Tag Archives: Emotional Maturity

Quick Review: Shaping Your Family Story

Over the last few weeks, I read “Shaping Your Family Story” by David Welday III and Dr. James Coffield.  My wife and I wanted to read this book after getting acquainted with Dr. Coffield this summer at a training we attended.  He presented on some of the principles that are in this book and overall we really benefitted from our exposure to him. So we wanted to read the book.

Here is the main framework that makes this book unique compared to some other family leadership books out there. They offer 6 principles for shaping a good family story (chapter 2)  (18-23)

They offer 6 principles for shaping a good family story (pp. 18-23)

  1. Create High Emotional Warmth
  2. Have Low and Productive Conflict
  3. Have High Fun
  4. Have High Purpose or Theme
  5. Answer the Right Question  (i.e. “Am I loved?”)
  6. Parent Consistently

This summer Dr. Coffield primarily used the 1st four as an assessment of sorts for really any kind of relationship or community-based situation:  marriage, family, and even teams and larger communities. And that’s the biggest thing that has stuck with us – evaluating our relationships and community commitments through the lens of those 4 categories. From a parent standpoint, 5 & 6 are great and important as well and I think they also apply to leadership as well.

From a parent standpoint, 5 & 6 are great and important as well and I think they also apply to leadership as well. So I believe all 6 categories are a good diagnostic for any relationship or community, but the 1st four provide for a very easy assessment.

Is there high warmth?

Is there low/productive conflict?

Is there high fun?

Is there high purpose?

I think most of us have experienced environments that have been heavy on 1 or 2 of these or where 1 or 2 was completely lacking. I find that these have really helped me develop some simple and practical solutions and next steps whether it relates to marriage, family, or team leadership.

What do you think? Do you think these questions cover the essence of what contributes to a safe and healthy relational environment?

This is not the first go to marriage or family book I would recommend, but I enjoyed it and there was a lot of great insights and nuggets in there – particularly on discipline and the importance of consistency (#6 above).  It was a simple and practical book so it’s very accessible.

 

Quick Review: The Rest of God

Over the past month I’ve been going through The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan. If there’s been any theme or need in my life over the past year, it’s been the concept of rest and abiding in the Lord – but the last month has been when I’ve really been able to take steps towards that rest as most of the year became the antithesis of abiding.

Reading this book in a spirit of reflection and contemplation – taking each of the 14 chapters every two or three days to really focus and think about has helped me move closer to what title of the book promises – experiencing the restoration of my soul.  Coming into this summer I was probably closer to burnout that I wanted to admit, fresh off an inhuman pace of life and work. This was one of the best books that could have helped me enter the truth – the truth of God’s rest available to me and the truth of how and why I avoid or fail to enter that rest all too often. This is the book I recommend regarding burnout and rest as opposed to what I reviewed last week.

The book is not just about Sabbath as Sunday, but as living life in the Gospel – experiencing life in God as a gift to be received, not as something to be mastered or conquered.  There are excellent chapters on rest, Sunday Sabbath, play, freedom, and identity among others.  In fact, all 14 chapters had significant insight and reflection on God’s gift to us of Himself through Sabbath rest.

If you are on the verge of burnout or if you just need to have a helpful catalyst to resting in the Lord, I highly recommend The Rest of God.  I really enjoy Buchanan’s writing style and I think there are several chapters I plan on coming back to on a regular basis because they are so helpful for me in light of my typical struggles to find rest and abide in the Lord.

This will be something I recommend a lot moving forward, so I’ll start here with you 🙂

 

Quick Review: Zeal Without Burnout

I read last week Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice by Christopher Ash as I’m in a season of reflection and evaluation of my own capacity. I’m reading a few different things relating to Sabbath and rest.  This was a book I added to the mix because it fits some of my current challenges and I picked it up for 99 cents on the Kindle.

First, the book is fine. As an introduction to pacing yourself as a minister and not getting sucked into demands and ministry tasks that end up taking over your life.  It can serve as a helpful intro to rest and well-being as a minister.

But…

I saw that it was being offered for 9$ on Kindle and I do not believe it is worth that.  I had assumed this was a 3 or 4 dollar kindle book as it’s only 130 pages and there’s a lot of space between chapters so I would say it’s closer to 100 pages of actual content.

The book is a good encouragement, but if you have money I would suggest going elsewhere like Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God, which I am reading right now as well.  Zeal without Burnout does not really go deep enough into all of what’s involved in these areas of struggle for ministers to justify the high cost and in general only offers limited insight beyond a basic exhortation to avoid legalism and other components.

For what it was for me – I appreciated it.  But it served as a 99 cent Kindle e-book that lightly encouraged well-being, spiritual health, and healthy limits in ministry.   I don’t mean to be negative about the book because it had some good qualities – especially some firsthand stories from people who have struggled mightily with burnout.  But when I saw the normal cost, it just didn’t feel anywhere near worth it.  If you want a book on rest or Sabbath, keep an eye out for some of my upcoming thoughts on The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan.

 

Blaming the Dog to Keep Calm

Anxiety and blame shifting go together like peanut butter and jelly, apple pie and ice cream, or Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  Simply put, the fastest and most convenient way to restore our world to some degree of order and harmony after suffering through anxiety and tension or conflict is to blame it on something…or someone…or everyone.

In such times or moments you have to do something with all the uneasiness, awkwardness, maybe guilt, shame, anger, insecurity, or inadequacy. Lot of emotion and angst builds up inside of us in a lot of life situations or circumstances.  Where’s it all go?  It’s gotta go somewhere, right?

I saw this a few weeks ago. It speaks to my point.

SAMSUNG

If you (as a leader) are in a complex situation, or you’re dealing with complex relationships, and there’s a lot of struggle and conflict and anxiety in the mix – but YOU’RE walking around calm and easy and feel an undisturbed inner tranquility…Then guess what?

You’re probably blaming the dog.

And by dog. I mean somebody else…or a group of people.  Easiest thing in the world to do – resolve the tension by bundling it up in a bag, tying it off, and dumping it at someone else’s doorstep.

This is the first step of more toxic steps such as scapegoating or even abuse.  It’s a dark thing making someone else pay a price for having our inner worlds disturbed.  After all – aren’t we entitled to live tranquil inner lives without too much disturbance?  If you did not read that as rhetorical sarcasm, the answer is No.

The Scriptures have many exhortations and instructions of what to do with anxiety and inner disturbances.  Most notably we’re to “not be anxious, but pray without ceasing.”  For those who would over-spiritualize this and take it as a call to avoid inner turbulence, you are mistaken.  We unfortunately can hail emotional ignorance or detachment as some kind of spiritual enlightenment, but in reality we’re just blaming the dog and giving it the name “negative emotion.” Rejecting negative emotion is not spiritual maturity.  The call to “not be anxious” is not a call to not be troubled.  In fact, I’m not sure the “joy of the Lord” can truly be just that without being in tension with unspeakable heartache and anguish.  But what great peace can come from knowing that there is a place where you can unload all your fears, insecurities, inadequacies, shame, guilt, pain, woundedness, and failure.

Jesus gives the option that instead of making others pay for our incompleteness, limitations, or even sinfulness, we can take it to him to connect to His grace. This is good for us – to feel loved in our most frustrated and troubled places.  It’s also good for others – because when we are grounded in grace we don’t make others pay for the tensions we try to resolve ourselves within us.  We can treat people in human ways with dignity rather than dehumanizing them so we can feel more human ourselves.

One of the greatest leadership capacities I believe exists is the maturity and character of a leader to discern and assess in hard moments, to put it bluntly, “What the hell is going on inside of me!!!!”  Call it a part of EQ if you want, but it’s so much more.  It’s recognizing that our compulsion to blame, throw people under the bus, scapegoat, judge, or punish is one of the greatest teachers…and exposers of what is taking place within us. It shines a light on our moments of inner-panic that would lead to such short-sighted, panic-driven, and ill-fated actions.  It might not feel like panic or anxiety on the face of it – for many of us are well trained to quickly displace even the smallest hint  or reflection of fault or imperfection in ourselves. It’s automatic.

Jesus once said, “Be angry, but don’t sin.”  I think it’s not far fetched to see there is also wisdom and truth in the following saying, “Be troubled, but don’t sin!”  Be bothered. Be affected. Be torn up by the painful realities and the difficulties of relationships and community.  But don’t sin.

And the number one way people sin when they are troubled?  They take it out on the dog.

Don’t blame the dog.  Let’s not redirect our unresolved emotions onto others as a toxic substitute for learning to pay attention to difficult and sometimes contradicting emotions.  If punishing someone else is what it takes for us to stay calm – then being calm isn’t worth it.

There’s a holy peace and calm only to be found on the other side of being troubled as long as we’re learning to be troubled with Jesus and with community.

Let’s not settle for cheap calm, because it tends to treat people like dogs.

Advent and the Most Pernicious Program of All

Here’s the third post in my Advent and Star Trek series where we actually get to the advent part! This was originally posted on December, 3, 2011
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So have you ever thought of Star Trek’s “Borg” and Advent in the same thought and discussion?  Probably not.  But here it goes.  Of course context helps as this is part three of a three part mini-blog series entitled “collective fusion” so you can get part one here (Collective Fusion: Resistance is Not Futile) and part two here (Self: The Most Pernicious Program of All). This won’t have the same meaning or coherence without that backdrop 🙂

In part two, I mentioned the quote from the Stark Trek episode I stumbled upon while hanging out late night with my infant daughter.  In response to a crisis about whether to return a lost Borg to its collective with its memory or erase it, the captain says, “Perhaps that’s the most pernicious program of all – the knowledge of self being spread throughout the collective in that brief moment might alter them forever.”

As I’ve been thinking about the incarnation of Christ now that it’s the beginning of Advent, I see some connections with the role Jesus played when he, to use The Message’s version of John 1, “moved into the neighborhood.”

Even a person without faith should marvel at the life of Christ – particularly as it relates to his ability from the age of 12 and during the course of his public ministry to live out of His true self and His true identity and conversely his capacity to not let others define him or co-opt him.

Jesus entered into a volatile political climate with a lot of intensity and anxiety about religion and the law as well as in local politics.  Much of what does not get discussed frequently about Jesus is just how many forces there were that consistently sought to hijack who Jesus was and what He was about for their own purposes.  The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Romans, and even the disciples and the masses all directed hopes and expectations at times towards him in an effort to get Him to conform to their agenda and paradigm of religion and spirituality.

Jesus never conformed or compromised.  For clarity – he was uncompromising as it relates to his identity and his values and vision of what God intended for people to live out and experience as opposed to being uncompromising related to doctrinal debates.

Jesus’ presence as a real human in real human community and social/political/economic life altered the entire system into which he was born.  Jesus didn’t alter, compromise, or surrender his identity or self for the many anxious folk around him.   And as a result, lives were transformed and the world was changed forever.

As you think about this holiday season – think about some of those moments in which Jesus was being tempted to surrender himself (His very self!) to others to eliminate their anxiety and fear.  How about when Peter rebukes Jesus when Jesus decides it’s time to go to Jerusalem?  How about when Jesus is being questioned by Pontius Pilate?  How about even when Jesus is 12 and is questioned by his parents when they left Jerusalem without him?  How about when Jesus he is a target of political and religious scheming in many of the debates between the Pharisees and Sadducees?  How about when the demands of the poor and the sick never cease to come to him?  Or when he is being tortured and killed?

Jesus never conformed or forfeited his own self and identity.  And he ultimately was killed as a result.  But that was the plan wasn’t it?  To reveal in flesh the image of God and the will and heart of God?  He no doubt knew what was coming and the price that comes with such a revolution.  Yet he had the character and integrity of self to forge through the anxiety and the pain that stood between Him and fulfilling His calling.Never before or since has such a self transformed people’s lives and the world in which He lived.  It was the perfect execution of “the most pernicious program of all” and the power at work then is the same power at work today.

So this Advent season, you may not think of the Borg naturally, but at least think of Jesus as the one who’s presence and power can move into any “neighborhood” (family, community, workplace…) and change it forever.  But for any of us to see that happen, we first and foremost need that presence and power to change us – shaping and conforming us into the type of “self” that can engage in transformational and redemptive ways with those around us without getting co-opted for the sake of alleviating others’ anxiety, insecurity, or fear.

Where do you hope to embody that same power and presence that comes from God this Christmas season?

And with that I can say I’ll probably go another 700 posts before hitting anything Star Trek related again 🙂

Is Pain the Key to Empowerment?

It’s timely to re-post today one of the most popular posts ever on my blog, or top 10 at least.  Morgan’s got another jog-a-thon in the morning (Thursday) and it brings back a lot of memories documented here.  She’s still nervous about it, because like one of her parents she takes everything super seriously 🙂  This post was originally posted on November 5, 2010.

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Another huge lesson on empowerment was hammered home to me today, again through my daughter.  She did her school fundraiser jog-a-thon this morning.  For most kids this is no big thing.  But Morgan has mild cerebral palsy and wears a small brace on her right leg.  In general her muscle strength is not nearly as strong as her peers because of C.P.Today was amazing on one level because we went from Morgan not running in P.E. (see P.E. Empowerment) to her now jogging/walking for 30 minutes straight.

Each lap was about 1/10 of a mile or so.  Morgan thought she could do 5.  That was her goal.  I thought she could easily do that walking, but I thought 10 was the max for her.

She did 13.  (about 1 1/4 miles)

She said her leg was hurting in the middle and that was when she slowed it down a bit, but she ran most of the last 3 laps she did and finished strong.  She’s feeling like hot stuff right now (another side affect from empowered behavior and accomplishment!).

But the powerful lesson was on the sidelines for me.  My wife and I and my parents were there in support, in response to Morgan’s request, and we were a total wreck emotionally.  Christine was crying before lap 1.  My mom didn’t make it to lap 2.It might be hard for you to get it, but as an analogy (maybe a poor one) I would say it would be equivalent to what you would feel if your son or daughter had a speech impediment and they participated in a speech contest.  Or what you might feel at a high school graduation if the kid had a learning disability and struggled to keep passing grades, but managed to overcome and graduate.

Pushin' Through the Pain

Watching a girl who has had on average 1-2 physical therapy appointments for the past four years in order to build strength, leg coordination and flexibility, and learning to exercise control over her leg get out there and push herself to run to the best of her ability and then to finish strong the last 3 laps is pretty much enough to do you in.  I was drained at the end and more tired than Morgan.

Here’s the lesson. Watching her push herself, struggle through her own pain, and battle her own limitations generated certain responses within me (and those with me, no names of course!).  There’s an instinctive desire to take the pain away.  To say, “It’s ok, you’ve done great, but you don’t have to keep running if you’re hurting.” Or to even get out there with her and support her (I had visions of that British sprinter and his father in the Olympics a decade ago!).

But if I had given into those instincts you know what I would have missed?

I would have missed watching her running the last 3 laps harder than the first 3 laps.

I would have missed watching her and her friend Zoe encouraging each other and motivating each other to keep running until the whistle blew those last few laps.

I would have missed hearing her laugh on her final lap with joy that comes with knowing that she conquered something that she was pretty nervous about all week.

I would have missed experiencing a moment where she leaned over to me and said, “Dad!  I did 13 laps!”

I would have missed the feeling I’ve had all day of being proud not just of who she is, but of how determined she was to do her best and push herself as much as she could when she could easily have taken an easy out.

I might have ruined an otherwise very empowering experience for my daughter.

Here’s where pain and empowerment come together:

If you can’t manage YOUR OWN capacity to tolerate and handle pain and struggle in others, you WILL FAIL in empowering others.  You will hamstring them through an unregulated empathy and compassion. Major parenting lesson here for those of us in that stage of life!

Obviously, there are times to pour on the love and empathy.  But when others are capable of, and even responsible for, standing on their own – we must let them.  We must encourage them, but we must not protect them from pain to the degree that they never learn how to persevere through it or even overcome it.

This is a hard lesson.  It’s hard because it hurts. The question for us as leaders and human beings is this:

When we are engaging to take care of others or rescue them, are we doing it to take away their hurt…..Or are we really trying to take away our own?

Let’s help people become ABLE and not DISable them through unrestrained empathy.

How do you navigate the tension between letting people struggle in a good way and in a developmental way versus intervening to bring comfort and care when it is needed?

Why are you worried? I got this!

You see Colin in the picture with Morgan.  He was very sad the first half of the race because he couldn’t run.  Without about 12 minutes to go we turned him loose and he held his own though he looked like a field mouse amidst the other kids.  He ran straight the whole time (with water break stops) and ended up cracking off about 6-7 laps himself in the last 12 minutes.  One of the more memorable moments was him grabbing a water cup and drinking it on the run and then throwing the cup with its remaining water into the air like a legit marathon runner.  Too funny.

Great job Morgan!  (and Colin too!)

Thanks to those of you who sponsored her!

I’m Not A Part of This System! I’m an Adult!

If you thought I beyond analyzing philosophical statements left on dirty cars you were wrong!

I'm not a part of this system!!! I'm an Adult!!

This was just too tempting for me. My family pulled up next to this car today as my wife and I were doing skin cancer checks at the dermatologist.  The window graffiti offers the following declaration of empowerment, “I’m not a part of this system!! I’m an Adult!!”

Now I have no context whatsoever to whoever did this.  But as a person who spends a lot of time reading systems theory and working out strategies of empowering people towards adulthood, I got my phone out immediately to take a picture.

There’s a great bit of irony here to me though because declarations that distance ourselves from the systems that we are a part of our actually quite non-adult, or childlike.  Though I confess the temptation is always there to set ourselves up as outside the “system” since we often want to distance ourselves from any association with those things that violate our values, make us look bad, or generally just suck and cause a lot of pain.

There are no doubt times where one has to make the tough choice of distancing from a system for the sake of survival – which would be quite adult. Many a person has lost their sanity or made themselves a martyr because they lacked the fortitude and self to make adult choices (but usually the system is the only thing that gets the blame).

So what does an adult position look like in an average system?

Well I would argue it lies somewhere between distancing yourself from the system because of anger or fear and on the other hand getting totally immersed and lost in the system where there no longer is an independent sense of self.  Walking the tension between being separate but connected. Differentiation. It’s probably important to mention that I’m focusing on the emotional realities of systems. Just because you disagree with everyone or are on the periphery doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the system. If you a part of the community in any way, you’re a part of the system from an emotional/relational standpoint even though you may not be driving the values or culture of the system.

So when things are going bad and not to our liking (yet not yet toxic), it’s adult to stay connected to the system with a focus on taking responsibility for what we have responsibility for. We can’t control everything, but we can focus on our own functioning and responsiveness to what is needed.

What statement of empowerment related to imperfect systems would you make on your dirty car?

 

Am I Jerk Just Because Someone Else Was?

Maybe. But Sometimes We Can Change That.

One morning when I went to order some breakfast at a local establishment near my house, the waitress, a 5′ Latina, asked me with big eyes, “You’re not going to yell again at me are you?”

I was taken off guard and I was searching my brain, thinking to myself, “What is she talking about?”

But turns out I looked like somebody that she had been on the receiving end of an angry outburst from.  The similarities?  I’m white.  I’m in my 30’s. I’m a man. I have a goatee. So basically I was automatically a jerk because someone else was.

We don’t often talk about the reality that we ascribe meaning to people based on past experiences. We either have been told that’s bad, as in all the time bad, or we pretend we don’t do it.  I suppose “profiling” is a word that should be mentioned here and while I’m not an advocate of profiling people in the present based on past experiences – we still do it.  We ascribe meaning to people and relationships based on what we have experienced and what has formed us. This happens in a lot of relationships – not just cross-cultural ones (male-female, certain personalities…).

Some would say – well that’s just her judging on external appearances so it’s her problem? Well – on one level that might be the case, but does it really do anyone any good to measure relationships on that level?  I don’t think so.  If we care about human people and the bigger story to which we’re all connected, we should not dismiss that there are real experiences and real pain that lead to perhaps what we see on the surface as superficial judgments. But I happen to think they’re not so superficial.

A more personal example?

In high school, I was after school after baseball practice one day walking to the parking lot and an African-American kid out of nowhere just came and tried to hit me in the head as hard as he could.  He succeeded enough to where I was stunned and to where it would have qualified for assault. And I heard enough to learn it was because I was white.

How long was that in the back of my mind when in similar experiences?  For sure a couple years if not more. My survival instincts would kick in and something internal was telling me that “this person” is a threat based on whatever categories of meaning I had at the time.  I think this is natural when a lot of pain has been conflicted or where there’s been any trauma or abuse.

What helped me move past it?

Well, a summer doing inner-city ministry with a lot of great African-American people really helped.  But the key was a couple very significant friendships with African-Americans who God used to bring some healing and perspective to my past experiences. From my high school years to the present day, these key people have helped me see a wider range of this particular community so that I wasn’t ascribing meaning in a specific moment of violence and racism towards me to the whole of the community.

If we notice an experience or many are starting to create a strong fear or distrust of a community, we need to seek out and pray for redemptive relationships that can help guard our hearts from closing off to that community.

And we just can’t help that frequently people are going to ascribe meaning to us based on what their stories have been and yes – based on how we look externally. Instead of being defensive or reactionary, a wiser course would be to embrace the redemptive opportunity to be a part of God orchestrating healing for people and to be a part of seeing stories changed. I think it’s a key part of redeeming culture or our ethnicity too.

If you find yourself ascribing meaning to someone or a relationship based on external factors, don’t run from that out of a fear of being “intolerant.”  Run deeper towards it, if you are courageous enough, in order to see what might be in need of healing or redemption.  If you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s past cross-cultural baggage – absorb it as best you can in the interest of serving that person and being an agent of healing.

I’m always taken off guard in these moments no matter what side of the dynamic I’m on, but I’ve learned that there’s a lot to enter into – with others and myself, if I’m courageous and teachable.

If you have been courageous to look deeper, what’s been your experience?

Maturity and Response

Been talking a lot of systems and leadership the last couple months with the Leadership Learning Group.  I’ve been enjoying re-reading some great material.  I’m not sure how you define maturity, but here’s something that might help you think about maturity (and immaturity)….

“Automatic behavior is the hallmark of immature people.  Bent on survival, they accept few challenges and experience little growth.  Immature people react with a small part of themselves to a small part of their world.  They limit themselves by paying attention only to what is close up, by focusing on the moment, and by posturing in defense.  Essentially they let the things around them inform and shape their lives.Maturity increases survival.  For the long haul, reflection and resilience are needed.  Mature people respond with a large part of themselves to a large part of their world.  They move beyond limiting conditions by seeing what might yet be, by allowing time for things to process, and by responding with self-control and poise.  They have a greater capacity to modify and shape their environment.”

-Peter Steinke, How Your Church Family Works, 1993, 93-94.

What helps you respond to a large part of the world with a large part of yourself?   What are the barriers?