Category Archives: Relationships

How to Communicate Without Ever Having to Say “I’m Sorry.”

What is your strategy for communicating with important people in a way that you never have to say you’re sorry?

I have been writing a lot for lessons and sermons lately, so original content for this page has been a little low. But, if it can be spoken, it can be printed. So here is one of the more significant presentations I have made over the past week. This was done for our church’s marriage and relationship workshop in Wednesdays in August.

“Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Do not sharply reprimand an older man, but appeal to him as [you would to] a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters, in all purity [being careful to maintain appropriate relationships].
‭‭1 TIMOTHY‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭AMP‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace. Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices. Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. Your clothes are scented like the cedars of Lebanon. You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.”
‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In the KJV, the word “treasure” in Song of Solomon chapter 4 is translated “sister.”
God has put us in a familial relationship with one another in the kingdom of God.
If you skip “sister” and go straight to “spouse,” then you have sacrificed a lot of depth and entered a relationship you have not properly developed.

The end result would be a childish relationship, an immature relationship, where certain needs have not been met, or have even been sacrificed for the sake of more pressing wants.

The consequences of skipping key developmental tasks are:

  • You become stuck at the stage at which development became interrupted
  • You have to return to that stage and learn the tasks that you would have learned in order to move forward in your life and relationship.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Following are the famous verses on how wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to give their lives for their wives, as Christ did for the Church. These separated forms of submission are based on developing the submission outline in verses 15-21:

DON’T be foolish. DON’T act thoughtlessly. DON’T be drunk.
But, DO be filled with the Spirit, DO sing and speak of spiritual things, DO give thanks, and DO submit one to another. Skipping steps in spiritual development will have consequences for the married life.

In a Jenga match- which piece made the tower fall?
The last piece was the trigger, or last straw, or precipitant.

But the first piece that was pulled is just as much to blame, because it led to the next piece, and the next, and the next. And in an effort to WIN, each person in the couple was responsible for bringing down the tower.

As the blocks stacked up (unresolved problems, unaddressed issues, resentment, danger), the base of the relationship became weaker.

When I titled this session “How to Communicate Without Ever Having to Say I’m Sorry,” I caused a little confusion. I’m not referring to never having to apologize. In some cases, the earlier you say I’m Sorry, the better. I’m not addressing the problem, whatever that problem is.

I’m addressing the problem behind the problem. The problem behind the problem is how we don’t communicate about what’s bothering us. Or we communicate too aggressively. Or passive-aggressively. Or hyperbolically.

It isn’t a matter of these things happening once. It is a pattern of behavior that leads to the final straw. It isn’t about the pile of laundry that’s left lying in the floor. It’s about the pile that’s left lying in the floor again. It’s about the feeling that says, “I’m unappreciated.” And if it was only the laundry, it may not be so bad, but the problem is also that there are other signs you’re being unappreciative that find their outlet in the laundry argument- “Why do you ALWAYS leave your dirty laundry in the floor?” Or the more common passive-aggressive or silent treatment.

The problem behind the problem is you won’t say you feel unappreciated.
The problem behind the problem is that you may erupt.
The problem behind the problem is that you might withdraw or withhold.
The problem behind the problem is that any of these reactions might be an act of manipulation. You will never get a change in behavior through manipulation.

Any of these malignant modes of communication will eventually lead to you saying, “I’m sorry,” if you want to save or maintain the health of your relationship. That means saying I’m sorry on top of whatever you may actually need to apologize for. And if you were not in the wrong to begin with, you will be in the wrong after communicating in one of these ways. Two wrongs do not make a right.

No one just snaps and kills someone. The victim may be random, but the violence is not. How often is your spouse your victim? Is he or she really the problem? And if so, did you just handle it correctly? In other words, without having to say your sorry?

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭KJV‬‬

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The Most Effective Way to Prevent Suicide

On World News Tonight’s August 12th, 2014 broadcast, in a conversation with medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, it was reported that calls to suicide prevention numbers have shot up substantially since the report of Robin Williams’ suicide. The anchor stated that perhaps Robin’s “greatest gift” is raising awareness so that people who are depressed or suicidal are now asking for help. I would say it is an unintended blessing. Life is the greatest gift.

Addressing suicide is never easy. If you could increase your skills and confidence in suicide prevention, do you think you would be more likely to get involved and save a life from suicide? Here are some practical steps that I have been teaching educators this year as schools have come back into session.

Ask the Question
And the question is, “Are you thinking about committing suicide?” Depending on the developmental level of the person, it may be more appropriate to ask, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It is most helpful to address suicide directly, and this can be the most difficult part. But if someone seems depressed, withdrawn, has experienced significant loss or a perceived insurmountable challenge, you might just save that person’s life. If the answer is no, that’s great. If it’s yes, or something other than a definite no, you have the opening you need to start directing that person to life-saving help.

Use the CPR of suicide prevention
The presence of one or more of these risk factors increases the risk of suicide.

Current plan
If a person indicates thoughts of suicide, ask, “Do you have a plan to kill yourself?” The presence of a plan increases risk of a completed suicide. The more detailed the plan, the higher the risk as well. Details to look for are the means of death, the place and time intended for the suicide, use of measures to avoid being discovered or stopped, and belief that the plan would work, not just in taking that person’s life, but also in ending the pain he or she currently feels.

Previous history
Past thoughts or attempts in a person’s lifetime increase the risk of a completed suicide. This includes thoughts of suicide, plans for suicide, rehearsing a plan, aborted or thwarted attempts, and unsuccessful attempts (the plan was carried out but death did not occur). If previous plans or attempts have gone unreported, the risk also increases because no treatment or planning has occurred to reduce suicide risk.

Resources available
Denying access and opportunity when thoughts of suicide are present is one of the most effective ways to prevent suicide. Restricting means and opportunity reduces the lethality of desperate or spontaneous attempts. A support person is more likely to discover, interrupt, and get immediate medical help if needed. For a person who is ambivalent about dying, reducing access to resources will prevent an attempt and allow effective helping to occur.

If you know when suicidal thoughts or plans are present in someone’s life, and you have an idea of a person’s level of suicide risk, you will be able to support a friend or loved one who desperately needs your help. When your loved one knows you truly care, you will be trusted to provide help they otherwise would not seek out for themselves. And that is the most effective way to prevent suicide.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if you need help.image
To learn more about helping people who are vulnerable to suicide, download the A Friend Asks app from the Jason Foundation.

“You’re No Help”: When Not Helping is Helpful

Personal credibility is the currency of trust, and genuine trust is crucial to effective helping.

Boundaries are really hard to maintain when you’re supposed to be helpful. Helpers are usually good-hearted and more than willing to do anything they can to provide assistance. The fact is, personal, professional, physical, and all kinds of other -al boundaries have to be maintained and need to be respected. We set ourselves up for success or failure with the boundaries we keep.

I attended a training on suicide prevention in which the participants were polled on their attitudes toward suicide. One of the questions was, on a 1-10 scale, how far would you go to prevent a person from committing suicide? A number of people rated their willingness much lower than a 10 (everything possible to prevent suicide). I answered 10. During the discussion I clarified my answer- as a father, I would do absolutely anything to keep my son from killing himself. As a professional, while the extent of my role may not allow me to spend the night supervising a client who is suicidal, I would go to the farthest extent within my role to prevent a suicide. That might mean spending hours seeking a hospital bed, assisting with a safety sweep, or signing an involuntary commitment. The frustration for helpers is, even when you are doing all you can do within your given role, you may be perceived as unhelpful by not doing more. But doing more than you should, in the end, will not be helpful. And then your credibility and long-term ability to be of service is compromised.

Not helping in a given situation is not a judgment on what the other person needs- it is a judgment on whether or not you are able to provide what they need in your particular role.

Finding common ground and returning to that common ground often throughout the process of helping should help you maintain the level of trust needed for effective helping while building respect for your boundaries:

  • Establish limits of what you can provide early and reference those limits when confusion about your role arises.
  • Establish goals and focus on how decisions made during the helping process impact those goals. When there is unclear whether or not your actions or recommendations are helpful, refer back to how you are helping to reach those goals.
  • Establish the roles of other parties involved and what they are reasonably able to do. When someone feels you aren’t taking responsibility because you are staying within your boundaries, reference the roles that other supports (personal and professional) are able and willing to take, and do all you can to make sure those supports are clear about how they will be involved in helping.
  • The majority of people in need that you find yourself trying to help are not malicious in their intent if they say you aren’t being helpful.
    Usually it is frustration, fear, or trauma doing the talking. There are always a minority of people who are simply unwilling to be involved in helping themselves and want to put all of the burden of their situation on someone else. Remember that helping is about adding value to a person, not being that person or doing the work that they should do for themselves. Never feel bad about your good-faith contributions and remember that people must choose if they truly want your help. Feel confident that you have done all you can do and know that you can’t do it all for everyone.

    Managing for a Moment

    Check out the podcast on Managing for Ministry.

    What is it that we go through the process for? Most of us would say, “To get to the end result.” We take the journey to reach our destination. As a parent, I don’t think I’m looking for my children to become grown ups, even though I know that I’m preparing them for adulthood. It is in the context of being a parent that I realize that we go through the process to make moments.

    Moments connect on a spiritual and emotional level. It is the goal of travel agents, sales people, speakers, and writers to delivers moments that bring you to a decision- buy, sell, invest, hire, etc.

    We’re wired for moments. Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and others provide moments- snippets, updates, captured points in time. I’ve heard the woe of shortened attention spans and the dumbing-down of our youth. I want my son to be able to appreciate a novel or a biography. But it’s hard to deny the power of presenting brief, powerful moments. We look for moments, we learn from moments.

    20131103-220119.jpgWe created a moment over the weekend. As the weather is cooling down here in Tennessee, we decided on the spur of a moment to build a fire, just a small one, to roast hot dogs over, in the back pasture on the farm. There was no planned party, no guests, just me, my wife, the boys and a few hot dogs. It didn’t take long to do, and it wasn’t the first time we had done this. But it created a moment. Past moments are remembered in the present, and and new ones are only made in the present.

    So how do you stay ready for the moments that will come your way? You have to manage for the moment. This includes:

    Embracing the fact that relationships rely on quality of time, not quantity. And the tendency is toward efficiency in matters of time- time scheduled for this, blocked out for that, then there is time for something else. To make moments you have to build in flexibility. I shared in this video on organization how I have used the Franklin Covey system for years, and a key point of the system is to be efficient in managing tasks, but to build in flexibility for effectiveness when it comes to managing your relationships.

    To be ready for moments, it isn’t enough to just be present. You have to be available and attentive. This is hard with all the very convenient ways we can distract ourselves. But we have to be ready to not just look at our loved ones, but to truly see them for who they are. Listen to every word and repeat them back, ask questions, or say, “Thanks for talking to me.” We can’t take for granted that our children always will talk to us, so attention to them is very important.

    We have to manage such that we appreciate opportunity over order sometimes. Chances arise that we may not get back. Sometimes it is worth busting out of the norm in order to grasp these opportunities. I’m not saying to break commitments, but to prioritize opportunities to know, to grow, and to show. This is what our legacy to our loved ones is based on, passing down the best of what we have to offer.

    The grind is always there…
    I know that life requires planning and schedules and details. When you take a vacation, it doesn’t happen without planning. The old comedic dynamic about vacations is there is always someone who plans everything to death, and usually everyone else just wants to hang loose and have fun. Managing for a moment means making a space to experience opportunities, and then making the most of that space. Block out time, go somewhere, and build the boundaries well enough to say, “This is sacred ground,” then live it out with those that are significant.

    What do you think? Are you allowing moments to happen, or squandering them away? How can this change? Let me know in the comments below.

    Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh

    A Conversation About Masculinity

    My ears perked up so quickly I thought they’d leap off my head. The comment I had just heard had all kinds of possibilities running through my head.

    I had just finished a home Bible study with three women. These women shared several things in common: they are Christians, attend church regularly, are single mothers, and are of the same race. I don’t know them well enough yet to know the details of their individual backgrounds, but since my wife and I are starting a church and have these ladies as our first home group, I know that I will learn more about them. And the fact that I heard the comment that I heard from one of these ladies leads me to believe that I will learn a lot about how women view men.

    The comment was this: “We women need to let our men be men.” And what I hope to find out is, what does this mean?

    I suspect the expectation behind “let men be men” has to do with a few different factors:

    A biblical standard. Knowing what I know so far about this lady, she has a biblical worldview. The Bible is first-hand source material on manhood and womanhood; after all, it does chronicle the creation of men and women.

    A set of experiences. This lady is younger than me and from a different cultural background. What we have in common is we have grown up with a preset expectation for men based on the men that raised us and have been in our lives. I see it from a male perspective (what should I do/be as a man?) while she sees it as a female (what men around her should be like). I have had a pretty positive experience with my father and other men that influenced me. What has hers been like? I don’t know yet, but I am certain it plays into what her statement means.

    A future hope. This lady has an energetic 2-year-old son. What is he to turn out to be? Because of our past experiences, we can see the things that we missed out on when “men weren’t men.” Whether we ever express it or not, there have been men- fathers, husbands, boyfriends, or family members- that we would have loved to have been different. These men acted on their experiences growing up as boys, and on what they thought those close to them wanted or needed from them as men. In the worst cases, these men had little or no regard for the impact they had as men and portrayed all the wrong aspects of what a man can be. So even if you or I missed out on something from the men in our lives, we still have a hope for the men we raise up- our sons, brothers, and young men looking to us as counselors and role models.

    I’m looking forward to this conversation. Will you join in? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

    Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh

    Talk About Responsible- Families Are!

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    I readily admit that not every family takes responsibility for the way they interact with one another or the world around them. But as I think about families from a strengths perspective, I have seen so many decisions that appeared to be contrary to a family’s interests, yet were born out of the desire to act independently and in a manner as to control outcomes for itself. Outcomes may not be optimal, but in the end it is at times this very act of taking responsibility for outcomes rather than turning decisions over to someone else that can help the family get unstuck.

    Families deserve respect for trying to act responsibly.

    It becomes clear to extended family, friends, or professionals from time to time that a family is stuck in a cycle of trying to act on their own to solve problems, only to discover that they are descending deeper into a hole of their own making:

  • A parent that comes home from drug treatment and tries to resume household and parenting responsibilities with children that don’t understand where mom or dad has been and why they’re trying to be “in charge.”
  • A child needs psychiatric care outside of the home and the parent thinks he or she can just parent better to make the child better.
  • Social pressure and guilt are two tremendous drivers in families that make poor decisions in an attempt to be responsible. But the sense of responsibility that is present in those families must be recognized and fostered by the supports around them.

    Families need:
    Truth-tellers, nurturers, advisors, task-takers, listeners, go-for’s, advocates, sounding boards, role models
    preferably from informal sources who are invested personally.

    The level of trauma, distress, disappointment, abuse, grief and loss a family has experienced is huge in balancing a family’s brave attempts at responsibility with real or potential negative results. Again, these families need help but deserve to have their need to act on their own behalf respected and validated.

    Have you ever tried to make something better only to have it get worse? That’s the real frustration for a lot of families. How can people in need be approached with respect and true assistance?

    Talk About Resilient- Families Are!

    20121102-201830.jpg

    But the root of change will come from within the family, not outside the family.

    This is the concluding thought of my last post on family empowerment. So what’s in a family?

    Structure and belonging are two components of resilient families.

    I pull out these two for a couple of reasons. First, the makeup of families has changed much in the past few decades. Second, the keys to families empowered by resilience have never changed.

    Structure: This certainly encompasses the rules and expectations that are put in place. But it also includes who plays what role in the family. Everyone has a place, and I believe that the family is not a single-parent proposition. Research on the important role of fathers indicates important ways that dads or male figures when a dad isn’t present, contribute to child growth and development in many ways. When there is a blended household, further role distinctions are necessary around who will discipline children and how decisions are made regarding biological children of each parent. Setting this structure helps promote resilience and empowers families.

    Belonging: Everyone seeks and deserves to belong to something bigger and greater than themselves. It begins at home- what are the positive distinctions of each household member, and how does each contribute to the family? How are each family member recognized for his or her contribution? Beyond that, a strong sense of belief or faith is extremely important: morals, convictions, trust and traditions promote a sense of belonging. This site recounts a striking example from a great book that shows how children who endured the Waco Branch Davidian tragedy were able to thrive due to a sense of love, belonging, and belief.

    Empowered families are resilient families, structuring for success and instilling a belief in themselves and in something bigger.

    I happen to be a Christian believer, thankful to Jesus Christ for a great family and a part in the Kingdom of God. Where does your belief lie? What roles do you play, or allow others to play, that promote family resilience? How would you like to make your family more resilient?