The following is a critical review of the article cited below.
Dykas, Ellen. “Close Friends or Entangled Hearts? Joys and Dangers in Woman-to-Woman Friendships.” Journal of Biblical Counseling 21, no. 1 (2006): 24-28.
The subjects of codependency and female relationships have been thrust to the forefront of Christian discussion in recent years. With the cultural acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, women who struggle with unhealthy relationships now have society’s approval to follow their desires to their natural, fleshly ends. Such unhealthy—and when we are honest and biblical in description, sinful—relationships do not occur overnight. They are the culmination of weeks, months, and even years of compromises and concessions in standards and integrity. Author Ellen Dykas points out that “lesbianism simply adds touch and sexual involvement to an already present idolatrous heart entanglement” (24). Dykas’s work addresses the recognition and correction of one of the foundational stumbling blocks encountered by those seeking healthy interaction between women: creating an idol of the heart out of a friendship.
Dykas begins her work with a personal story about the desire for heart-to-heart connections with other people. She points out that God created people to desire connections and relationships. Personal connections are how we relate to one another and how we relate to God. A problem arises when people begin desiring relationships with one another more than a relationship with God; relationships that were once healthy quickly become “a dark counterfeit” (24). The focus of this article is answering the question, “What is a ‘godly friendship’ for women?” (24).
The answer to this question is sought by first giving an example of what a godly friendship is not. Dykas shows how women “are drawn to care, to initiate nurture, concern, and emotional intimacy with others” (24) and how this natural tendency can draw them into entangling relationships. Dykas says most previous attention has been given to women making their families the objects of their idolatry. Today the focus has shifted more to “how women get entangled in people worship with other women” (24).
The summary case study given in the article gives a clear and thorough example of how a relationship that appears godly and positive can quickly become an entanglement of hearts. The behavior exhibited by the two women in the story has become frighteningly common within ministry, and while this specific behavior is the focus of this article, Dykas accurately points out that “idolatry is not active in only one kind of person, but in all human hearts” (25). After describing a clear example of a heart entanglement, Dykas moves on to discuss what the Bible says about such relationships. She points out that these types of relationships are addictive and easy to fall into because they often begin in innocent and even religious ways.
The second section of the article poses questions for the woman who may be wondering if she is involved in an entangled friendship. While there are questions to ask and Scriptures to read, Dykas does a good job of reminding the reader that it is an active communication with God that will ultimately begin to reveal entanglements and idolatry in the heart. After asking several difficult questions, Dykas realizes that the reader/counselee may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and she wisely points out that the purpose of such questions of accountability is not condemnation but restoration. She stresses that “the entanglement of an idolatrous friendship is sinful bondage and God wants to destroy it, cleanse you, and bring redemption to bear” (26).
Dykas presents a firm concept of an entangled relationship, and then quickly moves to discussing the characteristics of a healthy relationship. Much like she posed questions that would expose entanglement in the previous section, Dykas gives qualities supported by Scripture that show how women will behave toward one another when they are involved in healthy, godly relationships. The qualities discussed address the relationship between two women, the relationship each woman has with God, and the relationships each woman has with the other people in each of their lives. The theme of this list brings the reader to understand that a relationship, when healthy, moves each woman to a greater knowledge of and intimacy with Christ.
Sequentially Dykas has moved from the character of an entangled friendship, to the character of a healthy friendship, to step-by-step instructions of how to end unhealthy friendships and finally shows the reader how to enter into and maintain relationships that are both healthy and godly. As with all sin “that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), the steps for breaking free of this particular sin are: confession, repentance and accountability, open communication concerning the sin, trusting in God for forgiveness and redemption, and growth and discipleship through biblical study (27).
Dykas concludes the article by giving “five stepping stones that help in understanding God’s view for friendship” (27). These steps include intense Bible study, honest identification of sin, godly interaction with others, daily reflection and examination of the heart, and consideration of Jesus as the model for interaction with others. In conclusion, Dykas ends with this powerful statement which is the key to becoming victorious over any sin: “A deep-hearted, fervent love for others will only flow from hearts that have been purified by obedience to the truth” (28)! By confronting the why questions instead of simply examining the what questions of behavior, Dykas reinforces this foundational issue; all sin is a heart matter, and when our focus is Christ and not the things of this world, entangling sin of all types will lose power over the souls of man.
This is a well thought-out, solidly written article that gives clear biblical instruction concerning the whys and the hows of both godly and sinful relationships. While the article is geared specifically towards relationships between women, the biblical principles are given in a way that they can be shared in the correction of any ungodly relationship between people of either gender. The strength of this article is the logical progression and presentation of the author’s ideas.
By first setting up the idolatrous relationship, Dykas allows the reader to bring to mind a specific relationship in her life. Whether that relationship is a personal one or the relationship of a client, family member, or friend, by giving the problem first, Dykas gives the reader the opportunity to put a personal face to the issue. No longer is this simply an article in a journal, but it now has a personal quality for anyone who is facing this issue. Giving the problem first draws in the reader and encourages her to continue reading. As she continues to read, she will find the solution and the steps to ultimate healing and redemption. Those steps are addressed in the following order: here is the current situation, here is the ultimate resolution to the problem, and here are the steps to follow to get from point A to point B.
While Dykas gives many insightful personal observations, it is her use of biblical writing that supports all thoughts and opinions on specific Scripture. This is a quality piece because the author is not simply giving personal insights and advice but is instead showing that Scripture is the solution to the problem. It is quite easy to argue with a counselor who is giving personal anecdotes. It is much more difficult to argue with Scripture, and Dykas adamantly encourages the reader to use Scripture when dealing with sins of the heart. This is particularly clear in two separate points made in the article. The first is a point made in the discussion concerning moving out of entanglement and into holiness. Many people desire to keep a friendship that has been previously sinful. The thought can be, “But this person really is my friend, and God made me to have friends and to love other people!” But Dykas points out that while God redeems us individually when we have become entangled in sin, “this is not a promise that an idolatrous relationship with be transformed this side of heaven” (27). This is a concept many people have a difficult time grasping, and it is encouraging to know that the reality of idolatrous relationships is being addressed by biblical counselors today.
The second point that is particularly important in the current culture is to use biblical vocabulary when discussing issues with people. Our culture has given everything a psychological label and made all behavior and thoughts somehow the fault of our upbringing or environment. True healing can only begin to occur when someone realizes that they have a sin of idolatry and not an issue of codependency. Healing, redemption, and restoration cannot begin until someone recognizes and acknowledges behavior as sin, and changing one’s vocabulary is often the first step in that process.
This article is well-written, and can be used as a clearly planned starting point for anyone addressing the issue of idolatrous entanglements. If women can get their relationships with Christ back to a healthy standing, sins of the heart can often be prevented from becoming painful sins of action. While this article focuses specifically on relationships between women, the true theme is the relationships women have with Jesus. The steps to healthy relationships given by Dykas have nothing to do with restoring the sinful relationship; in fact, she clearly points out that sometimes that is simply not God’s plan. The focus, rather, is the relationship each woman has with Christ. When the focus is placed on Him and relationships with Christ are restored, our relationships with one another will be taken care of by Him.