Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


1 Comment

Secrets to a Healthy Marriage

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Reflecting on what makes a marriage work, I was struck by how vital is the gift of forgiveness.  My wife, by the way, is very gifted at forgiving, probably because I have given her so much practice.  My wife is also very patient and persevering, as I have noticed that often in our marriage, it has taken me a while to really grow and change.  The fact that she never gives up on me, and that she keeps on believing the best for me, is a wonderful gift indeed.

I recently read a fascinating book entitled ‘Men & Women: Enjoying the Differences’ by the best-selling author Dr. Larry Crabb.  He commented that ‘self-centered living is the real culprit in marriages with problems.  Other-centered living is the answer.’  Many of us enter marriage thinking that our spouse will meet our deepest needs.  We then feel cheated when they don’t, and begin to close our hearts.  How many of us enter marriage with the view that we are there to serve our spouse?  How many of us see marriage as a way of serving God?  A marriage where both partners are committed to serving one another, to ‘washing one another’s feet’ is a marriage in which self-centeredness gets sidelined.  What will it take, says Dr. Crabb, to realize that our selfishness is without excuse and that our first job, in our friendships and marriages, is to recognize our selfishness and learn how we can change?

One thing that men and women have equally in common is that we are all equally self-centered and selfish.  Little growth in marriages take place, says Dr. Crabb, until we realize that the disease of self-centeredness is fatal to our souls and marriages.  Nothing exposes our self-centeredness more clearly than anger.  Because our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we have an amazing ability to justify our own anger and bitterness towards our spouse, while simultaneously excusing our own bad attitudes.  Being angry at our spouses can be very attractive, because it makes us feel both powerful and self-righteous.  Having counseled dozens of couples over the years, I am continually amazed at the self-deception of many who convince themselves that the problem is their spouse, and that their personal faults are far more minor and merely reactive.  Self-centeredness is a cancer that blinds us from seeing that the problem is not merely our spouse; the problem is ourselves.

Our culture is saturated with excuses for everything.  It is not my fault.  It’s my spouse’s, my parent’s, my government’s, or my boss’ fault.  A.A. calls that ‘stinking thinking’.   Few of us are willing to do a thorough moral inventory of our own personal faults.  The bible uses a short, unpopular word for self-centeredness.  It calls it ‘sin’.  Sin doesn’t mean that we are axe-murderers or child molesters.  The heart of the word ‘sin’ is the ‘I’ at the middle.  The heart of most marriage problems is self-centered sin.

Dr. E. Stanley Jones, founder of the Christian Ashram, once said that ‘there can be no love between a husband and wife unless there is mutual self-surrender.  Love simply cannot spring up without that self-surrender to each other.  If either withholds the self, love cannot exist.’  A man and his wife were having painful marriage difficulties. The wife went away to a Christian Ashram, and surrendered her marriage to the Lord.  When she returned home, her husband said to her: ‘Well, Miss High and Mighty, what did you learn at the Ashram?’  She replied: ‘I’ve learned that I’ve been the cause of all our troubles.’  She got up from her chair, came around beside him and knelt, folded her hands and said: ‘Please forgive me. I’m the cause of all our troubles.’  At that moment, her husband nearly upset the kitchen table, while getting down on his knees beside her.  He blurted out, ‘You’re not the cause of all our troubles — I am.’  There they met each other — and God.  Each surrendered to Jesus, then they surrendered to each other and were free.  Now this couple, instead of continually criticizing each other, are one in love and forgiveness.

My prayer for those reading this article is that many may find victory through surrender.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

My Will Be Done…

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

The only thing worse than not getting your own way is actually getting it! Being both successful and miserable is one of life’s worst curses. You may remember the famous song “I Did It My Way”. There is something inside all of us that wants to do things our own way, that doesn’t like to be controlled by others. But getting my own way too often usually means winning the battle but losing the war, winning the argument but losing the intimacy, winning the contract but losing the friendship. It is legendary how many good business friendships have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate success.

All of us need close friendships, but too often our task orientation leaves us feeling detached. All of us, if married, need intimacy and vulnerability in our marriages, but our desire to “have our own space” can leave us feeling very empty and alone. All of us, if parents, want joyful, open relationships with our children, but our fear to “loosen the reins a bit” when appropriate can often drive them far away. All of us want closeness and caring in our relationships, but our need to do it our way so often leaves us in the H.A.L.T. position (H.A.L.T. – hungry, angry, lonely or tired). At such times, we are particularly vulnerable to discouragement, to wondering what it’s all about. We may be saying to ourselves, “why beat myself to be successful and accomplish all these objectives if there is no one to share it with at a really intimate, caring level?” At such a point we realize in the words of the old 1960’s song that “Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose.”

Conference speaker Patrick Tomter said a while ago that our fundamental enemy is fear (fear of losing control). This is why we tend to say “My will be done” instead of the alternative “Thy will be done”.

Tomter believes that our mission in such situations is to identify the enemy (fear) and learn to embrace it, so that it becomes a tool for our growth. Embracing fear means to stop running from our fears and start accepting fear as part of ourselves. True friendships emerge when we finally accept the other just as they are, without preconditions or stipulations. To surrender our need for our own way is to finally stop, see and hear the other person for who they really are. There is no greater gift than to be truly listened to by someone who truly accepts and cares for you. That is why people have always been so attracted to Jesus, even if they couldn’t stand the church. They have sensed that here is a friend who truly understands, truly listens, and truly cares. Friendship is about giving our heart away to another. Friendship is about the willingness to not have our own way. Friendship is about being vulnerable enough to even let the one we love, hurt us without striking back.

That is what the world’s most famous individual did as he hung on an executioner’s cross in unspeakable agony and simultaneously said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” If you feel led to pray the Lord’s prayer this week, remember that to pray “Thy will be done” is both the death of the need to get your own way and the birth of a new level of friendship. Friendship in life is our deepest need: Friendship with others, and with Jesus the Source of life.

My prayer is that those reading this article may experience a new depth and reality to their friendships in the days ahead.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


8 Comments

Managing Anger in Marital Conflict

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

DPM 929 ( a doctoral paper for Dr James Ponzetti submitted to Carey Theological

St Jerome

 College)

St Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, agonized over how anger destroyed his relationship with his aunt. He wrote: “Tell me, how are we two going to face the Day of Judgement? The sun is witness that it has gone down on our anger not one day, but for many a long year.” (Ketterman, 2000) While St Jerome was obviously not married, his impassioned letter alluding to Ephesians 4:26 shows how vital it is to manage anger in marital and family conflicts.

Segrin, C. & Hanzal, A. (2009) observe that “no marital communication process has generated more scholarly interest than conflict.”  This is probably because as Garland (1998) puts it, “Whatever a family’s style of communication, conflict and anger are inevitable.”

The social sciences and seminaries often function in an academic apartheid. Never the twain shall meet. Both are poorer for it. My aim with this paper is to integrate the best of the social science and theological research in how we can help our families more effectively manage anger in martial conflict situations.

It was noted in the DPM 929 class how marital conflict has had more social science attention than the anger component in marriage.  Yet marital conflict involves many emotions, including both ‘hot and cold’ anger.  Hebrews 12:15 describes cold anger as ‘the root of bitterness which defiles and harasses many’.  Garland (1998) says that we must avoid allowing anger to take up Root of bitternesspermanent residence in our hearts. That is why anger, while encouraged in Ephesians 4:26, must be without sin or harming of others, and must not be taken to bed.  Wisely Ephesians 4:26 suggests that going to sleep with unresolved anger gives a foothold for the negativity which sacramental Christians would describe in their baptism as ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’

We know that anger can be expressed without sin because even the sinless Son of God in Mark 3:5 was legitimately angry at people’s insensitivity to others.  The challenge is how in the words of James 1:19 to be slow to anger.  Anger can easily take on a life of its own.  Waddell (Browning, D. & Evison, I.,1998) wisely comments: “Nothing kills marital love more than hardness of heart.”

In preparing to write this essay, fifty-five books on anger and martial conflict from the Regent/Carey and the Public Libraries were either read or scanned. The overall impression is that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages.  Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) observe that the ability of couples to manage marital conflict is key to the success of healthy marriages.  Some of the solutions in the books were creative, but many of them after a while seemed rather repetitive and predictable.  As well, around one thousand social science articles on anger and marital conflict were scanned through the UBC Library, of which one hundred and two were downloaded for closer examination.  It became clear that not all articles are created equal.

Managing conflict, says Gottman (Garland, 1999), is one of the central tasks of maintaining a marriage.  Gottman’s research Dr John Gottmanwas described both in class and in an article as the ‘Gold Standard’ of marriage research.   The Gottmans (2006) recommend that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. We need to rediscover anger as a healthy emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Gottman’s evocative phrase is “Look for the longing in each other’s complaint.”   Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side.  While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change.  The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr Gil Stieglitz, our past Coach for the Anglican Coalition in Canada, has been a major influence in helping our congregation become more proactive in strengthening and building marriages. Reminiscent of social exchange theories, Stieglitz (2004) says that love is meeting needs and that each marriage partner needs to aim to out-give the other at a 70/30 ratio.  We have found his ‘Five Problems of Marriage’ videos and books to be very practical in helping our couples manage anger in marital conflicts.

Thirty-four years of ordained Anglican ministry have taught me that alcohol abuse has a huge effect on anger and marital life.  Johns, A & Newcomb, M (2007) draw a strong research correlation between alcohol problems and anger-related marital conflict. Alcohol abuse has been scientifically linked with a much higher rate of physical violence during anger in marital conflict.  One study quoted by Johns (2007) showed that the rate of verbal aggression was 5 to 7 times higher among such couples experiencing marital conflict. Since 1982, I have been privileged to do many AA ‘Fifth Steps’ which has convinced me that supporting people’s recovery from addiction is a key to helping them manage anger better in marital conflict. When feelings and pain are suppressed through substance abuse, the checks and balances around anger in marital conflict often disappear. The Bible describes this phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:2 as ‘the searing of the conscience’. One of the reasons I strongly value the Twelve-Step process is not only for its helping people stop abusing substances, but also for its value in helping people manage anger and repair the damage done to marriages through past inappropriate anger.

It was reported by Vogel, D and Werner-Wilson, R (2008) that men are more likely than women to withdraw during marital conflict which results in wives feeling rejected. This withdrawal (Gottman, 2006) heartbreakcauses emotional distance, loneliness, and a lack of romance.  Ironically this is not about the husband not caring but because his over-caring makes him so anxious (Garland, 1998).  The husband’s withdrawal is associated with increases in the wife’s blood pressure, norepinephrine and cortisol, all of which are linked to poorer cardiovascular and immune outcomes (Loving, T., & Heffner, K., 2004) Cortisol is a useful hormone in the short-term ‘fight or flight’ response, but is very destructive long-term to the white T cells which fight off cancer.

Stonewalling in marital conflict (Gottman, 1999) is one of the more serious indicators of future marital collapse.  Faulkner, R., & Davey, M. (2005) observe that “women have considerable tolerance for physiological arousal and, thus, can maintain high levels of engagement. Men, in contrast, experience this arousal as being highly aversive and act to dissipate it by withdrawing from the conflict”.  The tendency for men to withdraw seems to be linked with the higher tendency for men to physiologically ‘flood’ during marital conflict. When the heart rate goes above 100, the ability to rationally process marital conflict significantly decreases (Gottman, 2006).  Gottman recommends the strategy of an agreed-upon ‘Time-out’ until the spouses can emotionally de-escalate.  This gives the wife more security and hope for resolution rather than when the husband just shuts down and goes away without any context for readdressing the conflict later.  Thomas Jefferson wisely said: “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”  (Tavris, 1992)

Marital anger for women (Cox, D & Clair, S, 2005) is often experienced as a threat to intimacy and connection.  This results in many women internalizing their anger in the form of self-hate, obsessive thoughts, and guilt, which paralyzes their ability to constructively make use of the emotion.

Anger, even when inappropriately processed in marital conflict, has a number of payoffs.  When we are hurt or threatened by our spouse, we tend to feel helpless and weak.  When the anger emotion clicks in, it can give us a surge of strength, power and control.  This need for control has been linked with some of the worst of the physical violence in marriage.  In the Twelve Step process, we reverse the control need by admitting in step 1 that we are powerless over our condition/addiction/marriage.  ‘Letting go letting-goand letting God’ is at the heart of true recovery.  I am reminded of Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 that God’s grace is sufficient for him, enabling him to realizing that when he is weak, he is strong.

Anger is associated with physiological and biological transitions, with the increase of our heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  The instinctive, natural way to express anger, says Spielberger (APA, 2009), is to respond aggressively.  Assertiveness training has been developed as a more effective way of managing marital anger than either stuffing one’s anger or dumping it on others. I have read many books on assertiveness training over the years which have been helpful but sometimes lack the needed gentleness of the ‘soft startup’ recommended by Gottman.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged couples to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other spouse. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. Garland(1999) comments that “anger expressed in venting becomes the first step toward murder, not toward reconciliation (Matthew 5:22).”  Neither blowing up or clamming up really helps us manage anger in marital conflict (Cosgrove, 1988).  Tavris (1982) found that “aggression frequently has precisely the opposite effect of catharsis: instead of exorcising the anger, it can inflame it.”  Many people are afraid of marital anger because of its tendency to get away on us.  Plato wrote “[when reason] is asleep, then the wild beast within us, gorged on meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime it won’t commit.”

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) reported that spirituality, especially practices such as prayer between a couple,  is closely linked with reduced marital conflict.  The shared Praying Hands picturevision and relation virtues such as selflessness and unconditional love have been linked with better marital functioning in times of anger and conflict. Couples indicated that their involvement in scripture reading and regular church attendance increased their commitment to relational permanence.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) found that couples were able to increase their sense of interpersonal space by detouring their anger to God in marital conflict.  In my pastoral work, I have found that praying together can really help a couple, though most find such activity too intimate.  It is vital that the couple do not use prayer or the bible as weapons to win a fight, but rather as a way to resolve conflict and build a healthier marriage.

Mahoney, A. &  Pargament, K. ( 1999)  found the benefits of spiritual involvement as a couple to include greater global marital adjustment, more perceived benefits from marriage, less marital conflict, more verbal collaboration, and less use of verbal aggression and stalemate to discuss disagreements for both wives and husbands.  Before my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) observe that couples who view their marriage as being a sanctified object (whom God has joined together) are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage.  Part of the improved handling of anger in marital conflict comes out of the religious couple’s allegiance to their meta-narrative and their God’s ethical expectations.  Even after thirty-two years of marriage, I still have to resist my tendencies to selfishness and irritability.  My faith is a major motivator to keep working on myself.

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. listed studies showing that the value of forgiveness is linked with better managing anger in marital conflict.  Gordon, K. &  Hughes, F. (2009) identified three elements of forgiveness:

 (a) regaining a more balanced and compassionate view of the offender and the event,

(b) decreasing negative affect towards and avoidance of the offender, and

(c) giving up the right to seek revenge or lash out toward the offender.

Ketterman (2000) observes that couples who refuse to forgive pay a heavy price:

“The physical costs of unforgiveness may include hypertension, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name just a handful.  Because negative emotions have a depressive effect and can suppress immune function, unforgiveness may even have an indirect link to major and severe disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.”

Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you will be Jesusforgiven’, say Ketterman, lie at the heart of marital harmony and health.  She speaks both as a psychiatrist of the Christian faith and as a victim of infidelity who remarried her husband.  Forgiveness is indeed a practical proven key to managing anger in martial conflict.

Another key to managing anger in marital conflict is the reduction of blaming behaviour.  Gottman (1999) calls this learning how to complain without criticizing.  Gottman (1999, 2006) talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) which are greater long-term indicators of divorce than mere anger. Research by Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) showed that blaming one’s spouse for marital conflict is negatively associated with marital satisfaction.  Couples that habitually blame one another are some of the most difficult to help.

Contempt has a major impact on how we manage anger in marital conflict. Day (2003) noted how “Husbands who were more extroverted were more likely to express anger and contempt during times of relational difficulty.”  Gottman (2006) defines contempt as including “hostility or disgust (rolling their eyes). Contempt often involves sarcasm, mocking, name-calling or belligerence.”  Contempt is the opposite of honour and respect.  Steiglitz (2004) teaches extensively in his books and videos on the need for husbands to honour their wives daily, which he defines as ‘adding value’ and ‘putting them first above our other priorities’.  He also emphasizes the need for wives to respect their husbands, which he defines as ‘acknowledging value’ by ‘finding and affirming his strengths in the sea of his weaknesses.”  Such acts of love go a long way in repairing the damage done through what he calls our S.A.D. (Selfish, Angry, Demanding) behaviours that we may slip into when our needs are not being met.

One of the more recent emphases in marriage research has been to study not only dysfunctional couples, but also long-term successful couples. Matthews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) noted one study of 576 couples who had been married for 50 years or more.   The three qualities attributed to such long-term success were trust (82 percent), loving relationship (81 percent), and willingness to compromise (80 percent).

Matthews and Hubbard also noted that the wedding ringsindividualism of North American culture militates against healthy anger management in marriage conflict. They suggest that the way forward is to rediscover a theology of marriage that focuses on the common good, the value of community, discipleship and missional orientation. Marriage, said Matthews and Hubbard, ‘must have a purpose, a goal, a task beyond ‘being together’.

Osborne (1988) insightfully noted that “Marriage is the most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.”  As Gottman and others have observed, no married couples have been found to be free from anger in marital conflict. Gottman (2009) commented: “when Julie and I do our workshops with couples, one of the main messages we give is that we’ve found that really good marriages, people who are really happy, have terrible fights, where they’re thinking at the end of the fight: Why did I marry this person?”   Some marital problems never go away, but the wise  couple doesn’t get gridlocked on these unsolvable problems.  The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.”  David Mace, in Ridenour, F. (1989) notes how the Lauers studied three hundred marriages lasting fifteen years or longer. All the couples had times of anger and marital conflict. The key to these marriages was that they chose not to attack each other, but rather work on the anger. Mace (1986) compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm.  In our DPM 929 Class, I was reminded how healthy marriages and families are foundational to the health and stability of our society

How we interpret the meaning of anger in marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself.  Lester (2003) holds that

“the hermeneutical process is central to the experience of anger. Individuals and communities decide what is threatening as they interpret life situations through the lens of their own narratives – their values, meanings, and beliefs.”

Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the gottman-love-lab-3challenges of marital conflict.   This is why Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) encourage couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning.  It is important that couples in conflict do not give up on their ideals and dreams.  Higher expectations for romance and passion have been linked with increased marital satisfaction.  Sometimes in a desire to get along, spouses give up something essential that actually fuels the romance and passion of their lives.

Positive affect (such as humour or affection) during marital conflict was the only predictor of both marital stability and marital satisfaction 6 years after the wedding. This has also shown to be true for long-term couples dealing with conflict (Gottman, J. and Driver, J., 2004). Positive affect cannot be faked but rather cultivated over time with a series of enjoyable events. As suggested in DPM 929, a healthy marriage has learnt to celebrate the ordinary not just the extraordinary. My wife and I handle anger in marital conflict better when we take regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

In Gottman’s interview with Wyatt, R. (2009), he emphasizes the value of a soft-startup in managing anger in marital conflict.  Many couples, commented Gottman, say to their spouses “The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you’re a screw-up.” Such personal “you message” attacks do not help couples manage anger better. Garland (1999) says the “I and we’ messages of a soft start-up are “the difference between speaking the truth (Eph 4:25) and the judging of others that Jesus warned against (Mt 7:1).  Carl Roger’s active listening model has not born up under clinical research with married couples. It seems to be too demanding to expect one’s spouse to act as a detached Rogerian therapist in the midst of marital conflict (Gottman, 2006).

Anger in marital conflict is handled better when there are approximately five times as Making Marriage Workmany positive behaviours as negative behaviours. Couples in crisis usually only show a corresponding ratio of 1:1 (Gottman, 1999, 2006).  The need for a five to one ratio seems to come from the greater emotional impact of negative behaviours on a marriage. Garland (1998) poignantly notes that “truth, especially when it leads to conflict, must be wrapped in words and actions that build rather than tear down love for one another.”

Another well-researched principle for managing anger in marital conflict is the willingness to accept influence from one’s spouse. Gottman (2009) says “If you don’t accept some influence, then you become an obstacle and people find a way around you and you have no power.”  This is an area that I have had to work on our thirty-two years of marriage.  My wife reports that I have improved in this area.  Sometimes it is hard to recognize our own stubbornness and defensiveness because it may be hidden in strengths like perseverance.  Going for marriage counselling from time to time can be a real strength, though it is challenging to motivate both partners to be willing to go.  We have many couples in our congregation whose marriages have been deeply restored through a willingness to do the hard work of going to a professional marriage counsellor. The particular clinical counsellor that we bonnie chatwinmake the most use of in our church is Bonnie Chatwin who is both a nurse and a clinical counsellor trained at Trinity Western University.  I have been invited in a number of times by Bonnie and the couple to co-counsel in particularly challenging situations. One of my greatest joys each Sunday is to see couples in church whose marriages were over, but they did the hard work with a counsellor that enabled them to find new ways to rebuild their marriages and to handle anger more effectively.

We have one couple in our previous congregation who were divorced for six years after an angry misunderstanding.  The man kept on serving his wife in practical ways.  The wife kept saying to me: “Some day I would like to marry my husband again”. Finally on Father’s Day 2002, they were both kneeling to receive communion and she said to me: “I would like to marry him again some day.” We married them that Sunday at the end of the service, and then remarried them legally later that week.  I have followed up that couple with the Dr. Gil DVDs on marriage, and they are still together seven years later.  This remarriage not only affected the couple but also their extended family and friends.  Every restored marriage give hope to many others, especially to the younger generation that often lives together in a misguided attempt to marriage-ringsavoid the pain of divorce.

 I have seen some couples who refused counselling because they thought that it would be too expensive, only to spend far more on a divorce settlement.  I can think of a case where a successful entrepreneur was so devastated by the divorce that years later, he is still trying to rebuild his life and his career.  Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) confirmed that marriage counselling actually saves couples money compared to the costs of divorce and the medical costs associated with the reduced health of couples involved in marriage breakdowns.  Sadly though marital counselling is cost-efficient, many insurance plans do not reimburse for martial therapy.  Several couples I know have initially experienced great resistance from their insurance company over the area of paying for marriage counselling. Thankfully this was often positively resolved.

Sometimes Christian couples on the North Shore are suspicious of counselling in general, based on horror stories that they may have heard from others.  Not all counselors have the same professional competence or sensitivity to the Judeo-Christian values.   By the time that a man may be ready to go for counselling, the woman may have already emotionally detached years before. She may not have physically moved out, but she is no longer there.  Both husbands and wives on the North Shore often stonewall each other as to whether they are willing to try out marriage counselling. Many men see counselling as an admission of weakness, neediness and failure. I see it as an act of great courage that will reap great benefits if the couple does not give up.  Sometimes just when the couple are making progress in their counselling and the woman feels safe enough to finally open up, the man will pull the plug and claim that the counsellor is biased towards the wife.  “I will never go back to counselling”, a man told me. “We will just live as roommates”.  I encouraged this individual to rethink his stance.  Because many people on the North Shore are wealthy and successful, they are used to getting their own way all the time. Dominating their spouse from a power position does not work these days, especially as women have the ability nowadays to be financially independent.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the work of Dr. Gottman and others who are offering practical social science insights as to how we can better manage our anger in marital conflict.  The irony is that many of these research-based insights such as soft-startups, accepting influence, forgiveness, and positive affection all take us back to the historic Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage and healthy relationships.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

 

References

American Psychological Association (2009).  Controlling Anger — Before It Controls You. Retrieved June 20th 2009 from http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html

Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) Treatment of Marital conflict and prevention of divorce. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 24, 461-473.

Browning, D. & Evison, I., Series Editors (1998) The Family Handbook. Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press.

Cosgrove, M. (1988) Counselling for Anger. Dallas, Word Incorporated.

Cox, D. & Clair, S. (2005).A New Perspective on Women’s Anger: Therapy Through the Lens of Anger Diversion, Women & Therapy, 28, 77-90.

Day, R. (2003) Introduction to Family Processes, New Jersey, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Gottman, J. and Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers.

Faulkner, R., Davey, M., Davey, A. (2005) Gender-Related Predictors of Change in Marital Satisfaction and Marital Conflict. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 33, 61–83.

Garland, D. (1999) Family Ministry: a Comprehensive Guide. Downers Grove, IVP Academic.

Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) Conflict Management Style and Marital Satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 321–334

Gordon, K.,  Hughes, F., Tomcik, N.,. Dixon, L., and Litzinger, S. (2009) Widening Spheres of Impact: The Role of Forgiveness in Marital and  Family Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 1–13.

Gottman, J. & Driver, J. (2004) Daily Marital Interactions and Positive Affect During

Marital Conflict Among Newlywed Couples. Seattle, Family Process, Vol. 43, 301-304

Gottman, J., Gottman, J., & DeClaire, J. (2006) 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage. New York, Crown Publishers.

Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers Inc.

Johns, A., Newcomb, M., Johnson, M., & Bradbury, T. (2007) Alcohol-related problems, anger, and marital satisfaction in monoethnic Latino, biethnic Latino, and European American newlywed couples,  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 255–275,

Ketterman, G and Hazard, D. (2000). When I can’t say “I Forgive You”, Colorado Springs, NavPress,

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) How Religiosity Helps Couples Prevent, Resolve, and Overcome Marital Conflict.  Family Relations, 55, 439–449.

Lester, A. (2003) The Angry Christian: A Theology for Care and Counselling. Louisville,Westminster John Knox Press.

Loving, T., Heffner, K., Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. (2004) Stress Hormone Changes and Marital Conflict: Spouses’ Relative Power Makes a Difference. Journal of Marriage and Family. 66, 595–612

Mace, D. &  V. (1986) The Sacred Fire: Christian Marriage Through the Ages. Nashville, Abingdon Press

Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) Blame, Control, and Marital Satisfaction: Wives’ Attributions for Conflict in Marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 663-674.

Mahoney, A., Pargament, K., Jewell, T., Swank, A., Scott, E., Emery, E., and Rye, M. ( 1999) Marriage and the Spiritual Realm: The Role of Proximal and Distal Religious Constructs in Marital Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology. 13, 321-338

Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000)Religious Beliefs and Practices and Catholic Couples’ Management of Anger and Conflict, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 7, 22-36

Mathews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) Marriage Made in Eden. Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

Osborne, O. (1988) The Art of Understanding Your Mate. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Ridenour, F. (1989) The Marriage Collection. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Segrin, C., Hanzal, A., & Domschke, T. (2009) Accuracy and Bias in Newlywed Couples’ Perceptions of Conflict Styles and the Association with Marital Satisfaction. Communication Monographs. 76 , 207 — 233.

Steigltiz, G (2004) The Five Problems of Marriage, Sacramento: Faith Productions.

Tavris, C. (1982). Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Touchstone Books.

Vogel, D., Werner-Wilson, R., Liang, K., Cutrona, C., Seeman, J., & Hackler, A. (2008)

The Relationship of Physiological Arousal with Demand and Withdraw Behavior: Examining the Accuracy of the Escape-Conditioning Hypothesis. Sex Roles, 59, 871–879.

Wyatt, R. (2009) An Interview with John Gottman, PhD: Couples Therapy and Marriage. Retrieved June 12th 2009 from http://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/John_Gottman#author109


1 Comment

Removing Self-centeredness from Our Marriages

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed HirdJanice and Ed gazing upward

My wife and I recently celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. How good are you at forgiving your spouse?

Reflecting on what makes a marriage work, I was struck by how vital is the gift of forgiveness. My wife, by the way, is very gifted at forgiving, probably because I have given her so much practice. My wife is also very patient and persevering, as I have noticed that often in our marriage, it has taken me a while to really grow and change. The fact that she never gives up on me, and that she keeps on believing the best for me, is a wonderful gift indeed.

A while back, I read a fascinating book entitled ‘Men & Women: Enjoying the Differences’ by the best-selling author Dr. Larry Crabb. He commented that ‘self-centered living is the real culprit in marriages with problems. Other-centered living is the answer.’

Ed_Jan2Many of us enter marriage thinking that our spouse will meet our deepest needs. We then feel cheated when they don’t, and begin to close our hearts. How many of us enter marriage with the view that we are there to serve our spouse? How many of us see marriage as a way of serving God?

A marriage where both partners are committed to serving one another, to ‘washing one another’s feet’ is a marriage in which self-centeredness gets sidelined. What will it take, says Dr. Crabb, to realize that our selfishness is without excuse and that our first job, in our friendships and marriages, is to recognize our selfishness and learn how we can change?

One thing that men and women have equally in common is that we are all equally self-centered and selfish. Little growth in marriages take place, says Dr. Crabb, until we realize that the disease of self-centeredness is fatal to our souls and marriages.

Nothing exposes our self-centeredness more heartclearly than anger. Because our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we have an amazing ability to justify our own anger and bitterness towards our spouse, while simultaneously excusing our own bad attitudes. Being angry at our spouses can be very attractive, because it makes us feel both powerful and self-righteous.

Having counseled dozens of couples over the years, I am continually amazed at the self-deception of many who convince themselves that the problem is their spouse, and that their personal faults are far more minor and merely reactive. Self-centeredness is a cancer that blinds us from seeing that the problem is not merely our spouse; the problem is ourselves. Our culture is saturated with excuses for everything. It is not my fault. It’s my spouse’s, my parent’s, my government’s, or my boss’ fault. A.A. calls that ‘stinking thinking’.

Few of us are willing to do a thorough moral inventory of our own personal faults. The bible uses a short, unpopular word for self-centeredness. It calls it ‘sin’. Sin doesn’t mean that we are axe-murderers or child molesters. The heart of the word ‘sin’ is the ‘I’ at the middle. The heart of most marriage problems is self-centered sin.

Dr E Stanley Jones picture 2Dr. E. Stanley Jones, founder of the Christian Ashram, once said that ‘there can be no love between a husband and wife unless there is mutual self-surrender. Love simply cannot spring up without that self-surrender to each other. If either withholds the self, love cannot exist.’

A man and his wife were having painful marriage difficulties. The wife went away to a Christian Ashram, and surrendered her marriage to the Lord. When she returned home, her husband said to her: ‘Well, Miss High and Mighty, what did you learn at the Ashram?’ She replied: ‘I’ve learned that I’ve been the cause of all our troubles.’ She got up from her chair, came around beside him and knelt, folded her hands and said: ‘Please forgive me. I’m the cause of all our troubles.’

 At that moment, her husband nearly upset the kitchen table, while getting down on his knees beside her. He blurted out, ‘You’re not the cause of all our troubles — I am.’ There they met each other — and God. Each surrendered to Jesus, then they surrendered to each other and were free. Now this couple, instead of continually criticizing each other, are one in love and forgiveness.

My prayer for those reading this article is that many may find victory through surrender.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


2 Comments

Rembrandt: The Prodigal Painter Returns

By The Rev. Dr. Ed HirdRembrandt1

How do you feel about the world-famous Mr. Van Rijn’s paintings?

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is one of the few men or women in history recognizable from just his first name.  Others are Napoleon, Michaelangelo, and Cleopatra.  Today Rembrandt is known to hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world.  Many art experts see him as the greatest of all Dutch painters, indeed as one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

By his subtle contrasts of light and dark, Rembrandt caused the people he painted to seem alive.  Theatre people often call Rembrandt the Shakespeare of painting –for his capacity to probe personality, his compassion for each person he depicts, and his feeling for grasping the dramatic moment and displaying it with moving effect.

On July 15, 1606, Rembrandt was born as the rembrandt-sea-galileeninth child of a well-to-do couple in Leiden, Holland.  While in his early 20’s, he developed an overnight celebrity status somewhat akin to the rise of the Beatles.  This brief time of prosperity and  popularity,however, was  followed by much sorrow and  rejection.  Championed as the Netherlands alternative to Peter Paul Ruben in Belgium, Rembrandt became very wealthy and over-extended.  Taking out an enormous mortgage on a beautiful house, he was accused of wasting his inheritance and living an indulgent lifestyle.

Rembrandt responded by painting himself with his wife Saskia, as a Prodigal Son/wealthy playboy with his latest female conquest.  As a young person, Rembrandt had all the attributes of the Prodigal Son: brash, overconfident, spendthrift, hedonistic, and very arrogant.  Money dominated and crippled much of his life.  He earned a lot; he consumed a lot; he wasted a lot.  Sadly, much of his energy and talent was depleted in protracted court cases about financial disputes and bankruptcy affairs.

Rembrandt’s best-known painting, the so-rembrandt_nightwatchcalled Night Watch, was both his greatest success artistically  and his worst failure relationally.  While painting the Night Watch, he made many people angry who would no longer buy his paintings.  The soldiers, who paid to be in the picture, all wanted to be front and centre. Instead of painting a typical group portrait, Rembrandt created a masterpiece where some soldiers were prominent and others were hardly visible.

Around that time, his wealthy heiress wife Saskia, whom he deeply loved and admired, died, leaving Rembrandt to care for his nine-month-old son, Titus.  Rembrandt had already lost his son Rumbartus in 1635, his first daughter Cornelia in 1638, and his second daughter Cornelia in 1640. Ten days before Saskia died, she changed her will so that Rembrandt would never be able to remarry without being disinherited.

After Saskia’s death, things worsened.  Rembrandt became involved in a very unhappy relationship with his housekeeper, Geertje Dircx.  When he refused to marry her, she took Rembrandt to court and won a settlement. In response, Rembrandt and Geertje’s own brother had Geertje confined to an insane asylum for the next five years.

Unable to marry, he then became involved in rembrandt03aanother scandal with his new housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoffels, whose pregnancy scared off even more of his Dutch customers.  His financial problems became so severe that in 1656 Rembrandt was declared insolvent.  All of Rembrandt’s possessions, his large collection of artwork, and his house in Amsterdam were sold in three auctions during 1657 and 1658.  In 1663, Hendrickje, who has been described as ‘one of the noblest souls to serve a troubled genius’, died.  Five years later, Rembrandt’s hopes were again raised and then dashed when he celebrated his son Titus’ wedding, only to see him buried that same year.  Only his daughter Cornelia, his daughter-in-law Magdalene van Loo, and his granddaughter Titia survived him.

Rembrandt became more and more fascinated with painting ‘old age’, as he felt that it often revealed the most about human nature.  Bludgeoned by tragedies that might have crushed a weaker man, Rembrandt achieved a new depth to his art.  Rembrandt was close to his death when he painted his Prodigal Son, seen by many as the last will and testament of a turbulent and troubled life.

In his Prodigal Son painting*, the essence of rembrandt06love was concentrated in the hands.  When the famous author Henri Nouwen saw the Prodigal Son painting in the St Petersburg Hermitage, he was struck  by the sight of  “a man in a great red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of a disheveled boy kneeling before him.  I could not take my eyes away.  I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic, and the mysterious light engulfing them both.  But, most of all, it was the hands –the old man’s hands–as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.  …”  Nouwen realized that Rembrandt must have shed many tears and died many deaths before he could have so exquisitely painted the father’s heart for his lost son.  Rembrandt  had once again painted himself as the Prodigal Son, but this time coming back home to his Father.

Instead of the rich apparel with which the youthful Rembrandt painted himself in younger days, he now wore only a tattered undertunic covering his wasted body.  The Prodigal Son, like Rembrandt, returned to the Father with nothing: his money, his health, his honour, his self-respect, his reputation…everything had been squandered (Luke 15).  Yet the good news of Rembrandt’s painting was that the Father still loved him and welcomed him home unconditionally.

Rembrandt indeed saw himself as the rembrandt_1661Prodigal Painter coming home to the true Father.  Rembrandt knew that he had wandered a long way, but that it was never too late to return home.  My prayer is that many of us may have the courage, like Rembrandt, to turn our hearts towards Home, where love and forgiveness are waiting.

*The Prodigal Son Painting: http://www.artchive.com/rembrandt/prodigal.html

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

Pecos Higgins: God’s Unlikely Cowboy

Pecos HigginsBy the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Pecos Higgins was born on the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1883. At age 6, some of his associates got him “dog drunk”. While still small, he began to work on cattle ranches up and down the Pecos River. He only had 8 months of actual schooling, but became one of the most colourful cowboy poets in the history of the Wild West.

After two terms in the Texas State penitentiary, Pecos was invited by the Miller Brothers in 1907 to join their “101 Ranch Wild West Show’ on a tour of North America. and Europe. There he met numerous royalty, and was personally invited to have a drink with King Edward 7th of England.

 Unfortunately, Pecos Higgins drank enough whisky over the next few years to, as he put it, fill up the Texas Dam. He married and divorced 5 times, bootlegged, cussed, gambled and shot his way through half a century. He even devised his own six-shooter before anyone in Texas had seen one.

cowboyAt age 71 Pecos ended as a battered, hopeless drunken wreck, lying abandoned in a deserted Arizona Ranch. The Christians that found him said that he looked as if every bone in his body had been broken. Through the practical caring of his new friends, Pecos met Jesus Christ on a personal basis, and was filled up inside with a new attitude of thanksgiving and joy. Pecos never lost that new attitude of gratitude over the concluding 16 years of his life. Here is how he described this new-found joy: “I feel now like I imagine a little hound pup does -When his eyes first come open … I’m as happy as a fed pig in the sunshine.”

The 19th century Cambridge resident, Charles Simeon, once said: “What ingratitude there is in the human heart.” It is so easy to end up as a complaining, grumbling person when things don’t go our way. The best therapy for a complaining or fearful attitude is to switch from grumbling to thankfulness, from moaning to praising, from bellyaching to belly laughing.

Dr. Patrick Dixon commented  that someone who can never laugh is as emotionally imprisoned as someone who can never cry. Dr. Dixon notes that laughter alters the levels of various “stress” hormones such as cortisol, dopamine, adrenaline and growth hormone – smileall hormones released when we are tense, working hard, worried or afraid. In typical office stress, all the hormones are released but no exercise follows and the body suffers. We develop stomach ulcers, arteries clog up, we become irritable and develop a host of other problems – all because the body is pumping out hormones we don’t need. Laughter, says Dr. Dixon, shuts down these hormone levels, keeping them low. Interestingly, endorphin levels (natural morphine-like substances) seem to remain the same following laughter.

More and more research is coming to the forefront, showing that gratitude and joyful laughter are connected with healthy living, while grumbling is connected with diseased living. Dr. E. Stanley Jones once said: “If you are unhappy at home, you should try to find out if your wife hasn’t married a grouch.” Worry, fear, and anger are the greatest disease causers. We need to prune from our lives all tendencies to fault, find, blame and put down others. Instead we need to daily practice the healing therapy of “counting our blessings.”

I would encourage you to take 10 minutes today to write down 10 gifts that you have received in your life that you are thankful for. It might be your children, your work, your sense of humour, your spouse, your parents, the trees and mountains, the country of Canada. Then practice saying thank you” for these wonderful gifts. It always helps to have someone say “thank you” to. That is where God comes in. As the source of all good gifts, it only makes sense to express appreciation to the Creator of this mysterious universe. As someone once said, happiness is seeing a sunset and knowing who to thank.

I am more convinced than ever that I was born to be thankful. Ingratitude is like putting sawdust into my car engine. Throughgratitude an attitude of gratitude, I am protecting myself from countless diseases that could otherwise come my way. Our immune system is a remarkably delicate mechanism that just cannot handle acidic emotions like bitterness, rage, or malice. I challenge you therefore to find out for yourself whether an attitude of gratitude will improve your emotional and physical health. Over our kitchen table is a wall plaque with the words: “in everything, give thanks.”

May God give you the strength, like Pecos Higgins, to develop an attitude of gratitude.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

Forgiveness is a Revolutionary Act

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Cross

 

“Now, Susie,” said her placating mother “your brother Jimmy says he’s sorry that he broke our doll, so I hope you’ll forgive him.” “All right,” said Susie reluctantly, “but I’d feel more like forgiving him, mother, if I could swat him first!” Forgiveness is something that we all value in out families, and work hard to teach our children. But sometimes the message of forgiveness seems to land on deaf ears. Why is it often so hard for our children to forgive each other? Why is it often so hard for spouses to truly forgive each other?

Genuine forgiveness, rather than mere excusing someone, is the hardest action in the whole world (especially when we’ve been hurt deeply). We are all fairly good at excusing minor annoyances by saying “no problem” or “that’s okay”. But when we are hurt unfairly and deeply by someone we love, forgiveness often seems totally impossible. Many divorces occur through a long series of minor and major hurts that never had forgiveness applied to each hurt. If we don’t forgive that initial smaller hurt, then each subsequent hurt accumulates until a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts. At that point, our heart grows cold and numb, and we often doubt whether we ever really loved our spouses. But the real issue is not lack of love. It is lack of forgiveness.

Why is it so hard to forgive? Often it feels so unfair to forgive. After all, they’ve hurt us deeply, perhaps again and again. Maybe they seem to be getting away with it. Maybe they seem to have rebuilt their life while you are still reeling. Perhaps you feel that to forgive them would be letting them get away with it. To be honest we often don’t want to forgive. We want to get even. We may secretly even want revenge. Even “nice people”, when deeply hurt, 1savior+3nailsfind them-selves wanting “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Forgiveness is a Revolutionary act. It changes everything.  The world’s most famous human being said in the world’s most famous prayer “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” He said that instead of getting an “eye for an eye we are to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:43). His advice, of course, is humanly impossible. How can we bless the very people we want to curse?

Jesus once said “with man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.” Alcoholics Anonymous states that change can only occur when we admit our powerlessness over our addictions. Many of us are weak so cry out to the Father and confess how bad you are at forgiving.  Ask Him to make you willing to be willing  to forgive. Confess your addiction to bitterness and your need for a Higher Power to help you forgive. And remember this: the only person really hurt by your lack of forgiveness is you.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca