Tag Archives: vulnerability

Sharing Our Lives

24 Oct

I’ve recognized a common denominator between two retreats I’ve recently attended—WTAMU Wesley women Encounter and Women of Worship. I spoke at the first and attended the second. Both were highly successful because the women involved were able to share their lives with honesty and love. It reminds me of the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

“So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NKJV).

When we genuinely care about people, we’re willing to risk ourselves for their sake. The level of care and vulnerability in leadership made it possible for attendees to open themselves up for healing and spiritual transformation.

As Christians, we often put on masks. We think if people see our weaknesses, they will not only reject us, but will also reject the God whom we love. The opposite is actually true. When we pretend to have all the answers and to live perfect lives, God calls us liars (1 John 1:10) and others label us hypocrites.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15–16 NLT).

I heard women of all ages and stations in life tell how God redeemed them from sin, suicide, self-righteousness, abuse, and much more. In turn, others were willing to admit their needs and seek help. More importantly, they recognized God as merciful, eager to love and redeem. God lifts us from the ruble of pain and rejection until we recognize ourselves as new creations in Christ—each one His masterpiece. (See Miraculous New Creations.) Some of the women had to move beyond the pain they caused their families and begin to live joyfully forgiven. (See Forgiving Myself.) God prepares us to encourage others by first helping us in our time of trouble.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NLT).

The entire Bible narrates a story of love and redemption. It doesn’t cover-up sin or portray God’s people as perfect—rather as forgiven and transformed. We can identify with the characters of the Bible because they’re real. We too need to be authentic and share the reality of God’s redemptive work in our lives. The resulting joy and power is overwhelming. I’m still praising God for the WT Wesley women and Women of Worship. Thank you for sharing your love, your lives, and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In Conflict? Pass the Pencil.

31 Aug

My words stuck, unable to pass the lump in my throat. How well I remember the first time I tried important communication with George. We’d been dating only a few months. He encouraged me with these treasured words, “You can’t say the wrong thing.”

That was thirty years ago. Since that day, I’ve said the wrong thing more than once. So has he. Yet the underlying truth remains. We genuinely want to know each other’s thoughts and feelings even if we don’t agree.

Close relationships present more possibilities for conflict than casual associations. The paradox is that loving confrontation increases intimacy. Confrontation forces us outside our comfort zone into transparency and vulnerability. It’s risk-taking of the most dangerous sort. If we ask for changed behavior or expose our true feelings, we risk anger, rejection, or even a lost relationship. However, when we find mutual vulnerability and an eagerness to preserve the relationship, the rewards are staggering.

Sometimes conflict is simply a miscommunication or mistaken motives. We may have an emotional reaction based on a prior relationship or an earlier stage of our current relationship. We may have incomplete facts. That’s why the first step in resolving conflict is to identify both viewpoints. I’ve found the pencil technique to be an effective tool for couples, families, and co-workers. (This is a communication technique, not a substitute for professional counseling.)

Couples choose a pencil, couch pillow, or other object. The symbolism counts. As long as I have the pencil, I know I’ll be heard. I hold on until I feel understood.

Remember God’s communication wisdom.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

Good communicators give eye contact, focused attention, and encouragement. Remember both people can be right based on different underlying (and sometimes unknown) assumptions and dreams. Believe the best of each other.

The person who finds communicating difficult goes first—in this example, the wife. Wife holds the pencil and explains her position. Husband doesn’t interrupt, defend, or explain. His first priority is to understand. Wife sticks to one subject without bringing up other problems. Her responsibility is to be honest and thorough without rambling. Then she asks Husband what he heard. He summarizes or paraphrases her words. (Parroting exact words doesn’t equal understanding.) If he gets it right, he takes the pencil and they switch responsibilities. If not, she retries explaining her feelings and he listens more closely. Repeat as necessary, then switch. Remember, defensiveness is a conversation killer.

Include appreciation for each other’s honesty and effort plus assurances that conflict and a great relationship aren’t mutually exclusive. Such conversations help us understand ourselves as well as the other person.

When our heart’s desire is to understand and to be understood, we tear down walls and build intimacy. In the context of unity and maturity, Paul urges Christians to “speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We don’t have to agree or completely understand. However, we need to respect and appreciate each other’s values, hopes, and dreams.

Please let us hear from you if you have the courage to try the pencil technique or have comments or suggestions.