Destroying Relationships

Fighting over who is elected as the next President seems to be a worthy cause for some, even to the point of damaging lasting family relationships. In jabs, barbs, texts, FB posts, the style of banter used reveals the value you place upon your relationships.

So, what are your relationships worth? Are you the type who gives your view and then huffs off, thinking “There, I let them have it! Now they know what I think.”  Perhaps you’re a mocker, one who uses sarcasm to get your feelings out on another.

Depending on the emotional health and relational well-being of our family of origin, we find ourselves somewhere on the scale. Unfortunately, many of us did not have good teaching or examples with this and have had to learn the hard way, the humble way, but hopefully we have learned! If not, we should.

So many families right now are under stress, or duress, when interacting with a member who is adamant about who everyone should vote for. Some take it to social media and with pride attempt to outwit the other. We’ve all seen it and have likely been tempted ourselves to jump in with our 2 cents, but then thought better of it.

How can you tell the difference between someone simply sharing their feelings or information on what they believe, versus these powerplays of viciousness and/or manipulation? It’s revealed by what’s in their heart. Step back and use your discernment and good relationship skills to respond. Sadly, there are many enabler-types who feed right into the hands of these hubristic people… I used to be one of them.

These interactions reveal someone’s relational heart-health and if poor, that will lead to broken relationships. Circumstances bring out what has been hidden. The old elephant in the room usually gets prodded a bit during election seasons, throw in Covid-19 with its accompanying fears, and some are ready to devour their family members.

Here’s a few reasons why some people are unable or unwilling to surrender to the higher call of love (Romans 13:10).

1. Poor Relationship Skills – This is often fear driven. It causes one to assert themselves and expect others to conform or agree with their view, often manipulating others through authority, anger, relationship, revenge, shame, etc. to agree with them.

On Facebook you see this with the “likes” and “comments” others make to this type of person. You can sense the pressure upon the peer or sub to accommodate their poor statement, thought, or even an emotional rant. But in order to comply with the dominant, they indicate agreement anyway! Very foolish–it is the worst thing one can do as it reinforces the persons poor emotional health and they are deceived into thinking they actually are doing okay by acting this way. They also think they have genuine friends, when it’s their manner that produces these conformist “friends”.

2. Elitism – This political ideology believes some are bright & right (according to their worldview) and others are not able to make a sound decision, so they feel like they should have the authority to do it for them.

(Wikipedia: Elitism is the belief or notion that individuals who form an elite—a select group of people described as having an intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience—are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.)

As with salvation, God’s gift is freely offered and while those of us with a Biblical Worldview believe it’s the right choice for all people, we cannot, should not, force this upon someone (remember the 4th century Roman Empire?). The Holy Spirit draws a heart and they alone must choose Christ to be their King. Compelling another with a godly life and heart of love is the way of the Master, not elitism. While Truth is valuable and must be shared, we cannot force another to believe.

3. Fear of the Future. If you are a believer, a follower of Christ, you can trust that God will take care of you; your life is in His Hands. Believing that the next President holds greater sway in your life than God does is a form of unbelief and is demonstrated by fear. When you live as God desires, He replaces fear with confidence in Him. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with torment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The Holy Spirit in us helps us love those who oppose us, and calls us to this higher love that Jesus taught us.

It is very important for us to voice our concern by our vote over the issues in government that we see as right or wrong. We also must acknowledge that God is sovereign and is over all that happens in our (His) world and as finite beings we may have difficulty reconciling the two. Yet, we do our part by taking responsibility in letting our views be known in a variety of peaceable ways and we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Then, God takes our obedience to Him or lack thereof and does the rest.

Scripture indicates often throughout the Old Testament that God raises up and brings down Kingdoms; there are many examples if this. We also know that God influences the heart of the King (or President). That explains why we may see someone, unlikely in our view, doing something that upholds God’s righteous ways. It doesn’t make sense but it happens because God is doing something through it. (Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turns it whithersoever he will.)

Of course, there are other reasons for poor behavior in relationships leading up to and following this election, but these three give us enough to think about and hopefully each of us will examine our hearts and see where our health meter is sitting. Is your heart for others, or against others? It is to bring peace while disagreeing on a matter or to engage war?

I wrote this poem, Step Back, many years ago and it seems to fit here. When we are re-acting to someone or something that is happening, we get ourselves into trouble. But if we will act, after thoughtful moments, we find that we are much better at responding properly.

STEP BACK

When life seems quite overwhelming,
and you feel the need to take charge.
Be careful you honor the scripture.
for pains of consequence are large.

If you will take gently a step back,
consider your ways and be wise,
you’ll soon see your Father’s instruction,
in your situation proved wise.

Step back and make room for the Lord,
give time for His will to reveal.
Instead of you charging forward,
with error your future to seal.

Wait! God will in His timing,
use peace to measure the score.
And if that is not present within you,
Step back, do not engage war.

God guides by these simple treasures,
His Word, obedience, and peace.
And when, all these three are present,
the warring and tumult will cease.

So step back and do an assessment,
and see where you’re missing the mark,
adjust and then humbly go forward,
with God’s favor and peace in your heart.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Forgive and Live!

Hurt people, hurt people; we’ve heard this phrase often and it’s true. Realizing that everyone has suffered some type of wounding in life, leaving scars of pain, we can see that if left ignored your hurt will hurt others. This article is the conclusion of Painful Pasts (Part 1 and Part 2). Here we will explore how to be set free.

Have you washed your windows lately?

Some people drive around with dirty a windshield and this makes it hard to navigate the road ahead. Seeing clearly makes a big difference when we are traveling through life. We all have our blind spots and with humility and an open heart, God will give us good people who will come alongside and help us see those areas. Then, like the dirty windshield, we have a choice to make, wash it and see or wait until it rains (God’s grace allowing us to see some of it) or an accident happens (again, God’s grace with a more direct hit).  These blinding filters upon our hearts need cleaning, if we fail to respond when we discover a blinder, we end up in a very destructive and dangerous place.

Accidents Happen

Yes, they do, and prevention is worth a pound of cure. I like to take a defensive driving course every three years to sharpen my driving skills and receive a 10% discount on my auto insurance. Insurance companies have found that those who will take the time and preventive care to take the course will make an attempt to drive defensively. They remind us of current laws, give attention to potential hazards while driving, and to make adjustments for constantly changing road conditions. Navigating life is a bit like this. If we’re going to avoid unnecessary accidents, we must invest energy in prevention and recovery.

When we live with a Que sera, sera, attitude, we demonstrate human pride in a way that says, “Don’t trouble yourself, live and let live, what will be, will be.” This attitude works against what the scripture tells us about sobriety, learning, and stewarding our lives well. We are told to care for others, to teach and model responsibility, study and learn, and to be good stewards of what we have been given. 

A good illustration of this attitude is a young person whose situation entitles them to a car, perhaps the family car, or they are given one by their parents or grandparents. Compare this to the young person to one who works and saves money to purchase their own car. Which vehicle will likely be more carefully driven and cared for? Which person will “see” the importance of maintaining the vehicle? And when an accident occurs, which will say, “Get off my back, accidents happen!”. Perspective often creates attitude.

Entitlement

When we view God as someone who should take care of us and fix everything in our lives so it runs smoothly, we tend to be like the child who has been given everything, it’s expected. We become angry with God over the injustice that has occurred or if things don’t go our way. We blame Him, or others, for our lot in life. Relationship with God is two-sided, both parties must reciprocally give to it. The person who understands the sin-nature of all human beings realizes that God owes us nothing, yet offers us everything. With this outlook, we tend to approach Him with a proper fear and reverence for who He is. If our worldview is off biblically, nothing will be properly understood about life here on earth, or why things happen as they do. Missing this big piece of life’s puzzle makes one think that only good things should happen. Suffering of any sort – physical or emotional abuse in any form — becomes monumental and we demand justice. When we find our proper posture before God, we discover that we have all sinned against someone, and it’s by His grace that we have not perpetrated the same, or worse, against another.

Hurt people, hurt people. Apart from Jesus Christ, everyone born into this world has experienced the pain of being sinned against and in turn, has sinned against others. Jesus himself was greatly violated, tortured, betrayed, and hated, yet he reviled not against those who harmed Him. He knew that one day His Father, the only just One, would make all things right.

Truth and Justice

Until we desire to know Truth, we will not allow for God’s method of justice. Rather, we will demand justice our way.

God set up earthly authority as it is described in Romans Chapter 13 and Paul said we should avail ourselves of this human government. In chapter 12, he claims that vengeance belongs to God alone (Romans 12:19-21). Since God is the ONLY ONE who sees and knows everything about every situation, and the intricacies of every human heart, He is the only one qualified to exact vengeance and justice. And He will one day. He alone is just. His Truth and mercy endure forever. The best we can do as flawed human beings are to enact laws and punishment according to the best of our ability. And yes, we fail, but God knows. Innocent people have gone to jail. Parents have not been fair, they have failed in many ways. We have missed the mark. So, what do we do with these failures? How can we best promote truth and justice while living in a hurting and confused world?

Humility and Forgiveness

It becomes clear, over time, when a person’s heart has been cleansed by God and granted forgiveness from their past. Humility is a marker of that, along with the willingness to make things right. It’s true, we cannot take back what we have done, but we certainly can, in humility, go to those we have wronged and name what we have done and ask forgiveness. This is foundational to healing wounds that we have inflicted upon others.

Sometimes we are not aware of the damage we have caused another and that’s where humility helps us. It allows others to share their feelings and pain with us. Ask someone who has a broken relationship with you, “What have I done to hurt you?” Yes, it will hurt to hear it, but if you have experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, you will be able to listen with an attitude of concern. We must examine our own hearts and see where we have wronged another and make it right. If we do not, we will become the abuser we so despised.

Matthew 6:14-15  (ESV) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.

Stonewalled

But what about those who are fearful, afraid of confronting someone who has hurt them, what can they do? This is understandable in many circumstances, depending on the abuse suffered, and the relationship of those involved–child to parent or subordinate to authority figure. This is where it helps to have someone who can come alongside and offer to help, perhaps mediate. 

For those who’ve been deeply hurt it would be wise to seek out a helper, rather than continue trying to get by. Building a wall to protect the pain inside only magnifies it. Some victims lock themselves into a prison of despair, thinking the other will suffer from their silence. Each must decide for themselves to become free of the past and move into a healthy new day.

How’s your heart?

Have you opened your heart to God lately? Have you thought of allowing His refreshing cleansing stream to wash you? Or are you crusted over, forever blaming and reliving all the wrongs that have been done to you? You will not find peace or contentment if you resist having your heart cleansed; even the good things of the past become wormwood to you.

Continued rumination is dangerous. Without taking action toward the right, you will be consumed to where your thinking will become distorted. You will no longer find joy in anything. The people around you will only frustrate and fail you.  You will not be able to recall the blessings of God but only the fruit of your miserable heart. If you are there, humble yourself and turn. Get the help you need to begin to wash your windshield so you can see where you’re headed. Accidents may still happen but you’ll be able to handle them differently. You will begin to see joy in everyday life again. The burden of shame and blame will be lifted from you and you will see like never before.

God will grant grace to those who come to Him in sincere humility asking for his mercy. Taking steps toward change may involve removing yourself from a destructive relationship, involving civil authorities, placing temporary protective boundaries.

We have all failed God and unless we move into a place of surrender to Him, we will never progress from our painful past to healing freedom. Dear friend, let this be your starting point today. Take the necessary steps to forgive and live!

Counselor Rick Thomas shares here on allowing people to share their feelings with you, whether in a good healthy way or not (12 minutes)…   https://youtu.be/zGw2k8Rz6sc

Photo Credit: Google Images

Related articles: Painful Pasts (Part 1) and Painful Pasts (Part 2)

Grief

waitingGrief of soul demonstrates the great value someone has placed upon a person, place or thing.

Anyone who has passed through the dark valley of grief knows what a painful trek it is. Death, divorce or some major loss brings us to this difficult journey. Whether the event was expected or not, it requires diligence to come out on the other side with a healthy sense of acceptance and closure.

Moving God into the center of your world is important during this process. Perhaps He has been a small piece of your pie and grief has brought you to a place of desperation, asking “How will I get through this?” I believe that unless we place God largely in the center of our circle, we will have deleterious ramifications from the loss we’ve suffered.

Sometimes we realize through our grief that we had placed too much hope or confidence in a person, place or thing. It often takes losing, before we realize this. (Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.)

His Faithfulness
God alone is sinless, faithful, and completely true; He will never default on anything He has promised. He will go with us through every heartache and trial we face. He is the supreme companion every sojourner in life should have. Some have chosen wisely and have clasped His outstretched hand; others refuse and commiserate through life’s difficulties, coping with poor substitutes. God is the only one worthy of all of our love, devotion and complete dedication. When we suffer a major loss, we have Him and that makes all the difference. We will never come up short or empty-handed when we are holding onto Him.

I have gone through great loss and grief over the separation and ending of my marriage of 36 years. Even though I have held tightly to God’s Hand throughout these years, I have experienced much grief.

When we love someone and then lose them, a part of us goes missing. This new life without them causes us to feel awkward and it becomes difficult to adjust. Grief is a necessary part of the loss but left unchecked and lingering too long, it can be destructive to our soul. When loneliness sets in, close friends can fill that gap for a while but eventually, you will need to choose how to fill the hole left in your heart. Too often, many choose another substitute — a person perhaps, but find out that nothing should fill this void but God.

Those who choose to place God and His love in the center of their heart (on the throne) will come through this difficult period by God’s grace and will have grown. You’ve heard the better vs. bitter quote, and it’s true! If there remains unforgiveness toward God over your loss — or unforgiveness toward another person — bitterness will ruin you. Grief is designed to realign us with God, our Creator and the lover of our soul.

backlit-dusk-evening-696208 (1)If you have suffered loss and are walking through the minefield of grief, consider trusting God by handing it ALL over to Him, asking Him to fill you afresh with hope for your future. (May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 ESV). God’s Manual explains and offers this hope in its pages; having a mentor to guide through this time is helpful too. God supplied me with some wonderful people who counseled me through the most difficult days. I was hungry and eager to learn; I wanted God to remake me through this experience. How I thank Him for abundant goodness and the abounding Hope He has placed within my soul.

A friend recently asked why I felt she was struggling so in her situation. I replied that I believe for anyone of us the difference lay in these two places:

1. Believing that God can use all of your trials for His glory if you seek to understand the formula He has for us in His Word. Restructuring your thought-life is necessary for receiving this miracle from God. 2. Choosing to live victoriously through God’s provision versus dwelling in victimization and ruminating upon what has happened to you. We can all understand betrayal and abuse at some level. In order to move forward, we must forgive and leave the results with God.

rearview mirrorRecently, my pastor shared an illustration concerning where we place our focus and the results of looking back in the rear-view mirror versus looking forward at the road ahead and all its possibilities. I’ve set my gaze upon Heaven, my only true home, everything between here and there is in God’s Hands. The words of a contemporary worship song says: Lord, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed, You’re where my help comes from, give me vision, to see things like you do… He gives me vision to see things like He does or to simply trust Him when I cannot see ahead.

Keep your eyes ahead, Keep your hand in His, forgive and move toward Heaven, no turning back… no turning back.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Stay in Your Own Lane

…a continuation of Aspire to Inspire.Road lanes
Do you know how many grandparents are raising their grandchildren today because they never relinquished control? It is happening for many reasons, but one is because some parents hang onto the control stage way too long. Rather than allowing their children to step out and find their own way, these parents hold on and become surrogates, allowing their adult children to remain immature.

Grandparent, please let go. By crossing the line over into your adult children’s responsibilities, you are actually undermining God’s plan. Our task as grandparents, aunts, and uncles, is to support the parent in their position to govern their home. God has given clear instruction in His Word about proper authority; whether in the home, church or civil government.

Here’s a common example: A child is fussing about a food item the parent has given them. Nothing is wrong with the food, but it’s not the child’s preference at the moment when viewing what someone else is eating and the child makes a scene (in public) about it. I have observed the parent addressing the child about their poor response when a “well-meaning” relative steps in to “help“. Perhaps you have done this yourself.

How is that controlling, you may ask — by the response you direct toward the child. Instead of allowing the parent’s words or actions to stand, you override them with something like, “Oh Honey, would you like ____ instead?” As a “well-meaning” extended-family member who feels uncomfortable with the child’s poor response, you’re inclined to rescue them! STOP! Rather, think about what you’re doing. Instead of respecting the parent’s position and instruction, you go directly to the child, running interference.

Let’s look at what this undermining response does.baby-1606572__480

1) Disrespects the parent’s position in the child’s life.

2) Inserts confusion into an existing problem. The child has a simple choice before them. By your input, you are increasing rebellious desires and encouraging further confusion in the child’s heart. Rather than training toward obedience to parents, you are reinforcing rebellion.

3) You are building distrust in the child concerning their parent’s authority.

4) You are developing a manipulator and potential addict. Through your actions, you are teaching the child to evade authority (ultimately God’s authority) and to learn to function outside “the law”. You are developing a liar. All children, teens, and adults habituated toward getting their own way end up lying to achieve their desires, whether they recognize it or not.

5) You are supplying your own “need” to be a solver, a giver, a “Grand” parent, as this is more important to you than the child’s true welfare. You may be oblivious to what you’re doing, so please open your heart to what I’m saying. You are essentially feeding an issue in your own heart that needs addressing, and you are undermining your grown son or daughter’s relationship with their child.

The Support Role
Recognize your place and role in the relationship. You can inspire those you influence in a proper way that works toward a pattern of healthy relationship. It is never your place to undermine, even though this can be a temptation. You want to be viewed as a wonderful, nice, kind person, in the eyes of your grandchild, niece, nephew, and the viewing public, but you are actually building walls of offense by indulging in your self-centered desires.

When we undermine those in authority, we are acting out of disobedience to God’s established pattern and His proscribed method. We are inviting failure into the multi-generational relationship. This can be changed once we recognize this in ourselves and humbly receive correction. It doesn’t feel good but it does pay large rewards for everyone.

A note to parents: If this situation with an extended-family member exists, deal with it. Allowing someone else’s authority over your children is vitiating your duty as parents.

Oftentimes as parents you will not work on a solution because you are unwilling to discuss and deal with the situation, but you must. If either one of you is ignoring the problem and bringing confusion into your child-raising, humble yourself and confront one another in love. You are the parents, work this out between yourselves; do not bring further harm to your children or USE the children to display your differences. Develop a united front in your mission; get good counsel so that you do not put your burden upon your children.

Hold your lane so that well-meaning relatives are not tempted to cross over into it and drive your family’s car.

Photo Credit: Canva, Pixabay

Previous article (Part 1: Aspire to Inspire–Grand Parenting Tips)

Aspire to Inspire: Grand-Parenting Tips

Gr N and PatrickGrandchildren are the crown of the aged and the glory of children is their fathers. Prov. 17:6 (ESV). Life is Beautiful is one of my favorite movies. The setting is WWII Europe, this story is based upon a true account of a father’s protection of his son while incarcerated in one of Hitler’s death camps. It demonstrates a parent’s creative wisdom used to protect his child from harm. I admire the fortitude and inspiration of this father.

Parenting is one of the most important tasks in life, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom daily is crucial. Additionally, for extended family members — aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings, there is much for us to consider as we interact within a family structure. In the next message–Stay in Your Lane (part 2) I’ll explain why.

We do well to understand the “of age” stages children go through. As I see it now,family-1784371__480 parenting contains three stages generally: Control, Motivation, and Inspiration. If the goal throughout each stage is to glorify God by obeying His teachings, we will succeed even with our failures along the way. Parenting is used by God to gain humility in our lives and a bountiful path for our children’s feet.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 (ESV)

In the beginning…

father-1808749__480CONTROL is the beginning stage. When we look at NASA sending John Glenn to the moon, we realize that without a Control Center, success would not have been achieved. They needed calculated thinking from the brightest math, technology, and engineering minds to reach their goal; parenting involves Control Center principles as well. So let’s view it in this sense for the purpose of this writing. During these early years, parents are the critical thinkers, responsible for godly algorithms that produce success rather than sending their child into a trajectory of poor choices, confusion, and the resulting consequences. Children need controlled guidance in gaining contentment and security in their family. A loving family where the parents give vision, provide stability and take responsibility for decisions is a good foundation to build upon.

Next…

learn-3069053__480The MOTIVATION stage involves encouragement in the right direction, choices and decision making, requiring good management skills by the parents. This still involves some pulling upward toward a goal and some pushing into the correct lane. Rewarding good behavior is involved, as well as consequences for disobedience. Positive motivation is best. When we assume this position we focus upon the good things we see that can be further developed, rather than what is lacking.

The final stage is the most rewarding; both for us as parents and for God as our Heavenly Father. At this next stage, God is able to pour His creative passion into us as His children.

INSPIRATION is when you take your hands off, knowing you’ve done your job and the rest lay with your child’s individual choices. Our job is to pray, live an inspiring life ourselves, and entrust them to our good Heavenly Father. The level of investment parents give in the formative years, will influence the level of inspiration our children will be able to receive from us and live out for themselves.

Thankfully, it’s not all on us. Our Heavenly Father who created them, designed their personality, and gave them to us for a season – He has them! Like a tender plant, we were given guardianship for a season of watering and even if you have not always watered well, He can still cause growth and life. Why? Because His purpose and desire for each of our children are beyond our capacity to understand. He will work with them, and in the end, they alone will decide to pursue Him, or not. Ultimately, the decisions they make will determine their outcome. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live... Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV)

MOTIVATION differs from INSPIRATION.
Enjoy your life with God and BE an inspiration to others. The INSPIRATION stage comes when your children have come of age and you can now rejoice in the fact that you’ve done your part; let God their Father have full CONTROL.

In the movie, Life is Beautiful, the son lost his father in the death-camp but he gained a legacy. He would always remember a father who inspired him to dream that they were building a tank and that they could win the prize.

Think about how you can inspire those around you toward godly living. We are not doomed to a death-camp, yet there is danger to navigate. Our world of addictive social media alone requires major guidance and skill. Use godly inspiration to teach the next generation how to live, love and reach the goal of serving others. Teach them how to be content with thankfulness, yet creative with what they’ve recieved. Your example of this will go a long way.

Also, we need to self-examine and recognize any manipulating behavior in our lives, and repent of anything thing God reveals so that we can be effective in using teaching moments to build godly character. Aspire to inspire!

Coming next: Stay in Your Own Lane... a note to family members.

Photo Credit: Demary File, Pixabay