Understanding Relationships – Get Healthy; Know the Three Hallmarks


By Gary Moore 

What’s the single most important thing you can do for your relationships? It’s a great question – especially if you use it to address your own marriage. What’s the answer? I’ve got several book titles in my personal library purporting to answer this question – or at least a big part of it. Titles such as “Sacred Marriage”; “How to Speak Your Spouse’s Language”; “You Just Don’t Understand”; “Wired for Love”; “How We Love”; “Time-Starved Marriage”; just to name a few. 

However, psychologists Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have over their years of study and practice whittled down their answer to two words: get healthy. That two-word answer definitely deserves some unpacking. But first let me share with you a longer sentence they use to sum up their position: If you try to build intimacy with another before you have gotten whole on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself. 

Why? Because nobody was designed to complete you. Not a friend, colleague, family member, or even your soul mate. Nobody can do that work for you. Nobody in your life is a shortcut to personal wholeness. They can help you as iron sharpens iron, but ultimately you are the one who must do the work on your own to become psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually whole. And when you do, your everything changes. Why? Because your relationships can only be as healthy as you are. 

Your relationship doesn’t necessarily need more skills, tips, or tactics – although those have their place. What your relationship needs most is something deeper, something stronger, something that has more to do with your being than your doing. Your relationship needs emotional health. 

You may be single or married, young or old. You may live a charmed life or suffer unthinkable challenges. Whatever your baggage or background, there’s one thing I know about you. Each moment of every day you are moving either away from or toward the person God designed you to be. As a result, either your inner self is deteriorating into something unattractive, or it is quietly becoming a work of art. You are either maximizing your moments or allowing them to slip by without notice. And remember, there are no neutral interactions with people – particularly your spouse. 

No matter your age, stage, faith, or career, all of us, if we choose, are on a journey of wholeness. It’s a process that never ends. Nobody checks this task off their to-do list. Nobody ever “arrives.” 

Being healthy is not the same as being happy. But you can’t be happy without being healthy. And as one of my college professors so aptly said, “There’s a lot more to health than not being sick.” Emotional health is more than the absence of dysfunctional emotions. Healthy people contend with depression, stress, anger, anxiety, and all the rest, but they manage their emotions. 

The healthy person is far from perfect. However, they are committed to seeing themselves truthfully. Authenticity is the key. The whole person integrates the good and bad, the light and dark, the pain and healing. 

The Parrotts say there are three hallmarks of health that have stood the test of time: (1) profound significance; (2) unswerving authenticity; (3) self-giving love. You can think of health and wholeness as getting right with God (significance), getting right with yourself (authenticity), and getting right with others (love). These three hallmarks of health apply to everyone across cultures and over time. In fact, these hallmarks have been bandied about for centuries. 

Speaking of the value of significance, for example, Augustine in AD 391 said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Speaking of authenticity, Jesus said to His followers, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” And speaking of self-giving love, in 4 BC Seneca said, “If thou wishest to be loved, love.” 

All three hallmarks of health – significance, authenticity, and love – are essential for wholeness. They build on one another. And they stand like a tripod. If one leg is missing, wholeness topples. Without significance, you’re insecure. Without authenticity, you’re phony. Without love, you’re indifferent. 

Let me give you an exercise that will help you become more self-aware. It may well be the single most important thing you ever do to become healthy. For the next week or so, ask one or two people every day (never asking the same person twice) a simple question: “Is there one thing about me that I don’t seem to see but you do?” Remember, you are on a fact-finding mission. So, if you think the person is off base, don’t become emotionally defensive. Simply say, “Thanks.” 

Make a plan for processing the responses. Sometimes feedback will be objective; other times the information may be viewed through that person’s own lens and motives. Ask for specific feedback, and if you deem it as useless, so be it. Let your gut tell you what is valuable – and remember that the nearer to the core of your personality you probe, the stronger your resistance will be. 

Above all, be patient with yourself. You’ll soon see your behavior more clearly as the false image of yourself gives way to a more accurate self-perception. 

Enjoy the “healthy journey.” 


Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He has a weekly radio program – Life Point Plus – on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. His website at www.mutualunderstanding.net has video teachings and other resources for couples. He may be contacted at [email protected]. 






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