Continuing in the theme of me totally stealing ideas from my Grandparents whilst they are in Israel, I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘affirming life’.
Without a doubt, Middle East politics is a hotbed of debate at the best of times. It’s been like that for the best part of 4000 years and I expect will continue that way for a while longer. The ongoing conflict in Israel is constantly splashed across the media, with both sides going toe-to-toe for their survival.
During their trip, my grandparents went to a conference where both the Israeli Prime Minister and President were in attendance and gave speeches.
What would you expect these much loathed-and-loved men to talk about? How they are going to crush Hamas perhaps? Ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat? Israel’s’ response to ISIS perhaps?
They spoke about the importance of affirming life. Of speaking life. Of living life. Of cherishing life.
This tiny nation of Israel looks at death every day – bombings, kidnappings, missiles and the ongoing propaganda war against them. In looking at death (and responding to it in very forceful ways), these leaders continued their commitment to life. Can you imagine that?
Closer to home, we have the important task of choosing life every day.
There’s something spiritual, something important about what comes out of our mouths. Indeed, the scriptures confirm that ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’. The Lord commanded the Israelites to affirm his Word to their children every day, as they rise in the morning, as they walk during the day and as they lie down at night.
I think there is two important truths in this – firstly that as parents, we need to talk to our children (and listen!); secondly what we say to our children, and by extension, those around us, needs to be life affirming.
I know as a dad, I’m sometimes guilty of not talking to my children. How strange does that sound? It’s easy to come home from work, get on with the nightly ‘happy hour’ duties, dinner, dishes, read to the children and put them to bed, without too much interaction. For some reason, I think the Lord commands dads to talk to their children – as they wake up, as they travel during the day, as they eat and as they go to sleep. Why? I don’t presume to understand what the Lord intends, however, I suspect that his desire is to see dads and children connect on a real way, to be in constant communication, trust and of course love.
I’m acutely aware of my own failing on not ‘speaking life’ into situations. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but sometimes I have to stop and think – does this joke have a sting in its tail? Probably more dramatic is when I get angry and I say things that aren’t life affirming – especially to the ones I love.
As many readers would know, I grew up in and around church and have been blessed to meet many wonderful people. Of those people, I’ve been blessed to spend time with some great ministers – men and women who have taught me much about faith, life and family. Of those, the ones that have impacted me most are the ones that visibly and demonstrably love their family. I was in a Bible-study group once with a minister who I love and revere so deeply – his knowledge and love for the Lord is just amazing. It’s what he does with his family that touches me more. I was at his home one evening, doing a Bible study when one of his children came home from work. He stopped the study, got up off his chair and gave his daughter a warm, loving greeting. He embraced her, told her that he was so happy to see her and asked about her day. She embraced her dad in return, affectionately telling him about her day.
Don’t kid yourself – life isn’t all roses, happy words and good times. To the contrary. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to speak life into those around you.
I’m sure most of you don’t follow a particular faith or believe strongly and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’. What I do want to impress upon you (and myself) is the importance of speaking life into those around you. Season your conversation with things that will build up. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who have had a lifetime of negative words spoken over them – cruelty from a parent, abuse from a partner and negativity from those around them. Maybe, just maybe, your life affirming word is the only positive thing they’ve heard in a while. How do you think your interactions and relationships would be if you took the first step to affirm life in others?
Speaking life takes practice. Affirming someone isn’t something that comes naturally – certainly not to Aussies, with our culture of ‘taking the piss’. I dare you though to try it –practice giving life. It costs nothing to speak life into someone, but can mean the whole world to the receiver.
Picture from http://realtruth.org/articles/100607-003-family.html
Many people ask me how to respond to sorrow and grief. Why? Who knows. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been quite honest and upfront about my own journey. Perhaps people think I’ve got something to say. What ever it is, I’m constantly honoured when people ask me my advice.
As I’ve talked about in earlier posts, I’m naturally a terrible introvert. I’m most comfortable living in my own world of uncommon sense, enjoying a tidal wave of thoughts every second, lapping up the totality of humanity and enjoying my small contribution to those around me. For me, the question ‘what are you thinking’ can be an incredibly difficult question to ask! I often have to get over the thoughts of ‘these are my thoughts, not your thoughts! You can’t think my thoughts, they are mine, get your own thoughts to think about!’. Then I realise they (usually my wife!) just want to know what I’m thinking, because, well that’s what gals like to do. They arn’t wanting to steal my thoughts (which are my thoughts to think), they just want to know.Odd creatures.
Not too long ago, I talked about the serendipity of silence, in relation to being quiet within yourself. Friendship can be much the same way, as can responding to grief.
There is an art to being with someone. To being able to be there – just being – physically, emotionally or mentally. To communicate an essay of emotion without even mentioning a syllable. I actually think guys can be better then girls at this. Why? Who knows. I think guys just get that sometimes, you’ll talk when you’re ready, and only when the required pre-conditions are met for communication.
Sometimes you can say it all, without saying a word. The sum of shared experiences that bind a pair of people can sometimes mean so much more then, well, words.
For me, I quite enjoy listening to others. I love the concept of someones story. I love hearing the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I love a good laugh.
Sometimes, the best way to journey (not help, journey) with someone through grief is just by being there. There’s probably nothing you can say that will take the pain away. You can’t apologise for someones loss. You probably can’t fathom what they are feeling. What you can do is be there.
It’s often through silence that you get the best conversations. The biggest insights. The most powerful breakthroughs. Some things you cant rush with words. The crassness of communication turns a journey of grief into a destination that needs to be ‘talked through’.
I think one of the greatest respects you can pay a friend is the respect of silence. Of understanding that you both don’t have to talk. The respect of being. Some might consider this an incredibly shallow friendship – however, I think contrary to this. It certainly does not replace the pillars of friendship that include intimacy, openness and a shared history. What the respect of silence says to your companion is that silence isn’t a gap between you. It’s not a void that needs to be filled with words. It’s actually an invisible bond between you.
I observed two old friends at a funeral recently. Usually very chatty, no words were minced or wasted between the pair during the season of mourning. I watched as they stood together, strolled together through the green expanse of the cemetery and enjoyed the closeness of a silent bond together. Neither had to say a word to each other – each knew silence was all they needed to convey their deepest sympathies to each other.
It’s the totality of your walk together. The sum of your shared experiences. It’s a respect, often hard earned through lifes hard knocks.
So next time you are at a loss to support someone, especially someone in grief, support them with silence. Support them with an acknowledgement of being. That they don’t need to say or justify anything they are thinking or feeling. That you love, respect and want to support them just the way they are.
Silence. It brings with it more heartfelt communication then the most beautifully constructed sentence that you can ever construct.
Image lifted from https://www.flickr.com/photos/faris-khalifeh/2068051840/?rb=1
Like most citizens of the world, I have a Facebook. Yes, I voluntarily hand over personal information and pictures to a private organisation who can use and mis-use my personal information essentially however they want! Privacy concerns aside, I’ve noticed a number of partnered / married friends and associates that have a ‘joint’ facebook account. They squash both their first names in, followed by the family name.
Now don’t get me wrong – I think every relationship needs transparency, openness and honestly. Most couples I know have joint bank accounts, joint mortgages or rental agreements, obviously share the same bed etc etc. But are there things that need to keep uniquely ‘individual’?
I can understand that there are some relationships where fidelity, especially ‘electronic fidelity’ has been an issue and where couples want to protect their relationship by having a joint Facebook account. I’m sure there are a stack of other reasons where couples may want to have a joint Facebook account.
To me, having a joint Facebook account almost says ‘we’ are one homogenous unit. We like the same things, have one ‘united’ comment on everything Facebook related, have the same musical tastes etc etc. I’ve noticed on joint Facebook accounts that the guy usually has a ‘lesser’ presence on the joint Facebook account, compared to the gal. The ‘likes’ are noticeably more feminine, the photos are more noticeably ‘girl’ oriented and the posts are more, well, they are just girlie.
I know for me, I don’t have exactly the same likes as Sarah. Far from it. Musically, we are poles apart. We enjoy the same movies but like very different Facebook posts. She enjoys spending a stack more time on Facebook than I do. For her, it’s an extension to her already organised life. For me, I use it randomly to put up annoying posts and secretly judge others (jokes!). I certainly don’t know how I’d go with a joint Facebook account! I’m sure Sarah’s friends would find it strange if she liked a page about mens razors, and my mates would find it peculiar if I liked a page about Brisbane Mothers or a nappy service!
I’d love to know your thoughts on the joint Facebook account – a necessity for marital honesty? A homogenisation of a relationship? A time-saver?
You hear the term ‘communicate’ a lot when talking about healthy relationships. Communicate with your spouse. Communicate with your children. Communicate with your loved ones. Books, such as Robert Bolton’s timeless ‘People Skills’ is an excellent reference on the topic of communication.
Now I know I’m not the best at communicating – not in the spoken word anyway! So what is the modern tongue-tired guy to do, especially when engaged in conversation with his romantic partner?
He should use Nautical Flags.
Consider this. Why talk and use long words, when a simple flag would do the same job. When navigating the oceans of love, a man needs to send his partner clear, un-ambiguous signals on his thoughts and feelings. His needs, His desires.
Think about it.
Here’s some of the internationally recognised flags. See how they can apply to your relationship and really smooth things over in the communication department:
Nautical Code: I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo.
Relationship code: I’ve just eaten a kebab with garlic sauce and/or I’m about to drop a brown note.
Nautical Code: Yes.
Relationship Code: Says it all.
Nautical Code: I am manoeuvring with difficulty; keep clear.
Relationship code: Don’t talk to me while I move this heavy object and/or build this IKEA flat-pack
Nautical Code: I am directing my course starboard.
Relationship code: I’m taking a short-cut.
Nautical Code: I am disabled; communicate with me.
Relationship code: I just need to hear your sweet, sweet voice, my love
Nautical Code: I require a pilot.
Relationship code: Take me to bed
Nautical Code: I have a pilot on board.
Relationship code: I know where this night is headed (wink while waving this flag for extra effect)
Nautical Code: Coming alongside.
Relationship code: I’m about to give you a ‘no expectations’ hug, just because I fancy you.
Nautical Code: I am on fire and have dangerous cargo. Keep clear.
Relationship code: I’m super angry, possibly at you. Leave me alone for a bit to calm down.
Nautical Code: I wish to communicate with you.
Relationship code: I’m no longer waving the ‘Juliet’ flag and wish to resume waving other non-angry flags at you.
Nautical Code: My vessel is stopped; making no way.
Relationship code: I don’t want to go to IKEA, nor do I want to mow the backyard.
Nautical Code: No or negative.
Relationship code: No or negative.
Nautical Code: Man overboard.
Relationship code: Out with the boys. Don’t wait up for daddy.
Nautical Code: All personnel return to ship; proceeding to sea.
Relationship code: Everyone up to the table. Dinner is ready (can be used for children, too)
Nautical Code: Ship meets health regulations; request clearance into port.
Relationship code: My man-flu has thankfully eased and I am no longer at risk of immediate death. Come over here and kiss me like you mean it.
Nautical Code: None.
Relationship code: I’ve got no ideas on what you should do in that situation (a response to when your special lady friend asks for advice)
Nautical Code: Do not pass ahead of me.
Relationship code: I bags the toilet first when we get home.
Nautical Code: You are running into danger.
Relationship code: That’s really annoying me. Alternative meaning: concentrate on the road, honey.
Nautical Code: I require assistance.
Relationship code: Can you please make me breakfast?
Nautical Code: I require medical assistance.
Relationship code: Man-flu ahead. Look after me.
Nautical Code: I am dragging anchor.
Relationship code: This shopping trolley is heavy and I am board.
Nautical Code: I require a tug.
Relationship code: hmmmmm
Nautical Code: Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals
Relationship code: Please, please, just be quiet and listen.
Nautical Code: Message is understood.
Relationship code: Yes dear.
After talking to some of the guys at work, it was evident that one flag was missing. One flag that almost every guy should have at his disposal. The one flag that will be hoisted often. The flag that gets hoisted when none other fits. That flag? The White Flag!
Best of luck, fellas!