How to Ruin a Good Relationship

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Lots of people are looking for the right relationship. Yet, so often these same people will then contribute to the demise of what otherwise might have been a very good relationship.

A few examples:

A woman thinks she has found a new friend. She becomes acquainted with another woman at work who is about her same age and they come from a similar background. They enjoy going to lunch and talking, and seem to have much in common. Yet, in a few months, the relationship ends and yes, there is lots of drama. This seems to happen again and again.

A minister and his wife have recently moved to a new community where he has begun working with a church in this new setting. He is excited about the new possibilities. Yet, in less than twelve months, it all changes. He is in major conflict with this congregation.


A guy and girl meet and everything seems right.She seems to have so many qualities that he has always wanted in another person. She thinks the same about him. In fact, this relationship seems “special.” Yet, in a matter of months things change. In spite of what they have invested in the relationship, neither will address his or her own issues.

Very often, the one phrase that might be repeated in each of these situations is:

“I just don’t know what happened.”

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 4)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Need to “upgrade” your relationships? The following suggestions might be helpful:

10. Come to grips with any anger and rage issues in your life (Colossians 3:8). Who knows how many relationships have been damaged and even ended because of uncontrolled anger? Years ago, I was in a meeting and watched a guy have a meltdown. People were talking in this meeting and there was some kind of disagreement. This man’s face turned beet red and then he just lost it. For a few seconds (that seemed like a long, long time) he exploded and chewed out the group. Later, he acted as if nothing had happened. No apology. No remorse. Nothing. Life went on until some months later, he had another fit of rage. This happened again and again. This man lost much of his influence and damaged numerous relationships over this behavior.

11. Be honest in your relationships. Paul says, “Do not lie to each other, . . . .” (Colossians 3:9) Lying is a part of the old self and not the new self. Lies are absolutely destructive in relationships. Once a friend or a spouse discovers that you have been lying to them, it is very difficult for that relationship to ever really go anywhere. After all, relationships are based on truth, openness, and transparency. Not long ago, I spoke with a person who realized that a good friend had been lying to her for many years. There had been so many lies that she wondered what she could believe. The relationship has been severely severed now that these lies have been discovered.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 3)

(I am away on vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

A few suggestions for upgrading relationships:7. Get out of your recliner and get into the game. Some people live in a mental and emotional recliner. That is, they sit back and watch life happen. They watch their marriage sink, long ago losing any real emotional connection with their spouse. They watch as their children lose any sense of an emotional connection with dad (or mom). Yet, they just passively sit in their mental recliner and watch it happen.If this is you, let me encourage you to get up. Make a move. Pay attention to your spouse or children. Show interest in what seems to interest them. Ask questions. Look for something, anything, which you can affirm and even compliment.

8. Be gracious. Living graciously is about living in such a way as to express grace in all that we do. Gracious people are quick to give credit and are slow to boast.

Gracious people never seek to humiliate or embarrass another. Upgrade your relationships by toning down the sarcasm and cutting remarks. So many people are rude, critical, and curt. When we are around such people, our thoughts and words may mirror what we hear from these people. Give your family and friends a gift today. Let them experience life in the presence of a gracious person. They may find this to be very refreshing.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 2)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)


Upgrading relationships is not about fixing other people. Rather it is about being intentional toward others.  

Consider these possibilities for upgrading your relationships.

4. Be intentional about loving another. After all, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments according to Jesus. One place to begin loving others is your relationships with your spouse, children, co-workers, and friends.


5. Receive these individuals just as they are. In contrast, some people, in their relationships, are constantly critiquing and evaluating others.

I once looked for another car, a used car. (Perhaps I should use the language of the car lots. I was looking for a pre-owned car.) After weeks of walking through car lot after car lot, I finally found a particular car that really caught my interest. I began to give serious thought to buying this car. Before buying this car, however, I inspected this car several times. I drove it. I walked around it, keeping my eyes peeled for any dent, nick, or blemish. I inspected the inside of this car, carefully looking for any cut or tear in the fabric or any sort of spot. I did not want to purchase this car and then get home only to realize that I had not inspected it close enough. Inspecting a car like this can be very helpful when buying a car. It is not good to practice this in relationships.

My wife, children, and friends do not need my constant critique and evaluation. Rather, they need for me to receive them and love them just the way they are.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 1)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

I was once in a conversation with a man who was very critical and derogatory toward another man. I gathered he had experienced something very negative with this man and now he resented the guy. Sometime later, I saw these two men together. The man who had made these cutting remarks was now smiling and behaving as if they were good friends. It was a strange contrast with what I had witnessed earlier.

We are in a variety of relationships with others including:





Extended family members

People in our church

Yet, many of our relationships rock along, year after year, with very little attention or energy invested.

This series is about upgrading our relationships. What are some practical ways to invest in the relationships that really matter

3 Suggestions for Becoming Self-forgetful

We live in a culture in which many think it is perfectly normal to pursue whatever is in your self-interest — even if it means breaking your prior commitments. The thinking goes something like this:

You may be married.Self-Forgetfulness.jpg

You may have a good job.

You may be a part of a church.

However (the thinking goes), these should not come at your expense. As a result, many men and women make decisions they never dreamed they would make.

A man leaves his young wife and small child for another woman.

A middle-aged woman leaves her husband who has just learned he has cancer. She doesn’t want to have to take care of him.

Far too many people conclude that if something appears to be a “better offer” it is only reasonable to abandon one’s commitments so that one doesn’t miss this new opportunity.

Graciousness: Daring to Live a Graceful Life


Have you ever noticed that some people speak of grace but they are not gracious? I once heard Fred Craddock say that the final act of grace is graciousness. He was right. Meanwhile, others – regardless of their gifts or personalities – extend grace and make an incredible difference in the lives of people.

What does it mean to be a gracious person?

A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise. In fact, a gracious person is not addicted to the attention of others. A gracious person is very comfortable in expressing appreciation and praise to another.

A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary. Nor does such a person embarrass another and then attempt to escape responsibility by saying, “I was only joking.” Instead, a gracious person seeks to encourage and uplift another.

A gracious person regularly thanks others. This person chooses to express gratitude and never takes anything for granted.

A gracious person does not monopolize the conversation. He or she learns to ask good questions and creates opportunities for others to talk.

A gracious person does not play one-upmanship. Have you ever told a story about something that happened to you only to get this response: “That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!”

A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, “He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment.” Wow! Don’t underestimate the power of simply paying attention to another.

A gracious person speaks thoughtfully. This person doesn’t say what happens to be passing through the corridor of his mind at the moment. There is nothing particularly redeeming about expressing every fleeting thought that floats through the mind. A gracious person tempers words through the filter of wisdom and love.

A gracious person does not have to be the center of attention. There are people who seem to crave constant attention. These people are so insecure they feel threatened if they are not noticed or acknowledged. There is a humility in realizing you are dispensable.

A gracious person points out the good. Maybe you are visiting a friend who lives in another place. Instead of pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are constantly finding things that are good. “This cafe has outstanding peach pie! That was delicious.” “I just love the way you have planted your garden. It is beautiful!” Gracious people look for the good.

Where to begin today:

1. Today, pray that God will create an awareness of the opportunities to express graciousness to others.

2. Think ahead to the people whom you anticipate interacting with. Which one of the above attributes do you especially need to be conscious of when you are with this person?

3. Be intentional about thanking others. Your spouse. Your co-workers. The clerk at 7-11. A vendor. A client. Go above and beyond what you normally do.


What would you add to this list?

Guest Post: Walter Petticrew

Walter Petticrew recently left a comment on this blog in which he discussed some of the important practices of his family. I thought these were very good and needed to be read by our regular readers.

My wife and I have two children. Our son, and elder child had muscular dystrophy and passed away two years ago, shortly before his 20th birthday. Our daughter, now 19, is getting ready for college. So raising our children was different in many wfamily01.pngays. However there are some principles that, looking back, I would say shaped all of us and continue to do so today.

*Spend time with your children. My time was bath time with them. We would spend a minimum of an hour. It gave my wife some well-deserved rest and was the best transition time from work to home. The tradition of the bathtub was for me to make up stories while they played. It got to the point where we had a favorite character, “Oscar the Turkey,” so each night we had a new adventure of what Oscar was up to next.

*Life is not fair; yet in the hand we are dealt, God is with us. We knew this was the case for us, but it becomes even more clear each day now. There is grace and blessing everywhere; but when you are in the thick of it the grace can be hard to see. That leads to….

*Patience. (God’s and our). God knew what we were in and revealed to us all the blessings in the hardships

*Honesty. It has always been a foundation in our home. We had to be honest with our children and they demanded the same of us. It can be hard. I recall the exact moment when our son, then six, said, “I am going to die because of my disease.” We never gave him a false hope or said “Don’t worry about it.” We told him the truth.

*As a father, I took it upon myself to make sure we had a lot of smiles. My wife is a natural in this category, but I feel that dads need to show kids examples of “good crazy,” such as getting out of the car after work and jumping in the pool with your kids with your clothes on.

*Show appropriate affection to your wife in all matters. They must see you hug and kiss and love. Then invite them in for a group hug and in that hug pray over the family. Family hugs and prayer are meant for each other. Take advantage of that.

*Have night and morning prayer time with your children. My daughter, 19, still will not leave for school or the house without me praying for her before she leaves. Your children want you to pray for them.

*Be in a Bible study and let your children watch you study. I was very fortunate. I have been active in a Monday night Bible study for over 12 years. Each night when I got home and put my son to bed, he would always ask “What did you learn in Bible study?” We would spend a good hour talking about it.

*Be the kind of house and family that will cause your kid’s friends to want to spend time there. One of our regular events (still is) has been the fire pit. It got to the point where on almost every weekend my son’s friends would ask if we could have a fire pit that night. This went on from 4th grade and continues to this day. Even now, some of my son’s friends, even though they are in college, will come and spend a weekend with us. We always had a great mix of laughs and serious dialogue. We earned the trust of the kids in our neighborhood, and it was always a time to invite Christ into their lives.

One last note: If possible make sure they know their grandparents. It is very important for both of them.

What I’ve Learned After Being Married for 33 Years

Charlotte and I have been married for 33 years. I knew very little about marriage when we began. At this point in life, I am still learning.  

I can tell you a few things I’ve learned about marriage.

1. I’ve learned that as a couple we need to put our relationships with God and our obedience to him first. I have learned that only when I give myself to him first can I experience real fulfillment. This takes tremendous pressure off our marriage.

2. I’ve learned to be quick to forgive. Sometimes I’ve been too slow to admit fault and ask for forgiveness. At other times, I’ve allowed annoyances to fester instead of maturely dealing with them.

beautiful wedding rings

3. I’ve learned the importance of paying attention to one another. This can be a real challenge when there are so many distractions. Work. Children. Personal interests. Technology. Even some friends may detract a person from being attentive to a spouse.

4. I’ve learned the importance of having fun. That doesn’t mean that a spouse has to constantly entertain the other. It is important to laugh together and to enjoy one another.

5. I’ve learned something about the critical importance of friendship with one another. It is so important that a husband/wife be friends who enjoy being with one another. That friendship can grow and flourish through shared experiences and caring for each other. Loyalty and trustworthiness can deepen such a friendship.

6. I’ve learned that mature people take action instead of passively waiting for something to happen. I did not get this in the early years of our marriage. I would sit in front of our television watching a ball game while the baby was crying, the house was a wreck, and the trash cans were overflowing. It can be very irritating to a spouse for you to ignore the obvious while you pursue your own interests.

7. I’ve learned something about the importance of belonging to a church. Besides worshipping God with other believers, our church has blessed our marriage. After all, in a congregation of Christians you are likely to find others who are serious about growing their marriages. You are also likely to find some older, wiser people who have been married longer and who continue to find joy in their marriages.


What would you add to this list?

At the Close of the Year, is it Time to Reboot Your Life?

Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite writers. Several years ago, I read his book Things Unseen. He speaks of an early memory of his father.

We are on holiday.

My father, whose work to him was often a heaviness and a dreariness, is light from two weeks of rest and play and silence. His chronic irritability, his swift, jerky snapping at things, is gone.  

He often looked as if he was constantly fighting invisible restraints–a failed Houdini who, no matter how much he thrust and twisted to loose the ropes and chains, couldn’t slip free. But his usual motions of rigid haste have slowed and smoothed, and the things that three weeks ago would have made him explode in anger or withdraw in sullenness now just make him shrug or chuckle. My mother has relaxed into my father’s softening mood. She has almost collapsed into it, thankful, weary, only now realizing how close she herself was to breaking.

He goes on to speak of something that happened in a summer cabin where they were staying, which elicited the most unusual response. I’ll have to get back to this later. For now, I want to think for a moment about the memory that he has of his father’s typical behavior…

…chronic irritability, his swift, jerky snapping at things…  

It is such a memory that it makes quite an impression when it is gone, immediately after vacation. His father left the impression with him that his work was often a heaviness and dreariness.  

Wow… This makes me wonder about what my children have picked up from me. What have they seen in terms of my moods and attitudes?

So often when we (parents) think about raising children, we think about what we need to teach them or tell them.

Yet, they learn so much by just being with us. They see us for who we are, not what we would like to project to them. It might be good to think about the kind of memories that we are giving them. I don’t say this to elicit guilt. I do think that we need to deal with our lives as we really are. That can be very uncomfortable.

Thank God for his grace.