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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

5 Ways to recommit when your marriage is falling apart

Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash

PROMISES that are best, those that are also hardest to keep, are the proving ground of learning. Where daily determination meets with God’s grace, humility is nurtured, and wisdom is attained.
Besides when it is unsafe[1] to remain in a marriage, for yourself and/or others, it is always a good thing to keep working on marriage — where there is a collective will and a positive vision for a satisfying marriage in both partners. Both partners will not always feel like trying nor will they always feel positive about the future, but it’s what they feel when they believe the best is possible that counts.
Here are five promises we can make in recommitting to our marriages:
1.      Promise to have the faith to stick at a process for however long it takes. Our long-term happiness is not connected with our short-term happiness. These two are very different things.
2.      Promise not to run away, especially as that means obeying the voice of the Lord as you find yourself, mentally or emotionally, sprinting off. Take some minutes of solace, but do not leave.
3.      Promise to enter gently and graciously, i.e. with courage, into the cauldron, to love when love seems hard, even impossible, to do. Love starts from us as individuals choosing to love through kindness, patience, and compassion, etc.
4.      Promise to remind yourself that your partner lacks many degrees of perfection, as do you. Remind yourself that the things that bug you about him or her are possibility simple reflections of unconscious things about you that bug you. And remind yourself there are things about you that bug them — they’re staying with you as much as you’re staying with them.
5.       Promise yourself the reflection of this truth: a happy life is not simply about feeling happy; it’s more a life that is steeped in meaning. That’s because life is long. Purpose is established over years and decades. Where we give up on our marriages, we agree to overhaul the substance of our identity.



[1] For me, safety connects to imminent risk of harm to trauma that may lead to injury, post-traumatic stress, etc. In all relationships, however, there is the function of conflict which produces hurt, which in turn provides opportunities for the relationship to grow in trust, as individuals grow, and as they choose to overlook offenses and forgive. The process can take years. Hurts are not unsafe in and of themselves, and it is amazing what we as individuals can endure. Overcoming feeling hurt is actually a key life skill in developing resilience. When it comes to being unsafe, though, we are advised to trust close friends, parents and siblings. If the majority are saying the same thing deem it as trustworthy and wise. Accept and trust the help you’re given.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The character of all-abiding sorrow in grief



ONLY 24-hours ago my family learned we had lost a dear member — my Uncle. He was a man full of humour no matter how hard life was. There is so much about him that could be written. A small article like this cannot do justice to his memory.
What is strange, however, is that while he was alive I made minimal effort to see him; only twice in the past year, both because I knew he wasn’t far from death.
Over the years of our adult lives, like with most extended family, we learn to live without each other. Life is busy, and our immediate families and friendships get priority.
So why is it that when I’m honest I’m full of an all-abiding won’t-let-go sorrow? It appears to me to be simple.
He is gone. Gone is he.
GONE. NO MORE. HISTORY.
It’s too late to visit, to chat, to draw from his wisdom, to enjoy his quirky humour, to experience him in the flesh.
That is the nature of loss. It’s so final. It leaves us nowhere, if not numb, for the reality we cannot change and cannot yet accept.
There is but one plausible emotion if we’re honest. We have to be full of gut-wrenching sorrow. Not that we like it. We hate to suffer, but we also hate it that history cannot be reversed. And we hate it that we feel foreign to life suddenly. People are getting on with their lives with no idea what we’re going through. And there’s nothing we can do to change it or stop it.
My response to my Uncle’s passing isn’t steeped in depths of grief. In many ways his passing is a relief for him and the family. But if loss reminds me of anything it is this: we’re never truly prepared for it.
It’s only when our loved ones are gone forever that we truly miss them with an ache that lingers. Time helps us to accept the new normal, but time cannot bring them back.

Thankfully we’re helped as we join communities that assist us cope with our grief — that transport us into new ways of coping — that validate us in our all-abiding sorrow; the by-product of loss.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The truth about the ‘performance’ you

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash
YOU are not a human doing, you are a human being! Ever had that said to you, about you, or about another person?
It’s true, we are more than what we do, but what we do, and specifically how we do it, counts. But even that is only part of the story — a part of the story that is often exaggerated while another part of the story is neglected. That other part of the story is our performance is subject to enormous variability, dependant not least on how we’re treated, how confident we’re feeling, and how much we want to give as a result.
The truth is, in at least a crude estimation, our performance in any arena in life has three levels: times when we’re healthy and above average, times when we’re average, and times when we’re unhealthy and below average. If we’re capable of brilliance, we’re also capable of mediocrity. We’re not one or the other. We’re both. At different times. Even at the same time but in different spheres of life. And that’s okay.
I want to suggest something:
People cannot judge us fairly at our worst
unless they’ve seen us at our best.
If people only see us at our worst, perhaps when we’re performing at our worst, and that’s all they have to go on, they characterize us according to that poor standard. They will never believe we have more to offer, that we can and do offer more. The travesty for them and us is they may never see it.
Nobody ought to be stereotyped that they’re ‘this’ type of person or ‘that’ type of person. We’re all capable of a range of different behaviours and responses. It’s the environment and our own sense of well-being or ill-being in that environment that counts.
When experiencing a person at what could be their worst,
ask what could help them be at their best.
We are all capable of greatness and weakness,
nobility and depravity,
pride and shame.

Never are we beyond inspiring and disappointing people or ourselves.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2 steps to deep Pastoral Care engagement

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

DEEP connection is necessary for transformation within discipleship, desperation underpins desire, and pastoral care is the vehicle.
I have found two steps occur in attaining deeper engagement. These can be seen through these prayers of a would-be discipler:
1.      “Lord, help me establish affinity with this person so they would feel safe with me.”
2.     “Lord, help me say and do only those things that protect the trust this person has placed in me.”
The first prayer is about devoting sufficient time with the person, proving we’re genuinely interested in them by listening well, demonstrating care in ways they determine as worthy; in sum, establishment of a solid working relationship where vulnerability can exist and be safely explored. This all assumes that there is the want in the person to be helped, and we (the helper) have the personality, wisdom, experience, and confidence to help. When we have honoured God by our faithful authenticity with the person, He answers the prayer in the affirmative, and the second prayer can be viably prayed.
The second prayer is about protecting the trust we’ve established, and patiently building on the relationship. This is when I am praying about being a good steward of the relationship. I’m praying that I don’t offend the trust they have placed in me. I’m careful to continue to listen and serve. Trust is precious. There is more to lose when rapport is established, and trust is implicit. If the relationship is damaged at this point, it may not get a second chance. Usually relational damage cannot take place earlier than this as trust has not yet been established.
***
Deeper engagement is necessary as two people work together within a discipleship arrangement to promote transformation. A pastoral type of care is the vehicle that answers the above prayers in the affirmative. And yet none of this applies if a person isn’t ready (i.e. desperate) enough for soul work.

Being for a person, so that between us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may see transformation. That’s discipling pastoral care.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

5 stereotypical Couple Conflicts that stagnate relationships

Photo by Frantzou Fleurine on Unsplash
The following five situations are metaphors for conflicts that commonly occur in couple relationships. Anyone who is or has been married knows it is not an exhaustive list.
1.      “How did we get here?”
Such a response occurs when one partner says something without thinking of all the potential consequences. Of course, we’ve all done it. And we’re bound to say and do many things that don’t cater for the myriad consequences that could occur.
Whenever we get to that frame of reflection the moment is pregnant with opportunity for learning. And a good apology[1] will save the day.
2.     “How can I / am I meant to accept this?”

Some realities are or seem untenable in marriage. There are both, obviously, but there are also times when we can learn to accept a situation. Many more situations can be accepted than cannot be accepted.
Abuse cannot be accepted, for one. Affairs (without seeking forgiveness — showing remorse — and providing restitution) are another. But most partners who have issues with acceptance have issues they could learn to accept. Practice acceptance and soon our feelings follow.
3.     “You mean to say that we haven’t resolved this one already?”
For one partner the fact that a particular issue isn’t resolved to their satisfaction ought to be evidence enough that they’re not the only party who needs to be satisfied. I wonder what might occur if this aggrieved partner thinks for a moment what it is like to be the other person.
The partner who thinks this question ought to be counselled by reality. Resolution comes with time and perspective and calm minds, and not beforehand.
4.     “I cannot believe how many times we’ve fought about this!”

Linked with the above, this is about those times when we’re exasperated in marriage. Exasperation often occurs in marriage. Where it doesn’t we may begin to think we’ve married ourselves, someone ‘easy’ to understand and accept. There are times in all couple relationships where one or both partners are incredulous that a certain matter continues to cause problems.
Through seasons of exasperation we’re challenged to grow personally and interpersonally.
5.     “Why have you not changed?”
Oh, all who read this should be able to see the problem immediately. But many won’t. There is nothing wrong with the question if we swap out the word ‘you’ with ‘I’ — “Why have I not changed?” Expecting our partner to change is often the wrong way of looking for the relationship to grow. There is one caveat though. Needing our partner to change, in some circumstances, is the only way a relationship can survive, e.g. addiction, fornication, etc.
***
All couple relationships feature irredeemable conflict. The sooner we accept this the sooner marriage moves into the realm of possibility.




[1] Peacewise.org.au suggests there are the seven A’s of confession for demonstrating sincerity and thoroughness; the heart of apology. We need to address everyone affected by our wrong actions. Avoiding the words if, but and maybe ensure the apology is potently unconditional; no excuses. Admitting the specifics of what was done wrong is so important to demonstrate we understand the issue(s), and we have the courage to name it. Acknowledging the hurt we caused allows us to express sorrow for having caused it. Accepting the consequences means we understand and agree with the justice required; no excuses. Promising to alter our behaviour in future helps them to consider trusting us again. Asking for forgiveness grants the other person power to acquit us should they choose to.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The gospel of forgiving the past

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RECONCILIATION could be one word that describes the gospel. And that’s about forgiving the past, so the future could again be emblazoned with hope.
Consider this wisdom:
“Jesus talks about the past in terms of forgiving it. Some say forgiveness is central to his whole message. Jesus tells us to hand the past over to the mercy and action of God. We do not need to keep replaying the past, atoning for it, or agonizing about it.
— Fr. Richard Rohr OFM
Isn’t it amazing how much the gospel of forgiving the past aligns with our own instinct?
We know how much our lives would improve if only we were equipped to forgive the past — to reconcile it. We know the power in this truth, but it’s engaging this power in our lives that seems so elusive. But we can teach ourselves the practice of forgiving the past.
We do this by tapping into our conscious minds; becoming mindful of the repetitiveness of replaying past trauma, judging and condemning our past acts, and reliving the pain — keeping it alive to the detriment of the life seeking to emerge from within us.
The past is five seconds as well as five or fifty years behind us. Attributions of harshness are unhelpful, whereas attributions of health in seeing reality as it is help. We improve by gaining awareness and insight; awareness through drawing unconscious thought to consciousness, and insight by prayerful contemplation with God over the days, the months, the years.
Insight is where we hear God and believe and then apply what He says we ought to do.
Our mental, emotional and spiritual health all rely heavily on how we manage and view the past.
God does not want us to view ourselves in a harsh light, unless it’s for the purpose of a momentary ‘godly sorrow’ for which is useful in confession and repentance.
But beyond this godly sorrow, which leads to healing, God knows there’s no point in rehashing regrets of past.

We can learn over time to let go of everything God would not wish for us to carry.

Monday, November 20, 2017

On the elusiveness of forgiveness

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
THIS is not about saying forgiveness is impossible, but it is a concession that forgiveness depends on many factors.
Times of the year, seasons in all our lives, situations of fortune and misfortune, all provide either impetus or constraints on forgiveness.
Some situations a miraculous level of grace is gifted to us, and we forgive reminiscent of God’s forgiving us in Christ. The world simply cannot understand what only God could achieve through us.
Other situations, even what seems petty is difficult to forgive. Such a confounding of an otherwise merciful heart is designed to humble us. The Lord invites us to be curious in discovering why. He helps us understand that forgiveness is always a miracle of grace so that nobody can boast.
Forgiveness is at essence about acceptance. Only the heart can truly accept, for what the mind thinks, and the body does, in sustained ways, is always generated from the heart. Forgiveness comes from the heart of acceptance.
But this article is not centrally about how elusive forgiveness is for us to do. It is more about the elusiveness of others’ forgiving us.
People don’t forgive us because they think they must let us off the hook. In other words, the issue is trust. Their views of us have become fixed in what we did wrong. All associations they have of us tend to be framed by this newer negative view, which eclipses what could otherwise be an unblemished record.
However unfortunate this is, we must accept it as it is. It does us no good to continue to regret what we did and/or how they saw how we performed. Perhaps we have burned our bridges. Maybe there is no turning back. What they are giving us, however, are fresh opportunities to nurture relationships with others.
Many times, God has not yet gifted the party who cannot forgive us with the grace to do so. It’s between them and God. That’s where we leave it, always as we hold them aloft before God, in our kindness. We only complicate matters when we’re anxious to be forgiven.
Don’t doubt that if they could see why we should be forgiven they would forgive us.
Sometimes (i.e. not always or even most of the time) people’s circumstances change in such a way as new opportunities at reconciliation become possible.
In the meantime, our quest is to remain faithful, so space is held open for grace to enter.
Sometimes the easier way to forgive someone is to see why we need their forgiveness.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Greatest Gift to Give a Child – Teach Empathy

Photo by RĂ©mi Walle on Unsplash

SITTING with a little girl in tears, Aaron, himself just a little boy, doesn’t say a word. He just sits there with her, trying to imagine how she feels. She soon felt a little better.
Aaron expressed empathy in a very simple and profound way. A significantly foundational character building block, empathy is possibly the greatest gift a child can receive.
One of the key barriers to empathy in children, however, are social biases that all people tend to experience, like the in-group bias that suggests we tend to favour those we like; those we’re already in community with.
A 2014 study from the Netherlands found that such an in-group bias can be overcome by inducing empathy in a child toward another child in need of help.[1] In this study, children aged between 8 and 13 were asked “How do you think [name of recipient of help] feels?” A control group of children were not asked this question. Both groups of children were asked, “Would you help [name of recipient of help]?” In a significant number of situations, children overcame the in-group bias and were prepared to help out-group children when they were asked the simple question to induce empathy. This suggests that empathy overcomes social barriers in a powerfully positive way.
In simple terms, if we want children to help other children, we ought to realise that empathy helps. We should want our children to help other children, because it helps quantify the status of their moral compass. The practice of empathy helps draw out helping behaviours. When we know how someone feels we are more likely to help them.
Sierksma et al did not explore children’s empathic responses to disliked or stigmatised children. Perhaps the suggestion is that help given to such children may highlight an enhanced skill for empathy in children who would be prepared to help. Sierksma et al do note that empathy “has a critical role in morality… [and is] a powerful intervention strategy early in life.”[2]
Probably most significantly, Sierksma et al show that, through empathy, typical group boundaries can be transcended, simply by asking a child how another child feels — whether they are in the in-group or not.[3] Additionally, another study has shown how empathy in adults helps them value the person in need of help more.[4]
So, to teach empathy to a child can be as simple as asking them frequently how they think other children (or animals or adults) feel. This is an attempt to connect them with their own feelings, for our own feelings are always important to us.
Teaching empathy to children is powerful in their development, because empathy is shown to transcend social biases all humans struggle to overcome. And, because empathy is also a vehicle for empowering a person along a forward trajectory, it gives back to the person giving it out. What parent would not want this for their child?
When children are empathic they show kindness, care and compassion that overcomes barriers to helping. They witness a virtuous power emanate from within themselves. This occurs even as a child asks how another person feels.



[1] Sierksma, J., Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, M., “In-group bias in children’s intention to help can be overpowered by inducing empathy” in British Journal of Developmental Psychology. © 2014, British Psychological Society. Vol. 33. Issue 1. March 2015. pp. 45-56. DOI: 10.1111/bjdp.12065. The abstract states, [E]ncouraging children to imagine how a recipient of help feels might thus be a useful strategy to prevent peer group-based biases in children’s helping behaviour.”
[2] Ibid. p. 53.
[3] Ibid. p. 53.
[4] Batson, C.D., Turk, C.L., Shaw, L.L., & Klien, T.R. “Information function of empathic emotion: Learning that we value the other’s welfare” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1995, 68, pp. 300 – 311. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.2.300.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What might Jesus say on the Same-Sex Marriage survey result?

WITH around eighty percent of eligible Australians having taken part in the SSM postal survey, it’s clear that most consider it an important issue. So significant, in fact, that it almost appears that the bell curve of views is inverted — everyone believes passionately at either side, fewer remaining middle of the road than ever. It can make for social war.
The result, therefore, polarised many of us. Many were elated and many, though fewer in number, were exasperated. Both the elated and the exasperated have the opportunity to conform back to the thinking of Christ.
Jesus challenged almost everyone he ever engaged with. Some were challenged for their encouragement. Others were rebuked, given cause for reflection. Others again received God’s wrath for the audacity they showed in abusing the powerless (i.e. chief priests and scribes). Few people are well at ease with the historical Jesus, except the powerless or those for whom life had crushed, who were also humbly ready to be nearer to God.
God does not change. Jesus does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8). His nature is how the Holy Spirit works. We stray off-line a tenth of a degree and the still, small, silent voice of the Lord counsels us back to the true and ancient path (Jeremiah 6:16).
I’m not entirely sure what Jesus would say. I’m not sure others can identify with precision what the Lord would say either. But I’m sure he would have many things to say — all truth-filled, balanced, wise, and challenges for us all to mull over. As we read the gospels, he was actually amazingly unpredictable in what he said, when he said it, and to whom he said what he said. Sure, we can say what he said makes so much sense, but wisdom is always logical from hindsight.
Simply posing this question helps us Christians check ourselves, before we respond — in the tradition of Psalm 139:23-24. In such a case, we might be counselled by the Holy Spirit to do what is always blessed and resist what is only occasionally blessed and at other times harmful.
Acting justly, being kind, and walking humbly —
these are always right.
***
It is good to ask unanswerable questions. They get us to stop and reflect into the mystery of life, which is God. And where we arrive at isn’t a set viewpoint, but acceptance for what is. That is God’s blessing for us, today and every day. It is great to know that we don’t know.
A safe position we as individuals can arrive at on complex matters like SSM is:
·      acknowledge it’s complex, and that none of us owns every corner of truth on this issue or any other issue;
·      understand our role is to act justly, be kind to others, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), which means:
o   we bear one another, our differences and inclinations, in mind, with respect;
o   we watch what we do or say to avoid hurt and augment healing;
o   acknowledge our opinions are just that — filtered through our limited way of seeing things;
o   and, by doing these things, we hope to glorify God, which is our chief aim.
It’s good to avoid certain subjects socially so we can simply focus on being present with people. And if we really need to process the issues, it’s good to go to someone who will lead us to relief; someone who will listen, validate what we feel, but not fuel the fire.
We do not have to have something to say on every issue.

When everyone is respected, no matter their opinion or the strength of their view, everyone is loved.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

5 feelings we hate feeling

Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

ACCEPTANCE, understanding, appreciation, inclusion, and being valued; all states of feeling we crave for in a social world. But the world is also a harsh place where we all get to experience the opposites of these five states of feeling.
Five feelings we hate feeling:
1.      We hate feeling rejected – the feeling of rejection is akin to abandonment, which speaks of the absence of care and/or conditionality in love. If a person needs to do something specific to be loved, they quickly discover they’re not worthy of love on their own terms. Acceptance on the other hand is about unconditional love.
2.      We hate feeling misunderstood – this was a particular weakness I had that I felt quite vulnerable about — until I met a biblical counselling professor who suffered the same weakness. I discovered we all suffer it to some degree. None of us like it when people assume they know us or understand us when they don’t. Understanding a person is one of the quickest ways of building intimacy in the relationship.
3.      We hate feeling unappreciated – everyone does things that are appreciable. Being recognised, or having our work recognised, is important. When others are recognised and we are not we cannot help noticing the partiality. Appreciating people for the small things they do is a great way to elicit respect.
4.      We hate feeling excluded – like feeling rejected, not being included sends a clear message we’re not good enough. The Pharisees loved their exclusivity. And anyone playing the same game reveals their insecurity. Note the paradox: the insecure exclude others, making them feel insecure, to feel better and more secure about themselves. Secure people on the other hand have no problems including others, especially the outliers.
5.      We hate feeling undervalued – nobody is worthless, for all have supreme worth, but we can be made to feel worthless. It is good to discern those who have worth issues and find ways to truly value them.
The simple message is this: when it comes to other people accept them, understand them, appreciate them, include them, and value them.
Wherever possible, as far as it depends on us, we should surround ourselves with people who are about acceptance, understanding, appreciation, inclusion, and valuing people. Such people are breath, hope, light, and life.

The more we recognise the need of positive feelings in ourselves, the more we’re prepared to invest positive feelings into others’ lives.