Are You on the Wrong Side of Being Right?

During one of our workshops when teaching about developing better communication skills , a young man once asked, “If I absolutely know I’m right, then why should I let my wife win an argument?” Though asked in a challenging tone, it is a great question to understand the fundamental nature of all our communication. In retrospect,  I wish I had better understood the answer during my argumentative younger years. What I simply did not know then is that there is a wrong side of  being right.

For much of my life, I’ve had a well-earned reputation for being argumentative. My sister recently reminded me of this—as if I needed reminding. Sometimes, the arguments were playful and just intended to incite banter. Other times they were  emotion-laden attempts to change someone’s mind or behavior.  It didn’t matter if the topic was sports, politics, or religion, my agenda was to win. Honestly, I’ve always been good at it. So, I went all in with my best articulation of facts, opinions, experiences, and the like—all in an effort to debunk the other’s point of view. For me, it felt like a badge of honor—mostly because it made me feel smart and commanding of respect from others. Best argument wins, right?

Vince Lombardi famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing”.

Boy, Mr. Lombardi and I are dead wrong–at least as it pertains to relational matters.

But, it wasn’t until years after I became a husband that I began to realize just how wrong I was.

Marriage is NOT about Love

I spend a lot of time thinking about marriage—my own marriage, other people’s marriages, and cultural attitudes about marriage. I’ve learned many things on this journey. But, I’ve reached one conclusion that may sound odd possibly even startling. Marriage is NOT about love. 

As it pertains to marriage, maybe Tina Turner’s song title “ What’s Love Got to Do With It?” captures the point best. The answer as it pertains to marriage is mostly “very little”. 

Many centuries ago, Virgil, the greatest Roman poet wrote “Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love.” Was Virgil ever married? Nope.

My wife and I speak around the country on growing a successful marriage using my Marriage ROCKS model. I’ve read countless books on the topic of marriage. I’ve counseled many couples on how to move their marriages to a better level. My wife and I lead the marriage enrichment ministry at the local church that we attend. I’ve lead national marriage initiatives. I speak to community marriage initiatives—as I’ll be doing later this month in Atlanta. So, for me, there is no question that helping married couples discover one another and God in their relationship is part of my DNA.

Here’s how the process unfolds…

Two people fall in love. The romantic fervor is intoxicating. They feel awesome—on top of the world. Their bond is inseparable, at least that’s how they feel. They want to experience that forever. At some point, many of these couples decide that they should marry and spend the rest of their lives together to have nonstop access to this fountain of bliss. 

It all sounds so good until…

5 Habits of Purpose-driven Families

Is your family purpose-driven? In other words, is your family influencing each other and the community in a way that reflects the Creator? There is one way to tell. How well is your family practicing the following five habits that all purpose-driven families pursue.

We commonly think about purpose as individuals. Thanks to Pastor Rick Warren’s ground-breaking book, “Purpose-driven life” many of us began to think afresh about why we are here on earth. We were created to use our gifts and talents to get to know God more intimately, to authentically connect with others, and to help others develop richer relationships with God themselves.

When we think about purpose, we tend to think about it at the level of the individual. That certainly does have merit. However, the question is whether it stops there. Are marriages, families, communities, and churches intended to be purpose-driven as well?

Well, my answer is unequivocally “yes”.

Given my own interest in family life and encouraging folks to turn their hearts towards home, I set out to identify what it means to be a purpose-driven family.

I feel like it is an important notion in a culture where family life continues to face enormous internal and external financial, education, and employment stressors just to name a few.

The result is that marriages are strained. Parent-child relationships are shallow. Siblings are often disconnected and acting out. Elderly parents feel alienated. Even many singles struggle to maintain vital, life-giving relationships.

What is the problem?

The issues are certainly multifaceted. I believe, however, that at the core of the problem is a purpose deficit. Singles, couples, and families are going through the motions of life without a central guiding purpose or core identity.

In a previous post, I’ve discussed the five questions that are important to ask and listen of your family members. Click HERE to check it out. I encourage you to read that post as you consider the remainder of this post. They are complementary propositions.

Asking engaging questions and listening for the response is the fundamental need to move your family towards purpose. That is a starting point.

But, it isn’t just about the start. Purpose-driven families engage in behaviors that become practices that develop into habits. Habits, when developed early enough in one’s life journey,  tend to become transgenerational.

As I study family life and observe families, I’ve observed five habits that some families have mastered that allow them to have extraordinary relationships with one another, wield extraordinary influence, and change the trajectory of those  around them.

I want to have a purpose-driven family. It is with this desire in mind that I offer these five habits for your consideration.

10 Signs that You are Poised for Kingdom Influence

Life is about great relationships. But, relationships are an adventure requiring skill to be done best. The beauty, however, is that when done well our relationships provide the pathways for our influence. In other words, great relationships beget great influence. And, great influence is your destiny—that’s why you were created.

We are all fearfully and uniquely created beings created in God’s image with a unique walk or path. Yet, the billions of unique paths all converge towards a single direction—that is the stewardship of authentic and encouraging relationships.

The reality, however, is that relationships can be difficult—very difficult sometimes. Life surrounds you with difficult circumstances that can test your relationships with your family members who seem unappreciative, incommunicative, and disrespectful of you. The workplace frustrates you with tangled webs of relational distrust where everyone fends for his own self-interest and promotion. Even friends and fellow church members who you hoped to lean on through troubling situations often leave you feeling alone to find your own way. You might be wondering why is this happening.

A little more than a year ago, I made my first visit to a chiropractor. And, from this experience I gleaned what I feel is one of the central tenets for building healthy relationships at home, work, and abroad. Here’s the idea, great relationships require attention to posture. Let’s take a closer look at this notion of posture. Posture, in this context, and as presented in the dictionary is “a mental or spiritual attitude”. But, for a moment let’s use our physical posture to illustrate a concept.

During my series of visits to a chiropractor, he pointed out to me several ways in which I exhibit poor posture. He not only associated some minor symptoms (e.g., fatigue, muscle tightness) that I currently experience to poor posture. But, he also said that if not corrected, over time my poor posture may result in more serious health problems. The challenge of course is that my poor posture has been years in the making. It is mostly subconscious and not easy to change. But, I have to make a consistent and conscious effort to have proper posture if I want my physical body to function the way that God designed it to.

The same analogy holds true for our attitudinal posture. None of us can sustain the direction or health that God desires for our relationships if we have a poor mental or spiritual attitude. Over time, it is typically poor posture that causes those good intentions of ours to go awry.

There is a biblical correlate to my chiropractor’s insights. God’s formula for improved posture is found in the gospel of Matthew (18:3).  In this verse, Jesus makes the profound declaration “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”(NIV)

Herein lies the amazing paradox which forms the foundation of successful relationships. What Jesus sternly conveys, particularly for those in pursuit of great things (including great relationships), is that real success can only be achieved through smallness—not of stature (as symbolized by the child) but of posture. But, that sounds strange. Isn’t bigger better?

Well, no, it isn’t. Clearly, Jesus is teaching a counter-cultural truth–the opposite of what our culture rewards. For those seeking God’s kingdom and fulfilling relationships the message is clear. Grow small—an oxymoron for sure.

Growing small is a hard concept to embrace because it conflicts with our tendency towards self-interest and promotion. This, of course, is why the disciples in the Matthew passage were trying to figure out how to out jockey one another to be seen as great in Jesus’ eyes.

Following the direction and maintaining posture that fosters great relationships and maximal influence is a process of relational and spiritual maturity. As such, you are at your best as you learn to develop a small posture in all of the relationships that God holds us responsible to steward.

Entering the kingdom that Jesus describes in the book of Matthew is not simply about you as an individual. It is about who you are in community—in relationship to others. Here are ten signs that you are poised for growing small–building an authentic and influential relational network.

As you reach them, keep Zig Ziglar’s famous quote in mind “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want.”

For each sign, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is “Hardly ever” and 5 is “Nearly always”.

10 Signs that you are Poised for Kingdom Influence

  1. You are slowing down your reaction time to incendiary comments directed at you from others
  2. It is getting easier for you to be excited for someone else who achieved a milestone that you are still working towards
  3. You can quickly apologize when you realize that you did something wrong and when other’s feelings are hurt even if it isn’t clear that you did anything wrong
  4. Your ability to empathically listen to others is getting better
  5. You have become more vulnerable in sharing your emotions and difficult life events with others
  6. You search for wisdom and seek to diligently practice what you discover
  7. You are increasingly more motivated by concern for the welfare of others beyond what you can get out of the relationship
  8. Your self-awareness is heightened and you are comfortable being your authentic self in whatever space you occupy
  9. Your life’s purpose and your unique voice have become clearer to you
  10. Your spiritual core affirms your physical and emotional decision-making

Which of these attitudes and behaviors are habit for you? Which are more difficult?

Each sign is a process or pursuit to influence others through genuine relationship building. Most of us have room for improvement. So, be encouraged.