Thinking Out Loud

June 7, 2015

When Interpersonal Relationships Break Down

Six years later, I honestly don’t remember what it was that precipitated this column…

Lately I’ve been keeping track of a number of relationships in my personal life and business life that have been changing. Some of these represent cases where there have been relationship breakdowns, usually precipitated by something external that I did not instigate, but often compounded by my reaction(s). I’m a very principled person, and I’ve never let a great friendship stand in the way of taking a stand for an ethical or moral precept, at least not among people who I expect should know better.

But some of them are relationships which have been in a wonderful state of repair and healing. Enough time clicks by on the magic clock and both parties say, “Who cares?” and pick things up where they left off. In one case, I can no longer remember what the issue was between myself and the woman concerned, though when we do meet up, I hope she gives me some kind of clue. I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but I’m dying to know what the deal was. It must have been a doozie, but with God, forgetfulness — which we regard as a human failing — is actually a divine attribute.

So here’s my five rules for surviving relational breakdowns:

  1. bizarrobelieverjerkNothing should be so severe that it would cause you to move to the sidewalk on the other side of the road if you saw that person coming down the street. Civility is always the higher good.
  2. You should never have relational estrangement with more than five people at a time. To get a sixth person on the list, you have to be willing to call up the person who has been on the list the longest and make peace. You may prefer to use four or three as your magic number. It should never be more than five.
  3. Treat the whole thing as if it’s entirely your own fault, even if it wasn’t to begin with. Sometimes that can be difficult. A pastor I know took great issue with something I sent him in an e-mail a year ago; then just weeks later got up and gave his congregation the same message. I know that I was right, but if I ever happened to run into him, the first thing I would probably say is, “Look, I’m sorry…” In fact, I have nothing to apologize for, but it can be a great opportunity to practice humility and thereby model Christian charity.
  4. Ask yourself if there’s some other factor at play that you haven’t considered. For about 15 years, I knew that a particular individual was angry with me. A mutual friend said, “He’s never going to forgive you.” I always thought it concerned something in our professional relationship, but about a year ago, my mind flashed back to something that happened at a party involving our children. I immediately contacted him to make things right.
  5. An irreparable situation means the relationship can’t be fixed for now. The bible is very clear that as far as it is up to you, you should live at peace with everyone. Elsewhere, we’re told that loving our brothers and sisters means believing the best. I interpret that as believing the best is yet to come.

P.S.: I’m still working some of these out, so don’t expect to see my book on this on the shelves anytime soon!

In heaven above
With the saints that we love
It will be glory

But on earth here below
With the saints that we know
Well… that’s a different story.

 

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January 27, 2011

The Burdens We Carry

Yesterday in the link list, I noted a sermon preached by Ron Edmondson at Grace Community Church in Kenwood and Rossview (Clarksville), Tennessee.  In it, he asked his congregation to complete an index card indicating the particular “weights” and burdens they were carrying. Though the cards were anonymous, they collected over 1,000 of them and compiled them statistically showing the areas in which people are struggling.

Here are the results:

I would have guessed that health concerns was high on the list, but presumably included in the section of general anxieties (the green section at 20%) and combined with doubt, which I would think is a whole different matter altogether, this area of concern did not rate #1.

The third largest area, dealing with disappointments from the past, is something I’m dealing with right now. I think a lot of people fall into this category. The sale they didn’t make. The girl that turned down the date. The offer on the house that didn’t go through. I wrote about this a year ago in a review of a Steve Arterburn book I called Regrets, I Have a Few.

But the number one area, as you can see clearly in the pink section, has to do with four areas that I’ll list in bullet points so that together, we can read them slowly and consider each one:

  • Jealousy
  • Pride
  • Grudges
  • Anger

Let’s re-list those differently

  • Wishing we had the possessions or status that others have
  • Consumed with the image others have of us
  • Wanting to ‘play God’ and thereby ‘level the playing field’ of perceived inequities
  • Thinking that individual inequities mean that God is unfair, and boiling over with resentment toward Him and/or others

If the stats at Ron’s church are right, this will strike a response with many people reading this, as will other areas included in the chart. God wants to bring healing change into our lives to deal with these issues. In the sermon attached to the link with the graphic — if you have problems switch over to his church site and simply listen to the audio — he tells stories of people whose life journey has involved intense pain. It can be so hard to move on. It can be so difficult not to “be defined by” the circumstances of personal life history.

While Ron’s focus is on the burdens we carry, I think it’s fair to also mention that we need to be sensitive to the needs of others around us who are carrying their burdens.

Ron asks his congregation these questions:

  • What do you need to leave behind?
  • What changes do you need to make in your life in order to live fully for Christ?
  • What failures do you need to forget.
  • What disciplines do you need to take on?
  • Whom do you need to forgive?
  • What grudge do you need to release?
  • What burden do you need to give back to God?
  • Do you need to trust God more?
  • Do you need to serve others more?

Ron concludes, “One of the roadblocks to your future may be the past that you refuse to let go of.”

To listen to the entire sermon as a podcast, click here and select 1/2/2011


September 14, 2009

The Shack Publisher Releases Third Fiction Title

Divorce Lawyer

You come home from work and your spouse says something — something possibly containing a minuscule, trace amount of irritation — and you react to it.   Then he/she reacts to your reaction.   Then it gets loud.   Then it crosses the line to where you’re saying things you instinctively know as you are saying them that you are going to have to apologize later. Or worse.

I sometimes have anger issues.   I admit that.  I think a lot of people do, and I think that we live in times that leave us vulnerable to stress factors that manifest themselves in different ways in different people.   Fortunately for me — and my wife — it’s nothing like Steven Kerner, however.   He’s the lead character in the book Bo’s Café, and he is given to what may only be described as serial rage.   Every discussion with his wife escalates into something it shouldn’t.   He can’t help but keep messing up, and then there’s no turning back.

Bo's CaféBo’s Café is the third fiction work from Windblown Media, publishers of The Shack and only the fourth book the upstart company has released.   (A second non-fiction book is due out in November.)   This time around there are three authors, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, John Lynch, and the setting is an area quite familiar to me, the environs of Los Angeles, California.

And yes, there is a Bo and there is a café but there’s also a bar and Steven’s life is greatly impacted by a guy who smokes, so the Shack-bashers who are now predisposed to despise anything from Windblown will have something to work with.  (see: Sarcasm)  The theme this time around however is marriage, family and our need as humans — including Christians — to come to terms with who we are and build in controls against the knee-jerk reactions we have when someone — especially a spouse — pushes our buttons.

Therefore, don’t look for a fictional treatment on the nature of God this time around.  Bo’s is so much about marriage, I suspect it will land on a lot of bookstore shelves next to Fireproof. In a way, the two form a perfect set.

Like Shack, this title uses what might be termed Socratic dialog (Br.: dialogue) named after the didactic writing in The Republic of Plato. Conversation that teaches.    Words that cut to the heart of issues; our issues.   There was one part, early on in reading, that I wondered if they had pushed that agenda too much to the forefront; if the book was too preachy.   But the moment passed, and I settled in to find out what was in store both for the quirkly characters and for Steven, who I truly believe represents you and I.

The book has another similarity to Shack inasmuch as I think it will attract more male readers than one normally expects with Christian fiction.   Steve is helped greatly by Andy, a guy who just turns up in his life, which will also remind readers of Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory, The Noticer by Andy Andrews, and Windblown’s other fiction title, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen (the pseudonym of Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman).   Those books all scored high with male readers as well.

The book has several messages, and I’m sure other reviewers will have a different take on this; but my personal revelation in reading was that personal change takes place over time, not overnight.   Like Shack, this book is expected to score some sales in the general market, as well as the Christian market, and very appropriately Steven Kerner’s faith and belief in God is like a soundtrack running softly in the background, not something that’s in your face awkwardly on occasions the writers feel the need to ‘say something religious.’

This is a book that will save lives.   Marriages in particular.   This is a book that couples should read.   (We both finished within days of each other.)   Days later, I found myself on a website where the blogger was lamenting the lack of someone to talk with.   The book inspired me to suggest that a listening ear is not too far away.  You just have to be looking, to be open, or even to ask, “Do you know someone who is known to be a really good listener?”

This book shows the power of a good listening ear. We all need someone like that.

Comments:  This book review has been tagged ‘The Shack,’ but it’s not the forum for Shack-bashing and such comments will be deleted.   On the other hand if there’s something in this post you want to discuss, feel free.


August 27, 2009

It’s Not Your Circumstances, It’s How You Respond To Them

During the past year I have been directly responsible for a number of relational train wrecks involving myself and others.    While each of these is a story unto itself, beginning with something that I did not precipitate, I either responded in a way that was less than clear, or I responded out of anger and frustration.

Who ever said, “Don’t shop at the grocery store when you’re hungry,” could have equally said, “Don’t write e-mails when you’re angry.”

Furthermore, if I examine the situations analytically, often the person or organization met by my vent or rant is not the person or organization that has caused me to have a bad day, a bad week or a bad month.

As someone who has come through periods of physical illness, I have also discovered, sad to say, that I am a mellower person when I am also dealing with something that has left me broken or humbled or aware of weakness.   It’s when I’m feeling  “good” that I sometimes through caution to the wind and say things I shouldn’t.

Yesterday, I spoke with a former pastor who described to me the feeling of not having to care what people might think about a particular course of action.   While before some things might have mattered a great deal, now he simply doesn’t have to factor in the opinions of a church board, church staff, or church membership.

I can’t speak fully for him, but I know that lately I have simply “shut down” trying to build on interpersonal relationships.   While in a couple of cases I have been the one to seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, in several other cases I have found myself simply no longer caring what people think of me.   In fact, I think that lately some of my best “relationships” have been with people who don’t really know me at all; insofar as I have achieved a depth of mutual communication, empathy and understanding with people I’ve only met a short time before.

I want to “learn my lesson” in this department, but I have come to regard any relationship that I had over 90 days as just about to reach its “best before” date; I’ve come to almost expect that something will go wrong, relationally; and I’ve decided those relationships aren’t worth consideration because they’re probably minutes or hours from disintegration.   And I fully acknowledge that — without specific intention — it has often been entirely my fault.

Twenty-four hours ago, I returned from a long day at work — eight hours without even so much as a restroom break (too much information, I know) — and found a business e-mail waiting for me containing information that was contrary to what I thought we had committed to.   Because of past history with this company, I assumed this was just another in a long line of broken expectations.   So I typed a short, angry, over-the-top e-mail figuring, “Maybe, just maybe, this will get their attention.”

What I didn’t factor in was that the person I sent it to may not have been responsible at all for what happened.  I was simply building on the anger of some contact from previous in the week.   In fact, without going into details, in my mind I was being the ‘good guy’ in the broader exchange, as I was going along with his assumption that I would enter into a certain venture that I had previously indicated I would not.   So having jumped through their hoops, how could they possibly then mess it up on their end?

But I also didn’t factor in — though I was aware of it in our earlier e-mails at the start of the week — that this person has just come through a personal crisis dealing with the sudden loss of a family member.   He didn’t need the stress of my letter.

So now, in more specific terms, I must write an apology.   I’ll leave out the background analysis.   It doesn’t really matter.   What matters is hitting the “send” button before thinking it through more carefully.   What matters is that other people have feelings, too.   I’m sorry.

June 16, 2009

Dealing with Broken Interpersonal Relationships

Filed under: Church, issues, relationships — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm

Lately I’ve been keeping track of a number of relationships in my personal life and business life that have been changing.   Some of these represent cases where there have been relationship breakdowns, usually precipitated by something external that I did not instigate, but often compounded by my reaction(s).   I’m a very principled person, and I’ve never let a great friendship stand in the way of taking a stand for an ethical or moral precept, at least not among people who I expect should know better.

But some of them are relationships which have been in a wonderful state of repair and healing.   Enough time clicks by on the magic clock and both parties say, “Who cares?” and pick things up where they left off.   In one case, I can no longer remember what the issue was between myself and the woman concerned, though when we do meet up, I hope she gives me some kind of clue.   I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but I’m dying to know what the deal was.   It must have been a doozie, but with God, forgetfulness — which we regard as a human failing — is actually a divine attribute.

So here’s my five rules for surviving relational breakdowns:

  1. bizarrobelieverjerkNothing should be so severe that it would cause you to move to the sidewalk on the other side of the road if you saw that person coming down the street.   Civility is always the higher good.
  2. You should never have relational estrangement with more than five people at a time.    To get a sixth person on the list, you have to be willing to call up the person who has been on the list the longest and make peace.   You may prefer to use four or three as your magic number.   It should never be more than five.
  3. Treat the whole thing as if it’s entirely your own fault, even if it wasn’t to begin with.   Sometimes that can be difficult.   A pastor I know took great issue with something I sent him in an e-mail a year ago; then just weeks later got up and gave his congregation the same message.   I know that I was right, but if I ever happened to run into him, the first thing I would probably say is, “Look, I’m sorry…”    In fact, I have nothing to apologize for, but it can be a great opportunity to practice humility and thereby model Christian charity.
  4. Ask yourself if there’s some other factor at play that you haven’t considered.   For about 15 years, I knew that a particular individual was angry with me.   A mutual friend said, “He’s never going to forgive you.”  I always thought it concerned something in our professional relationship, but about a year ago, my mind flashed back to something that happened at a party involving our children.   I immediately contacted him to make things right.
  5. An irreparable situation means the relationship can’t be fixed for now. The bible is very clear that as far as it is up to you, you should live at peace with everyone.    Elsewhere, we’re told that loving our brothers and sisters means believing the best. I interpret that as believing the best is yet to come.

P.S.: I’m still working some of these out, so don’t expect to see my book on this on the shelves anytime soon!

In heaven above
With the saints that we love
It will be glory

But on earth here below
With the saints that we know
Well… that’s a different story.

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