Category Archives: vulnerability

It Matters Who Influences You


Throughout my late teens and twenties and into my early thirties I hung around a lot of pretty accomplished musicians. We were committed to playing music and pursuing “feel good” experiences. We were serious about the music, career and friendship, but lacked life direction and had rather short term plans and goals. Along with the positive focus were also destructive behaviors with potentially disastrous consequences.

Then when my forties were in full swing I started meeting with a group of about a dozen guys on a weekly basis (mostly) that lasted about twenty years. This group was composed of men from both our church and others. The common theme was unity in our purpose to grow and mature spiritually.

The contrast between the two sets of groups is stark. You might dismiss my earlier group’s lack of focus as simply typical of our youthful age, but that would not be entirely accurate. My spiritual group had guys of a variety of ages over the years, and some were quite young. The difference was the guiding values that motivated each group.

These days as I counsel I often ask myself “Who is influencing this person?” Sometimes I ask the question to a person outright, and sometimes I just ask the question in my heart. The answer to this question will have a lot to do with the direction the sessions will take. Are the influencers fueling anger, bitterness, and resentment, or are they encouraging and giving support for godly values?

My earlier group of friends would have given me advice like:

“You don’t have to put up with that.”

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

“Go for it. You won’t get caught.”

My latter group would say:

“Have you owned your part?”

“Have you gone to the mat and done everything you can do?”

“Don’t give up. You’re the right man for the job.”

“You’re following your feelings, not God.”

Sometimes we have to cut ties or at least censor the content of our conversations with those that are pressing us to adopt ideas that are in conflict with our beliefs and values. It’s really hard to resist asking well-meaning people for their advice when we know they will offer support that moves us away from our places of pain. But pain has a nasty habit of finding us by a different route when we try to avoid it.

Perhaps you can relate?

Are there outside voices you need to mute?

2 Things I learned From You

I love when I learn from clients. So many of my clients are lifetime learners, alert to growth opportunities from multiple sources. And delightfully, they often share some of those insights and snippets of knowledge with me.

In the past couple of weeks I have learned two valuable pieces of wisdom regarding relationships.
  • The woman must set the physical boundaries in a relationship, and a man must set the emotional boundaries in a relationship.

Yes, I know that this is a generalization, but I have found that it is largely true. Men will usually press for as much physical connection as the woman will allow. It is his nature. Good men are aware that this aspect of his temperament must be controlled, but it is still very difficult for him, and a woman must lead in this area. It is a good thing that he has a strong sexual desire because it is a motivation to form relational bonds. But out of control it will create relational chaos.

For most women, containing her emotional quantity and intensity is her challenge. Her desire for relational connection and “face to face” time will often overwhelm a man when she is unrestrained. So it becomes necessary for a man to set a limit on how much intimate connection he is able to absorb without becoming emotionally flooded. When he is over his limit, the message he will give off (usually through body language) will often be interpreted as not caring or not interested in what the woman is saying. It isn’t usually true, it’s just that he is emotionally saturated and shutting down.

The second thing I have learned this week also concerns relationships.

  • When a man feels disrespected he will often stop fighting FOR the relationship and start fighting AGAINST it.

And we know that men can fight both aggressively and passively (or become passive aggressive). He will detach from the relationship by either becoming angry and pushing the partner away, or by withdrawing from intimate or significant connection. Either way he is creating emotional distance as a way to protect himself from the disrespect that he is feeling.

I am not necessarily placing the blame on the woman here. Men can do lots of things to contribute to the destruction of a relationship. They can certainly make it difficult for a woman to respect him. The point here is that if a woman desires for a man to fight for relational restoration and closeness between them, then her best strategy is to show respect even if she is not feeling it at the moment. As Emerson Eggerichs asks in “Love and Respect”, do you believe that he is, at his core, a good-willed man? If so, then he is worthy of your respect.

Both of these insights came from women who wanted me to understand the power that women can have in relationships when they understand the different natures of men and women. I really do appreciate the vulnerability that this kind of sharing requires and I cherish it.

Argumentative People

“I don’t think I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

I was surprised. I had been counseling the couple for a while and they seemed pretty well suited for each other. I asked why. He replied “She challenges everything I say. She has a retort for everything I share. She’s just so argumentative.”

As I thought about their conversations, I could really understand what he was saying. I had missed it because she was just so kind in the way she did it. But it was there. So I did what I thought a good counselor should do. I asked if he would be willing to confront her instead of walking away from the relationship. He agreed to talk about it with her in our counseling session.

What happened should have been predictable. When confronted, she argued with him about his perspective. Fail!

Don’t think men won’t do this too.

“He argues with me until he wears me down. He won’t stop – it could go on for hours. Can’t we ever do it my way just once? I can’t take it anymore.”

The truth is, it’s hard to be in a relationship with someone who is always challenging you. 

Both genders can feel overwhelmed by the intensity of an argumentative person, leaving them feeling unappreciated and inadequate. Yes, two volatile people might seem to understand each other in the way they do conflict, but they are also the most likely to have 911 called on them. It is usually not a relationship builder.

Why might someone become argumentative?

  • I have seen families where this is encouraged. Debating is seen as a way to build strong kids: “Don’t just agree, push back and defend your position.”
  • I have also known people who have overdone it when learning to “find their voice” and protecting themselves from being overpowered.
  • Sometimes it is just a personality trait that has to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Are you in a relationship with a disagreeable person and suffering? Are you a disagreeable person and are not fully aware of it? Admitting the truth is the first step to healing.

Phil 4:14-15 Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.