Advice and Anecdotes
JourneyWorks Director, Pastor and Psychotherapist Chris Hilicki answers your questions and shares her thoughts on the various situations we find ourselves in everyday.
The Same Old Argument
Why do we keep having the same bad argument over and over (and over)? We keep arguing about how my husband never cleans up after himself? Why I spend so much money?” I’m so worn out from these tired old arguments. Nothing ever gets solved. What should we do? Signed, Tired.
All relationships have arguments of some kind. Whether it’s in a marriage, a job situation, or a friendship, healthy relationships have arguments. When we engage in conflict and share our different points of view our lives are genuine and potentially richer. When we ignore our frustration and squelch our emotions we can become numb and feel ‘empty’. Unfortunately, some people choose living an empty life to avoid conflict and facing painful emotions. This can result in fighting the same fight day after year, year after year.
We repeat arguments over and over for three reasons. Sometimes we are not aware of what the real issue is. Sometimes we don’t believe we are being listened to. And more often, we are avoiding the conversation we should be having out of fear and frustration. If we can figure out what the real problem is and direct our conversations there, then superficial arguments would gradually decrease. For example, the argument about ‘going out’ might really be about craving the attention you deserve from your spouse and wanting to feel special. The argument about ‘spending too much money’ might really be about respect and partnership.
This is what I know, if we keep having the same argument then we are not really arguing about what we think we are. When you keep arguing about the same thing it is time to ask, what is this really about? In other words, if you keep arguing about money ask if you are really conflicted about security, control, or respect. If you keep arguing about watching TV you could benefit from a discussion about intimacy or loneliness.
Discussions that begin with the words, WHY and YOU ALWAYS, create a defensive stand-off. We tend to tune out as soon as those words are uttered. So change it up and stop in mid sentence. Ask each other, “What do you think we’re really arguing about? What do you really need from me?”
When we figure out what we really need we can begin to figure out how to respectfully ask for it. Someone will react quite differently if they are asked, “Can I get a hug?” versus “Quit watching TV!” But sadly, most people are too uncomfortable asking for the proverbial hug.
Try it. It’s worth it.
Pastor, Counselor Chris
It’s only November and I’m already stressed out thinking about too much food, too little money and too much company. How can I do “Christmas” better this year instead of feeling depressed and frustrated?
lost my peace on earth.
This is a great question that a lot of people are asking right now. Take comfort that many others have experienced similar feelings of anxiety but then have made changes to find peace on earth with comfort and joy.
Now that you are aware of your feelings you can consider possible changes.( So good job on getting in touch with your thoughts and feelings!)
So where does the change you want come from? Guess what? It’s already inside you just waiting for the right circumstances to come out! Change occurs when you uncover the person God created you to be.
This is NOT about will power. Change is about more than discipline and self control which inevitably doesn’t last. What’s more, when our willpower fails and we give in to old habits we tell ourselves a lot of unkind things – “like this is hopeless; nothing is ever going to change.” So stop trying to change your life with just your will power.
Instead ask, who and what will help you with the chaos of daily living? Who are you surrounding yourself with this holiday season? If you can’t immediately name two or three people that make your world a little more beautiful then these precious gifts of people are the gifts to ask for this Christmas.
Go search for them. AND, make yourself open to receiving them into your life. This is not the same thing as making more friends on FaceBook. Get some face time with people instead of facebook time.
We become more and more like the people and places we surround ourselves with. If you keep the company of stressed out, depressed people and you will be stressed out and depressed. If you spend time with healthy, inspirational people you will become healthier and inspired.
Of course we can’t always remove toxic or stressful people from our lives. (Bill collectors, Mother-in-laws, Airport security personnel…) But we can add healthy, happy people into our lives. The Epistles use the words “one another” almost 60 times as in love one another, encourage one another, and carry each other. Look around you and add one another to your life. Not only will they help you de-stress, eat right, celebrate better, and get some of Jimmy Stuart’s wonderful life – you will become more like them and do the same for others. Now that will bring joy to your world.
We are a therapeutic church. We all have problems, stress and pain in our lives but truly, we are better when we live in community with each other. Don’t go it alone if you are hurting. Isolation is your enemy. We don’t have a big counseling center yet but we do have a big network to catch you when you are troubled. We have counseling, retreats, support groups and life groups. Talking helps. Support saves lives and creates a life worth living.
Most of you know how to find your pulse. Take a minute right now and feel your heart beat. This is your proof that you were created – and therefore have a Creator –a Creator who came to us as the prince of Peace. So it is with great assurance that I can say to you, Peace be with you.
My friends say I dress too sexy for church. I don’t think God cares as long as I come to church. What do you think? Signed, sexy but saved.
Thank you for sending in this great question. I think God really does cares about everything you do, especially your love for Him, yourself and your neighbor.
I remember reading about religious traditions that encouraged priests and their congregants to dress in hopes that their spiritual side became the focus to those around them rather than their bodies. Maybe they had a good idea if it meant that whatever distracts from worship is better put aside – not only for oneself but for those around them too.
Going to church is an act of intention. You don’t end up there accidentally. Just as you plan to attend a party by picking out your outfit so you intentionally pick out what you wear to church. I’m curious what your intentions are for your clothes. Do you mean them to reflect your heart of praise, humility, and thanksgiving? Do your clothes reflect an experience of betrayal, guilt or heartache? You may have never thought of this question. But I’m telling you that everything you say and do, including what you wear, reflects who you are. So ask yourself, “Who am I and what does that look like?”
The other consideration is your effect on the people around you. When I have people over for dinner that I know are struggling with their weight or having to deny themselves sugar because they are diabetic, I don’t serve cake. I know that would tempt them. If they have to spend their time with me resisting temptation then our time together will be less meaningful and it might even be a hardship. In today’s culture there are more people struggling with sex addiction than ever before. They might be sitting behind you trying to worship or find solace from their troubles. Sexy clothes to them is chocolate cake to a diabetic, second-hand smoke to someone who just quit smoking, or happy hour coupons to the alcoholic. Sexy clothes to someone sitting behind you in church may be causing suffering in a place that tries to offer relief, comfort and support.
So I write you, yes, God cares about every detail of your life including how you dress. We, at GracePointe want to care about you in every way, too. We are not trying to be fashion conscious or the fashion police but if it matters to you, then it matters to us.
We care about you and what you care about. Consider this:
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” Matthew 6:28
Divorce and Parenting
Do you think that if divorced parents treat each other poorly in front of their children it will hurt the children?
In short, yes I do. Parents are role models even if they don’t want to be. They are possibly the most important role models for how a relationship is suppose to function. Just like faith, politics, money and eating habits, what children experience when they are young will have lifelong consequences on them.
When a couple divorces they are usually going through one of the most painful and hurtful experiences of life. Their pain can manifest as anger, depression, anxiety and distraction. Worse yet parents may become outright hostile. Children under age 11 can only process their experiences in concrete terms. They do not understand their parents’ behavior in the abstract terms of abandonment and betrayal. They process what they see and hear. They are in a stage that believes their parents are always right. This means that when they see tension or hear yelling they think it must be their fault. They ask, “What am I doing wrong that is making my parents act like this?”
Then children begin a lifelong quest to do or act in ways that they think will change their parent’s behavior. They stop BEING who they are and start DOING what their young minds can think of to earn their parent’s love and attention. They take it upon themselves to create a peaceful environment. Sometimes they grow up too fast to take care of the hurting parent. They are made to take sides and in fear and confusion they try to protect everyone’s feelings.
This is one of the hardest and most important things that parents can do, no matter what their relationship is with the other: – be kind to each other in the moments that they are in front of the kids. Do whatever it takes to learn the skills, get the support and put aside their bad feelings while they are around each other. It really really matters. There is no upside to behaving with hostility, sarcasm, and giving the silent treatment. No one learns any lessons and the kids learn the wrong lesson.
Children will react first by being frightened and then being disgusted. Eventually they develop a fear of being in relationships and end up in similar bad relationships. Children really do become who they are with – for better or worse.
Remember that children are children. Adults have to take their role as the adult by putting the children first. They serve best by modeling good behavior as parents. Never underestimate the long-term influence every action, word, look and touch can have on the child.
Who lies more? Men or women?
Dear Chris, Who lies more? Men or women?
Naturally different research studies report different results. Most of them say that men and women lie about the same amount. Surprised? One study shows that by age 60 we will have told 100,000 lies. Another study said that we perceive firefighters as being the most trustworthy and least likely to lie. Who do you think believe lies the most? I’m not telling. But what really caught my attention was what the lies were about. Studies say that the lie most frequently uttered is some form of the expression,
Imagine that. More than lying about out weight, our income, where we were last night, what we bought and how much it cost (which is the 3rd most frequent lie by women), we lie about how we feel. Does that mean that we are more afraid of expressing our true feelings than anything else? We don’t say, “I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m sad.” Or even, “I’m happy.” We say. “I’m fine.”
I wonder how many times I’ve said that. My husband teases me all the time by saying, “I’m fine dear.” He says that when I try to probe about how he is feeling (occupational hazard of being a therapist). I think it’s a way we get out of talking about something too difficult or painful. It’s a way to avoid a complicated or uncomfortable question. It’s a way of shutting down the conversation. It’s even a way to tell the listener – I don’t want to talk about this. Leave me alone!
So that makes me wonder – would it be better if we could say, “I don’t feel like talking about this right now, give me some time to put my thoughts together?” Why don’t we say what is really on our mind and in our heart? Sincere honesty (you have to have both) asks for acceptance – not an argument. If someone in your life has the courage and compassion to talk to you honestly, give them a safe place to be heard and just listen to them.
“I’m FINE” usually means anything except – I’m fine –let’s come up with a better answer closer to the truth that gets us closer to each other. So stop the lies. Try telling the truth. Maybe it will set you free.