Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? Perhaps they bring back a memory of an argument you and your significant other recently had?
The argument begins with something small, escalates into a blame game, and before you know it, you don’t remember what you were originally arguing about. I will be the first to say that I have been down this road many times. And, as a seasoned traveler of this road, I am here to tell you that no one feels good after these arguments.
Everyone sometimes feels hurt, confused, and worthless, like they are not good enough for their partner, like they deserve better, or whatever other unhappy feeling you want to “insert here.” Nobody wins.
As humans, we are selfish by nature. We are born selfish. In fact, selflessness is a trait that we have to learn over time. Naturally, we think “me, me, me.”
“What do I need? What do I want?”
This way of thinking transfers over into our relationships if we aren’t careful. We begin to think about whether or not our spouse has met our needs, instead of thinking about how we can meet their needs. And, if we think our needs haven’t been met, we feel it is our duty to tell our spouse about how they aren’t meeting our needs and that they should “do better.”
This may result in myriad reactions: your spouse becomes defensive, your spouse spits back what needs of theirs you aren’t meeting as well, your spouse feels worthless, your spouse shuts down, or your spouse apologizes and actually “does better.”
Unfortunately, the latter is less likely to happen. What is likely to happen is an argument that escalates quickly – leading to both parties feeling hurt, angry, or even resentful.
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words ( Proverbs 15:28).
I imagine that if you and I were sitting down to a cup of coffee and I were sharing this with you, you would respond with, “But, you don’t understand my wife/husband! They don’t do (insert complaint here)! I need to tell them how they aren’t treating me the way I deserve to be treated!”
I would respond by asking the following: “Is telling your partner about themselves helping anything? No? Well, have you prayed about it, instead?”
Pray about it? Yes, pray about it. God calls us to be bringers of peace to our relationships and to avoid conflict. Remember that the power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
Every time we are complaining about our partners, we are speaking death to our relationships. We have the power to bring life to our relationships with our tongues instead. We can do this through prayer and by speaking direct words of affirmation over our significant others.
Next time you are tempted to tell your spouse what they “need to do” for you, try affirming them in that very area you feel as though they are lacking.
For example, instead of saying, “You never take it upon yourself to do the laundry. Why can’t you do more to help out around here?” Say, “Thank you so much for all that you do to keep our house in order. I appreciate you!”
Those powerful words just spoke the actions into your spouse that you wish to see more often. Then, in your private prayer time, ask The Lord to show your partner how important it is to you that he or she pitch in around the house.
God cares about the small details. And, He will honor you for coming to Him instead of igniting a quarrel in the relationship.
After praying, serve. Serve your spouse. Remember, that is what God calls us to do in our marriage. Marriage is just two people who are servants in love.
If you are wondering how you are supposed to serve your spouse, it is written right here in Colossians 3:18-19:
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting with the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
When you serve your spouse, you fill them up with the love of the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and when we are filled with the fruits of the Spirit, our relationships will result in less conflict.
Friends, marriage and relationships are hard work. It takes hard work to decide to be selfless every day. It takes hard work to serve your spouse when it is very possible that your own needs haven’t been met.
It takes work to pray for your spouse when you’re in the heat of an argument. It takes work to choose NOT to say something the next time you feel frustrated or conflicted. But, that work is so worth it. Take it from someone who’s been there.
I used to choose the selfish route. Now, I choose the selfless route. And, as a result, I am more in love with my husband today than I was when I married him.
Given how often public schools fail black children, the allure of a “college prep” school – even if it is in a nontraditional school environment – becomes easy to understand. A school like that is seen not only as an alternative to the regular public schools but as the doorway to the most elite educational institutions of higher education in the nation – and all that earning a degree from one of those institutions entails.
Gateway to elite schools
And so it was with T.M. Landry College Prep – an independent private school located in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. The school doesn’t list race or ethnicity in its student profile. However, promotional materials and news reports suggest the majority of the student body is black.
The school began to garner widespread attention in 2017 after students and school officials posted a series of videos of Landry students being accepted into some of the nation’s top colleges and universities – including Ivy League schools. The image of elated black students clad in college sweatshirts as they learned they had been accepted into the likes of Harvard and Yale made for striking theater.
T.M. Landry had seemingly cemented its status as a model school for black students who hail from families that were struggling to make ends meet.
Beset by allegations
Unfortunately, it now appears that this dream school was actually a nightmare.
As reported by The New York Times, the husband-and-wife co-founders of the school – Michael and Tracey Landry – allegedly falsified student transcripts and exaggerated or lied about students’ life stories in order to make them more attractive to college admission committees looking to diversify their student bodies.
People are rightly incensed about what the students at T.M. Landry reportedly had to endure.
Beyond the allegations of abuse, there were also academic practices that raise serious questions about T.M. Landry’s approach to educational success. For instance, the high school students spent an excessive amount of time on ACT practice tests – “day after day,” according to The New York Times.
“If it wasn’t on the ACT, I didn’t know it,” Bryson Sassau, a T.M. Landry student who took the ACT three times, told The New York Times as he lamented how ill prepared he was for college.
Rethinking education’s purpose
But even if Sassou and his fellow students at Landry had been prepared for college, would that necessarily make T.M. Landry a good school for black students?
As one of many scholars who studies the interplay of race, culture and education, I believe the true measure of a school’s worth is not the extent to which its students get accepted into elite institutions. But rather, I’d measure a school by the degree to which it inspires students to engage in collective efforts to improve the human condition.
In fairness, T.M. Landry College Prep’s creed includes a line that states: “Commitment to the betterment of self and society as a whole.” The degree to which the school infused that into its daily coursework is questionable.
Educational researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings has questioned the overemphasis on test scores. She has stressed the need reframe the way society thinks about education – to go from focusing on the so-called “achievement gap” to an “education debt” that reflects how much more should be invested in the education of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I have stressed the need to focus not on achievement gaps but rather on “opportunity gaps” that show inequities in systems, structures and practices, among other factors, that can prevent children from reaching their potential.
Given the unique history that evolves from America’s “peculiar institution” – slavery – and the many ways in which it has impacted black identity, education must also equip black students with knowledge and skills they need to analyze, critique, question and write about the ways in which they’ve been miseducated.
Even at its best – that is, even if the school wasn’t facing allegations of abuse or that it doctored student transcripts and came up with fake sob stories to get them into college – if the school’s focus was primarily concerned with test prep, T.M. Landry was not a truly transformative school that black students need and deserve.
True transformative schools don’t just work to help black students better fit into the existing educational and social system. They don’t want to just contribute another “beat the odds” story about how so called “merit” and “hard work” can help them overcome centuries and decades of class and race inequity and oppression.
Education, on the other hand, is an emancipatory process of lifelong learning that enables students to study and read the broader society and work to disrupt injustice.
Schools like T.M. Landry that just want to “school” black students well enough to get into the Ivy Leagues so that they can earn a degree, acquire material things and the trappings of success – all the while fitting into the existing power structure – are problematic. Such schools may appeal to black families because of their negative experiences in traditional public schools, but they don’t really enable students to challenge the status quo.
Indeed, as Audre Lorde has argued, the “master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” And as James Baldwin has stressed in his famous “Talk to Teachers,” during these times of anti-blackness, racism, xenophobia and discrimination writ large, it is time to “go for broke” in order to teach black children to break out of the existing social order. In order to do that, educators must radically shift what education is – and who decides what counts as academic and social success.
As of the publication of this article, the school’s co-founders, Michael and Tracey Landry, had stepped down from the school’s board but will continue to teach at the school.
I seriously dated a brother in Christ last year who happened to be a divorcée. Before then, I never thought much about divorce–let alone remarriage. Frankly, I didn’t know what either of these meant from a faith-based perspective.
I honestly didn’t think it mattered.
Yet, as I began to pray, study God’s word and talk with Christian peers who have experienced divorce and remarriage, I came to realize that my courtship could not move toward matrimony.
Don’t get me wrong. Being divorced isn’t an automatic deal-breaker for me. But I do believe there are important spiritual and practical matters to consider when dating Christians who have been previously married.
KNOW WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT DIVORCE
God tells us in no uncertain terms that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). God’s perfect will is that divorce never occurs because husband and wife are ONE flesh in His eyes (Matthew 19:3-6). It is His intention that marriage be for life and that no man separate what He has joined together. Ultimately, the law of marriage is a bond that should only be broken by death (1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2).
CONSIDER THE STATISTICS
Statistics show that remarriages have a higher fail rate. While 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, the number rises to 67 percent for second marriages (and 73 percent for third marriages). These increases are due to remarriages entered into on the rebound, spousal comparisons, children, and individuals not being fully healed from their previous unions.
These stats don’t mean a remarriage can’t succeed. But you must know what you’re up against so that you can watch for the stumbling blocks; then proceed with wisdom, caution, and lots of prayer.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO
Marriage is a blessing, but as my friend Trish admits, “It’s hard.” This is especially the case with remarriages involving young children, she says. In fact, she finds the experience of her second marriage to be more challenging than her first. “No matter how bad a [first] marriage is–yes, even with adultery–when children are involved, it is best to forgive and reconcile [with your first spouse] than to remarry and try to blend a family in a new marriage,” Trish says when thinking of her own situation.
My friend Kathy, on the other hand, shares that her second marriage has been restorative. “My first marriage was a nightmare,” she recalls. Kathy’s first husband was unfaithful, abusive and manipulative. She was extremely reluctant to remarry after him.
When she met the man who would become her second husband, she thoroughly examined his character and was eventually won over by his faith in Christ and kind spirit.“He took to my children like they were his own, and my family loved him,” she says. “I fought remarriage until they wore me out.”
And after he proposed? “The ring stayed in the box for six months until God told me to stop acting silly.”
Yes, Christians should date with the intention to marry. Nevertheless, marriage isn’t possible if your intended belongs to another in God’s eyes. As we date those who have been previously married, ask questions to learn where they stand with Christ and in their previous marriages. Then, seek the Lord to determine if you would be permitted and willing to stand with them in holy matrimony—until death.
E.Y.S., or “Explain Your Singleness,” is a social epidemic that largely plagues Christian singles. However, it most aggressively attacks all singles during the holiday season.
According to my non-scientific opinion, an estimated 99.9%* of single men and women are forced to explain their relationship status to at least one well-meaning family member each year during the holidays. Of this number, 83.6%* of singles are mercilessly interrogated about their love lives during family functions.
E.Y.S. often strikes without warning, and it can present a stressful scenario for unsuspecting singles who only want to enjoy time with loved ones and maybe even collect a couple of “to-go” plates.
If E.Y.S. has plagued your existence every holiday season, you may be pleased to know that there is a solution to the madness: Tell the truth. And, by “Truth” I mean the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes, that is correct. The symptoms of E.Y.S. can be overcome with retorts encompassing the Truth of Jesus Christ. As they inquire about your relationship status with another individual, use these opportunities to inquire about their relationship status with Jesus. It’s only fair, and it’s a win-win scenario, right?
At best, your entire family gets saved. At worst, no one will care to bother you about your relationship status ever again!
To help you prepare, a few sample questions and responses are provided below:
So, when are you getting married?
Technically, as a Christian, I am already married. Did you know that the institution of marriage is a natural model for the spiritual union between Christ and the Church? All who wish to be part of this union are welcome if they confess and accept Jesus Christ into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. Would you like to say, “I do” to Christ today?
Why are you still single?
Actually, I haven’t been “single” (use air quotes) since I became a Christian. As Christians, we are one body but have many members. Would you like to join us?
Have you tried Christian Mingle?
Why, yes! I do mingle with other Christians. We call it “fellowship.” We come together often to praise and worship God, study His word, pray together, socialize, eat…all of that good stuff. You should join me at our next “mingle.” Would you like to attend this week’s Bible study or worship service?
You’re not getting any younger. Aren’t you ready to settle down?
I know! I age by the day! But I’m grateful that, through Christ, I am renewed and have eternal life. As a believer, I have been born again and, when Christ returns, I will receive an incorruptible body that will never age. I also won’t be prone to sickness, disease or death and I will rule with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom and dwell with God forever. You can, too! Are you ready to repent and settle your faith in Christ?
Aren’t you afraid of dying alone?
I’m not afraid of dying under any circumstance. Absence from the body is to be present with the Lord. Knowing that I will be resurrected to eternal life with Christ is reassurance that death won’t be a permanent state for me as a believer. Are you afraid of dying? You don’t have to be if you give your life to Christ.
This piece was written in jest, but underscores a valid point. “E.Y.S.” unwittingly tempts singles to place more emphasis on finding a mate than nurturing a relationship with Christ. Such pressures prompt discontentment and anxiousness as we focus on more worldly cares than what we already have in Jesus.
As with all believers, Christian singles must be content in whatever state we’re in and be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:11; Matthew 6:31). We are in a blessed position to devote our undivided attention to the things of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). When we gain a spouse, our families will be the FIRST to know! But we are already in a fulfilling, committed relationship. So the more one cares to know our relationship status, the more they invite us to share Christ.
Black womanhood as of late has received a much-needed and long-overdue boost. Increased conversations and initiatives among black and mainstream media alike have moved the needle on the gauge of black women’s images toward change and positivity. Now it’s time to expand the dialogue to include black motherhood.
Defying black motherhood stereotyping is not just so that we can look better on television and in films. Our living above others’ ignorance will break down the walls dividing all black mothers, release us from the mental and emotional strain of constantly defending ourselves, and empower us to bring large-scale change to this country—all for the health, safety, and success of our precious and beautiful children.
It stands to reason that the public image of black mothers is an extension of the opinions held about black women. The Jezebel stereotype of black women being sexually promiscuous yields the stereotype of all black moms being hyper-fertile baby-making machines. The reality is that we have a proportionate share of women who struggle with infertility. Similarly, the prevailing misconception that black women are angry, masculine, and sharp-tongued translates to an image of black mothers being emotionally distant and stoic, harsh disciplinarians, and understandably unmarried or without committed relationships. And just as the perceptions of black women are complicated, so they are also of black motherhood. Kimberly Seals Allers, founder of the mom and parenting site for women of color, MochaManual.com, and national black breastfeeding advocate, accurately describes the true paradox of the black maternal role: “…[B]lack women are somehow viewed as perfectly capable and desirable for taking care of other people’s children, but yet viewed as incapable of taking care of our own.” Mammy, not mommy, seems to be others’ preferred label for us.
Much of the stereotyping of black motherhood stems from the prevalence of single mothers in our community. Public discourse often reveals that black motherhood is assumed to be single motherhood and thus any pathology thought to be associated with single moms is automatically transferred to moms generally. “…[N]on-blacks don’t know who we are. So they think women like Michelle Obama—educated, married, devoted mother—are anomalies, instead of understanding that there are scores of black mothers who are this norm and a relative minority who have been amplified into the stereotype”, says Seals Allers. This type of over-generalization has caused internal divisions to arise within the black community itself. Married moms don’t want to be collapsed into the stereotype, and single mothers are tired of having all the ills of the black community laid at their feet. Even the black church feeds into the negativity projected onto black motherhood. Undoubtedly, it is right for the church to speak truth about non-marital childbearing, but in the case of our single moms, the traditional adage, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t seem to apply, as illustrated by Pastor Marvin Winans’ refusal to bless the child of a single mother in the church’s dedication ceremony. Charity Grace could bring her child for a private blessing ceremony but was informed that Winans “does not bless children of unmarried mothers in front of his congregation.” Considering Winans’ own challenge of having to address allegations of infidelity and fathering a son out of wedlock, the irony of his pronouncement was not lost on many, including Stacia Brown, founder of Beyond Baby Mamas, a blog and initiative that provides a space for conversations among single mothers of color. Ms. Brown understands the stigma surrounding black motherhood, especially single mothers, and offers this insight:
A woman’s circumstances around single motherhood rarely [matter]. …I think the conversation about single mothers in the church should start there. Do we know who we’re stigmatizing? Do we know her story? Shouldn’t we extend grace regardless?
Indeed, a powerful starting point for changing public perceptions and stereotypes of black motherhood is an honest look at our own minds and hearts. How can we credibly critique others’ mishandling of us if we mishandle, judge, and excoriate ourselves? Do we believe our mothers are lazy, neglectful, and inept? Some of us might be, but aren’t we allowed diversity within our ranks, just like any other demographic group? We won’t all be Claire Huxtable; some of us will be Mary Lee Johnston. Showing ourselves grace, kindness, and compassion is an important self-care tactic in an overall resistance strategy. Another prong of our strategy should be to actively rebut the misrecognitions where, how, and to the extent we can. Brown makes a good point when she says, “Taking on all critics can be exhausting and it makes for a relentlessly defensive life. My personal approach, outside of my Beyond Baby Mamas efforts, is to be the absolute best mother I can be. Providing your child with a great family life won’t completely silence critics, but it’s the best counter-argument we can make.” Seals Allers echoes a similar sentiment when she suggests that we are experiencing image management fatigue and just want to focus on being the best mothers we can for our children. Personal excellence is a workable strategy to relieve the internal stress, and this is important because chronic stress seriously impacts our mental and emotional health, thereby affecting all of our relationships. But allowing so much wrong information and degrading imagery about our lives to persist is also damaging and hinders our needed involvement in critical cultural conversations and policy development.
If in fact, black moms are tired of waging the everyday battles we face and wondering if we can make any difference, we have contemporary examples of powerful advocacy being done on a national and international level by moms of color to inspire us. On the international stage, Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and co-founder and leader of Liberian Mass Action for Peace, led a resistance movement that ended the 14-year Liberian civil war. In her provocative memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation At War, she clearly connects her groups’ effectiveness, motivation, and source of influence to their status as mothers. Speaking to then Liberian president Charles Taylor during a pivotal negotiation summit she said, ““…[T]he women of Liberia…, we are tired of war. We are tired of running. We are tired of begging for [food]. We are tired of our children being raped. We are now taking this stand, to secure the future of our children. Because we believe, as custodians of society, tomorrow our children will ask us, ‘Mama, what was your role during the crisis?’”
Stateside, grief and devastation over repeated and unrequited injustice against our children was on national display when Trayvon Martin was murdered and when his killer was subsequently acquitted of his murder. Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton provided a stereotype-shattering display of grace, poise, and resolve as she lamented his death and is now advocating for common sense gun reform and the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws. She reminded black mothers everywhere that we don’t have to limit ourselves to the common black mom stereotype of private, but impotent grief—cathartic for the griever, but lacking transformative power. Ms. Fulton demonstrated that we can transition our grief to public influence and power. Other noteworthy models of effective black mom-based activism include: Mocha Moms, Inc.’s Occupy Schools™ education initiative, led by Kuae Mattox; Kimberly Seals Allers’ innovative Black Breastfeeding 360 campaign to educate and raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding among moms of color; Tonya Lewis Lee’s spokesperson role for the Office of Minority Health’s Healthy Baby campaign to reduce black infant mortality; and 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, a non-profit created by Lorrain Franklin-Taylor, who lost her 22-year-old twin sons, Albade and Obadiah Taylor, to gun violence. And there are other potential issues for high-impact policy and cultural involvement of black mothers, including disabilities, sexuality and sex education programming and funding, mental health, childcare, criminal justice reform, and employment issues like a living wage and maternal leave policies.
Black motherhood needs to be humanized and re-conceptualized. We are more than grief and shame and hardship. We are also joyous and communal and emotionally available and wise and intellectual. It benefits us and our society to lean in to the full spectrum of our mothering.
Tree imagery appears throughout Scripture when describing human beings. When Jesus began to heal the blind man in Mark’s Gospel, He asked him if he saw anything. The man responded and stated: “I see men like trees, walking” (see Mark 8:24, NKJV). Jesus Himself used this imagery to describe the interconnectedness of human beings. One of the most profound statements that He made was connected to something we try to figure out all the time in this life—relationships: “…for a tree is known by its fruit” (from Matthew 12:33, NKJV).
The “Job Interview”
One of the most frustrating things I notice in unhealthy or failed relationships is the lack of accounting when it comes to examining another person’s fruit. Sadly we mistake the honeymoon phase of dating relationships as the true nature of another individual. Anyone can go on a job interview dressed up and ready to answer questions impressively. This is precisely what dating tends to look like. The one thing the job interviewee knows? Putting one’s best foot forward increases his or her chances at getting hired.
I’m willing to bet you that a man will not reveal on the first date that he’s possessive, jealous, and insecure, and has expectations that you treat him like his mother treated him. I’m also pretty confident that a woman probably will not reveal that she is looking for someone to treat her like her last boyfriend or someone who knows exactly what she’s thinking without her saying it. Nor will she reveal any other emotional baggage she may carry. Let me give you a simple secret to help you see through that “impressive resume” on the first couple of dates: Time!
Taking Some Time
I know. I know. It sounds elementary and simple. I am pretty sure the heavens didn’t open up after that revelation. Sadly, this truth is avoided like the plague when it comes to entering relationships and causes more frustration than most people would like to admit. In addition to a tree being known by its fruit, Jesus also revealed that “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18, NKJV).
Let me put it this way. Entering a new relationship is like planting a seed. When you begin to water that relationship seed, it will begin to break through any dirt (i.e., any unrevealed vices) that either one of you have and reveal one another’s true nature. Of course, that watering occurs by means of the “living water” (see John 7:38). Afterward, things will begin to bud in the relationship and eventually trees will emerge with accompanying fruit. Here’s the key. Whether or not the other person’s tree bears good fruit depends on their response to your watering.
Please hear my heart on this. Developing a healthy relationship requires an effort on behalf of both parties. If you begin to feel like you are the only one attempting to develop your relationship, then you will begin to feel unattended to and lacking nourishment.
The Fruit Test
Once you’ve overcome the time obstacle, you can begin to properly evaluate a relationship and look for fruit. The good thing about this process is that everyone produces fruit of some kind. The only difference is the marketability of that fruit. Would you go into a grocery store and buy rotten apples or oranges? Why would you do the same thing as it pertains to a relationship? Here are some things to look for when evaluating relationships: “Now the [fruit] of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery… murders…” (from Galatians 5:19–21, NKJV).
Ask yourself: Is this person adulterous? I know what you’re asking. Isn’t this supposed to be an article on dating? What does adultery have to do with dating relationships? I’m glad you asked. Jesus says that any man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (see Matthew 5:28). Do you find them looking at other people when you two are together? This is an indication that they are adulterous, at least as far as their heart is concerned. This bad fruit can help you when you examine the relationship.
You might also want to ask yourself: Is this person a murderer? I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not talking about people who may be imprisoned for taking the life of another person. I am talking about people who are locked up in a different way. Scripture is very clear when it says, “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (from 1 John 3:15, NKJV). Does your significant other have disdain for other ethnic groups? Does he or she make disparaging remarks about others that are hurtful? God saw fit that this issue was serious enough to warrant mentioning and should lead each of us to examine the people in our leaves for this potential bad fruit. Those are just two items on a long list of what Paul deems to be bad fruit. Check out the others on the list in Galatians 5 and determine whether your significant other shows signs of bad fruit.
The Good News
People can exhibit things you should be looking for in a significant other. The Apostle Paul calls this good fruit. Some examples of good fruit? Love, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).
Take time out now to examine past relationships in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Have you seen any of the fruit mentioned above at work in those relationships? More importantly, can you take lessons learned from those situations and move forward with a new conviction? The important thing about the blind man seeing “men like trees” in Mark’s Gospel was that his healing was incomplete. He needed a further touch from Jesus. With that touch he was restored and saw everyone clearly (see Mark 8:25b). Although examining the fruit of others to evaluate our relationships is important, there is still a need to rely on and allow Christ to place His hand on those relationships for full clarity and direction. If you keep these things in mind, your relationship will truly become like a tree planted by the rivers of water (see Psalm 1:3) and flourish in Christ.