Tag Archives: kindness

4 Steps to Avoiding Relationship Trouble

For years Nan & I have given the instruction to clients to ask themselves

“What do I feel and what do I need?”

It’s good advice, but it’s not complete enough. Then we came across an expanded four step version from therapist and professor Terry Hargrave, who attends our church.

It is as follows:

  1. What do you feel?
  2. What do you believe?
  3. What is the truth (reality)
  4. What is the right action? (This is where “What do I need?” might be a good question.)

We like to tell a story about early in our marriage when Nan & I went camping in Upper Chileo Flats in the Angeles Crest Forest here in California. It was late at night and Nan needed to make a bathroom visit. So she took the flashlight and headed for the outhouse. I was tucked snugly in our 1960 Ford Vanette hippie van camper named “Big Pink”. All of a sudden Nan came bounding in to the camper and jumped in bed behind me and started pushing me toward the open door with her feet.

“There’s a mountain lion out there. Go do something!”

I remember that what I wanted to do was to put my pants on. But like a dutiful new husband I grabbed the flashlight and went to investigate. Instead of the roar of a mountain lion, I was met by the meow of someone’s kitty-cat.

Nan’s 4 steps:
  1. What did she feel? Fear
  2. What did she believe? There was a lion after her and she was in danger.
  3. What was the truth? It was a harmless house cat.
  4. What was the right action? Well, maybe to pet the cat if it was friendly.

She also had one more belief. The Bible said a husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the church and be willing to lay down his life for her. (Eph. 5:25). Maybe this was a test of faith for a new husband?

When these four steps are applied prior to emotional interactions with others, the outcome may be very different from our initial assessment. You can easily see that if we have inaccurate beliefs or assumptions we are going to react incorrectly no matter what we may feel. This is why slowing down our reactivity in any type of relationship will probably yield better results. It is so easy to believe that someone is against you when they really aren’t. Maybe they are just for themselves. Or perhaps they are actually for you, but it’s hard to receive because of past experiences or family of origin issues.

When I get a hold of my inner dialog and bring it under Christ’s authority I am a different person. As our pastor says, before a person opens their mouth to ANYONE, they should ask themselves these three questions:

Is it kind?        Is it true?      Is it necessary?

If they can’t say yes to all three conditions then they should not say it. Going through the four steps will help determine the answers to those questions and change your interactions for the better with everyone.

Kind Friendliness – Does It Need Some Work?

kind-friendliness

Recently we have been experiencing a lot of kind friendliness. This is a term Nan uses when I am grumpy. She will say “I need your kind friendliness.” I know what she means. My grumpiness tends to translate into a more critical or negative behavior.

We have been dealing with quite a few new people as we set up a vacation cabin. What we have experienced is a lot of genuinely nice people. What makes them that way? Is it just good customer service training? I don’t think so. I believe it goes deeper than that.

The attitude might be a result of living in a less densely populated area. Or perhaps it might be the result of being in a community where people need to rely on each other much more because of fewer options. We have experienced this kind of attitude in rural Hawaii also. The people take time with each other. They are not in a hurry to move on. As our pastor would say, there is not the mindset of “chop, chop, get it done!” In Hawaii they pause to “talk story.”

I experience this “kind friendliness” at church all the time. I believe it is because we genuinely like our church community and we have intentionally cultivated this attitude towards each other. I am not sure we have slowed down to the extent that we have been enjoying at the cabin location, but it seems a marked contrast to the busy Los Angeles culture.

I wonder how many relationships lack kind friendliness? Yes, I am talking about the  romantic types, but also other kinds as well. Sometimes I treat strangers better than I do family members. I smile more and am more patient with them. I might respond defensively that I am more “real” with people that are closer to me, but does that actually mean that I should treat them with less kindness or respect?

It is true that close relationships require us to develop more resiliency. The more intimate the relationship, the more necessary it will  be to give and receive forgiveness readily, particularly for small offenses. But I want to draw as little on the goodwill that exists as I am able.

Things I can do to promote kind friendliness:

  • Ask for what I want, not what I don’t want or like.
  • Watch my tone. Do I sound harsh, critical or cold?
  • Use the “sandwich” technique: affirmation – request – affirmation.
  • Smile, make eye contact while communicating, assume positive intent from the other person.

Holiday seasons are particularly vulnerable to stress related behavior. It’s a great time to practice kind friendliness.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Another Relational Red Flag

redflag

You have been there. You are standing in a customer service line at a local store and the woman at the front of the line is arguing with the store representative. She gets louder and louder and more insistent and belligerent. You cringe. You are embarrassed for her, and you are feeling a lot of empathy for the employee.

I must admit that in the above scenario I always pray that the bully is not a member of our church. In “Christian-speak” we call it “blowing your witness”. That is when your spoken beliefs and your actions do not match. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Christians have been labeled hypocrites – because in this case it is deserved.

In our premarrieds class I call this out as a red flag issue. I will ask the students to evaluate their partners. How do they treat service people, or wait staff in a restaurant? Are they kind and respectful towards them, or do they treat them as if they were lesser people? And why is this important? Eventually you will become the target of their displeasure and you are likely to be treated just as harshly or disrespectfully. Or you will have to stand by, perhaps in a public setting or in front of friends,  thoroughly embarrassed while your beloved is having a temper tantrum.

Yes, there are times when it is appropriate to be assertive. But this does not mean hostile and angry. I have found that the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is largely true. Kindness is much more likely to motivate someone to help you get your needs met than rude or arrogant behavior. When I need to deal with a situation where I desire a corrective response I use phrases like: “I noticed that….”, or “I would like to bring something to your attention”, or “ I would like to request that….”.  I usually get good results.

From a Christian standpoint, Jesus suggests that it is better to take the hit, than to insist on getting our way. He never confronted anyone for selfish reasons. Instead he defended the weak; those that were being oppressed or taken advantage of by the religious leaders. Why was he so stern with these Pharisees? They were misrepresenting God to the people.

It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Our objective with our Christian brothers and sisters is restoration, not rejection. And our goal with others is to win them over with our love. That can’t be done if we are “pitching a fit”.

Pastor Tim Keller suggests that the solution in marriage (especially) is learning to forgive before confronting. It will change the whole interaction from primarily being a selfish pursuit (wanting only to be heard rather than to restore). Instead of seeking to punish, lecture or condemn, the goal is to connect, to understand and to reconcile.

Red flags mean stop: course correction needed before proceeding.

Romans 12:10 (NIV) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

Philippians 2:3-4 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”