What are Safe Relationships?

What are Safe Relationships?

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I (John) have a fitness fanatic friend named Mark who evangelizes me on the gospel of health whenever he has a chance. He’s a lovable guy, but he’s the kind who always finds a way to change the conversation to exercise, diet, and vitamins.

We were having breakfast one day, and he began talking about his struggles with his wife, Diane. They were going through a painful period and having lots of conflict. Instead of giving advice, I listened and tried to understand what Mark was going through.

As we talked, he expressed everything from sadness to frustration to anxiety. By the time we finished, however, his face had relaxed, and he could actually smile and joke around.

‘You look like you’re feeling better,’ I said.

‘Absolutely, I’m more encouraged’, Mark said. ‘Wheat toast, fruit, and herbal tea make me a new man’! Then he looked at me and grinned sheepishly. ‘Uh, and it might have helped to have someone to talk to,’ he admitted.

Though Mark wasn’t sure about that fact, I am. What happened at breakfast is that I acted as a safe person for Mark to confide in. Just as surely as we were taking in our breakfast to sustain us physically, so we were talking to sustain ourselves emotionally. We were enjoying the great benefits of a safe relationship.

What is a safe relationship?

We like to think of a safe relationship as one that does three things:

1. Draws us closer to God.

2. Draws us closer to others.

3. Helps us become the real person God created us to be.

The Bible refers to these three areas of spiritual growth. We fulfill the greatest commandment, to love God (Matt. 22:37-28). We keep the second commandment, to love each other (Matt. 22:39). And we grow into the particular person that God created us to be, accomplishing the tasks he has designed for us (Eph. 2:10).

When we asked people to describe a ‘safe person’ to us, they gave us these descriptions:

A person who accepts me just like I am.

A person who loves me no matter how I am being or what I do.

A person whose influence develops my ability to love and be responsible.

Someone who creates love and good works within me.

Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow.

Someone I can be myself around.

Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the inside.

Someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.

Someone who allows me to become the me that God intended.

Someone who helps me become the me God sees in me.

Someone who touches my life and draws me closer to who God created me to be.

Someone who helps me be like Christ.

Someone who helps me to love others more.

We would all want people in our lives that help us in these ways. But the problem is, how do we recognize them? What do they look like?

We all struggle on different sides on the ‘safe relationship’ issue. Some do not even think we need relationships with other people. They think the Lord is enough and that you should only trust in him. Others think that they must depend only on themselves. Still others believe that the Bible teaches the value of relationships, but then they find themselves in hurtful relationships over and over again. They pick hurtful friends, spouses, churches, work partners, spiritual leaders, and dating relationships. They seem to not have the ability to find and like safe people. Having a seemingly astounding talent for finding people that will ultimately hurt them, they repeat patterns over and over again, and then become discouraged about relationships in general.

So for us to begin to utilize safe relationships, we need to first understand what a safe person is and why we need that kind of safety. The best example of a safe person is found in Jesus. In him are found the three qualities of a safe person; dwelling, grace, and truth.

As John wrote: ‘The Word became flesh and lived for awhile among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and the only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

John Townsend & Henry Cloud

Surround yourself with safe people at one of our weekend workshops. Our check out some of our excellent resources.

Warning: Facebook Could Destroy your Marriage

A New Jersey pastor told his married church leaders that they either had to delete Facebook or they would have to resign from their leadership role in the church. Other pastors have likened Facebook to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and have urged their entire congregation to shut down their pages. The issue became more urgent when the marriage statistics came out for 2011. The report said that 33% of all divorce filings mentioned in their paperwork Facebook as a factor that led to the divorce.

We cannot blame Facebook–it’s what people do on Facebook that is the problem. The most obvious problem develops when out of curiosity, one reaches out to an old flame–“just to see how they are doing.” Or an old flame reaches out to us for the same reason. Without realizing it, we can soon be spending more time “Facebooking” with an old flame than we’re doing face-time with our spouse. And the longer we reminisce about those old feelings the more we find they become current feelings.

I don’t do Facebook. I have a Facebook page, but it is managed by the New Life Live radio/TV program people. But I’ve worked with couples whose major complaint was that their spouse was spending hours a day on Facebook, posting pictures, chatting, and checking on their “friends’” postings. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what appears to be someone else’s exciting life, especially if we feel we are merely existing.

Another step to creating a major problem in a marriage is for one partner to become too personal in what they share with a “friend.” Talking about your marital issues with someone other than your spouse creates intimacy with that person, and it is especially dangerous if they are of the opposite sex. That’s really how just about every Facebook affair begins–They say they simply just sat and talked with an attractive other about what was not working in their marriage.

In the real world, an affair can take months to develop. But on Facebook, all it takes is a couple of clicks. People are tempted, and it is so much easier to give in to that temptation on Facebook. One may be too reserved, or shy in real life, but they can become much bolder behind the screen than they would be in person. Many of those who have ended up destroying their marriage would never have even thought about having an affair without the private seduction available over Facebook.

How do you know if your marriage is in danger? The problem is already occurring if one person refuses to talk with their spouse about what is happening on their Facebook. If you are being shut out of your spouse’s activities on Facebook, your marriage is probably already in the danger zone. Safety comes with complete openness regarding who you each are talking with, and when both of you know all of each other’s passwords. That’s at least a beginning point in protecting your marriage. Be careful in this digital age–you don’t want to be one of the 33%.

How do you handle Facebook and other social media issues in your marriage? In your family?

Article was sourced from the blog of Dr. Dave Stoop with permission:  Dr Stoop is a regular co-host on New Life Live.

Internet Safety’s 5 Tips for Creating a Cybersafe Home™

This generation of parents is the first to face the challenge of helping our children make the most of their virtual space while keeping them safe in it. If you’re still getting your footing in virtual parenting, don’t worry. New Life has partnered with InternetSafety.com who has the following tips to help ensure that your child’s online experience remains positive.

Support New Life when you buy Safe Eyes software

1. Become a net-savvy parent
The best safeguard against online dangers is being informed. Jump in and learn the basics of the Internet—read articles, take a class, and talk to other parents. A good place to start with some basics is www.LearnTheNet.com. A good place to stay current with the latest in online technology is www.Mashable.com. You don’t have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world.

2. “Chat” with your kids
Develop an open dialogue so that you can talk with your kids about the benefits and dangers of the Internet. Cultivate an interest in their online activities—their favorite Web sites, online games, and interests. And don’t be afraid to ask your children who they are talking to online and what they are talking about.

3. Agree on a game plan
Use the InternetSafety.com Gameplan™ to formally agree on your family’s guidelines for using the Internet. Post them near the family computer as a reminder. Ensure that your kids know to never share personal information on the Internet and that they should tell you about any online activity or contact that makes them uncomfortable.

4. Protect your computer
Take advantage of the software that exists to help parents manage their children’s computer experience. In only a few minutes, parental control software like Safe Eyes can block inappropriate websites, restrict the amount of time that your kids use the Internet and monitor their Instant Messenger chats to protect against predators.

5. Explore the Internet as a family
With a game plan and a protected computer, you can now encourage your family to take advantage of all that the Internet has to offer. Take a genuine interest in what your kids are doing and stay engaged with them online.

Credit Internet Safety’s 5 Tips for Creating a Cybersafe Home™

20% off on Safe Eyes Parental Control Software

Add One More To The Fatherless Generation

The high and the mighty have an amazing way of crashing and burning that always impacts others. Perhaps their indiscretion begins with an urge combined with the lie that “I am not going to hurt anyone.” Add to that some arrogant entitlement and you wind up with a future governor married to one of the most beautiful and powerful women in the world having an affair with a live-in house keeper. The sex drive is not all that is at work here. There surely must be an addiction to drive this kind of destruction.

While the affair is shocking and the pain tremendous for Maria and the children, I don’t think it compares to what a 13 year old boy must feel like being raised without a father. It is the kind of pain that many young men never get over. It often leads down the same characterless path that the birth father followed.

Psychologist Frank Pitman writes: “A mother can give a boy a sense of what it means to be a man, but only a dad can convey manhood upon a man.” It is a fairly accepted belief that men become men in the presence of men. A home without a father will usually lead to a detached male with little sense of male person hood. That boy may get stuck involved in a never ending quest to find and feel his manhood.

In the absence of healthy male role models, the male often turns to the female to prove or experience manhood. It never works. The pornographic image of a woman, the touch of a prostitute that intensity of an affair is just never quite enough for the searching male to finally feel like a man. That takes a relationship with a real man like a father, big brother, involved uncle or competent therapist.

You can see how easy it is for the young boy to pick up the sins of the father and repeat the cycle of unfaithfulness and missing character. Arnold has a son and I hope that all of this will lead to him coming alongside this little boy in ways other than money. And if not, I hope someone takes a genuine interest in mentoring him so that it will never be said, “Like father, like son.”

Not everyone is contributing to the fatherless generation. I have a friend who was shocked to discover his wife had been having an affair with someone in their organization. He was even more shocked when his wife admitted 30 days later that she was pregnant with this other man’s baby. His sorrow was intense and he sought out the advice of his friends. They suggested giving the boy up for adoption so he would not be reminded of the betrayal everyday for the rest of his life.

But one advisor said something different. He told him he could add to the fatherless generation or he could become the father to a little boy who really needed him. He made a bold and courageous move. He adopted the little boy and not only gave him his last name, but he gave him his first also. He said he did not ever want the boy to question who is real dad was and that was what my friend intended on becoming.

I hope Arnold can make a similar move to not be the financial backer of a fatherless boy but instead be a father to the son he sired.

Letting Love In

“The supreme happiness of this life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves-say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

One of the most beautiful descriptions of love I have ever read comes from the Velveteen Rabbit:

  • “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
  • “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
  • “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
  • “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
  • “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Those words are so profound for it describes vividly our struggle in relationship. We all long for true love, but it comes at such cost. It is this true love that makes us real and makes our lives real. To be loved in spite of ourselves, we must first be ourselves and that is no easy task. We are instantly changed by those around us, sometimes profoundly and other times so subtly we are unaware of the change ourselves.

Becoming real is a long and painful road, accompanied by a painful love. Those that are easily broken fall by the wayside and give up on relationships or give up on being themselves. Others, with sharp edges, keep people at such a distance that love isn’t possible. The only way they know how to be themselves is to keep people away. Others can’t enter into the pain of real relationship. They tiptoe around others and deny their own needs. “Handle with care” is written upon their hearts and others know to tiptoe as well. The rough embrace of love is denied them.

We become ugly when we enter into loving relationship. Our hair gets loved off, our joints get loose. All of our disguises and pretenses get painfully rubbed away, but love teaches us that what we thought was ugly was simply human. It is in that moment that we experience a “love in spite of ourselves.” That is why so many people are lonely though surrounded by many. That is why so many find their romantic relationships unfulfilling. How can you feel loved when no one sees who you really are? Significant parts of who you are get held back, never knowing whether the whole you will be accepted or rejected, always suspecting the latter.

I suppose that is what I find so gratifying about group therapy. As I watch a group of individuals come into a room with all of their defenses, fears, and facades, I watch how painfully they struggle to both discover and unveil who they truly are. As a rule, politeness reigns at the beginning of a group. Everyone begins by living out the same rules within the group that they hold themselves to outside the group. Frustrations are ignored, people are encouraged and applauded regardless of agreement, but slowly with help from the facilitators there emerges conflict. Perhaps for the first time someone is openly expressing disagreement or sharing their fears. It is frightening, it is not met with the perfect response and there is pain, sadness, and fear. But as I have worked with each of them I can say with both pride and awe that they are “not easily broken.”

As they persevere and struggle an amazing thing happens. For the first time they are able to work through disagreements, fears, and vulnerabilities with someone else. The individual discovers that they can be themselves and survive. Even better than survive, they become even more connected.

This is an oversimplification of a long and painful process, but it is nothing short of thrilling to watch someone, who has sacrificed who they truly are, begin to step out and let the world know who they really are. What would it be like to take off your mask?

Learning to Say "No"

So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back.
HEBREWS 12:1 NCV

Face facts: If you haven’t yet learned to say “No” —to say it politely, firmly, and often—you’re inviting untold stress into your life. Why? Because if you can’t say “No” (when appropriate) to family members, friends, or coworkers, you’ll find yourself overcommitted and underappreciated.

If you have trouble standing up for yourself, perhaps you’re afraid that you’ll be rejected. But here’s a tip: don’t worry too much about rejection, especially when you’re rejected for doing the right thing.

Pleasing other people is a good thing . . . up to a point. But you must never allow your “willingness to please” to interfere with your own good judgment or with God’s priorities.

God gave you a conscience for a reason: to inform you about the things you need to do as well as the things you don’t need to do. It’s up to you to follow your conscience wherever it may lead, even if it means making unpopular decisions. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to be popular with God, not people.

Some of us would do more for the Lord if we did less.   ~Vance Havner

Many people never receive God’s best for them because they are addicted to the approval of others. ~Joyce Meyer

When we are set free from the bondage of pleasing others, when we are free from currying others’ favor and others’ approval—then no one will be able to make us miserable or dissatisfied. And then, if we know we have pleased God, contentment will be our consolation.   ~Kay Arthur

Don’t be addicted to approval. Follow your heart. Do what you believe God is telling you to do, and stand firm in Him and Him alone.   ~Joyce Meyer

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, when I need to say no, give me the courage, the wisdom, and the strength to say it. Today and every day, help me follow my conscience, not the crowd. Amen

When People Behave Badly

“Bad temper is contagious—don’t get infected.” – Proverbs 22:25

Sometimes people can behave badly . . . very badly. When other people are unkind to you, you may be tempted to strike back, either verbally or in some other way. Don’t do it! Instead, remember that God corrects other people’s behaviors in His own way, and He doesn’t need your help (even if you’re totally convinced that He does).

So, when other people behave cruelly, foolishly, or impulsively—as they will from time to time—don’t be hotheaded. Instead, speak up for yourself as politely as you can, and walk away. Then, forgive everybody as quickly as you can, and leave the rest up to God.

We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with.   C. S. Lewis

A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable.   ~Billy Graham

Bear with the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours.   ~Phillips Brooks

From what does such contrariness arise in habitually angry people, but from a secret cause of too high an opinion of themselves so that it pierces their hearts when they see any man esteem them less than they esteem themselves? An inflated estimation of ourselves is more than half the weight of our wrath.     ~ST. THOMAS MORE


TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear Lord, sometimes people behave badly. When other people upset me, help me to calm myself down, and help me forgive them as quickly as I can. Amen

You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Forgiving

There are several words in the bible that people tend to cringe at when they hear them. Forgiveness is one of those words. It is a difficult concept to think about releasing someone who has hurt us. There are some drawbacks to holding onto hurts. These include, but are not limited to, giving our own sense of power away, physical ailments such as high blood pressure or headaches, the enemy can set up strongholds, and God will not forgive us (Mt. 6:14-15). There are also benefits to learning to forgive others and ourselves.

Jesus came to provide a way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins. So this seems to be pretty important to him. We want to be free from the weight of our regrets and mistakes and yet, we struggle with the idea of extending that same release to others. We either want justice or revenge. They should understand the pain they caused us. (MT 18:23-30)

The word ‘forgive’ is thrown around as if it is cheap and easy. What Jesus did on the cross to allow forgiveness to happen was not easy. He did not even want to do it, he said “Father if there is any other way, take this cup from me.” MT 26:39 But he made the hard choice and wants us to do the same. Notice, forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, it will never happen and you will be stuck carrying the burden forever.

Many people have a misperception that forgiveness is a one time action that “let’s perpetrators off the hook” We are not taught that forgiveness is a process. This process starts with identifying the wound. If we are not aware of what is hurting us, it is extremely difficult to seek healing for it. If you go to the doctor for a cut on your hand but show him your foot, he will have a hard time stitching up the cut and it will be unlikely to heal properly. It will possibly become infected and hurt worse.

Next we need to confess anything that has become sin in relation to the memory of the experience. This is where bitterness, anger, revenge, taking things into our own hands, and selfishness needs to be acknowledged. Wait a minute, are saying I have to let go of my feelings of being hurt? What about the other person? If I forgive them, they will get away with hurting me, why do I have to confess?

This is where one of the corrections to the forgiveness myth comes in. Forgiveness is not for “them”, it’s for you. If you confess your sin first, you are making space for the Holy Spirit to fill you and heal your hurt.

If you try to get back at the person who hurt you, that is the only discipline they will receive. If you choose to forgive them, God will say ‘Ok I’ll take it from here.’ His justice and correction are better than anything I could come up with, so I prefer leaving the discipline, or teaching, to him. After acknowledging the hurt and confessing your own sin, you are now ready to release the person into God’s care. Remember, it is for your freedom and health that you are forgiving them. Be specific. Say “I choose to forgive_______ (name of person) for_______ (what they did) in Jesus’ name. I release them in Jesus’ name” The first time is to break enemy strongholds and the second is so that it comes from the heart. (Mt 18:35)

Finally ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, seal you, and make you the person God designed you to be from the beginning. You are a treasure and you bring glory, honor, and pleasure to God when you forgive others. He sings over you. (Zeph 3:17)

Steps of Forgiveness

  • Acknowledge hurtful situation
  • Confess your sin
  • Choose to forgive and release the person who hurt or upset you
  • Ask Holy Spirit to fill you

Unforgiveness hurts a lot of people. It removes you from relationship with others, yourself, and with God. Making the choice to forgive those who have wronged you allows God to be bigger than the hurt. He wants to bring you healing and freedom. More than that, he wants you back in relationship with Him. There are many reasons to learn how to forgive. It is possible to gain freedom from the burdens you carry. Forgiving is the vehicle to remove the bricks from your backpack so you no longer have to lug them around with you. Your heavenly father wants to relieve the weight you carry as it is too heavy for you. There is hope.

Overcommitted?

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.  Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
ROMANS 12:11-12 MSG

Do you have too many things on your to-do list and too few hours in which to do them? If so, it’s time to take a long, hard look at the way you’re prioritizing your days and your life.

The world encourages you to rush full-speed ahead, taking on lots of new commitments, doing many things, but doing few things well. God, on the other hand, encourages you to slow down, to quiet yourself, and to spend time with Him. And you can be sure that God’s way is best.

How will you organize your life? Will you carve out quiet moments with the Creator? And while you’re at it, will you focus your energies and your resources on only the most important tasks on your to-do list? Or will you max out your schedule, leaving much of your most important work undone?
Today, slow yourself down and commit more time to God. When you do, you’ll be amazed at how the Father can revolutionize your life when you start spending more time with Him.

Life is strenuous. See that your clock does not run down.   ~Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

Taking care of yourself physically really helps emotionally. People who get a lot of sleep, who do the things that relieve stress, can withstand a lot of stress.   ~Laura Bush

Jesus taught us by example to get out of the rat race and recharge our batteries. ~Barbara Johnson

Come, come, come unto Me, / Weary and sore distressed; / Come, come, come unto Me, / Come unto Me and rest. ~Fanny Crosby

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, when I’m tired, give me the wisdom to do the smart thing: give me the wisdom to put my head on my pillow and rest! Amen