Is it Time to Change Your Approach?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – The Serenity Prayer

A woman told me recently, “If I could just get my husband to stop leaving the towels on the floor after he takes a shower … and if I could just get him to stop letting my three-year old leave his towels on the floor, I would feel like he was contributing more to keeping the house clean.”

“How long has your husband been doing this?” I asked. “Well, since we’ve been married,” she admitted. “That’s seven years.” “Hmm. And you’ve asked him to put his towels away?” I probed.  “Every day!” she exclaimed. “He’ll do it for a couple of days and then it’s right back to the same problem. He’s a great husband in so many ways, but this issue with the towels drives me crazy. It would be so easy for him to just pick them up and put them in the laundry basket!”  I could sense her frustration. “So you’ve tried to get him to change and he hasn’t. What’s the likelihood that he’s going to stop this annoying habit?” I asked.  “He probably won’t” she said.  I looked at her as she processed what she had said. “He’s probably not going to change and this is not life or death, so maybe I need to change how I look at it” she continued. “So basically, you have three choices…” I suggested:

1. Accept the towels on the floor as something you choose to live with.
2. Consider ‘putting away towels’ to just be one of your daily chores.
3. Be irritated everyday.

“Which one sounds best to you?” I asked.

It was in that moment that a light bulb came on for her. “Well, it would only take me a few seconds to just pick up the towels and put them in the laundry basket,” she said. “I’ll just do it. I don’t think it’s worth any more fussing and negative energy. I will just think of it as one of the things I do.”  Our conversation was a simple illustration of how you can allow the things you cannot change to become a source of unnecessary frustration – sometimes for years. As you may have learned in your own life, you cannot change people. If you base your peace and level of happiness on the attitudes and actions of others, you will find yourself consistently disappointed. I am not suggesting that you stop speaking up for yourself and making reasonable requests of others. I am suggesting, however, that you don’t become so attached to your need for them to change that you stress yourself out unnecessarily.
This week, I challenge you to have the courage to accept the things (no matter how large or small) you cannot change and the courage to change what you can. Here’s how:

1. Accept the people in your life as they are.
As difficult as it may be at times, it is absolutely essential in a loving relationship to accept a person for who he or she is. Think back to a time when you did not feel accepted. How did it make you feel? Accepting a person for who they are does not mean condoning bad behavior. It means accepting what is and building from there rather than requiring a person to change in order for them to receive love, kindness or approval from you.

2. Ask yourself, “In what ways could I respond differently in relationships in which I wish the other person would change?”
Some people know how to push your buttons – and they’ll do it as often as they can in order to get the reaction they want from you. Others are not trying to push buttons, but inevitably do, as they do things that displease you. Change the dynamic of a situation by choosing a new response. In the case of the conversation I just outlined, the woman simply determined that something as simple as towels on the floor was not worth the frustration and negativity. So she let it go! “He’s probably not going to change. It’s just not important to him, so I guess I will have to be the one to change unless I want to keep feeling frustrated.” Choose your battles wisely. What do you need to let go of?

3. Are there boundaries I need to set in order to protect my own peace, joy and serenity?
It is sometimes necessary to set clear boundaries and protect them. For example, I don’t permit “drama” in my life. I do not allow people and situations that are negative, messy or lacking in integrity into my life. I just don’t have time for them. When I see such situations or people coming, I make it clear that certain conversations, situations and approaches are not acceptable to me and I won’t take part. What boundaries do you need to set to keep peace, joy and serenity in your life? What conversations do you need to have to make those boundaries clear to someone who has stepped across them?

4. Have I met the other persons’ request for change?
It can be easy to expect change in others without noticing that others would like to see a change in us as well. Be willing to take others’ requests for change seriously. Rather than being offended (1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is not easily offended), be honest with yourself. Perhaps it is time to make a change. When you are willing to change for someone else, they will often let down their wall and meet your requests too. If you are the one who must take the first step, do it. Sometimes we must let go of the need to be right in order to embrace the opportunity for peace, joy and love.

My challenge to you this week:
Answer all of the questions in 1 – 4 above. Consider the choices you have in handling a situation that is currently frustrating you. Make a choice that will lead you to greater peace, joy and serenity in a relationship or situation in your life.

Journaling assignment:
What lesson is God offering you through the frustration or discomfort you are experiencing in a particular area of your life right now?

Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

Are You At Peace About It?

It’s a simple question, but too often, in the face of a decision, we don’t ask it. Sure, logic is an important element of making a decision, but so too is intuition. Rather than ignore it or consider it secondary information, honor it. Peace is like an inner GPS system that leads you in the right direction. Even when the system looks like it’s taking you on a detour, it is often offering you a shortcut – saving you the time and energy of landing in a traffic jam of confusion, bad decisions or worse. Even in the most tumultuous situations, God can give you peace about a particular decision you need to make in the midst of the storm. You’ll feel calm even though everything around you is falling to pieces.

If you are honest, there have likely been times when you have felt compelled to move forward with something even when peace is lacking. Why is that? The reasons are probably rooted in fear – fear that somehow if you don’t make a decision now, you won’t get what you want later. It is the fear that you need to be in control and that means being able to see all the pieces of the puzzle. The ones you can’t see, you don’t trust. And you can’t “see” intuition – not in the natural, anyway. It is fear that maybe your intuition is wrong. “You don’t really have the ability to hear from God himself?” your doubt says. “Don’t be silly.” So rather than confidently going with your gut, you forge ahead with that gnawing feeling that something’s not quite right. Proverbs 22:3 promises, “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Here are a few other ways fear shows up when it’s time to make a decision:

Impatience

Have you ever made a decision out of impatience? You’re tired of waiting, so you move forward. Whether a simple everyday decision or a monumental one, such as who to marry or what career to choose, be patient. And choose peace while you are practicing patience. True patience isn’t about whether you wait, it’s about how you wait.

Trust

Lack of trust in God’s hand in your life shows up when you make decisions that are not rooted in peace. Trust Him. If you really trust Him, impatience won’t outweigh peace.

Reasoning

Some of us get very caught up in trying to figure things out. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” In other words, stop trying to predict, reason and rationalize your way into the right decisions!

I don’t know what the most important decision is that you need to make right now, but I know for sure that going in the direction of peace is a demonstration of authentic confidence and spiritual wisdom. So today, I wonder if it’s time for you to slow down a bit. Get quiet. Breathe deeply. Listen. And ask, “In this decision I am making, what choice gives me peace?”

My challenge to you:

Use peace to guide you.

Coach Yourself:  

In a decision you need to make right now, are you at peace about your decision? What decision would give you peace? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!