Have you ever thought someone was upset with you, but you weren't sure, so you just "kept quiet" and hoped it resolved itself?
This could be any kind of relationship - married couples, siblings, friends, other family members, work colleagues. When things are left unsaid, unasked, misunderstood or assumed, it leaves room for additional ideas to continue to build in your mind, often constructing the "worst case" scenario. This often leads to bitterness and sometimes despise.
There is a lie that "if we ignore it, it will go away" (the problem that is) - and that is so far from the truth.
Opening and exposing the question or the concern in the right way can not only make a way to resolve an issue or correct a misunderstanding, but it also sets you FREE.
When you make a time to talk with the person, let them know you have sensed that something was wrong, and that maybe it is just you feeling that way, or maybe there might be a problem, but that you care about your relationship and want to take a moment to talk about it.
Ask the other person if he or she would mind chatting for a moment.
Think of the specific time when you started to notice or feel like something was wrong. Then when you talk with the person you can thank then for being willing to talk and say something like:
"I have noticed over the last few weeks... (or whatever the time frame has been)
"I noticed that ever since we were at dinner the other night... (or whatever specific event may have taken place as your reference point for that time)
Starting with the words "I noticed..." helps the conversation stay open at the beginning, as it was just an observation.
Adding the specific time period or time of reference also helps, as it take the person back to the time when you first noticed the difference.
You may find out that the shift has nothing to do with you at all, but maybe something else going on in that person's life that took place at or around that time.
Then share your observations. This could look something like:
"... that you haven't answered my messages."
"... that you haven't seemed as happy."
"... that you haven't made eye contact much when we meet."
"... that you seem quieter."
Then, if you think it could be something you did to bring it on, you can add something like:
"If I said or did something that bothered you or offended you, I want you to know that was not my intention." Then you can rest in the pause and let the other person respond. If the person shares that you did cause an offense, it's okay to ask how they think it could have been handled better, and to offer an apology if it makes sense to do so. You can also ask if the person is willing to forgive you. This opens the door for him or her to take the action to forgive.
If you think it wasn't something that involved you, you may say something like:
"Is there anything you might be going through? Or anything you want to share? I am open to listen if there's something you'd like to talk through".
Making sure that you ready yourself to listen (and not just respond) is important. Encourage the person that you value the relationship and that you want to make sure you have an opportunity to clear any misunderstandings. When people begin to share and come out of the silence in a safe listening environment, transformation can take place, people are set free and relationships can be restored.
That exercise forever changed the way I approached leadership. On the first attempt, I had an idea, and quickly handed the ropes to several of my peers giving them instructions to pull at exactly the same time from different sides of the circle. The ropes caught the bucket just right and they were able to lift it and walk it out of the circle without dripping a drop.
The mentor for that activity did a recap for how well we thought we did as a team working together.
Clearly I thought we did pretty well since we didn't drop any of the water, and we got it completely out of the circle in a very short period of time.
Some of my other peers didn't see it in the same light. After a little prodding from the mentor, a few people opened up about feeling confused, unengaged, and not a part of the process.
While in emergency situations, this approach may work very well, while working as a team in everyday challenges, I learned the importance of communicating, getting buy in, and making sure that others in the group feel heard, and feel that they have an opportunity to truly be a part of the process.
We did the exercise again. This time I first explained to everybody the objective based on how I viewed the solution. They then, by their own initiative, took the ropes the same way, and implemented the same approach. This time, the bucket wobbled, some of the water spilled, and it took about twice as long to get it out of the circle, but it did come out of the circle successfully. And this time everybody felt as if they were part of the process.
Leadership is not all about results. Leadership is about gaining people's trust, that they can follow you to lead them towards an agreeable end.
And that, I will never forget.
Here's an Example: If you reconnect from some with somebody from your past, who suddenly has an interest in you, that can be flattering.
But please stop: #1, just because somebody shows an interest in you, does not make him any good for you! I wish somebody would have really laid that out for me when I was young… like for real!
You are beautifully and wonderfully made, crafted with perfect skill, made to be exactly who you're called to be. You may not understand what that is yet, but there is so much value in you that you would weep if you could see it all, overwhelmed with the value that you hold.
Standard #2, if someone ever shows interest in you and they have a girlfriend, that is a no-go. Check this out, you will not be the "other girl" - you are a gem, regardless of what you see in yourself, you are priceless. So, if he's very serious about pursuing a potential relationship with you, he needs to decide that the other relationship is not moving towards his future long before he even considers talking to you. If he moves on from another girl straight into a relationship with you, that is no good for your standard. You don't want somebody who sees you as a better option than the last option, cuz that's essentially what that is. You want to wait for the one who says it doesn't matter what options are out there, for him you are his only option… not some weird stalker kind of thing, but because he sees your value, and he's ready to show you the Pearl that you are for the rest of your lives here on Earth. This is not something someone can just say, it needs to be shown, and then you should still pray about it and seek confirmation from God. He sees things in the hearts of people that we can't... He also knows how people will change over time, because we all change - some for the better, some not.
Side note: If there's ever a guy interested in you and he's married, that's a NO NO NO forever. That means he doesn't respect the Covenant of marriage, and if he doesn't respect the Covenant of marriage he's not going to respect you anymore than he respects his current wife, and he's obviously looking at other women while he's married to her - that's a red flag waved all around right in front of your face. Don't buy it. Don't drop your standard ever, especially for somebody who doesn't have a standard.
Standard #3, There is no physical thing that you EVER owe a man unless you are currently married to him. If he truly loves you, and sees your value, he will not expect any physical outlay from you at all until you are married. Social society and media put way too much pressure on us to do things the wrong way, and it ends up getting us mixed up in all kinds of situations, emotional baggage, and a whole lot of other mess that we spend the rest of our lives trying to heal from. You can't give your best to your spouse if you're trying to recover from the mess of your past. There's some things we can't control, and some mistakes we've made already, but that does not mean we have to lower ourselves to those places. We have the authority to stand up and stake our claim with our standards, regardless of whether or not others find them popular.
I've had some great conversations around a restaurant table with several other popular ladies who thought it was silly to wait until you're married. They were talking about a particular friend of one of theirs who waited until she was married to kiss her husband. I decided to add in my own two cents in a very respectful way, that I too waited to be physical with my husband until we were married, and that I have many friends who did the same. They were all very surprised, but I explained to them that of all the friends who I know who waited, none of them are divorced. I shared that there's a bond that can be made that has nothing to do with the physical side of things, that once you're married that is a luxury and bonus. Not one of those ladies mocked me, and I've heard from others that each one of them actually respects me and occasionally asks of the success that I'm having in my life endeavors.
Too often we get wrapped up with the emotions of what we think other people find acceptable. I'll tell you what, when you put a standard higher than societies', people aren't going to look down on you. If they say anything strange it's because they don't understand it, but there's no way that they can demean you for having a standard higher than what they're used to seeing.
These are just a few nuggets when it comes to setting your own standard. There's a lot more in the word of God, which is where I now go when I'm seeking to understand where I stand on certain activities that would have to do with my standard. I am truly transformed, and a huge part of this is choosing to be the standard even when I don't see the standard.
We never want to wait until someone is gone to forgive them. I once wrote:
When I forgive it sets me free
When I don't, the one it chains is me
Too often people think that "moving past" something equals "forgiveness".
But forgiveness is a point of reconciliation that occurs in one's heart, whereas "moving past" is actually absence of forgiveness, as it attempts to "not deal" with the matter.
It is great to move past, after forgiving, but missing that first step sets one up for bottled up anger and a potential for bitterness.
One of the things that often creates opportunities for forgiveness is mis-based interpreted motives... in other words "what we think the person meant by it".
But what if that was not the case at all? I teach a temperament workshop that helps people understand each other (and themselves) better using color analogies. I am still overjoyed every time someone comes to true forgiveness of someone in a session.
When we think of healthy relationships, often we think of spouses, boyfriend-girlfriend, etc., but in reality, every single person we engage with each day is a level of relationship. You can see more about "levels of relationship" in my book Color By Design, chapter 10, but essentially, think about your parents, you grandparents, cousins, teachers, mentors, the clerk at the bank - all relationships. Who offended you? Who did you wrong? What if you could see their true intention behind the action or statement?
Maybe it would actually have been rude or from a point of malice, but maybe not. I had a professional lady come to forgiveness of her cousin after thirty years of not inviting her to go anywhere, simply because through the workshop she saw her cousin for the very first time through color.
God designed us to think in unique ways. This is an intentional design so that we can come together and meet each others needs, so that we will have to rely on each other and come into relationship to obtain our best collective abilities. If we learn to understand this design, we will see each other differently. We will understand and value the perspective of others in powerful ways, and very likely come to forgiveness that we have been withholding.
Freedom comes with forgiveness in so many ways. Make it a priority today.
But me, well I grew up in the North, way North - on the coast of Maine. We had a farm and a really big garden. But my mom worked at a true Chinese restaurant for a while and we also ate plenty of ordinary stuff like hot dogs, macaroni and cheese (from the box of course), and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I never really loved eggs, black beans were never part of my diet, the tortillas I knew were fried in a "U" shape or made of flour, and my mom always went light on the salt.
I didn't realize how much of a big deal it is both physically and psychologically to have access to food that you know. When I first travelled to Guatemala to visit my husband's homeland, I went the first four days with only their local food. In just four days I began to feel hollow inside as if my body was crying out for something it knew.
This is the same feeling that my husband gets when he goes long periods without his types of food. So, rather than fight about food - because that level of discomfort can certainly make a person cranky, and cranky is a stirring recipe for a fight, so we - "I" (since I'm the one who does 99.5 percent of the cooking currently - working on getting the kids involved)- frequently make two separate meals.
Making two separate meals may seem a little overwhelming, but I've learned a great variety of ways to really simplify this effort and may it not so much of a big deal.
So examples: My husband really doesn't like anything that even remotely resembles what we think of as Italian food here in the united States. So, when I really get in the mood for chicken parmesan, or the kids are begging for spaghetti, I simply make the pasta in a pot as usual, and with the chicken, I bake it on a sheet with three quarters of the pan done up in parmesan fashion, and then a breast or two on an oiled section with salt, pepper, garlic and other seasonings on the other section of the pan. When it comes out, they all cooked at the same time, but one was basic baked chicken and the others were Italian style, with a side of salted steamed broccoli for everyone.
For the pasta part, for the kids and I, I pour some simmered sauce over the pasta once on our plates, and then mix up some pasta for my husband with a little olive oil, salt, lemon juice and crushed red pepper. (Often though, for pasta nights, I'll just through a batch of rice in the rice cooker instead and hit "cook" as I start dinner - that rice cooker has made cooking that much easier in my home.)
As you can see with this example, two separate meals really didn't take that much more effort or cookware than the original meal planned. I'll keep sharing these types of accommodations and other culinary ideas and substitutions on the Community page. So, let's not fight over food.