Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Red Flag Tensions in Mate Finding To Share With Your Kids

I've seen a few helpful lists online recently that suggest things to teach our children to look for or avoid in the person they marry. And most of them seem pretty accurate, worth talking to your kids about.

However, let me take a slightly different approach and discuss what I would call the tensions that must be addressed when embracing or rejecting a particular characteristic one sees in a potential mate. What I want to suggest is that even too much of a good thing may be as unhealthy and destructive as an abundance of a negative quality.

For example, let's say that someone is very careful about how they spend money. That sounds like a good quality and probably is. But what if their frugality becomes obsessive to the point where they never spend money for fun, for enjoyment, for special moments or for the spouse to use as they feel led?

It seems to me that we need to also help our children in selecting their future mate to prayerfully and wisely look at the whole spectrum of a person's qualities and be willing to admit that this person may have too much of a seemingly good thing. There may be some underlying need that causes that person to be overly positive which can ultimately become destructive and demoralizing.

Of course in every marriage there will be differences that we must learn to love and appreciate. No two people will ever be a perfect match. But let me suggest several spectra that I often see in marriages where that tension I'm talking about should have been considered and monitored. And let's face it some things can be hidden well but perhaps these suggestions will give you and your kids a place to start looking.

Do they have a sense of humor?  Or can they not stand humor and more specifically yours?

Do they care about the things of God, being like Jesus and their personal faith?  Or can they talk about nothing else so that they are really "of no earthly good?"

Do they talk to you?  Or do they ever stop talking period?

Do they love themself in appropriate ways?  Or are they the only person they care about?

Are they motivated, hard working and industrious?  Or is getting to the top their ultimate goal ahead of you and everything else?

Do they love children?  Or are they basically still a child and likely not going to change?

Do they share their emotions freely?  Or are they a loose cannon who hurts you and others with their feelings and words?

Are they careful and wise?  Or do they actually live in irrational fear most of the time?

Are they nice? Or are they actually just covering up deeper anger, resentment and bitterness?

Are they honest about their mistakes and faults?  Or are only concerned with yours?

There are lots more.  Let me encourage you to think of some that you might add to the list. Remind your kids that this is why they need to take time to get to know someone for a while. The real person doesn't show up on one or two dates or even in a couple of months of knowing someone. Make sure they see this person in a variety of settings.

And no, living together rarely helps this process. Playing house typically covers up or masks any real discernment about the other person under the guise of phony commitment.

When our kids do the hard work of pondering, experiencing and getting to know each other they have far more hope for success and a relationship that is all they hoped it would be from the first time they even considered marriage. Help them mom and dad. Give them some tools they need. I hope this might be one of them.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How We Might Knock The Air Out of Someone At Home

I only remember it happening a few times growing up, but I'll never forget the sensation either. I'd be playing with friends or involved in some sporting activity and someone would accidentally run into me, a ball would smash into my abdomen or I'd fall down in an awkward way.

And all of a sudden it felt like I couldn't breathe. It would take several minutes before I could catch my breath and feel somewhat normal again. It's called getting the air knocked out of you and it happens all the time, even to adults, especially those who play rough sports.

Unfortunately we can do the same, at least emotionally, to one of our loved ones at home.

Often it's done through our words. In a fit of anger we may yell and call someone a name, imply they are stupid or make an unfair (and likely untrue for the most part) comment about their character.  "You're lazy," we say to our teen. "You aren't much of a student," we spew to our 4th grader. Or, "You're just like your mother," we rant to our wife.

Sometimes we do need to say hard or challenging things at but we should never, and let me repeat that, never attack someone's character. We can talk about their current action and why it was wrong or unwise but it hurts deeply and can knock the emotional air out of someone we love to imply something unkind and untrue that they are as a person.

We can also injure through our actions or lack of them. We promise that we'll be there for a game or other special activity but regularly never make it. We make a family member look bad or silly in front of others. Or we brag all the time about one child but can never seem to find anything good to say about the others.

Actions matter. They are the exclamation point on our promises. They are the follow-through to our words. No, we'll never be perfect but don't promise if you can't deliver most of the time.

And believe it or not we can even hurt someone through a look or expression. We all know when someone looks at us with a face that clearly says they are disgusted with or ashamed of us we remember and feel it for a long time. Many a helpful resolution to a conflict or disagreement has been undermined by a look of disdain before the conversation could ever get started.

Are you knocking the air out of those you love? Take inventory. Listen to yourself. Ask others to watch too. Because if we keep doing it, some of the people who matter most to us will simply quit "playing" with us and that would be a tragedy.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Trying To Light What Can't Give Light

I recently officiated at a wedding, one of my favorite things to do as a pastor. The reception was in a lovely venue out in the Texas hill country. Some friends at our church were also there both to assist with some of the wedding preparations and then to attend.

So after the wedding finished we were getting ready to sit down at one of tables but my friend and his wife were, like the servants they are, going around to see that the candles on the tables were lit.  Each table had a large candle in the middle with four smaller candles around it outside of the glass covering for the larger candle.

So the man came by our table with his lighter and easily lit the four smaller candles but couldn't seem to get the large one in the middle lit. He finally gave up only to have his sweet wife come by, lift up the candle, turn it over and click the switch on the bottom. It was obviously electric and a fake. We all had a good laugh afterward seeing our friend with a slightly red face.

And I thought to myself . . . how many people in everyday life are trying to get light or a flame out of something that was never intended to light?

They try. Sometimes over and over. They believe with all their heart that some activity or person or accomplishment will finally light up for them and give them what they had hoped for.  But like that electric bulb, which was never intended to become a warm flame, their hoped for satisfaction never appears either. 

Getting married,  having children, getting that promotion, obtaining that long-sought-after degree, seeing their kids win awards, owning more stuff, getting the big house, having a parent finally affirm them . . . .The list is endless. And yet they keep striking their match.

We've all done this, haven't we? The question is, "Have we gotten over the pull of things or people for our fulfillment?"  Are we trying to light a flame that is un-lightable?

If you are, then it's time for a recalibration of your thinking and your heart. It's time to learn that there are many wonderful things on most of our lists that are good to desire, but terrible to demand. Much unhappiness in life is really the result of  unmet expectations. And if we expect these things or people to make us happy we will live the rest of our lives with expectations never reached. We'll be trying to light an electric candle with a match.

Practically?  Start being thankful for what you already have. More is never enough.  Begin to pray more for what you desire and ask God to take away your demand for anything or anyone but Him.

Second, slow down, live with less and add margin to your life. Limit how many activities your kids are in and how often the family taxi has to run to meet all their needs. If you'll try this even on a small scale you will find yourself enjoying life and your family so much more.

Third, take inventory with  your spouse or a friend and admit those things have been  your lights that won't light. Don't beat yourself up, just commit to quit trying to light them. Take a first step to live differently and find your own real candle that does light.

You'll be a lot less irritated and a lot less . . . .well, shall I say "embarassed."
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beware Family Sinkholes

Maybe you heard about the car museum in Florida where some eight Corvettes were damaged or destroyed falling into a sinkhole that appeared in the floor. Eight Corvettes! Most of us would love to have just one!

One moment that museum housed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shiny sports cars and minutes later many were gone. What was so valuable quickly turned to rubble.

I wonder if we ought to think about life that way a bit more. I wonder if we shouldn't look at many of the things that seem valuable to us and realize that life's sinkholes could take them away too in an instant.

I often talk with people who at one time were making hundreds of thousands of dollars each year but now struggle to find or keep a job. For a while they were living the high life but now it's vanished. Others lost their "Corvettes" to their health, to the economy, to a dishonest coworker or their own foolishness. Whatever the case the wealth and value they once thought they had is no more.

Sometimes life is hard and bad things happen.

So what do we do? Like that museum we can't always avoid the sinkholes. They often just happen. But we can have a different perspective that won't make the loss seem so great.  We can value different things so that we put our hope in what truly matters. And that perspective is something we parents must especially teach our kids. We couples must affirm for each other every day.

A few key components of a healthy perspective?

Stuff is only stuff. More of anything material does not make more of us! If we have it, great. If we lose it, it's not the end of the world. Do not let your home, your efforts, your focus revolve around more things. If you're blessed with a lot, give a lot away.

Relationships are where the greatest riches lie. Invest in time with each other, making memories and learning more about each other. Unfortunately, families today have or make little time to just be with each other, talk and grow together. Be different and make time for one another.

Don't become an entitled couple or family. Don't expect that you always have to get the best, the most and what's first.  Teach your kids to look out for those who have less, volunteer in places where people have little and be willing to scale back and live on less.

Ask yourself, "What would we do if we lost most everything material that we own?"  Of course you would be sad, even devastated, but could you see yourself moving on?  Can you picture your family living on less and knowing that you're OK?

The greatest example of someone not needing stuff was Jesus. He even said that he had "nowhere to lay his head."  He had no home, few possessions and probably not a lot of clothes. But He was the source of peace and joy and still is.

It seems like if He could do it, we can . . . and must.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.