Wed, April 08

A Culture of Honor: Building bridges, not wedges

I felt really proud of my son, Paul, and his wife. Recently, while we visited them in Chicago, Paul told us about a group of principles that his church community had adopted called “a culture of honor.” They sounded very similar to principles that I’ve been teaching and writing about for the past six or seven years. I felt gratified to know that Paul, at age 30, has learned relational skills that I didn’t incorporate until after the age of 50!

Paul described that, in the culture of honor, members of his community agree to build each other up instead of tear each other down. Paul’s culture of honor reminded me, too, of communication principles that the Board of Trustees at Unity of Sedona has adopted. These principles, called “Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love,” guide the interactions and decisions in that group.

You can glean a lot of benefits from choosing interactions filled with honor and love. The “bennies” include greater harmony in relationships and decreased relational drama. These in turn lead to a huge increase in trust and respect between individuals. The bond between you and others becomes solid and stable.

In case you want these benefits for yourself, I’m sharing here a few of my favorite principles that Paul and I have discussed. These serve as guides for actions and attitudes that build bridges between you and others.

Avoid passive-aggressive tactics. Blaming another for your own failures will foster distrust and frustration instead of peace and harmony. So will procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, negativity, and chronic lateness. Saying that you’ll do something, then not following through, making excuses for your non-performance instead, drives wedges between you and others.

Be quick to listen. It’s so easy to assume that you know what your conversation partner plans to say next. It’s also easy to assume that you know what they mean. So you become lazy in your listening.

Set the intention to understand what your conversation partners are really saying. Listen carefully to others from an attitude of holding them capable and worthy of respect. Summarize and check out what you hear before you respond. Seek as much to understand as to be understood.

Go directly to the other person. Avoid talking to a third party about issues or complaints that you have with someone. This is called triangulation, and it creates serious wedges instead of bridges. While you may feel scared and reluctant, speaking directly to the person must occur for peace and harmony to reign. Let me know if you need ideas for how to do this with confidence and without creating more drama.

Whether you belong to an organization, or a family, or a group of friends, adopting these principles will serve you and them. Start with just one, practice it for a while, and then add another. When you’ve mastered these and want more, let me know.

Healthy relationships and solid communities don’t just happen. They’re built with conscious and deliberate attention to the details of your interactions. Practice makes permanent!

Dr. Marta teaches and coaches others toward healthy relationships with others and with themselves. To contact her, call (928) 451-9482 or write

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