The 1 Skill Needed In Most Marriages

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I just finished reading a fantastic article from Phil Carson at Connectedmarriage.org on the importance of empathy in marriage. Empathy isn’t just important to the health and success of a marriage, it’s critical. Seeing things from your spouse’s point of view helps to grow a level of compassion, trust, and intimacy that you might not have together otherwise.

Scripture tells us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 (NIV)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

So, what’s the best way to keep the “bond of peace”? Empathy.

In the article Phil outlines 4 key ways we can increase empathy in our marriage. I would encourage you to read the entire article, but here they are, in a nutshell:

1/Effective Validation: Phil says the point of validation is to be able to understand and to feel your partner’s thoughts and feelings.

Everett Worthington explains that there are three levels of empathy**

Level 1: Understanding – You understand the point of view of the other person.
Level 2: Emotional Identification – You feel with and think with the other person.
Level 3: Compassionate Empathy – You feel compassion for the other person as well as emotional identification.

2/Understand Your Partner’s Past: Phill says it’s so important for couples to identify their emotional triggers and how they came about. For instance, I suffered a good bit of emotional abuse growing up, and as such I tend to be overly sensitive to personal criticism. That’s probably the reason my LOVE LANGUAGE is “Words of Affirmation”. My wife, Leanne, understands this and she’s quick to praise me when I do well, and affirm any accomplishment of mine. As well, she understands when her words may hurt me without her intending them to.

Phil says that when we understand our partners emotional triggers, it helps us both to manage how we respond and how we react. It produces compassion.

3/Use a Journal:  When couples have built up a great deal of resentment and anger, Phil says, forgiveness is always a step in the healing process. When you are hurt deeply, write it in a journal. Writing down thoughts and feelings can help you to process your hurt. Processing your hurt can lead you to compassionate empathy. Compassionate empathy, in turn, helps with the deeper hurts to move the person towards forgiveness.

4/Switch Sides: The goal of empathy,  Phil says,  is to experience the world from the other person’s feelings and thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you agree with their actions, but it can help to increase compassion. So, how do you put yourself in their shoes? You can switch sides in your expression of thoughts and feelings. For example, pick out a specific incident and write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your partner. I could write a letter from the perspective of my wife. I could include in it my wife’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. Putting yourself into their perspective can be very healing. It’s true even if you don’t get actually get it right. It can help to see a specific incident through their eyes.

That perspective will build empathy.

 

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**as cited in Levenson and Ruef, 1992

 

Take The Kindness Challenge!

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I think we would all agree that the world would be a much better place if we were all more kind to each other. So, just how kind do you think you are? Here’s a little quiz that should tell you exactly how kind or unkind you are. I would encourage you to take the quiz before and after you take “The 30 Day Kindness Challenge”. This little challenge is actually no little challenge. It’s part of a national research project from Shaunti Feldhahn , author of the book “The Kindness Challenge”. I highly encourage you to read the book, but even more so, I would encourage you to take “The 30 Day Kindness Challenge”.

Shaunti asserts that kindness doesn’t just change the person you are being kind to, it also changes you. She says that kindness is almost a kind of “superpower” that has the ability to “make you bulletproof”, “give you x-ray vision”, “melt through walls”, “makes the invisible visible”, and much more. In short, kindness changes lives. It’s certainly not the only thing you need to have a healthy relationship, but it is vital to the health of any relationship.

Now, granted this is tough challenge, but it may be one of the most important challenges you ever take. In short, here it is:

Pick someone with whom you want or need a better relationship. For the next 30 days, do the following three things:

1/Say nothing negative about them, either to them or about them to anyone else. 

2/Every day, find one positive thing that you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.

3/Every day, do a small act of kindness or generosity for that person. 

Shaunti says that these 3 aspects of kindness are like “three chemical elements that, when they come together, react and build something different, something remarkably beautiful, powerful, and above all, transformative.”

So, go ahead, take the challenge, and strengthen those kindness muscles. You may just be amazed at the results!

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Kid Becomes Governor With His Anti-Bullying Platform

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I read a cool story about how an 11 year old boy was just elected Oregon’s first “kid governor” after running on an Anti-Bullying platform. The Anti-Bullying movement has really picked up steam in the last few years, and it’s really one of the only issues that most of us agree on these days. As parents in a social media charged world, bullying is something we all have to be conscious of, and we have to be vigilant about it both with our kids and others kids that we know.

Fifth grader Dom Peters gave his inaugural address, through which he highlighted his platform to combat bullying, sharing that he, himself, has been a victim. Peters also highlighted his “three-point plan”, which includes writing a book and encouraging his peers to write books as well. How about that? An 11 year old with a 3 point plan!

Peters says that  he’s experienced bullying in the form of verbal abuse as well as physical, even coming home with a black eye once. He also says that he witnessed a friend “getting beat up” once and immediately ran between the two kids, told his friend to run away, and held the bully back.
“I told him to stop and said I’d tell his parents and our coaches if he didn’t stop.”  What courage that is.

One of the ways Peters plans to combat this problem in his school is to share a book that he’s currently writing. His book is about a puppy who is hurting inside, but once everyone learns of his pain, they are kind to him and he learns to be kind back. He also shares that he has started a club at his school called the “Super Kind Helpers Club” and reports that many of his schoolmates have joined. The club meets at recess to practice kindness and ensure that everyone has someone to play with.
Don’t you think that more than a few grown ups could learn from this kid?

Congratulations Dom Peters! You are an inspiration to us all.

If you’d like to start your OWN anti-bullying campaign, CLICK HERE.

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4 Ways to Make Timing Work For You

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How many times in your life have you heard the expression, “timing is everything”? I’ve heard it so much that I’ve taken it to heart. A good friend of mine years ago told me “If you ain’t got timing, you ain’t got diddly”. That’s why timing is essential especially when we are doing the essential things.

I came across a cool article from Forbes.com that not only expands on this premise, but shows us how to maximize it!

According to  Daniel H. Pink, author of the new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. we need to maximize the RIGHT times to do things in our lives. Here are four great, practical examples:

1/Get a bird’s-eye view of your day. You have determine what kind of bird you are. Are  you a lark, an owl or a third bird? Larks are “early to bed and early to rise”. Owls are the opposite, and third birds are somewhat in between the two. Research shows that most of us go through the day in three stages: a peak, a trough and a recovery. “For most of us, that peak is the morning, the trough is the early afternoon and the recovery is the late afternoon and early evening,” says Pink. Night owls, you generally operate in reverse. For you, it’s recovery, trough and then peak.

2/Manage money when you’re at your analytical best. Pink says if you’re going to make financial decisions, do it at your “peak” part of your day. That’s when you’re at your most analytical. In fact, he says, you’re likely better suited to tackle many of your most important tasks each day during your peak. When you hit the trough of your day — which is when your brainpower decreases — instead of grabbing a coffee, try taking a break to boost your productivity and overall performance. Try getting up, moving around, getting outside and fully detaching….WITHOUT your cell phone.  Finally, there’s the recovery period, when you’ll likely get another boost of energy that’s particularly well-suited for creative tasks.

3/Automate financially to save you from yourself. We talked about this some in my earlier post “3 Ways to Save Cash This Year.”  Research shows that there are some financial maneuvers the human brain isn’t particularly wired for, including saving for things far in the future — like college for our kids and retirement for ourselves. If that’s true for you, take yourself out of the loop. Automate contributions into not just 401(k) retirement savings accounts, but also IRAs, HSAs, 529s and even emergency savings. And while you’re at it, you may want to download the AgingBooth app on your phone and take a good look at yourself — 30 years from now. Research shows looking at yourself in a prematurely aged state can provide motivation to save even more.

4/Look for small-but-mighty productivity boosts. To save yourself time and money, try asking yourself this question about every task you take on throughout the day: “Will I do this again?” If the answer is yes, then ask yourself what can you do now to make doing this in the future easier and more efficient? For example, if you find yourself sending the same types of emails on a regular basis, draft models for them. If you know you have those same things going out on certain days, schedule them on your calendar. That in and of itself will save you time and increase productivity.

See, timing isn’t just everything, it may be the ONLY thing when it comes to being more productive!

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4 Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu on an Airplane

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Well it’s certainly no secret that this year’s flu breakout is one for the record books. It seems like everyone either has had it, has it now, or will have it soon. I know that when my daughter needed to go to the ER a couple of weeks ago, there were no rooms for her due to all the people suffering from the flu.

So, what do you do if you are planning a plane trip? The mere mention of flying by air during flu season gets everyone’s guard up. Well, I came across a very helpful article, which should arm you for your next flight.

The article offers 4 very helpful hints for avoiding germs while flying:

1/Choose a window seat over an aisle seat. Fewer people passing by you means fewer opportunities to catch germs. You should ALSO avoid waiting in tight lines to board the plane.

2/Pack a bottle of nasal spray. Experts say as soon as your mucous membranes, especially in your nose and mouth, begin to dry out, you lose one of the most valuable defenses for preventing respiratory viruses. That little bottle of nasal spray (often available in airport convenience stores) will help you stay well-lubricated.

3/Wipe that tray table. It’s one of the dirtiest places on the plane. There’s no guarantee at all that your tray table was wiped down before your flight, so have a small container of antibacterial gel or wipes to wipe away any germs on that germy tray table.

4/Turn on your overhead vent. When someone sneezes, those germs can quickly spread to people in their immediate area. Turning on an air vent increases air circulation and can move germs away if you’re sitting next to someone who might be sick.

If all else fails, wash your hands like crazy and don’t forget your little surgical mask. Safe and healthy flying!

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23-Year-Old Becomes A Father And A Grandfather Overnight

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Meet Tommy Connolly. He’s just your average ordinary 23 year old college student who was spending his days training to become a champion sprinter when he got a message on Facebook that changed his life.

It was from his 17-year-old cousin who he hadn’t seen in a decade. It turned out she was 32-weeks pregnant, homeless, shoeless and had only a backpack full of clothes. Her baby was going to be taken from her when he was born and the father was in prison.

So Tommy took her in and wound up adopting her, and in doing so, became her son Kaydan’s grandfather, as well as his first cousin once removed.

It’s a truly amazing story, which you can read in full HERE.

In one Facebook message, Tommy’s whole life was forever changed. Now, he’s supporting a daughter and a grandson, and still working hard to earn his degree.

His story is so moving, it’s taking the internet by storm. People are so touched by Tommy’s tale that in just 18 days, they’ve raised over $40,000 to help support him.

I love this quote from Tommy, who says:

“When bad things happen, it’s your family that supports you.. It means no one gets left behind or forgotten. I’ve had my family pull my head out of the gutter before… It was time to pay it forward. Family comes first.”

Even with his many new responsibilities, Tommy is still sprinting and he does real estate too.

It’s just another fantastic example of what happens when you step out of your comfort zone and “love your neighbor as yourself” just like the story of The Good Samaritan.

Thank you Tommy. You inspire us all! The question for us is, would we do the same? I’ll bet if you asked Tommy if he’d do it again, he’d give you a resounding “YES”.

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Two Ways To Start Your Day Off Right!

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Believe me, despite the fact that I spent the better part of nearly 30 years in radio hosting a morning show, I am by no means a morning person. I’ll bet that most of you would say the same. If you’re one of those people that starts the day like a complete zombie, let me offer you two suggestions to try.

The first might seem a little weird, but I’ve seen expert after expert emphasize the importance of starting your day by drinking a glass of water. Now, hear me out. I’m not suggesting that you forego your morning rush of caffeine. Far from it. I’m merely telling you that experts suggests YET AGAIN that you drink that nice tall, cool glass of H2O first.

They offer many reasons why this is so crucial. First, they say that the time you spend in bed — anywhere from seven to nine hours, depending on your sleep needs — is a long time to go without water. Because of this, you may be dehydrated and crabby when you wake up in the morning. Water can help with that.

Also, health experts say that drinking at least 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning can boost your metabolism by 24 percent. I don’t know about you, but my metabolism could sure use a boost.

Secondly, start your day with a grateful heart. Before you think about all the things that you need to tackle for the day, just spend a few moments giving thanks. Be grateful you are alive for another day. Be grateful you have a roof over your head. Be grateful for a nice warm place to lay your head at night. Give thanks for all the opportunities the day ahead will present. Just give gratitude a chance to overtake your mood. Trust me, it’s a serious attitude adjustment. And when you start your day feeling overwhelmingly blessed, you can’t help but have a great day.

So, try those two things to start your mornings this week, and see if that doesn’t make a big difference in your attitude and overall well being. I’ll be right there with you!

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The 1 Thing Missing From Most Marriages

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Justin Davis and his wife Trisha have a marriage blog called www.refineus.org. Justin was asked at signing of their book call “Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Enough” what is the one avoidable mistake you see couples make that I can learn from? After dealing with initial pressure of having to pinpoint just one thing, Justin wisely answered that the one thing missing from most marriages is gentleness.

There really is such wisdom in that. Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to “let your gentleness be evident to all”. So, what exactly IS true gentleness? Well, Justin says it’s a disposition. The dictionary defines gentleness as “the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered.” Justin says in your marriage relationship that “gentleness refuses to give level ten responses to level two issues”. Gentleness, also translated “meekness,” in the Bible does not mean weakness. We know true gentleness when we see it, it is strength under control. We are all strong. We are all powerful. We can speak words to influence others and act in ways that help or hurt others.  True gentleness contains the power that we have and uses it for good, and not evil.

Justin says “Harshness might make someone obedient or compliant, but gentleness wins their heart.”

Many of us are familiar with the scripture passage from Galatians 5:22-23 which says:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

For those of us who follow God, the longer we do walk with Him, the more gentle we should become. Truth is, we should strive to show gentleness not just in our marriage relationship, but in all our relationships. Think how that would impact our world?

 

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How You Could Help Someone Live Longer!

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Having spent almost 30 years in radio, I can tell you first hand that there are alot of lonely people around us. I spent many moments throughout my career talking to many lonely people on radio request lines. There are people out there that are literally hungry for some companionship.

According to former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Viveck Murthy, we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980’s. And that’s not a good thing. Experts conclude that people who are lonely get sick more often,  have cognitive decline, and are more prone to early death. Not only that, but the lifespans of the lonely are akin to those that smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.

So, what can you do about this loneliness epidemic? Get out there and make friends. If you see someone sitting alone at work, at church, wherever, sit and talk to them. Listen to what’s going on in their life. If you ARE lonely, maybe you should volunteer, get involved in your local church or do something worthwhile to surround yourself with more people.

The fact is that we weren’t put on this earth for our own comfort and entertainment. We were put here, I believe in part, to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s how we’ll be remembered and judged when we are gone, so why don’t we all do something about that now? Be a friend to someone today. It may just save their life!

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Why One Mom Makes Her Daughter Pay Rent

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These days we regularly hear of all kinds of crazy things that young parents are doing to raise their children that make us shake our heads. At first glance, we might just assume the same about THIS STORY. Evidently, this mom by the name of Essence Evans makes her five year old daughter pay rent. “Pay rent” you say, “that’s outrageous!” Before you rush to call social services on this mom, she has a reason…and a very good one at that.

Each week, Essence Evans gives her little daughter $7 in allowance, and then she asks for $5 back for “rent”. After the fee is collected, her daughter is free to do whatever she wants with the leftover two bucks. The best part? The rent that Essence is collecting is actually going into a savings account in her daughter’s name. She plans on giving the money to her daughter on her 18th birthday, so that when she does leave the nest to go pay real rent, she’ll have a nice amount of cash saved up to start off with. How smart is that?

Essence explains in her Facebook post: ” This strategy not only prepares your child for the real world. But when they see how much real bills are they will appreciate you for giving them a huge discount.”

So basically, Essence took the idea of putting away money for her child’s future and turned it into a weekly teaching moment for her daughter. By the time her daughter reaches adulthood, her money management skills are sure to be ahead of the crowd.

I don’t know about you, but I wish I would have thought of that when my kids were little. If you have kids that are young, maybe you can start doing this very soon.

Bravo Essence Evans, you’ve inspired us all!

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