Tag: conflict (page 1 of 3)

Three Questions to Prep You for a Dysfunctional Family Gathering

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:

 

But reality can often look like this:

And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

It’s a little comforting to know we have some not-so-stellar company in Bible families.

  • Lot got drunk and slept with his daughter.
  • Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
  • David refused to deal with his son, Absolom’s sin.
  • Abraham slept with his wife’s servant.

Not exactly “Minnesota nice.”

“How is this encouraging?” you say!

Well, in spite of their sin, God forgave, redeemed and used them.  There is hope for all of us.

For those looking forward to Norman Rockwell gatherings this week, praise God.  But for those who are going into the crazy zone that is your family, what are some things you can do to prepare?

Think of the person or people you will see who brings out the worst in you. The person who tries your patience, or shames you, or prompts you to act like your two-year-old self.

Consider these insights from Henry Cloud:

“You can’t control outcomes. You can only control your behavior. Focus on that and you will get better outcomes.” 

  • What is it in you that needs to change?  What can you control?

“No one can manipulate you unless you need something from them….figure out what you need and you will discover the source of their power.”

  • What are you looking for from someone else that only God can perfectly give you?  Approval?  Forgiveness?  Love?
  • What can you authentically affirm in each of your family members?  A kind word can diffuse a lot of tension.

Most importantly, though, maybe prepare by praying.  Hands open.

Lord, I bow before You, marred, and messed up, just like the rest of my family.  Help me to see myself and Yourself more clearly.  Give me grace to cover the offenses of others.  Give me humility to ask forgiveness where I have offended.  Give me courage to speak the truth and pursue healthy boundaries.

So as you anticipate being with family sometime during the holidays, is it with excitement or  a knot in your stomach?  Are you going in prepared and prayed up?

The Six Hardest Words to Say to Each Other

In our marriage, John and I agree the six hardest words for us to say to each other are, “You were right.” (and even worse) “I was wrong.”

Or even “We were both right and we were both wrong.”

The thing is, not only are those words hard to say, it’s brutal work facing our own misperceptions and listening and getting to the place of being able to truly own the humility behind them.

A few people I know are in a bad spot right now. They are angry and hurt and sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They are so sure of their rightness, that they are not willing to talk or listen to anyone with a differing viewpoint.

If you’re reading this and your heart is racing, thinking “Is she writing about me???!!” The answer is yes. I’m writing about you (whoever you are). And me. And all of us.

Because who of us haven’t been in this spot from time to time – like a toddler with eyes squeezed shut and fists clenched, desperately in need of a “Settle down and take a time out until you’re yourself again.”

A few weeks ago I read the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 in my devotional time and I have not been able to get one thought out of my mind.

Saul was PASSIONATELY religious. He was POSITIVE he was right and righteous and obedient to God as he persecuted Christians – eyes squeezed shut, fists clenched. Ironically he had to literally be blinded before he could recognize how spiritually blind he was. It was only when Jesus entered the picture that eventually his eyes were opened and he saw things differently. Slowly his hands and his heart opened to something new.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. What things are we SO SURE OF? Are there perceptions or judgments that, if we invited Jesus in, He might change our minds, and uncover blind spots? That feels scary and vulnerable and really uncomfortable.

I LOVE being right! There are times when I gather my righteous indignation around me like a comfy blanket on a cold dark night. I don’t like the thought that I might be wrong!

So….What do you feel self-righteous about? Who is someone you disagree with? What questions could you ask to better understand their perspective?

Today I pray: Lord your Word says our hearts are deceitful above all things. Only You can uncover my blind spots, my impure motives, my misperceptions, my self-righteousness. I desire to humble myself before You today. Search me and show me where I’m wrong…where I need to ask forgiveness…where I need new eyes to see.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

One of the Hardest Verses in the Bible, and Why it’s Important

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me what the Bible says to do when someone has “royally screwed you” (ok, his words were stronger, but you get the idea). He said he already has his lawyers in contact with the offender. It made me think of this post from several years ago…

John said, “I think you need to do a Matthew 18:15.”

No, no, NO!  Anything but that!  Not that Uncomfortable Thing.  Not that Truth-Telling thing.  Not admitting that someone has the power to actually ding me.

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.” Mt. 18:15, 16 MSG

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Those are some of the sentences I’d like to cut out of my Bible.

Ugh.  And double-ugh.

I really like it that I grew up in a family that was super nice and basically devoid of conflict.  Ok, maybe we stuffed a little, but still… We were nice dang it!

John’s comment came after I had read an email that was the last in a line of correspondence that left me feeling hurt, ticked and frankly baffled.

My natural response was withdraw. And vent.

But I preferred to frame it as “shaking the dust off my shoes” and moving on.

Who likes confrontation?  Maybe Simon Cowell or Nancy Grace or Rush Limbaugh.   But not me or you.  We’re not pot-stirrers for Pete’s sake!

Why do most of us hate this sticky business of coming clean with one another?  Naming the offense?

  • It allows us to hold onto our self-righteousness without the hard work of understaning another point of view.
  • If promotes an illusion of safety.  Having a face to face conversation feels risky.  What if I get hurt more?  What if (gasp) I’m wrong?
  • It projects an image of submission and nicety.  We don’t want the label of being high maintenance or overly sensitive.

Not everything is a Matthew 18:15 issue.

Proverbs 19:11 says “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  There are those dings we cover with grace like a bandaid.  They heal and we move on.

But then there are those wounds that require us to examine our own heart and, with humility, bring the situation to the attention of another.

love the idea of Romans 12:18.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

But living at peace doesn’t mean denial, or stuffing or withdrawal, all of which would be preferable in my book to, you know…actually talking about it.

So why is this so important?

wrote the other day about a group of us trying memorizing Matthew 5-7 – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.   Here’s the thing…Our goal isn’t just get through the Sermon on the Mount.  We want to get the Sermon on the Mount through us!

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus puts a high value on everything involved with this process of conflict resolution – bringing things to light instead of hiding them in the darkness, unity rather than division, understanding and compassion rather than pride.

Several of my partners in this project are friends who are traveling in the Middle East right now, pursuing peace and understanding on a global level.  But if we can’t get it right in our own lives we can’t get it right half-way around the world, right?

So, as uncomfortable as it is, I’m going to set up a time to sit down across from my friend, question for better understanding, and have the hard conversation.

What’s been your experience with this Matthew 18:15 stuff?

5 Questions to Save Your Holidays from Family Drama

This is a repost from a couple years ago, but I need the reminders so I thought you might too 🙂

It’s three days before Thanksgiving and Christmas is just a ho-ho-ho away.  For most of us that means more family interaction during a season when we’re often physically, emotionally, and spiritually stretched thin.DSC00629For people who are trying not to gain weight, they say the most important thing is to go into food intense situations with a plan.

As I look back on our early days of marriage, there are things we could have done to set ourselves up better for success.   We could have used a plan!  So here are a few ideas… Continue reading

One Key to Racial Reconciliation

This weekend a video went viral of a confrontation between a policeman in our town and a young African American. As hard as it is to watch, John and I have viewed it several times. We’ve prayed, and reflected, and read the many articles and responses.

(Warning – graphic language)

Everyone watches through a certain lens, with particular baggage, expectations, and bias.

People are quick to take sides. To want to say this person was RIGHT and this person was WRONG.

But what if issues like racial tension became less about one-upmanship and more about relationship? 

What if our posture was more one of humility, curiosity, and respect towards those different from us?

As I’ve reflected on this, I really think one of the keys to racial reconciliation is that we ask more questions, and listen longer than is comfortable.

I wonder how this cop and this young black man would answer these questions about the incident:

  • How did you feel during this experience and why?
  • What were you thinking? What motivated you to respond the way you did?
  • What, if anything might you do differently if you were to have a “do over”?

Whoever’s “side” we gravitate towards initially, what if we were to listen carefully to “the other’s” answers and ask more questions?

What if the cop were to invite the young man out for coffee and just listen?

What if the cop were to listen deeply to the young man’s answers with respect and without defensiveness?

What if the young man were to listen deeply to the cop’s perspective?

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. 1 Cor. 13

Baggage Claim

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that John and I had preached together on relationships. Specifically we talked about the baggage we bring that can weigh relationships down.

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Years ago we were crossing the border between Israel and Egypt. Yeah, there was a tiny bit of tension…

Anyway, my suitcase went through the TSA scanner and we were waiting for the OK to go ahead, but a couple of soldiers kept staring at the X-ray screen, talking animatedly and using hand gestures that didn’t look particularly encouraging, especially when they called over reinforcements and then pointed at me saying “Come here!”

“What is THAT?” they asked pointing to a shape on the X-ray picture. Continue reading

Is the Story You’re Telling Yourself True?

Confession: I haven’t been a raving Brené Brown fan. I like Brené Brown’s material on vulnerability, but I don’t love it. It hasn’t been revolutionary for me, probably because I’m too open as it is. I don’t need any encouragement in that area.

However, last month at the Global Leadership Summit, she spoke and I wished so much that John had been sitting next to me so I could elbow him about every other word she said. (Never mind that he would have been elbowing me too.) The material, from her new book Rising Strong, was painfully relevant.

According to her, “Our brain is wired to make up a story to explain every difficult human interaction—whether it’s true or not. That story helps us interpret the discomfort by protecting our ego and self-image.” Continue reading

What we Bring to the Table

Awhile ago we hosted a dinner party and it felt like a slow motion train-wreck.  Honestly.  At one point we were afraid one of our guests was going to leap over the table and physically attack another guest.

And to think I was upset beforehand that I didn’t have an appropriate soup tureen and ladle.  The stuff we worry about!

I haven’t watched Game of Thrones or the Red Wedding episode, but from what I hear, after this dinner I really don’t have to.

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To say there was tension would be an understatement.

Husband John and I have done quite a bit of post-mortem analysis and have asked what we can learn from this.

As I think about what was brought to the table (besides soup), I realize there was tremendous fatigue.  It had been a very long weekend in the midst of a busy season for most of us.  When we’re tired we’re not at our best.

We also brought preconceptions, insecurities, and judgment to the table.

But Fear was the uninvited guest we hadn’t expected.  Continue reading

When You’re on the Receiving End of a “Crucial Conversation”

I wrote Monday about the most impactful message we heard when we went to Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit this summer.    I came home from the summit inspired, informed, and motivated to apply all of the things.

However I wasn’t expecting for anyone to apply anythings to, well… ME!  Within 24 hours of our return, not one, but two different friends individually decided they needed to have a “crucial conversation” with me. Continue reading

How to Have a Crucial Conversation

Recently we met for dinner with a young couple we love whose marriage is in crisis.

Another friend’s teenage son entered rehab.

Two had to fire employees.

One needs to break up with her boyfriend.

AAAAARRRGGGHHH!  For the love of world peace!

In each of these situations a crucial conversation (or series of them) was called for.  Conversations where emotions ran high.  Sometimes there was a difference of opinion.   Perhaps there was hard truth that needed to be clearly, but gently communicated.

John and I often repeat something our friend Nancy Beach once said: “Leadership is a series of hard conversations.”  I think that might as well be “LIFE is a series of hard conversations.”

In August we took a large group from our church to the annual Leadership Summit at Willow Creek.  The most pertinent talk for many of us was called “Crucial Conversations” by Joseph Grenny.

He said, any time you find yourself stuck, there are crucial conversations you’re not having, or not having well. Continue reading

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