Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category


The unhealthy desire to please other people

Much like a drug addict is addicted to his or her drug of choice, a people pleaser is addicted to the approval of others. Psychologist Harriet Braiker calls it the “disease to please.” This is a very hard concept for the Christian because we are called to be servants.  However, what I believe we need to keep in mind is that ultimately, the recipient of our service is God not man.  Yes, God has called us to serve our fellow man but that service is to bring glory to God… not other people and certainly not ourselves (which is the case with a people pleaser).

People Pleasers are all trying to prove they are valuable people—trying to stop that inner voice within that says they aren’t. It is like there is a tape playing in their head that says, “People will love and accept me if I please them.” And here is the myth behind people pleasing: “You are somebody when you please others.”

A pleaser believes that if there is a failure to please it will result in rejection and that rejection will confirm their deepest fear that their life has little value.  As a result, they go about trying to make everybody but themselves happy.  They…

a. Avoid conflict at any cost

People-pleasers equate conflict with being displeasing. They don’t want to be the source of displeasure. So they stick their finger in the air to see which way the approval wind is blowing before they decide the path of least rejection.

b. Are extremely self-critical

It’s at a very young age most of us learned that people pat you on the back when your actions please them.  Therefore, at some point during childhood, we make the decision to be as perfect as we possibly can be in order to please people; this leads to a life that is filled to the brim with activities at which we feel we are good at doing. Eventually we all essentially run out of gas.  We give out and then we give up.  Because it really isn’t about pleasing people anymore; it is about me trying to meet my ridiculously high standards. I can’t even please myself. I become a prisoner to the approval of others and I wind up absolutely miserable. 

I don’t want to simply remind you of these destructive patterns, some of which you know all too well, I want to give you some suggestions for breaking these harmful life patterns.

TODAY’S SUGGESTION: Become a God-pleaser

Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10 NLT

Remember high school? I heard something that is true about that time in our lives. Most of us spent most of our high school years trying to please people that we have not seen since high school and may never see again.

Yes it is easy to see all of this looking back, but what if we could get a hold of it now? What if we, instead of worrying so much about what others think and feel about us, concern ourselves with what God thinks of us (and we might be surprised how loving and forgiving God can be).  It’s worth thinking about.

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“Jerry Fletcher is a man who sees conspiracies everywhere. But if you keep doing that long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get one right…”  That was the teaser line used for the 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. I would offer to the end of that teaser: “…however, sometimes you don’t get it right because you are not filtering life through a proper lens.  Sometimes growing up in a dysfunctional environment, or a single traumatic event will cause an individual to respond to life from a skewed perspective.”

That’s what this series of blogs is all about.  We are looking at what some have called, “Stinkin’ Thinkin;’” Those unhealthy relationship patterns that leave us wondering, “What’s wrong with me!” I would like to pick up today with the pattern of…

2. Mistrust toward others

a. Isolate yourself

The story you tell people is that you are a loner or that you prefer to keep to yourself but the truth is that you don’t trust people. And the safest thing to do is to put up walls and stay to yourself because your mind tells you that the only person you can trust is you. I use the words stay to yourself but I could have said protect yourself because that is exactly what people do. They protect themselves by staying away from other people. Mistrust can cause people to isolate themselves from other people but it can also encourage some people to be:

b. Codependent upon someone else

There is a negative side to this one. There are people who are in abusive situations and they will defend their partner and refuse to acknowledge any of their faults even though the relationship is destructive. But that is not all there is to codependency. There are people who trust only one other person and so they pour their life into that person and receive love and acceptance primarily from that one person. The whole world ultimately revolves around this person. They make this person their life source and will do whatever it takes to stay close to them. Codependent people tend to be jealous and aggressive toward those who get in between them and their partner. Other relationships are neglected because other people cannot be trusted. People can be codependent with their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even just a friend. Parents can even become so focused on their children that they ignore their spouse. Do you know anyone like that? Mistrust toward others.

Please allow me to suggest as an antidote to mistrust: SEARCH FOR PEOPLE TO TRUST.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can really find one who is really faithful? Proverbs 20:6 NLT

It is hard to find people who are trustworthy. But start trying. Take a risk!

Some of you know that I recently moved to a new location.  I have decided that I am going to take my own advice here.  Each time I go to the store, post office, doctor’s office, or church, I tell myself that I could be crossing paths with my new best friend.  That’s what happened with Andy and Marlene. We met them at church.  I discovered that Andy makes a slap-yo-mamma good seafood gumbo! What a great couple who are so encouraging to us.  It happens over and over around the world. Disconnected people find true friendship. I encourage you to take the risk, be friendly and you will attract friends.

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I read this story recently:

In April of 1988 I came home to discover that my mother had left home. Most of her belongings were gone as well as the mobile concession trailer that my dad and a man named Lloyd had finished working on just that weekend. In a few hours my dad and I received a call from Lloyd’s wife. She was wondering where he was. It did not take long to figure out what had happened. In about 2 weeks we got a call from my mom. She and Lloyd were in the state of Washington. Since then I’ve only seen my mother about 5 times. Before my mother left we fought constantly and the fights were even more intense afterward. It wasn’t until 1992 that we started to get along again. We’ve had several shaky moments since then but for the most part we get along ok. The lack of closeness between me and my mother and the disintegrating relationship between my mom and dad created serious consequences for me. I’m still working on such things as what real intimacy is and how to develop it in my own marriage as well as how to communicate strong feelings without starting a fight. There is still distance between my mother and me that I’m not sure can be erased simply because she has missed such a large part of my life. I struggle with feelings of bitterness even though I’m trying to forgive her.

I see bitterness as a self-damaging result of unforgiveness.  Today I want to explore this and other relationship damaging, life blocking symptoms of a person who carries a load of unforgiveness.

a. Bitterness

Bitterness is so deceptive because it is perfectly legitimate to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed. The problem lies in how we responsed to these emotions. It is our response to these emotions that get us into bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Bitterness takes root in our heart and continues to grow into a huge tree. In Florida, we had an over abundance of what we affectionately called “stink weed.” It would completely overtake an azalea bush we had in our front yard.  It had to be pulled out but when you pull it out is when you understand where it gets its nickname.  It would stink to high heaven!  Bitterness is much like sink weed in that it makes our personality stink to everyone who comes into contact with us. It causes us much trouble and pain within ourselves. And because we have become embittered, we defile others with our negativity. Do you know anyone like that?

Another way to know if you have a pattern of unforgiveness toward someone is that you may tend to have:

b. Shallow Relationships

This one is not only related to unforgiveness but people that have patterns of unforgiveness rarely have deep relationships because deep relationships require conflict. Did you realize that? You are not in a deep relationship with anyone with whom you have not had a major conflict. Conflict and deep relationships go hand in hand.  People who have a pattern of unforgiveness tend to avoid conflict because it plays back the tapes of the past that are so fresh because forgiveness hasn’t taken place. So let me just ask you, are you struggling with unforgiveness? Is there some bitterness in your life? Are there many people who really know who you are? Or do you tend to stay pretty shallow with people?

Is there someone you need to forgive?  I’m not going to tell you it is easy but I am going to tell you it is do-able and necessary if you want to find joy and fulfillment in life.

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ALTERNATE TITLE: HOW TO SURVIVE WEIRD PEOPLE!

Let’s just be honest. We all have difficult people in our lives, don’t we?  More than likely if you don’t have one, you are one.  On top of that every family has at least one chestnut roasting on the open fire and a jack frost or two who is going to be nipping at more than everyone’s noses.  You may be able to stay clear of these people for most of the year but at the holidays you are going to be thrust into the same room with weird Uncle Joe.

Here are some simple suggestions to hopefully help you achieve a measure of relational happiness this year:

1. The first step toward relational harmony is to focus on their positive qualities.

Even though your difficult person might be totally opposite from you in terms of preferences and pattern for doing life, they bring something positive to the table. In fact, they just may have a quality or two that could be lacking in your own character.

If they’re organized and you’re laid back, you could probably learn something from them about being more disciplined. (Of course, for that to happen you’ve got to have a teachable spirit). Maybe your difficult person is very spontaneous and you’re always in a rut. That rubs you the wrong way but, truthfully, in a lot of situations, it’s better to be spontaneous than in a rut. Maybe they could help you.

The Bible teaches this principle this way:

Suppose the whole body were an eye–then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! … The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:17-21 [NLT]

In other words, in the same way that each part of the human body, on its own, is incomplete … each person on their own is incomplete.

That person who is so hard for you to relate to is making a positive contribution somewhere. That’s step one on the road to relational harmony.

2. I won’t lie to you, step two is hard: Give up the right to be right.

There is a sign outside a mental hospital in California that says, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be well?” Let me rephrased that thought a little, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Getting along with people, especially with people who see things differently than we do, requires us to choose happiness over rightness. It requires us to give people the freedom to be wrong. The Bible puts it this way:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. Romans 14:1 [Msg]

Let me ask you: in your dealings with the difficult people around you how much of the strain is caused by you having to be right? What if you decided that your goal wasn’t to convince that person, but to love that person?

So, focus on positive qualities, give up the right to be right and finally …

3. Realize that “different” people are also “dearly loved” people – by God.

He created them, just like he created you. And not only did he create them, He also loved them enough to die for their sins on the cross, just as he did for yours. Why?

… God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 [NLT]

Jesus died for difficult people and as hard as it is to swallow, we all fit in this category from time to time. He did this not because we deserved it … not because we are normal … not because of any other reason than the fact that we are dearly loved by him. And that makes us valuable.

I think it would help us a lot in our relationships with others if we could remember this, if we could remember that we’re dealing with someone for whom God put his Son’s life on the line.

So, let me ask you …

That person or persons who’ve been in your mind since you started reading this … what do you need to do about them?

Maybe you need to make a little prayer out of that verse we read earlier. “God, you give patience and encouragement. Help me and this other person to live in complete harmony with each other …” Let me assure you that is a prayer God wants to answer.

Maybe you need to sit down and make a list of positive qualities about this person and start complementing them on those things, start blessing them in those areas. That will have an amazing effect on them.

Maybe you need to say to yourself, “it’s OK if this person is wrong. I won’t die if they don’t let me be right.” You’ll sleep a lot better at night and the tension level in the relationship will immediately start to drop.

Maybe you need to get a vision of that person’s value in God’s eyes. Maybe you need to get a vision of your own value in God’s eyes.

You will get an opportunity to use this during the holidays. These suggestions, however simple, will work to help make the season bright which is my wish for you this year.

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Well it’s my birthday again today.  I say again because it seems like it was just yesterday I was celebrating the day of my birth last year!  While I usually share articles dealing with counseling issues here, today I want to ramble a little and share some of my thoughts about life as I know it pertaining to birthdays.

First of all I have noticed a tendency over the past several years to get a little melancholy on my special day.  Not sure what is behind this but I suspect it has something to do with the people who at one time I was close to who are not in my life anymore. 

I have, of course, lost some to death.  This past year my brother-in-law Hal Fletcher, who has always inspired me, lost his battle with cancer on December 10, 2010.  I will miss seeing Hal at family gatherings.  I also lost the third lady in my life that I thought of as grandmother.  Lucille Bowman Cooper Denham, “MaMa” passed away on July 1, 2011, at age 98 She made a great pot of gumbo.  Thirdly, a loss that is still very painful, my sweet sister, Lanae McCormick passed this summer.  She was in the habit of bringing joy wherever she went.  To say that she will be missed is an understatement.

I have also lost some friends because of relationship breakdowns.  My prayer is that somehow I can restore as many of these relationships as possible.

Then there are those dear brothers and sisters in Bushnell, FL. who I will miss seeing on a regular basis.  While I know the move to Mississippi was God’s plan for Larke, me, and Wahoo Church, it has been one of the hardest transitions of my life.

On a brighter note, as I look around, it occurs to me that I am blessed light years beyond what I could ever feel worthy of.  I am surrounded by so many friends and family members who mean the world to me.  I am married to my best friend.  I have four wonderful kids who make me proud every day.  And grandkids… don’t get me started!

I sat down recently and made a list of my goals for the coming year.  I share these with you because, well, that’s what we are supposed to do.  I ask you to pray for me and hold me accountable by asking me how I’m doing with my goals (I will gladly reciprocate if you would like).  Here they are:

  • To maintain at least 10 counseling relationships.  Counseling is my passion.  I love helping people find God’s answers to the difficulties in life that we all face.
  • To read at least 2 books each month.  I read slower than most so I am being a realist here.
  • To improve my writing skills.  I want to be a better blogger. I would also like to write a book.
  • To write and record at least one song per month.  Got to get back to my music.
  • To read through the Bible.  Currently using the One Year Bible on my IPhone You Version App.  This is a great Bible program for free.  I like that it is portable.  I can read it in line at the WalMart Pharmacy (There is always a line at WalMart Pharmacy!).

One final thought: I don’t think it is coincidence that I woke up with a song in my head that I haven’t heard or thought of in years.  This song is what I want whatever time I have left to be about:

One day Jesus will call my name

As days go by, ‘hope I don’t stay the same.

I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change,

On that day that Jesus calls my name!

 


Each person in our living environment is unique. That’s just a nice way to say that people are just different. We are all a complex blend of background, temperament, and giftedness. This fact is the root of most relational conflict. Uniqueness poses many communication problems. Simply stated: Often we simply don’t understand each other! We may use the same words, but the same words can have very different meanings. Our communications come out sideways instead of forward as intended. After just a short time in the world we can all relate to the words of Thomas Moffett. “Men dig their graves with their own teeth and die more by those fated instruments than the weapons of their enemies.”

Wise people recognize and value the differences between people and they relate to individuals in customized ways. They don’t relate to everybody with the same predictable style.

Would you like to be wise in relating to people? The Bible describes the characteristics of genuinely wise people: “Wisdom is pure… peace loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy… It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. (If you) are a peacemaker, you’ll plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.” James 3:15-17 (Living Bible)

From these verses we learn six ways to be wise when we deal with others:

As I am truly wise…

1. I won’t compromise my integrity (“wisdom is pure”)
I will be honest; I will keep my commitments.

2. I won’t stir up others’ anger (“wisdom is peace loving”)
I will work toward harmony; I will avoid pushing your hot buttons.

3. I won’t minimize others’ feelings (“wisdom is courteous”)
Perhaps I don’t feel as you do, but I respect your feelings; I won’t ignore or ridicule you.

4. I won’t criticize others’ suggestions (“wisdom allows discussion”)
I will disagree when appropriate, but I won’t be disagreeable.

5. I won’t emphasize others’ mistakes (“wisdom is full of mercy”)
I won’t rub it in — I will help rub it out.

6. I won’t disguise my motivations (“wisdom is wholehearted and sincere”)
I will not be unnecessarily guarded; I will in no way manipulate you.

We have all had regrettable moments when we acted out of something less than wisdom. The good news is it’s never too late to begin to walk in wisdom. We can change by God’s grace and power if we simply call upon him.

“Mount Everest, you have defeated me. But I will return, and I will defeat you because you can’t get any bigger — and I can!” — Sir Edmund Hillary.

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You can’t do business without communicating. That means to get ahead you’ve got to continually work on your communication skills. It has been estimated that 75% of the problems at work are related to poor communication — with customers, clients and co-workers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

To Effectively Communicate, We Must Give Up Three Things:

I. Give up our assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is everything you hear goes through filters. Your filters are determined by your past experiences, your unique personality and your temperament. You may not be hearing what they are actually saying. Therefore, it is smart (and safe!) to ask for clarification. There are six possible messages every time you speak:

A. What you meant to say versus what you actually said

B. What they heard versus what they think they heard

C. What they say about something versus what you think they said about it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

II. Give up our accusations. You will never get your point across by being cross! Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and that destroys communication. Here are four most common forms of accusation:

A. Exaggerating: making sweeping generalities. Statements like “You always” and “You never” are always untrue, and never helpful.

B. Labeling: derogatory name calling. Labeling, even when it’s true, never changes anyone. It only reinforces a negative behavior.

C. Playing Historian: bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.

D. Asking Negative Loaded Questions: ones that can’t really be answered, like, “Can’t you do anything right?” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

III. Give up our apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest — real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. No matter what price we pay for relational freedom, it is worth the price. Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

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