Broke Down

The engine temperature gauge began to rise from its normal position. I watched it slowly climb and then quickly peg the HOT red zone. I immediately pulled over to the side of the busy road into a side street of a calmer neighborhood and shut the engine off. Steam rose from under the hood. Something bad had happened. Was it a burst hose or something worse? I put my emergency flashers on, then got out and raised the hood. Water and coolant from the radiator was on one side of the engine and chassis of the van. The steam was thick, too thick to see the source of the leak.

I returned to the driver’s seat and called my son for help. He is good with almost anything mechanical and I knew he would be a good adviser to me. We agreed that I would let it cool down while he drove to meet me and look at it.

So far this is a pretty common story for most of us that have driven older vehicles. The reason I am telling you about this break down is the surprising reaction I received from people who passed by.

Their reaction? None.

That is what surprised me. Cars, trucks, walkers, joggers of both gender and of all ages looked in my direction for a moment then went on their way. No, good neighbor questions like “Hello, are you ok?” “Do you have help coming?” “Anything I can do?” were offered.

Very surprising.

My son arrived, helped me find the broken hose, took me to the auto parts store, put the new one on and followed me home. Granted, he is my son and a gifted mechanic, so I wouldn’t expect everyone to have been able to do that for me. But, not one offer of concern from the residents of that community?

I am still very surprised as I write about it.

As I waited for my help to arrive I watched the strangers pass me. The lack of concern, or even eye contact left me sad. I wondered if I had called out for help would one of them responded? Probably, but I waited to see if anyone would check on me; a stranger without my request. Would they take the risk of having their plans for the moment delayed? I am not a scary looking guy; at least I have never been told that I am, but maybe there is a fear that runs deep now in our society that overwhelms the good neighbor in us. Or is it busyness?

Jesus told a story to the expert in the law who had asked Him, “And who is my neighbor?” The answer was the person who showed kindness and mercy to a person in need.

“Go and do likewise”, Jesus concluded.

If we are to be followers of Him, then we will do what He had commanded.

My story ended well, yet it motivated me to help others by being a good neighbor. It makes me urge you to do the same when you can.

A New Name

RingsI changed her name today. Finally. It’s been official for several weeks.

She’s been on my mind about her travels, her return to the USA and settling into her new home.

The transition in her has been gradual, consistent, and wonderful to watch. She has had the same name for 22 + years so changing it was something that didn’t come automatic for me.

Yesterday I told Siri to call Emily Branson. The name appeared on the screen of my phone, the number was dialed and began to ring. Then I remembered — that wasn’t her anymore. Emotion stirred in me for a moment as I waited for her to answer; it was like time flashed through all the years with her in my mind.

“Hello Dad!” What sweet words to hear.

I think I choked out a “Hi, honey”. I do remember confessing immediately to her that I had not changed her name in my phone yet. Her familiar giggle warmed me inside.

After our brief call I set my phone down. I was busy, but not enough to have taken a couple of seconds to go into my Contacts and make a change. But I wanted to wait one more day.

The ceremony was finished, I had placed her hand in the hand of Josh Smallbone. I joined my wife and his parents in a prayer of blessing over them. I wrote them a letter and gave it to Josh in a Baton to symbolize the hand off of my protection of her to him.Parent's prayerThrough the Doors

Yet, my phone still held her close from the past. I reflected with it about her. It shared the emails, texts and photos of Emily Branson. Sweet memories; thank you phone.

This morning my phone and I released her to be the new person she will become and I am so happy for the expansion of my relationships, not the end. I gained a son, I didn’t loose a daughter. They both gained a great spouse.

Life transitions are constantly happening to us. If you are a follower of Christ reading this, I urge you to think of the change you are going through as His Bride.

Revelation 2:17 tells us “…and to each one who is victorious I will give a new name engraved on a White Stone.”

I believe that Josh and Emily will have many joys and will be victorious over the challenges in their marriage until physical death parts them. I hope and pray that your relationship in your marriage to Christ will do the same.

How wonderful the day when Jesus says, “I changed his/her name today”. Then you hear the Father call you by it and you say, “Hello Dad!”

The Clasp

clasp \ˈklasp\

: a device for holding together objects or parts of something (such as a purse, necklace, belt, etc.)

: a strong hold with your hands or arms

Clasp is a word that we don’t use very often. It is a noun and a verb.

Think about it for a second. When was the last time you thought about the clasp on your jewelry? Probably when you were trying to attach the two ends of the chain. Or when you saw that it had made its way to the prominent area of display instead of its relegated area of the back, out of sight position. We don’t think about a clasp until it doesn’t work, or will not close easily, or it is being seen instead of the item of intended demonstration and admiration you chose to put on the necklace or bracelet.

On clothing it is banished to the backside, as hidden as possible, doing its job of holding two ends together. Without any appreciation, the clasp provides security and function to the form of the design.

There is one type of clasp that does command attention. A belt is promoted in its work with a buckle that is part of the look. And though a buckle might be considered in the clasp family, it is an exception to the overall rule of “out of sight, out of mind”, “not to be seen or heard”.

So, Clasp the noun. Generally unappreciated, unnoticed, only recognized when it is needed to go to work and not thought of again unless it doesn’t work.

Clasp as an action. Though we don’t usually say, “I want to clasp your hand”, nor would it sound right in the popular Beatles song, it can be a very comforting move from one person to another. Not a hurtful grab or mean stronghold, a clasp can be the support needed to steady or pull up someone who needs a hand.

I asked someone recently, “When was the last time you thought about a Clasp?” ‘A what?’, they replied. “A clasp”, I said. There was a pause, then they said, ‘I don’t know, what’s your point?’

And so began my desire to write this blog about clasps. What is my point, I wondered. I don’t know that I have one. It could be that I sometimes champion the causes of the underdog, down-trodden, oppressed, forgotten, hurt, unappreciated, and lost. But dwelling on a clasp? Yes, it is somewhat odd, yet maybe somewhat necessary to remind myself and a few readers that there are many unrecognized things, and people, in the backgrounds of our lives that work away providing form in our function, security, order and ease. Maybe my clasp focus will help call out our appreciation for other small things in life.

Another point might be that sometimes we need a clasp physically. A hand up from a stumble, an embrace of greeting to feel loved and welcomed. If I see you and say, “Hey friend! Give me a clasp!” You will now understand what I mean.

So, clasp but not least; try to notice the unseen or unappreciated today. Gratitude may occur when you least expect it!

Two Apologies

Early in my business and leadership training one of rules of engagement was to “never lead off with an apology!” It was based on the perspective that you would appear weak in your position at the table. Showing vulnerability was forbidden, even fatal. Grip the hand firm, chest out, push hard, back off only when you had dominated and still could maintain control.

I have seen that work best in security and law enforcement. It has several flaws as a strategy for leadership in the workforce, home and community. One of my mentors; a man’s man, a pastor with a brilliant mind, a strong delivery of the truth, a facts/logic approach and a desire to build disciples taught me so much by what he shared about his mistakes. He was able to “find a kernel of truth in every criticism” and he would sometimes lead off a meeting with powerful men by sharing  some vulnerable weakness he had, or a recent mistake he had made. “Didn’t that weaken you in their eyes?”, I asked.  No, he smiled and said.  ‘Actually I gained the upper hand because I had so thrown them off by my approach that they went from standing on the balls of their feet ready to pounce to rocked back on their heels.  In that split second, I then asked them a question about them.  It opened them up to share with me and enter into a whole new level of discussion and honestly.’

That is amazing.  It is counter-intuitive.  Not what the leaders tried to instill in me years ago. My friend showed that you could lead with a weakness that becomes the platform for truth and realness in the conversation, negotiation, teaching, etc.

I know a debate could flame up over what I have just shared, but I can also tell you I have used this approach with success. One of the best areas of example is with the marriage ministry work my wife and I have done over the last 18 years. Giving the couples in the group a few ways that I/we have done things that were not helpful in our marriage right at the first of our time together brought the level of anxiousness down in each person. They heard what they instinctively already knew that there are no perfect marriages and that they were not alone in their relationship struggles.

There is much to talk about around that, and if there is interest I can blog about it in the future.

This message is to share two apologies I gave to strangers; well, actually they were really new friends I had come to know, trust and even care about over a short, intensive two-day retreat. The last night of the retreat I felt a burden to ask for forgiveness to both women and men.

In the apology to women, I had not personally done a wrong to the people in the room, but as a man I chose to take the position to represent men.  The open acknowledgement of wrong and hurtful behavior to the women by others could be seen as a weak position to take, yet it was a powerful offering to bring forth healing and forgiveness. I am not recommending that you try to assume responsibility for your gender as a whole, but in this time and place it brought about a greater closeness between people.

In the apology to men, I share my regret of not hearing the counsel of those who tried to give it and the failure to try to offer the same to others.  As well as calling out the passive men who can make a difference if they would choose to.

Maybe it will have an effect on you, or someone you know that needs to here it.  It so, please share.

I apologize…

Ladies,

No men got together and voted for me to represent them to you, so I am saying this on my own. But, I don’t think I am alone is the words of feeling in this message to you.

For all the times that men have used you, abused you, abandoned you, lied to you, failed to stand, support, nurture, serve, and lead you;

For cowardness, weakness, denial, selfishness, withdrawal, anger, blame, lack of spiritual grounding and guidance;

For the times we pressured you for sex, caused you physical, emotional and spiritual pain, for not having self-control to honor, respect and cherish you, your virginity, your purity, your worth;

For when you have been alone, with danger and fears and we ran away instead of running forward to protect you;

For all the joy, dancing, and worship that you deserved to be join in with, but your partner refused;

For all these things and more, we were wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive us.

 

Men,

I apologize to you who are my senior in years that tried to model the way of true, godly manhood and I didn’t listen, look, and seek your ways and truth. I was wrong.  I am sorry, please forgive me.

To you who failed to lead me and my generation in the ways of God, your silence, apathy, indifference, fear, neglect, passivity, irresponsibility, and lack of courage has caused great harm.  I forgive you.

To my peers that I ran with but didn’t encourage and hold accountable to live as righteous men, to you who are younger that I have failed like my elders did me, I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.

57

57 mile markerToday is my birthday.  It is a good mile marker.  I can glance over and think about where I am on the road of life.

My mother posted on Face Book, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SON! 57 years ago (now) I was at Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky waiting for his arrival. We have weathered many storms. Love you Keith. mom”  She, now 81 years young, is the only remaining member of my immediate family from Paducah. My dad and younger brother died in 2008.  Mom’s post made me wonder what it was like for her in the delivery room birthing her first child. Dad was outside of the room somewhere, no doubt with cigars in hand to pass around. That was the tradition then.

I also ponder today my own immediate family and what each of my birthdays have meant since they have been in my life. My oldest daughter has been a part of my birthday celebration 23 times. She was again today as we had a phone call over Viper from her apartment in Germany. My next daughter, a 21 birthday veteran with me, shared a meal and time together yesterday before she returned back to her final days of school at Lee University. My son, 18 birthday celebrations, greeted me at breakfast on his way out to work and will be home to celebrate tonight with me and my wife, who has wished me a special day 27 times now.

Birthdays are interesting. People contact you on that day with a special acknowledgement that may not come again for another year. It is a special day to remember. For me, I enjoy giving to others so much that it seems a birthday should be filled with such gratitude that I thank others, who have been, and are now a part of my life. I should send my mom flowers on my birthday. I want to let everyone who cares about me know how much I care about them and how much I appreciate their friendship and love.  Even over the years and miles, love continues.

I miss many people who have been a part of my birthdays past. Some I have lost touch with in the drift of time and distance. Some have passed over to life beyond the earth. If they are able to know what happens in the present, I hope they are cheering me on today. I think I will let a helium filled balloon go today just to send them a thank you.Birthday balloons

There are so many types of gratitude I have today, more than I can list now.  Here are 57 of them…

  1. I am a son with a legacy of a mother and father who love me and tried hard to provide for me and my future.
  2. I am a brother with a younger brother who taught me a lot about myself in the way I treated him both good and bad.
  3. I am a nephew with a wonder set of uncles and aunts who have always shown me love and acceptance.
  4. I am an uncle with opportunities to show my love and acceptance to my nieces and nephews.
  5. I am a cousin with cousins who have been a fun part of my childhood and still inspire me today.
  6. I am a husband with a wife who is a beautiful, amazing companion.
  7. I am a father with three children I admire and love so deeply and two that I will meet one day in heaven.
  8. I am a follower of Jesus Christ with an unquenchable desire to know Him more, grow in Him more and show more of Him.
  9. I have heard God’s voice in my inner spirit.
  10. I am prayed for.
  11. I am spiritually aware enough to know to pray for others.
  12. I am a spiritual friend to many other Christians who contribute into my life and receive from me.
  13. I have had the honor of performing weddings and funerals.
  14. I am a life coach with a passion to help others move forward in life.
  15. I am healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually.
  16. I live in a beautiful place.
  17. I have great neighbors.
  18. I have people both near and far who want to learn from me.
  19. I have people both near and far who teach me.
  20. I am open to learn.
  21. I am open to share.
  22. I seek more; not earthly things, but eternal things for others and myself.
  23. I live in the present, less bound by the past and less fearful of the future.
  24. I get to eat and drink safely each day.
  25. I have never really been starving, even though with hunger I have said so.
  26. I have a comfortable, clean bed.
  27. I have more than enough shelter for me and others who share it.
  28. I have learned to stop whining and complaining.
  29. I can read and understand, almost anything in English and a lot in Spanish.
  30. I don’t have to eat butterscotch.
  31. I like to laugh.
  32. I can make others laugh; and sometimes groan with my humor.
  33. I have been able to be a peacemaker in conflict.
  34. I have been able to be a mediator to help agreements come together.
  35. I have been a reconciler of people to God and to each other.
  36. I have been broken enough times to know I need God and others.
  37. I have been wrong enough to know I will never know it all and must be open to be taught.
  38. I have people in my life that will speak to the truth to me in love.
  39. I have forgiveness.
  40. I give forgiveness.
  41. I have come to know who I am in Christ.
  42. I have learned about the power of shame and how to help myself and others with an antidote.
  43. I have finally begun to enjoy playing cards.
  44. I got to fly like a bird in a hang glider.
  45. I have traveled around the world and met people on every continent except Antarctica.
  46. I have met many famous people.
  47. I have met many infamous (unknown) people.
  48. I have been cared for by the very poor.
  49. I am learning to see Jesus in those I hadn’t recognized Him before.
  50. I give smiles away.
  51. I have received so many smiles.
  52. I hug freely.
  53. I have been hugged much.
  54. I dream big and remain filled with hope.
  55. I have rejected passivity.
  56. I have become courageous.
  57. I am just beginning to live, not ready to retire.

So, thank you for reading all the way down to here.  My birthday wish is for you to find peace and joy today in your life. May your mile markers give you pause to reflect and grow in forgiveness and gratefulness in your journey ahead.

As I was writing this my son called to ask me what I wanted to do tonight.  He, my wife and I will be serving birthday cake to the homeless in downtown Nashville. Now that is a birthday party I can enjoy!

 

Who Do I Say I Am?

9567527_s“People-Pleaser” has been a label that I have carried for most of my life.  It is a part of the unhealthy self-talk that I have going in my mind.  I am guilty of personalizing events in life as personal rejections of me. This is a form of distortion where I will overestimate the extent an event or words said, (or not said,) are related to me.

You probably know someone who has this noise in their head sometimes too, I am sure of it.  If the people I am around are not in a good mood or if there is disharmony then I am very uncomfortable.  I will begin to ask myself if I am the cause of it somehow. That question can lead me down a slippery slope of negative self-talk. See if you identify the unhealthy thinking pattern I have struggled with as you read the descriptions below.

The Bible has a blueprint for replacing this faulty thinking and replace it with true beliefs. It comes from Scriptures that say we shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to take our thoughts captive and cast down our vain imaginations, knowing the truth will set us free…because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

So, how do we make that practical in our lives daily? Where do we begin? Start by looking at some of the typical lies that occur in our personal lives and relationships.

In the workbook, Intimate Encounters: Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage, Dr. David Ferguson lists six of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns that contribute to emotional pain. We all seem to fall victim to one or more of the patterns (listed below).

In order to stop the effects of these unhealthy thinking patterns, you must:

1. Identify which of these are most common for you.

2. Become aware of events/situations that trigger your thinking and emotions.

3. Recognize what you are saying about yourself. Your self-talk is a “belief” system about yourself.

4. Notice your responses in behavior and emotion to the event/situation.

5. Challenge your negative thoughts with truthful thoughts that you choose to tell yourself and then enjoy feeling positive!

It takes time, but this really will work. It has helped me derail these attacks on myself. By telling yourself truthful statements, you can change your thinking patterns.  It is not easy, but with practice and patience you can do it.

Two important tips:

1. Keep a journal for at least a week to analyze your own self-talk.  By realizing your unique style of dealing with life, you can make rapid changes in your attitude and behavior where it is needed!

2. Have someone help you with reminders of the truth as you attempt to confront these  distortions in your thinking patterns and self-talk.

Six Common Unhealthy Thinking Patterns (from Intimate Encounters,Chapter 13, Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking)

  1. Personalizing – Taking external events as personal rejections and attacks. Taking everything personally is a form of distortion in which a person overestimates the extent an event is related to him or her. Moody and easily hurt by so-called rejections. Filled with insecurities, they develop low self-esteem and may blame themselves for everything.  Others see them as “fragile,” overly sensitive, childish, even hysterical. Frequently “personalizers” felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical home environments. Whether the rejection was overt and abusive, or more subtle and neglectful, the child grew up with negative self-talk, such as, What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything right.  It’s my fault.  Who cares about me? I’m worthless.
  2. Magnifying – “Makes a mountain out of a molehill!” They can be volatile with anger, unmerciful with self-condemnation, or “bottomless” with self-pity. Others may consider them self-absorbed, preoccupied with their own crises, whiny, and over-reacting. They may say things like: devastated, worst, ruined, terrible, horrible, awful. “Magnifers” may have developed this distorted thinking in a home environment where little things were blown out of proportion. Spilled milk merited a character attack; discipline was excessive and out of proportion to the offense; or one parent was preoccupied with loneliness, rejection, or fear, seeing catastrophes in every situation. Another common childhood pattern is the “overly responsible” child who filled a relational vacuum in his home, seeking to hold the family together by pleasing everyone or meeting one parent’s emotional needs due to a breakdown in the marital relationship. Such children often become overwhelmed by life’s events.
  3. Overgeneralizing – “History always repeats itself.” Generalizing is relying on past events to predict the future. This can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy, and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. With this self-defeating style of thinking, a person can conclude, “No matter what I do, I will never get along with that person.” “Overgeneralizers” carry around loads of anxiety, doubt, and fear. They hold onto past hurts, failures, and rejections, and recite them as evidence for their gloomy attitude toward the future. They figure, “Why try? The past will just repeat itself.” Other people view generalizers as fearful, untrusting, or unforgiving. They were often exposed to this way of thinking in their home environment.
  4. Emotional Reasoning – Seeing reality through the skewed perspective of your emotions. Convinced something is so just because you feel it. Or denying the truth because you don’t feel it. This unhealthy thinking can come from a past home life dominated by fear or mistrust, physical or sexual abuse, parents who hurled accusation at you, such as “I just know you’ll go off and get pregnant some day!” Or, “You’re going to turn out just like your (fill in your own negative role model here) if you keep this up!” And it can lead to growing up feeling a nagging sense of worthlessness and betrayal.
  5. Polarizing/Selective Abstraction – Perfectionist thinking pattern that views life as all-or-nothing, good-or-bad, black-or-white. More than a little difficult to live with, “polarizers” hold to rigid rules for evaluating their life and relationships; they classify events as right or wrong, good or bad; and they judge their performance (or other’s) on the basis of their own impossible standards. They feel no satisfaction in modest performance or genuine effort,and there’s little joy in success, since it was expected all along. But, when  they don’t attain their idea of perfection, they’re likely to suffer great anger and despair. “Selective Abstraction” is an offshoot of Polarizing. “Missing the forest for the trees.” Focus is on what is wrong rather than on what is right. They spend time and energy fussing and fuming over a few minor problems when they could have invested the same time and energy toward positive solutions.
  6. Minimizing – “It really doesn’t matter.” Denying or discounting any feelings associated with the significant events of their life. “Minimizers” tend to verbalize few emotions themselves and expect the same from others around them, often leaving loved ones lonely, frustrated, and feeling deeply wounded. Even during tragic events, minimizers often demonstrate little or no feeling. They deny that anything troubles them, and, when pressed to communicate, they may give facts, opinions, or data instead of vulnerably sharing their needs and feelings. Often minimizers come from homes where personal needs are neglected or overlooked. In an effort to avoid the pain of unmet needs, children in these environments will learn to deny their own needs, lose touch with their feelings, and reduce to a minimum their personal sharing.

As you read the traits of each of these unhealthy thinking patterns, do you see yourself in any of the descriptions? What effect has it had on you? On your marriage, children or other relationships?

Who Do People Say I Am?- Part 1

Angry WordsWhat I have learned overtime is most people don’t think about us or what we have done or how we are feeling as much as we may think they do! We may want; even need, more attention, acceptance, and approval from others, but having a hyper-focused worry, dread, suspension on how we are being perceived is a thinking path that leads to negative feelings, thinking and ultimately behavior.

It is also interesting to consider the person, or persons, that are talking about you.  According to 1 new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor, how positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are.

Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality,” says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings. By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater’s well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Peter Harms at the University of Nebraska and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored the study.

The researchers found a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person’s own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.

“Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” Wood says.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” Wood says. “The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.

This research suggests that when you ask someone to rate the personality of a particular coworker or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the personality description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic — or has other negative personality traits.

Raters in the study consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others they knew in their dormitories, and fraternity and sorority members rating others in their organization. In all samples, participants rated real people and the positivity of their ratings were found to be associated with the participant’s own characteristics.

By evaluating the raters and how they evaluated their peers again one year later, Wood found compelling evidence that how positively we tend to perceive others in our social environment is a highly stable trait that does not change substantially over time.

A take-a-way from this Part 1: What others say about you says more about them that you.

  1. Are you helped by considering that hurting people hurt people?  
  2. Does it help you not take offensive when someone is unjustly critical of you when you consider how it reflects on their own character?  Maybe pity for them can fill your heart rather than bitterness, resentment or anger?
  3. Would you be able to confront their hurtful words by doing kind things for them in return?

 

1 Wake Forest University (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm


	

? ? ? Three Important Questions

Three questionsBeginning Monday, August 26th, I will dedicate at least one blog to each of three questions.  They are important questions that you can answer.  They bring you face to face with yourself.  They allow you to drill down to the core of yourself.  That can be hard to do.  Many people have fear to look deep within themselves and explore what it is that makes them who they are and determines what they do.  It can be fascinating to learn!

My challenge to you (and myself) is to think about these three questions over the weekend.  Allow yourself the time reflect on them. Try to be honest with yourself.  You may not have a complete answer to some of them yet.  You may have no answer yet, that is ok.  You have begun the journey by first knowing the questions to ask.  Each answer will be as different as we are as individuals.

These are Coaching type questions.  I love to ask them of others to draw them out, and up to new levels. Join me in this series by seriously considering these for yourself.  Post your answers below if you have some already.  I would love to share them here to encourage others.  Thanks!

Ready?

1. Who do others say you are?
2. Who do you say you are?
3. Who does God say you are?

You can do this.  Think about them.  Share thoughts or questions here.

 

If You Really Loved Me, You Would Know

If you really love me...“If you really loved me, you would know what I need.”

This might be one of the greatest lies out there. More importantly, it might be one of the biggest communication barriers in a marriage. Regrettably, many of us go into marriage with this unrealistic expectation – that somehow this person God gave me is not only going to meet my every need, but he/she is going to anticipate my needs without my having to spell it out for him/her.  Heartbreak sets in rather quickly. Sometimes it is on the honeymoon; sometimes you get a few months before you come to the realization that this person does not really get you at all.

Most of us did not grow up in homes that modeled clear communication and healthy conflict management. And, like it or not, we tend to do what we observed our parents doing. It takes being intentional and a great deal of effort to reprogram ourselves for the honest and vulnerable communication required for a marriage to survive.

Consider a husband, whose mother did everything for him, marrying a wife who grew up in a home that encouraged independence. He expects her to take care of him. She expects him to take care of himself. As a result, he feels neglected and hurt. Irritated, he throws a few snide comments her way and ignores her.

Deep inside he thinks, “If she really loved me, she’d know she should take care of me at lunch!”

She, sensing his irritation, asks that famous question, “Is something wrong?”

One of the most-used lies in relationships sputters from his mouth, “No. Nothing’s wrong, Why?”

The truth is no matter how trivial his hurt might seem, it is not trivial to him. He entered marriage with an expectation whether he realized it or not.  When expectations go unmet, people feel hurt. Even little hurts, if not addressed, build up over time and communication becomes increasingly strained.  Spontaneous affection–holding hands, affectionate touching – subsides because both parties hurt do but not talk about it. This cycle can continue until it virtually kills a marriage. Each spouse must realize the vital importance of working out the minor hurts, even if they appear trivial or unimportant to one or the other.

Work out the Hurts

1. Do not play the ‘Nothing’s Wrong’ game. If your spouse asks you what is wrong and you are hurt, do not lie and say, “Nothing is wrong.” Instead, choose to communicate and work things out.

If you are feeling upset, hurt, neglected or angry, share your emotions with your spouse in a non-critical and non-threatening way. Just tell the truth about your needs and expectations even if they seem small or trivial.

For Example: “I know it is silly, but my mom always fed me lunch and took care of me. It made me feel special and loved, and I guess without realizing it, I expected you to do that too. I’ve been feeling neglected because you don’t do that.” Non- threatening. Honest. Now they can laugh at the differences in their upbringing and land on a compromise that will work for both.

2. Do not ever stop communicating. Ever. Marriage requires constantly understanding expectations and working out compromises. It can be challenging but also rewarding and fun.  Trouble results when we stop – or we never start – letting the other person know how we feel. Rather than expecting your partner to read your mind or “just know” what you want or feel, communicate. The fruit of years of talking and being honest and finding compromises is truly knowing each other and sometimes even anticipating what the other wants or needs.

3. Choose to be vulnerable. Do not be afraid of it. Vulnerability is letting another person know your feelings, needs, expectations and hurts without blame. It is taking down the walls of protection we have up to let the other person truly see us. Too often spouses criticize, ignore, blame and avoid rather than just telling the other person transparently what they need or feel. For instance, instead of complaining that your spouse works too much, tell him or her how you are truly feeling. Instead of, “You are never home when I need you, this house is your responsibility too, you know…”, try, “I miss our times to just be together in the evenings! I’m missing being with you. Can we plan a time to put work aside and just spend some time together?” A spouse who feels cared for and missed is going to respond more positively than one who feels criticized and blamed. The second approach might feel more risky but it is more honest and more effective.

4. Take the initiative. Sometimes unmet expectations and unresolved hurts have gotten so deep couples forget how to talk to each other at all. Do not wait; ask your spouse if he/she is feeling hurt by you in your marriage. Listen without defending your actions. Listen for needs and expectations that have gone unmet. Them make every effort to meet those needs or to find a compromise that you both are happy with. Share your needs and hurts  in a non-critical way. Keep striving to communicate and meet needs even if your spouse lets you down. After all, that is what marriage is all about.

5. Get outside help if you need it. Find a coach, a counselor or a mediator. Attend a marriage conference that promotes good communication. These cycles can be stopped. Your marriage can be repaired. Love and positive feelings can be restored. Do not give up! Get help.

 

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Which Way Do You Respond to Conflict?

5 Conflict responsesThere is good news about conflict What?  Yes!  It can bring understanding about yourself, the situation, and the root cause. Conflict can even bring people closer together with a stronger confidence in building trust, respect and support with each other.

It is common to say, “Conflict is inevitable!”… Duh.  I say that a lot myself. That truth alone does not help with managing it, but it is a start.  It is normal and healthy to have conflict. What we do with the conflict is very important for health within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Most people I meet have not been taught what I am about to share with you.  I hope it becomes clear in the next few paragraphs, (with the help of the handy diagram I created) that you have five distinct ways to respond to conflict. The model is based on the good work of Thomas-Kilman and their Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). They identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Their presupposition is that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style.

Before we go further I want to make an important point that each of the five conflict responses are useful in different situations. Not one of them is bad, or wrong in itself. When and how often you use it is important.

The following definitions from the TKI will help you see the style.  I have renamed them in my diagram as a fresh look at the well-worn terms used to talk about it.  No matter what the label is, see if you can find the one that you most use. Once you know your tendencies, you can begin to explore what others use in your interactions with them. This information is vital to developing a conflict management strategy in your relationships.  I will be glad to walk you through how to apply this to your situation.  Give me a call.

Avoiding (No Way): People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Competitive (My Way): People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.

Accommodating (Your Way): This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Compromising (Our Way): People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser (him or her) also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

Collaborative (New Way): People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.

Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you’re in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that is appropriate for the situation, addresses the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests, and leads to mending damaged relationships.