This post contains three more ways to develop friendships with your neighbors. In a previous post, we looked at the first four, which included remembering their names, offering a helping hand, working towards a common goal, and paying attention. ⇦ Click here invite others to read this helpful post!
5. Keep Their Secrets
Would you like to know whose sister has been on national news for weeks? Whose family is Mafia? Who is an undercover secret government agent? Who is having an affair with a neighbor? Who is very rich, but lives simply? Who is gay? Who hates their neighbor? Who sunbathes nude in their backyard?
We have discovered that people tell us their secrets because they trust us. Are the secrets I mentioned above our neighbor’s secrets or the secrets of other people we know, or have known? Or am I making up these “secrets”? – We’re not telling.
Passing around this kind of information makes for juicy gossip and broken relationships. Don’t give in to the temptation to tell what you know, except in the rare instance where you have come across a crime such as child abuse, spousal abuse, or drug dealing. In those cases, consult an attorney or trusted police officer for professional assistance.
Paying attention to what is happening in people’s lives, whether it be an escaped dog, a broken water pipe, or sick family member offers opportunities to not only help them, but to also build relationships with them. When they trust us enough to tell us their secrets, being trustworthy and not sharing the information with others further builds and cements our relationships.
6. Weep With Those Who Weep
Whether our spouse left us or a family member has a serious illness or has died, wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus could show up in person and spend time with us? Perhaps He does, in the person of His followers. Can we be that person for not only our family, but also for our neighbors?
When we learned that our neighbor’s cancer had returned, we started spending time with her. When she told us that she wanted watermelon, we found a store that had watermelon in January. When she couldn’t keep down any food we made her lots of batches of “pear pudding,” the only thing she could keep down. We looked at her pictures with her and her husband – the church where they married, vacations they had taken, and other pictures from her life. We prayed with them. We tried to answer their questions about God. We sat by her bedside the night before she died. We hugged her every time we saw her. We cried with her, and then again with her husband after she passed.
This is a painful part of life, but if we only want to be with people in their joy and happiness, but not in their grief and sorrow, we can never truly develop friendships with others. True relationships require that at we weep with those who weep.
When we were kids, Halloween was our chance to wear a costume and get a bag of candy. My brother and I patrolled the local grocery stores and farmer’s markets looking for the perfect pumpkin for a Jack-O-Lantern. I remember buying a sixty pound pumpkin the October I was fourteen, carrying it over a mile to my house and carving it with my brother’s help. It was almost as big as my brother. We loved Halloween!
Even as adults we can enjoy Halloween. We carve a pumpkin, turn on the porch light and station ourselves outside our front door with a big bowl of candy. Where we live, most of the children who come to our door are neighborhood children, accompanied by parents. A friendly greeting, a handful of candy and introducing ourselves to parents we don’t know is a great way to get to know our neighbors. Next Halloween we plan to set up a fire pit on the driveway, surrounded by chairs and a table with chili, cider and plates of cookies, in addition to a bowl of candy.
People love parties centered around holidays – New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. As a former wedding planner, party planner and caterer, I’ve planned lots of parties. When we finish this “Getting To Know Our Neighbors” series, we’ll look at some ideas for planning a great party.
We’ve been looking at ways to build relationships with our neighbors after becoming acquainted with them. We’ve looked at remembering their names, helping them, working toward common goals, paying attention to what is going on in their lives, keeping their secrets, sharing their sorrows, and celebrating together.
In future posts we will look at moving those relationships to yet another level through group events, will discuss pitfalls to avoid and will discuss loving without an agenda.
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Joseph Pratt says
My name’s Joseph Pratt from Pittsburgh. This story is very interesting. I’m trying to break the ice with some of my neighbors here in my neighborhood. I’ve been able to introduce myself to various neighbors here in my neighborhood over the past several months. I’m also trying to become friends with some of them as well. Sometimes I find common interests with my neighbors also. One of my neighbors and I like to drink tea regularly … and also another one of my neighbors and I both wear the same Adidas sandals on a regular basis.
Great starts on getting to know your neighbors! If we’re to follow Jesus’ directive to love others, we must first get to know them. As a friend tells people who quote Bible verses to him and tell him they do it because they love him, “How can you possibly love me? You’ve never bothered to even get to know me.”
Christine Carlton says
I believe we are called to love others and therefore show Jesus in the way we interact with people, it is not always necessary to preach to them as often preaching without loving first will alienate people.
I remember washing a lady’s hair who was going through a very difficult time in her life and I remember the great love I felt flowing through me when I did this . I was the glove with Jesus hand in it. If we can feel the love then so can they!
Jesus often meets with me with few words but in His presence all my clamouring is stilled (‘Be still and Know that I AM GOD’). He is all we need and all they need too . His presence with us will speak deep within them too and they will know we have something different about us and then may want to ask questions and seek for themselves.
One of the most gracious things we can offer in friendship is to truly be present and really listen without interrupting, judging or even trying to solve problems. When neighbours feel safe with us and can confide and be real with us then they will beat a path to our doors because it is truly what everyone wants…. to be really heard and unconditionally accepted.
We already know each and every person is of great worth because Jesus died for them so we can trust Him to work in us and through us in our interactions with others. Listen, love and pray trusting in The Lord for the opportunities and changes of His miraculous interventions. We may be just one link in their lives so we need not fret or become frustrated or impatient when we are not used for all aspects of their conversion. We may not even see any signs of that conversion for we may sow, another water and another bring in the harvest but we all have a part to play.
Sam Riviera says
Chrissy, Your comment reveals experience and wisdom. Although Christians understand these issues in a wide variety of ways, you and I agree. We were once part of a large church that emphasized “presenting the Gospel” (personal evangelism) to everyone possible, in an effort to “get them saved.” We had seminars, classes and sermons on the topic. But despite the huge amount of effort and money poured into the mission, it almost never worked. Actually, it often backfired and people lost long-time relationships because of their efforts to “convert” the people they knew. Many of those whose evangelism efforts failed became discouraged and they often disappeared from the church.
The church gradually drifted to the idea of inviting people to church, and then it was the pastor’ job to get them “saved” with his sermons. That also didn’t work most of the time, and regular attempts to get friends and acquaintances to attend, or “go to” church also alienated people.
Loving others, offering friendship, being present, being a good listener, not judging and being a safe person in whom others can confide and with whom they can be real all can show Jesus to people in ways that they can see and hear. As Jeremy has said, we don’t need to assume it’s all up to us to convince people to trust in Jesus for eternal life. We may be just part of the picture.
My wife and I have found that showing Jesus, rather than doing what many people call “selling religion,” (we’ve also heard it called “peddling religion”) is something many people have never seen from “Christians.” I could explain what happens, but most Christians do not believe it, so I can only suggest to those people that they try it, and at all times continue the practices mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Christine Carlton says
Thank you for your encouragement Sam.
I agree with you and it is true that when we stop striving with hidden agenda’s we can relax and be friendly and open to divine opportunities. When we stop our own striving then we experience that Jesus’s yoke is easy and His burden is light ! What we do will come naturally or should I say supernaturally? I know from past mistakes then when I have tried plotted and engineered to get people saved or to come to church, or even to divert conversations to matters of faith then it has felt obnoxious to me and most likely to them too….. although they might have been to polite to say so! The Lord has opened up many opportunities but always with a person that I have something in common with, for examples from my own life experiences for example domestic violence, crime, dementia, abortion, tragic loss of loved ones, circumstances that He has already removed all stones of judgement from my pocket. His yoke is easy He has prepared me beforehand so that He can trust me with them in their distress. Paul said he always tried to find something He has in common with those He talks to so that He can reach them for Christ and in my experience that is the best way.