3 Practical Steps for Thriving Relationships

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Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.

Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us. 

Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.  

We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.

I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen. 

(1) I will act, not react.

We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful. 

Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down. 

I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking. 

Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying. 

This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM. 

But he wasn’t going to talk to her. 

He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning. 

In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM. 

He’s missed his flight. 

He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up. 

Point for the wife. 

Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]

It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react? 

Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?

Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Apologizing.
Asking clarifying questions.
Speaking calmly. 

When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them. 

Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always 

These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident. 

And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell. 

Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently. 

Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical. 

It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago. 

As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical. 

In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume. 

All of this is acting, not reacting. 

(2) I will focus on the good things in you. 

Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person. 

Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life. 

Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship. 

We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it? 

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. [Philippians 4:8]

Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse. 

In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up. 

Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.

This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:

Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become. 

The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them. 

(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.

We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us. 

One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.

Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount. 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]

As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person. 

If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.

People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them. 

Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others. 

Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like. 

I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me. 

Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

The One Thing Happy People Have and How to Get It.

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This blog submission is the second piece of a two part series entitled, The Secret to Happiness. Part 1 can be read here.

The truly happy people in your life have one thing (and I don’t mean happy people who are paid to be happy like those who work at Chick Fit A or any other guest services),  but genuinely satisfied and encouraging and kind people all have this one quality:

P E A C E.

They have peace.
In all areas of their life.

They have an internal calmness where they are thankful for the ups and downs. They are continually comfortable no matter what their week’s circumstances throws at them. When things go or don’t go their way, they are at peace. No matter what’s going on around them, they are good. They’re stable. They’re content.

I want that. I want you to have it. Not for a moment. Permanently. Let’s get it.

The most happy people have peace in three specific areas.

(1) Happy People Are At Peace With Themselves.

No matter their temporary successes or their temporary failures, they are at peace. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, young or old, if they attain the goal or not, if they’re married or single, if they have kids or not, if they’re extroverted or introverted – they are comfortable with who they are.

It’s because they have peace with themselves, even in the toughest of roads.

This is who God has made them, they are precious and so loved by Him, that’s enough for them. Nothing else around them, relationships or accomplishments, cannot give them more than God can, and the consequences of their mistakes do not take away from how God views them. His love puts them at peace.

(2) Happy People Are At Peace With Other People.

These happy, peaceful people aren’t the ones who are flying off the handle over every little thing. They’re not whining or yelling when there’s slow wifi or when a waitress messes up an order or sluggish drivers are near them or someone drops the ball at work or when their child spills the juice accidentally or when a loved one doesn’t notice what they’ve done. They’re not freaking out on others.

These people don’t blow up others on Facebook with, You’re wrong. I’m right. You’re an idiot for thinking this way (you know those people). They are bitter and lonely because they are more about what and who they are against than what and who they are for.

Happy people are at peace with others – they are for others. Not against anyone.

It doesn’t mean they never get their heart broken by let down or betrayal, but it does mean that they are able to let it go. The pain doesn’t reside in them.

They don’t walk around looking like someone baptized them in vinegar.

They rejoice in other people’s happiness – they don’t wish misery on others – Oh, you’re going on a cruise ship. How nice. (I hope it goes down).

I don’t think like that but I’ve heard things.

Happy people are good with others – all the time – Good for you. I’m excited for you. I’m elated for you – I know that’s what you were hoping for, this is great.

They don’t hold grudges, they just forgive and move on. They’re at peace. And the reason they can be like this is number 3 –

(3) Happy People Are At Peace With God.

Because of Jesus, they are at peace with God. Forgiven. Shown mercy. Overwhelmed with grace. Adopted as God’s child. Their identity in Christ. Holy Spirit inside. Fruit of the Spirit flowing out of them like a winning slot machine.

Happy people are the ones who have discovered there is a God and they aren’t Him.
And they’re okay with that – they will let God do His thing and they’ll submit to Him. They’ve realized that for all of their attempts at happiness, it has left them wanting more, so they get off the throne and let God satisfy them.

Happy people are at peace with themselves, they’ve let go of their past.
Happy people are at peace with others, they’ve let go of the grudges.
Happy people are at peace with God, they’re just let go and have let Him take over.

What I’m really getting at is this:

Anything That Undercuts Our Peace,
Ultimately Undercuts Our Happiness. 

The unhappy people we know or have become are people without peace. Once the peace with ourselves or with others or with God is damaged, so is our happiness.

Whether it was a circumstance, a relationship, a decision, a season where you made a choice that hurt the relationship with God or with others or with yourself and that meant it hurt your peace, which left you feeling less-than.

If someone were to ask me, Is there anything you’d like a mulligan for in your life? Is there anything you’d want a do-over for?

I would say, How long do you have so I can list the poor decisions? I am full of mistakes, and every single mistake I’ve made, it subverted the peace I had because the mistake damaged my relationship with God and others and with who I am truly created to be.

Our mistakes keep us up at night. They dilute what used to be a trusting relationship, they make us feel like we don’t have a connection with God. They harm our peace and take away our happiness.

In fact, the decisions we’ve made that have harmed others and ourselves is why we’re hesitant to dream big and jump off the cliff and charge that hill because we know the consequences of making a poor decision.

Still, happy people are at peace with God, with others and with themselves.

While God has pursued you through Jesus to reconcile you back to Him, and while some of the humble, loyal people in your life will come toward you to mend things, you’ve got to go after this peace. Make sure you and God, you and others and you and the person in the mirror are at peace with each other.

Then enjoy the happy life.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

 

The Secret to Happiness (Part 1 of 2)

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Every single day we are inundated  with images and marketing and videos telling us how to attain happiness. 

Marketers are throwing ads at us through our phone, on Facebook, on billboards, on banners, on TV, at the bottom of every article we read – and what all of these ads are telling is in an underling message is that your life is miserable unless you have this product or this experience that they are promoting.

We fall for this all of the time. 

Some people buy a car thinking it will make us happy and it doesn’t anymore. 

Some people get a boat hoping it will make them happy and it’s too much work. 

Some people get a pool hoping it brings fulfillment and it has brought fun times but there’s still searching for what could satisfy. 

Some of you bought an ab roller back in the day, or a shake weight to improve your life and that didn’t make you happy, it made you feel less-than. 

We buy new clothes, new equipment, new technology.

Many think the next job change will satisfy.

All of us have fallen prey to the brilliant, shrewd marketing that is thrown at us saying that we need what they offer to be happy and we get it and it’s happy for a moment and then shortly after we’re not happy anymore. 

Instead of trying to buy our contentment, let’s go with this principle: 

Happiness Is More About a Who Than a What.

Happiness is found more in people than it is found in possessions.

We learn this at a young age. We come down the stairs as a child and we’re headed outside and mom asks us, Where are you going? What are you doing? – and we said, I don’t know, I’m just going to be with my friends. Because it didn’t matter what you were doing as long as you were with the people you wanted to be around. 

We took our youngest child to her pre-school open house one evening and she didn’t care about her new teachers, about the schedule, about the classroom. None of it mattered to her. She wanted to know if some of her friends from last year’s class were in her new class. 

She wanted to know if she had any friends who were going to walk this tour of duty she’s got to put in for the next 9 months. To her it’s about who is with her, not what are they going to do.

And it doesn’t really leave us as we get older – every junior higher, high schooler, college student, new career worker, new home owner, new family and on up – we want to know who is going to do life with us, not what about we going to do. 

If happiness were a what, we would’ve found it by now and would’ve bought 10 of them to be happy forever. 

When happiness becomes a what in our mind,
happy what turns into happy what’s next.

Happy what easily turns into happy what else is there that I can try?

Many of us and our friends are investing in what I’ll call Caffeine Happiness – happiness just for a while and then it’s on to the next thing we can grab to get us through the day.

At the end of our lives if God gives us a long life on this side of heaven – when we are old and tired – the regrets that we will have will have nothing to do with possessions. The only regret someone has when they are near death are relational regrets. 

I’m going to regret the people I didn’t spend enough intentional time with. I’m going to regret the relationships that were separated by sin that I didn’t try to restore but instead gave up on.

I was talking with a husband who was thinking about calling a divorce lawyer. He’s a father two two kids, both preteens, and I go, What’s going on? Why do you want out of this marriage? 

His response was: She just doesn’t “get”me. 

He went on to say, She doesn’t understand that I like my hobbies. I like spending time the way I like. I like my golf buddies, I like my cars, I like my business. She just doesn’t get it. 

And I went there, I said, Okay, let’s say you’re dying a slow death and you’re bedridden. Who is going to be there, your wife, or your cars?

I really have never met someone who, when about to die, ask, Can someone please bring me my golf clubs? I just want to hold my Scotty Cameron putter one more time.

What makes us happy – NO-THING (nothing).
There’s not a possession that can make you happy.
Happiness is a who. It’s not a thing, not a what.

The truly happy people in your life have this one thing (and I don’t mean happy people who are paid to be happy like those who work at Chick-Fit-A or any other guest services), but genuinely satisfied and encouraging and kind people all have this one quality: 

P E A C E

The happiest people I know have peace. They have peace in multiple areas of they relationships. 

And in the second of two blogs on this subject, we’ll discuss the three people we need to have peace with in order to have permanent happiness in our daily lives. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z