Although the book of Proverbs has dozens of very practical ways to build and strengthen a relationship that is broken and weak, it is a the book of Ephesians that has a a little catch-phrase that proves incredibly helpful in thinking about how to strengthen a weak relationship.
In a passage that is all about how church members will be growing each other up into being more like Jesus, the phrase “truth in love” is given. Indeed “truth in love” is the grand summary of all the methods that work in building another up. This is seen most clearly in a good church, but it is true for all relationships.
According to our own personal strengths and weaknesses, we tend to emphasise one over the other. Some of us just want to show love in a broken relationship. Others just want to speak the truth. It produces two groups of friends that end up being at odds with one another in how they help a specific friend. What was originally a combined effort on behalf of a friend, has now become two factions that make the whole situation even worse.
But God’s requirement for church growth works for personal relationships too. “Truth in love”. Not Truth and Love as though at time some hard truth is needed, and at other times some love is needed, but Truth in Love.
Speak the Truth. Flattering your friend keeps him trapped in his troubles (Pro 29:5); speak the truth. But truth spoken harshly does as much harm as truth not spoken (Pro 12:18). There must be truth in love if there is going to be growth in any relationship. Speak openly, honestly, and with accurate information to one another about the things that have broken the relationship (Eph 4:25), and do so with a heart to restore, a desire for peace, and a commitment to bear one another up until the end (Gal 6:1-2).