Friday, April 13, 2018

Facebook or “Disgracebook”?

Okay, I was just trying to attract your attention with the blog title. I’ll admit it up front. But I have been thinking about social media and it’s effects on our culture, both positive and negative. I think it is wonderful to see the updates in friends’ lives – weddings, babies born, new pets, job changes – all the good things that make up our journey on this earth. But there are things that concern me, some deeply.  

It is natural to compare ourselves to others and social media is a perfect platform to evaluate our relative status. I have heard that kids in their teens can become depressed when they see friends participating in activities that they have not been invited or allowed to join. This leaves them feeling less popular, isolated and anxious. It is true that kids are probably physically safer in their rooms at home, connected with others online. But from an emotional standpoint, they are at a higher risk of mental struggles, even suicide. From a developmental perspective they miss out on the subtleties of face-to-face connection. There are facial cues and body language interpretation skills that are underdeveloped when they don’t spend enough time around others.

Another concern that I have is that we tend to post our “wins” on social media, and not our losses. This gives an incomplete picture of our lives and promotes envy from others who are comparing themselves to us. I believe this could be borderline dishonest or at least really unhelpful. Consider the following possibilities:

  • I’m struggling financially and you post pictures of your expensive vacation or new car.

  • My kids have never been “student of the month”, but yours have.

  • I’m single and you boast of married bliss (and keep posting your wedding pictures)

  • I hate my job and you seem to keep advancing in your career joyfully and effortlessly.

You get the point, I’m sure. Maybe if we also shared our places of disappointment and discouragement, others would not feel so alone.

I also think we can risk looking superior as we post our wins, but others’ failures. We won’t comment on personal relationships (unless we are really toxic), but we feel entitled to share all kinds of negative opinions about situations we are not part of, and people we don’t know. The result is we can make ourselves appear unsafe to others. People may distance from us and we won’t know why. Our intention might be to be part of a solution, but really we are just part of the problem. I have noticed that people with no real solutions will often shout on social media, but people with viable solutions will quietly take action.

What I want to suggest is that we can use social media to lift people up as much as we lift ourselves up. And I think sharing (appropriately and wisely) some of the struggles we face will draw people towards us. Finally, by steering clear of shaming, blaming and criticizing we will be following the closing blessing that we often hear at church:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Are People Walking On Eggshells Around You?

One sure way of killing relational intimacy is making people around you ‘walk on eggshells’. You might be a wife, husband, employer, friend, employee or son or daughter. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is – if you are basically touchy, you will be treated differently.

Easily Hurt, Offended or Angered

Are you one of those people who seem to get wounded by everything? Gentle and friendly teasing is misinterpreted? You feel like a victim and powerless? Crying comes easily and you pull back quickly in defensiveness. You have been called overly sensitive most of your life, but you hate to admit it’s true.

Or maybe you take everything personally and everyone’s motives towards you are suspicious. So many things annoy you and you are constantly judging others’ behaviors and habits. You have a hard time restraining yourself from pointing them out. You have been accused of being ‘parental’, but you feel justified because they are ‘offensive’ or ‘wrong’.

Then there are those who have a short fuse. You are both easily hurt and offended, but respond angrily. You know you are one of these people because those around you seem to be constantly apologizing to you to try to appease you. And you find yourself apologizing to others because you have overreacted and wounded them. 

All of these conditions will cause people to feel unsafe around you. They may be very cautious about sharing anything that they believe may set you off in some way. If you blame them for not trusting you and sharing more deeply, they will only further distance from you. That will make you feel more lonely and isolated. You may not have reached the level of emotional abuse with your actions, but you may be controlling or manipulative.

Wounds From The Past

There may be some understandable reasons why you react this way. Past hurts or trauma from abuse or neglect may be affecting you. There might be unresolved grief from losses not yet accepted. Whether you judge it fair or not, you are solely responsible for the way you behave. You cannot place expectations on others to compensate for your losses. You can only work to grieve the losses and own your own pain. Sharing these experiences with trusted people will help to relieve some of the tenderness.

Walking on eggshells is very difficult, and is sad for everyone. Healing requires humility, forgiveness, self-control and courage. It begins by surrendering your pain at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” 
Romans 12:18 (NLT)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Rarely Alone, But Often Lonely

There was a time a few years into our marriage when Nan & I weren’t on the same page spiritually. Lots of stuff was going well for us, but this was a really sticky place. I was pretty happy with the way things were, but Nan wasn’t. At one point she told me she was lonely and didn’t know if our marriage could last if it stayed the way it was.

Although I entered counseling reluctantly, I somehow knew it was necessary and I allowed myself to be talked into going (by her counselor).

It was the best decisions I ever made.

Why was Nan lonely? There were parts of her heart that she couldn’t share, because I just couldn’t relate to the depth of her feelings. The spiritual intimacy she wanted with me wasn’t possible – and that left her feeling lonely.

For you it might be different where your loneliness rests. It might be that you feel like you are parenting alone. Or there may be an absence or disconnection in your sexual intimacy. Maybe the conversations you share with your partner are not understood or valued. Maybe you don’t feel heard at all. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good.

What may be particularly difficult is that you are around the other person a lot of the time, but it’s not satisfying, maybe even annoying. You know it could be great and that makes you sad. That is why you got married or into a relationship, but this loneliness is not what you expected.

The Solution

If you are already in a permanent committed relationship, you need to talk about it, as uncomfortable as it may be. Be sure to stress the positive before you bring up the stuck place. For us it took a third party because of the nature of the disconnect. It wasn’t that I failed to listen, it was that I needed a paradigm shift that I just couldn’t make on my own.

If you are not yet fully committed, which usually means married, I would strongly advise you to make sure you are in agreement in most areas of life – spiritually, financially, sexually, life direction, health, family etc. If not, this relationship could leave you feeling alone and scared and resentful.

Nan and I both have a pretty high need for alone time, but we are not lonely. We just understand each other and respect the boundaries. We have figured it out because we have talked about it and are willing to discuss it when necessary.

Our pastor says there is nothing worse than being single and wishing you were married – unless it is married and wishing you were single. I get what he means. The truth is that relationships can be wonderful when both of you are on the same path.