How to Damage a Perfectly Good Relationship

anger2Have you ever known someone who unnecessarily damaged what was otherwise a good relationship?

Far too often men and women will unleash their anger on the people closest to them.  Perhaps it is someone in the family, a friend, or someone at church.  What transpires is often hurtful, damaging, and sinful.


  1. The young couple who unleash their fury on one another cussing at one another and calling one another vile, degrading names.  Yes, this couple is typically in church on Sunday.
  1. The teenage boy who torments his insecure sister making fun of her weight and appearance. Yet, this same young man is often known as a very sweet and kind boy by some of his teachers at school.
  1. A group of people went into an elders’ meeting one evening angrily demanding that the preacher be fired. At one point, one of them cussed and demanded the elder group do what he requested.  Yet this same group will later tell you that they “love” every one of these elders.
  1. The married adult daughter of an older woman in the church regularly talks harshly to her mother.  Her mother is in poor health.  Yet, this daughter is often rude, abrupt, and hurtful.  Among many of her friends, however, she is known as sensitive and kind.
  1. A man in the congregation verbally attacks a friend whom he has known for years.  His friend was stunned at the man’s accusations.  A week later, the same man acted as if nothing had ever happened.

It is almost like we give ourselves special permission to talk to particular people in a manner that we would never speak to most people in our lives.  We will say things like “I know I shouldn’t say this, but . . . .”  What comes after the “but” is often deadly to a relationship.

Some seem to think that the words or behavior of another gives them the right to say what they want in return.

Not exactly the way of Jesus.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 4)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Need to “upgrade” your relationships? The following suggestions might be helpful:

10. Come to grips with any anger and rage issues in your life (Colossians 3:8). Who knows how many relationships have been damaged and even ended because of uncontrolled anger? Years ago, I was in a meeting and watched a guy have a meltdown. People were talking in this meeting and there was some kind of disagreement. This man’s face turned beet red and then he just lost it. For a few seconds (that seemed like a long, long time) he exploded and chewed out the group. Later, he acted as if nothing had happened. No apology. No remorse. Nothing. Life went on until some months later, he had another fit of rage. This happened again and again. This man lost much of his influence and damaged numerous relationships over this behavior.

11. Be honest in your relationships. Paul says, “Do not lie to each other, . . . .” (Colossians 3:9) Lying is a part of the old self and not the new self. Lies are absolutely destructive in relationships. Once a friend or a spouse discovers that you have been lying to them, it is very difficult for that relationship to ever really go anywhere. After all, relationships are based on truth, openness, and transparency. Not long ago, I spoke with a person who realized that a good friend had been lying to her for many years. There had been so many lies that she wondered what she could believe. The relationship has been severely severed now that these lies have been discovered.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 3)

(I am away on vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

A few suggestions for upgrading relationships:7. Get out of your recliner and get into the game. Some people live in a mental and emotional recliner. That is, they sit back and watch life happen. They watch their marriage sink, long ago losing any real emotional connection with their spouse. They watch as their children lose any sense of an emotional connection with dad (or mom). Yet, they just passively sit in their mental recliner and watch it happen.If this is you, let me encourage you to get up. Make a move. Pay attention to your spouse or children. Show interest in what seems to interest them. Ask questions. Look for something, anything, which you can affirm and even compliment.

8. Be gracious. Living graciously is about living in such a way as to express grace in all that we do. Gracious people are quick to give credit and are slow to boast.

Gracious people never seek to humiliate or embarrass another. Upgrade your relationships by toning down the sarcasm and cutting remarks. So many people are rude, critical, and curt. When we are around such people, our thoughts and words may mirror what we hear from these people. Give your family and friends a gift today. Let them experience life in the presence of a gracious person. They may find this to be very refreshing.

3 Suggestions for Becoming Self-forgetful

We live in a culture in which many think it is perfectly normal to pursue whatever is in your self-interest — even if it means breaking your prior commitments. The thinking goes something like this:

You may be married.Self-Forgetfulness.jpg

You may have a good job.

You may be a part of a church.

However (the thinking goes), these should not come at your expense. As a result, many men and women make decisions they never dreamed they would make.

A man leaves his young wife and small child for another woman.

A middle-aged woman leaves her husband who has just learned he has cancer. She doesn’t want to have to take care of him.

Far too many people conclude that if something appears to be a “better offer” it is only reasonable to abandon one’s commitments so that one doesn’t miss this new opportunity.

Guest Post: Walter Petticrew

Walter Petticrew recently left a comment on this blog in which he discussed some of the important practices of his family. I thought these were very good and needed to be read by our regular readers.

My wife and I have two children. Our son, and elder child had muscular dystrophy and passed away two years ago, shortly before his 20th birthday. Our daughter, now 19, is getting ready for college. So raising our children was different in many wfamily01.pngays. However there are some principles that, looking back, I would say shaped all of us and continue to do so today.

*Spend time with your children. My time was bath time with them. We would spend a minimum of an hour. It gave my wife some well-deserved rest and was the best transition time from work to home. The tradition of the bathtub was for me to make up stories while they played. It got to the point where we had a favorite character, “Oscar the Turkey,” so each night we had a new adventure of what Oscar was up to next.

*Life is not fair; yet in the hand we are dealt, God is with us. We knew this was the case for us, but it becomes even more clear each day now. There is grace and blessing everywhere; but when you are in the thick of it the grace can be hard to see. That leads to….

*Patience. (God’s and our). God knew what we were in and revealed to us all the blessings in the hardships

*Honesty. It has always been a foundation in our home. We had to be honest with our children and they demanded the same of us. It can be hard. I recall the exact moment when our son, then six, said, “I am going to die because of my disease.” We never gave him a false hope or said “Don’t worry about it.” We told him the truth.

*As a father, I took it upon myself to make sure we had a lot of smiles. My wife is a natural in this category, but I feel that dads need to show kids examples of “good crazy,” such as getting out of the car after work and jumping in the pool with your kids with your clothes on.

*Show appropriate affection to your wife in all matters. They must see you hug and kiss and love. Then invite them in for a group hug and in that hug pray over the family. Family hugs and prayer are meant for each other. Take advantage of that.

*Have night and morning prayer time with your children. My daughter, 19, still will not leave for school or the house without me praying for her before she leaves. Your children want you to pray for them.

*Be in a Bible study and let your children watch you study. I was very fortunate. I have been active in a Monday night Bible study for over 12 years. Each night when I got home and put my son to bed, he would always ask “What did you learn in Bible study?” We would spend a good hour talking about it.

*Be the kind of house and family that will cause your kid’s friends to want to spend time there. One of our regular events (still is) has been the fire pit. It got to the point where on almost every weekend my son’s friends would ask if we could have a fire pit that night. This went on from 4th grade and continues to this day. Even now, some of my son’s friends, even though they are in college, will come and spend a weekend with us. We always had a great mix of laughs and serious dialogue. We earned the trust of the kids in our neighborhood, and it was always a time to invite Christ into their lives.

One last note: If possible make sure they know their grandparents. It is very important for both of them.

5 Ways to Kill Your Marriage

Some marriages die from neglect. marriagebroken.jpg

Below are 5 ways to kill a marriage. Perhaps you can think of more.

Don’t worry about being gracious.

One day you and your wife are running errands. She says that she would like a Coke. You reluctantly pull up to a convenience store. You turn off the engine and say something like, “You go get it yourself. It’s not me that wants a Coke.”   

You have been invited to join several other people for dinner at your friend’s home. As you enter this home, your friend says, “Watch where you step. There is no telling when my wife last vacuumed the floor.” (Yes, this really happened.)

A lack of graciousness communicates more than bad manners. Rather, it reveals a lack of grace in the relationship. Spouses who practice graciousness communicate, “I will not embarrass you or humiliate you in any way. You can count on me.”   

Say whatever happens to pass through your mind.

Excuse yourself by saying, “I’m just being honest.” Really? Do we really believe that it is loving and wise to say whatever happens to enter our minds with no filter whatsoever? Words can be deadly. In fact, one can crush a spouse with careless words.

Pay little attention to your friendship with your spouse.

It is amazing how many couples stop being attentive to one another’s friendship. I’ve seen this again and again. A couple begins pulling away from each another. Two years later their divorce is finalized. At some point, they often stop being friends. It is not that they are hurtful to one another. Many couples who divorce do not deliberately try to hurt their spouse. Instead, what often happens is they stop investing in their friendship with each other.

Charlotte and I have been married for 33 years. I can not overemphasize the importance of genuine friendship in marriage. Not only is she my wife but also my closest friend. This alone has great implications for marriage and commitment to one another.

Be a different kind of person when your spouse isn’t around.

Marriages begin to come unraveled when trust and trustworthiness end. After all, friendship is grounded in trust. Quite often men and women will begin to live divided lives. That is, a man will go to work and speak to other women in ways that would disappoint and even anger his spouse if she knew. Or, it could be that a spouse behaves in ways that are totally self-absorbed. I once heard of a woman who spent money with reckless abandon when her spouse was not around. Yet, when they were together, she projected a much different attitude toward their finances. Marriages are damaged when husbands and wives realize that they can no longer trust their spouses.

Keep part of your life secret.

Secret texts.

Secret calls.

Secret email accounts.

For some, this begins innocently when one’s spouse is on Facebook and gets a friend request from a former high school classmate. She accepts his friend request. They begin messaging. Often, there is nothing inappropriate said for awhile. Yet, the communication is frequent and regular. She/he may mention to their spouses that they heard from an old friend. Yet, they may not be sharing either the content or the frequency of these exchanges.

All I’m saying is that this kind of secrecy has a way of eroding a marriage over time. Intimacy is built on transparency not secrecy.


What other behaviors can contribute to the death of a marriage over time?

5 Ways to Communicate Value During Significant Moments

Last week was a busy time that included a funeral at our church on Friday and then a shower for our daughter the following day. In 24 hours, we went from grieving with our friends to a time of thankfulness and joy for our daughter and her fiance’. (They are getting married in August.)

This week reminded me once again about how much we contribute to one another during these significant moments of life. We have the opportunity to communicate to our friends how much they mean to us. During these moments, our behavior can speak volumes to other people about how important they really are to us.


The following are five ways we communicate value during significant moments.

Be emotionally engaged. In many, many ways we communicate value by showing interest and concern about another’s life. I have watched my mother-in-law for years communicate this through her interest in the details of her grandchildren’s lives. Other people communicate this by regular phone calls, e-mails, and texts with loved ones.

Show up. Go to funerals. Stop by a funeral home for a visitation. Go to a wedding or baby shower. Visit someone in the hospital. These moments really do matter. Quite often we don’t realize how much they do matter until we lose a father or mother. We may not realize the importance of a baby shower until it is our child who is having a baby.

For example, when a friend loses a family member, it means a great deal for them to see you at the funeral. Attend events that are important to a family member or friend. Going to funerals, weddings, graduations, baby showers, etc. are just a few examples of times when being present communicates value. So many people underestimate how important these moments are to the people involved.

Do something practical to communicate value. One of our daughters was in the hospital for a week during her high school years. I remember one friend who called me several times each day to check on her. The first day she was hospitalized, he knocked on her door. I stepped out into the hall and he said, “I want to pray with you.” He put his arm around my shoulders, bowed his head and prayed briefly in the hall. By what he did, he communicated value toward her and our family.

When the significant moment is difficult, acknowledge that person’s experience. Far too many people ignore or even minimize another’s significant moment. “You are having surgery? No big deal! Why I have a friend who had that same surgery and she was back at work two days later.” Far better to listen intently and ask questions to seek understanding.

Make an effort to stay in touch. If I don’t make the effort to stay in touch with someone, we will probably lose touch. Some complain because friends and family do not call. Meanwhile, they do not take the initiative to make contact either. Yes, it is frustrating to feel as if you are the one who must always take the initiative to stay in touch. Yet, I’ve learned that if we are going to stay in touch I often (sometimes usually) will need to be the one who takes the initiative.


What significant moments have you experienced, that caused you to notice and appreciate the presence of others?

Ask Questions That Communicate Value and Worth

I love to be with people who are curious. Curious people ask questions.question.jpg

One of the ways we show we care about and value another is to ask good questions.

Perhaps you know this feeling. You are in a small group gathering (life group, elders’ meeting, staff meeting, etc.). You finally muster up enough courage to share a dream or idea that is important to you. Or, perhaps you share news regarding a ministry possibility that you have been praying about for quite some time.

You finish speaking and no one says anything. You feel awkward and vulnerable. You think to yourself, “I will never share what is on my heart with this group again.”

Sound familiar?

Imagine a different scenario. Imagine that you finish speaking to the group and they begin to ask questions. In fact, they ask really good questions. These are not questions designed to pick apart what you just said. No, these questions communicate interest, care, and value. You leave the gathering energized, encouraged, and valued. This is the group you will share with again.

Asking good questions, whether in a group or one to one, communicates much.

Recently, at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I lead a class entitled “Compelling Questions That Ministers Wish Their Elders Would Ask Them.” To prepare for the class, I wrote a number of ministers asking them for feedback regarding questions they had been asked that were compelling and life giving.

The following are just a sample of these questions. If you would like the entire list, leave a comment below and indicate that you would like the list. Some of these questions include:

·      How can we “have your back” when you challenge the church and take heat?

·      How can we shepherd you and your family?

·      Can I take you to lunch?

·      What can we do to help you be successful here?

·      What do we do, as elders, that gets in your way?

·      How do you think we are doing as elders/shepherds?

·      What do you think?

·      What are your greatest gifts and how can we protect you from functioning too much of the time in an area in which you are not gifted?

·      What kind of person do you need in leadership to support and balance you?

3 Ways to Communicate High Value to Another

One of the great temptations is the desire for others to think you are a very important person. In fact, such a temptation can result in much effort being spent toward self-promotion.

There are many subtle and not so subtle ways to communicate a sense of self-importance. Perhaps a person is a name-dropper. She wants everyone to know she is important because of whom she ate lunch with or met at the reception.

Another person might think he is important because of his position in a company. He seems to come alive in situations in which he is given a microphone or is in front of a camera.

Still another person might want others to know that he is in high demand. A minister might speak of the churches that are clamoring for him to come work with them. Or, he might talk about the popularity of his class at a lectureship or conference.

Yet, the great demand is not for more self-promoters.

The great demand is for more people who are willing to communicate high value to another person.

Consider for a moment how we might communicate high value to another.

We can be emotionally engaged in another’s life. We communicate value by being genuinely interested in another’s life and thinking. For many years, I have watched my mother-in-law communicate value through her interest in the details of her grandchildren’s lives. Other people communicate value by asking very good questions.


We can “show up” at events that are important to a family member or friend. Showing up is huge! Going to funerals, graduations, baby showers, etc. are just a few examples of occasions when showing up communicates value.

We can do something practical to communicate that we value a certain person. One of our daughters was in the hospital a number of years ago. I remember one friend who called me several times each day to check on her. He knocked on her hospital door. I stepped out into the hall and he said, “I want to pray with you.” He put his arm around my shoulders, bowed his head, and prayed briefly in the hall. His brief visit and his prayer communicated value.

On the other hand, many people communicate mixed messages. We say we love our families and friends but then our behavior may not necessarily be consistent with what we say. Think for a moment about how we might devalue one another.

We can ignore or minimize another’s pain. “Oh you are having surgery. No big deal! Why I know this person who had the same kind of cancer and she is just fine.” Or, sometimes people will totally focus on their own cold, toothache, etc. Some people will talk on and on about this kind of thing in a conversation while a person in a real health crisis listens in silence.

We can ignore or minimize someone’s special moments while expecting them to be attentive to ours. Have you ever known friendships or family relationships that seemed to be one-sided? Maybe you went to all of their special functions but for some reason they never came to yours. After a while, you might draw the conclusion that you are really not all that important to these people.

We can make little effort to stay in touch. If I don’t make the effort to stay in touch with a person, I will probably lose touch. Yes, it is frustrating to feel as if you are the one who must always take the initiative to stay in touch. However, I cannot simply be passive in my relationships and wait for someone to call me. One reality is that a high percentage of the time, I will have to take the initiative.


What do you do intentionally to communicate high worth to the people in your life whom you care about most?

Are You a Lover or a Manipulator?

The truth is that some manipulate and others love. Manipulators are not loving people because love is not on their agenda. Their agenda is control.

Some observations about manipulators:

1. Manipulators can be the elephants in the middle of the room who are ignored, but after a while they are not even seen. It is sort of like living in a house for a long time and no longer seeing scratches on the wall. They become a part of the scenery.

2. Self-centered, immature people have a way of draining the life and energy from people around them. To disagree with such a person is to risk being labeled “not supportive.” Consequently, you may believe you cannot honestly express what you are seeing in that person’s life. You may feel that whenever you are candid with this person, she pulls away.

3. Manipulators do not love others. They use others for their benefit. They use others to draw attention to themselves.

• “See how overworked I am.” — Poor guy, we need to back off.
• “What would this church do without me?” — Why I don’t know what we would do without you!
• “With all of the talented people we are bringing on staff here, you will probably fire me one day.” — Oh no, we’re not going to let that happen.

Over and over manipulators do or say whatever might elicit a certain response. The focus is not on loving other people. The focus is on using others for gain.

There are, however, those people who love. They love family, friends, and people in the church. These people love you and regularly do (or attempt to do) what is in your best interest. They are looking out for you, not themselves. Using you? Not at all. Relationship is not about self-interest with these people.

Some observations about people who love:

People who love can be trusted. Even when they are mistaken or do not handle something well in the relationship. It was just that — a mistake. It did not occur because of some manipulative ploy, etc.

People who love are in some way imitating God. Isn’t this where loving people originates?

People who love are “safe” people. They do not use, manipulate or hurt people in any way.

People who love do not need a lot of attention. They are not forever turning a conversation back to themselves.


What are some characteristics of a manipulator? What are some characteristics of a loving person?