Marriage: Finish Strong

Starting a race is easy, finishing a race is hard – Getting married is easy, staying married is hard.

So how do you stay married?  More importantly how do you stay happily married, because lots of couples can just co-exist and hang on.

Look at two passages of Scripture 1 Corinthians 13 :4-7 and Galatians 5:22

In Galatians, patience is listed as part of the “fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.

Paul talks about the fruit that should be evident in our lives if we are living for God in Galatians.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he goes into detail about the meaning of love, which is the key to staying married. in verse 4 it says that love is patient and kind. I believe that is one of the keys to finishing strong in a marriage.

The definition of Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Have self-control in difficult situations.

Increasing patience is viewed as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who has accepted the gift of salvation

In the Bible, patience is referred to in several sections. 

  • The book of Proverbs notes that “through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:14-16, NIV);
  •  Ecclesiastes points out that the “end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:7-9, NIV); 
  • In the book of James, the Bible urges Christians to be patient, and ” see how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,…until it receives the early and the late rains.” (James 5:7-11, NAB). 
  •  1 Thessalonians states that we should “be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, NAB). 

So how do we practice patience in a relationship, especially the marriage relationship?

1.  Remind yourself that things take time. People who are impatient, are people who insist on getting things done now and don’t like to waste time. However, some things just can’t be rushed. 

  • Think about your happiest memories. Chances are, they were instances when your patience paid off, like when you worked steadily toward a goal that wasn’t immediately gratifying, or took a little extra time to spend leisurely with a loved one. Would you have those memories if you had been impatient? Probably not.
  • Almost anything really good in life takes time and dedication, and if you’re impatient, you’re more likely to give up on relationships, goals, and other things that are important to you. Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.

2.  Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. You can move the world toward peace, by being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most. When other less important things fuel our impatience, taking time to remember any one of these items reduces our tendency to want something different right now.

3.   Always have a positive outlook in life and about your spouse Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believe the best about your spouse. Remember that marriage is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

4.   Expect the unexpected. Yes, you have plans, but things don’t always work out as planned. Accept the twist and turns in life gracefully. Keep your expectations realistic. This applies not only to circumstances, but also the behavior of those around you. 

  • If you find yourself blowing up over your child or your spouse accidentally spilling a drink, you’re not in touch with the fact that people aren’t perfect. Even if the occasion is not an isolated incident but is instead caused by their repeated neglect and carelessness, losing your patience isn’t going to make it any better. That’s something to be addressed with discussion and self-control.
  1.  Give yourself a break.
  • Stop holding yourself and the world around you to unattainable standards. Sure, we’d all be more patient if he would always listen, she would stop complaining, traffic flowed smoothly, and people didn’t make mistakes – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself a break!

The Benefits of Developing Patience

  1. Reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person.

When you learn and practice patience you don’t get as angry, stressed or overwhelmed. You are more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise.
This promotes longevity and makes you a happier, healthier person.

  1. Results in better decision-making.

When you’re patient you take the time to assess the situation, see the big picture, and weigh any pros and cons. The chances of making a big mistake lessen because you avoid making it in haste. Taking the time to problem solve requires patience and deliberation. 

  1. Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion.

You are automatically more understanding and compassionate with others when you yourself are patient. Patient people take the time to process what they go through and are able to determine what it takes to overcome obstacles, so they are more understanding of others. This results in better, more fulfilling relationships with spouses, friends, children and bosses. 

  1. Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.

As mentioned earlier anything worthwhile takes time and effort to achieve. As the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience. 

 Tips on How to Develop Patience

  • Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day.

Make a concerted effort to take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment. At the end of the day, observe all the ways in which you’ve made smarter decisions, got along better with others and actually understood what took place. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort. 

  • Slow down.

If you have the tendency to rush around and try to hurry things up, want things done immediately and can’t wait for things to take their natural course, STOP. Take several deep breaths before you act or make a move. For example, if you’re in a long lineup at the grocery store or in heavy traffic, make the decision to pause and not get worked up. Do some isometrics, listen to the radio, or just enjoy the view. Getting impatient won’t make things move along any faster, so why get worked up for nothing?

  • Practice delaying gratification.

When you want to reach for that dessert, second drink, or buying your tenth pair of red shoes, stop and think about it first. Maybe you don’t need or want any of them that badly after all. You can save yourself some money or added calories. 

  • Practice thinking before you speak.

At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, and can pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others. 

A few other tips on Patience:

  • Don’t be patient with bad behavior.  Be patient with how you respond to bad behavior.
  • Praise your spouse publicly, be sincere and specific.  Brag about how great he is or how organized she is.
  • Have crucial conversations in private.  Don’t argue and fight in front of the kids or in public.  Be patient enough to work on the conflict when you both can focus and not be distracted.
  • Try to praise more than admonish – you should praise 3 times more than you admonish.  If all you do is complain about what they are not doing and never praising them there will be little motivation to make any changes.

Being Kind goes with Patience:

  • Kindness always starts with you!  When you are kind it will influence your spouse, children and anyone else around you
  • When you are kind to another person it is difficult to not be kind in turn.
  • Being kind means making their day better.  Are they better off for being around you?
  • It is how you talk to each other the words that you use.
  • Helping when you can, serving them to make their day easier.
  • It can be very simple, a smile, a hug, a kiss, paying attention and listening, giving a small gift, saying I love you, writing a note!

Kindness is intentionally creating and maintaining the right environment in your home so your spouse and children can also be kind to others. 

The goal is to make deposits in their emotional bank account, which means you have to know their love language and what is important to them.

Prayer is important:

Prayer is the last thing I want to leave with you. 

Trying to be patient and kind on our own will not work.  You can do it for a while, but it will not last long term.

Only by involving God can you be patient and kind and all those other things we read about in 1 Corinthians 13

When we pray we plug into the incredible power of God.  It activates things spiritually that we cannot see.

Prayer also changes our perspective and reminds us of what is important.

So I want you to commit to praying for your spouse everyday for the next 21 days.

If you forget, just start again the next day.

Finish Strong!

Choose a life of Self Giving

I believe life is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we do that the rest of our lives find direction, meaning and purpose.

And one of the ways of God that leads us deeper into this kind of relationship is the pathway of self-giving. 

I’m not talking about giving your money, though the happiest and healthiest saints are always the most generous. I’m talking about giving yourself. 

We know from experience and from the Bible that the path of self-giving is the path of greatest joy and growth. It’s not free from risk and pain. But it is the path of greatest joy. 

Paul said in Acts 20:35, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More happy. More deeply satisfying. More rich and solid. Especially giving yourself.

This is who you are as a Christian. The moment you become a Christian, you are a giver by nature. self-giving is part of your nature, your essence, your identity.

Listen to Jesus: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [that’s what it means to be a Christian] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). 

That is who you are. You are a spring. You don’t do a spring. You are a spring. Whoever believes in me, Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). That’s who you are. You are a spring. You are a fountain.

And what makes springs and fountains happy and healthy is when they make streams. If you stop them up, they stagnate. If you let them give — if you let them become what they are — they stay clear and healthy and life-giving and happy. 

Let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12.

Seven Ways Paul Gave Himself

Now listen to Paul as he tells us seven ways that he gave them himself. Please, don’t think of this as for someone else. Be encouraged to become what you are in Christ, a fountain, a spring, a giver of yourself.

1. First, Paul took a risk.

Verse 2: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”

Going to church or going back to church is risky. Many of you have had bad church experiences, you’ve been hurt or disappointed or neglected or even rejected.
Taking the step of going is big. Walking into a new church with all the unknowns, is taking a risk

It’s the same thing getting into a small group or volunteering to serve. It’s risky, you could get hurt again, you could be disappointed again, you might not click or it might not be the right fit.

But that’s what the Gospel is all about – taking a risk, living and giving our lives to others. Loving and serving and growing. You can’t do that if you live an isolated, careful life. 

Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk

2. Paul lived with integrity.

Verse 3: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”

He gave them the truth and kept himself pure (that word for “impurity” is regularly used by Paul for sexual sin). He wasn’t doing this to find an inappropriate relationship.

He’s saying look guys our motives for helping you, for sharing the Gospel with you was from a heart of integrity. Integrity is not living perfect, but it’s being quick to admit your failures, your mistakes, asking for forgiveness – It’s being open, honest and of good character.

Our desire should be to live lives of integrity so that we can be a positive helpful influence on others.

We are not perfect, but we do have Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit.

3. Paul was not a People Pleaser.

Verse 4: “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.”

People-pleasing makes people into phonies or pretenders. It usually means they are deeply insecure. 

What they want most is your approval. And so they are not real. They will do or say anything to make you happy, to avoid conflict or get you to like them

We all have some of these tendencies of wanting people to like us or to get their approval. That’s not wrong, it’s just should not be our primary motivator for doing things..

That is not giving yourselves. You never really know the real person. Paul will have nothing to do with that. He was all about pleasing God – His focus was on listening to God, obeying God, Sharing the good news about Jesus.

Relax in Jesus, and be who you are — warts, wrinkles, scars, and all.

4. Paul was Honest & Humble.

Verse 5: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness.”

Flattery is using language not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of manipulation. You want something. 

In this case, Paul was being accused of buttering them up as a way to get money. They say he wanted their money, not their souls. And he says, “you and God know that is not true.”

We should live our lives the same way, not trying to manipulate people to get what we want, to get our way, to make more money.

We should not go to church or get into a small group to better our financial position or our status or to take advantage of someone else’s generosity, but to give ourselves.

Listen to verse 9: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” He was not after their money. He was after their hearts for their good, he wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus. 

He was there to give them himself. When you give yourself, you don’t flatter, and you don’t position yourself for money, and you don’t expect to be served. You are there to give. That’s who you are in Christ — a giver.

That should be our attitude when you go to church, when we join a small group, when we volunteer to serve. Not what can I get, but what can I give.

5. Paul Cared Deeply for others.

Verse 6–8: We could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

He exchanged a relationship of power for a relationship of affection. This is a very vulnerable thing for a leader to do, or anyone really. 

Caring about people and caring for people is part of our calling to give ourselves to each other. 

Don’t ever think you are above this. Don’t ever think you are too sophisticated or too self-sufficient, or too cool to give yourself like this — showing tender affection like a mother with her children.

Who can you show kindness to? Where can you build meaningful relationships that lead to care and friendship.

For some of you it starts in your homes, with your spouse or with your family. But don’t stop there. You can be a part of a group, serve on a team, be a mentor or pray for people and encourage people that are hurting or struggling.

Ask God to change your heart, to help you care deeply about other people and how you can love and serve others.

6. Paul treated people right.

Verse 10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.”

He is not saying he was sinless. What this means is: We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior

He was above reproach. What a beautiful thing — what a compelling thing — when we can be real and be good. He walked in integrity.

Paul was open, vulnerable and real. There was nothing fake about him. He was genuine, he treated people with respect, love and care. He was full of truth and grace, which made it hard for people to find fault in him or accuse him of anything shady.

7. Paul was an Encourager

Verses 11–12: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

And the legacy was not the memory of himself, but the kingdom and the glory of God.

Paul was a great encourager, just like a father encourages his children, so we can be known as an encourager, instead of a complainer.

Who can you encourage? Write a note, send  a text, say a prayer, visit, call.

Bottom Line: You Have Something to Give, Choose a life of giving Yourself.

Three Relationship Tips

We were created for relationships. God made us to be in relationship with other people, and with him. When we are not in healthy relationships our lives are more difficult, dark, and lonely. In order to improve our relationships with people and God, here are three simple things we can do to grow, and become more healthy.

  1. Spend Time Together – If you don’t intentionally spend time together, you don’t get to know the other person. It’s in those times together, that the relationship has a chance to grow, both deeper and closer. Regular touches face to face, eye to eye, where you talk, catch up, ask questions, encourage and resolve conflict. When it comes to spending time with God, it also takes being intentional. The ways I do that is mainly through prayer, simply talking and listening to God. Reading Scripture is another way I connect with him. Musical worship, meditation and being out in creation are other ways I connect with God. Whether it’s another person or God, make time for each other. Plan times together where you are not interrupted or distracted.
  2. Listen and Pay Attention – This is a huge thing in relationships. Most conflict happens because of misunderstandings. When you are with a person you care about, practice active listening, by asking clarifying questions. Pay attention to their non verbal language. Be fully present by not being distracted by your phone, the TV, or other people. This is a great way to let someone know you care about them, by listening and paying attention. How are you doing in listening and paying attention to God and what he is saying to you?
  3. Practice Forgiveness – No relationship can last without giving and receiving forgiveness. We all are imperfect and make mistakes. We can and do hurt each other, maybe unintentionally or maybe intentionally. Forgiveness is the secret sauce to a healthy relationship. It helps us to keep short accounts and not let things build up. Forgiveness is the beginning of healing and helps us to not keep score or bring up old hurts from the past. Forgiving is not forgetting, but it can lead to forgetting, or to not holding an offense against someone.

I could give many more tips on healthy relationships. The big thing to me is that any relationship that is important will take work. The more work you put into the relationship the healthier it becomes. Anything that is neglected tends to deteriorate. Don’t let that happen to your relationships. Make time and find ways to build up and improve your relationships. You will never regret that effort.

5 Qualities People Want in Their Leader

I’ve been watching what’s been happening in our world over the last several months and it’s been interesting to see how people are leading through a challenging, difficult time. Businesses have been disrupted, shut down or changed in some way. Schools and non-profits have been impacted in similar ways. Our government at all levels has been challenged in unprecedented ways.

There are no perfect leaders, everyone has flaws, weaknesses, and of course we all make mistakes. Leaders have to make difficult decisions, make judgement calls and sometimes take risks in the midst of the uncertainty.

It’s also very easy to pick out qualities we don’t like in the people that are leading us. I’m sure you could list out several right now. You are probably also thinking about some leaders that you don’t like or connect with.

As I thought about qualities that I appreciate most in leaders around me, these are the ones that came to mind. These qualities also work in the home with your spouse and children. Leading at home is just as important as leading at work. As you read these think about how you can apply these in both places.

  1. Speaking the Truth with Love – I appreciate when a leader is upfront and honest and shoots straight with me. I equally appreciate a leader that can shoot straight with me and say it in a kind way. Leaders that are honest whether it’s good news or bad news are highly respected. If they are able to do it in a loving, encouraging way it builds up the loyalty and respect even more. Leaders that are truthful and loving will build a strong team and a healthy home.
  2. Showing Genuine Appreciation – Leaders that show regular appreciation for people, and are truly genuine about it are highly respected. The ability to encourage people by noticing good behavior and accomplishments and quickly acknowledging it is a rare quality. A leader that does this both publicly and privately will quickly win over their team if it’s done with a genuine heart that cares about each person. A leader that believes in the people they are leading shows regular appreciation and encouragement. It takes great discipline and focus to do this on a regular basis.
  3. Expressing Care and Concern – When people know that you really care about them, their respect and loyalty skyrocket. You can’t fake this, it needs to be genuine. Leaders that take the time to get to know you, ask about your family and your personal interests are also pretty rare these days. Walking slowly, listening and remembering, sending a note or a text to see how you are doing, those are game changers in leadership. Those small acts of care build a healthy culture. Everyone goes through hard times, when your leader listens, understands and helps as much as possible, it really matters.
  4. Being Decisive and Flexible – Most people appreciate a leader that can make wise, quick decisions. It keeps things moving and helps people get things done. When you add to that a leader that is willing to change their mind, go in a different direction, and listens for the best ideas, you have a highly respected leader. The great leaders are also quick to empower other people to make decisions and encourage them to be flexible as well.
  5. Humble yet Persistent – A leader that has a serving mindset and is always trying to lift others up builds trust and respect. Combine that humble mindset with being persistent and focused and you have a leader that can accomplish a lot, and has a healthy strong team. You can’t fake humble, a leader needs to truly desire to serve people and help them get better. That never give up attitude is also vital for an organization to survive and grow. These are the leaders that can navigate the dangerous waters of chaos, disruption and adversity and come out stronger and better.

One last thought about great leadership. Emotional health is also extremely important when it comes to leadership at work and at home. When you have damage emotions it comes out in the way that you lead. Before you can improve any of the qualities above, it’s important to work on your emotional health.

One of the best ways to do that is through spiritual growth. Deepening your relationship with God can bring real, long lasting healing to damaged emotions. Working through forgiveness, understanding God’s grace and mercy, and seeing yourself as a child of God are all very important in gaining emotional health. You may also need to seek counseling and sometimes even a medical doctor to make sure you are healthy emotionally and physically so that you can lead well.

We are all in process and hopefully getting better at leading the people entrusted into our care and circle of influence. Make it a priority to work on developing these key qualities, the people you lead will be grateful.

Basic Needs we all have…

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If you’re too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

One of the ways we can love and serve other people is by being aware of these basic needs in the people we are loving and serving. When we are able to meet some of these needs in others they feel loved and served.

Why Most People Don’t Have What They Want

 

Cardiovascular problems cause thousands of deaths every day.  The main problem is neglect.  Every day there are thousands of divorces, often because of neglecting problems, and each other.  The relationships and things we neglect are damaged and deteriorate faster than the relationships and things we care for and pay attention to.

Think about your car.  If you never wash it and never get it serviced it won’t last very long.  It will start to break down and soon will quit running.  Or think about a garden that is neglected.  All kinds of weeds start to take over and they can choke out everything you planted.  Our bodies and our relationships are the same way.  If we neglect them they will stop working or weeds start to take over.

So what or who are you neglecting in your life?

The longer you neglect your health, your teeth, your weight, your finances, your marriage, your spouse, your character or your faith the worse it will get.

Why do we neglect things that are important in our lives?  That’s a big question, because most people want to be healthy, most people want a great marriage, most people want financial freedom, most people want a good reputation, most people want a closer relationship with God.  The problem is most people are not willing to do the basic principles that lead to health, growth and success in those areas of their lives.

It takes discipline to lose weight and get healthy, it takes discipline to work on your marriage and become a better person, it takes discipline to get out of debt and be generous, it takes discipline to grow in your faith and trust in God.

Our natural tendency is to do what’s comfortable and easy.  We avoid conflict, we avoid the scales and going to the doctor.  We eat our favorite foods and only think about exercising.  We avoid having that conversation or going to a trusted advisor for counsel.  In other words we neglect some of the things that are most important in our lives and stay busy with things that don’t improve those parts of our lives.  Many people simply hope it will get better or that the problem will just magically go away.

So what should a person do if they have areas of their lives that have been neglected and damaged?  Here are a few simple steps that can help get you back on track:

  1. Set some goals – We all have two choices, making a living or designing a life.  When you write down goals and review them often you are paying attention to parts of your life that you want to improve.  The first step in improving an area of your life is to pay attention to it.  The ultimate reason for setting goals is to keep us focused on the things that will bring out the person God created you to be.  To be a better man or woman, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.  Setting goals is the first step toward being a better person.
  2. Ask for help – Trying to accomplish major changes in your life is very difficult without the help of others.  Whether it’s losing weight, reconciling a marriage, improving a relationship, transforming your financial condition or deepening your faith, find trustworthy people that can walk with you.  Find people that want something for you not something from you.  Look for people of integrity, honesty and character.  Remember that God created you and has a purpose for your life.  Talking to God and reading His words in Scripture can be a huge help in making changes in your life.
  3. Think long-term – Short-term fixes don’t work.  Cutting out carbs might help you lose some weight but long-term weight loss only happens if you change the way you eat and exercise for life.  The same in relationships, you can learn to do some nice things for each other but if you don’t address your core issues your right back in the same place a year later.  Address why you eat too much, address why you get so angry, address why you spend so much money.  That is the hard part of change, not just putting a bandage on the wound but cleaning it out and stitching it up.
  4. Don’t give up – The hard work is always worth it.  When you exercise on a regular basis you get sore and hurt for a while, but as your muscles and lungs and heart get stronger you feel so much better.  When you learn what your hot buttons are and how you defend yourself, then you can start working on changing your responses, which will improve your relationships.  Put in the hard work, face your fears, keep pushing to get better and don’t give up.

So if you’ve been neglecting areas of your life start making plans to change that today.  A year from now you will be glad you did.

 

How to Communicate with Your Spouse Part 1

Communicate-Effectively-With-Your-Partner-Step-5

When it comes to communicating with your spouse or anyone you are close with, the five love languages are a great place to start.  If your spouse feels loved then communication tends to be better and easier.  If they do not feel loved, communication will breakdown.

So let’s take a look at the five love languages.  You can read more about these in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages

  1. Words of Affirmation

A compliment speaks a Thousand Words! – It’s nice to get compliments from your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your parents or your children, but nothing compares to a compliment from your spouse.

  • This love language helps encourage and give courage to your spouse.
  • If it’s their main love language a simple compliment or word of encouragement can fill a tank for days.

Control that Biting Tongue – Words can kill, damage and destroy.

  • Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • Proverbs 12:25 An Anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
  • Proverbs 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
  • Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
  • James 3:8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Read that whole chapter!

Dispel Dominance – Real love makes requests, not demands.

  • When you tell your spouse what needs to be accomplished and do so by lashing out over-assertive words, even if you mean well, you will make your spouse feel Stupid and your words seem to belittle their know-how.
  • But if you make a humble request to your spouse, you are affirming their worth and abilities.
  1. Quality Time
    • Being close does not mean being together.
      1. Togetherness involves more of a connection than just being in the same room or the same house.
      2. Togetherness is when you are paying attention to each other while your together. Your giving your full focus, your fully present and engaged and listening.
  • It doesn’t mean you have to always be talking, it could be having a conversation and then going on a walk together, or watching a favorite TV show together or wash the dishes together or prepare food together.

Talk less, listen more

  • Ask questions and make sure you are paying attention. For men, don’t try to fix things, just listen repeat back some of the things she is saying and ask some questions if needed.
  • A great way to allow for this to happen is to ask your spouse how their day was and then shut up and listen.
  • Your spouse needs to be able to talk to you about what’s going on in their world – at work, at home with the kids, with family or friends.
  • Just 5-10 minutes of this can change the entire evening and atmosphere of the home.
  1. Receiving Gifts

Gifts: a Remembrance, a Symbol of love

  • Gifts can make a spouse feel important, cherished and sweetly remembered.
  • If this is a primary love language this will make his/her day and make them feel special, loved and secure.
  • It’s not as much how much you spend, it’s the fact that you thought about them and took the time to get them something.
  • It’s knowing your spouse well enough to know what they really like

The Gift of Self

  • Sometimes you need to give the gift of yourself by being fully present for your family.
  1. Acts of Service

In Everything you do, do it for Love

  • A husband helping with household chores like laundry, doing dishes, cleaning the house, taking care of the children etc or a wife fixing a leaking pipe, mowing the yard, fixing an appliance.
  • These need to be things that are not you normal household duties that you have agreed on.
  • Again it is when you notice something that needs done and do it without being told.
  • It sends a message that you are important to me, our home is important to me, our children are important to me.
  1. Physical Touch

Hold her when she cries

  • This can be hard for most men as they don’t know what to do when she is upset.
  • A loving husband will not turn and leave, go smoke, get a drink or give a lecture – he will hold her in a tight embrace, run his fingers thru her hair, maybe kiss her head, stroke her hand and make her feel safe in the power of his arms.
  • A physical touch can make or break a relationship – It can communicate love or hate

Touch as if it’s always the first time

  • Touch gives an emotional boost
  • It keeps the fire ablaze – is soothing and healing
  • For men physical touch includes sex but more than just the act of sex it’s the touching by both along the way.
  • Slow down and enjoy each other.
  • Just like a child needs physical touch in order to develop, adults need touch to stay emotionally and mentally healthy.

Talk to your spouse about what their love language is and what yours is

Tell your spouse what is most meaningful to you – don’t make them try to figure it out – (Women)

All of these are important even if it’s not a primary language

Start today, tonight before you go to bed.

 

A Key to Stronger Relationships

compassion

I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.

 

Top Ten Relational Needs

bigstockphoto_Top_Ten_4561594_0

This week I taught a class entitled “The Top Ten Relational Needs”.  It is based on a workbook by that title from Great Commandment Network. 

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If your too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

Balance

balance2

 

A Balanced Life

Are You Courting Burnout?

What do you do to keep your life balanced?

THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:

  1. Get Organized around your purpose.

When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life.  It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy.  A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral?  Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say.  Think about that and start writing down some things.

When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives.  It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose.  I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership.  That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time.  It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.

Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.

  1. Define the dimensions of your life.

FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE

  • Intellectual – This includes all activities that stimulate our ability to think.  It includes our work, what we read, what we research, what we study. Are we still learning and growing or are we stagnate and declining?
  • Physical – This includes how active we are, how much we exercise, the amount of rest we get and how we eat.  Basically how well we take care of ourselves physically.  Are we getting better or worse from a physical dimension?
  • Spiritual – This includes what we believe about God, about where we will spend forever, about the world around us, about why we are here and who put us here.  This includes our prayer life, going to church, serving other people, how well we love others.  Are we growing spiritually or declining spiritually?
  • Social – This is all about the relationships in our lives.  Immediate and extended family, close friends and casual friends, people you work with and people that work for you, current neighbors and previous neighbors, people you know from church, clubs, sports teams, people you went to school with, teachers, mentors, coaches and even the stranger you just met.  Are we developing and strengthening our relationships or are our relationships declining and dying?
  1. Build Capacity.

Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life.  How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives?  That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.

 

Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:

Play …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Work

Intellectual

Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak

Physical

Dead……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Alive

Spiritual

Poor …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Awesome

Relationships/Social

Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)

1)     Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.

True

False

2)    Lately, I’d define myself as moody.

True

False

3)    Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.

True

False

4)    My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.

True

False

5)    If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.

True

False

6)    I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.

True

False

7)    I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.

True

False

8)    I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.

True

False

9)    I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.

True

False

10)  Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.

True

False

Score Yourself:

1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.

5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.

8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.

TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take a walk
  • Eat well
  • Drink water
  • Slow down
  • Team up
  • Sleep well
  • Loosen up
  • Have fun
  • Get away

Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?