Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category


BE COMMITTED TO THE RELATIONSHIP.

Good relationships don’t happen overnight and they don’t happen by accident.  If you want to get beyond shallow, superficial relationships you’ve got to be committed to it. 

You or someone you know is in a relationship right now and are hanging on by less than a thread.  Do not give up.  We have a miracle working God.  The same God that raises the dead can raise a dead relationship if you’re willing to be changed.

But it takes a commitment.  The Bible says this in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times.”  The word, “all” means even when it’s inconvenient, when you don’t feel like it, even when they don’t deserve it, even at personal cost.  That’s what real friendship is all about.  When you’re blowing it and you’re making a mistake, a friend doesn’t quit on you. A friend is in your corner when you’re cornered.  And they see you through when everybody else thinks you’re through.  They are there when you least deserve it. 

Here’s the bottom line: You need people in your life to do the three thing I’ve written about in this series of blogs. But the only way you’re going to get these kinds of people in your life is you have to be that kind of person.  You can’t expect other people to treat you this way if you don’t treat them that way. 

Probably the best known Christian psychologist in America, Larry Crabb, wrote in his book Connecting, which I read in seminary and highly recommend, “When two people really connect something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restores it to health.  The one who receives experiences the joy of being healed.  And the one who gives knows even greater joy of being used to heal.  Something good is in the heart of each of God’s children that is far more powerful than everything bad in the world.  It’s there waiting to be released and work its magic.  But you have to be connected.”

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WATCH YOUR MOUTH!

Use your words to build people up.  Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When I was in college the janitorial company I worked for was hired to tear down a wall in an apartment and then clean it up.  I had never done anything like that before.  I didn’t know how to start so I asked supervisor for instructions.  He said, take this sledge hammer and hit this wall until there is nothing left to hit.  I had more fun that day that is lawful in the state of Mississippi!  It’s fun to tear things down. 

Sometimes with our words it’s like a sledgehammer, no planning, no thinking.  We swing away and all of a sudden we look around and all we’ve got is a pile of rubble, relational rubble.  When you just swing away with your words and tear people down inevitably your relationships are going to suffer.  Words are the single most important tool given to man by God.  Without a doubt! 

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is, our mouth.  We say things without thinking.  People remember them.  The things people have said to you in a thoughtless way it may have been as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working.  You still remember some of those things.  That’s how powerful words are.  So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here are directions for the use of a power tool I bought several years ago. I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us – our mouth. 

  • Know your power tool.
  • Keep guards in place.
  • Be careful around children.
  • Store idle tools when not in use.
  • Don’t over reach
  • Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

It fits how we are to use this mouth which is an incredible tool to build people up.

How can I start using it more carefully so instead of destroying with it, I’m building and constructing relationships with it? 

1.  Stop excusing.  Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that.”  or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.  That’s all it was.”  Stop excusing and realize that what you say is impacting everybody around you.         

2.  Talk less.  If it’s a power tool – you don’t have to use it as much.  Talk less.  One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes.  We talk before we think.  We need to talk less and…

 3.  Listen more.  If I listen more I can understand people’s needs.  One of the small lessons of life that makes an incredible impact on the way you and I use our words. 

 4.  Start building.  Think first of all, “what do they need?”  How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up?  How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in their life?  How can I use my words to build the people that I love the most?


It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you are in.  If you are a parent and you want to know how to better connect with your children.  If you are engaged or married and you want to know how to better relate to that other person, you can use these principles.  If you are a teacher or an employer or employee, no matter who you are, if you need to get close to anybody in life, you need these principles.

I want to give you three tips that you can use to build better relationships.

1.        LIVE BY THE GOLDEN RULE.

In other words, if you want to connect with people, you’ve got to start with their needs not your own.  The Bible says in Philippians 2:4 “Look out for one another’s interests not just your own.”  Your default mode is to think about your needs, your desires, your goals, your ambitions, what you want in life.  As a result we have many, many millions of people disconnected because everybody is self-centered and not being considerate other people’s needs. 

Let me share with you two very basic truths about life.  First, you are not the center of the universe.  I know that’s shocking, but the world does not revolve around you.  You’re very special in God’s eyes.  You were created for a purpose… but the world does not revolve around you.  Don’t be expecting the whole world to come saying, “How can we meet your needs?”  

The second basic truth of life is God has promised that when you focus on meeting the needs of other people, He guarantees He will meet yours.  This is one of the most basic principles in the Bible.  Why?  Because He wants me to learn to be unselfish and generous like Him.  Colossians 3:13 says this, “You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember God forgave you so you must forgive others.” 

A woman wrote to Dear Abby, “I’m 44 years old.  I’d like to find a man my age with no bad habits.”  Abby wrote back, “So would I.”  My wife got the only man like that (Just kidding, of course!). There are no people with no bad habits, no faults.  We have to make allowance for each other’s faults.

When you are trying to make a connection with a person, you’re trying to be considerate of their needs; I’m not saying that you don’t see their faults.  You just choose to overlook them. 

Tip #1: Treat your friends the way you would like to be treated.


As a pastor and now as a counselor, I have dealt with a lot of end of life and bereavement situations.  Many times I have heard well-meaning people giving bereaved people advice similar to “just give it some time, after all ‘time heals all wounds.’” It is as if these well-meaning people are saying: “You just have to wait and in time your sadness, anguish, yearning, guilt, , and fear will just fade away, and you’ll be fine.” But hold on a minute, that approach to grieving raises the question how long is “some time” – two months, one year, two years, five years? Having been on the hurting side of grief myself, it is my belief that while time helps, time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.”

Instead of sitting back and hoping that time will heal, the Bible tells us to turn to God for strength.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that we don’t think we can go on, we just want to quit. At that exact moment we are exactly where God can do his best work.

Once, when the apostle Paul was facing a very painful situation in his life, he begged God to take it away.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [NIV]

It’s our weakness that we find it easier to allow God to be strong in us. But what exactly do we need to do to make that become a reality in our lives?

Andrew Murray, a preacher and writer the end of the last century experienced an injury to his back early in his life that left him with deep pain for most of his life. At one point, he was bedridden and lying on his back at home and he would do his writing there from the bed.

One morning he had been writing in his journal and his maid came in to announce a visitor. “There’s a woman downstairs,” she said, “and she’s got great trouble in her life and she would like to know if you have any advice, anything you could share with her.”

Murray removed from his book the page he had been writing in his own journal and he handed it to the maid and said, “Share this with her; I wrote it for myself.”

The words he handed to her were these: “In times of trouble, say these four things:

1. He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place; and in that, I rest.

2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

4. In His good time He can bring me out again how and when He knows.

Therefore, say, ‘I am here, one, by God’s appointment, two, in His keeping, three, under His training, and four, for His time.’

Question – as you deal with your pain and grief, are you trying to buck up and get through it on your own? Or are you turning to God and laying the issue at his feet. It’s not easy to do this, by the way, but it makes a huge difference in our attitude.

Well, that’s a plan for good grief: express the pain, accept the reality and turn to God for strength.

Some of us are in the middle of a lot of pain right now. We’ve got a choice to make. And that choice will take us to one of two very difference destinations. One is a destination of hopelessness and numbness and just going through the motions. The other is a place of joy and dancing, even in spite of the sorrow.

You have turned my  into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11 [NLT]

That’s my hope for you. And it’s God’s promise, that if we’ll manage grief His way, one day we will be able to dance again.


Getting Real

How do we end this relationship damaging game?

1. Decide that being “real” with others is more productive than being “nice.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not. I’m talking about making a change in a basic value that many of us have held our entire lives. Many of us believe that “niceness” is what people really want from us.

Now, it is true that almost everyone enjoys being around people who are pleasant. But, as Proverbs 28:23 puts it:

In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23 [NLT]

In other words, people would prefer the truth. In other words, “it might be hard, I might even get mad, but please for the sake of our relationship, tell me how I’m doing with you. That’s the only way I can ever improve.”

2. Attempt to handle conflict in a biblical manner.

What is the biblical mandate for dealing with conflict? Jesus said “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 [NIV]

In other words, don’t wait for the other person to take the initiative in resolving things. And get this – resolving things is even more important that worshiping God. If you come to church and there is someone here that you are out of whack with … deal with them first, then deal with God. Pretty radical, but that’s what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus also said there is a sequence for dealing with conflict:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along [that’s when you get to ask them to pray – AFTER you go on your own first, not before], so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 [NIV]

3. Get comfortable saying these three phrases:

“I’m angry.”

But don’t stop there, because one of the traps of the Hide and Seek game is assuming that you can read the minds of other people. So, you need to get comfortable saying …

“Can you help me understand?”

I’m angry, but I want to hear your side of the deal, too. Maybe there is something I am missing.

“I forgive you.”

I’m talking about real and true forgiveness, not merely saying “it’s OK” when it’s not.

Real and true forgiveness is always painful. Real forgiveness requires confronting another person with the fact that they did you wrong, that it hurt you and that you didn’t like it … but that you have accepted the pain and are choosing to let it go. It costs you something – pain – but it gains you something – peace of mind and the opportunity for a renewed relationship.

4. Be a God pleaser before being a man pleaser.

No matter how nice you are you will never please everyone all of the time. With God, you don’t even have to try to be nice to win his approval. In fact, he offers forgiveness to us before we attempt to be nice. While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.

I’ve covered a lot of stuff over the past three days. Let me end with a couple of cautions.  If you are a hider, don’t get down about it. Everybody struggles with game playing in relationships. Just own it and pick one or two things off of this list and start to work on them.

Second, if this is not you, don’t beat somebody else over the head with this information. They already know it’s them and they are very vulnerable right now. What you need to do is to remind them that with God’s help they will be able to grow and change, and to encourage whatever progress that you see in them.

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Strategy

There are several strategic moves when playing relational “Hide and Seek” that will help covertly hide your negative feelings. As you read through this list, you might want to check off the ones that are characteristic of the way you do relationships.

1. Deny your feelings of anger and frustration.

With this move, you just don’t let on when you are hurt. You say something like, “It’s ok” when it isn’t … or “it doesn’t matter” when it does … or “it’s not that big of a deal” when it really is. You turn the anger and frustration inward instead of expressing it at the person who deserves it.

2. Tell yourself, “In time things will work out on their own.”

Don’t take any action to resolve the conflict on your own because, who knows, it might only make things worse.

3. Have a lot of imaginary conversations.

Instead of going to the person and having it out for real, just do it in your head. You say what you really want to say, and then you mentally have them respond how you think they should. But whenever you see them for real, just keep smiling like everything is fine.

4. Expect others to read your mind.

Drop little hints and clues that might suggest that you are not happy and hope that others will somehow figure it out. Don’t sit down with them and come right out and say what is on your mind. That could be too risky.

5. Gossip instead of confronting.

All of that pent up anger and emotion has to go somewhere and since we’re too afraid or too lazy to take it to the person directly, other people are the natural outlet. And if we’re “religious” it’s really easy to do this by saying, “I have a prayer request about a problem I’m having with so-and-so. Let me tell you the situation so you’ll be able to pray more intelligently …”

By the way, there is a time when it is appropriate to say something like that but only under certain circumstances.

Those are some of the strategic moves in relational Hide and Seek. But how do you “win”?

– you meet your need for approval through deception.

You act like everything is OK, you don’t rock the boat, and you avoid the hard issues because you want everyone to be happy with you.

Well, that’s the game and it can get ugly.  But there is hope for those of us who struggle with this relational pattern. There is hope for those of us who lie in bed at night and realize that most of our relational stress comes because we pretend in order to meet our need for approval.

There is hope for those of us who want to end the game, but first, we must admit the truth about ourselves, that we are masters of it and then turn from it. We must ask God to give us courage to say what needs to be said and we must lessen the value we place on what people think of us. Only when we do that, are there some things we can start to do differently in our interactions with those around us.

Tomorrow I will wrap this up with a few strategy moves to end this pattern that is in reality, no game at all.  We are talking about real people with real lives.  Many time these are some of the closest relationships in our lives.

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One of the few kid games my brothers and I could play that did not end in bloodshed was the game Hide and Seek.  Should your memory be a bit rusty, let me give you a brief refresher course.  Hide-and-seek or hide-and-go-seek is a game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player (designated as being “it”) counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching the number, the player who is “it” tries to find the other players (thank you, Wikipedia).

In the kids’ version of Hide and Seek, the goal is to hide your physical body so that no one can find you. But in the relational version of the game, the goal is to hide not your body, but your emotions – in particular, the negative ones – that arise in the course of routine interactions with the people around you

There’s a high price to pay for that choice. It’s no fun to stay hidden forever. But in the relational version, not only is it not fun, it’s not safe. And not only is it not fun and not safe, it’s downright destructive.

All of that buried anger and unspoken pain is like a time bomb just waiting to go off, and in the end, more often than not, it does. It can wind up destroying relationships and has been known to cost lives.

God has been dealing with me about this so I’ve been taking a closer look at the details of this game called “Hide and Seek.”

Equipment required:

To play the game you only need one major piece of equipment: basic belief that conflict is bad or just too dangerous.

You have to be convinced that the world is going to end if someone gets mad at you because you expressed your displeasure over something they did. You need to believe that people would rather you run away from them than confront them. You need to believe that pushing through the junk that comes from revealing how you feel just isn’t worth the effort, that it’s easier to just hide those feelings and pretend that everything is OK.

Now, let me be very clear, I’m not saying that every bad feeling we have about another person needs to be brought out into the open. After all, Proverbs 19:11 says that … A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 [NIV]

But the issue is – can the offense truly be overlooked and are we truly being patient? To overlook something means that you don’t bring it up to the person because you have chosen to let it go; because you have decided that it will not be an issue in your relationship. There is a world of difference between doing that out of patience and clamming up because you simply want to avoid conflict out of fear or laziness.

Tomorrow I want to look at strategies for playing the game.

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