A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35, NKJV)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10, NKJV)
Created for Relationships
We were created for relationships. They are not optional. Author and speaker, Dr. Gary Smalley, once said, “Life is relationships; the rest is just details.” Our lives are spent around and within relationships: child-parent; husband-wife; student-teacher; boss-employee; superior/peer/subordinate; and so on. As we age, we discover the undeniable truth that everything important in life revolves around relationships. And what exactly is a healthy relationship? It appears to be a simple question . . . with a thousand answers! To put it simply, people in healthy relationships edify each other and God in each other’s lives.To put it simply, people in healthy relationships edify each other and God in each other’s lives. Click To Tweet
Dr. Henry Cloud, in Necessary Endings, defines one of the greatest spiritual sicknesses as believing we are the source of meeting our own needs. And when a situation with others becomes out of control, our human nature simply places the blame on others. That way we can demand that until the situation changes, or until “so-and-so” changes, our problem cannot be fixed. Why? Because we quickly judge others by their actions (we know what we see), and we always judge ourselves by our intentions (we know how we feel). We don’t always commit to healthy behaviors or set healthy expectations of others with whom we interact; therefore, life breaks down.
Our Words Matter
Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Words are powerful. I once met an individual whose biological father spitefully told her she would be lucky if she made it through high school without getting pregnant.
What we speak of others and to others holds just as much power as how we treat others.
He eventually removed himself from her life, and though at the time these words were spoken she was a young teenage virgin, years later when she tearfully recounted that conversation to me, she added, “I don’t even remember how many guys I’ve been with since then.” She had sadly lived up to what her father had spoken into her life. What we speak of others and to others holds just as much power as how we treat others.
Replenish means to restore to a former level or condition, to fill up again. How do we know when to work to replenish an unhealthy relationship? If we have hope, we spend more time working on something. Hope comes from the objective reason that spending more time on something will yield a better result.
In H. Norman Wright’s book, Relationships That Work: (And Those That Don’t), he describes the four pillars of relationships. The first pillar is love. Jesus said, “You are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NKJV). We display love through our actions—acts of genuine kindness, consistently striving to please those we care about. When we display a healthy love for the people in our life, they can feel comfortable around us. The second pillar is trust. Trust is fragile because when we trust someone, we make ourselves vulnerable to them, and vice versa. Trust shows confidence because there is consistency and dependability. The third pillar is respect. Showing respect to others is a learned trait that sometimes fights against our carnal nature because it means there is an attitude of acceptance, affirmation, encouragement, and recognition given between ourselves and others. Finally, the fourth pillar of healthy relationships is understanding. Understanding means seeing the world through the perspective of others. This can happen only when there is frequent and open communication. These four pillars are present in every healthy relationship.
Remember that people in healthy relationships edify each other.
Some relationships have been battered and require a foundation of compassion and caution for the four pillars to stand strong. How does compassion fit in? We sometimes can confuse compassion with enabling. We compassionately set boundaries and have talks and give consequences to teach healthy expectations. If we just tolerate and stay silent, we end up enabling others and the behavior(s) to continue, which causes the four pillars to crumble. Remember that people in healthy relationships edify each other. Edification does not mean interactions are always pleasant and pleasing, but there is a difference between hurt and harm—between what is painful and what is harmful. Going to the dentist may be painful, but we know it doesn’t harm us. Compassion fits into all of this by dealing with the difficulty with the right kind of attitude and plan.
The Importance of Communication
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s a luxury to be understood.” Replenishing the damaged and unhealthy relationships in our lives requires demonstrating love, communication, seeking to understand rather than be understood, communication, rebuilding trust, communication, and demonstrating respect.
Did I forget to mention the need for communication? Paul stated in Romans 1:14 (NKJV), “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” Later in the same letter to the Romans, he instructed, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” (12:10). Always remember you don’t get to choose if you will participate in relationships, but you do determine how you will handle them. Will you work to replenish the damaged relationships in your life?
Chad Flowers – Pastor | Emmanuel Pentecostal Church | Mesquite, Texas | Licensed Professional Counselor
Resources and Links
Lifeline – a resource for helping individuals to cope with complex life issues.