Category Archives: Relationship with Enemies

ENTITLEMENT–A RELATIONSHIP KILLER (Part 2-the spouse)

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017“Everybody deserves love, but nobody is entitled to it.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Christ gave us the perfect example of love–undeserved, sacrificial, unconditional. Unfortunately, when we walk down the aisle and say our “I do’s,” each of us has a picture of how we think this marriage thing is going to play out. And somewhere along the line those dreams become expectations.  And when those dreams and expectations are not met, hurt and disillusionment set in. . .hearts harden and attitudes become demanding.

For example, he may be envisioning someone who has dinner ready when he comes home. He just wants to sit and relax in front of the TV and read the paper. He wants physical fulfillment. His mom did all the housecleaning and he doesn’t know how to start the dishwasher or how to sort clothes and start the washing machine. She had dreams he would bring her flowers, say loving things and take her nice places (on their budget, of course)–romance her. She dreamed of cooking great meals together. She came from a home where chores were shared. She expects him to provide well for their family.

The settling-in routine of the day-to-day of marriage is not a fairy tale; it’s real life. Real life with people who get tired and can become irritable, short-tempered. Real life where money can be tight and views about spending priorities will most likely differ. Jobs can disappear and long bouts of unemployment may occur. Differences in parenting styles are sure to be evident as children arrive in the home.

Each partner also comes to the marriage with habits and preferences they have acquired over their lifetime. Little things the other one does can be irritating and the expectation is they will stop doing things their way and adopt our way.

And imbedded deep within the word Entitlement is the world TITLE. “So because I am his WIFE or because I am her HUSBAND, I’m entitled to _____________(fill in the blank).” If you could easily fill in that blank, it’s time to step back and assess the damage entitlement has done to your marriage.

BUT LOVE. . .love actually does the exact opposite. It lays down its rights and prefers the other. Christ laid down His title and rights to meet the needs of His bride–the church. Love draws, invites relationship, acceptance and intimacy. It creates security and trust. Love is not demanding, but with kindness waits patiently for the other to learn to love in return.

Your marriage started out with love as its foundation. The enemy’s weapon to destroy your marriage is a sense of entitlement. Have your dreams and desires become demands and expectations? Dig deep–give no place to the enemy. Set your affection on your beloved. Offer love. When each comes to the relationship with a willingness to do things the way the other prefers, there will be no problem finding compromise and common ground.

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SWEET REVENGE–WARNING! DANGER!

photo-1414604582943-2fd913b3cb17Revenge–probably one of the most dangerous words in our language. It should come with a warning sign that there is danger ahead. But somewhere deep in each of our hearts, when we have been wronged, there is this little voice that tells us that revenge would be sweet–taste good to our soul. They hurt us–they should experience hurt, too. It becomes more about getting back at them than about evening the score. And we don’t mind upping the stakes a little bit more. Where does this mentality come from? In the Old Testament, under the law, the teaching was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. This was one of the earliest forms of social justice. Jesus addressed this attitude head on in Matthew 5:38-48 in the Sermon on the Mount. He addressed the law and changed the game: He suggested we turn the other cheek and actually love our enemies. Now I have to tell  you straight up this is hard to do. The only way I’ve ever been able to deal with hurt and my desire for revenge is on my knees before the Lord. I have to take the time to get close to His heart and to begin praying for a change in their hearts.

Christ came to fulfill the law. He came to teach us that actions were the outward manifestations of the inward state of the heart. He teaches us to nurture love and forgiveness, even to our enemies. WHY? Doesn’t He know it is hard to love your enemies, to turn the other cheek? And who wants to pray for someone that just did you wrong? (I’m thinking he doesn’t want us to pray they’ll be hit by a bus on their way home this evening.) So why would He ask this of us? That eye for an eye thing sounds more realistic.

The answer is simple. In our flesh we can all carry out that sweet revenge thing with gusto. But laying down our rights and taking up His cross so that we might manifest love to those who have wronged us. . .well, this is when we get to showcase His life and love living through us. You see, He loved us when we were enemies of the cross; He loved us so much even then, He gave His life for us. He asks us to now forgive to the same measure we have been forgiven. Maybe you are saint, but it seems I’ve been forgiven much. The Lord taught us to pray for forgiveness even as we have forgiven others. Basically He is saying, when we stand before Him and we have a pile of transgressions we have committed and we are seeking His forgiveness, He is going to ask for a list of all the transgressions against us and He is going to forgive us to the same measure we have forgiven others. Now I don’t know about you, but this means I’ve got some big time forgiving to do. In fact, I probably need a lot more people to do me wrong so I can rise above and shower forgiveness on them just so I can lay up some points against that day.

So why are you holding on to grievances?
So why don’t you just lay them down and RUN TO FORGIVENESS?

God said vengeance is His; He will repay. Why does He say He will hold the vengeance card and not pass it over to us? It’s simple–He sees heart motive. Have you ever done something stupid? In your haste have you listened to a critical voice against someone else that swayed your thinking? Have you ever made an assumption about something or someone and you hurt another person? You see, God sees your heart and its motivation; He also see their heart and their motivation. The question on the table is whether the offending action was done in haste or ignorance or was it done maliciously, with revenge. God is judging the other person’s action. . .but He’s also judging your actions. If revenge is your motivation, look out–Danger ahead. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word vengeance has it’s root meaning in punishment. Look out. This is not your work; justice/punishment belong only. . .ONLY. . .to God.

I love that David refused to exact vengeance on Saul even though he was seeking to kill him. David respected the office Saul held as one given by God. And even though he had already been anointed as the next King of Israel, he did not assume to take vengeance on his enemy because he feared God. If revenge is weighing heavy on your heart, it’s time to get down on your knees and let the God of the Universe take your hurts. He will deal with them but first, He wants to forgive you and heal you. And you can trust Him to deal with those that have hurt you as well. Maybe He will zap them from the sky and that bus will hit them after all. But maybe, because of your love, He will soften and change their hearts–even toward you. You see, if they get hit by that bus you’ve dreamed of, it’s going to make a mess. But if their heart changes, you might just find a dear friend. They might be able to help you share God’s light to a fallen world.

Time to hand it all over to God–He’s the ONLY ONE that can change hearts. It’s the only way you’ll find PEACE. And peace is so much sweeter than revenge.

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That Ole Devil is a Sly Old Fox

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I hate being tricked. It makes me feel foolish and usually there is some type of pain or loss involved. Satan is just full of tricks. From our first introduction to him in the garden (Genesis 3), we see him displaying sly tricks that have continued to be effective through the centuries. So let’s focus on them and see if we can begin to spot him at work in our lives. Victory comes when we begin to defeat the enemies of our life. These can be enemies in our relationships, our health, our mind, the usage of our time, our conversations. . . . lots of room for Satan to wield his weapons against us. Oh, he is roaring and wants to devour us.

First, of all, he disguised himself as something good. How do I know this? No woman would be near a snake if he presented himself to her as a talking serpent. Let’s just say he must have looked a whole lot better than any snake I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell you if snakes talk or not because I have no first hand experience with this because I’m not hanging around long enough to find out. So moving past my hatred of snakes. . .he at least presented himself as intelligent, able to discuss issues and reason with Eve. And he presumed to know more than God.

1.  He questioned God’s Word–placed doubt as to what God had said.

2.  He denied God’s Word.

3. He appealed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–the hooks that took Even down.

4. He is the author of confusion. I Corinthians 14:33 tells us God doesn’t write confusion into our life’s story. . .guess who does. Eve was so confused she thought God said not to even touch the fruit.

5. He’s an exchange artist–He gets to you exchange the truth of God’s Word for a lie. She exchanged God’s truth that death would be the end result for Satan’s lie that she would just know more than God.

6. He rationalized sin and the penalty for it.

7. Appealed to her sense of rights.

8. He is a condemner. God says that when we confess our sins He removes them as far as the East is from the West. So if God isn’t looking at out sins and failures and bringing them back up to us, guess who is? You can bet he is the one that showed up and told Adam and Eve they were naked.

 

In researching tricks of Satan, I found a website (http://www.roadtobetterliving.com/HTML/SatansTactics5Tools.html) that listed Satan’s tricks as D-words which I thought worked well for remembering the tricks of that ole DEVIL.

Deception: Satan’s most successful tool.  He wields this tool with devastating results.

Doubt: Makes you question God’s word and his goodness.

Discouragement: Makes you look at your problems rather than God.

Diversion: Makes the wrong things seem attractive so you want them more than the right things.

Defeat: Makes you feel like a failure so you don’t even try.

Delay: Makes you put off something so it never gets started or completed.  

 

Bottom line, he is out to trick you. He wants to devour you. Now if you are a child of God, He cannot pluck you out of God’s hand, but he wants to rob you of all the riches God has laid up for you. He waits until you are at your weakest point (e.g., He approached Jesus right after a time of fasting in the wilderness). He knows when to come after you and he has a big bag of tricks. But if you have an enemy, it is worth your time to get to know him. That way when you are vulnerable and don’t know what is coming at you, you can call a time out, compare what is happening to the tricks you know of the Deceiver, and back him up. The Lord says if we resist him, he’ll flee from us. So put on your whole amour, be wise, take notes on your enemy and stand strong in your faith. Tell that ole devil to just move on down the road–you are going to stand on the Word of God.

 

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BE SURE TO WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR

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My husband is a 100% disabled veteran who suffers from the effects of agent orange from his years in Vietnam. Recently the doctors provided him with one of those breathing masks. Surprisingly it was virtually silent and it did help him sleep. No problem. But then a man showed up at our door with an oxygen unit. Now this fancy thing filters air through it, removes the hydrogen, providing him with a higher concentration of oxygen while he sleeps–which he apparently needs. The technician came into our room and hooked the fancy machine up and then turned it on. Let me tell you, I thought an airplane was warming up for take off right there in our room. All I could think of was that there was absolutely no way I could sleep in this house if that thing was on, much less actually sleep in this room. After the technician left, Hank sheepishly asked me what I thought, “It’s kind of loud; do you think you’ll be able to sleep?” I had to be honest, “I cannot imagine sleeping with that thing on. It’s really loud. Maybe I could move into the guest room.” I could see his downcast eyes and hurt that I’d move away from him. He took this very hard and very personally. All day long I wrestled with what to do. I didn’t want to hurt him but there was just no way I could sleep with that noise. I took this dilemma to the Lord.

I read, Philippians 4:8 (KJV): “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Can my thoughts block out that noise? I’d heard of people living by a train track who say they never hear it after a few weeks. So I prayed about it and asked God to help me focus my thoughts as I went to bed. I lay there and thought of all the wonderful things about my husband. Then I began to think of each of my children and grandchildren and focused on all the wonderful memories I have of them, the amazing things I see in their lives, thanking God for each and every one. The next thing you know, I was asleep–sound asleep. It’s been a week and this strategy works perfectly. I haven’t even noticed the airplane in our room at all.

This demonstration of the power of my thoughts made me look at this verse and its context. Paul was closing his letter to the Philippians with some last minute instructions. When I’m departing from a loved one, I find we utter important things to one another: “Remember, I love you.” “Be safe.” “Don’t forget to write or call.” And a mom’s favorite, “Be sure you wear clean underwear.” Paul is sharing his heart’s love instructions to these brothers and sisters in Philippi just before he waves goodbye. Let’s see what else he might say. . .I was a little surprised.

As chapter 4 begins, he calls out two women by name and tells them to stop fighting. (NLV): “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” Once I got past the idea of anyone actually naming their girls Syntyche and Euodia, I realized Paul was trying to help two women get along with each other–they were airing their dirty laundry and he thought it was time for some clean underwear. He even provided them with a counselor to help them and left them some poignant instructions.

1. “Always be full of the joy of the Lord.

2. Rejoice!

3. Always let others see you are considerate in all you do.

4. Remember that the Lord is near (coming soon).

5. Tell God what you need.

6. Thank Him for everything He has done

THEN. . .you will experience His peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Here we have two women who are obviously not seeing eye to eye. The noise about their disagreement had reached Paul (and probably everyone else around them). As Paul prepares to leave the church, his exhortation is focused on helping these two women get past their grievances and actually love one another. The instructions are clear and include a  promise of great peace. I wonder if they listened and if they worked things out.

Have you got some dirty laundry? Try Paul’s formula–maybe include a counselor. You can’t make another person try the formula, but you can do all the right things on your half of the table before the Lord (who is near). Be happy, not sour. Rejoice over them. Is there something praiseworthy about them? Maybe you could make a list and think on those things rather than the list of petty grievances or irritations you’ve collected. Is there something you were hoping to get from the relationship that is missing–could you tell God about it and ask Him to fill your needs and let them off the hook? Have you thanked God for them and even their idiosyncrasies? He put them in  your life for a reason–have you thanked Him for them?

I think it’s like my approach to the oxygen machine. Had I focused on the noise in my head, I’d have either spent many sleepless and frustrating nights or moved away from the one I love. Too many times we focus on irritating habits or personality traits rather than just simply being grateful for all they are and have been in our lives. Start your road to restoration by following Paul’s formula. Give God thanks for them. Remember the good, focus only on the true/honorable/right/pure/lovely and admirable–make peace–the Lord is near and coming soon. In essence, he said, “Forget about the noise swirling in your heads and think about only the good things. Be grateful. Focus your mind. Do it God’s way and you’ll find that indeed He will fill your heart with unimaginable peace.”

Get Ready for a good night’s sleep. Shhh.

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WHAT? I HAVE ENEMIES?

As I looked at my blog post categories, it was obvious I’d avoided discussing our relationship with enemies as if by simply ignoring them they would vanish into thin air. Truth be known, I hate to admit I have enemies; it feels like failure. But let’s take the lid off these relationships and see what God has to show us.

We have three subtypes of enemies.

  • The arch enemy—Satan
  • Enemies of the cross
  • Enemy of Self

SATAN

I Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Oh, he just never gives up. You and I are no match for him. The only one who has ever defeated him is Christ. So, knowing this, you and I are going to need to be prayed up and hiding underneath the shadow of His wing. He waits and watches until we are at our weakest. He knows our weaknesses and times his onslaughts so they can have maximum impact. We would benefit by knowing his tactics:

  • Strikes when you are alone, weak and vulnerable
  • Questions the word of God (Eve)
  • Encourages doubt (Eve)
  • Encourages you to shift blame (Adam)
  • Encourages you to take matters into your own hands (Cain)
  • A Tempter (Jesus)
  • Is a Master at finding your weak points: Lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life

Christ showed us how to defeat Him.

  1. Through the Word. Each time you heard Christ refer to what God has instructed. . . “
  2. Your desire must ONLY be to do the will of the Father
  3. You must be prayed up
  4. Be on mission with the Father

ENEMIES OF THE CROSS

Philippians 3:18-19: For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Believe it or not there are people who become an enemy simply because you have been covered in the blood of Christ. They are influenced by our arch enemy who wants revenge. David recounts the torture from this type of enemy in Psalm 44, calling upon the Lord to save Him because of His unfailing love.

These enemies don’t want to hear a message of repentance and forgiveness. They want to continue down their broad road without seeing any billboards that indicate they might be on the wrong road or have missed a turn. They will conspire against you because your faith and lifestyle convict them. You will recognize them because they 

  • Flaunt their ungodliness in your face
  • Try to make you feel you don’t belong to their club unless you participate in their sin
  • Are not seeking knowledge; therefore, the Word of God is an unwelcome voice
  • Are critical—look for you to make a mistake so they can hold it up
  • Talk behind your back
  • Make up lies about you
  • Do not like reproof
  • Celebrate when you are hurting
  • Haughty, high-minded
  • Bitter
  • Caught up in the things of the world

This type of enemy always blindsides me because they come out of left field. It seems I’m journeying with someone, deeply loving and caring for them, when suddenly I find I’m being attacked. I must confess that my instinct is to withdraw. In truth, it is my time to get into the Word and run into my strong tower so I can rise above the conflict to observe the battle that is raging. I need to call upon Him for He will fight for me.

 SELF

Romans 7:14b-15: I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Yes, like Paul, I’m my own worst enemy. I let my emotions, pride, fears, greeds, lusts and weaknesses rule when I should be leaning more on my Master and letting Him shine through me. And when others see these things in me, they reject me and eagerly point a finger at my failures. I’ve been doing a lot of research on my personality type; we each have one. It is a very good thing to be who God made you to be; but it is important that we understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses and greeds (See Deb Potts book, How to Deal with Prickly People) so we constantly stay alert to areas vulnerable to attack.

God gives us a great reference guide for how to conduct ourselves in Romans 12. Pull this out often and see if you have erred in any way. Hasten to make amends.

To be honest with you, as long as I am walking around in flesh, there is no way I can defeat these enemies alone. But, praise God, I do not have to raise a white flag of surrender either. Victory will be won day-by-day, battle-by-battle as I lean on Him. I will fight the good fight of faith until He conquers all my enemies at His coming.

Until that day I thank God even for my enemies. They remind me to get into the Word, to daily cleanse my heart, to trust in my Lord, to run to Him, to rest even in my anxieties and to cling to the Rock. I’m reminded that I must stay close to Him because my hiding place—my safe place—is in His shadow.

Psalm 57:1: Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

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THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Five)

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I want to make it clear that forgiveness does not mean you have to face the other person and that a resolution is reached between you. We are instructed to confront someone when we feel there has been a misunderstanding–when there is a shred of doubt as to intent. We confront to make sure we are seeing things clearly. For example, if someone murders your friend or you are date raped, you don’t need to confront them to forgive them. There may have been extenuating circumstances, but the deed is done and you are wounded–deeply wounded. Forgiveness is not going to absolve guilt. It isn’t going to right the wrong. It isn’t going to make it all go away. It happened. It was horrific. It is done. You have a RIGHT to your hurt and anger. You simply do not have the strength to carry it forward. Forgiveness is truly something you do within yourself and for yourself. It has nothing to do with the other person. Your forgiveness is not dependent on their remorse. It is dependent upon your determination to leave it behind and begin to live again.

Wikipedia: Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. 

So the question is HOW do I change my feelings and attitudes?

* Recognize the need to forgive–you need to do this for you, not them. There’s no need to tell them you forgive them. This is between you and God.

* Face the fact that all the grieving or hard feelings you can pile up are not going to fix it. If it would, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. That pile of emotional trash has taken up valuable space in your heart and life long enough. Time for a trip to the dump.

* Tell God all about it. Know that He cares. He was there and He saw. One of God’s names is The Ancient of Days. This name is significantly important to being able to trust Him with the offenses you have suffered. He is going to sit on the throne one day as the righteous judge. He isn’t going to need to call witnesses. He was there and has been there since before creation and the first morning and evening became the first day. He is our witness. No new judge (who does not know all about it) is going to swoop in to try your case. So give it to Him and let Him carry the load.

* You need to be free. God wants your heart and mind set on Him, not your offenses. Hurt feelings are a trick of Satan to rob you of joy and effectiveness. Deny him dominion over your thoughts and life.

* God commanded us to forgive because it is the only way to freedom and peace. Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”  Your motivation for forgiveness is obedience to God and a willingness to follow His commands even when it is tough.

* You have been forgiven. Oh, yes. That same righteous judge that will judge others is going to judge you. When you recite the 23rd Psalm you are asking God to forgive you as you forgive those that have trespassed against you. When I stand before Him condemned by my failures and sins, and He looks at the stack of the offenses that I have forgiven, I want Him to have reason to forgive me lavishly. That means I must not be stingy in my forgiveness of others. My spirit of forgiveness must be complete and lavish. Forgiveness is not a random or solitary act, it is about attitude; it is a state of mind. And it takes practice and intention to keep our minds set on forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as your cruise control.

* Begin to pray for your offender. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). So this is where you get to put on the mind of Christ. His will, your will, should be that they come to repentance and a place of forgiveness. Your desire should be that when you enter heaven’s gates, you will find them there. All offenses were left on earth, and a right relationship abounds between you for eternity because of the blood of Christ necessary to cover you and them. I find it impossible to truly pray for someone and hold a grudge.

* How often? How many times? Christ says “70×7.”  That’s a lot–indeed this number was given so we would understand that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. After all, God had to give His own Son so that you might be forgiven. How can you not then freely offer forgiveness to others?

* Does forgiveness mean restoration of relationship? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Throughout our lives offenses and misunderstandings are going to come–face it, even sleek, fast cars on the best of highways seem to run into and dent one another occasionally. If the circumstances suggest that you have piled up a lot of little things to create an attitude wall between you and someone, then most likely you need to confront why those attitudes exist and tear the wall down. Hopefully with a right view, right attitudes, improved relationship skills, etc. the relationship can be restored. Counselors are especially helpful at helping you see where your view and understanding may need tweaking–(remember all the differences we discussed in Part One). A trained, neutral third party can help shed light to the situation you had closed the curtains on. This is especially true of parents and children, coworkers, spouses–people who are traveling close and at high speed alongside each other in the highway of life. Take every opportunity to find forgiveness–rest stops on the highway of life that you may journey together in love and respect.

If, however, someone has intentionally harmed you, there is no requirement that you bring them close again. For example, you might forgive the man who killed your sister, but most likely not set a place for him at your Thanksgiving table. If someone steals from you, there is no expectation that you give them the key to your home. If someone stabs you in the back in a business deal, you might not want to partner with them in the future. Just remember that God is looking at the circumstances and knows whether prudence and good discretion would dictate a separation or whether your imposed separation in the relationship is due to the fact that you are harboring unforgiveness–maybe unwilling to face wrongs that you may have done to the other one. He is the one that will judge motives and before whom the intents of our hearts will be displayed. Nothing will be hidden. Get before Him and let Him try your heart and make it new (Psalm 51:10).

* Take your heartache and pain to the foot of the cross. Leave it there. He will bear it. Get up from your knees and pick up His cross–spreading His love and the story of forgiveness and the good news of the kingdom. He’s got your heavy burdens–He can carry them. His good news is light–it’s a good exchange. Take the deal.

Matthew 11:28-30: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I don’t normally post articles this long or even this many articles in a week. So it’s been a heavy week for me and no doubt for your in-box–lots to learn about forgiveness. I have worked hard to get as much before you as possible so you will have the resources you need to take the journey to forgiveness. You may skim over these things today, but no doubt the time will soon come that you need these principles. Bookmark them as you might put a pain reliever in the medicine closet–so you’ll know right where it is when you find you are hurting.

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THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Four)

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You’ve tried overlooking a comment, attitude or action but it haunts you when you lay your head on your pillow. Tears stream down your cheeks and the pain is so real it feels as if your heart may truly burst. You revisit those moments over and over, looking at it from every possible angle. You cannot let it go. Why did they say or do that?

It’s time to do something about it: you must confront the person and the issue. You’ll find this weight to get heavier and heavier until you take steps to lay it down. God tells us that in these circumstances we should go to our brother. Now I have been guilty of saying, “They are the one that is wrong; they know what they did. They should call me.” But truth be known, I’m the one hurt so I own the problem. I must take the initiative (Matthew 2:18). This is not a blank check for offenders. Matthew 5:23 gives specific instructions regarding how we should deal with matters where we have been the offender/the aggressor.

Take some time out to check your heart and motives: Reconciliation, not retaliation, must be your goal.

Step 1: Get out the Template and work through the conversation in your mind. Write it out if it helps you. Focus on the facts; remove the emotion.

Step 2: Set a time to talk–do not just burst in on them expecting to be heard. Choose a mutually agreeable time and a private space. You want to be on an even level for this conversation. So, for example, if it is a conversation with your boss you would not want to have it in their office while they sit behind their desk. Suggest you meet in a conference room or in the cafeteria or for coffee after work. Setting a time to talk signals the other person that something is important to you. What you don’t want to do is signal that this meeting will be a re-enactment of the high noon showdown at the OK Corral. Remember that the goal of this meeting is reconciliation and you want to signal the importance of the other person in your life from this first indication that you need to have a discussion.

Step 3: Meet them. Thank them for coming. Reaffirm the importance of the relationship to you, to your company, your family, etc.

Step 4: Using the I language template in Part 3, tell the person how you FEEL as simply as possible without assigning blame or exhibiting emotion. For example: “Yesterday, I walked away from our conversation feeling unsettled and indeed it bothered me as I lay down last night. So I wanted to just talk with you to make sure I haven’t offended you in some way and to share my feelings. I felt _____________ when you _____________ because__________________.

Step 4: Take a deep breath. Stop. Be quiet. Let what you have said settle in for a minute. Listen if they begin to talk–without interrupting. Let them say everything they want to say. Let them get it all out.

Step 5: Validate their understanding. Ask them if they understand why you might have the feelings you do. Suggest that in the future you would appreciate it if they would ____________________ because it hurts you when they do ___________ (ex. refrain from talking to others about you behind your back, because it ruins your reputation).

Step 6: Set a penalty if it happens again. Hopefully they understand and will apologize for hurting you. Suggest a next step if their actions continue. For example: “I’m glad we had this talk and time to clear the air. Our friendship is important to me. I’m going to assume that we have settled this. But should something come up between us again, would it be ok with you if I hear anything else that I call you and we come back to this table to talk about it? You can understand this is important to me.”

Step 7: If you have to meet a second time and they still deny the issue or show that they are not going to be considerate of your feelings; suggest that if the problem continues you’d like to invite a third party to the conversation.

I would love to think that there are all wonderful people out there who love me and will try to understand me and nurture our relationship. All I can do is put my desire to have a good relationship on the table; I can’t change their heart toward me if they do not love me. So, after this conversation, if they do not show signs of love and concern, then I walk away from the relationship and trust God to change their heart. I cannot change a hardened heart; only God can do that.

I have found that there are some people who utilize “snipper” behavior. They talk behind your back, say and do unkind things, etc. They do so because they are operating undercover. My personality type avoids confrontation at all costs. I want things to be smooth. I want to save the relationship. This means that taking these 7 steps are hard for me so I walk away and hide my feelings–just stuff them. Unfortunately, this behavior gives the snipper power. When they get by with hurting you and you do nothing, they become more aggressive. This is how co-dependent relationships develop. Unfortunately I find I often become the victim and play that role until I explode. How much better it would be to stop the aggressor at each step. I have had to learn to step up and take this posture. It is freeing. Shine a light on a snipper’s activities and they will cease. It will be up to them whether they are willing to change their attitudes and actions to save the relationship. Stuffing my feelings to do so is totally ineffective. Why do you stuff your feelings rather than take the 7 steps?

Hopefully, using these simple 7-steps to guide your conversation will give you confidence that you can have a peaceful but pointed conversation that will enable you to keep your accounts clear as you walk day by day. Ephesians 4:26 exhorts us to take care of any issues within a day’s time.

Do I get this right every time? No–but I’m getting better at it. Friends and family are rare; they are precious. Fight to keep them. Lay down your grievances. Trust God.

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THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Three)

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Before we tackle anything as sensitive as a conversation about a misunderstanding, we need to do a little self-checkup. Is it possible that our attitudes and communication styles could use a tune-up? After all, if others hurt us by the things they say and do, is it possible that we likewise have or could cause hurt to others with our attitudes and words? The last thing we want to do is inflame the situation and make things worse. I’m going to assume that the majority of you do not get up in the morning and make a list of people you’d like to offend or get even with before the day ends. Yet, as we journey through our days, situations arise; stuff happens. We react, we reflect, we respond. Unfortunately, we often end our day with regrets for the way we handled things. We lay our heads on our pillows not really knowing how to undo the mess in which we now find ourselves.

How would it make you feel if I confronted you with words like “You make me so angry!” or “You did XYZ and you are such a jerk!” The mere phrasing and our choice of words are very confrontational and sure to shut down the hearing ear of the person we are addressing. Immediately their defense mechanisms come into play. Yet this is the way many often talk to family, coworkers and friends. It takes training and conscious thought to phrase things in a way that will ensure that we do not inflame emotions or hurt others. Name calling and YOU language are inflammatory, and none of us needs to make an enemy. So because we are untrained in confrontational skills, afraid of the response of the other party or are fearful that we will not be able to come to a good resolution, we stuff our feelings and hurts and walk away from the relationship. So how can we express our feelings without causing hurt or harm to others?

I provide the men in my class with a template to help them rephrase their thoughts and feelings so they can express them appropriately and with confidence. They are provided with a two-sided sheet listing words describing feelings and emotions. They are instructed not to use the word angry when referring to their feelings because it is threatening. The template is:

I feel ____________________ when you __________________ because_____________________________.

For example: when speaking with a teenager about cleaning their room, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a mom to say, “I cannot believe this mess. You are such a slob. You don’t appreciate or take care of the things I’ve bought for you, so I’m not buying you any more clothes until you learn to take care of the things  you have.” In truth, I must confess that these words have come out of my mouth. No doubt my son felt belittled and deflated, threatened and labeled. How unkind of me. Sorry, son, please forgive me–I was untrained. (And even though I’m now trained, I need lots of practice–and understanding, tolerance and forgiveness–because I have a lot of old, bad habits.) How much better it would have been to say,

I feel frustrated when you do not take care of the clothing I have purchased for you because it makes me feel you do not appreciate them or understand how hard I have worked to provide them for you. 

This template lets us express our feelings and emotions without labeling, name calling or threatening. It lets the other person  understand our feelings rather than simply seeing us as out-of-control and offensive. Try it. When you have something you want to say, whether in the heat of the moment or in a calm face-to-face discussion about a sensitive issue, take a deep breath and use the phrasing. You can’t possibly judge someone else’s motives, but you can own your own feelings. They are real–they are your feelings. Get good at expressing them using the template so others can see how you feel and why. NEVER. . .EVER. . .NEVER. . .resort to name calling. It’s so hurtful and just plain wrong. If you’ve written a label over someone in your own mind, make sure it never comes out of your mouth. To do so will mean they harbor hard feelings toward you indefinitely–and justifiably so. It means the Holy Spirit is going to work you over until you come before them with an apology.

Here’s a little homework for you.  Rewrite the following statements using the template.

1.  You are so inconsiderate. I worked hard to cook you a fabulous dinner and you don’t even call to say you are going to be late. Now it is cold–hope you enjoy it!

2.  I can’t believe you promoted Joe to that position. I’ve been here longer than he has and deserved it. I quit.

How might you use the template to ask for a long over-due raise or to have a discussion with a loved one about an action they have taken that hurt you.

Now note that we are discussing using the template when talking with someone about an issue that needs to be addressed–a misunderstanding. I would not suggest that you begin to confront someone with things you just don’t like about their personality or ways. That would be belittling and, in truth, makes you the aggressor. Did I mention that we are all different? Learn to respect and value others and their ways–life would be so boring if we were all alike. Spend time listening carefully to them, try to understand them and make an effort to see things through their eyes. Listen with your heart and not just with your ears. You just may enlarge your vision of the world and find you can deeply love the person in front of you. If you have a list of petty things you don’t like about someone, the problem is most likely you and not them. My guess is they could make such a list about you as well, but have chosen to overlook all your idiosyncrasies because they love and/or respect you. We’ve all heard the story of the marriage counselor who asked a couple to write down all the things they wanted the other to change. One of them made an extensive two-page nit-picking list; the others’ page was blank–it simply said, “I love you just the way you are.” Guess who was the problem in the relationship? Don’t let Satan destroy your relationships by creating in you a critical spirit. Read I Corinthians 13 and measure your heart against these love descriptors.

So time for that self check-up. How’s your attitude? How are your communication skills? How is your heart? It’s really all about your heart toward the other person. And you, my friend, are the only one that can mend it. I love David’s plea in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Do some work on your knees before God, then get out the template and work on your words. After spending time with God you may find you owe someone a sincere apology rather than a confrontation about something you previously held in your heart. Satan is the master of deception. He wants to take your peace and the love God has created for you. Guard your heart. Don’t give him an inch. He won’t be satisfied until he destroys your relationships and ultimately your heart and peace.

Tomorrow we’ll review a template for guiding us through difficult conversations. Good tools will make you a skillful communicator and give you confidence.

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THOSE “D” WORDS

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Disappointment – Discouragement – Depression

If you have walked through this life and none of the D-words have shown up on your doorstep, you are blessed. Most of us humanoids, however, have had to face these demons on a regular basis.

Dreams are shattered, hopes vanish into thin air, people fail to love you, health deteriorates, promises are not kept, aspirations lose traction, finances pinch . . .sounding familiar to anyone other than me? All of these things fall under the category of Disappointments.  Life is filled with them; they are inevitable. What we do with disappointment is the dividing line between success and failure.

Discouragement is different–it is a choice we each make. It isn’t something that happens to us, it is an intentional response on our part to the disappointments in our lives. Disappointments that cause us to look inward will always lead us down the path to discouragement. But disappointments placed in the hands of a loving, all-mighty God are simply reminders that it wasn’t about us in the first place. It’s about Him–His plans, His promises! They simply remind us that when we cannot see, He can. It is the prompt for faith. Proper emotional handling of disappointments leaves room for hope and joy: Faith.

Depression is a step far beyond the first two D-words and is an indication that you need to seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to do so–God can heal through medicine. There are just some things that are so difficult that the human heart and mind cannot grapple with them without assistance–death, pain, loss.  Hopefully with good support and counseling you will emerge on the other side stronger than ever.

In Psalm 42 & 43, the Psalmist provides us with a glimpse of each of these three responses as he struggles to find his place before God once again. And as he does, God’s love is lavished upon him, his joy returns, his heart finds its song, and he worships his God. When the D-words show up in your life, make a stop by these two passages and allow God to shed His light in your life so you can deal with the billows and waves that D-words can cause.

So don’t let those D-words get you down. Look at your heart and clearly define whether you are dealing with a disappointment, are discouraged or really depressed. Then take action and expect God to place your feet back on solid ground.

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