Tag Archive: Psychology


Marriage relationships require three things, the absence of any one of which will cause an imbalance that in most cases results in a failed marriage.  While there are a number of different ways of labeling/describing the three, i prefer to call them attraction, empathy, and conviction.

Attraction is the most obvious and often seems like sorta the ’cause’ of marriage.  Attraction we understand instinctively without a lot of need for definition.

Empathy is certainly emotional but it also includes the concept of feeling together.  Emotion by itself can just as easily harm marriage as help it.  But feeling that is for our partner and with our partner is an essential element of successful marriage.

Conviction is the backbone, the element that provides stability.  Both attraction and empathy tend to have cycles and waves.  Conviction (our set of beliefs about our marriage and our partner that are based on knowledge of them, ourselves, and what is important to us) provides the value system or context in which we can understand our attraction and emotion/empathy and choose to act based on knowledge and values rather than purely in response to instinct and impulse.

It is tempting to try to create a hierarchy or order of importance for these things.  Most religious traditions including Christianity in it’s more orthodox forms tend to downplay the importance of attraction and emphasize the other two.  I’m not at all convinced it is necessary or even important to decide which are most important.  I think the most important point is that all three together make for the most healthy and, frankly, enjoyable marriage relationship.

Let’s take conviction first, as it’s the one most often left out in decisions to marry someone.  What happens in most cases of a marriage with little or no conviction behind it?  This one is obvious and constantly observable in marriages all around us (or maybe i should say in divorces all around us).  If there is attraction and empathy without true conviction that this marriage is the RIGHT one for me and this person is the right one for me or, better yet, i BELONG with this person (which is a very different conviction indeed from i LIKE being with this person – which in the end is no conviction whatsoever but rather just an observation of our own emotions), this attraction and empathy will wax and wane.  And sooner or later the will to stay in the relationship during the periods of less empathy and less attraction will evaporate.  The marriage is very, very likely to fail without conviction.

What about empathy?  Certainly a marriage can last with just conviction and attraction can’t it?  I think we’ve probably all seen (and maybe do see) examples of this –  relationships with a good belief system, strong physical attraction, but little emotional content.   It is true, but quite painful, that marriages can survive in this condition for a long time.  However, no one with much sense would describe such a relationship as successful.  More like, painful and distant.  And in most cases like this, one or the other partner eventually will get to the point where the lack of empathy overwhelms the conviction and attraction put together and . . . it’s over.  Or, what is probably more common, the lack of empathy can very easily lead to an attenuation of the attraction as well (since our bodies are directly effected by our emotions).

Finally, can a marriage be healthy with just conviction and empathy with no attraction?  How to put this delicately . . . this is a healthy friendship relationship but it isn’t a healthy marriage.  With all due respect to the puritans in my spiritual heritage, why get married at all if attraction is irrelevant?  Friendship in marriage is essential, vital.   But marriage is also supposed to be more than friendship.

Healthy marriage is one-ness.  Oneness of mind, soul AND body.  Trying to take any two of those three and be one in just those areas while leaving the other element out creates an imbalance or gap in the marriage relationship and prevents it from being all it can and should be for both partners.

So, assuming you buy all of the above, what can be done if any one of the elements is weak or missing? – That will be Part 2 of this topic.

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“I had a good day”

In our home group we’re in a chapter in the book “Renovation of the Heart” that deals with the importance of thinking, thinking well, and thinking in a disciplined manner.  It seems obvious but is worth restating – right thinking produces health and goodness while wrong thinking harms us and ultimately those around us.  If we want to be whole and live effectively we can’t get there without some effort invested in examining and realigning what we think.

One idea in particular came up in the group discussion (thanks Michelle!) which is so powerful that it bears re-emphasis, and I also wanted to share it with my Christian family at large:

When you get to the end of a day how do you THINK about whether you had a good day or a bad day? Think about it.

What is a good day?

What is a bad day?

When you or I say “I had a good day” or “I had a bad day” what do we mean? Let me offer a couple alternative ways of thinking about what makes a good day.

“Good Day” Option 1

I had a good day today because:

  • I got a lot done that I wanted to get done
  • Someone was kind to me
  • Someone encouraged me
  • Someone important to me did ‘well’ in some way
  • My favorite cause, team, political party, etc. ‘won’
  • I got to spend time doing what I like/enjoy
  • There was no stress
  • I had no pain
  • I got to spend time with people I like
  • I didn’t have to spend time with people I don’t like
  • Things went according to my plans

Now that would be a good day!  Seriously.  Isn’t that what we THINK about when we think about a good day?  Now . . . here’s an alternative.

“Good Day” Option 2

I had a good day today because:

  • I was alert for and took the opportunities I had to encourage others
  • I was alert for and took the opportunities I had to point people to Jesus
  • I spent the day WITH God not just FOR God; walking with him, talking with him, following his direction
  • The kingdom of God is more real today in my life and in the lives of those I interacted with
  • I had the privilege of suffering and self-sacrifice for a cause that is worth it
  • I had the privilege of really touching the life of another person today
  • I had the privilege of crying with someone else who is in pain today
  • I took the opportunity to rejoice with someone else’s victory today
  • I praised God today
  • The grace and power of God broke down the walls between me and someone I didn’t like
  • God loves me
  • God walked with me and Jesus lives in me
  • I know and understand God and my place in this world better today than I did yesterday
  • I was more obedient today – I was a good and faithful servant
  • Today went nothing like how I planned it! but exactly like God wanted it

What do you think of that day? Does our thinking need to be realigned?


Tattered souls

I was putting on my shoes a couple days back and immediately noticed a small tear in the outer fabric near the toe end of one shoe.  So, me being me this almost immediately led to some . . . thinking.  This tear in my shoe is the only thing wrong with it.  The rest of it (and its pair) is perfectly fine.

Now the first thing that struck me about this was – mathematically that shoe is like 99.92% fine!  But would I consider replacing it because of that .08% that is effected by the tear?  You bet I would.  We do the same thing with other clothes:  nice shirt with one hole in it – RUINED, good pants with a bit of a grease stain I can’t get out – THROW IT OUT.

And it isn’t just our own stuff we take such a critical eye toward.  How many of us have lent a hand toward removing that odd piece of lint or hair stuck to a friend or family member’s clothes?  I know I do.  And I appreciate it when someone else does it for me (when I’m not in a bad mood to begin with).

Now, my main point isn’t really that we’re too picky about the condition of our clothing, though that may well be true.  Instead, I wonder what would happen if we were forced to wear our souls on the outside.  We are so immediately sensitive to problems with our clothes; would we keep it up if it were the condition of our hearts and minds we were seeing?  I can tell you that my soul isn’t nearly as close to perfect as my clothes are!  I have this nasty tendency to ignore people still.  I often am more concerned with protecting me than with loving you.  And I have these feelings that it is sometimes near impossible to get to act in any way related to the real situation around me.  I have a tattered soul.  I would bet most of my readers would say the same.

So, which is more important?  Our nearly perfect clothes or our tattered souls?

I will risk possibly offending someone to reach over and pick some lint off their clothes which they can’t see.  But will I do the same for their soul?  I will pay attention to and do what is necessary to remedy flaws in my clothes.  But will I so the same for my soul?  I think we could stand to pay a little less attention to our almost impeccable clothing, and a little more attention to our tattered souls.

Hotel [Your Name Here]

Imagine your life as a hotel.  Really.  Your life is important, and if you don’t believe that yourself trust me for a little bit and see where it leads (kinda scary isn’t it?).  Now i’m going to ask for your patience – this won’t be a ‘sound bite/ear candy’ post that you can easily stick on your refrigerator.  I’m not going to get to the point quickly.  The mental exercise is important and necessary.  Like it or not, in order to see what is valuable we have to think with discipline and persistence because of all the noise in our lives (both from outside ourselves and from ourselves).

So . . . imagine your life as a hotel. A good blogger would give you a picture at this point, but i am not a good blogger AND this is a mental exercise which will do you good without pictures or aids.  You must create the image from your own knowledge, experience, and personality.

What is your hotel like?

  • Can you describe it?
  • Is it ritzy, economy, or some of both?
  • Do you have penthouse suites?
  • Is it designed for the ‘common  man’ or have some sophistication that only certain people ‘get’?
  • Is the decor formal or casual?
  • Are the rooms clean?
    • Are all the rooms ‘ready’ for use or are there some which have pretty much permanent ‘out of order’ or ‘under construction’ signs over the doors?
  • Is it well used or rarely visited?
    • Is it popular?
  • How about the travel site reviews?
    • Favorable or not so much?

Now, here’s a more significant question:  Do YOU like your hotel?
Think about it – what is your answer?
Don’t let me feed you what i think it should be.  Do you like your hotel?

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There are three things I can tell you with certainty about Hotel [Your Name Here]:
1.  You have made some modifications, some of which you like and some of which you don’t like (at least not yet – it’s a work in progress!).
2.  The hotel guests have had some impact which is a mixture of positive and negative (although i will admit that at times in the hotel’s history it may feel like that impact is ENTIRELY positive or ENTIRELY negative).
3.  You own Hotel [Your Name Here] outright, and don’t have to make money to keep it.   Even if you decide to leave the hotel completely empty it’s yours.

Now combining those three things with the nature of us (a little bit of psychology – i dabble), i’m going to speculate about some other common hotel management experiences.  Some of these will apply to your hotel, others will apply to the hotels of some of your friends, family or acquaintances.

Given that all the guests make a mess some of the time, some guests make a mess all the time, and some guests intentionally destroy your rooms, you may have decided that a good hotel management strategy would be to limit the guest list.  How many carpets have you had to replace?  And don’t even get a hotel owner started about the bed sheets!  And some of these guests even gloat about the damage they’ve caused.  You’ve found out one or two of them went bragging to their friends about the mess they made of your hotel room!  So, in order to limit damage certain types of people are ‘off the list’.  Maybe you’re down to just close friends and family?  Or maybe even friends and family are limited to the lobby, and you’ve stopped renting rooms altogether?  The hotel is never full, but it is an effective damage control policy for Hotel [Your Name Here] so it’s successful management from that standpoint.

Or, maybe you’ve decided that Hotel [Your Name Here] is only valuable when being appreciated and used by guests (or at least one or two particular guests) so your management policy has been “anything to make the customer happy”.  Extra pillows?  You’ve got it.  Special discounts?  Of course.  A pass on following the hotel rules?  Absolutely if you’ll keep coming and give me positive reviews on the travel sites!  After all you tried setting limits on previous guests and they just stopped coming.  And Hotel [Your Name Here] isn’t as fancy as some other ones, so you’ve got to do more ‘give and take’ to attract guests.  Sure they do more damage than you’d like, and most of them leave eventually anyway, but it is better than having an empty hotel.  (I’m NOT passing judgment on this management style – your hotel management style is your decision not mine – but as more of a rules based, hard-headed person myself it is difficult for me to describe this one objectively!)

Maybe you’ve decided that how other people review your hotel doesn’t matter, and you don’t need to make money to keep it anyway, so you’re just going to live in it.  Why stress?  You’ve got great TVs in the hotel bar!  And the heated pool is fantastic.  And since you outfitted the place with a variety of firmness of mattresses you can take your pick day-to-day of which one best suits you.  People are welcome to stop by or not at their leisure.  Pay for the room?  Sure if you like, but I’m not going to come after you if you don’t!  Who needs the hassle of reservations, or all that accounting/bookkeeping stuff?  It’s just too much work!  Sure, things aren’t as well-kept as the hotel down the street, but you’re OK with Hotel [Your Name Here] as it is.  And for those times when you’re feeling less OK about the hotel as it is you’ve always got the TV (with 200 channels of digital HD cable), pool (and hot tub), the contents of the mini bar, fully equipped exercise room (if you remembered to pay the rent for the equipment while you were busy ‘taking it easy’), or room service (if you remembered to pay the staff while you were busy ‘taking it easy’) . . . or in the worst case you can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t as bad as that dive hotel the other way down the street – they don’t even have HBO.

Perhaps you’ve received some advice on hotel management and operations from other hotel proprietors.  If you have i am positive that much if not all of it conflicts!  Some will say you need to change this or that feature of your standard room to attract the right guests.  Some will say you need to add complimentary breakfast.  Some will say you aren’t advertising Hotel [Your Name Here] correctly.  Some will say you need firm beds, others pillow top mattresses, and still others a mixture of mattress types.  And some will say your hotel is GREAT the way it is and you just need to believe in the value of your hotel; you simply need to have a positive ‘hotel-image’.  What the heck is a hotel owner to do?

You may have decided that there isn’t any right way to run the hotel, but you know darn well you can do it better than the other hotels in the neighborhood.  So you simply outperform each of them in some way that is significant to you and that can be advertised to your prospective guests.  It isn’t that complicated and it works.  And . . . where it doesn’t work you can always get creative with the advertising.   The right inflection here, the right word choice there and their hotel seems a questionable choice to spend the night in when Hotel [Your Name Here] is just a couple blocks away.  Hey, even you believe your hotel is better now.  My only question is the first one above:  Do YOU like your hotel?  If this particular line of speculation fits you, i bet you any bet you name that you aren’t satisfied with your hotel yet but you’ve got some plan to get it to where you believe you will be satisfied with it.

Maybe Hotel [Your Name Here] has a higher purpose than your own success or comfort.  Your hotel is part of a larger society and you take that seriously.  Maybe you rent out some rooms at lower rates to those who can’t afford full priced rooms.  Maybe you’ve put a lot of work into minimizing the environmental impact of your hotel.  And, since you own the hotel anyway, you donate 50% of the profit to pay for improvements to other people’s hotels and to fund scholarships for your favorite hotel management school.  If this line of speculation is closer to your hotel management style, you probably feel pretty good about Hotel [Your Name Here].  Do you?  Or is there this weird feeling that something still isn’t quite right?  (I’m not trying to put impressions into your head – your evaluation of your hotel is your own – just writing from my experience with people over the years)

Finally, (yes I promise this is the last speculation) you may have heard about one of the many hotel management manuals from one of the aforementioned hotel management advice-givers.  Maybe you’ve adopted one as your preferred hotel management approach.  Maybe you’ve tried several.  Maybe you’ve decided to pick and choose bits from different ones.  (Those who know me will know that i’m partial to one particular hotel management manual)  If you are a ‘find the right manual and follow it’ sort of hotel proprietor, then again i have to ask “how do YOU like your hotel”?  Have you tried to run Hotel [Your Name Here] like the manual says only to find it’s too stinkin hard!?  You’ve probably, if you’re like most manual followers, found that implementing one particular hotel management manual’s approach has reduced the number of people interested in staying at your hotel.  You may even partly like it that way because  the remaining  guests are the ones you’re most comfortable with anyway.  Or maybe you’ve successfully implemented much of the instruction in the manual but find you still don’t like your hotel.  People rave about how great this manual is and how reliable it is, but for some reason it isn’t working for you.  You’ve modified your standard rooms, upgraded the penthouse suites, simplified the room rate structure, and adopted the standard advertising approach laid out but you KNOW that there are rooms in the hotel that still aren’t right despite all your best efforts to implement the manual’s instructions.  Either it really isn’t working for the other proponents of your management approach (they’re fakers and pretenders) or you must be missing something (or both).

Well, if you are truly satisfied with Hotel [Your Name Here] then i hope this speculative journey was a bit useful for you as an evaluative tool for your hotel management style.  Thanks much for bearing with me and reading this far.  What i’m about to say next probably won’t make a lick of sense to you, so don’t worry about it!

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If you find you don’t fully like Hotel [Your Name Here] then i can tell you why (sounds bold and arrogant – i know – but i can only say what i’m told to say in this matter).  I will write what remains without emphasis and let the words that are supposed to be emphasized for you be.

There is one page in one hotel management manual that says simply “First, find the primary reservation book.”  You see the reservation book we use for the hotel guests, it turns out, isn’t the primary reservation book – it’s only the secondary one.   And the hotel won’t run right unless both reservation books are used.  If you look for the primary reservation book (it’s probably buried pretty deep in one of your back office rooms) open it up.  And what you will find your soul will know is what has been missing in your hotel management approach even if you’ve been more or less successfully executing all the other instructions of the hotel management manual.

Your primary reservation book will read exactly like mine.  All of your rooms have been reserved for every day there is by Jesus.  He wants to stay at Hotel [Your Name Here] in all the rooms.  And what’s more – he’s already paid for every room for every day of Hotel [Your Name Here]’s existence. It doesn’t matter that Hotel [Your Name Here] isn’t as fancy as the once down the street.  It doesn’t matter that Hotel [Your Name Here] has some very dirty rooms.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve seriously mismanaged Hotel [Your Name Here] previously.  It doesn’t matter if Hotel [Your Name Here] is unpopular or even downright disliked by the reviewers on the Internet travel sites.  And it doesn’t matter how many other guests have decided that Hotel [Your Name Here] isn’t worth staying at.  Jesus has reserved every room for every day and already paid for them.

And you know the parts to the hotel management manual you’ve been having so much trouble with?  He’s an expert.  Turns out those parts only work when he’s managing the place with you.  There’s no way to get it in shape prior to his arrival.  Honor the reservations on the primary reservation list first and then the main guest assists with all the management tasks.  The only obstacle there is asking for help.  Is that such a big deal?

And if that isn’t amazing enough, he wants you to keep the secondary reservation book going too and invite anyone and everyone to stay at Hotel [Your Name Here].  But not because you need these reservations either for the money or to be happy with the state of your hotel.  The rooms are already full regardless of who comes (in fact you’ll find Jesus is better at cleaning rooms than you are so he’ll occupy even the ones you were convinced weren’t ready).  The budget’s in great shape regardless of who comes.  You can offer free lodging, food, and friendship to any and all guest on the secondary reservation system because Jesus has already paid for it.  There will only be one condition of course – any guests on the secondary reservation system will also have to share their room with Jesus.  It simply isn’t possible for someone to stay at Hotel [Your Name Here] without meeting Jesus because on the primary reservation system he’s got all the rooms.

And there’s only one condition on your part (and mine) – will you honor Jesus’ reservation?  I can’t tell you how happy i am with Hotel Nathan.  After all, there’s got to be something to a place where Jesus wants to stay.