to write a book… or not to write a book?

I’m debating.

To write a book… or not to write a book?  That is the question. : )

I’d love your input.

once upon a time 2

I am so grateful for some early feedback on our audio.  This is from a consultant and professor who specializes in church healing. He wrote an amazing book, appropriately titled Healing the Heart of Your Church:

“Your presentation is excellent–you are a very gifted teacher, very clear and precise, extremely engaging, and you handle the Scripture well.”

~ Dr. Kenneth B. Quick, D.Min., Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Capital Bible Seminary

How nice is that?!

Don’t forget to let me know what you think after you listen to our audio overview of our potential book!

Here’s just one story of how it’s proven helpful:

Matt (made up name) was a pastor for many years.  He loved the Lord and loved serving the people in his church.  Until one day, his congregation presented him with a list of things he was doing wrong.  A list of dozens… and dozens… and dozens… and dozens… of their opinions about him.  Things he needed to ‘open himself up to the Spirit to be convicted on.’

He was stunned.  He loved them.  He loved the Lord.  He loved serving the Lord with them.  Yet they were saying things about his motives and character that seemed so hurtful.  Was he really so blind that he couldn’t see these things in himself?

The whole experience was so hurtful.  So devastating.  So devaluing.  And ultimately, the ‘b’ word: He felt so betrayed.

So much so that he left.  Not just that church, but ministry in general.  He left pastoring.

And not just him.  The experience was so hurtful that his family left the church, too.  Not just that church.  Any church since.  If that’s how Christians treat people, his kids don’t want to be around them.  They haven’t darkened the door of church since.

It breaks my heart.  And it makes me angry. It doesn’t have to be this way.  And with one small tweak, I think it can be entirely different.

I shared with him the paradigm the Lord shared with me.  It had been so helpful for me.  I wondered if it would be helpful for him, too.

When I got to row 3, it was as if I was talking to an entirely different person.  Guilt and shame practically physically melted away.  Light returned to his face.  His shoulders rolled back, and he sat up a bit straighter.  His whole demeanor changed.

*This* was the man God created.

Oftentimes, like the people in Matt’s congregation, we’re trying to do the right thing.  We think what we’re doing is godly and helpful.  And I think sometimes we’re close.  But we know from Screwtape Letters that Satan’s victory is getting us just slightly off course.  It’s unbelievable how much hurt can result even when we’re so close to on course – yet we end up so far from our desired destination.

The good news is that, with just one small tweak, we can fix it.  

The trick is that we’ve got to be able to recognize it.

And that’s just what this paradigm seeks to do.  Just one small tweak to make a huge difference in our lives, in the lives of those we love, and for the kingdom.

I hope you’ll listen to it and let us know what you think!  Drop us a line at doublehockeysticks (at) mail (dot) com.  Thanks!!

That’s Worthy

Today is a special day.  And I’d love your feedback.

Today is our 200th blog post.  Can you believe it?!

We’re celebrating with many of our posts all wrapped into a nice, tidy package: the play button below.  It’s the audio of a workshop I did.  And I’d really love your feedback.  
that’s worthy

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The paradigm I share has been hugely helpful for me:

  • It’s helped me distinguish what feedback is wise… and what feedback looks wise, but actually isn’t.
  • It’s helped me find healing in things that have been seemingly oddly, incredibly hurtful… though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
  • It’s helped me be wise in when I should say something to another person… and when I am free to simply live and let live.

And it’s given me hope – that this thing called life, that sometimes gets messy and hurtful – that this thing called church, that sometimes seems confusing whether something is wisdom or judgmental – that this thing called relationships, that sometimes feels life-building yet other times life-destroying – it’s given me hope that vitality and health and restoration may, in some situations, be as simple as a little tweak.  For me in my life, so much healing came when I finally got clarity on one small tweak.

So I’ve wondered if this was just helpful for me… or if it might be helpful for others as well?

The Lord has brought some folks across my path who have found it helpful and healing.  It’s been exciting to see how impactful it’s been for them.

I’m trying to gauge if it’s helpful to a wide swath or if it’s simply helpful for a targeted few.  So this is where I need your help.  Would you listen to it and let me know if it is helpful to you?

This is the paradigm we unpack.  It may be helpful to print out this page and follow along.

thats worthy-1

Then you’ll need this when I mention flipping to the ‘back’:

thats worthy-2

If you’re like me, you’ll want a bit of an outline of what’s ahead:

introduction: 3 reasons why what we’re going to talk about is important

the meat:  Everything we can possibly confront falls into one of 3 categories.  Easily discern which category it’s in and how to handle it well!

  • Yes, their actual action is clearly stated in Scripture.
  • No, their action isn’t in Scripture, but it’s how people should do it!
  • Practically.  I mean, their actual action isn’t in Scripture, but the motive I feel certain is behind their action is.

the last column:  Whom are we helping in each situation?

our simple fix: a handy tool to be sure our ‘wisdom’ is like the wisdom from heaven – first of all pure!

After you listen, I’d love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to leave a comment below, or I’d love for you to e-mail me at doublehockeysticks (at) mail (dot) com.

I’d love to know

  1. Was this helpful for you?
  2. If you’re comfortable sharing, what was most helpful to you?
  3. If you’re really comfortable sharing, why was it helpful?

Happy listening, and I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Susie

Works like a charm

A little personal here… but when you sit on the toilet in our bathroom, this is what you see.

It’s an idea I borrowed from my mother-in-law.  It’s amazing how something hanging in just the right spot can totally refocus your day.

This morning I was pretty frustrated about a situation.  Then I went to the restroom.  Who knew that could so drastically change my day?

I started thinking about what was true about the situation, then what was noble — and what I was thinking at the time wasn’t very noble.  What is right?  Well, that was pretty clear if I’d just give it two seconds worth of thought.  What is pure and lovely – not what I was thinking!  What is admirable?  That felt good.  It felt honoring to think about the response that would be the admirable.  What is excellent and praiseworthy – honoring the Lord, for sure.

And in one short tinkle : ), my heart was recalibrated, I had clarity of direction, and my desire was to honor the Lord.

A simple little $3 frame from Michael’s placed in just the right spot… works like a charm.

Our Family’s Win-Win

Holiday Contest!___________________________________

A follow-up post from the amazing Megan!  She gives a glimpse of what all this boundaries and conflict stuff looks like with kids.  I hope one day to be as adept with conflict as her preschoolers! : )

forman mom dadI’m a big fan of personal responsibility.

For example, in our marriage, we don’t allow blaming for bad moods. Some days one of us has a bad day, and that’s totally fine. But no one, especially my spouse, can be blamed for that bad mood. I have a choice, and boundaries help to make sure that we all agree on where his behavior ends and where my decision to be in a bad mood begins.

And frankly, because boundaries work in our marriage, we’re using them with our children as well.  So far, we like them.

Why Boundaries work

I love boundaries because I truly believe that defining them, communicating them and sticking to them is the cleanest and fastest way to “heart change.” It’s the real change that goes past the behavior modification that so many of us have tried as adults and as parents.

I believe boundaries are a strong tool to bring us to a personal revelation of the type of “godly sorrow” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10:

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

That type of sorrow and ultimately repentance starts with a realization of your sin, and boundaries often are like a spotlight on the attitudes of your heart and your motivations. Boundaries have this amazing (and frankly often annoying) way of cutting through the blame shifting and complex emotions and hitting on the heart issues. I love boundaries because they are not only the tool but often the first step in a lasting solution for the complex relationships in life.

What they look like in our family

forman kids 2So what do I mean, when I use this term “boundaries“? Please indulge me by allowing me to tap into the plethora of relational conflict that I deal with everyday, all day — that between my four young children and often between one of the said children and myself.

I have found boundaries to be helpful for all four of my children. One boundary that guides all of our interactions with our children is that their word means something in our family. We in effect give them permission to use their words to set their own personal boundary.

  • If they don’t want to be tickled any more, all they have to say is, “No more, thank you,” and we respect it.
  • If they want space or need time to think about a situation, they have the words and the respect in our home to express that and to expect to be heard, without delay.

We don’t make promises in our home (we learned this trick from one of our wisest mentors). There isn’t any need — our words mean something. We don’t make threats; they aren’t necessary. When we say “no,” we mean it.

Take a look at this powerful verse from The Message translation:

“Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” ~ Matthew 5:37

So saying what you mean – stating your intentions clearly – is the start of learning to set and respect boundaries.

My boys using boundaries

forman boysWhat does it look like in our house on a given day? I have a perfect example from just this morning. I woke up this morning to my 5 year old son saying to his 4 year old brother,

“I really want to play police officer with you, but when you don’t listen to me and my ideas, I feel sad and like I don’t want to play with you. Can we work together?”

Some of us adults (including myself) could stand to learn this type of “I” statement, solution-oriented communication, right?

He set a boundary.  He said, “I don’t have to play with someone who isn’t listening to me. And if you want to play with me, we are going to have to work out something that works for both of us.” (paraphrase mine).

And it cut right to his brother’s heart.

Boundaries with my daughter

mom louI have one daughter, which in my short experience (we adopted her from Ethiopia only 9 months ago) is a completely different beast from raising sons. Regardless of culture, background and even language, she is well-versed in the art of wrapping others into her emotional tailspin, her personal quest for her own desires and muddying the waters of personal responsibility in any given situation. Let’s just settle now for once and for all, I am not ascribing malice to the child but will not deny that she is just as depraved as any of the rest of us and needs a Savior just as badly.

Many parents and well-meaning friends have advised us to ignore her or distract her when she starts these types of power struggles and emotionally manipulative antics. I appreciate their heart. They reason that she is only 3 years old. The goal should be to simply mitigate the damage of such outbursts. But my husband and I can’t help but think there is a better way. Dare I say, a more direct way — a way to handle her that instead of controlling her behavior in these preschool years might actually lay the ground work for conflict and strife management for the rest of her life.

So we “boundary” the heck out of her. The crazier she gets, the more we hem her in. The more we place her decisions and her reactions to her own choices squarely back on her shoulders. Like all of us, she doesn’t like to be told “No.” I appreciate that. Our home is a place where she can be angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated and all of the above (at the same time), but any manifestations of those emotions are hers and hers alone to deal with. Her go-to plan at this point is to somehow rope us up in those emotions in hopes of either getting us to change our mind or to enter into her misery and play in the “emotional gutter” with her. If she can just get us to lash out in our own anger, get worked up or heaven forbid give into her crazy, she is proving that her dysfunctional way is a perfectly acceptable way to relate to others and get what she wants.

A few weeks ago, she refused to eat her fruit at breakfast. No big deal. I clearly reminded her that it would be waiting for her at lunch when she was ready to finish her healthy food. We went on to my son’s soccer game and when mid-morning snacks were handed out, guess who didn’t get one? You guessed it. I politely said to her,

“Lou, I didn’t bring you a snack because your oranges are still back at the house, and you can have lunch and a snack as soon as you finish those.”

See I had set a boundary of my own: I am not in the business of toting around her unfinished breakfast. I am too busy and have too many kids to allow for exceptions. Meals are served at the table, and I’ll go crazy if I have to pack every half-eaten orange on ice and head off to the soccer field. So I continued on with my task. The tears began to roll down her cute little cheeks, so in an effort to acknowledge her feelings I added,

“It looks like your choice to not finish your fruit is making you really sad. I bet you are disappointed that you can’t have this snack. Would you like a hug?”

But she was way past hugging as an option. She escalated and escalated and escalated. Three year olds are not terribly creative so I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of what ugliness transpired at that soccer field.

But this is the beauty of boundaries. Boundaries remind me in the three-hour battle of emotions that unfolded that my only job is to kindly and gently remind her that it was her choices that brought her to these consequences. That her continued bad reaction to her choice (yelling, screaming, lashing out at me and her siblings) were hers and hers alone to own and to apologize for.

An important note for parents

On a side note, as parents if we fail to remain calm, we are demonstrating our willingness to abuse our power and break our own boundary of self-control and MUST apologize and repent accordingly.

More reasons I love boundaries

Life is about choices, and boundaries remind us that those choices have consequences. If you make a choice, you (and only you) also deal with the consequences.

And while I teach my children about choices, I am also teaching self-respect:

“I am a smart, capable (wo)man who can decide how I want to handle this situation.”

I am also teaching them that it’s ok to mishandle her emotions, and there is grace in our family and from Jesus to apologize and move on.

And most importantly for us emotionally suave creatures called women, my daughter is learning that emotional terrorism and caddy power struggles are not only more trouble than they are worth but that they don’t work. Talking clearly with Mommy, expressing your emotions healthily — that works!

Our Win-Win

forman stockings

I know to many of you, this sounds harsh and awfully cut and dry for a three year old. Heck, some of us struggle with boundaries even in our adult years because of the “clinical” and impersonal feel of it. But I’ve never felt closer or more connected with my children than the times when we are clearly communicating about the “heart issues” and not arguing over obedience and behavior. It helps me truly enjoy them as people and value their great strengths as emotional beings with strong opinions. And that’s what we call a win-win in our house.

{To follow the Formans’ journey click here}

 

a fun activity to praise the Lord!

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you are enjoying a delightful day celebrating and being thankful!

How perfect is it that we’re talking about thinking things that are praiseworthy – and right in the midst of it falls Thanksgiving!  Don’t forget to spend some time today being thankful.

Hopefully you’ll get to tell someone today why you’re thankful for them

And maybe even do your Ebenezer ornament

And while we’re talking about ‘thankful’ activities, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorites.  I do this sometimes during my quiet time… or on the elliptical… or sitting in traffic… or when I need some help recalibrating my mind.  You may enjoy doing it as some personal reflection time or together today as a family!

It simply goes like this…

I write out the alphabet on a piece of paper:

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Or maybe you want to write them individually on turkey feathers or something!  Feel free to get creative if you’d like!

Then I try to think of a word that describes God that starts with each letter.  Like Almighty, Awesome, Abba, Big, Brilliant, Caring.  It’s a valuable way for me to really spend time praising God for who He is.

If you’re familiar with the whole ACTS prayer deal (or if you’re a CATS fan), sometimes it seems it’s easy to go through the Adoration part too quickly before getting to Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  Or sometimes the Adoration kind of melds into the Thanksgiving – where we thank God for ways He’s worked in our lives and things He’s done instead of simply focusing on adjectives about who He is.  Both are valuable for sure!  But I sometimes find the Adoration part gets a little shortchanged or rote, where I always praise Him for the same few attributes.  This little game / brainstorm / time to think on the Lord helps me reflect more fully on Him and His glory and praise Him for His many and varied attributes.

It can be fun to do with others, too!  It’s insightful for me to see some people’s words focus more on attributes like Peaceful and Kind … and other people on attributes like Powerful and King of Kings.  All are true and wonderful, yet it can be a neat glimpse into a person’s personality which attributes of the Lord come to mind most readily (and possibly relevantly) for them!

No matter whether you do it alone, together, or in the car on the way home from your Thanksgiving gathering today, I hope you carve out some valuable time for your ABCs!  It’s a great way to think about things that are praiseworthy – to give the Lord a round of applause.  Or better, a standing ovation!

“It’s what He’s waiting for.  It’s what you’re waiting for too.  Your whole being waits to erupt into thunderous and unending praise.  You won’t be happy until you do…You won’t be happy until you forget your problems long enough to look up to heaven and be stunned into heartfelt thanks for a life overflowing with goodness.”  ~ Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul

The Trick with Feelings

Julie sent her friend an e-mail. It simply said,

“You don’t care about me.”

Her friend Heather’s heart sank.  Of course Heather cared about her!  She could think of a lot of ways she has cared for her.  She responded that she was sorry Julie felt that way, but could she please clarify what made her feel that way because she actually cared a lot about her.Julie responded,

“That’s just how I feel.”

Oh – it’s a tough day for Julie and Heather’s relationship!  What is going on?

There can be value in ‘sharing our feelings.’  It can help build intimacy in a relationship – if done healthfully, that is!  It can also cause great damage and destruction if done unhealthily.  Feelings are tricky.  They are great indicators… but poor foundations.  They are valuable in drawing our attention to something that is often important… but they are poor sources of truth.

Anyone can become angry—that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy.    ~ Aristotle

Feelings can be valuable to hone in on.  They could be a prompting from the Holy Spirit… or an indication that our rights have been violated… or a conviction that we have sinned… or an awareness that we have been sinned against…or simply the devil playing tricks.  At the very root of it all, feelings distill down to essentially three sources:

1.  God – The Holy Spirit may be prompting us, or our feeling may truly be a result of a pure spirit.

2.  Satan – Oh he’s crafty!  He figures out our buttons and knows how to orchestrate things so they get pushed.

3.  Sin – Our ‘feeling’ may entirely be our sin nature: our ignoble perception of a sinless – or lovingly motivated! – action.

With such hugely impactful sources of our feelings – and since they can send us and our relationships in oppositely helpful directions, how do we determine what to do with them?

“Your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.”

Sometimes we blame others for our feelings… but in reality, our feelings may be caused by our own sinful nature.  They may simply be something *we* need to own and confess.  Before we go spreading it around the kingdom, it is valuable to first determine if we are spreading destruction and sin… or constructive, kingdom-building feedback.

Since excellence is associated with God and His glory, and since it refers to preeminent and best in its class, a feeling is only excellent if it is of the Lord.  If it involves our sin or Satan, it obviously can’t be excellent.  And since ‘excellent’ is a summary of the other characteristics in Philippians 4:8, let’s drill down on what it’s summarizing:

  • Is the feeling true?  Actually factually true?  No, it’s a perception.  So let’s start there – what *is* true?  What is actually, factually true that may be contributing to my feeling?   Did Heather do an actual, factual action?  Does it even have to do with Heather, or am I just in the dumps?
  • Is it noble?  If Heather did do an actual, factual action, what could be a more noble reason she could have done it?
  • Is it right?  Is this a personal preference thing, or does it pertain to sin?
  • Is it pure? Am I sure my heart is pure before the Lord, and this feeling isn’t a result of my junk?
  • Is it lovely?  Will sharing this with her promote brotherly love?
  • Is it admirable?  Or is it complainy and unfavorable?

If it’s not excellent, it’s not of the Lord.

Julie and Heather’s story demonstrates an important aspect of excellence:

It never means cloistered virtue or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life.

Excellence is impactful.  Julie’s feelings certainly got demonstrated in life!  Her feelings and thoughts have played out in the kingdom and impacted at least one other…as well as herself.  This can be hurtful, damaging, and even verbally abusive to Heather.

But it is also hurtful to Julie. Second Peter 1:4 tells us the first thing we are to add to our faith is excellence:

Peter uses it as a quality of God and thus as the first quality that we are to add to our faith (2 Pe 1:3, 5). This means that as a new Christian, one of the first things you must do is to stop any behavior that is not in line with God’s moral virtues as revealed in Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s list of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20, 21-see notes Gal 5:19; 20; 21). To continue doing such things will hinder your growth in godliness. We must focus our minds on moral virtue.

If we continue in feelings not of the Lord, it will hinder our growth in godliness.  Yikes!  Let’s rid of that.

Instead,

A believer demonstrates moral excellence or virtue by living the way he now has the potential to live (possessing everything necessary for life and godliness, His precious and magnificent promises, partaker of His divine nature).

Thinking things that are excellent is truly fulfilling our purpose as it enables us to live the way we now have the potential to live as believers.  It enables us to grow towards godliness.  And it enables us to truly reflect the One who is Most Excellent!

Up next… I’ll share with you my own ‘Julie’ moment and how the Lord guided me through.

Best in Class

{some background today… with some great, practical application on Thursday}

What is one of the absolute best ways to get upstream of conflict?  Thinking things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  So much conflict flows from our own thoughts… that we then try to pin on others.  Uggh.  But if we first be sure to align our thoughts to Christ’s, relationships flow much more smoothly!

We’re rounding the bend on unpacking Philippians 4:8.  Up next?  Excellent.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Now note the format changes a smidge when we approach ‘excellent.’  Introduced by εἴ τις – ‘if anything’ or ‘if there be any’:

A comprehensive exhortation follows, covering all possible virtues.

Excellent and praiseworthy, then, sum up all we are to think.  They cover all possible virtues.  It’s like

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  ~ Romans 13:9

You’re likely well familiar with “Love your neighbor as yourself” – the second greatest commandment.  The phrase ‘whatever other commandment there may be’ contains that same εἴ τις, so the comprehensive exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself” includes the commandments mentioned before, sums them up, and is overarching.

‘Excellent’ and ‘praiseworthy’ will do the same in Philippians 4:8. If you can’t remember all the adjectives before, just remember these!  They are the comprehensive exhortation of the verse.  They cover all possible virtues and sum up the ones mentioned.

So what do they mean?

Let’s start with excellent.  We could ask Bill and Ted : )

But we’ll go with Peter!  He’s the only other one who uses it in the NT.  Paul uses it only here in Philippians 4:8, then Peter uses it three times:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.   ~ 1 Peter 2:9

We are supposed to show forth the excellencies of God – who called us out of darkness into marvelous light! We, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation!

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  ~ 2 Peter 1:3

I love that.  In the *knowledge* of God and Jesus, grace and peace can be multiplied.  For those of us with a sacred pathway of intellect, this is music  to our ears and lovely worship!  And I love that His divine power grants us everything – everything! – pertaining to life and godliness.  I could just rumble that around over and over all day long.  How amazing is that!  All this through true knowledge of Him! This kind of strikes a chord – Paul tells us to think things that are true, and there is a reason for it.  Truth leads to amazing places!  Yet again, in such a glorious verse, there is our word ‘excellence’ – again associated with God and His glory.

And our last one…

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge…  ~  2 Peter 1:5

So Peter uses it twice to refers to God’s glorious excellence, and here he challenges believers to add it to their faith.  Why?

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble…  ~  2 Peter 1:8-10

I just think that’s such a crazy amazing promise.  If we add excellence to our faith, we will not be useless or unfruitful.  How amazing is that?  And as long as we practice these things, we will never stumble.  Um… sign me up!

“Peter uses it as a quality of God and thus as the first quality that we are to add to our faith (2 Pe 1:3, 5). This means that as a new Christian, one of the first things you must do is to stop any behavior that is not in line with God’s moral virtues as revealed in Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s list of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20, 21-see notes Gal 5:19; 20; 21). To continue doing such things will hinder your growth in godliness. We must focus our minds on moral virtue.”

So here we are, with amazing reasons to desire thinking things that are excellent.  Now all we have to do is think things that are like God’s glory.  Yikes?

Let’s break it down a little.  Excellent, or ἀρετὴ, refers to ‘virtue’ or moral excellence.

In class. it has no special moral significance, but denotes excellence of any kind—bravery, rank, excellence of land or of animals.

So we’re not necessarily talking about being God here!  God is of course excellent in his class – or any class for that matter!  Thinking things that are excellent “refers to any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military).”  It came to mean “quality of life which made someone or something stand out as excellent.”

It has a couple of nuances to it that we’ll explore in some fun upcoming posts.  But for today, I must say I am always struck as I look into these words.  The bar is high.  The calling is noble.  What we are to be thinking about is ‘excellent’!  Preeminent.  Excellent in its class.  Like God and His glory.  Is the thought that I’m thinking about another person excellent? Is the thought that I’m thinking about the other candidate excellent?  How would my analogies hold up?

afterlife : heaven :: political discourse : my description of the other party’s candidate

gods  : God :: water cooler talk : my thoughts on my coworker

It’s pretty challenging – and convicting!  (And I’m not just talking about that flashback to SATs! : ))  If God is the most excellent in his category (and He is!), then by parallel, is my talk about others the most excellent it can be in that category?

The drawbacks of not doing it?  Changing my role at the water cooler talk.  It can be kind of a bummer to change those dynamics.  But the advantages?  Oh yeah – remember all that good stuff?  Never stumble.  Growth in godliness.  Being useful.  Fruitful.

Lord, help us crave thinking about things that are excellent!

A big picture to ponder… with a practical example coming up!

the winning move!

{We’re honoring Freedom from Bullying week.  We’ve covered the Target, their Tactics, your all important support Team, the inTensity, and today… what I will Tolerate (or at least what I am trying to far!).}

It’s no fun being bullied.  Is that the understatement of the week or what? : )

Once you finally identify what is really going on, and once it is clear to you that your boundaries are being violated and/or that you are being verbally or emotionally abused, what do you do?

“The most important moment for the Target is when she begins to question the rightness of the bully’s behavior toward her.”

“A Target’s healing cannot begin until she realizes that her relationship with the bully is not normal.  Only after beginning to doubt the bully instead of herself can the Target take a turn toward safety and improved personal health.”

It feels so huge and unwieldy.  It can feel like you’re getting pounded.  And it sometimes feels like the only moves are pretend to not exist or come out swinging… probably wildly.  That’s totally understandable.

Yet in one of my personal bullying situations, I was actually crazily surprised.  One move, and the bullying stopped.  It totally stunned me.  Here’s what happened…

BOB AND WEAVE – not the move to do

So you’ve heard of a bob and weave, right?  It’s when someone swings at you and you kind of duck down to get out of the way of the punch.  Seems appropriate, right?  Now we’re talking metaphorically here about words, and I certainly don’t want you to get clobbered with bullying words!  But here are my concerns with the ‘bob and weave’…

I’ve shared about my old mantra: “Ignore them.  They’re just trying to get a rise out of you.”  That may work for a while for a few.  But in general, one of two outcomes is likely:

1. True bullies take silence as victory.  The ol ‘bob and weave’ will embolden them.

2. In some situations, people truly have no idea what they are doing is bullying.  They truly have no idea that the words they are saying and actions they are taking are abusive and hurtful.  And – crazy as this might seem! – if you respond with the ‘bob and weave,’ it can come across like the silent treatment to them.  They may truly not understand what a healthy conversation looks like and think they are trying to ‘express themselves,’ and they think YOU are the one being abusive by responding with the silent treatment.  Meanwhile, you’re simply trying to protect yourself by trying not to exist hoping they’ll quit bullying you!

I’ve seen this in failing marriages.  One spouse thinks he is simply trying to express himself.  The other feels attacked and is trying not to incite any more of the verbal abuse.  She simply tiptoes around trying to bob and weave around his comments.  But he actually thinks he’s trying, and HE feels abused with the silent treatment.  Ughh.

So the ‘bob and weave’ can actually unintentionally make the situation worse!

THE PUNCH – also not the move to do!

If we’re not going to respond with silence, how do we respond?  We’ve got to be careful here.  We don’t want to counter verbal abuse with verbal abuse.  And it can be so easy to do!!  Remember, verbal abuse is simply negatively characterizing a person by telling them what they are, what they think, or what their motives are:

“You’re a bully.”
“You’re so insecure.”
“You’re immature.”
“You’re sophomoric.”

While we may think we can see their heart and motives clearly, that is not our place – we’re not God!  So whatever the response, we’ve got to be careful that we do *not* respond with an unintentional cross punch… or uppercut… or whatever your favorite move is!  The goal is to stop the bullying – not to start a fight!  The goal is excellent defense.

THE BLOCK – the *winning* move!

So our goal is excellent defense.  Not starting a fight – and possibly sinning ourselves – in offense.  Not bob and weaving our way into unintentionally making things worse.  Simply excellent defense.  A block.  A courageous, humble, quick block.

It’s a defensive move.  A quick block from an oncoming attack.  I’m not fighting back – I don’t need the upper cut and jab and side kick and roundhouse and front kick and knee and back fist and elbow strike and whatever else!  I’m not trying to perfect a whole WWF routine.  I simply need a block.

“A simple truth: to stop a bully from turning you into a Target, ‘just’ coldly and unemotionally announce that the … conduct you are experiencing is unacceptable.”

It seems surprising, right?  The bully or abuser seems so strong and powerful and to have such a grip on your life.  But interestingly, it’s often any measure of resistance that stops them.

For me, one time it looked like this… Now this was with a fellow believer, so this language certainly won’t work with everyone.  They may think you sound a mite bit crazy!  But the strategy holds.  And it works.

It seemed like every week there was this believer who had an issue with me.  On and on and on.  I couldn’t seem to make them happy.  It was a lot of general statements about how I was this or that.  I sought to understand (my downfall, by the way), but the statements weren’t met with specifics or actionable change.  Simply negative generalizations about their misinterpretations of my actions and character.  Because this person was so spiritually respected by others, for a while I just thought they saw things in me I didn’t see.  Then I thought they just were having trouble identifying their concern, and I should be patient as they wrestled through it.  Then I started to think this person simply just wasn’t pleasable, so I did what worked for me in the past – I kind of ignored the rants and focused on the rest.  But they just kept coming.  I couldn’t believe the way this person could twist a godly situation to make me into whatever sin they were alleging.

Now this was all before I understood verbal abuse and bullying, but I did know this:  A very wise woman mentored me when I first moved to DC.  One of the things she taught me was a principle that the Lord convicts us specifically, but Satan often uses generalities.  “You’re a bad person” is more of a Satan message.  It’s general, condemning, and defeating with no U-turn of repentance.  “You could have responded better in this particular situation, and I want you to go apologize” is more of a God message.  It’s specific, convicting but growing, and offers a clear U-turn of how to turn from one path onto a new one.  (This could totally be a much longer discussion, but hopefully that little summary works for now for the purposes of this story!)

So I was thinking one day about the things this person was saying to me, and I realized that I listened to them because of who this person was.  But then it dawned on me… if the things they were saying were simply thoughts in my mind, I would have taken them captive and tossed them out.   I would tell Satan to get out of my head (I know, another can of worms – roll with me here!) and confess my sinful thoughts.  I would stop thinking those things, repent, and start filling my mind with the things of Christ.

So what in world was I doing listening to this person say all these things???

I shared with this person one day my new understanding.  And I simply added, “Given my understanding, the next time you start sharing things with me that sound more like Satan, I am going to excuse myself.

That was all.

Seriously.

That was all.

It had been a year – or maybe a year and a half – of abusive statements.  I have had many conversations with this person since, and I have never had to excuse myself.  I will.  You better believe I will!  But not once since then have they tried.  The block works.

Now I understand not every situation will be with a fellow believer – and in not every situation can you really start talking about Satan and appear sane! : )  Let’s brainstorm what would work for you.

A quick point of clarification:  Saying something like, “I’m sorry.  I can’t talk to you right now,” isn’t really a block.  To me, it’s more of a ‘bob and weave.’  It doesn’t clarify that their behavior is wrong – there are a lot of reasons you could be excusing yourself, and for the person who really thinks they are trying to have a conversation, it can feel confusingly detached and disregarding.

Maybe something like (again, in the church!), “The Lord asks me to think on things that are true and noble, and the things you’re saying are making it difficult for me to do that, so I choose not to fill my head with them.  I am going to excuse myself.”  Note how this stays focused on me.  It doesn’t say, “You are being ignoble.” The block is careful not to jab – it simply blocks:  this is my space, this is who I am, and this is what I choose for me.

WHY IT WORKS

The Trainer – not my role!

So this was my downfall – I’m a total Learner, so I always wondered, “How do I teach them that this is wrong?”  But it took several failed and exceptionally hurtful attempts to *finally* learn (I didn’t say I was a quick learner : )) that not everyone is a learner!  Especially when they think I am in the wrong, I am not at all positioned to teach them.

Boundaries are all about protecting yourself – not changing the other.  The block works to protect me.  My immediate goal is to stop the bullying being done to me.  A defensive move to protect myself.  If you’re an idealist like me, I totally get that your heart may be to stop all bullying forever and help teach this person never to do it again to anyone. I love that.  But I learned this the hard way – it’s best to go one step at a time.  If they are interested in changing, that door may open.  But when you’re being bullied or abused and they are so convinced that you are weak or wrong or whatever, you are in no position to train or teach them.  They will not accept it.  Start with the block.  It may earn you some respect, and you may one day get to help them.  But that’s a door for the Lord to open.

My role is simply to shine light.
Not dispel the darkness.
Not win the battle.
But simply shine light.

The Confronter – not if I want to stay sane!

Oh goodness.  Another lesson I learned the really hard way.

A fool delights in airing his opinion, but a wise man seeks understanding.  ~ Proverbs 18:2 (with context)

If someone comes to you airing their opinion about you without seeking to understand, God calls them a fool.  Reason with and seek to understand wise men.  But not people or behaviors God calls foolish.  He doesn’t give them an ounce of credibility.  And oh boy! if you’re like me and try to treat a fool like a wise man, uggh.  God calls them a fool.  God is all wise.  Listen to him!

The Bully at Work echoes,

“The target’s belief that the bully is behaving logically is one of the main sources of confusion.”

So trying to confront a bully with a rational conversation?  Not going to go well.

“When the bully is confronted about unacceptable behavior, he or she may say it never happened.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a bully say, “That never happened.”  Things written in an e-mail.  Things that were clearly said.  Things that certainly did happen.  But I’ve heard it so many times, I sometimes question my sanity.  Seriously.  I’ve wondered if I should check myself into an institution!  Yet learning this is a common tactic of bullies helps some.  And my husband learned recently that when someone rages, they often don’t remember what they said and sometimes what they did.  I have not found confronting a bully to be a productive move… and it certainly doesn’t help my sanity!

Oh – I can’t tell you how painfully I’ve learned this the hard way!  A wise man seeks understanding, yes.  But a wise man seeking to understand a fool is not a wise man!!

WRAPPING IT UP

So I hope you’ll try a block!  You don’t need a whole arsenal of weapons – simply a block.  Unfortunately, what often stops workplace bullying?

 “Forty percent of Targets quit their jobs, which represents the preventable loss of 21.6 million workers…”

That’s *crazy.*  In the land of the free and home of the brave.

I pray the Lord gives you the bravery and words for your block… so that you can be free! : )

“Remember, God does not want angry people to control you. He wants to be your master, and does not want to share you with anyone.  He is on your side.”  ~ Boundaries

Thanks for journeying with me this week!

{ Bullying in the Workplace next steps }

If the bullying you’re experiencing is in your workplace, the book The Bully at Work goes into much more detail about possible next steps.  I’m certainly not equipped to go into all the legal stuff, but if you’re interested in your options, totally consult their book or their webpage. They offer some helpful insight on working with Human Resources, what to do about Workers Comp, how to best file claims, and the legal possibilities for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED).

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Mind the Gap

I was talking to a friend of mine who does websites for churches.  I shared the concept of my blog, and he suggested a talk by Andy Stanley.  It’s only fitting that it’s all about apps! : )

The talk is #5  in the Life Apps series.  It’s all about trust.

Andy’s take on this whole conflict thing seems to align pretty swimmingly with our take here at {double hockey sticks}.  I just love his angle on it!  I highly recommend listening to the talk - or even better, watching it!  He uses a simple illustration that is fantastic.  Here’s what I just love…

He offers a fairly simple – yet oddly profound – breakdown:

In every relationship, there are expectations…And then there is what we actually experience.

Here is what you said you would do…

Here is what happened…

Now here is the interesting part.  What happens when there is a gap?  What happens when what we expect and what actually happens are different?

When there is a gap, we choose what goes in the gap.

*We* are in charge of that.  *They* don’t control what goes in the gap.  *We* do.

Why?

Andy launches from some of the beloved wedding verses about loving one another.  His take:

Love gives the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Love looks for the most generous explanation for the other person’s behavior.

Here at {double hockey sticks}, we advocate it’s because it is our responsibility as believers to take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.  It is our responsibility to think things that are true and noble.  So we start with what is true – actually, factually true.  We start with what factually they said they would do… and what *factually* happened.  Factually what is true.  Not our opinion or our interpretation of their motives or our false attribution error of what happened.  The actual, factual, unopinionated version of what happened.

Then what do we do with the gap?

It is within your power to choose what goes in the gap.

We think things that are noble.  We assume there is a noble explanation.  We choose to believe the best.

We are in charge of what goes in that gap.

No matter how bad it is, no matter how wide the gap is, and no matter how consistently there is a gap, you. choose. what. goes. in. the. gap.

So we start with what is true of our expectations and experience (actually, factually true!), then we believe the best by thinking things that are noble to fill in any gaps.

This is, by the way, a great model for more than our thought life – it is a great model for ‘confrontation’ as well.  I put it in quotes, because it is my experience that most ‘confrontation’ doesn’t have to be ‘confrontational.’

Can I tell you the sweetest story from my husband’s childhood to demonstrate?

So my husband is out playing with some friends.  His mom calls him in for dinner.  What is a good kid to do? Well, obey their mom and come in for dinner.

But Dave doesn’t come in.  He continues hanging out with his friends.

Hmmmm…

You see the paradigm playing out here?

  • EXPECTATION: son comes in when mom calls him for dinner
  • EXPERIENCE: son continued talking to his friends

Both very factual, right?

Now what goes in the gap?

Possibilities of course include disobedience.  But my husband is a saint.  I’m serious : )  So my mother-in-law chose to believe the best.  She chose to assume positive intent.  She chose to think things that were noble.

And can I tell you – boy, was she right?

So Dave comes in, and for the sake of the story, let’s say she knows the future and follows Andy’s outline. : )  So she ‘confronts’ (not really, more ‘asks lovingly’)…

MOM: Dave, when I call you to come in for dinner, I expect you to come in.  But this time you didn’t.  Can you tell me about what happened?

And Dave responds, (are you ready for this?)

SON: I was in the middle of sharing the gospel with them.

{insert a bit of stun}  Yes, I told you the man is a saint : )

Sometimes there is a pretty decent explanation for why there is a gap between expectations and experience.  And may I be so bold as to say that we keep from sinning when we think nobly about what should go in that gap.

So let’s mind the gap.  Nobly! : )

{ There are more goodies in the talk.  I don’t want to spill *all* of them! : ) }

Grumble up!

So the first part of James 5:9 tells us not to complain or grumble against one another.  And we’ve been camped out on thinking things that are admirable.  So should we complain or grumble at all?

The verb – στενάζω, translated complain or grumble – is used six times in the New Testament. Four times it is used towards heaven or longing for heaven and is ok:

1.     Mark 7:34 – Jesus does it while looking towards heaven as part of healing a man.  Since Jesus does it, the verb in and of itself isn’t sinful.

2.     Romans 8:23 – We groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies.

3.     2 Corinthians 5:2 – We similarly groan longing to be in heaven.

4.     2 Corinthians 5:4 – We groan and are burdened while on earth because we long for heaven.

Twice it is used towards man and is *not* profitable:

5.     Hebrews 13:17 – We obey our leaders so that they lead with joy and not groaning, because the groaning towards us would be of no benefit to us.

6.     Here in James 5:9 – the only time it’s used as a command – as something we are not supposed to do towards one another.

It seems that the intensity with which we long or groan should be directed towards heaven… not towards man.  So if you want to grumble – if you’re really in a grumbling sort of mood – grumble not towards one another, but grumble and groan instead for the things of heaven. 

This is so cool.  I just love this shift!  Our struggles with fellow believers can actually remind us of our longing for heaven.  They may actually cause us to groan for the harmony of heaven.

So instead of grumbling at, we should grumble up. : )  We can groan and long for our eternal dwelling place of peace.  What a lovely place that will be!  And in that, we can rejoice.