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Category Archives: Communication

My purpose in life is to love God. And I have said for years that all of life boils down to relationships, ultimately one’s relationship with Christ. Loving God and loving others means we realize it can be especially difficult to love others when others have not loved us. But if we allow the behavior and shortcomings of others to influence how we choose to live our own lives then we will never truly love others the way God wants. We will “hole up” in our home or in our heart and never see others benefit from enjoying a healthy relationship with us.

What does loving others mean to you? For me, it means giving, being a blessing, serving, sacrificing, and deferring to another so they will benefit. Sometimes this is easy. Other times it is really hard. I get selfish, hurt, or focused elsewhere on stuff and activities that do not keep me on track to make a difference in the lives of others.

Frankly, you will do a better job if you are making a difference in the lives of others. Find an opportunity to build healthy relationships. You can do it. Civic groups, clubs, churches, and other organizations can provide the platform for healthy relationships all of us need in our lives. Go make it happen!

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31

I turned 60 the other day.  It was painless but it certainly was not missed or forgotten.  Whether it be well-intentioned friends and family, or just the fact that I do not consider myself “old,” my 60th birthday did not go unnoticed.  I genuinely believe that the next 15 to 20 years will be my best.  I am a better husband and father than ever before.  I am slower to speak and more quick to listen.  I even notice glimpses of wisdom every so often.  I enjoy less not more, simple not complicated, easy not hard, and am more easily entertained than ever.  I have always valued people but now find family and friends more important and significant than I did even a few years ago.  I love entertaining movies, good spy novels, wine, sitting on my deck at night, driving my Jeep,  shooting all of my guns, and spending time with my kids.  My life is much better than I deserve.

At 60 I enjoy work in ways I never did before.  Maybe because my job is not work to me.  It brings me great joy and fulfillment.  It is obvious to me and a few others that being a corporate chaplain is what God “wired me up” to be.  I get to talk with people all day, direct them to what and Who can help them, and hopefully make a difference in their life.  And I actually get paid to do it!

Twenty years ago I was 40.  I rode my first “century” bike ride.  I was raising teenagers.  I had only been married 15 years! My dad was still living.  There was no gray in my hair.  In fact, all of my hair was still on my head!  And, it did not hurt to get out of bed every morning.

What about the next 20 years?  Well, I promise to be a better husband and a man Sherri can count on.  I promise to be the absolute best “Pops” whenever my kids decide to give me grandchildren.  I promise to chaplain and make a difference in the lives of people for as long as I stay healthy.  Retirement is not in the plan.  And I promise to love you, whoever you are, and lead you to the only One who can truly make a difference in your life!

What is a critical spirit?  You know the answer to that question if you are frequently on the receiving end of someone’s critical spirit.

The dictionary defines criticism as “an act of criticizing; to find fault; to blame or condemn.”

A critical spirit is an obsessive attitude of criticism and faultfinding that seeks to tear others down.  We’re not talking about what some refer to as “constructive criticism.”  The only criticism that is ever constructive is that which is expressed in love to “build up,” not to tear down.  It is always expressed face-to-face, never behind the back.

If you have a critical spirit, you dwell on the negative and seek out flaws in others.  You complain and are usually upset about something.  You generally have a problem with something and end up whining about it.  You can’t control your speech or temper and you gossip a lot.

What does God say about it?  Take a look at Romans 14:10-13:

“Why do you criticize and pass judgment on others?  Why do you look down on or despise others?  We will all stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of ourselves.  Let’s no longer criticize, blame, and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide to never be a stumbling block, obstacle, or hindrance to anyone.  (Jon’s paraphrase)

How do you get rid of your critical spirit?  First of all you recognize that your critical spirit is a spiritual issue in your life.  Murray Mayfield defines a critical spirit as “a negative attitude that focuses on real or imagined faults with no thought toward a biblical or practical solution.”  Learn right ways to privately and gently confront others when you must.  Recognize that, more often than not, your criticism is sinful.  Get to the place where you can see others the way God sees them…lovingly, with grace and mercy.  After all, that is how He sees you!

Some of the above information is taken from a copyrighted article by Dale A. Robbins.

I heard his voice yesterday. I opened the package from my cousin and it was a cassette tape of his mother’s funeral years ago. In the service my dad spoke for a few minutes and then prayed. It was the first time I had heard his voice since he passed away two years ago.

Seeing what it was, I went and got my wife’s cassette player, took a seat in my recliner, and listened to the tape by myself. I cried. I cried again as I thought about the experience earlier today. I am crying now as I write this. His voice was comforting. His voice took me back to a time in my life when my dad represented stability and security. He was larger than life and in him I could find no fault. He shared with me absolute and unconditional love. For a long time he was the most important person in my life.

I call my wife a couple of times each day. Sometimes I think it bothers her but usually I just want to hear her voice; to know she is there and that all is well. I call my kids, usually for no reason at all, other than to hear their sweet voices and know that they are alright. I call my mom nearly every day just so she will know the comfort of a son’s voice. And after all these years, I wish I could call my dad and hear that comforting voice on the other end of the telephone.

Who do you need to call today? Whose voice is precious to you and represents all that is good in your life? Don’t neglect those voices. Make the call because someday the only way you will hear that voice is on an old cassette tape.

I recently listened as a man explained what it meant to truly forgive someone who has wronged you in some way.  He defined forgiveness as a decision to release a person from the obligation that results when they injure you.

Years ago one of my closest friends betrayed me in our relationship.  He shared information from our conversation with another person.  Doing so nearly cost me my job.  I had assumed we were speaking in confidence but he obviously felt it was necessary to share the conversation with another person.  It nearly destroyed our relationship.  It impacted our families in a hurtful way.  It made things very awkward with mutual friends.  It was not a positive experience in any way…until forgiveness took place.

Eventually he called and asked to see me.  We met over lunch and he humbly asked for my forgiveness.  With some degree of reservation I forgave him.  But it was still rather awkward around him and I struggled trusting him.  But that was years ago and the decision to forgive him has nurtured a renewed and precious friendship.  Not until I released him from the hurt he caused did we move forward in our relationship.  Today we enjoy time together and I count him among a group of very special and old friends.

If you are choosing to withhold forgiveness then you are holding yourself captive along with the one who wronged you.  Forgiveness brings you freedom.  It gets you out from under the heavy burden of unforgiveness.  Forgiveness is a decision you make and can result in restored relationships.  Make a decision today to forgive!

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  Matthew 6:14

I talk to people all the time who dread the arrival of the holiday season.  Whether it is the stress brought on by additional financial burden, the sheer pace of back to back weeks filled with activity, or added pressure on personal relationships, it is a time that requires all of us to make wise and unselfish decisions.

“Family relationships can be tricky—especially at this time of year.  Minor issues like who will cook what or when to open gifts can lead to more serious conflict.  For some, deeper issues loom: Whose family will we visit?  Will the kids be with me or my ex?  How do I handle the hostility between family members?”*

These issues large or small, significant or not, can provide us the opportunity to evaluate the quality and value of relationships.  Consider your honest answers to the questions that follow:

  • Is the issue that is causing conflict something that is really worth the battle?
  • What is the conflict really about?  Perhaps it is just your desire to be in control.
  •  Can you express love and concern by choosing to help rather than needing to have your way?
  •  Is peace in your family worth the conflict that will follow a certain decision?
  •  What other options do you have?

This is a time of year when wisdom and unselfish attitudes should prevail.  Consider the long term implications when making your decision regarding your holiday activities and relationships.  How will those decisions affect your friends and family?

*Quote from www.troubledwith.com

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi states, “…a simple, but profound, lesson about the power of generosity…is when you help others, they often help you.”  Ferrazzi is not talking about being generous with your money.  He is encouraging people to take on a lifestyle that is defined by a generous spirit.  A tendency that defines one’s life by giving and sharing one’s resources, talents, abilities, and relationships.

He continues, “I have come to see reaching out to people as a way to make a difference in people’s lives as well as a way to explore and learn and enrich my own; it has become a conscious construction of my life’s path.”

Ferrazzi encourages us to “connect” with others.  Some people call “networking” what Ferrazzi calls “connecting.”  He invests in others by sharing his knowledge, resources, time and energy, friends and associates, empathy and compassion in an ongoing effort to provide value in his relationships.

Remember, all of life boils down to relationships, ultimately one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ferrazzi is saying that life’s relationships, when characterized by a generous spirit, are more meaningful and valuable to everyone.  Focus on your opportunities to invest in others, whether they are family, friends, neighbors, or work associates.  Develop a generous spirit that characterizes and defines your life.

“Attentiveness is showing the worth of a person or task by giving your undivided concentration.”

When was the last time you sat down, looked your friend, spouse, or child in the eye and really paid attention to what they had to say?  If you are like most people that doesn’t sound too difficult…until you try to do it.  Most of us believe we are too busy to give that sort of attention on a regular basis.  We want to talk “on the move,” while we are doing other things.  We call it multi-tasking and we excuse our failure to really be attentive by saying, as well as believing, that we are so busy that a constructive use of our time is not really focusing on any one thing or person.  We convince ourselves that we are better time managers when we are communicating on the move, at a shallow depth, and without any kind of real commitment.

I think all that is a cop-out.  Being truly attentive is something most of us just don’t want to do.  We think it requires too much and may end up costing us more than we want to give.  By not paying attention we can keep our distance and move along without any real commitment.  Being attentive scares us to death!  Yet, it is exactly what our relationships need!  “Attentiveness is showing the worth (value) of a person or task by giving your undivided concentration (attention).”

Who can you give your undivided attention today, and by doing so, show them how important they are to you and how much you value your relationship with them?

As they sat at the kitchen table his wife said, “Life just hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would,” It was a statement that struck deeply and broke his heart.  He knew his wife felt he was responsible for her life not working out the way she had planned.  She held it against him.  And he didn’t know what to do about it.  He felt helpless.  His wife’s unmet expectations weighed heavily on his mind and heart and held him captive in his guilt.

Many times in my life I have had to remind myself that my expectations will not always line up with reality.  How I respond to unmet expectations reveal much about my personality and character.  It also reveals much about what I believe about God.

A pastor friend of mine said, “All of us have expectations in life.  We expect things will occur according to our preconceived ideas and plans.   Sometimes things do not happen as we expect, and our response to those unexpected events can determine whether or not we miss out on God’s best for our lives.”

Another friend of mine says that unmet expectations are usually unspoken expectations.  “When our spouse doesn’t come through on something we expect them to naturally come through on, our response is typically anger and withdrawal.  We hold them hostage to the expectation they didn’t meet.  So, as that expectation continues to go unmet we pile up anger, hurt, and resentment toward that person,” he says.

You may need to determine if your expectations go unmet because they are unrealistic.  People will always let you down.  Even your closest friends, your spouse, your parent, will eventually disappoint you in some way.  No one will meet your expectations all the time.

My pastor friend reminds us, “God will never let us down.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  He promises to love us and meet our needs.  He hears our prayers.  He loves us absolutely and unconditionally.  But sometimes we confuse what God promises with our expectations of what we would like God to do.”

We do the same with others around us.  Are you holding someone captive in your unmet expectations of them?  Perhaps you need to examine your expectations and decide if they are reasonable and grounded in love for God and others.

I have a friend who is 57 years old and a voracious reader!  I asked him one time how he learned to love reading so much.  He said it was his mother’s fault!  On the first day of every summer, right after the school year had ended; his mother would take him to the public library where they would spend the entire day.  He would select all the books he would read that summer, and with his mother’s approval, begin the process that would have him sitting for a time each day, reading, reading, and reading.  He loved it!  That time each day was a time to rest and nap, and read his book before going back outside to play with his friends. 

 By the end of summer he would have read many books and sharpened the skills that would make him, in the years ahead, a better student, father, friend, and employee.  In some ways reading made him a better communicator.  He had something to say about the things he was learning from books.  His mother got him started but it was his love of reading that kept him going summer after summer.  Today books are a big part of his life.  There is a stack of reading on his office desk, his nightstand, and beside his chair in the den at home.

 Words are important. Good communicators are comfortable using words to craft what they want to say. Good communicators make confident leaders.  People typically understand what good communicators expect and believe.  Reading polishes one’s use of words and makes one a better writer.  Pick up a good book or magazine and get started reading today.