7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath – A Challenge For My Pastor Friends

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a hard word for some pastors, but after a recent post I was asked about how I protect my Sabbath. That’s a great question, because many pastors struggle in this area. In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry.

I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’s my day with Cheryl. It’s not a day where I do nothing. That’s not how I rest. It’s a day where I do what I want to do. On my Sabbath, I don’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are 7 ways I protect my Sabbath:

Recognize the value – I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’s almost like God knew what He was doing. :) If I value it enough, I’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’s design for mankind. “On the 7th day He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

Make it a priority – Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week. A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’s worth prioritizing.

Place it on the calendar – The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’ll never take a Sabbath. Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine, but you choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

Trust others – One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently. Ultimately, however, when I honor my Sabbath I’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

Discipline myself – I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!) Now, here’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen. You’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that. Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves), but they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

Prepare for it – I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance. Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work 6) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath. Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

Learn to enjoy -Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’s always plenty to do. I’ve learned, however, that I function better the other 6 days if I have one day that I’m not working. It’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time. There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan, and when it is interrupted, especially if it happens several weeks in a row, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’s that important to me now.

Pastor, are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest.

The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastor, what tips do you have for helping some of my burned out pastor friends maintain a weekly Sabbath?

Bonus question: Pastor, do you have a plan for extended time a way…a Sabbatical of some form? Could you share what you do in this area to help the rest of us?

5 Suggestions to Make Family Time More Effective

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Frankly, I wish it happened more often, but I am always encouraged when it does.

Occasionally a young father will come to me wanting to know how to be a better husband or father. One thing they specifically ask is how to take advantage of the time they have with their family and to be more effective with the family’s time together.

Time seems more at a premium these days than ever in my life. Time has always passed quickly. It has always been valuable, but today’s family time seems more stretched than ever. So many distractions, activities and interruptions face busy families.

Wise parents realize the need to make the best use of the time they have together.

To be candid, our family never excelled at “family devotions”. Having a weekly Bible study and prayer session together just never seemed to take root in our family. We tried them — and we did some — but we were far more intentional with the unstructured time we had. Reflecting now, we have two young men as sons who love Jesus, are active in their church, and strive to serve Christ vocationally.

From what we learned — much by mistake and all by grace — we learned a few things about making the best use of our time as a family.

Here are 5 suggestions to make family time more effective:

Begin with a plan for your home and each child

You seldom hit a target you aren’t aiming to hit — certainly less likely to hit one you haven’t defined. Just as adults may have a plan for their career or finances, parents need a plan for operating their home. It may help if it is written, but should definitely summarize the major goals you hope to accomplish in your home. Because each child is different, I also believe parents should have different plans for each child. Ask yourself:

  • What do we want our children to be like some day?
  • What kind of people do we want them to be?
  • What should their character be like?
  • How can we best encourage them to get there?
  • What does this child need from me most — right now, at this stage of their life?

You’ll find your family time more effective when you have a plan, because it will consciously and unconsciously help focus your attention and energies on the things that matter most when you are together. And, here’s the flip side — without a plan you waste a lot of energy on things which really won’t accomplish what you say you want to accomplish.

Major on the majors, not on the minors

I found my boys were more willing to talk, listen, and interact with us when they weren’t always worried if they measure up to our approval. Children feel burdened under the yoke of rules. It weighs them down trying to stay within the lines. Some things matter and some things don’t. Figure out the non-negotiable issues and primarily concentrate on them. I tended to lean towards character issues as majors and individual preferences as minors. You’ll choose what these are for your home, but everything shouldn’t be major. Majoring on everything produces very stressed-out, perfectionist children, who always seem to struggle to meet other people’s expectations of them. And, when this is the culture of your home your time will be less than effective. It made it easier to concentrate on bigger issues they would carry into life — character, moral type issues.

Make the guidelines in your home easy to figure out

There does need to be rules. Children need guidelines to follow — again, especially those that focus on the major things you want to accomplish in them. Talk about the rules you have for your home and be sure to tell the children the why behind those rules, as much as they can understand. Be consistent in carrying out the rules in the home, in a firm, but loving way. If you’re not going to enforce a rule — don’t have one. Children shouldn’t have to guess how you’ll respond to an issue. As children learn your heart and ways, they can better trust you, which will help them enjoy themselves around you and rely on you for your wisdom and input as they get older. That’s really the overall goal we were were seeking in our time as a family. We knew we were raising them to be adults. The bond we built with them when they were young has directly impacted our relationship with them as adults.

Be purposeful with your time

Look for teaching moments as they are presented and keep your desired outcomes in mind as you parent. For our family that was often at dinner time — which we tried to make happen most nights in spite of our busy schedules of work, ball, school activities, and church. It also involved me kicking or throwing a ball, even some nights when I was tired and all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with a remote in my hand. I’ve never seen effective parenting accomplished while in front of the television. (Ouch!) If you want more effective family time, take advantage of the time you do have and be intentional, implementing the plan you have for your family. Children won’t always be available to you, especially as they get older. As much as you can, to be an effective parent, always strive to be available to them when they want you to be.

Surround everything with grace and love

We wanted our home to be a “fun” place for children to be. We wanted to belly laugh often and have special memories of those times. That required lots of grace and love. I tried to remember, as a dad, I was many times modeling Christ for my children. Much of their understanding of Christ would come from their relationship to their earthly father (and mother). I’ve been given so much grace shouldn’t my children reap the benefit? Great families realize everyone makes mistakes — parents and children — and so they give multiple chances, forgive easily, and reconcile quickly.

Obviously these are just suggestions. Implementing them in your home will be different than it was in my home, because you are different and your children are different. Thinking through your parenting in a more systematic, intentional way will make you a better parent and help your time as a family be more effective.

What are some suggestions you have for making family time more effective?

7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts

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I am an introvert. Some people can question whether they are or not. I don’t. I’m certified in Myers Briggs, so I know the language well. I’ve studied the concept. It didn’t require much study though for me. I’m in the camp.

It means Sundays I’m more tired when I go home. It means I avoid certain crowds unless I have a clear purpose for being there. It means I run alone…and I’m okay with that. It means I’m probably harder to get to know that some people. I get all that. I own it. It’s me.

I’ve written before about the struggles of introversion in ministry (read that HERE) and ways I work to overcome those limitations (read that HERE). What surprises me is how misunderstood introverts are sometimes. There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted.

Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert:

I’m shy – That may be your word, but it’s not mine. I prefer purposeful for me. Others may call it something else. I talk when there’s a purpose. I’m not even afraid to do so. Three year olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That’s not me.

I need more courage – Why I oughta… (You’ll get that if you are a Moe Howard…Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I “ain’t chicken” when I choose not to speak. I’m just being comfortable.

I’ve got nothing to say – Actually I have lots to say. Did you notice I blog almost every day? Do you see how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have bunches to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t express it, but many times how I choose to communicate will be different than how others choose to communicate.

I’m ignorant – Yea, in a lot of ways I am. But, in some ways I’m smarter than the guy who never quits talking. You know the one. I am less likely to say the thing I wish I hadn’t said, because I didn’t think before I talked. It happens, but not as often as it might for some.

I am arrogant or don’t like you – Honestly, I love everyone. Or at least my Biblical commitment and personal goal is to do so. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determination of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak. Maybe.

I need you to talk for me – Ummm — actually I’d rather you not. Now that said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She’s good at it too. But, if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I’ll speak for myself. Or regret later than I didn’t. But, either way, please don’t try to be my voice.

I need to change, mature, grow as a person or leader – There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just quieter than some leaders you know — or your immediate perception of a leader. Actually, there are lots of things wrong with me. Introversion isn’t one of them.

Those are some of the false assumptions that have been made of this introvert.

Introverts, what misunderstandings have been made about you?

Something I Want for My Boys Even More Than Their Happiness

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My boys are in their mid 20s. They have pretty stable lives. They came off our payroll pretty much right out of college, which I guess is considered a blessing these days. They work hard. They are responsible.

Best of all they love Jesus and people. They both serve Him in their own way.

They have great relationships in their life. Everyone seems to love them who knows them. As every parent does, I love when people brag on them. And, I get to experience it regularly. One of them is married to a wonderful Christian lady. 

I know, it seems I’m bragging — and I am. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord and I give Him all the glory. Our family is truly a product of grace.

Every parent wants their children to be happy. That seems to go without saying.

I certainly want that for my boys. It’s something I even pray for frequently.

But there is something I want more for my boys more than their happiness.

In fact, I’d almost sacrifice their happiness — at least in the short-term — for them to achieve this in the long-term.

I want my boys to be obedient.

I want them to go wherever God leads and do whatever God commands. I want them to trust His leadership, follow His plan, and surrender their will to His will. I want them to some day hear those words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Well done!” 

Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when it’s not their plan.

You see, I’ve learned by experience in my own life.

I know the center of God’s will is the absolute best place to be.

Granted, it’s not always the safest place in terms of the world but it’s always the safest place in terms of the kingdom of God.

Do I want my boys to be happy? Don’t let me close this post without you knowing I do. Yes, I do want their happiness. In fact, I believe ultimate happiness is found in living within the pleasure of God — delighting in the things in which He delights.

But, more than anything — I simply want my boys to be obedient.

7 Reasons I Need to Regularly Exercise as a Leader

back view of legs and shoes of young athletic man practicing running in urban background in summer fitness workout representing body care, sport training and healthy lifestyle concept

I’m a runner.

I had some knee issues for a few months that kept me from running as much as I would normally. As much as I hated missing my runs, and I tried to substitute the time with other workouts, I learned a few things about myself during the time of healing.

I was reminded, by not running as much, how valuable to me the exercise is for me personally.

I have always encouraged leaders to have a regular exercise routine. I think it’s a necessary discipline for a healthy leader. If you aren’t currently an active exerciser, I have even more practical, first hand experience to encourage you to begin.

Here are 7 reasons I need to exercise:

Forced down time – I discovered that my running time — or when I exercise — is one of the few times each day where I am not answering emails, taking phone calls, or doing something that requires mental power. Exercise forces me to be still — or — well, you know what I mean. My mind is cleared to pray more — to think more.

Physical health – I am better able to maintain my weight when I am running. I feel better. I sleep better. My blood pressure tests lower. The doctor’s office loves taking my vitals when I am in a regular exercise routine. (Due to a heavier than normal travel schedule I am actually up a few pounds — just to be transparent, but thankfully it’s a few pounds not 15 or 20.)

Mental stimulation – My best ideas come while I am running. I suppose because my body is energized and I’m free from other distractions, I’m so creative while I’m running. My biggest obstacle is figuring out how to record or remember them when I stop running. (I’ve even started to walk for a minute just to record the thought quickly.) Some of my deepest, most intimate times with God come when I’m on a long run. God seems to work in my mind during those times — probably because I’ve given Him better access to my mind.

Longevity – Long days are nothing for me when I am in a healthy running discipline. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have more energy in the day — not less — when I’m exercising regularly.

Maximum effectiveness – Exercise — while it seems to take time out of my day — actually ends up being the most effective use of my time. It increases my productivity and gives me a better overall attitude towards my work (and life). It’s powerful enough — I’ve learned from experience — that on my busiest days I try to break away and exercise in the middle of the day. The fastest way for me to get out of a productivity slump is to step away from the “work” and go for a short (or long) run.

Eat with less worry – I enjoy food. A lot. People will often make a comment I must not enjoy food as much as they do because I seem to maintain my weight. The reality is they’ve never seen me eat. I don’t think you can totally ignore your diet regardless of how much you exercise. I try to be healthier in most of my choices, and I do discipline what I eat (wish I was better at how much), but I pretty much eat what I want. I’m certainly never hungry long. Running — or exercise — affords me less guilt in my diet and the occasional splurges I enjoy.

Stress reduction – I find if I’m especially stressed a good sweat gives me a calmer perspective. It’s an excellent way to decompress. It was crazy how much not running — before I found exercise which could substitute — added to me being more tense. My family noticed it. I’m certain the people who work with me did also. I know I did. I’m a nicer person to be around when I’m running regularly. It took me a while to associate the cause of additional stress on the lack of exercise, but the return to healthy routines made it clear.

I’m back to running, thankfully. In fact, I just completed a 10K with my fastest time in several years. I’m usually training for something — even if I never run another race — because it keeps me disciplined in a routine. And, I know the value. It’s been proven to me.

Do you have a regular routine of exercise? It doesn’t have to be running, but it should be something. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before you start something extreme, but I’ve never had a doctor who didn’t value some form of exercise.

If you are not regularly exercising — especially if you’re a leader — answer this question:

Considering the stress in your life, and how productive you hope to be with your life, could beginning the discipline of exercise be one of the missing ingredients?

Let me be a voice of encouragement to you. Find the exercise routine which works best for you, discipline yourself for 30-40 days, then enjoy the lifetime of benefits.

An Encouragement To Be A Dad (Happy Father’s Day!)

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Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3

The role of a father is so important in the home.

God bless the fathers of the world today!

A friend told me once about an incident at her daughter’s house. Her son-in-law was really excited about finishing a book in a series of fiction novels. He was so anxious to finish the latest release that he stayed up most of the night, doing nothing other than read. Normally very interactive with his family, this night he did nothing but read. Seated comfortably in his favorite chair, his back was to the rest of the house. The first time he got up was well after midnight. He was startled to stumble over something on the floor — one of his sons. His son was sleeping behind his chair, just to be close to “Daddy”.

What an impact a father has on his family!

The statistics of fatherless homes are astounding. Sobering. Scary even. (Read some of them HERE.)

One of the greatest gifts I could give my boys when they were home was to simply spend time with them in the backyard. They loved to pass a ball together. I fully believe God used these times to mold their character and help shape them into godly young men.

Children love to spend time with their fathers. They long for male attention, male interaction, and a father’s approval. They learn from dad how much they can accomplish and how secure they are in this world. They learn to love in strength. They learn to take risks and get up after failure. And, so much more.

Fathers, please, don’t neglect your greatest responsibility. I know the world is demanding much from you these days. I know you are tired from the pressures and stress of life, but your family’s health depends so greatly on the important role you play.

I know men who would love to be a dad if God allowed and I know those who have lost their dad or never knew him. It’s a deep pain. I know moms who had to play both roles. I know those who have lost children. Can’t imagine. If you have the opportunity — or if you’re dad is in your life — take advantage of the blessing.

I’m praying for you! Happy Father’s Day!

7 Ways to Parent with Grace

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Cheryl and I had a model for our parenting.

Whenever I say that to people they hear “complicated”. It wasn’t. We aren’t complicated people.

Simply put, we attempted to implement grace into our home.

Our boys are now grown — in their mid-twenties, but we have seen the fruit from our methods. We have two amazing sons. They love Jesus, they serve others, and they respect their parents. (And, they are self-supported. That’s a good thing.)

Our heart is now to help other parents learn from things we did wrong and things we did right.

Grace-based parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

For an easy definition: Grace-based parenting attempts to parent children the way God parents us — by grace. It makes sense to me — if God leads us by grace we should lead our children by grace. I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Grace even disciplines and corrects. Oh, the power of grace.
We are not under the law — but grace.

Grace-based parenting does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to the last sentence.) It didn’t mean we released them to sin.

The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace-based living. (Romans 6:1-2)

To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

Basically with grace-based parenting we had some basic principles with which we parented. We considered these often.

Here are 7 ways to parent with grace:

Set clear boundaries. 

Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these — primarily because they intrinsically want to know how real they are. When they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. For example, one of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us — anything — but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me in the way they responded and talked to us. Another solid boundary was honesty. Punishment was more severe if they did wrong and lied about it than if they confessed.

Recognize the individuality of the child. 

You can’t parent all children the same with the same results. Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination — a path for him. He would get there in his own way.

Have certain goals.

I am not sure our boys ever knew, but we had goals for them every year for improvement. For example, we concentrated on building their patience. We tried to encourage more honesty in them. Basically, we talked about where we saw our boys — what we saw they needed — and together we planned an intentional effort. That was grace to them — as we intentionally imparted truth into them by stories, Scripture and by example — even when they just thought we were throwing a ball together.

Major on the majors, not the minors.

This is huge. There should be some things, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tended to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly. Of course, they are still handled with love, but we made sure the boys knew we were very serious about them. The minor issues — those which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but can be handled less severely. Leaving clothes on the floor or forgetting to take out the trash may feel “major” at the time, but it isn’t likely going to help determine who they are as a person years from now. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart.

We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily.

God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children — especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them even in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

Be a “fun” parent.

Children should enjoy having a good time with you. That’s true even when they aren’t fully living up to your standards. You want your children giving you access to their lives later in life. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house. At the same time, we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model. There were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents. There will be some days that are no fun — but if children are living within the boundaries of your home, don’t take the stress of your world out on them. When you’re home — be home — and have a good time being there.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

A Secret Your Husband Needs You to Know

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Ladies, there’s a secret your husband probably won’t share.

He may not even like that I’m sharing it.

It’s not that he doesn’t want you to know. He does. But, it’s hard to admit sometimes. Or, difficult to find the right words.

But, I feel you need to know. It could make a huge difference in your marriage.

Here goes:

He needs your unconditional respect — in fact — he needs you to be his biggest fan.

There. The secret is out in the open.

It’s true. He needs to know you respect him — what he does and whom he is.

Your support feeds his God-given ego.

Of course, that ego can be abused. And, it is many times. It doesn’t, however, diminish his need. I would even say — his greatest need.

Just as you need his unconditional love, he needs your unconditional respect. (And vice-versa)

I also realize you nor he is capable of perfectly fulfilling those individual needs. 

But at least you know the secret now.

Doing well for the woman he loves is perhaps one of the greatest goals in a man’s life.

That inner desire starts at a very early age. The little league ball player who turns around to see if mom watches him bat. The same little boy who brings a flower (weed) home to mom. It’s the respect he’s seeking.

The truth is sometimes a guy feels as if he doesn’t measure up to everyone’s standards. Actually it happens a lot of times.

(Please don’t tell him I told you all this.)

He feels the weight of being wonderful in so many areas. His home. His family. His work. Even in his hobby.

It’s a pressure men carry internally — possibly never sharing it with anyone.

Chances are fear of failure is his greatest fear. And the fear of disappointing you is a close second.

He may see you seeming to do so well with all your responsibilities. Whether in the home, with the kids, or in relationships — he feels you always know what you’re doing. He knows he doesn’t.

Even your walk with God may shine brighter than his sometimes. Okay — most times.

You handle things so well, in fact, at times, he’s tempted to not even try.

(Please don’t tell him I told you this.)

Let me give you a personal example. One time after preaching Cheryl said nothing. Usually she says “Great job today” — or — ”That was a good one”.

That day — nothing!

Three days later I asked, “Was I that bad?”

See how shallow I can be?

Truth is I need her positive feedback and encouragement. It’s what fuels me. It’s what keeps me motivated to do my best.

Your husband is likely similar.

I know that sounds shallow of us. Perhaps it is.

But, here’s the best part of the secret.

If your husband feels respected in his home — he will do anything to keep it.

Maybe even start doing the dishes. If he does, brag on him.

Who knows? Maybe next will be the dusting. Nah — don’t push it!

And, if you’re raising a son — next time your little boy — I mean big boy — is up to bat, make sure he can turn around and see you smiling. It will make all the difference.

5 Tips when Communicating with Women

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I recently posted 5 Tips when Communicating with Men. I promised a companion post.

I should say I don’t feel as comfortable with this side of the discussion. Obviously, this is not my gender. I love my wife — and I study her. I have worked with hundreds of couples — many times in distress. Still, I don’t feel I’m qualified to speak for the gender.

My degree in counseling and experience working with hundreds of couples, however, has helped me process some thoughts about men and women and how they communicate. I wrote these, but ran them by my wife prior to posting.

As I said with the men, remember these are generalized statements, so not all women will fit in each of these. If they don’t fit with you, dismiss them. Simple as that. Men, if you wonder — ask. The only intent here is to be helpful.

Here are 5 tips when communicating with women:

There may be a deeper meaning – What a woman says most likely represents the way she feels, which may or may not be captured completely by the words she uses. It’s harder to put emotions into words. I find it important to ask Cheryl to clarify what she is saying often. It sometimes helps if I repeat back what I think she’s saying, then allow her to tell me what I’m missing.

Emotions are attached so the way you say it is important – Most women place a very strong value on relationships and people. Because of that, women may think and communicate more with their hearts. It’s more difficult for a woman to “set feelings aside” when communicating, for example. They are relational and more subject to getting their feelings “hurt”. Women don’t necessarily want to avoid discussing the difficult issues, but they do want men to consider how they say things. Words can have heavier meanings for a woman, since they are often interpreted with emotions.

Details are important if they are attached to someone they love – I always joke that Cheryl can remember where the socks in the house are, because they are worn by someone she loves. Women want to know details of a man’s life because she loves the man. I have to remember this when Cheryl asks for more details about my day. Sometimes her questioning is just so she can be a part of it; not to burden me with questions. Also, because trust develops with information and experience, and because women may live closer to the emotions of an issue than even the facts sometimes, details can be important in learning to trust a man. Knowledge and information helps keep the woman’s heart from emotions such as worry or fear.

Crying may simply be a way to express and release emotions – With intense emotions — sometimes a woman can feel overwhelmed with stress, anger, grief or even pleasure — tears are a natural reaction. Cheryl knows, however, that when she cries I get uncomfortable. Just as a man needs to learn to use anger responsibly, the same is true of tears for a woman. It can help a man communicate better when he understands tears may simply be a way of expressing emotions. (One thing Cheryl does for me if she’s crying is to release me from responsibility — if I didn’t cause the tears. That’s always helpful and allows me to better support her.)

They don’t always need you to fix things They may need you simply to listen as they work through something. This is a hard lesson for a man. Cheryl processes with me as she shares the burdens of her day, a stress she feels, or a disappointment in her life. She doesn’t usually want me to have an answer — at least not immediately — she wants me to be a sounding board as she thinks through the issue. I’ve learned that sometimes it is best to say nothing — just listen — until she asks me for an opinion. Of course, when she says “Go” I’m usually ready with the solution. :)

Learning to communicate better as men and women makes life more enjoyable for both genders. Most women I know are willing to admit that a woman can be more complicated to understand than a man. I’ve learned by experience that when I don’t understand how to communicate with Cheryl — or what she is saying — or when I mess up — I get tremendous credit for asking her to help me understand. Cheryl always seems patient with me when I’m attempting to communicate better. Men, it’s worth the effort!

Women, what would you add to my list?

5 Tips when Communicating with Men

man woman talking

In my position, I hear from men and women continually. In most relationships — communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The difficulty is in the way men and women communicate.

My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike — and these are generalities. I can’t emphasize that enough — so if you comment that these aren’t true for everyone — I with you! (Please re-read this statement.) The only way to know is to talk with the men with whom you are trying to communicate to see if these are true for them. My hope is that these — as general as they may be — may help some women better understand a man and improve communication. (The companion post will follow.)

Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:

We meant what we said. Often not what you heard – That is true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable. :) ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded. Women may have multiple meanings with a statement. That’s less likely with men. So, when a man says something, try to hear only what was said — without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. If in doubt, ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only nothing more than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)

We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. End of discussion. (At least in our minds.) We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information. That’s especially true when a man has given reason to disprove his trustworthiness. In learning how to communicate, however, it’s important to know details may be out of his realm of comfort to provide. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely he will be to share facts, and even occasionally, details. (For Cheryl and me, she has learned that if she gives me time, and especially if we are doing something together — like walking — that I’m more likely to share the details she wants without having to ask for them.)

Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.If you ask us how we feel “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get for you. That may be it. I’ve heard so many wives who want to know their husbands “deeper” emotions. She may not understand that he’s shared the depth as well as he knows how to share them.

When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but it’s a difference in wiring. Please understand, there is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated. But anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that may cause female’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does this for me continually.

Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart. often we never fully do – This is sad and we may even know it. Here’s a tip. When you make us feel we will be respected regardless of the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions.

Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.

Men, what did I miss?