FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Are You a Shrugger or a Hugger?

with Rich Rollins | July 22, 2008
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How do you respond when someone comes to you with a problem? Today on the broadcast, pastor Rich Rollins, author of the book Redeeming Relationships, tells Dennis Rainey about two ways to deal with conflict - to shrug those conflicts that aren’t yours or to “hug” and support someone through a particular situation.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • How do you respond when someone comes to you with a problem? Today on the broadcast, pastor Rich Rollins, author of the book Redeeming Relationships, tells Dennis Rainey about two ways to deal with conflict - to shrug those conflicts that aren’t yours or to “hug” and support someone through a particular situation.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How do you respond when someone comes to you with a problem?

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Are You a Shrugger or a Hugger?

With Rich Rollins
July 22, 2008
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Bob: You've heard it said that opposites attract, right?

[musical transition]

Rich Rollins says that's true until they get married.

Rich: Luana is a very quiet person, and I am anything but quiet.  People would say that I am the bubbling brook – actually, my wife says "babbling" brook, I think it really is bubbling brook.

[musical transition]

When we dated, it was wonderful.  I, for the first time, found a woman who would sit all night long and listen to all of my profound discussion, and she found a man who would take her out on a date and not require her to talk.  And that was – we just really believed that we had just discovered the right person for our lives until we got married.  And within the first week, we had a conflict, and I saw her using silence to frustrate me.  I wanted to talk about it right now, and she wanted to retreat to her silence.  So what was attractive now became a detractor.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 22nd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Have you found that some of those things that drew you together when you were dating have started to get on your nerves?  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  We're going to talk about opposites attracting and about the conflict that can occur in a marriage as a result of that on today's program.  But let me start off by reminding our regular listeners that this week and next week they have a special opportunity to make plans to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences this fall.  We're going to be hosting these conferences in cities all across the country, and it's a great event.  It's a two-and-a-half-day weekend getaway for couples – Friday night, all day Saturday, goes through about 12:30 on Sunday.  You get off to a nice hotel where the two of you can just relax and refresh and can learn more about what the Bible has to say about marriage and give your marriage a tuneup.

Now, this week and next week, FamilyLife Today listeners can register for one of these upcoming conferences and can save up to $100 per couple off the total Weekend to Remember experience.  All the details are on our website at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.  We can give you dates and locations, and you can make plans to attend one of these conferences.

If you want to register and save up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend experience, when you get to our website, on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  Click where it says "Learn More."  That will take you to an area of the site where there is a link that has all of the details about this special offer and, as you fill out the registration form, there will be a keycode box for you.  You need to remember to type the word "Bob" in the keycode box, because this offer is only good for my friends, so you type my name, "Bob" in the keycode box, and you will be qualified for this special radio opportunity.  Or simply call 1-800-FLTODAY, get the information over the phone and register over the phone but make sure that you mention you're a FamilyLife Today listener or mention my name. 

And you're going to have a great weekend at the Weekend to Remember.  We talk about a wide variety of subjects.  We talk about communication, we talk about sexual intimacy, we talk about resolving conflict and what husbands and wives can do to communicate more effectively, to make peace with one another.

In fact, let me ask you a question, Dennis, as we move into today's program.  If you had to give yourself a letter grade for the role conflict has played in your marriage relationship, I know a lot of people think the ideal marriage would be on that is conflict-free, but, in reality, some conflict can have a positive benefit on a marriage, can't it?

Dennis: So what am I grading here?

Bob: I'm asking you to give a letter grade to …

Dennis: Barbara may be listening.


Bob: I'm not talking about the quality of your conflict, necessarily, I'm just talking about …

Dennis: The number of conflicts?

Bob: No, just has it been – has conflict in your marriage been essentially a positive thing …

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: … or a more negative thing?

Dennis: Yes, it has been more positive.

Bob: More positive than negative?

Dennis: More positive than negative.  I would want to be very careful to say that at points – because Barbara …

Bob: Is listening, right?

Dennis: May be listening, and there's nothing like a great illustration ruined by an eyewitness.  You know, in any relationship where you have two different people, you're going to differ, you're going to differ in your expectations, your ability to meet one another's needs to be perfectly understood, and there's going to be conflict.

Bob: But you know there are a lot of listeners who are listening who would answer that completely differently.  They would say conflict has been very destructive in our relationship, in fact, it may have ended our relationship.  They don't see any positive to it at all.

Dennis: Well, and those illustrations exist, Bob, but there are others who are listening to say, you know, we don't have any conflict.  I talked to one Christian leader one time who said, "My wife and I never have an argument."  Well, frankly, I wonder about that relationship.

Bob: Somebody is napping all the time, aren't they?


Dennis: I mean, you didn't marry yourself.  That's the only way you're going to avoid having a conflict, and we have a friend with us in the studio, Dr. Rich Rollins, who has written a book about conflict that really is a great book to equip all of us to – well, shall we say redeem relationships?  Rich, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Rich: Well, it's good to be with you.

Dennis: The name of his book is "Redeeming Relationships," and undoubtedly, Rich, as you have been an Executive Pastor for now almost 20 years of a large church in the Bay Area, you've seen a few conflicts that needed to be redeemed, and your book is just full of illustrations yet, at the same time, it's anchored with biblical illustrations and truth about how we need to handle conflict.

I want to take you all the way back to the more fundamental issue of what is conflict.  How would you define it?

Rich: I think you have to make some contrasts.  First of all, conflict is not just a mild irritation or a mild disagreement.  Conflict arises when it stops the development of a relationship and the relationship begins to plateau that in such a way it will not go any further until that conflict is resolved.

I'm not talking about minor things.  If you get caught on minor things, you would move – your day would be lived dot-to-dot with each dot being a conflict, and you'd never get through the day.

Dennis: Give me an illustration of what a dot-to-dot is.

Rich: Well, a dot-to-dot is someone might say the wrong thing to you, they may misunderstand what you said, they may not listen to you.  Someone in the middle of a conversation may turn and walk away, and if you identify all of those as conflicts, you will never make it through the first week of your life.

But a conflict, generally, and we generally identify it clearly in our minds as something that is an impenetrable wall before us that if we don't get over it or around it, we are not going to grow in this relationship, and that's true whether it be at work or at home or with our kids or our wives or just with our friends.  Conflict is an important issue.

Dennis: I want to talk about that wall in just a second, but you have a concept you talk about that of being a shrugger?

Rich: A shrugger.  You know, the Word of God tells us in Proverbs that "A man who picks a dog up by the ears" …

Dennis: That's a great illustration.

Rich: Isn't it a great illustration?  I think we had a president that used to do that.


Dennis: Which one?  No, don't tell us.

Bob: Don't answer that.

Dennis: We're going to keep our listeners guessing on that one, shall we?


Go ahead and finish the Proverbs.

Rich: … "is worse than one who meddles in someone else's problem."  And I think that one of the causes of some of our conflicts is our penchant to solve everything.  And many times we take on problems that are not ours – conflicts that are not ours.  It's a shrugger, it's not my problem.  You can just see, you can visualize the shoulders going up and the hands coming out, and you shrug at it and you say, "You know what?  I'm sorry that you have that problem, but it's really not mine to solve."

Dennis: You just mentioned two types of people that I want you to comment on because I think this is very important.  I think Christians are set up to become both of these – one is a problem solver, and the other one is …

Rich: A person who is a rescuer.  We have to rescue everybody.  The problem solver is a little different because problem solvers have this inability to listen with compassion or listen empathetically.  What they do is, they listen with a solution formulating in their minds, and as you pour your heart out to them, they are ready to jump on the problem with a great solution, never thinking that this may not be their problem; never thinking that this is someone else's problem to solve.  But because they are problems solvers, they rush right into the solution of the problem without ever giving thought to the fact that it may be someone else's problem.

Dennis: I'm going to give you an illustration of that in a second.  Explain what the rescuer is then.

Rich: Well, the rescuer, and it generally happens with family members or people who have a great sense of mercy.  I've often thought that people who have the gift of mercy but not the maturity to have the gift are people that go out and try to rescue people constantly.  I can think of a woman who has a house filled with people who are really derelicts in life, and what she has done is she has kept them from being productive by protecting them from all the elements around them.  She would just literally go, pick them up, bring them in, and now they became just as irresponsible.  In her house, they at least have shelter, but they're not making any contribution to their life or to society.  She has rescued them.  And we do that, sometimes, in our problems and conflicts.

Dennis: Yes, and this morning I received a phone call from a young man that I'm kind of coaching and encouraging, and I found myself experiencing both the problem-solver and the rescuer.  I thought, "I can solve this problem."  I was feeling it with the young man, I thought, "I can solve this," and then my rescuer side said, "I cannot only help address the problem, I can be a part of the solution, and I can rescue them from the consequences of this," and I can't say I heard from God at this point, but there was something took place within me that said, "Wait a second.  This is not yours."

Rich: That's right.

Dennis: So back to picking up the dog by the ears, I had to kind of drop the dog at that point and realize it was not my problem.  In fact, if anything, as I was bringing counsel to this young man, I was creating a dependent relationship on me to problem solve and not giving him the joy, as a man, of addressing his own problems.

Bob: And this is really a profound biblical principle that people need to internalize and live out each day.  There are conflicts you will see happening all around you that are not your issue, not yours to deal with.

Dennis: You're saying there's a lot of puppies that are begging to be picked up by the ears.

Bob: That's right, and the wise person will say, "You need to figure out how to work this out.  I'll give you counsel, but I'm not going to go fix it for you."

Dennis: And let me tell you what they do.  They invite you into their world to solve their problem or to rescue them from the consequences, and when things don't go right, guess what happens?  Guess who gets the blame for having meddled in their circumstances?

Bob: And it's not just – here's the thing – there's not just other people's problems that we can't get drawn into, but there are offenses we're going to face every day that we need to learn to shrug to as well.

Rich: Yes.

Bob: I'm thinking of Proverbs 19:11 that says, "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is a man's glory to overlook an offense."

Rich: Yes.

Bob: There are some offenses that the wise thing to do is just say, "You know what?  I'm going to overlook that."  That person interrupted me like I just interrupted you– that person was rude to me.  We don't have to go around correcting and making everything right.  Some things, we just – we let it go.  We leave it to the Lord, and we move on, right?

Rich: Well, I think you're correct, and I would add to that, we, in the last program, looked at Galatians, chapter 6, and talked about the spiritual man restoring those who are struggling, and in that passage there are two burdens mentioned – the first burden in the Greek language is really a burden that's too great for someone to carry alone.  And the second burden is like knapsack – built for someone to carry alone.

And I think that one of the great things we need to learn in terms of discernment is which burden are we looking at?  Some people bring to us a burden that is actually too great for them to carry alone, and we need to help carry that burden.  And some other people bring to us burdens that they believe they can't carry alone but, in fact, they can, and they need to be shown how to do that.

I remember my daughter coming home from high school and complaining about her science teacher.  Her science teacher had been treating her unfairly, she's a junior in high school now, and so she says, "Would you call the science teacher and talk to her?"  Now, I have to ask is this something I need to solve or is this something that Jenny needs to solve?

And I said, "Honey, this – your science teacher was one of my students at the college.  She's doing her very best job, and I think this is really not my problem, I think it's your problem, but let me show you how I think you can solve it."  And so we mapped out a conversation that she could have with her science teacher.  I knew her science teacher to be a godly person, and she went back -- it was the hardest thing she ever did, but she had the conversation.  The science teacher, she immediately saw the problem, she corrected it, and what I did then is I gave the problem to the right person, and I helped her solve it.  It became a – it was a burden all along that she could carry for herself.

Many times, as parents, we'll pick up the load for our kids and never teach them how to carry that load alone.

Bob: That's a great point.

Dennis: It really is a great point, and one additional benefit of doing it that way is guess whose relationship with the teacher grows exponentially as a result of handling that conflict in a mature way?

Rich: Exactly.

Dennis: Barbara and I had a similar experience with an English teacher with one of our kids, and we actually went in there with the child and assisted in the conflict and helped the child address it.  But you know what?  That English teacher became an ally for the rest of our years at that school because we didn't go in there to beat her up, we didn't go in there to thump her with our Bible and say, "We're believers, we're Christians, how dare you ask our son or daughter to read this novel?"  We went in there and upheld the dignity of the other person still acknowledging the conflict and tried to deal with it in a biblical fashion.

Bob: So sometimes you coach somebody on how to bear their own burden if you think they can bear it.  Sometimes you do come along and help, but what you don't do is pick up an offense for somebody else and assume the weight of that offense on your own, especially if you're not invited into it and especially if you really aren't a party to it, right?

Rich: Exactly.

Bob: Let me go back to how you define conflict, because I really like the fact that you said that not every difference is a conflict.  It really are those differences that begin to threaten the foundation of our relationship that become conflicts.  There are lots of differences and, in fact, we've got to learn to value differences with one another.  It's good that we're different, isn't it?

Rich: I think it's very good.  I think that when I first got married, I benefited from the difference that Luana and I have.  Luana is a very quiet person, and I am anything but quiet.  People would say that I am the bubbling brook.  Actually, my wife says "babbling" brook, I think it really is bubbling brook, and my wife would be called "the Dead Sea."  She has no other outlet, she receives everything, I give everything, and when we dated, it was wonderful.  I, for the first time, found a woman who would sit all night long and listen to all of my profound discussion, and she found a man who would take her out on a date and not require her to talk. 

We just really believed that we had just discovered the right person for our lives until we got married, and within the first week we had a conflict, and I saw her using silence to frustrate me.  I wanted to talk about it right now, and she wanted to retreat to her silence.  So what was attractive now became a detractor. 

And I had to, over years, realize that my wife is, by nature, quiet.  She needs to think about things before she can talk about them, and I am a talker, and so I think out loud.  I want to talk everything out.  And just that one difference that started out as such a positive characteristic became a detractor until we realized that it could be a great strength.  I needed to talk less, she needed to learn to talk more.

Bob: How do you demonstrate to her today that you value her difference?

Rich: What we will do today is I'll enumerate a problem that I think we've got or something we need to sit down and talk about, and we'll make a date, and I'll say, "Why don't we talk about – why don't we go out to dinner Friday, and we'll just talk about this Friday?"  That gives her the week to work on it, to think about it, but it doesn't give her an open end to never talk about it, and then Friday night we're going to talk about it, and I'm amazed how well she can put things together and communicate.

Talkers tend to talk because they're thinking out loud without thinking, but people who are not born talkers think about it and put the sentences together in such a wonderful way that you really – she has really thought it out, and it has so improved our relationship.  I think when you look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, you have to understand that it's our differences that draw the body's uniqueness together not our likenesses.  The whole body is not an eye, it's not an ear.  We're made up of different members, and if we were not, we wouldn't be a functioning body, and I think relationships are the same way.

Dennis: And 1 Corinthians 12 is followed by chapter 13.

Rich: Correct.

Dennis: Which is how the body ultimately functions, which is how we love one another.

Rich: Exactly, and without that, there is no meaning in our relationship.

Bob: You know, this whole thing about valuing differences – again, this is one of those fundamental relationships issues that married couples have to wrestle with, parents of children have to wrestle with, when we begin to see that because somebody is different that doesn't mean they're wrong or bad, it just means they're different and, in fact, that can be a strength that changes everything.

Dennis: It really does.  In fact, I'm thinking back to Rich's illustration of comparing his wife to the Dead Sea.  I thought that was a dangerous illustration and then I thought, you know what?  That's a great illustration because in Zachariah, chapter 14, do you know what happens when Jesus comes back and puts His feet down on, I believe it's the Mount of Olives?  It splits in half and the Mediterranean runs into the Dead Sea, and it becomes a living, thriving body of water.

Rich: Isn't that wonderful?

Dennis: And the picture here of what Rich has just talked about in his relationship with his wife is a picture of what happens when Jesus Christ sets foot into a marriage?  This is not a fairy tale we're talking about here.

Rich: That's right.

Dennis: This is about the biblical blueprints for living and having great relationships, and the Lord God Almighty entering into a relationship, and here's the deal.  Jesus is alive. 

Rich: That's right.

Dennis: Easter is not about the Easter Bunny, it's about the empty tomb.  Christ is alive, and even to that marriage who is listening to us right now who is in the biggest point of despair, who doesn't have a relationship like you, Rich, but who is in the midst of hurt and difficulty and they're caught up in their differences and focusing on one another's weaknesses, Jesus Christ can make a difference in that marriage.

Rich: And does, and does.

Bob: We have seen God do that very thing time and time again at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  In fact, I was just sitting here thinking, Dennis, that last year I think we had nearly 3,000 people who, for the first time, made a profession of faith at one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  And we've seen couples covenant together to make God the center of their relationship and to start applying biblical principles in their marriage, and it's been transforming for those couples.

And one of the reasons I mention that is because our listeners this week and next week have an opportunity to attend one of our upcoming conferences in the fall.  They actually start in September and go almost up to Christmas, and they're held in cities all across the country.  But you can attend one of these weekend getaways and save up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend experience. 

If you'd like to take advantage of that special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, you need to know my name.  You need to say, "Bob sent me," when you call 1-800-FLTODAY to either get more information or to register for the conference.  Or if you go online at, and you click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast," that will take you to an area of the site where you'll see a link to more information about this special offer for the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.

As you fill out your registration form online, type the name "Bob" into the keycode box, and that will identify you as a FamilyLife Today listener, and make you eligible for savings of up to $100 per couple off the complete Weekend to Remember weekend experience.  And, again, this is a great conference where couples can relax and refresh and just enjoy being with one another and learning more about what it takes to build a strong, healthy marriage relationship.

So call 1-800-FLTODAY, register for the conference and do it this week so that you can save up to $100 per couple off the complete experience.  Or go to our website,, register online, and just make sure you put my name, "Bob," in the keycode box on your registration form to qualify you for the savings.

And while you're on our website, don't forget to get a copy of the book that Rich Rollins has written, which is called "Redeeming Relationships."  It is a helpful guide to dealing with the kind of conflict we've talk about today that is common to all marriage relationships.

Again, the title of the book is "Redeeming Relationships."  You can order a copy from us online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and request a copy over the phone, and someone on our team will let you know how you can have it sent out to you.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about what we do with the impulse that all of us feel from time to time to try to fix our spouse.  Is there a healthy way to respond to that?  We're going to talk about that tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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