The Simple Secret to Building Successful Relationships

I’ve been thinking about relationship-building a lot lately.

A few weeks ago I explored how Facebook can help you build stronger relationships. Then last week I had the honor of attending and speaking at Co-Lab, a conference for a diverse group of Christian ministry leaders including Nancy Ortberg and Kevin Kim (Menlo Park Presbyterian Church), Carver Yu (China Graduate School of Theology), Barney Ford (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship), and Dale Gifford (Barnabas group). While there I was asked to speak about developing ministry support, and specifically how to reach women. For me, this is another area where relationships are key.   And relationships require more than just connections or commonalities with people. Real relationships require thoughtful time and effort.

Real relationships start with trust.

Pretty simple, huh?  And it’s not exactly a new idea either. In fact, the human writers of the Bible had it figured out thousands of years ago as they described how to relate to our Creator. When it comes to our single most important relationship, the Bible exhorts us to trust:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:5)

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. (Psalm 56:4)

The flip side of this coin is also reflected in the Bible. We are to trust in God, and we can trust Him, because He is infinitely trustworthy. (Romans 8:32, Titus 1:2, Matthew 6:25-34)

So how do you bring more trust to your earthly relationships?

Build trust by making yourself available, showing up, and following through on your commitments.

I’m blessed to have many trusted friends, but one who comes to mind this week is Gabrielle Green. We first met a few years ago when Gaby moved to Dallas and a mutual acquaintance asked me to connect with her. All I really knew about Gaby going in was that she was very successful at her private equity firm, and that she was new in town.  I offered to take her out to dinner, happy to do a favor for a friend, but—I’m embarrassed to admit now—not expecting all that much. Boy was I wrong! During our first dinner together I learned that she was a woman of God, mother of two, friend to many, and a smart, humble, accomplished professional. I know now that God brought Gaby into my life at that exact moment because He knew how much I would need her.

Our friendship has grown steadily since that first meeting, and at this point I feel like I could call her about anything.  Last fall when my daughter Annie was sick, I experienced one of the toughest valleys in my life. Gaby came over one lonely, exhausted October evening and talked, prayed, cried, and hugged me. She showed up for me when I needed it most, and helped me pull through an incredibly tough week. That’s the kind of friend Gaby is.

Gaby is a busy woman, but she shows up when I need her. I know from experience over time that she is trustworthy. She’s the kind of friend we should all strive to be.

“The Speed of Trust” by Stephen Covey is a great book explaining the role of trust in relationships. In it, he explores the importance of trust in business and personal relationships. Covey explains that it’s also important to build trust in yourself: “Often we make commitments to ourselves—such as setting goals or making New Year’s resolutions—that we fail to fulfill. As a result, we come to feel that we can’t even fully trust ourselves. If we can’t trust ourselves, we’ll have a hard time trusting others.”  Covey adds that one of the fastest and most effective ways to build and restore trust is to simply start conscientiously making and keeping commitments—even very small commitments—to ourselves and to others.


Do you trust yourself?  What kinds of things help you trust others?