We throw the words compromise and sacrifice around quite a bit in relationships. But what exactly do they mean? And don’t they mean the same thing? 

Well, the short answer is, not exactly. It’s complicated, kind of like relationships are sometimes. Read on to see what I mean.

Both sacrifice and compromise require someone to lose or give something up, but in two very different ways. 

Compromise involves people meeting in the middle to solve a problem. Each person gives in a little… or a lot. Here’s a simple example: one person wants to meet for coffee at 11:00, while the other prefers 11:30. They meet in the middle and decide on 11:15. Each person gave up 15 minutes; problem solved.

Sacrifice is different, though. It requires one person to meet another where they are. They give up something to accommodate the other person regardless of whether they respond or give back. Another simple example: one person can only meet at 11:00 for coffee. Rather than reschedule, the other person gives up a prior engagement to meet with this person. 

Compromise is a team effort toward a common goal, resolving conflict or disagreement. It’s mutual by its very nature. Everyone involved must give up something for it to be called compromise. A compromise works out differences.  

A sacrifice is a solo act done to strengthen the bond between two people. One person gives something up for the relationship; the other person doesn’t necessarily have to, although relationships generally thrive when sacrifice is mutual. Sacrifice seals commitment. 

The nature of sacrifice and compromise gets hairier when you consider different levels and depths of relationships. 

Here’s what I mean. 

Compromising on a coffee time with a co-worker is one thing. Settling with your spouse on how to raise your kids, save money, or where you’ll spend the holidays is a totally different ballgame. Deeper relationships call for deeper considerations.

Perhaps not so much with sacrifice. Giving up a career, living in a particular city, or spending a lot of time with other people is considered good in some relationships, but downright crazy in others.  

**Compromise happens in all healthy relationships to some degree. Sacrifice is probably more appropriate for long-term, committed relationships. And problems can occur when we get those two concepts mixed up.**

As a matter of fact, it’s possible to sacrifice for the wrong reason. An interesting piece of research found that when one romantic partner gave something up for the good of the relationship, both partners had higher than average relationship satisfaction

On the flipside, both partners felt less satisfied in their relationship when a partner gave something up to avoid guilt or hurt feelings. 

Did you catch that? The same behavior—sacrificing for one’s partner—had opposite effects depending on the motive behind it. Your reason for sacrifice makes a difference. 

What can we take away from these ideas? 

  • Disagreements happen. Compromise can help solve problems and keep relationships healthy. 
  • Sacrifice isn’t always the best option, like maybe in a new dating relationship. It can even be harmful. But when it is appropriate (think marriage), both people benefit from it. 
  • Compromise costs, but it’s typically refundable. If a compromise doesn’t work, you can usually step back and try something else.
  • Sacrifice is also costly, but it usually has a no-return policy. It’s risky. And it shouldn’t be done recklessly. 
  • Carefully weigh your relationship’s depth and outlook (and the issue you need to solve) before sacrificing or compromising. 

Some say compromise is the foundation of a relationship. Others say throw compromise out the window and selflessly sacrifice. 

I say there’s a time and a place for each: compromise freely and sacrifice wisely

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***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The Year of Change

Even if you're glad to see 2020 go, you probably learned a few things.

If 2020 were a movie, the storylines would make your head spin. Murder hornets, politics, a pandemic, and quarantine. Racial unrest, job loss, and Zoom. Economic roller coasters, working and learning from home, professional from the waist up, and more.

Add in crazy and unpredictable twists, turns, drama, pain, loss, even unexpected joy, and you have quite the Drama-Sci-Fi-Action-Thriller-Documentary.

We may have been taking some things for granted (until 2020).

Thank goodness 2020 is almost in the rearview mirror. Goodbye and good riddance! It’s pretty unlikely anybody will be sad to see it go. 

But, like a lot of other life experiences, while nobody would wish to go through some of what 2020 brought us, there might be a few folks who wouldn’t trade what they learned about things we often take for granted. For example: 

  • the value of spending time with people we love and care about face to face (not over Zoom or FaceTime);
  • the privilege of being by someone’s bedside when they’re sick;
  • your presence at your family member or friend’s wedding;
  • getting to go to work;
  • going out to dinner and a movie for a date night;
  • being live and in person at a sporting event; 
  • attending a faith-based service; 
  • throwing a party for friends;
  • being able to attend the funeral of a loved one;
  • children being able to go to school and the teachers who pour into them; 
  • the amazing truckers, first responders, grocery store workers, team members in the food processing industry; and
  • just being able to go outside and be around others. 

We could add way more to this list, I’m sure.

The point is, major disruption offers the opportunity for growth. Even when things normalize a bit, we (hopefully) won’t forget that all the things we thought were just a way of life aren’t necessarily so.

Embracing Change

Life can change in an instant, and we saw that during this year of change. The things we thought were so important took a back seat. Caring for our existing relationships and building new ones with people who aren’t “just like us” took on greater importance. The pandemic actually showed what can happen when we all come together to help meet others’ needs. 

There were monumental accomplishments, too. 

Individuals figured out how to help farmers get food from their fields and into the hands of hungry people. Right in the middle of the quarantine, people helped those who lost their homes in the tornadoes. We figured out how to host drive-in concerts and worship services. And we celebrated milestones through technology, drive-by parades, and window visitation at nursing homes. 

In so many instances, people said for years, “We could never do that,” or “That would never work.” The pandemic helped us see we could make it work, and it probably won’t return to the way things were before after it’s over. Maybe the pandemic helped discover a better way forward. Wouldn’t that be a shocker?!

Speaking of moving forward and embracing change this year, this is my final column here as I seek to strengthen marriages across the globe in my new role at the WinShape Foundation. 

Over the last 21 years, it’s been an incredible privilege to journey with you through life. Hopefully, the research and insights I’ve shared helped us all build strong relationships in every season and get through tough times (like 2020) together.

Mitchell Qualls, Operations Director for First Things First, will step in to continue bringing you relevant and relatable family-strengthening information. He is very passionate about helping people strengthen their relationships through writing content and facilitating events (when we’re able to do that again).

Mitchell married his high school sweetheart, Dalet, in 2004, and they have two children, Yadi and Bella. He is an avid baseball fan and loves running and hiking with his family.

Wishing you all the best in 2021!

Whether you’re together or apart this year, these holiday conversation starters are sure to spark some joy and help you get to know each other better.

Now go get your party started!

  1. In your opinion, what would the ultimate winter wonderland look like?
  2. What is your favorite Christmas scent?
  3. What is the single most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. If time were not a concern and you had plenty of money, how would you decorate the outside of your home?
  5. Candy canes, of course, are the traditional candy of Christmas. If you could have your way, what would be the official candy of Christmas?
  6. You have a beautiful 50-foot pine tree in your front yard that you are allowed to decorate with only one color of lights. Which color would you choose?
  7. Of course, red and green are the traditional colors of Christmas. What two other colors do you think could—or should—become the standard for the season?
  8. At Christmastime, which do you honestly enjoy more—giving or receiving?
  9. What is the first Christmas you can remember? What do you remember about it?
  10. Do you have any ethnic traditions that you honor during the Christmas season?
  11. In your opinion, what word(s) would best complete the following phrase: “‘Tis the season to be …”?
  12. What holiday food do you enjoy the most?
  13. Which event or aspect of the Christmas season do you look forward to most of all?
  14. If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose?
  15. What makes a Christmas gift really special to you?
  16. If you could Christmas shop until you drop in any one store, which store would you choose?
  17. What do you typically do the day after Christmas?
  18. If you could indulge in only one type of cookie this holiday season, which cookie would you be eating a lot of?
  19. If you could invite any famous person to your house for Christmas dinner, whom would you ask?
  20. No other time of the year affords such a great opportunity to enjoy good food and drink. In your opinion, what is the best taste the Christmas season has to offer?
  21. What would be the ideal way for you to spend Christmas Eve?
  22. On a scale of one to ten (with one being very relaxing and ten being very stressful), how stressful is the holiday season for you?
  23. What brought you joy this year?
  24. If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
  25. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

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100 CONVERSATION STARTERS TO INCREASE YOUR FAMILY’S CONNECTEDNESS

Dear First Things First friends and supporters,

If I had to choose two words to describe 2020, they would be: unexpected change. Who knew? The first two months were just rolling along and then… BOOM! Nothing was as we expected it to be. In hindsight, I don’t know why we’re all so surprised. Life is nothing but one change after the other. Yet somehow these BIG UNEXPECTED CHANGES seem to take us by surprise.

In spite of the pandemic, the First Things First team has continued to provide resources to people helping them navigate through COVID-19 during some of their most challenging moments. This makes me excited and proud all at the same time.

An unexpected personal event occurred in my own life when I received a call asking me if I would consider interviewing for a position. For the first time in 23 years, I felt strongly that I was supposed to walk through that door. 

In January, I will be taking on the role of Senior Director at the WinShape Foundation working on an international initiative to strengthen marriages across the globe. I truly believe this is what I have been called to next. And yes, now my life is going to change. All from a phone call.  

Can you even believe it?!

FTF is in good hands with Lauren Hall who has been named interim CEO. She has been our Director of Communications for five years and has done an incredible job leading us into the world of all things virtual. With the depth and strength of the FTF team, Lauren will continue to carry out the mission and vision of First Things First.

I love FTF and wholeheartedly believe in every aspect of the work. The FTF team is like my family. They are a gifted group of people who are sold out to helping people have healthy relationships in every area of life. Strong, dedicated, fun, gifted, and creative are just a few of the words I would use to describe them. I will miss them for sure, but know that they are prepared to carry on.

At the moment, I am wavering between sadness about leaving and excitement about the road ahead. I fully intend to continue to support FTF financially and take advantage of the resources they create.

Thank you for your support and encouragement through the years.  FTF would not be where it is without you.

Sincerely,

Julie Baumgardner

Whew! What a year it has been. We’ve all been through the wringer and it looks like this will be our reality for a while. How do we handle such hard stuff and not let circumstances steal our joy, especially around the holidays?

I grew up with a brother who had many special needs. Every single day posed some kind of challenge to him. While he was never supposed to live past 30, he passed away at 56. Because of his life circumstances, he had every reason not to be joyful, yet he was one of the most joyful, funny people I’ve ever known. I’m thinking I could take a cue or two from him about navigating hard times without letting them steal my joy. As we approach the holidays, here are some things Lee taught me about finding joy when life is hard that may be helpful for you, too.

1. Don’t let circumstances dictate your mindset.

Even in the worst situations, it is possible to have joy because you can choose it. What amazed me about Lee was although he had bad days, they were always the exception to the rule. I don’t remember my mom saying to him, “You are going to be happy,” and that wouldn’t have worked anyway. Somehow, he was able to look past all of his daily challenges and experience joy. Boy, do I want that! The holidays may not go like we want or plan for, but they’re going to happen and we get to choose to make the best of them!

2. Focus on others.

Lee was always thinking of others. Once, on a trip, he bought so many t-shirts for friends and co-workers, he didn’t have room for his own clothes when it was time to pack. If my mom hadn’t made him pack his clothes, I guarantee you he would have left them behind. He loved people and genuinely cared for them. Spending time loving on others and letting them care for us can help us experience joy.

3. Wishing away your current set of circumstances can steal joy, and it’s a waste of time.

No doubt, all of us are over COVID-19 and ready to get on with life. But, the more we talk about and focus on that, the more joyless we become. My brother was on dialysis for the last 10 years of his life. Three times a week he would sit in the chair for hours while the machines worked. He didn’t like it, but I never really heard him complain. He took that opportunity to meet a whole bunch of people he never would have known otherwise. Lee chose to see the opportunity in his current set of circumstances instead of focusing on wishing them away. We can do that, too. 

4. Make a list of all the things that bring you joy.

Sweets, football, holidays and people, for example. My brother never met a sweet he didn’t like, but he especially liked sugar-coated orange slices. Give him a container of those and his face lit up like you had given him gold. While he couldn’t add numbers, he knew football better than most and was an avid fan. He loved every holiday, but Christmas was his favorite. Being around people made him happy. What brings you joy? How can you bring joy to others during the holidays?

5. Avoid information overload.

Lee was aware when tough things were happening in our world and he took in the information, but he didn’t go looking for more. News and talking heads are available 24/7, so it’s easy to get drawn into the same news over and over again. I’m not even going to go there with social media, but…you know. Talk about joy-stealing on steroids—that’ll do it for you. We have to learn to turn it off. I haven’t spoken to anybody yet who regretted limiting it. This is a great time to take a break from technology and spend that time doing activities that bring you and others joy.

I’ve learned it is exhausting to focus on the negative and it for sure doesn’t help me work my way through the hard times. During times when we are really put to the test, just doing one thing differently can help begin the process of flipping the script. Circumstances will only steal our joy if we allow them to this holiday season.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and how it impacts me and my relationships. Think for a minute about what it feels like when someone says to you, “Your smile made my day!” or “Thank you for checking in on me.” 

Several studies confirm the benefits of being grateful:

There’s something about not being taken for granted and feeling valued that makes people feel better. Gratitude warms your heart and can lift both the giver and the receiver out of despair. 

Gratitude impacts how we relate to others and how we feel about our circumstances. What you choose to focus on is where your focus remains. Concentrating on the negative when things are hard can overwhelm you and it teaches your brain to hone in on the worst. The alternative is to choose gratitude and find things you can appreciate during all the hard stuff going on in your life. 

A month or so into the pandemic, in the middle of “lockdown,” I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was a bubble machine from a friend that included a note saying how much she appreciated our friendship. She encouraged me to put that bubble machine to good use in our neighborhood to lift people’s spirits. Trust me when I tell you that bubble machine brought a lot of joy and laughter to people young and old.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. It’s an intentional effort though to acknowledge what we are thankful for and a willingness to receive gratitude from others. 

Now that you know practicing gratitude strengthens your relationships, you may be looking for ways to incorporate thankfulness into your life on the regular. If so, you’ll be glad to know there are lots of ways you can show people how thankful you are.

Here are five ways to practice gratitude that will strengthen your relationships:

  • Tell someone how much you appreciate ______________. Thankfulness says, “You matter.” 
  • Write thank you notes to people you are close to, including your children, spouse, parents and friends who wouldn’t necessarily expect anything. 
  • Write a letter thanking someone who has deeply impacted your life. Tell them you appreciate the ways they have encouraged and supported you.
  • Be intentional about expressing appreciation out loud. Sometimes we think about how grateful we are on the inside, but we forget to verbally say it to the person. It can be something as simple as telling your neighbor (instead of just thinking it) how much you enjoy all the flowers blooming in their yard or telling a family member how much you appreciate them checking in on you during COVID-19.
  • Keep a gratitude journal focusing on what you are thankful for in different relationships in your life. This is especially great for those times when you are struggling and need a good reminder of all you can be thankful for.

Practicing gratitude isn’t always easy, and it may even seem hard to be thankful right now, but our relationships will be much stronger and happier when we express our thankfulness to the people in our lives. 

Photo by Nicholas Bartos on Unsplash

What To Do When Your Family Disagrees About Politics

Keeping conversations civil can help you keep your relationships intact.

There are two things you don’t talk about: religion and politics.” I’ve heard that phrase since childhood. Seems like useful advice, but is the best way to address politics with your family not addressing it? Maybe it is, especially if your family disagrees about politics. Still, I don’t think it has to be the only choice.

As families come together for the holidays during a presidential election year, politics can be a sticky subject. If your family disagrees about politics, you have two choices. Either you don’t talk about it or establish some ground rules for how you’ll address the disagreements. Remember, first and foremost, your family’s relationships are more valuable than being right about a political dispute. 

Here are some ideas for how to keep the conversations civil when family members disagree:

(If you decide to engage in politics…)

Be respectful.

We don’t always agree with our family, whether that’s lifestyle choices, parenting styles, politics, the list goes on, and it’s okay. We’re humans, not robots. We should have opinions and passions, but just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I should disrespect you. If you embark on a political discussion and the encounter gets heated, put on the brakes. Before the conversation begins, lay some ground rules. A few rules could be no raising voices, no profanity, and no personal insults. The relationship is more important than voicing your opinions. 

Be open to learning.

Our political beliefs are often influenced by our individual situations. It’s okay to ask someone who disagrees with you politically why they believe what they believe. Don’t ask to respond but ask to understand. When we know the why behind someone’s political beliefs, we are often more compassionate toward that belief. This isn’t about swaying them to your side but genuinely understanding their point of view. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I disagree but understand and respect your viewpoint.” Being right should not be the goal; maintaining the relationship should be.

Be prepared to stop the conversation.

Politics bring on passion. When our heart rate increases and we get very passionate about what we’re discussing, we have a greater chance of speaking before we think. Be careful not to let your passion lead you to say something that will negatively impact the relationship. Remember, our goal here, if you choose to approach the subject of politics, is to have a civil discussion without damaging our family. A great way to pause a conversation is to say, “Thanks! You’ve given me something to think about. Can we come back to this topic at a later time?” Both parties feel heard.

Parents, this is for you… lean in. Be cautious about how you engage in political disagreements with kids around. Politics is an alien world to young children and can be very nasty. It’s not fair for kids to feel like they have to choose sides when family disagrees. They are watching what you say and how you react to those who disagree with you. Do take the opportunity to talk to them about the political process. Maybe have that discussion at your home. Check out this resource: How to Guide My Child Through Election Season.

So when your family disagrees about politics, remember this… relationships are more important than politics. As you prepare to gather for the holidays, this year may look a little different. It may be a little more stressful. But be diligent not to let political opinions damage the relationships you have with your loved ones.

#cancelled #cancelculture #RIP

If you pay attention to the news, you know this is a thing. Cancel culture promotes the “canceling” of people, celebrities and public figures because their beliefs are thought to be offensive or problematic. In other words, a group of people comes together to ruin the reputation and livelihood of someone who has views they don’t agree with.

On the surface, this may seem like a good thing. But if you peel back the onion a bit, you might think twice about whether or not it’s a good thing, especially when it comes to relationships.

Here’s an example of how it works in real life. A few weeks ago, screenwriter and television producer Amy Berg shared headshots of Chris Evans, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth and stated, “One has to go.” In no time, her Tweet went viral with many saying #RIPChrisPratt. 

Since the beginning of time, people have had differing opinions about politics, religion, the importance of a college education, how to raise children, money and plenty of other topics. What’s different today is the way people choose to deal with those who don’t think the same way. If you don’t agree with my perspective, you are #cancelled and basically cease to play any kind of relevant role in my life.

In many instances, cancel culture has silenced conversations between friends, co-workers and family because it seems impossible to have a civil conversation about a topic you feel strongly about and still walk away as friends.

Some may think that cancel culture is a new thing that has come along with social media, but it’s not. It just has a platform that didn’t exist before.

Yale research psychologist Irving L. Janis first used the term “groupthink” in 1972, defining it as when people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group even if they actually disagree or have doubts about the perspective. 

Research repeatedly has shown us that “groupthink” is very dangerous. Instead of saying what they really believe, some people will remain silent because they don’t want to risk rocking the boat or in this day and time—being #cancelled. 

Symptoms of groupthink include: perceived inability to be wrong, justifying a group’s decisions based on the supposed majority opinion, stereotyping opposing perspectives and creating barriers to alternative views or information that doesn’t support their way of thinking.

Cancel culture impacts relationships. Can we build relationships instead of canceling them?

Instead of canceling people out, let’s be respectful even in our differences because we all have something to offer.

  • Encourage conversation with people who have different opinions than yours. 
  • Focus on trying to understand where others are coming from instead of only trying to change their mind. This can help people feel heard and valued, even if you don’t agree with them. Wouldn’t you want to be treated the same way?
  • Ask questions—not in a third-degree way, but out of curiosity and wanting to learn more. 
  • Be willing to share your perspective without coming across as though your way is the only correct line of thinking.
  • Stay curious. Nobody has all the answers. There is richness in spending time with people who have differing ideas about how to solve a problem. It’s been said: two heads are better than one. That’s because many times what comes out of brainstorming together is much better than what one person can come up with on their own.

Whether we are talking cancel culture or groupthink, bullying people into agreement or attempting to shame someone for what they think doesn’t build relationships. It doesn’t change anything, either. Instead, it tears people down and creates division. Hanging with people who think and act just like you might be comforting initially, but consider this—in the end, your perspective could be wrong.

Photo by fauxels from Pexels