Our search for meaning is for more than blind conformity.
Our search for meaning is for more than blind conformity.

It is my privilege to bring the word of God to you. When I had been invited to lead a service at St Mark UMC, I prayed, “God, What do your people need this morning.” Before I could even pull the Lectionary, He answered: Passion. Discuss Passion. So, first thing I do is grab a tool or two to look up every instance of the word, passion, in the Bible.

As I read each passage, it seemed to be all about how not to burn with passion. It was about giving up sinful passion for godly passion. My New King James translation really references the word PASSION in a derogatory sense. Sort of like passion is related to Worldliness as opposed to Holiness. I said, “God, I don’t think I need to sermonize about the evils of lustful passion. Christians understand that. Then Isaiah 51 popped out!

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Isa 51: 1-2, 16.

Isa 51:1 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

Isa 51:2 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.

Isa 51:16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand —I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, to all who accept Me, ‘You are my people. ’ ” (Italics are my addition.)

As I prepare to write, I ask God for guidance. Although I have spent much preparation time in research, reflection and meditation, I pray to write for you, the audience; not for recognition, fame, or honor of my Self. Contribution to others is one of the highest orders of feeling fulfilled as a human. And it is enough for me to be filled by helping others find relief in their inquisitive lives. What this translates as, is that Trusting in God, the Holy Spirit will take my words and allow you to hear the message that Spirit has for you. Step out on Faith! Chuck, Don’t be “Jonah”. Don’t wimp out. Do your best for Me, your Jesus. The Holy Spirit will control, interpret, deliver, what is heard.

So, I thought more. Don’t we call the week of Easter, Passion Week?” Why do we call it Passion Week? Because, in that week, emotions were all over the place. Jesus did much to ready his followers. Jesus prayed as passionately as He ever prayed. Have you, can you remember, the last time you prayed with real passion? Maybe, it was about a dying spouse, or child. Maybe it was about a sin you thought could never be forgiven. Maybe it was for justice, or fairness to prevail in a situation you could not control. I guarantee if you ever prayed so hard that sweat was pouring from your brow, it was about something you were passionately, or emotionally involved.

I have the honor of communicating with thousands of people each year. And though the Bible warns against worldly passions, I find that too many of us do not have enough expression of passion. Are we becoming too passive as a society? Have we been raised so well by the systems of “status quo”, of being so much a part of an “In Crowd”, of conforming to scholastic rules of conformity, that we find it uncomfortable to be very passionate? Or to enjoy the passions of others who might or might not think, act, believe, follow, as we.

Life without passion is a life without meaning.
Life without passion is a life without meaning.


How shall we influence others without expressing our drives in emotionally charged meaning? To be intellectual is one of the ways toward wisdom. To feel empathy for others shows compassion. But it is the passion of belief which will influence. It is our passion which charges forth both change and tradition, when persuasion must determine outcome. God gave us our passionate emotions to enjoy, to feel alive. All we need is to properly use and direct them!

As Jesus neared his death, Jesus taught His followers as passionately as He ever did. His teaching became more direct. (Luke22:39-46) He put emphasis on servant leadership. (John 13: 3-17) He showed, taught, love for each other and for Him, as the most important part of becoming one with Him, as He was one with the Father. (John 17: 9-26, Luke 21:33-38) He set the stage to end any bickering they might have among each other. (Mark 10: 35-45) He set them up to receive, understand, become passionate about the Love of God through the Holy Spirit. Did it work? (Acts 2) I’d say yes. At Pentecost, Peter told this timeless story of salvation, through Jesus, with passion. (Acts) How many became believers? The disciples and apostles settled disputes that could have, and did try to, split the believers such as: “Circumcision” among Gentile conversions. (Acts 15: 1-29) Sticking with your spouse who might not believe in the Way. (1 Corinthians 7:10-23) And holding onto the Truth, though others may distort or abandon that Truth. (2 Thessalonians 2) Love conquered. Passions persuaded.

Jesus gave His life during that Passion week. Jesus showed us victory over death, (Luke 24) although, His enemies were more passionate in their opposition, than ever before. (Luke 19: 45-48, 20: 20-26) The whole world was passionately forcing history just the way God was planning. Listen to the crowds screaming, “Crucify Him”. Close your eyes and listen to Jesus tell God, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” When Jesus said, “It is finished.”, He sealed the rule of Satan as forever doomed. The difficulty is not over, but the final outcome is determined. Difficulties arise, so we can be passionate. Jesus died, Jesus atoned, so that I, and others like me, Jew and Gentile, the lost sheep, could be found. (Luke 15:1-7) The stage was set, the sacrifice was made, for forgiveness of sins all the way through to us today. The sacrifice of Isaac, son of Abraham was not necessary, except as a test of faith. God has never called us to put our children “through the fire”. (Genesis 22: 1-19) But, The sacrifice of Jesus, Son of Holy God, Conceived by the Holy Spirit, was very necessary. (Rev 5) It was the ultimate gift of God, so that we who believe in His Gift might be able to have relationship with our God.

I pondered more. I wondered, if passion is within all of us, even if our passion is somewhat wrong, maybe we just need to redirect it. Maybe we need to understand its power. Maybe that was what the scriptures meant. Maybe I didn’t fully understand what Passion meant. So I went to a dictionary. Passion: 1. Obsession, infatuation…maybe these are the wrong ways to direct passion. 2. Fervor, excitement, zeal, enthusiasm, ardor, delight…Now this is how I view passion!

What are we passionate about in our 21st century lives?

I once listened to a TV preacher who went into great detail of how you’re  supposed to whip your arm around like a lasso, and whoop like a dog when there is a kickoff.  He spoke about the passion of being a GA Bulldog, at an away game, or at a home game. Lots of passion!. Ditto Pro Football? Music? Does your favorite song raise the hair up your arms? Do you have songs that raise your spirits? Spouse? Does your spouse send chills up your spine when he, or she, touches the small of your back, or spends kisses on your neck? Careers? Do we love our jobs? Are we devoted to our cause? Do we feel most important while doing those jobs? Movies? Do you watch your favorite movies over and over again? Do you know every actor & actress, and even what is happening in their personal lives, maybe more than you know what’s going on in your life?

DO we feel silly when we get together, or see a news segment, for a “StarTrek” weekend with everybody dressing up like film characters? Somebody must be really passionate, huh? DO we feel uncomfortable by promoting new, or existing, products and services at work? Your livelihood often depends on how much passion you have in your work experience. DO we feel arousing emotions, maybe we shiver and get excited, as our spouse pays us that special attention we really crave? DO we feel movement with our music? Do you find it hard to sit still? Do you start tapping your feet, shimmering your shoulders, and nodding your head, with the rhythm, the mood and the beat? DO we feel silly painting our faces, singing cheering chants, or standing, jumping up in excitement, when our football team makes a great play?

I have to ask myself, “Why can I get so passionate over hobbies, career, or entertainment, yet feel silly, embarrassed, funny, less passionate, about the story that saves lives? About Love that changes lives? About Faith that keeps my life in better shape? About Mercy that Saved me?

We discover who we really are when we challenge ourselves to emotionally evolve.
We discover who we really are when we challenge ourselves to emotionally evolve.


What drives our passions? None of these passions are necessarily wrong. Passions are God given emotions that we can channel as we see fit. We have God given abilities to choose and to follow our passions. God wants us to have passion. How do we know? Remember the letter written to the Laodiceans? Jesus reveals to us, through John’s vision in Rev 3: 15-16. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (You have no passion.) You are sitting back, thinking you are fat, happy, satisfied and your work is done. I want to throw up. Rev 3:19 – “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20- Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with Me. 21- To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne.”

Let’s explore more example of the passions God wants us to exhibit. How many of us have taken any Spiritual Gifts Inventory, through church, or Internet? (1 Corinthians 12:1- 13:13, Romans 12:6-8) How are we using our gifts? Are we passionate in our pursuit of these gifts? Are we doing everything we do as if we are doing it for our Lord? (Colossians 3: 18- 4:2)

When we allow our emotions to back up our gifting, we expose passion in positive light. Things happen! David was passionate. When Goliath was on that battle scene, cursing God and God’s people, it was passion that took David into that valley with his sling. Passion that came from his prior experience, and skill, and his zeal. Surely, almost every soldier in Saul’s army had more war experience, was physically stronger, probably larger. But, they displayed no passion, while waiting for battle. They hesitated. (1 Samuel 17: 1-58)

What could you do with David’s kind of passion? Age could not hold you back. Not young, nor old. Education could not hold you back. Not too little, nor too much. Economics could not hold you back. As His child, God has given you that kind of passion. You just need to awaken it! Don’t fear going it alone. Just like the other soldiers rushed the Philistines, after the death of Goliath, others will join your leadership example, to strengthen you, support you, to make your passion a part of theirs.

Maybe you have trouble feeling passion. Maybe you had it once, but something happened to take away that drive. Look at the story of Moses. He grew strong, with every advantage the household of Egypt’s Pharaoh had to offer. And, he had his own Mother to nurse him. Then, thinking he was defending justice, he was found to be a murderer and fled for his life, to Midian, for years. After a time, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Told him he was on Holy Ground. Gave him a non-consuming burning bush to see. Told him that the great God of the Universe was sympathetic to Moses’ cause. Gave Moses the right to right the wrong….and Moses made excuses. It took a lot of effort to re-make a passionate leader out of Moses. But with encouragement, Moses worked his way back into the passion he had before. And we can too. (Exodus)

Maybe, you started off too fast and, like me, put more than your foot in your mouth. Maybe, you were zealous, and then lost that zeal, maybe because family or friends, or even children or parents, told you your ideas were stupid. Impossible. Never been done by anyone, or someone, like you, before. Maybe you had difficulty, or failed at several projects. Maybe, God knew your timing was not right until now! Personally, I went from being a “know-it-all” to a “please don’t ask me” and Like Moses, had to regain confidence I held as a young man. It has taken over 25 years. If a man, like Chuck, (who is embarrassed by his divorces, his failures, and his inabilities), can concentrate on the strengths God inspires, (instead of the weakness of his human nature), is returning back to himself, renewing his abilities, (albeit, greatly altered and enhanced with severe doses of humility), then God can bring passion for Him back into your life too.

Take what the Spirit is gifting you, Take it now, where you are in your life, and add passion. Open your heart and mind to dreams of God’s using you for the kingdom that you will share. You are a person of worth and value. Your God loves you. And your God wants you to love you. And your God wants you to take that love, and passionately apply it while sharing that love.

The passions of my best mentors, and my memories, both good and bad, are driving me onward. Not onward as a Cowboy store owner. Owning the store is not the goal. The Cultured Cowboy store is a means to reach more people with a message of love and hope and compassion. Over the Internet, I reach them in the comfort of their homes. In store, I reach them behind the hat counter. I reach them while doing little leather projects. I open the door to conversations about love, faith and mercy by first helping them in our everyday world. THEN, as I try to help them with solutions to needs they have in this world, I entice them to search for more God in their lives.

Do not dare think you can find happiness just to live a “normal” life. You are God’s child. You can take passion into your everyday, and turn every day into something much more special! Who needs normal, when we can live with passionate excitement?

Some how, some way, God has brought us into a search for ways that we can best help the people He sends our way. All the experiences and events of life, good and bad, spiritual and worldly, have contributed to bring us to this point in time. Some how, some way, I am and have been able to understudy some of the world’s best psychologists, coaches, ministries and consultants, so that I can relay ways that improve the lives of others.

Combining the knowledge and experiences of my mentors and myself, with the passion for life that is God within me, God’s Holy Spirit leads me to mentor you and as many as will read these articles, or lead others to them, into a closer relationship with God and family and friends and co-workers. Take our faith, add works driven by our faith, drive them with God gifted passions, and the result is relationship.

Speaking in front of you is one of the gifts that God has graciously given me. But touching the lives of millions of readers is something God has done, probably, in spite of me. Why should a little “Mom & Pop” store in Greenwood, SC ever have International reach? It is really not just boots nor saddles. There are lots of buy buttons all over the Internet, if stuff is all people want. I don’t have buy buttons. Ya gotta call, or email. There’s gotta be some kinda human contact. It sometimes drives me crazy, but… To be a small touch of God. To tell about His mercy and grace. To tell His children that there is hope in their lives too. Not just hope for horses and rodeo, but in their real, total lives. To be passionate. Passion makes the difference. You can spread God around, as thick as peanut butter, while living your everyday life.”

– This paragraph was written several years ago in a newsletter. The newsletter info became a speech, and a sermon. And now, it offers how we can, in our every day life, incorporate our belief, our faith, our passion, in aspects that far outreach the doors of Sunday services.

The conversations, questions and thoughts shared with tens of thousands of store customers led me to search for more meaningful answers to their true needs. I am finding better means of relating through the many hours of life coaching curriculum. Consultation as a business adviser often leads to how people can better balance their life stages and their life zones. Every time I can help with the lives of clients allows that much more experience to be shared with other clients. The means of communication today allow for huge, massive influence. Whereas, before, limitations of time and location seriously enveloped abilities.

While I read articles that inform the world of mental health that at some time, 1 in 4 people will need help overcoming an issue, I feel huge feelings of growth and contribution and significance, in obtaining certifications, and in participation of helping people have more positively directed passion in their lives, their relationships. Especially in opening avenues of possibility, allowing them to develop close relationship with their Maker.

In the same way He has sent His servants to bring me closer to Him, I am on a mission to become servant to bringing you closer to understanding why and how you are important. We sing, “Just as I am”. But to feel like you are growing closer, you need to grow. No one stays “just as I am”. We grow or we die. Amazingly, by sharing our relationships, we gain strength, confidence and life. We remember more easily when we teach. Practice enforces feeling. So there is an importance in teaching and sharing our faith. The more love we give, the more we feel the love!

The more I can teach you, in method and substance, to teach those you influence, the more you will come to understand the concepts that are taught. It is not enough to learn and to miser the education. It is the passionate goal of those who teach me, that those whom I teach can also carry onward the tradition. And I share this passion!

God says the meek will inherit. (Matthew 5:1-12) Meek. Not arrogant. Meek. Not Lazy. Meek. Not Indifferent. Meek. Not weak. Passionately Meek. Passionately serving others. Not serving because you have to do it. Serving because it is the best feeling you will have on this earth! Passionate service brings you emotionally closer to your God. This is passion that is better than eating all you can at a family Thanksgiving feast. (I find myself wanting to say it is at least as good as the passion God created through two becoming one in marriage. And I mean even better than the honeymoon.)

How? Because through your passion, you rise to a challenge. With properly directed passion, know you have given your best. And even if it seems like something fails, or is coming about sooo slooow, there is nothing better than knowing you passionately did your best for God. Maybe, your efforts are making a difference you can’t readily see. (Paul and Barnabas split over Mark. Looks like a horrible split, as we read when it happened. But the Kingdom of God grew faster than if they stayed together. Everyone involved was passionate for God’s cause. Though the passions divided, God used all their emotions for good. And they all reconciled later.

Passion led to Grace. Accepting Grace through Jesus as Messiah, is God’s best offer to try to get close to God. We will never, in this life of learning, find a better way of being good enough for Him. God gave us Jesus; we have an advocate. We have the best of the best attorney to plead our cause before God. We can have an insider’s track. We have God’s Son representing us. The whole of scriptures is story after story of a passionate God who wants relationship with the creation he called “Very Good”.

Still scared? Still doubtful? For reassurance, for support, for geometric progression of love, your Passion can be shared… Proverbs 27: 17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Spiritual gifts are to be shared and executed among the strengths of each other.

We lean upon and learn from each others’ gifts. Passionate Christians cajole each other into what is right. Passionate Christians challenge each other into what is right. Passionate Christian friends not only support each other, but become accountability partners. And through this passionate interactivity, we become more useful to our God, and to Jesus, and to our selves.

How many here can believe with heart, and mind, and soul, and body, that God is the great IAM. The great Alpha & Omega. The One who created, and the One who wants you close to Him, because He created you? (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, Matthew :26-30)

Now…What are we going to do with our passions? Our rights as sons and daughters of the Most High God are to share. Pres Kennedy once stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I passionately challenge you: “Ask not what your Father, Son and Holy Spirit can do for you. Ask what you can do for the kingdom of God.” (Ask & It shall be given, Luke 11:5-13)

BENEDICTION: Jesus told us, and I am paraphrasing, “I have been given power over heaven and earth. Go, because you have the rights to use the things I have taught you. You have the gifts of the Holy Spirit within you. You have the backing of the love of God surrounding you. Passionately give, all you have opportunity to give, the passion, the reason for life, the truth, the way, just as I have taught you through these scriptures. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are the bridge God builds to invite Love to our world.
We are the bridge God builds to invite Love to our world.



The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Tit 3:3.

Paul instructed us through his instructions written to Titus. Tit 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

Tit 3:4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,

Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Tit 3:7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Tit 3:8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Honor your Children

Anger is usually a hurt from the frustration of not feeling understood.
Anger is usually a hurt from the frustration of not feeling understood.

What happens when we feel stuck in our situation? How often do we feel as if an issue, or a dilemma, or a problem has no resolution? Sometimes, we prevent ourselves from finding or trying effective alternative possible solutions because we are placing value on a previous trial, or experience, or feeling, or meaning from our past, or from the past of someone we trust. Have you ever, sometimes, felt trapped in your own “double bind” that seems as if we are “damned if we do and damned if we don’t!”

Have you ever held the thought, “I can’t feel, (do, accomplish, complete), ‘this’ because of ‘that’? The “thing we can’t” might be an emotion, or a relationship, or an experience that we seek. What if, we just replace ‘this’ with whatever it might be that you wish you could enjoy, or have more of, or could experience in your life? An example might be, “I can’t feel like I am in control of my life because everybody else is making so many demands on me.”

Now think about: because of ‘that’. “I tried. It didn’t work because of ….” “I’ve tried everything!” “Well, it might work for you, but not for me.” When we have these thoughts, our brain is trying to serve us, as we think about things which we think about. We really probably have not tried everything, but we relied on one or two or even a half-dozen frequent patterns from our repertoire.

In our example, “… because everybody else is making so many demands on me.” Our bodies neurologically build communication links that make repetitive functions or thoughts easier to appear. Just like shooting paper basketballs at the wastebasket becomes easier to target as we practice, and accomplish, so do our thoughts which have served us, from our past. If yesterday, a trial did not work, our brain tries to save us time by telling us, “OK, it didn’t work in the past, it won’t work in the future.” Our thoughts pattern such that; I felt rejected by my partner when I brought up that choice before, and the objection made us feel uneasy, or distant, or uncomfortable. So, let’s not do this now.” When this “autonomic” belief happens, our first thoughts are also negative when a similar situation occurs, or maybe even a different situation occurs. From our example, the feeling of being overwhelmed has interrupted thoughts of possible alternative delegation, or prioritization, or time management.

Doubt about our worth can show up as defensiveness , criticism, contempt or stonewalling towards those we love.
Doubt about our worth can show up as defensiveness , criticism, contempt or stonewalling towards those we love.

As humans, when our brain goes into “cannot possibly” mode, our interpretation of meaning might build into any of four common emotional “protection?” mechanisms: 1) Criticism of a person, idea, or of our self. 2) Contempt for a partner, trial, or for our self. 3) Defensiveness of a prior pattern, way we used to do, way it should be or have been, or a sensitivity toward a friend, relative, ideal or of our self. 4) Stonewalling or shutting down, rather than entertaining any “unwanted” discussion, debate, or argument. These four “habits” pop up suddenly, from remembrance of some pain from before, or some lack of gratification from before and/or from some meaning once thought as protective. In other words, they seem to be habitually how we fall back upon, when challenges face us.

How many times we just try to forget about anything uncomfortable, so we can enjoy more immediate gratification. Avoiding pain is one of two major reasons we have for doing, or thinking, or developing belief. But, sometimes, we are only procrastinating some opportunity and that procrastination is really keeping our lives from becoming more of what we desire.

Anger, anxiety, or self-doubt and sadness can alter our thought patterns so that our emotions actually prevent us from realizing goals, dreams or resolutions. Your mind begins with the thought that says, “It will not work for me, or for this situation, or at all.” Then your physical stances reflect this negativity. Your body falls into patterns to re-enforce the thoughts. Maybe, your voice gets louder, heart rate intensifies, pulse races, arms or legs cross or flail. Listening becomes almost impossible. Your hormones and neurotransmitters get you ready for fight or flight. Or, your body falls. Shoulders slump some. Head falls forward. Eyes look downward. Frowning of the brow appears, breathing shallows, lips might quiver, and pervasive negative thoughts embellish each other, hoping for sympathetic attention. Sometimes, while dealing with a medium to long-term issue, we vacillate from anger to sadness to anger to sadness, over and over, again.

IF, THEN: When first I studied computer programming, I was taught that computers ‘think’ in binary form. They go fast, they have abilities to do complex tasks, because they are coded in simplicity. A switch is on or off. A light shines or not. A magnetic field is positive or negative. 0/1. Every If/Then formula is a switch to go one and only one of two directions. Yet, by making and combining sequences of If/Then formulas, we could become increasingly more complex with the instructions we required. But once a switch was thrown, there was a direction that currents moved.

Sometimes, like my early programming, meanings and emotions get caught in continuous loops. Switches follow a familiar pattern that leads to a result which is not quite where we expected to be. (In SI coaching, we call one example of this looping, a Crazy 8). As we discovered a challenge, we sometimes just made a system change, or a reboot, to find the point where things seem to get stuck, and tried a correction. Once the small basic of an If/Then choice was understood, and as capacities for increasing numbers of ‘switches’ grew, a programmer was a lot less limited in his or her possibilities. Just a small change of one or two switches in the basics would make all the difference in the world of that computer’s functioning to do what we require.

Now many of us are not schooled in computer programming. And if we are, there are ‘mega’ units of ‘already worked through paths’ that can be combined to write anew. (We build upon the experiences of others before us.) And, like the present me, concerning computer programming, we forget that if we do not constantly have in use, the creativity or the methods to rebuild, renew, and redirect currents in life, we cannot call those positive possibilities forth without help.

In most of our life ambitions, we do not need a 180 degree change in life. We just need some small tweaks to effect major opportunities. But like computer programming, without small tweaks, we can become stuck in our loop of impossibility. Most times, simple small awakenings can affect huge differences in our feelings, and abilities to find our own solutions.

So let’s suppose that we are distracted by constant arguments with our kids. Our kids are trying to find/become their own Self. We parents feel that we, and children, have to have rules of order. It seems that every day, the same arguments occur over and over again. Nothing seems to make life better between all of you. Frustration abides! Each person might feel disrespected or hurt or angry. You have trouble with focus on work, or wife, or fishing, because of the feelings you encounter, and hold, while “dealing” with the kids. Seems something keeps pushing your buttons and you are getting tired of !

Once a person has the age or capacity to rationalize, think, discover their own needs, we need to get beyond, “Because I said so, that is why!” Older conflict resolution behavioral therapy would recommend that you tried repeating back what you think you heard from each other. Paraphrase both the content and the meaning of the other person’s message. You try listening and putting yourself in their shoes, (and more recently, also in their age or life zones). You were told that the solution was to “understand” where they are coming from. Let them “feel” heard and that you care, respect and empathize with them, even if you don’t share perspectives. You are all supposed to suspend your judgment and respond non-defensively: “I hear you.”

By seeing the problem from each others’ perspective, problem solving is supposed to take place without anger. And this sometimes has worked. The reconciliation technique has been adapted from the findings of renowned psychotherapist, Carl Rogers. But if you have been triggered, and they have been triggered, and patterns have emerged as they have, remember that you are not a trained, practicing therapist listening to a client. A therapist is supposed to respond in a non-judgmental and patient fashion to all thoughts that a client expresses. The method is used so that a patient feels safe in a clinical environment, and thereby feels confident confiding in a therapist. Since families are supposed to be an environment that promotes safety and understanding, leading family psychologists, for years, have concluded that it might be beneficial to try this strategy. Conflict resolution is easier if each person shows true empathy for the other persons.

This is called Active Listening. The problem with this type of counseling alone is that you are emotionally and socially in the midst of your controversy, with contention and contestation. Even after application of active listening techniques, the typical people within a family are still distressed. Suppression rather than resolution seems to rule the present. But, that e “snake” comes back out snapping and biting later, again. And after active listening training, almost all relapse within a year. It is hard to be objective when you feel pounced upon.

So, according to findings of many studies from John M Gottman Ph.D. and his wife, and others associated with the Gottman Institute, there are some more things to understand and look forward to doing. First, know that the way we start an argument is usually the way we end an argument. If we begin with a harsh start, we almost always finish with harsh feelings and little accomplished. Some people are just loud. Loud is not harsh. Harsh is attacking the person, not the issue at hand, as you begin. So, first, soften your start-up, to be for the issue at hand, not the person(s) you wish to chastise.

This softer start-up can begin becoming accomplished by changing your physicality from the normal. When you change your physical, you change your emotional. Just like changing the emotions in our discourse above reflect differences in your physical being, (Yin-yang kinda thing.), changing the physical will lead your emotions too.

I have given many live sales seminars showing that to have a person become less resistant to you or your product, you must first find a way to have them ‘schmoozed’ to a point that their arms are not crossed over their chest; their breathing more relaxed, not held. We smile at them, in the way they smile at us. We begin to mirror their physiology, and “bring” them into a more receptive physiology. We may begin with a look of empathetic concern and lead it into a smile as we progress with our conversation. Listen to their words and reflect use their exact words to build trust. Change your normal habits of argument.

If you are fake, it shows. If insincere, it shows. If bossy or feeling superior, it shows. Schmoozing is not just flattery. It is really active listening to understand the needs your customer feels. Most of our problem is simply that we like people who are like us, or are people like we want to be. We can usually get along with these people. But that leaves most of the population that are not like us, and how are we going to make a living relating to such a small percentage? How are we going to build and maintain a healthy, fulfilling relationship with those children, or spouse, or parents, or siblings, that are not just like us?

We need to learn to have more tools in our toolbox! We do not have to keep doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again. What is that getting us? Joy? Happiness? Less stress? Feeling closer to our family?

Small changes… Baby steps. If normally, you stand while kids sit, you sit and have the kids stand. If normally you fuss at the dinner table, then go onto the patio to debate. Or go for a walk in a park. A different location, a different physical position, when you feel “triggered” will enable your whole ability to become closer. If you would normally flail your arms in excitement, or yank off a belt as a threat, get a couple of baseball gloves and a ball. Do something else to portray your need for kinesthetic activity. The change in position also helps kids and teens and spouse to make and be more receptive to changes too.

Another way to soften is to pay attention to the tone of your voice as you speak. Do you sound judgmental, critical or whiny? One fun way to know how you sound, understand how easily a change in tone, or inflection, or volume of voice can be enacted, is to get your kids, or spouse, or sibling, at a time not in argument, and do some “improvisation theatre”. Play, become actors. Practice a variety of ways to say a sentence. Emphasize different words in that same sentence. Turn the sentence into a question by the way that you tone up or down at the beginning or end of that sentence. Watch a movie or TV show together with the goals of practicing like, imitating, the actors. Make up scenes as you would have, maybe even different than the way a certain actor was directed to act. Again, now we are doing something fun and constructive, in preparation for future debate. (Notice changing the wording from fight, to argument, to debate. What meanings do your words hold?)

If you really want to learn to have fun, agree to play each other in a pretend argument. You be the kid(s) and they become the adults. Imitate their gestures, facials, eye rolls, and wording. Allow them to do the same. Everybody should over-exaggerate! Just as a stage actor must over-exaggerate to have his character understood by an audience in a theater, use all of your talents to express. You might find that you can do this in front of a mirror so that all parties can see the faces as they pretend to argue as another person. This can really add humor to your relationship. It is important that the role play and the acting be done outside of a really good fight. And that you remember to use your silly signals if things begin to escalate. This is a pretend session, a practice session, not a real fight. And it will become a bonding session if you allow it to bring your emotions into a controlled recreation. Use a mix of spontaneity and wit.

Love is easier to show and to feel, when we are comprehending the emotions that are behind the behaviors we experience.
Love is easier to show and to feel, when we are comprehending the emotions that are behind the behaviors we experience.

And, while you are “Playing roles, this is a great time to realize how your kids, and you, like to be taught. Are they auditory? Is anyone using terms like “I hear you.” “You never listen.” “Sounds like…”. Is anyone visual? Does the conversation include: “See what I mean.” “Look at it from my point of view.” Are there indications of olfactory or gustatory inclinations? “I can smell trouble coming.” If you had a taste of what you…” Is anyone kinesthetic? “Do they feel the moment?” “You move like there is no tomorrow.” “What do you really stand for?” The nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and descriptive languages, give clues as to how the person “sees” or understands their world. Use these descriptive terms back for each individual. Even talk together about how this realization can make a difference in getting your points across. If you are trying to reach another person, only in the mode or methods, you like to be reached, you might turn blue in the face trying, and they might become frustrated to the max, trying, to reach a common goal. But their brain patterns are not able to comprehend as well from your auditory delivery, as it would if you presented your views from their visual perspective.

Second, … (Bet you are wondering what or which of all that before now was First! I did, as I proof read. That is good. When you feel just a little dazed and confused, your mind adjusts to becoming more receptive to a new idea, solution or possibility. Seems using all this 1st, 2nd & 3rd person switching, and other writing “errors” attune your attention so that the possibilities of “not normal” ideas are better accepted. A little psychology is like Picasso modern art. The dude could paint anything with as much realism as he wanted, and because he was schooled and so perfected at so many “realistic” arts, his “way out there” modernistic ideas have been readily accepted. Without having the understanding of your art, whether linguistics, or painting, you, (I), just look like a writer who didn’t make the grade.)

Second, realize that the emotions and reactions of what are called by Dr Gottman, the “Four Horsemen”, (Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling), have a tendency to rear their ugly heads. Know it and watch for them. In fact, before any confrontation with the kids, have a discussion with the kids of how these Four Horsemen continue to interfere with your abilities to carry on constructive conversation. If you can laugh at the way these four emotionally charged horsemen affect you, and agree that when you see any of them approach, each of you agree to corral the horsemen instead of each other, it becomes easier to recognize and share the responsibilities of their coming around. Understanding teaches how to recognize triggers for what they are: things that can, but do not have to, start a habitual process in motion.

Note: Often, spouses will have a hand signal, or a gesture that is very comical to signal the approach of said horsemen. Have one that you and the kids can enjoy too. This lightens the event! If you can explain the running of those four horsemen in a way that is understandable to your family members, you gain more enlightenment on the ways that the Gottman methods of using emotional intelligence strategies can really work.

When we realize that it is not the person, not that any person is becoming bad, but it is the appearance of habitual emotions that escalate the fights, not either of you nor the kids, then positive results can become more objective. When you can laugh with the emotional circumstance rather than succumb to it, use it rather than being used by it, life becomes more fun. You might find that you, and the kids, team up against the four horsemen, rather than each other.

You might even decide that because of your unique personalities, or differences in the influences of your times and/or timing, you might have to decide to agree to disagree on the solutions. Unless this is a life threatening, or a safety issue, it can be OK. And choose that this battle is not worth losing the relationship. You might decide to break for at least 20 min if females and over an hour if males or male/female, (Due to ave response times of cooling off periods, timing can be everything. Females have estrogen that stimulate more oxytocin which allows them to “calm” down faster than men who will have lesser levels of the oxytocin that enhances social bonding in people.), and then come back to further debate/discuss possibilities in calmer moods.

You might (even forcefully recalling for yourself) recall friendly times, as you enjoyed times together. Might be playing dolls, or golf together, something related or totally not related to anything debatable, but definitely a time or times that you can find honor, respect and fun while functioning together. I remember my daughter peeing all in my face as I changed her diaper. I had no idea a baby girl could aim so well! What was not so funny at the time has become many times of some serious laughter. Now grown, Ellyn does not think this memory is anywhere as funny as I make it to be. It has although, produced uncontrollable laughter for me, at me. Not disrespect for my daughter, but hilarity at my shock and disbelief, and hard-headed repetition, at those diapering times. Yep, had to try this thing more than once to see if it happened as a fluke! I learned to “diaper” faster, to tickle a little while still in the wet diaper, and especially to beware when coming out of bath water.

You might as an adult, try to remember what it was like for you to have an issue with your parents, and how you went through discussion of that issue, or if there was no discussion, how it might have been to have had discussion. Relive for a moment, some times that went well and some that did not. What happened in each case? Did people get loud? Quiet? Walk away? Did you feel listened to? Respected? Did they? What else might have brought more listening and respect to the discussion? Was there any epiphany where one of you suddenly understood the other view? What led to it? How can you use these thoughts to help with debate among your family at this time?

Note: It is important to notice that now, you are not only discussing a disagreement, but you are teaching your children how to prepare for the other debates, disagreements, and recoveries they will inevitably face during their lives. Whether or not you have to give in to their requests, some or all, or none, you are being the best example of a parent in teaching them how to stand for their ideas in more respectful manner, how to formulate postulates, to have defenses without becoming defensive, to think through the reasons they make the choices that they make, to debate without demeaning, and to become leaders among their peer groups rather than followers of some group you would rather they reject.

This method of discovering that arguing is good and necessary in life, and how to do it like a professional, is like the adage of teaching a man to fish and feed him for life, or give him a fish to feed him for a day. Today, we do not want to take the emotion out of issues among us, but to use emotions for competitive advantage, at the same time building relationship, as if you will be doing business with a supplier long-term, with which you must deal, but must have reasonable terms allowing both your business and theirs to remain in business, and with honor and respect shown to each partner.

A key to any relationship, whether personal or business is friendship. You must be a parent, but you can parent from a position of respect. When you truly honor your family, you receive the honor due to you as a viable member of your household. You, by using all of theses skills, by teaching all of these skills, by setting example of mastering, and messing up, and getting over the mistakes, and praising the learning experiences and personal growth of yourself and family members, show how we can be human, have preferences, have differences, and still persist in higher truth, values, and beliefs.

Now go practice!

The Smile you need is only an understanding away.
The Smile you need is only an understanding away.

God Bless You, ChuckyT