Happy Is The Goal

  


Happy is the goal, right? At least it is for me. 

Relationships are hard. Be it parent/child, sibling, spouse, friend, co-worker, acquaintance we are bound to have conflict. We are going to have misunderstanding, offense, strain, and, sometimes division. But that is never the end of the story.

It is interesting how often it is easier to walk away from our valuable relationships (whether physically or emotionally) than offer forgiveness which might build a bridge across the gap of frustration, anger or hopelessness.

More often than not, we just throw rocks at each other until nothing remains but a banged up, dented in, gnarled vestige of a relationship. Something that was once of great value. Destroyed by our own hands.

I was taught that being a good steward of what is valuable helps to maintain the value. 

My dad will tell you that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, the monetary value drops immediately. However, regular upkeep and maintenance preserves the amount of pleasure and use you receive from an investment you deemed worthy to make. You certainly do not take a sledge hammer to that investment because it got a flat tire, ran out of gas or worse yet shows signs of wear in the interior. You fix the problem.

Every relationship I have ever entered into held a valuable place in my heart when I entered into it. As I look back, those lost relationships most commonly disintegrated because we hurt each other and instead of repairing the damage, we chose to cripple it by withholding forgiveness.

On the other hand, I’ve seen how forgiveness builds a bridge that afforded the opportunity to reclaim and restore what was lost.

Forgiveness is tricky. It’s often discussed and acknowledged as necessary but rarely operated properly. Basically, I believe, because we do not believe it holds any real power. 

As a young car owner, I used to scoff at the idea that regular oil changes were necessary until I experienced a few break downs. Wisdom and experience have shown me how stupid my thought processes were at the time.

Forgiveness is the oil change of a relationship. 

It is vital to empty the heart on a regular basis of the gunk that is causing the relationship to break down.

Pride will cost us our happiness. Stubbornness will devalue what we once held dear. Maintaining the gap between us imprisons our hope and replaces it with anger, bitterness and contempt.

Sadly, we think walking out is the answer to restoring happiness. Have you ever listened to two people who ended a relationship…there is nothing joyful, or happy resounding from their being (and cut the air with a knife if they are within 2 feet of each other). True happiness is never restored until they reach the place of forgiveness and move on. 

So, why do we withhold forgiveness in the first place?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that one. 

I do know this, in my own life, I am seeing the value that “forgiving quickly” produces in my own heart. I see my relationships maintaining a happier level. And retaining my investment is rewarding (and less painful than parting ways).

We’ve all heard “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath”. It means apply forgiveness quickly, regularly. The heart can’t function properly without it.

The truth is…A happy relationship is made up of two good forgivers.

  

Assertive: What’s Right For Me AND What’s Right For You

  

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Issues are inevitable in any relationship. Resolving issues can be one of the most maddening or satisfying facets between two people depending on the approach taken by each party.

There are three common approaches when resolving issues in a relationship:

1. Passive (Becoming small, minimising yourself)

When you are passive, like a loyal teddy bear, you do not want cause a stir or stand up for your issues but in doing that you cause an underlying volcano of emotions. 

2. Aggressive (Becoming big and overpowering)

When you are aggressive, like an angry bear, you tend to stand up too heavily for your issues and have a tendency to forget others have their own rights and issues.

3. Assertive (Understanding you have equal needs and rights)

When you are assertive you pay equal attention to what is right for you and what is right for the other person.

Do you recognize the wisest approach?

Exercising your assertive rights empowers you to take care of yourself while you remain respectful of other people taking care of themselves.

A counselor and friend once told me that no one wakes up in the morning thinking, “How can I tick off my spouse/partner/friend/family today? I feel like making someone really angry.” 

We all hope for love, acceptance, belonging and joy. And we hope to give the same.

When we disappoint, we feel the pain as much as the other person.

My friend shared that she and her spouse remind each other, “I am for you, not against you. We have the same goal…a strong, healthy relationship.”

This helps me to stop and consider that the issue is resolvable because we both want what is best for our relationship. We actually want a win-win resolution. We are both committed to doing what we can to make things better. Even when it means recognising where we are failing and that we don’t get exactly what we originally wanted.

There were times when I thought being a loyal teddy bear was the answer but I wasn’t building a healthy relationship by remaining quite. Other times, I decided being an angry bear would resolve the issues better. Fail.

The most satisfying result, for me, is when we both feel we have a workable solution. I often ask, “Are we clear?” For me, that means the pathway between our hearts is clear of any debri that might separate us. I love hearing, “Clear.”

How about you? Are you clear? Is there debri cluttering the pathway of your heart and someone you care about?

If not, be assertive and clear the pathway as soon as possible!

An Important Key For Braving Trust

  
“Trust is the fundamental base line of any relationship which is always under threat. When we get trust right then we get durable fruit in relationships.” -Daniel Kent

My friend, Daniel, sent me this text yesterday following a teaching session I did on trust.

Have you ever told someone, “I can’t trust you?”

Have you ever said, “I’ll never trust anyone again?”

Contrary to what many of us think, trust is not as difficult as we think, if we have the right tools.

I think an important tool in any relationship is to understand who to trust with what when dealing with issues of trust.

Everyone one can be trusted with something. But no one can be trusted with everything.

Braving connection by sharing what is important to us requires that we not give a friend more than they are able to handle safely.

Trust is like a heavy weight. I would have a difficult time lifting a 40 pound dumb bell (I should probably stick to 2-10 pound weights). Now, my body building brother might lift that weight effortlessly.

I am not built to lift that much weight at the moment but I might be able to work up to it. If not, it’s unsafe for me to expect myself to handle that amount of weight. It’s too heavy for me.

In the same way, not everyone is equipped to handle the weight of what I might want to trust them with.

Does that mean he/she is untrustworthy? I don’t think so. 

For instance, even though someone may not be able to share that their marriage is failing with one of their friends does not mean that that friend can not be trusted at all. 

There will be something that can be entrusted to them. It might be as simple as details of the day or joys experienced.

Connecting in this way -with non-judgement about what a friend can bear- keeps both of the friends safe in the relationship. Both are less likely to betray or feel betrayed and walk away from a relationship that is important to them.
Sharing the weightier issues must be done with someone capable of sustaining the weight like a Counselor, confident, BFF or husband.
Each relationship has a trust weight bearing limit. 

Do you know yours?

Connection Is Why We Are Here

deeclarknz.comNeuro-biologically, we are hard-wired for connection. Connection is why we are here. Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The feeling of being connected is the ability to link or associate with something, to belong; like what holds the pedals of this flower together.deeclarknz.com

Ask your closest friends and family about connection and they will tell you their most excruciating stories of heartbreak and feeling excluded. That place where we see at a distance what we long to grab hold of and feeling like it is too far away or attainable.

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That place that screams from the deepest part of our heart and says, “I feel alone and it doesn’t feel right”. I have been there. I have been holding the hand of someone whom I desperately desired to connect with and feel the distance is too great a span for meaningful connection to occur. I have felt that no matter what I do, there is no kindness or gentleness or acceptance. It makes my heart weep and scream and whirl.

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In the midst of the screaming and feeling alone, we begin to gather shame. Shame is the fear of disconnection. It is the belief that there is something about me that if other people know or see, that thing will make me unworthy of connection and I will remain alone.

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Universally, we all feel shame unless we have no capacity for human empathy. It looks like: “I’m not _____ enough.”

  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I’m not thin enough.
  • I’m not rich enough.
  • I’m not beautiful enough.
  • I’m not successful enough.

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Shame unravels connection.

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In order to connect, we must find the courage to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart. We must be willing to be imperfect and fully who we are, letting go of who we think we should be to be considered worthy of connection. We need to be brave enough to see that we are different from those standing right next to us and that truth makes us beautiful and unique.

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We must fully embrace vulnerability. We must allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. On my walk to the beach this morning, I met this gentleman who was walking his pet lamb (isn’t it cool that he has a pet lamb and is taking it for a walk?). I stopped to say hello and make a connection. He told me, “She does not like the lead. She is a bit stubborn.” I rubbed her ears and said, “We girls can all be a bit stubborn at times, can’t we?” As I walked away, I was flushed with a sense of shame that I had just told a complete stranger that as a woman, I have a stubborn streak. Yet, after thinking about it, I felt brave as well. I looked at an imperfection and declared it openly with vulnerability.

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Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and joy and creativity and of belonging and love. When we find that vulnerability and tenderness are important, we will surrender and kind of walk into it. When we do, we find a willingness to take risks that bring us closer to each other; let our hair down, ask for help, initiate an embrace, love without guarantees and more.

According to Brene Brown, true, meaningful connections can be made if we will follow these 4 simple steps:

  • We allow ourselves to be deeply and vulnerably seen.
  • We love with our whole heart even if there are no guarantees.
  • We practice gratitude and lean into joy during moments of terror when we wonder, “Can I love you this much?”; “Can I believe in this as passionately?”; “Can I be this fiercely brave about this?”
  • We believe that “We Are Enough”. Because when we believe that we are enough, we stop screaming and we start listening. We are kinder and gentler to ourselves. And we are kinder and gentler to those around us.

To feel vulnerability means that I am alive. That you are alive. Being vulnerable opens the door to being connected which gives fulfilment to the purpose of our lives.

We live in a vulnerable world. What makes you feel vulnerable?

Embrace your vulnerability and get connected!

D

The World I Want Begins With Me

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There is so much pain in the world. The murders displayed on the news breaks my heart and reduces me to tears.

It can feel overwhelming on many levels.

Yet, the world I want begins with me.

Anger can be a useful emotion as it directs me to a core issue that is out of balance in my life. It is destructive when I allow it to cause me to react in a way that is devastating to the lives around me.

Anger is the core issue in murder. Period. Uncontrolled, unresolved anger drives a person to act dispicably. Taking someone’s life occurs along way down the pathway of angry emotions. Often, it begins with contempt. Contempt directs our thoughts and attitudes toward fear, negativity, prejudice and hatred.

You must first look within yourself to eliminate the fear, the anger, and the imbalance in your life.

Then and only then can you move forward to create peacefully and powerfully the changes needed in the world.

Today, following the news of 4 killings in Israel, I read that a young Israeli woman called for acts of kindness in response to the murders. This cry for good only comes from a heart that is at peace from within and an understanding that an eye-for-an-eye does not create a better world.

Yesterday, as I was shopping for some treats to have at home, I came across a woman and her grand baby that I had not met from my community. They were retrieving a small bottle of chocolate milk  from a cooler in celebration. The child had recently been weaned from her mother’s breast. I stopped and celebrated with them. I cheered for the 2 year old and congratulated her.

I introduced myself to the grandmother and her face beamed with happiness. It kind of shocked me, really. Who am I that meeting me in the grocery store and sharing a few kind words would make any real difference in this woman’s life? But we all know how it feels to have someone appreciate our children or our accomplishments, don’t we?

The woman told me that most of her time was spent working at a local restaurant and she asked me to stop in and visit her. I will, too.

That is how we change the world. I can not fight terrorists in a foreign country but I can…I CAN…work on my heart so that it is open to the people in my community. I can work diligently on the big issues in my heart that prevent my life from being worthwhile. I can also learn self-control so that my issues do not spill over onto the people I meet.

There was a day in my journey that I may never have given this woman the time of day. It might have only been the fact that I was preoccupied with my own world, my busy schedule or that I was exhausted from a full day at work.

People matter. People are what make the world – the world. So, it matters that we relate to each other in meaningful ways, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

The world I want begins with me.

I must be a person who makes life worth living, first, in my own life and then shared with those around me.

I have failed many times in my past at this. I whisper a prayer. I get back up. I look inward. I follow wisdom and truth until the values I want to see in the world are firmly planted in my own heart and behaviours.

How about you? Will you join me and peacefully and powerfully create the changes needed in the world – beginning with yourself?

Be kind to someone today and demonstrate a better way of life.

Journey on, dear reader,

D

 

 

10 Principles for Strong Relationships Found in the 10 Commandments (even if you are not religious)

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Have you ever experienced the pain of a failed relationship? Walking through each day numb, until a tidal wave of hope or rage or fear hits and sends you to bed, shivering, crying, and staring into space in terror. It feels like your heart has been ripped from your chest and put through a meat grinder.

If you have experienced a failed or failing relationship of any kind (marriage, dating, parent/child, friendship, job loss, neighbours at war, church splits or issues in a community), I have great news for you today. There is a framework for successful relationships. Although relationships can be difficult, they do not need to be doomed to failure. We can do the work of love that makes them enriching and abundant sources of joy and delight.

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Not like a Disney movie where everything ends in happily-ever-after. We dream of fairy tale endings but they aren’t real. Real life relationships and a life worth living requires work and decisions and heart changes. It produces joy and real joy has nothing to do with the butterfly feelings we call love. Joy is the settled assurance, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice of gratitude in every situation.

I have made a mucky mess of most of my relationships: love found and lost; friends who disappeared for no apparent reason; family holidays that ended in disastrous feuding; jobs that ended long before reaching a successful tenure, and an ugly divorce. All leaving me with the burning question, “What is it about me that they could not like or love?”

In still, quiet moments truths emerged that were hard to face. Yet, changes were necessary if I were to gain any hope of finding lasting relationships. Changes that needed to be made from the inside out.

I want to share 10 elements I found within the 10 Commandments that can change, heal or mend struggling relationships even if you are not a religious person.

Have you heard the story of the 10 Commandments? I remember watching Charlton Heston as Moses in the movie produced in the 50’s? (You can actually watch it on YouTube if you are interested. Just click on the link.). 

This may seem like a strange place to look for relationship advice. Instead of looking at the 10 commandments as a list of rules, I’ll ask you to give me a few minutes where you consider the principles behind the list.

My hope is that you will find some practical ways to enhance your quality of life starting immediately.

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Let’s have a look, shall we?

The 10 commandments state:

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
The first element of long lasting relationships is the decision and commitment. Commitment is the glue that binds long term relationships together. Therefore, before committing to a relationship careful consideration should be given. Commitment is not contractual. Contracts provide escape when things do not go as planned, do not go our way or when they become uncomfortable. Commitment actively works to find solutions, makes necessary changes to one’s behaviours and does not quit when things become difficult. Contracts encourage an attitude that “nothing lasts forever”. Commitment demands an attitude that never gives up. You will have to burn some bridges: your will might have to die, you can’t have your way all of the time, you will have to forgive, and you have to let past things go. You must be committed to your commitment more than you are to selfish behaviours. And sometimes that can feel like you’re dying. 😜

2. Do not make for yourselves any graven images.
The second element of long lasting relationships is to not do relationships by substitution. There can be a tendency to substitute giving things instead giving ourselves especially when things are hard or difficult. You can not work long hours and provide a house, car, or vacation as a substitute for coming home and working through the big issues of life. Strong relationships require that you show up and be present. Do life face to face and in person.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Did you know that when you love someone, the way you say their name is different? Just saying. The third element of long lasting relationships is communication. You can build a strong relationship with the words that come out of your mouth. You can also destroy a relationship with the words that come out of your mouth. Counsellors will tell you that one of the top reasons that relationships fail is due to poor communication. All of us are vulnerable. We want to be loved, accepted and valued. There is a dangerous pathway that you can travel when it comes to communication. The first step is criticism. You can read more about the criticism pathway by clicking the link. It is so important to speak kind words that allow hearts to grow close together.

4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
The fourth element in long lasting relationships is time. In a busy world we often refer to quantity and quality time. In order for quality time to emerge, there must be an adequate amount of time provided. You can’t just make memorable moments happen. In the process of time spent together, the special moments appear. Invest time in your relationship and watch it flourish. Schedule time that is non-negotiable. Commit to show up and be fully present without distractions.

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5. Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land.
The fifth element of lasting relationships is honour. There is an element of humility and respect involved in honour. When I think of honouring my country, I realise that I did not gain the freedoms I enjoy by my efforts alone. The same is true in relationship. Honour in relationship is a statement that you can not do this alone and respects the other person’s contribution as well as your own. The best way to cultivate honour is with gratitude and forgiving. Acknowledge the good and forgive what didn’t work out so well -striving to improve along the way.

6. You shall not murder.
Murder definitely would have a detrimental effect on your relationship. The sixth element of lasting relationships has to do with how you handle anger. You have to create an environment of peace. Yelling and throwing fits do not accomplish closeness. Learn to speak like a human-being with kindness and grace. And…learn to listen to the response. Do not hold on to your anger…in fact, before the day is finished work to deal with angry emotions so that they do not fester into infectious behaviours. Create a peaceful atmosphere and you will build a lasting relationship.

7. You shall not commit adultery.
Adultery is another relationship killer. Seriously. However, the seventh element of lasting relationships is self-control. The issue here is lust. Oddly enough, lust does not only relate to sex. Excessive indulgences feed lust and often are displayed in addictive behaviours. Lust drives you for more and more and more -it is insatiable. Lust will cause you to become discontent and dissatisfied with what you have. Self-control is an essential element to behaving appropriately in relationships.

8. You shall not steal.
The eighth element of lasting relationships is trust. You can not build a strong relationship with someone that you can not trust. Period. Trust lost is very difficult to restore. It is imperative to be trustworthy.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour (lying)
The ninth element of lasting relationships is honesty. Respect people’s reputation especially those that you desire to build a permanent relationship with. Guard their reputation as your own. Always be honest and truthful.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s “stuff” (paraphrasing there a little.)
The final element of lasting relationships is contentment. You know the old saying that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence?” the truth is “the grass is greener where you water it”. I’m not sure where that originated but it is wisdom. There will always be something or someone sunnier, shinier, prettier, or offering more benefits on the surface. Finding contentment requires that you take good care of what you have been given and cherish it with all of your heart. Work through the difficult times and build together something what can unfold into something great.

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These 10 elements can be applied to any level of relationship that you desire to remain permanent; marriage, family, friendship, business, career/job, community, church and yes, even a relationship with God. Make a careful decision and commit to it with every fibre of your being. Show up and deal with the big issues of life face to face. Communicate gently and effectively. Invest time so that special moments emerge. Cultivate an attitude of honour with gratitude and forgiving often. Deal with you anger in a healthy way and don’t hold onto things. Exercise self-control over the drive for more and more. Be trustworthy. Be honest. And finally take good care of what you have been given so that you have the opportunity to enjoy your relationship for a lifetime.

I would like to add one caution: we all know that no one person can make a relationship work on his/her own. Not even God could do that in His desire for a relationship with us. You can hear the pain in His voice through Jeremiah in Jeremiah chapter 2. It takes two committed people or a group of committed people (in families, business, churches, and communities) working through the big issues with honest effort to see great relationships as a result. In cases where abusive behaviours have emerged, always, always seek safety and help from a trained professional.

Many times (excluding abusive relationships) making changes to your behaviours, as I have mentioned in this article, can provide the first steps to getting your relationship back on track, keep it healthy or restore broken relationship. It can also help remove the charged atmosphere that ignites tension and stress.

Do you think these would work in your relationships?

Happy journeying!

D