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Choosing Joy in Healthy Relationships

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 8, 2024 2:00 am

Choosing Joy in Healthy Relationships

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 8, 2024 2:00 am

Chris Coursey helps you better understand the role of joy in your marriage, your parenting, and your friendships. He’ll explore the joy center in your brain, so you can know how it works and how to keep it from turning off. As joy overflows into your relationships, you’ll be able to connect with others in healthy, thriving ways.


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For decades, we've helped Tom's family with parenting, adoption, and what it means to be pro-life. It's just typical of the way Focus on the Family has worked over the years. They just provide very practical, biblically-based things that help people to make the right choice and support people in ways that really are necessary. That's why Tom and his wife give monthly to encourage and equip other families. Focus on the Family is out on the front lines of things that are necessary in the culture and in the community, and we as Christians are called to support God's work in that way. It's just a blessing to us to be a part of it. I'm Jim Daly. I'm inviting you to give monthly so that together we can save even more families. Join our Friends of Focus on the Family team by calling 800-AFAMILY or donate at slash family. Staying our relational selves really is the game changer.

It sounds so easy to do, but when you're with someone who's mad at you or you're with someone who's saying mean things to you, it's really hard to stay relational in those moments. Ultimately, the joy switch is just about helping God's people be a relational bunch who reflect the living God, who love well, and really love like Jesus loves in a world that really needs it right now. That's Chris Corsi, and he's with us today on Focus on the Family with your host, Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. You know, joy, John, is such a tough thing to comprehend.

I mean, I'm sure in the listenership right now, the viewership on YouTube, everybody is somewhere on that continuum. They feel a well of joy. I tend to be joyful.

I can't say why. I've never analyzed it or anything like that, but I'm mindful of some people that struggle to feel joy, and that's a heavy burden because it's such a wonderful thing to wake up and feel a sense of joy, and maybe in part it's because my childhood was so tough that, man, any little morsel of something good is joyful. You celebrate that. I celebrate, and I think that might be part of it, but today we want to help you. We want to give you the tools that you need to experience the fruit of the Spirit. You know, I love Galatians 5 22, the definition of the fruit of the Spirit, and I talk a lot about it here at Focus, don't I?

You do, yes. You need to be rooted in the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the other guy, and the fruit of God. The fruit of God's Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and it goes on to say, against such things there is no law. Isn't that wonderful?

It is, yeah. So to have these things in abundance, you know, if you think of a grapevine and that bundle of grapes that hang under the leaves, that's how full this should be for us if we're rooted in God. And if you're struggling in that area, don't feel guilty or condemnation. We want to equip you today to tap into that fruit of the Spirit that God has given us. And Chris Corsi is an ordained minister and pastoral counselor. He's the president of Thrive Today, a nonprofit ministry focusing on training leaders and communities in healthy relationships.

He's married to Jen, and they have two sons. And the book that he's written that really forms the foundation for our conversation today is called The Joy Switch, How Your Brain's Secret Circuit Affects Your Relationships and How You Can Activate It. And we'll invite you to stop by our website for details.

The link is in the program description. Chris, welcome back to Focus. It's good to have you. Thank you. It's good to be here.

Thank you for having me. You seem to have always this joyful countenance, but it didn't start out that way. Your high school years were a bit rugged when it came to feeling joy. What happened?

Yeah. You know, it was a very sad season of my life. There was a searching.

There was a hunger. And I can remember actually the day very clearly where I had people that reflected God's relational joy with me. Thankfully, I found some people in my life who were genuinely glad to be with me. And I started to wonder, is that how God is with me? Is God like genuinely glad to be with me? And that started this whole search in my life of really wanting to understand what is this relational joy and what would change if God's children really had that sense that we have a God who's glad to be with us. Let me ask the direct question. What is the role of joy in our lives and why is it important?

Yeah. This is where really the book came out of is, you know, there's kind of two ways up this mountain. One way was just looking at what does scripture have to say about joy, which is actually a lot. And joy is often mixed with celebration, like a lot of the feasts of Israel had joy, except for Yom Kippur, which was meant to be a not so joyful occasion. But what came out of a lot of looking into the scriptures about joy is also about the same time in the 90s, the decade of the brain is what it's been called. And basically you start having neuroscientists saying that joy is the fuel for the brain, like joy. And like, well, what is this joy that brain science is saying that's been in scripture for a long time? So eventually, you know, you've got brain science just catching up to what the Bible's been saying, that joy is kind of a big deal.

Joy is when you walk into the room and somebody lights up to see you because it's you. So when I saw my two friends here this morning, I felt a genuine glad to be with you both. I didn't have to think about it.

I didn't have to force it. It was more like a reflection, a reaction. There's my friends and I'm glad to be with my friends. And that's really that's, you know, what we try to help Christian communities say, what if we were the most joyful places in the world? And joyful places doesn't mean that we're perfect. It doesn't mean that bad things don't happen.

It means that even while we go through this hard time, I'm glad to be with you and I'm glad that we're in this together. And it's a good thought. I mean, I love this topic.

I think it's so important for Christians today to know it, to know what is joy and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit. Describe the secret circuit that you talk about. I love the language, the secret circuit. Yeah. This circuit in our brains, what is it and how does the joy switch, as you describe it, affect us?

Yeah. So the circuit, the reason I call it a secret circuit is not that it's like this hidden news. It's just that this is like kind of a recent discovery in brain science that we have this relational engine in the right side of our brain. And when you walk into that room and you see someone's face light up because it's you, you see their face, you hear it in their voice, you see it in their mannerisms, this relational engine, we call it a relational circuit.

It basically comes online. So it's kind of like a dimmer switch. It can go off and the lights can go down. And when it goes down, joy is hard to find. And that's when I start focusing on what's wrong and pain and problems.

But when you have joy, the circuit's actually working together, basically. And that means that I'm glad to be with you. I see that you're glad to be with me. We bring out the best in each other. And when we go through hard times, we remind each other who we are. And so this is a very relational part of your brain that God designed.

And basically, it's just like that dimmer switch. When it's on, man, I'm glad to be with you. I'm feeling some peace. I'm glad we're here together, even while we're navigating maybe something really hard that we're going through. I'm glad that you're here.

I don't feel alone. I feel connected. And that's really what this circuit's all about is staying connected and feeling connected with the people that you care about.

You mentioned in the book this relational circuit has four kind of levels in the command center. Describe this. This is really interesting. Yeah, this is interesting. So every time you walk into a room, this four-level command center is working. It sounds so important. Where's the button?

Bam! Command center. And the first thing it wants to know when you walk into a room is the attachment, which is what we call level one of this command center. Basically, who do I know here? You're looking and scanning for a face that you know. So that's the first thing your brain's doing when you walk into a room. Who do I know? Familiarity.

Familiarity. The second thing is your assessment center comes online and it says, am I safe here? Is this a safe place? Does anyone look mad? Is there anything off here? And this happens in one-tenth of a second.

This is really fast. The third thing in this command center is now, once I find someone that I want to share some joy with, how much energy do I need to interact with them? So are they looking excited? Are they, you know, high energy? Or does it look like they just woke up from a nap and I need to... It's kind of like how you are with a newborn baby who just wakes up with that. You have to lower your energy levels. So this attunement center, as we call it, is, hey, is it time to weep with you or is it time to rejoice with you?

So how much energy do I need here? Can we weep together or can we rejoice together? Here at FOCUS, we call that matching emotion for emotion. There it is. That's it.

That's exactly what that attunement is. That's level three. Okay, what's four?

Then four is basically how, what we call the action center. How do I stay me while I navigate this? So how do I stay me?

What if the barista gets yelled at by a customer? My action center is how do I stay me right now? How do I stay my relational self? So this is the part of your brain that learns by examples. When you've seen someone who handles a hard situation really well, your action center remembers that. So in that moment, your action center is just trying to keep you, you.

In other words, we think of what would Jesus do under these conditions? That's the action center. So it's attachment, assessment, attunement, and action.

So how do I stay me and how do I connect with the people that I love and keep relationships bigger than problems? Super insightful. Chris, again, I'm mindful of the person struggling with this. Their four command centers aren't firing properly for whatever reason.

What are some of the common landmines that could shut down that relational circuitry? Yeah, this is where life starts to happen and things do happen. And so, for example, one of the things that I can tell, I can tell in my wife's voice when she's losing her joy, I can just tell by the change in her voice tone.

Every husband just went, duh. Yeah, I can tell. Right, all of us can. Yep, and one of the common reasons for her is her blood sugar is crashing. She's just low blood sugar.

Yeah, something as easy as low blood sugar. And I can tell, honey, are you okay? What do you need here? Something's going on. Or she can look at my face and she can say, hey, what's going on?

I have a back injury. And so sometimes it's a bit of a thorn in my back and it hurts. She can tell by the look on my face. So there's like real physical things that can make it hard to keep a relationship bigger than problems. And so this joy relational circuit is really what helps us reflect our values, reflect Christ-like character. And when it starts to go dim and that dimmer switch starts to fade, what happens is I become reactive, fear becomes bigger, I start focusing on what's wrong, I become critical. We're not our best selves when our joy circuit starts to fade, so to speak. And so the good news is we can recognize this and do something about it. Yeah, now you in the family use code words, which is kind of what I was alluding to. You've gotten some vocabulary down, even with your kids. Yes.

Describe the importance of that and how does it work? Yeah, so the thing about this joy switch is you can often tell when people are not their best relational selves, and that's normally when we need maybe a moment to quiet or we need something. Maybe we need some prayer in that moment. So what we learned when our kids were younger, when I was writing the book, is we were developing a language to just notice, ah, it sounds like my son is not listening well right now, buddy.

Let's take a breather. And so instead of me saying all the time, take a breather, my sons came up with the idea of let's use the name of a fruit for each family member. And whenever you hear the name of that fruit, that's your reminder to take a breath.

In other words, if I'm frustrated and they hear my voice, they see that I'm frustrated and it looks like daddy's losing his relational self, so to speak. My word, code word, was apple. So my sons might say apple pie, daddy. And I would hear that and then I would remember, oh, take a breath, daddy. Or if they were getting, you know, maybe amped up and they're not listening, I would say blueberries or strawberries because those were their code words. Or my wife, I think, was peaches. And so they would say peaches, mommy, if mommy is losing her joy. I can just imagine coming in the door and you're hearing the kids going, peaches, peaches, dad, keep your head down, peaches, peaches.

It was very strange. I had to warn my friends when they came over, just so you know. Your neighbors are going, what? What are they talking about? What are they doing? But it was humbling.

What's the benefit of that? What is the outcome that you're hoping for when you're yelling peaches? So you know what it did? This was surprising because originally I didn't know how this was going to work, but what we noticed quickly is it was a gentle reminder, hey, you're losing your relational self. Why don't you take a moment to catch your breath or go take a moment in the other room, whatever you need to get back to your relational self. And so when I would hear my seven year old son at the time say apple pie, daddy, and he would notice I had lost my peace. Maybe it was a bad driver and I'm getting upset driving down the road and out here from the back seat, apple pie, daddy. It reminded me, oh, I should take a moment and I should calm down. Right.

Because what happens when this part of your brain goes offline, the mouth starts running without the filter. So what it's doing is it's helping everybody to just take a pause, catch your breath. Let's stay our relational self.

And it ended up being a beautiful thing. It was a little awkward in the beginning when we started to execute plan, but it helped. Yeah. That's a good reminder.

Very practical right there. You identified four habits that activate the joy switch, as you call it, using the acronym CARS. Yes.

What is it? Yeah. So CARS was a very simple way to really help people when I'm having a bad day or it's been a hard interaction or something is causing me to not be my relational self right now. Right. CARS is a very simple way to help me get back into my relational self.

So part of the C in CARS is just connecting. So this is when you might take a moment, connect with the Lord, take a little time to talk to the Lord, have some prayer time or connect with someone. Let's say it's been a hard day. Who do you want to tell about your day? Or maybe you've got some great news.

Who is the person you want to share that news with? Connecting is just connecting with someone that you're going to feel less alone in whatever you're dealing with. That's simply what the C is all about. And the A is just appreciation. And appreciation is what I call package joy.

It just means remember God's gifts. What gifts has God given you this week? Maybe it was a person or an interaction or we had some beautiful snow the other day in Michigan.

It was breathtaking. That was a gift that I could remember. Remembering God's gifts actually helps us get back to our relational selves.

Yeah. And the R is just rest. Just take a moment to quiet. Take that moment to take a few deep breaths. A few simple deep breaths can help us get back into relational mode.

And then the S in Kars is just what we call Shalom My Body. These are just very simple exercises that you can do when you've lost your peace or your joy that gets you back into relational mode. And one of them is simply yawning. Did you know yawning is one of the ways you simply quiet your body? I don't think of yawning. I'm tired. I need a nap.

Yawning is actually part of what it does kind of a reset for your body. It's strange it's all get out, but if you are having a really bad day. So it's not rude. It's not rude. I always tell teachers, especially in Sunday school, teachers like if you're having a hard time getting your class to pay attention, have everybody take a few deep breaths and have them yawn and watch what happens. So that's where the Shalom My Body. Yeah, they go to sleep.

Yeah, they quiet, don't they? On that first one, connection, the sea of cars, you had a good illustration with Mason. Had an issue with anger and you connected with him.

Just describe that mechanically for us so we can apply it. So this was one of our trainings. I was having breakfast with some of our attendees and I noticed someone standing over me that morning. And I turned to greet the person I saw was one of our attendees.

And I said, oh, good morning, you know, glad little joy. But when I looked at Mason's face, there was not a joyful moment for Mason. And Mason went from zero to 100 and started yelling. Mason lost it. And everybody in this room stopped their talking and all eyes turned to Mason. And my reflex in that moment, Mason was upset about a video we played the previous day about a family suffering for their faith. It was a beautiful video, powerful testimony, but this really touched something for Mason.

So I tried to explain why this video, you know, why we play this video. And my words were making this worse. Mason only got louder and stepped it up even more. Then finally I recognized, oh, words aren't going to fix this one. So I did the universal timeout. I just put my hands up. I said, timeout. I said, Mason, let's just pause and take a breath. And I saw Mason was about to walk away. I said, please don't walk away. Let's just pause and take a breather. Mason stopped yelling and stood there. And I took some deep breaths and I looked at the attendees I was talking with at my table. Everybody's like deer in headlights watching, you know, what's happening here. Nobody's talking.

So it's probably a 20 second pause, but it felt like it was a long time. And then in a low voice, I said, Mason, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm so sorry this video upset you. Had I known this video was going to upset you, I wouldn't have played it or I would have warned you. But I'm so sorry this happened.

I can see this really upset you. And within about probably a 60 second conversation, Mason, a smile returned to Mason's face. Mason nodded and said, thank you and walked away. That was it.

That was it. Chris, you know, it makes so much sense. And again, we are created in God's image. We're created for relationship. That's right out of scripture as well.

So that's part of it. God wants us to engage one another, be a part of it. He doesn't want us to forsake gathering together. That's why we go to church on Sunday.

It's a lot easier to stay in your jammies and do it online now after COVID and all that. But there's a function involved with all this that that actually is meeting the needs of our even our brain chemistry. You know, to go out and meet with people and engage people sometimes when they irritate you, it hopefully helps you grow. I think the overarching question here for me is how much of the culture with everything going on, whether it's politics or cable news or the hyper division that's being created, social media. I mean, it seems to now be all working against the fruit of the spirit. Which is quite interesting, actually, when we look at the latter times, which we may be in. That's going to be evident, in my opinion, that there's going to be this kind of unseen force that's working.

I think we're in it. And the fact that this can of division has been opened up, however you want to define it, how do we recognize that with the tools that you've laid out? Because our joy can so easily be sucked out of us by watching the news, just as an example. That's a perfect example. Like even just turning on the news, we can quickly lose our joy.

Well, it feeds that very fear you're talking about. I mean, the scripture, the words in scripture are so finely tuned. The Lord knew what he was doing when he says, fear not to be joyful.

There's a reason, and I think today we need these tools more than ever. Yeah, Jesus prayed that we would have his joy in us. So part of having Jesus' joy in us is reflecting the living God. So that means, as James would say, we become slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry. And that's really what happens when this joy center in our brain is working properly. And that's with your spouse, with your kids, with your neighbor, with your representative, whatever it might be, with your pastor, right? You're exactly right.

You're exactly right. And if we're not fostering joy, then what you're going to see growing in that garden, we're not going to see the fruit. We're going to see weeds starting to grow, weeds of fear, weeds of anger, weeds of resentment.

All kinds of unhelpful things start to grow in that garden. So really what this book was all about is just what are some practical things I can do to reflect Christ in the good times and especially in the hard times. Because if I'm not growing joy, then we can guarantee fear is going to be right there knocking on the door, wanting to kind of take over. And in this climate that we find ourselves in, as God's people, that we could be a joyful, relational bunch, living the fruit of the Spirit, loving well, seeing people how God sees them, being slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry, like a little bit can go a long way. My job is to try to stay my relational self, the way that God designed me, where I can reflect Christ in those moments where I might be navigating some pretty hard times as I interact with the world that's kind of caught in a non-relational mode, we would say. Staying our relational selves really is the game changer.

It sounds so easy to do, but when you're with someone who's mad at you, or you're with someone who's saying mean things to you, it's really hard to stay relational in those moments. So ultimately the Joy Switch is just about helping God's people be a relational bunch who reflect the living God, who love well, and really love like Jesus loves in a world that really needs it right now. The Capstone question, you had a story in there about Gianna, and I think the header here is the most important relationship you can have is with God.

It all starts there, how many Sundays? I just was at church last Sunday, and that was what our pastor said. Number one thing, deepen your relationship with the Lord, and then things flow from that, right?

Your relationship with your family, with your friends, everything. So how does Gianna's story map out that idea of dig deeper in with the Lord? Yeah, so I was visiting, doing an event with a church, and often when I go to a church, they'll line up some people they want me to meet with, and they're like, hey, let's see how this works.

The troubled people? Oh no. Yeah, pretty much, like, let's see if this goes. We would like you to meet with Pastor Chris.

Yes, that's pretty much how it is. That's not a good thing. And they want to see if this really works, so they'll schedule these sessions, and Gianna, a very precious person, I walked into the ministry room where she was. First thing she says is, well, this is a waste of your time, because God doesn't talk to me.

And I thought, well, hello, you know, and I knew, okay, we're having a hard time here. She's not happy, not a lot of joy. But she's honest.

I appreciate that. She was very honest, and so I sat down after greeting her and meeting her, and I said, basically, I know that you, oh, here's what she said. God doesn't talk to me, and he never has. I've been trying for 40 years to be close to God, and I don't feel like he talks to me. I said, well, I would be honored if you would let me pray with you today. I believe that God actually is with us.

We're not alone, but sometimes we're not aware of where he is in our lives and what he's doing. So the first thing I had her do, I said, well, is there anything in your life that brings you joy? Because I wanted to make sure she was in her relational seat, so to speak. So I said, well, what brings you joy in your life?

Does any of God's gifts in your life? She said nothing. I said, well, this is going to be tough.

This is going to be hard. And then she said, well, wait a minute. There's one thing. There's one thing that brings me joy, and that is my foster child. And suddenly I saw a sparkle in her eye. She mentioned her foster child. And then I said, well, please tell me more. You know, I want to hear about your foster child. I saw a little glimmer, just a little glimmer of life in her face as she talked about this foster child. I said, OK, that's perfect.

So we had a few minutes of talking about her foster child, the one source of joy that she could think of. I said, now I would like us to just pray. Let's talk to the Lord. And again, I understand you believe he doesn't talk to you.

He doesn't hear your prayers. I respect that. But I let's just practice.

OK, let's just try this. She's like, fine. So we did. And I just I prayed for her very simply. Lord, thank you for being here, even though we don't know where you are.

We know you're here because your word says so. And I said, Lord, if there's anything you want Gianna to know today, please bring that to mind. And I basically just said amen. And I waited a few moments not knowing what was going to happen here. And I opened my eyes. I look up and I saw some tears going down her face. Oh, something's happening here. And she said, well, I don't know if this is from God.

But I said, well, please tell me. She said, well, I had a thought. And the thought was this, that maybe God cares about me like I care about my foster child.

Bingo. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had a thought that was directly from God's heart to her heart. And from that point on, she joined a small group. She got connected with her church.

Good things grew in that garden. She just needed basically she just needed a focus on a little bit of joy. Think about one of God's gifts, the only gift she could think of which helped her get relational.

Then now let's talk to a relational God. And that really was the key for her. She just needed a few minutes instead of thinking about what's wrong and all the things that's wrong. She just needed to think about something that was good. Chris, what a great reminder about life and what is important in life.

And you can go 40, 50, 60 years and not grasp these concepts. And so for the listener, for the viewer, that's why we're on this topic today. Because I know there is so much lack of joy within the culture at large, but even within the church. And what a great reminder about how to reestablish that joy or find that joy maybe for the first time.

The Joy Switch, which is a great resource that Chris has written. What a wonderful resource. And if we could ask you to make a monthly pledge. That's how Gene and I support the ministry. Be there as part of the ministry to help other people. We'll send you a copy of Chris' book as our way of saying thank you for being engaged with ministry here.

And getting a great resource to help you. In fact, John, we have a kind of a drive. We don't do a lot of drives that focus on the family. But we're hoping that we can have a thousand new sustainers, monthly sustainers, come on board.

And it's just a number we're trying to hit as a goal so that we know how much to budget. So if you can become one of those new thousand monthly sustainers, we would really appreciate it. Yeah, donate when you call 800, the letter A in the word family. Or click the link in the program description and learn more about joining the support team. Either with a monthly pledge or a one-time gift of any amount. And request your copy of the book, The Joy Switch, by Chris Corsi. I'd also add that we have counselors here.

If this is something that just feels elusive to you, if you're waiting for a moment perhaps for somebody to say, I hear you, let's go a little deeper. We do have caring Christian counselors here and they're a phone call away. Just call us and we'll schedule a time for one of those counselors to give you a call back.

Details are in the program description or call 800, the letter A in the word family. Chris, this has been so good. Thank you.

It's given me lots of tools to think about. Thank you. It's been great to be with you. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. If the fights with your spouse have become unbearable, if you feel like you can't take it anymore, there's still hope. Hope restored marriage intensives have helped thousands of couples like yours. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face them together. Call us at 1-866-875-2915. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. That's 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-08 05:25:49 / 2024-03-08 05:38:56 / 13

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