Category Archives: counseling

Building a Team With Wisdom


I have been thinking about team building – particularly in the context of relationships. I am always encouraging couples to be a team, but what am I really asking of them? Am I asking for agreement, holding the same opinions and conclusions on issues? What does it take to build a great team?

When my business partners got together to make decisions we didn’t always have the same perspective. We didn’t want to allocate money, resolve employee conflicts, or support vendors in the same way. But we got along really well. We lasted 27 years as associates with a pretty minimal amount of conflict and then dissolved our business with equanimity.

A functional team is cooperative, not contentious. All it takes is one hostile person to subvert progress. Disagreement is not hostility, it’s simply a different viewpoint. And a good team looks for diverse ways to approach situations. It’s actually what brings strength and innovation. But what makes the difference is in the presentation of opposing ideas.

Cooperative people would say:

“Have you thought about….” or “Could it be more effective if we……” or “Is it possible that we might try….” Or  “I’m seeing things in another way”

They tend to listen and validate the person even if they disagree with the perspective.

Contentious people might say:

“You’re just wrong” or “That’s a stupid idea” or “How could you even think…..”

They also tend to bring anger, blame, contempt or even disgust to discussions.

When couples function as a team they attack problems, but not each other. There may be elevated emotions, but they don’t lose sight of solving the issue as their goal. They remain friends in the process.

Churches are teams. Life groups (small groups) are teams. Corporate staffs are teams. Any group of people joined together to perform a task, reach a goal or build relationships are a team. When dealing with a volatile person, it’s helpful to know that their volatility or hostility may be a blind spot. What they feel is “normal” communication may appear to you or others as highly argumentative and oppositional. If they are able to receive constructive criticism you may win over a strong supporter. If not, you may need to either bring in a third party to help, or discontinue the relationship. That position is Biblical.

(Matthew 18:15-17) “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. 

What if you suspect you are the difficult person? It never hurts to check it out with a wise, safe person. Then go to those you may have offended, in humility, and ask forgiveness. It really works wonders. 

I’d also recommend watching this video clip from Henry Cloud when learning discernment about self or others: The Wise, The Foolish and The Evil 

Drop us a line if you have any questions.

Emotional Ransomware


I recently got attacked by an Internet virus in the category called “ransomware”. It installs itself on your computer and encrypts all your files of certain types so they cannot be read. In my case it encrypted all my pictures, word processor, spreadsheet and pdf files. And yes, I went through the stages of grief. It is very insidious because it comes with a promise to restore files that were stolen from you – for a price. The rub, of course, is that you have to trust a criminal to follow through with what they promise. And eventually you will have to arrive at the conclusion: “Not likely.”

I wonder if there are also emotional equivalents in relationships. In the computer version, you believe you are allowing a legitimate program to install on your hard drive, usually in the form of a software or program update. In the emotional version you allow someone to install a program on your heart. And if that “program” has bad intentions or is damaged, it  steals your confidence, your dignity, your choices, or some other quality of life.

What ransom is being asked for by the thief? Perhaps it’s sex. Or it might be complete obedience or exclusivity. Maybe it’s a demand to accept bad behavior unconditionally like anger or criticism or manipulative crying or selfishness.

Breaking it down. What did I do wrong?

First, I was too fast to respond. I didn’t take my time and really pay attention and think through my actions. I ignored a little voice inside of me that asked “Are you sure?” Instead, I wanted to move ahead with the current task and so accepted what was interrupting my screen. Impatience can really get me in trouble sometimes.

Secondly, I was too trusting. I should not have accepted the request on face value without investigating further. I can be naïve. “No one would really try to harm me.” Really? So what are all those security programs for? Just because someone copied and pasted a logo doesn’t mean it’s authentic.

So when it comes to relationships are you impatient? Do you move ahead too quickly out of desire to move from “me” to “us”? As you got older did you feel the time was running out and so now you are not as cautious as you once were? Or maybe you have always been this way and need to reassess.

Are you too trusting and transparent and tend to open up completely when you should be observing and testing. Trust is not just supposed to be given unconditionally. It must be earned over time. Are you swayed by the company a person keeps assuming they are just as reliable? That’s the equivalent of a cut-and-pasted logo. Authenticity is not guaranteed.

A well known verse in the Bible says:

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

I think that’s the best advice of all!

Closing The Reality Gap

Reality Gap

For the last two weeks I have been sharing an inspiration I got from one of our pastors. As is typical for me, I had to mess with things in order to personalize it, but also to solidify it in my memory banks. It seems as I get older it takes more effort to mentally hold on to ideas, thoughts and concepts (OK, also names, dates, places, etc.)

The Problem

If you follow the whiteboard illustration above, you will see a gap between the expectations bubble and the reality bubble. I call it the stress gap because when our expectations don’t line up with reality it will potentially cause all kinds of feelings. Feelings like disappointment and anger and frustration and disillusionment.

Maybe not fully readable in the picture is the word ‘unrealistic’ in the expectations bubble. By definition, when our expectations don’t reflect reality, they are unrealistic. Have you held on to unrealistic expectations that have caused you pain? I know I have.

The Solution

When we discover that we are holding onto expectations that fall outside of reality we must first fully acknowledge them. This means recognizing that we have had a blindspot in our perception. I have found that as I deal with my blindspots I mature.

Next we must choose to surrender these unrealistic expectations. I have to let them go, but often they are powerfully rooted in my desires. Taking then to God in prayer is one way to approach this act of humility. This will lead to the next step, which is grief.

I have often spoken of grief in these posts. Grief is the result of loss, even when the object of the loss never had substance to begin with. It doesn’t matter, it still hurts. As a child I wanted a grand piano, the bigger the better. Given my family’s finances it was impossible. But it was a deep desire. When I was old enough to realize that this was something I could never expect from them, it was a loss.

The next step is the final stage of the grief process: acceptance. When I can accept reality it will lead me back to readjust my expectations. Every time I repeat this process it will narrow the gap between expectations and reality until they are fully overlapping. My belief is this alignment will eventually produce contentment because we are no longer chasing the impossible.

How have you experienced this in your life?

Where do you need to engage in this process with the goal of finding peace, joy and contentment?