Have you ever stopped to consider what your relational scent is?
A couple of weeks ago I ran into an old friend and they asked how the family was doing.
Rather excitedly, I shared that today had been the only day in the last two weeks that our family had all been healthy at the same time.
I should’ve knocked on wood.
By the next morning we had sick kids again, and almost every day in the last two weeks someone in our house has been sick. Our eldest daughter is currently on day four of a nasty stomach bug.
The problem, is that in many ways, it’s just “that time of year.” One person gets sick and shares it with the rest of the family. Then the kids head off to school, pick up something new and bring it back home. Playdates, church functions, small groups, a day at the park, in a single day we may come into contact with dozens of people. The cycle continues and the diseases continue to spread. Each interaction creates a new opportunity to become sick, something we’ve experienced a lot of recently.
Our lives necessitate that we live in close relational proximity to others.
As infectious as germs are, they are also not the only things we pass on to those in close relational proximity.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we pass along our perspectives, attitudes, biases, demeanor, hopes, dreams, and fears.
How many times have you encountered someone having a bad day, and after a brief conversation with them, felt yourself not quite as happy as before?
Our relational proximity means that we pass on key things about ourselves.
In Isaiah 11, a prophecy of Israel’s Messiah is that he will “delight in the fear of the LORD.” What’s interesting is that the word ‘delight’ is the same word and concept behind the Hebrew word for breath, wind, and spirit. But here, this form of the word talks about the the lingering effect of smell.
The prophet foretells that God’s Messiah will, in essence, smell like God to those that are around him.
People who encountered Jesus could smell the goodness of God on him, it was a powerfully attractive scent. They couldn’t help but to want to be around him.
The same can be said of us.
Our relational proximity means that we give off a ‘scent’ to others.
Are you consistently described as someone who is ‘gruff’, ‘angry’, ‘disappointed’ or ‘distracted’? Do people find it difficult to be around you?
Or, do people sense your joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and humility? Are others encouraged when they are finished being around you?
Look, I get it, I often joke that I have RBF (you can Google it if you don’t know what that is), but the reality is that living close to others means that we will pass something on to them. Will we be people who pass on life or death, goodness or judgment, blessing or curses?
This tension can be seen in all of our relationships. A tough day at the office puts us in a bad mood on the way home. As we walk in the door we start a fight with our spouse or fail to engage healthily with our children. The tension we experienced from someone at work has now infected our family.
If that infection isn’t stopped quickly, it can continue to spread.
However, unlike our physical health where we can only spread germs, in relational health we can also pass along blessings. A kind word to someone having a difficult day, a letter of encouragement to someone fighting a trying circumstance, or an affirmation of praise to our children’s hard work at school can do wonders to for both their short term and long term health. Those well placed words of encouragement and blessing provide both immediate hope and lasting resolve.
It’s possible, through our words and actions, to infect those around us with goodness. To, like Jesus, leave a lasting scent that people want to be around.
There are all sorts of books, blogs, and podcasts on how to get people to like you better. The truth is that people like relational health. They like to feel valued, important, included, and blessed by those they hang around. But getting someone to like you doesn’t necessarily mean you have relational health.
Relational health goes much deeper than “like” or “dislike.” Instead, relational health gets at the heart of what we say and do, and what we pass on to others.
Relational health is about providing others with blessing, encouragement, and a sense of joy.
Interested in developing your relational health? Contact me for inquiries regarding marriage and relational coaching, or small and large group workshops on relational health. This is a great option for teams, ministries, and businesses developing or changing culture. Email me to get started!