Did you ever have anyone in your life who you just wanted to turn to and yell, “Why are you so needy?” Sometimes it might even be your own child, or spouse. Sometimes it is a person who truly IS too needy and no matter what you do for them, they always need more. I know I have had people in my life from time to time that I just avoid, because they are always exhaustingly trying to get their needs met.
When I am honest, I recognize that I am not always the best at getting my own needs met. Sometimes I don’t even know what my needs are. I just know I NEED something.
And of course we have all kinds of different needs. We need air to breathe, we need food and water, we need clothing and shelter, we need rest, we need stimulation, we need each other, and the list goes on.
As you look at this Pocket Principle, you will discover an interesting fact. The reason we have needs and the reason we are all so needy is because God created us that way. Read on to discover what God had in mind when He created us with needs and how he had planned all along to satisfy our needs.
“Run Forest Run”- That often seems the best advice on how many managers, parents and friends manage conflict. But is avoiding conflict really the best way to manage it?
When we avoid or run from conflict rarely do we see it go away. Sure it might go away for a while, but all to often, it rears it’s ugly head again and often, while at rest, the beast grows even larger!
What if we took the time to understand conflict for what it really is and learned to manage the process of how to resolve it? For example let’s begin with the premise that not only is conflict normal but it is even profitable! ￼
A wise supervisor once told me if we all thought the exact same thing that the company would only need one of us. Each of us brings a unique point of view, skill set and perspective to any situation. That is what makes us valuable and it is also what is the root of conflict-differences. The issue is not whether we have differing points of view but rather how we manage our emotions and ego through the process.
This makes sense at a core level, however managing, and profiting from conflict is not so easy to do! The key in handling conflict is to be prepared before you enter the fray. There are lots of books on the subject, anger management classes and web sites devoted to the topic. How do you choose?
Well if you believe in God, it might be a good idea to understand how the creator of the universe, the One who invented emotions, the Alpha and Omega of human development and understanding designed a process for us to be both unique and to live together in peace.
Worldwide Discipleship Association, Inc has discovered nine key Biblical principles, drawn from scripture, which provide key understandings and methods for resolving conflict.
For example have you read about how Paul taught the Philippians to work at developing agreement, not just being agreeable?
Or how we can receive correction without it damaging our self-image?
My mother used to tell my brother and sister and I to “fight nice”! As I continue to study and grow I find that conflict is not to be avoided. Wade right in. Learn something in the process but understand that it is a process and equip yourself how to do it well.
As a counselor, I meet with people one-on-one all day long. It’s rewarding, exhausting and humbling. As much as I believe in the value of individual counseling, there is another way of helping people heal that I believe is, in many ways, more powerful.
Oh, how I love a group, in all its messiness, closeness, vulnerability and intimacy.
At WDA, our materials are designed to be used in groups. We believe in the vast restorative power of a group. We use groups for our discipleship materials and for our Restoring Your Heart materials.
There is a reason “small groups” are so popular in churches today. We all crave intimacy. We are designed for intimate relationships with each other and a healthy small group is the perfect place to “figure out” intimacy. Most of us really don’t know how to be closely connected to others because we have been hurt by others. We don’t trust, it is risky, and we would rather not take the chance. Yet, in avoiding closeness, we go against our created design. So, we get caught in an approach/avoidance relational intimacy dilemma.
With that in mind, I want to encourage you in three ways.
1. Embrace the risk of either being in a small group or starting a small group.
No matter what the stated purpose of your small group, whether it be Bible study, fellowship, discipleship or emotional healing, no matter what materials you use or don’t use for your small group, there is an overriding transcendent goal for your group.
Cloud and Townsend, in their book Making Small Groups Work, refer to this goal as the ministry of reconciliation. In aiming for this goal, we (the group) are not supposed to be the moral police, we are supposed to be the restorer’s of life. We achieve reconciliation in a small group by combining grace, truth and time with our desire to connect with God and with others. We use a small group to be restored to God, to learn how to relate to others and to experience and practice grace and forgiveness.
And, yes, it is messy sometimes. There will be conflict. There will be unease. There will be anxiety and unsurety. But, don’t you have all of those in your life anyway? And isn’t it frequently hard to navigate those waters?
The beauty of a healthily functioning small group is that all these things can happen, but all these things can also be successfully navigated, dealt with and the group members restored to relationship with each other. There is nothing more exciting and bonding than to experience this reconciliation in a group.
Take notes while you are reading it and think about ways you can use these principles in your own life. This book is one of the best books available about small groups.
3. Read this Short Story.
I was leading a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group several years ago. When leading these groups, I use one of several workbooks dealing with emotional issues that are written by WDA staff. With this particular group, I was using the Processing Pain Workbook, which deals with childhood issues and then moves into grieving and forgiveness.
The group consisted of myself, the co-leader and three other women all of whom had bi-polar disorder. (If you want to learn more about bi-polar disorder, click here.) My “starting out” goal for the group was to help these women see the impact their past had on them and move them joyfully into emotional health within the 18 week group time frame.
About three weeks into the group, I realized that my lofty goal was out the window. These women could not focus on the material or on their past long enough to gain much insight from it. They were having so many problems navigating their daily lives, largely because of their bi-polar disorder, that they were overwhelmed. Each week, one or all of them would come in with a present day crisis that needed to be discussed.
So, I readjusted my goal for the group. Once I let go of my agenda, I realized that these women were gaining much more benefit from the group just by being in a place where they were heard. So we moved through the workbook slowly and incrementally. Usually each week, we spent roughly one-third of the group time on the material, sneaking it in and out of our conversations. They all gained some small understanding of the impact of their past, and they gained a little benefit from talking about grieving and forgiveness.
But, the huge benefit they gained from the group was a chance to bond, experience intimacy and be heard. In other words, they experienced the ministry of reconciliation. Our group lasted about 6 months, much longer than the prescribed 18 weeks. During this time, I realized that the Holy Spirit was going to do a much better job of leading this group than I was and He was going to help these women experience intimacy at a more experiential level than the materials could. The group ended when one group member went to jail and another one went into the hospital. The workbook was still not completed.
Did this group challenge every aspect of my group-leading experiences and desires? Absolutely! Do I consider this one of the more successful groups I have ever lead? Definitely! Grace, truth and time came together and created intimacy for women who rarely experience it.
And now, following the encouragement, a challenge for you.
Look for ways you can experience intimacy in a small group environment.
Move towards the messiness that results in closeness and reconciliation.
You’re in the grocery store with your 4 year old, in a hurry, stressed. You have to buy something for dinner, and get home to cook it fast so you can take your 9 year old to soccer practice. You had a bad day at work. Right in front of the check-out counter, in that wide area where all the other shoppers are standing and waiting to check out, your 4 year old flings a major fit. Yep, complete with yelling, falling on the floor and crying.
Your 11 year old comes home from school complaining about how nobody likes him, and he has too much homework. The bus driver accused him of doing something that he didn’t do and now he is getting punished for it. The school lunch was terrible, his teacher hates him and life is unfair.
Your 16 year old daughter wants to go to the school dance with a boy that you don’t know and you don’t know his parents and you just generally don’t want to release her yet. When you tell her “No” she cannot go, she yells at you that you are the meanest parent ever and stomps out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
How do you handle these scenarios?
All parents have been, or will be, in similar situations. Times when it will be necessary to help your child deal with and handle his emotions. In order to do this, you, as a parent, will have to be able to deal with and handle your emotions. (See Parenthood:Thing 1 and Thing 2 for more on your emotions.)
So let’s take a quick look at a concept that will be helpful to understand, Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is a skill that we can learn and that we can teach our children.
If you have never heard of emotional intelligence before, listen up. If you have heard of it, here is a refresher course.
Simply defined, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what we are feeling and why, the ability to manage our emotions, the ability to notice emotions in other people and the ability to use our emotions to relate to other people.
Research has shown that people with Emotional Intelligence skills are more successful in work situations, do better in school and have better relationships. Sounds like something we would all want for our children, right? Also, children with EI skills are more resilient when bad, uncomfortable or unfair things happen to them. Which they will in this world.
We learn EI skills by relating to other people. As parents, we have a huge opportunity to model and teach these skills to our children. So with that in mind, here are four basic ways that we can help our children become more emotionally intelligent.
Be available and accessible to your child. When relating to your child treat him with respect, develop empathy for him and model assertiveness.
Help your child identify and name his feelings. Sometimes a child won’t even know what he is feeling. When you as a parent are empathetic, you can guess what he might be feeling and give it a name. Children need to have a good “emotion words” vocabulary.
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings. A child needs to know it is okay to talk about feelings, both good and bad. This will help him to not be a “feelings stuffer”.
Validate your child’s feelings. In other words, let him know that it is okay to feel whatever he is feeling. Then, help him express his feelings in healthy ways to the right people.
Using these skills with your child will help him feel good about himself and his world. And when a child feels good, his behavior is less likely to be bad.
So consider this…..
Do you understand your own emotions well enough to help your child understand his?
Are there ways and times when you have noticed that relating to your child in an emotionally healthy way has been beneficial?
Since God created us as relational beings, wouldn’t it be wonderful to help your child be able to relate well to other people (especially you!)?
We often find it difficult to share our faith because we want to first form relationships with people. Avoiding preachy self-righteousness, we try to get to know others before talking about Jesus. We prefer to talk about work, culture, and ordinary stuff first. This springs from a proper concern to not come off as stiff evangelists but as real, caring people.
Love Not Proselytize Your Neighbor
This concern to have a relationship before sharing the gospel has some biblical warrant. Jesus said: “Love your neighbor,” not proselytize your neighbor. To proselytize is to coerce or induce people to believe what you believe. The person who proselytizes coerces by forcefully defending and advancing their beliefs. Remember the film The Big Kahuna? Grabbing evidence and opportunities, Christians back their co-workers into a theological corner, expecting them to throw up their hands and say, “I believe!” Other times, proselytizing takes the form of recruitment. We might try to convince people to join our moral or political agenda, as if Jesus wants to add to his numbers to strengthen a political constituency.
When we proselytize people, we reduce discipleship to an intellectual enterprise. In effect, we replace the gospel with doctrinal agreement (or just being right). When we focus on recruitment, we make Christianity about power or morality. This replaces the gospel with religion or rightwing politics. But Paul shared a gospel that was all about Jesus, preaching Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:1). He resolved to preach Christ not politics. Similarly, when sharing our faith, we need to make Jesus the stumbling block not morality or politics. When we put doctrinal, moral, and political blocks in front of the gospel, we proselytize instead of love. Proselytizing requires the mind and the will, but love requires heart, mind, and will.
“When sharing our faith, we need to make Jesus the stumbling block not morality or politics.”
I’ve had countless conversations with non-Christians in which I’ve had to remove these stumbling blocks in order to get to the heart with the wonderful news of the gospel. Getting to the heart takes time. We need what Michael Frost calls “Slow Evangelism.” We need faith in God and love for people that slows us down to listen to others well, so that we can learn how to make the good news good to their bad news. For many, hearing that Jesus died on the cross for them is entirely irrelevant; we have to show the relevance of Jesus to their real need. Relationships are essential to discerning and meeting real needs. It was Francis Schaeffer who said: “Give me an hour with a non-Christian and I’ll listen for forty-five minutes. Only then, in the last fifteen minutes, will I have something to say.” We often hesitate to share our faith because we want people to know that we value them, regardless of their response. But if we truly value them, we wont simply “wait” to share the gospel; we will embody it by listening well.
Wonderful Doesn’t Wait
Have you ever noticed when you encounter something truly wonderful, you don’t always wait for a relationship to tell someone? There are things that are so urgent, so weighty, so wonderful that we burst out to talk about them whether we have a relationship or not! When our sports team scores to win the game, we don’t look around the stadium and think: “I can’t tell people how happy I am about this win. I don’t even know them!” No, we don’t wait to express our joy; we burst out when our team wins. We celebrate with strangers and go nuts on social media. When we’re at a concert and our favorite song is played, and the band is really rocking, we don’t wait to sing along or comment. We sing and chat it up with strangers. After reading a book or seeing a great movie, perhaps the Hunger Games, we strike up conversation with people at work about how great the movie was.
When something is truly wonderful, we often don’t wait to talk about it. Is the news about Jesus so urgent, weighty, and wonderful that we can’t help but share it? It is, but often it’s not as fresh as the game, concert, or movie. Why? Very often this is because we aren’t immersed in the goodness of the gospel. It is old, memorized, fading news because we haven’t had a fresh encounter with Christ in weeks! The wonder is lost because we haven’t plunged ourselves into Christ-centered worship, prayer, or Bible meditation. We are most likely to talk about the gospel when the good news is good news to us.
“We are most likely to talk about the gospel when the good news is good news to us.”
Have you ever considered what would have happened if Jesus had waited until he had a relationship with the thief on the cross to offer him eternal life? What if authors, pastors, and preachers waited to tell you the good news until they had a relationship with you? Sometimes there are things that are so wonderful, they don’t deserve a wait!
Jonathan K. Dodson(MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.