Life Lesson #5: Communication is Key


“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”  Henry Winkler

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

You know how they say if you assume anything, it makes an “a**” of “u” and “me”.  Well, I can attest to that; and it all could have been avoided …

For the past year or so, I have been trying to reestablish a relationship with a dear friend whom I knew years ago and with whom I had lost contact. Things started out relatively well until I started searching for answers to questions my friend was not willing to answer. Instead of leaving things lie and allowing my friend to talk to me in his own time, I became pushy in my desperation to get answers I thought I needed. In the process, I wound up pushing my friend away, and he accused me of having no respect for other people’s boundaries. My mouth dropped to the floor in righteous indignation.  “What? ME?!? No concept of other people’s boundaries?” What in the world was he talking about. I have a history of letting people walk all over me. I have a history of letting people bleed me dry … people who take and don’t give much in return. I knew I had boundary issues when it came to establishing my own boundaries, but I was taken aback by the accusation that I have no respect for the boundaries of others.

At first, I was furious.  How dare he! How dare he accuse me of being presumptuous, judgmental, and righteous to boot.  Who did he think he was? Did he not realize he was being the very things he accused me of being? To top it all off, he accused me of having a hard time understanding other people and their issues (something I happen to be very good at, which those who know me well will attest to).

It would have been so easy to lash out, but I didn’t. I realized there was some truth in what he said. I hadn’t respected his boundaries in this particular instance. He had given me fair warning but had failed to explain himself in the process (kind of like someone yelling “STOP!” as you’re driving along about to collide with a train bearing down at full speed, but you’re too busy talking to notice). Nonetheless, I knew by his tone and by his choice of words that I had crossed the line. He was hurt and feeling attacked. Defense mechanisms kicked in, shields went up, and arrows began flying.

Instead of shooting arrows back, it was time for me to apologize. As badly as I wanted answers to my questions, it was not worth the price of losing an extremely important relationship with someone I dearly cared about. The apology came easy. I meant it. I was sincere. The agony of wondering if the relationship has been irreparably damaged … not so easy to bear.

Had my friend explained a little bit about all the things going on in his life, I wouldn’t have continued to pester him with questions he simply couldn’t deal with on top of everything else. Although I’m very good at understanding the undercurrents behind people’s behavior, I’m a terrible mind reader; so if you’re unwilling to share anything, I’m afraid I will fail miserably. In this case, I hurt my friend deeply and that, in turn, hurt me.

Communication is so extremely vital. When communication breaks down, I don’t know about you, but I do start to assume. My mind kicks into overdrive, and I begin imagining all sorts of scenarios. Satan has a heyday inside my head … feeding me lies that trigger my insecurity and make me start doubting and worrying and second-guessing. It takes concentrated effort to remind myself that just because someone isn’t willing to communicate with me doesn’t mean they don’t like me; it may just mean they have to process things themselves first or they may just have a lot their plate at the moment.

Take my friend, for example.  Over the past year, he:

  1. sold his house,
  2. moved,
  3. started a new job,
  4. had his company file Chapter 11 bankruptcy,
  5. had been dealing with an ill family member.

As my former brother-in-law told me upon hearing I had lost my first baby in utero, “How can people pray for you if they don’t know what’s going on?” How can people walk alongside you as you struggle through life if they don’t know you are struggling? How can people share in your joy if they don’t know you are rejoicing?

Bottom line: Talk to one another!

In this most recent experience with my friend, yes, I was way out of line. I barreled my way past my friend’s boundaries oblivious to the consequences. My need to know something made me blind to the fact that my friend couldn’t handle my questions right now. When he screamed “STOP”, I finally could see the train in my peripheral vision. Suddenly the answers I thought I so desperately needed aren’t that important. What’s more important is that my friend is hurting, and it all could have been avoided if:

  1. my friend had just conversed with me instead of remaining silent, and
  2. I had not jumped to conclusions and made my own assumptions.

I forgive my friend for lashing out at me (stress makes us do crazy things), and I hope he will forgive me in time. In the meantime, I will pray for him … that his stress level will diminish and that lines of communication will once again open up.

Two-way communication fixes so much.  It alleviates stress, corrects misunderstandings, avoids assumptions (and the consequences that go along with them), and fosters intimacy and warmth. It may not happen immediately, but keep at it. Don’t give up. A good relationship deserves the hard work of pressing through and keeping the lines of communication open.

Talk to me …

Lori Lynn

Father … You bring people into our lives for a reason. When we mess up those relationships, may we do all we can to break through the miscommunication and hurt feelings by talking to each other openly until the issue is resolved. Life is too short to be angry and upset. It ruins our health and causes sleepless nights. Grant us grace to be more loving. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

When Life Hurts


“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth;

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit,

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

Job 7:11 (NASB)

I’ve always liked the book of Job.  I think it goes along with my melancholy spirit.  I can identify with the man.  That’s why, when I came across this verse the other day, I immediately felt I had found a kindred spirit.

You see, I’ve spent the better part of the last 14 years complaining in the bitterness of my soul.  Life has been hard.  It has not gone the way I had hoped or planned.  It has pressed me near to breaking point, and it has brought me to my knees (flat on my face actually).  I have cried out in anguish.  I have stormed about in anger.  I have nearly gone mad from frustration.  Through it all, I have learned that I am not the person I thought I was.  I do not have the patience I thought I had.  I am not as kind as I would have hoped.  I can be downright mean and nasty, and I have learned to hate myself at times for it.  It’s funny how life can do that to you… force you to see the not-so-good side of yourself.

Sometimes our hearts are so heavy, we can’t help but complain.  The misery we feel within is so intense that it boils inside like a live volcano that eventually explodes, producing pyroclastic lava flows that cause great damage to everything in their path.

I’m sad to say that I’ve burned quite a few people with my magma of misery.  I knew things were heating up, and I knew I would eventually blow, but I had no idea how to stop what was happening beneath the surface.  I felt like I was stuck in a life I had no control over.  I felt like things happened TO me, and I was powerless to change them.  Eventually, when you feel that way long enough, you give up hope.  You look ahead to the next portion of your life and can’t wait until the good LORD calls you home.  I know, it sounds grim; but that truly is the way you feel when you keep getting knocked down.  I remember explaining it to someone once like this:  “I feel like I have two broken arms and two broken legs, and my trainer is telling me, ‘Get back into that ring and FIGHT!'”  I had nothing left with which to fight.  I was down.

I am happy to report that I didn’t stay there.  I sought help.  God placed some wonderful counselors in my path who taught me that what I was feeling was real.  I had a lot on my plate.  (Sometime, in another post, I’ll tell you a bit more about that.)  Suffice it to say, I remember telling my first counselor, “I feel like one of those plate spinners in the circus.  I keep trying to keep all my plates spinning; but by the time I get to the last one, I can’t make it back to keep the rest going.  Plates are crashing everywhere.”  He helped me to see that I wasn’t crazy like I thought I was.  I just had way too much to handle and no one to help me.

A few years later, after my husband lost his job and moved halfway across the country to take a new one, I once again found myself face to face with despair.  I was looking at having to move back to a place that was very traumatic for me.  I felt like I had no options.  Thus began my descent into major depression.  Once again, God placed a wonderful counselor in my path who suggested I go to one of the Meier Clinics for treatment.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because that was the beginning of my journey out of the pit of despair.  The first and most important thing I learned there was that I DO have choices.  We all do.  We think we don’t, but that is not true.

Sometimes we feel unworthy, like our opinion doesn’t matter, or like our needs aren’t important.  I’m here to tell you they are.  Years of squelching my needs to satisfy the needs of my family, and not getting my needs met in return, was a recipe for disaster.  We all have needs.  God designed us that way.  His intent was that we would work together in relationship to mutually meet one another’s needs.  We can’t always give, and we can’t always take.  It’s a two-way street.  A dear lady from the church where my husband and I met explained it to me this way, “As women, we are always meeting other people’s needs.  It is like we hold a big bushel basket full of apples, and we go through life handing out our apples.  If we don’t stop every now and again to replenish our basket, we will run out of apples.”  I ran out of apples a long, long time ago; and I didn’t know how to replenish my basket.

I’ve since learned many ways to do so.  Probably first and foremost is learning how to establish boundaries (and not feel guilty about having them).  I’ve learned to not feel guilty (oh… there’s that word again!) about taking time out for me.  I might do one of the following:

  • read a book for PLEASURE (not a self-help book that requires me to underline or highlight… seriously, most of what I read means there is a pen in the book);
  • go for a 3o-minute walk while tuning into nature (smile at the sun, laugh in delight at the sight of a bluebird, drop my mouth in awe at the sight of an eagle soaring overhead);
  • call a friend to go to lunch (I love to eat!);
  • light a few candles, put on some soft jazz, grab that pleasure book, and soak in a hot tub;
  • watch one of my favorite movies;
  • reminisce over some wonderful people whom God has placed in my path who have filled my life with love;
  • eat chocolate (dark, so it’s healthy);
  • crank my stereo and sing to my heart’s content;
  • write an entry for my blog (and hope someone reads it).

The interesting thing is that, through all the pain, God has been there picking me up.  He has given me the insight to know that it has not all been in vain.  Through it all, He has been teaching me and molding me and transforming me into the person He wants me to become.  I know that one day I will be able to look back and see how it all makes perfect sense as to why each of those hurts was there.  There was a bigger purpose.  Perhaps it has to do with being a beacon of light to lonely, hurting, brokenhearted people who, because of poor choices, find themselves in codependent relationships over which they feel they have no control.  That is something I can REALLY relate to!

How about you?  How do you replenish your basket?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Walking in His grace…

Lori Lynn

Life can sure hurt, LORD.  Sometimes we don’t know how much more we can take.  When we reach that place, help us to hang on to You and just trust.  Trust that You are in control, and you won’t let us be obliterated by it.  Help us to realize that Satan wants us to fail, and he is doing everything in his power to keep us from living in the joy and freedom you want us to be living in.  Are we going to let him WIN?  Give us all the courage and strength to answer with a resounding, “NO!”, and teach us to see beyond the hurt to  the blessing on the other side.