The #1 Threat to your Relationships

It doesn’t take a professional psychologist, counselor, pastor, or leader to tell us that relationships are challenging at best, or deteriorating at worst.  The problems that are threatening our important relationships (i.e., marriages, children, parents, friends, co-workers, etc…) are numerous. At times it seems as if we are inventing new problems all the time as if we didn’t already have enough.

I’ve read many articles and books that define the problems we are facing.  The list of threats could go on for pages, but certainly include Finances/Debt, Communication, Pornography, Divorce, Abuse, Alcohol, Television/Movies, Lack of Sexual Intimacy, Shame, Anger, Drugs, Busy Schedules, and much more…  However, what is the #1 Threat to your Relationships?

Let me share a powerful story, I read some time ago in a book entitled, Connecting, by Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb.  He writes,

A friend of mine spent a weekend with a Christian ministry for troubled young people.  During a morning session of the residents and their parents, a young woman rose to address the group.

With trembling lips and tears of shame streaming down her face, she said, “I’ve been a prostitute for the last three years.  I am so sorry.”

As she stood there, paralyzed by her vulnerability, her father left his seat, walked to the front of the room, embraced the shaking girl, and said, “When I look at you, I see no prostitute in you.  You’ve been washed.  I see my beautiful daughter. (xviii)

I can only imagine the sorry and sadness this father experienced in his daughter’s confession.  He may have been embarrassed, felt like a failure himself, or even disgusted by his daughter’s behavior.  Instead, he offered grace and acceptance. You see… the #1 Threat to your Relationships is REJECTION.

Now please understand me, offering grace and acceptance is not condoning one’s behavior, but REJECTION is the death-sentence to any relationship.  REJECTION devalues the inherent worth of an individual, no matter how bad their behavior has been.  It strips away the hope and healing that can only be found when grace and acceptance are offered freely, and unmerited.

Let me clarify something.  When major pain is inflicted upon a relationship because of issues of repetitive physical/sexual abuse, or on-going unfaithfulness in a marriage it is necessary for some relationships to change.  So when a wife experiences an issue like the two listed above, she may need to respond to her husband’s rejection of their marriage covenant through separation or divorce.  These are the extreme situations.

On the norm, we should lead with Grace and Acceptance in our relationships.  Without Grace and Acceptance, we send the message, “I love and receive you as mine, only when you’re perfect or meet my expectations.”  Of course, this is an impossible standard causing most to either hide in the relationship or to run to a new relationship that makes them feel valuable or worthy of love.

Long-term, healthy and growing relationships Reject-REJECTION!   The father in the above story was not accepting his daughter’s behavior, but he did accept her as a daughter.  How might we respond in the same way to our relationships?


Shift #3: Lead with GRACE

Leading with GRACE is as much about leading one’s self as it is about influencing others.  In order to lead with GRACE, one must be filled with GRACE. Influence and making a difference is impossible when you walk around with a chip on your shoulder. In order to make a difference in the lives of those around us, we must Lead with Grace.

As the 12 hand-picked leaders of Israel’s tribes spied on the Promised Land and its inhabitants, only 2 returned with a good report.  Joshua and Caleb did see all that the other spies saw, but the grace they had seen IN the Lord and received FROM the Lord fed their faith.  This faith caused them to Lead with GRACE.  Read this account in Numbers 14:36-38,

So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.

For most, the beginning of our leadership journey finds us uncomfortable in our own skin.  When we discover the insecurity in self, we attempt to be like others.  Like the great Giant Slayer David, who tried on King Saul’s armor to fight Goliath, in time we discover that trying to dress in someone else’s armor doesn’t work either.

Leading with GRACE begins with being comfortable in your own skin.  If you can’t accept and have grace for yourself, you’ll never have grace toward others.  Leading with GRACE requires we know who we are, which allows you to inspire others.  To touch the lives of those around us (family, friends, and co-workers), requires grace.

Shift #2: Speak LIFE

Speaking LIFE is the ability and choice to share the right WORDS at the right TIME,  which bring something into existence in the life of another.

Parents (& close family) have a unique role of Speaking LIFE over their children like no one else.  The problem is, parents also see children at their worse moments.  Moms and dads see the fits, the attitudes, the lapses of judgment, the forgotten homework-shoes-shorts-etc…  However, as parent, we must see past the immediate, and have vision for the future.

Speaking LIFE over your children speaks their future into existence.

If Speaking LIFE was not something you experienced in your home growing up, let me give you some words LIFE that can make all the difference in the world to your child.

I’m proud of you, Way to go, Bingo … you did it, Magnificent, I knew you could do it, What a good helper, You’re very special to me, I trust you, What a treasure, Hurray for you, Beautiful work, You’re a real trooper, Well done, That’s so creative, You make my day, You’re a joy, Give me a big hug, You’re such a good listener, You figured it out, I love you, You’re so responsible, You remembered, You’re the best, You sure tried hard, I’ve got to hand it to you, I couldn’t be prouder of you, You light up my day, I’m praying for you, You’re wonderful, I’m behind you, You’re so kind to your (brother/sister), You’re God’s special gift, I’m here for you. (John Trent, Ph.D., Vice President of Today’s Family, Men of Action, Winter 1993, p. 5.)

Mothers and Fathers, remember when you see the worse in your child to continue to Speak words of LIFE.  You can certainly continue to correct or discipline, but even then, these are done with one eye on the present, and one eye on the future.  Speak LIFE!