"Where There are Friends, There is Wealth"
- Plautas (3rd century)
In a sense, building relational wealth is not very complicated. To have a full life, you give yours away to others. A great teacher once said something very similar “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it” (Luke 17:33).
I regularly practice and urge people to continually invest in relationships. Life is unpredictable. I have visited people in the hospital in their time of need, and they have very little support to speak of. It’s sad. The only thing more sad is going to a funeral of someone who has not invested in relationships. In contrast, I have walked into a hospital room to see someone who is relationally wealthy. The difference is huge and obvious. Their experience in their hour of need is completely different. They have a relational safety net.
When I went through a desperate time a few years ago, I thought my life was over.
I feared being alone. I feared lots of things. I was in need of support. One of the beautiful things in that time was that all of those relationships that I had invested in over the years became a wonderful life giving support in my time of need. As it turned out, I was not alone. To my surprise, I had to turn down many requests just to have some time to myself. I had a priceless support system as I faced a difficult time, faced many fears, and became a better man. The people I had invested in made all the difference. It was like relational insurance, in a way. But that’s just a side benefit, not the real reason to invest in people.
The best benefits are not just for some day in the future when you are in a tough spot. The real ROI (return on investment) is that you create a full life to be enjoyed now. Your life becomes a party, in a sense. There is rejoicing, and laughter, and shared ups and downs. You live a life for a greater purpose than just checking off your own wish list.
Chances are good that you are already relationally wealthier than you realize. I didn’t know how wealthy I was until I really needed it. Sometimes we need to really look around and see the people we are blessed with every day, be grateful, and continue to invest in them. The payoff is immeasurable. But in case you need some practical ideas on exactly HOW to invest in people, here are a few tips to get you started.
Share your life and experiences with people. This is rather broad and can mean several things. First it means facing the normal fear of vulnerability. Open up and let people into your life. Second it means being real and authentic as much as possible and appropriate. My closest friends are those who are authentic and vulnerable. But I enjoy friendships all over the spectrum. Truthfully people are only wiling to be real and open with you to a certain point for lots of reasons, and that is OK. But go as far as you can on the vulnerability scale. We can’t live at that vulnerable and deep level all the time, so create safety by simply sharing life experiences together; challenge them to a game, see who can score the highest on a Wii Dance game, go listen to local live music, go bowling, dancing, whatever. But get off your butt and go be active, and invite someone along.
Become a collector of people. Be someone who pulls others together. Recently, we rounded up a few families and met at the laser tag place and had a blast shooting each other. We have had the neighbors over for game night. One friend of mine likes to invite people over for periodic wine tasting parties. Some guys host a men’s poker night. You want to know a secret? It’s not about the games, wine, nor laser tag, or any other activity for that matter. The activity is just a method to do the most important thing- build friendship. People long for friendship, but it’s not socially acceptable to ask for it, so we create activities of shared experiences where conversation and fun can happen.
Be there for people in their tough time. Don't just send a card, do something for them or bring them something that cost your time and effort. As the old saying goes: If you want a friend, you gotta be one.
Shine the spotlight on people. It’s not always about you. The drama of your own life can be exhausting. I find a healthy practice to be turning the spotlight off of myself and shining it on others. Let them carry the show for a bit, and be fully interested and curious about their life. Ask questions. Remember their names when you meet them. This is a skill I am always working on. Remember something about their life. Learn their spouse’s name, kids names, and something they shared with you last time you saw them. Ask them how that job interview went. Ask them something about their life and genuinely care about what they share with you.
As you do these things, above all you HAVE to practice actually being there (see previous post for more help with this). There are thousands of experiences you can share with others, but if you are in your head thinking about other things, then you won't actually be there for it. If people feel that you are really present with them, the relational investment is huge. If they feel you are not, you might as well not bother.
What I can promise you is this. If you invest in people, with authenticity and vulnerability, not asking anything in return, just being with them and sharing the moment with them… you will be truly wealthy.
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.