Thursday, March 31, 2016

Can Giving Too Much Damage Your Relationships?

Almost everyone would agree that relationships are a key component to a full and enjoyable life. As a result, we all do our best to establish and maintain relationships. Relationships can be tough, however, and often we end up in a broken relationship that causes more pain than joy. But we know that we can’t live without relationships, in fact the equation is pretty simple:

 Better relationships = Better life

So, how can we grow in our ability to relate to others? Sometimes it all starts with asking the right questions.  One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself if you want to have healthy relationships is, “Am I giving too much?”

It sounds like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? I mean, aren’t you always supposed to give to others?  Don’t people who give more have better relationships? The answer to that last question depends. Take for instance, antibiotics. We are privileged to live in a world with easy access to antibiotics. We have the ability to endure and survive illnesses that killed countless people just a hundred years ago. As good as antibiotics are however, they can still be misused. If you take antibiotics when they are not needed, they can attack beneficial bacteria in your body. It’s also possible for bacteria to build up a resistance to antibiotics which could lead to trouble down the road.

Giving in a relationship is crucial to its success. But giving too much or at the wrong time can have disastrous effects. Healthy relationships include both giving and taking. Here are just a few of the things that can happen when you give too much in a relationship:

You Lose The Enjoyment of Receiving

It’s enjoyable to have someone give your their time, affection, or even a listening ear. When you insist on always giving, you block other people’s ability to give and thereby your chance to receive good things. Many people who have been hurt by others who didn’t care well for them often use giving as a way to avoid disappointment and hurt. While it’s possible for people to let you down and not care for you, you almost guarantee relational emptiness when you refuse to do anything but give in a relationship.

You Could Be Blocking Someone Else’s Growth

Like I said in the previous point, when you give all of the time, you block other people’s ability to give. Learning to sacrifice your time and other things for the good of others is a key component of personal growth. When you always give, you could be impairing your friend, child, or co-worker's growth. Many people become angry after years of giving when they realize what an immature and selfish person they have as a friend or spouse. It’s possibly that they may have contributed to that lack of health, by never giving them an opportunity to give and grow.

You Could Be Affecting People Outside of Your Relationship

Even when you are not aware of it people are learning from your example. Giving all of the time can look good to those watching you. You may look selfless and caring, and others will want to emulate that. When that happens they will begin to reap all of the consequences of unhealthy relationships as well. Let people know that all humans need to both give and receive, not just by telling them, but by showing them.

Being a giving person is an admirable trait, but when it’s overused it can lead to relational misery. Be honest with yourself about some of the relationships you are in. Are you the only one giving? Is it possible that you are giving too much? If you are, take a deep breath, and step back a bit. Remember, a healthy balance will lead to a more healthy relationship. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

When Doubt Makes You Stronger

Ivy Baker Priest served as the Treasurer of the United States under Dwight D. Eisenhower and as Treasurer for the state of California under Ronald Reagan. She was credited with saying, “I’m often wrong, but never in doubt”.  It’s a funny comment, that I’ve heard others use, but it also has a ring of truth to it. For many people having doubt (or at least expressing doubt) is unacceptable. This attitude is especially prevalent in many churches, where doubt is treated as a lack of faith or the mark of an immature Christian. Not only is this sentiment wrong, it’s dangerous. Here are three important things to know about doubt:

Every thinking person has doubts

It’s impossible to think deeply about things without having doubts. Doubting and questioning things is how we test their strength and more important, it’s how we take ownership of belief ourselves. Everyone has doubts. Not everyone expresses them. What many churches are unintentionally telling people when they warn against doubt is “don’t think too deeply about it” or “if you do think about it and have doubts, hide them”. Neither of those paths leads to growth. Honesty and humility are the beginnings of growth.

Doubt fuels faith

Doubt doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has no faith. Doubt can actually fuel a growing faith. When we doubt, we ask questions. If we can ask honest questions and seek out honest answers, our faith will grow. We don’t have to be afraid of questioning God. In fact, the writer of Hebrews stated, “(God) rewards those who earnestly seek him.”1 Doubt can turn to seeking. It doesn’t mean that you are failing, it may simply be an opportunity to think more deeply and search more passionately.

Honesty is more important than certainty

I get nervous when someone tells me that they have all of the answers. When this comment is made in reference to God, it’s especially terrifying. God is bigger than we could possibly imagine. Our brains can’t possibly wrap all the way around all there is of Him. Learning more about God most often creates humility instead of certainty. There are things to be certain of: God’s love, perfection, care, etc…  But, one of the most important things we can be certain of is that we don’t know it all. Doubt can be the start of seeking new answers and new growth.

Doubt isn’t to be feared. It doesn’t mean that everything you have believed is false, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love God. It simply means that you are thinking and open to whatever God may choose to show you next. So don’t run from your doubts. Take them to God. Share them with friends who care for you. It may be the start of something incredible.

1 Hebrews 11:6b (ESV)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Turning Courage Into Action: How To Begin To Trust Again

So, you’ve come to realize the importance of trust in forming and maintaining quality relationships, and you’ve found the courage to try to trust again. So, what do you do next? The following three steps will help you begin the process of developing trust for others.

Start Small

Trust builds one brick at a time. It’s not safe or wise to put your full trust in anyone right away. Start small. Choose to trust a friend or co-worker in something basic. Let them show you that they are trustworthy. Jesus talked about this principle in a story from the Gospel of Matthew. There, a wealthy man entrusts his workers with money. Those who handled it well and invested wisely were rewarded with bigger and better things to invest. The same is true with trust. When you learn to trust someone in the small things, and they handle it well, it's easier to trust them with larger things. 

Evaluate and Invest

When we are afraid to trust others, it's easy to ignore the ways that they are already being trustworthy. When you have been hurt, you become wired to more quickly notice how people let you down, and especially how people may hurt you again. Take some time and be honest about your relationships. More than likely, there are already people around you who have shown themselves to be worthy of your trust.  Some people are healthier than others. When you determine who they are, choose to invest more trust in them. 

Evaluate and Divest

As important as it is to be honest with yourself about the people in your life that are deserving of your trust, it’s also crucial to be honest with yourself about the people who have proven themselves untrustworthy. If people continue to lie to you or use you to make themselves feel good, it’s time to step away. Some people are a bad relational investment, and it’s not loving to continue to trust them. It’s dangerous.

Learning to trust others can be a scary experience, but God created trust to be the catalyst for growing relationships. When things get tough, stop and talk to God about what you are feeling and ask for clarity. He is on your side, and more than anyone else, He is someone you can trust.

Good luck in tomorrow’s relationships!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Life Without Trust: How Your Fear of Trusting May Be Costing Your More Than You Realize

I’ve come to the realization that I am not an overly trusting person. I’ve only recently come to this realization and to test it, I decided to make a list of the people/things I distrust immediately. Here’s what I have so far:

I don’t trust…

            Coffee that comes in a vacuum sealed bag
People who say, “I know exactly what you are feeling…”
Warranties of any kind
TV News Shows
Anyone who says, “I believe in this product, this is not a pyramid scheme…”

Anyone who introduces me to someone who says, “I believe in this product, this is not a pyramid scheme…”

Anything from Taco Bell

People who show me the air filter from my car every time I get the oil changed

Anyone whose first name is a city (Never play pool against someone named Memphis Jones)

People who never make eye contact

People who make too much eye contact

Long car rides with people who do trust Taco Bell

Trust is a fragile thing. Once it’s been broken by someone or something, it takes a great deal of courage to trust again. On top of that, we live in a world that seems to be less trustworthy than ever before. TV is filled with ads promising things that their products can never deliver. Job loyalty seems almost non-existent. Many employers appear to be out only for themselves. Employees will jump from job to job chasing the next big thing. As a culture, our lack of trust has left us terrified of commitment. People are abandoning marriages in favor of living together. Many people prefer online friendships over real-life interactions.

This is not to say that we should blindly trust others. Choosing not to trust isn’t always a bad thing. Trusting someone or something that’s unreliable can be costly. You could lose money, waste time, or even have your heart broken. But there is a place for trust. In fact, trust is necessary for a full and enjoyable life. To put it plainly:

Relationships are impossible without trust, and life is meaningless without relationships.

Are you struggling to trust others? Do you not trust yourself and the decisions you make? Are your relationships suffering as a result? If so, choose today to give trust another try. It’s scary but it’s worth it. If you are not sure where to begin, check back in later this week for the second installment of this post entitled Turning Courage Into Action: How To Begin To Trust Again