How to Challenge Yourself to Be Gentle

How to Challenge Yourself to Be Gentle

Be gentle. 

We’re in close contact with a little human who is exploring his world. His hands are grabbing and pulling, smacking and shoving. Who is this, you ask? 

be gentle - it starts when you are young and should never stop

This little human is our 8-month old grandboy. If you notice in the picture above, I’m not wearing my glasses… And if you remember what it’s like to be around a babe when they’re exploring their world, you know that they use their hands and mouths. A lot. (Glasses with hands and mouths do not mix well.)

We’re working on teaching Theo how to be gentle… gentle with the dog, gentle with the piano keys, gentle with glasses and faces, and not pulling hair…

But this Value of Gentleness is a necessary reminder for spouses also!

Be gentle with your spouse!

First let’s cover the obvious: no hitting, hair pulling, pushing or shoving. (I’m guessing you stopped these actions to demonstrate you like a girl/boy once you were out of elementary school.* )

Being gentle with your spouse is more than a physical thing. Gentleness also shows up in how you respond and interact. This is important for husbands and wives. 

Here are 10 ways I’m challenging you to be gentle with your spouse.

I’ve listed these 10 ways before, but never went into detail to explore what they mean. Here are the details to round out the challenge:

be gentle with your spouse - gentleness explained iin marriage as a challenge

1 – Use self-control: address difficult issues at a good time for your spouse.

Gentleness chooses to address difficult issues at the best time – often during the day instead of at night. Be a student of your spouse – I’m guessing you know full well when he/she will be able to discuss and solve issues better than others. Control yourself. Wait. Gentleness is strength under control.

2 – Honor your spouse’s free will.

Gentleness honors the free will of your spouse, but does not join in agreement just to placate. You don’t need loud words every time you disagree with your spouse. Heated words aren’t necessary, nor do you need to default to agreement. Your spouse is intelligent. Seek to understand even if you don’t agree. Gentleness is honorable.

3 – Respect shines through – especially – when speaking the truth on tender issues.

Gentleness speaks the truth in love and as it shines a light on a tender issue, gentleness maintains respect and kindness.  You can still be truthful when addressing those delicate topics. But be gentle by using love and respect as you do. Gentleness moves with respect.

4 – Lead with an even-temper in a crisis – remaining diligent.

Gentleness remains even-tempered during a crisis, yet stays alert for possible dangers. Work to keep your tone and pace deliberate in a crisis. Your spouse needs you as a reliable team-mate when dealing with the hurricanes and tsunamis of life. Keep your head up and in the game, but don’t over-react when facing challenges. Gentleness reacts in a positive and reliable manner.

5 – Hugs are valuable. Commentary is not.

Gentleness offers a hug when your spouse messes up, and says nothing. Your spouse knows where he/she messed up – there’s no need for your commentary on the issue. There’s no need to belabor the topic. There’s no need for an analysis or debrief. Here’s where being gentle means not saying anything (unless asked – and then still be gentle –  see above note about respect). Gentleness knows when to be quiet.

6 – Humor can be the best medicine. Sometimes.

Gentleness uses light humor to diffuse tense moments. Does your spouse respond well when you’re trying to be funny? If so, then absolutely carry on…  Lori asked the orchestrator of a blogging conference how her husband contributed in a positive manner to her business – Mellisa Llado said, “He makes me laugh when I’m stressed.” If you know how to do that for your spouse, then you’re ahead of the game! If you haven’t mastered the concept of light humor… try. Get your spouse to help you. Gentleness brings a smile even in a tense moment.

7 – Cover and protect your spouse’s tender spots.

Gentleness protects vulnerable spots but addresses the hurt that needs healing. Sometimes a hurt needs a chance to breathe – to be explored within a trusted relationship. Can your spouse trust you to be gentle with his/her hurts? Can she/he trust that you won’t poke or prod or expose a hurt in an unfriendly atmosphere? Prayer is a wonderful way to cover and protect your spouse’s tender spots. (Just sayin’) Gentleness is trustworthy.

8 – Remain deliberate and inclusive.

Gentleness never needs to yell, and never cowers or whimpers. You don’t need to be autocratic, nor do you need to be deferential. It’s not an either/or situation. Marriage is a team sport where you use your strengths to enhance each other’s life. Yelling is not a strength. Neither is passivity. Avoid either end of the spectrum and include your spouse’s strengths with yours… deliberately. Gentleness is comprehensive.

9 – Ask Questions. Live Grace. Always.

Gentleness takes its time to consider all the facts, but is quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Study the life of Jesus. When challenged He often responded with a question. He didn’t judge, rather extended grace. His strength and stamina are indisputable, yet Jesus would be the first example of Gentleness I’d use. Exercise your ability to ask for and extend forgiveness. (We recommend the book by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas on this topic.) Gentleness approaches conflict with grace.

10 – Gentleness is unspoken, yet evident.

Gentleness remains ever present, even if it’s never acknowledged. True gentleness isn’t weak. It isn’t wishy-washy. It isn’t dependent on circumstance or person. True gentleness is strength under control. (Yes. I said that already. But it’s true. And you can’t speak truth enough.)

Husbands and Wives:

Don’t think this Value is good just for husbands toward their wife… These ten aspects of gentleness are as true for one as they are for the other.  As a husband, I know that I appreciate the value of gentleness in our marriage as much as Lori does. Husbands and wives: Be gentle with each other! Your life together is precious.

Challenge Yourself to be GENTLE with your spouse - here are 10 specific ways.


*This post is skating closely on the line where abuse might be found. Sometimes wives and husbands (yes, husbands!) are in abusive and violent relationships with their spouse. Abusive in word and deed. If you are being belittled, yelled at, cursed, or hit, shoved, pulled, or pushed you need to seek help now. Abuse is about power and control – not of oneself, but of someone else. If you don’t feel safe in your relationship – reach out and connect with The National Domestic Hotline at — and if your internet usage is being monitored, then call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), — help is available 24/7. Don’t wait. Consider the action of reaching out for help as your first step toward being gentle with yourself.

Zeal for Something Greater Than You

Zeal for Something Greater Than You

Zeal – excessive fervor; strong eagerness; and readiness.  It’s kind of an old-fashioned (maybe even Biblical) word.

Maybe today we’d refer to this Value word as “filled with passion”.

Consider the many men and women celebrated for accomplishing something great, for being willing to stand up against the crowd, for fighting for what they believed. They generally ran the edge of being fanatical – but there’s no doubt that they had a great deal of zeal – or passion – for their cause.

In many instances, those individuals are only acknowledged and honored posthumously.

People filled with Passion… or Zeal

History tells stories of many individuals – and couples – who are now honored for what they accomplished and the difference they made and continues to affect us today.

The Value of Zeal

As a differentiating value, Zeal has three parts: excessive fervor; strong eagerness; and readiness.

The first part of this value refers to intense passion or emotion. This is what most people associate with zeal.

The second part – eagerness – deals with a combination of anticipation and focus. It’s like the night before Christmas for a child, or the teenager sitting behind the wheel of the car, ready to drive alone for the first time, or when an entrepreneur is preparing to sell their start-up company for millions.

The third part deals with being “always on.”  This sense of readiness means an individual, or couple is so clear about their purpose that they don’t need a prepared script. They don’t need to rehearse. Their mission is so alive in them that they are talking it about it all the time. They can’t wait for someone to ask them: ‘What are you doing now?” Even if they were were called at 3AM,  they’d be ready to respond straight out of a deep sleep. When people are filled with zeal, there is no ‘off switch.’

Zeal for someting greater than just the two of you

From Zealous to Fearless

A couple working together as a team, in a cause greater than themselves, can often be viewed as zealous. Their passion, focus, and readiness are evident to everyone who surrounds them.

Yes, at times they might even be viewed as fanatics. However, it’s also what creates an environment of fearlessness.

A zealous couple can appear fearless when they:

  • Embrace the power of passion to achieve the impossible.
  • Encourage intense trust and loyalty with others.
  • Willingly go where no couple has gone before.
  • Conquer all barriers with the treasure of hope.
  • Acknowledge their dependence on God, and each other.
Watch out when a couple becomes fearless because of their zeal!

It’s only a matter of time before they advance their God-given purpose, and leave a lasting legacy.

Is there a topic about which you and your spouse are passionate?

Is there something greater than the two of you, driving you on…  causing you both to feel an intense emotion, making you both anitcipate and focus on the topic, and something that you’d both be able to talk about without a script or prompting?

Maybe the Value of Zealousness isn’t as old-fashioned as you’d think… maybe it’s a Value you want adopt as one of your Differentiating Values as a couple.

Wow – finally at the end… Z… I’m putting these posts – “A to Z” Values – all under the FAMILY portion of this site. Why? Every one of these Values words will be a blessing to each spouse – but more than that… they’ll benefit your whole family!

Imagine if you used the Value of Zealousness – that passion for something greater than the two of you – what kind of impact will that have on your family? On your children? I’m guessing that your children and family will only benefit as they watch the two of you living life with passion.

This is an Instagram challenge for July 2016 – A to Z and a few numbers… check out our Instagram account!

The posts in this series can be found on the PAGE – 27 Values to Enrich your Marriage  (BTW – If you’re reading this post before the end of July 2016, then the page isn’t complete… I’m still writing! 😉 )

27 Values to Enrich your Marriage - 27 values for your marriage


Youthful Love in Life

Youthful Love in Life

Youthful exuberance. Youthful joy. Youthful hope.  Youthful love. When you hear the word “Youthfulness”, what comes to mind? 

Is it unlined faces, and strong bodies? Yes. Perhaps.

But haven’t you met people in their seventies and eighties who have the spirit of youthfulness running through their conversation and their perspective? (We have.)

We’ve seen couples who have been married for decades and they still act like they are courting each other. Their relationship shows more than romance…  it’s a spirit of youthfulness found in their desire to be with each other.

We could imagine that they’d only been married for a few years instead of a few decades with their youthful love for each other.

Youthful Love

What are some signs of youthful love?

  • it doesn’t wait till it’s a good time – it grabs every opportunity to show love
  • it deliberately celebrates all the good stuff
  • it uses every energy possible to put something good into the relationship
  • it can’t wait to see the other person, often going out of the way just for a few moments together
  • it overcomes obstacles to make love a priority

When was the last time you showed your affection to your spouse in the same way you did when you were first married?

Yesterday’s Youthfulness = Tomorrow’s Promise

Youthfulness – vigorous and fresh; vibrant; associated with health and physical attractiveness.

If you’ve been married for a few years, have you fostered youthfulness in your marriage? Remember back when you believed you could accomplish anything, if you put your mind to it, and your life was perfect because you found the love of your life?

So what’s changed?

The daily pressures of a job? The responsibility for others (spouse, kids, extended family, etc.)? The normal struggles of life (staying healthy, paying the bills, etc.)? I think singer/songwriter Darryl Worley states it best with his song: Sounds like life to me.

When you first met your spouse, I suspect you didn’t allow “life” to get in the way of enjoying time with each other. So why allow it now?

The secret to youthful love is taking action.

As I referenced in a Values Quote on the Value of Happiness, Benjamin Disraeli clearly stated: “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” The same is true with youthfulness.

So – if you’re thinking about doing something special for your spouse, go do it.

  • If you’re considering buying something or planning a surprise for your spouse, go do it.
  • If you have thought of something kind to do for your spouse – go do it.
  • If you feel like giving your spouse a hug and a kiss, go do it. Now.

As an example, Lori and I know a youthful couple married more than 60 years. They don’t hesitate to take action. About 10 years ago, they decided to try something new. They went whitewater-rafting. For the first time. How many couples do you know will attempt whitewater-rafting – in their 70’s? Their shared youthful love is an inspiration for us. What’s neat is that they continue to take action by doing things together.

As my friend Trey Baker often states:

“Action is where the miracle happens.”

This is also true for preserving youthfulness in marriage.

How can the value of youthfulness help improve your marriage and the lives of others?

the secret of youthful love is action


I’m putting these posts – “A to Z” Values – all under the FAMILY portion of this site. Why? Every one of these Values words will be a blessing to each spouse – but more than that… they’ll benefit your whole family!

Imagine if you nurtured a youthfulness in your marriage – that youthful love – what kind of impact will that have on your family? On your children? I’m guessing that your children and family will only benefit as they watch the two of you loving and living life while keeping your relationship a first and foremost priority.

This is an Instagram challenge for July 2016 – A to Z and a few numbers… check out our Instagram account!

The posts in this series can be found on the PAGE – 27 Values to Enrich your Marriage  (BTW – If you’re reading this post before the end of July 2016, then the page isn’t complete… I’m still writing! 😉 )

27 Values to Enrich your Marriage - 27 values for your marriage


Warmhearted Like A Friend

Warmhearted Like A Friend

Warmhearted people aren’t difficult to identify.  They easily extend small gestures of kindnesses to others, and are generous with their time and support.

Warmhearted – friendliness, kindness or affection; sympathetic and generous.

However, even if others consider you to be a warmhearted person, it doesn’t automatically mean you are friendly, kind, affectionate, sympathetic and generous toward your spouse. Sometimes those actions are lost in the hustle of real life… sometimes spouses can treat each other with a callous disregard they’d never give a friend. (Or even an acquaintance.)

Being warmhearted toward your spouse takes thought and effort – consistently. It’s like a muscle that’s strengthened over time by constant practice.

Warmhearted spouses treat each other with respect, and kindness. They’re affectionate with each other. They easily sympathize as the other goes through challenges, and are generous with each other.

This Value isn’t about grand gestures – rather it’s demonstrated in small ways.

Ways to be Warmhearted Towards Your Spouse

  • Whenever your spouse arrives home, stop what you’re doing, and take a moment to greet her/him. You’re demonstrating your respect for him/her as your spouse and friend. Surely what you’re doing isn’t that important…
  • Ask your spouse if there’s anything you can do to make the day easier. Demonstrate generosity of spirit and lend your practical support.
  • Let your spouse know how you admire her/him – a genuine compliment is always valuable. Who better to hear this from than your spouse!
  • Smile. A warm smile from someone who cares about you is a beautiful gift. Give it often.
  • When you sense your spouse is feeling down, offer a hug, and let it last a long time.
  • Pick an evening or specific time to say to your spouse, “What would you like to do for the next few hours? I’m all yours and whatever you want to do is fine by me.”

Isn’t it amazing how many of these you would do for a friend? Yet, after just a short time of being married, it’s easy to skip over these simple yet powerful gifts of kindness.

As a spouse, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you treated each other with the sympathy and support of a friend?

What are other ways you can be warmhearted toward your spouse?

Are you warmhearted with your spouse?

I’m putting these posts – “A to Z” Values – all under the FAMILY portion of this site. Why? Every one of these Values words will be a blessing to each spouse – but more than that… they’ll benefit your whole family!

Imagine if you are warmhearted with your spouse – what kind of impact will that have on your family? On your children? I’m guessing that your children and family will only benefit as they watch the two of you being kind and sympathetic, affectionate and supportive.

This is an Instagram challenge for July 2016 – A to Z and a few numbers… check out our Instagram account!

The posts in this series can be found on the PAGE – 27 Values to Enrich your Marriage  (BTW – If you’re reading this post before the end of July 2016, then the page isn’t complete… I’m still writing! 😉 )

27 Values to Enrich your Marriage - 27 values for your marriage


Vitality in Marriage

Vitality in Marriage

Vitality – it’s not just about your physical well-being… how do you know if you have vitality in your marriage?

The leading relationship assessment tool for married couples is PREPARE/ENRICH. It is a scientifically validated foundational program for premarital counseling, marriage enrichment, marriage mentoring, and more. (Lori and I are trained facilitators for this program – we enjoy working with couples through the process!)

One of the discoveries made through the assessment is the couple type and marital satisfaction. In essence, the assessment indicates how much a couple agrees with each other, in a healthy way.  It’s an assessment – not a test!  It focuses on strengths and opportunities to grow…

There are 5 types of married couples:

1) Vitalized – these couples have the highest levels of couple satisfaction within their relationship, and are skilled in communication and conflict resolution.
2) Harmonized – these husbands and wives enjoy high levels of satisfaction across most areas of their relationship.
3) Conventional – these couples often highly committed to one another, but not skilled in communication or conflict resolution.
4) Conflicted – these wives and husbands have a lower level of satisfaction and often struggle with many areas of their relationship.
5) Devitalized – these husbands and wives have the lowest level of satisfaction and have growth areas in almost all aspects of their relationship.

So what can you do if you discover your couple type is not yet vitalized?

Acknowledge Reality

Think about competing in a sporting activity. If you are the least bit competitive, it’s hard not to be seen as #1.  But if you pick any successful person – in sports, the arts or entertainment, in business –  you’ll find a common theme. Hardly anyone started out as #1.

Most people, who today are celebrated as the best in their field, experienced numerous challenges and started out way down the list. While they never lost their dream, the turning point of success was the moment they acknowledged their reality – and decided to take responsibility to change it.

The same is true in marriage. It’s hard not to be considered at the top of your game, even in a marriage assessment. What can you do? 

Visualize the dream, and determine the marriage you would like to have. Get clear on your current reality, the way it is today. And then make the commitment to change it – to begin building a stronger marriage.

Working Toward Vitality

To shift your couple type to ‘Vitalized’ you can start by understanding the Value of Vitality.

Vitality means an energetic style; healthy capacity for vigorous activity; ability to survive and grow.

There is a lot of substance here.

A) Energetic. How much energy are you putting into your marriage? Are you waiting for your spouse to raise the bar? Like any fitness program, it starts with you. Pump it up!

B) Healthy capacity. It takes time to build capacity. Maybe first you need to get healthy in the relationship. Resolve outstanding issues and conflicts. Then start small and allow capacity to grow steadily over time. It will grow!

C) Vigorous activity. Healthy marriages have healthy dialogue that is open, respectful, engaging, and forward moving. Just like any other team, a husband and wife team are actively working towards goals, pursing dreams, and living a life of purpose – together!

D) Ability to survive. Bad things happen. Every couple faces challenges, sometimes life-threatening (to the marriage). A vitalized couple work together and not against each other. It’s about commitment!

E) Ability to grow. Vitalized couples don’t remain stagnant. There is an innate need to experience life, to add value to others, and produce visible results that together they’re making a difference!

Vitality is a great value for couples to embrace. If it seems far away, it can become the destination. If you’ve had it and lost it, it’s worth discovering again. And if your relationship is filled with vitality – share it with others.
Life produces more life.

5 Parts to a Vitalized Marriage and what to do if you feel your marriage is not vital

How have you brought vitality to your marriage?