Good Tree, Bad Tree: Tips on Evaluating Relationships

Good Tree, Bad Tree: Tips on Evaluating Relationships

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.

Dating over Zoom? Don’t be surprised if those online sparks fizzle in person

Dating over Zoom? Don’t be surprised if those online sparks fizzle in person

For those dipping their toes into the dating pool during stay-at-home orders, it’s been like swimming in a version of Netflix’s reality series “Love is Blind.”

In the show, contestants must get engaged before ever actually meeting one another in person. And while a lockdown engagement might be a bit extreme, it’s entirely possible that two people have grown to really like one another over the previous weeks and months. Maybe it started with a match on a dating app, followed by flirting over text. Then came regularly scheduled Zoom dates. Perhaps they’ve even started envisioning a future together.

Now, as states start to ease restrictions, some may have broached taking the next step: an in-person rendezvous.

What are the chances that their online connection will lead to true love?

In my book, “The Science of Kissing,” I describe how compatibility requires engaging all of our senses. And absent the touch, taste and smell of a potential partner, people dating online during quarantine have essentially been flying blind.

Muzzled neurotransmitters

Human attraction involves the influence of cues that evolved over millions of years.

On a traditional date in a restaurant or move theater, we actively gather details about someone by walking side by side, holding hands, hugging and – if things get far enough – kissing. These experiences send neural impulses between the brain and body, stimulating tiny chemical messengers that affect how we feel. When two people are a good match, hormones and neurotransmitters bring about the sensations we might describe as being on a natural high or experiencing the exhilaration of butterflies. Finding love isn’t rocket science – it’s anatomy, endocrinology and real chemistry.

One of the most important neurotransmitters involved in influencing our emotions is dopamine, responsible for craving and desire. This natural drug can be promoted through physical intimacy and leads to the addictive nature of a new relationship. Of course, dopamine is just one player in a chemical symphony that motivates behavior. Intimate encounters also promote the release of oxytocin, which creates a sense of attachment and affection, and epinephrine, which boosts our heart rate and reduces stress. There’s also a decrease in serotonin, which can lead to obsessive thoughts and feelings about the other person.

In fact, one study showed that people who report that they’ve just “fallen in love” have levels of serotonin similar to patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. This chemical cocktail can even lead to trouble sleeping or a loss of appetite – symptoms people often attribute to meeting “the one.”

Our noses also play a powerful role in who we fall for. The famous “sweaty t-shirt experiment” reported that a man’s natural scent may influence how women choose a partner. The women in the study nearly always expressed a preference for the odor of men who differed genetically from them in immune response to disease. Scientists theorize that selecting someone with genetic diversity in this region, called the major histocompatibility complex, could be important for producing children with flexible and versatile immune systems.

A kiss can make or break it

While a man’s natural scent may not be something women consciously notice early on in a heterosexual relationship, getting up close and personal can serve as a kind of litmus test for a couple. A kiss puts two people nose to cheek, offering a reliable sample of smell and taste unrivaled by most other courtship rituals. Perhaps that’s one reason a 2007 University of Albany study reported that 59% of men and 66% of women have broken off a budding romance because of a bad first kiss.

Complicating matters, factors that typically grab our attention in person are less obvious to recognize in a witty profile or photo. Studies of online dating behavior reveal superficial features are correlated with the level of interest an individual receives. For example, short-haired women do not tend to get as much attention from men as those with long, straight hair, while men who report a height of six-foot-three or six-foot-four fare better than their peers at interacting with women. The initial focus on appearance promotes pairing based on characteristics that aren’t significant in lasting relationships, compared with more important factors for long-term compatibility, like intimacy and shared experiences.

Still, at a time when many of us are feeling more isolated than ever, online dating does offer some benefits. Quarantine has encouraged men and women to take additional time to learn about each other prior to meeting, sparing the anxiety of rushed physical intimacy.

For some couples, a real-world date will kindle the spark that began online. Many others will realize they’re better suited as friends.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

Sheril Kirshenbaum, Associate Research Scientist, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Dating over Zoom? Don’t be surprised if those online sparks fizzle in person

Dating over Zoom? Don’t be surprised if those online sparks fizzle in person

For those dipping their toes into the dating pool during stay-at-home orders, it’s been like swimming in a version of Netflix’s reality series “Love is Blind.”

In the show, contestants must get engaged before ever actually meeting one another in person. And while a lockdown engagement might be a bit extreme, it’s entirely possible that two people have grown to really like one another over the previous weeks and months. Maybe it started with a match on a dating app, followed by flirting over text. Then came regularly scheduled Zoom dates. Perhaps they’ve even started envisioning a future together.

Now, as states start to ease restrictions, some may have broached taking the next step: an in-person rendezvous.

What are the chances that their online connection will lead to true love?

In my book, “The Science of Kissing,” I describe how compatibility requires engaging all of our senses. And absent the touch, taste and smell of a potential partner, people dating online during quarantine have essentially been flying blind.

Muzzled neurotransmitters

Human attraction involves the influence of cues that evolved over millions of years.

On a traditional date in a restaurant or move theater, we actively gather details about someone by walking side by side, holding hands, hugging and – if things get far enough – kissing. These experiences send neural impulses between the brain and body, stimulating tiny chemical messengers that affect how we feel. When two people are a good match, hormones and neurotransmitters bring about the sensations we might describe as being on a natural high or experiencing the exhilaration of butterflies. Finding love isn’t rocket science – it’s anatomy, endocrinology and real chemistry.

One of the most important neurotransmitters involved in influencing our emotions is dopamine, responsible for craving and desire. This natural drug can be promoted through physical intimacy and leads to the addictive nature of a new relationship. Of course, dopamine is just one player in a chemical symphony that motivates behavior. Intimate encounters also promote the release of oxytocin, which creates a sense of attachment and affection, and epinephrine, which boosts our heart rate and reduces stress. There’s also a decrease in serotonin, which can lead to obsessive thoughts and feelings about the other person.

In fact, one study showed that people who report that they’ve just “fallen in love” have levels of serotonin similar to patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. This chemical cocktail can even lead to trouble sleeping or a loss of appetite – symptoms people often attribute to meeting “the one.”

Our noses also play a powerful role in who we fall for. The famous “sweaty t-shirt experiment” reported that a man’s natural scent may influence how women choose a partner. The women in the study nearly always expressed a preference for the odor of men who differed genetically from them in immune response to disease. Scientists theorize that selecting someone with genetic diversity in this region, called the major histocompatibility complex, could be important for producing children with flexible and versatile immune systems.

A kiss can make or break it

While a man’s natural scent may not be something women consciously notice early on in a heterosexual relationship, getting up close and personal can serve as a kind of litmus test for a couple. A kiss puts two people nose to cheek, offering a reliable sample of smell and taste unrivaled by most other courtship rituals. Perhaps that’s one reason a 2007 University of Albany study reported that 59% of men and 66% of women have broken off a budding romance because of a bad first kiss.

Complicating matters, factors that typically grab our attention in person are less obvious to recognize in a witty profile or photo. Studies of online dating behavior reveal superficial features are correlated with the level of interest an individual receives. For example, short-haired women do not tend to get as much attention from men as those with long, straight hair, while men who report a height of six-foot-three or six-foot-four fare better than their peers at interacting with women. The initial focus on appearance promotes pairing based on characteristics that aren’t significant in lasting relationships, compared with more important factors for long-term compatibility, like intimacy and shared experiences.

Still, at a time when many of us are feeling more isolated than ever, online dating does offer some benefits. Quarantine has encouraged men and women to take additional time to learn about each other prior to meeting, sparing the anxiety of rushed physical intimacy.

For some couples, a real-world date will kindle the spark that began online. Many others will realize they’re better suited as friends.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

Sheril Kirshenbaum, Associate Research Scientist, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Can you love authentically if you were raised to be toxic?

Can you love authentically if you were raised to be toxic?

Video Courtesy of The Beat by Allen Parr


It’s not easy to be hated by the person who is supposed to love you most, and unfortunately, being toxic has become normalized in our culture.

Many see misdirected aggravation, gaslighting, physical abuse, and more as “love tactics.” When a child only knows pain as a source of love, then they too love in that way and any other form of healthy love seems abnormal.

However, the question is, can a person ever love authentically if they were raised to be toxic?

The assumption is no. When someone is exposed to consistent, toxic stress, they are vulnerable to mental and physical illness that can sometimes develop into a genetic trait, according to Hey Sigmund; therefore this behavior is biologically passed on through generations.

However, despite the science behind the effects of toxic love, there is always hope for a better life.

Fighting for Love

“I just felt like I wasn’t loved by my mom, says Monique, a woman in her 40s who was often told she wasn’t good enough. “I felt growing up in my mom’s house I wasn’t allowed to be me, an individual.”

To suit her mother’s perfect image of a family, Monique, was to participate in certain activities without any consideration of her talents or desires. While at the same time, her brother was given free reign to participate in activities of his choice throughout their childhood.

And to make matters worse, Monique’s father suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and would often abuse her. She recalls him touching her to satisfy his physical desires and severely beating her when she reported it to her incredulous mother.

Fortunately, Monique found refuge in her grandmother’s home, where she found the kind of love her mother envied. Monique remembers her mother punishing and verbally abusing her as a result of the love she received from her grandmother.

Like many girls, Monique found herself looking for love in empty relationships during her teen years that lead to a forced, terminated pregnancy and physical and emotional abuse similar to the treatment she received from her own father.

Eventually, Monique met a gentle and caring man named Laz. However, Laz’s compassion and gentleness were unfamiliar to her, which ultimately lead to Monique returning to one of her previous, toxic relationships.

She went on to marry a former flame named Xavier and stayed in her abusive marriage for eight years.

Towards the end of my [3rd] pregnancy, I found out he was cheating and when I confronted him, he hit me,” says Monique who recalls her toxic relationship that mirrored her childhood. “He asked, ‘Who are you to question me?’…It felt like because of the way I grew up, if I wasn’t getting hit, then it wasn’t love,”

After her divorce, Monique fought against her toxic past. She made the decision to rise above her father’s mental illness, her mother’s jealousy and apathy, and their collective effort to make her their emotional punching bag for their marriage troubles.

Although the struggle did not end after her marriage when it came to love, her children, and health, she remains hopeful enough to fight for the love she deserves. She charges her will to carry on to God, because without Him, she would have taken the final blow to end her suffering.

Turning Off the Gaslight

Bella was born to a Catholic family that rejected her mother for having a baby with a man that she later learned was married. The rejection caused her mother to make multiple attempts to prove her worth to the family by making Bella seem exceptional, but in private her mother was spiteful and unloving as the list of accomplishments grew.

“[My mother] did everything for me to prove herself, but not for the love of me,” Bella explains. “She worked hard to put me through private school and extracurricular activities, but at home I was repeatedly told I was nothing; sometimes she even called me a waste of a human being. To this day, she has never told me she loves me.”

Whenever something would go wrong in Bella’s life, she would automatically blame herself as a result of her relationship with her mother. Even when her husband and father of their two children committed adultery, she took the blame.

As time went on, Bella lost the love of her life, her job, and believed that she would never be loved which drove her into a suicidal state .

Until one day, Bella decided that she had enough and began to fight for her life, beauty, and self-love through therapy. “Once I figured out that I wasn’t this awful, unlovable monster that I was made to believe as a reality by someone who was unloved, it turned my world upside down in a great way,” Bella says. “It never would have happened without me doing the work in therapy.”

As a result of her treatment, Bella was led to a love that she has been enveloped in for the last four years. Even though the pain of rejection transcended through two generations, love won in the end.

“In the middle of all of this, I met a man who just rained love on me,” Bella joyfully exclaims.

Is there hope after a toxic upbringing?

“But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of [your abuser], which I also hate” (Revelations 2:6, NIV).

In the beginning of this article, the question was, can a person love authentically if they were raised to be toxic? The answer is yes, but you must fight for it.

It is easy to nurse the scars of someone that you love, because love is to be unconditional, right? But what good is unconditional love when a person’s pain has replaced the spirit that you desperately want to love?

That is spiritual warfare and it is best to back away and allow God to handle it if they are unwilling to get help. It is important to recognize the signs of someone who has been abused and trying to regain power, which can include verbally sharing memories of their toxic loved ones.

Fortunately, Bella and Monique worked past those painful memories found a way to defeat them so that the tradition of toxicity ended with them and a reign of love could begin.

How’s Your Relationship with Yourself?

How’s Your Relationship with Yourself?

Video Courtesy of Dr. Minnie Claiborne, Ph.D. LHD


A column by Dr. Minnie Claiborn, Ph.D., a licensed counselor, life coach and author. 


There are seven basic areas wherein all human challenges lie. One of these is our relationship with self. We form many of our opinions of ourselves based on what others around us say to us and about us, or how we interpret what they say and do.

In some respects, we do come into the world with a “blank slate” and we write on it based on how we are treated. Some of us encounter rejection, abuse, abandonment, and many other hurtful experiences from our primary families or caregivers when we are young. From these experiences, which may be accompanied by ugly words, we often form unhealthy opinions of ourselves.

I had a young woman client once who in her mind and experience did not fit the societal standard of beauty. When she told me that she had been raped, she asked with incredulity, “Why would anyone rape me?” Her opinion of herself was so low, she felt so unattractive, that she was amazed that even a rapist would want her.

On the other hand, I observed a young lady whose body shape and physical features also did not meet the society standard of beauty, yet she exuded self-confidence. I discovered that she was a daddy’s girl, had a loving, doting mother and had married a man who also adored her.

Many young men who were not affirmed by their fathers suffer from a sense of insecurity, fear, rejection, lack of self-identity and a lack of belonging. Other people contributed to our being broken, but God can heal us (Luke 4:18). We can’t go back and change what was said or done to us or about us, but with new information and truth, we can change how if affects us.

Truth trumps facts. Divine truth (truth from God’s perspective) is greater than the facts of our experiences and thoughts. If you were not told that you are beautiful, or handsome or valuable by anyone else, know that God made you and He thinks you’re all of that (Psalm 139).

How do you change a wrong or bad opinion of yourself? Put God’s Word in your mouth and speak it to yourself out loud. A good place to start is by saying, “God loves me.” The entire Bible bears witness to that truth. I have witnessed the power of Scripture-based affirmations. An affirmation simply means that you affirm and agree with what is being said. Here is an affirmation that you can use every day that will help you to begin to have a winning relationship with yourself. You might know it in your head, but you need to SAY it over and over so that your subconscious will receive truth and your conscious thoughts and behaviors will begin to change. God told young Joshua to meditate on His word day and night and he (Joshua) would have prosperity and good success (Joshua 1:8). I suggest that you say this out loud at least five times per day until you know in your soul that it is true.

AFFIRMATION: God loves me. God accepts me. I love and accept myself. I invite God to change the things that do not please Him and things that are detrimental to me.

READ: Psalm 139, Joshua 1:8, John 3:16