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The Essential Ingredients Of A Healthy Friendship

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Healthy Friendships

Barb and I have been friends for over twenty-five years. She can ask me the hard questions and expect an honest answer. I can do the same with her. But I’ve had my share of relationships that have not turned out so well. Some have been difficult; others painfully destructive.

As a Christian counselor, I see up close the devastating consequences of destructive relationships. Families are torn apart, churches split and friendships fracture. There is nothing more important to God than authentic relationship, both with him and with others. He wants us to learn how to love well, how to forgive, how to forbear with one another’s weaknesses and, when necessary, how to speak the truth in love.

If any one of these components are not present or practiced by both people (not necessarily equally all of the time), your relationship with that person will deteriorate. If left unaddressed, it may even become destructive. In this blog, I want to talk about the necessity of mutuality for a  healthy relationship.

1.  Mutual caring   This may seem obvious but we may find ourselves in a relationship with someone where we are usually the giver and the other person is the taker. I’m not talking about keeping score, but in healthy adult relationships, there is a mutual caring for one another’s needs, feelings, thoughts, and/ or interests.

Even a professional relationship such as a doctor/patient there is an expectation of mutual caring. If you are sick and need an immediate appointment, you would hope that your doctor would care about that and see you as soon as possible. And your doctor hopes that you care enough about his needs to get to your appointment on time and pay your bill in a mutually agreeable way.

If you are the one always doing the giving and the other person is disrespectful or indifferent to your needs or feelings, understand that it is not a healthy relationship. Ministry is often one sided and helping others who need our care is part of God’s plan. However, these kinds of relationships rarely lead to deep friendships unless they become more mutual.

2.  Mutual honesty   Not all relationships require you to take off your emotional clothes so to speak unless the relationship is an intimate one. However, all relationships thrive on authenticity so that someone gets to know the real you. Lying, pretending, twisting or manipulating words or events to make something appear one way when it is really another is dishonest. All types of deceit erode the foundation of trust necessary for any relationship to deepen.

If you are in a relationship where you can’t speak honestly about whom you are, how you feel or think, or what you want, then you, or the relationship (or both), are not healthy.  Ask yourself why can’t you be honest?

Women have often silenced themselves because they’re afraid that they will cause conflict if they truthfully say how they feel. I’m not advocating that we blurt out our ugly feelings at the moment of their greatest intensity just to be honest. That’s a lot like vomit. It feels better getting it out, but vomit belongs in the toilet and not on your spouse or friend.

Instead, ask God for the right words to share what’s wrong or to confess something you’ve done. Being open and authentic builds trust and joy, knowing that you are loved for who you really are, not who you’re pretending to be.

3.  Mutual respect   Like love, respect is a gift given to someone, not something he or she earns or always deserves. Each person is created in God’s image and, for that reason alone, we should show respect toward them whether or not we like them or agree with their values or behaviors. For a relationship to flourish, however, respect must go both ways.

When hard words need to be spoken, they need not be harsh. Speaking the truth in love is respectful, constructive (versus blaming, shaming or critical), well-timed, and open to listening to another person’s perspective, feelings, or opinions without criticism or indifference. Honoring another person’s boundaries, limits, and allowing differences to be freely expressed also demonstrates respect.

If you cannot safely disagree and have a constructive conflict with someone you feel close to, the relationship is not healthy.

If you recognize some of your relationships are unhealthy or even destructive, don’t give up. Do your part to turn them around by inviting and initiating healthy change. Barb and I have worked hard over the years to be transparent and honest, care for each other lovingly, and respect each other’s differences. Share your concerns and work together to change. If mutually done, you will reap the rewards of a great relationship.

To learn more about the difference between healthy and destructive relationships, see Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, or visit Leslie’s website at


Spiritual Listening: Six Biblical Principles

SOURCE:  Bob Kellemen [Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.]

When your friend is hurting or struggling in life, learn how to LISTEN spiritually. Use the following acrostic (LISTEN) to remind yourself of basic components of competent spiritual listening.

L Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). As a loving spiritual friends, you are motivated, like God, to listen for, hear, care about, empathize with, and respond to the hurts of the wounded. What drives careful listening is not secular theory or human curiosity. Care does. Christ-like compassion does.

I Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18

Paul (Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6) emphasizes the humble, spiritual, gentle, and gracious concern that accompanies competent spiritual listening. James (James 3:17-18), in a context sandwiched between the use of the tongue and the cause of quarrels, explains that wisdom for living flows from a heart that loves people and peace, a soul that is considerate and submissive, and a mind that is impartial and sincere.

S Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19

James is emphatic. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Solomon explains why. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Remember a basic principle of spiritual friendship: hear your friend’s story before you tell God’s story to your friend.

T Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “Apt” means fitting, timely, given in due season. As a skillful spiritual friend, speak words said at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason because of right listening.

E Exploring: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25

Both Hebrews 3 and 10 speak of encouraging in the context of exploratory listening. Before you encourage your friend, tune into, see, listen, and hear what is going on in your spiritual friend’s life (external situation) and heart (internal reaction).

N Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29

Before speaking words that benefit others, listen for specific needs. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). As you listen, ask: “What is it that my spiritual friend most needs? What are his hurts and wounds? What are her fears and scars? What wholesome words relate to her specific situation? Specifically, given his situation, what words will benefit him?”

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