Thursday, December 29, 2016

Support Us so we can Heal and Bless

I established the foundation for Sweeten Life Systems when I was on the Pastoral Team at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I began to teach the Listening Classes we called Apples of Gold in 1974.

The key to getting me started was a group of eight women led by Edith Barr . God used Edith to push me beyond my comfort zone.  And, Edith had enough heft to get the Elders to agree to teaching "psychology" in the church! A very rare idea in 1974. So, I started teaching my Doctoral insights to eight ladies. We had a blast learning and trying new things in a church setting.

Before long the Elders changed my duties from Christian Education to Christian Discipleship. This new position included small groups, equipping members how to care and coach each other. The curriculum included listening, renewing the mind, family wellness, healing prayer, and so

In 1976 we set up the Teleios or Wellness Center with twenty or so Peer Helpers on call to meet, listen and pray for people with emotional, relational, and spiritual distress. (We never  call them "mentally ill". Such a stigma is a major deterrent to asking for assistance. It is also a deterrent to a church thinking about providing such assistance.)

In 1978 we started a new nonprofit called, Christian Information Committee. It was designed to train other Christians how to develop every church into a caring community for all people. We later changed the name to Equipping Ministries International. That early beginning has spread to nations around the world.

It has many names and many different forms according to the local culture. That is one of the beautiful things about our model. It is flexible and does not require leadership from highly trained professionals. In fact, clinically trained people often misunderstand us because we train Moms, Dads, Brothers and Sisters, Uncles and Aunts as well as simple folk that are caring and Compassionate.

If you like the idea of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because we have a super ordinary God pray for us and consider going to the special donor page here! 

The Universal Way to Help Depressed and Annxious People

What a shock it has been to find out that the very best thing we can do to foster improvement in a person suffering with a Mood Disorder of Depression or Anxiety is not a fancy, intervention from a highly educated professional.

It is not medication (Although some medication can help!)
It is not the well honed advice of a seasoned therapist. (Although they can be very helpful.)
It is not a manual with a positive mantra. (Although positive self-talk is a ery good thing.)
It is not meditation, prayer, exercise, etc( Although all are good to do for positive mental health.)

It is......... (Drum Roll) Relating with the person with Genuine Interest, Respect, Empathy, and Warm Regard.

The basis for this conclusion is found in several places. 1. The Bible! The Fruit of the Spirit. 2. More than 50 years of psychological research. 3. Personal expereince. 

Get the PDF that describes these things here!

Post Truth is the Term of the Year

For some years we have been living in the Postmodern Era which questions whether there is any truth or facts in life. Finally, in 2016, The Oxford Dictionary concludes we have no truth at all. 

The Oxford Dictionaries says the term: post-truth could be “one of the defining words of our time.”

The termbecame popular during the 2016 election campaign in the United States. Post-truth, as the website defines it, means to relate to situations where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Oxford Dictionaries officials say they chose post-truth as Word of the Year because of its rising popularity. They said the term’s usage appeared to increase 2,000% in 2016 alone.
Christians have faced the lack of belief in truth for some time. When we state that  God created the universe or that some event is recorded in the scripture we get blank stares or outright rejection. 
It seems that FEELINGS have replaced THINKING as the basis for decisions.

That is both good and bad. Good because Faith in Christ leads to better feelings and a better life. Bad because it cannot stand long. The feeling we have are at the mercy of many events and happenings. 
Thankfully, Christianity is based on "truth in Love" we have all of a balanced life. If you want to keep geting these words of wisdom support us at this web and buy my fantastic books!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

More on Biblical Genealogy

It is not possible to red the Bible and not see it has a strong emphasis on the lives of people from generation to generation. If you really want to understand yourself and your offspring, do your family tree and draw a genogram.

The genogram shown here is pretty complicated and so are most family trees. You can trace your family tree pretty easily now because of the internet. We can buy a program that allows us to look up our ancestors and then do a geneaology all our own. Try it.

My book, How to Be Me in My Family Tree explains how to assess the family dynamics. Buy it and be happy!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Russian Humanitarian Killed in Air Crash

                  Famous russian Humanitarian Killed in Plane Crash

Renowned Russian humanitarian and charity activist Elizaveta Glinka, widely known as Dr. Liza, is feared dead after boarding the plane bound for Syria that crashed Sunday morning off the Sochi coast.

The 54-year-old head of the 'Fair Help' fund was supposed to travel to Latakia to deliver medical supplies to a hospital, according to the Human Rights Council.

Who Was in the Genealogy of Jesus?

I have been studying my own family genealogy for several years. Ron Rand and I went to Washington, DC to interact with Rabbi, Dr. Ed Friedman, an expert on Family Systems Theory of Care and Counsel. Ron and I loved the classes and Dr. Friedman's teaching. I now consider it essential for Ministers and other leaders.

As a result, I became interested in the way the Bible uses family issues from generation to generation to weave the story of God into life. I was amazed when I started to study the genealogy of Jesus.

My friend Carol Franks sent me a teaching recently by Amir Tsarfati that covers some of the particulars of the genealogy of Jesus. For me, it indicates how deep and gracious God is when considering whom to call to lead His people. The ancestors of Jesus were quite often people whom we call "Great Sinners who are unworthy of our attention!"

Read the article here.  It will perk your interest in deeper Bible study. 

If you like grace and mercy then by all means get my books and materials. They will liberate you from self condemnation in a hurry!

How to Help People with Depression or Anxiety

Yes, we every one can really assist a person with a Mood Disorder. You do not need to have an advanced degree or advanced IQ to do it. However, you do need to have a high EQ or Emotional IQ!

First, allow me to mention the difference between eustress and distress. Eustress is a stimulation to be active in a positive manner.  Distress is stimulation that tears us down mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

I previously laid out the 5 Levels of Mental/Emotional Distress:

1. Very Stable mentally and emotionally despite situational distress
2. Somewhat Stable with some internal distress about stiuational distress
3. Some Internal Chronic Distress regardless of external stiruations
4. Ongoing, Internal Chronic Distress regardless of external situations
5. Very Distressed Internally Regardless of Situations


Everyone, no matter how mature and, may hit the wall when situations arise. That can cause us to stumble into Distressful, reactive beavior. Compassionate friends and family members may want to help them but are not sure how.

Because there is a tendency in our culture to call every incident of sadness and distress is a sign of a "Mental Illness", friends and family members are fearful of trying to help. You can help anxious and depressed friends and family members.

We can help anybody and everybody, regardless of how distressed they are. They may also need to see a Counselor but always be ready to respond to a friend in need.

My next post will tell you my secret! In the meantime, you can discover it foryourselves by buying an PDF eBook with many secrests about helping, healing, mentoring, coaching, and counseling, It is Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty for $5.99! A steal...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Most of Us can Renew our Minds and be Peaceful

Evaluation for Care and Referral
©Dr. Gary R Sweeten
When I founded Life Way Counseling Centers most people needed a simple way to assess when Distress was so strong Clinical Counseling was needed. So, I developed a simple  one sheet, answer. 

Levels of Problems and Pain
Type A Persons: No life-interrupting problems

Level I Very mature and healthy individuals

  • Able to lead if equipped
  • Strong in relationships and self control; no reactivity
  • Stable and deal with life’s problems
  • Full range of emotional life
  • Not blown about by every new thing

Need: Coaching and Equipping for Ministry

Level II Can vary in healthy lifestyles from weak to developing

  • Some are fragile but dealing with life well
  • Need mentoring for emotional growth
  • Need to be discipled and equipped for service

Need: Coaching for Grow and Equipped for Ministry

Type B Persons: Differing types and intensity of problems

Level III Ongoing issues and problems that cause disruptions

  • Worried or anxious, sad, angry, conflicts and dissatisfied with life
  • Misses appointments, sleeplessness, low performance, relational problems
  • Is strong enough to work and learn from counsel
  • No harmful thoughts about self or others

Need: Care, Coaching, Counsel, Plus Support of Friends and Family

Level IV Ongoing problems and pain

  • Issues getting worse
  • Cannot meet personal, work, family or school responsibilities and cannot change
  • Misses appointments due to depression, anxiety, stress, drinking, etc
  • Cannot concentrate, does very poor work, scattered thoughts
  • Compulsive behaviors with food, gambling, anger, drugs
  • Unresolved conflicts

Need: Professional Coaching, Counseling + Peer Support

Level V Acute Pain

  • Lay and Professional counseling have failed to help so pain increases
  • Cannot manage school or work
  • Ideas are distorted, cannot manage life or relationships
  • Dangerous use of alcohol, food, drugs
  • Thoughts of harming self or others

Need: Intensive Counsel, Care in a safe place + Support

Read this over and see if you can assess where you are right now. The stressors of life, loss, conflict, finances, hurried living, massive cultural changes, world conflicts, etc can infect us with worry, fears, anxiety, and failure to care for ourselves. My PDF. eBook, Power Christian Thinking can help you stop the Stinking Thinking and find peace in the midst of madness. (I can't tell you how to stop the madness!) The book is a PDF File you can download on your computer, Pad, telephone, etc. Buy is here for a few bucks you will get back soon when you stop taking anti acid medications. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Clinical Assistance for Anxiety, Depression, Worry, ETC

As many of you know, I was on a team of four people that founded The Life Way Counseling Centers. In 1989 I was at College Hill Presbyterian Church and, among other things, ran a very large Peer Caring and Coaching Ministry called, The Teleios Center. We had over 50 Peer Helpers that met with people in distress to listen, love, care and offer prayer and coaching. (Peer Helping cannot be called Counseling.)

In 1989 Dr. Emmett Cooper called to ask me to work with Emerson North Hospital to treat Patients with spiritual as well as emotional issues.  He ended up asking us to establish a Christ centered in-patient unit at Emerson North Hospital and an outpatient center in Blue Ash. The in-patient unit is closed but the Life Way Outpatient Clinic still operates in Blue Ash. 

I still serve as the Chairman of the Life Way Board.

I am still extremely active making Sweeten Life Systems an equipping, training, consulting ministry. Many people need more than peer support from Sweeten Life Systems, and that is what Life Way is for.

Holidays Can Be Lonely so Be a Friend!

For many people Christmas is a pretty lonely time of year. The memories of childhood family times and all the TV and popular media depictions of being together on Christmas can leave us especially bereft if we have nobody to be with.

One congregation here in Cincinnati has what they call The Feast of Love at every special holiday. Everybody is gladly welcomed to a warm meal and a warm time of fellowship at College Hill Presbyterian Church regardless of your race, creed, or color.

The Feast of Love was founded in 1986 by a modern Saint, Karen Lane. Karen was a spark plug of care and energy until the evil of cancer took her home to Jesus. The ministry does many more things now so take a look at their link.

God is in a giving mood all year round so be like you Father and give as well. If donating to an international ministry that "Equips God's people for radical love, grace, mercy, and healing," send something our way. But, give to any ministry you believe is doing the Lord's work.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Family Systems

A Genogram Shows Major Changes over Time

When a man and woman marry, the primary interaction is one on one. However, when she gets pregnant and has a baby, the passion, interest and energy of the mom is usually diverted to the child and the interactions change from husband and wife to wife, baby, mother in law, other moms,, Pediatrician, to husband. Such change is normal, necessary and to be expected. However, it disturbs the ways couple have been communicating before.

It takes a good bit of maturity and understanding on the part of both but especially Dad! First, because it is unexpected. No one told dad that the entire marital system would be totally rebuilt when the first baby shows up. In fact, it is rare  for  anyone to even consider that marriage is a system that changes radically every time a new person enters or another person leaves through death, moving or illness. That is why we are never prepared for such the radical changes.

Karen and I were unprepared for such changes and as a result each of us suffered from useless anger, defensiveness, and stinking thinking over every natural family alteration. That is why "Alterations can become Altercations!"

Now we are grandparents and the alterations keep on coming. We are much better prepared now than we ever were before because we studied "The Family as a System" rather than just two, three, or four individuals. My book,
How to be Me in My Family Tree can help you understand your own system and avoid turning "Alterations into Altercations"!

Sweeten Life Systems, Inc provides buffers and ideas that allow people to face changes with mercy, grace and peace. You can learn from us or stay like you are. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Scrooge Has A Law Degree in America

                             The Ghost of Christmas Past

For decades America has celebrated Christmas with plays, music, candles, lights, trees and, yes, gifts. All of that to remember the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem of Judea some 2,000 years ago.

Despite our annual celebrations by people from every faith and every ethnicity, over the last 100 years, Scrooge-like grinches with law degrees or money to hire them have declared all of our traditions as disgusting and harmful. So disgusting in fact that they must be banned from public places.

The sound of "BAH! HUMBUG! is heard throughout the land. It is replacing Silver Bells and Silent Night! Yes, the Charlie Brown Christmas has been banned from public schools lest the kids hear Linus speak for two minutes about shepherds in the field watching their flocks.

And, to perhaps top it all off, A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens over a century ago is found by a local school board to be far to disgusting for little ears. Yes, I admit that a sick, crippled little child in the play actually says, "God bless us everyone" and that simple reading could send a Scrooge-like character some place might become overcome with fright and faint from seeing and hearing a crippled boy speak of God's blessings.

Next, Scrooge Lawyers with sue to stop lights in the window because light best represents Jesus coming into the world.

My books and videos always bring light into your life. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Scrooge Had no Peace

Scrooge was a failure at peacemaking. What was the real problem that blocked him from leading a peaceful life? He had no peace himself. Can we lead others beyond where we are ourselves? Not likely. It is hard to fake peace. 

I was hired by a large company of 3000 people to help their key employees. The 10 groups that were judged to be in the bottom of efficiency needed someone to show them how to improve their interactions, so they hired me to train them. 

The VP of Human Relationships told me, "You get those blankety, blank sons of b______  to be more empathic or will fire every one of them on the spot!" 

The VP wanted empathy, understanding and peace in her employees. I knew immediately that it would be a difficult task. Why so tough? Because the leader was angry, judgmental and agitated. Do you wonder why some of her employees also lacked peaceful relationships and effectiveness as leaders? 

Can we really fake Genuineness?

Can we fake Peace?

An angry, anxious, divisive person lives and breaths divisiveness. He or she does not have to intentionally divide, promote division, or show great anger, it comes out in the way we look and interact.

Scrooge's demeanor told everybody that he was an evil man. Look at the post that described him. "Even the blind man's dog" was repulsed because Scrooge had an "evil eye" and "No eye at all was better than an evil eye!" 

But Scrooge changed. How did he change? What happened to him? Let me know what you think?

If you want to be like Scrooge, please don't read my books because they unleash love, compassion, smiles, and giving. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Change at Christmas: My Annual Post


MARLEY was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change for anything he chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, his sole mourner.

Scrooge never painted out old Marley's name, however. There it yet stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door, -- Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge “Scrooge” and sometimes Marley. He answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh ! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! External heat and cold had little influence on him. No warmth could warm, no cold could chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain and snow and hail and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect, -- they often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance.

**This description of Scrooge is the best illustration I have ever seen of a hardened, callous sinner whose heart and mind and spirit are so deadened to human life and nurture that he prefers loneliness and rejection to warm fellowship.

Just imagine for a while the cold, hard, penetrating eyes and the lack of compassion that covered his face like a steel mask. No knight in armor ever had a more forbidding visage than Scrooge.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Caught in the Middle

Being caught in the middle of tow others in conflicts is a very common problem. We call it a "Triangle".  Most of the time we relate to each other by focusing on a third person or issue. Most married couples interact with each other through children, work, sex, in-laws, past conflicts, money, etc. 

When a person comes to see me about a conflict with a family member at home or a colleague at work, I listen to see if another individual or issue is hiding in plain view.  

The following song by a little girl focuses on her position as "The Third Member in Relationships". 

The Show

I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go I can't do it alone I've tried
And I don't know why
Slow it down
Make it stop
Or else my heart is going to pop
'Cause it's too much
Yeah, it's a lot
To be something I'm not
I'm a fool
Out of love
'Cause I just can't get enough
I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go I can't do it alone I've tried
And I don't know why
I'm just a little girl lost in the moment
I'm so scared but I don't show it
I can't figure it out
It's bringing me down I know
I've got to let it go
And just enjoy the show
The sun is hot
In the sky
Just like a giant spotlight
The people follow the sign
And synchronize in time
It's a… 
Full lyrics on Google Play

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Election Reactivity

The recent articles on anger, conflict and reactivity have garnered more clicks than any topic I have ever written. I am not surprised.

When I was at College Hill Presbyterian we put on a series of teachings for Men early in the morning. One time I did three mornings on sex and a little later I taught on Anger. Guess which had the larger attendance?


I mentioned it to the guys and one wag replied, "We get a lot more anger than sex so we need to know how to deal with it better."

Reactivity and anger are not the same but when we carry around a lot of suppressed anger we are also reactive.

Scale of Reactivity

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

The recent presidential election brought out a high degree of reactivity, much of it shrouded in anger. I do not remember any past election that caused people to be so touchy. 

Each side seemed to use language and accusations about the other side that violated every teaching about respectful communication and freedom of speech. If we use the Cycle of Conflict with my Reactive Scale as measuring tools they would have both shown at least a level 8 on the Richter Scale of Earthquakes. 

Both sides used language that attacked not just the policies of a candidate but also his and her character. And, it seems to be continuing after the election with as great or greater energy as during the campaign. 

As Jesus said, "When we call people fools we will end up in hell" and the nature of our public discourse sure seems to be hellish right now. Is it possible to debate policies instead of devolving into raging attacks and name calling? 

It will require some humility and that is in short supply. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blessed are the Peaceful

In some ways, our organizations have been dedicated to PEACE for 40 years. We take the passages about love and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit seriously and attempt to make it practical in our lives.

As Jesus rightly said, "People cry peace, peace but there is no peace."

For decades ambassadors have been trying to get the Jews and Muslims to have peace in the Middle East. "Peace, Peace but there is no Peace! One of my friends said to me one day, "Why doesn't President George W. Bush just go over there are tell them to be peaceful?"

Good question!

At College Hill Presbyterian we developed a holistic ministry all built on the idea of knowing and doing Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control; there is no law against these in our lives. 

For most churches and church leaders, we just need to memorize this list and stop worrying about them. We love and worship the Bible so only the thing we need to do to be a great Christian is to read, memorize and share the words of the Bible.

As a teenager I was the champion of the Bible Sword Drill which had contests to see which kid could find various passages of the Bible fastest. I always won those contests.

At the same time, my actuaL life was an angry, hostile, rebellious wreck. I cussed, drank to excess, called people names and lusted daily.

My knowledge of the Bible did not change my behavior. I had not learned and implemented the practical skills taught the Holy Spirit. 

I am often called in to coach and counsel wonderful men and women in ministry who are burned out because they have not learned the practical application of the word of God.  The things I learned and started teaching 40 years ago are still a mystery to most Christian leaders.

If all I did as a basketball coach was tell the players to memorize the way to shoot free throws and how to dribble, they would never win a single game. No wonder Christians lose so many contests.

Support a ministry that actually trains and coaches people to act with peace and communicate with peace. 

Recovery from Adversity

Pain from adversity is inevitable

Misery is optional

If true, why are so many people miserable? There are several reasons why but one reason is that a lot of misery comes from people giving the power over their own feelings to everyone else.

We might say,

"You really tick me off!"

"Why do you make me so sad?"

"I just can't stand it when you are drinking or sick or unemployed."

"I am worried to death about the election."

"If __________ wins I am leaving the USA for Cuba where they have freedom."

These kind of statements are sure indications that we have turned our lives and thoughts and feelings over to someone or something else.

Anytime I am severely Reactive and get really upset with friends or foes it usually means I have surrendered my feelings to them instead of keeping them to myself.

Mentally and emotionally strong people are bold because their ideas about life come from within not from what others think or say. Mentally and emotionally fragile people reject freedom of speech and hide from the comments of others.

The fear of other's keeps many creative people from writing, singing, or performing lest the audience criticize them.

When I can "Turn the other cheek..." it means I have self control and am not giving up my control to others.

You can support great teaching and peacemaking at my web page. 

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.