Don’t be alarmed by conflict

Mature perspective on conflict

The key to unity in a marriage, family or Church is not the removal of all conflict (that happens in heaven).

So instead of being unrealistically alarmed by differences and disagreements or dancing around them, we should view them as opportunities to mature in deeper and stronger love for one another (I Peter 4:8). When we avoid conflict or just enable others, we often postpone trouble for the future. God provides many opportunities (through conflicts) for us to practice the kind of love He demonstrated to us (Romans 5:6-8).

The key to unity is a deeply shared commitment to work through differences and pursue reconciliation based on God’s love for us in Christ (see: Ephesians 4:32-5:1; Titus 3:3-7)

Make every effort….. (memorize these verses)

  • “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace” (Romans 14:19).
  • Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  • Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14).
  • Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14).
  • “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (offenses)” (I Peter 4:8).
  • “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).

 Love is anti-rivalry and peace-building 

  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Balancing truths

Short audio clips

Steve Cornell

God is the true Seeker

“There is no God  apart from me, a righteous God  and a Savior; there is none but me. ‘Turn to me and be saved,  all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other’” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

Our common narrative of sin and death was conquered through the merciful and loving pursuit of sinners by the living God. Hear his tender plea: ‘Turn to me and be saved.” 

God is the Seeker of those who flee in shame of their sin. No man (of himself, in himself or by himself) seeks God. God is the only seeker.  Unless He pursues, we remain in flight. If He did not turn toward us, we could not turn toward Him. 

When our Savior anticipated the agony of judgment for our sins, He “knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’” (Luke 22:41-42). 

God’s pursuit of sinners culminated in His entrance into the created world. The Creator, Lawgiver and Judge became man to become our Redeemer. 

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, NLT).

“…you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26; cf. II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Share this message with everyone.

Steve Cornell

What real love looks like

 

What does someone means when he or she says, “I love you”? These magical words must be given substance and there’s no better place to find it than I Corinthians 13!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

Those who practice love minimize conflict because love is anti-rivalry. Playful rivalry is not bad but some form of nasty rivalry is almost always involved  when a relationship breaks down.

A closer look at love

1. Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint in the moment of provocation. God is patient (Romans 2:5; II Peter 3:9).

2. Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care and concern. Love not only patiently forebears, but through kindness, actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness. God is kind — even to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35-36; Titus 3:4-5)

3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in evil rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the envied. Enviers delight in evil.

4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no limelight or stage, applause or recognition.

5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).

6. Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.

7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.

8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and Schadenfreude (delight in the downfall of others).

Love’s grand finale - Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

There is nothing love cannot face and endure. Four verbs (protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres) offer repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence. Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is positive and hopeful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails.

Let’s back up the words “I love you” with this kind of love.

Steve Cornell

Infatuation or Love?

This distinction is worth conversation among singles:

“Infatuation has been defined as an emotional response to false impressions or mere externals of another that have been overvalued or lusted after. By contrast, genuine falling in love is a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical response to the actual character and total being of another who embodies attributes long sought and admired” (Ed Wheat).

See: True Love — What does it look like?

See: A delusional euphoric state of stupidity

Steve Cornell

A delusional euphoric state of stupidity

Emotional attraction is powerful and can be dangerous. It can induce drug-like feelings of euphoria that come with a blinding effect on otherwise intelligent people.

Be careful not to overdose on emotional love because it has a potency that can take you into a delusional state of stupidity.

Although most relationships that lead to marriage begin with high doses of this dimension of love, emotions don’t last long and they always change.

Women tend to be especially vulnerable to this when allow themselves to be in love with the idea of being in loveThey’ve dreamed of a wedding and marriage; a husband and a family. But (I am quick to remind them) it’s one thing to be in love — an entirely different thing to love someone for life. Emotions dissipate quickly in the routines and challenges of life together.

The danger with emotional love is that it can lead very bright people into a delusional euphoric state of stupidity.

Have you ever witnessed this in a friend? It’s tough to watch a friend become overly and irrationally obsessed with another person — especially when you see red flags about the relationship.

The delusional part is often in the irrational thinking about knowing the other person well when you’ve only known him for a short time. Or, when you think that she is just perfect and can’t see any flaws in her. It’s delusional when you let yourself think that you could never be happy without the other person and that you have to be together all the time to be happy.

This kind of euphoric state (often called the “in love” experience) tends to come with a number of superficial opinions based limited exposure and hasty conclusions. People in this “in love experience” typically exaggerate similarities and good qualities while overlooking differences.

When caring friends or family express concern, the delusional lover doesn’t tend to hear them or claims that, “You just don’t know him as well as I do.” But the euphoria of love can move from delusional to dangerous when people are unable or unwilling to see red flags.

Advice – Let your head lead your heart.

Let your head lead your heart when it comes to relationships. Use your brain! Don’t give your heart to anyone until your head has processed the necessary data to tell you that you are making a wise decision. If you give your heart to a bad relationship and I try to talk your head out of it, no matter how much I might make sense, I will probably not be very successful. 

Emotional love is a natural part of human attraction, but we must not allow it to lead to a delusional euphoric state of stupidity. No matter how good it feels, always be aware that it can produce a blinding effect that hinders rational and wise decision-making. It can also lead to profound disappointment and perhaps even contribute to divorce.

Although people who are “in love” tend to think that the feelings will never change, studies show that the euphoria diminishes early in marriage. This often comes as a surprise or even a shock to the delusional lover. When feelings fade and differences emerge, conflicts become a reality. Delusional lovers often don’t have a plan for resolving conflicts because they don’t think they’ll have any. This is why they tend to be unrealistically traumatized by conflicts.

When this reality hits, it can make people wonder what they were thinking or why their partner changed. “I didn’t see this side to him or her when we were dating.” they tell me. I gently remind them that sides to people don’t appear out of no where. Character traits are typically cut in deep channels with extended histories. So either he was concealing or you weren’t looking — probably both!

Remember that dating often tends to be a time when people conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. This is why we must guard our hearts and use our brains.

Someone once recommended that we should focus on becoming the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. Start first by becoming the person that your future spouse needs. This will more likely lead you to attract and be attracted to the right kind of person. 

We also need a more mature understanding of love. Emotional love tends to be more selfish, more about how I like to feel. Those who are obsessed with emotional love reveal their immaturity.

Immature people are not going to enjoy deep companionship in a functionally healthy marriage. Perhaps the best advice an emotionally obsessed person can hear is that it’s time to grow up and stop making life about your feelings.

The emotional dimension of love (no matter how natural) is not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the dimension of love I call “behaving in love.”

This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s based on a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. It’s a daily decision to respond to my mate in a loving manner — regardless of feelings. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.

Most marriages start with higher doses of emotional love and, in most relationships, the feelings diminish with time. When this happens, the key to love  is not pursuit of feelings — but a choice to act in love even when we don’t feel love. And what I’ve learned is that the feelings often follow the actions.

I am not advocating dishonesty about feelings but a priority on and enjoyment of a more mature approach to love. Marriage is not about feeling love but an agreement to love.

Steve Cornell

See also:

12 Tests of Love

“I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!” (Buddy the elf). But how can you know if it’s love or some kind of counterfeit emotion?

Here’s a helpful check list to distinguish love from infatuation.

  1. Test of Time – Love benefits and grows through time; infatuation ebbs and diminishes with time.
  2. Test of Knowledge – Love grows out of an appraisal of all the known characteristics of the other person. Infatuation may grow out of an acquaintance with only one of these characteristics known about the other person.
  3. Test of Focus – Genuine love is other-person centered. Infatuation is self-centered.
  4. Test of Singularity – Genuine love is focused on only one person. An infatuated individual may be “in love” with two or more persons simultaneously.
  5. Test of Security – Genuine love requires and fosters a sense of security and feelings of trust. An infatuated individual seems to have a blind sense of security.
  6. Test of Work – An individual in love works for the other person for his or her mutual benefit. By contrast, an infatuated person loses his or her ambition, appetite, and interests in everyday affairs.
  7. Test of Problem Solving – A couple in love faces problems frankly and tries to solve them. Infatuated people tend to disregard or try to ignore problems.
  8. Test of Distance – Love knows the importance of distance. Infatuation imagines love to be intense closeness, 24/7, all the time.
  9. Test of Physical Attraction – Physical attraction is a relatively small part of love, but it is a central focus of infatuation. (Now don’t read “small part” as “not a part” in what I just stated. If your heart doesn’t skip a beat now and then and you don’t feel real attraction for your mate or the person you plan to marry, I’d call that a problem. In contrast, when couples who are in genuine love have any physical contact, it tends to have special meaning as well as pleasure. Couples often communicate volumes through looks. These tend to express what they feel toward each other.)
  10. Test of Affection – In love affection is expressed later in the relationship, involving the external expression of the physical attraction we just described. In infatuation affection is expressed earlier, sometimes at the beginning.
  11. Test of Stability - Love tends to endure. Infatuation may change suddenly and unpredictably.
  12. Test of Delayed Gratification – A couple in genuine love in not indifferent to the timing of their wedding, but they do not feel an irresistible drive toward it. An infatuated couple tends to feel an urge to get married – instantly. Postponement for the infatuated is intolerable.

(from – Chip Ingram,  Love, Sex & Lasting Relationships

See also - How can we know what love is?

Marriage advice worth taking

 

When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love, but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved, but truly valuing each other, then they will find the path to deep and meaningful companionship.

And, as a result, they usually experience the feelings of love that come with the choice to love. But don’t confuse this order or love won’t last very long. 

For more on this subject: 

Steve Cornell

Love is vulnerable, but the alternative…

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.”

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable” (C. S. Lewis).

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4:10-11).

Marriage is not about being in love or feeling love but an agreement to love. Once you understand this, the feelings will find their place — a place of deep and meaningful companionship in love.

Steve Cornell

The path to great relationships

I often remind people that it takes work for marriage to work. You see, it’s one thing to be in love; another to love someone for life.

Marriage can be a great relationship of intimacy and companionship but not when couples stop working at it. When married people start surviving and give up on thriving, they start the path that has led many to divorce. We must fight against patterns of complacency and taking each other for granted.  

All marriages are tested by the changes that come with life, family and aging. It’s not easy to live well in a fallen world. It takes intentional focus, commitment and discipline. It also requires a tenacious agreement to keep working at it through the ups and downs! 

Can we be honest enough to admit that sometimes the obstacle to deep and lasting love is our tendency to want everything to be easy? Remind yourself often that good relationships rarely remain good without effort and sacrifice. And it’s not always 100 % on each side. Sometimes the seasons of life require one mate to step up more than the other. 

We simply cannot build deep companionship when we refuse to work through our challenges and difficulties. Let’s not give in to a mindset of defeat by a perspective that sees obstacles and hinderances instead of opportunities and possibilities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

I don’t say this to encourage anyone to stay in an abusive relationship or for singles to settle for a relationship that is wrongly matched. Never confuse enabling with loving (see: Forgiveness not enabling).

Marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love. And it’s an agreement that must be renewed often. Of course, doing this involves more than will power. Couples also need a shared vision of what love looks like and how it is lived. 

The best standard for love is found in I Corinthians 13:4-8. Here we learn how love behaves in relationships. Here we find God’s prescription for great relationships.

Here is a love that protects relationships from destructive conflict and bitter rivalry. Playful rivalry is not bad but troubled relationships almost always  involve divisive rivalry. This love opposes selfishness at every turn. 

Revisit true love

  • Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint that rests in God.
  • Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care for others. Love patiently forebears and in kindness — actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness.
  • Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the one envied. She delights in evil.
  • Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no stage, applause or recognition.
  • Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).
  • Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.
  • Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.
  • Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.
  • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and delight in the downfall of others.

The grand finale of love

Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Using a staccato of four verbs with repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence, we learn that, “there is nothing love cannot face” (NEB).

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT).

  • Love is tenacious and faithful.
  • Love is brave and noble; it never fails.
  • Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31).
  • “These three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13).
  • “Over all virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).
  • “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10).

God’s love was demonstrated when he loved unworthy people like you and me. For “when we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus gave us a great example of love by coming into our world and humbling himself for our eternal good.

Have the same attitude toward each other as Christ

The Creator became a creature; the King became a servant; the Shepherd became a lamb; the High Priest became the sacrifice, the sinless One was made sin for us that we might be acceptable before God in Him! (see: II Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 2:3-10).

See also: What if you don’t feel love?

Steve Cornell

Marriage is not about happiness

“Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married” (Frank Pittman).

Marriage might be our last best chance to grow up. So many marriage problems are a direct result of immaturity.

Think about it

An immature person thinks the world turns around his desires and comforts. He doesn’t tend to think much beyond himself and is therefore unfit for the kind of responsibility that comes with marriage.

If this describes you, “Grow up! It might save your marriage!” It also might surprise you to learn that a mature approach to life is more satisfying than a selfish one. 

Immaturity can make a marriage anywhere from difficult to miserable. But two mature people can overcome many challenges and find deeply satisfying companionship.         

But one problem is that many have an immature understanding of marriage itself. These are often people who want more from marriage than it can deliver. Some naively think that getting married will lead to a life of uninterrupted happiness. 

Marriage should be a mutually encouraging relationship, but when we expect it to meet our need for personal happiness, our expectations are unrealistic. To ask another person to make you happy is asking more than most people can deliver. 

Good marriages enjoy happy times as well as times of difficulty and sadness. The difficulties can lead couples to deeper love if they work through them together.

If personal happiness is your main goal, it’s time to grow up.

Happiness is a by-product of maturity and good priorities. In a strange way, when personal happiness becomes our primary focus, it becomes more elusive. Why does it often take so long to learn this truth?

We need to change our message on this subject. Some people (even professional counselors) consider it a counseling emergency when a person or married couple is not happy. But this reaction only feeds discontentment and can ultimately lead to obsessive dissatisfaction and perhaps even depression.

Is it possible that the people in our lives are not there to revolve around our felt needs? Happiness is discovered when people decide to be responsible and to serve others more than themselves.          

To experience satisfying companionship, we must think more maturely about marriage. Pittman wisely noted that,

“Marriage is not about being in love. It is about the agreement to love one another. Love is an active, transitive verb. It is something married grown-ups do no matter how they feel. It is nice when married people are in love with one another, but if they are loving enough to one another, that magic may catch fire again.”

One of the greatest obstacles to maturity is this cultural obsession with personal happiness as a fundamental right – if not a sign of true mental health.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting we become stoic realists who are skeptical of pleasure and enjoyment. I am recommending that true and lasting pleasure come from a refusal to treat felt needs as the highest priorities of life.

Life can be hard and discouraging. To be satisfied in life and marriage, we must be mature. Selfishness is consistently listed as a primary reason marriage dissolves. It is a sure sign of immaturity.

But self-giving love enriches marriage. Jesus Christ set the supreme example of this love and the New Testament challenges us to follow his example.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phil. 2:3-5).  

A good marriage can’t be experienced without a grown-up perspective from both husband and wife. Selfish and childish tendencies must be acknowledged and conquered.

When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved but valuing each other, then they will more likely find the path to deep and meaningful companionship. And (as an added benefit), they usually experience the feelings of love that come with the choice to love.

Steve Cornell

 

See: A closer look at marriage and To love and to cherish