Let’s explore the reasons people break off a relationship, quite a job, or divorce. When we know a cause then we can find a solution. I was the kind of person that was upset about everything though I wanted peace. I was quick to get angry. Why? After many years of research and thinking deeply of possible causes, I figured out the solution. After trying the solution, I can testify it works. I chose the picture above as an example of what is destroying relationships today; offenses from political differences.
Think back to a time you were upset about something. Why were you upset? What caused you to get upset? Does the picture of this post upset you? In this post I want to challenge you to think deeply about what causes arguments and strife. It is helpful to journal your thoughts concerning causes for strife in your relationships.
Let’s begin our exploration with the following understanding. Most of us are self-centered people, and we live and work with self-centered people, who want our own way. And, we don’t know how to love well. Would you agree?
Whatever the reasons for strife, it always comes down to someone becoming offended, then getting upset. An offense is a resentment, hurt feeling, or displeasure from unfairness, mistreatment, disrespect, betrayal, being ignored or not getting what they want. Becoming offended can happen many times a day, especially when you have to share the road with other drivers or space with another person or watching the news. So, be mindful of the times you are annoyed, angry, miffed, irritated, frustrated, etc. Why? Really think about why. Why do you think you got offended?
A major cause of strife is pride. Pride caused me to be offended most of the time. I would think the following thoughts: “How dare someone (fill in the blank).” “They had no right to do that.” “Who do they think they are?” If you were honest as to why you get upset, you too would recognize a pride issue. Please read my post on pride to learn more: HOW PRIDE DESTROYS
Another cause for strife is when someone says something hurtful that creates an offense in our hearts. Often words hurt our pride. A person’s words reveal the condition of their heart. Therefore, the person saying the hurtful words is also hurting from offenses they have stored in their hearts. Read the following posts for a better understanding: WORDS HAVE POWER—Part I: Overcoming The Destruction of Offensive Words and WORDS HAVE POWER—PART II: Words produce death or life energy
Another cause for strife is unrealistic expectations. For example, I became upset with my husband because he did not take care of me when I was sick like his father takes care of his mother. This is an unrealistic expectation because my husband is not like his father, and it is not reasonable for me to expect him to be. Once I realized why I was offended, then I could deal with it rationally. But before I rationally thought through why I was irritated with my husband, I said a hurtful things to him. My hurtful words caused him to become offended, then he said hurtful things back. Do you see how this situation could escalate quickly and dissolve the relationship?
Unresolved negative issues also cause strife. For example, I became offended by the words on an anniversary card my wonderful husband gave me. The card reminded me of an unresolved painful issue with my first husband. Unfortunately, I allowed the offense to get into my heart and control my feelings, and I became miserable and said hurtful things. When I dealt with the negative issue with my first husband that caused me to be offended, then I could resolve my offense and live in peace. To become free from the control of our past negative heart issues and painful memories, I invite you to visit my website and read my short book: 1–Healing Begins by Transforming Painful Memories
As soon as we recognize we do not have peace, we should ask if we are offended. When we become offended, we enter the fight-or-flight mode. The fight-or-flight stress response stimulates the lower brain and we enter survival mode. Survival mode stops us from thinking rationally about the situation, which is why relationships dissolve quickly. You know you are in survival mode when you become upset when a goal or expectation is not met. If you see yourself losing control of your emotions, walk back your emotions and ask, why am I upset? Why is this important to me? What is my part in this disagreement or unexpected negative situation? What solution do I need for a win/win? What am I willing or not willing to do? Consider if the concern causing you to lose peace is within your circle of influence. If it is not, then let it go or pray about it. These are only suggested questions to help you think rationally and not reactively.
Think about the last argument you were in or the last time you were frustrated. Using the definition of an offense, which is a resentment, hurt feeling, or displeasure from (fill in the blank), can you identify what you or the other person was offended about? As you may have already figured out, being offended is the single most destructive force in any relationship. But once you discover the cause of the offense then you can work to solve it. My short book called “Hope for Complete Healing” on my website identifies many causes for offense and the solution. I encourage you to read it so you can love well and have stronger relationships.
Follow these seven actions for a great relationship, or eight for SUPER GREAT!
1) Always stay in forgiveness and do not hold grudges. Expect that your partner/spouse/friend will let you down and may not meet your expectations from time to time. Being offended blocks love, kindness, peace, joy, and patience.
2) Be thankful for strengths and abilities and focus on these. It is easy to focus on what you don’t like and tell them about it.
3) Be committed. Genuine commitment is to be wholly focused on what is best and what will strengthen the relationship.
4) Communicate complete thoughts. Don’t assume the other person heard you or understands. Have a respectful discussion to help you convey your meaning and expectations. Don’t mind read and make assumptions. Seek to understand what the other person is thinking without being critical.
5) Resolve conflicts using the “pen method.” The person holding the pen explains their perspective and logic. Then hand the pen to the other person, and they reflect on what they heard you say and explains their perspective and rationale. Go back and forth until you come to a win/win for both people.
6) Create a relationship vision or mission statement. Ask yourself and each other this question: “How do I want our relationship to be in 5, 10, 15, or 30 years. Write out a plan to accomplish your vision or mission.
7) Work through past issues, so your reactions and expectations are not controlled by your past.
8) Make the Lord and the Word of God a priority in your life and relationships. The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so if you want to be wise, then God needs to be your source.
If you ever get a chance, go to a Mark Gungor marriage seminar called “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.” He is funny and to the point. Go to https://markgungor.com/. On this website is a test that determines what motivates you the most. He calls it the Flag Page, because it determines what country you are from: Control, Perfect, Peace, or Fun. Finding out what motivated me was very helpful to understand why I do what I do. It was also very helpful to know what motivates my husband.
To learn healthy behaviors for a healthy relationship, I encourage you to read the adapted summary of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Healthy Thinking and Behaving from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People