Why rejection hurts so much- and what you can do to ease the pain by Lindsay Dodgson (Business Insider)

Rejection is painful. There’s no other way about it. And most of us face it on a daily basis, whether it’s that job you didn’t get or a partner that broke up with you.

Whether the rejection is large or small, it still hurts, and it’s often more painful than we expect.

Psychologist Guy Winch is the author of the book ‘Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts,’ which outlines why we feel so bad when we’re rejected and what we can do about it. He shared some of his ideas in a recent blog post for TED.

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Meeting Goals One Step at a Time

I don’t know if this officially counts as a vlog (in true bucket list style…I’ll say it does!). Or maybe this is just a collision of an existing blog and me trying out one of my favorite apps. Either way, below is a quick video that highlights a few tips that I believe are important when continuing to work towards our New Year goals.



About My Goals

Starting the New Year off…right.

Sooo…. it’s been a while. I look back in amazement on how it has been a year since I updated my blog (I could have swore I had been hard at work on that this year). Yikes! Besides my normal, personal New Year’s resolutions (and there are a few…), I am making it my goal to be more committed to writing and updating the blog. Writing is good for me. For one, writing helps me be more vulnerable (as in having to admit I haven’t updated my blog in a year!). I have also found that writing my thoughts inspires me to see the world around me in a new way. Writing also reminds me to embrace my imperfections. I can edit a post a hundred times but in the end, I need to give up the goal of perfection and have the goal of learning and growing with each thing I write.

My hope is that everyone is working on something that challenges them. Even if we totally botch our resolutions for the year. Having a goal, working towards achievement, dealing with the many parts of “us” that can get in the way and then coming to terms with our failures and relapses…this is life! Hope 2017 is an especially good one for you!


Resolve to Make the Most of Your Year

imageHappy New Year! What do you have on your horizons for 2016? Admittedly, I love to contemplate, think, process and analyze. What better holiday for me than New Years? It is a perfect time to clear the slate and start fresh. (Although, I do believe in the idea that any day can be a new beginning as I wrote about here.) Still, I have noticed over the years that New Year’s resolutions are getting a bad rap. They do not seem to be what the “cool kids” are doing. Many times, I hear resolutions spoken of in a rather condescending manner that denounce them as juvenile, question their relevance and claim them to be defunct (like it is the resolutions fault!). The main message….why bother with resolutions? I am here to say – not so! Having a time in my life, whether that is New Years, my birthday, the start of a school year or some random Tuesday, to reflect on my life and make purposeful decisions about the way I am living is a gift. For any of us, if we are at a place to even contemplate resolutions it means that all our basic needs are being met. If we were worried about putting food on the table for our family or having shelter from the cold, we would be in pure survival mode. The last thing on our mind would be resolutions about weight or happiness. If we are at a place where our basic needs are being met, we are blessed. We have been given a gift. Whether we realize it or not, we decide on a daily basis how we use this gift. Being purposeful and actually thinking about a direction for living out our days…this is a good thing. If you are wondering how to make resolutions have a little more staying power in your life, below are some things you should consider:

  1. Start reflecting on your life and how you live it now. What is already good? What are some of the areas you want to change? In 5 years, 10 years, when you are a certain age or when your kids are at a certain age, what do you hope your life will be like then? What do you hope you have accomplished individually? as a family? What is important to you now and what do you project will be important to you in the future? All of these are great things to think about before even contemplating a resolution.
  2. Take the vision you came up with and decide on a few goals that will get you closer to this vision. Keep in mind, the objective is to tweak what we are already doing, not reinvent the wheel. And perfectionism has no place here. If you have quite a few items on your list, maybe try to focus on one area per month to make changes. If the list is too overwhelming, you will quickly abandon it for what you already know and what is comfortable.
  3. Break down each goal into measurable acts. For example, if I decide I want to be happier in 2016, I should think about specific actions I could undertake which lead to more happiness (it must be based on my actions, not others’). I then commit to doing those on a more regular basis.
  4. Track your progress. This holds you accountable. Maybe make a spreadsheet or record your progress in a journal. In doing so, you are able to look at your days/weeks and analyze how you are doing on your measurable goals.
  5. Ask yourself what you can do better to meet the measurable goals. Reflect on a regular basis and brainstorm. Maybe ask other people. Sometimes, we get stuck in thinking about a particular situation or problem from one direction. Getting input from others can give us a whole new perspective.
  6. Don’t let shame enter the picture. If you struggle to meet a goal, this is not a reflection of your character. Believe the best about yourself and resolve to find creative ways to meet your goals. Maybe different types of motivation, inspiration or thought patterns could provide a different perspective to reach your goals. Instead of shaming, be your own best cheerleader and encourager.

Experience More Joy Today – 12 Ways

photo-1429198739803-7db875882052When I meet with a counseling client for the first time, I spend most of that time gleaning information about them, their stated problem and their goals for counseling. A common theme for many is a desire to be happy…or happier. Sometimes, that is their only goal. We all define happiness in different ways. Therefore, I have to learn what “happier” means to them. For some, happiness is communicating more effectively with their spouse and for others, happiness is letting go of past hurts.

In the end, most clients are hoping for a feeling –  an underlying sense of peace and contentment. For the sake of this article, I will call this feeling joy. Happiness and joy are interrelated yet separate. Happiness seems more momentary and is usually dependent on outside circumstances or people. Joy, on the other hand, has to do with our internal feelings of contentment. It is not dependent on others and can be long lasting. Having joy may, in fact, lead to more opportunities for happiness, but having moments of happiness doesn’t intrinsically create more joy.

Good news. We can create more joy in our lives. Below are 12 key areas to focus on when pursuing more joy:

  1. Live in the moment – There is no joy in dwelling on yesterdays or worrying about tomorrows. We can learn to let go of our yesterdays and have trust for our tomorrows. When we do that, we are right here…living our today. “‘What day is it?’ ‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet. ‘My favorite day’, said Pooh.” – A.A. Milne
  2. Notice the little things – Joy is not in the next big thing, it is in the little moments of our lives. Without care, we can find ourselves living a life of nexts…a constant search for the next big deal, relationship, house, move, holiday, project, etc. When we live like this, we are missing little moments that contain pockets of joy. The joy is there, but we have to be looking for it. Those little moments also help to give us needed perspective when we face either positive or negative circumstances in life (and there will be both). “Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
  3. Have realistic expectations – Our expectations can often lead to huge disappointments. However, expectations are not real, they are thoughts and beliefs in our minds. It is imperative we make sure any expectations we harbor are realistic. “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.” – Flannery O’Connor
  4. Nurture relationships – Relationships are like gardens. They don’t grow unless they are fed, watered and tended to. Give your relationships your time and energy. We are relational people and we want good, healthy relationships but this doesn’t just happen. “Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” – Marvin J Ashton
  5. Cultivate experiences – Many studies have shown that people gain more happiness from experiences than the accumulation of things. Unfortunately, Americans, as a society, continue to chase things and hope for more happiness. Sometimes, we even tell ourselves that more things will lead to more experiences or that we need things to have certain experiences. These may be part of our belief system but in the end, they are myths. Look for experiences, near or far, and you will be happier in the moment and finding more joy. Racking up debt or living within a financial prison does not create anything good. “Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”
  6. Stop consuming – We are consumers. We consume food. We consume TV. We consume social media. What if we took a break from all that consuming? A lot of what we consume is junk. It doesn’t feed us emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I have recently realized how much I have been consuming whether it be out of boredom or other negative feelings. I have been taking a conscious break from consuming in several areas of my life. What I have found is more conscious, in the moment, living. I have also realized that my habit to consume is ubiquitous and am learning to find new ways to feed myself. “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” – Alex Morritt
  7. Help someone less fortunate than yourself – What better way to put our life in perspective than helping others. This could be with a smile, an uplifting word, prayer or it could be so much more. We naturally view life egocentrically. Thinking about others gets us out of this mindset and gives more opportunities for experiencing joy. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  8. Stop comparing – Live your life and choose to live it as well as you can. Know you are not perfect (and neither is anyone else). Have grace for yourself. Forgive yourself. Choose to learn from your mistakes and move past them.  “Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain; “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steve Furtik
  9. Forgive – Forgiving is one of the most challenging things humans have to do in relationships. It is not easy and the person we are forgiving, may not always be deserving of forgiveness. We don’t do it for them. Forgive for you. Forgiving allows you to set aside your bitterness and move forward freer to live your best life. “Without forgiveness life is governed by…a endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” – Roberto Assagioli
  10. Create – Many people claim they are not creative. However, that is not true. We all have creativity within us. The question is – are we choosing to use it? We have to be creative in many areas of our lives including problem solving, parenting, our jobs and relationships. Intentional creativity is good for the brain. Practicing creativity could be as simple as journaling or it could be trying a new hobby or interest. “This world is but a canvas to our imaginations.” – Henry David Thoreau; “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce
  11. Don’t take things personally – Sometimes, we need to realize that what other people say, think, believe, and do is about them. They may include us or point their words at us, but in then end, they are trying to express who they are. Try not to take it too personally. Know that you have the power to choose your own truths. Be courageous enough to listen to others (especially if you care about them), but try to also separate the views they express from who you are. You get to decide who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. Every day and in every decision, you have the power to turn the page. “Try not to take things personally. What people say to you is a reflection of them, not you.”
  12. Express gratitude – I couldn’t write a post about finding joy without mentioning gratitude. This is probably the number one way to experience more joy. Find gratitude. Look for silver linings. The more you practice, you will develop a hugely beneficial skill. Experiencing more gratitude can help us get outside of ourselves, live in the moment and experience true and complete joy. “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” – Ann Voskamp

The Bible says a lot about joy and sometimes it is described in circumstances that don’t seem all that joyful (to me). In James 1:2 we are told to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. I don’t know about you, but when I am in the midst of trials it is hard to consider it joy. However, there is something about being able to be content when going through trials. When we have more joy, present circumstances are less unsettling because we can see the bigger picture. Ultimately, this life is not about the inevitable ups and downs but living out our journeys (hopefully) with a true sense of peace. Joy.


Changing My Life, One Vulnerable Moment at a Time

Jumping on mountainIs it just me or is vulnerability everywhere? Of course, I am speaking of the word – not necessarily the action. I keep hearing the word, vulnerable; so, either this recurrence is a signal to me of what I need to work on in my personal life (and it is!) or evidence that our cultural awareness of vulnerability is increasing (probably true too). Even with increased consciousness, we may not be noticing the every day opportunities for vulnerability in our lives.

By definition, being vulnerable is being capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt. It can also look like being open to moral attack or criticism. When I first heard Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, it resonated so clearly within me. It felt as though she was speaking directly to me. I just knew Brene’ and I were destined to be best of friends because she obviously got me. I must not have been the only one, as that particular TED talk has now been viewed close to 4 million times.

Knowing about vulnerability and its importance and putting it into practice are two very different things. Admittedly, I talk with my clients on a regular basis about the need and struggle to be open to exposure (and possible hurts) in relationships, forgiveness, new experiences and growth areas. However, I personally struggle with opening myself up and being vulnerable. I don’t venture out of my comfort zone as much as I could. On the flip side, there have been times I have purposefully tried to be more vulnerable with friends, family or church members, and it seemed my listeners may have been slightly uncomfortable with the idea of vulnerability as well. Many of them instantly went into “fix it” mode. With awareness of my own struggles, I can definitely have grace for this, but it doesn’t produce eagerness within me to try it again. Vulnerability isn’t brokenness that needs to be fixed. It isn’t a state of being that needs apology. It is being real about our hopes, dreams and personal struggles. Instead of running from the uncomfortable feelings generated by such realness, we deal with those feelings in a way that promotes personal growth.

I ask my kids to express vulnerability frequently. Whether they are entirely comfortable with it or not, they are encouraged to make new friends, go to a new school, a new classroom and/or try new hobbies and sports. I use to do more of that myself, but when did it stop? Why did it stop? Had I decided living in my comfort bubble was my life long dream or had I given up on dreams for the sake of safety?

I was already pondering this idea when I was fortunate enough to hear Trevor Ragan speak at my kids’ school this week. Mr. Ragan of trainugly.com was, no kidding, speaking about this very topic and how we can use it to influence our children’s learning. (I told you I’m hearing it everywhere!) You should check out Mr. Ragan’s website and the work he does not just with schools but famous athletes and corporations. His message (in a nutshell)– to exponentially move forward, humans need a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, we care more about our own growth, development and improvement than how we look to others. Within this way of living, one will encounter moments of vulnerability because growing and learning can be “ugly”. We won’t have it all figured out, we will make mistakes and we will probably encounter the “f” word a few times…failure.

Another interesting point highlighted by Trevor Ragan’s work was how one might, over time, develop a more fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. When we praise our kids for their results and achievements instead of their efforts – we set them up to be afraid of not receiving the same results the next time, afraid of letting us down and afraid of failing. Therefore, they will learn to play it safe. We are also helping them become more other focused rather than learning to take personal responsibility for their growth.

And there was my aha moment. I can clearly see how this may have played out in my life. Well meaning adults had offered me praise for my achievements (which was nice and felt great) but I had been the kid that decided to play it safe. For very valid reasons, I emotionally needed the praise and felt the risk of criticism would be too great. So now, as an adult, I am slowly learning how to abandon my need for other-validation and express vulnerability…admit my inadequacies. I am learning how to care more about my personal growth and fixate less on what others may or may not think of me.

In the end, I cannot simultaneously live my best life and stay in my comfort zone. Whether in my career, parenting, relationships, sports or hobbies, I get a choice to continue my fear based living or push past. I might fail (a few times), but I might experience something far greater than anything I had ever hoped or imagined.


10 Strategies for Winning at Relationships

Conant football team

Fall is an exciting time for me with regards to sports…thus, I have found a way to incorporate my love of sports and teams into this blog post. I use to enjoy playing sports and now I enjoy watching them. So, consider yourself warned –  this post might be a little heavy with sports analogies.

Often, when relationships begin, we are willing to do anything for each other. We are in this thing together. We have each other’s back. We believe in each other. We are a team. At some point, life’s challenges hit, the differences become too numerous and cumbersome, and communication seems futile or non-existent. It can feel as though there has been a reshuffling of the teams. Now, instead of playing on the same team, it’s almost like we are rivals. Our actions say we are either playing to win or playing not to get hurt. When those are the objectives, everyone ends up feeling like a loser.

Here are 10 strategies for us to keep in mind as we navigate our relationships and ensure we are good team players.

  1. Be appreciative of differences – No team exists where everyone plays the same position or has the same role. The differences are what makes us a team. It isn’t helpful to ask our team members to be the same as us. Instead, look for how the differences between us can actually enhance our team. When we view our partner though this lens, then we appreciate and love them for who they are. On the flip side, instead of bemoaning the role we seem to play again and again in our relationships, we can choose to take pride in our contributions to the team. The role we take on and to which we give our best efforts only adds to the strength of the team.
  2. Have each other’s backs– There are times to discuss our differences and air out feelings, but at the end of the day, our team is strongest when we are consistent with standing up for each other. This isn’t just an outward gesture to do the “right” thing in front of friends or kids. This is searching ourselves internally and making sure we are constantly trying to see the positive (in our partner) more than the negative. When our spouse needs to vent about their day, this is our time to be their best cheerleader…not their critic. Be on their team. It’s an “us against the world” mentality.
  3. Choose to look at problems and disagreements through the lens of “we” instead of “me” – Our partners are not our enemies or rivals. We can either work together to solve a disagreement or we can choose to fight against each other. Most of the time, choosing the later ensures nothing gets resolved and/or one person “wins” but the relationship and trust suffer. Learning to think and navigate through our problems with a “we” approach and hoping the best for both members of our team, assists in making a stronger team bond.
  4. It feels good to be picked – We should find ways to pick our spouse over and over. Let them know we choose them today. Communicate how our team is stronger because of them and their unique qualities. Ask to spend time with them. Love them in the way that speaks to them most.
  5. Build up a culture of trust – Most good partnerships are built on an essence of trust. This trust can be present in all areas of life. Our partner should be able to trust that we are going to show up, we are committed to actions that back up our words and we will apologize when we have wronged our team mate. If there isn’t trust in your relationship now, try to find ways to develop it. Trust is vital to good teamwork.
  6. Communicate. – Even when we are afraid our spouse won’t like the message…we communicate. When we are ahead in the game of life, we communicate. When we are behind, we communicate. When it seems like our communication is failing, we don’t look to blame each other but rather we look for ways to better our communication and thus better our team play.
  7. Ensure everyone participates – This teamwork is about sharing. It is worth it to slow down on decisions, communication and/or arguments to ensure everyone is getting to voice their thoughts, preferences and concerns. If we have one person running the whole show with little input from their team member, it might be less of a team and more of a dictatorship.
  8. Be flexible – When we are working with other people, we might have to abandon our expectations and be flexible to the needs of the whole versus our needs as an individual. Abandoning our expectations is not abandoning our values. For good teamwork to exist, teammates need to be flexible.
  9. Work as a problem-solver instead of a complainer – It can be easy to sit on the sidelines and complain or judge someone else’s decisions. However, this doesn’t enhance the team. It is better to be appreciative of others’ efforts and learn to contribute to our team through active problem-solving.
  10. “It’s not whether you win or lose…it’s how you play the game” – Grantland Rice – When Mr. Rice wrote this phrase, I am not positive what he was referring to, but in the team play of relationships…there is no truer statement. Learn to play the game so that the honor of your spouse and your team are upheld. If you sacrifice those for the sake of winning, you have sacrificed everything.

9 Lessons in Learning to “Have Courage, and Be Kind”

Cinderella.2Disney’s new live-action film, Cinderella, came out in theaters this past March. The movie is visually-dazzling, reminiscent of the 1950 animated classic but with a more modern heroine and theme. If movies have mission statements, Cinderella’s is “Have courage, and be kind.” Those seem like sweet, even appropriate words. Of course we should possess both of those attributes. But, it might not be as simple as it seems. Discussions of courage and kindness may suggest separate characteristics, but throughout the movie we come to understand that in many ways they are impossibly intertwined.

We receive messages from a young age about being kind. We are taught to share our toys, invite everyone to play on the playground, don’t bully, care about others, give to those less fortunate, and on it goes. This seems fairly standard with little room for confusion. For women, the message to be courageous is a newer concept with a push in the last half century (or less) concerning the empowerment of women. For myself and many of my adult friends, our moms were being raised just as this shift in thinking was taking place. Therefore, the messages they received (and probably passed down to us) are confusing at best. There are times we are encouraged to be courageous, take a stand and/or speak up; other times the same actions will have us labeled as a ____. Often we face an implied choice, am I going to stand up for myself OR be kind and thoughtful? More specifically, am I going to choose me or you?

I enjoy the movie’s combination of the messages – courage and kindness. As our society moves toward a more uniform definition and acceptance of empowering women and young girls, it is imperative we teach our young girls how to do both simultaneously. If we continue to focus primarily on kindness and then slip in little blurbs focusing on empowerment, the message of courage and empowerment is not a solid one.

Courage, by definition, is having strength in the face of either frightening or less than ideal circumstances. We can be kind while we exhibit courage and many times it takes a lot of courage to be kind. Here are nine lessons we can model and teach our young girls that combine the two messages:

  1. We can love and care for others, but we are not responsible for them or their feelings. Therefore, speaking up is not going against those we care for. And if someone speaks up for themselves, they are not necessarily in opposition to us. As long as we are respectful, we can speak up and continue to be kind.
  2. We are not kind to others because they either deserve it or not. We are kind to others because of who we are and what we stand for.
  3. Commit to face conflict. Many of us don’t like conflict, it is uncomfortable. Facing conflict with calmness, kindness and confidence can be a game changer. Most good relationships have learned how to do conflict well. If we are hiding our conflicts or not addressing them, we are missing opportunities for self-growth, relational growth and teaching (our kids).
  4. Facing conflict takes practice. Continue practicing! Just because it is hard doesn’t mean we should give up.
  5. There is a difference between conflict and bullying. Conflict is about ideas. Bullying is putting down someone’s character. We can face conflict while not condoning bullying. In our intolerance, we should not bully someone in return; rather, we can calmly decide not to deal with someone who is choosing this path of communication. If they want to interact with us, they will learn the difference.
  6. If we believe in empowerment for us, then we believe in empowerment for others. Learn to be tolerate and not take it personally when others present their thoughts and ideas.
  7. Being kind means being patient with others’ humanness (as we would want them to be with ours). Sometimes, when we are assertive, the initial response is not positive. It can take courage but be kind to others and allow them to correct their mistakes (if they choose).
  8. Demonstrate the confidence to respectfully listen to ideas different than our own and deal with people different than us. This doesn’t mean one of us is wrong and the other right, we are simply different.
  9. My life will be better off when I have the courage to admit mistakes and learn from them. Life will continue to give us lessons…it takes bravery but we keep learning.

Cinderella eventually grasped how she can be both courageous and kind. I hope to do the same. There probably won’t be a fairy tale ending or a happily ever after but if we persevere there can be rewards. The biggest reward is a journey of feeling better about myself, more confident, while having rewarding relationships with others who can also feel good about themselves. In reality, I don’t have to choose between me and others.



What Do Your Feelings Reveal About You?

girl sitting, sunAbout a month ago, I was scrolling through my FaceBook feed and I came across the following quote credited to Gary Smalley from his video series Guarding Your Child’s Heart. The quote read “People don’t make us upset; they reveal what we believe in our heart.” As days and moments have ticked by since then, I have continued to ponder those words and what they mean for me.

I coach people continuously in the responsibility of owning feelings. Undoubtedly, many of us have that well-meaning person (at the most inopportune time) remind us how someone cannot make us feel  – fill in the blank (angry, sad, frustrated, etc). As invalidating as this may be in the moment, there is truth there. Many times, I ask my clients to imagine a circle around themselves. Everything inside the circle is their responsibility. Their thoughts, their feelings, their actions are all inside the circle. Everything outside the imaginary circle, they have no ownership over. This includes other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

Now, most of the people I speak with are mature people. (I’ll go ahead and put myself in that group.) We are already taking ownership of many actions. We do things like feed our pets, take our kids to school, go to work and pay our bills. I am speaking of this responsibility but even further. When I think of the life I want to lead, am I taking the steps to live that life? To do this, my actions must match up with my values. In my theatrical production called life, I take on many roles. If I have the nagging feeling that I am not measuring up in one of my roles, I need to evaluate this further. I can blame it on busyness, work or other people. But in the end, those excuses will be little solace to the regrets of not living up to my own values.  (I do want to point out, in the pursuit of taking ownership for my roles in life, I am also responsible for evaluating my expectations to ensure my ideas are reasonable. There is such a thing as trying to take responsibility for too much and for matters that aren’t ours. We will save that topic for later.)

I also need to take responsibility for my thoughts and feelings. This takes some internal awareness. If, for example, I examine my desire to be happy. I must learn what makes me happy and go about finding ways to make myself happy. If I am living under the unspoken expectation that other people doing exactly what I would like them to do is the path to happiness, I am probably going to be hugely disappointed, a constant control freak or both. Taking responsibility for my own happiness, is learning to define my happiness not through someone else, but as it pertains to me alone. I think Gary Smalley’s quote give us great insight in how to start taking responsibility for our thoughts and feelings. If we are feeling a negative emotion (it doesn’t matter which one), it reveals our internal belief system. An internal belief system that may need to be challenged.

I remember an aha moment when I was first married. It must have been a Sunday and I was feeling domestic. I was in the kitchen cleaning and so chipper about this grown up version of house I was playing. My husband was in his favorite Sunday spot, watching football. We were relaxed and all seemed picture perfect. While I was cleaning, I realized the trash needed to be taken out. I called into the living room and asked my husband if he would mind taking out the trash to which he affirmatively responded. I kept on cleaning. However, after a little while, I noticed he had not come to take out the trash. My happy, sunshine mood was suddenly a little clouded. I started feeling upset. The thoughts in my mind went a little something like this, “I am in here cleaning and helping while he watches football. I only asked him to do ONE thing and he can’t do it!” You can imagine the longer the trash sits there, the more upset I am getting. As the frustration continued to mount, a thought came to me. I had not asked my spouse to take out the trash right then. If I was concluding he was not going to take out the trash or help…how did I know this? And if I did need it taken out right then, I should have either communicated that (and seen if I received the same response) or chose to do the work myself. What was more important to ME at that moment? Having the trash taken out when I wanted or having help with the trash?

This example clearly reveals the beliefs in my heart. I had a belief that if I was helping our family, my spouse should be willing to help too. I had a belief that if I was sacrificing and I asked my spouse to sacrifice little (in comparison) -he should do it. I may have also had the belief system that if I ask my spouse to do something, he should do it right then or if he cared about me, then he would do whatever I asked. In hind sight, my belief system was missing whole other chunks. For one thing, it is centered only around me. My wants. My feelings.  I am not considering at all my spouse’s thoughts or feelings. (I am not responsible for my spouse’s thoughts or feelings, but I can realize the possibility of differences. When I believe the best about him, I am respectful of these variations. I wrote about this specific topic here.) The other thought is that if I am using that one circumstance and then drawing a conclusion that my spouse is not “helping”, I am using a small block of time to make a very general conclusion…which probably isn’t fair.

I am not saying my beliefs are all wrong, but they do reveal my expectations. At my house, we call expectations premeditated resentments. Am I setting myself up to be resentful by the beliefs in my heart? Am I doing the work of building good relationships where I am inclusive of both viewpoints? In James 1:19-20, James calls Christians to “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Not that we can be righteous, but we are called to actively pursue righteousness in the way we handle our tongue and our relationships. If having healthier relationships is one of the desires for my life, I have a couple of choices. I can hope and wish the people I am in relationships with will start doing what I want them to do, believing this would make me happier and improve my relationship. Or, I can look at myself and work on my belief system, hoping to produce actions that build up my relationships.

The importance of owning our thoughts, feelings and actions ultimately falls on us. We need to use our feelings as notifications. We can then examine our beliefs, which probably closely mirrors our internal thoughts. Ultimately, this process gives us freedom to choose our actions. Our actions can breath life into our relationships or they can undermine them. Thoughtful responsibility of our actions can lead us to a place with less regrets and more joy. It may be more work, but in the end, it is worth it.