Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

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Reality Reflection: Why All the Hate?

Many people are thinking about the topic of love this month, and sometimes that brings out the no-so-happy feelings. It’s not awesome to have your heart broken or for someone you trusted to break that trust, and sometimes people are nasty for no reason that we can figure out, which isn’t fun. I can understand the frustration regarding injustice and need to step up and fight that, but I can’t understand why people allow their opinions or experiences to become so tainted that ambivalence or personal opinions/preferences become hate.

To use a famous, historical example, it would be one thing to say you dislike Jewish food or don’t agree with what the religion of the Jewish people teaches, but for the Nazis to turn dislike into hatred and persecution, is an unnecessary escalation. It’s OK to not like or be passionate about everything, I’m not particularly passionate about spiders or snakes, but that doesn’t mean I hate them or want to kill them all.

Why can’t people accept that everyone and everything has their differences and that’s OK? It doesn’t mean you have to marry someone of a different race/culture/background or have kids or own a gun or love wild animals. It means that as long as what someone else is doing or believing doesn’t hurt someone else and isn’t detrimental to themselves, leave them to it.

If it’s as simple as hating something because you truly don’t understand it (or think you understand it when you may not) and you don’t want to just come out and ask your questions, you can reach out to a relevant organization anonymously online and talk with them to try to understand (create a new email address, in the message give them a little background on why you’re reaching out, promise to do your best to keep it respectful, and ask some questions), or even just do some research in your favorite search engine to learn more about something you might have an unfair or biased opinion of.

Hating something or someone takes a ton of effort and energy. Yes, over time it may feel like it’s second nature and just part of who you are, but it’s still can drain you of energy that would be much better used in other ways. For example, just because you don’t like salad there’s hundreds and maybe thousands of other ways to get greens without launching an all-out hate campaign on salad. There’s really no reason for the hate, just move on to something better.

This week ahead I encourage you to take a look and see if there are hatreds or building hate in your life, and if so choose at least one to work on moving past. Why focus on the bad when you could move forward with the bigger and better?

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Helping Others

This month the topic we’re talking about is one that’s become more appropriate with the events of the past few weeks, the topic is helping. It’s something we’re seeing in a major way in Texas and other southern states following Hurricane Harvey. It’s something we see and do as a regular part of our daily lives. We also make choices not to help those who need it, sometimes for reasonable reasons, other times because we’re lazy, selfish, or just plain mean.

There are countless ways you can be a help. You can start a business and sell something someone needs. You can raise dogs as part of a seeing eye, mobility or veteran organization. You can hold the door for someone. You can donate to a cause. You can recognize the good work someone did. You can add boxes and cans to a food drive. You can volunteer with a home building organization. You can babysit for a family who just lost a grandparent. You can plant a garden. You can offer to drive a coworker whose car is in the office to work. You can help paint a neighbor’s fence. You can do your least favorite chore to help a family member who is sick or injured out. You can tutor kids. You can run a support group.

I could probably come up with hundreds of ways someone can be a help. There are plenty of excuses that we put out about why we’re not doing something to help, but the fact is with all the technology today, something even as simple as sending out a Tweet or Facebook post can be a help to someone. The biggest thing to remember about being a help is the attitude and willingness behind it. No, you don’t have to help everyone or in every situation, but when a situation comes along that you can be a help with, you should. How will you help someone today?

Reality Reflection: Where I Belong

This past weekend I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming celebration of Independence Day here in the USA and thinking about all that it means to us even so many years later. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on are the men who signed the Declaration and the women (and kids) who were part of the country as it was being established. These people chose to come to the US because they wanted freedom from Britain’s rule and wanted to be their own people and have more say in what they could and couldn’t do. The stories we hear about are pretty clear that it was very difficult in those first years, and many people died sooner than they would have if they stayed in Britain. But they believed in what they were doing and the future that they were creating.

The accounts of those early years tell us that everyone had to work really hard to build a life here. They didn’t go into a new country like we do today, knowing that it’s almost guaranteed to have available housing and essentials like food and water, they had to start completely from scratch. So by the time they got to the Declaration of Independence each and every piece of the country they built had been built by their hand, with the help of the Native Americans and others who had joined over the years. I can’t imagine how proud they all were of the country they had built and the fact that they were really ready to take some pretty significant steps away from Britain. They had built a place that gave them the freedoms they were looking for, a place to be the people they wanted to be.

We don’t have to do anything nearly as significant as start a new country to experience pride and find a place to belong to in this day and age. There are countless opportunities and ways to make a difference in our world including starting a business or charity, having a family, donating time to the community, being part of a church group, donating to a charity, or starting or joining a group on social media. The important thing is that you find a place, and people, that you fit well with, feel comfortable with, that will support you and that will encourage you to grow. You just might find that in belonging to something and being an integral part of the lives of others you find the freedom and fulfillment you’ve been looking for.

Reality Reflection: Everything to Everyone

I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.

Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.

But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.

This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.

Supporting Each Other

This week I’ve been thinking again about my place in this world, and yours too. It’s challenged me to really consider who I am, what I’m good at, why I’m here and how my imperfections work into all of it.  If you can’t admit that you struggled with something this week, shame on you.  Unless you buried your head in the sand for the whole week, I know that you’ve been challenged by something this week.  I’ve really been challenged by how much I can’t do.  I’m OK with it, but at the same time, not being able to excel at everything gets to me occasionally.  If I’ve had a particularly bad day lists of my faults and failures can parade through my mind without my permission.   Maybe you’ve dealt with some of these insecurities too.

These struggles really reminded me why it’s so important that we let others in our lives, that we not try to get through this life alone, that we make the effort to build relationships and support those we come in contact with.  Often it’s those relationships and those other people that challenge us the most, but they also make life the most rewarding.  So how do we get past the challenges and let others into our lives, let others take control in areas that we’re not so strong or capable in and they are?

First, I think we have to be humble and admit that we aren’t alone in the world and need others. It’s not easy to admit that you have weaknesses, especially if you have an image with someone.  But opening up and admitting that you’re not perfect creates an opportunity for you to grow a deeper relationship with them.

Second, Galatians 5:22 says “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”  When we choose to enter into relationships, and sustain relationships, with the fruit of the spirit, not only will we pave the way for a satisfying relationship on our end, the other person will benefit too.

Finally, find the point of reference, point of unity, or common ground you two have.  Everyone has something in common.  It may take a while to discover it, but it’s there.  For many people, a common point of interest is faith, especially faith in Christ.

Our relationships should make us stronger because they force us to work together, make us learn how to work together, and to learn how to communicate what we need and want.  This week I encourage you to be honest with yourself and the people who matter most to you in life about what’s going on in your life, where you stand and what you need.  Most people would be thrilled to step up to the plate for you and give you a hand if you would just ask.