Focus on the Family Broadcast

Best of 2022: Fueling Great Relationships With Others

Best of 2022: Fueling Great Relationships With Others

In this best of 2022 broadcast, Dr. John Townsend offers practical ideas on how to create incredibly meaningful relationships in every area of your life. He describes the types of people who are needed on your “life team” to help you grow – and others who need to be held at arm’s length, as you seek balance in your relationships with friends and colleagues.
Original Air Date: January 25, 2022

Dr. John Townsend: Proverbs chapter four, verse 23, “Guard your heart, for from it flow the wellsprings of life.” If I don’t take care of my heart, which is my emotions and my values and my schedule and all that, then I’m not gonna be able to give it to anybody else.

John Fuller: That’s Dr. John Townsend. He’s our guest today on Focus on the Family, sharing some relational tools to help you invest in others and to allow others to speak into your life. Thanks for joining us as we continue with one of our top programs from the past year. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: You know, John, I think everyone wants to live a healthy life. Who doesn’t? But we don’t always know how to get there or maybe have the discipline to get there. Sometimes there are some unhealthy attributes that we manifest that can prevent us from living the best lives we can have, especially in relationships, and our good friend, Dr. John Townsend, has, uh, thought a lot about this and has some wonderful ideas on how to get in a healthier spot and strengthen our lives spiritually, and then be that cup of cold water that we can actually offer-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … to others, and this is what Jesus is really calling us to do. Uh, you can’t give out of an empty bucket. In this Best of 2022 broadcast, uh, John will deliver some great, practical wisdom for us, and I think everyone, uh, will want to kick back, get a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, and listen to this one.

John: I would agree, especially, uh, at this time of year. We try to find balance and encouragement, most of us, and reset, and, uh, Dr. Townsend will help us with this. He’s a nationally known leadership consultant, a psychologist, a best-selling author, and is the founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling. And the book that forms the basis of the conversation is called People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love, and Leadership, and we have copies of that here. You’ll find details at Let’s go ahead and join the conversation with Dr. John Townsend and Jim Daly on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

Jim: John, welcome back to Focus.

Dr. Townsend: Glad to be here, guys.

Jim: Um, the title, People Fuel, is great. Now, Jean and I, just to give you an idea, I mean, I’m more the extrovert, she’s more the introvert, and we talk about how we either are fueled-

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … in a group or de-fueled, if I could say it that way.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. Some people way gains or drains.

Jim: (laughs) Right. And that- that’s true, but you know one thing? It’s so interesting to me. I think, and maybe it’s just part of being married, and I don’t even know if this is clinically accurate, but I think, over the years, I’ve adopted a bit of her need to back up a little bit. I used to, in my 20s and 30s, it was all outbound. You know? I just loved being in a group, and it was party time, and crazy, and fun, and the more parties, the better. Right?

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And then, I realized, man, I need time to back up-

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … ’cause I’m really empty.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Is that kinda normal?

Dr. Townsend: It’s very normal.

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: They’ve found out, ah, in fact, that the extrovert needs cave time, not as much as the introvert, but everybody needs that cave time.

Jim: So, and the idea there though for- for her, for the introvert, is you do need people time too.

Dr. Townsend: Y-

Jim: Is that-

Dr. Townsend: That was the other thing.

Jim: Yeah. (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: That- that God made us to need both. The, sort of, the reflective time to say, how’s life going, get my energy back, but I also need that good stuff that comes from the right relationships.

Jim: And you also say in the book, which is fantastic, People Fuel, uh, that we have set needs. I think we- you know what I love about this, let’s get this right out of the way, the idea of amalgamating Christianity with psychology. I think it’s a fact that as you, as a Christian, are identifying patterns that God has set in us as human beings. I think it’s one of the most comfortable blends of science and faith in- in the disciplines of science. Do you agree?

Dr. Townsend: No question about it. In fact, most of what I study now, Jim, is neuroscience, and that’s because every robust study that comes out about resilience or relationship or success or career, every well-done study basically says one thing, the Bible has it all.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Townsend: That thousands of years ago, God said those things, and you can find pot- Bible pas- passages. It’s- it’s a little bit like this tapestry in your- your home that says, “Principles of love, principles of success, principles of child raising,” and then, finally, because of neuroscience, the author’s name, God, is on the bottom of that tapestry.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: The hard science now says He had it right the- all along.

Jim: Well, and it shouldn’t surprise us, as Christians.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah.

Jim: That’s the funny thing that we seem like, wow, that’s amazing, but science should align itself with- with Scriptures-

Dr. Townsend: Right.

Jim: … especially in the area of human behavior.

Dr. Townsend: Yep.

Jim: Uh, so, with that understanding, yo- you say there are two sets of needs, functional and relational.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but that relational needs are often not met.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: So, go ahead and describe those two and speak more about unmet relational needs.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. So, the functional needs, b- briefly, are that we all need to work, we need to do tasks, to be responsible, hold our finances together, all the structured kind of scheduled things that we do, but the relational needs are like what we need to know that we’re loved, we know that we- that we’re accepted, that there’s wisdom around us, that we can get truth, and the problem is, a lot of us are trained to think, okay, I’m supposed to give all those things to other people, but I’m o- I’m supposed to only get them from three sources, just from the Lord, or my spouse, or my Labrador retriever, Max-

Jim: (laughs) Right.

Dr. Townsend: … ’cause he licks me because he unconditionally cares about me. So, I just go that way, and it’s great. We need the Lord and the Holy Spirit and the Bible, and we need our spouse, and we need Max, but the Bible says oh so much more about other people that we need grace and nutrients from. I- I got the whole concept from, um, um, from the world of bio nutrients. You know, we’re all in to getting healthy and taking supplements, and eating right these days, but we kinda never do, and I started thinking, okay, there’s bio nutrients like calcium, and, like, uh, you know, uh, iron that we need to ex- stay healthy. I thought, there’s also relational nutrients.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Townsend: There’s the way that we get those, and we- we get those to each other not from a pill or a supplement, but from a conversation, uh, a text, a warm lunch, or whatever, where we find out that we can get the acceptance we need from others, the wisdom, the encouragement, the truth, the challenge. So, the concept of relational nutrients is are we getting the ones we need from each other? You know, first Peter 4:10 says that, “We are the stewards of God’s manifold grace.” God just basically said, “I’m giving my grace to people through people.” Am I getting that from people and am I providing that for my family and my friends?

Jim: Right.

Dr. Townsend: But to say, I’m struggling. My work or my marriage or my- my physical health, vulnerability brings those nutrients, but it’s a little scary for us-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: … but we- if we can pull that off with safe people, the flow of nutrients work, and we go away feeling like I’m- I’m- I’m ready to take the day.

Jim: And that’s what I appreciate about the, um, you know, the gentle nudging you’re giving us here to kinda get out of the comfort zone-

Dr. Townsend: Yeah.

Jim: … kind of the cave, as you described it-

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and get to know the cave next door. (laughs) Right?

Dr. Townsend: Yes.

Jim: In- in that way, you have four quadrants of relational nutrients. Uh, describe what those four quadrants are and how each of them relate to us.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. They’re all just kinda different categories of how we supply each other with the right fuel and- and get supplied. The first one, which is called be present. The first quadrant was be present. That means, basically, it means to be with somebody and be present, emotionally, and shut up. You know, in- in Job chapter 2, it says that, “His friend sat with him seven days and seven nights and did not speak a word to him, for they saw his grief was very great.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: Only good thing they did in 42 chapters, right? Um-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: … and- and- and- and so, sometimes, you just gotta be with somebody and comfort them, and say, “I’m here. I want to get in the well with you. I want to support you.” Number two is, um, provide the good. You know, we all need, uh, people to kinda be a little, uh, dopamine hit for each other. We encourage each other, and we say, “I believe in you, and you’re struggling in your job, or your health, or your what- with COVID, or with your finances, or your spiritual life. I believe in you. I’m on your side. I respect you,” and people just need that little pop of, “You just gave me an endorphin.” And literally, that’s what the neuroscience says.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: We give each other endorphins and we feel better when someone encourages us. So, you got to provide the positive good for people-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: So, there’s being present and providing the good.

Jim: That’s good. What are the other two?

Dr. Townsend: Um, the- the third one is provide reality, because sometimes we need s- what I call a Gandalf. You know, in Lord of the Rings, the guy with the-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: … the wizard? And he has these little cryptic statements, and you go, “Oh, my gosh,” and the person that can go deeper and say, “Why is that?”

Jim: Mm-hmm-

Dr. Townsend: … or, “Here’s another perspective,” give you honest feedback, give you insight, wisdom. You’ve got to get that from the right people. So, that- that provides so much when people go, “Oh, now I see things. You gave me clarity.” It’s the wisdom aspect.

Jim: And what’s the fourth one?

Dr. Townsend: Well, the fourth one is sort of, like, now, let’s get our butts out of the seats and do something.

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: This- it’s the action step. It’s, like, what’s the action you’re gonna take-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: … because we can have all the presence we want, all the good love we want, all the wisdom we want, but you gotta make behavior, and so, it’s what’s your next challenge? What’s your homework assignment? Is there a- a course you need to take? You need to have that conversation. That’s what action is. And so, we’re all the time, giving and receiving those four, depending on what you need at a different time, to each other.

Jim: And it’s so good, and it- that’s all contained in the book, People Fuel, and John’s gonna give some details about that in a minute. Le- let me also ask you, and this is a- this is one that, again, uh, I think I have often tried to figure out where’s this line. Uh, people think it’s selfish to think of your own needs, um, but you say it’s crucial to maintain health and wellbeing. But where is that line, especially for the Christian, to be mindful of your own needs, ’cause that feels, at times, selfish-

Dr. Townsend: It does.

Jim: … that we would put ourself first, but sometimes, you need to. Describe when that is appropriate, when it’s spiritually a- right and when it’s wrong.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. I- I always go back to the Bible on that, because we- we’ve missed so many verses. For example, um, Proverbs chapter four, verse 23, “Guard your heart, for from it flow the wellsprings of life.” If I don’t take care of my heart, which is my emotions and my values and my schedule and all that, then I’m not gonna be able to give it to anybody else. And then, Paul says in Philippians, “Look not only to your own interest, but those of others.” Not only to your own, but of others. So, it’s always been in the Bible, but I think sometimes, we’ve missed that and said, “Well, any sign of self-care is selfish,” and it can be, but if you’re taking care of yourself, and you’re a healthy person, you’re gonna want to give to the Kingdom and to others.

Jim: Right. And I think in that context, uh, again, this is just a personal example that hopefully encourages couples, like, Jean and I, I- I think it took us time in our marriage-

Dr. Townsend: Hmm.

Jim: … to figure that out, that I enjoyed going for a workout or doing something, and at first, I think she felt, wow, okay, what a- what about time for us?

Dr. Townsend: Yeah, you’re kinda leaving us.

Jim: Y- yeah.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, you know, of course, then, kids arrive, and then it’s, (laughs) “Where are you? I need you.”

Dr. Townsend: Right.

Jim: And- and we get all that, but she is in such a good place with that now. You know, for herself, taking a walk and doing those things that she needs to do, and doing them and not feeling guilty about it-

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and then, you know, letting me go work out and- and do some of those things that I need to recharge. Why does it- first of all, why does it take us time in our marriages to work that out for each other? (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: Well, it does because, in the early parts, you have this kind of honeymoon period, “Well, I just can’t get enough of being together with you.”

Jim: Right.

Dr. Townsend: And- and it’s a good thing, because that glues us together to get ready for the fact that, “Wait a minute, you’re not perfect, and I’m not, and maybe I need some space.” But then, once the honeymoon’s over and you go, “I know you and you know me,” all of a sudden, we know, “I need some space because space creates longing.” There’s a great song that says- it’s a country song, it says, “How can I miss you if you don’t go away?” (laughing)

So, your walks and her walks make you go, “Hey, I missed you,” and you get back together.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: It sounds like an introvert speaking. (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: Yep, pretty much. (laughing)

John: Please, go away so I can miss you.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, our guest today, uh, Dr. John Townsend. His book, People Fuel, is, uh, really a- a great treatment of this topic, and, uh, we’ll encourage you to get a copy today. Call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or stop by

Jim: And John, what I love about all of your books, uh, they’re so practical and you give such pithy, direct guidance on what to do, and another area in your book, People Fuel, you mention the seven Cs. We’re not gonna take time to cover all seven. Let me just, uh, to of them, coaches and comrades. Uh, uh, what are you getting at with people seeking out coaches and comrades, and if you wanna mention another couple, that’s fine too.

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. The whole concept of seven Cs, Jim, is that we’ve got to be- take responsibility for who we spend our time with, because there’s some-

Jim: Oh, that’s so hard.

Dr. Townsend: … people, like we said, you know, earlier, there’s some people that they’re nice people, but God bless them, they’re drains-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Townsend: … and there’s some people that are gains and give us rich nutrients so we can function, have great energy, great creativity, and focus. Well, you’ve got to build up those- those top groups, the coaches and comrades, so that you can help the others. So, the coaches category is basically someone who knows something you don’t know. It could be working out. It could be music. It could be business. It could be spiritual director. They only- not only do they know what you- something called a subject matter expert, SME, but they also have the- they’re trained in coaching. You know, you can have somebody that knows something, but if they don’t have the train to teach and know how to pr- provide for the obstacles and the- and the strategy, it’s not gonna go well. So, they’re trained to teach ya, but the third one is my favorite. Third criteria is they have no personal need for you.

Jim: (laughs) That’s good.

Dr. Townsend: Oh, now, I’ll tell you why this is great, ’cause either they’re pro bono because they made whatever they made and, you know, they’re just doing it, or that you pay them, and- and coaching pays now, at about three times what you pay for it. That’s what the Harvard says.

John: Say that one more time, ’cause I think-

Dr. Townsend: Coaching pays about three times a much- as much, whatever you pay for it, it pays back.

John: Okay. So, the return is really significant.

Dr. Townsend: … the- the return. Incredible. But the reason it’s good that they- you have no need of you, then you don’t have to spend in your little one-hour Zoom with them, half the time asking them, you know, “How was your vacation? How are your kids? How is your, you know, granny?” When I’m- I- I have tons of coaches, ’cause I have a lot of needs.

John: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: So, and when I- when I call my coach, I just say, “Hi,” and he says, “Hi,” and then it’s all about me, uh, and so-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: … it’s not 30 minutes of- of their life, and you can be kind of healthily selfish, because it’s dedicated to your betterment. That’s the thing that makes a coach great.

Jim: Yeah. That is good, and then, the comrades?

Dr. Townsend: Comrades, you know, I got that from the military.

Jim: Sure.

Dr. Townsend: It’s like, you know, comrades in arms and all that? We all need what I call a life team, and a life team is anywhere between three and 10 people in your life and they have several characteristics. They know everything about you and they still love, and they want to push you to grow, and they can be vulnerable with you. They know it all, they love you, they want you- to see you grow, and they want to be vulnerable with you. And so, you walk through life with them, and I have a structure in the book about it, where you meet either a group or individually, every, you know, week, two weeks, three weeks, and you get together, and you- you commit to being honest and open about how life is really going, and you care about each other, and you maybe bring a- a Bible passage in or you pray for each other, but it’s the way to say, “I need these people in my life to give me the nutrients I need, and I want to provide them for them.”

Jim: Right.

Dr. Townsend: It becomes my growth team.

Jim: In that context, John, you look at, again, culture today, I think, y- just personally, Jean has a couple of Bible studies she’s involved- and I would that there is where she’s getting that.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Men tend to be more loner-oriented. You know? It’s- when you say three to 10 guys-

Dr. Townsend: Guys- my- my- my guy friends always say-

Jim: … that would be that close to me, I’m going, wow.

Dr. Townsend: … they- they always go, “Well, how about two?” (laughs)

Jim: How about- how about one? (laughing) But you- you know what I mean-

John: Yeah.

Jim: It’s- and I agree, it’s so important. I do have three-

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that I feel are really close in that way, but speak to that person that is struggling, especially that man who, you know, they’re going, “Wow, I don’t think I have anyone like that.”

Dr. Townsend: Yeah.

Jim: What can they do?

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. I have a system in the book about that, where, basically, and I did this to myself, ’cause I wanted to eat my own cooking, is-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: … you go through a Microsoft, uh, contacts, well, we’ve got that, you know, Outlook, and there’s somewhere between 500 and 5,000 names in there, and you just walk through. If you can’t think of anybody that knows you fully, loves you fully, wants to grow and be vulnerable, and sometimes, there’s a situation, especially if you’re a guy, you w- it’ll take you about an hour to walk through that, and you’ll go through, “Okay, him, maybe, maybe. Eww, that one’s still in prison. Maybe not.”

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: And then, you- and then, you make it done, and you go, “Oh, there’s, like, 20 names here,” and you call them, one at a time, and say, “Hey, I just wanna catch up with you. How’s life going?” And you catch up, and you have lunch or whatever, and the- here’s the magic. You take a vulnerable risk, a little one, and stick your toe in the water. You don’t say, “My life is awful.” You say, “Well, we stru- struggling with our teenager, or my job’s not what it should be, or marriage is kinds struggling.” You take a small, vulnerable step and they will tell you if they’re the right person by one of three con- uh, uh, responses. Number one, they’ll- they’ll say, “You’re a Christian. What are you doing having problems?” Okay. Nice person. Not a comrade, ’cause they’re judging you. Right? Number two, they’ll say, “You know, the weather around here is great, isn’t it. I just love this weather.” Well, they’re saying-

Jim: Avoider.

Dr. Townsend: … avoider.

Jim: (laughing)

Dr. Townsend: Man, I can’t- I can’t go there.

John: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: Okay. Nice person. Not a comrade. Third person will say, “Oh, you got a problem with your daughter. Okay. Here’s three books to read. Now, here’s a seven to- Bible passages. Are you hugging your daughter? Are you having boundaries with your daughter? Do you know her friends?” And they give you all- they’re the advice monsters.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: … and they’re telling you, “I want to be the- the- the great, you know, wisdom person for you, but I don’t want to be open.” The fourth person, and this is the great one, will put down their fork, and lean across, physically, and say, “I had no idea about Sandra, your daughter. I love her. Tell me more about it. How did it feel?”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: “Can I pray for you? I mean, what’s it like for you?” What they’re telling is, “I can go there with you,” and they’re a good candidate for being in a life team.

John: Hmm.

Jim: Boy, that’s good. That’s good. Okay. The- the first four of the Cs are, you know, pretty, uh, healthy-

Dr. Townsend: There’s a lot of in-

Jim: … identifiers. Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: There’s a lot of input for you.

Jim: The next three are more-

Dr. Townsend: Challenging.

Jim: … troubling. So, go over those other three and what are the core-

Dr. Townsend: Yeah. The fourth one is care, because Jesus said the poor will always be with you. I mean, the people- we need to care for people. I mean, that’s kind of what Focus on the Family is about, is how do we care nationally, internationally, people- all the way from people in developing countries that have nothing, to somebody who’s homeless or going through sex trafficking or somebod- a friend who’s in need, or whatever, and we’re called to do that. And so, we have responsibility to do that, to be on boards, to help, to, you know, I’m, you know, I’m always doing kind of roll your sleeves up kind of ministry. And so, the cool thing about that, though, is every time you finish doing a- a service project or whatever you- and I- you’re probably like this too, and I’ll be flying home or driving home, I’ll always say to myself, “Why am I not doing that more?” I feel like transcendent. I feel like I’m with God, and that’s because God puts a little endorphin in me every time I give, as a self-reinforcing system to say, “That felt good, didn’t it, John? Do it again.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: It’s how He keeps care going, because we feel so at one with God after we do it.

Jim: Yeah. And then, the chronic side.

Dr. Townsend: Well, the chronics, I’m- you know, I’m fr- originally from the south, and we call the chronics the bless-their-heart folks.

John: (laughs)

Jim: Bless their heart. They’re trying.

John: That- it’s not a term of endearment, really.

Dr. Townsend: It is not- no, this is not- no, this is a nice way to say, “Oh, my gosh,” because the problem with them is they’re- they’re not mean people, certainly not, but they have problems that never go away, money problems, relationship problems, self-help problems, job problems, and the key to being a chronic is that they have what I call, and I’m not being- I’m being charitable, here, they have what I call a flat learning curve.

Jim: (laughs) Okay.

Dr. Townsend: They experience pain and loss and all this, and you and I would go, “What’d I pick up from that? I want to do that differently-”

Jim: Right.

Dr. Townsend: … and they go back and back. The same mistake-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Townsend: … over again. The Proverbs in the Bible would call them a foolish person, and you- most of us spend way too much time trying to help a chronic change-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Townsend: … and if you’ve ever done that, spent mentoring time with somebody, and- and- and had meetings with them, and didn’t go to your kid’s soccer games because they needed you so much, the key is, when they- to give them a homework assignment. I’m big on homework assignments.

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: And they come back for the next meeting and say, “Well, did you do that thing about, you know, going to a Dave Ramsey course or did you do that thing about spiritual development or about working out?” And they’ll go, “No, I’ve been really busy.”

Jim: (laughing)

Dr. Townsend: And you say, “That’s what I told you to get out of your pain from last week,” and they’re the ones you have to sometimes say, “I can’t spend as much time with them as I’d like to,” because they can totally drain you.

Jim: Yeah, and that’s- that’s important.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, the last one is the most dangerous, the containment.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Describe that person.

Dr. Townsend: The contaminant is a person who’s a bad person. You know, I believe in a personal devil from the Bible. I believe he’s a personality, and I believe that there are bad people, and, um, and- and you see in the Bible that people who, just like the devil, they want to seek and destroy, and a- a person who’s a contaminant really has a lot of envious feelings towards successful people. If you’ve got a family, they might want to tear your family spare.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: If you’ve got an organization or a church, they want to tear up- that apart, because they- they- they’re just bad people. Unfortunat-

Jim: Give me the adjective so the person listening can- could identify, “Oh, man, that’s aunt Sally.”

Dr. Townsend: Yeah, okay. Several things. Um, one is they tend to be predatory. They- they use and exploit other people. Second, they never look at themselves, never about them. Thirdly, they seem to have a- kind of a strange joy in other people’s, um, pain.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Townsend: And they- they- and they- they- they get- become actually kind of gossips to make that happen. I mean, they’re just bad people-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: … and they’re not hurt people. They’re bad people, and they’re- they’re not a big percentage of the human race, but you gotta watch out, and you can’t have a lot of time with these people because they’re- they’re just not- they’re dark people until they get saved or whatever. And so, what I tell people is just make sure that you tell them the truth, ’cause we all deserve the truth, and you make sure you’ve got the resources around them, and- and be confrontive, and if they change, spend more time with them. But don’t sacrifice your family or your church or your business or your head with those people. I spend more time with chronics because, God bless them, they need help.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Townsend: Contaminants, protect your life.

Jim: Yeah. No, tha- and it’s good advice. John, I think for the last question here, as we wrap up, and, again, what great principles in People Fuel. Uh, probably the area that we have the most conflict in, it could be marriage and kids, especially adult kids, and that’s one of the- of the areas that we’re- we receive a lot of feedback from. But you have a wonderful story of conflict within a family, and I think it’s a great illustration that many, many people will be able to take away.

Dr. Townsend: Mm-hmm.

Jim: So, what was the story and what did they learn and what did you learn in that situation?

Dr. Townsend: Yeah, Jim. Um, it’s a family to, uh, always been really close to, and our family traveled with their family on vacations. Everybody had the chemistry, and one of the daughters came up and said, “I’m really struggling. I don’t- I’m fo- I’m- I’m graduating from college. I don’t have a job. I’ve got financial issues, and my boyfriend and I broke up, and my heart’s broken, and I don’t even know if I believe in the Lord because I’m in a big college, and they don’t-

Jim: Wow.

Dr. Townsend: … don’t believe.” So, I said, “I’m- I’ve known you since birth. What can I do? This is awful.” She said, “You can fix my mother,” and I said-

Jim: (laughing)

Dr. Townsend: … “How did we get from here to there?” She said, “Well, I go to her with these problems and my mother says, ‘Look, honey, you’re smart, you’re resilient, and you’re gonna be a winner. So, feel better.’” And I said, “Does that help?” She goes, “No, I just avoid her.” So, I talked to mom, and I said, “Look at it this way. Your daughter fell down a well, a well of no relationship, a well of being overwhelmed, no money, um, faith issues, and she’s down in this well, and she’s struggling, and then you come and see her, and where you are, you know, the sun is shining and- and, you know, Spotify’s playing Hillsong, and everything’s good there-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: … and all this, and you look down and say, ‘Honey, you’re strong and resilient, and you’re a winner. Come on up,’” like Bob Barker, you know, in the whole-

John: Yeah. (laughs)

Dr. Townsend: … and she just blows you off because you’re not with her.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Townsend: “Now, your husband, who’s a- also a dear friend of mine, he sees y’all’s daughter, and he jumps into the well, 40 feet down. He lands there with her, and he picks up his daughter, y’all’s daughter, and he holds her, and he says, ‘It’s dark here, and it’s overwhelming, and it’s scary, and I’m with you as long as it takes, and we’ll get out together.’ That’s why she listens to him and not you.”

And the mother said-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: … “I- you’re telling me to s- to change my ways.” I said, yeah. I mean, give grace before truth. Grace gives us the- the- the permission to give truth. If they don’t feel like we’re in the well of pain with us, they’re not gonna listen to us. So, just be with her and be present. And then, you’ve got great truth, but you’re out of sequence.” I went to John chapter one, verse 14, where- where John says that Jesus came full of grace and truth, and in the syntax, the order in the Greek, it means grace and truth. It doesn’t say truth and grace. That order’s important. And she said, “I’ll try it.” She tried it. I checked with them about six weeks later, and the daughter said, “Mom and I talk all the time,” and the mom said, “I’ve learned it. I mean, I’ve learned how to listen before I do this.” And here’s the message for people when I’m giving this talk, is most of us think, right now, when they’re hearing this, “I need to do that. I need to get in that well first and say, ‘I’m with you. Tell me more about it. How does it feel,’ before I give my truth. I’ve got to be better about that,” but that’s not what I tell people to think. It’s a great thought. Put that thought on the back burner. What we really need to be thinking now is seven words, and these are the hard ones. Who am I inviting to my well? Who am I inviting to my well? Because that’s hard. That’s vulnerable.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Townsend: But how can I give those things to others if I’m not asking for them too? So, I challenge people to get somebody in your well and say, “Let me tell you how I’m really doing.”

John: Such a good discussion, and it’s always fun to sit down with Dr. John Townsend and learn from him, and I’m sure you’ve been encouraged by this conversation. His book is a great practical resource for anyone who wants to grow in relationships with family, friends, coworkers, whoever’s in your life. Uh, the book is called People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love, and Leadership.

Jim: And I really want you to respond to this. I mean, if it has touched, uh, a chord in your heart, maybe a sense that, uh, man, I’m not where I want to be, get in touch with us. That’s why we’re here, to help you continue to grow as a Christian. If you’re not a believer in Jesus, let’s take that first step together. Call us and let us talk to you about what it means to be Christian. And I think God is calling us to relationship with Him and with others, and not to be isolated. So, if you are, get in touch with us. Make that call. Let me also encourage you to learn more on this crucial topic by asking for John’s book, People Fuel. If you can make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family and do ministry with us, in practical terms, give families hope, we want to send you a copy of the book as our way of saying, “Thank you for being a part of the answer for these folks.” I’m also excited to say that some generous friends of Focus are partnering with us to encourage giving, here at the close of the year. It’s a fun way just to spur each other on to support the ministry. They’re making a special matching gift, which will double anything you donate, when you contact us and give today.

John: Donate as you can and request your copy of People Fuel by Dr. John Townsend when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by 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.

Today's Guests

cover image for the book people fuel by dr. john townsend

People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love, and Leadership

Receive the book People Fuel and the audio download of the broadcast "Helping Kids Navigate Worry in Healthy Ways" for your donation of any amount! And now through a special matching opportunity, your gift will be DOUBLED, dollar for dollar!

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