the value of feelings

I was lying in bed crying.  My husband was sound asleep next to me.  And all I could think about was how unloved I felt.

My pillow was getting wet from my tears… and that just added to my frustration.  Not only do I feel unloved, but now I am sleeping on a slimy pillow!  Gross.

As I lay there glumly, the Lord was gracious to nudge me.  Yes, I’m feeling unloved… but does that mean that my husband doesn’t love me?

My feeling is important – feeling unloved is a big deal.  Yet I’ve got to remember that it’s a feeling – a trigger that something is wrong.  It is not a foundation of truth.  It is a warning light.  It is not always accurate, but it is such an important indicator.  Its value lies in its ability to draw my attention to something that needs to be looked in to.

So I asked the Lord to look under the hood : )

Since feelings can be caused by my sin… or by Satan… or they can be prompting from the Lord, where was all this feeling of being unloved from?

Since my goal is the last option – that my feeling be of the Lord, I want to be sure to get any uckiness out of me that fits the first two.  For me, when I feel a bit discombobulated, I find it helpful to distill my thoughts and feelings by running them through God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8 is especially powerful for me:

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.

In all honesty, I rarely make it past the first two.  And that’s exactly what happened that night…

The Lord brought to mind a bunch of things that were true.  My love language – by a landslide! – is physical touch.  My absolute favorite time of day is climbing into bed with my husband and cuddling.  That’s how I fell asleep every night for years – cuddling with my amazing husband.  I loved it.  It was the happiest, best place on earth for me.  We teased that we have a king sized bed but could sleep on a twin…

…or I did, anyway!

After years of falling asleep this way, my husband finally told me that he has trouble sleeping every night because of back pain.  Before I knew him, he had two major back surgeries.  He permanently has a huge metal plate and six metal bolts in his back.  And they’re not very comfy.  Especially with your wife curled up next to you causing the mattress to lean at an angle… or with your wife’s leg or arm on top of you pressing down on all that metal.  He asked if we could sleep on separate sides of the bed so he wouldn’t be in as much pain and could sleep better.  Of course!  Well, that was my rational answer, anyway.  But when implementation time came, my feelings took over.

So that’s why I was laying in bed crying.  I felt so unloved.  And in that intense emotion, as much as I wanted to turn it into, “Therefore, my husband doesn’t love me,” the Lord was gracious to stop me.  What was true?  Cuddling makes me feel loved.  I was in a situation where I normally was cuddling and thus normally felt loved, but that was different tonight.  What was different was whether or not we were cuddling – not whether or not I was loved!  What is noble?  Um, my crazy husband lay in pain every night for years letting me cuddle with him!  That’s insanely loving of him.  How much more noble of a man could I ask for?!

And, like most times of conviction, that’s about as far through the {dhs} sifter as I made it.  So I lay in bed blown away by how much my husband loves me – how much he has sacrificed for me every night for years.  Yet I also acknowledged that cuddling is important to me.  So the next day, I asked since we weren’t cuddling falling asleep anymore if there was some other time we could.

That conversation went over much better than “You don’t love me” would have!

Because it was of the Lord.  It was realigned with His desires – that we think things that are true and noble.  That feelings are a trigger that something is wrong… but not a foundation of truth.  I am so grateful for the damage and destruction in relationships that is averted when we align our hearts and minds with the Lord’s before acting on our feelings.  And I am grateful for the peace, clarity – and love! – the Lord brought to me that night.

Just because I feel unloved doesn’t mean my husband doesn’t love me.

He does.  Madly.  Sacrificially.  And for that, I am blessed.

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! : ) }

Who actually *likes* the crust?

When my husband and I first got married, I made him 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day.  Yes – four!  The boy loves his pb&j!  Jif Creamy with my mom’s recipe for homemade strawberry jam on wheat bread that doesn’t taste wheat-y.  That is seriously his dream meal.

Our friends know how much he loves his pb&j – so much so that one of my bridesmaids got us the cutest card when we got married.  We love it and made it into a magnet for our fridge : )

So with his downing 8 slices of bread a day, we went through our bread pretty quickly!  And trying to make him the best possible meals (it’s pb&j – there is only so much I can do to make it quality!), I always gave him the inside slices of bread.  I would eat the crust pieces (most people call them the ‘heels’ of the bread – I just think that’s kind of gross to call your food by a name that is part of your foot!).

Now the crust pieces aren’t my favorite.  In fact, I think they are quite un-tasty (maybe they do deserve to be called the heel!).  So I’d turn the crust part towards the inside of my sandwich to try to hide the flavor and texture of it.  It only works so well.  But we were on a crazy tight budget, and I wanted my husband to thoroughly enjoy his lunch, and, well, I just kept trying to convince myself that those crust pieces weren’t all that un-tasty.

After a couple of months of my making him the ‘best’ pb&j sandwiches : ) and ‘sacrificing’ by eating the crusts, Dave asked me a weird question: “What happens to the end pieces?”

I let him know that I turned them inside out on my sandwiches.  Then he ever so politely asked, “Would it be ok if I got the crust pieces on occasion?”

Huh?  He wanted them?  The thought never occurred to me that some people actually *like* the crust!!   “You actually *want* those pieces?”

“Of course!  They’re the best part!”

Huh?

Well, to each his own.  Yes, I am more than happy to divvy out the crust pieces to him!  Works out pretty nicely for me, too. : )

So now that you know all about the fine dining at our house : ), what’s my point?

My point is his approach.  Dave stuck with what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  He didn’t assume things about me that weren’t true.  He didn’t accuse me of motives that weren’t in my heart.  That can so easily be done!  From his perspective, crusts are yummy, and if he allows his mind to go beyond what’s true, noble, pure, and praiseworthy, he could easily have ended up accusing me of being selfish and self-centered for hogging all the crust pieces.  He could have easily fabricated motives that weren’t really in my heart and falsely accused me.  And that could have been very hurtful—especially since from my perspective, I’d eaten ucky bread for months so he could have the good stuff.  He could have said I should have known and criticized me for not being a mind reader.  He could have speculated about sin and conjured up a whole scheme about how I always do this or that.  He could have started watching for other places where he also thinks I’m acting out of selfish motives.  He could have made a whole mountain out of the issue and put together a laundry-list of other speculated sins.  He could have fixed his eyes on sin-spotting and his mind on speculations of sin, and stirred up dissension and discord over heels!

But he didn’t.  Nope.  He kept this issue as this issue.  He identified the facts and stopped there.  He stayed at what was true – which was that he noticed the crust pieces were MIA.  And he stopped.  He took captive his thoughts and stopped there and asked a question.  He had no anger or hypotheses about sin because he kept his mind focused on what was noble and admirable.  And so he simply asked a curious, fact-finding question.

And so a small, sin-neutral issue was handled as a small, sin-neutral issue… simply by living out this verse.  Dave gets his heels, I get inside pieces, and God gets glory!

And they lived happily ever after. : )

Gotta love when a conflict dissipates!

So we’ve covered valid and sound:

valid   =  logical
sound =  logical + true

What in the world does that have to do with Mark and Larry?

I’m so glad you asked!

Larry’s valid perception looks something like this:

Mark did not share in the group game that he wanted to be a chef.
Not sharing in the group game that he wants to be a chef is disrespectful.
Therefore, Mark was disrespectful.

So his argument is valid.  But is it sound?  Is each statement true?

Mark did not share in the group game that he wanted to be a chef.

It is indeed true that Mark did not share with the group that he wanted to be a chef.

Not sharing in the group game that he wants to be a chef is disrespectful.

While being disrespectful is one possible reason, there are a myriad of possible reasons that Mark did not share his desire to be a chef.  In this instance, it is because he does not want to be a chef!  This statement is not true.

Therefore, the conclusion,

Therefore, Mark was disrespectful.

is valid (logical), but it is not sound (truthful and logical).

So just because Larry has a valid thought doesn’t make it a sound or true thought.  While Larry’s initial statement, “But my perception is valid,” is accurate, his perception is not sound.  It is not truthful.  So certainly perceptions can be valid, but why would we kick around a bunch of logical but potentially untrue thoughts?  There are much better things to do than that! : )  Relationships are more important than that, and people are more valuable than that.

Now for the second part of Larry’s statement: “Mark is responsible for giving the perception that he disrespected my authority.”  Is he?

Larry is thinking something that is not true about his brother in Christ.  His thoughts are not consistent with what God desires us to think – things that are true (Philippians 4:8).  If Larry first worries about righting himself before the Lord, then he would first change his thoughts to what God desires them to be — ones that are true.  If Larry takes captive his thoughts and makes them obedient to Christ, then… well… then there is no problem. If Larry is thinking things that are true, there is no conflict.  Yeah!

Whew!  How easy it can be to dissipate that conflict… if only we keep our thoughts focused on things that are true.  People are worth that honor.  Relationships are worth that trust.  And Christ’s kingdom is worth that peace.

But my perception is valid

After An Untrue Mess and Stop at the Trigger, Larry still isn’t convinced.

“But my perception is valid,” Larry quips.  “Mark is responsible for giving the perception that he disrespected my authority.”

Is he?

The concept that “my perception is valid” didn’t sit well with me. Am I unsettled about it because I don’t want to accept it, or am I unsettled about it because it shouldn’t be accepted?

I did a little digging, and I learned a bit about things that are ‘valid.’

It may be just a phrase, but my journey led to some things that have been really helpful and clarifying for me.  I hope they are for you as well!

Now this may sound a smidge nit-picky or splitting hairs at the beginning, but it turns out to be a valuable distinction.  I really think this is helpful stuff, so I hope you’ll stay with me!

So… just a taste of intro philosophy or logic (I promise our brains won’t hurt for long!)… to help us understand ‘valid’:

For an argument to be valid, the statements in it do not need to be true. Validity is concerned only with logical structure.

Hang with me here!  It’s helpful – I promise. It’s worth getting.

Ok, so here’s an example of a valid argument…

All toasters are items made of gold.
All items made of gold are time-travel devices.
Therefore, all toasters are time-travel devices.

This is a valid argument.  The logic holds up… even though the statements themselves are not true.  (I promise this is ultimately helpful!)

But it is not sound.  (Stay with me – we’re almost there! : ))

We call an argument “sound” if the argument is valid AND all the statements are true.

Here is an example of a sound argument…

No felons are eligible voters.
Some professional athletes are felons.
Therefore, some professional athletes are not eligible voters.

Here the statements are actually true.  The argument is both logical and true, so it is sound.

You’re still with me, right?

So in a valid argument, the statements are logical but not true.  In a sound argument, the statements are both logical and true.

All sound arguments are valid, but not all valid arguments are sound.

There are some pretty big implications to this, but maybe that’s enough for one day?  We’ve covered valid and uncovered a distinction between valid (logical) and sound (truthful and logical).  So what’s the difference between the two?  Something God cares a lot about!  Truth. That’s an important bulls eye to hit!

When a diamond isn’t a girl’s best friend!

I was talking with one of my friends about some of the trigger malfunctions of perceptions, and he responded with this illustration.  I just love it!

He said that it sounds like the formation of a diamond.  Someone speculate s about a person’s motive. Then they think they see other actions with the same motive.  Then they think they see additional actions and still more actions with that same motive.  And they keep piling on to their theory.  And the pile grows heavier and heavier.  And the time grows longer and longer. So the pressure grows greater and greater. And the speculated ‘motive’ seems to become more and more solidified.  And with all the things piled on and the pressure that creates and the time passing, it seems like something hard is forming.  It becomes so solid that it seems to be true.  It seems that out of a little bit of carbon, a diamond seems to be forming.  And it seems to be so hard under all the things piled on and time passed and pressure that has built, that it seems to be rock solid.

And so we end up confronting people on these things that seem rock solid.

Think about how often this has occurred in the world!  How often has a speculation become seemingly rock solid?  Someone speculated that the earth was flat, and for years, that is what was taught and believed as fact.  Not too long ago, people speculated that those of certain skin colors were more or less superior to other people. And they thought they saw actions that supported the theories, so the theories seemed to become more and more rock solid until they became to be believed as truths. And for years, that is what was taught and believed as fact.

But it was not true of God’s creations.

The seeming rock solid truth was really a bunch of misperceptions and untrue thoughts piled and piled and hardened to form a seeming truth.

Though they seemed rock solid, the lattice of ‘facts’ holding the ‘truth’ together was not.  Like a diamond, they seem hard but their bonds were actually somewhat weak.

This is kind of fascinating – diamonds are one of the hardest things we know of.  Graphite, which is made up of the same stuff that diamonds are (carbon), is softer than diamonds (think pencil lead).  Even though diamonds are harder, graphite holds up better under fire.  Weird, huh?  This is because diamonds’ carbon-to-carbon bonds are weaker than graphite’s carbon-to-carbon bonds, so oxygen can separate the carbon molecules of diamonds more easily than it can those of graphite.

This means that if your diamond rings were to burn on a lump of graphite, you would end up with a lump of gold from the ring sitting on the lump of graphite… but the diamond would be gone forever as a carbon+oxygen combo: carbon dioxide.

Fascinating.

Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry (he discovered that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen), put a diamond in jar of oxygen.  He focused a ray of sunlight on the diamond via a special (enormous) magnifying glass, and poof!  It became CO2 and disappeared.

Crazy, huh?  Crazy that a diamond, which seems so rock solid, can literally vaporize with some strong light.

So these perceptions that we may have of another person that seem rock solid… are they?  If some Sonlight {I couldn’t resist : )} is focused on them, will they remain as solid as they seem to be?  Or will their hardness dissipate under the Light?

Trigger Malfunction

So what makes stopping at the trigger so hard?

Remember that in a potential conflict situation, the trigger is whatever factual action caused the feeling (like surprise, hurt, concern, or frustration).

So why is it so hard to stop at the factual action and not believe that our perceptions or speculations for the action are accurate?

All kinds of reasons!  I’d love your thoughts here.

Some things that seem to make stopping at the trigger difficult include…

  • Length of relationship – If we’ve known the person for a long time, we can think that we see them accurately.  After all, we’ve been observing them for a while, right?
  • Past accuracy – We can sometimes believe we’ve been correct in the past in reading people, so we must also be correct here reading this person.
  • Counseling trends – If we’ve counseled a variety of people with similar situations, we can sometimes believe that the person in front of us fits right in to the trend… and we may overlook a unique aspect of their situation.
  • Gift of discernment – This is indeed a gift!  But we of course must remember that it is a gift given to a sinful, fallen human… so we must exercise it with humility, love, and caution!
  • Building over time – If we believe we see a motive in an action, then we believe we see that motive also in a following action, and then in another action… And it can build and build and build, until we believe we have a case with lots of (perhaps inaccurate) supporting evidence.

Those are a few that come to mind that make stopping at the trigger hard – they make it difficult to stop at the factual action and keep our mind focused on what is true! Instead, we can unfortunately jump to conclusions about motives and cause hurt and mess.

What are some other things that make stopping at the trigger difficult?  I’d love your thoughts here – not to justify our actions, but instead so we can be aware of the things that lead to our friendships being filled with false accusations and inaccurate perceptions of sin, so we can be on guard against them, so we can identify them quickly and divest them… so we can instead fill our friendships and Christ’s kingdom with honor!

Stop at the Trigger

In An Untrue Mess, Larry falsely accused Mark of disrespecting his authority, leaving hurt and disrespect in Mark and Larry’s relationship.

How could this have gone better?

What if Larry had chosen to follow God’s command to think things that are true?  What would he have thought?

What is true is that Larry thought Mark wanted to be a chef.  When Mark answered his question about what he wanted to do before he died, he didn’t give that answer.  What if Larry approached Mark and said, “Thanks for sharing the answers that you did.  I was intrigued that you didn’t share anything about wanting to be a chef.  Is that a desire of yours?”

Or even *more* true : ) … Larry knows that Mark is taking culinary classes, and he has heard Mark say he likes to cook with his girlfriend.  He is intrigued that none of Mark’s life goals involve these things.  So he asks Mark, “I know you’re taking culinary classes, and I believe you’ve mentioned that you like to cook with your girlfriend.  Do you have a desire to do anything further with that in your life?”

Oh how much different the conversation would go!  How different their relationship would look right now.  And how much more relational growth could take place… if only Larry had stopped at the trigger.

In this instance, the trigger is that Mark didn’t say what Larry thought he would say.  Instead of speculating and hypothesizing sins (like Mark is disrespectful and not participatory) and turning it into a big ol’ mess, what if Larry stopped at the trigger: “Hmmm… Mark didn’t say what I thought he would say.  I should ask him about that.”

So what exactly is a ‘trigger’?  How is this for a definition: The trigger is whatever factual action caused the feeling (like surprise, hurt, concern, or frustration).  So we’d back up to the factual action and stop there.  That means we drop all the perceptions and speculations we’ve attached to the action, and we focus on what is actually true.

This trigger concept can be so lovely!  Backing up to the trigger keeps our minds focused on thinking things that are true.  It keeps our hearts filled with things that are pure.  It keeps our friendships from being filled with false accusations and inaccurate perceptions of sin and instead fills them with honor.  And it keeps Christ’s kingdom reflective of Him!

An Untrue Mess

So I’m a little obsessed with this ‘true’ concept.  Seriously.  I believe is has the potential to mitigate, obliterate, and/or assuage so many potential conflict situations.  It’s like its divine or something. : )  It’s good stuff.

Let’s explore another situation.

So Mark is a member of a small group. Larry is the leader. Larry asks all the guys in the group to think of some things they’d like to do before they die and share it with the group.  Mark jumps right in and kicks off the discussion.  Then when others answer, he asks follow-up questions – he’s intrigued by what everyone is saying.  And so all the guys go around and share.

Larry asks Mark to stay after small group that night. Uh-oh, he thinks.  I may have dominated too much.  I was definitely commenting a lot and asking about what people shared.  It was really an interesting discussion.  I wonder if Larry thinks I was too dominant?

Larry starts, “Mark, I’m really frustrated with you.  You don’t have respect for my authority.  You were dismissive of my game and not participatory.”

Huh?

Mark is stunned.  He shares with Larry his perspective.

Larry is convinced his perspective on Mark is right.  Mark is so confused how Larry arrived at these conclusions and why Larry is so convinced that he knows what is going on in Mark’s heart and mind.  Isn’t God the only one who knows the heart?  Larry is frustrated that Mark isn’t owning these sins that he thinks he sees in Mark.  Mark feels disrespected that Larry would think those things about him.  The two go round and round.

Mark probes and probes and probes.  How in the world did Larry come to the conclusion that Mark was not participatory and dismissive when Mark felt like he might be over-participatory and dominating?  He kept asking Larry to see if he could figure out the disconnect.

Finally, Larry blurted, “You didn’t share with the group that you want to be a chef one day.”

Huh?

Mark was totally confused.

“But I don’t want to be a chef one day.”

Larry said, “Sure you do. You’re taking culinary classes.  You bring new entrées for us to try.  You like to cook with your girlfriend.  You clearly want to be a chef and were dismissive of my game because you didn’t share what you truly want to do before you die.”

Mark was baffled.  What more could he say besides he didn’t disrespect his leader, he wasn’t dismissive of the game, and he didn’t want to be a chef.  If he doesn’t say what Larry thinks he should say, why does Larry immediately assume it is because Mark doesn’t respect his leader?  Why does Larry assume sinful motives on Mark’s part?

Mark was hurt, disappointed and felt disrespected.  Perhaps there is another – non-accusatory – reason that Mark didn’t give the answer Larry thought he would give.  Maybe it’s as simple as that’s not something Mark wants to do before he dies.  But instead, one friend – the leader – is accusing the other of not respecting his authority, and the other is hurt, frustrated, and losing confidence in his friend and leader.

What hurt and frustration can result when we allow our minds to think something that isn’t true!  What a big ol’ mess!