7 Assumptions We Need to Stop Making About Other People

7 ASSUMPTIONS WE NEED TO STOP MAKING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE

Marc Chernoff

Never underestimate a person’s challenges. Everyone is struggling. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

Too often we judge people too quickly, or too subjectively. We tell ourselves stories about them without thinking it through—our perceptions and biases get the best of us. I was reminded of this today when I received the following in an email (I’m sharing this with permission):

“…I learned the hard way that a smile can hide so much—that when you look at a person you never know what their story is or what’s truly going on in their life. This harsh reality became evident to me this morning when I found out one of my top students—always straight A’s, a positive attitude, and a smile on her face—died by suicide last night. Why? Nobody seems to know. And it’s killing me inside.”

Talk about a reality check, right?

What we tell ourselves about others—what we think we know—is often far from the truth.

And with that in mind, I’m sitting here reflecting on all the little things we have to stop assuming about other people, for their sake and ours…

  1. We need to stop assuming that the happiest people are simply the ones who smile the most. – Behind the polite smiles and greetings people give you, some are hurting and lonely. Don’t just come and go. See them. Care. Share. Listen. Love. We can’t always see people’s pain, but they can always feel our kindness. So be kinder than necessary.
  2. We need to stop assuming that the people we love and respect won’t disappoint us. – When we expect perfection we tend to overlook goodness. And the truth is, no one is perfect. At times, the confident lose confidence, the patient misplace their patience, the generous act selfish, and the informed second-guess what they know. It happens to all of us too. We make mistakes, we lose our tempers, and we get caught off guard. We stumble, we slip, and we fall sometimes. But that’s the worst of it… we have our moments. Most of the time we’re pretty darn good, despite our flaws. So treat the people you love accordingly—give them the space to be human.
  3. We need to stop assuming that the people who are doing things differently are doing things wrong. – We all take different roads seeking fulfillment, joy, and success. Just because someone isn’t on your road, doesn’t mean they are lost.
  4. We need to stop assuming that the people we disagree with don’t deserve our compassion and kindness. – The exact opposite is true. The way we treat people we strongly disagree with is a report card on what we’ve learned about love, compassion, kindness and humility. 
  5. We need to stop assuming that we can’t trust people we don’t know. – Some people build too many walls in their lives and not enough bridges. Don’t be one of them. Open yourself up. Take small chances on people. Let them prove your doubts wrong, gradually, over time.
  6. We need to stop assuming that the rude people of the world are personally targeting us. – We can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of us. They do things because of them. And there is a huge amount of freedom that comes to us when we detach from other people’s behaviors. So just remember, the way others treat you is their problem, how you react is yours.
  7. We need to stop assuming that other people are our reason for being unhappy, unsuccessful, etc. – We may not be able control all the things people say and do to us, but we can decide not to be reduced by them. We can choose to forgive, or we can choose to forget. We can choose to stay, or we can choose to go. We can choose whatever helps us grow. There’s always a positive choice to make. Thus, the only real, lasting conflict you will ever have in your life won’t be with others, but with yourself… and how you choose to respond… and the daily rituals you choose to follow. 

Dealing with People Who Deeply Offend Us

Some of the points above (like numbers 4 and 6 for example) potentially require a willingness to cordially deal with people who yell at us, interrupt us, cut us off in traffic, talk about terribly distasteful things, and so forth.

These people violate the way we think people should behave. And sometimes their behavior deeply offends us.

But if we let these people get to us, again and again, we will be upset and offended far too often.

So what can we do?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but here are two strategies Angel and I often recommend:

  • Be bigger, think bigger. – Imagine a two-year-old who doesn’t get what she wants at this moment. She throws a temper tantrum! This small, momentary problem is enormous in her little mind because she lacks perspective on the situation. But as adults, we know better. We realize that there are dozens of other things that 2-year-old could do to be happy. Sure, that’s easy for us to say—we have a bigger perspective, right? But when someone offends us, we suddenly have a little perspective again—this small, momentary offense seems enormous, and it makes us want to scream. We throw the equivalent of a two-year-old’s temper tantrum. However, if we think bigger, we can see that this small thing matters very little in the grand scheme of things. It’s not worth our energy. So always remind yourself to be bigger, think bigger, and broaden your perspective.
  • Mentally hug them and wish them better days. – This little trick can positively change the way we see people who offend us. Let’s say someone has just said something unpleasant to us. How dare they! Who do they think they are? They have no consideration for our feelings! But of course, with a heated reaction like this, we’re not having any consideration for their feelings either—they may be suffering inside in unimaginable ways. By remembering this, we can try to show them empathy, and realize that their behavior is likely driven by some kind of inner pain. They are being unpleasant as a coping mechanism for their pain. And so, mentally, we can give them a hug. We can have compassion for this broken person, because we all have been broken and in pain at some point too. We’re the same in many ways. Sometimes we need a hug, some extra compassion, and a little unexpected love.

Try one of these strategies the next time someone offends you. And then smile and breathe, armed with the comforting knowledge that there’s no reason to let someone else’s behavior turn you into someone you aren’t.

Your turn…

How have your judgments and expectations of others affected your life and relationships?

Nothing I Do is Good Enough for My Partner

NOTHING I DO IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY PARTNER

Patricia Cochran

Relationships often start with plenty of demonstrations of affection and appreciation for one another. There is a sense of “this person gets me and accepts me for who I am”. The infatuation makes you want to attend to even the silliest requests from your partner. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, your partners request feels like demands that can’t be met. You feel confused and hurt that no matter what you do it’s never good enough to please them.

At first you chalk it up to some stress that has been going on in your lives. Soon you realize that your partner is constantly criticizing and blaming you. And things like this happen:

5 Things a Hard to Please Person Does

There is always an “if you just…then I would…” bargaining/ blaming statement happening. The bargaining portion serves the purpose of pretending you have a choice in behavior – you can do this or have the consequences. The blaming serves to keep you responsible for their behavior and entitlement. Their frustration that something isn’t to their liking is usually your fault for not following “the correct steps”. It is a trap that you constantly fall into because you want to “get it right”.

Their expectation can’t ever be achieved. Even when you do what they want the response is that you didn’t do exactly how they wanted, you took too long or you have to do more now. The standards are constantly changing. They might take over the task without letting you try, which causes insecurity and resentment for you.

You feel invalidated in your feelings and needs. If you express disagreement or disappointment you are met with “I didn’t mean it that way, so you shouldn’t feel that way.”

Every argument ends with you giving up and letting them have their way as if it was a game they need to win.

They compare the relationship and/or you to their ideal model. This idealization might come from someone in their lives (parents, former partner) or from beliefs about relationships. In any case you always lose since you’ll never be as good as their vision.

Now that you can safely identify that your partner can’t be pleased you are left with a question: Why? You have been blamed for their dissatisfaction for so long that it is hard to imagine other reasons for such mind games and control. Before you lose all hope of happiness it can be helpful to understand why.

The possible reasons:

High anxiety: Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you. Notice that you are not the only target of their criticism. There is a constant hyper-vigilance about what is going on around them and how they need to make it right. People with high anxiety are very critical of themselves as well as others. The dissatisfaction is due to a high standard that basically no one can achieve for being so idealized. There is a belief that anything and everything can always be better than it is.

“Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you.”

The world is unsafe: Critical people might have learned that the world is unsafe and you must be always on the offense and defense to not get hurt. The critical and controlling behaviors are to keep them with the upper hand in life. In this case you will notice a “winning behavior” – a need to be always right and “win” arguments no matter what.

Resentment: Something might have happened in the relationship that triggered the dissatisfaction. Your partner has resentments towards you that they neither express nor let go. This is a passive-aggressive (though it feels very aggressive to you) way of dealing with conflict that has to be addressed.

Role models:  Dysfunctional role models of what a relationship looks like can cause your spouse to not know how else to interact with you. Experiencing negative role models also has a side-effect of leading him or her to try and maintain control of the relationship so they are not hurt like their parents.

Finally, we get to the part that concerns you: What can you do about it? Resolving conflict always takes both partners engaging in the work. You also have responsibility to change the situation.

What you can do about it:

Accept that you have responsibility: You have been reinforcing this behavior by trying to please your spouse at any cost. Every time you give in and do what they want you are sending the message that it is OK to hurt you that way. However, responsibility doesn’t mean blame. It is not your fault that your partner became critical and possibly abusive. Accept that you have been enabling the behavior and use the knowledge to change interactions.

Set reasonable boundaries: It is OK for partners to make requests, but not demands. Set a boundary of what you are willing to work with your partner and how you expect to be asked to attend to their needs. Don’t allow name calling, shaming or invalidation of your feelings. If needed take time out to cool off and re-engage in discussion later.

1 More Way to Quiet the Negative Voices Inside You

1 MORE WAY TO QUIET THE NEGATIVE VOICES INSIDE YOU

Angel Chernoff

It’s Sunday, and I want to remind you of another effective method for quieting that negative inner voice of yours. But first, let’s examine a super-common mistake negative people make…

Negative people are often proud to describe themselves as “realists.” Of course, anyone who holds a strong belief thinks they are being “realistic” by holding it, whether it involves UFO encounters or perfectly truthful politicians.

The “being more realistic” declaration is a favorite of cynics everywhere. And in a way they are correct. But only because negative thinking causes us not to try – or if we do try, to do it half-heartedly and give up sooner – so the negativity itself influences our outcomes. Self-fulfilling predictions like this really do happen. Research has even found that in some cases what we believe about our health can have more bearing on how long we live than our actual health.

What makes all of this so scary is the fact that it means negative thoughts can plague us even when things seem to be going relatively well. For instance, the thought “It’s too good to last!” quickly wrecks havoc on a positive situation. Thus, my tip today has to do with how negative thinking can distort your perception…

Stop yourself from over-generalizing the negative (and minimizing the positive).

Ask yourself: “If something negative unexpectedly happens, do I over-generalize it? Do I view it as applying to everything and being permanent rather than compartmentalizing it to one place and time?”

For example, if someone turns you down for a date, do you spread the negativity beyond that person, time, and place by telling yourself: “Relationships never work out for me, ever”? If you fail an exam do you say to yourself, “Well, I failed that exam; I’m not happy about it, but I’ll study harder next time”? Or do you over-generalize it by telling yourself you’re “not smart enough” or “incapable of learning”?

Remember, negative thinking stops us from seeing and experiencing positive outcomes, even when they happen often. It’s as if there’s a special mental block filtering out all the positives and only letting in data that confirms the ‘negative bias.’ So, do your best to catch yourself today.

Being able to distinguish between the negativity you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a happier life.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.

Even Without a Home, We Always Had a Family Meal

EVEN WITHOUT A HOME, WE ALWAYS HAD A FAMILY MEAL

Misha Collins

Actor Misha Collins remembers a nomadic childhood grounded only by his mother’s cooking.

If you’d met me at a party 10 years ago, I would have told you that my childhood had just been one great adventure after another. When my family lived in a tent in the woods, we used an old galvanized tub filled with cool water as our refrigerator. We fashioned pantry shelves from corrugated sheet metal lashed to two young maple trees, and my mother developed a method for making her signature mushroom frittata in the coals of our campfire.

Times were often lean, but one luxury we always had in abundance was food — even if it came by way of a five-finger discount. My mother taught me how to steal peaches from the Stop & Shop grocery store when I was 4. (The secret, in case you’re wondering, is to look relaxed, not guilty.) Our backpacks heavy with purloined groceries, we’d distract the cashier by casually buying a few inexpensive items with food stamps — a loaf of bread and maybe a carton of milk. We were stealing from “the man”; it was a justified rebellion against an unjust system.

Misha Collins with his children, Maison and West
Misha Collins with his children, Maison and WestCreditMichéle M. Waite

We’d make our escape in a battered black Chevy Nova. When reverse stopped working, my mother started parking on hills so gravity could pull us out again. Then we lost third gear, then first, and finally we abandoned the car in a ditch on the side of a rutted dirt road. After that we hiked through the forest to the school bus and rode our bikes down to the river with a bar of soap to take our baths. When we needed to go the distance, we’d hitch a ride.

Mom took me, my brother and our dog hitchhiking from Boston to Seattle the summer I turned 6. We rode high up in the cabs of 18-wheelers and slept in a sun-bleached canvas tent in Midwestern wheat fields. We saw black bear and bighorn sheep and Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Instead of passing the time with Play-Doh and papier-mâché crafting like other families, we made cardboard signs that read “No Nukes” and carried them proudly at marches all along the East Coast from Washington, D.C., to Seabrook, N.H.; along the way, we learned about the Cold War and civil rights and chanted, “Power to the people!”

We hopped into slow-moving, empty boxcars on freight trains and scored hot meals at soup kitchens. Occasionally, on our journeys, the kindness of strangers would bring unexpected bounty. I remember being awestruck at our good fortune once when a lady in a pickup stopped at our tent on the side of a road to give us a $14 gift certificate to Abdow’s Big Boy. We feasted.

CreditAdrian Mangel

“We’re gypsies,” my mom would whisper — as if our constant migration was part of a long heritage, full of mystique and magic. I went to a different school every year, sometimes two schools in a year, but class was always optional, and I skipped school often for “mama-and-Misha days” to play pirates or make pickles or pick Concord grapes for jam. When we didn’t have a home, we called it “camping out” — we didn’t think of ourselves as homeless.

My upbringing taught me that you didn’t need money to be happy, that you didn’t have to play by the rules and that the whole world was just begging to be explored. But now, from the hindsight of fatherhood (and from the comfort of a therapist’s couch), I see that while my childhood had been rife with adventure, it had also been lonely and frightening and wanting.

When I became a parent myself, I started to recognize the hidden costs of the adventures in my early years: I had grown up surrounded by danger. At 9 and 7, my kids still find most Pixar movies too scary, but when I was 10, I was getting sunburnt working on a cucumber farm and was haunted with recurring nightmares about nuclear holocaust after watching apocalyptic movies at the art-house theater with my mom. A trucker once propositioned my mother for sex — and left us standing in the rain on the shoulder of the highway when she refused. I notice I’m reluctant to tell these pieces of the story that might tarnish the rosy picture of the past that my mother has painted.

CreditAdrian Mangel

Mom didn’t have money for babysitters, and sometimes when I was as young as 6, I was left alone to watch my little brother. We survived, but in truth, 6-year-olds make pretty terrible babysitters. I once sent my own 6-year-old downstairs alone so I could get another half-hour of sleep, but I was soon awoken by a high-pitched scream. My daughter, set on making me breakfast in bed, had coated the kitchen floor with olive oil so that she could rollerblade more swiftly while making waffles. It did not end well.

My kids are living a distinctly different childhood from my own. They’ve had the same friends since preschool, a posse that moves together sure-footedly through lost teeth and first crushes and learning how to read and ride their bikes. My family had moved 15 times by the time I was in high school. We changed towns so often that I more or less stopped making friends for fear of losing them, and I never really grew to know any place to be a home. I was too ashamed to bring schoolmates home — at 10, I would never have considered letting the other fifth graders into the strange-smelling, windowless, shower-less room that we sheltered in that winter.

But, even when we were squatting in an office space or hitching across the country, my mother managed to create a sense of home around meals. Whether she was cooking chicken soup on an electric hot plate or we were sitting on a log eating eggplant parmesan prepared on a campfire, Mom fed us with thoughtful attention. She showed her love daily through the food she cooked. Dinner was our anchor — consistent and soothing, it knit the three of us together, it made our little world feel safe.

CreditAdrian Mangel

I recently found an old journal in a box in the back of my closet. And on the page from a decade ago where I had taken inventory of the good and bad of my upbringing, the word “cooking” is circled and underlined with urgency in the “+” column as if I was thinking that food had been the cornerstone of happiness in my youth.

My children came at a time when my acting career took center stage. I was traveling almost weekly, working almost constantly. Swept up in the whirlwind of just-discovered celebrity, I was often gone, and when I was home I was sometimes only there in body, with my mind elsewhere. Needless to say, family meals took fourth fiddle, and my wife and I fell into a pattern of convenience. We fed the kids what we thought they’d eat (the greatest hits of bland and beige) and then fed ourselves after they finally went to sleep.

One morning, just home from 10 days of publicity travel in Europe, I was up at 4 a.m., jet-lagged, and a cold kept my daughter, Maison, awake, too. We were downstairs together when she stopped sorting her rock collection to interrupt my iPhone-addled trance. “Dad, you’re away so much that sometimes it feels like I just have one parent,” she said. Hearing her say that, I felt like I was failing at fatherhood — I wondered if I had become an incarnation of my own often-absent dad.

I wanted to tell my youngest child that there was no place I’d rather be than with her, that I was here and that I always would be. But instead of saying those words, I set down my phone and I told her I loved her in the clearest way that I know how. “Maison,” I said, “if you could have any breakfast this morning, what would it be?” And before sunrise we had finished a feast of cheese and spinach omelets and raspberry waffles with whipped cream and peppermint tea.

How to accept each other (without killing each other)

HOW TO ACCEPT EACH OTHER (WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER)

Bruce Muzik

This is the final installment in our mini-series on how to accept your wife (and have her accept you) warts and all.

So far, all we’ve learned is that I’m a recovering messy person who spent a night in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

Only, kidding!

I’m not recovering.

Anyhow, I’ve tried my best to keep learning about appreciation entertaining, and we’ve actually come pretty far together.

We’ve learned that acceptance is cultivated by:

  1. Assuming a Positive Intention
  2. Appreciating How Your Differences Benefit You
  3. Awareness of Each Other’s Broken Toes

The forth and final skill that cultivates acceptance is this:

Acceptance Skill #4:
Understand the Meaning of Your Partner’s Past

One of the many lessons I have had to learn is that my wife’s reactions only make sense in the context of her past experiences.

For example, when I learned that her mother gave her away (at 3 years of age) to her grandparents, it began to make sense why she needs to feel that I want her and am not going to reject her.

Knowing this, I can take extra care to reassure her that she’s my #1 whenever I suspect that she might be feeling insecure.

It’s not rocket science.

When I can see how her past shapes her present experience, I don’t take her reactions as personally.

I can support her when she snaps at me in times of distress. In the past, I’d have defended myself.

Your ability to resolve conflict quickly and lovingly is directly proportionate to your ability to understand how your partner’s past experiences have shaped their present emotional landscape.

Empathy is the natural result of making this connection.

So, how do you get to the point where your wife’s past makes sense to you?

Well, first you have to understand her past.

A good place to start is to ask your wife about her childhood.

Then ask her to talk about her relationship with her parents.

Obviously, you don’t want to come across like the Spanish Inquisition, so set up the conversation by telling her that you want to learn more about her past so that you can better understand her.

Most people love talking about themselves, so as long as you’re curious, attentive and supportive, she will likely open up.

Now, see if you can connect the dots from what she shared about her past to how she behave now.

In Week 5 of my online coaching program, I’ll assign you some questions to ask each other that will help get this conversation flowing.

So, to sum this series up… We’ve learned about 4 skills that cultivate acceptance. They are:

  1. Assuming a Positive Intention
  2. Appreciating How Your Differences Benefit You
  3. Awareness of Each Other’s Broken Toes
  4. Understanding the Meaning of Your Partner’s Past

Believe it or not, acceptance doesn’t take long time to cultivate. It happens in a split second once we see our partner in a new way.

Consider this:

How different would every interaction with your partner be if you both knew that you were loved just the way you are?

Instead of an argument exploding into a fight, you’d soothe and comfort each other.

Instead of walking on eggshells around each other, you could talk honestly about how you’re feeling and your partner could listen without taking it personally.

Instead of being defensive, you’d be curious as to what was upsetting your partner and offer comfort and support.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I hope that you’ve found this mini-series helpful.
 

Till next time, be kind to each other.

Being Real

BEING REAL

Richard Innes

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love open, honest, and authentic people—and how difficult it is to even like defensive, dishonest people who are living in denial? 

A good definition of denial has been called Truth Decay. In the long run denial can be extremely destructive to one’s physical, mental and spiritual health—and also destructive to relationships, and to the emotional and spiritual health of families and societies. 

True, as children many of us were forced to build defenses around our feelings in order to survive. However, as adults we need to rid ourselves of unhealthy defenses in order to fully live and fully love—that is, to live productive lives and develop healthy, lasting and loving relationships. As long as I live behind a mask—no matter how attractive that mask may appear—I can never feel loved because my mask is not me. Only real people can get close to others and experience intimacy and real love. 

Furthermore, the more dishonest I am with my inner self (my true feelings and motives), the more I will distort all other truth—including God’s truth—to make it match my perception of reality, and use it to justify my behavior. Ultimately I end up unhappily believing my own lies. 

So where do we begin to overcome the problem of denial, which may very well be the most destructive personal and societal problem we have?

First, let’s call denial what it is. It’s SIN—and a destructive sin at that. Remember, it’s just as big a sin to lie to myself as it is to lie to anyone else. We can call poison by any name we like, but poison is still poison. Same goes for sin. We can call it freedom of choice, misspeak, or by any other fancy name to give it a sugar coating and make it sound attractive, but that makes it all the more deceptive and dangerous. 

Second, confession. Remember that we change the world one person at a time. The first person to start with is myself. I need to realize that I can be as guilty of the sin of denial as anyone else and come to God with a genuine and humble heart asking him to “search my heart” and reveal to me, no matter how painful it may be, any areas in my life where I may be in denial and to confront me with the truth about myself. 

Third, realize that without access to the truth there is no healing or recovery of individuals or societies, and there is no freedom but self-deceptive bondage. As Jesus said, only the truth sets people free (see John 8:32). It is not without good reason that God “desires truth in our innermost being.” 

Fourth, accept the fact that pain was the way into denial and pain is the way out of it. As they say in AA, “It’s not the truth that hurts us but letting go of the lies.” Indeed, facing one’s truth can be painful but incredibly freeing and ultimately fulfilling. I say painful because it usually takes painful experiences to break through our self-defeating defenses. 

Finally, the pursuit of truth needs to be a life-long journey. It is a journey that leads to fully living and fully loving—and ultimately to life everlasting. Lies are of the devil and ultimately lead to hell here on earth and in the life to come. 

Suggested Prayer:

“Dear God, in the words of the psalmist, ‘Search me . . . and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxieties. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ No matter what the cost, please deliver me from the sin of denial. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

The 6 Things That Predict Divorce

THE 6 THINGS THAT PREDICT DIVORCE

John Gottman

The first step toward improving or enhancing your marriage is to understand what happens when relationships fail. This has been well documented by extensive research into couples that were not able to save their marriages. Learning about their failures can prevent your relationship from making the same mistakes — or rescue it if it already has.

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, I list the six things that predict divorce. This ability to predict divorce is based in part on my analysis of the 130 newlywed couples who were observed at the “Love Lab” apartment at the University of Washington.

During our research study, my team and I asked these couples to spend fifteen minutes in the lab trying to resolve an ongoing disagreement they were having while we videotaped them. As they spoke, sensors attached to their bodies gauged their stress levels based on various measurements of their circulatory system. Here is what I discovered.

1. Harsh Startup

The most obvious indicator that a conflict discussion (and marriage) is not going to go well is the way it begins. When a discussion leads off with criticism and/or sarcasm (a form of contempt), it has begun with a “harsh startup.” My research shows that if your discussion begins with a harsh startup, it will inevitably end on a negative note. Statistics tell the story: 96% of the time, you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the interaction.

2. The Four Horsemen

Certain kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that we call them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Read more about The Four Horsemen and their antidotes here.

3. Flooding

Flooding means that your partner’s negativity – whether in the guise of criticism or contempt or even defensiveness – is so overwhelming, and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked. A marriage’s meltdown can be predicted, then, by habitual harsh startup and frequent flooding brought on by the relentless presence of the four horsemen during disagreements. Although each of these factors alone can predict a divorce, they usually coexist in an unhappy marriage. Read more about flooding here.

4. Body Language

When my team monitored couples for bodily changes during a conflict discussion, we could see just how physically distressing flooding was. One of the most apparent of these physical reactions is that the heart speeds up – pounding away at more than 100 beats per minute – even as high as 165. Hormonal changes occur, too, including the secretion of adrenaline. Blood pressure also mounts. The physical sensations of feeling flooded make it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion.

5. Failed Repair Attempts

It takes time for the four horsemen and flooding that comes in their wake to overrun a marriage. And yet, divorce can so often be predicted by listening to a single conversation. How can this be?

The answer is that by analyzing any disagreement a couple has, you get a good sense of the pattern they tend to follow. A crucial part of that pattern is whether their repair attempts succeed or fail.

Repair attempts are efforts the couple makes to deescalate the tension during a discussion. The failure of these attempts is an accurate marker for an unhappy future. Read more about repair attempts here.

6. Bad Memories

When I interview couples, I always ask them about the history of their relationship. In a happy marriage, couples tend to look back on their early days fondly. They remember how positive they felt early on, how excited they were when they met, and how much admiration they had for each other. When they talk about the tough times they’ve had, they glorify the struggles they’ve been through, drawing strength from the adversity they weathered together. Conduct your own Oral History Interview here.

Why Love Goes First

WHY LOVE GOES FIRST

Family Life Radio

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

─  John 13:34-35 NKJV

God is love. His grace, an overflow of His love for us, is what makes God desirable to those that don’t know Him.

Sadly, we’ve all met people who claimed to be Christians, but the outflow of their life didn’t represent the attributes and character of God. Perhaps you’ve even sat in a church that criticized and judged you because you didn’t conform to their specific list of rules, definitions of what a Christian should be, or even what a Christian should act like.

Our own negative words and actions can push others away rather than compel them to experience the love, grace and mercy of God. Jesus said everyone can recognize someone who follows Him simply by the fact that they have love. True Christ followers obey the Lord’s commandment to follow His example and love first, above all else. 

When we demonstrate His love to others, they gain insight with a glimpse of the grace and mercy He’s made available to them. That’s why love should go first in all we do. That’s why our responses to everything in our relationships should flow out of God’s love for us and for others. 


Today’s One Thing

Here are four ways to demonstrate God’s love. Set a goal to do all of these at least once today.

  1. Perform an act of service for someone with no strings attached.
  2. Offer a smile to everyone you see today.
  3. Steer conversations away from negativity – encouraging positive topics.

Deliberately compliment your family members.

Being a Woman of Grace

BEING A WOMAN OF GRACE

I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’  It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.

Maturity.  I love this word and it’s meaning.  I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.

Complete in growth.  Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.

When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily.  I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.

While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama.  Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.

A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us.  The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.

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Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded.  It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.

Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.

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Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.

The Ungraceful Woman

To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner.  She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!

Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect.  A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away.  Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself.  She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target.  She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.

The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)

Why do people attack others?  Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move?  Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?

Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common: 

The desire to shame or punish others

When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country.  He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them.  His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society.  This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…

because they “deserve it.”

To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.”  The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.

Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way.  In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,

While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor.  And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified.  They feel sensible.

If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.

Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:

1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right.  Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong

2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.

3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness.  Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.

Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others.  She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change.  She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).

In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity.  Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,

Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.

Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman  – a woman who is mature.

Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings

If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom.  Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.

Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….”  Philippians 1:3-7

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“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  Hold firmly the message of life.”  Philippians 2:13-14

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“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore all who are mature should think this way.  And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also.  In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.”  Philippians 3:12-16

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“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.  Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:12-17

Between Contact and Connection

BETWEEN CONTACT AND CONNECTION

A monk was being interviewed by a journalist from New York.

Journalist: “Sir, in your last lecture, you told us about ‘Contact’ and ‘Connection’. It’s really confusing. Can you explain?”

The monk smiled and, apparently deviating from the question, asked the journalist: “Are you from New York?”

Journalist: “Yeah…”

Monk: “Who are there at home?”

The journalist felt that the monk was trying to avoid answering his question since this was a very personal and unwarranted question. Yet he said: “Mother has expired. Father is there. Three brothers and one sister. All married…”

The monk, with a smile on his face, asked again: “Do you talk to your father?”

The journalist looked visibly annoyed…

The Monk: “When did you talk to him last?”

The journalist, suppressing his annoyance, said: “Maybe a month ago.”

The monk: “Do you and your brothers and sisters meet often? When did you meet last as a family?”

At this point, sweat appeared on the forehead of the journalist. It seemed that the monk was interviewing him.

With a sigh, the journalist said: “We met last at Christmas two years ago.”

The monk: “How many days did you all stay together?”

The journalist, wiping the sweat on his brow, said: “Three days…”

Monk: “How much time did you spend with your father, sitting right beside him?”

The journalist, looking perplexed and embarrassed, started scribbling something on a paper…

Monk: “Did you have breakfast, lunch or dinner together? Did you ask how he was? Did you ask how his days are passing after your mother’s death?”

Drops of tears started to flow from the eyes of the journalist.

The monk held the hand of the journalist and said: “Don’t be embarrassed, upset or sad. I am sorry if I have hurt you unknowingly… But this is basically the answer to your question about “Contact and Connection.” You have ‘Contact’ with your father but you don’t have ‘Connection’ with him. You are not connected to him. Connection is between heart and heart – sitting together, sharing meals and caring for each other, touching, shaking hands, having eye contact, spending some time together… All your brothers and sisters have ‘Contact’ but no ‘Connection’ with one another.”

The journalist wiped his eyes and said: “Thanks for teaching me a fine and unforgettable lesson.”

This is the reality today. Whether at home or in the society everybody has lots of contacts but there is no connection. Everybody is busy in his or her own world. … Let us not just maintain ‘Contact’ but let us remain ‘Connected’ – CARING (FOR), SHARING (WITH) AND SPENDING TIME WITH ALL OUR DEAR ONES, especially our parents, spouses and children, even including siblings.