Identifying Goats, Part One

So what does a Goat look like?

Here are three of the characteristics Paul gives in 2 Timothy 3.

1. Individuals who think “they have it all together.”

These individuals will never admit any weakness. We know that relationships and friendships are built on confessing our weakness and vulnerabilities. Individuals who think they have it all together often will leave you feeling disconnected, weak, giving you the feeling you are beneath them.

There is often an implied superiority in the one who seems to have no need for other individuals. There is an imbalance in the relationship, and you often take the weaker role because this person will not allow you to be strong. You become dependent on the “strong one” because the weaker individual is attracted to the stronger one.

James 5:16 says, ”Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed (HCSB).” There is to be an equality in Christ-centered friendships that allows us room for give and take as we bear one another burdens and work together through the daily joys and sorrows of life. When one person dominates a relationship, that is a warning sign that there is an unhealthy imbalance in the relationship.
2. Individuals who are religious instead of spiritual.

Religious individuals are dedicated to God, Biblical knowledge, appearing strong and having it all together.

The question is: do they really know God?

Do they allow themselves to open up about their struggles, their sinfulness and imperfections?

Are they truly relational individuals?

There is a difference between people who are religious and people who are spiritual. Spiritually healthy individuals draw us closer to being the people God intended us to be. These individuals demonstrate character traits that are good enough that their very presence on our lives is positive.  These individuals are accepting and honest and are very much present in our lives. They help us bear good fruit in our lives.

We are intended to be in relationships, healthy relationships. God designed us first to be in a relationship with Him. Proverbs 13:20: ”Become wise by walking with the wise, hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces (MSG).”

Proverbs 14:7: “Escape quickly from the company of fools, they are a waste of your time, a waste of your words.”

Proverbs 14:12-13: “There is a way of life that looks harmless enough, look again- it leads straight to hell. Sure these people appear to be having a good time but all the laughter will end in heartbreak.

Galatians 5: 25-26: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implication in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Goats often push those around them to become more religious, to follow more rules or to become more like them.

Sheep walk with us, mutually encouraging one another to become more like Christ.

3. Individuals who have no problem saying “I am sorry” but never change their behavior

These individuals avoid working on their problems. Instead of dealing with the issues in their life, they shut off any awareness of their own problems and of the God who has the power to transform.

You will often notice:

  • Statements like, “I don’t have a problem, I can change.”
  • These individuals often avoid complete submission to God or His will
  • They refuse to own their imperfections
  • A refusal to forgive others
  • A lack of a hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • A lack empathy
  • They blame others

True confession and repentance involves simply accepting responsibility and then committing to a change in behavior. Those who apologize but always explain or justify their behavior are not interested in glorifying God, but glorifying themselves.

Goats talk a good talk, but don’t change.

Sheep continually allow the Holy Spirit to make them more like Jesus by admitting shortcomings and allowing them to be strengthened in Christ.

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.