Human relationships truly are the most valuable, meaningful, and satisfying of human experiences. But what are the qualities that make up a healthy relational connection? If you don’t know, then you won’t be able to assess whether or not your relational practices are helping to build and strengthen a connection.
Like a house, a relational connection needs to have specific elements to complete its structure, or it will be unsafe and vulnerable to disaster. As with all houses, building starts with the foundation. The foundation of a healthy relationship is an agreement to practice unconditional acceptance and love. Unconditional acceptance says, “You get to be you, and I get to be me in this relationship.” This foundation consistently supports the other elements that make up a healthy relationship–elements I’ve dubbed the “Seven Pillars.”
1. The Pillar of Love
The pillar of love is comprised of a commitment, an action, and a result. The commitment part is this: “I care about you and value you–all of you. I care about your soul, spirit, body, relationships, dreams, and destiny.” The action part is demonstrating care and value in many ways and in many situations as you get to know a person over time. And the result of these actions is that the person feels loved! They feel safe, valued, connected, nourished, protected, and understood.
2. The Pillar of Honor
Honor, like submission, is a term that has been misused and abused, particularly in connection with marriage. People see it as something that is expected, rather than something that is given. This is backward. True honor is the practice of two powerful people putting one another before themselves, empowering one another, working together to meet one another’s needs, and adjusting as necessary in order to move together toward the shared goals of the relationship. Honor is also the practice of calling out the best in one another. This can be expressed both in word of praise– “You are amazing!”– and in words of correction– “Hey, you are way too awesome to be acting like that! Remember who you are and stop it.” Honor allows us to keep high levels of value and faith in people, even when they demonstrate how different they are from us and when they make mistakes.
3. The Pillar of Self-Control
Self-control is at the core of being a powerful person. Self-control means you can tell yourself what to do, and you can make yourself do it. When I practice self-control in a relationship, I take full responsibility for managing my love and pursuing my goal of connection. If I ever turn my love off toward you, it is 100% my fault, no matter what you may have done. Self-control removes the option of blaming others for our choices. When two people show one another that they are able to control themselves on a consistent basis, they demonstrate that they are reliable and trustworthy.
4. The Pillar of Responsibility
When we break down the word “responsibility,” we find that it literally means “ability to respond.” A response is the opposite of a reaction. “Response-ability” is the capacity to face any situation and make powerful choices that are consistent with who you say you are. It is a refusal to run away from difficulties or any part of your life or reality that you happen to dislike. When you take full ownership of your life in this way, you gain confidence and momentum in making good decisions.
5. The Pillar of Truth
Like all the other pillars, truth is built through powerful choices, choices that are all about what you are going to do, not about what the other person is going to do. I don’t demand your trust; I display trust by telling you the truth. I crack open my chest and show you what is going on inside of me. I choose to show you what I am experiencing in my relationship with you, no matter what. Each time I do that, I leave you with good information, and you get to make better decisions because you can now see me. Practicing truth is a very vulnerable thing to do, but it is absolutely necessary when building any relationship worth keeping.
6. The Pillar of Faith
The pillar of faith is built in a relationship as two people commit to keep God as their ultimate source, ultimate comfort, and ultimate authority. The result of this commitment is that both people are able to govern themselves and access a boundless well of spiritual resources (wisdom, strength, love, hope, etc.) to sustain them in moving toward their relational goals. When two people are consistently pursuing a connection with the Perfect One, that connection will set the pace for their connection with each other. They will be learning to love from Love Himself, which can only bring the best into their relationship.
7. The Pillar of Vision
One of the marks of powerful people is that they proactively establish practices and build relationships that help renew their vision and remind them of who they are. When two people establish the pillar of vision in their relationship, they share the knowledge of one another’s identity and calling, as well as their joint vision, and remind one another of these things on a regular basis. When seasons of difficulty, pain, or loss come up, the pillar of vision strengthens a relational connection and protects it from being thrown into survival mode.
Do you want the highest level of quality in your connections with other people? Do you want relationships that invite shalom–the powerful Hebrew word that encompasses the flourishing of divine order, divine health, and divine prosperity in your life? Then I encourage you to go after each of these seven pillars. Examine your current thinking and behavior in each of these areas. Ask yourself, “Can my spouse or friends truly be themselves around me? Am I moving toward the people I love no matter what? Am I showing them the truth of my heart? Am I able to respond well in any situation, or do I react and blame my choices on external forces?”
Remember, nobody can manage your love but you. Nobody can manage your honor but you. Nobody can manage your truth but you. Nobody can manage your self-control or responsibility but you. And nobody can manage your vision and faith but you.
The quality of what you are building if ultimately up to you.
PS) Making changes in your life and relationships can be so much more successful and rewarding with the right tools and a supportive community. Have you checked out our Relationship Core track at the Life Academy?
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