watch the entire episodes back of how I did relationships with thirty other women, and then still get the result: a love that lasts a lifetime.
See, we buy into this, because it sounds good. It feels good in the moment. And we don’t want to believe that how we are doing relationships will somehow undermine the relationships we ultimately long for.
Two or three verses later, the author of Proverbs, from our proverb that we said, “There’s a way that appears to be right, but in the end leads to death,” says this, “The simple believe in everything, but the prudent give thought to their step.” The simple believe anything.
Now, what is the simple? The simple is a young person who is untrained, morally or intellectually and therefore, gullible. They are naïve. They just take in whatever they hear and go, “Yeah! Sounds good. I’ll do it. Yeah, of course.”
The prudent, however. You see that the simple believe anything, but the prudent, what do they do? They give thought to their steps. See, the prudent understand that all of life is connected.
The prudent understand that your past decisions not only follow you into your future, which they do, but they actually direct your future. And so, the prudent give thought to their steps. Now, this is what the prudent understands. When I take a step, it moves me in a particular direction. I take a step forward, I take a step back, I take a step to the side – I am moving in a particular direction.
When I put multiple steps together, now, I am moving along a particular path. I’m headed in this direction. Every path, every road has a destination. It is taking you somewhere.
No, no, Ryan! Life is all about the journey, not the destination! Fantastic. You’re still headed somewhere. See, the prudent understand, as I’m making these steps and taking these steps, these steps are taking me somewhere and I understand that all of life is connected and so, I recognize that there is, even though I’m enjoying the journey right now, there are results or destination that I’m headed towards.
And so, relational intelligence says I may have the right to go about relationships however I want, but I am not free to choose the results I desire. You do! We’re – this is America. You can go about relationships however you desire. But you are not free to choose the results you desire.
And so, as we begin this journey together in relational intelligence, would you take a chapter out of the prudence playbook and give thought to your steps? See, our tendency, actually, culturally, is not to give thought to our steps but give thought to other people’s steps, critique other people’s steps, talk about their steps and why they shouldn’t do what they are doing.
Let’s just lay that aside. Let’s just give thought to our own steps. So, let me ask you this question: if I continue taking these steps relationally, what is the destination? Think about it, if I continue to take the steps that I’m taking in my friendships, what is the destination? If I continue to take the steps that I’m taking in my marriage, what’s the destination?
See, we spend a lot of money on the wedding day and a lot of intentionality on the wedding day, and somehow think it’s going to be automatic moving forward. My counsel, when I talk to newly engaged people is: invest the same intentionality and focus on your marriage as you did on your wedding. Spend money on your marriage, not just your wedding.
The single best investment for our marriage is the counseling that my wife and I do regularly.
If I continue taking these steps relationally with my co-workers, what is the destination?
For some, you are flirting with an affair at work. You’re flirting with an affair at the gym. And you’re just going, “No, no, no, nothing has come up of it. It’s just a conversation.” And you’re just allowing little things and you’re like, yeah, you’re not at the destination but you’re headed in the direction.
If I continue taking these steps dating-wise. Or how about with your family? With your kids? Maybe ask this question just a little different, if I continue taking these steps spiritually, what is the destination? Like, how is your time with God? Is it leading you closer to Him?
What if I continue taking these steps sexually? What’s the destination? Or financially? Emotionally? Maybe you just keep giving your heart or maybe you’re withholding your heart. You’re keeping your heart from people. How about vocationally?
And for some, there’s – the way you’re going about your work is undermining the long-term relationship and impact with your kids.
And some of you are running and going and you never see your kids. All with the mode of: I want to have a better life for my kids. Your kids just want to have a life with you.
If I continue taking these steps relationally, what’s the destination?
Now, for some, you are wrestling because you’re like, Okay, Ingram, what about if you’ve already taken a lot of steps down those paths? What if you have taken a ton of missteps? What about me, where I’m at?
Think back to that definition I gave us earlier: an intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationship that has a rugged commitment to one another. I don’t know where you’re at but here’s what I do know: Jesus has made a rugged commitment to you, and it was displayed on the cross. And He said, “I don’t care where you’re at, what you have done, what your background is. I have made a rugged commitment that says I’ll go to any lengths to bring you into relationship with Me, to bring you into My family,” on the cross.
And so, instead of running from God, feeling this voice of shame and guilt like you’re not good enough, you just simply run to Him. You just confess, God, I need You and You already paid for all this and You knew I was, like, my brokenness. And You said, “I’m going to take care of it.” And You want to welcome me home.
And so, instead of going, like, Man, I’m just no good. I can’t do this. And go into that just negative self-talk. Go, No, no, My God already did this and so I am going to run to Him.
I love the person, I don’t know who said this, “Though I cannot go back and have a brand-new start, I can start today and have a brand-new end.” And that’s true for you, because of the cross.
I like how C.S. Lewis said it. He said, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road. In that case, the man who turns back soonest is most progressive.”
Would you give thought to your steps? And would you say, maybe you’re down the road – “Help”? I have the God who has made the rugged commitment to me who loves me unconditionally and has invited me and now I’m going to realize I’m going that direction. I’m stopping and I’m coming towards You and there’s no shame, there’s no guilt. It’s just, “Come to Me, loved one.” And He says, “Welcome home.”