When emotions rise, rational thinking usually plummets.
This is why I summarized the key principles in my book, The Peacemaker, as simple acrostics, such as the Seven A’s of Confession and the Four Promises of Forgiveness, which people can recall and apply even when emotions are clouding their judgment.
Having seen the benefit of these simple peacemaking acrostics, I’ve recently developed a similar set of memory tools for relational wisdom, which I’ve described in previous blog posts. Today I’d like to pull these principles into a single post and share some feedback from people who have been putting them into action so they can get “upstream of conflict.”
To be relationally wise in all situations …
- Self-aware: How am I feeling and acting?
- Other-aware: How are others feeling? How am I affecting them?
- God-aware: What is God up to?
“Thank you for developing the SOG Plan. My husband has returned to school so we’ve moved in with his parents to make ends meet. My father-in-law is a teddy bear and so easy to live with. My mother-in-law is not so easy. She means well but just can’t keep from making “little suggestions” about our marriage, parenting, spending … you name it, she’ll try to control it. There’s days I just want to scream I feel so trapped.
“SOG has been a life saver. So simple and yet so powerful. It’s helped me to stay ahead of my emotions and head lots of hurtful words off before they leave my mouth. It’s also reminded me to put myself in her shoes and realize that she really is trying to help, clumsy as she is. Also to be more thankful for the many sacrifices she is making to help us through this tight time.
“Most of all, SOG gets my eyes back on the Lord so I remember that he has a purpose for bringing us here, something way more important than simply saving money, and probably more to do with smoothing off sharp edges on my character…”
Follow a Trustworthy GPS (God Positioning System)
- Glorify God (Prove he’s the best)
- Pursue God (Seek him earnestly)
- Serve God (Do what pleases him)
My boss is a difficult man to work for. He rarely gives clear instructions, seldom offers encouragement or praise, and criticizes me in front of other people. After a couple of years of this kind of treatment, I developed a very negative attitude toward him and began acting just like the rest of the people who work for him. I gossiped about him behind his back, did just enough work to keep my job, and laughed when others secretly made fun of him.
Then I heard about the GPS principle. Boy was I convicted. I realized I had been looking to my co-workers and my own sinful heart for guidance in this situation instead of seeking direction from God. In effect I was saying, “The Bible is nice for Sunday school lessons, but when it comes to real life problems, it has nothing to offer.” How dishonoring that attitude is to God … and what a terrible witness it was to my co-workers.
So I asked God to forgive me for relying on worldly guidance, and then I opened my Bible to find his direction. By doing a search using the words like “suffering” and “employment,” I soon came across Luke 6:27-36, Romans 12:17-21, Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Titus 2:9-14. I’d never realized that God has so much to say about how I should treat a difficult employer.
It took a while to change the bad habits I’d developed at work, but by God’s grace I’m steadily gaining ground. My boss hasn’t changed (I’m still praying for him) but some of my fellow workers have noticed how I’ve changed. When they ask me why, I’m giving credit to God for his guidance and grace. I never thought a bad boss would create opportunities for witnessing!
READ Yourself Accurately
- Recognize your emotions
- Evaluate their source
- Anticipate the consequences of following them
- Direct them on a constructive course
“My teenage daughter knows exactly how to push my buttons. Even when I come to her with valid concerns, she rolls her eyes or uses a tone of voice that triggers my anger and throws me completely off course.
“READ is helping me to counter her tactics. Before I approach her, I think about the emotions she will try to trigger. I confess the pride, expectations, and desire to control that cause those emotions. I visualize how far off track we’ll go if I give into them. And then I think of how to do a “180” to go in the opposite direction, to be patient, gentle, and in control of my emotions (not her!).
“What a difference in those conversations! It’s almost funny to see the puzzled look on her face when her old tricks don’t work. She can still throw me off when she surprises me, but if I can handle planned conversations better and better I hope to soon be able to handle her ambushes too.”
SERVE Every Person You Meet
- Smile (Home, office, church, store, telephone)
- Explore and Empathize (Show interest and compassion)
- Reconcile (Be a peacemaker)
- Value (Express appreciation and admiration)
- Encourage (Give courage, inspire, put wind under their wings)
“Your RW material made me wonder if I was really called to be a pastor. After reading your Cinderella Man blog post, I realized I’d never learned how to read and empathize with people the way a Christ-like shepherd should. I was always wrapped up in my teaching and agenda and missing clues about their struggles and needs.
“But the SERVE concept has given me hope that I can change. It’s so simple even a pastor can apply it!
“Every Sunday I pray it through before I head to church, asking God to help me SERVE every person I meet. What a difference a little deliberate focus can bring. Several people have commented that something has changed in me. I just smile and say, “That’s what the gospel should do to all of us.” Once I’m living this out consistently, I look forward to teaching my whole congregation how to serve one another better.”
This is just a small sample of how people are putting these principles into practice.
If they can do it, so can you. See below for some practical ways to weave relational wisdom into your life.
– Ken Sande
Improving Your RW:
- If you’d like to grow in relational wisdom, you first need to be familiar with its biblical foundation. To begin that process, visit this page and study the Scriptures on which this concept is built.
- If you’d like to have a summary of the key RW acrostics (and their biblical foundation) conveniently available at all times, simply download this summary sheet and keep it in your Bible, purse, or desk.
- Pick out just one acrostic to begin with, and ask God to help you to put it into practice over the next thirty days.
- To learn more about improving your relational wisdom, attend (or urge your church to host) a Discovering Relational Wisdom seminar (see list of scheduled events). Better yet, become a Certified Relational Wisdom Instructor yourself.
Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.
© 2013 Ken Sande
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