The look on his face told me the fellow was about to lose it. He confirmed my suspicions when he jumped off his bike, ripped off his helmet, yelled obscenities, then flipped the driver the bird – with both hands.
“This guy is losing it.” I thought to myself. “Nope; he already lost it,” I said while my 7-year old son was busily focusing on his toy in the backseat of the car. I was thankful my son did not notice the chaos unfolding just a few feet from us. I wondered what would happen next.
Just moments before this episode ensued, the bicyclist was about to cross at the four-way intersection to my left when the elderly man pulled up in his minivan. The driver had to be in his 80’s, and he stopped where the bicyclist was beginning to cross the intersection. I watched as the driver became agitated because the bicyclist was now crossing the road where he was about to turn. My guess is, the driver felt he had been cut off by the cyclist and he did not realize bicyclists have the right-away in that situation. Instead of yielding, he probably wanted to get going and was not pleased the cyclist was in his way. He then honked his horn, and this spark lit a hot fire.
Unfortunately, that’s all it took. One burst of a horn and the bicyclist flew into a feverish frenzy. I was glad to see the van driver quickly drive away instead of stepping outside the safety of his vehicle to confront the bicycler who was now livid and out of control. In his fury, the cyclist jumped on his bike and pursued the van while yelling, gesturing and appearing like a madman on a mission.
I uttered a prayer for the furious fellows and sighed with relief a breath of air because I didn’t have to be the buffer between an elderly gentleman and an irate young man ready to rip his head off. (1) As I drove away, I reflected on the frequency of these sorts of interactions. I have observed similar encounters between people where someone or something “sets another person off” then a blow-up ensues. I see this on roadways, in airports, in grocery stores, in parks, in church and ministry meetings, even church parking lots. People struggle with big feelings and short fuses, and they don’t know what to do other than solve the problem by attacking another person or a group of people. The recent tragedy in Sri Lanka shows us just how severe and distorted people can be in this world. (2)
When my friends and I released the book Joy Starts Here in 2013; we mentioned how, as relational skills continue to drop out of families, communities, and society, an increase in personality disorders, an increase in aggression and violence, an increase in addictions and an increase in more unwanted patterns take place. There are many great causes as well as numerous urgent needs in the world today – just turn on the evening news for a few minutes. I suspect all of us could make a pretty long list. One item to consider adding to this list revolves around families who are breaking down as men, women, and children continue to lose fundamental ingredients that keep the human in humanity and equip people to live in joy and express the best of themselves among the 7.7 billion people who breathe on this planet. Joy and relational skills are not luxury items on the menu. The 19 skills are crucial to what happens in and around us. Take a moment to visualize the faces of 5 people you love and just think; relational skills can transform them. People are now working to insert relational skills into prisons, shelters, recovery clinics, on the mission field and in places around the globe where the fabric of families is fraying at the seams. Who wants to join us in this great task of sharing God’s joy and equipping people with the necessary skills to make relationships work?
You see, I began to wonder what the world would look like if people learned to return to joy from their big feelings instead of shifting into an enemy mode? (3) What would happen if people quickly recognized they were too intense, too scary, too loud, too mean or too violent – and they immediately adjusted their emotional thermostat? What if people knew how and when to rest instead of pushing themselves – or others too hard? What if people lived with the awareness of God’s interactive Presence in their lives so they could stay peaceful, be quick to forgive and love like Jesus? What if people knew how to give and receive healthy shame messages, so unwanted patterns are corrected? What if people knew how to remain their relational selves when things go wrong? What if people valued emotional maturity and focused on growing and reaching their God-given potential by addressing weaknesses and deficits? What if people knew how to resolve the five kinds of pain the brain knows, so they stay resilient while helping others resolve pain? I could go on, but I feel an obligation to pursue as well as equip others to be “relational light” and “relational salt” in this world, so we better reflect the Living God in good times and bad. Who is with me?
When we lack relational skills, we lose sight of who we are, who other people are, and who God is. It is for this reason THRIVE Training exists. (4) I am delighted to share the Relational Skills In The Bible written with Amy Brown is available so that families and communities can practice relational skills while also peering into the pages of Scripture for insight and wisdom. Married couples can practice important skills with The 4 Habits Of Joy-Filled Marriages written with Dr. Marcus Warner. Everyone can now go through the THRIVE-at-Home online curriculum and obtain CEU’s for the first time. We have no shortages of opportunities for you and your friends to get started. Some say they cannot afford to take the time to practice relational skills. The better question may be, how can we afford not to learn and practice relational skills?
- While I was watching this interaction with great alarm, I was ready to intervene if needed; though I confess to feeling somewhat reluctant about the whole thing.
- Suicide bombers struck hotels and churches killing over 250 people and injuring hundreds.
- The Enemy Mode is a term Dr. Jim Wilder uses in The Pandora Problem and the corresponding Companion Guide by Barbara Moon.
- Learn more about the 19 Relational Skills and THRIVE Training at thrivetoday.org.