Pointers that strengthen all your relationships

What can we do to build a closer marriage relationship and/or to rear strong kids?  

Blog. Couple arguing. 9.17Here's a hint: Don't fall into the trap of dragging the past into today. 

How do we do that? Play this conversation in your mind:

She: "You never listen to me when I talk to you!"      

He: "That's because you're always ragging on me over some little thing that doesn't matter."

She: "There you go again, putting me down. You always do that."

He: "Well, I can never do anything right, so what else would you expect?"

Etc.

Can you spot the pattern of these remarks?

These two seem more interested in pointing fingers of blame than in understanding each other.

Parents often copy that pattern with their kids, too 

Last time Brody brought home a grade of D and his mom gave him a long lecture on paying attention and trying hard.  

So he gritted his teeth and worked really hard. This time he earned a C+ and he's feeling good. He wears a big grin as he holds it out for Mom to see.

She frowns and says, "Oh, Brody, I know you could do better. You could get an A if you weren't always staring off into space or glued to your phone. But that's the way you always are. You never try as hard as you can. Never. About anything."

If there's a mom (or dad) out there who has not once said anything like this to one of your children, hats off to you. The rest of us know how easily such hurtful barbs slip out.

It's as if our mouths start moving before our brains kick in.

Blacklist those two words

"Always" and "never" drag in all the leftover hurt from other times and other conversations. Old anger clamors to be replayed and drowns out any motivation to reach understanding. 

Either of these two words--or their cousins--shuts down the other person's heart.   

Just for now, let's suppose we're the one who started dropping always and never into the exchange. What could our spouse or our child feel except dumped on and hopeless? The natural human response would be, "What's the use? Why bother to try?"

Understanding flies away and only hurt hangs around, even if it goes underground. Mending the broken places can take a long time. If ever. 

Think of these two words as the sure sabotage of a good marriage and close relationships with our children, whatever their ages. 

What to do?

The first thing is to see ourselves clearly and honestly. Looking with new eyes may shock us, perhaps even make us a bit weepy.

There's a blessing in that. It reminds us that nobody's perfect, not even us.

Next we need to step into the perspective of the one on the receiving end. How do our words and deeds look from there?

Often that's not a comfortable place as other regrets surface and our tears flow. 

That's a good sign, however. It hints that we're ready to change and find the better, happier way to live.  

As usual, the Apostle Paul spells out the better way, here in Ephesians 4:29:

Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.  NLT

And speaking of talking...

More times than I care to confess I've needed to pray these words of Psalm 141:3: 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.  NIV

This is where we start, my friend. Does God really help us change?

Yes! He always hears our prayers and He never gives up on us. 

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.    Isaiah 41:10  ESV

That's where we begin, by asking our loving God to wash away the crud of yesterday's mistakes and give us a fresh start.

What if we find ourselves our slipping back into our old habits?

Don't be discouraged. Rather, let's thank God for putting the "want to" in our hearts because it shows we're growing in faith and inner strength. 

Is it easy?

Is it easy to let go of what seems "natural" and make a new start, maybe over and over? No, it's not "easy".

We start by believing what the Bible says about it.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ... Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.    Romans 5:8; 1  ESV

God loved us "...while we were still sinners ... ."

God loves us now, while we still struggle. The old ways that we clung to got in the way of our life and relationships being good--and deep down, we knew it. What's called for at any point in this growth journey is a humble heart and the willingness to begin again.

If/when we fail how often can we start over? As often as the sun rises in the morning, because our loving God never gives up on us.

And I'm just sayin', that's pretty simple. Always remember that and never forget.

Thankful, too,

Lenore

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