What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a role model?
Most people will answer that a role model is someone they can look up to, someone whose behavior serves to lead others towards living a better life-or in the case of a negative role model, behavior that serves as a life lesson on what not to do moving forward. Celebrities, athletes, clergy, parent/caregiver, friend, super heroes are just a few places one can look to find role models. Listen to a conversation on the playground, in a church group, classroom or family dinner and you will likely hear kids dropping names and stats of current day "heroes" from the latest YouTube star to MVP's of the year. A quick internet search of the term good role models reveals post after post; 12 Best Female Role Models, Top 15 Athletes, Celebrity Role Models, Top Ten Role Models For Kids, Parents As Role Models...
Let's consider parents as role models for just a minute. When raising a child, whether you are biological parents, foster parents or temporary guardians, children are watching and learning how to maneuver life's obstacles by how they see you reacting and responding, especially how you treat one another. Truth is, as with any other role model, this can have either a positive or negative effect on children. Whether we want to admit it or not, we learn how to be in relationship with others by watching how our parents (or caregivers) co-exist. Research shows that children repeat the patterns and behaviors they saw while growing up- in their own relationships simply because it may be all they know.
I witnessed a lot of broken relationships growing up, including my parents who divorced while I was in grade school. But I also had the chance to see another side thanks to the parents of my best childhood friend. I spent a great deal of time in their home growing up and despite how young I was I was more than aware of how things were different. I saw the smiles that were exchanged, the loving glances, the grace that was extended. I heard how they spoke gently to one another and about each other. They lived and loved for the benefit of their growing family. For years I held on to that, it was a reminder of what was possible in a healthy strong marriage, my 'couple role model' if you will.
Couple role models or marriage mentors share a desire to help others grow and learn ways to work through everyday issues, communicate more clearly, find direction when stress or conflict has made the path less clear and they can provide hope and wisdom to couples at different stages of their relationship. Mentors aren't emotionally attached to a couple making it easier to be objective, seeing things from a different perspective, even being aware of strengths within the relationship that just need a little light shed on them, opening up a space for growth. No relationship or marriage is perfect but with the right tools and a great support system even good marriages can become greater. And what a great gift of positive role modeling that can provide for your children.
Who has been a couple role model in your life and how have they helped you create love and harmony in your relationship or marriage? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
I had a conversation with a couple recently who were looking to renew and sharpen some relationship skills. In getting to know them a little bit they shared stories about how they met, dating and of course how they came to be where they are today. One particular story stood out. Perhaps not the story so much but what wasn't spoken revealed quite a bit. They brought up the vacations they used to take together, yearly trips to exotic locations. I sat quietly, listening and watching, as they shared about resorts, beaches, islands-their faces lit up and the subtle distance in their eyes suggested that in their minds they were each back in those places, at least in their minds.
As quickly as they relished in the details of quite obviously wonderful times for both of them a silence began to take over as the memories faded away. When I inquired about where their most recent trip together had been, eyes went to the floor, a deep inhale could be heard followed by a moment of silence until they shared that they had not been on a trip together in years. I watched, intrigued and wondering what must have happened to cause this disruption in something they both obviously treasured.
When asked why they stopped traveling the answer was simply put-as they got older the idea of traveling that far from home was no longer as appealing, it seemed more stressful than relaxing. After inquiring about more local trips that they have been on, the husband commented that a trip to the mountains, which would only require a short distance of driving was something he had always wanted to do. "Sound great!" I said, "When are you going?" There was that silence again. "I have no interest in the mountains" replied his spouse.
When you think back to your best friends in high school or college, when you consider your best "girl" or "guy" friend today, what traits and memories stand out most? A quick search of what qualities a good friend possesses reveals a few key characteristics.
Support- they are there with you because they want to be, not because they feel pressured into it or stuck. They are that one person who will offer you encouragement, a shoulder to lean on or will sit with you in silence when no words are needed.
Respect: knowing that you will not always agree on things and that's perfectly okay, you can still appreciate the differences in one another and perhaps learn something new along the way.
Acceptance: once again it's embracing the fact that having different hobbies, interests, likes, dislikes and views is okay, you can still find a happy middle ground with some give and take.
Thoughtful: when I think of a thoughtful friend I am reminded of selfless acts even as simple as bringing them their favorite coffee or surprising them with tickets to see a favorite sports team even if you know nothing about the sport, you'll still have fun just seeing them happy.
I could keep going with character traits of good friends, but these four are a great start! How often are these qualities present in your relationship between you and your spouse or partner? Of course it's easier to consider how someone else treats us but just for a moment, look at yourself. How often do you make these qualities a priority?
As for the couple in the beginning of this story, they were able to practice some new communication skills they learned that day to share with one another some needs they each had and what they were each willing to give in order to strengthen their marital friendship. I've since heard that they fully enjoyed the scenery of the mountains and created some new vacation memories along the way.
To get grace, you have to give grace. This statement jumped at me this morning while I was working out. In the moment it was simply a fleeting thought but it seemed to follow me around the rest of the morning, like a broken record playing over and over in my mind. I usually take that as a sign that I’m supposed to hit the pause button and spend some time reflecting. Initially it seems like a basic sentiment but it occurred to me that not everyone defines grace the same as me, for that matter, do I really know what my own definition of grace is? I know what the Bible says about grace. But what does it mean in everyday life, in relationships with others?
When I think about grace in relationships some of the first things that come to mind is that grace doesn’t keep score or grudges. It means being able to recognize the imperfections in others, forgiving even when our stubbornness kicks and screams like a child not getting his/her way. Grace can be found when we are able to stop thinking about only our needs and consider someone else’s. The simple words “I’m sorry” can go a long way in extending and receiving grace with loved ones. Feeling frustrated or irritated with loved ones happens, people make mistakes, life is busier than ever, there are days when keeping it all together feels like a huge undertaking and our spouse takes the brunt of it, we are all so far from perfect in this world. But this is another one of those times when I am compelled to share the sometimes overlooked detail that relationships are not one sided, they are multi-sided, a combination of more than one persons feelings, emotions, ideas, experiences, wants, needs, expectations…relationships are living breathing systems that are constantly changing and that change requires a great deal of flexibility, self-reflection, love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, laughter, desire- grace.
There’s this bigger picture around grace that involves accountability. When we’re caught up in a moment, distracted by a crisis or dealing with overwhelming emotions it is hard to see a bigger picture, usually those moments are when we are focused with a narrow view of what is immediately in front of us but what happens when you are able to take a step backwards out of that frame of mind and scan the landscape of your relationships. How good have you been at extending grace to others, whether they deserve it or not in your mind? I know it’s not an easy task but in those moments when it feels like it is not being extended to us, when we so desperately need it, that’s when we should hold ourselves accountable and answer that question- have my actions and reactions over time shown grace to others when they have needed it?
To receive grace, we must be willing to offer grace.