If you are reading this, chances are pretty good you have a relationship with at least one person, but you likely have more than one.
Husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, parent and child, boss and employee, and the list goes on—we are all in a relationship.
And each relationship has its dynamic that must be navigated.
The question is, how do you build healthy relationships?
Let’s pray and then answer that question: Dear Father, we are so thankful for you and your incredible love for us. Teach us how to be able to serve you in a more excellent way. Minister to our hearts in a way that can help us to grow into even greater disciples of Jesus. In Christ’s name, Amen.
One of the things I’ve been learning is that successful living must include healthy relationships. You can succeed in business, finance, education and even sports, but if you’re not focusing on building emotionally healthy relationships, you’re dabbling with failure. I’ve also learned that to have emotionally healthy relationships…
You need to place a high value on relationships.
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to do the work myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you’re worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)
Even though this story occurs in the home, building emotionally healthy relationships must occur in the workplace, school and broader community.
The goal should always be to build emotionally healthy relationships.
If we look at this story, the home of Mary and Martha is located in a Middle Eastern society. In this time period, they lived in a very communal way.
At times you would often see three generations living under the same roof. In this instance, we find that two adult sisters are living together. Martha and Mary lived in the village of Bethany, which was just two miles from Jerusalem. We don’t know if Jesus was going to or coming from Jerusalem, but the Bible does state that the stop at Mary and Martha’s house was unexpected. He just popped in, and the two sisters started scurrying about trying to prepare the home.
At some point, Mary left Martha and sat down at the feet of Jesus. When Martha saw Mary just sitting there, she became livid. It bothered Martha so much to see Mary sitting there that she couldn’t contain it. She confronted Jesus on the matter, and instead of Jesus saying, “yeah, that’s not right,”
He told her to leave Mary alone. Jesus was in Mary and Martha’s home, and they were having relational problems.
We often come from toxic and dysfunctional families and haven’t learned how to function well in stressful areas. We didn’t learn the principles of how to build an emotionally healthy relationship.
Learn to do the work.
It takes hard work to build an emotionally healthy relationship. Don’t be blind in thinking that healthy relationships magically happen. That is a Hollywood fantasy where a guy meets a girl and then falls in love and gets married. They live happily ever after and never argue. Don’t be naive. That is not how it works. I want you to understand that building an emotionally healthy relationship will require work.
There are seven signs of having an emotionally healthy relationship.
- You are exhibiting mutual respect for one another. You display honor and extend value to the other person.
- Genuine care. You truly want what is best for the other person and care about their well-being.
- You practice active listening. I’m not just talking about listening on an auditory level, but what I am talking about is listening to them on an emotional level. This is where you want to hear their wishes and expectations, and you notice what their emotions are as they express them.
- Building an emotionally healthy relationship is acknowledging boundaries. You recognize that you are separate people with different opinions and values that must be respected.
- Trust. Trust means you’re not snooping around and waiting for someone to do something terrible. When you trust someone, you don’t have to hide anything from them.
- Mutual support through encouragement, affirmation and assistance. Do you want to help the other person grow? That is a sign that you are working towards a healthy relationship.
- You are safe, to be honest. When your relationship is emotionally safe, then you know that you are in an emotionally healthy place.
Since God shows you to be the Holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 (NIV)
Paul is telling us that the work of building an emotionally healthy relationship includes showing tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. The interesting thing is that Paul tells us we must allow for each other’s faults. He is saying that everyone has flaws and that people are complicated. Paul says that you’re going to have to be okay with it.
You’re going to have to put in the work.
Building an emotionally healthy relationship takes work, and many of us want someone else to do the job. Jesus is trying to tell Martha that everyone has shortcomings and that she needs to cut Mary slack.
The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”Luke 10:41 (MSG)
Part of relationship building is learning not to blow things out of proportion. One thing I see a lot in couples who are struggling is that they often don’t respect each other’s humanity. If either of them falls short, they jump all over each other. Why? Because they don’t recognize that they are both humans. We are flawed, complicated and prone to mistakes. We need to make sure that we humanize our spouses, colleagues and family.
We must welcome honesty.
Is the relationship safe? Remember what I mentioned earlier in those seven attributes. One of them is to have safety and honesty. What do I mean by that? The relationship should be strong enough that you don’t need to walk around on eggshells. It means that you can say something without the other person flipping out.
An emotionally healthy relationship must have space for you to be honest.
The Bible is silent about whether Martha spoke to Mary about her inconsiderate behavior. But what we do recognize is this, if there is silence in a relationship, there is a sense of bitterness and resentment.
In other words, if you are in a relationship with someone and they can’t say anything to you because you don’t welcome honesty, then something is going on inside of you that is dark and ugly. It’s either going to be resentment, bitterness or hypocrisy. That is the death nail for relationships.
Learn to welcome honesty.
People should be able to be their authentic selves around you. However, honesty does not mean someone can be disrespectful and hurtful towards you. It means they can express their joy, goal, desires and wishes with you.
On the flip side, it means they feel safe to share their pain, frustrations and thoughts with you, and you’re not going to fall apart when they do. The idea of welcoming honesty is that we don’t see ourselves.
Often we don’t see how we’re coming across. We don’t hear our tone or see our faces. Since we can’t see that for ourselves, we need to have feedback.
But Martha was thinking to herself, “I cannot do all this work alone.” So she went to Jesus. She said, “Master, my sister is not helping me with the work. She has left me to do it alone. You surely do not think this is right! Tell her that she should help me.” The Lord Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you have troubles on your mind about many things. But only one thing is really important. That is what Mary has chosen to do. Nobody will take it away from her.” Luke 10:40-42 (EASY)
We know that Martha approached Jesus in a delicate situation. Jesus carried Himself in such an emotionally safe way that Martha felt she could speak with Him about something bothering her. It was personal to her, and He was able to give her honest feedback though their opinions differed about the same situation. He disagreed with her perspective. He was able to show her a different way of looking at the situation.
I want you to see that building an emotionally healthy relationship requires work and honesty. Sometimes honesty hurts, which is why you need to recognize the importance of mixing truth with grace.
Some of us grew up in settings where we tell people like it is. We told the truth, but it created problems. Why? Because of the way you communicated the truth. Did you regard the person’s feelings? Did you think about where the truth would land if it didn’t land properly in the heart? This is going to create bitterness, anger and resentment.
You have to learn to mix truth and grace.
This will take a lot of practice. Don’t be afraid to go back and ask the person if you hurt them when you expressed your opinion. If it is hard for you to determine whether or not to speak the truth or if you’re speaking the truth with grace, then ask God to give you wisdom. I am so thankful that Jesus modeled for us how to have a different opinion from someone and convey it in a way that doesn’t create harm.
You must make adjustments.
You need to learn to make room for the other person. Welcome their personality. Allow them to have different levels of maturity.
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41 (GNT)
Notice Jesus challenged Martha to adjust her perspective of Mary’s actions. He showed her that Mary’s actions were not evil. Martha was the one who needed to adjust.
Jesus told her that she was the one with the problem and the reason she had a problem was that she was worried about the little things. Martha was caught up in the perfectionistic role of host and was about to miss out on what was going on.
Jesus gave her an alternative perspective and showed her that relaxing and enjoying her time with Him is okay.
Sometimes our heart is in the right place, but our actions are not. We need to learn to align the two. Sometimes we judge people based on the outside and don’t look at what’s inside.
Healthy relationships require that you look at the heart and not just the actions.
When making adjustments, you need to learn to communicate with people in a helpful way. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but it doesn’t harm.
Hurt and harm are two separate things. Hurt is temporal, while harm is long-term.
When you communicate truths, ensure that you are doing so with grace. If you don’t, then you will cause harm.
Jesus was helping Martha understand the difference between hurt and harm. He was saying that she may be hurt because Mary didn’t help, but she didn’t harm her.
Jesus was teaching Martha that Mary’s actions weren’t of ill intent. Therefore, Martha shouldn’t try to hurt Mary. He wanted Martha to make adjustments.
So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 (AMP)
I want you to make adjustments so you can learn to minister to people and communicate with them how you want to be talked to.
“Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” — Peter Scazzero (Author & Pastor)
Just reading the Bible and praying daily doesn’t mean you are emotionally mature. Don’t think that just because someone has Bible knowledge that they don’t need to grow emotionally. Talking with people and building relationships with people must be honoring God. That is a great sign of spiritual maturity.
Let’s pray: Dear Father, help us to build emotionally healthy relationships. Allow me to put into practice the things you have shown to me in this message today. In Christ’s name, Amen.