Decisions, Decisions…

Toxic relationships is a hot topic for this generation. From what I gather, people are tired of giving passes to the people that have damaged them mentally and emotionally. Relationships are ending left and right because of the trauma and pain individuals have have endured in them. It seems very logical to cut someone off who has quite possibly stunted your growth. I mean, who wants to be around the person who has contributed to their emotional instability?

While I understand the rationale, my heart bends toward conflict resolution and reconciliation. I cringe when I hear about someone cutting off a family member or long time friend. It’s not from a place of judgement, but sadness, that they couldn’t figure out how to make things work. I understand that we do the best we can and we do what’s best for us, most of the time. I understand that relationships won’t always be perfect. But my hope is that there’s someone involved who is resilient enough to withstand the trials of the relationship so that it has a fair chance at succeeding. However, going separate ways may be the best thing in certain situations. Who knows? Each situation is different.

This is a conversation about challenging relationships and how we can have them and our sanity, too.

First of all….

What is our obligation to people who have destructive behaviors?

Part of me feels that we determine our obligation to someone based on what the relationship means to us. Some people feel more obligated to family than they do friends, while others have no problem with being estranged from family, but couldn’t imagine walking away from a close friend. We’re probably more driven to make a decision about a strained relationship with someone our lives are tied to. We’re less likely to feel strongly about a co worker or someone we see once or twice a week at church.

What the Bible says about it

The other part of me believes we should feel compelled to make peace with all men, regardless of how we have come to know them.There are many scriptures that teach believers how to interact with the people who mistreat us, but ultimately we have to make a decision on our own about how we proceed in relationship.

As a believer, there’s this unspoken expectation to be a peace maker and to have patience with people, based on our understanding of the concept of love (See 1 Corinthian 13:4-7). It seems that we interpret the concept of “turning the other cheek” as a commandment give people the opportunity to hurt us over and over, without a fight. And because we aren’t often shown an alternative, more practical reaction to being mistreated repeatedly, we seem to choose the polar opposite response to it, which is some form of ending all communication and contact. The unfortunate reality of that is, both options end up being damaging to at least one, if not all parties involved. There has to be a middle ground though, right?

The thing about love

Love tends to be abstract in expression. At times, we claim “love” is the reason we remain in a situation that is harming us and not bettering the person we’re trying to love. I’ve recently learned that loving someone who hurts you isn’t wrong per se, but its the lack of self-love that gets us in trouble. Self-love allows us to set boundaries that protect both people involved. It also gives us a little bit more room to extend love to the other person in the challenging relationship. Self-love is not easy, especially if it wasn’t emphasized early on in life.

More on self love

A personal belief of mine is that we are the second person responsible for loving ourselves, God being first. I stated that in a previous blog and I said I’d talk about it later. (Here goes.) When it comes to authority figures, parents, family, church leaders, etc, they are responsible for guiding us and caring for us, but to a certain extent. Many of us remain in a broken state because we never pick up the responsibility to care for and protect ourselves, while harboring bitterness and resentment. As a child, pouting never got me what I wanted. And as an adult, grudges don’t either. Please don’t get stuck there. You have the power to establish who you are, what you will accept and what you will reject. You don’t have to believe the negative things that were said to you and about you. You don’t have to remain broken from emotional or mental trauma. It may take work, but it’s possible to rise from those ashes.

Sometimes, we have to step away from those difficult relationships for a moment so that we can settle ourselves in truth and love. A fragile object in a hazardous environment, more than likely will lead to more brokenness than healing. So, if you do intend to remove yourself, I encourage you to do so with the intention of healing and with reconciliation in mind, even if it seems afar off.

I spent years frustrated about relationships that were strained because of decisions I was subjected to as a child. It wasn’t until I took it upon myself to be available and show interest in the bond, that things started to come together. All it took was for me to come out of my pity party and make an effort. Pride told me not to go out of my way, but love said otherwise. Love helped me to identify that the relationship was important to me and worth the work.

Take time to find out where you are. If you can’t handle the relationship because you’re still hurting or fearful of possible pain, do your best to communicate that and help yourself. Perhaps you’ll come back with the strength to love that person in spite of what was. Don’t forget that everyone is on a journey, and 9 times out of 10, at any given moment, they’re doing the best they can.

Quick Konversations: A Narrow Search

I was shopping online recently, looking for something specific. Although I knew exactly what I was looking for, I typed in a related item, hoping I could find the item amongst the results. It took quite a bit of scrolling through that vague search for me to finally come across one version of the item I was looking for. My rationale was that if my search was too specific, it would bring back no results. Ultimately I was worried that I wouldn’t find what I wanted. And rather than being specific, I thought it was best to look for what I wanted among a large group of related items.

Fear of disappointment can cause us not to be specific in our requests and search of things we desire. We don’t actually want to settle, but perhaps we are worried that what we actually want can’t be found. If you’re sure of what you want, there’s no such thing as being too specific. You may have to search more diligently or be patient in some instances, but I believe what you want does exist.

The store I was searching was only the second one I had checked, and I was already concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find what I wanted. Perhaps we are narrow in our search, but in the wrong way. Maybe we should be specific about what we want, but be more open about where it may come from. Let’s imagine, you’re searching for your dream job. Typing in “Social Worker” will bring back many results. You’ll get less results if you search “Hospital Social Worker”, but if that’s exactly what you want, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now, if there are no Hospital Social Worker positions in the hospitals near you, are you open to expanding the search to a different city? Moving isn’t always the change we must make, but it’s our openness to change that sometimes brings us closer to obtaining the thing we want most.

If you’re wondering how my story ends, after scrolling more than I desired, I finally decided to type in and search exactly what I was looking for. Lo and behold, the predictive text brought up what I wanted as a search option, so I selected it. There were only a few items to choose from, but I found one that was just what I needed. It was in stock at the store and in my hands before the day was over.

Recap: “I Don’t Know the Difference”

On Facebook live, we had a konversation that was inspired by a scene in the movie “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel.” In the scene, Twinkie Clark had a dialogue with her mother regarding her decision to move with her new husband and leave the group. Twinkie felt that up to that point, everything she did was for the group and to please her mother. Her mother told her that she should be aiming to please the Lord. Twinkie’s response was “I don’t know the difference.”

Here are a few points we discussed during the konversation regarding life decisions and our relationship with parents and leadership.

Parents are the first people who are responsible for making decisions for us. When is it appropriate for the child to begin to take some of that responsibility and develop decision making skills?

It is important for parents to take the time to build up decision making skills in their child, so that they aren’t naive once they receive their independence.

While a child is learning how to make decisions, if they make a mistake, supporting them and helping them learn from it will produce more positive outcomes than reprimanding them to a point of shame.

The same can be applied to an adult in a subordinate position with leadership.

Lead Them to God

When in a leadership or influential position in someone’s life, it is important to give your disciple the space to establish their identity and autonomy when it comes to their decisions. While you impart wisdom and guidance, they should always be led back to God for the final directive.

Growing up in Christian households, many of us were required to go to church and participate in the youth department without protest. We simply didn’t have a choice! But once you get out on your own, you begin to realize that following God is a choice we have to make for ourselves.

A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

In terms of mentorship and leader/follower relationships, it is important for the follower or mentee to be discipled while they serve. The relationship should be equally beneficial for both parties. The goal should be to help cultivate the gifts, talents and skills of the mentee/ follower, by giving them access to the leader’s life and responsibilities for the sake of learning. When there is a lack of balance in a leader/follower relationship, the follower can get burnt out. Serving to what appears to be a dead end can be disheartening for the follower. The pain of depletion can cause us to leave a place or assignment before it’s time, or under the wrong circumstances.

Lead and Teach

If we look at the example of Jesus and the disciples, Peter particularly, we see that Jesus did not expect perfection as they followed him. Peter chopped a man’s ear off because he didn’t want Jesus to be captured by those trying to kill him. Instead of Jesus kicking Peter out of the group, he healed the man’s ear. Jesus taught and led by example, so that when he left, the disciples were equipped to carry out their own ministries. It does not mean that Jesus was never disappointed in their actions, but when they failed, he taught them what they needed to know to succeed in the future.

How Do We Deal?

As people, we have to be discerning and able to identify the thin line between being obedient to parents and leaders and pleasing man. We must establish our own relationship with the Lord so that we are able to follow Him, first and foremost. When you are aware of God’s plan and purpose for your life, you will be able to see whether or not what someone is asking you to do will serve to prepare you for what’s next.

Share your thoughts on this in the comments!

To view the live Facebook broadcast or listen to the podcast go here:

A Turn of Events

2020 was supposed to be OUR YEAR. It was supposed to be the year of clarity, and “20/20 vision”. Instead, we seem to have been blind sighted by unfortunate events. We’ve seen the unexpected deaths of friends and loved ones and a pandemic that has recently brought the world to a screeching halt. What we once anticipated about 2020, has dissipated, and at this point, we are simply trying to adapt and survive. We’ve only completed one quarter of the year and as a people, we are ready to throw the whole year away.

Let’s be honest, obstacles will always find their way into our paths so it’s unrealistic to think that even the best year ever won’t have any challenges. How do we still have that winning year in the midst of circumstances beyond our control? Two concepts seem to be invaluable in overcoming life’s challenges: flexibility and resilience.

Responding to the crisis

The moment restaurants had to shut down their dining rooms due to the public health precautions, having a delivery or takeout option determined who would sink or float as a result of this unexpected crisis. The restaurants who primarily do dining service had to make some quick changes if they wanted to continue bringing in revenue. In part, their survival came down to strategy and a desire to stay relevant and productive.

It took some flexibility to work out how a mostly dine in restaurant would become a take out restaurant with a few days notice. No more plates and silverware, no more waiters and waitresses. Napkins, condiments, take out containers, delivery services, drive up orders. But they had to make a decision about how they would respond to the situation they found themselves in.

Having Resilience

Don’t get me wrong, restaurants, schools, and families alike have so many moving parts that make sudden changes difficult to navigate. Also, depending on the crisis, other elements such as grief, loss of income and lack of resources can play a part in how quickly the changes can be implemented. This is where resilience plays a part. Fear presents itself and will take up as much time as one allows, but you’ve got to be grounded in the truth that you can overcome anything. Think back to the things you’ve overcome in the past. Be reminded that if there’s a will, there a way.

It doesn’t matter what year or what crisis, life will come with its challenges, and the people who make it are the ones who get back up and keep moving, by any means necessary. You can claim each of the next five years as yours to win and be successful, but what’s going to make it a reality comes down to your effort. Were you working and building when everything suddenly changed? Did you get discouraged when all the plans you had were canceled? I am learning that sudden changes affect me on an emotional level. In some cases, I have felt the energy drain out of my body and I’ve stopped moving. No Bueno. When you’re resilient, you’re not easily discouraged, and you keep moving.

Consider this (post) a check up for us. This (pandemic) is an opportune time to reflect on what we’ve done so far and what we plan to make of the rest of the year, even in the midst of a crisis that is like nothing we’ve experienced before. Some of us do need the rest and many of us need to refocus. Find your place in this, but don’t give up because things aren’t what you imagined they would be right now.

Closing Thoughts

What if 2020 isn’t everybody’s “year”? What if it belongs to those who work for it? Not even a pandemic can stop a person who is determined to win. It can still be your best year yet. We’ve got eight more months in this year and the rest of our lives to be great.

Quick Konversations: Surprise!

Lately my internal konversations have been around overcoming the mental trauma from disappoints and bad experiences. I’ve learned those things continue to affect you if you don’t address them. Many of my friends know I have hated surprises for the majority of my adulthood. Not feeling understood and known has made it difficult for me to have a positive outlook on the possibility of them. There’s a lot of pressure to be grateful, regardless of how much the surprise speaks to who you are and what you love and enjoy.

The last time a surprise was planned for me, I spazzed out because it didn’t go as I would have liked. I remember making specific requests about my birthday and I felt they were ignored. After that fiasco, I’m sure my friends didn’t want to find themselves in that predicament ever again. Although I was very forthcoming about my disdain for surprises after that experience, I secretly coveted other friendships where surprise parties and activities were planned for someone. I would conjure up thoughts about not having “real” friends, because I didn’t have the experiences I wanted. I later realized that my unrealistic expectations, entitled attitude and isolation separated me from what I desired. It took me about six years, to identify my error so that I could be positioned to receive what I truly desired.

This year, because my best friend gets me, she gave me the option of being surprised or knowing what she was planning for me. I told her to keep it a surprise. I believe it was the Holy Spirit that whispered to me to allow those who love me the chance to express that love, their way. In my experience, some of my greatest disappointments were linked to passing up one opportunity for another, which ended up being a bust. Low key, I didn’t have a real plan to celebrate my birthday because I feared disappointment. Naturally, I could have planned an independent activity, but in reality I didn’t want to spend it alone. So instead of rejecting the unknown from a promising source, I obliged. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”, which attempts to protect us from disappointment. It’s not a bad thing to put all your eggs in one basket in every situation. To that I would say, it pays to assess the capability of the basket you’re putting your eggs in. If one basket has failed you in the past, you have a decision to make keeping in mind the risks involved in using that basket again. My point is that I’ve learned that the eggs, my happiness, in this case, is precious cargo and my responsibility. I plan to discuss how to navigate track records in relationships, in an upcoming post. Long story short, the surprise was dinner, an amazing live jazz performance and an impromptu photo shoot. I’m happy I gave surprises another shot.

Too Far Gone

A few months ago, I asked my Facebook friends if there really is such a thing as “too far gone”. I got a lot of the proper Christian answers that there is no such thing because of the love of God, but I wonder how many of us actually demonstrate that it in our lives. It seems that in one breath, we declare that God can do anything and in the next, we judge that someone has found themselves beyond help. It’s interesting to me that we want so much time to change but don’t always have the same amount of patience for others.

It’s time to have a Konversation about Redemption. A konversation that will hopefully restore our belief in the possibility of redemption even in the worse situations.  For those of us who know what it is to make a come back in life, you may already know where I’m going. If you don’t, follow along anyway.

In life we have limits. As people, our patience wears thin and we frequently get down to our last nerve. (Somehow that nerve just keeps on hanging on though.) Somewhere along the line of repeated disappointments, we get fed up, and lose hope. We are limited here in the earth realm, and it shows.

I think it’s fair to say that we usually have an expectation for how long trouble should last. Our life experiences usually determine our tolerance, but we all get to a point where we begin to expect a breakthrough. After that time has come and gone, our hope begins to dwindle and we cease to believe that the situation will improve.

It’s really over when we start stamping “lost cause” on people. Perhaps, the changes needed are more than what we feel is possible to achieve. Often it’s our limited capacity to endure with a person that convinces us to write them off. But, in your core, do you actually believe people can get beyond the point of redemption.

Sometimes we give up on people so quickly, not even realizing how many times they’ve been given up on already. Redemption is the opportunity to restore value to something that may have been deemed worthless. Through patience, you could be the one to help restore that value in them.

I’m a believer!

Call me crazy, but I believe in redemption!  I do not believe anyone can get too far off track to be redeemed from even the worst of situations. In fact, one thing that inspires me is transformation stories. I love a good tear jerking testimony! But my head is not in the clouds; I know that everybody doesn’t make the full 180 turn toward better. That doesn’t stop me from believing it’s possible though, and it should’t stop you!

Protect your peace, they said.

I’m protecting my peace sounds a lot better than saying, “I can’t work through this with you, so I’m cutting you off.”. Sometimes we choose to withhold love, in the name of protecting our peace, but only you know your reasons. Does it feel good to be mistreated? Of course not. And we certainly do not want to make concessions for repeated destructive behavior. But there is a way to protect yourself, and still be used to display the love of God.

Love is the gateway to redemption.

Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP

Love, should always be available through those of us that believe. That’s the right answer, but it’s not always the easiest one. I will admit, I’m working on perseverance and endurance myself. To me, emotional pain is the worst, so I totally can relate to doing what it takes to avoid it. When it feels like my effort or love has been mishandled, disconnecting is a lot easier than I’d like to admit.  In that moment, I can’t imagine having the desire to do anything but avoid the situation. But I’ve learned to take time to reflect and heal. There is a soberness that comes with being healed, which makes way for a better perception of the person and/or the relationship.

Don’t try this alone

I’ve experienced the burn out that comes with loving and working through a broken situation and trying to carry it all alone. That’s how I found out that redemption is not an individual job; we do not have the strength within ourselves to independently restore anyone. Redemption is a work of the Holy Spirit and it’s a team effort. Our role is to be vessels that God’s love can move through; to be the one to keep believing when everyone else has given up.  The truth is, redemption is a risk, just as love is. So the question is, is it worth it?

Comparison Culture

To listen to the audio version of this blog, follow the link.

Comparison is a way that we have come to determine the quality of people and things, but do we actually need to compare one thing to another to truly appreciate it or measure its value? Take life for instance. Why are you happy to be alive? Is it simply because death is its alternative or do you find worth in life itself? What about your car? Is it valuable to you because it gets you from point A to point B or do you not find value in it because it isn’t the one you want?

I know. Lots of questions to start, but I’m just wondering how it serves us to make comparisons or if it’s even necessary.

When We Compare Ourselves

In a bible study I attended years ago, the pastor pointed out that social media had become a means to measure our progress in life. At the time, I wasn’t being affected in that way, but there was truth in what he was saying. As the years passed on and my Facebook friends began to reach the major life events of getting engaged and married, moving to a new city and emerging in their career field, and traveling the world, I began to feel the effects of the “social media ruler”. My life paled in comparison because I was struggling in so many ways. It looked like they were having a much better go at life than I was. But as I became determined to regulate my own happiness and mental stability, I’ve chosen to take a break from scrolling sometimes, to guard my heart, because discontentment can creep in at a moment’s notice.

What’s dangerous about comparison is its ability to rob us of our contentment. This is a society in which we will second guess our happiness based on what someone else has that seems better. We find ourselves questioning everything about our lives because it doesn’t look like someone else’s. It’s one thing to see what someone else is doing and be motivated by it, but if we aren’t careful, we will begin to chase things we never actually wanted while depreciating what is actually valuable in our lives. With comparison, we tend lose sight of our desires and covet lifestyles for status and external validation.

When Others Compare Us

I realize that comparison did not originate with social media and at times we aren’t the culprit. Some of us experience it within our families and social groups. We are identified as the only one who isn’t married yet, or our freelance career path is compared to our hot shot brother’s corporate job. But if you’re content, what people try to exalt as the standard will be identified as an option you didn’t choose or something you can’t control. Don’t let comparison kill you! Be sure of your plan and your progress. As long as you know where you’re headed in life, that confidence will be evident and speak for you. If you find yourself discontent, hopefully you are working to seek out those things you desire or you have a support system that can help you navigate that part of your life.

When We Compare Experiences

Another form of comparison is the minimalization of an experience. In life, some of my painful experiences were brushed off because the listener didn’t think they were that bad. I was told that the situation wasn’t worth crying over because it could be worse. Once someone did it to me, I began doing it to myself. So when something came up, I played it down, no matter how much it hurt me. This can be detrimental for several reasons. When we’re forced to compare our situation to a seemingly worse situation, it diminishes our experience and can create a sense of self doubt and insecurity. Suppressing the issue holds up the healing process. While discussing this topic, my co worker said that we can’t compare our hardships because someone is always going to have it worse than you. It isn’t selfish or self absorbed to acknowledge your pain and experience.

Ponder what role comparison has played in your life. Is it having a positive or negative effect? I challenge you to find value in the things in your life without comparing it to the best or worse of something similar. Also, take time to identify your desires and goals without considering social standards.

I’d love for you to share your experiences of comparison or how you have learned to take your life and circumstances for what they are.