Thursday, December 8, 2016

Conflict Management 5

Real Life Example

I presented these materials at a recent conference. Before the talk, I received a note from a woman whose husband had divorced her for another woman. She asked ‘how do I deal with such an evil man now that we are divorced? Should I allow him to be with our children? He is really a bad person and I think his presence will damage the children.’

After hearing my teaching, she wrote me another note. ‘I now know why my husband wanted to be with someone else. I never gave him a chance to tell his side of things and I attacked him about a lot of issues. Thanks for telling me this information. I am going to ask him for forgiveness and tell him that he can see the children.’
Let me hasten to add that this could have been a man. Being critical is not limited to females.  Many persons see themselves as the innocent parties in a divorce or serious marital conflict. If they never committed adultery or other gross sins, they perceive themselves to be innocent. However, the sins of the tongue can be damaging to intimate relationships as are the sins of pornography and physical sex. 

The data about stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rates are also applicable to every relationship. For example, church and business conflicts produce the same cycle of anger, resentment and revenge as a marriage. It is helpful to see church groups as extended families with spiritual connections. Spiritual connections have physical ramifications, and when one is suffering from enormous stresses at work or church, they also affect us at home, leading more easily to emotional flooding.

As usual, we can learn from Jesus how reactivity and verbal attacks harm people. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about the difference between the OT teaching on murder and His wisdom on it. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Conflict Management 4

Accept Personal Responsibility

Feelings and behavior are not always a direct result of another’s behavior. My feelings are usually the result of what the others’ behavior means to me.  

If Karen comes home from work and fails to speak to me, I could respond with anxiety, hurt, and anger. Or, I could respond with empathy. What makes the difference? The difference in my feeling state is directly related to my perception of what her behavior means. 
If I perceive that Karen is worn out after work and needs some peace and quiet before she has enough energy to relate, I can respond with an empathic comment. However, if I think she is rejecting me, I will feel upset.

Note that Karen does not make me feel mad, sad, or glad.  My feelings are actually the result of my own thoughts.
I could say: “You make me so mad when you come home from work and don’t even say a word. What is wrong with you? Why are you so cruel to me?” This is an illogical statement that gives my wife power over my thoughts and feelings.  In fact, whenever I use a You statement to describe my feelings, I am giving power to others.  Since I do not like to give power over my thoughts and feelings to others, I try to remember to use I statements. Example: “Karen, it doesn’t feel good when you come in the house without speaking. I wonder if I have done something wrong.”
Scale of Reactivity

Perfect Peace  -----------------------------------------Reactivity

People that overreact emotionally to unimportant events are probably feeling the other person's feelings.  A strong reaction means that my mind, emotions and body go into high gear when the person to whom I am connected says something different from my own thoughts.  

Some people have stronger emotional reactions than the activity warrants. My granddaughter recently went into an angry funk when her brother said he wanted to sit next to me rather than her. She pouted, shouted, and acted very hurt. Her reactivity was high even though the event was not a big deal.
If I go into a raging attack when Karen does not speak as soon as she comes home, it is obvious that I have over reacted.  Karen’s behavior might be at most level two on a ten-point scale, but my emotional reaction to her was an eight or nine.
Responding at the same level of the event indicates more internal peace or less anxiety.  Responding means I have perceived the events realistically and am allowing the Holy Spirit to control my feelings. My mental and emotional faculties correlated closely with reality.  I do not overreact, but respond with emotions that are appropriate to the situation.  

Not long ago I overreacted to my wife. She left the computer on overnight, and I became angry and acted badly toward her. That was my sin. Her mistake was to leave the computer on, but mine was yelling at her!
When I am at peace with myself, I do not give other people’s behavior power over my feelings, no matter what they say to me. However, when I love and respect another person, I may give them too much power over my reactions. Every remark can cause me to react. 
·       Reactions: Emotional states that are more intense than the situation warrants.
·       Responses: Emotional and behavioral actions in line with the facts.

In both cases we need to interact with I statements rather than You statements because we choose to feel our feelings. No one else is causing me to feel this way.  (Note: My immediate feelings may be automatic but over time I can change the feelings by renewing my mind according to the scripture.) 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dealing with Conflict 3

                   The Sweeten Scale of Conflict Management

All Disagreements cause some fear and anxiety. However, we can manage to calm ourselves and others by the ways we speak, act and the tone of our voice. 

Level of Interaction 
Resulting Physical Symptoms     
1.  Contented:  At peace with others.     Thinking and feeling calm.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I say anger is dangerous
1.  Relaxed.  Male heart rate – 72
                    Female heart rate – 80

Jesus brings a new teaching about caring in addition to physical relationships. This is critically important in family life. 
2.  Complaint:  A specific behavior     Healthy activity of “I" statements (I want, I think, I don't like, etc.).      

   …anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. 
2.  Slight anxiety & fear.  Increased
Heart rate-BPM & breathing, muscles tense. Minor Fight/Flight Response.

Be careful about anger, bitterness and rage. It is not wrong but handled carefully. Judge ourselves or we shall be judged
3.  Criticism:  A vague blaming. "You" statements.  Focus on person not behavior.  A flawed personality.  Global statements.     
Anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca is answerable to the Sanhedrin.

3.  More anxiety and fear.  High blood pressure & breathing rate, muscles tight, blood sugar, and eyes dilated, reduced digestion.  Feel attacked.

Raca is calling a brother or sister “stupid” or a failure. (*Note Bitter Root below)
4.  Contempt:  Personal insults, shaming attacks on the character sense of self and identity. Opposite of admiration, mocking lack of respect.
One who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the hell fire. Mt 5:21-22

4.  High anxiety and high stress. Feel heartbeat. Shallow breathing, fight/ flight response on alert, hyper vigilant. Reactive to threat.
Character attacks cause severe emotional wounds that result in hellish feelings 
5.  Consuming defenses:  rejects all communication.  Attacks the mate.
5.  Severe anxiety. Can’t think. Feelings rule. Fight/Flight.  Shaking or trembling.
6.  Crushing reaction, withdrawal, or aggressive pursuit of the other. Cycle of miscommunication/misunderstanding.
6.  Emotional flooding: Chronic state of hyper vigilance and hypersensitive self-talk.   
7.  Complete Isolation: withdrawal.
7.  Too painful to interact with rational discourse.  Filled with constant thoughts of attack and condemnation.
a.  Problem is impossible to resolve    
b.  Talking is useless    
c.  Hopeless                                          
d.  Overwhelmed
© Gary Sweeten, Sweeten Life Systems

Adapted from John Gottman,
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Simon and Schuster.

If you want to manage a relationship, it is necessary to stay peaceful and engaged with the person or persons where emotions can easily get out of control. That takes practice and self-discipline.

Pray for peace if you are going to enter a difficult conversation. Breathe deeply and stay calm. A positive answer can turn a person's anger down. Feel free to share your challenges with me.

Ho do you think Jesus would characterize these stages of conflict? Read the Sermon on the Mount to see.

It is possible to change even when you have bad habits developed over years of practice. If you are motivated to build better relationships you can do it. If you refuse, you will obviously reap the whirlwind of rage, divorce, and hell on earth just as Jesus said. 

So many people fell into the trap of character attacks in the last election that there is currently "Hell to Pay". The rage and attacks continue and few people are asking forgiveness in order to make things better. Eating humble pie is very, very difficult for both sides. 

If you prefer healing and peace to rage, and hellish attacks get my eBook Breaking Free to be all Jesus wants you to Be.

Many of us are still living "rent free" in the head of either Trump or Hillary. They exist in a world of bitterness, attacks, and hellish anguish. It is their right to either move on or stay stuck in the past. 

For me and my house, we will choose the Lord's way and move on. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dealing Wiih Conflict 2

Conflicts Are Inevitable, But Break-Ups Are Optional

Successful relationships only happen when we learn how to resolve Conflicts without chronically moving beyond healthy Complaints.  Healthy Complaints actually keep a relationship clean and growing. However, when out of frustration and pain we start to Criticize or show Contempt, there is danger of a permanent break in the relationship. 
Healthy Complaints use “I Statements” to share my concerns.
Example: “I do not like the way we are interacting. We do not spend enough time together, especially on fun things.”
Criticism uses “You Statements” to attack others’ behaviors.
Example:  “You never come home and spend time with me.”
Contempt uses “You Statements” to attack others’ character
Example: “You don’t care anything about being a husband/wife and never fulfill your commitment to the kids and me.”

Example: "You are a cold fish and never want to make love. You are just like your mother". 

Attacks of character are extremely damaging and harmful to any relationship. In the last election we saw many attacks on the character of political opponents. 

"You Conservatives are all Racists, Homophobic, and Sexists!"

"You Liberals are all crazy Communists!"

Attacks on entire groups and anyone disagreeing with us is harmful and contrary to the Bible. But, it is common, especially if we were reared in angry families.

Getting Better?
Learning to resolve interpersonal differences makes marriage and family life fun, interesting and fulfilling.  By using “I Statements,” we take responsibility for our own thoughts and feelings.
Complaints can be very healthy:  We need to learn how to state our wants, needs, and desires directly so the people around us can understand exactly what we are saying. A good Complaint states openly what the person wants. For example: “I want to eat at home tonight. I am tired of eating out.” or “I want to eat at Bob Evans tonight. They have a special pot pie that I like.”
This kind of a direct statement is easily understood and easily responded to by our family. “Okay, we can go to Bob Evans for the pot pie, but I want to eat at Panera next week.” Such statements may cause us to become a bit nervous about being selfish, but clear statements are much easier to deal with than hints that require us to read minds or a passive-aggressive response that erupts into a fight later.
Example:  Verbal comment: “Of course we can eat at the Greasy Spoon, dear.” Internal self-talk: “That rat never does what I want. He always gets his way.” The second way it seems humble but nearly always ends up in conflict. The internal self-talk is filled with Criticism and Contempt.

Criticism is blaming others with attacking emotions. Contempt is shaming others with attacks on their character. America is moving quickly into a Shaming culture from one based on right or wrong, guilt or innocence. This indicates that disagreement can quickly degenerate into Aggressive Shaming instead of Reasoned Debate. Shaming occurs when a person is seen separated from a certain group. It is Tribalism rather than Community.

It says, "If you are not in my tribe you must hate me and I must hate you. If you are a Democrat and I am a Republican, you and I come from different tribes and in a Shame Based Culture that means I must hate you.

If I promote Heterosexual Marriage and disagree with you about Homosexual Marriage, a Tribal person might ask the government to fine me or fire me for my views. The Constitution of the United States is based on several freedoms on which different people disagree. In a Guilt Based Culture, we can depend on the Constitution to demand our rights. In a Shame Based Culture, people may feel free to attack the character of those with whom they disagree. Hate and rejection are acceptable if Shame rules our ideas. 
Click here to get my books and videos. We believe that Christ came to forgive True Moral Guilt and remove Shame by placing us in God's Forever Family that eliminates tribal ideas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dealing With Conflict 1

We have just completed a difficult political season. Many relationships have suffered as a result of taking sides with one candidate or another while others, even family members, disagreed. For some, the time has proven to be very traumatic.

Here are portions of a paper I wrote about marriages and families in conflict. It is also true of all relationships.

Relationship Insurance: Handling Conflict Effectively

Conflict can either strengthen or destroy marriages and other close relationships. The way we handle conflict is the most significant aspect of being successful or unsuccessful in keeping a  marriage or family together.  Those who handle differences appropriately will be able to make it through life successfully. We will not divorce or suffer other traumatizing problems. If, however, they cannot deal effectively with the differences which plague every group, we ccn separate and divorce/cut off.

Couples come to a critical path in the road of marital togetherness. If they travel along the positive path, their marriage will grow. If not, it will very likely dissolve. That fork in the road can be called attack or attend

If the mates personally attack each other, the marriage is in real danger. If, however, they find a way to attend to each other when disagreements arise rather than attack, the marriage will grow.

Some people were reared in homes where verbal attacks were the only way to resolve conflicts. So, when a disagreement arises, they hone their verbal thrust and go in for the kill. The purpose of a functional partner is not to hurt or kill, however, but to get a loving response. An attack actually prevents loving relationships from occurring. However, when it is the only way we know, we do it automatically.

John Gottman’s research looks at the changes in a mate's heart rate, breathing, and other physiological manifestations of anxiety during a conversation. Other researchers have done similar studies but with less reliable self-reports and clinical observations. Thus, Dr. Gottman is very accurate in predicting present and future problems. After many years of research, he and his colleagues have gathered data from thousands of marriages and correlated it with marital satisfaction. They know when a couple is in trouble. Their insights can be used to prepare couples to avoid the attack marriage and emphasize attending skills.

Then in the following posts you will find a seven-point scale, adapted from Gottman’s research. It can be used to assess the level marital distress and danger. The scale is useful for understanding how to assess your level of resiliency and in understanding and handling the inevitable conflicts that occur in marriage. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

We teach EQ or Emotional IQ

In the last few years a new term has hit the press and our vocabulary. It is EQ or EIQ. It is shorthand for the ability to relate to others with a positive quality.

It means we have the ability to do several things at the same time. They are all related to our own character and self control. It is the ability to relate with all nine of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5: 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. 

Historically, the church and its leaders focused a great deal on EQ or the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. It seems that in my lifetime, however, the focus has been much more on IQ. The ability to be coolly analytical about scripture and ideas. To do a careful word study and exegesis about the Greek and Hebrew. Although that is important for some, for most of us the key to live and evangelism is Fruit that comes from abiding in the Spirit.

The Root is the Holy Spirit

The Fruit is the list above

An external, analytical study of the Fruit will not promote a healthy Root. 

Only by living, loving and focusing on the Holy Spirit can the Fruit develop. 

EQ focuses on developing Emotional skills. Today we ask kids to memorize the passages about the Fruit and explain them. Bible memorization might impress some but not the writer of that passage! We need to spend time actually practicing the skills in prayer, worship, role plays and exercises.

To succeed in life build on the Root and the Fruit will follow.

Click on my link and get our stuff so you can soar with the eagles of love and power.

The Supreme Court Picks Influenced 70% of Voters

I find this to be rather surprising. I personally found the future of the Supreme Court picks as very important but am very interested to see that I was not alone. I was and am not even close to being alone.

Exit polls show 70-percent voters rated Supreme Court appointments as the most important or a major factor in their decision. 

And of those who identified it as a priority-- 

56-percent voted in favor of Trump 

41-percent for Clinton

This 15% extra may have been the winning margin for Trump. Few pundits even mentioned it. 

Are you also surprised?