Enrich Your Relationships By Taking Care Of Your Heart

Relationships are matters of the heart. I recognize there are different kinds of relationships, but, core relationships (e.g. spouse, best friend, family, etc.), are especially matters of the heart. Your heart and your pride are on opposing teams. Your heart will betray your pride and ego every time. If my daughter were to come home from school and tell me about her day and casually mention some of the kids teased her, but quickly exclaim, “but I’m ok, it didn’t hurt my feelings”, she could be telling the truth. If I walk by her room later that evening and see her crying, ask why she’s upset, and she responds, “I’m a nice person, I don’t know why those kids would say mean things about me?” In that moment, her heart has betrayed her ego, and her heart is communicating what’s really going on inside of her.

Learning to guard your heart will do wonders for your relationships. I love what Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” That’s a huge statement. Everything I do, flows (comes out of, starts from, is conceived) from my heart. In order to have healthy relationships, I have to have a healthy heart. Just like healthy eating and dieting do wonders for the physical heart, the same is true for the immaterial heart. I must keep it healthy. If my mind is preoccupied with money: how to make more, to get more, to become rich, etc. my actions will walk that out. The things I talk about are the things I have been thinking about.

Here are three things you can do to train your heart in order to improve your relationships:

1. Keep a pulse on what things are flowing and moving in and out of your heart throughout the day. Self-talk is something we all do. We are constantly reminding ourselves of things that need to be done, places we need to go and tasks we need to accomplish. But there’s more. Be mindful of the thoughts and attitudes of your heart as well. These very thoughts and attitudes are the things that enter our relationships and begin to shape them and mold them.

We live in a sex crazed world. It seems like marketing teams and advertisers think sex is the secret sauce to effective advertising. (News flash… It’s not!). When I turn the television on and see a young lady, barely clothed, provocatively eating a cheeseburger in the effort to get me to buy one, it doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to tell me something has gone very wrong in our society. How does sex have anything to do with cheeseburgers?!? That constant barrage of images may take root in my heart if I am not careful to identify what’s going on in my heart. More importantly, I may need to identify and be truthful with myself that I may secretly like those images and then begin to uproot any hold they may have on my heart. Allowing that junk to have a place in my heart will begin to erode the intimacy I have with my wife. It will begin to change the way I see women and disregard their intrinsic value. It may cause me to see women as sex objects, rather than equally valued and esteemed human beings.

Be careful to know what’s in your heart.

2. Watch how you treat and interact with other people. As I said before, your heart will betray you 100% of the time. In order to really do the best job at watching your actions you should enlist the help of a trusted friend. Ask this person to give you honest feedback about yourself. Hearing someone else’s perspective(s) can be one of those things that make your defensive walls go up and send you into self-protect mode. This is why it’s so important you ask someone you know loves you and only wants the best for you. When you have someone like this give you feedback, it truly becomes a gift of love.

What that person has to say may sting a little (or a lot), but the purpose is to help you be better. I love what the Bible says regarding this: “The slap of a friend can be trusted to help you, but the kisses of an enemy are nothing but lies” Proverbs 27:6. One of the hardest things in life we will have to do is admit who we really are. When you are finally able to do that, you’ve taken your power back and you’re on your way to becoming free.

How you act and how you treat people are direct reflections of who you really are. You are what’s in your heart. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” Proverbs 27:19.

3.  Learn to discipline your heart. If you’re anything like me, your heart is always making demands of you. “Eat this!” “Don’t let him talk to you like that!” “You deserve it.” “You make the decision.” The list of demands is never ending. If I don’t learn to discipline my heart, I will quickly become a person whose life is undisciplined and out of control. This will spill over into my relationships and present itself in these character traits: selfishness, arrogance, pride, driven by lust, greedy, immoral, jealous, argumentative, and the like (see Galatians 5:19-21). You don’t want to be that person. Learn to train and discipline your heart so your relationships stay fruitful and continue to grow in quality and quantity.

Take care of your heart, it’s the key to rich, intimate relationships.

Three Mistakes People Make With Their Spouse In An Effort To Get Their Power Back

I’ll be the first to admit I like to feel powerful. My ego is stroked when I feel like I am in control of my circumstances. When my colleagues demonstrate their trust in me as a leader, my ego is stroked. When my wife tells me new things she loves about me, my ego is stroked. It’s when my actions have done something to damage or break my connection with my wife that my ego is humbled and I feel less powerful. It’s in those moments I feel the need to try and reclaim my power.

Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to His creation. When I finally married my wife, DeAnna, it was everything I expected. It was also everything I didn’t expect. I slowly learned (yes, slowly), marriage is about growing up. Learning to put someone else’s needs above my own. When DeAnna and I would have a little tiff, I would inwardly retreat. When I did something to break her trust and she called me on it, I would feel ashamed and powerless. In futile attempts to get my power back, I would resort to all kinds of bad behavior. I want to share three of them with you, and caution you, not to allow these things to have a place in your marriage (or any relationship for that matter).

1. Withholding Your Affection. Just like the little boy who doesn’t get his way and runs to his “safe” place and withholds his affection to prove a point, I would do the same thing to my wife. “If you don’t give me what I want, then I am not going to give you want you want.” That’s what I subconsciously would do almost every time I felt powerless. This was my attempt to elevate myself back to a position of power in my relationship with my wife.

Here’s the problem with that behavior — it doesn’t work! Sure it can have great manipulative success to get your spouse to relent or just drop it, but you never get that intangible feeling of connectedness back until you address the problem. You may feel “Powerful” again, but at what cost? That feeling of connectedness you feel with your spouse is worth humbling yourself for. The longer you stay disconnected with your spouse for the sake of your ego, the less powerful and less mature your spouse actually sees you.

2. The Silent Treatment. LOL. I am totally laughing at myself right now. The silent treatment doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. “Oh this will show her!” I have thought that way too many times than I care to admit, and every time, the thing I wanted to do most, was run to my wife and talk to her. It kills me when I can’t talk to DeAnna. She’s my best friend. I tell her everything. There is literally nothing she doesn’t know about me. In those times I feel powerless with DeAnna (of course because of something I did or didn’t do), I used the silent treatment to get back at her and punish her. And it never fails, the entire time I am giving her the silent treatment, I am the one who’s miserable.

I was never one of those people who could just jump right into the pool during the summer. I had to dip a toe in (pull it out quickly) “oh that’s cold”, then slowly work a foot into the water. After about 20 minutes I was in up to my knees and just about the time when everyone is almost done playing in the pool, I was ready to get in. Instead of going to DeAnna, talking to her, asking her to forgive me, admitting my wrong, I would prolong my disconnect with self inflicted silent treatment. Just like the kid who didn’t jump right in the pool I would wait until it was almost too late to make things right.

3. Not Telling Your Spouse What You Need. It’s not DeAnna’s job to figure out what I need. That responsibility rests solely on me. Conversely, DeAnna should tell me what she needs. Your spouse is not a mind reader, and neither are you. Giving your spouse the gift of what is going on in your heart is one of the quickest ways to build intimacy in your relationship. Unfortunately failing to communicating what you need to your spouse is a sure way to diminish the intimacy in your relationship.

It’s vital you learn how to communicate what is going on in your heart. This comes easy to some people. I am lucky to be one of those people. Others have to work at it. Here’s the good news: the more you work at it, the better you become at it. This is a gift you should to give your spouse on a daily basis. You hold the key to your own heart. The person in your life who should have an all access pass should know what you need because you are consistently sharing your heart.

I thought all three of these tactics were acts of power and would help me get my own power back. In actuality, all three of these behaviors were demonstrations of me giving my power away. In order to be powerful, you need to give affection, instead of withholding it. In order to be powerful, you need to communicate, instead of giving the silent treatment. In order to be powerful, you need to tell your spouse what you need. Being a powerful person means I take responsibility. I don’t give my power away. I use my power to heal, repair and love.

Be the powerful person you are, and stop giving your power away.

Relating to God

When it comes to relating to our Heavenly Father, we all struggle (have struggled and probably will struggle again) with the notion of not being good enough. In fact, we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves thinking or pondering these types of thoughts. Maturity and fellowship with God help remove all of that doubt, and our innate need to perform or appease God. But how does one get past her feelings or struggles more quickly?

By coming to terms with the truth — we’re not good enough, and we never will be!

Our efforts and our good deeds will never get us closer to God, or in His good graces. In fact, our efforts and our good deeds will only prove to widen the gap between the two of you.

When we stop trying to appease God, through our good deeds, and we decide to instead, offer Him our heart in its present, sinful, blackened condition, that’s what will brings us close to God.

Simply stated — that’s how we relate to God. Our acceptance is not based on our good deeds. God’s acceptance of us is in Jesus. It’s because of Jesus we are accepted. Our relationship begins and ends with Jesus. That gives me a lot of confidence.