Identifying and Establishing Healthy Relationships

In October, our Women’s Ministry at church had the opportunity to hear an incredibly practical and biblically solid talk on defining and building healthy relationships. Data Vess shared with our group. She is a Professional Counselor at Summit Counseling Center in Chattanooga. In addition to being a counselor, she is a wife, mother, grandmother, and incredible friend and mentor. Data has been one of my “second mamas” for over 20 years, and I love that God has blessed me with her wisdom and love for most of my life.

Data has graciously given me permission to post her talk in sections on the blog this week as a way of sharing her wisdom with a wider audience. This first post will address what Scripture has to say about 19 different unhealthy characteristics that we should avoid in our attempts to identify godly people with whom we can establish healthy, God-honoring relationships.


In Scripture, God identifies 19 unhealthy or unsafe personality characteristics and gives us clear instructions on what we are to do when we find ourselves in relationship with people who exhibit these characteristics.
From 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 (The MSG): “Do not be naïve. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be:

  1. Self-absorbed
  2. Money hungry
  3. Self-promoting
  4. Stuck-up
  5. Profane
  6. Contemptuous of Parents
  7. Crude
  8. Coarse
  9. Dog-eat-dog
  10. Unbending
  11. Slanderers
  12. Impulsively wild
  13. Savage
  14. Cynical
  15. Treacherous
  16. Ruthless
  17. Bloated Windbags
  18. Addicted to lust
  19. And allergic to God

They will make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they are animals. Stay clear of these people.”

A total of 19 characteristics of unhealthy or unsafe people are found in these verses.

God’s instructions are very clear to us -stay clear.

Thankfully we have a way to guard against unhealthy individuals; by setting some boundaries.

We do not have to be caught up in their lives.

God has given us instructions that can protect us from their manipulation and deceit.

If you have ever been manipulated by someone to get what he or she wants, then you understand the emotional and spiritual impact it can have on your life. Valid research and findings shows the body responds physically to the emotional and spiritual impact of unhealthiness; but take heart, there is protection. You can learn to establish healthier boundaries—-you can learn to champion your own thinking, by surrounding yourself with people who speak, think, and walk with spiritual and emotional healthiness.

A boundary line is like a property line, it is what defines the beginning of one person and the ending of another person. Research reports that individuals who had difficulty setting boundaries as a child, often have difficulty setting boundaries as an adult. We are not born with a genetic trait for setting healthy boundaries, but we do have the ability to learn to recognize those individuals who will require us to establish healthy boundaries with them for protecting our spiritual, mental, and physical health.Healthy boundaries define what we expect from individuals when we enter into relationships.

How do I learn to set healthy boundaries and not allow those boundaries to be weakened or to be torn down? It is pretty simple; you learn to tell the “Sheep from the Goats.”

Individuals who are good for us we will call sheep, (individuals who are spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy, those who seek after Jesus and will help us do the same), and those who are not, we will call goats, (individuals who are spiritually, emotionally and physically unhealthy and will try to lead us away from a growing relationship with Jesus).

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes a time when He will ultimately separate people as sheep and goats, but He has given us descriptions of both types of people in the Bible for our help and protection in this life, and in later posts we will look at both types of people and how God intends us to be involved in healthy relationships that will bring Him glory.

8 thoughts on “Identifying and Establishing Healthy Relationships

  1. Love this! I don’t understand where we get the idea that we have to have relationships with EVERYONE. You cannot! It is impossible! Jesus was ALL about setting boundaries. Thank you, Bekah!

  2. Pingback: Identifying and establishing healthy relationships « A Cry For Justice

  3. This is excellent! I was in a verbal and emotionally abusive marriage for twenty years (have been divorced now for two years) I remember reading the Boundaries book by Henry Cloud. It was the first time ever I realized it was okay to actually set boundaries and not allow those destructive people to cross them. But when I brought it up to a Christian woman I knew at the time she actually said to me that no where in the bible does God talk about boundaries. She told God does not have boundaries. I was so devastated and started doubting myself all over again. And her words kept me feeling trapped in a destructive marriage thinking I had no right to speak up to my husband when he was abusive…I was to just take it, it was just my lot in life.

    Now I know better and can clearly see when someone around me is destructive in their behaviors and characteristics, and am quick to either set boundaries if possible or nix the relationship all together.

    • Amy,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am glad to hear that you have found much freedom, healing, and understanding concerning such painful issues.

      When people tell me that the Bible doesn’t speak of “boundaries” I gently remind them that the Bible also doesn’t speak of the Trinity, either. 🙂

      Just because a word isn’t there doesn’t mean the concept isn’t addressed. Jesus had a lot to say about justice and protection of the oppressed and care of the sinned against and, when they are open to repentance and restoration, the one sinning. Too often we overlook relationship “issues” and refuse to call it what it is; sin against a holy God and another person created in His image.

      I am praying that you continue to find ever increasing healing and freedom!



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