• W. Austin Gardner

The Situation Principle



Take a moment to think about your relationships. Now look at the following lists and determine which words best describe them:


Volatile or Steady

Deceitful or Open

Selfish or Mature

Draining or Refreshing

Insecure or Secure

Manipulating or Accepting

Conditional or Unconditional

Breaking or Bonding


The column on the left describes interaction where the relationship fluctuates with the situation. The column on the right describes interaction where the relationship is rock solid regardless of the situation.

Anytime a person puts the situation ahead of the relationship, it happens for one reason: loss of perspective.


Dean Smith, the former head basketball coach at North Carolina, observed, “If you make every game a life-and-death proposition . . . you’ll be dead a lot.” In other words, we need to pick our battles.

If you are, or have been, the parent of teenagers, you know from experience that this is true. If you make every issue something worth fighting about, you’ll be fighting your children so much that you will alienate them.

How do you know if you’re making too many situations life-or-death issues? Answer these questions:

How often are you tense and upset?

How often do you raise your voice when talking to others?

How frequently are you battling for your personal rights or for what’s right?

If these issues occur day after day, your perspective may be off. Being in a constant state of agitation is not a healthy way to live, nor does it develop and maintain healthy relationships.

If you are able to communicate your love to those closest to you in the midst of pain or difficulty, you greatly increase the stability of the relationship.


John C. Maxwell, Winning with People: Discover the People Principles That Work for You Every Time (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership, 2007).

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