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How I’m Creating and Maintaining Margin in My Relationships

“You know, you can trim the fat, right?” “Bro; I’m a vegan.”

And that right there defines the issue: How can I continue in a relationship when there just isn’t a fit? There are times and places where we need to be friends for a moment, perhaps even longer, but no one needs to be homies for the long haul. Here’s the rub: We were taught from a young age that we needed to get along with one another. The problem is, there’s a major difference between getting along and inviting someone in. 

We joke and say that Sarah is my lobster (come on; someone gets that reference). You may even say she’s my person (thanks Meredith). But not everyone is my lobster and you better believer you are not my person. And herein lies the line in the sand: there are people in your life that you need to pull full-stop. They don’t fit and they don’t need to be there.

I am not my children’s friend; I am their father.

If you’re a pastor, your job is to shepherd, not be friends. If you are a coach, you help your student athletes refine their craft, not go out for drinks after practice.

Maybe the water is a bit muddy for you. Own it. Move on. 

Those you are closest to will ultimately end up influencing you. Garbage in, garbage out they say. What you put in is what comes out. So let me ask you this, “What (or who) are you putting in your life?” These are your people; your lobsters. Whether you have ever looked at it this way before or not, they are by very definition, influencing you.

There are two major filters I use that keep margin in my life for personal relationships. 

  1. I only allow those who build me up to speak into my life.
  2. I cordially invite the toxicity to take a hike.

Just like my calendar, people are filtered.

  • Trust is the basis of all relationships, so those I do not have a trust-based relationship with are set aside.
  • I can continue to be cordial with those I do not trust, but they are get at a distance and not let in.
  • My wife is an amazing resource for me, as she has an uncanny ability to know people (discernment).

Allowing people to walk away respects all parties and will not prolong suffering. Now you can be you, with those you want to be you with. And because you have filtered the fluff, you have more space for those you want to “do life with“.

It’s one of the reasons I have always appreciate Dave Enns at North Coast Church. He’s always been crystal clear that if you don’t like your Life Group, you can move to another group. No hurt feelings; just not a right fit. As a Life Group leader, it hurts when people leave (this is something I need to work on – it’s nothing personal). But our group is near capacity, people share on the deepest level, we laugh and cry, enjoy our fairy share of food, and know where the door is if we need it.

Find your people and fix the fluff.

It’s OK to be you and just you. There is no need to present a fake persona or keep someone close that needs to be kept at bay. You can move on, and life will continue. It’s healthier for you and it’s better for them. Definition demands clarity in relationships. In a world of grey, some things need to be black and white. Relationships are one of those things.