Monday, March 28, 2011

People Who Aren't Like Me

We often are in relationships with people who are different from us. This is true in our family relationships or relationships at work or with friends and neighbors. That can be a source of both frustration and growth. If we see ourselves or our way as "right" and the other person or their way as "wrong," then we miss out on a great opportunity to benefit from what they bring to the table.

For the follower of Christ, if we keep in mind that God wants us to be more like Him, we will remember that we are constantly being molded into His image. We are growing in love, grace, compassion, gentleness, kindness, peacefulness, patience and much more.

That's the good news! The bad news is that He accomplishes that by putting us in situations where we have an opportunity to learn something or to fight against whatever "it" is.

God uses others in our lives to expose parts of ourselves that need to change. Sometimes He exposes boundaries that are missing or sagging. Sometimes He exposes selfishness, jealousy, narcissism, inflated egos, pride, arrogance, and other things that are in need of being rooted out and replaced with love, kindness, compassion, giving, self-control and much more.

Whatever it is He wants to accomplish in us, we need to keep in mind that it is for our ultimate good.

What if everything in the world was blue? Instead of our eyes feasting on the wonderful colors in nature, we would be all subjected to a view that would be decidedly boring! Without different colors, I doubt if artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, or James McNeill Whistler would have been inspired to create their beautiful works of art. It takes the blues, greens, yellows, reds, and purples to give contrast that makes it all beautiful!

What if everything we ate tasted like chocolate? As much as I really love dark chocolate, I have to admit that after awhile I would be really tired of it. We need sweet, salty, and savory. We need smooth and crunchy. We need different flavors and textures to make food interesting. Chefs such as Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis, or Michael Symon would not be inspired to create their yummy dishes if all foods were the same!

It is the same with people! God made us all different for a reason. If we were all the same, we would be like cardboard cutouts or clones and our relationships would be, well...boring at best!

In relationship difficulty where there are differences of style or opinion, here are some tips:

1) Remember that this is probably not "life and death." Develop a healthy sense of humor about your differences with the other person. Learn to laugh at yourself as well!

2) Remember that it is very possible that this other person is not wrong, but just different.

3) See what you can learn about the situation and seek compromise.

4) Learn to communicate to see how they view whatever the situation is.

5) Develop an interest in figuring out "what makes this person tick." He/she sees the world differently than you do. What makes no sense to you makes perfect sense to him/her.

6) Ask yourself if there are unhealthy or sinful attitudes in you that are being exposed and take steps to turn that around.

Variety is good and we can really learn from one another if we approach it with a healthy attitude! When we learn to see others who are different from ourselves as persons of value who bring something valuable to the table, we can begin to function together in ways that are beneficial.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Busy Kids

One of the things I notice more and more these days is how busy people are. Parents have their children involved in lots of extra-curricular activities--dance, football, piano lessons, Brownies, soccer, gymnastics, 4-H, Boy Scouts--the list is endless it would seem. There are so many wonderful things to choose from that afford your children with opportunities to learn teamwork, character, responsibility, work ethic, etc.

I think that all of this is very good. The concern I often have is the lack of balance in these kids' lives.

Kids often talk to me about how stressed they are. They talk about not having a lot of time to just relax between school, homework, and other activities. When I ask them what they would like to change, they say that they don't want to change anything. They really like all of the after school things they are doing. That is where parents come in.

Parents need to set limits on schedule and activities. Don't expect your child to find him/her own limits. They have lots of energy and literally want to do everything that comes along! Don't sign your kids up for something just because they "really want to do it!" Kids don't have the ability to predict the stress they will feel being so busy.

When you think about adding a new activity to your child's schedule, consider these things:

1) What does the overall schedule look like currently?
2) How will this new activity change the schedule?
3) What affect will this activity have on the family? How will it coordinate with other family member's activities?
4) Will the child have sufficient "down time" to just play and be a kid?
5) How will my child benefit from this activity?

I believe that kids need to be exploring different activities, but not all at one time. They are kids. Let them have time to just rest, play, and be kids. Teach them balance early, and it will be something that will go with them into adulthood.