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083 Personal Growth: Is Self-Care Selfish?

SHOW NOTES

Self-care seems to be buzz words these days.  Many industries have devoted themselves to the idea of self-care. But is self-care selfish? With our culture becoming more and more me-focused have we gotten too focused on self and less on others?  What really is self-care?

We have to be very careful in how we answer this question. As therapists it would be irresponsible not to.  In some Christian circles the concept of self-care is frowned upon. Again, we have to be careful.  Yes, we are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily, but how we deny ourselves is an important discussion.

Laura Explains This Cultural Concept To Vincent

At the onset of today’s episode, Laura explains to Vincent that a large portion of the self-care industry seems to be geared towards women.  Vincent assumed that self-care was more along the lines of good hygiene.  It is a bit funny to hear the difference between what a man considers self-care and how a woman views it. After helping Vincent see that self-care goes beyond taking a daily bath, Laura engages him in discussion on activities that women and men find entertaining. 

We delineate the difference between selfish behavior and self-care by using Vincent’s example of what many men find fun:  sitting in a deer stand for hours on end.  Laura asks “are you doing it to the neglect of your family or are you doing it because you need to refuel?”  Vincent prefers to use the words “leisure” or “fun time” over “self-care.”  Laura feels that self-care is not just fun.  (She gives the example of waxing.) 

Dangers of Too Much Self-Care

Laura has seen the impact of women self-medicating with what started as an occasional glass of wine to wind down in the evening to drinking that has increased over time. It started out as a mindless activity that has gotten out of control. AND it is a slippery slope that is becoming more socially acceptable.

On the face of it, I (Laura) understand why some Christians denounce the concept of self-care.  If it is taking you away from time spent better with God or serving others, then, yes, self-care could be thought of selfish.

However, having worked with troubled individuals for years, I (Laura) think(s)  that a message of self-care being selfish is unhelpful. This message could be particularly harmful to those struggling with codependency.

Codependents have a tendency to live in the extremes.  They often feel responsible for others’ feelings.  They can’t be happy unless others are happy. 

Harmfulness Of Putting Self-Care Down

Here’s why telling people self-care is selfish could be harmful:  For the struggling codependent, they are so unhealthily focused on others that given the message that self-care is selfish just reinforces an already negative belief they have:  I don’t need to take care of myself. 

I’m caring for others better by not spending time on myself. This lack of self-care ends up hurting others in the process. 

Legalism is also common in codependency.  Seeing self-care as selfish can be a result of a harsh view of reality. Having worked with codependency we see so many people operating out of dry wells that will end up needing others’ care because they are not taking care of themselves.

The irony is that the mindset is often “I can’t do this for me right now because I’ve got to take care of so-and-so” and yet the codependent wears herself out and the very person that she was trying to care for will end up having to care for her. 

Codependents often struggle because they have put themselves in a position above God.  In their attempts at trying to make others happy, they get in God’s way. They often find their worth and value from being responsible for others’ happiness.

Meanwhile, it does not occur to them that they are getting in God’s way.  Many times, it takes a Christian therapist, pastor, family member or close friend to point this out to them, however sometimes codependents figure this out on their own.

The Best Self-Care

Some of the best self-care is time spent with God.  Drawing upon His strength will give you what you need.  Reading His word and learning about Him will help you through your day. 

If not, you run the risk of trying to do things out of your own strength and self-reliance.  This also means you may be serving others out of guilt, not out of a Christlike position. Be care not to fall into the trap of defining yourself by what you do.

If we’re serving others but doing it from the wrong motivation, it builds our ego. You could feel very guilty and blame yourself often AND your ego could be quite large and prideful. 

Gender Roles and Self-Care

Vincent has noticed an imbalance of work between the genders.  He describes how in the 1950s there was a very traditional view of man’s work and woman’s work and how that has changed since. Women have seemed to take on more work overall, still trying to do the homemaking and work full-time jobs.  Meanwhile, many men still feel that their wives should do most of the homemaking along with their jobs. In effect, many women are burnt out.

One common issue is that many families have divided tasks to indoors for the women and outdoors for the men.  This is problematic because usually indoor tasks are a daily activity whereas outdoor ones usually are not. Add children to the mix as well as the assumption that the woman will be doing the brunt of the childcare, and then you have an even greater imbalance. 

With more stay-at-home mothers taking on “work-at-home” jobs and businesses, it even furthers the amount of work women have taken on. Men, however, have had less variation in their roles.  There are some stay-at-home dads and work-from-home dads, but for the most part women’s roles have developed more variations.

Communication issues in marriages often arise out of assumptions.  It is very common to see a couple struggling over household work and duties, especially when they have not clearly communicated who is going to do what. Operating off of assumptions causes a lot of friction in relationships. 

Vincent mentions how the traditional household of the 1950s may have not necessarily been right, but that it was clear.  These days many couples are not clear on what is expected of one another. 

Mindless Activity

With the amount of work we are taking on, what are we doing to ourselves? Often, we find ourselves with a window of time between when the kids go to bed and when we do. 

This window of time is used many times for very unintentional activities.  This is where self-care can become problematic (see Laura’s discussion of alcoholism above.) On-line shopping, gaming, overeating, and social media all become mindless activities that create debt, emotional and/or physical problems. 

Why Are We So Busy?

Is it time to re-examine your goals in life?  Do expect to make a certain dollar amount or acquire certain status symbols? 

Laura feels that Western culture promotes excess. If you have a job, you over-work. If you’re a mother you are a soccer mom, a Pinterest mom, you do, you do, you do. If your kids are in sports they are on travel teams and play four games a weekend, not counting the practices and games during the week. Some parents count this as “leisure time” for themselves, when it really contributes more to the hamster wheel effect running ourselves ragged. 

Physical exhaustion can lead to poor decisions.  One such decision is eating.  Exhaustion can mask itself as hunger.   

Did You Do Your Homework?

As couples counselors, we give homework to our clients. Vincent describes how difficult it is for many couples to complete his homework assignment of four thirty-minute conversations per week. 

Overwhelmingly the excuse for not completing the homework is that they do not have the “downtime” to do it. 

God & Self-Care

If we view our bodies as temples, we have to care for them to be able to go out and serve.  Caring for our literal bodies helps us to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

Spending time with God allows us to be fueled by the Holy Spirit and not motivated by false guilt. 

God created us to be relational.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants to be our source of strength. He wants us to put our dependence in Him. We can do this through prayer and time spent reading the Bible.  He also gave us a wonderful creation to admire Him through. 

God also desires in us to have relationships with others.  We can incorporate this into our self-care routine.  Enjoying the company of positive people can go a long way. 

Self-care could mean watching a beautiful sunset and saying, “Wow!  Thank you God for allowing me to see that.  Your creation is beautiful.” 

Self-care could be going on a hike and marveling at how peaceful and still God’s handiwork can be. 

Self-care can be soaking in a tub, taking care of a world-worn body whose feet have walked far to carry the good news. 

Self-care can help us to appreciate.  It can prepare us to go out into the world refreshed for the next day of witnessing. 

Anything done to the extreme is unhealthy. Striking a balance is key. 

What can you do this week to take care of yourself?

082 Marriage: How the Connection With Your Baby Affects Their Future Marriage – Part 2

SHOW NOTES:

Many couples struggle with feeling like there is no resolution to their fights.  Some avoid disagreements at all costs due to their frustration over how arguments in the past were handled. 

Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage
Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage

Today, therapists and hosts of Relationship Helpers Vincent and Laura Ketchie, offer part two of their interview with Christian psychologist and author, Dr. Jesse Gill.  His book, “Face to Face:  Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage”, offers insights into how your attachment style influences how you get along with your mate. 

Be sure to check out Part 1 of our interview where we go in-depth with how your attachment to your parents affects your attachment style! 

Attachment Theory & Your Marriage

"Face To Face T.V."
“Face To Face T.V.”

Attachment is a bonding experience; a tangible experience of love. Each day you need to do “face-to-face t.v.” On a daily basis you need to spend face-to-face time with your spouse, along with “t” for touch and the opportunity to be “v” vulnerable with one another. 

The gold standard is secure attachment.  People who are securely attached are not afraid of abandonment and are able to ask for what they need. They feel comfortable being honest and open about what they need and feel.

If you had a secure attachment to your parents, these skills are available to you. But even if you didn’t, God can create a secure attachment in your marriage. 

“Conflict is always a fight for better emotional connection.”

 We are created for attachment and connection. You may be married to someone who is doing a lot of protesting and they are not tuned into your sensitivity.  You may feel criticized and inadequate.

Others, the protestors, feel abandoned from their detached, avoiding spouse.  The root for both the protestor and the avoider is the loss of connection.

Protestors

Two Protesters
Two Protesters

A protestor in a relationship is the person who shows a lot of emotion.  They may nag and talk more than their mate. They can be critical and get angry.

They are not protesting their mate. They are protesting the loss of their mate. Their mate is the person they need, they just can’t reach their mate.

Avoiders

The avoider in a relationship may seem to be not responding to the other person’s emotional moments. They may either literally or figuratively leave the scene.

They are “internalizers’.  They have learned that sharing their emotions gets them nowhere. So they have stopped sharing how they feel. They feel that they must rely on themselves. They shut down. That’s how they cope. 

The Vicious Cycle

Struggling couples often are caught in a vicious cycle.  One spouse gets angry (the protestor), turns up the emotional heat and the avoider internalizes it and shuts down. Each spouse is operating out of their attachment style, and it perpetuates a negative cycle.

Neither one is left feeling understood, only more disconnected from their spouse. The protestor’s fear of abandonment is further fueled by the avoider’s distance, and round and round the cycle goes. 

Your Spouse is Not the Bad Guy

50% of couples are the "Protester & Avoider" type
50% of couples are the “Protester & Avoider” type

Instead of identifying your spouse as the problem, Dr. Gill advises looking at the negative cycle as the problem. Conflict is always because one feels abandoned or overwhelmed in some way.  When this goes on too long, couples contact marriage therapists.  

Dr. Gill finds about 50% of the couples that he works are stuck in the “protest/avoid” negative cycle.  Some couples, however, are composed of two protestors.  They may not appear this way at first glance, it is just that one of the spouses have burned out with protesting and have pulled back.

Other couples struggle with a trauma history and can bring a lot of intensity to protect themselves when they are hurting.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Effort

It’s a misconception that having to work on a relationship means that there is no love in it.  In fact, nothing communicates love more to a spouse than when their partner who does not naturally and easily say “I love you” puts forth the extra effort to show their love. 

She found his note to say "I love you" in the sock drawer.
She found his note to say “I love you” in the sock drawer.

Dr. Gill tells of a couple where the wife needed to hear from her husband the words, “I love you.” She lets him know of her need.  A few months pass by and she is putting away laundry and discovers a note tucked away in her husband’s sock drawer.  The note was a reminder for him to tell her that he loved her every day.

She felt more loved because he was being intentional. These words did not come automatically to him, so it meant more to her when she discovered how intentional he had become at communicating his love to her. 

If you know your attachment style, you’re better able to work towards establishing a secure attachment with your spouse. If you know you’re an avoider, you know that you need to take risks by sharing and reaching out to your spouse. If you’re a protestor, you’ll need to bring down the intensity level to a safer setting so that your avoider spouse will feel more apt to share and so that they will feel less overwhelmed.

Three Negative Cycles

The fuel of a negative cycle is two people that want to be able to be connected and are at increasing levels of despair.

1. Protest/Avoid

One spouse is emotional, the other is distant. (See above)

2. Protest/Protest

There is usually a trauma background for both spouses.  Both spouses are emotional. 

3. Avoid/Avoid

The protestor has been trying for so long to communicate with the avoider that they burn out and give up. 

How Marriage Counseling From An Attachment-Focus Can Help

A marriage therapist with a background in Attachment Theory can help a couple by interrupting the negative communication cycle.  The therapist is also able to help the couple to determine their attachment needs.

The therapist can help the couple come towards each other with open hands and open hearts.  The therapist makes them comfortable to come together and have that face-to-face t.v.  The goal of the therapist is to create a safe environment for the couple to be vulnerable with one another. 

Positive Cycle

This is healthy communication between a securely attached couple where each person is able to ask and receive without fear of abandonment or overwhelm. 

Engaging the Avoider

It is important to engage the avoider first to create positive traction. Sometimes this means helping them see what they don’t like, as it is easier to determine what someone does not like first.

This may mean helping them to put words to things such as “I didn’t like how that was furious,” or “I didn’t like how that was fast.”

Speed Round

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?

I’m a recovering avoider. I’m growing into the attachment zone.  My hangup is to be too self-reliant.  That’s very different from “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” where I’m acknowledging my dependence and great need for the Lord. I’m getting better by God’s grace.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Not be defensive, but to stay open and curious.  By being curious, we’re connecting with that inquisitive, playful side I talked about earlier. 

Even though something is confusing, I’m able to find out what’s driving it—what’s driving that in my spouse, what’s driving that in my child, or what’s driving that in me.  Stay open and curious.

Who do you admire other than a biblical figure?

Dr. Carmen Morrison (my marriage therapy mentor who taught me the attachment model) and her husband are doing attachment-based marriage therapy for the poor in the urban slums of Mexico City. It’s a beautiful ministry. 

She’s going to devote the rest of her life to bringing this marriage model to people who desperately need it. The rates of abuse and neglect are much higher there. They have a beautiful marriage, a beautiful ministry and the heart of Jesus beats in both of them.

What is your favorite book other than the Bible and why?

Rabbi Harold Kushner’s “Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.”  The story of Moses and his journey with God—some beautiful imagery of God’s desire for us to make Him our resting place. I plugged a lot of that into “Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage.”

What is your most effective relationship habit?

“I would say I’m a good listener.  A lot of that is how I was raised.  It’s a much bigger risk for me to put my own feelings out there.”

“Through the years I’ve gotten better at being more authentic in my emotional presence—just to show up with others.” 

Parting Wisdom

Remember “face-to-face t.v.” (Face-to-face time, T=touch, V=Vulnerable with one another) Try with your marriage, try with your kids, to bring in that gazing, that touch, that vulnerable sharing in any way you can.

Contact Dr. Jesse Gill:

Learn about his book, workbook, video series, or reach out to ask questions or to request him to do a workshop at your church at www.facetofacemarriage.com .

Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage
Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage

081 Marriage: How the Connection With Your Baby Affects Their Future Marriage – Part 1

SHOW NOTES:

Bizarre celebrity parenting techniques seem to be a popular topic in entertainment news.  Practices such as “premastication”, which is a parent pre-chewing food for their children, grab headlines and raise eyebrows. Inevitably, the term “attachment parenting” is unfairly linked to the newest celebrity parenting craze.

As with any concept or belief, people can distort it from its original form. Cockeyed renderings of attachment theory aside, learning the basis of attachment theory and how it applies to our lives can be very helpful in creating healthy, functional relationships.

Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage
Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage

Today the Relationship Helpers are pleased to welcome Dr. Jesse Gill to the podcast.  Dr. Gill is a Christian psychologist and author of “Face to Face:  Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage.”  He uses attachment theory as a basis for helping couples overcome harmful communication and behavioral patterns creating secure, healthy marriages. 

Aspects of Attachment

Attachment Theory: Mom & baby

Dr. Gill explains how attachment theory is about bonding and how babies connect to their parents. Fifteen years ago, attachment theory began to come alive for Dr. Gill as he saw how important it was when working with couples.

Along with Dr. Carmen Morrison his mentor, Dr. Gill learned how powerfully attachment theory can be applied to broken relationships.  

Attachment to Our Heavenly Father

These sacred moments that occurred in marriage counseling sessions helped him to see how attachment theory applies our relationship with our heavenly Father. Dr. Gill pored over scripture. He studied the language God uses to speak to us, to establish relationship with us. 

Attachment Theory Speaks to Our Deepest Longing

We long to be connected. We long to be in relationship.

We are not alone. We’re safe, we’re protected, secure. We know this when we know God and his love for us. 

Attachment Theory for Therapists, Attachment Theory for Couples

Dr. Gill’s book is helpful reading for therapists and couples alike. Therapists can use it as a tool to help prevent counter-transference; that is to prevent a therapist from bringing his or her own attachment issues into the counseling process, interfering with the progress of therapy.

Couples will benefit from the book because they can learn their attachment styles. They can see how their style influences the way they communicate, and then make the appropriate changes. 

History of Attachment Theory

British psychologist Dr. Henry Bowlby is the founder of Attachment Theory. He is a pivotal figure in helping us to understand love and connection. He studied orphaned children post-World War 2. 

World War II left many orphans
World War II left many orphans.

Many European children lost their parents during the war. Bowlby wanted to learn why some people bounce back from hardships and why some people do not. Why are some people resilient and why do others struggle?

He identified that children who had significant separation from their caregivers sustained a lot of emotional damage. These children struggled with this for the rest of their lives.

He was one of the first researchers to study psychological theory in “live time.”  Before, most psychologists learned through situations that occurred in the past.  Bowlby studied how children handled hospitalizations in real time.

Bowlby’s Background

Bowlby’s father was the King’s physician in Great Britain, leaving Bowlby in the care of a nanny. He did not have much time or connection with his parents.

When he was four, his nanny died. This probably shaped his curiosity for studying emotional connection and relationships. 

Today’s Science Corroborates With Bowlby’s Theories

Today, brain imaging technologies and brain chemistry studies back up Bowlby’s theories.  He was prophetic and cutting edge in his field. We are wired for attachment.

Today's brain imaging corroborates with Bowlby's theories.
Today’s brain imaging corroborates with Bowlby’s theories.

Parts of the brain do not grow when we do not have connection with parental support early in development.  The bond we have with our parents helps to develop the “calming centers” of the brain.  These calming centers then take the lead in moments when we need to cope. 

If there is a disruption in our attachment with our caregiver(s), then our ability to self-soothe is hampered. The empathy centers and the verbal centers of our brains also hinge on our connection with our caregivers. 

The gazing and sharing we do with our parents early on is essential to our brain development and influences how we interact with people later on. 

After the fall of communism in Romania, hundreds of thousands of children were left orphans.  The orphanages were overwhelmed with children and there were very few caregivers. These children did not have people holding them, looking at them, loving on them. Irreparable brain damage occurred to so many of these children because the window of time that they needed connection the most was filled.

Study of Juvenile Delinquents

In the 1950s, Bowlby studied juvenile delinquents. He compared them to children with emotional problems who had not committed crimes.

Those who committed crimes did not seem to have a conscience. Bowlby found that these children experienced profound maternal separation experiences.

Their empathy did not get created. They did not develop consciences. They did not have the capacity to think of the needs of others and were very much in survival mode.

They basically operated in fight or flight mode because the areas of their brains needed for empathy were not developed. 

Study of Hospitalized Children
Study of Hospitalized Children
Study of Hospitalized Children

In 1952, Bowlby studied children during their hospitalizations. Parents, at that time, were encouraged to drop off children and leave them, during their hospital stays.

It was a misguided recommendation to prevent germs from spreading. Of course, now we see the error in traumatizing an already sick child. 

Bowlby observed and videoed the children’s responses to being left at the hospital on their own.  Three distinct stages occurred when they were separated from their parents:  Protest, Despair, and Detachment.

Three Stages of Separation:  

Protest

Protest: (Days 1-3) The child is very upset, inconsolable and angry. They are “pitching a fit”. They are displaying a lot of emotion and energy.

Despair

Despair:  (Days 3-5)  The child has become emotionally tired and is sad and mournful.  The intensity has come down and they feel that their parents aren’t coming back.

They are more subdued. They still long for connection.

Detachment

Detachment:  (Days 5-7) The child re-engages with the nursing staff, but when the parents come back, the kids are strangely detached. At this point they have become mistrustful of connection and focus on being self-sufficient. 

Dr. Gill describes Proverb 13: 12, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  These kids hearts have become self-reliant and have hardened their hearts towards others. 

The Follow Up
Many of the children "perked back up."
Many of the children “perked back up.”

Bowlby followed up with these children a few weeks later and found that most of the children had “perked back up”. The takeaway from this study is that if short-term separation has this short-term effect, imagine the impacts of significant separation and trauma. 

Bowlby found that children that had prolonged hospital stays and/or numerous stays struggled more.  They had experienced getting attached to several different caregivers only to lose those caregivers. Their hopes had been dashed often.  Unlike the children with short-term stays, those with the traumatic experiences fared worse. 

Bowlby learned from this study that disconnection is bad. When we feel disconnected from a loved one, we act out.  Depending on how early on we are in the sequence, some of us are stuck in a protest mode, others in a despair mode, and yet others are in detachment mode. 

Secure Attachment

We’re created for connection—attachment.  Dr. Gill finds that there are three ingredients needed for secure attachment, denoted by “Face-To-Face TV.”

Children need “face-to-face” time with their parents. This means parents need to look into their faces and track their eyes.

The “T” is for touching them and holding them, responding to them when they are in distress, as well as cuddling with them and playing with them.

The “V” is for vulnerable sharing of emotion.  These are parents that are in tune with their child’s emotions and are able to engage them on an emotional level.  This means being able to identify the child’s feelings and put words to them out loud.  This could sound like, “Oh, I see you’re sad right now, come here and I’ll give you a hug.”  

Secure attachment is established when children receive this combination of parental involvement and caring. Children and adults need to know that they are loved and that someone “has their back.”  This develops confidence, and they can face the world. They are more likely to take the necessary risks that are needed to grow. 

The Strange Situation

Similar to Bowlby, Dr. Mary Ainsworth studied attachment in children.  She led experiments that were more short term. These were called “The Strange Situation.” 

Children with secure attachment give little protest.
Children with secure attachment give little protest.

She studied how children would respond to being away from their mothers in three minute bursts. A room was set up with a mother, her child and a female graduate student.  The mother and child would play a few minutes and then the mother would leave.

Psychologists behind a one-way mirror observed the quality of play between the mother and child before she left, and when she returned. A certain level of protest was not uncommon in the children when their mothers left.

For the securely attached child, he had such a nice play sequence with his mother before she left that he responded by having little protest.  He was able to settle back down. When she returned, he was happy to see her.  

Children with insecure attachments, those who were protestors, had a different experience.  Even with the mother in the room, these children were clingy and unsure that she would really be there for her. 

They weren’t good when she was in the room, and they are even worse when she’s gone. It’s kind of a tug-of-war.  They don’t know whether to hug her or clobber her. They don’t know where they stand consistently.  They are concerned about abandonment. 

Attachment In Marriage

Insecure attachment in childhood influences someone’s sense of security in adulthood. This is why learning about attachment theory is important when it comes to marriage.

Clinginess, and controlling and demanding behaviors are rooted in insecure attachments.  Dr. Gill explains this is why some people don’t feel good even when they are with their loved ones. They don’t know when they will be abandoned again. Anxiety is at the core. 

Protest

Protest behaviors manifest as controlling and demanding behaviors.  This person may have a hard time sharing their spouse with other people, because they are afraid of being abandoned. 

Detached

During the “Strange Situation” study, Ainsworth found some children who were aloof with their mothers prior to their mothers leaving and remained this way when she returned.

These children are shut down.  They don’t show emotions. These children have concluded that it does not matter what they say or do – no one is going to respond.

These children have learned that they have to go it alone.  They are avoiders. They do not bring their hopes and needs forward. They are internalized, low energy at times. 

Secure

The gold standard is secure attachment.  Unlike someone with protest tendencies, the securely attached person is able to cope with the absence of their loved one in an emotionally connected way.  This is different from the detached person who copes with the absence by avoiding their feelings. 

Secure attachment is in the middle of a continuum. Protest is at one end and detached at the other.  Protestors are clingy, demanding controlling and are on one end of the spectrum and detached people are avoiders who are internalized, shut down and low energy. Securely attached people receive, explore and ask.

Join us next week when we talk more with Dr. Gill about how you can learn how to develop a securely attached marriage!

 

RESOURCES:

www.facetofacemarriage.com

 

Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage
Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage

080 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Peacemaking

SHOW NOTES

Today we challenge your view of what makes a person a peacemaker. We’re not talking about the person that avoids conflict or doesn’t “rock the boat”.  We are talking about the person who RESOLVES conflict through healthy communication and interactions. 

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Each week for the last several weeks we have focused on making “A Better New Year’s Resolution.” Instead of making diet and fitness goals, we are looking to improve our character.  Each episode is about developing a character trait. This week’s episode is about becoming a peacemaker. 

Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. This person does not stir up fights. They have a lot of courage. 

1.) Not the person who is passive & doesn’t rock the boat.

This is someone who addresses conflict. They are very thoughtful. When they speak, they are intentional. Ravi Zacharias, a leader in apologetics, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do some peace talks.

He had the opportunity to meet with an Israeli leader and a Palestinian leader. Both of the leaders had lost children to terrorism and fighting that had occurred due to the conflicts. 

He aligned with the both of them by saying, “It must be difficult to lose a child. You have sacrificed your child. What pain you must be going through.”  In doing so, he showed them that he was trying to understand them both.

In the middle of this discussion, he presented the Gospel.  He talked about God the father and how He sacrificed His son. He was able to use this opportunity to present the Gospel.

Most people would cower in a situation where they are between two warring foes, not Ravi Zacharias.  He was able to communicate THROUGH the pain that both fathers were feeling. It takes a lot of courage. Be sure to check out our BRAVE episode if you’d like some extra help on mustering up your courage.

2.) They work to find a solution which means compromise or setting healthy boundaries.

We are marriage therapists, we often see couples stuck in their ways.  Once they have been stuck for a while, hearts begin to harden.

Areas such as household duties and parenting are common problem areas for hardened hearts to develop.  An “I’m right, you’re wrong attitude” begins to emerge and they begin to operate out of that as a default mode. 

Sometimes even pet peeves can grow into a hardened heart. Your heart hardens onto these opinions and it becomes extremely difficult to compromise. 

It is painful to break these ideals. A peacemaker is able to adjust. They are flexible.

3.) They have empathy.

A peacemaker wants what is best for all involved.  They are able to see how others think and feel.

Being a peacemaker is not being passive, however.  A peacemaker is not someone who just keeps peace by postponing conflict.

Postponing conflict is like putting anger in a pressure cooker.  Being passive is like participating in building a bomb. Vincent calls it being an “emotional bomb-builder.”

Weeks, months, years pass and the anger errupts, and it is much worse than it needed to be if had been acknowledged in the first place. If you need some pointers on addressing the “elephant in the room” be sure to check out our episode where we interview Jill Martin

4.) They resolve conflict.

Resolving conflict requires several different components. 

Atmosphere

A peacemaker is able to gauge the atmosphere and to set the atmosphere. They can set the tone, or help to set the tone.  They know when to address a problem. 

To help you learn how to gauge the atmosphere, pay attention to your five senses. For instance, if everyone is cramped into a hot, crowded car, it’s not best to try to bring up a problem.

Also beware of distractions. If someone is hungry, it is loud, the tv is on, the kids can hear, etc. it’s not a good time to try to bring up a contentious issue. A peacemaker makes or finds an appropriate atmophere. 

Focus on the Problem Not the Person

A peacemaker is able to extract the problem from the persons involved. They do not identify the other person as the problem. They do not personalize the situation. 

Be Honest & Direct While Using Tact

A peacemaker may plan out what they are about to say—scripting it.  Organizing your thoughts is helpful to make things come out in a healthy way. 

Try sandwiching it.  Use positives before getting to the actual issue.  Do things to align yourself with the other person.  Being able to empathize, using feeling words, goes a long way.

Examples may include “That must have really hurt when…” or “You must have felt really frustrated when…” Another important comment to make is “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

An example of using the “sandwich technique” would be:  “I really appreciated it when you helped Tommy with his science project, but it upset me when you told mom what I told you about the problems my wife and I are having. When I told you this in confidence, it really upset me.  I didn’t want mom to know.  It hurt my trust. I value our relationship.  I want it to be healthy.  I needed to address this with you so I wouldn’t hold resentment towards you. I would want you to tell me if I’ve done something to hurt you, as well.” Notice how the peacemaker ends on a positive note. 

In conflict, you need to show the other person that you understand them. Don’t tell them, “I understand.”  SHOW them you understand.  This means using emotion words, for example:   “it must have hurt to…”

This helps you to connect to the other person. It deepens the communication and connection. They will know that you understand them. It helps the peacemaker come up with a concrete plan.  You’re able to work towards boundaries. 

Peacemaking is not a one time deal.  It is a process of forgiving and leaving the door open for more dialogue in the future. It may mean expressing a boundary, such as “next time you bring up the problem, I’ll say ‘I don’t want to hear that…it’s not appropriate.’” Be clear and concise, and follow through. 

Conclusion

Being a peacemaker is not a common quality. We hope that you have found today’s episode helpful in working on conflict resolution in your relationships so that you can become a healthy peacemaker! 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

079 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Genuineness

SHOW NOTES

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Do you feel like you are wearing a mask?  In today’s episode, the hosts of Relationship Helpers, therapists Vincent and Laura Ketchie discuss peeling off the mask to reveal the genuine you. 

Before a child reaches the age of two, you see a person who is the least likely to lie.  Of course as the toddler years emerge, lying starts.  But prior to this stage in human development, what you see is what you get. 

At some point, however, we begin to lie.  Usually it starts with little “white lies” to get what we want. Disingenuous behavior eventually gets us in trouble as children, as later it does adults.  It creates conflict in our relationships because of a lack of honesty or forthrightness.  When we are not genuine in our relationships, we end up in constant struggle. 

How to Become More Genuine

1.) People can’t mind-read you

If you are not assertive (direct, clear) with others, it becomes a guessing game. It’s a timeless experience, a couple wants to order takeout, but they play the “I don’t know what I want…” game.

The other spouse makes a suggestion and the one spouse says, “Well, I don’t want that.”  And round and round the conversation goes, taking up time and leaving them both hungry. It’s like a dance; dancing around the point: getting the food. 

This behavior leaves the spouse who asked the question frustrated. It sets a bad tone.  

If you want to improve the health of your relationship, it’s important to remember not to frustrate your loved one by being passive and indirect.  Expecting someone to read your mind is detrimental to your relationship. 

2.) Be honest with yourself

Not only do we need to be honest with others, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to have an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. If you recognize that you are passive, be proactive about changing that behavior.

Remember that your passivity will frustrate your loved ones unless you do something about it. This means seeking out opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone. 

When you take the risk of putting yourself in opportunities where you could fail, you grow. Some people may look back on their lackluster sports attempts and feel negatively.  Rather than choosing to focus on how poorly you performed, consider other takeaways. 

For instance, if you have two left feet, you may consider how you were as a team mate. Look at the strengths you had. Maybe you would have been a better strategist, coach, cheerleader or supporter?

In Proverbs we are told that it is wise to accept correction—that a fool hates correction.   Study the correction you have received.  Look at how you have received the correction.  You may need to take an honest look at how you perceive yourself. 

3.) Don’t be aggressive 

Don’t confuse being genuine with “telling people like it is.”  Aggressive people often think that they are genuine. Although they are speaking “their truth” they are bulldozing the relationship.  It’s not helpful. 

Being genuine means you have an awareness of others being equals—seeing each person on an equal playing field.  You are valuing their needs and wants but at the same time you are able to express your needs and wants. 

4.) When people ask you about yourself, you tell them.

This also means that when someone asks you “how are you?” you are able to say something other than “fine.”  Fine many times is a blanket statement.  Think of the word fine this way—Feelings Inside Not Expressed.

Next time someone asks, try being honest. You don’t have to dump on them, but you can be honest. If life has been difficult, say things haven’t been easy lately. 

5.) Be honest & direct in a calm, relaxed manner – Speak the Truth in Love

We’ve just talked about when things aren’t okay and how we tend to not let people know that.  On the other hand, sometimes we don’t let people know it when things are going well. 

Is there some sort of excitement you’re not sharing with others?  If so, you could lift someone’s mood.  Not sharing your good news may be robbing others of an opportunity to be happy (and happy for you.)

One of the biggest obstacles to being genuine is a fear of conflict. Some people are passive and generally are people-pleasers.  Yet others are aggressive, and believe that they are telling their truth when in fact that are doing it in unhelpful manner. 

The Bible asserts that we should “speak the truth in love,” meaning that we do not avoid being truthful (passive), BUT that when we do confront someone that we do it with love (assertive).  

Assertiveness Versus Aggressiveness

Please do not confuse assertive with aggressive.  Assertiveness is done with regard to everyone having value.  Aggressiveness says, “I’m going to speak my truth how ever I can and no matter how it hurts others.” Speaking truth without love is judgmental. 

An example would be a husband and wife are riding home.  The husband is driving but his driving makes his wife nervous.  She could say, “Are you trying to get us killed?!?” Which would be aggressive and probably create a fight.

OR she could say, “I appreciate that you’re driving tonight. Could you slow down some?  It’s making me nervous. I appreciate that you’re driving, you do have better night vision.”  In the second example, compliments are being used to soften the criticism. 

What the Bible Says…

In Ephesians 4: 22-24 Paul says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Here we have Paul telling us to be the people God created us to be, our genuine selves! He wants to be who He made us to be and for our character and actions to match this persona.

A person who does this appears consistent. They are a person of their word. When they tell you their opinion or talk about their feelings, you know they are being truthful because they have a history of being consistent.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” A genuine person promotes the unity of the body of Christ. 

This means that they are able to create calmness and peace amongst others with their assertiveness.  They are good, healthy communicators who visibly acknowledge the value of others. 

Conclusion

We hope that you feel encouraged to be a more genuine person.  When more people do, there is less conflict and misunderstandings.

Be sure to checkout our other episodes in this series “A Better New Year’s Resolution”, where we describe more ways to help you to build character!