On a scale of one to ten, with ten being healthiest, how would you rate your relationships? I once asked church leaders how they’d rate their church. Most gave it a seven; I would have said four. I am sometimes humored when I ask couples how it’s going. He says, “Fine;” she answers, “Struggling.” She’s not smiling. Doctors diagnose to determine physical health. Here are clues to relational wholeness:
SPEAKING TRUTH TO ONE ANOTHER.
Dysfunctional systems major in pretense. “Honesty is the best policy,” but insecure people don’t want it. Pretending overshadows facing hard truth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” but fragile relationships can’t handle it. Can you? Can others risk speaking truthfully with you? Not if you’re unhealthy.
CONFRONTING AND RESOLVING PROBLEMS.
The Bible lays out processes for peaceful resolution. Some have neither the desire nor the know-how to close books by making the columns balance. They would rather build up a deficit in the emotional bank account. When a relationship with the boss deteriorated, Jerry viewed quitting as an easier option than confronting.
Tension doesn’t mean that something is wrong; it means that something is happening. But if we learned to treat tension as threatening, we react instead of saying, “My relationship with you is not up for grabs. How can we deal with this misunderstanding?”
When a friend in a difficult marriage went to in-law gatherings, he listened to people staying on the surface rather than dealing with painful issues. Unhealthy people avoid confrontation or do it recklessly. You need to have made investments into the relationship if you plan to make a big withdrawal, such as lovingly confronting someone. Otherwise the check bounces.
RESPONDING WITHOUT REACTING.
People who live by principles more than by the Spirit will tend to return evil for evil. They want to be even-handed. People of grace are radical. They return the opposite spirit, responding to God rather than reacting to people, one mark of maturity. A Spirit-empowered life is required to overcome evil with good. Our sense of justice kicks in when insulted, and we may choose to nurse the offense rather than forgiving the offender. Wounded people who hold onto injuries keep getting wounded. Like a sick person with no immune system, they catch everything that comes along. Healthy people have emotional immunity; resentment doesn’t stick to their soul.
SHARPENING EACH OTHER.
Healthy relationships combine grace and truth in a way that builds us up. We leave the encounter encouraged. Unhealthy relationships are often filled with sarcasm, dumping, complaining, innuendos. No investment is being made for the future. If anything, money is drawn out without new deposits being made.
I once mentioned in the hearing of my daughter Karis, then six, that I was short on money. She encouraged me to write out a check for some easy cash. I explained that I had to put money in to draw money out. Unhealthy people will overdraw and go from crisis to crisis. They must learn to make good deposits in the lives of others. Love is the answer.