How to Build Christian Relationships

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Marriage Relationships

Building solid Marriage Relationships

Strange, isn’t it, that building Christian relationships, something we all really do want, seems to be illusive and slippery and hard to grasp.  Sadly this is born out in the divorce courts and counseling rooms across our nation and around the world. It’s born out in the lives of young women who choose to never have children because their own childhoods were so difficult. It’s born out in relationships where couples are afraid to commit to marriage because of—well, a myriad of reasons. And to list them will not shed a ray of light on how to build a relationship or even define a Christian relationship.

So let’s start at the beginning. What is a relationship anyway?  Webster’s New World Dictionary simply states that a relationship is a “connection between or among  persons.” The connection can be anything such as blood relationship, common interests, shared responsibilities or friends.

The next questions tumble one after another. What is a Christian relationship? What makes it distinctive? How do you build it? How do you maintain it? What are the distinctive marks that demonstrate you really have it? All good questions deserving specific  answers so let’s back up and take one at a time.

What is a Christian relationship?  For Christians who are serious and intent on being Christ-followers, we soon find as we begin studying the Bible that Christ’s thinking on relationships is radically different than ours. For example, He says to forgive our enemies, yet we all know Christians that hold grudges, verbally back-stab or find reason to speak against others; Jesus Christ teaches us to forgive 7 x 70 times. i.e. don’t bother to count the times you’ve forgive someone, just keep on forgiving. He teaches us to be faithful to one spouse, to not be drunk, to not lie and to look out for the interests of others above our own interests. He says if we love others, then we will be patient. To be kind, which is to do only what is in the best interest of the other person. Now, that’s radical when we live in a society whose philosophy is to look out for number one. And of course, we’re left with the question of how to make all this happen?  Yet, the Bible is very specific.

Healthy Relationships

How to build a Healthy Christian Relationship

Many of you reading this probably know that the two commandments given us by Jesus Christ deal with relationships.  Both have to do with love; loving God and loving others as ourselves as stated in Matt.22:37-39.   You likely know that Christ-like love is unconditional.  And all this means is that you have the “why” and “what” of Christian love down pat.

What most of us know little about is “how” to love with the kind of love that Jesus Christ is talking about in His command.  Oh, we have the loving down pretty well that comes at Christmas or birthdays when we demonstrate love to family and friends or someone in need. We know what it “feels” like to fall in love. We nearly burst with a kind of love when we look into the trusting smile of our little toddlers. I’m sitting here with my little dog on my lap, and I love my little Sophia dearly. Many who don’t know Jesus Christ do this kind of love very well.  But the love that Jesus wants to mark our lives is different from all l these kinds of love,

John 13:35 says He wants those who know nothing of Jesus to see Him by our love.

Although the loving character of God is demonstrated all through scripture and lived by example in the life of Jesus Christ, the central passage about love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Keep in mind that these truths about love are what we seek to learn and live in our live out of obedience to God who said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments, ” and as already stated, the primary commandment for Christians is to love God, ourselves and others.  And to do this, we need to know what Christ is talking about when He says love.

Back to 1 Cor. 13, there are eighteen specific facets about love listed and although we can’t look at them in depth here, a glance is well worth our time.  They divide into three segments and for our purpose here, I’ve named them as follows.  The Governors of relationships, the Gremlins of relationships and the Guardians of relationships.

The Governors, patience and kindness, as defined in scripture, set safe boundaries so that true loving attitudes and actions can flourish. These governors help us to discern and protect others from our unloving attitudes and actions and they help us discern what we receive from others.  We could say they keep the love gates open.

The Gremlins listed; envy, boasting, pride, rudeness, self-seeking, anger, holding grudges, and rejoicing in evil are like termites eating away at our loving attitudes and actions. They will destroy, over time, very deep feelings of love. These gremlins creep into our lives in all sorts of subtle way.  And, from my experience I’ve discovered the main way they creep into our lives is because we don’t recognize them for what they are. Remember, the enemy of our souls and our Christian relationships glories in keeping us ignorant and deceived. He did me for many years.

I memorized these verses when I was a child, yet it wasn’t until my marriage of then over 25 years was in trouble that I began to realize how little I knew about “how” to love as Jesus Christ because I didn’t know what He was talking about when He said “love.” I didn’t know what attitudes and actions, yes gremlins, were slowing destroying my love for my husband so and I didn’t know “how” to love as Christ.   Over the years I have found this true of nearly every Christian I’ve counseled, mentored, disciple and coached.

When people just like you and I discover how to identify the Gremlins in our lives and deal with them, change happens. Building Christian relationships happens .  Paul speaks in Hebrews 12 1-2 about laying aside every encumbrance that entangles us and run with endurance the race before us. This truth applies to our relationships. Consider for a moment how much it will help in building relationships if you know specifically what trips you up whether in your self-talk and conclusions about yourself, your family relationships or your work and social relationships.

The third cluster of facets that describe love I refer to as the Guardians of our relationships for two reasons.  First of all, coupled with the two governors, patience and kindness, these guardians encompass who God is.  After all, God is love. When these components of love are active in our lives, we experience loving relationships at a whole new level. These guardians include what we all long for; truth, protection, hope, trust, endurance, joy and praise God, this love never fails us! These characteristics of love are truly the guardians of our relationships.

Building Christian relationships is a process, implied by the word building.  Let me put it into the framework of what I refer to as “The Three “R’s”. Reframe, Refocus and Reclaim.

Reframe:

We start this relationship building process by first looking at what you have, seeing what’s lacking and assessing what’s out of alignment with what the Bible teaches about loving relationships.  Then, through a conversation process I coach and instruct clients to see patience and kindness within the framework of God’s definitions from scripture.  Then, again through conversation begin to focus on who needs to change and what needs to change so that Christ-like love is actually being lived out. Easy? No way. This takes work, patience, prayer and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. But you will see and experience change!

Refocus:

With new understanding and skills,  you will lean new options of resolving conflict, and identify underlying issues and how to  begin to experience for yourself the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. The promises of the Bible will take on new life and your relationships will become more Christ-like.  You will be building relationships on love as defined by God Himself.  A love that is unfailing.

Reclaim:

This whole reclaiming business is something like the grand finale of the fireworks or the grand finale of a great symphony.  You’re beginning to see yourself and others through God’s eyes and live from a whole new framework, a whole new perspective.  You’re gaining a new focus, not looking back, not focused on real or perceived obstacles but forward to new things God has for you. And your beginning to see it all come together as you learn to reclaim all that is yours, as promised by God Himself, and made possible by the grace and loving mercy of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, at work in your heart and mind will give you the will (desire) and ability to do all that brings glory to God. Phil. 2:13 Now, that’s life.

It’s available to you.  Are you ready to say yes, I need help, I want help, I will invest in myself so that I can be the right person in all my relationships. So that I can fully be the best “me” that God intends and desires me to be?

Say yes now. You become the person who is all about building Christian relationships.

The # 1 Saboteur of Team Relationships

If I were to ask you to state what the number one saboteur of team relationships is, what would you say? The hierarchy rather than the servant leadership style of the CEO, or an unclear vision of leadership? Maybe, from your experience you’d say, poorly defined job description or communications. Some might refer to the carrot and stick motivation the company uses, reward you with some slight reward if you reach a goal but whack you if you don’t.

Perhaps you would say the most threatening saboteur of strong teams relationships is today’s economic pressures which require everyone on a team to do more or produce more with less help, less time, and less budget.

Although these may be factors adding to poor relationships, the number one saboteur of team relationships is gossip. Yes, GOSSIP. Idol talk about the latest scuttlebutt based on hear-say. It’s insider information, scandal, along with, mud-slinging , tales and tattling. It’s still gossip even if it’s served on the platter of “a matter to pray about.”

Gossip Always Destroys
There is no such thing as innocent gossip. Something is always destroyed. It’s interesting to look in the Bible to the governing rules God gave to the Israelites after leading them out of Egypt. He touched on everything from matters of hygiene to justice. In Exodus 23:1-2 God instructs them with these words. “You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand. You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong…” God forbid gossip because He knew the harm slander and false rumors would do the families and community, or a team by any name.

Gossip Destroys Safety Between Friends

Doubt and distrust are always the outcome of gossip and undermine the camaraderie of even the best of friends and team members (Prov.16:28) because gossip suggests a flaw about the character or the competency of the one being gossiped about. Consider how King David described gossip when he wrote these words in Psa. 57:4 (NLT). “I am surrounded by fierce lions who greedily devour human prey–whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows, and whose tongues cut like swords.” “Just as damaging,” it says in Proverbs 26:18, “as a madman shooting a deadly weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.” (NIV) Whether we are consciously telling a lie or unwittingly repeating a lie because someone said it to us, the results are damaging and God forbids it.

Gossip Destroys Safety Within the Work Environment

Several years ago I was asked to write the story of Pastor Keith Barnhardt who was accused of molesting children in the church daycare. Although the pastor never had any involvement with the daycare, something was said and a mom reacted and immediately the rumor mill took off and almost before he knew what was happening, Pastor Barnhardt found himself in prison. Even though he was released on bail, it took months of litigation and thousands of dollars to finally have his name legally cleared of all charges. Still, the effects of gossip ruined his ministry, the daycare was closed, and it left a stigma from which the church never fully recovered.

No wonder James wrote, “…the tongues is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (NLT) Stories like Pastor Barhardt happen more often than most of us imagine. The damage is incalculable. Paul gives us another slant to consider if we’re prone to gossiping. He said in 11 Thessalonians 3:11-12, 14. “Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living…Take note of those who refuse to obey…stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.” (NLT)

Gossip Is Unproductive
Whether it’s at the office water fountain, out fishing, over the phone or texting though cyberspace, people stick their noses in other people’s

Stop Gossiping

Building Team Relationships can be undermined by spreading Gossip.

business and pass along gossip because they’re not mentally or physically engaged in something productive.

Gossip Destroys Trusts
The most respected servant-leaders and their teams can be undermined and sabotaged by gossip because it destroys trust, which is basic to leaders and their teams. Gossip cast a shadow of doubt-

  • On the character, the integrity of the leader or team
  •  On the competency, the ability of the leader or team

Safety within the team environment will be sacrificed on the same two levels. Team members will questions each other’s character or their competency infecting the chemistry. Then you lose both the heart and the head of your team members. When gossip is tolerated, strong team relationships disintegrate.

This doubt casting and mud-slinging is as old as time. Think back to the garden and question Satan planted in Eve’s mind, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Not only did Satan misquote God, he implied God was holding something back from Eve. Satan maligned the character and the competency of God.

Gossip Kills
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) Whether to an individual or to a team, words will have an effect. The one speaking makes a choice.

Gossip is a Sin
In the Bible, gossip is included in more than one list of sins so here we will only look at one. Romans 1:28-32 is the complete list. I’ll only mention a few. “…full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, hater’s of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful…” And verse 32 concludes, “…those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but give hearty approval to those who practice them.

The 3 R’s Solution
Two great men of the Bible make it clear. Gossip must be dealt with. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 26:20 ” Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” In 11 Thessalonians, Paul leaves us with two commands. Warn them as you would a sibling and stay away from them.
Thinking in terms of the 3 R’s will summarize the solution

Reframe
There is no such thing as innocent gossip.
• Gossip destroys.
• It creates an unsafe environment among friends and team members.
• Gossip is unproductive
• Gossip destroys trust bringing into question character and competency.
• Gossip kills something deep inside of the one who is the subject of gossip.

Refocus
We must see gossip as God does. He has given us a greater command we must not miss. The command to love like Jesus. When we engage in gossip, either spreading it or listening to it, we are not loving like Jesus. We aren’t even loving God. God says, if you love me you will obey me and the great command He gives us is to love one another.
Christ-like love, described in 1 Cor. 13, requires we protect each other from our sinful nature. As we’ve seen, gossip is destructive. Yet motivated by our love for God, we choose to protect others by not gossiping. Then we are loving, like Jesus loves. And we choose to protect ourselves by not engaging in the shame or consequences of spreading gossip.

Reclaim
Whether you are building a team, leading a team or part of a team, consider loving each other as Jesus Christ would have us love. Reclaim what gossip has taken. Be intentional about building each other up, deferring to one another, always giving respect and dignity.
• Protect each other.
• Build one another up by encouraging one another.
• Point out and confirm each others character and competency strengths.
• Look for ways to build trust.
• Speak only what is good and true and right and worthy of praise and you will build strong team relationships.
And don’t forget what two wise men said. “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” and ” Warn them as you would a sibling and stay away from them. “

Building Trust In a Relationship

“Trust me,” are the words of the infamous serial liar and whiz-kid, Stephen Glass standing in California ‘s highest court…but trust isn’t something we can ask for. Trust must be earned. Whether politician, doctor, lawyer or plumber-they all want our trust. So do our kids, our spouse, and the neighbor down the street. Sometimes we give it freely, often reluctantly and sometimes not at all. Sophocles said, “Trust dies but mistrust blossoms.” Why, we ask? What is trust anyway and how do we go about building trust in a relationship?

To me, trust is pictured best as seen in the eyes of an infant who is contentedly safe and secure in the arms of its parent. Another totally different picture of trust is what you and I do regularly- we put our hard earned money in a bank; we entrust what is valuable to us into the care and safety of another. It’s something that is mine, that I deposit for safekeeping and I go about life confident it’s safe. A trusting infant, a trustworthy bank, a trusting friend–if this trust dies, for any reason, mistrust is born.

There is little more deadly to a developing relationship than broken trust. Broken promises and unmet needs cause something in us to die. Some third world countries have too many orphans and two few care givers. When I first learned this, I was surprised to also learn that there are no crying infants in these orphanages. Why, I asked? The answer startled me. The infants have learned that crying doesn’t help. Their instinctive cry for help is not answered and they stop crying. I’m told, this experience will affect them for life.

Disaster of Distrust

Past experiences of broken trust stunts the growth and developing relationship. Broken trust stifles closeness, confidence, and companionship. Several years ago my husband and I gave the use of a credit card to a trusted friend to be use for only one expense under specific circumstances. I can’t tell you the shock we felt when we learned of our misplaced trust. I felt almost physically ill for days. I grieved in the shadow of lost trust and although God gave us the grace to forgive and the debt has finally been paid in full, the glow of our friendship is gone. These kinds of experiences lead to an even greater consequence. Fear. Distrust is our automatic default when we are afraid.

Fear

Mind you, some fear is healthy. It alerts us to danger like, when kids, our hand was in the cookie jar a half hour before supper and Mom had said no. We need to be afraid of her then; or when God says, “Be sure your bad choices (sin) will be found out.” Some fear protects us from really stupid, impulsive choices we will later regret. This is not the kind of fear we’re talking about here.
Fear, the kind that erodes trust, comes from being taken advantage of, used, ignored, disrespected, walked on or rejected. We re-act. One choice is to isolate ourselves by taking each memory, like a stone, and building a safety wall around ourselves. The problems is that the only thing behind the wall with us, is our painful memories and the loneliness of isolation.
Another choice is to react by manipulating the offender with loud, explosive, threatening anger, seeking revenge or by playing the martyr role, eliciting pity and indulgences as we lick our wounds.

How To Build Relationships

An honest look our default mode is a place to start. How do we handle hurt and rejection, real or perceived? Does my way of responding to my fears and unmet expectations serve to develop or undermine my relationships? Am I throwing bricks at others with which to build walls of protection or am I responding in a way that makes me dependable and trustworthy, making it safe for them to take down their walls?
As you can see, we can build or break trust. We can enlarge our relationships or we can close them off. There are some additional things that we can do toward creating and developing trustworthy relationships.
First we must recognize we can change our message: the one we give and the one we receive. We can choose not to manipulate but be politely honest and speak truth from our perspective. And, we can choose to believe that perhaps we are misunderstanding or misinterpreting the messages we are receiving. We don’t have to draw negative conclusions based on our perceptions and feelings before we know the actual facts.
We can choose not to pass out bricks. What would our world of relationships look like if we each choose only to hand out patience, and kindness-that which is only good and useful. No innuendos, no snubs, no looks, no “piece” of our mind, nothing but kindness, whether we feel that other person deserves it or not.
A third choice is to recognize there is a spiritual element to building relationships. It involves building a relationship with the only One who is completely trustworthy, the One who thought up relationships in the first place. A personal relationship with our Creator God, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Ultimate Trust

I was quite surprised a few years ago when I read that because Jesus Christ knows us so well He didn’t entrust Himself to any of us. (John 2:24-25). Of course I wondered how I was to trust anyone when He didn’t–seemed strange to me. Then I began to realize that to trust in an individual only – only will end in disappointment. Because we are people, imperfect, forgetful, busy, we fail each other. Only God will never fail us. Only He is worthy of our full and complete trust. It is as we observe the Holy Spirit at work in another’s life, that our trust in them increases and closeness develops. Our trust then, is ultimately is in Christ . We have no legitimate reason to hand out bricks. Only blessings. Building trust in relationships starts with us. You and me.

A Christian Relationship Coach

For some of you reading this, a Christian relationship coach could well be your next best step in building trusting relationships. Lila has years of experience in working with people seeing to resolve relationship issues. God gifts each of us differently, but to Lila He has given those gifts well suited to her coaching. Her wisdom and discernment along with her sincere encouragement gives hope to clients that are deeply discouraged or simply wanting to increase awareness. She can assist you in identifying the roadblocks that get in your way of developing the closeness and love you so deeply desire.

Lila will assist you in a step-by-step approach to align your attitudes and actions with the person you truly long to be; dependable, loving and trustworthy. Why wait any longer? Invest in yourself and become the person you really long to be.

 

 

Dealing with Loneliness

by Lila Shelburne, Professional Christian Life Coach

It’s one thing to choose aloneness but altogether another to feel cut off, disconnected, empty and helplessly alone. Loneliness is not the peaceful solitude some choose to refresh and reenergize themselves, but empty isolation with only negative feelings and conclusions about one’s self and others. It’s a feeling in the deep caverns of our spirit where our inner life either flourishes or languishes. It’s where the “I” lives in each of us, for better or worse. Loneliness in that place of our beings makes us feel impotent, worthless, barren and rejected.

Occasionally, God gives us a gift of loneliness to teach us deeper things about Himself, ourselves or others, and once we pass through that time of isolation and look back we see the reality of His loving gift. More often, loneliness is triggered events in our lives such as rejection and loss, failure or fear, for example, the rejection of ourselves or others. Sometimes we’re caught in circumstances not of our doing, other times it’s a chosen path. Let’s take a closer look.

One Gallup poll revealed that 4 of 10 people experience deep loneliness, and more than that among teens and the elderly. It can have many causes, yet it stands alone. And although feelings of loneliness overlap with depression, authorities agree the two are different issues.  Loneliness and other relationship problems, can have a negative impact on your quality of life.

Loneliness vs. Depression

Loneliness and depression share some of the same feelings such as lethargy, withdrawal from others, inability to sleep or eat, and disinterest in life but the main difference is that the depressed person is unable to “shake moods. ” They talk in terms of “the blues.”

Loneliness has more to do with the feeling of being isolated, even when surrounded by people. A feeling of being worthless, unacceptable and unwanted.

Actually, loneliness and feelings of isolation can come from many reasons and, over time, cause depression. This depression, then, can be lessened when the underlying causes are identified and resolved.

Sadness

Feelings of loneliness can be normal

Guilt, Shame, Rejection and Failure
Guilt, shame, and feelings of rejection started in the Garden of Eden. Real or imagined, these feelings, along with failure, can cause us to withdraw from those we love or respect the most. Don’t we all have memories when, because of guilt and shame, we tried to hid from being found out? And aren’t those hiding places lonely? As we get older we learn to wear our socially accepted “masks” pretending to be something that in our hearts we aren’t, leaving us with shallow and disconnected relationships – loneliness resulting. If we’re truthful, we’ve avoided events because there are people we seek to avoid. Whether behind a mask or avoiding a someone for other reason, the result is isolation and loneliness.

I recently talked with a client who struggled for over eight years to discover what to do with the rest of his life. During the conversation, he revealed his first position after college ended after several years with the closing of the company. He’d tried other positions but either they didn’t fit or were dead end positions. Several interviews resulted with increased feelings of rejection. He started boarding pets because “they don’t reject you.” By the end of our conversation, he realized the kennel business kept him home where it felt secure and safe. No one was rejecting him. He also recognized he was creating an empty lonely life in his attempt to avoid more rejection and failure.

Rejection and Loss
A. W. Tozer once said, “Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely.” Loneliness among Christians is actually quite common. Think of the godly people in Scripture who felt alone, and consider the reasons for their loneliness. Job lost his family, his wealth, his health and friends. He was alone, isolated in his troubles (Job 6:14-15); Joseph was motherless, then shunned and betrayed by his older brothers, later falsely accused and sent to prison. He knew loneliness (Genesis 37:23-28); Elijah, David, Jeremiah and yes, even Jesus suffered loneliness. It’s often been said that leadership is one of the loneliest positions to have in life.

Fear
A Catholic priest and counselor, Rev. John Powell, once wrote a book called “Why I Am Afraid To tell You Who I Am…” and the answer was “Because if I tell you, then you might not like me and its all I’ve got.” It’s amazing how paralyzing fear is, isn’t it? If you’ve ever experience the isolation or rejection from loneliness you also know fear. They run hand in hand through the barren fields of our hearts.
I’m convinced that if the enemy of our souls can keep us believing half-truths he can keep us paralyzed by fear, yet God promises, “…the truth will set you free.” So often we try or others try, to reason away our fears but fears must be addressed with truth. Someone said it well when they said, “Truth is not reasoned, it is revealed.”
Are you ready for a revelation? What is the truth about yourself? What is the truth about each fear you hold onto? What is the lie you are believing that keeps you withdrawn from others? How are these lies serving you? Who will you be in five years if you continue making the choices you make that keep you locked into your loneliness?
What if there is a whole truth that could unlock the loneliness that keeps you feeling rejected and isolated? Who but you can make the choice to discover the whole truth about your loneliness?

Transitions
Life transitions are another common cause of loneliness. I’ve lived in six different states and many more towns in my life, but thankfully, I enjoy change. Still, I know well that every move means leaving the old and familiar for the new and unknown. Isolation is part of what happens and so does the resulting loneliness. We’ve lost an adult daughter- the loss alone creates a loneliness and so does the months of grief as you adjust to your loss…and for awhile, people don’t know what to say, so they withdraw and your isolated and loneliness increases.
Empty nesters and retired people often struggle with loneliness as do the elderly and widowed. They are left only with memories and no one to share them with. It’s lonely.

Addictions, Sex and Spiritual Needs
No it’s not irreverent to put these words together in the same heading. They are deeply related. Historically, the more Godless a country is, the more rampant addictions and sexually deviant people become. Children and women suffer the most. Mother Teresa said it well, “The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” God is love and without a meaningful relationship with God, our Creator, our heart and soul is lost in a barren loneliness nothing else can satisfy.

How Long Do You Choose to Suffer?
You are the only one who can make a choice to resolve your loneliness. It takes great courage to call a stranger but finding your life coach is worth the effort. They will be your friend, the beginning of your end to loneliness. They will help you identify and unravel the causes, learn deeper truths and take steps forward to a life if freedom from loneliness. It’s your choice. Why wait?

Common Relationships Problems

The story is told of a couple of neighborhood playmates, Sue and Sammy both between three and four years old. They were fast friends and one day, in their childish play, they decided to be married. In their simplistic way, agreement was all that was needed and together they marched off hand in hand to their favorite neighbor to tell her the good news.
To the delight of the couple, Mrs. Jenson entered into their fantasy and promptly invited them in for piece of “wedding” cake and a big glass of fresh lemonade. She made much to do about their special and memorable occasion, serving them with real cloth napkins and her very best china. The newlyweds drank their lemon aid in big goblets that required two hands to hold. In due time, Mrs. Jenson asked the couple if they would like more lemon aid and fought to hold a straight face when Susie candidly replied, “We’d love to Mrs. Jenson, but we can’t. I have to take my husband home now because he wet his pants.”
We all chuckle at children, moving quickly in and out of their fantasy world, almost seamlessly, with complete candor, no judgment, just reality. Little children still have humility intact, they aren’t trying to impress anyone. They still forgive easily and they seldom hold grudges. Charming little people, they are, but not perfect. The heart of each one is fully centered on self. “Mine, gim’me, my way, myself” are all part of their early vocabulary and they speak from their self-centered little hearts. And sadly, growing up doesn’t automatically deal with this heart issue, an issue at the heart of most common relationship problems.

Common Relationship Problems

Incompatibility is an official name given as reason for divorce in many states but let’s get a bit more specific. In addition to self-centeredness, there are many common relationship problems; Infidelity, communication problems, abuse, money problems, sexual issues, boredom/emotional distance, spiritual or cultural differences, addictions, parenting problems and unmet expectations. Sadly, a lot of these issues don’t stand alone. They feed on each other, building to a crescendo until trust is broken, communication is non-existent, and the relationship seems beyond all help and advice. But is this true?
The Bible says nothing is impossible with God, that He’s in the business of restoring and building relationships. Can damaged relationships heal? They can and do. Can God really restore marriages? Absolutely yes! He is still the God of miracles and Jesus Christ is still the redeemer who delivers us and makes all things new. This hinges, of course, on us. Do we each want to face and own our part in our relationship issues? Are we teachable? Do we really want to do the work of change? All questions to be asked and considered as we briefly consider a few of the most common relationship problems.

Communication Problems
Stephen R. Covey, known for his book and teaching on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” states repeatedly, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” We readily agree with his statement, yet we how often, especially when we’re stressed or preoccupied, all we really want to do is deal with the issue and get on with what we’re doing. Instead of really trying to understand, we’re already drawing a conclusion and formulating a response without listening for true understanding. Who of us aren’t guilty of this?

Money Problems
Very few of us have the same spending habits. What is an indulgence to one is a way of life to another and we each have different levels of comfort when it comes to debt but when differences are not discussed, settled and honored couples are headed for trouble.

Commitment to an agreed upon budget is necessary. This commitment must be commitment-not just a , “yeah, I agree”, “good idea,” sort of thing that can be explained or rationalized away when the object of our desire is outside of the agreed upon budget.
Five bucks for coffee or a lunch or two out a week, throw in an unplanned expense for the car or doctor’s office and at the end of the month the money won’t reach. Do this for months or years and as the debt and blame increase, trust and hope decrease.

Parenting Problems
Little of us realize the demands of parenting until we find ourselves parents. There are no true rehearsals and by the time we get a second chance-we’re grandparents. The reality is that children are like long time investments. You keep investing time, energy, knowledge, and hopefully wisdom and some 20 years later you begin to reap the rewards.
This long time investment goes against the grain in most of us. We want instant obedience, brilliant respectable and perfect children by the time they reach two which collides with the autonomy every two year old is beginning to exert.
Each stage of childhood has its demands requiring parents to be selflessness, objective and united or their children will divide and conquer with their charm, their self-centeredness and their determination. Children morph quickly into monster like creatures. They are the most delightful people on earth unless they have gained or usurped the role of their parents, which they will do as soon as the parent forgets who the parent really is and fully accepts responsibility for their role.

Sex and Spiritual Problems
Sex and spiritual problems are too complex to address here other than to say they are real and major causes of marriage issues. Sex, because it intimately involves our very person, our mind and emotions, and spiritual issues because we are eternal spirit beings. Dissatisfaction in either area leaves one discontent, languishing and hungering; thus, the soil and setting for all sorts of additions.

Self-Centered Focus
I recently asked retired pastor, Rev. Boyd Kuester, what he thought were the top marriage problems. His immediate response was unmet expectations and self- centeredness. As I reflected on this pastor’s conclusion from a lifetime of meeting with married couples, I began to realize that most other issues in marriage fall into these two categories. Certainly, each problem must be addressed, but if they are rooted in a deeper issue, will they ever be fully resolved until the deeper need is identified and met?

How Christian Life Coaching Can Help You
More and more individuals, just like yourself, are discovering the benefits of life coaching. Professional life coach can recognize and honor your unique individuality. A Christian life coach sees their role as the man of understanding mentioned in Proverbs 20:5 which says, “A plan (desire) in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”
A qualified coach will, through confidential conversations, open awareness and possibilities for change for those feeling stuck and overwhelmed by their relationship problems.They will assist their clients to identify their deeper values, and provide encouragement and accountability for change as they step out into the new and abundant life God has for them.

Lila Shelburne CP, Life Coach

What are the three biggest challenges in your marriage?

What are the three biggest challenges in your marriage? Perhaps a better question is this: what are the long term effects you anticipate by the way you currently see and respond to these three challenges? Do you tip-toe around these issues as though you’re walking on egg shells? Do your conversations end peacefully with mutual respect and a sense of well being even though you don’t have resolution or do these challenges seem more like roadblocks and detours taking your relationship in a direction you neither want or ever dreamed of? Do you ever wonder what your marriage will look like two more years from now if you continue on the same path you are now? What about in five years?

And if we spin these questions into a broader circle of relationships, what kind of legacy are you creating for your children? Are they learning about respect for another’s differences, trust, and forgiveness? What do they see of patience and kindness? What are they or others in your circle of influence learning about love that lasts, commitment, and security? What are they learning about the dependability and the love of God? By whose example are they learning to trust God for the daily stuff of life?

Perhaps if you are reading this, you know someone who is struggling with these or similar questions. Without answers it might seem like these problems soon become insurmountable relationships issues. But what if the problems and resulting issues can be resolved by a whole new way of seeing? Well, they can. But we need to step back in order to begin to see things differently.

There’s a quote that goes something like this. “The thing you focus on gets bigger.” I’ve found this true. Married now for over 40 years, I still find I can work up quite an attitude if I focus on our very opposite ways of seeing and doing certain things. When our children were still at home, the way in which I related to them could depend solely on what my thoughts had been about them during the day. If they’d left something undone or did some other “kid” thing, I could focus on their misdemeanor and lose sight of their qualities. What I focused on grew bigger.

The same is true of my little bit of a dog. She’s a rumpled looking little thing who believes that anything on the floor is hers. She’s shredded more than one important piece of paper, chewed holes in two pair of new socks, and has an occasional accident. And, she’s a yappy dog. If I focus solely on those behaviors she’d be gone. On the other hand, she so happy when I come home, she knows my routine and waits to sit on my lap when I head for my rocking chair, she keeps me company when I’m working at my desk, and she shares my meals with me (yes, she sits on my lap and knows I can’t resist her pleading looks). The traits I focus on the most are stronger.

The same is true in marriage. Remember those endearing character traits of your spouse that made you stand before God and other witnesses to say, “I do?” Take a minute. Stop reading right now, take a piece of paper and make two columns. Now, make a list in one column of the 25 best traits of your spouse, all those endearing characteristics that made you fall so deeply in love, then in the second column list 25 the things that really upset you. Go ahead. Make the list.

Now, assuming you’ve made the list, let me ask, which one took the least time to complete? What kind of feelings dominated your thinking while you made your lists? And, where does your mind tend to linger? What you focus on the most gets bigger and stronger and has the greatest effect on your feelings. Right? By now, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. Hang on; we’re going to back up one more step.

In the beginning of time, God created the heavens and earth and all that is in them. Men and women were His idea. Relationships were His idea. Families were His idea. What better place is there to learn and demonstrate God’s character than within the confines of close family relationships. As pastor, Andy Stanley says, “The health and maturity of our relationship with God is determined by the health and maturity of the relationships God has brought into our lives.” Matt. 5:23-24 says we’re to reconcile with our brother (or spouse) before we come to God. We can’t experience God’s blessings without first obeying His commands, and in relationships, that means we do our part to reconcile differences.

All the way through scripture God uses family relationships to illustrate our relationship to Him or His to us. He gives us a different way of seeing. Men are the head, or the servant/leader of the home, and wives, the nurturing care givers. We are all to be like little children in our relationship with God our Father. So much more could be said, but the point here is the need for a different way of seeing. A different focus.

The process of seeing differently gives us a different focus. Ahhhh, yes! And, what we focus on gets bigger. When we focus on Gods truth, His purpose, and good intention, His grace, His wisdom, He’s solutions, His possibilities—they all get bigger than our biggest problems. Now that something! This process is known as reframing and it is the first step in transformation.

The need, when problems threaten to destroy love and trust and family communication; is not understanding what caused the problems but the saving power that comes from seeking God Himself and the saving power of Jesus Christ. 11 Peter 1 has so many practical truths, but let’s focus simply on one in verse 3. “…seeing that HIs divine power (like dynamite) has granted (already given) to us everything (nothing left out) pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us …”

Our solutions, our answers, yes, our help comes from the true knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ who’s name we bear. He has already made available to us everything we need that pertains to this life. Yet, we tend, don’t we, to stay focused on our challenges, our disappointments, the irritating differences of our spouses and daily issues? What we focus on gets bigger.

Yet we are each invited in Romans 12:2 to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” God wants us to give us a different way of seeing and change us in the process. We simply cannot divorce our attitudes and actions with those we are in relationship with and still claim to have a vital relationship with God. It would certainly be easier to have a religion that includes something of God, enough to feel like we’re doing the right thing, but that’s not God’s way.

Lila, through solution-focused conversations, will encourage, assist, open options, hold accountable, and love without judging her clients into a deeper understanding of healthy relationships. Let her walk along side of you and assist you to a new way of seeing.