Tag Archives: relationships

3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Even if You Hate It

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so you’re probably saying one of three things:

“I freakin’ hate it!”3 ways to celebrate valentine's day even if you hate it

“I can’t wait for it!

“What day is that again?”

It’s not surprising that a day about love can draw such emotional or even indifferent reactions. That’s how love is. It’s an emotional thing. No feeling tugs on our hearts like love. I’ve probably had all three reactions to Feb. 14 at different times in my life. I’ve been single and lonely, despising the every commercial and TV show celebrating love that I lacked. I’ve been in love and eagerly planning the perfect date (and ordering flowers too late to arrive by Feb. 14). And I’ve been indifferent.

The reason we have these different reactions to Valentine’s Day is because it’s marketed to one segment of the population. If you’re not “cuffed” for the season, it ain’t for you. But if the day is truly about love, then it shouldn’t be limited to couples.

The best Valentine’s days were in elementary school. Remember then? Everyone bought a box of mini-Valentine’s Day cards to give to each person in class. It was big party with sweetheart tarts, heart-shaped candy, chocolate…it was like Halloween in February minus the costumes. I remember in third grade we had a big ice cream party. School was awesome then. But the best part is no one felt excluded. Sure I had a crush on the girl two rows behind me and she paid me no attention. But heck, I still got ice cream, candy, and cards from every girl in the class anyway, so it wasn’t a bad day.

But after elementary school, Valentine’s Day is a roller-coaster of emotions: some years you’re up, some years you’re down. But what if we went old school on Valentine’s Day? What if we took it back to when everyone was included? That’s what love really is like, right? Jesus is the author of love and His love is for everyone. It’s inclusive. So how can you make this the most inclusive Valentine’s weekend you’ve ever experienced? It may take some last-minute planning, but it’s easy to pull off. Here are three ways to have an inclusive, true love Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single or coupled.

  1. REACH OUT TO A WIDOW OR SOMEONE RECENTLY DIVORCED

A married couple I’m friends with did this a few years ago. A woman at church lost her husband in recent months. It was going to be her first Valentine’s Day alone in more than 30 years. So the couple invited her to their home. Their children made cards for her and decorated the place. They bought her flowers and had a family dinner with her. She said it was one of the best days she had since her husband died. There’s likely someone in your church, community, or family who has been widowed, divorced, or separated within the last year or so. This is the perfect opportunity to show them love this weekend.

  1. THROW AN EPIC PARTY 

Take it back to elementary school and host a Valentine’s Day party. Call up some friends, tell them to bring games, wine, and ice cream. Just celebrate those you love most. As a bonus, have each person write a note or card for someone in the group explaining what their friendship means. Don’t be exclusive either. This is not pity party for singles. Invite couples and singles and share the love.

  1. SERVE

Love is giving. There are plenty of opportunities in your area to volunteer to help people less fortunate. Whether it’s serving a meal at the Salvation Army, giving clothing to the homeless (it’s going to be ridiculously cold in the Northeast this weekend), giving out Valentine’s Day cards at a nursing home or children’s hospital, or simply ordering a meal for someone who is experiencing hard times. Choose to give this Valentine’s Day.

It’s time to take Valentine’s Day back from the marketers. We know love is broader than romance. Let’s make this holiday more inclusive. So whether you have a bae or not this weekend, think outside the (chocolate) box, and celebrate love in a grander way.

 

 

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We’ve All Been Hurt, We All Need Healing

No one is immune to hurt. It transcends social status, nationality, gender, job title, marital status, religion, and race. We acquire hurts like we acquire years. It’s part of the human experience. Some of us deal with deeper, more painful experiences than others. But regardless of the degree of pain, we all have this experience in We've All Been Hurt, We All Need Healingcommon.

As a guy, I know we don’t like to admit we have emotional scars, but we do. That breakup hurt us. The rejection stung. Getting passed up for the promotion was painful. Your wife’s words during the argument wounded.

Of course we all learn to get over hurts. We develop coping mechanisms that help us recover, move on, trust again, love again, and hopefully, forgive. But those hurts remain part of us. We rarely shed them, we just cover them. People don’t know the pain we’ve dealt with because we disguise it with smiles, busyness, humor, or surface-level relationships.

We remember hurts much more than positive experiences. They’re more traumatic. I tend to bury emotional hurts. I try not to think of them and let the past be the past. There is some benefit to that because it doesn’t allow negative experiences to taint my future. But there are times I feel it’s important to remember my hurts. Remember what it was like to be rejected, ridiculed, dumped, dismissed, or betrayed. Because the thought of that pain prevents me from hurting others.

Most of us internalize hurt, we think no one has dealt with the degree of pain that we have. But people all around us—our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors—have as much hurt as we do. And if we realize that, we will deal with people differently. We will speak differently. Think differently. Act differently.

I don’t know the hurt you have experienced, but I know I don’t want to contribute to that hurt. I want to contribute to your healing. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t mean I want to talk people through their issues, but there are simple things I can do, we all can do, to help heal without digging through people’s baggage. Here are ways we can contribute to others’ healing:

  1. Speak kindly: Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Kind words and compliments can do wonders when it comes to healing. I don’t know about you, but when someone compliments me, my ego soars, and that’s not a bad thing. A simple compliment can change somebody’s day, erasing a bitter moment with a memorable word that’s as sweet as honey
  2. Walk in meekness: This one isn’t easy for us because we associate meekness with weakness. We think we’ll be eaten alive if we’re meek. But this world needs more meekness, which doesn’t mean weak, but rather gentle, mild, patient, and moderate. By displaying this characteristic—being patient, understanding, and not harsh with people—we allow people to work through their hurts with grace. This is particularly important in our close relationships (spouse, boy/girlfriend, family).
  3. Speak to people’s potential: We are all works in progress, which is code for “we screw up a lot and need grace.” Most of us tend to beat ourselves up or reflect on hurts when things aren’t going right. At these moments, it’s hard to see past our present predicament. That’s why we need to see the potential in others, and speak to that in people. Tell them you see what they are becoming: Let them know they are good parents even if their kids are raising hell; tell them they are talented when they just got laid off; tell them they are a good friend even when they mess up relationships. They know they aren’t there yet. But you’re not lying to them, you’re pointing them towards their future selves. You’re speaking to the person they are becoming, not the one they are.

You don’t have to have all your hurt healed before you help others. By contributing to the healing of others, you tend to heal yourself in the process.

Realize your hurts simply connect you with everyone else. Let your pain sensitize you to the pain of others, and help you to be a healer.

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The Hard Work of Friendship

I have a saying that I adopted in college: “Friends are family.” It’s more of a way of life than just a saying. I developed some great friendships during my college years. It helped that most of those relationships came from a campus ministry I served with, connecting us further through our shared faith and service.The Hard Work of Friendship

It’s almost like friendship came easy those days. I saw my friends every day, ate with them, studied with them, procrastinated then crammed with them…we experienced life together. But after those college years it’s not quite as easy to form those types of bonds. As we grow older and our lives get more complicated with work, relationships, children, and other things that monopolize our time, forming new, deep friendships doesn’t happen as naturally or rapidly.

Sure, we have new friendships, but are they the same? Is five minutes of chatting after church service or a brief conversation at the gym really a friendship? You may spend a bit more time with people than that, but I’d bet you have more surface-level friendships than family-like bonds.

That’s the case with me, and much of it is my fault. My temperament doesn’t require a lot of deep friendships. As long as I have that closeness with a few friends, I can get by. But as we go through life changes—moves & marriages; promotions & parenthood—time with that “family” is few and far between.

I haven’t been open to new, in-depth friendships as I should be. Why? They take work. Post-college life isn’t conducive to fast-developing friendships. It’s rare to form strong bonds quickly. I just don’t see people as frequently, nor do I have the downtime to invest in others. Deep friendships don’t just happen, they take intention.

I have to be more intentional. I have to intentionally engage in conversations so they go beyond the surface. It’s easy to shoot the breeze about work, weather, or some other worthless topic, but to stay in the conversation long enough so it ventures deeper, to more pertinent issues, takes commitment. It takes time. A drive-by conversation won’t get you there.

I have to have a greater interest in the person I’m trying to bond with. I have to ask questions that reveal who they are, not just what they do. We have enough facts about people (where they live, the work they do, their relationship status), but we don’t know their hearts. What are their passions, dreams, and concerns? What bothers them? How can we contribute to their lives?

Ultimately, in order to have friends like family, I have to open up more to people. As Brene´ Brown said, “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.” Revealing your true self is the only path to true friendship. As we open up, it opens doors to deeper relationships. As author and speaker Sheridan Voysey said: “When we take the risk to share, it opens up all manner of untold stories.” Friendship inherently takes risk. But we really have nothing to lose, and great friendships to gain.

So if you’re like me, and you know your friendships should have more depth, be intentional in going beyond the surface. It takes work, but the results are worth it.

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Stop Chasing Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not this side of Heaven. Most of us know that, but our expectations often belie that truth.

We know nobody and nothing is perfect, yet we are quick to complain about all the imperfections in the person we’re dating, the church we attend, or the job that pays our bills.Stop Chasing Perfection

High expectations are a good thing. Having a vision for the type of marriage you want, the church you serve in, and the career you navigate is important and admirable. And I believe the vision you imagine can become a reality as long as it’s grounded in reality. There must be some compromise and tweaking to the vision along the way.

Most people understand this. Where we go astray is when our focus shifts. Instead of remembering everything in life is a process, we get impatient with the immediate. So we focus on our partner’s imperfections, our church’s problems, and our employer’s negative practices. We magnify the few things that tick us off, letting those idiosyncrasies overshadow what we enjoy about our current state of life.

Consequently, we become complainers part of the unfortunate majority miserable in our relationships and jobs, and tuned out in church. Sometimes discontent means it’s time to move on. But most of the time the discontent comes from within, not without.

Changing jobs, churches, or dating someone else won’t change things when the problem is within you. The problem is often perspective. And perspective is tainted when problems arise: when there’s tension in your relationship, when there’s disagreement in church, and when there’s frustration at work. These aren’t signs to bail out; these are signs to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The life you want takes work. The vision you have won’t manifest without pressure.

So when things in life particularly pertaining to your relationships, church, and job become frustrating, shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Intentionally dwell on the good things about your situation. This fosters peace, patience, and problem-solving ability. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then maybe it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ll realize that though life isn’t perfect, it is good, and with patience you can build something close to perfect.

 

 

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5 Lessons From My 80-year-old Self

On the heels of writing some tips to my 18-year-old self, I was thinking of what advice I could use now. If my older self,

photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight
photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight

say the 80-year-old Kevin, could give me some guidance on navigating life from here on out, I wonder what he would say? I wonder what lessons, tips, and words of wisdom he’d share.

He’d probably start by saying I know less than I think I know right now. Then he’d say my future is bright and I become filthy rich (OK, wishful thinking there).  Most of all, he’d probably focus on regrets he has and how I can change my life to avoid them. So here are five things my 80-year-old self would tell me to live a fuller life:

SPEAK YOUR MIND

You tend to be cautious, young Kevin (yes, you’re still very young). You speak up when needed, but you’re guarded with your words. You’re diplomatic by nature, which has been helpful in gaining friends, bridging gaps, and defusing conflicts. Yet, your opinion needs to be heard more — unfiltered and direct. It will catch people off-guard, and it may hurt some feelings, but as long as it’s done in truth and love, it’s worth it.

BE SILLY

There’s nothing more beautiful in life than being able to laugh at yourself. It’s more natural for the youngest and oldest among us, but it’s something you need to rediscover and embrace. Laughing is one thing, but being able to make a complete fool of yourself — and awaken the silliness in others — is a moment you’ll never forget, trust me.

TAKE RISKS

You’ll never regret taking a risk. Do they all pay off? No. Is there embarrassment or discomfort in the moment? Yes. But looking back, taking a risk was always the right decision. Risks always result in either the outcome you desire or a lesson learned. The only thing that holds you back is fear. And you’ll find out what you fear most about risks never happens. The greatest risk of all is the risk not taken.

SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE YOU LOVE

You’ve been telling yourself to do this for years, and you’ve gotten better at it, but remember this: You can never spend too much time with the people you love. No one ever reached 80 years old and said, “You know what, I think I spent too much time with loved ones.” Take every second and every minute that they give you. Too many people let work, school, church, chores, sports, Scandal, and social media get in the way of real relationships. By the way, Facebook, Instagram, and Olivia Pope won’t last that much longer anyway. If your loved ones are really loved, prioritize time with them.

SAY ‘I LOVE YOU’ OFTEN

Those three words mean the world to people, Kevin. They don’t part your lips enough. The people you love — which include pretty much everyone — need to hear it. You’ll regret not saying it enough. Your words are sincere. You only say what you mean. If there’s anything people should remember about you, it’s that you loved them.

Enjoy the journey, young Kevin. You’ll be OK. Oh, and get off Facebook!

What do you think you’d regret most at an older age? What are some changes you can make to avoid those regrets?

 

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