Tell me who I am: I will believe you; considering self concept

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It was one of the first weeks of the fall semester at West Shore Community College. I had just walked out of science class with my brain spinning, back pack loaded with homework. The whole week had been trying. I had two tests to prepare for, but, with their being the firsts tests of the semester, couldn’t even guess what they would be like.

Then I had read the psychology study guide. I immediately felt overwhelmed. Paragraphs of questions covered two pages. They weren’t yes or no”, “true” or “false” questions. They weren’t questions with one word or phrase answers. They were “describe” and “explain” questions. It was so long, confusing, and extremely detailed. My stomach had tied in knots.

Image result for geoffrey kramer west shore community collegeNow, as I walked in the empty hall, from behind me, my psych teacher approached. Cheerfully, he commented about a question I had asked that morning. “You aren’t still worrying about the absolute refractory period, are you?” I pasted a friendly smile on my face and stopped walking, but I couldn’t answer. He might’ve been seriously wondering, or perhaps he was just making conversation. Either way, I couldn’t lie, but I certainly couldn’t tell the truth. I tried not to let the “yes, I am still really worried” show on my face, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

In the silence, he spoke up again, conscious of at least a little of my worry. “Well, I saw you were looking at the study guide. Isn’t that helpful?”

The smile disappeared. “No. No, not in the least. The study guide was what put me into such horrific terror!But I didn’t say what I was thinking. I put all my effort into not letting the tears form and run down my cheeks.

I knew the silence was long and the lack of eye contact would make him suspicious. I knew if I didn’t answer right away, I would have to admit the truth. If I didn’t say something, he would find out how I felt. But my jaw was clenched as I fought to keep the tears from escaping. I lost the battle.

In the empty hall, in front of my respected teacher, I started crying.

cristian-newman-141895I really didn’t want to make him feel bad. He had done a fine job, I was just stressed. It wasn’t his fault, and he didn’t need to feel bad for me. But I couldn’t hold the tears back.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“It’s not a big deal. I’m just a little worried about this test and the material.”

“Do you want to come to my office and we can go over some of it?”

I’ll never forget those fifteen minutes of my life. Partly because breaking down crying at college, especially in front of one of my most respected teachers, is embarrassing and is not an easy thing to forget. However, I’ll remember those minutes mostly because what Dr. Kramer was willing to do for me meant so much. A single one of his how-many-students starts sobbing about something stupid and he takes her back to his office, even though he had a meeting to be to in fifteen minutes, and spends his time trying to calm her down. The value that Dr. Kramer had for me–as evidenced in the way he treated me gave me more confidence in myself.

Self concept is complicated. So many things influence the way we view ourselves. Even things like those simple fifteen minutes are so crucial, so memorable, so impacting. This is partly because people and instances impact the way we view ourselves. This is called reflected appraisal–“the theory that a person’s self-concept mirrors the way the person believes others regard him or her” (Adler & Proctor, 2014, p. 413). So, the way people treat us can change the way we believe in ourselves. What they do sends messages–and we believe what they tell us.

Image result for self conceptOur self concept has significant value. If we are confident, yet humble, realize our strengths with pride yet understand our weaknesses without becoming distraught, then we will be able to spend our energy on more productive things than simply worrying about who we are. Being confident that we are valuable will allow us to reach out to greater things–take bigger steps.

Because of how easily impacted our self concept is–but still how valuable it is–it is essential that we keep ourselves in good company, spending time with people who will show us love and respect. It is vital to surround ourselves with people who will back us up and push us to press onward. It is also essential to spend time in God’s word or inspirational books which remind us how valuable we are (Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are). Especially those of us who tend more toward beating ourselves up over struggling with pride, if we don’t purposefully remind ourselves who we are, we are likely to fall into pity parties or stop marching because we no longer believe in ourselves.

Similarly, we need to speak love and value to other people–especially those of us who believe that each human is created in God’s image. There are so many ways to encourage others: write a note to them, give a phone call, spend some fun time with them, complete one of their chores for them. Where will the world see God’s love, if his people aren’t showing it? But even speaking to people who aren’t into God, you know how much encouragement from a friend can speak to you.

Image result for I love you noteI’d like to challenge you to consider the five people you spend the most time with. Do they believe in you? Are they building your self concept in a healthy way? I’d also like to challenge you to encourage some of the people around you. A good friend gives, and doesn’t just take. What is something concrete that you can do right now to influence your friends and tell them that they are valuable?

Finally, you know I love comments 😉

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My Communication Testimony: how learning how to communicate saves relationships

IMG_20170708_170348990I lay in the top bunk, trying to calm down my younger sister as she exploded, “I hate you! Every single day you make me so angry at you!” I could hear her crying as I responded to her, “I don’t understand; you never make me angry. Why do I upset you so much?” I could sense her frustration in her reply: “Everything you do makes me angry. Every single day. I hate it!” “Well, tell me what to change. If you tell me what to do differently, I’ll do it. Then I won’t make you angry. I can’t change until you tell me what I am doing wrong.” I lay calmly on my bed listening to her sobbing in frustration with me. “It’s just everything, BethAnn, you make me feel so worthless.” Although I was calm in my bed, I will admit I was hurt to know I was hurting her. “Well, goodness, just tell me how to Image result for confusedchange. I’ll change for you! Just tell me what you want! You have to give me specifics or I’ll never be able to stop making you angry. What do you want me to do? I know it’s not your communication style to be so blunt, but I can’t speak your language if you don’t adjust and speak my language sometimes. You’re going to have to do something outside of your comfort zone so that I can speak your language. What do you want me to do?!”

These conversations happened on a very regular basis over an extended season in time when my relationship with my sister hit a rough spot. Looking back I see how cruel I was in these conversations, speaking my conversational style in a pushy way, forcing the task-oriented, low-context side of things. But she hated me and I didn’t understand why she didn’t know that I loved her. I didn’t know what to do. Working our way through this extended and painful conflict was one of the reasons I am so passionate about communication today.

Communication in close relationships is like communication in any other kind of relationship except that everything in close relationships is so many times more magnified, intense, and important. This is mainly because in close relationships, we have IMG_20170620_115110749much higher expectations for the other person combined with the fact that we have regular, long-term interactions with the other. We expect the other person to truly know us and we expect love to conquer all. But when there is even one communication style difference, that one thing which gets on the other’s nerves really builds up over time. When one thing you do whispers a lack of care for the other, this one thing begins shouting a lack of care over time.

In this case with my sister, it turned out we were speaking different love languages. I speak words of affirmation and physical touch. “Tessa, we’re a great team. I appreciate how we compliment each other and I’m glad to have you as a sister” was my way of proving I loved my sister (I didn’t hug her–I already knew she has a large space bubble and can’t stand hugs!). But to my sister, whose love language is acts of service, these words were very shallow.

I actually asked Tessa to share her side of the story, and here are some of her thoughts: 0514171506What made it worse is that I would show her that I cared by cleaning our room, making her pancakes for breakfast, or collecting F Minus comics out of the newspaper only to be met with remarks like “Why does it matter if our room is clean?” “I actually felt like toast for breakfast,” or “Well, I don’t need all the jokes. And that one isn’t even all that good.” It seemed like all my attempts were getting met negatively, on purpose. Yet each time I would explode, she would try her best to convince me that she really did love me and she couldn’t understand what was wrong. Unfortunately, often actions speak louder than words in my life, and in this situation, it was very difficult for me to believe her words when her actions were conveying a very different message by my interpretation.”

It took me a long time to figure this out. It’s not that I didn’t believe actions mattered, I just didn’t realize how crazy much they really mattered. I really just wanted her to spell it out so that I could solve the problem quick and easy. Geez, Tessa, just tell me what you need! But to those of you who can relate to this, I have something to warn you: talking it out doesn’t always solve everything.

Consider the act of wishing someone happy birthday. If I remember it’s your birthday and greet you with a bright, “Happy birthday!” when I see you, it can mean a lot. But if we go through your birthday together without me remembering and you finally speak up and say, “You know, it’s my birthday today.” My bright “Happy Birthday!” isn’t the same. You can’t necessarily know if I was doing it because I cared or because I felt obligated.

Image result for pancakesIn the same way, I have to learn to communicate in Tessa’s love language on my own sometimes to show that it is genuine. If she had to tell me, ““BethAnn, my love language is acts of service and I’m not going to feel loved until you sincerely do occasional acts of service for me just to remind me that you do care. If you would only clean our room up sometimes and maybe make breakfast for me, or just do something for me…” for one she wouldn’t know how much I’m doing it out of concern for her happiness or how much I’m doing it out of a guilt trip. Secondly, this approach would likely make Tessa feel guilty for asking these things of me. Going out of my way sometimes to show my sister love is healthy. But if you’re the person asking for this, it feels needy, selfish, and wrong.

Tessa helped explain this too. “Another straw that was added to the camel’s back was the guilt that she would indirectly make me feel for communicating the way I did and for feeling the way I felt. There was obviously conflict in our relationship, but since she didn’t see anything wrong, it was apparently my fault. I was the one being annoyed; I was the one who couldn’t spell things out plainly; I was the one not feeling loved. But I felt guilty for telling BethAnn what I would like her to do and what would really make me feel like she cared because it felt very selfish of me and like as soon as I told her it would be fake.”

I had to figure this out the harder way: I had to pay better attention to what made her happy, I had to try different ways of proving my love, I had to go out of my way to speak in her love language. But doesn’t that demonstrate love much better than if she had just told me? So this is why I am so passionate about studying communication. It’s humbling to recognize that my way of communicating is not only not the only way, but it’s also not even a “better” way. Recognizing this fact is what allows me to truly demonstrate my love for my sister and it’s what allows me to have a better perspective of where I fit in IMG_3582this big world. And it saves a very valuable relationship in my life 🙂 

I hope that you will take communication seriously and will humble yourself to recognize that other ways of communicating are valid. Please let me know your thoughts and/or experiences. I’d love to hear how understanding the complexity of communication has made a relationship of yours stronger.

 

Making the Most of Memories: the benefits of Reminiscing

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Memory of going to a “hobo” party with siblings 🙂

July 4th I went to work at the campground as usual (holidays aren’t breaks for campground workers–they are busier actually). Half an hour into my work day, two guys in black ski masks and sun glasses blocking out their eyes snuck into the campground office while I was distracted. I turned around and they grabbed me, blindfolded me, and put me in a car. My mind was racing during the following 40-50 min drive and, aside from a hasty command to remain seated and just wait at the beginning of the ride, nobody in the car spoke during the whole time. 

File:Balaclava 3 hole black.jpgWhen we finally parked, I was pulled out of the car, passed around from person to person at least once or twice, and after what seemed like a very, very long time, the bandanna blindfold was ripped off; I was greeted with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and a cake with burning candles. 

I spent the day in the company of good friends exploring the ruins of an old cement factory and biking on the North Country Trail. I had a fantastic day and know I will remember the day for a very long time.

Memories are astounding things. But they don’t seem to get the credit they deserve. Experiences that were hard work, cost a lot of money, or are long gone are easily retrievable and re-experienceable and yet we so often forget to take full advantage of this mysterious thing called memory. I would like to encourage you to go back and consider some good memories for multiple reasons:

Memories are a way to stay content

The day after that kidnapping adventure, work was especially slow and boring in comparison. But while I worked, I remembered the happenings of the day before and was forced to smile every so often. Plus, I recognized that the only way adventures like that can happen is if we go through our normal, every day lives most of the time. Thinking about that instead of having a pity party at work helped me to be grateful for what I have instead of bemoaning what I don’t have. When you are bored or discontent, take the time to consider an old memory that will make you smile. I can guarantee it will make you just a little more content in the current situation.

IMG_20170708_153310165_HDRMemories are a way to stay connected with friends

Relationships have a past, present, and future too. As explained in my intriguing post “Relationships in the 3-D,” keeping the past (good memories together) in mind helps to strengthen the present. Remembering old adventures with friends and siblings is a guaranteed way to rejuvenate love and admiration toward others.

Memories help us to keep a good perspective on life

Have you ever been on one of those vacations where everything goes wrong? Or you had an experience with a friend that was just rotten at the time? Our family once watched a terrible movie. It had a lame plot and ended with the family being broken up and doled out because the parents died and the orphans needed homes. It was such a waste of time to watch, and yet, now our family laughs whenever we remind each other of it and we use that waste-of-time experience for good now. Remembering and laughing about those Image result for hippie vankind of situations in the past helps us to keep a better perspective in the present. When you have a hangnail and your eyelid won’t close all the way and have a mosquito biting your nose (but you can’t swat it because your hands are sticky from eating spoiled oranges) and you get a flat on the side of the road and have to hitchhike with a hippie gangster (not a true story and NOT recommended), you’ll be more likely to take it in stride–recognizing in a little while it’ll be over with and just be a memory to laugh at. Rough things have to happen, but they aren’t the end of the world.

Memories are a way to keep in mind what God has done for us

In the book of Exodus we see God doing miraculous sign after miraculous sign after miraculous sign to free the Israelites from their bondage to the Egyptians. And yet, as soon as they are freed from their miserable slavery, they immediately forget God and turn to such wretched activities as building themselves a golden calf to worship. How guillaume-de-germain-303020 (1)insane is that?! And yet, I do the same thing. I am SO quick to forget what God has done for me. Taking the time to remember what God has done for you in the past is an invaluable way to keep your faith strong and to keep you well connected to your maker.

It is true that sometimes we need to leave the past behind. You’ve been forgiven for your sins and there are some memories we need to let go of in order to move on. But there are also countless memories we are way too quick to forget. Reminiscing over past joys is such a free, easy activity that can really have so many benefits!

I’d like to challenge you to remind a friend of a shared memory with him/her–just to Image result for smiley facemake the two of you smile, or to thank God for something he’s done in your past that you sometimes forget, or to wake up in the morning (and, if you’re human, you’ll sometimes wake up grumpy) and to immediately consider a good memory so that you can start the morning with a smile. Why not take advantage of the advantages of memories?

Also, I’d love for you to comment on the post with a good memory or just your thoughts 🙂

Regarding following your heart…where does it lead?

Image result for follow your heartSitting at the dinner table the other night, my dad mentioned how our school system of taking the summer off can negatively affect children’s expectations about life. Kids grow up expecting to use the summer for “fun” and this expectation of the summer being simply for that purpose leads him to struggle at work. When he spends his summer putting in normal hours he feels like things aren’t the way things are “supposed to be,” he feels like it’s time for him to be having fun–like he deserves this chance at play.

Just because you recognize some blatant influences of culture doesn’t mean you’re safe from its influences. Just because you realize the over-the-top, self-serving aspects of advertising (you recognize sex sells, you see that the product claims to satisfy your deepest desires, you understand some of the manipulative devises) doesn’t mean it doesn’t change the way you think. Just knowing it’s there doesn’t shield you. I believe our culture affects us more than we know. It tells us we deserve to–and therefore always Book, Bored, College, Education, Female, Girl, Learnshould–feel good. If something doesn’t feel good, we shouldn’t do it. We see this in the big picture, but do we realize how this attitude affects us as it sifts into the less obvious places? What about your spiritual life?

I will admit that I am guilty of setting aside my Bible because it isn’t as entertaining as other things, cutting prayer time short because I’m just not “feeling” it, and turning down a chance to love a neighbor simply because I don’t want to spend my precious time on someone else. In these areas I have accepted culture’s message and have missed chances to make my life count.

In considering this, I was inspired by what a fellow blogger said in one of his posts: “Our feelings will lie to us. That is why we need the facts of the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our lives to lead our faith walk.” Faith is not a feeling. Faith is an action, a lifestyle, a choice, and a commitment. It is something we need to work at, even when we aren’t “feeling” it.

warning-2284170_1920Now I don’t want to be that stony, beat-you-over-the-head-with-the-Bible (or any other available object, for that matter) Christian who immediately proclaims that God will bring down judgement on you if you do anything fun or enjoyable. I mean, seriously, folks, you’ve read my posts; I’m a hard-core believer that life should be brimming with joy and that we can find contentment, hope, and joy in every single situation–even at work 😉 I’m a tell-tale fun-lover.

So how do we balance this? My friend continues his thought in a way that allows for feelings, but places them in perspective: “Feelings can take a backseat. That’s not saying we shouldn’t have emotions at all, emotions are what helps us connect with each other. They make us human. But emotions shouldn’t be the decision maker in our faith and beliefs.”

Quoting a pastor from Moody Radio, my fellow blogger stated these factors should influence decision-making in the following order: Fact, followed by Faith, followed by Feelings. Feelings are in there, but they are at the end. While culture might tell us otherwise, it is important to open our eyes wide to what culture is communicating and, in doing so, to do a systems check–making sure we are oriented the way we want to be.

hand heart bracelet fashion accessories silhouette sea water reflection sunset outdoor landscape view Ecclesiastes 11:9 explains it well: “You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” It is not wrong to follow your heart–so long as you aren’t following your heart to places that will bring judgement upon yourself. You were born with a sinful desire; not everything you feel like doing will be the right thing. 

Joshua Harris again states this clearly: “‘The heart is deceitful above all things…’ we read in Jeremiah 17:9. ‘Who can know it?’ Though the advice of many well-meaning people today is to ‘follow your heart,’ the Bible warns that your heart can lead you in wrong, even deadly, directions. Our hearts lie. Something can ‘feel’ right and be completely wrong.”

Culture has been wrong before. I’m not asking you to become emotionless, but I am challenging you to consider what your emotions are prompting you to do before you act on it. And I want to remind you that you have control over your feelings.

Please share your thoughts. I would like to know your reactions 🙂Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, outdoor

Also, though long, I like to believe it proves interesting and a worthwhile read…here’s a link to my testimony of how pursuing happy feelings almost led to suicide and the lesson I learned from it.

P.s. So that you don’t have to constantly question whether or not you may have missed one of my essential posts, you should just hit the “follow” button on the top left of the page. That way you’ll be notified when I post a new post 🙂

 

Still waiting for life to start…: Finding contentment right now

watch clock time hour minute second men accessory bracelet “I’m going to college to be a… *looks both directions nervously, leans in close and whispers in a foreboding, secretive tone*…a garbage truck driver!” 

As a high school senior and college freshmen, I did not know what I wanted to major in nor did I know what I wanted to do with my life (and even currently as a college junior at Cornerstone University, while I have major figured out, I’m still stuck on the “life” part…). And yet these two questions seemed to be the FAQ of FAQs! They were innocent small talk conversation pieces but the constant questioning made me feel a great amount of pressure. These questions made me feel like like I wasn’t living right if I didn’t have an answer. I got so sick of being asked what I was majoring in and what I wanted to do with my life that I prepared to answer with the beginning quote–just to get people off my case!

sea ocean water mountain highland nature landscape sky clouds golden gate bridge travel view Young adulthood is commonly known as the bridge. We’re moving from being kids to being adults in a crazy world. Our focus is on our future: our future careers, our future relationships, our future plans. Our culture seems to shove down young adult’s throats the focus of the future…which isn’t entirely bad. However, like everything else in life, we need balance. Too much future focus can cause us to be so involved in the future that we aren’t enjoying the right now. To get too caught up in the future is to undermine current contentment. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 offers the idea of “seasons.” Life has it’s different seasons that we pass through each has it’s goods and bads. Getting the next joy involves giving up a current joy–which is the way life works, and it’s a good thing–in it’s proper time. But what good is the current joy if you’re not appreciating it right now, while you have it? Sure, right now you might not have the stability of that career, house, family, etc., but you have access to a freedom and flexibility right now that you won’t have when you’ve settled into each of those things. At college you have the opportunity to spend 24 hrs/day in the midst of young adults all in a similar boat as you. 

Image result for seasonsJoshua Harris says it well: “Just as spring’s role is different from that of fall, so each season of our lives has a different emphasis, focus, and beauty. One is not better than another; each season yields its own unique treasures…God has many wonderful experiences He wants to give us, but He also assigns these experiences to particular seasons of our life. (italics mine)” If we want to learn contentment, we need to start right now–because if today’s blessings aren’t making you happy, tomorrow’s won’t either. 

I often find myself waiting. Waiting for something big to happen. Waiting for my future to arrive. Waiting for my life to start. I go through high school, waiting to make it through college. I go to college waiting to make it through the semester. I go through summer waiting to make it back to school. I’m waiting for my career. Waiting to have a family of my own. Waiting until I have my future planned out. Once I check all of these things that is when my life is going to start. That is when I’m going to really live. And that is when I’ll actually be content.

That’s what I believe. Not because it’s true, but because it’s what culture tells me and I haven’t questioned it until recently. Studying communication teaches us to question what we unconsciously accept. It gives us control because it makes us more aware of what we are taking for granted or what we are accepting as true.green grass lawn field nature outdoor road travel horizon sky

Honestly, I think the belief that one’s life is really on the horizon and has yet to truly start, is what a lot of young people believe, whether or not they realize it. We are told to work so hard towards the future that we expect that it is the future that will provide us the contentment and fulfillment that we are searching for right now. When we feel like life is missing something right now, we push it off, believing the future will fulfill us.

But life isn’t going to get inherently “better.” It’s not going to randomly “start” when you graduate or get married or get that job or anything else. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and the blessings you have today are different from the blessings that you are going to have later. This current season of your life has unique blessings. Please, please don’t be so busy staring off into space, waiting, that you ignore these blessings.

people girl alone sitting wood reading book bible blur And if you are discontent right now, there may be a reason for that. You might want to consider how you are living your life and what you are living for right now. I believe if you truly commit your life to Christ, you will be capable of finding fulfillment during any stage of your life–even the right here, right now without that dream spouse, dream career, or dream family. Your life has already started.

Please feel free to leave comments. I love hearing from readers and would appreciate hearing your thoughts 🙂

Relationships 101: It begins with knowing God

rocks people man happy worship sunset view clouds sky dark silhouette A twitter post by CommonWhiteGrl stated, “Being 18-25 is like playing a video game where u’ve skipped the tutorial & you’re just sort of running about with no idea how anything works.” Tell me about it. At this age we often feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out our lives: our educations, our careers, our relationships.

Of all of these significant aspects, I would argue that relationships are the most important. The relationships you form today are going to affect who you are tomorrow (more so, I would argue, than the career or educational path you chose). Most college kids are hungry for good, close friends. So to solve our problem, I wrote a post revealing the deepest, previous-to-now unknown, rocket-science, doctorate-degree-level, what-you-never-knew-before secrets about how to form and maintain a good relationship.

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not quite that secretive…and maybe it’s not quite that complicated…yeah…it might actually be common sense. BUT, I know this because I do it all the time: the common sense is so often forgotten. So, in this post I took up the menial task of reintroducing it–for my own sake if for no one else’s.

The Backstory

You know that passionate love and connection you feel between yourself and your best friend and/or significant other? No, seriously, think about your excitement to spend time with this person. This love and closeness is something we desire in relationships and it is delightful when we can make such connections. But, even if you think you have the closest of BFFs or the world’s best girlfriend, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If you think you’ve felt love, passion, or belonging from any human before, I want to remind you God created that passionate love and if you think it’s strong between two humans, imagine how much stronger God feels that way toward you. As much as it means to wake up to a simple text saying “good morning” from your lover or best friend, it means so much more to God for you to wake up and say “good morning!” to him. He pursues you, desires you, and wants your love more than any human possibly could.

Therefore, if you really want good, fulfilling relationships, you have to start with getting to know God. 

I know God is so big, so unimaginable, so vast, so…everything. It seems impossible to know God and he sometimes feels so very distant. I know it. And I do not want to downplay God–he is way beyond us. I readily admit he is far too vast to understand. But, at the same time, he’s created each individual to be capable–in fact only fulfilled–when he/she has a close relationship with God. So in the face of this aspiration, I want to offer a variety of ways to stay connected with your creator.

Talk

We think we’re so technologically advanced when we can text someone anywhere in the hands clasp pray person people ring still bokeh portrait black and white world and they can receive it in a matter of seconds. How much cooler, though, is it that we can talk directly, without any time or technological boundaries, to the creator of the universe? And what kind of friends don’t talk? Realistically, how many of us, if asked about our relationship with God would have to answer–if answering honestly–“Well, we aren’t really talking anymore”? Let me tell you, in relationships, that statement is never a good sign…

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Tell him how your day was. Tell him what is bothering you. Tell him what you’re excited about. Tell him why you are angry with him. Like a patient lover, he’s standing right by your side, just waiting for your attention. He wants your heart and wants your real self. Talk to him–even if you are only saying stupid things. He knows already, but he wants to hear it from you. Sometimes you and your best friend talk just to hear from each other what you already know. That’s what God wants.

Listen

But good friends don’t just talk, they listen. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, in their book Lady in Waiting, do a great job of describing this: “Even when someone is very special to you, you do not get too excited with a steady monologue. Listening is an important part of developing closeness with someone else. If you want to get to know the Lord, you must seek Him not only with a whole, clean, and pure heart, but also with a listening heart.”

mountain valley hill cliff rocks landscape blue sky clouds people man sitting alone mountaineer hiker hiking climbing sunny day daylight travel outdoors summer adventure Very few people would argue this point. But how does one listen to God?? One obvious answer is through reading his word. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s word is a love letter to you. I bet it’s been a while since you’ve read God’s word as carefully as you would read a love letter… But you can also listen to God through a sermon, through reading inspirational books and blogs 😉 , or even through admiring creation (which he spoke into being). Sitting outside and staring up at the clouds, thinking about who God is definitely counts as listening to him.

Hang Out

The intense desire you have to spend time with a best friend or significant other is the way God feels about you. He looks forward to shared time and loves for you to be aware and accepting of his presence even in menial tasks. Just as even washing dishes is more fun with a friend, being aware and accepting of his presence in any circumstance can count as “quality time.”

And just as you enjoy spending time with your BFF or significant other in groups, you can hang out with God in groups–that’s what churches, discipleship groups, and worship nights are for. These are marvelous ways to celebrate God with other friends. mountain nature sky sunny sunrise summer sunset sunlight sunshine green grass sea water ocean lake man people reading book bible sitting alone bench But, also as you enjoy spending time with that one friend one-on-one, so you ought to spend time one-on-one to really connect intimately with God. Set aside some alone time* to talk with God, to listen to God, and just to sit silently with God. You’d do it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/bestfriend. Do it with God.

*Are you really alone if you’re chillin’ with God?

Become Obsessed!

You know how lovers are obsessed with each other and simply can’t get that special someone off their minds? Well, God’s obsessed with you and would love for even a small portion of that obsession to be reciprocated. Thinking about someone is a way of bringing that relationship into the present (see my post: Relationships in the 3-D). Randomly thinking about God throughout the day is a way to evoke passion in your relationship. Take your prayers before meals more seriously, place Bible verses in obvious places to randomly get your attention, think about a time when God has come through for you.

Many of us feel so overwhelmed about deepening our relationship with God that we tend to simply push it off. Or we forget how desperately God is pursuing us, waiting for so much as a little awareness from the humans he created in his image to share his love with. Or we get so caught up in life that we get distracted. But life is short and unpredictable. And God is waiting. So please, don’t let God’s greatness be an excuse for starting or growing deeper in the best relationship of your life.

Venting 101

felix-russell-saw-113844.jpgIt’s time for another immediately-applicable highly-concrete post. We’re still in that season of summer jobs and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who finds myself venting about work. But, what differentiates venting from complaining and/or gossiping? And, as we’ve already discussed, communication creates reality. If I start speaking negatively about my job, it’s going to spiral, and work is going to get worse. So how do I balance these risks with a need to relate my struggles and frustrations to someone who cares (*thanks Mom!)?

Rule #1: One of the most significant rules is vent to the right person

Ideally, it is best to vent to a person who is fairly removed from the situation. If you are venting about work, this person probably should not be a co-worker. If you’re venting about a relationship, this person probably should not be a mutual friend. Doing this is a set up for disaster. This is because venting to an immediately-involved person is likely to make that other person think worse of the situation as well and that is not fair to this person nor the person or situation you are venting about. Venting to a co-worker is likely to make us both more upset with our jobs. Venting about a mutual friend can easily turn into gossip and will make the relationships worse all around. At school if I have struggles, I vent to my mom who is at home and won’t get emotionally involved in the situation or get upset with the people I’m talking about.

Another factor to keep in mind is that you want to vent to someone who will downplay, aaron-burden-90144.jpginstead of create, drama–someone who listens more than he/she talks. Don’t vent to someone whose response will be something like, “Oh geez, that’s horrible. You’re right. Your boss or friend should never do that to you! I would definitely throw a fit if I were in your shoes.” We’re going for a release of negative emotions, not a shared pity party. The goal is to relieve pressure, not build it up! (FYI, a journal does a good job of listening and a pretty good job of not creating drama 😉 )

In case you’re having trouble thinking of someone who can fulfill these roles for you, let me suggest God. He’s not going to think any more negatively of the situation or person just because you vent about it. He’s great at listening and–added bonus!–he’s actually in control of the situation. If you’re asking with the right motives and it’s within his will, it’s likely he will actually change the situation in some way (even if it’s just by working in you)–which is more than a lot of friends or parents can do.

Rule #2: Be active, not passive

Sitting on your butt whining isn’t going to change anything. Use the time you spend venting as time you spend thinking. Is there any way you can change things for the better? Is there anything you can do to affect the situation? This might come in the form of not even changing the situation, but purely trying to change your attitude. Can you start viewing work as a service? Can you keep your focus on the eternal? Can you go out of your way to show love to your “enemy”? Can you work your hardest even when you really don’t care? Even if you use the experience just to get to know yourself better (what you can deal with and what you can’t), that is still a beneficial learning experience. Arguably this is the hardest rule. But if you aren’t seriously considering what you can do to make a difference, you’re really just whining about the situation.

sonja-langford-357Rule #3: Vent for the right amount of time

I’ve said it multiple times before, but it’s vital to keep in mind. Communication forms reality. The more time you spend complaining, the more you’re going to see that person, that situation, or that job as negative. So keep your venting short and sweet. Say what you need to say to get it off your chest. And then be done. Let the dead dog lie.

 

Rule #4: End on a good note

In the midst of the things that are bothering you, there has to be something positive. I find myself regularly fed up with specific things at work and am quite willing to vent lesly-b-juarez-220845.jpgabout them. But do I ever talk about the perks of my job? Do I ever mention the positives? You still became friends with that person for a reason and you still chose that job for a reason. When you are wrapping up a good venting session, be sure to verbalize the positives. It takes a strong soul to remember the positives, but it is an important step.

Another really good source that I would recommend: Anger Management: The Five W’s of Healthy Venting