Building Healthy Relationships – Part Three

We are looking at what makes for a healthy relationship within the family, with friends, and at work. Of course, not everyone will be your BFF in real life but we all need to be involved in a number of healthy relationships so we can continue to grow and mature and become all that God wants us to be. God created us to be social creatures. We need other people. 

Within the realm of relationships we have seen:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

Almost all emotional problems and stress come from unresolved conflicts, failure to have developed right relationships with people. Because of this, many people have a deep desire for total forgiveness. A forgiving spirit is the one basic, necessary ingredient for a solid relationship. Forgiveness frees us from guilt and allows us to interact positively with other people.  

Earnest Hemingway, in his short story, “The Capital of the World,” tells the story about a father and his teenage son who lived in Spain. Their relationship became strained, eventually shattered, and the son ran away from home. The father began a long journey in search of the lost and rebellious son, finally putting an ad in the Madrid newspaper as a last resort. His son’s name was Paco, a very common name in Spain. The ad simply read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” As Hemingway writes, the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.

There are countless Pacos in the world who want more than anything else to be forgiven. The two great marks of a Christian are that they are giving and forgiving. Show me a person who walks with God, and I’ll show you a person who has a giving heart and is forgiving of others.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us, instead of offering total forgiveness, pray something like this Irish Prayer:

May those who love us, love us;

And those who don’t love us

May God turn their hearts;

And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,

My He turn their ankles,

So we’ll know them by their limping.

People who find it difficult to forgive don’t see themselves realistically. They are either terribly arrogant or tremendously insecure. Though hanging onto a grudge gives some people a feeling of satisfaction, the truth is people who do not forgive are hurting themselves much more than they’re hurting others. A person who possesses this characteristic and keeps score in relationships is a person who is emotionally and sometimes physically under stress. We just are not wired to carry all the stress that goes with carrying grudges.

Too often people wait too long to forgive other people. Forgiveness should be given as quickly and as totally as possible. Do it now. It does not get easier over time, so the sooner you go and deal with the issues and become reconciled through offering forgiveness, the better off you will be. 

Over my years in ministry there have been a number of times when I’ve experienced strained relationships. I have had people swear at me, tell me where to go, how to get there, and offer their assistance. But I have never knowingly let them walk out the door without telling them I love them. I don’t hold any grudges or carry any resentment against anyone. I cannot stress this enough: if you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you. 

A side note or two: 

Many years ago I learned a truth from a book I was reading: “Unforgiveness is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person unforgiveness really hurts is you.

Sometimes when we are in a long term relationship – a deep friendship or a marriage – and something goes wrong we see the other person go “historical.” Not hysterical but historical. They throw back in your face all the things that you did wrong over the  last number of years. This is a sure sign of unforgiveness. 

Often, like the story of Paco and his dad, there is a need to make things right with a parent. Trust me, it is far easier to do that while they are alive than after they die. I became a believer a number of years after my father had died and there were some outstanding issues that had never been dealt with. As a believer I still needed to deal with them but, of course, without being able to talk to my father. Much easier to deal with issues while a parent is still living.

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Two

In building a healthy relationship we want to relate to others who will encourage us (see Part One – July 5, 2021).

Secondly, you want others to appreciate you. So, when looking to build a healthy relationship (marriage, friendship) you are looking to connect with people who appreciate who you are and not just appreciate what you can do. 

William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

Have you heard the story about the young politician’s first campaign speech? He was very eager to make an impression on his audience, but when he arrived at the auditorium, he found only one man sitting there. He waited, hoping more people would show up, but none did. Finally he said to the one man in the audience, “Look, I’m just a young politician starting out. Do you think I ought to deliver this speech or dismiss the meeting?”

The man thought for a moment and replied, “Sir, I’m just a cowhand. All I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I’d feed it.”

Principle: We cannot underestimate the value of a single person

With the advice from the cowhand, the politician began his speech and talked on and on for two hours as the cowhand sat expressionless. Finally he stopped and asked the cowhand if the speech was all right.

The man said, “Sir, I am just a cowhand and all I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I surely wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”

Principle: Don’t take advantage of people 

Surveys have found that the principle causes of unrest among workers were the following, listed in order of their importance:

      • Failure to give credit for suggestions
      • Failure to correct grievances
      • Failure to encourage
      • Criticizing employees in front of other people
      • Failure to ask employees their opinions
      • Failure to inform employees of their progress
      • Favouritism

Notice that every single item has to do with not appreciating others and the failure to recognize the importance of the individual person (employee). We are talking about people needing to be appreciated. I try to do this every time I meet a person. Within the first few minutes of a conversation, I try to say something that shows I appreciate and affirm the person. It sets the tone of the rest of our time together. Even a quick affirmation will give people a sense of value and that you appreciate who they are.

Treat others as you want them to treat you. Treat them as if they are important; they will respond according to the way that you perceive them. Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they never know it. Too many of us tend to be tight-fisted with our praise and appreciation. It’s of no value if all you do is think it; it becomes valuable when you speak it and impart your thoughts and feelings to the person you are building relationally with. 

A side note or two:

What you share does not need to be something deep or amazing. Just something that says you noticed them and appreciate them. I was shopping for a few groceries the other day. At the checkout counter I noticed that the young man who was about to help me was named Dmitriy. As that is a common name in a number of countries where I work I asked him if he was born in Russia or Central Asia. As we chatted I got to know him a little and I also thanked him for his help and for the conversation. He felt appreciated. It is as simple as that. 

You want to be appreciated first for who you are and not just what you do and what you are good at. It is the person you want to appreciate, not the skill or ability, the profession or achievements connected to who they are. Many times people appreciate what I do when I minister to them. That is good and it is always encouraging. But what really helps is when someone wants to get to know me as a person (separate from what I do in ministry). I want to be appreciated for who I am and not just what I can do. That’s ‘person’ and not just ‘profession’. 

We can appreciate a person for who they are and recognize that they are important but still not develop a long term relationship with them. Every individual is important. Not every individual should be a friend or close associate. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part One

I am a people person and I am an introvert. That may sound like a contradiction but really it is not. As an introvert I need personal time and personal space. I need to be away from others so that I can think, feel, and process. However, I like being with people simply because I enjoy relating and realize that I cannot journey successfully through life – and especially as a believer – alone. But, as an introvert I prefer one-on-one relationships and simply don’t do well in a crowd. 

The basis of life is people and how we relate to one another. Our sense of fulfilment and happiness depends on our ability to relate to others effectively. So, believing that, I have worked at developing the character and the personal characteristics that others are drawn to. I did this by studying the people who I am attracted or drawn to and determining what it was about them that encouraged me to come to know them and relate to them. In other words, I determined the qualities that I found attractive in others and set about to develop those qualities in my own life.

So, we are going to look at the qualities that we need to develop in our lives so that we can relate to others in a healthy and mutually beneficial manner in the process of building lasting, healthy, long-term relationships. 

What is the key to relating to others? It is putting yourself in someone else’s place instead of putting them in their place. Jesus gave us the perfect rule for establishing quality relationships. We call it the Golden Rule, a name it got sometime around the seventeenth century. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed up a series of profound thoughts on human conduct by saying, “Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them.”               (Matthew 7:12). 

In this brief command, Jesus taught us a couple of things about developing relationships with others. We need to decide how we want to be treated. Then we need to begin treating others in that manner. It is not complicated. The qualities that make for good relationships aren’t complicated at all. Everyone of us needs, likes, and responds to five qualities that touch our hearts and help bond us to others relationally.

1> You want others to encourage you

There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. Think about it: most of your best friends are those who encourage you in one way or another. And, you don’t have very many strong relationships with people who don’t take the time to encourage you for whatever reason. And you certainly do not bother to build relationally with someone who puts you down. In fact, you avoid these people and seek out those who believe in you and lift you up. 

The happiest people are those who have invested their time in others. The unhappiest people are those who wonder how the world is going to make them happy. Karl Menninger, the great psychiatrist, was asked what a lonely, unhappy person should do. He said, “Lock the door behind you, go across the street, find someone who is hurting, and help them.” Forget about yourself to help others. 

A side note: Why is it that people you would like a decent and in-depth relationship with don’t encourage you? 

Well, maybe they never learned how to do that and so simply don’t know how to encourage. This could be the result of the fact that they were never in a relationship growing up that was encouraging. So, they have never had an example to follow. 

Another reason might be that they simply don’t value relationships in the same way that you do and so are not willing to invest the time and the emotional energy that it takes to encourage another person and thus build a healthy relationship. They simply don’t care to even try.

And, a third reason could be that they have simply decided that the relationship with you is not valuable or important enough to respond to you in a way that would encourage you. They like what you do for them but they are not willing to respond on the same level. You think that the relationship could be valuable so your encourage them but they don’t share that outlook and so they don’t encourage you in return. They simply make a decision not to encourage by not responding to what you share and not sharing their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. 

Of course, it could be a combination of all three reasons. But the bottom line is they are not willing to learn and to try. They are not willing to invest in the relationship at a meaningful level. They are not willing to put the needed effort into having a healthy relationship even after you express to them what you are looking for and needing from the relationship. 

If this is the case then you need to either limit your time with that person knowing it is never going to improve or simply end the relationship. Of course, you communicate with them as you think through your decision and resulting actions. Why? Because you still value them as a [person even if the relationship never becomes what it could have been.   

Two books that are helpful in this regard:

“Never Go Back – Ten Things You’ll Never Do Again” by Dr. Henry Cloud

“Necessary Endings” by Dr. Henry Cloud

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more

Sometimes I Feel Stuck!

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-feel-stuck/

Authors call it writer’s block.

Athletes call it a slump. 

Economists call it stagnation. 

Pastors call it burnout. 

Swimmers call it treading water. 

Off-roaders call it spinning their wheels. 

Retailers call it sluggishness. 

Scientists call it inertia. 

Retirees call it the “every day is Saturday” syndrome. 

Sailors call it the doldrums.

But I have good news. This is not God’s intention for your life.  Read more

The Key To Personal Growth – Part Five

Making the change from coasting through life – personal, relational, and professional – and being intentional about growing, learning, and maturing include:

1> Asking the big question now

2> Do it now

3> Facing the fear factor

The five fears that you will need to overcome to move forward into intentional, daily change and growth are:

A> Fear of failure

B> Fear of trading security for the unknown

C> Fear of being overextended financially

D> Fear of what others will say or think

E> Fear that success will alienate peers

Which of those fears most impacts you? You can certainly relate to one of the five more than the other four. But it really doesn’t matter which fear affects you to most. We all have fears. But here’s the good news. We also all have faith. The question to ask yourself is, “Which emotion will I allow to be stronger?” Your answer is important, because the stronger emotion wins. I want to encourage you to feed your faith and starve your fear.

4> Change from accidental to intentional growth,

People tend to get into ruts in life. They get in an easy grove, and they don’t try to break out of it — even when it’s taking them in the wrong direction. After a while, they just get by. If they learn something, it’s because of a happy incident. Don’t let that happen to you! If that is the attitude you’ve developed, then you would do well to remember that the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length!

How do you know if you’ve slipped into a rut? Take a look at the difference between accidental growth and intentional growth:

Accidental growth – Plans to start tomorrow

Intentional growth – Insists on starting today

Accidental growth – Waits for growth to come

Intentional growth – Takes complete responsibility to grow

Accidental growth – Learns only from mistakes

Intentional growth – Often learns before mistakes

Accidental growth – Depends on good luck

Intentional growth – Relies on hard work

Accidental growth – Quits early and often

Intentional growth – Perseveres long and hard

Accidental growth – Falls into bad habits

Intentional growth – Fights for good habits

Accidental growth – Talks big

Intentional growth – Follows through

Plays it safe Takes risks

Accidental growth – Thinks like a victim

Intentional growth – Thinks like a learner

Accidental growth – Relies on talent

Intentional growth – Relies on character

Accidental growth – Stops learning after graduation

Intentional growth – Never stops growing

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one make. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

If you want to reach your potential and become the person you were created to be, you must do much more than just experience life and hope that you learn what you need along the way. You must go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depended on it. Why? Because it does. Growth doesn’t just happen — not for me, not for you, not for anybody. You have to go after it! 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part Four

The sooner you make the transition to becoming intentional about your personal growth, the better it will be for you, because growth compounds and accelerates if you remain intentional about it. Here’s how to make the change:

1> Ask the big question now

The first year I started to engage in international personal growth (1963 as I entered the last year of high school and was mentored by the school principal and my home room teacher – two men who believed in me) I discovered that it was going to be a lifelong process. During that year, the question in my mind was “How long will this take?” A number of years and several full-time university degrees later the question changed to “How far can I go?” That is the question you should be asking yourself right now — not that you will be able to answer it. I started this journey and adventure 58 years ago, and I still haven’t answered it. But it will help you set the direction, if not the distance.

Where do you want to go in life?

What direction do you want to go?

What’s the farthest you can imagine going?

Answering those questions will get you started on the personal-growth journey. The best you can hope to do in life is to make the most out of whatever you’ve been given. You do that by investing in yourself, making yourself the best you can be.  The more you’ve got to work with, the greater your potential — and the farther you should try to go. Give growing your best so you can become your best.

2> Do it now.

For you to succeed at personal growth and development you need a sense of urgency. So, the words “do it now” are good to remember and to repeat. Do it now! Growth is that urgent and that important in your life. 

The greatest danger you face in this moment is the idea that you will make intentional growth a priority later. Don’t fall into that trap! Late in 2009 I read the following:

Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in, “I’ll do it later.” Or, “Later, I’ll have time to write that book that’s been on my mind for the past five years.” Or, “I know I need to straighten out my finances … I’ll do it later.”

“Later” is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our chances of success. The diet that starts “tomorrow,” the job hunt that happens “eventually,” the pursuit of the life dream that begins “someday” combine with other self-imposed roadblocks that lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves, anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties!

So, you need to start today! Do it now. 

There are two more things you need to do to get started… tomorrow we will end this short but important series of blogs and look at those two important elements. 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part Three

We are looking at the key to personal growth. There are many. But people defeat themselves before they even start.

1> People assume that they will automatically grow as they live

2> People think that they don’t know how to grow

3> People are waiting for the “right time” to begin a personal growth plan

4> People are afraid of making mistakes

5> People are looking for the best way (the perfect way) before they start

6> People don’t grow and mature because they don’t feel like doing it. 

This is something I read some time back. It was written long before Nike Shoes coined the phrase “Just Do It.”

Just Do It

We hear it almost every day; sigh, sign, Sigh.

I just can’t get myself motivated to … (lost weight, test my blood sugar, etc.) And we hear an equal number of sighs from diabetic educators who can’t get their patients motivated to do the right things for their diabetes and health.

We have news for you. Motivation is not going to strike you like lighting. And motivation is not something that someone else — nurse, doctor, family member — can bestow or force on you. The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. 

Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation, and then guess what. After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.

You are more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action. So, act! Whatever it is you know you should do, do it. Once you get started you will find the motivation to stay with it because it is making such a difference in your life.

You may not feel inspired to aggressively pursue a growth plan if you haven’t started yet. If that’s the case, please trust me when I say that the reasons to keep growing far outweigh the reasons to start growing. And you discover the reasons to stay with growth only if you stick with it long enough to start reaping the benefits. So make a commitment to yourself to start and stick with it for at least twelve months. If you do, you will fall in love with the process, and you will be able to look back at the end of that year and see how far you have come. 

7> People believe that others are better than they are.

In other words, others can do it but you can’t. So, you feel intimated by the knowledge, skill, and ability of others and so you just don’t go there. You don’t challenge yourself to learn from them because you are intimidated by their position, success, education, and knowledge. You just give up and don’t relate. 

You need to intentionally pursue personal growth, and the best way to grow is learning from others who have been there and done that. Yes, you will feel like you are always behind and trying to catch up. Yes, they are better, smart, and more successful than you are. Get over it. Get over comparing yourself with others. You need to learn to be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone. It will always be well worth it.

8> People don’t pursue personal growth because it appears much harder than they thought it would be.

I don’t know any successful people who thinks growth comes quickly and climbing to the top is easy. It just doesn’t happen. People create their own luck. How? Simple. Preparation (growth) + Attitude + Opportunity + Action (doing something about it) = Luck

It all starts with preparation. Unfortunately, that takes time. But here’s the best news. You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. If you want to reach your goals and fulfil your personal potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change you life. 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part Two

The third reason many people don’t set a plan for personal growth and development is that they are waiting for the “right time.”

3> It’s not the right time to begin.

John Maxwell tells the story of his father telling them a riddle which went like this: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? John, like most of us, answered “One.” To which his father responded: “No. Five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!”

Frank Clark, American politician, said, “What great accomplishments we’d have in the world if everybody had done what they intended to do.” Most people don’t act as quickly as they should on things. As I was pondering this thought in October, 2019 I read the following, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” How true! Years ago I received several prophetic words about writing books. I can honestly say that a week does not go by that I don’t think of those prophetic words. But, the longer I waited to start writing the less excited I became and the harder it was to actually start. I was waiting for the “right time” and it simply never came along. 

Maybe you are waiting for a good time to start growing. Now is a good time. Maybe you are waiting until you need to grow — I mean, really need to grow — so as to get that promotion you have been wanting. Maybe you don’t feel any pressure or even a slight desire to grow personally. Regardless, whether you feel prompted to or not, now is the time to start growing. A quote, one of many I collect, states” “Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized” (Leo Buscaglia). The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. 

If you’re not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentional, you can keep growing and keep asking “What’s next?”

4> I’m afraid of making mistakes

Growing can be a messy business. It means admitting you don’t have the answers. It requires making mistakes. It can make you look foolish. Most people don’t enjoy that. But this is the price of admission if you want to improve and mature.

Years ago I read all of the books that Dr. Robert Schuller published. In one of them he wrote, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail.” I have since asked, I am sure, several thousand young leaders and disciples of Jesus the same question. Those words encouraged me to try things that I believed – even knew – were beyond my capabilities. 

If you want to grow, you need to get over any fear you may have of making mistakes. As author and professor Warren Bennis asserts, “A mistake is simply another way of doing things.” To become intentional about growing, expect to make mistakes every day, and welcome them as a sign that you are moving in the right direction.

5> I have to find the right way (the best way) before I can start.

Similar to being afraid of making a mistake, the desire to find the “best” way to get started in a growth plan is a killer of any potential growth you might have had. Don’t go looking for the best way before you start on your growth journey. Just start. You have to get started if you want to eventually find the best way. It’s similar to driving on an unfamiliar road at night. Ideally, you’d like to be able to se your whole route before you begin. But you see it progressively. As you move forward, a little more of the road is revealed to you. If you want to see more of the way, then get moving. The same is true for personal growth and development. 

More next time… 

The Key To Personal Growth – Part One

I am a reader. I always have been and hopefully always will be. In a good week I digest and absorb several books that help me to grow personally as well as in my chosen profession as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. In a tough week when things don’t go as planned I manage to read, work through, and apply the truths I discover from one book. Setting aside regular reading time has been a habit of mine since I was in high school. There is very little that can derail that decision made many decades ago. 

I remember a quote I wrote down from James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh which said: “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” 

If you focus on goals, you may hit the goals — but that does not guarantee growth. If you focus on growth – growing as a person in all aspects of life — you will grow and always hit your goals. Most people can see the gap between where they are and where they want to be – who they need to be. The distance between here and there is a growth gap. And we all need to work through how we are going to bridge that gap. 

Here is the one thing that is certain: To bridge that gap, to grow personally you have to be intentional. Personal growth, development, and maturity do not happen by accident. 

In my research over the years I have discovered a number of misconceptions about personal growth and development that often hold people back from being as intentional as they need to be. 

1> People assume that growth is automatic.

They assume that they will simply grow and mature without any or much effort as they just live life daily. When we are children, our bodies grow automatically. A year goes by, and we become taller, stronger, more capable of doing new things and facing new challenges. I think many people carry into adulthood a subconscious belief that mental, spiritual, and emotional growth follows a similar pattern. Time goes by, and we simply get better. The problem is that we don’t improve by simply living. To grow, develop, and mature, we have to be intentional about it.

Musician Bruce Springsteen commented, “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be.” No one improves by accident. Personal growth doesn’t just happen on its own. And once you’re done with your formal education, you must take complete ownership of the growth process, because nobody else will do it for you. 

If you want your life to improve, you must improve yourself. You must make that a tangible target. In other words, grow up and be responsible.

2> People think that they simply don’t know how to go about growing personally.

You hear people say, “I don’t know how to grow.” So, they never develop a personal growth plan. Go ahead, ask most people, “Do you have a personal growth plan?” Guaranteed, most people will say no. Most people simply don’t have a plan for growing and improving. Why? Mainly because they don’t know how to grow.

As a result, many people learn only from the school of hard knocks. Difficult experiences teach them lessons “the hard way,” and they change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The lessons are random and difficult. It’s much better to plan your growth intentionally. You decide where you need or want to grow, you choose what you will learn, and you follow through with discipline going at the pace you set.

As you begin your own growth program you will begin to get excited about the potential that you begin to see. You will begin to see growth opportunities everywhere. Your world will begin to open up. You will accomplish more. You will learn more. You will be able to lead and help others more. Other opportunities will begin to present themselves. Your world will simply expand. The decision to grow and develop as a person will impact your life more than any other decision you will make in life. 

More next time…