Monday, August 31, 2015

If You Can't Say Nice Words, Say Nothing

I visited Pennsylvania last week to attend my aunt’s 90th birthday party.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy and full of joy.  In the past year the doctors told her she would need heart surgery.  Hospice called her to discuss her plans and told her she was terminal.  The doctor advised that she change her eating.  (Sure took them long enough to do that!)  She carefully watched her diet, and her issues dwindled.  There is no longer a need for the surgery (thanks to prayer and good eating), but they would still like to give her a pacemaker.

My aunt decided that she wanted to have a party for her 90th birthday so she could see her friends and family while she was still alive instead of waiting for them to view her in a coffin.  Needless to say, she was thrilled to make it to her birthday!  What a lovefest at that party of people reminiscing of days gone by and declaring their feelings of love for my wonderful aunt. 

Whenever I attend a funeral, I wonder why we don’t celebrate our family and friends more while they are alive then wait for their memorial service to express our love and feelings about them.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to share this when they are still around to hear it and enjoy it?  Shouldn’t we strive to continually uplift those closest to us with kind, edifying words and deeds?  

Why do we hesitate to acknowledge a job well done but are quick to critique? We are only human and tend to be critical by nature – the world fosters it.  We have to work on giving compliments and edifying others.  Unfortunately, most of us suffer with self-esteem issues and silently hunger for words of encouragement that rarely come.  We have difficulty giving what we rarely receive.

How many times have you witnessed your friend performing a generous act or noble deed, but you never said a complimentary word to them about it?  Or maybe your child went above and beyond in something you asked but you kept quiet?  How often has your spouse blessed you, ever so subtly, and you said nothing?

This is a huge problem in marriage today.  After the honeymoon period wears off, we often begin to focus on the negative aspects of our spouse. Negativity is a contagious venom that builds into hate.  It eventually kills. I’ve seen many couples compete in slinging insults at each other until they lose track of why they married in the first place.  If they don’t stop the vicious cycle of criticizing each other and focus on the positive attributes they once loved, divorce is inevitable.  

Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us, “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.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Funny, but somehow too many “Christians” don’t realize that these verses also apply to their spouses and children.  They may only talk sweetness to outsiders but feel it is their duty to criticize and express their negative thoughts to those they love the most.  I am always amazed to hear how harmfully many people speak to their family members.  No doubt, God has been greatly grieved (vs.30)

So please, if you can’t say nice words to those you love, say nothing.  Compliment a stranger – you may change their life.  Apologize to your relative you haven’t spoken to in a few years.  Don’t wait until they pass away and you can only view them in a coffin.  Work on only speaking words that edify and uplift your spouse. It's contagious. You will see a change in the way you communicate with each other and an amazing improvement in your marriage.  Edification causes a relationship to blossom and grow into the deepest love.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Stop the Cycle

Okay.  I think I’ve established the fact that communication efforts between men and women are complicated.  Unfortunately, we aren’t told that we need to learn a foreign language when we enter into matrimony.

Yes, we women speak very different English from our spouses.  Half the battle, like most anything, is the realization of the problem.  Once you grasp the differences and no longer allow them to drive you crazy, you can easily learn to communicate with your spouse.

Your focus should be on your spouse’s needs, not your own.  Allowing yourself to become annoyed at their words that conflict with your desires (unless they criticize you personally) is a selfish act.

Putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own is just a polite way of saying, “Stop being so selfish.”  Selfishness will always cause severe friction in a marriage and usually leads a couple to divorce.  I’ve seen some people tolerate a selfish spouse for many years, but it takes a toll on a relationship.  The selfless person will usually reach a point of giving up and end the marriage.

This is one of the most challenging aspects of marriage that I see couples struggle with -- putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own.  When Rick and I bring up this notion in counseling, we usually get that blank, deer-in-the-headlight look.   It is so contradictory to what the world tells us, and even good Christians struggle with it.

The Bible tells us that we fight and quarrel because we don’t get what we want.  Step one in giving up your needs to fulfill your spouses - stop dwelling on what you want and look at what your spouse wants.  They won’t argue with you about that.

When you find yourself in the middle of a verbal battle with your spouse, try to back off.  Stop yelling.  Think about what they need.  If you are no longer fueling the fire of your spouse with argumentative words, their flames will flicker out.  It’s no fun to argue when no one is arguing with you.  It’s embarrassing to do on your own.  Besides, where did arguing EVER get you?  Has it enhanced your marriage?

“A gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” – Proverbs 15:1

Those are very powerful and truthful words that we need to take into deep consideration when it comes to our spouses.  We need to break the cycle of hurtful words we sling at the ones we love.

Rick and I broke our own vicious cycle of endless angry words many years ago, soon after God saved our marriage.  Now, we don’t react (most of the time) when we see the other is a little emotionally raw or upset about something.  We don’t take their behavior personally and assume the anger is about us. 

It is important not to take everything negative your spouse does or says personally.  Realize that they are also human and make mistakes and are influenced by hormones and chemicals and circumstances that cause us all to act a little irrational at times.

Once you learn to back off and not react, that gives your spouse the freedom to vent without adding the complications of an argument.  Learn to hold your tongue and listen to find out what the problem is and deal with it rationally.  You will discover a new intimacy with your spouse that comes from peacefully dealing with your problems together.

Monday, August 10, 2015

No Substitute

Often times, when I have no clue what to write on my weekly blog, I search through my notes and papers to find a great Bible verse that particularly touched me or a saying I may have heard from another source.  God always leads me to just the right one.  As I frantically searched for this week’s topic, uninspired by my own thoughts, I came upon a lone piece of paper with these words scratched on it.

“Church is supposed to be a transformational tool to grow closer to the Father – not a substitute.”

Hmmm.  How true, how true.  But how many regard their relationship with God to be their time spent at church? We are subtly led to believe that we should be at church as much as possible throughout the week for whatever class, service, or activity that is presented. (Not a bad thing, by any means.)  Too many people hold their time in church, though, as their standard of Christianity, their justification for being called a follower of Christ.  They are more comfortable keeping Christ in the church and never taking Him home to be a part of their lives.

Many believe that if they go to church on Sunday and live a good life the rest of the week that is all they need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.  (Heard that from various people – love it.)  I would go out on a limb to say that a lot of Christians share this viewpoint that church equals a relationship with God.  As I look back at my church experiences in the past, my most active time of church involvement was also the most immoral time of my life.  Yow!

Thank you God for coming into my life and showing me the truth.  Church should be a tool that leads us to the Father and His plan for our lives.

John Bevere once stated that he believes we will not be judged for how many souls we help save, rather, we will be judged on whether or not we fulfilled our purpose that God gave us.  Each and every one of us is here on Earth for a reason.

We need to figure out our purpose for being here, something we can only know through a close relationship with our creator.  We need to learn how to depend on God for everything.  Anything less will leave us unsatisfied and feeling incomplete.

And so comes the part about marriage.  God also gave us marriage to draw closer to Him, not as a substitute.

We will fail miserably if we allow our marriage to become the god in our lives.  It can never live up to those standards.  We certainly go into marriage believing it can, but the sad news is that it won’t.  It’s difficult for two people to live together in the sacred bond of matrimony. “Happily-ever-after” comes with trials and tribulations of its own, and half of couples in these times now quit when the troubles get too burdensome.
God made marriage so we would need Him.  Your chances of surviving marriage, without God, are a lot less than with Him.  Sure, you say, the divorce rate is just as high among church goers.  (Please re-read paragraph four).  Most Christian marriages don’t include God as a vital part of their relationship and that’s why the divorce rate is no different among them than secular marriages..

The bottom line is that we need God in our lives – in all we do.  Especially in this crazy world we live, a world that seems to spiral downward more each day.  I don’t know how I would face it without His guidance and protection, and His promise of eternal life in heaven.

Do yourself a favor.  Seek His face.  Include Him in every step you take – in your life and in your marriage.  You will find peace and satisfaction and completeness. (Plus a whole lot more!)