Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Loving Courageously

February 24, 2011

Suggested Bible Reading

I Samuel 17: 32-35 (NIV)

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

Today’s Scripture

David shepherded with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Psalm 78:72 (NIV)

While reading about David, I wondered what would motivate a young shepherd boy to risk his life for a sheep. If I were David, I’d have no desire to face physical combat with a lion or bear just to rescue a lamb. I would prefer to return home to my father with a few missing sheep and accept the consequence of no dinner rather than becoming a lion’s dinner.

What makes my perspective different than David’s? Why does he risk his life while I’d protect mine? I suspect that David believed that he was treasured by God and, as a result, his life had significance, value, and purpose. David responded to his sheep as God responded to him; lovingly and courageously protective.

When relational conflicts arise, good shepherds do not avoid conflict or dismiss people. It’s natural to withdraw from people or from situations that consume time and energy, but it may not be right. When we chose the comfort of avoidance, over the cost of engagement; neglect becomes a silent relational killer. Anger and bitterness become devouring lions snatching away relationships.

David’s aggressive protection of the sheep alerts me to the danger of devaluing people. When I value other people, I don’t allow difference of opinion to result in negativity, judgment, or disrespectful behavior. Yes, it’s natural to associate with those whose thinking and values are similar to my own, but inviting conversations to understand why others have different thoughts builds a bridge of understanding. This prevents me from living on a distant island away from others.

We all have the responsibility to shepherd relationships in our lives. When we shepherd lovingly, courageously, and protectively as our Heavenly Father shepherds us; relational enemies are defeated.

Prayer

Father, help me to lovingly, courageously, and protectively shepherd relationships.

 Thought for the Day

How does God’s love influence how you live?

Reader Response to “Emotional Withholding”

September 23, 2010

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

Today’s devotional blog post was inspired by a comment from a reader named Laurel. Here comment and my response are included.

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Dear Lorie,

I really appreciated this post (Emotional Withholding). Sometimes I think we as Christians feel like we need to be “flawless and perfect” in everyway and in that thinking we unknowingly shut out others because we seem “unhuman” to them.

I personally have caught myself behaving in a manner that instead of inviting someone to express their pain and thoughts, I feel like I need to fix it by offering antidotes and suggestions. When all they wanted was a listening ear and emotional support. And unless we let them express themselves we aren’t really listening anyway, we’re just doing our “Christian” work.

I’ve found that being honest and human is one of the most sincere gifts we can give to those we care about, all else is just checking off our “Christian to-do list.”

Thanks for your honesty and your transparency, we should all consider how we sound to those we care about.

Laurel

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 Dear Laurel,

Thanks for reading and responding to “Emotional Withholding.” Your words and life discoveries are a picture of humility. Like you, I’m shedding the false expectation of needing to provide a solution to the problems, challenges, and pain of others. Since I’m no longer the source of information, my focus becomes listening to others and seeking to understand them. I’ve released myself from playing God (there was no vacancy in the Trinity) and no longer appoint myself as God’s spokesperson.

 This new freedom helped me discover the underlying cause of my problem was fear. This fear was rooted in insecurity. To counter my sense of inadequacy, I tried to overcome it by providing solutions and direction to others. This same fear of inadequacy (lacking knowledge of good and evil) is what tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Even as the knowledge of evil was dangerous and destructive for Eve, even so, the desire to provide solutions for others, is equally dangerous and destructive. I’m back to usurping a position in the Trinity.

 When we realize the first step of healing is discovering our pain and facing our inadequacy, we stop putting a bandage on an infection and begin looking for a surgeon. In “Emotional Withholding” I was not exposing my hurt. This resulted in bitterness and anger. Honestly sharing my hurt with my friend (without judgment) could have helped me deal with my hurt in healthy ways.  When we experience a freedom to share hurt with a true listener who responds in love we are on the pathway to healing.

 I will pray that others will find a freedom to express their pain with you and that their sharing will become first steps of their healing journey.

 Thanks again Laurel for sharing a response to my writing that hit home and inspired more writing. You’ve given me more to think and reflect on and now others can join.

 Warmly,

 Lorie Reichel Howe

 Personal Prayer

Father,

You are the Great Healer. I am not anyone’s source of healing. You have a purpose in all our pain and in everything we experience. Every situation we face, whether good or evil, presents an opportunity to know You in a deeper way.

Because You live in us, Your healing power resides within. Therefore, give me a humble heart to acknowledge my hurt and to listen to the hurts of others. Help me not to dismiss what You desire to expose. Give me Your guidance and direction in listening, sharing, and discovering Your truth that brings healing.

Reflection Question

When do I dismiss my pain or the pain of others?

When is humility present in my listening? Absent?

 Thought to Ponder

One of life’s greatest challenges is to understand and talk about our feelings.

 Quote to Consider

A genuine friend hears the message in your heart that words are unable to communicate.

Lorie Reichel Howe

Emotional Withholding

September 20, 2010

“Speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

When I am hurting, the worse thing a friend can do is either dismiss my feelings or judge them. The second worse thing one can do is invite them to escalate and control me. Emotions shouldn’t be dismissed or judged; they are real and need to be acknowledged and understood. At the same time, emotions may not be rooted in truth and may have formed because of faulty perceptions. When our feelings are consuming or trapping us, we need to identify the thoughts and perceptions that trigger our emotions. Emotions need to be addressed whether they appear right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. Some emotions can not be prayed away. When you pray for a release, and they remain, redirect your prayer on how to respectfully communicate your emotions.

I recently discovered this ugly tendency of not expressing my emotions. I was hurt because a friend was unable to attend specific events I hosted throughout the year. Each time he wasn’t able to attend, I communicated that these were important to me. Yet, what I wasn’t saying was that I was hurt when he didn’t show up.  I was withholding my hurt. Withholding blocked my friend from understanding my heart and realizing I had been hurt.

Unfortunately, withheld emotions when triggered, explode like dynamite ignited by a match. My eruption contained unkind and judgmental words. Now not one, but two people were wounded. I still shudder recalling what happened. Even so, I’m determined to learn from this episode the danger of hiding hurt. A simple statement of, “I am hurt and feel unsupported when you don’t attend my meetings” would have been a pathway inviting understanding and healing. Open sharing would have given my friend a picture into my heart and opened a door to understand the challenges my friend faced in not being able to attend.

I think when God came searching for Adam after his disobedience in the Garden, God was really asking Adam to come clean with his feelings and his actions. Like Adam I hid my emotions and let them fester until accusations and judgments poured out. I’m thankful for a dear friend, who instead of retaliating was able to communicate his hurt and open the door to explore mine.

Personal Prayer

Father, help me not to hide my emotions, dismiss them, or be ruled and consumed by them. Empower me to live honestly before you, others and myself. Give me grace to speak the truth in love.

 Reflection Question

When is withholding unhealthy? Dishonest? Deceitful?

What’s the difference in withholding hurt and withholding judgement?

Thoughts to Ponder

Emotions not faced are not conquered. You don’t have to agree with your emotions or those of others, you do have to face them in God’s strength.

 Quote to Consider

The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation.

C. Northcote Parkinson