Topic Progress:

Earlier, we pointed out that while potent stress can be deeply painful and life changing, it is the simplest type to manage. Why? When you are experiencing potent stress, others recognize it. The empathy, support and prayers of those in your community often help lessen the burden.

However, for others to recognize what you’re going through, you need to let them know. Most men and women in people-helping vocations are sacrificial givers but not nearly as accomplished at being a gracious receiver.

How about you? Are you a gracious receiver? Cultivating the capacity to graciously receive is not only beneficial to you, but also to those around you. Refusing to receive from them robs others of the blessing of giving to you. And it robs you of true friendship.

Though it requires humility and discretion, learn to share your concerns and hurts with others who you believe will hold it in confidence. A relationship is one way if you are only willing to give and not receive. Too many pastors cultivate only one-way relationships. True friendship, however, is reciprocal.

It was C.S. Lewis who once said this about risk in relationships:

Sometimes, your vocation can become the way you insulate yourself from real relationship. It can become a casket of selfishness. This is not to suggest that all one-way relationships are unhealthy. But they are one-way relationships—not friendships.

A mature child therapist and colleague of Denny Howard (author of this series) was dying from cancer. In the final week of her life, she said: “We think of a hard-hearted person as one who is unwilling to give. However, there is a hardness of heart that has to do with an unwillingness to receive. I wish I had discovered earlier in life how to receive from others more graciously. It is working with children that I discovered how to graciously receive from others.”


Respond to the prompts below and share insights with your spouse or a trusted friend.

  • “Show me a pastor who has no one with whom to be open, and I’ll show you an unhealthy individual,” says Denny Howard. Beyond having one another, do you and your spouse have friends whom you can be brutally honest with? Folks who have permission to ask you tough questions? The kind of people you can call in crisis and cry with without them being shocked? Elaborate.
  • What are some of the dangers of having no friends beyond your spouse?
  • If you currently don’t have a handful of good friends, make a list of potential friends as well as steps you can take to make your current relationship more reciprocal and trusting.
  • Consider reaching out to new friends in the Full Strength Network, not to mentor them or to be mentored, but simply to be friends. Who from this network might be potential new friends?