Category Archives: Communication

The Frog Story as told by Rick Warren

I thought the following was worth sharing (although I didn’t write it):

Rick Warren: As a child, I remember reading a story that went something like this:

A group of 12 frogs were traveling together through a forest when two of them fell into a very deep, dark pit. The other 10 frogs gathered around the pit. When they realized how deep it was, they were certain this was the end of their two friends.

The two frogs who’d fallen into the pit started jumping with all their might to get out. But from the perspective of safety, the other 10 frogs began to urge the trapped frogs to stop trying and just accept their fate. They kept yelling, “You’re in too deep! There’s no way you’ll get out of this! It’s impossible! Save your strength and die peacefully!”

But the two frogs at the bottom ignored the comments and kept trying to jump out. Still, the safe frogs kept yelling, “It’s no use! It’s hopeless! Save your energy!” Finally, one of the frogs in the pit got so discouraged by all the negative news, that he gave up and died.

But the other frog kept jumping harder and harder. And with every jump, he seemed to get stronger and stronger! It was an amazing effort to watch. Finally, he made it out to safety!

The other frogs looked at him in astonishment and asked, “Why did you keep trying so hard when we were all urging you to give up?”

Interpreting what they said from their gestures, the frog explained, “Well, actually I’m deaf–so I couldn’t HEAR a word you were saying. But I could SEE you were all shouting vigorously at me. I assumed it meant you believed I could make it and were encouraging me to not give up. So I was determined to keep trying as long as you believed in me!”

Rick then asked these questions: During this virus crisis, are your words helping or harming? Are you spreading hope or fear? Are your words encouraging or discouraging? Your words have a powerful effect on those around you, especially your family.

From Jorja: May we be a beacon of hope in the darkness!

 

 

The Subtleties of Taking Control

The Lord periodically reminds me that I need to beware of trying to take control when I shouldn’t. It happens so subtly. Even though God has given me a helpful way to discern when I’m overstepping my bounds (see my article, “Communication: God’s Role & My Role” in the communication category), I still slip up now and then. I’ll share a recent example.

I have a 39 year old special needs son named Shon. Like all of us, he likes to have as much control over his life as possible. One day, I learned that he was sometimes feeding his dog human food from the dining table. There were two negative results: (a) the dog would sometimes jump up and take food and (b) the food sometimes made the dog sick.

I told our son I had an idea: he could put his dog into her kennel while he’s eating. He subtly resisted the idea. What I should have done, at that point, is said, “OK, it’s just a suggestion. What ideas do you have?” Instead, I tried to convince him it was a good idea. That only upset him. The ultimate goal is for my son to exercise self-control, and that’s a matter for prayer.

Later that day, the Lord revealed my mistake to me. So I told Shon’s helper to just ask my son if he wants to put his dog in her kennel when it’s time to eat, and then do as he says. Meanwhile, I just prayed. A few days later I learned that Shon was no longer feeding the dog from the table.

In short, it’s fine if I present ideas for someone to consider, but I shouldn’t try to persuade them to do what I’ve suggested.

Share Honestly

Because of my people-pleasing personality, I struggle, at times, with sharing my feelings and view-points. But I know it’s important to do so because, if I don’t, then I may be faced with a situation where I’m going in a direction I’m not at peace about.

Here’s a recent example. I have a little Facebook page that one of my daughters set up for me. I use it to notify people when I post on my blog. The problem is, I understand very little about how to use it. I know how to post on it, but that’s all. I don’t know how to read, or reply to, people’s comments. Until I learn how to do that, I want my readers to know that I’m not intentionally ignoring them. I would very much like to communicate, I just don’t know how to do it on that particular page.

So, I decided to tell my Facebook readers about my limited computer knowledge and ask them to respond on my blog, instead, where I know how to find their comments and reply to them. When I mentioned this to my husband, he felt I should simply ask them to communicate with me through my blog, without mentioning my lack of computer knowledge. He was being protective. As a retired businessman, he was watching out for my professional image. He felt my readers might not respect me as a writer if they knew I wasn’t technologically savvy and up to date. Therefore, initially, I just said “ok,” but later felt I needed to explain my perspective to my husband.

I was concerned about the feelings of those who had already sent messages (that I didn’t know how to read or respond to). I wanted them to understand why I wasn’t responding to their messages. So, I told my husband that I appreciated and respected his protective concern for my professional reputation, but I’d rather be transparent with my readers. He understood my feelings and was not offended that I decided not to follow his suggestion.

For those of you who, like me, have difficulty sharing your thoughts and feelings with people who have a different viewpoint, I want to encourage you to pray for the courage to do so, and for the wisdom to know how to do it. Then step out in faith, and respectfully share your thoughts.

Encourage One Another

“…encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Th 5:11

If God puts it on your heart to encourage someone, do it. They may need a love touch at that moment, and you might be surprised to discover that you need one, too!

I once wrote to one of our daughters telling her that I admired how she and her husband were handling a certain situation, especially in light of my feeling that I had fallen short as a parent in that area. She thanked me, and then proceeded to tell me all the ways she felt my husband and I had been successful in the way we modeled that behavior for our children. I thanked her (and God) for that love touch! My intention was to encourage them, but I discovered that I needed it, too!

Know Your Listener

Since we all have different backgrounds and personalities, our needs may differ, as well. Something that’s beneficial for me may not be beneficial to the person I’m talking to.

I’ll share an example. I’m a very meditative type of person. I often reflect on past mistakes and look for lessons in them so I can try to improve. (However, I do have to be careful to let go of the regrets and just hang on to the lessons.)

My husband, on the other hand, prefers to forget past mistakes because, for him, they are more a source of regret and guilt than a positive learning experience. He does, however, graciously allow me to share some of our mistakes (and the lessons I learned) on my blog. So, I need to prayerfully discern whether or not to share certain thoughts with him. Will it benefit him, or hurt him?

That’s a good question to ask ourselves in any conversation. Will our words benefit the listener? Being aware of the listener’s needs will help us to know the answer to that question.

Be Sensitive First, Then Honest

A recent failure on my part reminded me to monitor my initial reactions to an unpleasant experience. Thankfully, my insensitivity didn’t bother my husband Tom as much as I feared it had, but I’m always striving to improve.

My husband wasn’t feeling well, so he opted out of a family gathering. I had a relaxing day with my two daughters, a son-in-law, my four grandchildren, and my step dad. Our fun interactions were mixed with emotionally touching moments. I drove home in a quiet car mentally singing, “Life without God’s love is like a doughnut…there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”* I prayed that everyone could be filled with God’s love.

When I got home and walked into the house, Tom was on the couch and he had music blaring loudly. It was a startling contrast to my mood. I said, “Hi” and we smiled at each other, and then at a volume to match the music, I yelled, “Do you think it’s loud enough?” He turned it off and I asked how he was feeling and said I wanted to hear about his day as soon as I unloaded the car. (That part was okay.) Then I sat next to him and, feeling badly about my comment on the volume of the music, said he could turn it back on, just not so loud. He left it off and we discussed how the day had gone for each of us. (He had a relaxing day.) So far, we were doing fine. After I showed him the pictures, I got absorbed into editing them. He then headed off to bed and I feared he was feeling ignored. It turned out he was mostly just tired.

The next morning, I confessed my insensitivity and apologized and asked how it had made him feel. Then I explained how the contrast in mood had startled me and that loud music actually hurts my ears.

So, if I were to do that scene over, it would look something like this: I’d enter and say, “Hi! How are you feeling?” (Listen to his answer.) Then I’d say, “I want to unload the car, then I’d like to hear about your day.” After unloading the car, I would sit by his side, and if he hadn’t already turned the music down, say, “Would you mind turning the music off while we talk?” Then we’d share about our days and I’d do the photo editing when I was alone. The next day, at an appropriate time, I’d share my feelings about the music.

I’m blessed to be married to a man who cares about my feelings, so we’re both working on being more sensitive and honest with each other.

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*The partial quote is from a Rob Evans “Donut Man” song. The whole line says, “Life without God’s love is like a doughnut, like a doughnut, like a doughnut. Life without God’s love is like a doughnut, ‘cuz there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”

 

The Subtleties of Usurping Initiative

I need to be aware of the subtle ways I unintentionally usurp another person’s initiative.

Regardless of whether or not I intend to be helpful, when I do for another person what they could do for themselves, I’m not being helpful. In fact, I’m actually hindering their growth. I will share a few examples.

My husband and son were serving in a church program for children. We received an email stating the date that the two of them would present the lesson. I almost answered it to let them know Tom would be out of town. Thankfully, before I did, I noticed the string of emails below it and saw that Tom had already worked out an alternative date. Even if Tom had not answered, the correct thing to do would be to simply ask Tom if he saw the email and then leave it in his hands. That correspondence had nothing to do with me, so it was not my place to answer it. To do so would be usurping his initiative.

Another area where I have been guilty of this is by playing middle man (a very dangerous position to be in, especially if not invited to do so). When raising children, a mother is often called upon to be a peacemaker. It takes time and conscious practice to step out of this role when dealing with adults (our adult children or other adults). I am learning that adults must decide for themselves if, when, and with whom they wish to share their feelings. It is not my place to share one person’s feelings with another without their permission, even if my desire is to help them work things out. To do so would be usurping their initiative. (I would also be guilty of breaking a confidence by sharing something without permission.)

Often, I’ve heard wives state that they wish their husband would be the leader of the family. I think part of the problem is that we wives must first learn how to stop leading. It takes patience to wait for someone to take the initiative, but I’m learning to pray and wait, rather than just jump in and take charge. I’m also learning how Tom perceives some of my casual comments, and I’m trying not to make them. For example, once, when we were at the beach, Tom was given a booklet he didn’t want. As we walked along, I said, “There are trash cans if you want to get rid of that.” He made a sound that indicated he didn’t want to do that, so I kept quiet. If he wanted to carry it, that was fine with me. A few trash cans later, he dropped it in the trash can and jokingly said he was depositing it in the circular file. I said nothing, but I started pondering why he often ignores my suggestion and then later does what I had suggested. I decided that, while it may be subconscious on his part, it flows out of his God given drive to be the initiator and the fact that he doesn’t like to be told what to do unnecessarily. Tom agreed with my assessment. In regard to this incident, he was capable of deciding for himself if he wanted to get rid of a booklet or not.

Sometimes letting others take the initiative involves the courage to allow a loved one to possibly fail or make a mistake. I have to fight my tendency to want to rescue someone from the consequences of their failure to act. So, I might want to remind them of an upcoming deadline, for example. I’m learning to keep quiet and pray, if I have not been asked to be the person’s secretary. When they’re successful, I can praise them. When they aren’t, I can trust they’ll learn valuable lessons from their mistakes, just as I do.

I’m thankful the Lord, my husband, and our children are so patient with me. I am continually learning and trying to improve.

Wait For Unity

I have been guilty of two opposite mistakes in my marriage.

  • I didn’t share my feelings honestly with my husband and just let him have his way even when I disagreed, or
  • I tried to persuade him to my point of view.

 

Both are wrong. As a couple, what we should do is honestly share our feelings with each other and then pray and wait until we are truly united in our decision. If one person is just giving in to the other to make peace, the relationship will suffer.

 

The Bible says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”(Proverbs 11:14, NIV. The emphasis is mine.) At the very least, a husband and wife should be listening to each other with open minds and hearts. There may also be times when it’s good to run our ideas by trusted friends who know us well, or perhaps talk to an objective professional counselor.

 

As a married couple, our goal should be to make decisions that best meet both of our needs. That usually requires a willingness to compromise. If we’ll seek the Lord together and allow Him time to work in our hearts and circumstances, He will guide us into His perfect plan for us. We may each have to surrender some of our personal desires, but God’s desires are always best for us.

 

So, when our opinions differ, we should:

 

  • Lovingly and respectfully share our ideas with each other.
  • Listen to each other with an open mind and heart.
  • Seek the Lord together for solutions.
  • Wait until we are truly of one mind and heart. (That means waiting until the Lord can change our desires and replace them with His desires for us, or it may mean waiting on the Lord to change our circumstances.)

We serve a God of unity and harmony. That should be our goal, also.

Encouragement Vs. Persuasion

Through a dietary experience, I learned an important lesson on the difference between encouragement and persuasion.

One of our daughters had referred us to a nutritionist that had helped her dramatically when no medical doctor could find the cause of her severe pain. I decided to take Shon to that nutritionist. We listened, and I encouraged Shon to give it a try and said I’d do it along with him. The first step was a Candida cleanse diet which is very strict. I was proud of how well Shon was doing, but I noticed a marked contrast between his experience and mine. I was experiencing supernatural self-control and joy, while Shon, though doing well, needed continual encouragement, since he was feeling overwhelmed and burdened, and thus complained often. His complaints were wearing me down.

After a few weeks, during one of my quiet times with the Lord, the answer came to me. I realized that I had been guilty of imposing the diet on Shon. It had not been his prayerful decision. So, I called him, shared my revelation, and said he could pray and decide whether or not to continue, and to what degree, if he did. Both of us felt like a huge burden had been lifted off our shoulders!

Out of that experience, I was reminded that there’s a big difference between persuading and encouraging. Persuasion is when we try to get someone to agree with us. Encouragement is when we come alongside someone and encourage them in their decisions. (Exception: If their decisions go against our conscience, we can just pray for them.)

Jesus said, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:30) If He has called us to something, He will empower us. If we’re trying to do something in our own strength, even if we’re successful, it will most likely feel like a burden if it is not something we naturally enjoy.

Therefore, in the future, when I introduce an idea to someone, I will simply suggest that they pray about it and make their own decision. If they ask for my help or opinion, I will give it. But the decision will be theirs!

Sharing Dreams

In our early years of marriage, Tom and I had many dreams that we were excited to discuss, and some of them turned into big adventures, such as our decision to move from Long Beach, CA to a small town of about 250 people in up-state N.Y. just to experience something very different. We lived there for 6 years, then returned to California.

 

Now fast forward to 2016. Our children were grown, we had two grandchildren (with more on the way), and Tom was retired. We had settled into a comfortable routine with periodic travel adventures. But something had started to happen that was not good. We were not as excited about discussing our dreams with each other mainly because, when we did, we’d often experience a lack of interest in our partner. The Lord is helping us to re-learn how to listen respectfully and with open minds to each other’s ideas.

 

The only way to discover which dreams are from God is to look into them together and see where we end up. This requires respectful, receptive listening on the part of the partner who may not be initially excited by their spouse’s idea. And the one with the dream needs to be patient with the hesitant partner. Instead of shutting down, we need to prayerfully discuss the ideas and do the necessary research or perhaps simply take a step of faith that we have agreed on and see where that takes us.

 

The Bible tells us to treat others the way we’d like to be treated. Since I like Tom to listen respectfully to my ideas, I need to do the same for him. This opens the door to good communication.