Whatever type of connection it may be, this one could certainly end it – this is how the root of bitterness destroys relationships.
Source: Love – Alexander Milov
We live in uncertain times. Life continues to change. Interactions continue to be different. Expectations and reality stay at odds from each other. We’ve got to be physically distant whilst trying to maintain social connection. It’s one of those times where everything in your life is under a microscope from the pressure of the current day – your goals, your dreams, your contentment, your peace, your aspirations, and yes, your relationships.
When things go wrong in life, it can really put pressure on what’s already not so great in life.
With the need to be physically distant from others in this season, it can be a very trying time for human connection. Here are 8 ways to be physically distant but stay socially connected.
A positive look at our great opportunity during this trying time.
I’m writing this in the midst of a world in chaos. COVID-19 AKA Coronavirus is ripping through the world and destroying much of the societal norms that have existed to this point. Affecting China for several months at this point, the spread of the virus has become fairly widespread. As a result, governments everywhere are making necessary decisions with far reaching consequences – closing borders, reimbursing small businesses, and mandating that most social gathering and large scale events not occur, or occur within certain sizing limits.
One of the deepest questions of this season isn’t around presents, lights, carols or shops – it’s this: When will Christmas be happy?
Christmas really is one of the most unique times of the year. I’m walking around Australian shops in 40 degree heat and our country is currently facing a huge bushfire crisis, but at the same time, all the songs playing are about winter wonderlands and letting it snow and the carol of the winter bells… and everyone seems to find it completely normal. Shops are open later providing more opportunities to shop, and yet they’ve still been always full. Our politically correct world all of a sudden has no issue with religious figures or making comments about fat men with white beards.
It’s a time of feasting, presents, toys, traditions, big family
get togethers, lights, classic movies, and love. Or at least that’s what we
feel it should be. When Christmas is working, it works great, and the magic of
what Christmas could be is indeed alive and well. But when it’s not working so
well, you’re left wondering when will Christmas be happy.
Christmas brings with it a darker side every year. As with
anything that repeats every year, Christmas brings with it a magnifying glass
on the areas of your life that are less than you want them to be. It reminds
you of where you were this time last year and the years before that. Check out
some of these lesser known facts on how happy Christmas actually is for people:
Relationships Australia studies report that Christmas is in the top six stressful experiences in life, up there with moving house, divorce and changing jobs. About a third of respondents to their 2016 survey reported family relationships highly negatively affected by work-life balance and financial pressures of the season
A study by Age UK carried up in the leadup to Christmas found hundreds of thousands of older people who found themselves alone on Christmas day, and also who had not seen a single friend in over a month
The pressures of the upcoming holiday make December 11 the most likely day to break up
I think one of the most telling indicators of the loneliness and stress of Christmas are a few of the stories that get repeated every year. The third most popular Christmas song according to the Spotify numbers is Wham’s Last Christmas – a song of remorse and pain about the loss of love in the previous year. We have the story of the Grinch, a child who is rejected at Christmas and for every Christmas, so much so to the point that the only way he can handle the pain is by tearing down the happiness of others. And of course we have Ebenezer Scrooge, a man with a similar story – left alone at Christmas time, with breaks up with the love of his life at Christmas, spending his life angry at the world for what Christmas did to him.
I’ve always liked the movie Four Holidays (also known as Four
Christmases) which is a bit of a humourous depiction on the real state of
relationships at the time of Christmas. It’s about two people dating each other
who both come from broken homes and need to travel to four different places to
celebrate with everyone. It’s funny but surprisingly profound in presenting
what life’s reality is like for many people – family breakdown, relationships
that are unreconciled or have unaddressed issues, holiday-induced childhood
trauma, painful memories, how little we actually know about each other,
disparate dreams and goals – all thrown in the pressure cooker of the Christmas
When will Christmas be happy? When you look at the stats and the stories that resonate with people this time of the year, you can see why so many people are asking this question.
For me, Christmas has been a bit of a mixed bag. Some years have been really wonderful – others have been really hard. Some Christmases I remember laughing so hard I cried. Another Christmas comes to mind where I spent a few hours crying into the carpet in my living room, lying there overwhelmed with what was going on. The magnifying glass on relationships and where you are with your goals and dreams is often a challenging one to confront, especially when the key message of the season is to celebrate with joy. Sometimes, that can be furthest from the truth. Some years would be as blissful as a 90s Christmas movie. Others would be reminders of bad relationship breakdowns, of struggles to move forward in life, of wondering when it will be my turn, of wondering if certain things would ever be different.
I think it’s hard because all of us want to be happy. We want the holiday to be a time of celebration. We want the joy that we’ve been told our whole lives we should have at this time of the year. Even beyond the holiday season, we want our lives to look and be a certain way. I even recently wrote about that challenge of expectations vs. reality in my 2019 In Review post. When you want your life to look a certain way, when you’re single and you want to be married, when you’re heartbroken and you want to be whole, when you’re lonely and you want to be celebrated, when you want your broken relationships to be reconciled, when you have people and situations in your life that refuse to change – that’s when Christmas gets hard.
And all those things add up and start to prompt some of the
deepest and darkest concerns of the heart. If only someone would celebrate me.
If only someone would think me worth the effort. If only someone would give be
their best when I feel like I give others my best. If only the love I give
could be returned to be. If only…
If only we could see that this is what the Christmas message
Lost in commercialism, we forget a little child in a manger, born
to prove every insecurity I feel about myself is incorrect. In a world where I
may feel overlooked or unseen, Christmas proves that I am completely seen, that
I am worthy of the ultimate effort, that someone cares enough about me to reach
out to me and repair and restore what’s been broken. It tells me that I’m
loved, I’m worthwhile… Christmas shows me that I matter. You don’t need to do
anything for acceptance, but you can live a life from acceptance
We think this message is dated and irrelevant. We relegate it to
baby ceramic Jesus on the coffee table or in the Myer catalogue. Perhaps that’s
why we remain so unhappy. Perhaps that’s why I still think I’m unloved or
alone. Perhaps that’s why we can become like the Grinch or Scrooge and cope
with our pain by trying to blame or ruin the joy of others.
The true joy of Christmas is that I am celebrated and loved beyond
measure. A child born to die for the chance that I might live, and truly
Maybe that message doesn’t take away the bad things that have
happened in your life, the rejection you’ve faced, the painful things that
still exist in your life today. I think it’s important that we take the time to
face and process those feelings at Christmas time. Perhaps Christmas wouldn’t
be so painful if we took the time to process things properly throughout the
year rather than spending our lives avoiding them or trying to work around
them. We blame Christmas for reminding us of the things we’re trying to forget,
but maybe running from our problems isn’t going to bring us the peace we need.
Even amidst our challenges, what the message of Christmas does for
me is it shows me I never have to face anything alone. That Emmanuel isn’t just
a pretty name, but a reality that God is with us… if I’ll let him.
Have you ever had someone in your life who has refused you?
Rejected you? Taken your best and wasted it? Given your heart but the very next
day, they gave it away? Imagine if you were to do that to someone who cared for
you. This Christmas, don’t miss this gift. You are loved and desired more than
you could ever know.
I hope this Christmas that you don’t find yourself asking (or
asking again), “When will Christmas be happy?”. In the midst of what
you may have faced in your life, I hope that this holiday season you find to be
a time of restoration, of reconciliation, of new hopes and dreams. See the love
that surrounds you this season and indeed through every season of life.
“And I celebrate the day that you were born to die, that I
could one day pray for you to save my life.”
Through the ups and downs of the year, one thing is clear – 2019 has been a classic example of the constant struggle of expectations vs. reality.
The end of the year is one of the most reflective times in our calendar. Please join me in looking back on my year with a lot of “oh yeah that happened” and “oh wow that happened?”, and hopefully in finding something useful reflecting on your own.
It’s a terrible thing trying to lead a full life while running on empty. Here are 8 ways to recover from burnout.
There are few things worse than having the desire to live life to the best of your ability when your energy is absolutely sapped. When you know there are so many things you should or could be doing, but you’re just not able to do it like you used to.
Call it narcissism, call it selfish, call it TPS – we see it in our society, but can we see it in our connections? Tall poppy syndrome is killing your relationships.
We’ve recently been rewatching Seinfeld of all shows. One that came on today was where Jerry, doing quite well financially, decides to buy his father a new car. Unfortunately for Jerry’s dad, it attracts the ire of some very jealous and sour people who see it as a status symbol and they vote him out of an important position as a result. This is a pretty good picture of exactly this reality that I’ve had in mind for a few weeks recently – that tall poppy syndrome is killing relationships all over the worlds today.
Queenstown is always the popular place for those visiting the Land of the Long White Cloud, but here’s some other ideas on how to have a great time in New Zealand.
This isn’t really a travel blog, but I thought it was time to talk about our trip to New Zealand. It really is a great place. I’m not exactly a world traveler, but I have mentioned and written about my month in Japan going to 14 cities (including the northern most point), as well as my times in Hong Kong, mainland China in Zhongshan, and Macau. Last year I finally added New Zealand to the list, and what a stellar place it was. We went for our honeymoon after deciding Europe may have been too extreme after all the expenses of a wedding (although we’re coming for you!!).
As we grow older and through the ups and downs, we can either let life make us better or let it make us bitter. Are you becoming a cynical person?
I would have to say this time in my life is one of the most up and down times I’ve been through. There really have been a lot of great things happening – so many new opportunities, so many great people in my life, fulfilling relationships and new ventures. It’s also been a time with a lot of other things happening around all that, quite a number of additional life pressures, high stress situations, and it’s definitely been one of those trying times in general.
It got me thinking about how easy it is to go through the hard times in life and allow them to shape our entire future for the worst. Instead of becoming better through our experiences, we can so easily dip and become bitter, angry, emotionally frustrated people.
The greatest issue is our ability to experience a complete loss of joy. Where once we may have been thrilled and forward looking in our lives, we can become twisted by the past and allow a single moment (or a number of moments) to define who we are.
And so I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to look at how to avoid becoming a cynical person. I’ve mainly been thinking about this as a caution to myself, and I thought it would be worth sharing. We all know people who have allowed life to become a completely joyless procession, and have altogether halted in their aspiration or enjoyment. How do we avoid becoming like that?
#1: It all starts with pain
I used an image above from the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. I don’t think there’s a Christmas of anyone’s year that goes by where the classic tale by Charles Dickens isn’t revisited in one form or another. My favourite retelling includes Gonzo.
But it’s a story that’s repeated so often due to its human relatability. A young, enterprising business man, Scrooge is reaching success upon success in life, until one moment in his life where he has his heart completely broken. From that moment of heartbreak, largely caused by his relationship with one person, he becomes a withdrawn, self centred man, who cares nothing for the suffering or the situations of others, until he once again gets to experience the light of life through the perspectives of the spirits who visit him.
Pain has a profound effect in our lives. Pain reduces our IQ, and causes us to make decisions with less than our full mind. When we badly graze our knee, our whole body and perspective curls around the wound – much like what happens when we experience pain in other areas of our lives. All decisions become about protecting the area that’s been wounded.
I wonder what the pain is in your life? What moment utterly changed you, and was the beginning of becoming a cynical person? Perhaps it’s a number of decisions that you made, or that you keep making in present tense. I think removing our cynicism starts with correctly identifying and addressing its source.
#2: Where we dwell
Chris Hemsworth recently released a program called Centr, whereby he’s opened up and made his personal training regiments and meal plans available to the public. We’ve been trying the workouts and all the great healthy meal plans for a while now, and it’s been really great. Another aspect of the program, as is common in many fitness and wellness plans, centres around meditation and mindfulness. It is well known the benefits of calming your mind and taking control of your thoughts.
The Jewish people define meditation as what you repeat to yourself. If you watch any of the Rabbis at the Wailing Wall, you’ll see this in practice – certain prayers and statements repeated over and over out loud, completely given to focusing on the statements and Scriptures they have chosen to dwell on, until it finally sticks and becomes cemented in their hearts and mind.
What do you dwell on? What do you repeat to yourself? Is it wholesome? Or is it destructive? Sometimes we do ourselves a real disservice by going around and around the same thoughts, camping at the base of a mountain of disappointment and discouragement. And then we wonder why it’s so hard to move forward from that place. We have to make a decision to pack up the tent and move forward with our lives.
#3: When our automatic thoughts tend towards negativity
As someone who has struggled personally with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, I can really relate to people who feel like they just can’t help it but be negative or disappointed. I think something that was really enlightening to me was the concept of neural pathways, which are physical electrical paths that get carved out in your brain when a new decision is made. After a new decision has been made and a new pathway has been formed, the brain will tend the pathways that have already been created before considering alternative options. A new decision or a change of mind involves the carving of a new path physically in your brain before it becomes easier for your brain to keep choosing the new option. We’re still making choices – it just doesn’t feel like it.
One time in a time of really bad, repeated panic attacks, my counsellor at the time offered a freeing perspective. He said, “Matt, the reason you’re having these attacks is because you believe that you are trapped with no way out. Are you actually trapped? Who is making you do those things?”. It was a real moment of healing when I realized that I was not as trapped as I had allowed myself to repeatedly choose to think, and that I had other options available. It didn’t change overnight, but there was my new pathway to form by making new choices over the automatic thoughts that had developed. Eventually, this new pathway became the default, and the negative and destructive pathways weren’t being automatically selected anymore.
Can you relate to me? If you can, I hope you will always be able to relate to my healing. You’re not as trapped as you feel like you are, and you do still have the ability to choose the truth of the good in your life.
#4: You have so much to look forward to
Friend, you have so much ahead of you. Negativity builds a stronghold over our heart and tries to stop us from seeing or believing that. We think our best days are behind us, and so we start becoming a cynical person with our disposition and focus aimed behind us.
Bitterness and resentment build and become our default behaviour when we’ve lost our view of a bright future. The Proverbs tell us that hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
So you’ve had to bury one of your dreams before. Physically, emotionally, mentally, whatever it may be. You’ve had to say goodbye to a future that can no longer happen. You went through a traumatic experience and suffered great loss.
But what about the other things that could still happen? What about the good things that could still be ahead of you? We’ll never see the good things while we keep our negative glasses on. In fact, we can ruin the potential for good things in our life by always filtering them through negativity and doubt.
To this end, I love this quote from RC Sproul:
Hope is called the anchor of the soul because it gives stability to… life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made
When you feel cynicism and negativity developed and dominating your life, cling to the promises of good made before you were even born. You were meant for more, and if you keep a healthy attitude, you’ll get there.
#5: Replacing a complaining spirit with a grateful one
I have quite a few friends in the caring industry (aged care workers, nurses, doctors etc.) and was introduced a few years ago to the concept of compassion fatigue. This is quite common in these sorts of professions where care is continually offered and given, with the caregiver eventually reaching a place of burnout. I read that one of the largest contributors to this condition is the negativity, complaining, or lack of gratitude being thrown at the person who is attempting to help. Our complaining and negativity can have a damaging effect not just on ourselves, but on the people around us.
Optimists see: A glass half full.Pessimists see: A glass half empty.
Chronic complainers see: A glass that is slightly chipped holding water that isn’t cold enough, probably because it’s tap water when I asked for bottled water and wait, there’s a smudge on the rim, too, which means the glass wasn’t cleaned properly and now I’ll probably end up with some kind of virus. Why do these things always happen to me?!
You know, I’ve seen in my own life times where I can feel myself going there. When work is hard and relationships get challenging and health things go up and down and life just goes for it, it can be so easy to become that last person, to adopt a victim mentality, to stay obsessed with a defeatist mindset.
But as soon as I allow my heart and then my mouth to go there, it just gets worse. You can’t worry and add a single hour to your life. It’s not from a place of wisdom that we become dominated by all the things that are going wrong at the expense of all the things that are going right.
In Becoming a People Person, John Maxwell says “If you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you”. We have a choice – we can either continually complain about life, or we can have a spirit of gratitude. I love this quote from theologian Karl Barth I read a few years ago for an assignment: “Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth”.
#6: Eyes of peace
As a husband, there’s a piece of Scripture that drives almost every decision I make, that I hold as a standard in everything I do. From the Song of Solomon, the wife of the king says:
Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace.
I think the concept of having eyes of peace is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, and such a high standard to try to live up to. But what a rich reward when we do. I absolutely love that this woman found freedom and peace in the sight of her husband, and I would love that to be true of me in how I live my life.
And I think when we start to become cynical, or we’re already there, we start to see others and even ourselves through eyes of hostility and contempt. Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who sees you through eyes of contempt? It’s impossible. You can never measure up. Nothing they say registers correctly and it’s always put through a filter of doubt and negativity.
But when you see others through eyes of peace? Then people can do like what this woman did, and find great rest in our eyes. Are people freed when your perspective comes along? Granted, we can’t always get through to people, and some people have already made up their mind about how they’re going to be. But let that never stop us from seeing people through peace. And when you’re like that, watch how many people line up to try to talk to you. No one wants to hang out for a long period of time with Negative Nancy (sorry if your name is Nancy, it’s just an expression), but everyone wants to be the friend of the person with eyes of peace.
#7: Allowing joy to be our strength
The Hebrews finished an absolutely staggering task of rebuilding the long distraught Temple of Solomon. Following this construction, they were told that it wouldn’t be statutes that would be their strength. It wouldn’t be discipline. No, their strength would be found in joy.
I wonder what you think of joy? If this concept has become foreign or even one that causes you anger or discomfort, cynicism has likely already taken root in your heart.
Joy simply means my bad circumstances aren’t greater than the good news in my life. It means the damning views and cursing words of others aren’t more powerful than the great things that have been spoken about me. My troubled past isn’t greater than my brilliant future. That’s joy.
Guard your joy. Protect it with your greatest effort. Without it, you lose strength, and descend down the spiral of becoming bitter and senile.
One of my old pastors used to say that unforgiveness was like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. And while forgiveness can be ridiculously difficult, it’s necessary in order to allow your heart to move on.
What is forgiveness anyway? It’s simply releasing someone from their actions and future actions. It can come at great personal cost and doesn’t mean what happened was okay. It means you are released from what you will do, and you are released from what you won’t. That’s why you can forgive without an apology, because you are releasing them of their need to even ask.
Now, forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness only takes one person – reconciliation takes two. It doesn’t mean we allow abusers to get off the hook, it doesn’t mean we continually put ourselves in unsafe situations, it doesn’t mean we’ve instantly fixed the damage that has been done or the flow on consequences of people’s actions. But what it does mean is that within our own hearts, they have been released and we’re deciding not to hold on to what they’ve done any more. We’re going to let it go. It is definitely the platform for reconciliation, but it’s finding freedom without it.
Who do you need to release in your heart today? Is it an ex? A husband or wife? Is it a friend, a coworker, an important figure in your life, an old friend, a group of people? Do you need to forgive yourself? Or would you rather hold your grudges and eventually die alone of a broken and bitter heart? You’ve been forgiven so much, will you return the favour?
Becoming a cynical person doesn’t occur overnight, but gradually, over time, after repeated disappointments and setbacks, after thoughts we continually dwell on. But I think it’s up to all of us to own our own heart attitude.
Do you feel yourself becoming more cynical? Can you see in your own life maybe where you have allowed negativity to dominate your mind? I know in my own life I have had, do have, and will continue to have reasons to become a cynical person, to fail to see a positive future, to obsess over the bad things in life. I hope you’ll join me in moving beyond cynicism and living a long life with a positive and life giving attitude, for our own sake, and the sake of those around us.
How about you? How do you avoid becoming a cynical person?
Mother Teresa called feeling unloved and unwanted the greatest poverty. Whether with your spouse, partner, friends, anyone, or everyone, do you struggle to feel loved?
No matter how different we all are us people – in race, creed, faith, geography, history, whatever – we are all fundamentally the same in that we all want to feel like we are loved and wanted. There isn’t a single person out there who wakes up in the morning and says, “I can’t wait to feel like I don’t matter today”. We’re all looking for somewhere to belong and to find rest.
Oscar Wilde certainly wasn’t wrong when he said that a life without love is “like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead”. If you look around you, you’ll see that people will do all sorts of crazy things to try to find acceptance and love wherever they can find it. And when we can’t find out, we wither, we shrink, we die.
The struggle to feel loved is one that all of us are on the journey of. I’ve learned that there are so many factors involved in how loved we do or don’t feel. And it’s a terrible thing when you don’t feel loved in a marriage, a friendship, by God, or with any other person or group of people in your life. What can be done?
I thought I’d have a look at some of the factors involved in the struggle to feel loved, and what sort of things can so easily get in the way. At a high level, people in our lives either love us or they don’t. At a more detailed level, let’s have a look, as things may not really be as they seem. Here are some things that stop us from seeing the love in our lives, and reinforce the often incorrect view that we are unwanted and unloved. I would like to submit to you that nothing could be further from the truth.
#1: Unloving actions
The first thing that goes without saying that can make us feel unloved are the unloving actions of others. If you’ve been neglected, overlooked, trodden over, ignored, cut off, broken up with, or had someone be cruel or dismissive to you, you’re going to get the sense that you’re not loved. Dr David Augsburger in the book, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, said that “being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable”. When you’re not heard or received, it’s dreadful.
And perhaps the person or people who have hurt you the most truly don’t love you. Perhaps they genuinely have no sense of value for you. We see this all the time in the world of marriage and relationships, where people so frequently use and abuse people for their own gain, say and do awful things, then permanently leave. That can definitely leave scars that don’t heal easily.
The unfortunate reality is that we can do nothing about the actions of others. We can’t control what they will and won’t do. We can’t make a person stay, we can’t stop them from saying or doing what they will, any more than anyone could control us. All we can control is how we respond. John Maxwell says that “life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it “. How will you react?
#2: Unmet needs
I think all of us have had times where our needs have gone unmet. Whether it’s by well intentioned or malcontented people, we can’t always deliver to others what they need, nor can they always deliver to us what we need or want. You’re in a real dire situation, however, when you have absolutely no source in your life for having your needs met.
And this is where we can get stuck. What do you do when you’re married to someone who isn’t fulfilling all your needs? What happens when you’re not getting what you need from the friends you have? What happens when you get disappointed or let down by that person? If you have no other source for need fulfillment in your life, you’re going to feel like the person in question doesn’t love you, or even that no one loves you, because you always feel like you’re going without. It must be their fault somehow.
I’ve learned in life that you have to go after what you need. When I was a child, it was up to others to make sure I was fed. Now that I’m in my 30s, imagine if I was still sitting at home alone complaining that no one loved me because no one was trying to feed me. I’m a grown man, it’s now up to me to go after the sustenance I need.
In the same way, do you know what you need? And do you know how to go get it? Doctors Tim Clinton and John Trent in The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counselling urge people to consider across multiple situations and seasons of life what any individual is capable of doing themselves. Whilst we could be a victim of things that are happening, they encourage proactively going after support, fulfillment, and a multitude of healthy relationships. That is something you have full control over. With multiple sources of input in your life, you are less likely to feel like the world is ending when you reach the limitations in one person or a particular group of people.
#3: Expectations over effort
Doctor Gary Chapman famously wrote and put forward the notion of five love languages. His research which has been well received by the larger community suggests that people have a particular way of expressing love and of receiving love. He notes that we may not always be feeling loved because we’re expecting love in a certain way that other people may not be providing.
I have seen that we can very unhealthily apply this wisdom in a way that puts pressure on people and allows us to build contempt and resentment against others by expecting them to only ever speak in our language. The balance to our desire for what we want needs to be compared against whether or not a person is actually making an effort in the way that speaks the loudest to them.
Could you be in a struggle to feel loved by someone or a group of people simply because you’re obsessing over what they’re not doing, and failing to see what they are doing? The antidote is to live a life of gratitude for what you are being given, rather than bitterness over what isn’t. It’s amazing how much more obvious the love in your life becomes when you’re able to see it.
#4: Feelings over reality
I’ll always remember a time when I was in a men’s mentoring group where our mentor got us all to close our eyes. He asked us to think about the worst experience we ever had in our life. The tone of the room became somber and somewhat depressing, and some of the guys even started crying. He then asked us to think about the happiest time in our lives. Smiles appeared all round, and some of the guys even started laughing. He then said, “Look at that, you completely changed the way you feel in a span of a few seconds. Why do you let your feelings lead your life?”.
Feelings reflect our perception of our life, and they don’t always align with what is actually true. We may feel like a person hates us or those people don’t love us, but it may simply not be true. It may just be the perception based on unmet needs or our expectations not matching how things are. Do you have an accurate perception of reality? If you’re ever not sure, write down what you wish someone was doing, and write down what they are doing. You may even discover that they’re already doing all the things you wished they were, just perhaps not the way you were expecting.
#5: Failing to recognize or accept a season change
People are seasonal. Let me prove it to you with your own life. How many primary school friends did you see this week? How many people from high school? How about university? Your last church? Your old gym? Does that mean they don’t love you any more? Does that mean you don’t love them any more? Of course not – your seasons are now different.
And so, perhaps you’ve had a family member grow up and decide to move overseas for work. You may be tempted to think that means they don’t care for you anymore, but is that actually the case? Those friends you used to catch up with every week no longer see you because you’ve changed your weekly schedule. Does that mean you’re unloved? Of course not. You have a life, they have a life, we all have lives, and we all have things we are supposed to be doing with them that don’t always put us in the same place at the same time.
You can seriously damage your relationships when you expect them to be like a previous season, and especially if you start blaming people for that not being the case. But this is a failure to accept the reality of life that not everyone who comes into your life is going to stay, and everyone who does stay longer in life will maintain exactly the same relationship with you over longer periods of time. How you react to that reality is up to you.
#6: Dwelling on negative thoughts
Joyce Meyer rightly says that a negative mind will never build a positive life. You just can’t do it. When you expect that everyone in your life is working against you, when you obsess over that one moment of disappointment, when you stare at the rear-vision mirror instead of looking through the windscreen in front of you, you’re not going to enjoy your life, and you’re going to struggle with feeling loved in your relationships.
Once again, I think we need to focus on the truth. Does this person love me? Does this group care for my wellbeing? Am I looking for problems where they don’t exist?
This can be a tricky one. If you’ve lived your life expecting the worst, and especially when you’ve been proven right in that viewpoint more than once, this can be a hard habit to break. But if you don’t, nothing good will ever be able to compete with the view you have already decided on.
#7: A self-fulfilling prophecy
When you’re feeling unloved, you tend to push people away, isolate yourself, or dwell on the negative. A consequence of this can be that it makes it harder for people to love you successfully. This in turn can serve to reinforce your feeling that no one cares for you. This may lead you to decisions or behaviour that makes it even harder for people to reach your heart. This in turn…
Watch out for that cycle. Only you have the power to break it in your own life. Is there any reason a person may be or may have been finding it harder to demonstrate love for you? Is your husband closing off because you kept cutting him off? Is your wife unable to get through to you because you keep blaming her for things? Is that friend holding back from you because you always take their comments as negative? Is that group struggling to support you because you doubt every good thing they do?
Break the cycle.
#8: Failing to see all the love around you
Man, how many thousands of people are around you in your life? How many hundreds or thousands of people have you met? How many people have tried to be your friend? How many positive words have people spoken over your life? How many times have people come to see you, or tried? How many support groups and networks are around you, waiting for you to just say what’s going on in your life? How much stuff is your house filled with from birthdays, Christmases, graduations, celebrations, accolades and moments where someone has tried to express their gratitude that you’re alive? How many messages have come through your social media? How many cards have you got sitting around the house with encouragement from people?
You might not have all that you want, but have you looked around and seen just how much you have? Even if you don’t have the relationships you want, look at the potential that you’re surrounded with. Look at that brilliant woman or that strong man in your life who puts themselves in your world to the best of their ability. Look at all the people out there who open their homes and hearts to accept and hear you out. Look at all the tangible things that people have done for you that confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that you matter.
How wrong we are when we tell others or we tell ourselves that we’re not loved. We cry ourselves to sleep because we’re surrounded by thousands of people and hundreds of opportunities every week for connection and happiness, but don’t connect. It’s like going into Woolworths or Walmart and dying of starvation. The problem isn’t the lack of food, the problem is perhaps in how we partake in it.
You may have looked over your life and determined that no one loves you and that no one cares. I would urge you to look again. Allow yourself to receive the truth.
#9: Building a life on fallible love
I’ve talked a lot about the love we have for one another, and the struggle to feel loved in our human relationships. But no matter how perfect and wonderful our human relationships can be, there are going to be times when people let us down. They just will. They’ll lose their patience, they’ll say the wrong thing, they’ll be unrepentant, they’ll be closed off, they’ll steamroll you, they’ll brush you aside, they’ll fail to live up to their end of the bargain. And to base your life on such shifting sand can leave you extremely vulnerable.
Build your house on the rock. See the love in your life that has been there from the very beginning, and the love that will never leave you. The love of God is unchanging and unending. We all have an opportunity to respond to that love. We can be dismissive or ungrateful of it, or we can open our hearts and let it in.
When the unshakeable love of God is your foundation for life, what people do and don’t do won’t matter as much. Yes, it’s still important to have healthy relationships with others. Yes, it’ll still hurt when people betray us or let us down. But the strongest way that life and love can be experienced, shown, and received, is from a platform of living in God’s love.
Then it doesn’t destroy my world so much when you don’t love me, or I can’t see how those people care for me, or I don’t know if anyone really cares. Because I know I am always cared for and always accepted. And from a foundation of acceptance, I am much more empowered to see how others have accepted me, and also negotiate the difficulty of when they don’t.
What will be the foundation of your life? Will it be the fallacy and the frailty of human effort? Or will it be knowing that you are always accepted in the heart and the plans of God?
I look around in life and in all the reading and talking I do with people around the world of relationships, and I see how truly distraught we can be in the struggle to feel loved. I hope that some of these observations help you negotiate your current relationships and help you see that you’re more loved than you realize – perhaps even more loved than you’ll ever truly know.
How about you? Do you struggle to feel loved? Have you felt that way before? What have you done in that boat?
In honour of a significant milestone for the blog, I thought I’d write about something a little different. Here is some insight into my journey in becoming a dog owner.
In the years of writing this blog, I have been truly humbled by the amount of readership and feedback I have been getting. This isn’t a monetized blog, I don’t make any living from it whatsoever, but early on I had been told by quite a large number of people that they enjoyed the things I would write about the journeys of life and love online. And so, Walking The Shoreline was born, and it has been a truly sobering experience to hear from so many people around the world of how they relate to my own stories, conjecture, things I’ve read and heard, and also just the random sorts of things I’ll write about in between.
“She doesn’t usually like men straight away”, she said before we were going to meet up. My wife had owned Jazzy for a number of years, and we were meeting up by Moreton Bay at the start of the “will we won’t we” phase of our relationship. Walking across the jetty, I saw my lady and the little dog that would change it all.
When I was younger, I was super allergic to cats and dogs. I would get asthma attacks, a blocked nose, and my eyes would get conjunctivitis. During primary school, my friends with pets would usually have to keep them away if they wanted me to come over. During high school, I fortunately grew out of my allergies to dogs somehow. I remember quite a few of my high school friends having dogs and realizing as I got older, oh wow, I think I’m okay around these things now. Not that I would rush out into becoming a dog owner, but it was nice to have the change in reaction to them.
Not cats though. I can be doped up on antihistamine, loaded with eye drops, hyped up on Flexitide and Ventolin, and a few hours with a cat will still eventually break me. If you ever want to assassinate me, just send a cat into my bedroom. That will be the end.
And so the famous Jazzy and I met. I was asked to hold the lead and walk around with her. Boy oh boy, it was on for young and old. I couldn’t work out how to click the lead in tighter, and when I did, I didn’t know how to loosen it. Jazzy would swerve between my legs and I would get all criss crossed and have no idea how to straighten out. She’d jump on my black clothes and I’d recoil in horror as fur covered my whole outfit. I tried to feed her something and acted as if my hand was about to be bitten off.
Anyone who watched me for the first few months trying to walk with Jazzy would get a great laugh out of it, and I don’t blame them.
Love at first sight
But it was love at first sight. Not from me to Jazzy, mind you. From her to me. People around Jazzy would tell me, “I can’t believe she likes you so much already”. I remember going for dinner with Kristy’s parents and arriving to Jazzy waiting at the door, making the cutest noises of affection you’d ever hear. The secret to getting in with the parents, boys and girls, is getting in with the dog first 😉
Jazzy was smitten. Maybe it was the warmth of my IT proportioned body. Maybe it was the fact I was just as hairy as her. Maybe it was my naivety that made her so trusting of me. Or more than likely, it was the fact I brought her some toys on our first meeting.
But it definitely became more than that. Jazzy would ask to be with me. She’d look for me if I went into another room. She’d wet the floor with excitement when I came to the front door – a few times. From the first month onwards, even to this day, I have to say a fairly minimal hello at the door until a few minutes in when I can say hello without her spraying hello back.
And surely surely, this little dog won my heart as well.
Joining the pack
If you’re a dog owner, you would already know well that dogs are pack animals. And Jazzy was letting me into her pack with open arms. Becoming a dog owner meant joining the pack, and I think I was allowed in the pack before I was ever really competent at looking after Jazzy properly.
My wife used to live on the opposite side of the city, and when we’d have joint events the next day, Jazzy would come and stay the night so we could just all meet up at my house after work. What an experience. The first time Jazzy came over my house, she pooed on the floor behind me while I was cooking in the kitchen. She did a little wee on my bedroom floor cause I forgot to take her out to the toilet the night before just before bedtime – I thought a few hours before was enough.
But I was in and being accepted as one of the pack. When I would leave from a visit, Jazzy would stare at the door, and sometimes even follow me out. If we were sitting on the couch, Jazzy was gunning straight for my lap. Or arm. Or head. That little dog had so much love for me, and not only was I joining her pack, she was joining mine.
Eventually, I mastered the use of a dog lead. I was remembering poo bags when we went for walks. I was working out her signals of when she needed to be carried because her little sausage legs were getting too tired to climb up the big hill next to my house. I started to learn which scratches meant “let me out to eat that lizard that I think I saw” versus “omigosh a koala noise it sounds like something I want to kill” versus “I drank too much water bro” versus “I’m just going to stare at you awkwardly outside for a little bit before running back inside anyway”.
I also started to get better at the amount of attention I would now get when going out with her. I’ll never forget one time we visited Harbour Town at the Gold Coast with a friend, and I was looking after Jazzy while the girls went in to Peter Alexander, the pyjama shop. I made a profound rookie error by deciding to wait outside in front of the logo. I got swarmed by literally hundreds of people over the course of 20 minutes because they thought that it was the PA mascot dog.
When we’ve visited bigger events, such as the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, or some of the more popular places around Brisbane, I’ve gotten better at stopping every 3 metres for someone to be overwhelmed by Jazzy’s cuteness and go in for a pat. I’ve never been so popular in my whole life.
And I’ve also learned about the art of keeping a dog friendly house. I got some chocolate coins for Christmas, which I thought I had hidden properly, but little Jazzy had gone and had a midday snack while we were out at church one morning. It was a horrifying experience as chocolate is toxic to dogs. Fortunately those coins have barely any real chocolate in them (sorry if I burst your bubble on that one) but I’ve now learned the formula for calculating the toxicity of a particular substance to a dog. Muesli snacks, fruit, ear plugs, it’s all fair game in dog and war, and Jazzy has taught me well in the ways of making a house childproof.
Becoming a dog owner
One of my favourite Jazzy moments was at our wedding when she was calling out to me cause she hadn’t seen me that day yet. That will always be a special memory to me because it was the moment I officially was becoming daddy, and out of everyone else in the room who she knew, she was after me… although in her heart I think I may have gained that title of daddy in the first week or two. I have also many fond daily memories of her coming in when she knows something’s wrong, or her climbing on my head while we’re watching a movie, of her jumping on sensitive areas at high velocity because she wanted me to keep throwing the ball for her.
People ask me if I’m now a dog person. I’m not entirely sure on that one, but I can definitely say that I am a Jazzy person. Her bright personality and humble demeanor regularly remind me how simple life really is, and her fervour when she barks at some bird or unknown person entering the domain reminds me of the importance of keeping things safe. I am very grateful she chose to accept me so readily.
So there you have it. My journey in becoming a dog owner. Will there be more dogs in the future? Probably. My mother-in-law keeps telling us two legs before the next four, but we’ll see what order things happen in. All I can say is it’s been a great adventure and my life is richer for the little woof I now get to come home to every day.
How about you? What was your journey in becoming a dog owner? Or a pet owner?
PS. I am also super grateful for all the readership over the years. Thanks for sticking with me and hopefully I can keep writing about enough interesting things about life for many more years to come!