Archive for ‘Communication’

June 16, 2017

Gifts we can all offer….

by Rod Smith

The greatest gifts we can offer each other as spouses, intimates, friends, and as colleagues:

  1. The truth as we perceive it: knowing that events, feelings, circumstances, history, and responses to everything are in the heart and the eye of the beholder. Everyone has his or her own set of lenses, lenses colored and distorted by a myriad of variables, immediate and historical, which are shaped by rational and irrational life-experiences. Even though we may not agree on the truth and its precise shape, offering another truth, as he or she knows it, is a gift of love.
  2. The time to be heard: knowing that being heard and understood do not necessarily mean agreement. Hearing, too, is in the heart of the hearer. Everyone’s ears are filtered through a myriad of variables and experiences, some immediate and some ages old, but the gift of love we each can offer is the willingness to put aside differences and listen.
  3. The freedom and space to be distinct: knowing that there exists a strong pull toward sameness in thinking, feeling, and interpreting, and a strong pull toward togetherness. It’s a gift of immense value when we open our hearts to those in our spheres of influence and encourage the love of freedom divinely imparted to every person.
April 30, 2017

Ten reasons talk therapy ought have a warning label:

by Rod Smith

The therapist may:

  • expose you to several new perspectives on your life and the experience may lead you to significant change
  • have guts enough to show you how you may be thinking and behaving like a victim and the experience may lead you to change
  • strip you of your God-talk and your handy clichés to the point where you really meet yourself and encounter the divine
  • show you how you fit into a network of family and friends and how you may be resisting your legitimate place in that network.
  • ignore your focus on your weaknesses and help you to capitalize upon your strengths
  • insist that you create new orbits no matter how entrenched you may be
  • help you get your focus off the endless task of trying to make unhappy people happy
  • stir the lion within you until you see the fruitlessness of accommodating poor treatment from anyone
  • expose you to the joy of being out of control while keeping the rules all at the same time
  • show you how your future may be brighter than your past if you embrace the courage to plan and to implement what you really want.
April 30, 2017

My sister is caught up with her son

by Rod Smith

“My sister changes plans on me all the time because of her son (4). We will make a plan to meet and then it gets cancelled because the child had a tantrum. I wouldn’t think this was an issue but it has been repeated many times. This is really testing my patience. If we do meet she brings him with her when we have lunch but we cannot talk because he takes so much of her attention. It’s so bad my boyfriend won’t come with anymore. I just want one time when we can talk like it used to be. Is this too much to ask?”

It’s not too much to ask but you may never get what you are looking for.

Your sister’s relationship with her son will probably always trump her relationship with you. She’s his mother; she’s your sister. If she really is too caught up in mothering then that is not news she will probably be open to hearing from you.

Declare your wants. Do it kindly. Do it clearly. Then, understand that your sister will place what she determines as the needs of her child above the needs of her sister.

Join her; love your nephew, rather than attempt to compete with him.

April 24, 2017

Is a long-term relationship possible?

by Rod Smith

Is it possible to enjoy a long-term and committed relationship with an adult child of an alcoholic? Is it possible to have a committed and long-term intimate relationship if you are an adult child of an alcoholic?

Of course it is possible. Being the son or the daughter of an alcoholic is not a life-sentence of some variety although at some points in a person’s life it may seem like it.

Here are keys to such a relationship and they may be helpful to all relationships:

  • Conflicts are not the end or even the beginning of the end or a sign that things will end.
  • Regard conflict as healthy and a necessary component of love.
  • Healthy people work things out, talk things through, find resolutions to issues, they don’t move on in the face of conflict.
  • Healthy people move towards conflict and not away from it.
  • It’s possible to accommodate (change, adjust) without losing.
  • It is possible for both parties to grow through learning to accommodate.
  • Being loving is more important than being right.
  • Fragile people in fragile circumstances say things to partners who may be equally fragile that are hard to undo – caution and love and patience are essential with people who have grown up in families that endured regular conflict.
April 22, 2017

Monday meditation / Nine simple truths

by Rod Smith

Nine simple truths –

May they be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and every relationship:

I am….

  • To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.
  • Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.
  • Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.
  • As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.
  • Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.
  • Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.
  • Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.
  • Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.
  • My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.
April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 15, 2017

Jesus followers hit the wall….

by Rod Smith

Easter Saturday, a little more than two thousands years ago, the first followers of Jesus hit the wall. His execution was complete. His corpse secure in a tomb. The courageous teacher was gone. He, who had done no harm, who’d loved so intimately, lived so passionately, challenged everything so profoundly and, like none before or since, practiced what he preached, was finished. Kaput.

There’s little doubt that depression and dejection hung heavily in the air for his followers.

They had traded all they’d had and known only to be abandoned by one who could walk on water, still storms, raise the dead, yet not appear to be able to avoid his own death on a criminal’s cross.

Then, somewhere between midnight tonight (two thousand years ago) and early the following morning, Christians believe that Jesus, if you’ll excuse the cumbersome phase, stopped being dead.

He shed death, walked from the tomb, embraced life in an eat-fish-and-walk-through-walls body.

Believe it or not, you’ve got to give it to Christians. A rebound of this nature from anyone, let alone their beloved leader, would stimulate more than mere celebration. This pivotal weekend, Easter weekend, rekindles so much for Christians: grief, loss and grief, then exuberance.

Believers, of every background and representing every cultural extreme and every ethnic diversity in every country on earth will flock to church to worship their risen Lord and proclaim death defeated.

On Sunday morning they will greet each other with, “The Lord is Risen,” to hear in response, “He is Risen indeed.” What they are really saying is, “On Friday I was horrified at what was done to my Lord. Yesterday I grieved his loss. Today he’s alive and there’s hope for us all, so let’s have a party.”

Great things can be learned from Easter: deep reflection, acknowledgment of grief, fresh beginnings, unreasonable generosity, and partying with abandon.

Let’s all do it, Christian or not. Let’s grieve deceased family members, relationships strained or severed, our possible role in the atrocities of greed, prejudice and plundering committed across the globe.

Let’s acknowledge opportunities missed and misused. Let’s consider the impact we have on others.

Let’s evaluate where and how we are a part of the world’s problem rather than the solution.

The uncanny thing about Jesus is that even if you don’t, as Christians do, believe he is the Son of God, doing the things he said is still good for people. Making a fresh start with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, like a brother, sister, and an in-law who gets your goat or an estranged business partner is good for the soul, rejuvenates communities. Reconnecting with people, offering grace, space to others, forgiving your harshest foes, your bitterest enemies, is movement in the opposite spirit of what is expected. It disarms explosive, stressed or polarized relationships and empties our tombs of unbelief.

Call your debtors with, “I’m canceling your debt. I cannot afford to have you owe me anything.” They might not deserve your generosity but Easter is not a do-or-do-not-deserve time. It never was, never will be. Besides, who among us can want what they deserve without experiencing feelings of fear and trembling? It’s about getting what you do not deserve. It’s about not getting what you do. It’s about grace, about being unreasonably forgiving, wildly extravagant with kindness.

Finally, celebrate your humanity. Dance with delight at the human capacity to reflect, repent and be revived. I’ll peek into my tomb today and do what it takes to clear it of resentments, self-pity, unrighteous anger and all else that keeps me from dancing. I trust you will peek into yours, find it wonderfully empty and join me in a rich and loud celebration.

April 13, 2017

Gifts money can’t buy

by Rod Smith

Unhindered attention: you have my ears, my eyes, my brain and my heart for this time, this hour, this meal, or this weekend.

Unilateral forgiveness: you have a fresh, completely new start with me even though we have a rich history. This means that, as much as it is possible, at least from my side, our pasts will not disrupt the present or impede the future.

Absolute freedom: you have God-given freedom that mine to honor, and so I will allow nothing in my behavior or attitudes to get in the way of your full enjoyment of the freedom that is divinely yours.

Room to discover: limited only by how much courage you have within you, you have the freedom to explore your talents, develop your skills, and pursue your dreams, and I will applaud you as you do so at every turn.

A safe zone: you may rest with me, be off duty with me, decompress with me. You may succeed. You may fail. You may talk about your worries or be as carefree as you need. I want to be a safe person for you and to learn how to be when I am not.

April 12, 2017

It’s not “outside” – it’s “inside”….

by Rod Smith

There is a woman I know who dates very widely. She seems to be in constant search of a man. Her online searches are almost always successful and result in a relationship that involves moving homes, changing her daughter’s school, and sometimes changing cities.

Three times, at least, I have heard “this is the one” and she has been fully invested in the new relationship. Her zeal is faultless. Her research is extensive. She is very aware of the impact that her relationships have on her young child and waits months before introducing a new man into her life.

The child is happy; she loves his mother. She is a trooper when it comes to moving and re-settling.

Four to five months into the relationship the woman’s control mechanisms kick in. She begins faultfinding and she begins to want to re-arrange the man into someone he is not. As each of the men has stood up to her, she reads resistance as rejection – and from there things plummet.

She knows she visits her unresolved family issues on the men who are close to her.

She is aware that in every case the men were honorable.

The outward search continues when solutions are only to be found is within.

April 10, 2017

The parenting challenge continues….

by Rod Smith

Finding the delicate balance between knowing, being aware, and invading or conquering.

My teenage sons deserve private lives that are quite separate from me. Yet, they need me to be knowledgeable about their difficulties, their confusions, and some of their discomforts. I’ve noticed that when I am comfortable with my own life, my relationships, with setting and achieving my goals, I am quite relaxed about theirs. When I am discontent with my own life I tend to want to meddle with, or invade, or fix their lives.

Finding the balance between serving my sons and letting them do necessary tasks without my help.

I usually do the laundry – but both boys are fully capable of doing their own. When I do it for them I am happily serving them and they are grateful and we are all happy with what is mostly an unspoken arrangement. When my sons are annoyed or picky about the way I do the laundry (and this is quite rare) then they have lost their grateful edge and have moved into entitlement and expectations. At this point my help is not very helpful.

May our struggles in our home, as different as they may be from yours, inspire and encourage you.