MetaConversations

While this post isn’t specifically sexual integrity related, it is a tool that I commonly use at home and with couples in my office. It’s simply a way to raise a conversation (often amidst conflict) out of the muck of the subject to actually see what’s happening relationally.

If you’re into tech-talk, you probably know what Meta-Data is:  data about the data. In this case a MetaConversation is, you guessed it, a conversation about the conversation.

Specifically it addresses 3 keys points: how you are feeling, how I am feeling and what’s happening in our relationship at this moment.

MetaConversation

When a conversation feels stuck, often it is because the root relational issue isn’t being addressed. Being locked up in a he-said-she-said usually indicates there are emotional nerves that have been tapped, but aren’t being talked about. Thus, the conversation often ends in one or both people having hurt feelings, a stalemate of “agree to disagree” (which often provides no real resolution) or a combination of the two. When that stuck feeling occurs, it can be a signal to both parties to stop the current conversation and switch gears to a metaconversation. In other words, to literally talk about what’s happening in the current conversation.

An example might be a conversation about money. He thinks they should spend the tax return and she thinks they should save it. He’s been wanting some toy or gadget, and she’s been stressing about how they’ll pay for summer vacation, much less fund their retirement. She’s getting angry that he insists on spending, he’s getting frustrated that she won’t let loose a little and enjoy the hard-earned cash. Spend or Save? Is the issue really about the money? Probably not.

A metaconversation might reveal that he is feeling insignficant. Spending the tax return would signal recognition of his hard work, a reward for faithfully doing his job and providing for the family. She might be feeling insecure and anxious. Having the vacation paid for ahead of time provides a sense of security and planning for retirement actually adds an element of respect for her husband. Relationally, we might find that both are pulling back, walling off. She wants to feel protected but he is threatening that, so she’s going to protect herself emotionally. He wants to feel respected and validated but she is withholding it, so he is going to nearly demand it. The metaconversation can provide a space and language for both to recognize what the other is feeling (which 99% of the time seems to be unintentional) and to identify the divide developing in the relationship. Finally, it gives an opportunity to address a specific emotional, relational dynamic.

In response they both can speak to the others needs:

Husband: “The last thing I want you to feel is insecure and worried about our finances. I also want you to be confident that I have our family’s best interest at heart. I want you feel protected, and to know that a short term want won’t replace our long term goals.”

Wife: “I appreciate your hard work. I am proud of you, your commitment and your provision for our family. I want you to know I respect you.”

They can now make a decision on what to do with the money without it being a wedge in the relationship, and without the decision being motivated by shoring up emotional needs.

Men in my office typically ask something to the effect of, ” couldn’t we bypass all that stuff by just agreeing to compromise- spending half and saving half?”  Well, yes, if by “all that stuff” you’re referring to the meaningful, relational communication that builds relational currency.

The metaconversation can be used regardless of the subject matter. Money, sex, addiction, parenting, moving, work, hobbies, dinner, you name it. And it doesn’t have to be in conflict, but that’s often where it can be a handy tool.

Remember that in conflict we want to value the person over the problem, and the relationship over the result. Metaconversations can help achieve this.

 

 

 

You Are Handpicked

A devotional thought for the week…

John 6:70-71

Jesus responded, “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man—one from the Twelve!—was even then getting ready to betray him.

Judas was handpicked by Jesus to be a follower. We don’t know when he made the fateful decision to betray his friend and leader. All we know is that he did, and became a glaring example of how to blow up our lives. So often the Scriptures about Judas are the proof text for betrayal, for deceit and for back-stabbing. But within the story is also an incredible example of mercy and grace. Think about it; Jesus knew Judas would betray him, BUT HE HANDPICKED HIM ANYWAY!

Jesus called him a “devil” in this passage; the original, Greek meaning of the word was ‘to oppose the cause of God’.

So let’s get this straight; Jesus knew Judas would betray him and that he was opposed to the cause of God the Father. Yet Jesus intentionally chose into a relationship with Judas.

If Jesus had mercy on and a relationship with the guy who would ultimately get him killed, don’t you think he could have mercy on us?

You need to know that you’ve been handpicked. You’ve been selected based on no merit of your own. Loved in spite of your bad behavior. Graced in spite of some future sin. Jesus knows our past, present and future, the Father forgives it, and we are free to live in light of Grace.

We are handpicked to be in a relationship with Him!

 

The Crane Game

I was talking with a client about God and Christianity recently and, while describing his journey, he used this analogy:

“Believing in and trusting God is like playing one of those crane games at the arcade. The game is rigged against you. Its nearly impossible to get the stuffed animal out. Ever so often, you’ll get really close; close enough to keep you playing. But you’d be better off spending your time and money doing something else rather than wondering and hoping if you’ll ever get the prize.”cranegame

I can totally relate. It seems like sometimes God shows up in profound ways and renews hope and keeps me interested in Him. I get the prize. Then other times it feels like I’m steering the silly crane around, picking up stuffed animals that end up falling out of its grip, ultimately wasting time and quarters. I struggle with this, and I’ve never even been burned by church.

But my client has been. And so have many others. Being burned only serves to compound the confusion and frustration, making Christianity feel more rigged.

This really isn’t a ‘how to get past it’ post. It’s an ‘I’m sorry your faith journey has felt like an arcade’ post.

I apologize on behalf of the Church if you’ve been burned. I’m sorry that perhaps in the most difficult circumstances of your life it has felt like you couldn’t put enough quarters in the God machine to get him to react. I have no explanation for it. I don’t know why God shows up sometimes and seems a million miles away at others.

The good news is that being able to admit it feels rigged is a step in the right direction. Being able to confess that you feel gamed and even ripped off by God, the church and/or Christianity is a good place to start.  Maybe it’s time to quit plugging quarters in the machine and hoping to get a prize.  Instead it might be more fruitful, for a while, to simply do life with people that love you and are authentic about their own journey.