Communication

There has been “I’m sorry,” “Can I ask you a question?” and “I don’t know what you mean.”

I’ve heard “Please forgive me,” “You need to know…” and “Can we talk about this?”

In the past year, it feels like I’ve been drinking from a fire hose when it comes to learning how to communicate — and there have been plenty of opportunities to put it into practice as well.

Sometimes I marvel at the fact that we humans ever communicate anything with any success.

Even within the same language, words are understood in different ways by different people; we use actions and intonation and imply things; we assume others understand.

Let’s not even talk about what happens when you add in a second language or move communication to typed words on a screen, removing voice, facial expressions, and body language.

In the best of situations, we try to explain something well and might be misunderstood. In the worst of situations we purposefully use words for harm. Things are said and left unsaid and both ways we hurt each other. Assumptions are made based on incomplete information and resentment is born.

We share space (literally and metaphorically) with other humans constantly.

Sometimes we rub one another raw, leaving a trail of hurt. And sometimes we breathe into one another a breath of life, the voice of God, the peace of His presence, the connection and wholeness of relationship that was always meant to be.

How do we create sustainable, life-giving, compassionate, and honest relationships?

I am convinced that intentional, clear, and kind communication is the foundation. In the push and pull of relationships, the give and take, the ups and downs, the needs and gifts, understanding the other’s perspective and communicating my own is essential.

This means asking questions, listening, assuming the best of someone, and seeking to understand how the other person processes and communicates.

And it means asking forgiveness, bringing up awkward conversations, asking what needs to change, and putting the other person before myself.

This is work but something tells me it’s worth it.

Single and Selfish

“Singleness is freedom!” the multitudes say! Our individualistic, “all about me” culture encourages us “unhindered” ones to travel, squeeze singleness for everything it’s worth, and do whatever we want whenever we want.

There are certainly good upsides to the unfettered single life and I think I’m taking advantage of many of them.

However, I have to be careful because singleness has a tendency to make me incredibly selfish! After all, without some intentional rearranging of my life, the natural flow of my day does revolve around me.

I cook what I want, I eat when I want, I leave my stuff where I want, I arrange my schedule how I want, I go where I want… You get the idea. The list could go on.

Basically, singleness gives me the chance every day to think only of myself and what I want. And that’s so tempting for a self-centered person like myself!

Regardless of whether the single life is chosen or not, the problem is that it can easily and sneakily reinforce selfishness and self-centeredness.

In general, singleness — as opposed to being married or having kids — puts me in a unique position to have to work a bit harder to turn my heart outward to others instead of inward to myself.

Many of my married friends, old and young alike, tell me that marriage pretty quickly trains the selfishness right out of you. Or at the very least it reveals your selfishness to you left and right. Sounds horrible and like exactly what I want all at the same time.

Sure, if life is about putting myself first, then my singleness is all about me and I should live it up accordingly. But, if it’s not about me and fulfilling my every wish… then what?

What does it mean if my singleness should make me not more self-centered but instead more giving? And if my singleness is meant to, somehow or another, be for the good of other people and make God, not me, look beautiful and desirable?

The great magic of all of this is that we know that when we give joyfully and humbly of ourselves, we are filled more than we could’ve imagined. Living in a giving, selfless way is not a sacrifice or a loss.

I’ve tried to think of some practical ways to be considerate of others on a daily basis and train my selfishness out of me even in singleness.

One way I try to do that is to be intentionally considerate of whoever I live with.

While there are days that I wouldn’t mind living alone, I also know that living with someone is not only fun, it also “forces” me to, at the very minimum, be considerate of another person on a daily basis.

Living with someone is one practical step toward training that selfishness out of me (though I’m sure it’s a fraction of how marriage or kids trains it out of you!).

I bop my selfishness on the head when I pick up my things or wash my dishes. I bop it on the head when I take their plans into account before I invite people over. I bop it on the head when I apologize for something hurtful I blurted out when I get home at the end of a long day. Again, I could go on here.

It’s one small way, but it’s a start.

What other ways can you think of to do away with selfishness and consider others in your daily life?

In the end, the point is that I want to healthily take advantage of the time and freedom that singleness allows me while at the same time using it for personal growth and most of all the good of other people and the glory of God.

From what I’ve seen, this is no easy task and I have a long way to go, but I’m ready to put my hand to the plow!

bravery to feel sad

No one really talks about the bravery and strength required to be sad. Probably because we feel ashamed of tears and we’ve been taught to carry on and hurry-away from all the “negative” emotions. 

A few months ago, tired of the same emotions surprising me in my heart, I purposed to process, write, and let myself cry if need be. I told a friend that I gave myself an evening to just feel the sad feelings that I knew were there and she said, “Feeling things sucks, and I am so glad that you always choose the hard and brave way.” 

Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is walk you through the appropriate emotions for what you’re dealing with – not to hit you right away with a rallying cry to get back up on your feet, but instead to validate where you are, cry with you in your pain, then later encourage you onward to health and joy regardless of mountains or valleys.

Resilience doesn’t necessarily mean immediately getting back on our feet. Resilience is not hardness. Resilience is a perfect combination of strength and tenderness. Resilience does mean standing up.. after we’ve walked wisely through the valley and summoned the strength and bravery to feel our hearts break. 

If we aren’t truly feeling grief, anger, heartbreak, joy, and gladness at their appropriate times, we aren’t truly identifying the bad in life as bad and the good in life as good. Call bad bad and good good. Be brave. Be sad when you need to.

Authentic Authenticity

During our normal weekly time set aside to process life, hold each other accountable, share the good and the bad, and memorize scripture, my mentor-friend asked how my time with God was that week. I said it was average, didn’t get me excited, that I just kind of went through the motions with prayer and Bible-reading. And she said, “So… you were faithful.” … Excuse me? What she said is not what we’re used to hearing. Some friends would counsel me to stop if I don’t feel like doing something. Others would say to figure out how to rekindle the passion, but for-goodness-sake don’t stay in that nothing zone where all your passion is gone and you don’t feel like doing what you’re doing. We love to have passion for what we’re doing. And we hate doing things we don’t feel like doing. But frequently, that’s the definition of faithfulness – doing what we have committed to do, doing what’s right, and doing what’s good, even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes “going through the motions” is actually faithfulness and is the best, and only, thing you can do when emotions are running low. Buuut we love doing what we feel like, and we’ve started calling it authenticity.

Somewhere along the line we have equated being authentic with following along with our emotions. We have the attitude of: “If I feel it, I do it, and that’s the authentic me. And If I’m acting differently from what I really feel inside, then that’s hypocrisy, high treason to myself.” We’ve gotten into our heads the “idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy, but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what i believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what i believe, in spite of what i feel, isn’t hypocrisy, it’s integrity” (Thoennes). For those of us who follow Jesus and are pursuing our true selves that are only found in who God created us to be, Brett McCracken accurately says that, “Sanctification involves living in a way that often conflicts with what feels authentic.” Really, we’ve got two natures warring inside of us every day, but our “authentic selves” are not always the desires we feel on the daily. God is bringing us (as individuals and as humanity) back to our true authentic selves. McCracken continues “Hard as it may be to believe in the midst of our sinful thoughts and fleshly struggles, we were made to be perfect. Brokenness may feel more natural, but holiness is actually the more human state.”

We are covered not only by grace, but also by a call to obedience and holiness. Jonathan Lunde says, “Though always established in grace, each biblical covenant also includes demands of righteousness from those who trust in God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenantal promises. This means that covenantal grace never diminishes the covenant demand of righteousness – righteousness that flows out of covenantal faith. As a result, faith and works of obedience will always be found in God’s true covenantal partners.” So we are to pursue “authenticity” but not the “what you feel like is what is authentically you” brand of authenticity that our culture loves. We are to pursue an authentic-holiness and authentic-obedience and as we do, we pursue our authentic identity in Christ. As we do, we are being faithful. Just like my mentor-friend’s point that my less-than-enthusiastic faithfulness to God during that dull week was just that – faithfulness to God, and exactly what I needed to be doing.