learning these kinds of things at church.

Every summer at The Refuge we do a modified Sunday night format called “Summer Camp.” The idea is to focus on practical skills, community building, and a break from our regular Dinner Church format. Over the years we’ve done all kinds of different things ranging from the basic skills of friendship to becoming people of radical welcome to non-violent communication. 2018’s camp was called #Adulting–Things We Didn’t Learn at Church and at Home that We Really Need to Know. It was really fun! We had a mix of practical skills, relationship tips, and different facilitators and guests who covered all kinds of ground related to conflict, anger, finances, simplicity, emotions, and more.

In these moments, I’m always reminded how so many of us have spent years and years going to church but have to spend a whole bunch of money and time outside of church learning how to be healthier human beings in relationship with one another. We go outside of church to get some of what we really need and should be able to get for free.

My heart has always been that faith community would be a space to practice things that really need practicing.

Today I thought I’d share some of the short and simple relationship tips we walked through over the course of the summer. No matter how sophisticated we might be in relationship or how unskilled, we can all probably glean some challenge to consider from some of these.

The summary we handed out is here in a PDF.

8 Relationship Tips for #Adulting:

(1) Responding to Requests in a More Healthy Way: 4 possibilities to practice. 

  • “Yes” / Saying yes in freedom. 
  • “No” / Saying no when we can’t and living with disapproval.  “Let your ‘Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be ‘No.’”, Jesus in Matthew 5:37
  • “Let me think about it (and i’ll get back to you by _______)Take time to consider, get input, wisdom, pause so that then your yes or your no comes from the right place.
  • “I changed my mind.” / We always have the ability to re-think something and go back and share that we have to change. Often we can add “I changed my mind about _____ but I am open to still _________.” or sometimes it’s just “I changed my mind and I can’t at all.”

(2) “Just wait a little bit…”

Instead of responding quickly to a text, an email, a conversation, an anything-that-you’re-just-not-sure-of, practice “Just wait a little bit….”

Often times we respond too quickly and end up escalating, confusing something, saying yes when we mean no, or a host of other things that can in the end create more anxiety.

Practice waiting 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, a whole day (!)

Sometimes in order to respond in freedom we need to:

  • Get input from wise counsel to consider 
  • Pray
  • Gather more information that will help us 
  • Leave room for clarity. 

(3) Don’t Assume, Ask Questions, Be Curious. 

Instead of assuming we know what someone is thinking or feeling or why they are engaging with us or others a certain way, ask questions, be curious, engage. 

It’s so easy to use our own filter (usually distorted). Instead, consider practicing a few other possibilities. Start with:

  • Assume the best first (hmmm, hard to do but wouldn’t we want others to do the same for us?!)
  • “Help me understand”
  • “Tell me more.”
  • Ask questions. “I’m curious about…”

(4) Stay Anchored and Grounded.

Part of our trouble in relationship is that we are often “out of our bodies” and completely disconnected from our feelings and go into interactions ungrounded.

Practice pausing and noticing our feet on the ground, our breathing, and what we are feeling, no matter how simple it is. 

  • Two feet on the ground
  • Deep breaths
  • I am feeling…
  • Two feet on the ground.
  • Deep breaths. 

(5) Receiving Compliments and Criticisms 

It’s hard to receive the good, it’s hard to receive the hard. But it’s good to practice letting both in without deflecting and protecting.

Compliments – Instead of coming back with some reason you can’t receive it, minimizing it, pushing it back, criticizing yourself, try:

  • “Thank you!”
  • “I really appreciate hearing that.”
  • “I needed that today.”
  • “It’s hard for me to receive, but I”m trying, so thank you!”

Criticism – Instead of getting defensive or take on what someone says as truth, consider:

  • “Thank you. I”m going to think about that one”
  • “That’s hard to hear but I’m going to ponder it some.”
  • “Can you give me another example so I can better understand what you mean?”  
  • “Did you consider asking me if I was open to feedback before just giving it to me.” 

(6) Better Possibilities for Compliments That Aren’t About Appearance

Think of how easy we default to compliments about appearance instead of honoring so many more important aspects of each other! Here are some possibilities to try. What would you add? What encourages you when you hear it?

  • You’re strong, smart, resilient, wise, etc.
  • Your ideas and beliefs matter.
  • More people should be listening to what you have to say.
  • You inspire me to be a better person.
  • I love listening to your thoughts.
  • Your passion is contagious.
  • I love learning from you.
  • Your confidence is refreshing.
  • You restore my faith in humanity.
  • You challenge me in all the right ways.

(7) Make Good on Our Word. 

Often, we’re used to saying we will do something and don’t end up doing it for a variety of reasons—time, reality, forgetting, procrastinating, you-fill-in-the-blank. 

Part of healthy #adulting is being people of integrity, honoring the things we say. It doesn’t mean we have to do them, but it means we have to be considerate of what we say and follow through properly.  

Some ideas:

  • Consider what is “out there” that we said we needed to do that we might need to finish.
  • It’s okay to change our minds and realize our limitations. Practice calling back or communicating, “I can’t” instead of leaving it in limbo land. 
  • Be considerate of what we commit to, meaning we can think about it, so that we can maintain our word. 

(8) Learn to Both Give and Receive.

A lot of us were taught to give-give-give, that was a sign of being a loving person and also could keep us in control. Others of us were taught to take anything we could because we lived in a world of scarcity or realized that receiving would make us too vulnerable. 

Part of healthy #adulting is becoming people who learn to both give and receive.  This looks like: 

  • Asking for help when we need it and letting others support us, even when it makes us uncomfortable.  
  • Getting out of our own internal spins and pain offer our time and heart for someone else.
  • Living with the discomfort of receiving, letting ourselves be vulnerable. 
  • Giving something that feels hard to do—extra $, time, presence, stuff. 

There are so many more, no question.

But I love that these are things we’re learning together at church.


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

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