What Are You Saying?

Yesterday, I listened to one of my kids rant about their school, the wicked teachers, awful students & deplorable work. I don’t mind listening and sometimes I’m good at listening, which is good because my kid needed a listening ear. After about 30-45min of this content, I felt it was time for some objectivity so we had an interesting chat. I applauded their willingness to acknowledge a few of their shortfalls, but I also pointed out that from this child’s perspective, the lion’s share of the problems belonged to everyone else. This kind of thinking was allowing my kid to frame themselves as the victim & that’s no bueno. Being a victim often leaves us powerless & inert, wallowing in self pity. Seems to me that this kind of thinking runs contrary to how God has designed us, back in the Garden of Eden with power & dominion. 

At the minimum, we have authority & power over our attitude & the choices we make about our perspective. Let’s be careful about how we think because our thoughts affect our words, attitudes & actions!

act the right way???

“YOU SHOULDN’T DO THAT!!!!”  When we were growing up, you probably heard that a few times, as did I.  Now that I’m an adult, I still hear those words in my mind sometimes.  “You shouldn’t be driving so fast!  You shouldn’t be sarcastic, you shouldn’t be so casual, you shouldn’t . . . . . ”

In religion, there’s lots of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”  – we wishfully think that the right behavior will fix everything.  From my perspective, this kind of thinking is like putting peacock feathers on a cow:  accessorizing the external in an attempt to deny or compensate for the internal.

More than we realize our beliefs shape our behavior, so perhaps we would be better to consider what we believe as the first step.  Yucky beliefs and thinking always result in yucky words and actions 🙂

poise or poison

I’m a sucker for compliments and maybe you are as well.  I like to be told that I preached a powerful message, that I’m a great mom, I’m an excellent wife and I could keep going with a really long list.  Compliments are frequently really helpful, unless you get them from someone who you know isn’t a friend.  Compliments from people who are not your friends can be poisonous because the compliments are often insincere.  If you think about it, people who don’t have your best interests at heart can and will say anything nice to you because they don’t have any “skin in the game”.

In contrast, people who are genuinely your friend will tell you things that could be difficult to hear:

  • your zipper is unzipped,
  • you’ve been really cranky lately,
  • your thinking is really messed up,
  • that’s not a good color on you, etc

In Prov 27:6 it says that the wounds of a friend are faithful but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.  Don’t fall for deceitful kisses!

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speak, think, feed

I’m not a big fan of onions – when I chop them, they make my eyes water and sometimes they can have a really sharp odor & flavor.  But they can serve as an interesting metaphor with some helpful thoughts.  If you think about it, onions have many layers – you can keep peeling & peeling, ulimately finding that an onion may have up to 20 layers!

The layers of an onion are a little like our lives, with the first layer being what we say.  The things that we say are very important & since I’ve had children, I’m more convinced of this than ever.  Our words can give life, encouragment and be uplifting or they can be negative, discouraging and death oriented.  So our words are important, but our words are often a reflection of what we think, which is another layer of the onion, so to speak.

Second layer – Have you ever thought about what you think about – a thought inventory?  Many of our thoughts are about getting stuff done and general maintainence thinking (cooking, grocery lists, auto repair, etc).  But we also think about many other things – conversations, what we think people think about us, priorities, time management, how we feel, reactions to various people & interactions, etc.  What we let ourselves think about is very important because our thoughts affect our actions, words, decisions, etc.

But here’s the center of the onion:  what we feed our hearts is what affects our thinking & ultimately our words & actions.  So let me encourage you to take a few minutes to consider the things that you feed your thoughts, emotions & heart.  What are the inputs that you allow in your life?  Do these inputs give life?  Are they uplifting?  Are they truthful?  Do they have genuine love?  Our words are shaped by our thoughts which are shaped by the inputs we allow – so let’s chose these inputs with discernment, discretion, wisdom & love 🙂

what would Jesus say?

 Several years ago, it was really common to see the “WWJD” (what would Jesus do) bracelets everywhere & from time to time I still see them & they make me smile.  Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about what would Jesus say.  I’ve been thinking about this not in my communication with others, but more so in what Jesus says to me.  You see, from time to time, I wrestle with thoughts about discouragement, failure, disappointment, etc.  If I’m not careful, these thoughts can overrun my brain & become dangerous distractions from Jesus’ plans & purposes for me.

When I look at Jesus’ life & His words to us, they are always filled with life, faith, strength, encouragement, forgiveness, love and acceptance.  The only people Jesus ever slammed with overt offense were the religious leaders of His day who were judgmental, selfish and even ungodly.  To everyone else, His words were full of life, encouragement & faith.  When I think about Jesus’ words & their contrast with the discouragement & failure thoughts that run around in my mind sometimes, I’m faced with a choice.  I either listen to His life-giving words or I let the failure & discouragement thoughts run amuck.  I’m choosing Jesus’ words, because I’m Jesus’ sheep (John 10).  🙂

hurtful words

At various times in our lives, we are all the targets & recipient of hurtful words.  In elementary school, kids can often say things without thinking of how their words can be received.  Then in Jr & Sr high school, it seems like we get more sophisticated with our ability to use piercing & hurtful words.  By the time we’re adults, many of us have become very proficient at integrating sarcasm with our cleverly cloaked words so that we can slice & filet someone with very crafted and deadly words.

So what do we do with hurtful words?  Here are a couple of helpful thoughts:  

  1. forgive – whether the words were intentionally hurtful or not, forgiving must be your first & continual action
  2. dial down the emotions & see what could be truthful with the hurtful words
  3. make a constructive decision to get better & not bitter – let the hurtful words give you motivation to make some healthy changes rather than letting them fester in your emotional memory being nursed & rehearsed
  4. repay mean words with a smile rather than trying to craft a come back or pay back
  5. take the hurt to Jesus & let Him bring His healing into that pain

Pain isn’t always the main issue.  But what you do with pain will determine it’s results 🙂

ever had any challenges with communication???

 We have had access to massive communication improvements over the past few decades.  If you think about it, did you ever pull the phone cord out of the wall?  In the ’80s, a tweet  would have been “twit” mis-pronounced.  And my idea of “wifi” in the ’70s was more like “hi-fi” in our house with speakers in every room so I could play records throughout the house at maximum volume.  Communication has certainly improved, but we can all stand to make some improvements in our inter-personal communication, especially as it relates to conflict 🙂

Here are some tips that you might find useful in resolving conflict:

  • Understand the issue:  get on the same page about what you’re discussing because often the center of the conflict comes from not discussing the same content
  • Separate what was said from what was heard  (that’s not what I said, but that’s what was heard)
  • Consider the emotions & expectations associated w the conversation – these items can make communication hazy & ineffective if they’re not identified
  • Be patient & listen without asserting your opinion
  • Own your part of the communication challenge – blame sabotages communications & does nothing constructive
  • Be clear by removing subtleties, nuances & emotional telepathy;  these efforts will only leave you frustrated