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Building Better Relationships — Week 7 Reflections

August 30, 2006

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This week was our seventh and final Bible study. Next week I’ll be starting a new one, Get a Life: Debunking Six Myths in the Quest for Contentment by Vicki Courtney.

This week, because school (and the new Bible study) were starting, we combined the last two chapters of Building Better Relationships into one session. Chapter 7 was called “Learning to Listen” and addressed the tendency to be self-defensive when receiving criticism. Listening nondefensively isn’t easy, and it goes against our natural instinct to defend ourselves, but it can be learned and when it is put into practice, conflicts can be avoided and relationships can be restored. The author points out the Scripture of Luke 9:23-24:

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.

The nondefensive listening process requires that we:

Put down pride (admit our wrongs without excusing them and ask to be forgiven — see Ephesians 4:2)

Refuse to correct (the object is to be able to say “I understand why you feel that way,” not “You’re wrong. It didn’t happen like that.”)

Cancel all counterattacks. (We must not respond with counterattacks such as “Who are you to criticize me?” See Luke 6:35-36)

Chapter 8 was called “Growing in Grace” and it was a lovely way to end the study. It pointed out that our emotions follow our thoughts, not the other way around. If we find ourselves drowning in a sea of negative emotions (fear, anger, jealousy, etc), we must change the focus of our thoughts. If we think about positive things as we are commanded in Philippians 4:8, our feelings will follow. The Bible insists that we can change our thinking. And change we must, because a large percentage of what we think flies in the face of Biblical truth; is sinful and unacceptable to God. We often let Satan’s lies replace God’s truths:

Lie #1: When people act unfairly, unkindly, thoughtlessly or obnoxiously, I should blame them and dwell on the wrong done to me or to others. Romans 12:14, 17, 18 and Ephesians 4:31-32 state that I should forgive them, pray for them, and be kind to them, acting honorably.

Lie #2: When I am rejected, hurt, or unfairly treated, I have a right to be in a bad mood and harbor negative thoughts. Matthew 5:11-12 (which I really identified with!) says that I should be happy because even the prophets were persecuted; my riches are in heaven.

Lie #3: I have a right to criticize and judge other Christians when they fail to obey God’s laws. When they don’t, I should be depressed. Matthew 7:1-5 and Galatians 6:1-2 state that I should not judge others because I am a sinner too. I should help them as I would want to be helped.

Lie #4: I have a right to expect people to remember me, give me gifts, and do special things for me. When they don’t, I should be depressed. Philippians 2:3 says that I should think of others as better than me.

Lie #5: I expect people to listen to what’s on my mind. James 1:19,23 says that I should listen to others.

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