Sunday, September 10, 2017

Do Step or Blended Labels Seem Sufficient?


One of the great things about having a cabin 4 hours away is that Nan & I have all that time up and back to discuss, plan, and dream. This week’s discussion was on adjusting to changes in family, whether the result of a break-up, separation, divorce or death.

When this happens (other than death) we often refer to them as broken families. And then when new families are put together we call them step-families or blended families. I am thinking that I would like to refer to them differently. The terms “dis” integrated and “re” integrated” seem better descriptions to me of what happens. In this context to disintegrate is to lose wholeness, not to disappear. We are no longer a whole family.

When a family breaks apart because of the sin of divorce (there is always sin present on one or both sides) the wholeness of the family is destroyed. Children will feel hurt and scared and even sometimes at fault. The security they felt will no longer exist in the same way as before. Even if the adult relationship was more temporary, if the kids bonded to the non-biological adult partner, there will be a ripping apart when the relationship ends. This is the disintegration side of this equation.

What always follows this change is a period of grief for all concerned and it should not be rushed. Probably the most destructive for children is when a new relationship is formed by a biological parent before they are finished going through the grief process of losing daily physical access to both of their parents.

No Dating?

I have sat with adults who were devastated because their custodial parent had serial relationships, often one starting before the other one ended. This is one reason we emphasize that dating anyone until a divorce is final is strictly forbidden. And we also do not want to see any married person have someone on the “back burner” whether in thought or actuality. Neither of those scenarios is God honoring.

In the case of death, being able to grieve before forming a new relationship is obvious, but a separation or divorce is a “living death”. The feelings are often more ambiguous. There can be more guilt or regret. It is emotionally risky to form a new relationship too quickly.

When the grieving has been given its space to go where it wants to go, healing can take place. Then we can think of the future. And if that future includes a new relationship, the process of reintegration can begin. Once the dating adults decide that they have a strong chance of moving forward, members of the new potential family can be introduced to one another. This begins the progression of getting acquainted and exploring the possibility of life together.     

When this process of reintegration is done carefully, there is a minimum of trauma. When done haphazardly, the pain can last for years, if not a lifetime. I don’t know if you might be facing a disintegration or reintegration, or are in the pain of grieving. Regardless of where you are, take your time and be wise. Know that you are loved.   

Friday, May 19, 2017

Building a Team With Wisdom



I have been thinking about team building – particularly in the context of relationships. I am always encouraging couples to be a team, but what am I really asking of them? Am I asking for agreement, holding the same opinions and conclusions on issues? What does it take to build a great team?

When my business partners got together to make decisions we didn’t always have the same perspective. We didn’t want to allocate money, resolve employee conflicts, or support vendors in the same way. But we got along really well. We lasted 27 years as associates with a pretty minimal amount of conflict and then dissolved our business with equanimity.
A functional team is cooperative, not contentious. All it takes is one hostile person to subvert progress. Disagreement is not hostility, it’s simply a different viewpoint. And a good team looks for diverse ways to approach situations. It’s actually what brings strength and innovation. But what makes the difference is in the presentation of opposing ideas.
Cooperative people would say:
“Have you thought about….” or “Could it be more effective if we……” or “Is it possible that we might try….” Or  “I’m seeing things in another way”
They tend to listen and validate the person even if they disagree with the perspective.
Contentious people might say:
“You’re just wrong” or “That’s a stupid idea” or “How could you even think…..”
They also tend to bring anger, blame, contempt or even disgust to discussions.
When couples function as a team they attack problems, but not each other. There may be elevated emotions, but they don’t lose sight of solving the issue as their goal. They remain friends in the process.
Churches are teams. Life groups (small groups) are teams. Corporate staffs are teams. Any group of people joined together to perform a task, reach a goal or build relationships are a team. When dealing with a volatile person, it’s helpful to know that their volatility or hostility may be a blind spot. What they feel is “normal” communication may appear to you or others as highly argumentative and oppositional. If they are able to receive constructive criticism you may win over a strong supporter. If not, you may need to either bring in third party help or discontinue the relationship. That position is Biblical.
(Matthew 18:15-17) “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. 
What if you suspect you are the difficult person? It never hurts to check it out with a wise, safe person. Then go to those you may have offended, in humility, and ask forgiveness. It really works wonders. 
I’d also recommend watching this video clip from Henry Cloud when learning discernment about self or others: The Wise, The Foolish and The Evil
Drop us a line if you have any questions.