Get Rid of the Rot

Get Rid of the Rot

Don’t judge the whole group by a few bad apples.

Good police officers do not want to be grouped with officers who act carelessly, lawlessly, and with bias.

Good protesters do not want to be grouped with rioters who kill, steal, and destroy.

Those are the two “bad apple” discussions that are the loudest right now.

It’s true of any group, though.

I’ve been in ministry all my life.  Many of those years I was church leader. There were times that some true, horrible story about a leader’s sin would be making the rounds and some people would begin to look with suspicion toward all church leaders. 

The whole group of used car dealers, educators, social workers, fathers, mothers and ethnicities has been accused of corruption and all the “good people” in all of those groups scream, “Don’t judge me because of them.”

The solution is not all on the “judgers.”  Telling people to not judge has little effect on those whose current experience, blended with similar stories from the past, tells them that the whole group is bad!  The people in those groups must do something.  But what?  Here is a start.

1.  We have to police ourselves.  It is both interesting and appropriate that we use the word “police” to describe stopping the bad behavior of the people in your group.  If you see someone in your group behaving badly, you must approach them and stop them. Blue backs blue, pastor backs pastor, teacher backs teacher, CPS backs CPS, etc. cannot be the rule when something illegal, immoral, unethical, or abusive is going on.

I know now of a speaker for churches who for years traveled to various events and churches and had affairs with women in many of those locations.  Somebody besides him knew, but nobody stopped him, and the damage continued to spread.

It’s easy to give the people in your profession or group the benefit of the doubt but ignoring signs or averting your eyes is not “giving the benefit of the doubt.” It is allowing behavior to continue that must not continue.

And now, it’s on you as much as it is on them, even if nobody else ever knows that you know.

2.  We must stop the spread.  It is so easy in many professions to resign before getting fired and move to the next job across town, across the state, or across the nation.  When you know a “bad apple” is about to rot somewhere else, you must stop it.  You must tell somebody.  Relocation is not a solution. It is perpetuation of the problem.

I don’t know what stopping the spread would look like in professions other than mine.  You know what it would be in your profession or you must figure it out.

Otherwise, when they lump everybody from a profession together, you have no right to protest.  You’re letting the problem continue and even grow.

Strike Three! You’re Out

Strike Three!  You’re Out!

What’s so aMayzing about Unconditional Love?

I didn’t finish strong at all!

I had a few minutes to water our flowers and they needed it.  We have a couple of those short expanding hoses that look like snakes slithering when you turn the water on, so watering was quick and easy.

While watering, I noticed that a couple of the plants were wilting in the heat.  I remembered that we had purchased some Miracle Grow that I had not used, and I took a few more minutes to mix the Miracle Grow and water the flowers a second time.

As I was walking toward the back yard to water our tomato plants, I noticed that our outside air condenser was covered with pollens.  I know what that can do to energy prices, so I took some more time to use the long hose to spray it off.  Then, I returned to watering the tomato plants.

About 30 minutes later, JL and I were in the garage about to go for our evening walk.  She noticed that the Miracle Grow box was open and the top was off.  I had not finished that job.  As I moved to put the top on, she watched me nearly stepped on a bottle of weed killer that I had left on the garage floor a couple of weeks earlier.  I picked it up, opened the garage door, and JL was the first to notice a stream of water flowing from our back yard, down the driveway, and down the street as far you one could see.  I had left the water after washing the condenser.  Three tasks unfinished.  I told you I didn’t finish strong.

JL is a strong finisher.  When she starts something, she follows through to completion. Her cleans up her workspace.  It is something she wishes was truer about me.  If her love was based on my performance, I would have just made 3 strikes.  Strike Three!  You are out!

There was a time when she would have approached me with a “strike three” kind of irritation.  She might have kept quiet at the Miracle Grow top.  She would have been critical about the weed killer on the floor.  She would have expressed contempt about my forgetfulness with the water, making sure to point out the waste of money that went with the waste of water.  I would have been defensive, emphasizing how at least I was watering our plants and noticing the pollen pile-up.  The walk would have been characterized by stonewalling and belligerence.

Now, our mindset is to love each other unconditionally.  Since her love for me was not diminished by my follow-through failure, she pointed out the Miracle Grow, asked me nicely to put up the weed killer, and shook her head with a smile on her face when she saw the waterfall. There was no urge for me to be defensive and I was able to reflect myself on my desire to become more of a follow-through person.  I know that would be great for our lives.

No lasting connection is created when connection is dependent on performance. Intimacy can’t live in that environment. We all mess up too many ways (James 3:2).

Practicing unconditional love is a decision.  It is a mindset.

How would your relationship change if each of you knows that the relationship isn’t at risk just because performance is weak?

What’s so aMayzing about a Gracious Approach

Earlier we wrote about a misunderstanding about grace that makes people hesitant about giving it.

“Remember that grace is something you give to the person, not the behavior.  When I act independently and make decisions that impact JL without her input, she gives me grace;   and she approaches the behavior.” Grace does not ignore a problem or sweep it under the rug or make the behavior okay.

When you do approach the person regarding a behavior that you feel must change for physical, spiritual, emotional, and/or relationship health; how do you do that?

We must really grasp that you do approach it.  We’re intentionally not using the word “confront” here because “confrontation” can carry negative overtones for some.  So, if it helps you, don’t confront it; but do approach it with grace.

How does that look? 

1. The best way to know how a gracious approach would look like is to ask.  At a time separate from an event, ask your spouse, significant other, kids, friends, co-workers, etc. what a gracious approach would look like to them.  It is likely different for different people.  If the goal is to have a relationship that helps everybody grow, then asking about the best way to do that is important.

Just say, “Hey, I’m curious. I just read a post that suggested I ask about the best way that I can approach people with grace if there is something about our relationship that I think needs to change? Can you paint me a picture of how that would look?”

Then, listen. Listen without defense or rebuttal.  You are asking to learn.

2. When approaching a problem, connect with them through your good intentions up front.  We don’t mean with something like, “I don’t want to hurt you, but…” You probably already know – that isn’t usually helpful. Get your “but” out of your relationships.

Once JL was really mad about something I did.  We don’t remember what.  It was something that needed immediate attention, so she came to my office.  Sidebar, my office was OK for that.  Not every office is.  Many of you don’t need to go to your spouse’s workplace or distract them with emails, texts, or calls.  You need to wait until they are not a work. You probably know who you are.

JL came in and said, “Richard, I am spitting-nails-mad right now. Please help me say this in a way that helps you hear me!”  I could tell by her voice that she was mad.  I could tell by her words that she didn’t want to appear to be attacking.  I turned to face her, and I was able to engage.  She connected with me by affirming her good intentions up front.

3. When approaching a problem, affirm your relationship.  Hosea was married to Gomer (I know, right?) and she cheated on him.  To put this modern terms, Gomer’s cheating ultimately landed her in jail.  Hosea loved her and wanted her back, so he went to court and paid all of her fines.  When they were together again, he approached her regarding the behavior.  The order is important.  He redeemed her, then he called her to higher living.

In your approach, you can connect by saying, “Listen, we are okay. Our relationship is safe.  This behavior must change, though.  How do we accomplish that together?”

By the way, touching each other is a great way to connect as you approach. At least in relationships where touching is appropriate.

4. When approaching a problem, be nice.  Just be nice. You’re approaching them because you want them to behave in some healthier way, so you do it, too.

Being nice can be “sandwiching” what you want to change between two things that you can applaud.  If you can’t come up with two, that probably says more about you than it does about them.  Appreciation along with challenge.  Applause. Desire for change. Applause.

You can be nice by running your words through the E-429 Filter.  The E-429 Filter is named for Ephesians 4:29 in the Bible.  Whether you are a Christian or not, these words are vital for relationships: 

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

If you can’t find a way to approach positively, wait until you do.

Being nice can be listening to the other person’s perspective.  In most organizations, including relationships, people are willing to make changes, even changes they don’t like, if they feel like they have been heard.  You only see things through your own video.  Watch what is going on through their video, too.

What’s so aMayzing about a gracious approach? It works!

What’s So aMayzing about Grace?

“If I give him grace, he feels like he can do it again!”

“If I forgive her, I’m just sweeping the problem under the rug.”

When we coach people about forgiveness, we often hear reactions like, “So, you’re saying that I’ve just got to get over it.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sure, there are some things that you do need to get over.  There are things that your spouse does that annoy you.  They are not wrong things; usually just things you don’t do.  Jocking their leg. Clanging their spoon on the side of the bowl.  Talking more animatedly and louder than you. Cleaning differently.  Paul told the Ephesians to “put up with each other in love.”  Love lets my spouse do things that annoy me.  Yea. You need to get over that.

There are other things that you don’t just put up with, though.  Some are dangerous like texting while driving.  Some are hurtful, like unkind sarcasm and intentionally using words that wound.  Others have real potential for damaging the relationship like hiding conversations with others or staying up to watch porn.  Don’t overlook those things.  Don’t sweep them under the rug.

Yet, still forgive your partner. Give grace to who hurt you.

Remember that grace is something you give to the person, not the behavior.  When I act independently and make decisions that impact JL without her input, she gives me grace;   and she approaches the behavior.  You can approach bad behavior in a gracious way.

So, don’t ignore the texting while driving, the hits below the belt, or the hiding of passwords.  Confront the behavior in a way that says, “We are OK, but this behavior isn’t OK.” When you give them grace, you connect with them in a way that builds a confident relationship.  Then, a confident relationship gives you a voice to confront the behavior.

Grace is given to a person, not behavior.

Say No to Needy

Want to read a message of real freedom?  Here it is:  You don’t have to count on anybody else to meet your needs.

You and God can take care of that!

And then, when you have met your own needs, the other people in your life can fulfill some of your desires, but if they don’t for some reason, you aren’t empty.  And the best feeling of all?  You aren’t needy.

Real Relationship Freedom

She read some books that helped her understand her needs. Now that she could articulate them, she told her husband what they were and that if he would just meet her love needs, she would out love him!

He did a decent job the first week, she responded happily, let him know where he could improve. The second week, he wasn’t much better, and the third week was even worse.
She found herself angry at him. “These aren’t difficult,” she told herself and him.

“What’s wrong! Don’t you love me?”

“Of course, I love you,” he replied.” I love you with all of my heart!”

“I feel like I’m falling out of love with you,” she told him. “what are you going to do about it?”

Both felt trapped. She couldn’t feel love for him because he didn’t meet her love needs. He could’t do anything right; and though he loved her, she would never believe it.

Want a message of real freedom? Here it is: You don’t have to count on anybody else to meet your needs. You and God can take care of that! And then, when you have met your own needs, the other people in your life can fulfill some of your desires; but if they don’t for some reason, you aren’t empty. And the best feeling of all? you aren’t needy.

That’s a great feeling!

Advice for Giving Advice

It can be terrific to offer advice, give counsel, and attempt to change someone’s mind.

If you’ve been aloof, then approaching them when you see something you want to change, you won’t get the response you want.

To speak into someone’s life, be in their life.

Do You Indulge?

Weird or Unique combinations often make the best delicacies and finest indulgences.

  • Chocolate & Coffee beans
  • Peanut butter & Chocolate
  • Pineapple & Pizza
  • Coca Cola & Peanuts
  • Hot Chocolate & Salted whipped cream
  • Cauliflower & Hot sauce
  • Cheetos & Milk
  • Bacon & Anything!!

You are familiar with some of these and LOVE them; and some stretch of your imagination! What are some of your weird or unique combinations that have become indulgences?

How about You and Your Spouse?  Seriously.  You are a unique combination, maybe even a little weird.  Do you indulge?

Often in the beginning of a relationship, a couple will bask in the way they are different from each other.  They embrace those differences, are connected because of them, and say they complement each other. 

Later in the relationship, the focus often shifts from the indulgence of differences to a distaste for our differences often asking, “What did we ever have in common or see in our relationship?”

Get naked and stand next to each other in front of a mirror.   Note:  NSFW                                   

Notice the differences?  Those differences, along with all the many others, create the finest indulgences if that’s where you will keep your focus.

Positive thoughts proceed positive behaviors that create positive feelings!

Just as negative creates negative!

What if you became the Master Chef of your relationship/marriage?!  What if you challenged yourself to create the best delicacy of your unique combination that the two of you begin to indulge in rather than expressing a steady dose of distaste?!

  • Freak, frighten, feel loved, and feel respected over different events and behaviors
  • Late nighter – early riser
  • Messy – organized
  • Work it out – it will work itself out
  • Play before you work – work before you play
  • Cuddle on the couch – whitewater rafting or a competitive activity
  • Rush in to solve problems – step back to analyze
  • Pineapple on pizza – hurl at the thought of it

Choose your mindset!                                                          

What indulgence will you be creating with your differences?

Remember, a delicacy is sought after and valued!  Is your relationship sought after & valued?

Don’t Want to be a Needy Spouse

Picture for Blog“I’ve fallen out of love with him. I don’t know what’s happened. He used to make me so happy. Now, he doesn’t ever try to meet my needs.”

We make our love dependent on the other person’s ability to keep us in love with them.  First, that’s just not the kind of love that God has demonstrated towards us. Hallelujah! Nor is it the kind of love he has commanded us to have for each other.

Practically, that kind of thinking creates a “needy” marriage.  Whether the need is quality time, emotional support, romance, peace and quiet, affectionate touch, etc., when one is not getting that need met, the tendency is to resort to trying to drag it out of other.  Ultimately, this builds resentment and makes both miserable.

A husband’s love is to have its source in the husband. A wife’s love is to have its source in the wife. We don’t love because our needs are met. We love because we are lovers.

Again. We love because we are lovers. Go show your love to your spouse again.  We did.

What’s Going On…?

Country Road SoilsDo you know what’s going on inside of you?

That’s not an anatomy question. It’s a spiritual one.  A really good way to consider inward spiritual health is to consider the soil in your heart. Is your heart like a road? Like the shoulder of the road? Like the edge of the field? Like the rich field ready for the seed?

Suppose you are reading a book about growing your marriage and a paragraph knocks you right between the eyes. It addresses a problem that you have and gives some direction on how to grow yourself.  What’s your reaction? Your reaction reveals your soil?

If there is no impact at all; the words penetrate your eyes and then… nothing. That “seed” has fallen on the road. It’s likely you are reading just to fulfill a duty.

Perhaps there is an immediate reaction. You know that you’ve just read something that you needed. It’s not too long, though, before you’re making excuses about why you won’t grow. Bitterness, resentment, pride, or an unforgiving spirit quickly turn your attention from your stumbles to your spouse’s stumbles. You’ve got rocky soil.

Maybe the hit between the eyes really impacts you. You have a strong sense of remorse and you make commitments to make some needed change. Three months later though, the habits you intended to create haven’t been. The determination you felt isn’t there anymore. You’ve just been too busy. Other priorities choked your good intentions. Your soil is thorny.

Hopefully, though, the seed lands in good soil. You’ve prepared your heart for it. You’ve developed the mindset that you’ll get it done and you have the maturity that you’ll keep growing, even when you don’t want to.

What’s going on inside of you?