Grace & Gratitude

Before I release a pre-marital couple to the wild world of marriage, I challenge them to adopt two words (concepts) as cornerstones for their marriage: Grace and Gratitude. Here’s why.

Showing grace implies forgiveness, acceptance, and a belief that your spouse is a better man/woman than what the offending action shows. It’s easy to get offended or hurt and turn away from them as protection. It’s hard to stay engaged and put hurt feelings aside and believe the best. Next time this happens in your relationship, offer grace by placing your hand on their shoulder or chest near their heart and say, “I don’t believe that you intended to harm me, and that you do love and care for me.” Watch what happens next. 

The second is gratitude. As a whole, we are not that grateful of a people. Instead, we are an entitled people. Sadly, I rarely encounter a couple that genuinely like each other. Most couples remember liking each other, but they’ve long since forgotten that part of their lives. Entitlements will destroy your relationship — Gratitude will repair and heal your relationship. 

Practice giving thanks to your spouse, for even the smallest of items.

  • “Thank you for smiling at me this morning.” 
  • “Thank you for sitting next to me on the couch.” 
  • “Thank you for turning off the TV and listening to my tough day.” 
  • “Thank you for marrying me.” 
  • “Thank you for smiling at me when I came home.”
  • “Thank you … <fill in the blank>”

It doesn’t take a lot to change the tune of your day, or your spouse’s day. Show them grace, and gratitude, and see how quickly you begin to like them again. 


QBQ: The Question Behind the Question

Book Review for QBQ.
The Premise: If you’re asking the wrong questions, you’re not going to be able to solve the problems correctly. Personal accountability is achieved when we ask “what” and “how,” not “why” and “who.” Marriages thrive when those involved take responsibility by asking the correct questions about their situation. Ask, “how can I solve …” instead of “why did this happen.” 

My Take: This is an easy-to-read book that has great applications for our relationships. He really nails it by addressing the issues of personal accountability. As a culture, we’re far too consumeristic and “me-centric.” This leads to feeling like a victim and not taking responsibility for our actions. It’s just over 100 pages, with many chapters taking up less than two pages. Pick it up and read a few chapters, set it down. Read it out loud with your wife or husband. Spend fifteen minutes talking about it in the evenings. 

Application for Marriages: This is not a marriage 101 book, rather it’s a way of thinking about how and what we do in our relationships. There’s not a lot of practical advice for issues that would arise in a marriage, rather it helps to frame the approach we take in our response to these issues. Too often we get sidetracked with the implications of the questions or statements made to us. Instead we need to focus of what is behind the question or statement. 


Understanding the Limitations of Others

This particular passage from Henri Nouen has been very helpful for me lately. We often mistake the limitations of others as a judgement of our own value. In doing so, we miss an opportunity to sacrificially love and care for these people in our life.

“You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.”

The Three P’s of Porn Recovery

Last week I wrote about the allure of Porn. As a therapist, I’ve interacted with hundreds of men, women, and teenagers about their sexuality and porn usage. They all desire sexual wellness but struggle to know how to find it. In working with them, there are three things that always show up when someone is wanting health and healing from pornography. Those that engage with these three categories always discover something greater for their lives. They find what they have been searching for. 

The Three P’s of Porn Recovery:

Shame tells us that we need to have life figured on own. This is a flat out lie. We have to have people involved in our recovery story. We need others to support, encourage, hold accountable, challenge, and believe in us (especially when we don’t believe in ourselves). This needs to include (with limitations) someone’s spouse, but not only their spouse.

We need a process to follow that is beyond our ability to set rules and limitations on life. Helpful processes include therapy, 12-step meetings (AA, SA, Al-Anon, ACA), Celebrate Recovery, or a sexual integrity group at a local Church. This process needs to be facilitated by someone who has been down the road for a while. Someone who has already followed and is now leading. A doctor can’t perform surgery on themselves, they need another professional to care for them.

We need a hero to discover. Someone to believe in when we lose our way. A hero that can push through the cold of night, withstand the lonely of day, and resist the enemies who thwart the journey. A hero that has character, value, morals, and integrity. Recovery forces us to face the hero within and the ultimate Hero who can save us from ourselves. There’s a reason that the first three steps in the 12-steps is about admitting powerless and entrusting our lives to God for healing.


The Viewpoint 1.3

The Viewpoint

Vol 1 Issue 3

  1. Book Review: Digital Minimalism

    We are increasingly being bombarded with more and more technological inventions. Sure, some of these technologies do make life easier, but there is a lot of digital clutter in our lives. My main concern is that we’re becoming less human the more we interact with computers (programed by humans).

    If you’re concerned about technology habits in your life, this is a good book to get you started on better boundaries. (Andy Crouch’s book, “The Tech Wise Family” is more geared towards families. That is also a good book on this topic.)

  2. The Relationship in your Brain

    Some interesting thoughts here from Fast Company about how to help our brains work in solving problems during emotionally difficult situations. The two parts of the brain that are at fighting for resources/energy: The limbic (fight or flight — our “autopilot” survival system) and the prefrontal cortex (strategy, reasoning, thoughtfulness). When we’re stressed, in conflict, or feel like we’re in danger, the limbic system takes over in order for us to survive. Especially in relationships that matter, this is not a viable long term solution.

    The author talks about two key warning signs that we have moved into autopilot: Blame shifting, and negative assumptions. Both of these behaviors are about survival. The main problem with a survival first reaction: Everything and everyone is a possible threat. We may not cognitively think this, but our brain is reacting this way. I see this reality all the time in my work with couples. It is so easy to hear the threat and so difficult to actually listen to what’s being said.

    When we go to the gym to lift weights, we are building muscle and endurance. The same concept is true for relationships. When we exercise setting aside our need for survival, we can grow in our ability to operate in both the limbic and prefrontal cortex in our life and relationships.

  3. Leaving Social Media

    Do you have FOMO (fear of missing out)? Can you imagine never again logging into facebook, instagram, snapchat, or twitter? This is a great op-ed about why this author decided to leave social media.

    I’ve spoken and written about this before, but the great lie that social media promises is a more connected life. What it delivers is a more informed life at the cost of true connection with others. Humans don’t have the capacity to handle being omniscient (all knowing). That is a God attribute. Some studies are showing that anxiety/depression are linked to an increased use of social media.

    The bottom line is that we all need better boundaries (on sex, food, work, social media, etc), which makes for better relationships in our lives.

  4. Beauty From the Ashes

    I’m sure you heard about this, but it is a story that is worth retelling. A Dallas police officer enters the wrong apartment, shoots and kills a man, and has just recently been convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The public got a surprise at the hearing when the victims brother took to the stand to say some final worlds to offender. This is an amazing picture of grace and mercy. Watch the video here.

The Viewpoint is a weekly roundup of content I have come across throughout the week that is worth reposting. This content will often be an article or a book I’ve recently read, or something else that is of cultural significance. One of my good friends talks about the word “viewpoint” as nothing more than a view from a point. When we change our point of view (or sometimes the point of our view — which is a different issue altogether), we can see differently. Relationships grow when we are open to changing our view.

How to Fight

How to Fight:

Strike when the iron is COLD! 
The heat of the moment is usually too hot. Wait for things to cool down.
Smile. Use hopeful, positive language
Smiling takes less facial muscles, is linked to an increased production of dopamine (the “feel good” chemical in our body), and makes it harder to stay in resentment/anger for both you and your sparring partner.
Offer a compliment
Want to disarm yourself and your partner? Tell them what you like/love about them.
Tell a story 
Eugene Peterson says it well, “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.” Welcome someone with a story.
Designate a safe room, and safe time of the day
What room in your house can you designate as the place to have adult discussions around conflict? Is there a time of day that works best for you and your partner?
Take off your shoes
This grounds you, helps you to feel and get in touch with being human. The goal is to repair the relationship, not to win the fight.
Open your body (arms, legs, clothing)
Open postures invite open dialogue. Closed postures create closed dialogue.
Admit wrong, take responsibility
“I’m sorry. I was wrong. How can I make it right?”

Woodworking and Listening

One of my hobbies is woodworking. I love the smell of fresh wood and the tangible nature of seeing something created from start to finish. The golden rule of woodworking is measure twice, cut once (and also, as I’ve been told at conferences where I speak, don’t cut off your fingers — ha!).

You can always cut off more material if you need to, but you can never add more material if you make a mistake.

Communication is very similar. Once spoken, words cannot be taken back. “I didn’t really mean what I said,” is a terrible way to try and escape from a painful/hurtful statement. Regardless of intent, the truth came out and there’s no taking it back.

Listen twice, speak once. Listening is measuring, speaking is cutting. Be sure that you know what you’re speaking about before you open your mouth. And in most cases, listening and reflective feedback (this is what I heard you say — not what I interpreted you saying) is way better that speaking your mind.