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Doing Life Together

presidential-election-1336480_1280When I was in college and on break for Thanksgiving vacation, my very loud and opinionated family started discussing politics.

We all know the rule—stay away from politics during a holiday gathering. Well, we didn’t and two of my uncles had me in tears as we discussed the results of a presidential election. The conversation was quite contentious. I found it quite disturbing as I was raised in a Christian family.

Politics seems to bring out the worse in us, especially this year when the election has seen unprecedented questions of character and biased reporting.  And I believe that social media and traditional broadcast have inflamed the process.

And Christians have done their share of voicing their opinions and joining in on social media in not so admirable ways. I know people who de-friended a number of Facebook friends because they couldn’t take the posting. Shouldn’t we be held to a higher standard in terms of what we say, how we say it and how we respond to our friends, family and fellow church goers?

In 1 Peter 2:12, Peter says to the suffering church, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

So yes, it bothers me when I hear fellow believers talking in mean-spirited ways about their opposing candidate. It’s one thing to disagree with their policies, comment on character issues, stand up for our beliefs, but let’s not be guilty of being less than honorable. The name-calling, vilification, angry speech needs to stop-before and after an election. Even in the face of distress, let’s keep our loyalty to Christ who loved his enemies and asks us to do the same.

Get out there and vote. Whether or not your candidate wins or loses, remember, none of this will be a surprise to God. There is no panic going on in heaven. Prayer is our response. And self-control is a fruit of the spirit.

Our hope is not in who occupies the oval office. Yes, it is important and our future is impacted by the policies and actions the next president takes. There is much at stake. But our hope is in Christ and the transforming power of the Gospel to change people. So no matter what, don’t be discouraged or dismayed, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, submit to him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

money-256319_1920Money is a part of relationship issues from the moment you begin to date.  Who will pay, how will transactions be handled? Then there is the wedding. CNN estimates the average cost is $32,405! Yikes!

Once the commitment is made, raising a family isn’t cheap either. From college tuition to assisted living, money arguments  are the top predictor of divorce, according to research from Kansas State University.

In fact, a 2011 study by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University found that married couples who disagreed about money once a week, were twice as likely to divorce as those who differed less than once a month. Money arguments run deep because they usually represent something else related to power, control, self-esteem, etc.

So if you are having money woes in your relationship, here are a few tips to get back on track:

  1. Tell the truth about your debt and spending habits. Too many couples hide their debt from each other and then find out they are in trouble. This action erodes trust in a relationship. No matter how much you feel ashamed or the debt you’ve accrued, be honest and transparent. It’s difficult to develop intimacy when hiding the truth.
  2. Discuss purchases BEFORE you make them. This prevents anger and resentment. Make it a rule–we talk first, agree and then spend.
  3. Establish a budget. Budgets are factual and take the guess work out of spending. Be honest about what should be in the budget and how much discretionary spending is possible. You will need to define what discretionary spending is–a cup of coffee, a meal out, a shirt, a new jacket? How much is up to each person to spend? Is it part of the budget?
  4. Stick to the budget, especially if you are trying to dig out debt. Debt creates relationship stress. Having a plan to reduce debt will help relieve that stress, but you have to stick with the budget you develop.  Even if you struggle with this, having a budget develops the expectation that there are spending limits and rules.
  5. Ask about your partner’s family’s attitude towards money. This is a must have conversation for any couple. Learning how your partner was raised in terms of money and then talking about the differences can head off problems.
  6. Do not love money, rather steward your money. The Bible tells us that it is the love of money that is problematic. Money can become an idol. The right attitude about money is given in Proverbs 23:4-5: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” While it is important to manage money responsibly, it is the love of it that gets us in trouble.
  7. Cultivate contentment. Don’t get caught up in wanting things you don’t need or you purchase to impress others. 1 Timothy 6:6-12  says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
  8. Finally, be generous with your giving to others. It is easy to become self-centered and stingy in our culture that tells you to constantly need more. But God’s way is to be generous with others in need.

 

conversation-799448_1920Jack left work late, didn’t call his wife and missed the school meeting.

When he finally arrived home, he looked at his wife and said, “Don’t start. I’ve had a lousy day!” No apology. He walked away and his wife was angry!

Not a good way to handle the situation. Missing from this interaction was an apology. Jack could have started with, “I am so sorry. I didn’t call you and I know you had to go to the meeting alone.” What a difference that would have made!

Conflict is inevitable. People fight. But when feelings are hurt and an  apology is missing, relationships suffer.

In order to avoid this, it is important to be mindful about the power of apology. When people in relationships decide to approach every disagreement with the idea that they might be wrong, there is an openness to repairing problems.

Apologies have the power to heal brokenness, to repair relationship damage, mend wounded hearts and more. They disarm an angry person, shows respect   to someone who has been hurt and de-escalate conflicts.

Apology also helps to decrease blood pressure and slow down the heart rate that tends to rise when conflict is present. Emotionally, it helps us forgive and move past anger and resentment. It is the glue that keeps people together. When we’ve been wronged, an apology opens the door for reconciliation.

Pastor Rick Warren tells us that 8 words are very powerful in  relationship conflict. If you find yourself in the middle of a fight and say, “I”m sorry. I was only thinking of myself,” watch how the atmosphere changes. Now, of course, you need to be sincere, but when we humble ourselves and acknowledge wrong-doing, relationships begin to heal.

What does it take to apologize? You should feel regret and tell the person how you feel. You should take responsibility for your part in the problem. Then, look for a remedy. What can you do to make amends?

So if there is a broken relationship in your life, consider the power of apology. It could be the thing that kick starts that relationship towards reconciliation.

halloween-519445_1920It’s Halloween and kids will come to our doors dressed in their favorite costumes.

What I’ve noticed is that the costumes for adults tended to be “naughty.” And some of the kid Halloween costumes  have the same theme.

Many of the costumes sexualize girls. Short skirts, fishnet stockings, revealing body parts — a sharp contrast to the boys. Take the pirate costume for example, eye patch, baggy pants and top for guys. Same for the girls except the girl pirate wear a short skirt.

Maybe you are thinking, really, Dr. Linda, now you are harping on costumes! I am, and here is why. I like to take every opportunity to point out  the cultural message to young girls about their bodies. In the day of pushing equal pay and women’s rights, we continue to tell young girls they are defined by their bodies.

Take the movie, Mean Girls, for example. The mean girls have a conversation, “Halloween is the one night a year you can be a slut and get away with it.” Then, they make fun of a girl who doesn’t dress like a slut. The message is, if you want to be cool, sexualize yourself. I know it’s only a movie but this type of message is given in music and other media.

It’s not just media that objectifies young girls, but also the fashion industry. And we know that sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandizing and media are harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development (American Psychological Association, 2007). Yet, it continues.

Halloween is a huge merchandizing holiday, filled with naughty and sexual costumes for fun! There is nothing “fun” about sexualizing young girls. I see the fall out of this message in middle schools, high schools and colleges–girls who think they have to be sexy in order to get noticed, and guys who think they have to score to be popular. Record rates of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction, along with negative self-image, are consequences of an over emphasis on physical beauty and sexing it up.

Parents, consider costume choices if your kids dress up. Find something that doesn’t demean or sexualize them. Teach them to have fun without being objectified!