According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Personal Well-Being: The One Thing That Will Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship



The one behavior that can make or break your connection.

December 14, 2012 in Anger in the Age of Entitlement

As Oscar Wilde put it, “Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography.” It tells you more about the psychology of the criticizer than the people he or she criticizes. Astute professionals can formulate a viable diagnostic hypothesis just from hearing someone criticize.

Criticism is the first of John Gottman’s famous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which predict divorce with more than 90% accuracy. In my clinical experience it is the most apocryphal, as the other three tend to follow from it—stonewalling, defensive, and contemptuous partners almost invariably feel criticized.

Criticism is destructive to relationships when it is:

  • About personality or character, rather than behavior
  • Filled with blame
  • Not focused on improvement
  • Based on only one “right way” to do things
  • Belittling

Criticism in close relationships starts out, in most cases, on a low key and escalates over time, forming a downward spiral with increasing resentment. The criticized person feels controlled, which frustrates the critical partner, who then steps up the criticism, increasing the other’s sense being controlled, and so on.

At no time in this downward spiral does an obvious fact occur to critical people: Criticism is an utter failure at getting positive behavior change. Any short-term gain you might get from it just builds resentment down the line.

Criticism fails because it embodies two of the things that human beings hate the most:

  • It calls for submission, and we hate to submit.
  • It devalues, and we hate to feel devalued.

While people hate to submit, we like to cooperate. Critical people seem oblivious to a key point about human nature:

The valued self cooperates; the devalued self resists.

If you want behavior change, show value for the person whose behavior you want to change. If you want resistance, criticize.

Critical people are certainly smart enough to figure out that criticism doesn’t work. So why do they keep doing it in the face of mounting frustration?

They keep doing it because criticism is an easy form of ego defense. We don’t criticize because we disagree with a behavior or an attitude. We criticize because we somehow feel devalued by the behavior or attitude. Critical people tend to be easily insulted and especially in need of ego defense.

Critical people were often criticized in early childhood by caretakers, siblings, or peers. Criticism can be especially painful for young children. They cannot distinguish criticism of their behavior from rejection, no matter how much we try to make the distinction for them, as in the well-intentioned, “You’re a good boy, but this behavior is bad.”

Such a distinction requires a higher prefrontal cortex operation, which is beyond most young children. To a child under seven, anything more than occasional criticism, even if soft-pedaled, means they’re bad and unworthy.

A Shadow of Life or Death

The only thing young children can do to survive is attach emotionally to people who will take care of them. Feeling unworthy of attachment, as criticized young children are apt to feel, seems a bit like life or death. So they try to control the great pain of criticism by turning it into self-criticism—since self-inflicted pain is better than unpredictable rejection by loved ones.

By early adolescence, they begin to "identify with the aggressor"—emulating the more powerful criticizer. By late adolescence, self-criticism expands to criticism of others. By young adulthood, it seems to be entirely criticism of others. But most critical people remain primarily self-critical; I have never treated one who was not. As hard as they are on others, most are at least equally hard on themselves.

How to Tell if You’re Critical

You’re likely to be the last to know whether you’re a critical person. As the joke goes, “I give feedback; you’re critical. I’m firm; you’re stubborn. I’m flexible; you’re wishy-washy. I’m in touch with my feelings; you’re hysterical!”

If someone tells you you’re critical, you probably are. But there’s even a better way to tell: Think of what you automatically say to yourself if you drop something or make a mistake. Critical people will typically think, “Oh you idiot,” or, “Jerk,” or just curse or sigh in disgust. If you do that to yourself, you most likely do it to others as well.

Criticism vs. Feedback

Critical people often delude themselves into thinking that they merely give helpful feedback. The following are ways to tell the two apart.

  • Criticism focuses on what’s wrong. (“Why can’t you pay attention to the bills?”)
  • Feedback focuses on how to improve. ("Let’s go over the bills together.")

  • Criticism implies the worst about the other’s personality. (“You’re stubborn and lazy.”)
  • Feedback is about behavior, not personality. (“Can we start by sorting the bills according to due date?”)

  • Criticism devalues. (“I guess you’re just not smart enough to do this.”)
  • Feedback encourages. ("I know you have a lot on your plate, but I’m pretty sure we can do this together.")

  • Criticism implies blame. (“It’s your fault we’re in this financial mess.”)
  • Feedback focuses on the future. (“We can get out of this mess if we both give up a few things. What do you think?”)

  • Criticism attempts to control. (“I know what’s best; I’m smarter and more educated.")
  • Feedback respects autonomy. (“I respect your right to make that choice, even though I don’t agree with it.”)

  • Criticism is coercive. (“You’re going to do what I want, or else I won’t connect with you or will punish you in some way.”)
  • Feedback is not at all coercive. (“I know we can find a solution that works for both of us.”)

Warning About Feedback

If you’re angry or resentful, any “feedback” you give will be heard as criticism, no matter how you put it. That’s because people respond to emotional tone, not intention. It’s best to regulate the anger or resentment before you try to give feedback.

To give feedback from your core value:

  • Focus on how to improve.
  • Focus on the behavior you would like to see, not on the personality of your partner or child.
  • Encourage change, instead of undermining confidence.
  • Sincerely offer help.
  • Respect his/her autonomy.
  • Resist the urge to punish or withdraw affection if he/she doesn’t do what you want

If you’re a critical person, you must get a handle on your impulse to criticize before it ruins your relationship.


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