Soften Your Heart and Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

Uncategorized May 01, 2019

It felt like I was at Wimbledon watching a tennis match, but instead of a tennis ball that was flying back and forth, it was blame. In tennis, players hit the ball back and forth over the net. In this counseling session with Jeremy and Rachel, one would blame the other, and before the shot ever landed, the other would hit it right back. I felt my head going back and forth, left to right, as they pointed the finger at each other.

This particular “match” was about “his irresponsibility,” as Rachel termed it.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He always lets me down. Every time I depend on him, he doesn’t follow through, and I am left with some situation that is awful and have to clean up the mess. He keeps doing it over and over,” she said.

The “situation” that she was referring to this time was kind of a big one. He had forgotten to pay the light bill and the lights had literally “gone out.” And she was not...

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6 Things Needed for a Healthy Family

Uncategorized Apr 29, 2019

Believe it or not, there’s not a huge difference between leading at work and leading at home.

In fact, if we asked some of our colleagues who actually liked their statistics courses about the predictive validity of certain leadership traits in creating healthy families, my guess is that the number would be pretty high. And the good thing is that these are actual skills and abilities that people have and do every day at work. Our task is to get them to take those skills home!

So, if we think about it that way, what do leaders do that can be applied to creating healthy families? Here are just a few thoughts:

1. Cast a vision. One of the best fathers I know also leads an organization of thousands of people, and he takes this skill home. He gets out the white board and asks, “Ok, team, so what do we want this year to look like? At the end of the year, what do we want to have done that would make it a great year?” Or, “What does everyone want it to feel like to...

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How to Take Control During A Personal Crisis

Uncategorized Apr 25, 2019

We have all felt the anxiety hearing the replays of crucial 911 calls. We can identify with the caller in these touch and go moments. And we have heard calls sometimes where the operator doesn’t seem to “get it,” that something really frightening is happening for the person. At other times, they get it but don’t seem very caring about the person as they bark out orders in a scary tone. It’s like they have worked too many shifts and are either disengaged or frustrated.

Then you hear the good one, and it instantly feels different. You feel better for the caller and somehow even begin to have hope that something good is going to happen, a better outcome than the person is expecting. It feels like they are in “good hands.” You think, “If I ever call 911 I want that person to answer.”

So, what is the difference? What makes a good crisis operator? Are there certain ingredients that are common to the good ones, elements that we can...

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When to Have Hope and When to End a Bad Relationship

Uncategorized Apr 23, 2019

One of the most crucial elements someone can bring to their life is hope. Among the most powerful forces in the universe, hope gives energy, sustenance, and direction to people to keep going, and to win against all odds. With hope, we can endure almost anything, and certainly more than if we lose it or never had it to begin with. In short, hope keeps us going.

And that can be a problem.

Hope keeps us going, but when you misspend it, hope can keep a you going in the wrong direction, sometimes for a long time. And this brings up a crucial dilemma. If hope is necessary, is it ever right to give up hope? Said another way, when do we need to face the music and realize that a situation, a relationship, a job, is not going to make it? How do you decide if something truly is worth of your hope, and when to pull the plug?

In talking to others, I find that negotiating the “hope paradox” is one of the factors that separates the truly great and successful people from those who...

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How to Evaluate What Gives You Life and Eliminate What’s Dead

Uncategorized Apr 23, 2019

In order for a rose bush to achieve its full growth potential, every good gardener knows that it must be carefully pruned. There are three circumstances in which a gardener prunes a rose bush: 1) when the bush produces more buds than it can sustain, 2) in order to remove parts of the bush that are diseased, and 3) to remove dead branches in order to make way for new growth.

First, when the bush produces more buds than it can sustain, the overgrowth drains essential resources from the bush, and the gardener must choose which of the “good” buds are “best.” He then prunes the good buds so that all of the bush’s resources can be focused on helping the best buds thrive.

Our lives are just like the rose bush. We may have a lot of really good activities, relationships, or ideas that we’ve poured our resources into. But if we pruned some of the good stuff back, we would enable the best parts to get all that they need to thrive, making our relationships...

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9 Ways Words Kill a Relationship

Uncategorized Apr 20, 2019

In a group I was leading once, a man held the floor for some time. He’d go off on tangents, change the subject and spend inordinate amounts of time on irrelevant details.

(I promise it wasn’t me this time.)

He couldn’t seem to get to the point. Other members were spacing out, dozing off or becoming restless. Just as I was about to speak to the man’s struggle with getting to the point, a woman in the group spoke up.

“Aaron, talk net, will ya?”

“Talking net” rather than “gross” means putting a net or boundary on how many words we use and how we use them — and that can be a struggle for many. How we use language can deeply affect the quality of our relationships. The words we use can be a source of both blessing and cursing. They can be a blessing when we empathize, identify, encourage, confront and exhort others. They can be a curse when we use them to do the following:

  • Hide from intimacy by talking nonstop
  • Dominate...
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The Devastating Results of Spiritual Abuse, Shaming

Uncategorized Apr 11, 2019

Laurel’s father had insisted his 22-year-old daughter come see me. Laurel, a college student, was suffering from depression. She had no appetite and had trouble sleeping and studying. Her father accompanied her to the appointment.

“What’s the problem?” I asked Laurel, after we had chatted for a few minutes. But it was her father who responded.

“Well, it’s pretty obvious,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “She’s not living like she should.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She’s doing drugs and sleeping around,” he said with disgust. “She’s failing out of college, and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life.” Before I could ask another question, he continued, “If she would open her Bible, go back to church and find Jesus, she wouldn’t be so depressed! All she cares to do is hang around her loser friends.”

“What would happen if she...

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Your Anger is Valid. Don't Deny It.

Uncategorized Apr 10, 2019

Many people conceal their negative feelings of anger, sadness, and fear. These people are unable to cope with good and bad because they have never processed these negative feelings, and they suffer from many problems, such as fear of relationships, depressions, and anxiety as a result. Negative feelings are valid, and they must be dealt with so they won't cause problems. 
 
Anger, our most basic negative emotion, tell us that something is wrong. We tend to protect the good we don't want to lose. Anger is a signal that we are in danger of losing something that matters to us. When people are taught to suppress their anger, they are taught to be out of touch with what matters to them. It is good to feel angry because anger warns us of danger and shows us what needs protecting. But, we are not to be mean or abusive in our attempt to solve a problem. This would mean to resolve it in some unloving way and would ultimately hurt us as well as each other. 
 
Major...

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How to Handle Those Who Get Angry at Your Boundaries

Uncategorized Apr 08, 2019

When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

I'm going to give you six steps to consider when someone responds to your boundaries with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Let the anger be in the other person.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people...

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How We Keep Picking People Who Hurt Us

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2019

Please keep in mind that article is NOT meant to place blame on victims of abuse. It was written to address character weaknesses that lead to unfulfilling relationships. 

We must find out what it is about us that causes us to make such poor, hurtful choices. The truth is that it is not just a lack of knowledge. We usually make such choices out of our own weaknesses. For example, if we are unable to confront people who hurt us and set good boundaries, we will continually be attracted to controlling, hurtful people. So, in a very real sense, we bear responsibility for the problem.

Or, if we are so isolated and lonely that we are afraid to end or confront hurtful relationships, we will choose hurtful people to avoid being alone. We need to make sure that we have a good support system in place and are not so in need of any one person. Or, if we are still trying to please some perfectionistic standard in our own heads, we will find perfectionistic people to live out that...

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