CategoryRelationships

Don’t Crush What You Need to Blossom

This is another wise saying of my wife’s. ‘Don’t crush the flower before it gets its chance to blossom.’

Now, I am not really a gardener, but I have it on good authority that flowering plants need to be planted and tended well before they can mature. The same theory fits with human beings, whether it is in families, workplaces, churches, or marriages.

Ultimately this is about making the choice to believe in others, to set them up for success, which is to recognise that our success ultimately depends on their success.

If we would be the kind of person or father/mother or manager or pastor or spouse who would put the other person down, we would be putting ourselves down, because in crushing the flower before it blossoms defeats the whole purpose of planting the flower in the first place.

Who enters into a partnership with someone to crush them?

The unfortunate thing, however, is too often we find ourselves in these kinds of relationships. When far too early in the journey the potential was burned. Or, over the longer run the little buds got mangled time and again. There was no chance of recovery. And I have experienced it personally when one fatal moment condemned what was such a promising relationship.

Reverting to the analogy of my wife, all relationships have sanctity, and all people are sacred. Of course, we must choose the right person and the right people to be in relationship with. And once that choice has been made, all following choices pivot around nurturing the relationship, which is to keep it alive, to keep it thriving, hopeful for the fruit of growth, and hopeful to see it in full bloom at the proper time.

‘Don’t crush the flower before it gets its chance to blossom.’

Relationships will inevitably require a lot of us: patience, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, graciousness, compassion. We can only carry out these qualities in our closest relationships that we wish to see in full bloom when we, ourselves, live out the Christ physiognomies of character.

Of course, it is in our best interest to protect and nurture what is in our best interest to protect and nurture. If we don’t protect and nurture what is within our control to protect and nurture, we will find it will cost us dearly. This shouldn’t be our primary motivation, but it is sufficient to be a strong motivation anyway.

There are so many kinds of persons that are naïvely susceptible to being abused to the point of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is the vulnerable flower that is crushed hardest and most. It is the vulnerable person who stands to be hurt to the point of trauma.

From a pragmatic viewpoint, it can take some time before the investments of encouragement bear fruit in the blooming of beautiful flowers. But that is our purpose in this world: that the Kingdom might come in the people we serve.


Three Ways to Ease the Prohibitive Conscience

If our key formative relationships featured manipulation, because it was an easy way to control us, we may have developed what can be termed a prohibitive conscience – a conscience based in fear, operating out of guilt. Likewise, if we have encountered people who are controlling, and we haven’t been brought up in such a way, such manipulation can be jarring.

From early childhood we are trained in the way we will go (Proverbs 22:6). If, as parents, we attend to our children’s training toward the goal of helping them build their moral warehouse, and we provide a fair and loving environment for them to grow, our children inevitably develop what Growing Kids God’s Way calls a positive or healthy conscience. On the other hand, if we grew up in a constant state of fear, usually in a relationship with one (or more) particular care-giver(s), we probably wrestle with a prohibitive or unhealthy conscience. It is not an inherently bad thing, it is just a consequence of development when a strong sense of true right and wrong was not instilled in us – when ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ wasn’t reliable and bred fear in us in not knowing how to behave. It isn’t our fault, but there is something we can do about it.

Truth be known, we can develop this kind of prohibitive conscience through traumatic situations we encounter even as adults. Indeed, a prohibitive conscience can be situational; it can be triggered.

Is a prohibitive conscience a guilty conscience? A prohibitive conscience is not a guilty conscience, but it is a conscience that works out of the platform of guilt and fear. A guilty conscience is situational, based out of doing what we should not do or not doing what we should do and knowing about it.

What creates a prohibitive conscience? Conditional love and conditional acceptance. When people intentionally make us feel guilty. And when punishment for behaviour is detached from moral reasoning, such that the consequences are uncoupled from a reliable sense of what to do or not do. In any relationship, these states leave us feeling very unsafe and emotionally compromised.

What can we do to ease the prohibitive conscience?

This is the most penetrating question of all. Like most things when it comes to therapy, similar rules apply.

  1. Awareness is the crucial impetus to action. Coming to an awareness, and then to an acceptance, we all find it empowering to get to work on self-improvement. Having come to an acceptance, part of the initial task is to truly understand why there is a bent toward a prohibitive conscience. This inevitably involves on packing our relationships with our parents and those who have been key role models throughout our formation. If we know why, we’re well positioned to do something proactive.
  2. Focus then on the Son of God. Truly understanding what Jesus did for each of us on the cross and understanding the life he brings us through forgiveness and resurrection, we begin to rebuild our identity, brick by brick, thought by thought, positive reflection by positive reflection. When we do what is right because we know it is right and loving, we reinforce this understanding as right and appropriate. What a wonderful thing it is when we can commend ourselves when we do what is right, whilst holding ourselves accountable for when we could have done something better, but without beating ourselves up about it.
  3. Take control of our behaviour. The third thing the Ezzo’s recommend, as part of the process for easing the prohibitive conscience, is to take control of the behaviour that the prohibitive conscience controls. This is the opportunity to learn how to respond out of the higher mind, which does not react out of emotion, in this case, guilt. The higher mind has learned to pause, to reflect, and acts out of wisdom. In committing to manage our behaviour better, we apply the replacement principle of Philippians 4:8. Whatever is excellent and loving, we do these things. We add love and don’t simply take away fear. We don’t do our right things out of fear, we do them because we can, out of love. It’s such a subtle shift in our thinking. But, crucially important. We also learn not to second-guess our decisions. We do an action out of love and think nothing more of it. And lastly, the book of Proverbs is a good place to reside for a while. I can remember in 2007 spending 18 months in Proverbs, one chapter every day, and I was able to cover the whole book each month. We partake of that virtuous wisdom, imbibing it slowly, and it does its work in rebuilding our moral warehouse. And we accept those relationships we have where our best isn’t always the best.


Are Some Men Too Emotionally Underdeveloped To Have A Relationship With A Woman?

It is not uncommon for a woman to complain about how she keeps ending up with men who are emotionally unavailable, and it would be easy to say that a woman like this is incredibly unlucky. Time after time, she ends up experiencing the same outcome – it can then seem as though men need to get it together.
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Yet, to place the onus on men in general and to overlook the part that the woman is playing in particular would be to say that this woman has no effect on this area of her life. This area of her life is then going to be completely out of her control.

Two Parts

Ultimately, whenever two people are drawn together, there is always what is going on for one person and what is going on for the other. Still, unless both people are aware of what part they have played in being drawn to the other (or at the very least willing to look into why this is), it will be normal for them to feel powerless or taken advantage of.

If a woman can see that she continually attracts a certain type of man, this will give her the ability to see that it is not just a case of being unlucky. Likewise, if she was to continually hit the bullseye of a target or to get one promotion after another, she probably wouldn’t say that she is just lucky.

An Easy Decision

If, after attracting one man after another who is the same, she is ready to look into why this is, it will allow her to gradually transform her life. It won’t be easy to do this, though; the easy option will be to continue to feel like a victim.

Through going within and seeing how she feels at a deeper level, she may find that she has some emotional wounds to deal with. These are most likely the result of what took place during her early years.

The Other Side

When it comes to a man who is emotionally unavailable, there could be a number of reasons as to why this is. For one thing, he may have just broken up with his ex and still be emotionally attached to her.

Alternatively, it could show that the man just doesn’t feel the need to take things further with the woman. Therefore, if he was to meet a woman who is different, he might be only too happy to take things further.

It’s Not an Option

Then again, the man may be this way due to what took place during the beginning of his life, meaning that it won’t simply be due to what happened with an ex. The only thing that the man will be able to offer will be his mind and his body, with this heart being offline.

If a woman was to expect anything more from the man, it would cause her to suffer unnecessarily. Deep down, this man could be carrying a lot of pain, pain that will have caused his heart to close up.

A False-Self

But, while he can be carrying a lot of emotional baggage, it doesn’t mean that this will be clear to see. There is the chance that the man will have developed a strong exterior, allowing him to come across as confident, capable and as though he has it all together.

The image that they present to the world will then belie what is really taking place within them. Nonetheless, the mask that he wears will stop him from being able to emotionally connect to other human beings.

Two Needs

Consequently, this will leave him with the need to share his body and to fulfil his minds needs. There can also be the need to gain approval from others and to be seen in a certain way.

What this will illustrate is that a big part of him is going to be focused on what he can get from others, not on what he can give. Behind the image that he presents to the world, could be someone who feels more like a boy than a man.

Not Ready

If this is the case, he is not going to be looking for a woman to be with; what he will be looking for is a mother. By feeling like a boy deep down and needing a mother, it is not going to be possible for him to see a woman as a human being.

In addition to seeing women as mother figures, he may also have the tendency to see men as father figures. The wounded boy that is within him can be looking for the nurturance that he didn’t get from his own mother and the support and guidance that he didn’t get from his own father.

Awareness

In order for him to no longer feel like a boy and to be able to relate differently to women, it will be vital for him to work through the emotional wounds that are within him. This will allow him to gradually reveal his true-self and to fully show up.

If a man can relate to this, and wants to change his life, he may need to reach out for external support. This is something that can be provided by the assistance of a therapist or a healer.

Teacher, prolific writer, author, and consultant, Oliver JR Cooper, hails from England. His insightful commentary and analysis covers all aspects of human transformation, including love, partnership, self-love, and inner awareness. With over one thousand nine hundred in-depth articles highlighting human psychology and behaviour, Oliver offers hope along with his sound advice.


When WE FEEL Taken For Granted

What happens when you have spent the whole day working hard, doing all the household chores and at the end of the day, you feel you deserve a rest. So you prop your feet up, pour yourself a glass of wine and plate yourself some fine cheese, and your spouse walks into the room and says, wow, you are truly enjoying the good life!

How will you feel? Will you laugh out loud at the audacity of your spouse? Who has been playing golf all day long?

Looking at this situation above, one could easily feel as if they have been taken for granted, and then judged. The spouse, on the other hand, could just be teasing. He may or may not have observed a cleaner and tidier home? It is hard to tell.

That’s the thing, it is so hard to know where other people are coming from when they pass comments as such when we are wrapped up in our own tiredness and our own experiences. It is easy to feel victimised.

A lot of the times when WE FEEL taken for granted, it is a feeling because we have not been acknowledged or validated. Perhaps nobody showed any thanks for a long time? It is easy to fall into this mode of misery when it happens.

Throwing a temper tantrum is not a solution obviously. Neither is making the decision to stop doing what you have been doing – because stopping means you are trying to punish the other party/parties, which means ultimately, you will only be punishing yourself.

The easiest and also the hardest thing to do for most people, is making their feelings known to others. It is so important to tell them, that you feel taken for granted, even if it is not their intention to do so. Tell them, that you would appreciate an acknowledgement or thank you every once in a while.

By showing gratitude, they are acknowledging that you matter and in turn, it will inspire you to do more and enjoy it more. It is a win-win situation. People, do not have this thinking: they should know better, they should thank me automatically and why do I have to remind them.

This sort of thinking is what makes matters worse. Yes, we acknowledge that people should know better, however, we all do get caught up in life. And if our emotional needs are not met, such as a simple validation from our loved ones, then we must make it known. If we cannot do this with our loved ones, how are we going to be able to better serve the rest of our community/world?

Asking for our emotional needs to be met puts us in a more vulnerable position, and we humans, tend to avoid this at all cost. Because we are afraid of being rejected. But asking for it also comes with big rewards — better communication, stronger connection, feeling validated, feeling loved, and it also gives the other party a chance to express their gratitude.

Asking your loved ones to show some appreciation and love for you, is not a desperate act. It is an act of generosity that multiplies gratitude both ways


Your Worth, My Dear, Is Incalculable

This is a poem for my daughter, really any one of the three of them, and my son, but inspired by that time a daughter doubted her worth.

It starts out imagining that first race she won – the X chromosome sperm that beat all the other X and Y chromosome sperm in that infinitesimal race.

She is one in ten-million already, as every human being is:

~

You my dear won the race,

you did it my dear; your sweet face,

your first challenge, was to beat the rest,

that’s why, my dear, you are already the best!

~

When we first discovered that you were on your way,

our excitement, truly indeed, we could not keep at bay,

ever since then, you’ve been our impassioned choice,

and there’s nothing better now than to hear your bubbly voice.

~

Your life for us, every day of it, has always been good news,

even though we understand not all of it you would choose,

and even if we tell you, again and again and again,

we understand just why you find this life’s a drain.

~

Yet having said all that, please don’t be unaware,

that we still wish to shower you with all our loving care,

without despairing despondency take life a day at a time,

it’s the only way through a life you must hope to climb.

~

The older we get, the more we cannot fail to see,

how verily enriched, because of you, our lives have come to be,

so please always consider that whenever you doubt your worth,

we’ve thanked God Almighty ever since the hour of your birth.

~

Finally, above all, when all is said and done,

our chief hope for you is that you can say you’ve won,

and as you look back one day, upon these hard days of pain,

our hope for you is that you’ll feel the sunshine after all the rain.


Relational Silence That Sabotages or Restores

As a counsellor and a champion for peacemaking, I find there are two noteworthy kinds of silence that occur within conflict. One is very dynamic, but the other is very destructive.

We have all engaged in both types. But we are not all yet characterised for the application of the dynamic type.

Destructive silence leads to frustration, anger and despair.

Dynamic silence leads to hope, healing and restoration.

The destructive silence is that which occurs when conflict cannot be resolved, and either the conflict is swept under the carpet, or it produces passive aggressiveness in one or both people. This latter form of the destructive silence is particularly problematic, because one or both get involved in manipulating the other, and it is not unusual for a pattern of abuse or toxic relationship to form. The former kind, whilst it is understandable, and incredibly common to the family experience of so many, ensures that poorly negotiated conflict negates the opportunity that well negotiated conflict presents.

If we insist nothing gets resolved, then we insist that at least one person stays frustrated, and that can never be good, and it certainly isn’t demonstrative of love.

One person’s insisted-upon silence,

(their silence of control)

is never an action of love.

Many people do need time

to reflect and recover,

however, they ideally reinitiate

without their partner thinking

they’ve been abandoned.

Some people, indeed some couples, have no frame of reference around dealing with conflict in the safe way. Their families of origin gave them little to work on and were perhaps either violent or denying when conflict around the home got hot.

But if relationships have any hope there must be a commitment to work through conflict – to believe that conflict is an opportunity. But conflict can only be an opportunity if wise and loving minds apply mutual submission by each getting the log out of their own eye. And, as a husband in an egalitarian marriage, counselling marriage partners to apply egalitarian principles, I ask the husband to lead by example. I guess I do this because I acknowledge that, in many cases, wives are already doing it better. (I do concede this is not always the case.)

If the destructive silence turns bitter, one or both engaged in it don’t look like they’re hurt by the conflict, but it can simmer for hours, days, weeks, forever. It is children in the home that particularly notice it.

When nothing gets resolved,

nobody has any peace.

A silence that fails to resolve conflict,

only serves to infuriate all parties.

But I want a focus on the dynamic kind of silence.

The form of relational silence I want to focus on is that cherished moment when one or both cease to argue, where they both sit in the awkward silence and ponder what could be from what is.

It takes one to initiate

what both need: silence.

For those who believe in God, those who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, there may be faith enough to trust that more said is not necessarily better said. There must come a time when hostilities cease; a time when the spirit of a soul surrenders its strong desire (the desire that has become a demand) for its own way. If one is content to sit in silence oftentimes the other is content, also.

Desires taken too far become demands,

and when demands aren’t met,

the person judges the other person,

and then punishes them.

In these moments, a wise couple or good friends or co-workers or parents with their children, may sense the opportunity to look inward, to enquire why their desires have become demands, and to also become curious about what the other person’s realistic desires are.

The only hope two have

of winning in conflict

is if both win.

If one wins, both lose.

That’s certainly the way

that negotiators see it.

This dynamic variety of silence has the power of God about it. There is a much bigger chance that true resolution and reconciliation can take place from the safer ground of the ceasefire.

There is a time for silence,

but silence should never be weaponised.


My Irregular Relationship With Compassion Fatigue

I must say, that what still comes very much without warning, I still find hard to deal with, but I know in being honest I can trust my method.

I have an irregular relationship with compassion fatigue, in that I feel I am sucked dry of empathy at times to the point where I have nothing left. Times like this I’m irrational in what I say, I complain, and I can’t quite seem to find space and outlet for recovery. It is generally the night’s sleep that brings me out of it.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that a fellow pastor shared with me how hazardous pastoral work is that I realised the gauntlet we pastors run. We work with sinners. We are sinners. We are in an environment to provide care, but the truth is we ourselves are not always taken care of; we are not always paragons of health. People come to church expecting to get their care, and when our lives are full to the brim with these relationships our tanks easily run dry.

Workers whose primary function

it is to provide care,

need a developed understanding

for how compassion fatigue

works in them.

Whenever I experience compassion fatigue it always feels like spiritual attack, because the spirituality I can normally rely on seems absent. It is as if God’s Presence has been drawn away. I know God is close, but only because I know, because I cannot feel Him. This feeling of spiritual attack comes in the mode of chaos, much like the sensory overload people with autism experience. Every sound is amplified, bumps in the road are particularly annoying, my thinking is dull, I don’t feel empathetically like I normally do, and my hope goes out the window. Everything feels like a test. Yet God is with me to the extent of wisdom; counselling me to guard my heart, be patient, and seek release into peace.

Whenever I experience compassion fatigue it’s as if my spiritual engine is sputtering and stalling, because although there are still little glimpses of care and love, intermingled with them are moments where I cannot muster any hope, or any motive of care.

I’ve learned to trust my method, because this kind of experience has been normal for me since I approached burnout in 2005. This irregular relationship I have with compassion fatigue is God’s warning to me, to heed the time to withdraw, to recover and replenish spiritual stores.

Self-care requires self-awareness, honesty and courage,

because to drive ahead nonchalantly is self-destruction.

Even as I reengage cognitively, allowing my mind to focus without the presence of emotional stimuli, I am able to gain confidence that I am ‘normal’ once again. I need to let my heart rest; to stop feeling. And to reduce the noise.

It is very disconcerting to feel the bottom fall out of our spirituality, just as it is scary for loved ones to see us disempowered. What feels like freefall is arrested, but only with rest and in faith that what works, works, and that we just need to do it.

I would be the first person to say that I am weak, and that the gospel encourages me, that, in being weak, I am strong in the Lord Jesus, but only when I surrender my denial and my resentment of the problem to Him.

Compassion fatigue comes through

being drained of empathy.

What I’ve found

is I’ve had to find

what works in restoring my soul.

This irregular relationship with compassion fatigue thankfully only occurs in a kind of monthly cycle. God can quickly show me how much I rely on encouragement, and how easily affected I am being discouraged. Although God knows we need it, encouragement ought to be a nice by-product of ministry, and should never be what we do ministry for. And we do need to find ways of dealing with the inevitable discouragements that come. But ultimately compassion fatigue comes through being drained of empathy.


The Relational Beauty of Empathy

It has long been a mystery to me just why on earth some people have an excess of empathy and some people have a dearth of it. At one end of the spectrum we have people so empathic they end up in relationships with those at the other end of the spectrum – those at the narcissistic end. I don’t think it’s useful in the present discussion to focus on the latter, because the former are so much more worthy of discussion and praise.

But how beautiful it is when two people who are empathetic are joined together. Those with empathy truly deserve those with empathy.

I have done word studies on the Greek word epi-a-case (epieikes) several times over the years. I have always focused on the qualities of this trait in people, but now I would like to focus on the outworking of these traits.

This word means gentleness, meekness, graciousness, and there is definitely a kind patience involved in the person who is characterised by epi-a-case. Such a person is caring and sensitive, and our world often sees these traits as weakness. But the person with epi-a-case isn’t weak at all.

If we add all of these elements together, as far as another person can see, we see in this person the quality of empathy, to at least this regard:

Because of its commitment to grace

empathy will suffer a broken heart,

and yet that suffering will build

even stronger vulnerability.

Empathy can experience

the fullness of God’s reality,

because truth with love,

both to their fullest,

is worth the experience.

Empathy can be bravely vulnerable,

because it knows no other way.

Yet we often suppress empathy

because it feels like weakness.

Particularly in an increasingly narcissistic age,

one of the greatest gifts we can give our children

is opportunities to experience and express empathy.

As far as relational connection is concerned, those with empathy offer warmth of survival in the coldness of conflict. They believe beyond the desolation of the void left by warring parties who prefer estrangement. Empathy reaches and continues to reach out and up, and that can only be called Love.

Love reaches forth without expecting

the other to reach back.

It offers strength to those

who would take strength away.

Yet, love, in the glory of wisdom,

will rebuke the abuser for the abuser’s own good.

Love loves because it can,

not because it must,

not because it’s cajoled,

and definitely not to be repaid.

It is amazing what love becomes when it is manifest in the practicality of empathy. Love like this knows no bounds, and it rides up on the wings of hope, ascending into transcendence, believing against the odds for the purposes of reconciliation.

So, if empathy can be transliterated as love, we need to know that love is the end of all being, as well as being the means to the attaining of it.

Love has its living opportunities.

We take them today or we miss them forever.

And if we miss them today,

we take them tomorrow.

How gracious is the Lord

to esteem to us a full life

of repetitive error

where the opportunity to overcome

is continually presented?

We began with empathy, so we must conclude that way.

The relational beauty of empathy is compelling. It is the trait of those who believe in relationship. Those who would reject empathy, either the partaking of it or the receiving of it, are fools in a relational world and life. Those who would reject empathy are in the class of those who would abuse the very systems that the empathetic support.

But the empathetic have an eternal power beyond destruction. This everlasting supremacy is worth suffering abuse for, because God will have the last say.

Those with empathy truly have God’s Kingdom.

Once they understand that,

they already have everything.

Such a person can only be content.


Heeding the Walking-Away Moment

The Banking Royal Commission in Australia has determined that customers generally stay with their ‘trusted’ institution too long, believing rhetoric when there isn’t sufficient reason to stay; when there are ample warning signs to leave.

I also attended a mentoring professional development session recently where the topic of walking away – knowing and heeding the right time to walk away in conflict to regain emotional composure – was raised.

There are at least two opportunities to walk away with wisdom:

To walk away from something permanently that has lasted for too long, and, to walk away from something temporarily where space is required. Knowing how and when to make these two decisions requires wisdom.

Let’s handle these one at a time:

Discerning when to walk away from AN ARRANGEMENT that has become toxic

Some arrangements, and these can be business arrangements or marriages or arrangements with other entities, wind up in a very non-productive place, where there is only pain. Inevitably we may end up staying too long in an arrangement that continues to get worse or takes us further from the hopes we had of that arrangement to begin with.

The conflicts become more and more dire, positions are polarised all the more, and the weapons of mass verbal, emotional, and even physical, destruction are deployed more often.

The arrangement is toxic if it is getting worse and has no hope of getting better.

Both party to the relationship have a hard choice to make. Is it time to walk away? It is certainly time to get help. And sometimes getting help is primary, but I find from a counselling perspective, people inevitably leave getting help too late. There is too much toxicity to deal with.

But there is always hope when both want to work together.

Certainly, marriages get to this point, where a couple have been conflicted for years and then arrive at a state of devitalisation. If both partners want more from the marriage there is hope in the battle against the toxicity that has formed. In marriages where there is abuse, the person being abused will almost certainly feel they stayed too long.

Employment relationships are another good example. If two employees are required to work together cohesively, and they cannot, and all avenues of reparation have been exhausted, the dynamic must be changed. A walking-away moment has been reached.

It takes courage to accept that a walking-away moment has been reached.

Ironically, it is peace that is experienced when a person has arrived at this point. But for the other person or entity, this is where the grief literally begins – in the parting – because they’re months if not years behind in the processing.

Very few situations offer up amicable separation. There is almost always one party more jilted than the other. It’s just the way it is.

Discerning when to walk away from A SITUATION that has become toxic

To all relationships comes the concept of struggle. It is only a matter of time before close working relationships are tested in the crucible of conflict. All parents know this implicitly, as do all marriages. I mean, what marriage and what family doesn’t experience conflict? But it can come as a shock when the relationship seemed initially so well matched.

Until conflict has been met, the relationship isn’t real.

Whether it is in our parenting, or a marriages, or in our employment, or in any other relationship arrangement, there are times when emotions come to the fore, and regrettable things are said and done. The walking-away moment comes before such damage takes place. It requires humility in one person to suggest that walking away for a short time will allow both people to regain their composure.

The wisdom in heeding this walking-away moment is in the foresight to protect the relationship from things that are said or done that will injure it, given that many things that are said or done can be said in the heat of the moment, and may not even be truly meant.

If there is sufficient wisdom in both they can make the courageous choice to walk away for a short time to process emotions, such that they can come back at a later time to resolve the conflict amicably.


Could Stress Be Distressing Your Relationships?

So many people I encounter are under the direct burden of stress.

Levels of general anxiety in the population today are as high as at any other time in the history of the world. And yet, as you read this you might be like much of the world, living in comparative luxury compared to others who cannot read this, and there are those historically who have faced much harder realities than we do today, yet possibly experienced less general anxiety.

These below are just four items on what would be a long list:

The Infection of Information

We are infected in this day with a plethora of information that has the impact of burdening us more than we are able to cope with. Information is killing us. And it isn’t even as if it’s a case of discerning what information is good from what isn’t good, it is just the flood of information that creates stress and manifests as anxiety.

Don’t just think about the ills of comparison through excess time spent on social media (though envy is a stressor). The problem is much more complex than that. It’s literally keeping up with the flow of information coming in that has an effect on our relationships with real people. Information as a priority, unfortunately, tends to trump people. The more tools and techniques we use to try and simplify our lives in this day the more our lives become complicated.

It’s because we have so much that we want so much.

There is a new addiction in our age, and it’s called the Fear of Missing out. And it isn’t just young people who are addicted; indeed, it is an irony that it is the over 40s who are most entrenched with Facebook these days.

But it’s not just the infection of information that burdens us with stress that overwhelms our capacity to relate with people.

Honesty with Ourselves and with God

This is a stressor that many people cannot stomach let alone reconcile. Even some espoused Christian individuals, particularly those who major on doctrines (information, again, over people!), cannot have an honest relationship with themselves or God, because they lack the courage of vulnerability to be truthful with themselves. They may bend out of context Jesus’ words, ‘the truth will set you free’ all the while refusing the Holy Spirit’s power that would heal them of their pride by giving them a continual awareness of it.

God blesses the obedient; those who will honestly journey with Him; those who have the capacity to fervently repent of their wrongful attitudes, for we all have them. I have found that the way God works with me is, my pride that refuses to be honest becomes a curse against the peace I could otherwise have in my heart.

If we cannot be honest with ourselves and with God, we will be severely limited in our relationships, and because we are not being honest about getting the log out of our own eye, it’s only a matter of time before some relationships shatter through conflict. Some relationships suffer such damage they become irreparable.

When we are honest with ourselves and with God, we see our pride, and how we are tempted to elevate the issues we argue about over the person, and completely miss the will of God.

When we’re honest with ourselves and God, God gives us the capacity to repent of our pride.

Being Aware of Emotional Indicators

Stress has an impact on us at a psychological level affecting the way we think and feel. Like all of what I talk about in this article, awareness is the key. As we recognise the feeling of stress and anxiety within us, we can choose to talk calmly to ourselves, to allow God to comfort us, even as we hope beyond the stressful present moment – ‘This, too, shall pass’.

This kind of stress is manifest in a particularly strong way when we are interacting with people, especially when we cannot control the situation, because we all like a modicum of control. And when we are stressed, more than ever, we demand control. If we hear God saying to us, ‘it’s okay, surrender your need of control to Me’ we can simply do something active in the interaction itself to surrender control. None of this is rocket science.

Getting the Balance Right between Activity and Being

Possibly the final frontier in reconciling stress is how far we skew the balance in our lives regarding activity versus being.

There is just so much to do in life. We often accept that without challenging it. Nobody is making us do this or that.

Many things that we choose to do we don’t have to do.

Very often the wisdom path is in saying no, which in the moment of saying it feels awkward and uncomfortable, but is the best remedy for busyness.

As we fight for the peace we could have in life we reduce our burden and deal with our stress.

Not enough being evokes anxiety; too much doing is stressful.