Circles of Relationships

Breathing-Room

Many of us find meaning in our relationships. They shape so much of our lives. One of the reasons that we end up being tired, overwhelmed and stressed out has to do with relationships and the number of them. We often join groups, teams, committees, or make volunteer commitments without much thought. Slowly our circles of relationships begin growing to the point that we know many people but lack true community.

I want you to think about every relationship you have (serving team at church, small group, PTA, children’s sports teams, work, neighbors) as a circle. You will have multiple people in a circle, but each commitment of community makes up a circle. Even if you think you don’t spend much time with it or you don’t have friends in it, like a child’s sports team, it’s a circle.

The reality is your circles all take up time. Each time you add a new circle or a circle expands because of the commitment that circle requires, you are pulling away from another circle, and you only have so much time to go around. Many times we haphazardly add circles and then lack community. For men, as we grow older, this becomes an enormous problem.

While men don’t do relationships the way women do, we need them just as much. It seems that as men get older, because of the time they give to their career and their children’s activities, they begin pulling away from friends to the point that when a man turns forty, he can’t think of anyone to call for a beer or to go fishing.

If that’s the case for you, it means you have allowed your circles to get out of control.

In our family, when we talk about adding a new circle, we also take one away. This limits the number of circles you are a part of. We believe community is that important. And yes, this means we will miss out on things, disappoint people, and even anger people.

The other reason we run out of space in our lives as it relates to relationships has to do with the ones we choose. While hopefully you start to think through how many friends and circles of relationships you can be in, this will change as you get older and your kids get older.

We often spend time in the wrong relationships.

We end up at meetings and gatherings that we don’t want to be. We have coffee or meals with people we’d rather avoid, but for some reason, when we got invited, we said yes.

Why?

It could be fear, a sense of duty, maybe our job demands we say yes. If you can say no, why don’t you?

A few years ago Katie and I made a choice that we would spend our time with people who were life giving. If you stressed us out, ran us down, were not life giving, we didn’t want to spend time with you. That may sound mean, but with a growing family, a growing church, we don’t have a ton of time to “just hang out” with whomever. We have to be intentional about our relationships.

This is something that doesn’t get talked about enough. We talk about being intentional with our schedules, money, careers and our kids, but what about who we spend time with?

The people you spend your time with, do they challenge you, encourage you, breathe life into you, spark you to greater levels in your life? If not, why are you giving them a lot of time and energy?

The flip side of this is sometimes you become that person for people. You are the spark, the energy giver. That is okay as long as that isn’t the primary source or your relationships.

When it comes to Breathing Room, you only have so much time and space. You only have so much relational energy and time on your calendar. You have to spend it wisely. You have to think through who gets it and prioritize.

*This is an excerpt from my brand new book, Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More. Click on the link to purchase it.

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How You Destroy Relationships

Breathing-Room

In Galatians 6:2 Paul tells us that community should be a place where we carry each other’s burdens. Many people struggle to have healthy community because of one simple issue: pride.

To carry someone’s burden, to help with what weighs them down, you have to be close enough to carry it. Many of us do not have anyone close enough to help carry something. This is what I call waiting to build community until you need it. This ensures you will be alone and carry your burden by yourself. You have to build community before you need it, not the other way around. You have to get past your fears, open yourself up to others, and let them in.

What’s interesting about Galatians 6 is that Paul says it is possible to sin in two ways:

  1. You can sin by not carrying someone else’s burden when they need you to.
  2. You can sin by not allowing someone to carry your burden when you need them to.

The first one, most people would agree with. When you see some- one who needs help, you should help. If you are able to help, do so. If you don’t, you are selfish and mean. That point isn’t as big an issue, although maybe that is a struggle for you because of pride and selfishness (Gal. 5:25–26).

The second point may be what catches us off guard. What if we try to do it ourselves? What if we never ask for help? What if we never open ourselves up to community and the care others can give us, or allow someone to carry our burden? We are sinning as much as the selfish, prideful person who won’t help.

Why?

Both have missed community and relationships. Both have pride issues and think they don’t need help or others. Both lack humility.

*This is an excerpt from my brand new book, Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More. Click on the link to purchase it.

Like this post? Sign up to never miss a post and get chapter 1 of my brand new book Breathing Room: Stressing Less, Living More!




How to Catch Your Breath in December

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Right about now, if you are like most people, you are wondering how you will survive December and get everything done that you need to. The list seems endless. Parties, gifts, people, food, traveling, more food, TV specials, plays and recitals. The list is endless. People are coming and going. If you are in college, you have finals on top of everything else. This is on top of what you normally do in life.

Deep down, we know this isn’t the way we should live life and it feels wrong at Christmas, but stopping to catch our breath seems silly. Impossible. UnAmerican.

It isn’t and deep down, you also know that.

Here are 7 ways to catch your breath this month so that you head into 2015 not exhausted, but refreshed, ready to tackle the New Year:

  1. Schedule some down time. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I believe that if something is not scheduled, it does not happen. We do things out of habit and planning. Including wasting time watching TV or surfing the internet. Put into your calendar days and nights when nothing is happening. If you don’t, you will run from one thing to the next and not enjoy any of it. 
  2. Say no to something. If you schedule down time into your schedule, chances are you will have to say no to something. This is hard to do. We like to say yes as much as possible, not miss anything and be at all the parties and get togethers, but we can’t and shouldn’t. If we say yes to everything, we will miss the important things. We will miss moments with our kids, friends we really care about and miss out on memories.
  3. Have a food plan and stick to it. One of the areas that causes a lot of frustration for people come January 1st is how much they eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t simply show up at the party and eat, have a plan. Here are a couple of ways: Take something healthy to the party. There won’t be a lot of healthy options, so bring one and eat it (think of the memory each year now when you and your friends laugh about the fact that you are the one who brings hummus to the holiday party). Another one? Don’t stand by the food. If you are away from the food, it makes it harder to overeat. The hardest one? Limit how much dessert you eat when you are at parties. And finally: get rid of leftovers as quickly as possible, even if you have to throw them out. 
  4. Go to bed at 10pm as often as possible. Sleep is one of the most overlooked but important areas of our lives. I know, you think you can survive on 4 hours a night and a Coffee IV drip plugged into your arm, but you can’t. You will crash and that crash will happen sometime soon and ruin your holidays or at least make a dent in January when you need get going for the new year. Get to bed. Don’t watch as much TV and if presents aren’t wrapped, put them in a bag and call it a win. 
  5. Don’t wait til January 1st to exercise. In January, health clubs everywhere will be packed. New Years Resolutions will be made to lose that holiday weight you put on. What if you didn’t wait until January to get into shape? Put it into your schedule now. If you workout regularly now, don’t quit over the holidays.
  6. Plan fun memory moments. Christmas is a great time to make memories. The tree, decorations, TV specials, buying and wrapping gifts, plays, the food, the songs. All of it creates moments with family and friends in ways that other times of the year do not. Don’t miss this because you are busy doing other stuff. Spend time reading to your kids, TiVo the Christmas specials and watch them, listen to Christmas music all month, take some special daddy (or mommy) dates with your kids. Make this time special and pack in the memories.
  7. Make your goals for the New Year. Don’t wait til January 1st to make your goals for the New Year. Notice, I didn’t say resolutions. Here is a simple process I use to help you set goals you will actually reach. Don’t make 10 goals this year, make one. What is the one thing that if you accomplished would make the biggest impact in your life and family? Do that.

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Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

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If you are a parent, you have told your child that it matters who they spend time with. You’ve said, “Pick the right crowd because you become like the people you spend time with.” We instinctively know that we become who we are with and who we listen to. We become like the blogs we read, the podcasts we listen to and the shows we watch. We know in leadership and work that those around us will determine our success.

Yet, as we grow older we either stop believing this, stop thinking about it or think we are above it.

Here’s a quick test: would you describe yourself as miserable or joy-filled? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Do you complain about your spouse? Now, ask yourself, how many people that you spend time with (or connecting with on social media) are the same as you.

We know this to be true, but find it difficult to apply.

Here are some ways:

  1. Listen to people. You want people to listen to you when you throw up the red flag about someone in their life, but we don’t do the same. When someone says, “I don’t like the person you are or become after spending with ____.” Listen to them.
  2. Know who you want to become. One of the reasons we are blind in relationships and blind to who influences us is because we are unsure of the kind of person we want to become. We have ideas about it, but if you boil it down, few people actually know. We often know more of what we don’t want to be like, which is not as helpful as knowing where you are headed. Knowing where you don’t want to be leaves you aimless and can lead you almost anywhere.
  3. Find people older than you to share their wisdom. The older I get, the more I want to be around older people so I can gain their wisdom and learn from their mistakes. Yes, I have friends my age and younger, but they know as little as I do. You should always have someone older speaking into your life and influencing you.

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Stop Being Letdown

 

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Relationships. At work. Your kids school. Your career. Education. Body.

All of us have been letdown.

All of us have let people down.

And it will happen again.

In the midst of all this gloom, it is avoidable to not be letdown.

You could take the easy way out and have no expectations of people and simply expect to be letdown. If you do this though, you will miss the chance for relationships, community and enjoying life. You’ll simply walk around waiting for the other shoe to drop, which will keep you from trusting and ultimately, living.

A better way is to clarify and evaluate expectations.

Here’s what I mean. If you are a boss, do the people who work for you know what is expected of them? Do they know the win for your team and organization? If not, you will be letdown at some point because you are evaluating them on a scale they are unaware of.

What about relationships?

This is where most of our disappointment and letdown lies, especially if you are married.

Most married couples can tell you what they expect of their spouse, chores, reactions, attention, etc. Yet, most couples have never told each other what those are. They walk around us a smug silence, pointing out in their heads how disappointed they are and then they return the favor. A cycle simply continues until you get to the place where you can’t take it anymore, resign yourself to the fact that this is as good as it gets or worse.

What if, you began clarifying your expectations in all walks of your life? What if you told the people you work with, have a relationship with, your expectations? What if your kids knew instead of you just getting frustrated? What if your spouse or employees knew?

What if you work for someone and they are frustrating you? Have a conversation, let them know what would be best for you.

Will this always work? No, but then at least you’ll know. But as long as you don’t tell them, you are saying no for them and that rarely works out.

Until it’s been clarified, we don’t have a right to be mad at the person who doesn’t meet our expectations.

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When You’ve Been Betrayed

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All of us have been betrayed. A spouse who walked out, cheated. A parent who left. A child who hurt us. It might be someone you work with or a member of your church. It could be someone who changed the details of a deal that you agreed to.

All of us have been been betrayed.

And when it happens, it hurts.

The reason is simple. The only way to betray someone means you have to be close to someone. While you can feel let down by a national leader or role model, betrayal only happens in close proximity.

Ministry is a major place for betrayal and when it happens in a church context, it hurts.

A lot.

Last week I spoke at Exponential West and at each of my breakouts I talked to several people who were in the midst of betrayal or just walked through it. Here are some things I reminded them that may prove helpful to you when you find yourself betrayed:

  1. Jesus was betrayed. While this sound trite and Christianese when you have been betrayed, it should provide us comfort. Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed. He knows what it is like to have friends fail him, walk out on him, lie and abandon him. This has helped me to walk through betrayal and misplaced trust.
  2. Their true colors will be seen. Our first inclination when we’ve been hurt or betrayed is to get back at someone. We want people to know that we are hurt, that they lied to us, we want to ruin their lives and name in the way they’ve ruined our lives. In the end, if someone doesn’t have character, it eventually comes out. If someone is lazy, eventually everyone knows. While they may not know as quickly as you’d like, everything comes out.
  3. It’s for your goodIf Romans 8 is true, and I believe it is. Then when we are betrayed, God is and will use it for our good. In the moment, this does not always provide the comfort that it should, that’s more about us than God though. It is true and it does bring comfort for us. When you are betrayed, it is an opportunity for you to grow. You are able to see blind spots, or places you didn’t pull boundaries, or situations you didn’t give enough oversight to. Regardless, when you are betrayed, it can be a wake up call to get better at something and this is good.
  4. Take the high road, your true colors will be seen. In the same way that their true colors will be seen, so will yours. Again, not as quickly as you’d like, especially if you are in the right, but they will. If you have character, that will be shown, if not, that will as well.
  5. Don’t be bitter. Bitterness is waiting you when you are betrayed. Don’t give in to it. While God is working in all things, pray against bitterness, let go of the person and situation as quickly as you can (even though this may take months or years). Start. Ask people to pray with you against a hard heart. For Katie and I, when betrayal happens we pray Ezekiel 36:26 for our hearts, that God would replace our heart of stone so that it does not become hard.

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When You Want Vindication

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At some point, all of us have been hurt to the point that we want to retaliate or at the very least, make the other person feel something close to what we feel.

I remember when I was 25 and I was leaving the staff of a church in Maryland. I was young, I was hurt. I felt betrayed and I wanted other people to know it. I wanted people around me to know why I was hurt, I wanted them to feel my pain with them, but I also wanted the who hurt me to get a little bit of what I was feeling.

Then a friend pulled me aside and said to me, “Josh, whenever you tell someone what happened and why you are leaving this staff team, when you go to give them details and talk about your feelings, you need to ask yourself a simple question: why do I want this person to know?”

Honestly, I was angry with him.

I didn’t want to ask that.

The reason I wanted someone to know my feelings was because I wanted them to validate my hurt, join my side, help me push the agenda of injustice I felt or maybe even leave the church I was leaving so the leadership could feel some pain.

I would’ve said that I wanted a friend to hear me out or wanted someone to challenge my sin in the situation, but none of that was actually true.

I wanted vindication and retaliation.

This question, has now caused me to stop when I get ready to share something that happened. It gives me pause to ask what I will gain from sharing something.

There’s something else about this question. Until the motives are pure for sharing something, I have sin in my heart. 

Meaning, until I stop trying to get people onto my side of an issue, I’m sinning by trying to win or control something or I care too much about what someone else thinks.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share things, but it means you need to ask why beforehand.

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Stop Being Selfish

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Community is a hard and messy thing.

Many of us struggle with it because we are introverts, have been hurt by someone in the past, are selfish and want our way at all times or find it easier to just stay home and be alone with our hundreds of friends on Facebook.

Either way, we miss out.

In Galatians 6:2, the apostle Paul says that followers of Jesus are to carry each other’s burdens so they can fulfill the law of Christ.

To carry someone’s burden, to help with what weighs them down, you have to be close enough to carry it. Many of us do not have anyone close enough to help carry something. This is what I call waiting to build community when you need it. This ensures you will be alone and carry your burden by yourself. You have to build community for when you need it, not the other way around. You have to get past your fears, open yourself up to others and let them in.

What’s interesting about this verse is that Paul says it is possible to sin in two ways:

  1. You can sin by not carrying someone else’s burden when they need you to.
  2. You can sin by not allowing someone to carry your burden when you need them to.

The first one, most people would agree with. When you see someone who needs help, you should help. If you are able to help, do so. If you don’t, you are selfish and are a mean person. That one isn’t as big of an issue, although maybe that is a struggle for you because of pride and selfishness (Galatians 5:25 – 26).

The second one is what maybe catches us off guard. What if we try to do it ourself? What if we never ask for help? What if we never open ourselves up to community and the care others can give us or allow someone to carry our burden? We are sinning as much as the selfish, prideful person who won’t help. 

Why?

Both have missed community and relationships. Both of them have pride issues and think they don’t need help or others. Both lack humility.

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