The Secret to Thriving: The Importance of Gratitude

As I enter into the last couple weeks of this school year, I am reminded of the importance of gratitude.

 

Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude:

 

*Gratitude: the state of being grateful; thankfulness.*

 

I love this quote about gratitude:

 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr

 

In “thorny” times, times of stress or hardship, gratefulness enables us to better thrive and survive.

 

I can complain that I have a huge number of final projects coming up that seem impossible to complete, and that right now I’m sitting in my bed writing this because I’m sick with some sort of cold.  Or, I can rejoice!  (No, I’m not crazy!)

 

I can rejoice because I have the opportunity to go to school, to live in New York City, to show how much I’ve learned over the past semester, and to learn how to better discipline myself in time management so I can get enough sleep and not get sick.

 

One of my business professors said something really profound:

 

“The hard things shout at us, but the daily blessings and gifts whisper.”

 

She went on to say, that “when we approach conflict (and other hard situations) with gratitude instead of anger, we can be grateful that we are solid in Christ no matter what the outcome.”

 

Proverbs 16:24 says,

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

 

Gratefulness enables us to fight against negativity, and to strengthen ourselves with joy and positivity.  It gives life to our bones, and to people around us.

 

Life is not easy.  Sometimes it seems downright cruel (just watch or read all the horrible stories in the news), but we have the power to choose how we respond to and think about the things that happen to us.

 

In addition to this, we have a God who dearly loves us and empathizes with us.  Hebrews 4:15-16 declares:

 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

Today, I encourage you to think about at least three things that you are thankful for, and leave a comment to proclaim that gratefulness.  If you want a bigger challenge, think of three things to be grateful for that are directly related to a hard situation in your life.

 

This week, I pray that you experience the power of gratefulness!

3 Steps to Resolve Conflict

In a conflict with someone else, there is nothing quite as refreshing as realizing that you both want to work it out and find a mutually beneficial solution to the situation.

 

When both parties are seeking to come to a healthy resolution, making sure you both are staying calm, and checking to make sure that you aren’t turning to unhealthy ways of handling conflict, then you can proceed to coming to a resolution!

 

The three stages of conflict resolution outlined in EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook are:

 

1. Understand Each Other’s Point of View

 

The first step is to create mutual understanding.

 

This is usually the most uncomfortable stage because it requires vulnerability and sacrificial love in order to hear what the other person is saying, and recognize their underlying feelings and beliefs.

 

Active/reflective listening is so important in this stage!  While you may know how to listen quite well, the other person may have never learned how to reflectively listen.

 

You can help them listen empathetically out by asking things like “What do you think I’m saying?” or “How do you think I feel about that?” after they have listened to your perspective.

 

If they correctly understand what you are trying to communicate, then ask them to identify your requests with questions such as “What do you think I am asking you to do?” or “What do you think my bottom line is?”

 

Asking questions like these is a fantastic way to nudge someone to actively listen to you when they aren’t or don’t know how to listen in a reflective way.

 

But keep in mind that you also need to listen to them with empathy and identify their requests!

 

2. Identify Shared Needs/Issues

 

In this stage, the goal is to find common ground.

 

The first step takes time, and you should not move on to this step if either of you does not yet feel understood or truly want resolution.

 

The first step deals with surface-level concerns, and this step deals with the underlying motivations of those concerns.

 

If a husband and wife are arguing over how to donate and/or invest their money, the underlying shared common ground might be that they both want to wisely steward the resources that God has given them.

 

The ways in which they understand wise stewardship just differ.  In this step it’s good to take time to understand and honor each other’s felt needs and take time to summarize both sides.

 

3. Identify Underlying Motivations

 

When we identify underlying motivations of both parties, then we can better understand one another’s hidden motivators.  “Underlying motivations are the core values or needs that each party is trying to satisfy.” (Source)

 

In the previous example about the couple’s finances, the differing perspectives on how to honor God with finances most likely comes from differing underlying motivators.

 

The wife may have grown up in the midst of financial poverty due to parents who did not manage money well.  To her, wisely stewarding and honoring God with finances may be actually saving and investing finances so that they have money saved to use for necessities, emergencies, and special purchases.

 

On the other hand, the husband may have grown up with parents that really emphasized giving a portion of their finances to the poor as a way to serve others and honor God.

 

Neither are wrong in their approach and motivations.  They just need to brainstorm some “win-win” solutions.

 

Then they can choose a solution and implement it.  If that solution doesn’t work after a period of time, then they can adjust their plan until they find one that works well for both of them.

 

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.  I highly recommend taking this class because there is so much valuable information that cannot be properly communicated outside the hands-on in-class interaction.

*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

 

Conflict Resolution Readiness

When it comes to actively addressing conflict in a healthy way, it is important to know that “all you can do is what you can do,” and it will not always be possible for you to make everyone happy. (source)

That’s ok though.

Making people feel happy is not your responsibility or burden to carry.

Once you deal with managing your stress before further engaging in a conflict situation, then you can begin to engage in the fun and gritty part of conflict: conflict resolution!

Source

EMI’s Redeeming Conflict class uses Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” to show that in conflict, we need to be both innocent and shrewd.

Being innocent means being loving and considerate and assuming the best of the person/people with whom you are in conflict.  Being shrewd means “considering the relational stance the other party is taking toward you.” (source)

In a perfect world, everyone would be sacrificially loving like Christ.  But the hard reality is that if you aren’t loving and kind toward those you are in conflict with, you cannot expect them to be loving and kind toward you.

On the other hand, people still may try to take advantage of you, argue for arguing’s sake, or act aggressively or passive-aggressively toward you, without any desire for resolution.

That is where bing shrewd comes into play.

When you are shrewd, or have “discerning awareness,” as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it, then you pay attention to how the other person is responding, and gauge whether or not engaging in conflict resolution is even worthwhile.

In some situations, the people you are in conflict with may really not want to resolve the conflict, unless they get to “win,” or the resolution is to their own selfish advantage.

When the other person does not really want to seek mutual agreement and benefit, it is healthiest to simply manage the situation instead of resolve it.

It is not possible to resolve conflict with someone who does not want to resolve it.

Managing conflict when resolving it is not an option requires you to remain respectful and loving and not let yourself get flooded by stress chemicals.

If you show mercy, refuse to blame yourself,  and refuse to villainize, rescue, or make demands of the other person you are in conflict with, but they are not willing to work toward resolution, then you will need to manage the conflict.  At this point it is best to take a step back put up some stronger boundaries.  See a good resource on boundaries here.

Keeping a relationship at all costs is not always healthy, and sometimes separation is the healthiest option.

However, usually you will have conflict situations that can be resolved, and I will talk about some steps that can be used to go about this in my next post!

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

Recognizing & Managing Stress

Do you have certain practices that help you when you feel stressed or overwhelmed?

In my last post I talked about the importance of having practices in place so that when we begin to feel stressed due to conflict, we can manage that stress, and not become overwhelmed with a survival response.

When we are able to manage this, then our minds and emotions are more stable and able to address whatever conflict issue is at hand.

For personalities who tend to react like the “lion” personality, it can be very obvious when they have a stress response, because they tend to be outwardly vehement and angry, and even physically abusive.

Source

If you tend to react this way, you may be familiar with a feeling of pumping adrenaline or a growing sense of rage that begins before an outburst.  These sensations can be great signs to alert you to take a step back from the situation, and go do something else for a little while.

The other personalities don’t tend to get as visibly agitated in the face of conflict, but they can and do get flooded with stress response chemicals just as much as the more verbal and angry “lion” responders.

The “opossum” personality’s tendency toward victimization can overwhelm them with just as strong of an anger that the lion personality experiences.

Source

However, their response, when overwhelmed with stress and conflict is usually to succumb to what can be debilitating depression, self-pity, and/or passive-aggressiveness.

A big indicator that this is happening is when negative and depressive thoughts suddenly begin to overwhelm the mind.  Taking a walk and spending time listening to scripture, or even writing out their feelings as a way to get them outside of their mind, are some steps that this personality can take to better deal with stressful conflict in relationships.

Renewing the mind can be a huge help for this response to stress, because the “opossum”  tends to respond to conflict stress by holding the stress in and not letting it out in a significant way.

The “rabbit” personality response also tends to be less aggressive and less obvious as well.

Source

Because this type tends to withdraw and run away in response to conflict, things like drinking too much, bingeing on food, starving oneself, abusing drugs, or turning to other addictive substances or practices may be what this type utilizes to deal with stress.

If you have this type of response to conflict, feelings of insatiable cravings for things that are not healthy, or not healthy in the amounts that you crave them, are often indicators that you may need to take a break from a conflict situation and de-stress.

Taking a moment to physically kneel down and pray, take a walk, or take a shower are a great way to get yourself away from tempting and addicting coping substances.

Watching TV (when used wisely, and not as your constant go-to) can also be very helpful in distracting and calming yourself until the stress response begins to go away.

Finally, talking with someone who is not involved in the situation, and who will listen and respond wisely is an excellent way to stay connected with community and not make yourself emotionally unavailable (and thus more prone to addictive tendencies).

The final conflict personality type, the “deer.”  If you tend to react like the deer – freezing up – then there are a few indicators that you may need to take a step back from a conflict situation when it gets too stressful.

Source

Feelings of panic, fear, trouble breathing, or digestive distress are important indicators that you should take a step back from dealing with conflict, and de-stress first.  Talking to someone who can encourage you and help you calm down is a great first step.

Renewing the mind, taking a relaxing bath, or listening to calming music are also good ways to reduce your stress.

Ultimately, renewing your mind and taking time to pray is the best way to help stop yourself from becoming emotionally overstressed.

It is so important to hold on to hope in every conflict situation, and to know that no matter what happens, God has a hope and future for you.

What practices do you have that help you de-stress in a healthy way?

I’d love to hear them!

 

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

Healthy Conflict

How do we engage in conflict in a healthy and peace-seeking way?

The action steps to this may differ for each of us depending on how we individually instinctively tend to approach conflict.

Science has never been a subject I’ve particularly enjoyed, except when it comes to science about the brain and emotions.

While the ways that people respond to conflict are unique, all of us share the same chemical reactions and processes when our body feels stressed.

I’m not going to get too technical here, but basically your brain doesn’t distinguish physical stress from emotional stressors.

In a physically stressful situation (i.e. a vicious dog chasing you) your body needs to react quickly.  Any extra time spent thinking about the situation is less time for you to get to safety.  Consequently, our adrenal glands are designed to release chemicals to flood our brains and snap us into self-preservation.

Unfortunately, those chemicals also flood into the brain when we feel emotionally threatened and stressed.

The chemicals that flood the brain give us a surge to react and not think.  Thus, they inhibit us from accurately gauging and engaging with the situation.

Furthermore, these chemicals can stay in the brain for 48 hours until they are “burned off.”

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by feelings of anger or depression and you literally could not seem to think?  You probably were experiencing brain flooding.

The first step in dealing with conflict in a healthy way, is to prevent flooding from happening!  You want to be as logical, loving, and in your right mind as possible when resolving conflict.

Here are some steps to take to avoid and manage flooding:

For small stressors,

  1. Breath – Do deep slow belly breathing in you nose and out your mouth
  2. Talk to yourself – Calm yourself down.  Talking to yourself out loud is even better than just in your head.  Speak truth out loud.
  3. Reset and refresh your thoughts – see this article for more on renewing the mind.

For more stressful situations,

  1. Do some sort of physical exercise such as walking, running, or playing a sport.
  2. Take time out from any interaction with the other person you are in conflict with.
  3. Distract yourself by praying, reading, watching TV, taking a shower, etc.  Even if you are physically distant from the situation, keeping your thoughts focused on the stressor when your body is on the verge of or in the midst of a stress response, is not healthy!

When it comes to the conflict personality types, they react in stressful situations differently, and certain practices can be helpful to each of them.

Stay tuned for more on this topic, and if you have any practices that help you avoid becoming stressed in stressful situations, comment below!

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

What’s Your Conflict Personality?

Last week I wrote a post about the importance of conflict, and now I want to delve a little deeper into this topic!

 

There are different ways that we tend to deal with conflict.  Some people, when they come face to face with conflict, will erupt in anger and rage.  They may shout, say verbally abusive things, or even act physically abusive.

 

Other people may act fearful and submissive and simply give up or give in to the another person’s demands, avoiding conflict, but also avoiding dealing with problems.

 

We each tend to react in one or two ways when it comes to conflict.  We may have one way that we react around people that we don’t trust as much, and another way we react around those we do trust and with whom we are very familiar (i.e. family members).

 

Here are four types of conflict personalities that are illustrated in EMI’s “Confronting Conflict” program:

Attack

lion.jpg

Source

Like a lion, a person who tends to react with an attack response , uses anger, aggression, hostility, and intimidation.  These personalities can snap into modes of rage in which they act verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive.

 

However, these people have a wonderful gift: passion and courage!

 

A redeemed “lion” is a person who uses their passion not for rage and abuse, but instead for courage, passion, toughness, and tenacity in pursuit of a greater and better purpose.

 

There are few things as beautiful and amazing as someone who uses their passion and courage to fight for the voiceless, to call for justice, to boldly speak truth, and to demand positive change.

 

 

*Before the next personality, let me warn you:  If you have a fear of nocturnal rodents (besides hamsters) like I do, the next photo might make you a little jumpy.*

Ok, here we go…

5

 

4

 

3

 

2

 

1

Surrender

possum.jpg

Source

Despite the creepiness of this photo, I think it’s a great illustration of what constant surrender to conflict can do to a person.  Like an opossum will roll over and play dead when threatened, a person who yields and gives into conflict can feel dead inside.

 

Symptoms of this tendency include yielding too easily and giving in to other people in situations of conflict.  It is a victimized, depressed, passive, and angry approach to conflict which often displays passive-aggressiveness, indirect communication, poor self-esteem, and victimization.

 

The “opossum” may appear happy and fine, but really deep down they are angry, because they are not voicing their opinions, or saying what they really want/need to say.  They don’t participate in conflict.  They surrender to it.

 

Never fear!  When this personality is redeemed in a whole and healthy way, such people are harmony-seeking peacemakers who display graciousness and friendliness, but also don’t avoid necessary and healthy conflict.

Boy do we need more peacemakers in this world!

Run

rabbit.jpg

Source

When I was about five years old, I had an obsession with trying to catch the little rabbits that would nibble on the clover in my family’s backyard.  I would create traps out of cardboard and carrots to try to catch them.

 

When that didn’t work, I had to use my last resort: trying to catch the unbelievably adorable creatures with a butterfly net.

 

Unfortunately, this method didn’t work.  If there’s one thing I learned about rabbits, it’s that when rabbits are frightened, they bolt.  Blink and they’re gone.

 

Some people react in a similar way when it comes to conflict.

 

When tension arises, all they want to do is escape, withdraw, retreat from the situation, or leave the room.  They live from a place of fearfulness.  They act emotionally unavailable, perfectionistic, and shallow as a means to avoid conflict.

 

The ways that someone may run from conflict often include addictions to things such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and/or work.

 

If you tend toward this “rabbit” conflict personality like I do, then maybe you crack jokes to get out of potentially uncomfortable situations.  Maybe your natural tendency is to try to act perfect and do things perfectly, hoping to avoid ever having any conflict in the first place (FYI: this doesn’t work).

 

But don’t worry, there’s hope for this personality too!  A redeemed “rabbit” approach to conflict is one that transforms this person into the adventurous, openhearted, merciful, and forgiving person that they are meant to be.

 

Instead of running away from conflict, they can openheartedly run into the conflict and display fearless love, mercy, and forgiveness.

 

Freeze

deer.jpg

Source

Last but not least, the deer.  Like a deer in headlights, when conflict arises, this personality tends to freeze.

 

Conflict shocks them into inaction, anxiety, fear, and confusion.  They act nervous, panicky, indecisive, and tentative.  They are afraid of hurting others or doing the wrong thing, so they freeze, wanting to avoid any conflict whatsoever.

 

Physical manifestations of this response to conflict can show themselves as digestive and respiratory issues, neurological and psychosomatic disorders, and/or a general sense of panic.

 

For the “deer,” their beautiful redemption is to get to a place where they can be insightful, perceptive, sensitive, and tuned-in.  In a world that is quick to speak but slow to listen, desensitized, and tuned-in to distractions, but tuned-out of real life, these are amazing gifts.

 

We aren’t all going to fall perfectly into one category.  We’re human beings, not robots (or animals!).

Do you relate to any of the above personality types?  Do you tend to react one way with people you barely know, and another way with people that you know well?

 

Do these personality types help you better understand some of your friends and family members who respond differently to conflict than you do?

 

In my next post I will cover some ways that we can break free from unhealthy approaches to conflict, and live more healthy, whole, and redeemed!

 

Source

The information on the four animals and conflict personality types shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

 

The Value of Conflict

What was it like in your home growing up as a child?  Maybe your family had unique traditions or funny inside jokes.  Maybe you remember the nostalgia of taking fun road trips or  going on vacations together.

There was probably some not so good stuff too.  Maybe your family got into angry shouting matches, or maybe you had family members who withdrew, addicted to alcohol or drugs.

 

Have you ever taken a moment to think about how your family dealt with conflict?

 

Most of us have a skewed view of what conflict is and how it should be engaged.  Usually this starts at a young age based on how our families taught us to deal with conflict.

 

Maybe you were taught to never raise your voice, express anger, or “rock the boat.”  Instead, you learned to suppress your feelings and shy away from engaging in any sort of conflict.

 

Maybe your family engaged in verbal or physical abuse as a way to deal with conflict, and you believed that the way to successfully engage in conflict was to shout the loudest or assert yourself as the strongest to win an argument.

 

In my home when I was growing up, we dealt with conflict by talking through what we were feeling.  Rarely did my parents shout (although my sisters and I sometimes did), but they also encouraged us not to shy away from the gritty and uncomfortable thing that is conflict.

*(Edit: When I shared this post with my mom, she reflected on how she remembers instances in which our family did not handle conflict in the best way.  Nobody will always be able to handle conflict in a healthy way.  Having the intention to pursue and handle conflict well is what matters.  No person and no family is perfect!)

 

I remember feeling frustrated at times because my mom would keep talking about an issue until she felt like it was resolved.  Sometimes this made me feel angry!

 

Though my parents modeled a healthy approach to conflict, I was someone who preferred to “keep the peace” by internalizing or ignoring issues, instead of dealing with hard conversations.

 

Much of my life rested on the idea of appeasing, pleasing, and following the rules to avoid conflict at all costs.  I was (and still am) a great peacemaker who could quickly crack a joke or change the subject whenever I feared a situation was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

 

I hated the idea that someone might be angry at or disappointed in me.  While I may have been wanted to be the “perfect” child, student, employee, etc. who obeyed the rules, fear was often the driving force of my actions.

 

When I sensed conflict broiling, my first reaction was to retreat and to escape the situation.  If my feelings were hurt, I would lie and say that I was fine, because I didn’t want the other person to feel bad.  I did not want to engage in any type of conflict.

 

To me, conflict was something that should be avoided at all costs.  It was something that disrupted the peace and wounded people.

 

What I did not understand was that the absence of conflict does not imply the presence of peace.

 

Can I tell you something that I’ve learned and am still learning that has transformed my views of relationships?

Conflict is good – healthy, in fact.

Now, just like a fork can be used to eat a delicious meal, or to brutally stab and wound someone, conflict can be healthy or detrimental depending on how you engage in it.

 

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

 

We are to embrace conflict in a way that helps us to grow!  Friction smooths things, grows things, and creates things.

 

Conflict can be beautiful.

 

In my next posts, I’ll write about the different ways we tend to deal with conflict, and how we can engage in it in a healthy and beneficial way.

Stay tuned!

 

Also, here’s a great video on the topic of conflict:

 

Further Reading:

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/