Doing Life Together

leadership-2122020_1920Today we honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to American society. Of the many things he accomplished, he may be best known for promotion of non-violence during protests. And he certainly advocated love over hate.

How are we doing living out his words? Our scorecard isn’t good.

Maybe today we can pause and ask, “Are we choosing love over hate?” We have a choice when it comes to our reactions when things don’t go our way. While I can’t control the press, celebrities and others who will choose to be hateful and critical, I can control my mouth. I can look to the Bible for guidance.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Pause and mediate on this verse. Now, think about what you have said in your day-to-day conversations with friends and family. Have your words met the standard of Psalm 19:14?

1 Peter 2:12 tells us, “Keep your conduct honorable.”

Honorable conduct includes the words we say. Those words should not include name-calling, gloating, elitism, fear-mongering, hate, lying and disgust. Instead, we are to guard our hearts and mouths because words are powerful. Let’s not be guilty of behaving in ways that are disturbing. Let’s resist the urge to retaliate against those who are mean-spirited. Matthew 5:44 tells us to bless those who curse us and pray for those who spitefully use us. Ultimately, we are to love our enemies. This is only possible with a transformed heart.

James 3 tells us that we can praise our Lord and Father, but also curse our brothers and sisters who have been made in God’s likeness. The tongue is a fire, capable of consuming others. It must be tamed by the Holy Spirit in us. So before we speak, let’s check our words and ask the Lord to help us bless others rather than curse them.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Now is the time to model love, humility, and civility toward one another–whether you like or hate the direction of our country. Haven’t we had enough verbal attacks and negative messaging? Have we forgotten that mercy triumphs over judgment?

We, the people, can behave differently. Let’s start by controlling our tongue and actually treat each other with respect. Today, honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and God by choosing love over hate.

mistake-1966460_1920We all make mistakes, right? Marital arts guru Bruce Lee once said,“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” When you admit mistakes, you can learn from them.

As we begin the new year, maybe we should resolve to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. Here are a few you don’t want to repeat.

Trusting Someone You Don’t Know: One is being burned financially. Once you are burned by a bad deal, you learn the lesson of carefully reading any contract, lease, or agreement you sign. For example, when I was younger, my husband and I sublet a house from a man who had the original lease. We never looked at the original lease, rather trusted him. When we moved out, we got stuck with all the deposit fees due to changes and damage he had done to the house before we ever lived there. The house owners held us responsible because he was nowhere to be found when we moved out. And we had agreed to keep his sports car in the garage for the entire time we lived in the house! We helped him and he took advantage of us. After that, we read every lease or renters’ agreement carefully. That was a financial mistake we did not repeat.

Not Doing Your Due Diligence: Another mistake is to believe something that is too good to be true. If it sounds incredible, it probably is a scheme. I can’t tell you the number of people who have believed a very convincing con person to invest in get rich quick schemes. A great deal of money has been lost as a result. If it seems too good to be true, do your due diligence. Most often, get rich quick schemes and scams can be researched on the net. So before you give your hard earned cash to someone, complete an investigation. Ask questions, get references, check with the Better Business Bureau and more. And tell your elderly parents not to give information to anyone over the phone. Cons target the elderly who are more trusting of people who call them and offer them help.

Operating your life without a budget: So many people do this and find themselves in financial trouble.  Developing and sticking to a budget, personally and professionally, forces you to make thoughtful choices about what you want versus what you need. Once you understand how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on, you can make better choices. For example, do you have a coffee budget? This may sound silly, but my morning latte at my favorite coffee shop can cost me around $1000 a year. If I can afford that, fine. But if I am struggling, might be better to brew my own coffee in the a.m.

The point is that smart people learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them. if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Rather review where you went wrong and correct the mistake. If you repeat a mistake over and over, it is not a mistake anyone more–it is a decision!

board-978179_1920Why is change so hard? We have great intentions and want to improve our lives. We start out very motivated, but then seem to fail to do the very things we want to do. Why is this? Consider these 7 reasons.

For one thing, change is uncertain and often makes us uncomfortable even when it is in a positive direction. We tend to keep doing the familiar even when it doesn’t work for us. We are creatures of habit. We like the known and familiar.

If you are stressed and need to make changes, it is harder to do. When we are in overload mode, we don’t have the energy or the desire to tackle yet one more new thing. Thus, beginning change in a stressful life season is not a set up for success.

Another reason we often fail making changes is because it is either not that important or we don’t have the confidence to change. Let’s say I want to lose weight. Losing weight might be important, but my confidence to be able to do it might be low. If so, failure is likely. Change has to be both important and you must have confidence (usually means a good plan).

If we are honest, the status quo might give us reasons not to change. We may be getting a benefit from keeping things the same. For example, when I asked a wife why she doesn’t leave her disrespectful husband, she says, “He pays the bills and I live in a great house. Yes, I don’t like the way he treats me, but I also don’t want to give up the positives I get from being married to him.”

Sometimes change fails because our goals are too high or too unrealistic. For example, if you have a goal to lose 50 pounds and it is 20% of your weight, that goal may be too high. Better to start with the goal of losing 5 pounds, then another 5, then another. That mindset will breed confidence and success. And if you make too many changes too quickly, you can get what has been called, decision fatigue. Too many decisions to make all at once. You get exhausted and give up.

One of the most cited reasons for failing at change is lacking a plan. You might have a good idea that some part of your life needs to change, but have no plan in place to accomplish the goal. Recently, this rang true when a friend said, “I want to be a more positive person.” I then asked, “What is your plan to make that happen?” “I don’t really have one, just hope I can do it.”

And finally, the old adage that it takes 21 days to change a habit doesn’t ring true. In many cases, it takes hundreds of days to change a habit. In part, because the brain has to rewired and new patterns have to be practiced over and over to really stick. Quick change doesn’t usually stick. Practicing a new habit takes commitment and perseverance.



anger-19063_1920We all know one or two people who are passive aggressive. You know, those people who seem to comply or act appropriately to your face, but are negative and passively resist whatever it is you want them to do. They make excuses for not getting with you and can sabotage your success through manipulation. They display a type of covert aggression which makes relationships difficult and uncomfortable. They won’t deal with their anger directly.

In order to deal with a passive aggressive person, you need to recognize the tactics being used. Once you identify those tactics, you can begin to respond differently.

One tactic is a feigned forgetfulness. “Oh I don’t remember you telling me that,” or “I would have done what you asked had I known it.” It’s a type of playing dumb even though you know they know exactly what was expected. Related to this is the move to evade the topic and simply not give you a straight answer. They work on getting the focus off of them and on to another topic. This evasion maneuver diverts attention. Nothing gets addressed directly as a result.

Sometimes a passive aggressive person flat out lies. They take credit for things they didn’t do or pretend they were somehow involved. I worked with someone like this. He was always criticizing other people but would take credit for everyone’s success behind their back. He made it look like he was saving the day, when in truth, he was taking credit for the work other people had done. And when he would do it, he would pour on the charm, another characteristic of passive aggressive people. They use charm to get their way, but when you disagree, watch out. They become angry but don’t deal with their anger directly. They use intimidation to put you on the defensive.

Somehow, they become the victim, blaming others for their problems or lack of productivity. This is done by making rationalization and excuses for why they could not get the job done or perform as requested. And they play on your guilt. You suddenly think, “Wow, how did this move from their issue to me trying to comfort them?” The hope is you will feel bad and not bring up the problem.

When you recognize these patterns of behavior, you can begin to address them directly. It won’t be easy, but the goal is to block the behavior, especially if the person doesn’t want to change or see the problem. You will need to set boundaries on their behavior and deal in facts, not emotions.

If passive aggressive behavior happens at work, document your concerns with the facts. Ask for a yes or no answer to questions. Stay calm and simple say what needs to happen and the consequences if it is not done. Most important, tell the person that when there is a conflict, you expect them to come directly to you to discuss it. Stick to that message and call the person out when that does not happen. Anger isn’t wrong but it needs to be addressed directly, not behind someone’s back.