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Posts tagged ‘Being other-centered’

Why I Never Drink Alcohol

SOURCE: MICHAEL BROWN/charismamag.com

I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

Forty-six years ago, in 1971, the Lord graciously saved me from a life from sinful destruction, which included very serious drug abuse and some heavy drinking as well. From that day until today, I have never abused drugs again or had a sip of alcohol, other than taking Communion with a taste of wine when that was the only option.

Do I believe that the Scriptures require total abstinence for all believers? No, I do not.

Do I believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine in John 2, even if the wine was not as fermented as today? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that some Christians can drink some alcoholic beverages in moderation without sinning before God? I certainly do.

So, I am not here as anyone’s judge or jury, nor am I trying to force my convictions on anyone else. I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

First, although I loved getting high on drugs and getting drunk before I was saved, I did not enjoy the taste of alcohol. Once I gave up getting drunk, I had no interest in drinking at all. There was no temptation or desire.

Things were very different for my wife Nancy, who was born again in 1974. She really enjoyed the taste of alcohol and also got drunk before she was saved. So, for her, there was no question at all that she should avoid even the taste of alcohol once she was in the Lord. Why play with fire? Drinking only had sinful connections in her life.

Second, the church in which Nancy and I came to faith practiced total abstinence, so this became our practice as well.

I honestly don’t remember the pastor teaching on it in those early, formative years. Instead, we learned it from the other believers, some of whom used to be heavy drinkers before they were saved as well. For them, too, it was quite natural to cut that cord of attachment with the world.

Third, I began preaching in 1973 at the age of 18, so I was quickly looked to as a leader on some level. What kind of example was I setting? If others followed my lead, would they be helped or hurt?

For me, this was another good reason not to drink socially, since so many believers struggled with drinking before they saved, and some continued to struggle after they were saved. Why put another stumbling block before them?

Fourth, I have heard the same sad story many times over the decades, and it gives me real pause.

A former alcoholic sees another brother or sister have a glass of wine with their meal, or they visit your house and see that you have beer in your refrigerator. They then think to themselves, “Well, if it’s OK for them, I guess it’s OK for me,” and they have one drink—just one—and quickly find themselves enslaved again, sometimes for years.

So, your liberty, which might be totally fine between you and the Lord, ends up destroying a precious brother or sister.

Paul addressed this in the context of food sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same: “and by your knowledge [meaning, the knowledge that food itself doesn’t defile us] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? When you thus sin against the brothers, wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, least I cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:11-13).

The lesson here is that we should put greater emphasis on helping weaker brothers and sisters than on enjoying our liberty.

Fifth, I minister in many different church cultures, some of which also practice total abstaining, therefore I take the more stringent road as a way of life.

For example, I’ve ministered in Italy and England on 40 different trips, and on my occasions, I’ve had meals with other Christian leaders who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.

I’ve never seen them drunk, nor have I felt they were doing something wrong. It’s their culture, and this is between them and God. (If this seems to be in violation of my last point, it’s not. I’m sharing my own counsel and convictions, not imposing them on others.)

I’ve also ministered in Asia on more than 40 different trips, most commonly in India, and I’ve never once seen a believer drink alcohol there, nor have I seen it on my few trips to Africa.

Again, for my own life, I’d rather live the same way in both cultures. In that way, if I’m ever asked about my personal practices in the stricter environment, I can say that I never drink at all.

Sixth, we are commanded in Scripture to be sober and vigilant (for example, 1 Pet. 5:8), whereas alcohol can easily lead to sluggishness, impaired judgment, sloppy thinking and acting, and outright drunkenness.

Since I believe in fleeing from that which destroys (see, for example, 2 Tim. 2:22), I run towards sobriety and away from anything that leads to drunkenness.

Seventh, I do not want to be enslaved by any earthly habit. (For decades, I was a chocoholic. By God’s grace, I’ve been totally free that from enslavement, along with other food addictions, for more than three years now—and I emphasize the words “by God’s grace.”)

It’s so easy to become dependent on that one drink just to calm your nerves, that one drink just to take the edge off, that one drink to quiet your fears, that one drink.

Perhaps you’re leaning on that one drink rather than on the Lord? Perhaps you’re becoming dependent on it? Perhaps one drink will lead to two or three or more?

Despite the lies of the flesh and the world, sin never satisfies. Instead, it leads to more sin, then to worse sin, and then it enslaves.

Which direction is your drinking taking you? Are you now getting into alcohol in general? Are you now trying out harder and harder liquor and encouraging your friends to do the same? Are you even having some drinking parties where you glory in your “liberty”? Have you had more to drink than you planned, even getting mildly drunk?

Again, I’m not playing God here, and I’m not sitting as your judge. But if you said yes to any of these last four questions, I can almost guarantee you that you’re on a slippery slope in the wrong direction and that, soon enough, your “liberty” will turn to bondage.

That’s also why I have a personal problem with the whole “beer and Bible” approach to ministry.

On the one hand, I understand that churches want to meet sinners where they are and invite them to study the Word in a comfortable environment. But at what point do these sinners hear the message of repentance, which includes repenting of drunkenness? And how many former alcoholics in the church now stumble and fall because of this environment?

To say it again, I’m only sharing my personal convictions here, and I’m quite familiar with the argument that those who have learned to drink in moderation all their lives will not struggle with getting drunk.

For many, that is true, just like in traditional Jewish culture, where small amounts of wine are incorporated into various meals and rites.

But in a country like America, where there is so much drunkenness and decadence, I’d rather err in the opposite direction and simply have nothing to do with alcohol in this world. And yes, once more, these are simply my own views, which I share because I’m often asked about drinking.

And even in biblical days, where alcoholic beverages may not have been as fermented as today and where most believers certainly did not practice total abstaining, we still have this warning: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

The bottom line is that there are far more important things than food and drink, which is why Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

May we all pursue that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” in a manner fitting as a kingdom of priests before our God.

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5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Shaunti Feldhahn/Family Life

A few small actions carry surprising power in building a lasting relationship.

Not long ago, the marriage of some close friends—I’ll call them Daniel and Jessica—suddenly imploded. We did everything we could to stand with them in their crisis to speak hope for their future together. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t survive.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Jessica one day. Through her sobs, she said, “He worked so hard for a year to take us on that amazing vacation to Hawaii. But all I really wanted was for him to put his arm around me at church!”

Huh? Do you think in the midst of all her pain that she was thinking clearly? Actually, I do.

I could fill in lots of other details, but ultimately the pattern is a sadly common one. You may have seen it too. Daniel was a godly, well-intentioned husband who showed his love in several ways, including working long hours to provide for his family and to do nice things for them. You see, for him, providing is love.

Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that what he was working so hard for wasn’t what Jessica most needed—and in some ways was actually robbing her of the closeness she needed the most. (And of course there were ways she didn’t know she was hurting him.) What she needed most, more than all the expensive vacations in the world, were a few simple, specific day-to-day actions.

But as simple as loving gestures in public? you wonder.

Yes! My research on happy couples showed that an extraordinarily high percentage of them were (often without realizing it!) doing a few little specific actions that were making their spouses feel deeply cared for. Jessica, as it turns out, is like nearly all other men and women in her deep rooted desire for these surprisingly meaningful gestures.

Day-to-day actions

Clearly, a few small actions won’t fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t. There’s just enormous power in that!

For nearly every man or woman, the same few small, gender-specific actions not only matter but have a huge impact on a couple’s level of happiness. But these little actions take on even more power when accompanied by those that matter to your spouse individually.

Let’s begin with the few small actions that the surveys indicate matter a lot to almost every man or woman—what we might call the Fantastic Five.

When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.

In other words, you are very likely to make your spouse feel deeply cared for if you make a habit of doing the same five things consistently.

The Fantastic Five for him

A wife will have a big impact on her husband’s happiness when she does the following:

1. Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. (For example, she says, “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside.” Or, “Thanks for playing with the kids, even when you were so tired from work.”) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

2. Says “You did a great job at __________.” This deeply pleases 69 percent of all men.

3. Mentions in front of others something he did well. This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

4. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. This deeply pleases 85 percent of all men.

5. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. (For example, she expresses appreciation for something he did for her with a smile, words, a big hug, etc.) This deeply pleases 88 percent of all men.

The Fantastic Five for her

On his side, a husband will have a big impact on his wife when he does the following:

1. Takes her hand. (For example, when walking through a parking lot or sitting together at the movies.) This deeply pleases 82 percent of all women.

2. Leaves her a message by voice mail, e-mail, or text during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. This deeply pleases 75 percent of all women.

3. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public (at church, at a restaurant with friends, etc.). This deeply pleases 74 percent of all women.

4. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.

5. Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something, instead of withdrawing. (This doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or need space; it means he tries to pull himself out of it.) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all women.

Keys that unlock any door

Did you notice that all these happiness-inducing actions are simple, learnable, and doable by any wife or any husband? If you put each of the five biggest little things to work every day, I’m betting your marriage will improve—in some cases, radically.

And here’s more great news: All these small but powerful actions matter regardless of what the person’s love language is. For example, most wives (82 percent) are affected when her husband reaches out and takes her hand, regardless of whether physical touch is her thing.

There’s no looking back for our friends Jessica and Daniel. But I’m so thankful that God is good. He is always at work to redeem our broken hearts—and I know He’ll do it for our friends. Still, a corner of my heart mourns the heartbreak that might have been prevented if they had truly understood the power of doing these best little things.

We all know that small, thoughtful acts are not a magic cure-all for every marriage problem. But having talked to so many who nurtured much happiness with simple but powerful actions, I know all of us can build that all-important foundation that helps us believe that our mate notices and cares.

Because as it turns out, believing that the other person cares is far more important to building a happy marriage than most of us ever realized.

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Adapted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn

How to Turn Your Pain into Something Positive

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Can pain ever be good?

That’s a fair question, but mostly an intellectual one to me, until recently. You see I’ve been blessed with good health and without much physical pain for most of my life. But a recent injury put me in a season of constant and intense back pain. For quite a while, I was getting just a few hours of sleep a night, sometimes feeling lost in an emotional fog. Even though it’s been a painful setback, it’s got me thinking about the importance of pain, and asking some big questions:

What will I do with my pain? How can I turn my pain into something positive?

Whether pain is physical or emotional, it can be used for good, to make a positive impact on others.

As I wrote about in my book, All Pro Dad, here are a few ways that pain can be used for something good and positive:

Pain can bring clarity to what is most important in life.

Yes, pain can create an emotional fog and make it hard to think straight. But it can also force you to an off-ramp in life for a while that can help you take stock of your priorities. As I’ve been working through the pain and fog, I’m also finding some clarity on things that are important in my life. It’s been a good time to take stock of my usage of time and resources to ensure I’m being a good steward of what’s been entrusted to me and my family.

Pain can be a bonding agent in relationships.

Pain allows you to identify with another person who is going through something very similar. Empathy is an important character trait of a loving leader. When you empathize with others, you experience similar feelings, thoughts, and emotions and then take action based on what you’ve experienced to meet the needs of others. It’s often the things we have in common that create or deepen our bonds.

Pain can change your trajectory.

Past pain can motivate us to look outward instead of just inward. Sometimes pain is paralyzing, and we get very self-focused as we deal with it. But as we do, pain (especially relational pain) can eventually help us to see the need to work towards helping others. Maybe it’s breaking a cycle of dysfunction or brokenness in a family tree that we’ve experienced, or picking up the pieces from an addiction we’ve battled that has hurt more than just ourselves. Eventually, we face a choice: stay focused on self or be motivated to help others.

Pain can give us credibility and opportunity to help others.

When we have endured pain we’ve never experienced before, we have the power of empathizing with others going through the same pain, not just those suffering in general. As a result, others are aware that we know what they are going through and will listen to what we have to say, perhaps even more so than others who try to speak into their lives but haven’t shared the same pain.

Pain can give us a future message of hope to others.

As we deal with the pains of our past or present, God gives us hope and healing that can become a very meaningful message to others. The pain can become a purpose for our voice as well as the message of hope our voice proclaims to the world.

Marriage: Don’t Fix — Feel

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

3 A’s of Empathy in Marriage

Sometimes, my wife, Susan, doesn’t need or want me to do things for her or fix things for her. Sometimes she’d rather I just feel things with her. That’s what empathy is all about. Empathy deepens a marriage through a shared understanding, perspective, or experience. I realized the importance of empathy from, of all places, an NFL coach.

As I shared in my book All Pro Dad, Coach Jim Caldwell, at the time with the Indianapolis Colts, once shared with me what he considers to be two critical components of leadership. The first one, expertise, didn’t surprise me. But the second one did: empathy.

Applying it to parenting, he said to me, “You must have empathy in both parenting and coaching. Whether it’s one of my players or one of my children, as a leader, I have to be able to put myself in their shoes. Being a coach has made me a better parent and being a parent made me a better coach. Having kids taught me how to empathize with others.”

Through the years, as I’ve thought about Coach Caldwell’s words, I’ve become absolutely convinced that he’s right…and that it applies to marriage as well. Empathy involves both the head and the heart. If you recognize the need to better empathize with your spouse, consider these three A’s to feel empathy:

  • Awareness — Be aware of what your spouse is feeling and what’s behind that feeling.
  • Agenda — Set aside your own agenda and focus on the needs of your spouse.
  • Action — Take action on meeting the needs of your spouse.

Let’s unpack each one of those a bit more.

Awareness. Being more aware of your spouse’s feelings starts with being observant around them. You can’t read their mind or heart, so you have to observe and ask and listen.

  • Read your spouse’s nonverbal cues, like their facial expressions.
  • Avoid making assumptions that whatever emotional struggles your spouse has are all about you. It could be they’re upset about something at work or the kids. When you assume the worst, you sometimes bring out the worst in your spouse.

Agenda. This is about being selfless instead of selfish. It’s about putting your spouse’s needs before your own.

  • Deprioritize your plans. If your spouse is struggling and you have plans, making their needs a higher priority speaks volumes to them. You can’t be selfish and empathetic at the same time.
  • Resist the urge to fix things. Sometimes your spouse needs to hear you say, “I love you and I care about you” more than a game plan for how to make their life better.
  • Set aside your agenda even if it’s inconvenient. I remember having my Saturday all planned out and thought it would go just as planned. So, when Susan wanted to share how she was feeling with me, I got frustrated and let her know that she infringed on my plans. I learned very quickly that my reaction was not only selfish but also didn’t do much to build intimacy in our relationship.
  • Hold your schedule loosely. Being late to church, a kid’s practice, or a dinner reservation may be a small price to pay to really connect with your spouse. If you choose your schedule over your spouse, you might bulldoze your spouse’s heart in the process.

Action. Find something you can do for your spouse that shows that they are your priority and that you understand them.

  • As the saying goes, Actions speak louder than words. There are certain things we can do that tend to be especially effective at filling the chambers of a wife’s or husband’s heart.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but attitudes speak louder than actions. Whatever you do for your spouse, do it with a cheerful attitude.
  • Do things with pure motives. If I see Susan heading into a jam-packed week and I say, “Hey, let me go the store or do laundry for you,” but I did it to get something in return, that’s not loving well.

Relationships: Are You a “S-O-G”?

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Why Scare My Wife?

Corlette and I have very different depth perception. A car that I see as being a hundred feet away she sees as being a hundred inches away.

So when I’d make a left turn with a car coming towards us in the opposite lane, she would tense up, grab the door handle, and jam her foot against the floor as if there was a second brake pedal on her side of the car.

Her apparent lack of trust irritated me, so once we’d made the turn, I’d sigh loudly and say, “See, we had plenty of room” … which did nothing to diminish her sense of near disaster or reduce the adrenaline that had sent her heart racing.

Frankly, it didn’t do much for our relationship either.

All of this changed when the Lord prompted me to evaluate my behavior through the three lenses of relational wisdom: Self-awareness, Other-awareness, God-awareness (aka, the SOG plan).

As I thought about Corlette’s reaction, I realized that this was not a matter of trust; she was truly frightened by my driving. It wasn’t something she chose to feel. When I turned in front of an oncoming car, her brain simply processed the data in such a way that she was genuinely convinced we were in danger … thus the rush of adrenaline and reflex pumping on a nonexistent brake.

Although it was not premeditated, I finally saw that I was repeatedly subjecting Corlette to unnecessary fear.

This realization forced me to take an honest look at my own heart. Why, to save a mere six seconds of time, would I knowingly scare my wife?

The answer to that question was not pleasant to face. I was guilty of insensitivity, a lack of empathy, pride, selfishness … in short, a recurring failure to love.

Finally, I had to ask myself how God viewed my behavior. It took only a moment to realize I was not pleasing him. The Bible contains clear instructions on how to treat people in general and my wife in particular, all of which I’d been sinfully ignoring. For example …

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

“It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Rom. 14:21).

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24).

“I try to please everybody in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many” (1 Cor. 10:33).

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).

“Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor …” (1 Pet. 3:7).

As I reflected on these verses, I realized that I had not been looking out for Corlette’s interest to feel safe. I was not giving up my driving preferences for hers. And I was certainly not living with her in an understanding way.

I finally saw that this wasn’t some small difference of opinion between her and me. It was a matter of me sinning against God. It was time for repentance.

So the next time we were driving together and I needed to make a left turn with a car coming toward us, I waited … and waited … and waited. By the time the car passed and I actually turned, it was obvious to Corlette that there had been plenty of time to turn ahead of the other vehicle.

Realizing I’d waited in deference to her, she reached over and gently touched my arm. With a warm smile and pleasant voice, she said, “Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you.”

Instead of the mutual irritation such turns had previously caused, I felt a wave of affection and thankfulness from my wife and for my wife …

Which moved me to ask myself, “Why did it take so long to realize that such a simple gesture would bless her so much?”

How about you?

Have you been ignoring ways that you scare, frustrate or disappoint another person?

Have you been oblivious to ways you could comfort, encourage, or support someone else?

One way to overcome such blind spots is to simply look at your relationships through the three lenses of relational wisdom: self-awareness, other-awareness, God-awareness.

Like me, you may find that major improvements come from very small changes … like waiting just six seconds to make a left hand turn.

Marriage: 50/50 OR 100/100?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Family Life/Dave Boehi

The Futility of the 50/50 Plan

Don’t you hate it when you see a couple arguing in public?

Recently I was sitting at my gate in an airport, waiting to board a plane. Nearby was a young couple with a baby, and observing them was like watching someone open a can of Coke after shaking it for 30 seconds. I knew what was about to happen, and I wanted to duck for cover.

They were frazzled and frustrated. Each wanted to relax and let the other person take care of a cranky baby and a pile of carry-on items. The husband appeared to be one of those men who gets angry whenever things don’t go as he wishes.

As they walked down the ramp to the plane, the wife received a phone call. She wanted her husband to hold the baby while she talked, and he exploded. “I’ve been taking care of her all day long!” he complained (loudly). “You’re always on the phone.”

“You’ve hardly helped at all,” she replied. “And you’re never on the phone yourself?”

It went on from there, all the way down the ramp. I wondered how they treated each other behind closed doors if they acted like this in public.

Fortunately they calmed down on the plane, thanks to the intervention of a saintly flight attendant who showered them with attention and encouragement. She did everything she could to make the flight pleasant for them, and that seemed to relieve the pressure.

It appeared that this couple had no clue about how to resolve conflict in their relationship. But I found myself thinking about an underlying cause of their conflict: They seemed to be operating under the common worldly pattern of marriage—the “50/50 Plan.” She felt she was doing her part in raising their daughter, and her husband was not doing enough. He seemed to feel the same about her.

The 50/50 Plan is based on performance. Typically, couples work out some sort of agreement about how they’ll divide family responsibilities and household duties, declaring, “You do your part, and I’ll do mine.” Acceptance and affection is often tied to how well each spouse does his or her part. As Dennis Rainey writes in Starting Your Marriage Right, “Performance becomes the glue that holds the relationship together, but it isn’t really glue at all. It’s more like Velcro. It seems to stick, but it comes apart when a little pressure is applied.”

On the surface, the 50/50 Plan sounds reasonable—why shouldn’t both spouses pledge to do their part? But in the end, it won’t work, for a number of reasons:

  • You can never meet all of your spouse’s expectations.
  • Inevitably you focus on your spouse’s weaknesses and failures and lose sight of your own.
  • It’s impossible to know when your spouse has met you halfway.

The truth is that both spouses in a marriage are sinful, flawed human beings, and both want their own way. As Rainey continues:

What a marriage needs is the super glue of Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” It’s what we refer to as the 100/100 Plan, which requires a 100 percent effort from each of you to serve your spouse.

The Bible describes this plan well in Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There’s no closer neighbor than the one you wake up to each morning! And since most of us love ourselves passionately, we are well on the way to implementing the 100/100 Plan if we take a similar approach to loving our spouses.

Start by stating the 100/100 Plan like this: “I will do what I can to love you without demanding an equal amount in return.”

With the 100/100 Plan, both husband and wife are willing to step in and do all the work. At home, both are willing to get the chores done. At the airport, both are willing to care for a fussy baby.

The 100/100 Plan allows for the inevitable trials and difficulties that any couple will encounter during the different seasons of life. It keeps a family going when one spouse is sick or injured, or working odd hours, and is therefore unable to contribute as much. It allows for the richness of a relationship in which each spouse complements the other because of differing strengths, personalities, and abilities.

In short, it’s the plan that provides the best picture of a biblical marriage.

Manipulative Double Messages

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

One of the most effective ways to undermine a relationship is to use double-messages to manipulate other people.

This all-too-common process was perfectly illustrated in a recent edition of Baby Blues, one of my favorite cartoon strips.

Double Message

Wanda has clearly mastered the art of “control without coercion.” By saying “It’s fine,” she gives the appearance of being reasonable. But she long ago loaded those words with another meaning: “Go if you want to, but later on you’ll pay the price of a cold and irritable wife.”

As the last frame shows, both her husband and his friend know exactly what her words really mean … and they give up their plans to avoid a conflict.

I’m embarrassed to think of how many times I’ve used these kinds of double-messages to manipulate people in my life, especially my wife.

I’m good at saying words that sound right on the surface, but it’s all too easy to add a subtle tone of voice or facial expression that sends a contradictory message … one designed to bend others to my will without overtly exposing my selfishness.

How about you? Is this something you do as well? If you don’t think so, ask the people closest to you for their honest opinion.

If this is a habit in your life, there are three things you can do to overcome it.

First, confess it to God, as well as the people you’ve manipulated, and ask those closest to you to bring it to your attention whenever you do this again.

Second, pray that God would press ahead with his promise to conform you to the likeness of Christ by giving you an active hatred for this sin and by replacing your desire to control others with a genuine joy for serving and encouraging them (Rom. 8:29; 2Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-24).

Third, develop the habit of intentionally using all of the means of communication God has built into you (words, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language) to send honest and congruent messages to those around you, especially when they might have some doubts as to your real intentions.

Had Wanda done this when her husband wanted to play ball with his friends, she would have first needed to go through a quick internal examination and adjustment of her own heart:

“I’m feeling disappointed and irritated. Why? I was really hoping Darryl would spend the morning shopping with me. But that’s selfish; it’s all about me. He’s been working really hard lately, and I know he doesn’t enjoy shopping. It would be good for him to get some exercise and have fun with his friends. Since I’ve punished him in the past for not following my plans, I need to make an extra effort to assure him that I really want him to go with Mike.”

Then she would have turned to her husband with a genuine smile, and with a warm and encouraging tone of voice said,

“I always enjoy it when you go shopping with me, but today I think it would be great if you had some time with your buddies. You’ve been working really hard lately, and I’d love to know you’re doing something you enjoy. I’ll have some ice packs and a cold drink waiting for you when you get home and look forward to hearing about all you great shots!”

An affectionate kiss would be a nice reinforcement.

These simple applications of the READ and SERVE principles would have blessed her husband, added a big deposit to their “relational capital account,” and set a positive example for their daughter, who (as you can see in each frame of the cartoon) is carefully listening to … and learning from … every word her parents speak.

May God give both me and you grace to renounce manipulative double-messages and use our words only to bless the people around us–even if it means giving them freedom to shoot hoops instead of going shopping … or vice versa!

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