As a marital therapist for the past 30 years, I have seen too many couples divorce over fixable problems. When I talk about fixable problems I am referring to couples who stop liking each other, grow apart and refuse to work on their marriages. Today, Christian couples have allowed their unhappiness to become an acceptable reason for divorce.
I can’t deny the growing numbers of people dissatisfied with their relationships and even hostile towards their once chosen mates. Relationship pain is real and hurts. However, an escape plan is not always the answer. Couple unhappiness can be remedied. But, it takes work, counseling and a return to the covenant vows for people divorcing over fixable issues.
The Bible clearly establishes God in covenant with His people. He then uses this covenant as a model for marriage. Both are defined as an unbreakable promise. The Bible is full of difficult covenant relationships in need of reconciliation. In fact, the most unusual is Hosea and Gomer. God instructs His prophet, Hosea to marry Gomer, “a wife of harlotry” (Hosea 1:2). During this period in history, God is disgusted with His people for their unfaithfulness and idolatry. The marriage of Gomer and Hosea, a symbolic and real act, deals with broken covenant and God’s desire to restore. Hosea endures the emotional pain of spouse betrayal, works through the restoration process and redeems the woman who has wronged him.
More couples could learn from the Hosea story. Sin is acknowledged, repentance happens, emotional pain is embraced and the couple eventually transformed. The power of God’s redemption is once again revealed.
One application of this powerful story is that healing is possible even when couples have a “biblical out.” Restoration and reconciliation are repeated biblical themes. Through out history God goes to extreme measures to woo his chosen and win back their hearts.
Sadly God’s covenant, whether in relationship with Him or marriage, is constantly challenged by our idolatry, adultery and rejection. We easily complain, feel abandoned when prayer isn’t immediately answered and become distracted by things that pull us away from intimacy. Then, like in our marriages, we stare into space, feeling numb and wonder, “What happened? I don’t feel intimate or connected.” Emotional distance ensues, a predictor of relationship breakup.
So could we learn something from the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, especially when marital problems are fixable? Think about it, you serve a God who wants to restore you to covenant with Him when you wander away. Maybe we need to be more restoring of our marital covenants as well.
The work environment is now a place of unleashed rage for too many Americans. Yelling and verbal abuse can be heard down the hallways of various companies and industries. The response to that behavior is something the media has dubbed, “desk rage”. That’s right, road rage, air rage…now desk rage.
From a psychological perspective, desk rage is rudeness, hostility, physical violence and aggression found in the workplace. A National Crime Victimization Survey (2000) found that Americans experienced approximately 2 million threats of violence and assaults at their workplace. Of that number, 1.5. million were simple assaults. And another study out of the University of North Carolina documented that at least half of the workers interviewed worried about rude and hostile behavior directed at them. This worry affected their work-related productiveness as well. Overall, revenue related to lost productivity, increased security, insurance related payment, and other expenses is estimated to cost employers between 6.4 and 36 billion dollars. And these are old statistics!
What’s going on that so many Americans are going postal?
Desk rage is triggered by stress–boredom, anxiety, lack of control, demands of the job, overcrowding, noise, etc. And while employers try to deal with the problem by finding solutions that decrease stress, such as more than flexible work hours or improved benefits, more is needed. People have to take personal responsibility and manager their anger and stress. Here are ten tips taken from my Breaking Free from Stress booklet:
- Be ready and accepting of change. Change is inevitable in today’s work environment. Adjust your expectations. Be ready for it instead of resisting it. Then roll with it.
- Don’t panic if you are laid off. With corporate downsizing, global market changes, outsourcing, etc. people lose their jobs even when they do well at their jobs. God has to be your ultimate source of provision. Trust God to help you deal with the loss and meet your needs.
- Get a quality education and explore fields that are growing such as technology and health care. Skill development helps make you more marketable. Stay current.
- Be a good steward of your finances. Don’t spend beyond your means or rack of credit card debt. Put money away for a difficult time. Money problems are stressful.
- Maximize your work time. Be clear on work expectations so you know how you will be evaluated. Minimize distractions and meet the goals or renegotiate goals.
- Have integrity on the job. Line up your behavior according to biblical directives. Guidelines for dealing with anger are in the Bible. Read what the Bible has to say and apply these guidelines to your work situations.
- Know what you can’t change and accept it.
- Be balanced. Have a life after work that involves relaxation, family, friends and a vibrant spiritual walk.
- Keep your humor. It relieves stress.
- Don’t easily take offense and offer forgiveness even when it isn’t requested.
If you need additional help, I suggest you pick up a copy of Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness. Stress will never disappear but our reaction to it must be appropriate. Wouldn’t it be great if our stressed out co-workers came to us and said, “Hey, you are in the middle of all this craziness too. How do you manage it?” What an opportunity to talk about the peace of God, the fruit of the spirit and forgiveness.
“I just feel anxious. I’m not thinking anything.”
Negative self-talk is behind anxious feelings. Your thoughts impact your feelings. Your feelings affect your view of the world, and that view negatively affects your thoughts. This vicious cycle keeps anxiety going. In order to stop anxiety, you’ve got to learn to stop anxious thoughts.
The work is to replace negative self-talk with positive talk.
Most anxious people think, “What if…”
Change the “What if…” to “So what,” and you’ll reduce anxiety.
Does this sound easy? It usually takes practice to break the habit of negativity. Anxious thoughts are automatic for people with anxiety problems. You feel anxious and are unaware of preceding thoughts. The first step is to identify your thoughts prior to an oncoming anxious feeling. The thought won’t always be obvious.
For example, Pat sat in a meeting with several of his superiors. He was nervous about his presentation and flashed back to a time early on in his career when he botched a presentation. These thoughts started running through Pat’s head, “What if I mess up again? I could get fired. I will embarrass myself.” The more Pat allowed these thoughts, the more anxious he became. By the time he stood up to give his presentation, he was close to panic.
Had Pat used his self-talk in a positive way, he may have warded off anxiety. “I messed up early on in my career. I’m much more experienced. I have done these presentations many times with good outcomes. I have every reason to believe these people will like what I have to say and be impressed.”
Do you hear the difference in self-talk? The first creates or reinforces anxious feelings. The second example dismisses anxious thoughts and builds confidence. Self-talk is that powerful.
If your self-talk is has these themes, time to make changes:
…I should have, I have to…You are the classic perfectionist who always falls short of the job and worries about your failures.
…I can’t believe I did that, How stupid, What an idiot I am…You are far too critical of yourself and need to give yourself a break! You need a shot of self-esteem.
…I can’t, I don’t have what it takes, I won’t be able to do it…You believe nothing will change and you can’t meet the challenge.
…What about…? You are the classic worrier. Nothing can happen without you bringing out all the possibilities for disaster or problems.
If you find yourself identifying with these statements, you need to change your thoughts. Write down positive statements that will counter the negative possibilities. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t do that because it’s too scary,” say, “It looks scary but I can meet a new challenge. The worse possible thing that can happen is that I’ll feel scared for a moment and then it will pass. I will have accomplished something new.”
After you’ve written down positive counter statements to your negative thoughts, practice saying the positive statements. Here’s one I give my kids when they tell me they can’t do something, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Is this all things? Yes, so you can do it.”
Next time you feel anxious, stop and ask, what was I thinking before I felt this way? Chances are it was a negative thought that needs changing.
If you could have one of the best antidotes for stress, would you take it? If I told you it is something that you can easily access and is free, would you want it? If I raved about how this one thing does everything, from decreasing the risk of heart attack, to stimulating the immune system, would you order it? Well, get ready, because it’s something you already have (At least I hope you have it.).
It’s humor! Now if you don’t have a sense of humor, get one. Read joke books, listen to comedy and learn to laugh at funny things. You are probably taking life too seriously and need to laugh at yourself and others at least once in awhile. Humor is a great stress reducer. It is also a self-care tool that fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. Humor releases emotions and stimulates the immune system.
Humor takes a stressful condition and turns it into a challenge. Studies at Cornell University found that people exposed to humor in the workplace were not only more creative problem-solvers, but they also could better see the consequences of their individual decisions. Humor defuses stress and makes it easier to look at a situation and do something about it. Humor is fun. It feels good to laugh and laughter does wonders for the physical body.
Now, I’m not suggesting you laugh off serious matters in your life. I don’t want you denying or avoiding problems. I’m simply saying that maintaining a sense of humor helps during serious times.
For example, my mother called one night. She was lamenting the number of family and friends ill with serious conditions. Then she injected a humorous thought: “You know why we have so many volunteers at the hospital (she used to volunteer)? It is because we never know who will be able to help and who will be in the beds.” We both started laughing. Humor is a release from the tension of the stress.
So, next time you feel stressed
- Try to laugh (Even forcing a laugh reduces stress!).
- Take a different perspective and try humor.
- Rent a silly movie.
- Tell a joke.
- Tickle someone.
- Play a crazy game.
You get the idea. Laughter may just might make you a healthier you!