The Curries

The Curries
Keith and Patricia

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RELATIONSHIPS: Resolve conflicts now, today, asap!!!

“Are we clear?”

We learned to ask this question of one another early in our marriage. We were checking to see if there were any hurts or offenses that conflicted our relationship. I admit it; I was a clueless oaf when it came to relating to a woman. I was selfish; I did not mean to be, but I was. I just didn’t get it. I would offend and never know it. This relationship question moved our marriage a giant step forward, because we agreed to ask it every day.

Even today, I am something of an oaf, but I am a nicer oaf.

When we began to raise our children, a whole new set of wills entered our home and they were often in conflict. Although most conflicts were small and probably insignificant, they were real. They disrupted the peace in our home when they were not addressed. When these conflicts finally surfaced, we often realized that we were dealing with an issue that might be days or even weeks old. Our children simply did not know how to resolve their problems with one another.

Patricia discovered this passage about Moses in Exodus 18:12-24. Verse 16 is the key: “Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws." Patricia saw that Moses took time to stop and settle disputes; she realized that she needed to do the same thing as the mother of this small tribe. It gave Moses an opportunity to teach God’s decrees and laws; and it would do the same for her with our children.

Here are four things we tried to get across:

1) Relationships became top priority! Everything stopped in order to make relationships right. If we had to be late, we were late. If dinner got cold, it got cold. Relationships came first.

2) Ask and extend forgiveness: Say, “Will you forgive me?” We insisted on this principle that Jesus taught. If you offend, go and clear it up. If someone asks forgiveness, forgive. This is God’s way, and it is a blessed way. (Now that our children are older—14 to 25—we are seeing the fruit of training them to take the time to ask and receive forgiveness.)

3) You can be right but not righteous. We approached righteousness as a relationship word: being in right relationship with God, people, and things. We learned that a person can be right and yet hurt others with his words. Damage could be done in the name of “being right.” We could not change what was right or wrong, but we could seek to be right in a context of humility and consideration of others.

4) Punishing the guilty brought resolution. There is something cleansing about punishment. Proverbs 20:30 is pretty clear about this: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” When someone offended and no punishment was carried out, the offended one had no sense of justice being done. The guilty person knew that the issue was not resolved because there was no closure. An appropriate punishment coupled with forgiveness brought closure to an offense.

Some suggestions:

Bickering—We separated them for a limited time and gave them individual things to do like reading, playing alone, or practicing piano. We found this more productive than time-out. Before allowing them to come back together, we made sure issues were resolved.

Hurtful words—If sweet things did not come out of their mouths, sweet things were not allowed to go in (no treats or desserts).

Hitting, kicking, harmful play—We simply spanked them and then worked through the forgiveness issues.

In all of the above, we took time to explain, to use scripture, to ask and extend forgiveness.

A balancing truth: My mom was visiting with us once and she shared this bit of wisdom with us, “You don’t have to see everything. Let them work some things out themselves.” After you have trained them, give them room to work things out. Then you become the place of appeal: less hands-on but nearby for counsel.

Ephesians 4:26 encouraged us with this admonition and summarized what we wanted to teach our children: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

Resolve it now, today, asap!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Relationships: Valuing the individual

Patrick loved to scare the beejeevies out of the younger siblings. He would just hide around a corner, wait until they came unsuspectingly near, and then he would jump out yelling and screaming, arms waving, tongue flapping. If he could intensify the effect with a costume of some kind, he liked that even better. What fun! For Patrick. But we saw our little ones becoming scared in our own home. So I had to stop Patrick and explain to him that we wanted home to be a safe, secure place --for everyone--all the time. To his credit, he understood and still remembers that conversation.

We value one another for one foundational reason: We are each made in the image of God. Each of us, adult or child, is made in God’s image. This is why we value our children. This is why we value the unborn, the aged, and the infirm. This incredible value of being in the likeness of God should define our interactions with our children.

Following are some ways that we tried to reflect the value of the individual in our home.

We insisted on supporting one another in recitals, sports events, and programs. We would all go, watch, listen, and later discuss our favorite parts of each event.

Children have to be trained. When it comes to manners, good habits, and awareness of others, they just don’t come pre-programmed. Our human default system tends to be self-centered, not “other-centered.” We took time to explain how to treat adults, how to treat one another, how to get along, how to work things out (more on this next week).

The book of Proverbs became a key training manual for our family. We read ten verses together most nights before bedtime. We asked each person to pick the one they liked the best. Often we would find verses that spoke to events of that day. Then we could talk about them and apply them to our relationships. This helped us as parents just as much as it did the kids. The light would come on for Patricia and me as we would read with the children this wisdom from Proverbs. Here is an example:

He who isolates himself seeks his own desire. (Prov. 18:1)

A child left to himself is a shame to his mother. (Prov. 29:15)

So we insisted that the kids could not shut themselves in their rooms without a good reason. Home was a place to be open, not a place to hide.

We did not send them to their rooms for punishment. Since humans have a default system that is a self-centered perspective, anything that crossed their wills would probably be interpreted negatively. They needed a higher interpretation given by someone older and wiser--namely, their parents. Then we insisted on walking out the higher perspective.

Yes, we imposed our God-honoring values on our children.

To balance our intentional openness to one another, we tried to demonstrate a respect for privacy. We insisted that closed doors could only be opened from the inside after someone knocked. This applied to all of us on both sides of the door. (There were exceptions).

Each child had his day to lead us at the table. He/she would choose a scripture for us all to say or a song for us to sing, and then he/she would say the blessing over the meal.

Patricia would do something special with them on their birthdate each month.

We made a place for their friends in our home and in our activities.

We tried to find a way to celebrate their successes. (Ice cream was a key).

We listened. (Patricia is better at this than I am).

We helped with school work. (Still do).

We got them engaged in wholesome activities outside the home. (We arbitrarily chose eight years old as a time to begin this).

Here is the key: We realized that actions speak louder than words. We attempted to communicate to our children by our deeds as well as by our words that they were important. Words without deeds are flattering but deceptive. Actions tell the truth.

Are your children valuable? Act on it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Relationships: Be intentional

I came from a family where relationships seemed to come easily. Dad was fun, a prankster, a storyteller, one who loved family and people. He was a crowd pleaser and loved to make people laugh. Sometimes Mom would be the object of his teasing. Mom would be hurt; but she was also understanding, big-hearted, and forgiving. Things looked easy because Mom made it look easy, even though I am sure that there were times when it was very difficult.

I grew up thinking teasing, joking, and pranking were part of life, part of relationship. It was one way I related to my brother and sister as we grew up.

Patricia‘s story was different. Growing up in a multi-cultural family, she experienced many misunderstandings with her parents on one hand and with her culture on the other. She had been laughed at many times and didn’t understand why. Consequently, many of her relationships were filled with pain and conflict while she longed for acceptance and stability.

It was just a joke!?!

Patricia and I had been dating long enough that we had begun discussing marriage. I thought it was time to play a joke on her, you know, “include her in the family.” So I drafted everyone in the crowd to go along. Simple plan: At lunch, when she picked up her glass to drink, everyone would clap. When she set her glass down to clap, everyone would stop. It would be impossible for her to join in, she would catch on after a while, everyone would have a good laugh. . .at her expense.

I had used this in college more than once and it had worked wonderfully. But this time, it did not go so well.

Patricia caught it on the first attempt. She looked at me and said, “Is this your doing? If it is, we have to have a talk.”

Our talk went something like this.

Patricia said, “Do you believe a husband should honor his wife?”

“Of course,” I agreed.

“Is this your idea of honor?” she asked.

I mumbled something incoherent.

“If this is your way of treating a wife and honoring her, then any discussion of marriage can end today.” End of discussion.

Obviously, we worked things out

In coming to know Jesus Christ personally, Patricia had built new skills and attitudes that fostered whole, trusting relationships. Out of her own history she brought into our marriage this guiding principle: Relationships are intentionally built, not lightly, not accidentally, but intentionally.

When she read the following verse from Proverbs 14:1, she saw it as a relationship verse.

The wise woman builds her house
The foolish tears it down with her own hands.

When Patricia and I married and began our family, we were very different from one another. We each brought our set of relational defaults into our home, but we agreed that God’s word would be our standard for ourselves and for our children. We believed that God should show in our family relationships and that our default systems would have to change. We found that we had to intentionally build on God’s word, not the faults nor defaults of our past. So. . .

We held up the standard; we spoke it, yelled it, shouted it, checked it, adjusted, asked forgiveness, and started over. . .many times.

We believe that YOU can build relationships according to God’s word. You just won’t drift into good relationships; that isn’t where the current will take you. You will have to swim upstream. Good relationships take work, hard work.

When your children are grown, the relationships you have built with them will be all you have. Your investments of training, correcting, and loving them will reap a harvest of lifelong friendship. First children, then friends.