Consider a relationship you are in. Your marriage, a team at work, a new or old friendship, or maybe with a doctor or contractor. Unless you're a hermit or recluse, you are always faced with being in a relationship. Some are more intimate than others.
Because we only have control over the way we enter and behave in our relationships, it is not possible to judge their success accurately. Yet we do. What does "a successful relationship" look like to you?
Again, consider a relationship you are in. How would you define it? Or what goals have you set for it? If it's a personal relationship, is it safe to say that one of the goals is to become closer and more intimate? Perhaps its a business partnership, is your goal to lesp up the ladder and make lots of money? Or maybe to grow the company to be the best in its field?
We can work hard, put in the long hard hours, make the money and grow the business and still not be content or feel successful. We can be fully committed and fully present in a marriage, and it can still fall apart. Why is this?
Relationships are tricky, and the more you want them to be successful the more likely they are to harm you or let you down. Why? Maybe it's in the way we define what success is, what it's suppose to look like and how it's supposed to act. Yet one person's definition might be different from the other. And that is where the problem begins.
Mother Theresa, the newly daunted and probably the most famed Roman Catholic nun and missionary in our lifetime said, "I do not pray for success, but instead I ask for faithfulness." This prayer can go two ways: our faithfulness to God and God's faithfulness to us.
Faithfulness (or unfaithfulness) is what defines us and our place in relationships, be it with others or with God. It not only makes us vulnerable but also gives us strength. Best of all, it keeps us honest, focused, and always moving forward towards a better goal.
Jesus puts faithfulness alongside of justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23). In Galatians, Paul writes, Faithfulness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It has and is the power to transform relationships to be more fruitful and loving.
The success of God at work in our life, and in the world around us goes back to the covenant promise God made to humanity and to all creation. The world, in my opinion, would be in worse chaos if God was not faithful to the grace and mercy of pure divine love. And it is in that faithfulness that still defines the bar we set as we enter into every relationship.
God's faithfulness towards us gives us the examples to follow and teaches us how how we are to be and behave with our Creator. As the product of such faithfulness begins to grow, it also begins to overflow in our daily lives; our marriages, friendships and partnerships, from the most intimate to the most benign.
By following God's example, asking to be faithful and not merely successful, we begin to live fully and freely in the grace and mercy that is given to us in perfect love by God. It is here, fully alive in God through Christ, we become more faithful to ourselves and to our call to love and care for others.
As St. Teresa demonstrated so well, harder we work towards being faithful to God, the easier it becomes to be successful in all we set out to do. Our relationships begin to flourish, love and trust begins to deepen, and fear (I.e., of failure) dissipate allowing us to live fully and freely as God intended.
Take a moment to think about how faithfulness can redefine your relationship with a loved one or a stranger.