God often uses our waiting on him as a crucible in which to refine our character in ways that nothing else can. He knows that waiting on him makes us stronger, not weaker. It’s a season of transformation—where he does a work on the inside of us. He changes us from the inside out for the better.
I think that besides our relationship with God, our relationships with other people and how we handle those relationships is a huge factor in how happy we are. Therefore it’s very important we learn who to have healthy relationships—and they’re really not that complicated once you learn the basics of what makes them work and what prevents them from working. Through the years I’ve read several books by Dr. Henry cloud. He has an amazing way of representing adjustments that are needed in relationships in order to make them work. Below you will find a great article by him on a common difficulty married people face. It’s wisdom that has the power to change your marriage.
By Dr. Henry Cloud
Laura was weary of Anthony’s chronic lateness in coming home from work. Because he owned his own business, he was often delayed. It seemed like such a little thing, but as time passed, Anthony’s tardiness became a big problem. Laura would arrange her day to have dinner and the kids ready on time, and she wanted Anthony to be home on time as well.
Reminding, nagging, and cajoling Anthony had been ineffective. Anthony would either defend himself by saying, “You don’t appreciate the work I have to do to put food on the table,” or he would simply deny the problem altogether by saying, “It doesn’t happen that often; you’re overreacting.” Laura ran out of strategies.
Finally, after thinking through the problem with some wise women friends, Laura came up with a two-point plan. One night, as the couple climbed into bed, she told Anthony, “Sweetheart, I want to apologize to you for my bad attitude about dinnertime.” Anthony almost fell out of bed. He was eager to hear her apology.
“I’ve been nagging you whenever you get home,” Laura continued. “No wonder you’re late. Who would want to put up with that?”
“You’re right. I really don’t look forward to your resentment,” Anthony responded. “And I’m sure it makes me avoid you. The other day, I was going to be ten minutes late. When I thought about facing your wrath, I figured I might as well make it thirty minutes, since I knew you’d be angry anyway. So, I ran few errands on the way home.”
Laura nodded. “I’m going to try to be less angry, and more caring and approachable, even when you’re late. I may not do it well, and I’ll need your help here, but I really don’t want to act like that. Also, it’s not just my attitude that I’ll be changing. My actions will be changing, too. I love you, and I want you to be with me and the kids for dinner. But, if you can’t get here on time, I will have your dinner put away in the fridge. You can reheat it yourself whenever you get in.”
Anthony didn’t like this last part. “Laura, you know I hate to make my own dinner! After a ten-hour day, I want to sit down to a prepared meal.”
“I know you do, and I want that for you, too. But it won’t happen until you can rearrange things to get here when the rest of us eat.”
The next few days Anthony ate a lot of microwaved dinners from plastic containers. Finally, he structured the end of his day to get home on time, and Laura’s important family time became a reality. When Laura asked Anthony why he had changed, he said, “I guess it was the point you made the other night. First, you were a lot nicer to me. I felt more like coming home. And second, I just hate reheating dinner.”
Laura solved a small but chronic marriage problem by making an important shift in her attitude. She stopped trying to change Anthony, and she started making changes in herself. Laura moved from seeing the problem as Anthony’s lateness to seeing it as her unhappiness with Anthony’s lateness. This opened the door to things she could control. When you cease to blame your spouse and own the problem as yours, you are then empowered to make changes to solve your problem.
To do this, Laura set a couple of limits on herself. First, she reined in her impulse to attack Anthony for his tardiness. This was not easy, as she was clearly right and he was clearly wrong. She would have been justified in confronting him at every infraction.
But, she placed a boundary on her anger, since it wasn’t solving the problem. Second, Laura set a limit on her enabling of Anthony. She realized that she was making it easier for him to be irresponsible, so she said no to her desire to protect him from his dreaded dinner reheating. These two changes made a difference for both partners.
You cannot make your spouse grow up, but you can make it easier for him to experience the love and limits he needs. When he faces the consequences of his immaturity, he stands a better chance of changing than if he faces nagging and hounding. Become truthful, not controlling.
Saying no is a learned skill for most of us. Driven by a desire to please others, or trying to avoid rejection and feelings of guilt, we say yes when we really want to say no. Here are some important tips to developing healthy boundaries and learning how to say no when we really want to say no.
1) Notice Your Past Nos. There have been times I’ve had to say no and it was very difficult. But honestly, what I thought was going to be the consequence of my no didn’t happen. Yes, I might have been a little uncomfortable, but nothing near what I thought would happen happened. As I’m writing this, and remembering so many situations in my life, hardly ever did I suffer the repercussions I that thought I would. Now, of course, it’s hard to forget the times when I said no and the other person got really upset and angry with me. But the truth is, most of the time, if we will say no, there won’t really be any bad consequences. The whole world won’t fall apart and neither will your relationship. I know memories can scar us and make us hesitant to try again, but keep those few times people blew up at you, stormed away, or never spoke to you again in a realistic perspective to all the times and situations where nothing happened—other than you got to enjoy the freedom of saying no because you meant no and you got to enjoy the result of your no.
And watch how others handle these situations effectively. When you’re polite and empathetic, it is unlikely that someone is going to get furious with you.
You want to develop good boundaries. Have an idea of what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not ahead of time so that decisions are easier and you’re not as tempted to cave. But this all takes time. And maybe someone is asking you for something unreasonable right now. So what should your default response be so that you don’t give them a knee-jerk “yes” you’ll regret later?
2) Buy Time For Yourself. You don’t need to feel you have to respond immediately. Now, I realize there are some situations where you have to especially when it’s your boss, but generally speaking you wouldn’t need to. So when you feel pressured for a yes, don’t give the yes right away. Tell them you need more time. It’s a key to relieving some of the pressure. This will allow you to calm down and properly evaluate whether you really want to agree or not. The best way to do this is to memorize a few phrases and make them your default responses when you get into one of these situations:
1) “I need to check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.”
2) “Let me check with my husband or wife to see what we have going on.”
3) “I’ve got to think about that and I’ll let you know later. I’ll can call you back soon.”
As you begin to incorporate these into your interactions, be careful not to turn them into questions. They are statements—statements designed to help you succeed at saying no. And when you speak them, use a pleasant but assertive tone.
But what if buying time doesn’t cool you down enough to be comfortable giving them a big ol’ nope? Train yourself to live by certain consistent principles that are healthy. For example, if someone invites you over for a Sunday cookout, and Sunday is family day when you and your immediate family always get together for dinner, state the principle that you and your family have created: “Thank you for the invitation, but Sunday is family day and we never miss. Maybe some other time.” When you live by clear principles, it’s easier to make decisions and people are more likely to respect your responses. And there’s less chance of someone feeling personally rejected if it’s clear this is a healthy habit you live by consistently.
So how do you deal with people who don’t take no for an answer? Be a broken record. Tell them you can’t help them. Then keep repeating what you said. This is called a verbal boundary. The conversation might go something like this:
Them: “Can you go shopping with me and help me find new furniture for my downstairs den?
You: “Sorry, I can’t.” Now just make sure that your tone shows that you care. But still be honest and keep saying the same thing.
Them: “What if we went tomorrow instead of next week? You available then?”
You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
Them: “I’ll give you my furniture from that room if you go with me?
You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
This technique teaches you persistence and doesn’t allow people to talk you out of what you truly feel comfortable doing. Just keep repeating the same thing to them and not responding to their new angles or reasoning. Don’t get angry or raise your voice. Just calmly repeat yourself until the other person is utterly exhausted. You can tell the maturity and health of a relationship in how the other person responds when you say no or when they say no to you.
It’s so important to have this kind of respect for your own boundaries and for other people’s boundaries if your relationships are truly going to be healthy. It’s so freeing to be able to say no and feel comfortable in doing it. If you’re not there yet, just keep practicing the steps and pay attention to how people respond when you say no. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you don’t get that many negative reactions. It will also cause your relationships to be much more fulfilling.
Just say no! Do you ever find yourself saying yes when you truly want to say no? Why is it so difficult to say no? It’s just a word, right? If you are going to have relationships that are fulfilling and healthy, you will have to get to the place where you can say no when no is the right answer. I talk about this so often in coaching sessions with my clients because it is a common and serious issue to preventing healthy relationships. Continue reading
The one thing I absolutely know for sure is that I am learning the art of letting go. And the first step in that process is deciding not to hold grudges. Continue reading
I ran across a TV series last year titled “Alone.” It consisted of 10 contestants who were each taken to remote parts of the world. The objective was to survive as long as they could alone and the winner would be awarded $500,000.
As I was watching a specific episode, the guy who I was hoping would win had a huge “alone” moment within himself. The reason I wanted him to win was because he had such resolve and the most amazing attitude. He pushed himself mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually as he endured the most difficult terrain and harsh elements, often while going weeks without hardly any food. But his great attitude never ended—and it was contagious.
As I watched him week after week, I found myself feeling what he was feeling, and actually putting myself in his place. It became personal for me to cheer him on and empathize with him each and every week.
At one point he completely broke down, but it wasn’t the lack of food or the harsh elements that were pushing him over the edge. He finally had realized how alone he felt. As he wept, I actually cried with him. I could feel his pain. He shared how he missed his wife and children desperately.
What was most beautiful to me about that moment in the show was I think he realized for the first time in his life he was not meant to be alone. He actually admitted that he needed his wife and children. They had always been there but he didn’t realize how much they meant to him until they weren’t there. It was such a powerful moment. I got the feeling that he would go back to his family and his connection would be completely different.
As I thought so much about that scene, God began to talk to me. I realized how many times in my life that I have felt alone just like he did, even though people were all around me. I coach people daily that feel this way, and it makes me realize why God said in Genesis 2:18, it is not good for man to be alone. He wasn’t just speaking specifically about marriage, he was speaking about all our relationships.
God’s emphasis was that we need people. He has made us relational beings who need to be connected to people—and yet, it’s entirely possible to be surrounded by a group of people and feel completely alone.
I pray that the words that I’m writing penetrate your heart so that you realize how much you need the people who are in your life. This man on the “Alone” show realized how much his heart needed connection with those he loved. He reached a place where he understood that the only thing that’s important in our lives is what really matters—people.
Now, I don’t believe we have to live through a painful experience like he did for God to show us the critical role people play in our lives and how much we need them. But I believe we need to learn why we feel alone when there are people all around us. It’s because of a closed heart.
We have the potential to completely shut people out and isolate ourselves as though we were all alone on an island just like that man. When we do this, it’s often because we have been hurt by someone we trusted.
Despite what we’ve experienced in the past, God said that it is not good for us to be alone, but I would say it this way: It’s not good for you to shut people out. When you close your heart and shut people out, you also are shut in. When we have people all around us, yet we shut them out, we are alone.
It’s time to open your heart again. Yes, it can be scary because it requires being vulnerable, but to be honest, to live with a closed heart, shutting people out, is much scarier.
God created us as relational beings, and there’s many reasons that we need people and they need us, but let me explain a very important purpose. I’ve been through so many times in my life in which I have faced extremely difficult situations that were very hard to walk through. I’m sure you have too. There were times when I would pray and cry out to God for answers, and even ask him to give me grace and open my eyes. I remember Mark Hankins, a minister friend of mine, saying something once in a church service that really impacted me, and I never forgot it: “If God has placed the answer to your prayer on the inside of another person’s heart, then you will have to get it from them.”
Wow! That made me realize how God prioritizes my connections with people and how it influences His plan for my life. He wants me in relationship with people to help me.
Now, let me clarify that it’s not our responsibility, not my responsibility, to try to find those people, but it’s our responsibility to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we do that, we will be in the right place at the right time with the right people doing the right thing—and we will have the connections we need in our lives. So just with that understanding, you can see how critical it is that we not shut down, close our hearts, and push people away.
Now my next statement is beautiful and it took me years to understand this: When God sends the answer to your prayer through another person, He actually sends Himself. I’ll give you an example in my own life of what I mean.
Years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I had a job working in a Christian school. I worked mostly with the high school age classes. I loved every minute of it. One day the principal called me in his office. He was known to be a very hard person to deal with. So, needless to say, I was really nervous to meet with him, and he definitely didn’t start off our meeting with any small talk. He jumped right into his intentions. He was removing me from the high school class and I would no longer be coaching the basketball team. Instead, I would have a special room the size of a walk-in closet where I would help kids who had reading challenges. His reasoning was that he had opened the door to my classroom earlier and saw all of us praying over someone. He never asked me any questions about “why” or gave me an opportunity to respond. Had he given me an opportunity to speak, I would’ve told him about a tragedy that just happened in one of the boys’ lives. The young man specifically asked if everyone could please pray for him. Although it wasn’t the norm to pray in the middle of the day, I wasn’t about to turn down his request. After all, we were a Christian school!
That was a very dark moment for me. I felt humiliated, discouraged, angry, confused, and yes, alone. I missed the kids so much. They were so confused as well but I knew it was the right thing to do to not say anything. I was numb for probably a week. I could feel my heart wanting to close and shut down. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. I felt so alone even though there were people all around me. I did my best to keep a smile on my face for those teenagers who I loved. But to be honest with you, it was very painful passing them in the hallways day after day. The thoughts I was thinking were not good thoughts. I was constantly rehearsing everything in my head and it felt like a non-stop battle.
But finally, I opened my heart and literally cried out to God for answers and His help. It wasn’t long before a friend of mine that I was very close to came to talk to me. She knew a little about the situation but not much because I had not talked very much at all to anyone. But when she opened her mouth to share with me, I realized she was the answer to my prayer. She had wisdom for me, love, and understanding. The things she shared were simple, but exactly what I needed to hear. She admonished me to not close my heart because the end result would be bitterness and unforgiveness. As we talked, I could feel God’s love for me and that He already had a way out for me.
Our conversation would’ve seemed like a very simple one to someone listening, but to me, it was the answer to my prayer. It was as though God was speaking to me in words behind the words she was speaking. I could sense Him just in the atmosphere of the conversation. It wasn’t anything spooky, like where I got chill bumps, but it was peaceful and calm, yet powerful. It was probably a month from that day that I was reinstated back into my high school classes and I was also once again a basketball coach.
As I’m writing this blog and looking back on that situation, I cringe to think of how different my life might have turned out had I shut my heart. God is right, it is not good for us to be alone.
I don’t think there is a more difficult or crazy time to be raising teenagers than now. The world around us is changing so rapidly almost every day. The one thing I hear very often is, I want my teenager to be more responsible but I just don’t know where to start. Maybe that describes where you are. Continue reading
I talk often with couples who are struggling in their marriage. But the things they’re dealing with often have nothing to do with the pain of tragic issues like affairs, addictions or abuse. They usually describe their struggle with phrases like this: “I feel we’ve grown apart and we feel stuck. The feelings of love are not there anymore.” Continue reading
As I listened to her share her heart and watched her cry, it took everything in me not to cry with her. I tried to be aware that I needed to stay in a place as her life coach so I could encourage her. But just because I’m a life coach doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain when people share their lives with me, because I do! As a life coach, I hear amazing stories and I get excited with people, but this day was one of those stories that caused my heart to hurt. Continue reading
It wasn’t too long ago that I was watching the news one night when I became very aware of how anxious it was making me feel. I turned it off and actually didn’t watch the news for a number of days. Instead, I start reading my inspirational books and going on walks. No, I’m not saying I never watch the news at all, but I would say I watch it less than three nights a week now. I’m more aware of what I’m listening to and how it’s making me feel inside my heart—and watching less news has made a huge difference. I’m much calmer! Continue reading