Image for 'Ride the Waves' Image Credit: Dewey Saunders
Relationships Article

Ride the Waves

Developing healthy perspectives about others is the key to creating more loving relationships. By Michael Gibson

As the sun crested over Diamond Head and its warm rays began to pierce through the curtains of my hotel room, I instantly felt a feeling of excitement. Today was the day. Today, I would achieve my goal of learning how to paddleboard.

My family was vacationing together on the sandy shores of Waikiki in Hawaii. In the weeks and months leading up to the trip, I had one goal in mind: I wanted to paddleboard. I’m not sure what it was about paddleboarding, but it looked relaxing. Standing on an elongated surfboard, paddle in hand and looking cool in front of the bystanders laying on the beach—I could see the perfect picture in my mind.

That morning, I quickly got my swimsuit on and raced out to the beach where I found a tiki hut with several water toys laying in the land. And, it turns out, they had paddleboards to rent.

I said to the guy renting them that I had traveled a long way to experience the joy of paddleboarding. And, he said something I did not expect: “You mainlanders don’t even know the first thing about paddleboarding,” he barked. “Just keep two things in mind out there: first, paddleboarding is way harder than it looks. Second, don’t go out too far because there’s man-eating sharks out there.”

I’m sorry … what?

But, never mind him. I had one goal in mind: I was going to stand up on that paddle board even if I had to fend off every shark in Hawaii!

The guy rented me the board and I jumped into the water, laying on my board and paddling out—just like in the movies. When I finally got to a comfortable distance, I decided that this was my moment. I put my knees under me and pushed up into the standing position. Then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.

I fell off.

Then again.

And again.

For what seemed like an hour, I fell off the paddle board over and over again. At one point, I looked up and saw people on the beach laughing and pointing at me. And, I knew they were laughing at me, because I was the only one out there! Right before I was about to give up, a woman paddled over to me and asked if I was having some trouble.

“You think?” I said.

Having pity on me, she jumped off her board and began to coach me through the process of standing on a paddleboard.

“You just have to be swift and athletic!” she yelled out.

Yeah, right. Do you see who you’re looking at?

To help me even more, she swam to the front of my board, and gripped the front on both sides to help me stabilize.

Here we go.

“As I swam back to shore, I had this sinking feeling inside: I probably wasn’t ever going to learn to paddle board. And looking back, that’s exactly how I felt in my relationships.”

I tried what she said, but in a fateful accident, I pushed the board forward, which smacked the woman in the face. I swam around to find blood all over her face, and her nose mangled. I broke her nose!

“Are you okay?” I yelled out, trying to help as much as I could.

“No!” she yelled. “Don’t touch me! Young man, you will never learn to paddleboard a day in your life! In fact, I would rather be eaten by the man-eating sharks out here than have you swim me to shore!”

Sheesh! Harsh.

But she was right. As I swam back to the shore, I had this sinking feeling inside: I probably wasn’t ever going to learn to paddle board. And looking back, that’s exactly how I felt in my relationships.

Build My Life

I believe our generation doesn’t have the right foundation to build healthy relationships. I’ve talked with countless high school and college graduates who are at odds with their relationships. They don’t have a lot of friends and wonder why their romantic relationships aren’t good.

That’s exactly the place I found myself in. And, I’ll never forget the day I decided to turn things around and began looking at myself.

I began studying the things that my grandfather, the world-famous relationship expert Gary Smalley, had to say about loving others well. When I began practicing those simple principles, I began to see my relationships flourish. And not only that, I found that God began blessing me in ways that I never thought possible.

The key to healthy relationships is building a strong foundation first. Without a strong foundation, all we’ll ever have is just a perfect picture in our mind, with no action steps to make it a reality. You can have the relationships of your dreams—all it takes is taking time to build that foundation first.

A great first step towards building that healthy foundation is by choosing to honor our relationships. I’ve seen honor change so many lives and relationships, and it’s the thing that has helped me the most, too. But, when we read advice like “honor,” sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. After all, what does honor have to do with me and my life?

Choosing a life of honor is simply choosing to take a healthy perspective towards everyone. Honor is seeing the value in someone and recognizing that value daily. It’s focusing on the positive qualities of someone—the qualities that allowed us to fall in love with that person in the first place instead of all of the things that annoy us. Developing and keeping healthy perspectives about others is the key to creating more loving relationships.



  • Real Life Love: Saying Goodbye to the Fairytale and Hello to True Relationships by Michael Gibson


  1. What are some of the cracks in my foundation I need to address in my relationships?
  2. What are some things in me I need to improve?
  3. What are my goals in relationships? And, what are a few ways I can begin working towards achieving those goals?

Michael Gibson, the grandson of the late relationship expert and bestselling author Gary Smalley, is an author, speaker and award-winning television personality for a restaurant review show he created while still in college. From speaking alongside his grandpa at his conferences and growing up as the son of marriage pastors, he focuses on helping his generation into deeper, fuller relationships. He calls the Ozark Mountains of Missouri home.

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