Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. – Proverbs 27:9 (NIV)
Most people know toxic relationships hurt us, but is it possible for good relationships to hurt us too? Sometimes good relationships aren’t the right relationships, so finding people who spiritually encourage us and stick it out through good times and bad is one of life’s most valuable pursuits. Because, yes, it is possible for people with the best of intentions to hurt us.
Relationships that encourage deeper connection and well-being are just as important as ones that exist to bring laughter, fun and joy. Here are 7 essential ways the right relationship is so much better than a good one.
The right relationships go deep. In these relationships, you don’t have to be embarrassed to talk about things that make other people cringe or feel anxious. You can reveal how you feel about intimate topics like missing a recent promotion at work or how you still think about an ex. A good relationship brings laughter and someone to spend hours with, but the right relationship will “go under the hood” of your life. It will look past the external shell you show the world to understand the real you.
True accountability isn’t about holding someone to a standard or ideal, it’s about holding them true to their purpose. The right relationship reminds us of our true selves and helps us stay true to our life purpose. When we care enough about someone to challenge their thinking or encourage them to live up to their potential despite distractions or obstacles, a stronger relationship forms. A good relationship might give space to act however we want, but the right relationship brings us back to our real selves. This relationship also provides the acceptance we need to not go looking for success in hollow places that might require us to be someone we are not.
When two people feel connected and accepted, there’s no need to feel insecure. The right relationship is connected. In a good relationship, sometimes people are quick to abandon one another, cause drama or withdraw because they don’t feel all in. For instance, if one person finds success, the other person might feel jealous or take advantage of the other person’s success if they aren’t strongly connected. In the right relationship, people accept the other person for their successes and failures because the connection is based on similar values, expectations and feelings. A good relationship can be entertaining, keep up a good public image or inspire more attention, but the right relationship has a strong connection.
While a good relationship might seek to meet physical, spiritual or emotional needs—wants we all have as people—the right relationship will give in abundance almost every time. A good relationship might give sparingly, but the right relationship will seek to understand and offer support freely. The right relationship is not motivated by thoughts like, “What’s in it for me?” The right relationships come from a generosity founded on the trust that it will be reciprocated, but not necessarily the expectation. In this way, God’s love is mirrored in a relevant, powerful and unforgettable way.
Good relationships allow us to experience the joy that comes from sharing life with other people. The right relationships take this a step further to encourage us to grow through the context of the relationship itself. A good relationship might avoid getting involved in the tricky areas of our lives where we are flawed or need to mature. This often looks like avoiding tough conversations or one person or the other being critical of the personal growth process. The right relationships will not fear the discomfort of tough conversations or the process of developing character. This relationship can push through the anxiety that bubbles up during tough conversations and follows through with the encouragement to practice new habits. Both people grow together.
The right relationships show up even when it’s not convenient. A good relationship might ignore your text when your car broke down and you need help. These relationships can come from a place of convenience – if it’s convenient to show up, they will. The right relationship will show up whether it is convenient or not. These people are committed even if there isn’t anything in it for them. Their friendship and support extend to situations where they might not get anything in return. Showing up when it’s easy, on the other hand, is the mark of good relationships.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say, blessed are people who always say yes. A point comes in every relationship where one person must say “no” to activities or requests to maintain well-being. In the right relationship, someone hears “no” and accepts the message readily. It might sting as rejection, but the right relationship will not badger you to change these boundaries. They will not silently sulk or get angry when they hear “no,” though in good relationships some people respond negatively when a boundary is set. This can come from immaturity or the desire to control a situation. The right relationship will understand and respect boundaries. In other words, the right relationships feel safe.