October 19, 2011
I never imagined that we can grow through conflict, that we can discover greater intimacy through facing the conflicts in our lives. Many of us are conflict-phobic. Through taking a course with my doctoral advisor Dr Paddy Ducklow, I learned that conflict is not something to be avoided but rather to be celebrated. Many of us have learned from our families of origin to emotionally cut ourselves off whenever anxious situations emerge. But avoidance and emotional cutoff just make things worse.
It takes courage to face painful situations in our life, courage to listen, and courage to confront. Dr Ducklow modeled on this course a non-anxious presence that cared but did not get swallowed by people’s issues. It takes a lot of inner resilience to be able to stay present and calm when the storms of life blow in.
Jesus modeled this by how he acted on a Galilean boat during a storm. Rather than panic, he was totally relaxed and challenged his disciples to have more faith and inner peace. Then he spoke to the wind and storms, saying ‘Peace. Be still’. In the midst of our storms, Jesus is still saying ‘Peace. Be still.’
I first met Paddy Ducklow in 1972 during the Jesus Movement when millions of young people came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Paddy at that time was leading the youth ministry at West Vancouver Baptist Church which had between 800 to 1,000 young people attending their Sunday evening service Salt Circus. I remember attending Salt Circus. The place was electric. Paddy later founded the Burnaby Counselling Group before becoming the Senior Pastor of Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Wherever Paddy has gone, he has had a lasting impact on the lives of many, helping them to know greater intimacy and peace through Jesus Christ.
In more recent years, Paddy became the Senior Pastor of Capilano Christian Community on the North Shore, before stepping down to become the Professor of Marriage and Family at Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus. Over two years ago, I began to once again feel the call to do a part-time doctorate. E-mailing Paddy, I asked his advice as to where I might go to do my doctorate. Paddy responded, saying that he was being inducted at West Vancouver Baptist Church that very night Feb 26th 2009 as Carey Professor of Marriage and Family. I attended his induction, during which Paddy gave a hilarious talk on ‘Marriage for Dummies’. God spoke to me that evening, convincing me that I was to ‘step out of the boat’ and move forward on my doctorate. The exciting thing about the Carey Doctorate is that it is a part-time program designed specifically for full-time pastors.
In the past two and a half years, I have learned and grown in so many ways at Carey. Paddy’s own Doctoral Thesis was on how we process conflict. Paddy is passionate about conflict. I will be doing my Doctoral project on Strengthening Marriages, particularly looking at couple conflict and family systems theory. My vision is that many marriages will become more intimate, more life-giving as couples learn to embrace and celebrate the inevitable conflicts in their lives. I dream of couples who, instead of emotionally cutting off and running, choose to hang in there and learn how to really be present to each other in ways that do not take each out.
Marriages and families are worth fighting for. Marriages and families are building blocks of our very communities. It is so easy for us to take each other out and then give up on each other. My prayer for those reading this article is that we will find the strength to be ourselves, to embrace the gift of family and community, to forgive and reconcile at the deepest level.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-published in the Nov 2011 Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail email@example.com . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide
August 4, 2009
By the Rev Ed Hird
For the past twenty-two years, I have been privileged to invest in many families in the North Shore area. As both a Social Worker and an Anglican priest, I have been struck by how many North Shore couples are successful in business but challenged in the area of relationships. It has been our privilege over the years at St. Simon’s NV to help many couples fall back in love and rebuild strong marriages.
While teaching at the CWIPPThink Conference in San Diego, God rekindled my dream of doing a doctorate in the area of marriage and families. I heard that Dr Paddy Ducklow, a North Shore Pastor and Counsellor, was being appointed Professor of Marriage and Family Ministries at Carey College out at UBC. I have known and respected Paddy since attending West Vancouver Baptist’s Salt Circus during the 1970’s Jesus movement. After much prayer and reflection, I decided to begin a part-time doctorate at Carey designed specifically for full-time clergy.
My first ‘Family Ministry’ doctoral course was taught this spring by Dr. James Ponzetti, a professor in the Departments of Social Work and then Sociology. I decided to focus on ‘Managing Anger in marital conflict’. After reading forty books and 150 Social Science articles on marital anger, I was left with the impression that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages. Researchers note how many men detach from intimacy, leaving their wives very frustrated. Because women are so relational, they are often tempted to suppress their legitimate anger in favour of protecting their marriage. The problem with stuffing our anger is that it leaves us isolated and disconnected.
Dr John Gottman, one of the world’s foremost marriage researchers, suggests that there is a better way forward. Even healthy long-term marriages will experience marital conflict and anger. No one is exempt. We need to rediscover anger as a positive emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Drs John & Julie Gottman, in their best-selling book ‘10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage’, actually recommends that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side. While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change. The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.
Dr David Mace compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm. Research shows that most marital conflicts are about housework, physical intimacy, money, and children. When we become angry, our heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of our energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Dr. Gottman actually monitors such levels in his marriage ‘love lab’ in Seattle. Many couples, when their heart rates goes over one hundred, become overwhelmed or ‘flooded’ by the intensity of their emotions. Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do if ‘overwhelmed’ while intensely listening to our spouse is to choose to take a short time out and go for a walk so that we can re-regulate our emotions. Gentle humour and affection are other proven keys to reducing emotional intensity. It takes humility to accept influence from our spouses, to become more gentle, and to make bids for connection when we are tempted to stonewall them.
Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged people to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other person. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. We need to learn to express our anger gently and respectfully in a way that honours our spouse. We also need to learn to deeply listen to our spouse’s anger in a way that hears their longing for a healthier future together. As James put it, we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. The Good Book teaches in Ephesians 4:26 that it is possible to be angry without being destructive. Even Jesus, who was so full of love, felt angry at people’s insensitivity to handicapped people (Mark 3:5) It is vital that couples commit to not going to bed angry, because it is far too easy to wake up bitter and resentful. While short-term anger can be a positive force, chronic anger has been shown to increase our risk of heart disease by as much as 500%.
My prayer for each of us reading this article is that we will embrace the gift of anger, and learn to harness it for the good of our marriages and families.
The Rev. Ed Hird+
St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-author of the award-winning book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’