Tag Archives: wisdom

Tuning Out The Interference

interference

Last night as I was driving home I was listening to a Christian music station. As I approached a particular intersection in town, as usual, there became interference from a decidedly not Christian radio station. I thought “What a great metaphor for what can happen inside our heads.”

You are going along in life “tuned in” to positive and godly thinking and all of a sudden you hit something that jams up your mental processes and causes confusion. It becomes more and more difficult to hear the “station” that you intentionally selected. The competing station might be seductive or easier to listen to because it requires less from you. As you listen it gets louder and eventually drowns out what you were listening to. It puts doubt in your mind about the value of staying with your original choice.

I know that you have experienced what I am talking about many times. So have I. We have made good choices based on rational and inspired thinking only to start wavering. We might attend a particularly great conference and make promises to ourselves about how to incorporate the things we’ve just learned. We drive a stake in the ground. But as time goes on the stake loosens. What can we do?

The solution to interference

Like what I did last night, the first thing we can do is either change stations or turn it off and shut down the unwanted input. The longer I wait, the worse it gets. We do not have to entertain unwanted or confusing thoughts. We can intentionally distract ourselves with “thought shifting” techniques like listening to positive music, or reading or watching something that gets us refocused. Yes, I know that can be difficult, especially for those who tend to be obsessive thinkers. But it can be done – it just takes more intentional effort.

Second, if our thoughts take us down a dark alley where we might choose to act out in an unwanted or destructive manner, we can call a trusted and supportive friend (or sponsor for some of us). Hopefully they can talk us into staying on track with our better self.

Third, we can stay away from risky situations. It is amazing how many people put themselves in difficult circumstances and then wonder why they failed or are unduly tempted. Bars and dance clubs are particularly bad places for people who struggle with alcohol or lust or foul language. We must be smart.

And lastly, we shouldn’t isolate from the positive influences in our lives.  Don’t miss church unless it’s unavoidable. When people tell me they can worship God without going to church, I can agree with them – a little. But we cannot serve God without being around His people. We cannot win at soccer by ourselves – we have to have a team to compete in the game. We can appreciate the game from home, but we aren’t players. It’s the same with church. We need our “teammates” to encourage us, challenge us, support us — and once in a while smack us upside our heads.

You Can’t Hurry Love

lovehearts-big

Slowing down the wedding can be painful. We’ve been there with quite a few couples. Once they have made up their minds that they want to be married, it can be full speed ahead. But is that always wise?

Yes, there are couples that have waited overly long, who have been dating or engaged for years and years. Sometimes this is because the relationship is wrong but neither person is willing to pull the plug. Other times it is because the anxiety of being sure keeps them from pulling the trigger. I am not talking about these relationships. I am concerned with the couples who are willing and able, but not ready.

What makes a couple ready to exchange rings?

  • They have been honest with their expectations. We tell pre-married couples that they must assume that “what you see is what you get”. That requires that both people are accurately representing who they are and what they want. There is no bait and switch within a successful marriage.
  • They are adept at managing their emotions. Emotional regulation is a key skill for a secure relationship. When conflict hits, coloring within the lines is necessary. No one wants to be in a relationship with a rageful or hysteria-driven mate.   
  • They are able to forgive easily. Stewing for  days or even hours is corrosive in a marriage. Holding grudges or keeping score weakens the bond. The answer is to be quick to reconcile, especially the little missteps we all take.
  • They are open and realistic about their challenges. It is essential to talk courageously about any concerns you have about doing life together. Avoiding painful topics doesn’t make them go away, it just delays their appearance. With good preparation you may be able to lessen the impact of the negative elements you face.
  • They have talked extensively about their family systems. Our families have a huge influence on our development into adults. This is not news. We cannot separate ourselves from where we came from, although we can differentiate and leave behind some of the unwanted elements we collected along the way. Be sure you let your partner have a deep and wide view into your upbringing.
  • They pursue growth and maturity in their personal lives. Couples that are not satisfied with the status quo are much more likely to succeed in marriage. They don’t want to be a twenty-year-old in a forty-year-olds’ body.
  • They manage the practical side of life well. They are responsible with money and commitments and time management. They rein in their desires and provide for the future. They take their employment seriously.
  • They have great attitudes. Their demeanor attracts people and they have good friends. They are trustworthy and kind. They smile a lot. They compromise.
  • They treat everyone with respect. It is not only the people they like, admire or agree with that they treat well. Humility is a value they embrace.
  • They follow God. He is the source from which they draw their strength in both the good times and the difficult times. As a result they love well.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

multimodal_surveys_one_size_fits_all

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (The Message) 

13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. 

And for the purists here is the NKJV translation 

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

Nan & I were talking this morning about different approaches to counseling for our clients based on the individual temperaments and situations they faced. It can be tempting to rely on a “one size fits all” kind of mentality based on the “issue” rather than really getting to know the person’s deeper personality, background and other struggles before coming up with a treatment plan.

We were reminded of the above passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 which first calls out those who counsel to be aware, and then guides them in their task. I have included two different translations because I think both interpretations are rich with wisdom. Do we give too much grace to freeloaders? Are we too harsh with weakened people? I know you have encountered both, maybe even in your own family while dealing with spouses, parents, children or siblings.

I do not believe that all of us are called to counsel, especially within our own family. God gives each one of us special gifts for the benefit of the community, but He does not give all gifts too all people. Words are very powerful and have long lasting effects. Just ask any adult who has suffered at the hands of an emotionally abusive parent. But for those who are called upon to fulfill this sacred role, I would caution them to think carefully about the difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Godly wisdom takes into account the “whole counsel of God”, not just slices of scripture. And it is always respectful of the person’s worth.

It is very discouraging to have great intentions of helping someone only to discover you have made their problem worse. How can we do this?:

  • Challenging them when they need encouragement and support
  • Minimizing a serious problem
  • Shaming them when they reveal something difficult
  • Overreacting, overstating or overwhelming them with your response
  • Being critical, self-righteous or analytical with an emotional or delicate issue (the person will likely feel unfairly or harshly judged)
  • Answering without having fully listened (the person feels unimportant)
  • Interpreting (inaccurately) rather than listening and reflecting
  • Listening and responding with a “black and white, all or nothing” or predetermined mindset

I am sure there are many more I could add, but I’m sure you get the idea. We cannot group people into convenient categories and apply stock responses. We have to honor each one as an individual who is deeply loved by God and worthy of our best efforts. That requires us to dig deeper within ourselves at times and not succumb to our own frailties. It means managing ourselves when it’s easier to manage others.

But I want to give a shout out to all of those who care for and counsel others. It’s rarely easy to share in someone’s pain. But it’s part of God’s plan.

Galatians 6:2 (NLT) Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.