Tag: growth (page 1 of 2)

When People Frustrate Us

You’re frustrated. The conversation goes horribly. Tardiness becomes the norm. A person nitpicks our actions. You and I have a list of what frustrates us.

Frustration raises the levels of our emotions and defenses. In the heat of the moment, some of us want to retaliate. Others of us avoid the situation while slowly seething with anger. Some of us utilize passive aggressiveness.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” The key to overcoming frustration is seeing the big picture. Patience invites us to realize the grace God has given us and therefore have the wisdom to respond well to the other person.

Today, you might get frustrated with a person. Ask yourself these four questions before you take any actions:

1. What’s my preference vs. problem?

It’s important to categorize our frustration. Preferences emphasize opinions. Problems deal in terms of facts and guidelines. When our preferences get mixed up with problems, we focus on how we want to change the person to fit our needs rather than helping them mature.

2. What’s my role vs. theirs?

Often, our frustration comes from a lack of communication. We have not shared our expectations. Frustration causes us to assign motivation to a person with them filling in the blanks. Deciphering our roles helps us honestly assess the situation clearly.

3. Where are they on their journey of growth?

Our frustration with people can cause us to forget their growth. A person may have come a long way on an issue, but they have triggered us to forget. Subjective grace overlooks issues that do not bother us, but can magnify the ones that do. The conflicts we have with people may not adequately understand their journey.

4. How ready is the person to hear what I have to say?

We play over and over in our mind the conversation we would love to have. You could have the perfect argument to the person in their place. If our frustration causes us to confront, then the person may miss what we have to say. Ultimately, this has to do with trust. Can the person see that you are invested in the well-being of their lives to hear you?

When you get frustrated with a person, take a moment to pause and see the situation. Asking one of these questions could make the difference in how you approach the person. What other insights have helped you when you get frustrated with others?

Photo credit by Josue Bieri.

Bridge Building & Wall Building

Embrace your critics. You may have heard several iterations of this axiom from books, articles, and speakers. We desire to grow in how we interact with difficult people, our opposites, and even enemies. Then the conflict comes, or the blunt feedback hits us from them. Rather than looking to embrace, it seems easier to exclude.

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You and I have a choice when we come to these relationships, will we build bridges or walls?

No matter what the current best practice resources say, our natural tendency can desire to shut these people out of our lives or ready ourselves for an unhelpful argument. In the moment, we want to take revenge or find justice. Rarely does this help in the long run.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says in Matthew 5:44, “…But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” You may have heard this verse a thousand times, but take a moment to consider it with fresh eyes.

The audience listening to Jesus’ teaching faced the injustice of the Roman government, especially taxation. In the previous verses, Jesus calls them not to retaliate and go the extra mile (Matt. 5:38-42). Not an easy task in the midst of mistreatment. Jesus called these people run against their natural tendency of building walls and build bridges towards other people.

Not only did Jesus teach this verse, but He lived it out. His death and resurrection provided us grace as a bridge to Him. That’s the Gospel, the Good News.

So when we face the critics, difficult people, and even enemies, how can we build bridges rather than following our natural tendency to build walls? Here are three ideas.

1. Wall building assumes the worst. Bridge building assumes the best.

Conflicts can result from us placing assumptions on other people. We think that they are out to get us, or they intentionally want to thwart us. At times, it can happen. Many times people have acted with positive intentions that they did not mean to affect us negatively. Looking to assume the best of a person allows us to see their perspective and then have a dialogue to share our perspective.

2. Wall building focuses on disagreements. Bridge building finds common ground.

People have different beliefs, convictions, and personalities. Before we go on in an argument, find the common ground. What areas can we agree? Starting from this place can encourage reconciliation and a mutual resolution.

3. Wall building pleads a case. Bridge building seeks personal blind spots.

When we plead our case, it becomes an us verse them. You and I will vent to others hoping they agree with us while continuing to increase the distance from the other person. Building bridges means asking, what do I not see about myself? We can begin to pray seeking God’s help see our motivations of our hearts.

You might find yourself in the midst of a challenging relationship. Consider the example Jesus and ask Him for wisdom. Find a trusted friend to help you recognize your blind spots.

What other ways can you build bridges instead of walls in your relationships?

Photo credit by Dan Gribbin.

Comfortably Uncomfortable

What seasons of your life have you experienced the most growth? I had graduated from college and embarked on a journey to Springfield, MO. My brother and sister-in-law had graciously provided me a place to stay as I began graduate school. Flying out on New Year’s Day, I had an idealistic view of hitting the ground running.

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The first few weeks did not go as planned. It took more time to get connected to a community than I thought. The job search ended with me at a school cafeteria and catering service. I found myself wandering and at times floundering asking God, “Why am I here?”

Comfort comes in various forms and fashions. Some find comfort in control, the ability to create predictable circumstances. Others tend to see comfort in equilibrium, situations and relationships at peace without any conflict. Each of us has our definition and image this kind of security and exportability.

Most of our growth comes in seasons of uncomfortableness. Those moments when we have to work towards a resolution to a conflict. It arrives in the midst of the unexpected changes and unforeseeable detours to our plans. We look for every way out finding no escape only to look back to see the grace of God transforming our hearts and lives.

Following the first few weeks in Springfield went from uncomfortable to comfortably uncomfortable. In that time, I started to connect with friends and embraced the opportunities. Christ began to humble my heart. The transformation that needed to occur needed to happen within me. Not the ideal vision I had thought, but the exact season I needed to mature.

Tod Bolsinger in Canoeing the Mountains makes a compelling insight about leadership, but also applies to each of us personally as we follow Christ:

The art of leadership is helping the system override the instinct of self-preservation and replace it with a new organizational instinct to be curious about and open to the terrifying discomfort of asking, Could God be up to something?

Our default responses to uncomfortable predicaments range from fight, flight, dismissiveness, stubbornness, and often blame shifting. What we might find is growth that would never occur unless we got outside of our comfort zones.

Today, I hope you can embrace the comfortably uncomfortable. The next time we face one of these moments or seasons we can ask the question, “Could God be up to something?”

In what uncomfortable season have you experienced growth? How might God cause growth in your life during a current uncomfortable moment?

Photo credit by Jared Erondu.

Acts of Hope

Hope has become commercialized. Politicians peddle it during the election cycles. The endless amount of advertisers sells us on it. Sport’s franchises have asked fans to buy into the rebuilding process. Commercialized hope can lead us to cynicism and disappointment, making promises for today without any accountability for tomorrow.

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Genuine hope moves us from passivity to action. Hope harmonizes the present with the future. What we believe about tomorrow leads us to how we respond today.

Eugene Peterson speaks of hope in Run with the Horses:

All acts of hope expose themselves to ridicule because they seem impractical, failing to conform to visible reality. But in fact, they are the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible. Hope commits us to actions that connect with God’s promises (pg. 174)

How do we live with hope? Later on, Peterson talks about it becoming “Really Practical.” A coworker once coined the term, the nauseating details. I think this fits for hope because we get to the nitty-gritty of today by God’s promises for the future rather than a mere pie in the sky view.

Practical acts of hope look like this…
Planting because Christ causes growth.
Working with our best effort today at our tasks because Christ sees.
Praying for our enemies and those who hurt us because Christ heals.
Seeking reconciliation and forgiveness because Christ restores.
Showing up, because Christ is already present.
Engaging Scripture because Christ speaks.

The list could go on, but most often acts of hope seem extremely ordinary. Those practices that we can dismiss, but they come back to our minds. They reflect a belief in God’s promises. When we live with genuine hope, we ultimately experience God’s grace today.

What acts of hope has God called you to fulfill today?

Photo credit by Clack Street Mercantile.

What I’m Scared to Hear

I sat across from a friend at lunch. We reminisced about our college experience a few years prior. The conversation turned towards our growth since that chapter of our lives. In the midst of this conversation, he commented to me, “You listen better now than before. I remember how often you used to interrupt people…”

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My friend’s observation caught me off guard. I began to rewind our conversations. Each episode I played back in my mind pointed to a moment where I could have listened more intently. The truth of what he said scared me because I had to recognize an area of growth in my life. His comment also confirmed the truth about growth in my life.

The truth hurts. It sounds like a trite saying after someone gives a sharp piece of feedback. You and I want to grow, but listening to the reality about ourselves feels like root canal work: a necessary process with an enormous amount of pain.

If people could share the honest truth with you, what would they say?

That question can scare us. The truth can confirm a fault we always knew or make us aware of an area of growth we did not see. It can come out of a place of love from another person and at other times they say it out of their selfishness. For us to truly grow and mature, we have to learn to receive difficult feedback recognizing what we need to hear.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in How People Grow talks about the desire to accept the truth:

When people understand that the truth can save and preserve their lives, it is hard not to love it. When you love something, you pursue it and want to be around it. Seek God’s truth. Hang around honest people. Invite safe people to tell you the truth about yourself. Don’t take a passive role with truth: Hunt it down. Pray David’s prayer: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.” (Ps. 43:3)

Finding out the truth about us can scare us, but it brings us life. Community becomes essential. When we have friends who love and care for us, we can listen to the truth knowing they want the best for us.

Some people speak the truth without grace or knowing us. That can become more about them than you. The people that love us the most will give us the reality of where we can grow and how God has brought growth to us.

What my friend said at lunch scared, but confirmed growth in my life. God brings people in our lives who not only help us grow but point to His work in us. Thus, we can do the same for someone else.

What truth might God call you to face today? What truth might God call you to share with another motivated by love?

Photo credit by Alyssa Smith.

Fear

I married into a family of mental health therapists. My wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law practice counseling. As some of our friends like to point out, our conversations tend to gravitate towards boundaries, guided images, breathing techniques, and Table Topics games.

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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) has become a frequent discussion topic. This type of therapy uses eye movement to reprocess memories in the brain. For example, a counselor will rhythmically use their fingers or machine for your eyes to focus and your mind will begin to reprocess for healing.

My niece picked up on the conversation about EMDR. I sat at the dinner table, and she approached me waving her fingers back in front of my face. The young aspiring therapist turned to me and asked the question, “What are you scared of?”

I had the decision of humor or authenticity. In thinking of the altruistic teachable moment, I thought I would answer authentically, “I’m scared of failure, not measuring up, and letting people down…”

She paused the waiving of her fingers and looked me in the eye, “Uncle Peter, that’s boring!”

Let’s just say, my niece still needs training in empathetic listening before starting a practice. My fear of leeches was a little more entertaining.

Whenever I think of fear, I remember this conversation. The older we get, the more fear follows us. Perhaps, we realize how much we have to lose, or we have never dealt with fears that we have carried our whole lives.

Rather than realizing and identifying our fear, we can fall into trap of reacting to it:
Don’t take the risk.
Dig your heels into the ground instead of change.
Never ask for the feedback from others.
Remain silent about an idea.

Mark 6:45-52 tells the story of the disciples in the midst of the storm. Strangely, Jesus in this passage sends them to boat knowing the storm would come. What happens? The disciples get tossed in a storm. To their surprise, Jesus comes walking on water. Again, fear debilitates them from experiencing this miracle.

The disciples had seen Jesus perform miracles and just a few verses prior He had fed the 5,000. That sounds a little bit like us. Instead of our faith growing in Christ working in our lives from the past, we fall into the pattern of fear of the present and the future.

Jesus calms the storm, but I think even, more importantly, He gets into the boat. He does not just perform the miracle and walk away. In His humanity, he steps into the boat with the disciples. This episode becomes a teachable moment of faith. Just like the disciples we need the constant reminder that; Christ in us is greater than any fear we face.

Paul David Tripp makes an implication to this passage saying, “Jesus will take you places you did not choose to go so that He can produce in you what you could never achieve on your own.”

Fear ultimately stalls us from growing. Letting the fears like failing, unknown, imperfection, not measuring up, change, and intimacy hinders us. So God graciously brings us into the storm to remind us of His presence in our lives over our fears.

I think my niece might be on to something too. Our fears can be boring keeping us from the adventure God has called to experience.

What fears are you facing today? How has God called you to face these fears?

Photo credit by Tim Marshall.

Table Talk: Conversations on Scripture

A professor from a state school invited me to a biblical literature class. The students discussed the David and Absalom narrative from 2 Samuel on that day. I attended a Christian college full of classes interpreting, debating, and engaging scripture. This context intrigued me because it allotted me the opportunity to compare my experience with this class’ experience.

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Their discussion wrestled with David’s motives in 2 Samuel 15. The professor and students brought to the surface how David asked God to thwart Absalom, but how he devised his plan to do the same. For this class, King David wasn’t necessarily a hero but a flawed man of mixed motivations. Anyone engaging this passage has to grapple with the writer’s ambiguity of the characters’ motivations.

These students came from various faith backgrounds. Each one of them had a fascinating viewpoint to offer from the passage. This experience challenged me to read Scripture through their lenses of what they saw and heard. Often, we can find ourselves engaging Scripture out of our biases and preconceived notions.

I meet people apprehensive about reading the Bible. People fear misunderstanding the text and then misinterpreting it in discussion with others. Some of us have lost the imagination of experiencing the story of Scripture. It can become another task in the day.

Part of our problem comes is that we were never intended to engage God’s Word on our own. Community becomes a place where we wrestle, interpret, and discuss Scripture. We open ourselves to listen to other’s perspective because we recognize our limitations to understanding the text.

Galatians 6:6 says, “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” What we see people in the Bible discussing the Scriptures: Jesus with Nicodemus, the Early Church in Acts 2:42-47, Peter with Cornelius, Paul with various churches. Engaging Scripture becomes a practice participated in community.

Students of Martin Luther recorded their conversations with him in the book Table Talk. The book references discussions at the dinner table. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the dinner table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life.

Eugene Peterson in Eat this Book says this about Scripture:

Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son (pg. 18)

My class visit reinforced the value of engaging Scripture in community. Not just an academic or intellectual pursuit, but in the realization that we mature not just by engaging scripture on our own but with each other. God speaks to us while we sit at the table together.

How do you engage the Scripture with the people around you? Where do you have your table talk with others on Scripture?

Photo credit by Aaron Burden.

The Mind

What were your first thoughts this morning? The to-do list of tasks emerged. You might have thought about the people you will see and the future conversations. Yesterday’s success and failures jogged in your self-conscious. Somewhere in there, we wonder about lunch. We have more thoughts than we can ever realize.

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When we begin to examine our thoughts deeper, we uncover reoccurring messages. These messages range from the following:
Lies we believe about ourselves.
Anxiety concerning what we have to do or what people think.
Fear of failing.
The bombardment of criticisms we have heard from the past.
Hurts surface and re-surface.

What we think affects what actions we take and what we say. Grasping our thoughts means uncovering the positive and negative narratives. It takes time to sort through our thoughts to recognize the truth, reality, and feelings. Ultimately, what we think matters, but it might not paint a complete picture.

Paul in Romans 12:2 calls us to “renew our minds.” The previous eleven chapters detail what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection: the Gospel. Through Him, we have experienced reconciliation, and we no longer have to walk in guilt and shame. Renewing our mind becomes the nuts and bolts of experiencing the Gospel in our everyday lives.

Dr. James B. Richards in How to Stop the Pain explains the correlation of the Gospel and a renewed mind from Romans 12:2:

The Gospel reveals faith-righteousness from beginning to end. We must start renewing our minds to it by accepting the fact that we are righteous in Jesus. We are completely accepted by God. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more loved or accepted. Because we are righteous in Jesus, we are loved and accepted. Through these feelings of love, safety, and peace, God can walk us through a life of transformation without us feeling afraid or condemned (pg. 88)

Renewing our minds does not mean the removal of negative thoughts, rather it’s the process of seeing these thoughts through the Gospel, as a person loved and accepted in Jesus Christ. The pressure of transformation moves from our ability to the grace Christ offers us. The Gospel allows us to exchange our fears, anxieties, lies, hurts and the past for the reality of Christ in us.

What thoughts in your mind need to experience the Gospel in renewing your mind? In what ways, can seeing Christ give you a new mindset?

Photo by Jacob Sapp.

Disagreeing, Debating, and Distractions

A friend turned to me, “You’re so disagreeable.” If I had any sense at that moment, I would have thought about how to respond. You cannot win by responding to that statement. I retorted quickly by saying, “No, I am not.” My response only proved his point causing my other friends to laugh.

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Some of us relish the role of devil’s advocate. The lively debate energizes us. To a certain extent having these discussions reflects a healthy community. On the other hand, disagreeing and debating can distract us. It can keep us from finding common ground and discussing what matters. Instead of a healthy exchange, the fight spirals into gridlock. No one changes along the way. Frustration forms in a relationship and hurt develops with each other.

I will never forget this conversation. It surfaces in my mind at moments when I want to disagree or look for a debate. Those moments when my mouth gets ahead of my thoughts. People hear us louder when we disagree with them. Often, others desire us to listen rather than go toe to toe on an issue. Wisdom asks this question; is it worth it?

Thomas à Kempis in the 1400s dealt with the distractions of debating and disagreeing. He said this in the Imitation of Christ:

If we were as diligent in uprooting vices and planting virtues as we are in debating abstruse questions, there would not be so many evils or scandals among us nor such laxity in monastic communities. Certainly, when Judgment Day comes we shall not be asked what books we have read, but what deeds we have done; we shall not be asked how well we have debated, but how devoutly we have lived.

Disagreeing and debating reflects on us. They distract us from looking into our lives. We can point other’s flaws or misunderstandings while not taking into consideration our own. Thomas à Kempis hints at the Gospel at work in our lives. Not looking to assert our pride or knowledge, but attempting to understand a person and what they need from us in a conversation. Learning to see others and situations from Jesus’ perspective.

Grace moves us to look into our hearts and motivations. Here are a few questions for us to ask ourselves when we want to disagree or debate:
Do people consider me a disagreeable person?
What’s at stake by me playing devil’s advocate?
Will this person hear my intent to help them?
Why am I looking for this debate?
How is disagreeing distracting me from own issues?
How can I join this person rather than stifle them?

Perhaps, our family, friends, and coworkers could use a little less of our disagreeing and debating. We have the opportunity to extend them grace from God by listening and encouraging them today. Lastly, let’s take the opportunity reflect on areas of our hearts where God would call us to grow, rather than giving into the distractions.

Photo credit by Martin Kníže.

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really!

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from my wife Robyn Englert. She practices as a mental health therapist and loves spending time with her nieces and nephews. Additionally, she loves to walk and hike.

I have become increasingly thankful for dental floss over the years. The relief that follows the floss removing unwanted food particles is not always instant – at times there is more pressure, bleeding, or it takes more than a mere attempt for relief – but it comes. Additionally, the benefits of regular care have helped to prevent further damage and significant pain in my mouth. It is daily maintenance that seems tedious at times yet yields greater oral health.

Dental floss also serves as a metaphor for relationships in my life over the last ten plus years. The transitions from lifelong student to full-time employee, the journey from single woman to meeting the love of my life and not getting too freaked out, and many more that have passed and will come, are supported by trusted loved ones to help navigate.

These relationships help me to remove the particles that threatened complications, long-term pain, and distance. At times, I didn’t want to hear what these loved ones were saying but I knew they might have a point. The most challenging step for me was to begin to be vulnerable with safe people. To be known, I had to take healthy risks of sharing myself and moving beyond the image I wanted them to see.

Over this last year, I have participated in a book group with nine courageous women that highlights the value and significance of authentic relationships in my life. One of the books we just finished is Scary Close by Donald Miller (I highly recommend).

As we ventured into the materials I was challenged to be real, face the “grit” I have held on to and have been getting stuck on, and was encouraged to move through the gunk in my life by being authentic with these women.

One concept from this book is that we project an image of ourselves and who we want people to see based on our experiences. When there is a lack of authenticity, we are playing a part. After working through the book and life with these women, I have come to 100% agree with Donald Miller. He said:

Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us (pg. 22)

While this is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining relationships, I am very thankful for these women and this opportunity to floss through life.

Photo credit by Maria Kaloudi.

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