Jill Armijo coaches’ caregivers to prevent burnout through excellent self-care. She provides critical tools that help caregivers create the life they want and deserve while serving others. Jill has found many who need an alternative income and has also developed a business coaching practice to help small business dramatically increase their revenue. Jill lives with her husband, Joe, and her dog in Eagle Mountain, Utah. They raised three boys and are the happy grandparents of two kiddos, a girl, and a boy.
We’ve all heard stories of the persistent, loving ministers (not-so-long-ago-AKA home and visiting teachers) who went month after month to the door of a sister or family who turned them away over and over. Then one day, the sister or family encountered a crisis, a change of heart, and they knew right where to turn. They allowed the minister into their home, welcoming their loving service, turning their hearts to the Savior, and joining the fold of God.
Wait, what about my story? I went once or twice, but the sister turned me away. I reported my failure to the Relief Society president and learned the sister had requested the church remove her name from membership records.
Ouch. So much for making a difference. How many of you want to love and serve, but find it difficult to build relationships that turn out like those touching ministering stories?
You accept the call to minister, pray for your families or sisters, call, text, visit, send notes, deliver cookies, and do all of those things. But you feel empty, bored, anxious, unmotivated, or unsure of the effect your offerings produce.
You aren’t alone, and you aren’t ineffective if you try, although you may lack skills or confidence. You might even need support in building your relationships.
Relationships Are One-sided
This article isn’t a how-to, go-do, or you-should guide.
While attending Teaching in the Savior’s Way classes, I noticed that my fellow ward members often noted the reactions of their students as evidence of the “success or failure” of their relationships with them. These sincere and loving teachers wanted nothing more than for their students to know they care, and to trust our Savior.
While this desire comes from love and hope, it can bring frustration and discouragement when students don’t respond or seem like they know their teachers care. It might not appear that students are developing a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ministers, teachers, and advisors wonder what they’re doing wrong. Should they include their families, sisters, and students in better ways, connect with them outside of class, or delve into their lives to get to know them better? Should they give gifts, bring treats, throw parties, make phone calls, or bend over backward?
You want what’s best for the people in your stewardships. But you convince yourself you aren’t doing it right when others don’t respond as expected. And it’s not that you want them to be perfect or grateful or best friends; you just feel like maybe you should do more to create a better relationship.
But what is a relationship?
Your relationship is how you think and feel about someone else.
Their relationship with you is how they think and feel about you. That’s it. God loves you no matter how you respond to His love and direction. His relationship with you is faithful and eternal.
You have the power to bless those you serve through your relationship to them in your own heart and mind, and in partnership with the God of the entire universe.
This goes for marriage and parent/child relationships, too. All the relationships. Do you know you can have a loving relationship with a child who thinks she hates you? Children usually love even abusive parents. That’s because relationships are one-sided. Your relationship with someone else is how you think and feel about them.
My relationship with you is all in my head. Right now, I’m sharing what I’ve learned that might make a difference for you, so I carefully choose words to express my thoughts and feelings. I care about my offering because I care about you.
Your relationship with me is how you perceive this article. If you understand and benefit from it, you will feel a connection with me, even though you’ve never met me. You can also think I’m full of hooey and not feel anything. That’s okay with me because my love for you is in my head.
You feel something for people who don’t know you because you’ve experienced them through their words or contributions to your knowledge, comfort, or decisions. You have warm, fuzzy feelings for some people and icy prickles for others. And they don’t feel any of it.
They might sense your feelings by observing your expressions or actions, then think something, but that’s in their heads. They get to choose how to think and feel all by themselves.
Why You Serve
Relationships aren’t tangible, even if you express your feelings about others physically through hugs and kisses or scowls and rude gestures. The expressions of your relationships are results of your ideas about others, not the cause of the relationships.
If someone you love is away on a trip for two weeks, the relationship isn’t suddenly severed just because the person isn’t present. In fact, some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder.
In any relationship, two individuals will feel their own emotions, not the others, and each person will feel different from the other. A stalker feels a close relationship with his or her victim, who wants nothing to do with that crazy person.
So, what does this have to do with ministering and leading?
You can determine your success in ministering and leading by noticing and managing how you think and feel about those you serve, regardless of how they respond—or don’t—to your offering. This is because in Doctrine and Covenants section four we learn:
“2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. 3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; 4 For behold the afield is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; 5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”
It doesn’t say the behavior of those you serve qualifies you. It doesn’t say that doing all the right things qualifies you, either. It says if you desire to serve God, He’ll call you to the work. (See verse 3)
Relationship With Self and God
You also have a relationship with yourself. Accepting a calling from God and doing his work is more about your relationship with yourself and your Maker than it is about how others respond to your service.
Missionaries may struggle with this at first, but they carry on, knowing they are serving Jesus Christ, even on days when no one wants to listen. They come to love the people they serve even when doors close and haters mock them.
You find ways to serve and love those you care for because of your relationships with God, yourself, and those in your stewardship, not because of their relationship with you. You have no control or influence over their ability to receive.
If you struggle with ministering or leading, nurture your relationship with God. Examine your relationship with yourself and build a connection with those you serve based on your love for them, not their responses to your efforts.
Pray For God’s Help
If you don’t feel loving toward the people you serve yet, pray for God’s love for them to sustain and help you.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9: 23-24
Remember, full-time missionaries develop their love for the people in their areas by serving them, regardless of whether they like them or cozy up to the gospel. Why should it be any different for the rest of us? Examine your relationship with yourself and build a connection with those you serve based on your love for them, not their responses to your efforts.