Strong families can strengthen their communities and nations, and families are stronger when their emotional relationships are strong and resilient. Physical closeness is important in marriages and families, but both can survive and prosper when separated. However, emotional closeness is essential, and it can bridge time, distance, and numerous stressors.
How do we go about developing strong and resilient emotional relationships with our spouse, children, siblings, and friends? Dr. David T. Morgan that such relationships can be “a significant challenge” because there may be roadblocks stopping them. He stated that “In many cases,” those roadblocks are caused by fear – “Fear of being denied. Fear of being hurt. Fear of betrayal or rejection. Morgan continued, “In relationships, and almost any other growth endeavor, fear prevents progress.”
You may wonder how to overcome such fear. Morgan has the antidote, but it was provided by the Apostle John. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). Morgan claims that love is “an effective tool against fear” as well as a way to “build our relationships.” He shared “three specific ways to use love in order to grow closer to one another.”
Morgan’s first suggestion is that we follow the example of Jesus Christ. We “love first.” The Apostle John wrote, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We should not fear expressing our love for our spouse, children, siblings, and other loved ones, and we should not fear being the first to express love.
The second suggestion of Morgan is to “Love Abundantly.” It comes from the Apostle Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; emphasis added by Morgan).
Morgan reminded his readers that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us in such a way that they create “everlasting consolation” or “comfort without end.” We can never fall so far that their love cannot reach us. Their love is constant and strong. Morgan explained how we can apply this principle to our relationships.
… We express our love and affection for each other, through word and deed, with great frequency. Expressions through words include “I appreciate you,” “thank you,” “you mean a lot to me,” and “I love you.” Such phrases should be common and regular in relationships we want to improve.
Morgan’s third suggestion is to “Love Regardless.” It also comes from the New Testament: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). Like Morgan, you may wonder why the Savior called this a “new commandment” when “the commandment to love one another was established in the Old Testament.” Then he found understanding.
The Savior’s “new” commandment was not simply to love one another, but to love one another as He has loved us. He had to show us, by example, the way to love. His amazing life became a master class in how to love others, and He subsequently commanded us to love in His way. The Savior’s love is multifaceted and magnificent.
Personally, I believe the crowning feature of His love is His ability to love us regardless of what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how significantly we’ve betrayed Him.
Often times, our ability to strengthen relationships with others is hampered due to past experiences. When we have been the victims of the irresponsible decisions of others, we find ourselves at a loss of how to move forward…. As always, healing comes through following the Savior’s example. Learning to forgive is a critical skill for personal development, if only because it relieves us of the burden of hatred and grudges.
Developing love for everyone, regardless of race, religion, political persuasion, or past behaviors, is not only an amazing spiritual gift but a commandment to all Christian disciples: “That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
Morgan concluded his article with this statement: “If you want to improve the quality of your relationships, start with eliminating hate … resentment … bitterness and replace it with love and acceptance.” Love can work miracles in relationships. It can make good relationships better and turn poor relationships into good ones. If we follow the Savior’s example and love as He loves, we can develop strong and resilient emotional bonds in our families. With strong families as the core, our communities and nations will become stronger.