Tag: relationships (page 1 of 2)

The Conservative Christianity That Is Killing You

Sometimes in life, we don’t realize the things silently destroying us from within—false beliefs we have long held to be true, misplaced values we have long embraced as being invaluable. As humans, we can be so attracted to the path of least resistance that we become willing to reject the kind of positive change that would free us from our prisons. To think that we could be wrong, misled, or have wasted our lives on things found to be untrue or uncertain is a daunting proposition of regret we’d just as soon put to death, even if it means resigning ourselves to a life holding fast to the lies.

For years, as an Evangelical pastor, conservative Christianity was gutting me from the inside out, stealing the very life it promised to give. I thought I was breathing the ultimate way of living only to realize I wasn’t breathing at all. Sadly, nothing would have changed had I not been confronted by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace and awakened to the heights from which I had fallen.

In fact, if you hold to the beliefs I once did, you are determined that outside of your conservative, Evangelical way of thinking and believing, there is no other way, no other truth, and no other life. For some, even as you watch your marriage erode, your children suffer the rejection and abandonment of your condemnation, your faith-performance fall short, your hypocrisy grow, and your hate and intolerance overtake you, nothing will loosen the grip you have upon your conservative faith understanding. Even as we speak, your fingers are twitching and your mind is rushing ahead to the bullets you’ll fire in the comment section of this post. You have it all lined up and justified in your mind and heart, along with the biblical passages and interpretations to build your defense.

Yet, little do you know, the conservative Christianity that is killing you. Perhaps you would do best to ask your spouse—even better, to question your children. Ask your enemies, those you deem to be sinning, or with whom you disagree. Ask the females, the minorities, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender people among you, or perhaps just ask the less fortunate.

If they are honest and objective, they will tell you the dark, diabolical tale of what conservative Christianity has truly done to you.

But if not them, maybe, just maybe, your conscience has been speaking, crying out to be heard. Deep down you sense something isn’t quite adding up, there are pieces all together missing. You quickly subdue the tensions in your soul, the questions that tremble below, and cue the rationalizations. Yet, now is as good a time as any to give way to honesty and awaken to the truth that is so desperately trying to set your free—conservative Christianity is killing you.

It’s Killing Your Inner Peace and Joy– For how can you have any peace when so many things in your conservative faith-understanding are deemed to be unresolved? Your eternity, your closeness with God, your divine acceptance, your faith status—unresolved, unresolved, unresolved. One day you’re close with God, the next you aren’t. One day you’re eternally secure, the next day you’re not. One day your life enjoys the gleam of God’s favor, approval, and acceptance, the next day, it doesn’t. How can there be any peace when so much of your faith and spiritual life hinges upon you, your capacity to believe, believe correctly, and spiritually perform? Nothing is ever settled or certain even if you are convinced you’ve measured up. For it’s impossible to know for sure when your good has been good enough. Maybe there is something God sees that you’ve tragically missed.

In front of the mirror of conservative Christianity, all one can do is pretend, medicate their fears and doubts with self-righteousness, and live a life of angst with one eye open, as even our best days will always fall short of a God who suspiciously gazes upon us through the eyes of an incomplete score card.

And so I ask, with all due respect—where is the joy in pretending? Where is the peace in always having an endless, ever growing list of things one must do, become, and overcome that are in fact impossible to ever satisfy? The spiritual gymnastics required to fool yourself and others into believing you are truly happy and fulfilled are daunting in number and surely a hell-on-earth way of living.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real faith-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “peace” nor “joy,” it would be—never ending, unresolved PRESSURE.

It’s Killing Your Relationships- For how many miles of emotional and spiritual distance have you carved into your relationships with people because your conservative faith-understanding requires you to do so? You can’t just love for the sake of loving, connect for the sake of connecting, or enjoy people for the sake of enjoying people—that would be preposterous. Rather, every person you meet becomes a kind of spiritual project, a potential convert into your faith-understanding, or a shiny new visitor for your church. You measure people spiritually by what you believe is a God-given specialized capacity to have “discernment,” lest you become unclean, dirty, or condone evil. In order to gauge what kind of relational approach your conservative faith prescribes at any given moment, people and relationships have to be rigorously sifted, sized up, and labeled—lost or found, friend or foe, faithful or unfaithful, real Christian or wolf in sheep’s clothing. More so than not, unless they believe and act like you, people are largely designated as a problem to be fixed—and you, the perfect one to do the fixing. If they resist or even refuse—eventually disagreement becomes disappointment, disappointment becomes disapproval, disapproval becomes distance, distance becomes disconnection, and disconnection becomes damnation. Why? Because the one thing that’s largely missing for your conservative faith-understanding is true, unconditional Love. For love is never love if, based on what another person is or does, it can ever grow into hate, conditions, or condemnation.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how is that religious, relational radar working for you? How about with your family, work, community, or even church? How much true connection, community, and influence do you have with people who look, believe, act, and live differently than you? Jesus had so much that it got Him killed. It wasn’t a conservative faith within Him that nailed him to a tree—far from it. It was the conservative faith around Him that crucified Him and sought to put to death the love-life He came to bring.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the true relational-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “humble,” “transformative,” nor “gracious,” it would be—pretentiously, selfishly STRESSED.

It’s Killing Your Capacity To Love- For how many conditions must you write into the fine print of the love you give? What’s it like always having to pump the brakes, filter compassion, prequalify affirmation, and love half-heartedly? The greatest fear of your conservative faith-understanding is to give too much love, Grace, and acceptance—convinced of the terrible things people would do. Yet ironically, the greatest fear of Jesus was for people to believe in a God who would restrict love and that people could ever give too much—that’s why He came. For either God’s Grace is fully sufficient, or it’s fully not. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yet, your conservative faith-understanding believes that expressing love in its highest form requires one to boldly confront sin, convinced that withholding or limiting love is at times both helpful and necessary in fostering God’s plan. In your mind, love, by itself, is much too soft, impotent, and permissive. In fact, the centrality of your conservative creed rests upon a fear of hell, the wrath of God, and His holiness in sending un-repenting sinners to an eternity of torture. In your mind, it would seem these dark potential realities justify and even demand your conditional love-giving.

However, have you ever considered that because Jesus confronted all sin, once and for all—there is, in actuality, no more confronting to do? In fact, to confront sin with a prescribed fear of any form of divine retribution is to confess the belief that Jesus didn’t confront sin, or do so sufficiently. That’s why Grace, the only power Jesus ever employed in His sin confronting and ultimate defeating, is the only power that awakens people to a change of mind and a heart of faith.

In fact, when people awaken to the scandalous, divine freedom they have in Christ to choose sin without fear of divine retribution, it is then and only then, that sin loses its power and appeal to be a good choice. Sin is disarmed of its capacity to serve as a form of punishment, guilt, and condemnation, and is instead correctly internalized as that which steals, kills, and destroys the good things in our living.

In the end, because your conservative faith-understanding refuses to surrender to Love and love alone, you can’t imagine how Love alone could possibly win over another. Rather, in your mind, they too, like you, must first become religiously imprisoned.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how does it feel to be shackled to a restricted life of giving love with conditions, believing that’s the height and sum of God’s love for you, sadly convinced that love doesn’t win?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real love-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “compassion,” “passion,” or “mercy,” it would be—fine print filled CONDITIONS.

It’s Killing Your Freedom- For when, by your conservative faith-understanding, the Christian life is seen as little more than a test, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to find spiritual rest? When faithfulness is seen as life of sin-management, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to truly be alive, live, breathe, and be burden free? When Church is seen as a building with a cross on top filled with a club of like-minded people, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to actually be the church—anyplace, anytime, anyhow? When love is seen as requiring conditions, limits, and restrictions, how you can ever know the divine freedom of what it’s like to love unconditionally? When hell hangs over your head, wielded by a bi-polar God who draws close to you one minute but turns his back the next, how can you ever know the effortless freedom of what it’s like to love, worship, and adore Him without fear nor obligation?

And so I ask, with all due respect—why is it that the life your conservative faith-understanding wants me to believe is filled with such immeasurable freedom, feels so much more like a life of unimaginable imprisonment?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the life-trajectory of conservative Christianity it wouldn’t be “limitless” or “free,” it would be—rule-driven, fear-driven RESTRICTION.

It’s true, conservative Christianity IS killing you—taking what God intended to be a life of peace, joy, human community, unconditional love, and life-giving freedom and raping it into a death sentence of religious pressure, relational stress, conditional love, and fearful restriction.

Sounds a lot more like hell to me.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Scaffolding And The Art of Building

Whether it’s building relationships, a team, a new business, or a new church, there is a certain process that takes place in doing so.  Understanding this overall process is extremely interesting and beneficial in many regards.

Recently, I watched a program on the special dynamics and ins-and-outs of constructing a very large skyscraper in China. It was interesting to learn that at the foundational level of the building, the workers primarily used scaffolding as the main method of building from the ground up.

Scaffolding itself must be constructed to enable the building of the actual building. It’s an important tool and step in the process. The scaffolding goes up quickly and easily, allowing the work of building to move forward.  From a distance, the scaffolding can be so extensive and prominent that it’s hard to see the actual building that’s being put together. At certain moments, it’s even easy to visually confuse the scaffolding with what is actually the building.

Scaffolding, as important and valuable as it is, is not permanent nor the actual building. At some point, the scaffolding must be removed for work to continue, and at higher levels, scaffolding is rarely used at all.  As the scaffolding is removed, the real building is revealed. At first it seems a bit naked, smaller, and vulnerable, but the real building is finally revealed and further construction is enabled to move forward.

What’s interesting is that whether it be in building a skyscraper, relationships, a team of players, or a church, there are people who turn out to be the “building” and those who turn out to be the “scaffolding.” There are some who serve a more temporary role like scaffolding, and those who serve a more permanent role, like the actual building.

Neither one is necessarily better than the other, just different.

What’s important is to understand that not everybody in your relationship life, team, or as you build a church (or business) is going to be permanent kind of people. Second, when the scaffolding type of people distance themselves, fall away, or move onto others things, it’s important to understand that 1) it’s part of the building process 2) it feels uncomfortable, weird, and even hurts when it happens 3) it looks like things are moving backward when in fact things are moving forward 4) it better exposes and reveals who the building type people are in your life, team, business venture or church plant.

When the scaffolding type people come and go in your life, try to resist taking it personally and even trying to explain their temporary stay. Scaffolding people serve an important role and purpose in your life, team, business, or church plant. Enjoy their presence, praise their value, and celebrate them when they move on, as much as possible. However, try not to be too surprised when scaffolding type people do what all scaffolding people do (often sooner than later)… move on.

Furthermore, appreciate the builders that become revealed as the scaffolding detaches. Nurture them, thank them, invest in them, and inspire them as you build the future with them.  These are the people who are truly “with” you, the life long friendships, the team players who will be their through the winning and losing seasons no matter what. These are the people you build with and build upon. These are the ones you draw closer and allow more influence in your life, business, team, or church plant.

As God builds your relationship life, business, team, or church plant, He will use different people in different types of ways. Trust God to show the differences.

Happy building!

The Pharisees (Law-figures) in Your Life

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:2-9 RSV)

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13 RSV).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)

The Pharisee in Your Proximity, History, or Family Tree

There are likely numerous modern day Pharisees (Law-figures) in your life, right now. They could be your parent, your coworker, your boss, your spouse, your child, your friend, your pastor etc.  They have the same main goal in your life as the Pharisees of the Bible. That is, to have influence and control over you, and to gain your conformity to their expectations. The Pharisees of the Bible have several characteristics that will help you identify the modern day Pharisees in your life right now. Here are some of the characteristics of the Pharisees in your life…

1) They are the ones consumed with expectations, rules (standards), regulations, and their way of doing things, and even more so with making sure you follow them, while not always following them, themselves. They are the law/expectation enforcers of your life; that is, their laws/expectations and ways of doing things. Their love, attention, acceptance, mood, and countenance are conditioned on your meeting of their expectations.

2) They are the ones who love attention and to be the center of it (usually having one of the loudest voices), often looking for people to follow/submit to their legalistic system of being and thinking. As long as you buy into them, are like them, and act and think like them, you are in. You will see them often having a flock of people whose common attribute is their willingness or desire to conform and be accepted by them, or who are simply cut from same clothe sharing the same system of thinking and being.

3) They are gossipers about other people, particularly about negative aspects of people’s lives. They enjoy pointing out people’s faults and shortcomings with a judgmental, grace-less spirit.

4) They are the ones who are always somehow right, love to have the last word, and typically have an answer to everything; often that make you feel ignorant, inferior, or needing their acceptance.

5) They are often hard (stubborn or unaffected) people, often carrying a stern, arrogant, untouchable, or disinterested posture where it seems you are never good enough, right, or worthy or their true respect. If you appear to come into their relational system of conditions, they will give enough softness to keep you interested, but where you do not comply, they will turn up their nose.

6) They are the ones who have a way of triggering your sense of guilt, shame, and condemnation, while being the ones you somehow feel like you need to please and earn their acceptance the most.

7) They are sometimes religious, pious appearing people, who use their beliefs to control and conform people into their system of thinking and being.

Oh Crap, it’s My Mom

O.k., now take a deep breath. You are going to be alright. You have probably already identified some people who fit into a lot of these characteristics. And what is most concerning is who these people are to you.  Chances are there is a family member in there, or a coworker, or a boss, a close friend etc.

Take a moment to continue to make a mental list of who the Pharisees are in your life right now. Why? Because how you are or are not dealing with them is having a dramatic impact on your life and probably the people you love.

Jesus repeatedly warned people of handling the Pharisees in their life with great care and caution, and so should you! He understood their potential, destructive hold on and influence in people’s lives if they weren’t vigilant.

Here are some critical things you should be doing with the Pharisees in your life.

The Big 5

1) Identify them for who they are.  No, don’t label them, but certainly see their behavior and way of relating to you for what it is. Somehow, we often feel obligated to love and even defend the Pharisees in our lives to a fault. This bizarre and twisted irony often leaves us unwilling to see their behavior for what it truly is, evil and destructive.  Furthermore, if it’s YOU that’s the Pharisee. See your behavior for what it is and turn to Grace to heal and give you a new foundation for life, living, and relating to people.

2) Identify the insecurity in you that is attracted to or codependent towards the opinion or expectations of them.

We all have insecurities and areas where we don’t measure up. We all need acceptance, love, and approval. Pharisees or more than willing to present you a way to strive to earn just that and to seemingly remedy the insecurities in your life. That is, to gain THEIR approval, acceptance, and respect.

See, the hard truth is, Pharisees exploit our insecurities and thrive on getting us to need their approval, have our submission, and seek their acceptance. It’s actually their way of justifying and gaining their own acceptance and approval.

Chances are in your family, workplace, or sphere of relationships, there is a Pharisee around which a group of people (maybe even you) seem to gravitate. Why? Because they (and/or you) are trying to gain the approval of a Law figure in their life so that they can feel valuable and worthwhile. Pharisees attract insecure people not because of their Graciousness, but because they present a system of earning ones way into acceptance as the way of healing their deep seeded insecurities. This is attractive to some because it replaces the love they do not have for themselves with a system of performance that makes it seem like they can finally  become secure and whole as a person. It is indeed a kind of family of acceptance they seek with the Pharisee, though founded solely on conditions, performance, and conformity. This relational system is evil, will not heal anything in your life, and will imprison you in the cell of your own insecurities and the never ending and always failing pursuit to heal yourself through a Law figure (Pharisee) in your life.

3) Don’t become like them.  Though the way they relate to you may have bewitched and seduced you into their sphere of control or influence, their system of relating and being ultimately does not work and falls on its face. All Pharisees are hypocrites as they can never meet the expectation themselves that they have and hold over others. Furthermore, their philosophy of influence with people and solving the deep problems in people ‘s lives only serve to put a bandaid on an ever cracking and leaking damn. They imprison the people they think they are somehow freeing by shackling them to the same religious, legalistic, guilt-motivated system that has imprisoned them. Indeed, miserly loves company. Trust Grace to be your supply and your solution. Trust it to work with people in all circumstances and situation. There is never a moment where Grace is not the right answer or response. Likewise, there is never a moment where the tenants and tactics of the Pharisees ever work, bring life, or the wholeness and security you seek.

4) Extend Grace without excusing their behaviors. If anyone needs Grace, it’s Pharisees. Unfortunately and often, the more you extend it, the more they reject it. Give it anyways, even if just to frustrate them. But don’t excuse their behaviors. Rather, confront them when necessary with confidence and calmness.  If you need to keep your distance, do so. Yet, always be willing to come to the table of reconciliation. Grace can change anyone, even the most sold-out Pharisee.

5) Turn to the Grace figures in your life beginning with Grace Himself… Jesus  What you are seeking or think you are getting in the Law figure(s) (Pharisee) in your life is what you can truly only get through the Grace-figure, Jesus. In fact, He is not just a figure of Grace, He is Grace.

Allow him to be your security, your justification, your acceptance, your approval, your worth, your value, your identity. Surround yourself with Grace-figures in your life. People who love you unconditionally, promote your freedom not control, stand with you, and have your best interests at heart. People who speak well of others, who give the benefit of the doubt, who forgive easily, and who lift up who you are, not who you aren’t.

 

Giving Grace to Difficult People

I find in Jesus, the perfect model for being a person of Grace. In fact, He is not just a person of Grace, He is Grace.

I think, for most of us, we want to be loving and extend Grace. Yet, when it comes to certain types of people and behaviors, we get frustrated. How do I give Grace to that person who drives me up the wall? What about the person who wrongs me over and over again? Does giving Grace mean I become a doormat for Jesus, devoid of having boundaries, never saying “no,” or creating space from certain types of people.

These are difficult and important questions that everybody wrestles with.  Hopefully this post can shed some practical insight on how to extend Grace to difficult people.

o.o1 – At times we are the difficult person-  The very Grace that we are having difficulty in giving or are not sure we should even give in the first place, is the very same Grace we need to be given. Chances are, right now, there is a person who is trying to figure out what it looks like to give Grace to you. The very issues you are wrestling with in giving Grace to difficult people may just be the same kind of issues someone is wrestling with in giving Grace to you. Those who truly know their deep, forever need of Grace are the ones most willing to extend Grace to others.

0.02- Grace is unconditional- We live in a deeply conditional world. You do this, I do that. If you do this, I’ll do that. You change, I will change. You take the first step, I’ll take the next. You say “sorry,” I’ll forgive. You change your behavior, I’ll draw closer. This is why Grace is so difficult and revolutionary. It goes against so many of our relational impulses. For many, Grace is blasphemous, offensive, and unrealistic.  You expect me to do what? Grace is unconditional. There is no condition for which it cannot and should not be extended in some form or another. There is never a moment where Grace is not the best response. In fact, the only times when Jesus was recorded specifically in the Bible as being angry, His anger was directed exclusively at people who withheld Grace from others. You want to know what angers Jesus? Sin? Nope… withholding Grace! Apparently, that’s worse than sin itself.

0.03 Grace protects your being- Grace enables you to give to the ungiveable, love the unlovable, and forgive the unforgivable without loosing yourself. Grace is not the absence of being hurt, offended, or used, it is your divine capability to give Grace non-the-less.  Ironically, it is in the withholding of Grace that offense, hurt, and being used are given life and power to stain and erode within you. Giving Grace disarms all offense. It is not denying nor pretending their is not a problem. Rather, it is the sure solution to the effect of the problem on and within you, and the only potential solution to the problem with or within the other person.

Grace costs you nothing to give because it is supplied by your Father, you cannot out-give the supply. It is what shelters you, protects you, and guards you in all your relationships. It is what keeps you from becoming the very person you are having difficulty trying to deal with.

Conditional love, however, lowers your shields to the hurts of others and gives them harbor and perpetual life within you. Conditional love grows the disappointment, resentment, and bitterness that comes from unmet expectations. Grace does not always say, “yes.” but refuses to say “never.” Grace is not the absence of boundaries, but an understanding that most boundaries that constrict the flow of Grace are not boundaries but a barrier.

The true danger in your relationships is not in the giving of Grace, but in the withholding of it. Withholding changes nothing and erodes most everything. Grace changes everything and erodes nothing. It is this irrational, indiscriminate compassion that is called Grace. It defies everything we have learned and believe works in a conditional world.

0.04 Grace confronts religious pride and injustice- There is a purpose in giving Grace to difficult people (of which we all are difficult at times). It is to heal, restore, and reconcile. Some difficult people are difficult because of their pride and/or behaviors of injustice. Ironically, Jesus confronted these types of folks very sternly, and yet gave great compassion, patience, and understanding to broken, sinful people.

What do people of pride and injustice have in common? Their refusal to be people of Grace, receiving it and giving it. They take away, when giving is what should be done. They punish when correction will do. They hold out rules and regulations when freedom and encouragement is what would gain the influence. They pretend they have it all together, when they don’t. They condemn, judge, and sow seeds of guilt and shame into people’s lives.

Yet, Jesus was and is Gracious to these folks nonetheless. They very fact that He didn’t go any further than giving them harsh comments of confrontation, stopping short of drop kicking them into hell, shows His abundant Grace. Sometimes, the deepest expression of Grace to these kinds of difficult people is in what we stop short of doing and saying. Walking away, kicking the sand of your feet can be a deep expression of Grace.

See, Grace is most attracted to people who know deep down they need it. Jesus spends most of His time making sure the broken, humbled, and hurt receive it instead of trying to convince the proud and unjust to receive it and give it.

With some people, the more you give Grace, the harder their spine stiffens. The more you try to confront their pride and injustice, they more they dig their heals into the ground. What should we do? Give Grace anyways, and still confront when necessary. Yet, spend more of your time extending Grace to people who aren’t hell bent on living against it in their lives and in the lives of others.

0.05 Grace does not invite sure physical danger- Giving Grace to difficult people doesn’t mean that if you are physically abused or are in a physically abusive relationship, you should just take it.  It’s one thing to give Grace knowing that you might be endangering yourself physically as Amy and I did in adopting two of our daughters from China. The plane could have crashed, we could have been hurt traveling in sketchy parts of China etc. But, to invite sure physical (or even emotional) danger to you or those you love in the name of Grace is likely unwise. You can still give Grace to difficult people while creating necessary physical and/or emotional space. A good rule of thumb is, if in giving Grace you put yourself in a circumstance that will certainly damage you ability to give it because of the presence or level of physical or emotional harm, than chances are, you need to create some distance that allows you to give Grace, but not be harmed or have harm brought to the ones you love in the process. The stronger you are in your sense of identity in Christ, the more you will be able to give Grace to emotionally toxic people without losing yourself in the process. It is Grace that grows this strong sense of identity in Christ in you.

0.06 Grace receives from God and gives to people-  With God, it is better to receive than to give. But, with people, it is better to give than to receive. Spend your time allowing God to be the supply of comfort, security, value, worth, applause, happiness, meaning, courage, etc. in your life. He is the One who can meet these needs completely and consistently.  With God, spend much more of your time receiving the needs in your life than trying to give to Him.

Yet, with people, spend much more time giving to them from your well of Grace, instead of turning to them to be your supply. When we turn to others to receive, we create a level of “expectation” into the relationship. When we turn to people to give, we create a level of “uncondition” into the relationship. It is impossible to to give Grace and yet have connected expectations in return. If Grace is not given unconditionally, it is not Grace.

Difficult people, in some ways, become much less difficult when we aren’t trying to change them or get them to meet some relational expectation. Rather, we are simply trying to give Grace, and in doing so, we bring to the table the very thing that actually changes everything. When we stop trying to change and get certain things from people, we actually can bring to bare the one thing that can change people and behaviors… Grace.

10 Relationship and Leadership Standards to Live By

Relationships and leadership go hand in hand. And to be sure, navigating both can be complicated and difficult at times. We all want healthy relationships where we can love and be loved in return. We also want our workplace relationships and endeavors with people to filled with harmony, fulfillment, and happiness.  Yet, some of the time, we find our relationship and leadership experiences falling short.  What we hope for is not exactly what is actually happening.  Conflicts, challenges, and change (to name a few) find their way in and make relationships and leadership more messy than we would prefer.

As a pastor, I am certainly not perfect. On any given day, I probably make more mistakes than I do in getting things right. Yet, these 10 standards have definitely helped in improving my leadership and relationships, if for no further outcome then enabling me to have an inner sense of assurance and calm in the midst of times when leadership and relationships are not so easy. But well beyond that, I have found these standards to go a long way at fostering healthy relationships and leadership for all involved.

The good news is, these standards reflect the Christ that lives in you and the new person you already are in Him. You are already fully capable of living these out as God has graced you with His mind, a new heart, and His power. These standards are not about things to strive for, but rather aspects of who you are already. Believe that these standards are already within you, because they are!  As you believe it, you will live it in your relationships and leadership.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #1- never handle conflict through email, texting, or fb.

If you can’t deal with it face to face, don’t deal with it until you can. No, we shouldn’t avoid dealing with conflict, but handling it prematurely through ways that avoid or delay face to face dialogue can be highly problematic. What about a phone call or Skype? That is a good option “b” when getting your bumpers in the same parking lot is impossible or highly difficult.  60-70% of communication is non-verbal, and people often take a much different posture towards issues when they are face to face then when they can hide behind the distance and disconnect email, texting, and social media provide. If you want people to respect you and your leadership you are going to want to handle conflict personally and relationally through means that bring you face to face as much as possible. Every one brings two pails to issues of conflict, one is full of gasoline, the other full of water. Whether or not gasoline or water is poured on the issue will largely depend on how personally the issue is handled.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #2- when receiving criticism, don’t take it to heart without first carefully considering the source.

Criticism can be very valuable, but also destructive. One of the determining factors is the source of the criticism. The main question I have when discerning the source of criticism is, “Does this person have my best interests at heart?” If I conclude they don’t, my willingness to open the door to taking their criticism to heart diminishes. Helpful criticism usually comes from people who genuinely care about you. Does that mean we shouldn’t consider all criticism as having potential value? Of course not. Good criticism can come from bad people. But be very careful how you receive it and what you do with it. For sure, though all criticism should be considered, not all criticism should be taken to heart. Furthermore, not all criticism deserves your response or your action.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #3- assume the best about people and focus on their goodness, but entrust them in steps, not leaps.

There is goodness in everyone. People are a gift from God. Focusing on what is good about people and their strengths is a powerful way to live. Unfortunately, we often fill in the blanks about people and their actions with the most negative conclusions. We think this protects us, but it often serves in depressing us and missing out on the value of people. Assume the best about people.

However, this does not mean entrusting people in leaps and bounds. It does not mean turning off common sense and fair discernment. You wouldn’t give your car keys to a 10 year old. Neither should we entrust people beyond what they are ready and capable of, even if they believe otherwise. This is a disservice to them and you. Entrusting in steps is key.  Those who are faithful with a little will be faithful with much. It’s important to see what people do with a little before you give them much. This will benefit them and you in the long run.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #4- don’t waste your time trying to drag people into or keep them caring about you and/or your vision. If they can walk away, let them walk away.

Oh, how we want to be liked and loved. Unfortunately, not everyone will like and love us.  It’s our insecurities that attract us to people who aren’t good for us or who aren’t interested in us.  We somehow think we need to get them to be interested in our lives to prove that we are lovable and worthy.

Yet, trying to drag people into our lives and keep them caring about us and the things we care about is a royal waste of time. People will walk into and out of our lives for various reasons. You will likely only have a few over the course of a life time that will truly be “with you” for the long haul. If people can walk away from you, they were never really “with you.” They may have been “with” aspects of you, but not you as a whole. If you find yourself having to drag people along to be interested and involved in your life, stop wasting your time. Do your best to be a person of reconciliation and lasting relationships, but if they can walk away, let them walk away. Spend your time nurturing relationships of mutual love and respect.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #5- connect the tubes of your identity, emotions, value, and merit to Jesus. Connect the tubes of your giving and blessing to people.

One of the keys to healthy relationships is to not turn to them for your everything, especially for you value, merit, and identity. Only Jesus can supply your deepest needs and fill your emotional tank. We run into trouble when we turn to people for what we should be turning to from God.

With God it is best to receive, with people it is best to give. Let God be your supply, and people, the recipients of your blessings.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #6- Be generous with forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what they did is now somehow o.k, or that the relationship is automatically back to normal. Forgiveness is emotionally releasing the person of the debt that they owe you, for your sake and potentially theirs.

Forgiveness makes sure we don’t write people off, but it doesn’t mean we automatically write them back in. Reconciliation and restoration are totally different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is what makes reconciliation and restoration a possibility not a guarantee. It takes two people to reconcile, it takes only one person to forgive.

Being a forgiving person means not hold grudges or harboring bitterness, but always keeping the door open (however slight) to the possibility of reconciliation.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #7- Love negative people from a distance. Don’t stop loving, but don’t let their negativity stain your outlook or the outlook of others.

Some people and relationships can become highly toxic. People who are negative to a fault certainly fit into that category. Unfortunately, negativity is highly contagious, and can even rub off on ourselves if we are not careful. Many negative people love attention, and have for whatever reason, decided that utilizing negativity is their best (and maybe only) way to get attention or control.

Not everybody who has an opposing view or points out problems is negative. We need people who are willing to look for challenges and speak the hard truth we don’t want to hear. But negative people thrive on problems, drama, gossip, bad news, and things that could go potentially wrong.

Sometimes, as hard as we try, we cannot inspire them away from their negativity. The best we can do is to love them from a distance as we pray for God to do what only God can do in their lives. Allowing them too close to you and those around you in terms of having a voice, gaining an audience, or spraying their negativity around can be highly problematic. At times, loving them from a distance can even mean taking measures that remove that person from a project, group, or team as the best context to help a clinically negative person is outside of the context their negativity feeds upon. However, usually politely communicating that you have heard their views, but ignoring them in your mind and in your decisions will take the wind out of their sails for you and those around you.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #8- with people, exchange the ideal for the real. Nobody is perfect. Surround yourself then with people who truly care about being in relationship with you. Nearly any imperfection can be worked through in that context. Mutual love is the glue to relationships, not perfection.

Love covers a multitude of things in relationships. Love everyone unconditionally, and draw people close to you with whom mutual love and respect occurs, not perfection. Some of my closest relationships are with people with whom I have differing views and beliefs. Furthermore, I and they have made numerous miscues in the relationship. The glue that holds it all together is mutual love and respect. Mutual love and respect in a relationship brings the ability to agree to disagree, say “sorry” when sorry is what is needed to be said, work through misunderstandings, and just about anything else.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #9- When confronting a conflict or issue with a person, do it face to face and begin with questions. Questions like, “Help me understand, I heard…” or “Would you be open to some feedback about…” or “Maybe you could help me clarify something, what was your thinking behind…” etc. etc. Clarify first with questions that don’t accuse.

The worst blunders we make when confronting issues come from either confronting them too soon without all the facts, or never confronting them at all, no matter the facts. The solution is to confront with the mindset of an investigator, not a judge. Then, when all the facts are in, people have had their voices heard, and you have had time to seek wise counsel, then begin to make decisions about how to move forward. Rarely, do we need to press the accelerator when confronting conflict, most of the time, what is needed is to apply the brakes. Slow down, be thorough, objective, and gracious.  And remember, face to face!

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #10- Don’t make a big deal about figuring out and living some great plan for your life. You becoming the person you already are in Christ is God’s big plan for you. In Him, you are already big and anything you do and pursue is big. The significance and magnitude of you and your life has already been taken care, God wants you to simply enjoy it. Life is God’s great plan for you.

The purpose of your life is to awaken (through faith) to the Savior (Jesus) who has already saved you, become the person you already are in Him, and live the life He has already given you… filled with power, authority, significance, and divine celebrity.

In Christ, anything you do, pursue, create, or endeavor is filled with perfect purpose and divine power and significance.

Enjoy your life, and live it. That’s the plan.

 

Stupid Stuff We Believe

Sometimes it isn’t until we hear ourselves say it, or read it on a page that we realize just how stupid some of the things we believe truly are. These are the kind of things we hate to admit, and would probably never say out loud, but we really do believe them in our hearts.

Take a look at the list below at some of the stupid stuff we secrety believe. We would never tell anyone to believe these things, yet we do so everyday.

1- If 10 people compliment you about something, you should really listen more to the 1 person who criticizes you about it.

2- When you don’t always please the people around you, you are not as good of a person as you should be.

3- You need to have it all figured out before you start anything new in your life.

4- God loves you, but sometimes He is disappointed with you, shaking His head with frustration.

5- Someday you will be happy, once things come together or you find the right person.

6- You need your children to like you in order to feel good as a parent.

7- You need to punish yourself or alteast keep yourself from being too happy because of the mistakes you have made in your life.

8- You can change them

9- The more people value you, love you, and think well of you, the more valuable, loveable, and likeable you really are.

10- Jesus mainly wants you to be really upset about your sin, get your butt to church, clean up your act, and do more good than bad.

Which of these do you believe deep down?
What would you add to this list?

Navigating People’s Opinions of You

God has created us, in part, for relationships with people. Relationships are a huge blessing from God. He desires for us to be skilled at healthy relationships and experience intimacy with others.

Yet, relationships can become a source of unhealth in our lives when they take on poisonous dynamics God never intended.

One such dynamic is when people’s opinions of us gain more influence in our lives than they should.  Everyone seems to have an opinion regarding just about everything, including you. Perhaps everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they aren’t entitled to have you automatically taking their opinions to heart. Between someone’s opinions of you and you taking that opinion to heart should be a lot of filters and checkpoints.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to be negatively influenced by people’s opinions or rejections of us.  We care about what people think, but often, way too much. Some of us still hold on to negative things people have said about us years ago and allow their opinions to rule, dictate, and influence our thoughts, emotions, and lives. The good news is, it is possible to be a good listener, and a loving and a caring person without letting people’s opinions of us rule our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.

Problems with relationships in terms of insecurity, codependancy, and a lack of healthy boundaries (especially when it comes to people’s opinions of us) can often be traced to having wrong or distorted beliefs. When you and I believe rightly about ourselves, people, and relationships, we are far more equipped to navigate people’s opinions of us. Right believing is the key to having right relationships and handling relationships rightly.

Here are some things that are working in my life as I try to navigate people’s opinion’s of me.

1) Believe in who you are in Christ-   Believing in what Christ has done FOR you is important, but equally important is believing in what Jesus has done TO you, especially in our relationships with other people.  I can’t be secure in a relationship until I am secure in myself.

Jesus has made you into His righteousness; no matter what people say, there is nothing wrong with you! You are completely forgiven (past, present, and future), whole, and possessing every spiritual blessings. It is no longer your nature to sin, that was completely put to death on the cross. Sin, shame, guilt, and failure are not your identity. There is no condemnation over any aspect of your life. You are not just a child of God, but a son, daughter, king, and priest. Jesus has put everything under your feet as you sit with Him at the right hand of the Father. You are a new creation, a new species, more than human, perfectly and completely loved by God. Jesus lives not only in you, but AS you in this world. This is what Jesus has done TO you. As you believe this, you will walk in life with a new assurance, security, purpose, peace, and strength. No circumstance, person, issue, challenge, insult, or accusation can unravel what God has knit together in you. You are unstoppable. Fear, insecurity, anxiety, and guilt are no longer your master, nor can people use them to manipulate and discourage your life.  You are poised to meet every challenge with Grace. As He is, so are you in this world.

This is who you are, in Christ.  No person’s opinion of you should gain more influence over you than what Jesus has done TO you, the moment you believed. Let people say what they want ABOUT you, because they can never change what Jesus has done TO you. Believe that!

2) Believe that your goal in life (and relationships) is NOT to have people like you- People don’t have to like you, agree with you, value you, nor accept you in order for you to be in truth a caring, loving, and good person.  People’s opinion of you don’t and shouldn’t be allowed to define you, God’s opinions should. People have been known to believe one thing one moment, and another, another moment. People believe some of the most ridiculous and misguided things. Chasing after the positive opinions and reactions of people will leave you spinning like a breakdancer on crack. The goal of your relationships with people is to love them, not to derive your value and worth from their opinions or reactions to you. When it comes to God, it is better to receive than to give, but when it comes to people, it is better to give than receive. The goal of your life and relationships is not orchestrate and direct the applause and acceptance of people towards you. Nor is it to gain their approval so that you can approve of yourself.  The goal of your relationships is to love and bless, where possible.

3) Believe that God is your best supply for your sense of value, approval, and worth– God knows you better than anybody, and God is the one who determines your worth, approval rating, and value. Believing this is true of God over that of people is critical to say the least. God’s approval, and the value and worth He places on you should be your emotional and relational home base. The approval or disapproval of others should never become our emotional foundation. God is your best supply. He loves you with an everlasting love. He created, saved, and sanctifies you. No one can carry out the good work He has begun in you, nor does anyone hold His position to speak most clearly, accurately, consistently, and truthfully in and about your life.

4) Believe that not everybody’s opinions of you matter- If you believe every person’s opinions or reactions to you should be valued equally, you will for sure be a relational and emotional basket case. Some people’s opinions of us should have more value and influence than others.  Stop taking to heart the opinions of people who don’t matter. And the truth is, there are going to be a good number of people in your life whose opinions should matter very little, if at all.  No, it’s not about being rude or caring yourself in a rude way, it is about stewarding the life God has given you.

At the same time, you should surround yourself with people who love, value, and encourage you for who you are in Christ and His purposes in life. These are people who will never leave your side, and yet are willing to speak the truth in love to you, even if it hurts. You will likely only have a handful of these people in a lifetime, and with them, you should give more value and thought to their opinions.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vampire Slayer: Dealing with Relationships that Suck the Life out of You

Relationships are the marrow of life. Until a person values people and relationships over nearly everything else, they will be devoid of true fulfillment and significance.

However, some people live for success and gain, and value people only as far as that goal is preserved and realized.  When you are fulfilling their ultimate plan of self promotion and gain, they are “with” you and invested to the level of benefit they receive. They feed on people, primarily insecure, kind-natured, and vulnerable ones, using people and relationships to further their lives and goals.

These are the vampires of life. And trying to have meaningful relationships with them of mutual respect and blessing sucks. Like a vampire, they entice you in with the appearance of a blessing, but leave you with a bite. Some, having sucked the life out of you. To use a biblical description, they are the “Jezebel” spirits of society; controlling, manipulative, condescending, deceptive, rude, and selfish.  And unfortunately, we often don’t identify them as such until we have been bitten by their fangs, having been left with the loss of blood and the wounds to show for it.

To be sure, we all let people down and miss the mark in our relationships from time to time. We all make relational mistakes. But vampires are different. They use people and knowing or unknowingly see them as a means to an end. Underneath the cloak of their kindness, benevolence, interest, and encouragement, their smile conceals the agenda of their ways… fangs for your blood. Taking from you to benefit them. What are presented as dreams for your life are schemes to benefit theirs, stepping over and on people to protect or prosper their living, goals, jobs, careers, comfort, status, egos, etc. With great eloquence and poise, they drape their cape, pretending to come along side you to bless and promote, but in the end their kiss is the prelude to a bite. There was a reason for their kindness or interest, but it wasn’t to pour into you, it was to suck out of you.  In the end, they will manifest their defining trait… they can walk away, fly off, turn their backs, betray, move on, refuse to change, leave you for dead, let you down, pull out the carpet, leave you hanging, with little to no remorse or pause. After they get what they want, of course. Maybe it was your help, your attention, your effort, your care, your money, your compliance, your apology, your loyalty, your benevolence, but now they got it, and you and your relationship with them are a disposable, secondary commodity. You are the host, they are the blood sucker, some willing to reduce you to a mere carcass.

We all have and will have vampires in our lives, and likely we have even been one to a certain degree.  In our selfish, “me” driven culture, it would be hard not to have been.

Yet, to utilize the verbage from a popular show, we can graciously “slay” the vampires in our lives and keep them from sucking the life out of us.

Here are some tips on how to do that…

1) Guard your heart–  Sometimes, we allow people in much too early and much to deeply without using common sense and discernment. Not everything that glitters is gold.  God wants us to be wise and careful with people and our relationships.  We can look for the best in people without turning a blind eye or being naive to the worst. Time is one of our greatest tools for developing close relationship that are safe and significant.  Taking relationships of any kind one step at a time is deeply wise counsel, no matter how innocent and safe it may seem up front.  Vampires have to show their fangs before they can bite, but you won’t see them if you have allowed them to be too close too soon. Taking it slow with any kind of relationship will ensure that you see the fangs before you have to feel them.

2) Don’t let people become your mirror-  Sometimes we take our emotional cues from how we perceive that people feel about us or things we care about. We look to them for how we should view and feel about ourselves. This is a formula for disaster, and the very kind of dynamic vampires prey upon.  Look to people as a screen not a mirror. We shine our image onto a screen, we get our image from a mirror.

3) Keep your identity in Christ- When you look to and for who you are and how you should feel about yourself, look to Christ and His Grace upon your life. Feed on Him, drink from His supply. His worth is your worth, His value is your value, His status is your status, His power is your power. Take your emotional and spiritual cues from Him. Attach your tubes of security and identity to His supply, not people. Vampires can’t suck the life out of you if your life (identity) is fed by Christ. The moment they taste your security in Christ, they will release their bite in frustration.

4) Stay clear of controlling, manipulative people- No matter how lonely, needing of attention, or desiring of relationship you are, controlling people kill. Not physically per se, but emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Stop making excuses for their behaviors and blaming yourself for their manipulative, controlling ways. Their micromanagement, temper tantrums, seductions, enticements, pouting fests, guilt trips, intimidating threats, and condescending jabs will never lead to a healthy relationship of mutual respect and blessing.  Trying to get them to be genuinely interested in your life is futile. Becoming a doormat for Jesus only leaves you being walked on by domineering people, leaving you with little to nothing left to offer the people who really need you in your life.

5) Love from a distance- The best way to send a vampire into a tailspin is to give them your kindness without allowing them your kidney, bless them without allowing them your blood, love them from a distance. When they can’t control you, your emotions, your sense of worth and value, and your decisions, their grip, power, and drain of your life will dissolve. They may pitch a fit and show their teeth, but when they don’t get what they really want their influence and hold on your emotional life will vanish.   

6) Pour into people who truly love you- These people may be few and far between, but trying to make unhealthy people and relationship healthy will suck the life out of you. Jesus may be able to rescue them, but you can’t. If people can walk away, let them walk away. If they’re biters rather than blessers, release them and don’t look back. Stop trying to get people to be interested in your life who are really just interested in theirs. Stop trying to get the approval of people who don’t matter. Better to pour into a few who truly love you and have your best interest in heart, than to starve those who love you because you are too busy trying to resurrect the relationships that don’t.  Don’t let people rent headspace in your life that don’t have a heart for your best interests.  If people won’t respect and receive you, shake the dust off your feet. Let your Grace and graciousness be attracted to the people who are humble and desiring enough to receive it, not to those who would abuse it.

 

 

 

 

5 Essentials to Healthy Relationships

Relationships can be complicated, and figuring out how to have healthy ones can be a difficult puzzle to put together.  Obviously there are tons of books written on relationships, but here are 5 essential principals to having healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Become Complete in Christ– Here’s a game changing truth… no one can complete you other than Christ.  The moment we look to relationships to complete us is the moment we are placing an expectation on another that they were not created to nor do they have the capacity to fulfill. Danger Will Robinson, DANGER! Unfortunately, we often approach and carry ourselves in relationships expecting other people to convince us of what we cannot convince ourselves… that we are valuable, important, and worthwhile.  In short, we look to them to complete us and validate our worth.

By being complete in Christ, we are not talking about being perfect, but being assured and convinced of your true identity in Christ. This is a healing to your soul that no other person can accomplish for you. Only God can make you into a new person, and faith is what enables you to believe it. No person can replace nor substitute for the voice from God that must be received by faith that declares who you truly are in Him. Without this identity in Christ and believing it to be true, you will likely turn to human relationships to prop you up and convince you of what you are not convinced. You will operate out of insecurity, uncertainty, and selfishness.

No one can make you happy, complete you, or heal you. They can only share in a happiness you already have, compliment your strengths and weaknesses, and grow with you (not for you or because of you).  Two incomplete people do not make for a complete relationship.

Find your Worth and Value in Jesus

In marriage, a man and woman become one flesh. They are joined at the deepest point of their identities, their souls. Yet their worth and value are not conditioned on the other person. They are two, separately complete persons joined into a complete relationship.

Often times we look to other people to show us how we should feel about ourselves. If they love us, we love us. If they are happy with us, we are happy with us. This is why some people have a hard time being without certain kinds of relationships. They need someone to love them so they can love themselves; to feel good about them, so they can feel good about themselves.  Furthermore, they will do all kinds of unhealthy things in order to get or keep that person in their lives and happy with them. Indeed they have connected the tubes of their identity to the supply of another person. This, as you might guess, is a recipe for relational unhealth.

Relationships work when we are giving to give, not to ultimately receive. We are blessed by what others give us, but when we turn to people for our worth and value, we are trying to satisfy deep needs with things only God can satisfy.

Jesus is more than happy to show you your tremendous and eternal value and worth. He loves you like no other in a way that no other can. Look to Him as your supply, not others, then you will be capable of true love and loving relationships.

Communicate with Openness and Honesty

Nothing sabotages healthy relationships like a lack of openness and honesty. You can’t expect from another what you aren’t willing to express to another.

As a pastor of 18 years, I have counseled hundreds of people in various kinds of relationships. Hands down, when a marriage or friendship is in trouble, 95% of the time in can be traced back to a time when one or both of the persons in the relationship were not being completely open and honest. Things that needed to be said, weren’t said. Boundaries that needed to be asserted, were not asserted. Expectations and disappointments that needed to be communicated, were not communicated. Instead, things were watered down, swept under the carpet, and shoved into the shadows with the false hope… it’s no big deal, things will get better in time, it’s not worth a confrontation, time will heal things.

What’s the result? Bitterness and resentment enter in. Wedges and distance begins to develop. Passive aggressiveness and revenge are given a cause.  And ultimately, the relationship erodes.

Trust God’s Timing

Relationships can’t be rushed. If all you want are disposable, hot and cold, shallow relationships, than by all means, rush ahead. Microwave the heck out of that relationship.  But the truth is, the things that build a healthy relationship can’t be rushed.

I am amazed how the same people who can’t seem to keep their pants on and wait, are the same people who cry foul when the relationship plummets to the ground.  If you are going to build your relationship out of a house of cards, don’t be surprised when even the slightest wind sends it falling to the ground.

Relax. Rest in Jesus. Trust God’s timing, don’t rush to find friendships and relationships just because you look around and compare your life to other people. God knows what’s best for you and when it’s best for you. Stop trying to get people into your life and to be interested in your life.

Remember this, when it comes to relationships, if you rush ahead and try to take it for yourself, don’t be surprised when it slips through your finger. But if you wait and let God give it to you, you can have it forever.

Own Your Blindspots

When it comes to relationships, we are all damaged goods in the sense that we have all been hurt in relationships. It’s hard not to let those memories influence our attitudes and actions within relationships.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide and deny your blindspots. This will surely lead to unhealthy relational behaviors and patterns.

Blindspots are simply areas where we don’t see things clearly or even at all because of past experiences. For example, maybe you have a hard time trusting because you were betrayed, or maybe you feel overly insecure because of some physical abuse that happened in your past.  These kind of spots within your history become blind to us when we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves about their existence and/or impact on our lives. If you have healed from these experiences, praise God. As a part of your story, you are going to want to be aware of how God has and is using that experience in your life.

We all have areas where you need to grow, don’t live in denial. God’s grace is sufficient for you.  He is not attracted to your strengths, but to your weaknesses. Where you are weak, God is strong. Believe in His favor over you! Trust Him with the dark places of your life, allow Him and trust Him to heal and grow you. Let Him take the wheel of your healing and wholeness. Don’t try to become better, let Him make you brand new!  God wants you to rest in His Grace, and receive His favor. It’s not about your performance, its about His performance on the cross for your behalf!

Being aware of these blindspot areas is critical to partnering with God to having these areas becoming a blessing in your relationships and not a curse. Allow God to love, heal, and forgive you.  Out of that love, grace, and favor, you can truly give to another!

When You are Burned

I recently heard a conversation where a person was speaking about their fear in trusting a new friendship because of having been burned in a past friendship.  This is a conversation that most of us can certainly understand and may have even had ourselves.

People have burned us, and we have likely burned some people ourselves, at the least, without knowing or intending to do so.

So, what do you do when you get burned? Everyone get’s burned, but not everyone handles it well.

Here are some tips…

1) Focus on Managing Yourself and Who You Become

When people burn us our emotions are injected with adrenaline and we usually have an impulse to react in some fashion or another. The greatest temptation that comes from being burned is to loose your sense of identity as a complete, whole, loved, and valuable person. Being burned has a way of surfacing our insecurities and fears hoping that we will conclude, “Something is wrong or lacking with me.” That’s why the most important thing when you are burned isn’t in what you do, it’s in managing who you are and who you become.  It is out of your sense of self that every other emotion and action flows.

The most important thing when in the midst of a relational conflict is in how you manage yourself… emotions, identity, and actions. Who we are in the face of being burned will determine who you become and maybe even what becomes of the situation.  Spend less time thinking about how to react, what to say, and what to do next, and much more time on centering yourself on your faith in who you are in Christ, your righteousness, wholeness, and position in Him.  If you will focus on your faith in who you are in Christ, your emotions and actions will take care of themselves.

Like the burning bush in the story of Moses, in Christ, we can become people who, though burned by others and circumstances, we are not consumed by others or circumstances.  Managing who you are in the midst of being burned will ensure that no person or thing can steal your joy, peace, identity, and integrity. No person or thing is worth that.

Learn what you need to learn about mistakes that you may or may not have made, but don’t base your identity on them or your worthiness of having peace and joy in your life.

2) Move On, not Backward

When people burn us, the situation will likely need to be addressed in some fashion or another.  Keeping your peace, joy, identity, and integrity will ensure you handle things well. Yet, at some point, there will be a time to move forward.  Bitterness, anger, jealousy, frustration, and alike will need to reach their expiration date.

When people burn us, the second temptation (loosing you sense of self being the first) is to lose your willingness to trust in people and/or a better future. Forgiveness does not mean restoration, so automatically re-trusting the person or circumstance that burned you is not something God is pushing you to do. In fact, that could be a significant move backwards, not forwards. Yet, creating huge barriers around your heart and life that no person or circumstance can penetrate is not moving forward either.

Perhaps what is needed to avoid being burned again is to move slower, listen more to your discernment, set better boundaries, or not let your insecurities get the best of you and cause you to rush into things too soon.  Perhaps you would benefit from some Christian counseling to help you navigate things better in the future and identify current blindspots and patterns.  Not learning from whatever happened would be a huge step backwards. Yet, not having hope in the future and a desire to position yourself to trust and believe again is not moving forward either.

Don’t let people or circumstances steal your desire to love and live.  God has promises over your life that you need to live out. Be who you are and live the life you are meant to live. Never let being burned by others consume your passion and potential. Shake off your shoes, learn, and move forward.

God isn’t going to use the people who burned you in the past to water your future. If they aren’t with you, then certainly don’t try to drag them along and keep them in your life. Emotionally release them from your being and move forward.

3) Find Relational Rest 

Faith is the foundation of relationships. And by faith, I mean your faith in Christ and His work in your life. Believing in who you are in Christ is the key to relational rest.  When you have relational rest, you aren’t running around trying to attract people and opportunities into your life.  Rather, you are trusting God and resting assured that the people and opportunities that need to be in your life, God will bring into your life. You don’t need a person or opportunity to prop you up or complete you, you are already complete and standing tall in who you are in Christ.  You see yourself as one who reigns in life, not one who requires relationships to feed and sustain them.

Relational rest allows you to be who you are in Christ without fear.  Insecurities are pushed aside and Christ-security is moved center stage.  You can truly love without losing yourself and sucking the life out of others. Love becomes much more about giving to another and much less about getting something for you. When people or circumstances burn you, God’s grace for your life, His identity in you, and the promises He has over your life quickly dampen the hurt, frustration, bitterness, and injury. Indeed, you can truly rest in your relationships knowing who you are, who God is, and His promise over your life are firmly and eternally established.  You may get a bit stirred, but you are never shaken.

The more you place your faith in who you are in Christ, His Grace, and promise over your life, people and opportunity will come running to you.  You attract in others and in life what you believe about yourself.  People will be attracted to the Christ in you when you believe in the Christ in you. They will come looking for grace, when you believe in His Grace.  Believe in the best of Christ in you to attract the best of others to you.

It’s hard to rest when you have been sunburned, it’s harder to relationally rest when you have been people burned. Turn to Christ, and who you are in Him and you will find rest. Trust me, it works. Better yet, trust Him and His work in you!

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