Relating to Women with Powerful Personal

with Judy Dabler, Tara Barthel | February 21, 2006

How do you get along with strong-willed people? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Judy Dabler and Tara Barthel, both certified Christian conciliators and co-authors of the book, Peacemaking Women. Judy and Tara share how to relate to other women with powerful personalities.

How do you get along with strong-willed people? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Judy Dabler and Tara Barthel, both certified Christian conciliators and co-authors of the book, Peacemaking Women. Judy and Tara share how to relate to other women with powerful personalities.

Relating to Women with Powerful Personal

With Judy Dabler, Tara Barthel
February 21, 2006
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Tara: This is miracle – broken relationships can be restored – that's the Gospel.  Our relationship with God and our relationships with one another – it is possible for relationships that seem irreparable, there is no hope in this life.  There is hope.  That is the ministry of the Gospel.  This is evidence that Christ lived.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 21st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  One powerful way to share the Gospel with friends it to make sure relationships are reconciled.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We actually had been through this whole conversation this week where we've been talking about peacemaking and, so far, it has seemed pretty calm, you know, have you noticed that?

Dennis: What are you talking about?

Bob: Nothing has broken out, there's been …

Dennis: At home are you talking about?

Bob: I'm talking about here in the studio as we're talking with our guests.

Dennis: Well, we created a conflict with our guests, Tara and Judy, yesterday by comparing them to Roller Derby.

Bob: I thought that might provoke them.  That was really the intent of the whole thing.

Dennis: You wanted to see if they really had learned the lessons …

Bob: I wanted to test their sanctification.

Dennis: They've written a book about women who are peacemakers.

Bob: Or who need to be, right?

Dennis: Exactly.

Bob: Yeah, and we talked about Roller Derby and how they used to pull hair, and you just let us get away with that and didn't lash out.  Now, is there any bitterness, any resentment?

Dennis: Yeah, do either of you need to ask …

Bob: Do you need to confess anything?

Dennis: … Bob or me to forgive you?

Judy: Well, if we're going to be passive/aggressive, we'll get back to you in a couple of months.


Bob: That's spoken like a true counselor.  Judy is a counselor is St. Louis, Missouri, she is the executive director at the Center for Biblical Counseling and Education and is also a conciliator; works with Peacemaker Ministries.  And Tara lives in Billings, Montana, used to be full time with Peacemaker there, and you're now part-time because you're full-time as a mom.

Tara: I am.

Bob: That's right.  You still help train those people who are professional conciliators, and probably our listeners aren't sure exactly what that means.  What's a professional conciliator?

Judy: A conciliator is somebody who engages with parties in conflict in three ways primarily – conflict coaching, which is with one person; mediation, which are two or more people who are in conflict; and then as an arbitrator.  In our ministry we do quite a bit of mediation, and there are people who are trained primarily through the Institute for Christian Conciliation, which is Ken Sandy's ministry, Peacemaker Ministries in Billings, and they have a great training program, and people of all different kinds – pastors, lawyers, counselors, and laypeople.

Bob: You described that in three different levels.  Is that kind of escalation?  You start off with coaching.  If that doesn't work, it may have to go to mediation.  If that doesn't work, arbitration is the next level?

Judy: Often, yes.

Bob: And what is the goal of a conciliator?

Judy: The goal of the conciliator is to help parties in conflict to engage with the truth of God's Word; to search their own heart; rid their lives of idols that are ruling them and feeling the conflict; and hopefully to be reconciled with forgiveness.

Bob: Tara, do you wear black-and-white striped shirts as you do this – and blow whistles?

Tara: No, but all these sports analogies, I'm telling you, I think Judy and I are having a hard time following the two of you.

Dennis: That was a little safer, though, than the Roller Derby, you've got to admit.

Tara: I couldn't even wrap my mind around the Roller Derby. 

Bob: And we've spoken a little bit this week about the fact that peacemaking for women may be a more significant issue because women are so relationally wired.  When there is a break in a relationship, does that hurt more for a woman than it does for a man?

Judy: Well, it depends on if the relationship is an idol.  For men, the idols are often accomplishments, trophies, and awards, and so forth.  For women, relationships are often their idols.  In fact, that was the case for me.  I'm fairly driven, but my drivenness was always about relationship, and so when a relationship became damaged, it brought out the heart issues.

Dennis: Are you talking about someone who is a people-pleaser?  Were you a real pleaser of people in all your relationships?

Judy: In a real way, that's true.  I think a lot of the drivenness, perfectionism, was about trying to secure relationships and be safe in relationships.

Dennis: You both have mentioned that peacemaking has to do with recognizing idols and then laying aside those idols so you can pursue peace with one another.  How can you know if a relationship is an idol?

Tara: That's a great question.  I think it is Elyse Fitzpatrick who says the way to identifying idol is will I sin to get it or will I sin if I don't get it?  I think if you ask those questions, that's going to show you a lot of things.  Like, for instance, we talked already this week about Judy and I having conflict right in the book, "Peacemaking Women," which is irony, right there.  But we both – we identified idols in our own heart; things that were just desires we were elevating to demands, and we were sinning to get it.

Bob: What were you sinning to get?

Tara: Well, for me, there was so many that this show probably couldn't hold them all.

Bob: Well, give me one.

Tara: Just one was I really wanted to have the book done in a timely manner.

Bob: And you were willing to sin to make that happen.

Tara: Yes, and, you know, one of the ways I sinned, we sin by acts of commission; we actually do things, but we also sin by acts of omission, and one of the ways I sinned against my dear friend Judy was by not loving her well.  You know, I failed to act in loving ways.  And sometimes we can act sort of Super Susie Spiritual.  We say, "I'm not sinning, I'm not doing anything wrong," and that's not the standard the Lord has for us.  He says, "I call you to lay down your life for your brother, for your sister."  It's not enough to say "Well, I don't have a work conflict in my relationships.  We want our relationships to demonstrate shalom, you know, the Hebrew word for peace – "shalom" – is a huge word.  It encompasses far more than the absence of conflict.  It actually gets to the heartbeat of trust and hope and joy and fullness, and where there is peace – it's like the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming, and there's just a soundness.  It's a reflection of God Himself. 

That's what we're talking about in the book, "Peacemaking Women."  Not just the absence of conflict in relationships among women and how we relate with men in our lives as well – our children, our parents – but the presence of something so good, so rich, so true, that the Lord looks in and, I'll tell you, the world is desperately lonely that many, many people in churches are desperately lonely as well.  But they would look in and say, "What is happening?  I thought you guys were estranged – your relationship was broken?  Why do you love one another?"  "Let me tell you about Jesus." 

 There is such a depth of relationship that people look in and say, "I really thought you got in trouble at work because" – "Yes, but I talked with him, and he repented, I forgave him, and we're friends."  "No, no, no, I’m sure you can't be."  "No, let me tell you about Jesus."  So, you see, that's what we're talking about in "Peacemaking Women."

Bob: Judy what was it that you were willing to sin to get or willing to sin if you didn't get in the relation – in the conflict with Tara?

Judy: I was willing to stop loving her and caring, and I did.  I shut my heart down and didn't feel, didn't think.  We did not have hostile conflict, I just grew very cold and distant.

Bob: Isolated, pulled apart.

Judy: Isolated.

Bob: And you're saying that was sinful?

Judy: It was.  One of the best passages in Scripture from my perspective if Philippians, the prayer that Paul prays for the church in Philippi.  He says, "This is my prayer – that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."  And my love was shrinking, and I chose not to care, not to think, not to serve Tara, and that was strange.  It was a horrible, horrible experience, and it was months into it before someone confronted me.  No one knew what I was going through.

Bob: Now, the two of you are both pretty strong women, is that fair to say?

Tara: Absolutely.

Bob: I mean, you're a lawyer, you're an attorney, right?

Tara: I am.

Bob: And you've got an MBA, too?

Tara: Yes.

Bob: So we can say there's a little drivenness …

Tara: I'm not a relaxed, laid back, artistic, creative, random thinker.

Bob: All right.  You've set up a counseling center in St. Louis.  You've got your master's degree, you've got a lot going on in your life.  Both of you are strong women.  Is conflict more likely for women like you than it is for women who are more relaxed?

Judy: Yes and no.  Conflict often is more visible with women like us.  People tend to react toward strong personalities, because they don't know and understand the people.  They react initially from at the surface.  However, everyone has conflict, and it goes back to the heart.  It's not the personality that creates the conflict, it's the desires that rule the heart, and each person – we have a fundamental decision every day of our lives – a First Commandment decision to love God or to love other gods, and it's a struggle, temptation.  And so I'd say conflict pretty well spans the spectrum, but it's more visible with the strong personality and especially in the types of work we do.  We work on very visible venues – with churches, ministries, and so forth.

Dennis: You think about a person who is a strong person who has a blind spot – that's a certain recipe for disaster.  If you take a person who is more laid back, quiet, they still have blind spots, make no mistake about it, but they may not hurt as many people with their blind spots – "may."  I want to introduce that word – "may" not hurt as many people.

 But the strong woman with the strong personality who has those blind spots and isn't aware of how she's coming across, she can damage a lot of people.

Judy: That's right.

Tara: Yes, my husband is a great example of this as far as – he is the most gentle, wonderful man.  Well, I guess Jim has to rally him – Judy has a great husband, too.  But Fred is just so godly, and he's so wise, but he's a very quiet man.  He's very loving, he's very gentle and faithful, but I've known him now for 12 years.  In that time, I have never met one person who does not like Fred.  He's just a likeable man. 

 But I walk into a room, and people will just reject me on spec.  They don't even get to know me.  They'll say, "Yeah, I'm sure I won't like her," and they'll just dismiss without even giving me a chance.  Not everybody, of course, but many will.  And, many times, what will encourage me as he prays over me and counsels me from Scripture, he'll say, "You know, Tara, there probably should be more people in my life who don't like me, if I had had the courage to speak up.  But many times he remains quiet when he should have spoken whereas, and, again, not always, because he speaks quite well, and when he does, people listen.

 But, you see, it's often with we're more verbal, as women tend to be – not always, but many women tend to be more verbal and especially if you have that kind of driver personality, then you might be in that group speaking up or bringing truth to bear.  And, again, there's truth without grace.  It will lead to condemnation, and it crushes people's spirits.  When you say "I love you, you are safe with me, let's turn to the Lord's Word together, let's turn in faith and repentance, I love you.  Honey, it looks like you're trying to manipulate me here.  I really love you.  I'm here for you.  I'm not giving up on you.  Honey, that's not how a Christian is supposed to be, do you see it?"  There's truth and there is grace, and that's when you have this wonderful depth of safety of relationship.

Bob: And you both know that there is a tendency to lean in one direction or another; there is tendency to either be a truth speaker absent of that love and that grace, or there is a tendency to be the soft non-truth speaker and think, "Well, as long as I'm being loving, then I'm being Christ-like," and yet, absent the truth, you're not being Christ-like, right?

Judy: The strong personality who has grown in maturity with Christ can do both – can speak the truth in a very gracious way, and in my own life, I was a bookworm and a quiet person until I was 16, and my parents divorced.  And then I became a vicious person for 11 years.

Dennis: Now, wait a second.  In what way did you become vicious?

Judy: I hated God.  I hated Him for what He had done when my parents divorced.  I felt that He let me down, and so I became verbally cruel, and my mother, when I was 23, said, "Judy, when you leave a room, you leave behind bleeding and wounded people," and I knew she was right.  I came to Christ at 27, and people who have come to know me in the last five to eight years don't believe the type of person that I truly was.  My husband, we've been married 25 years, he'll agree. 

Bob: He believes it.

Judy: He believes it, and it's the true story, and Christ, the power of His grace, transforms the way we relate.  So it's not hopeless if you have a strong personality because the grace of God transforms even that.

Dennis: Ultimately, though, the person who is the strong personality or the person who maybe doesn't have quite the strong personality – they both have to deal with pride, arrogance.

Judy: Yes, that's right.

Dennis: One of the things that irritates me, and I know why it irritates me is certain personalities and …

Bob: Is thou are the man.  You know why it is.

Dennis: Exactly – certain personalities, and it sounds like your husband is one of them, Tara – certain personalities can be described as more humble, more gracious because, as you described your husband, he's a quiet, gentle, peaceful – I mean – I didn't almost go to sleep while you were describing him, but he just sounds like someone who would walk into a room, as you said, and people would be attracted and drawn to him at that point.

 But when you do have a strong personality, many times the word "humble" isn't ascribed because you're strong.  But that doesn't mean that a person who is quiet can't have arrogance and pride.  And if you're going to resolve conflict, if you're going to truly have peace in a marriage or between two women, both parties ultimately have to submit to God and what He says about their relationship, about love, and about forgiveness.

Tara: We see this so often in all of our relationships.  Think about not just friendships but parenting; the different personalities among your children.  I have just recently, even in the last, I would say, five years, begun to really enjoy women who are so amazingly different from me; women who, before, you know, we'd be in a conversation, and they're just kind of talking about some topic, and maybe they're talking about a different topic, and I would be frustrated, I would think, "Do you have a point?  Can you get to your point?  Are you going to accomplish anything in this conversation?"

 And, instead, they are probably thinking, "Man, Tara needs to relax, she needs to just sit back."  But, again, to be able to just embrace that some people are more random in their thoughts; they're very creative; often they're artistic; they're very relational; and then to let the other women who are – I love to make lists, I love to add things to lists after I've accomplished them so I can have the satisfaction of scratching it off because lists are wonderful and the Container Store is phenomenal, and this is where – I mean this – but, you know, I think a women's retreat is a great example of this.

 You know, if you have a women's retreat with only people like me, it would be very well organized and extremely efficient, but where would be the fun and the beauty and the flowers and the little games and all of that?  But if you only have the creative fun random, no one will ever organize enough to actually advertise the event and collect money and register the women.  And in the body of Christ to be able to say, "Isn't this wonderful that we are all not the same; that we're different; that this reflects the Triune God.  This brings God pleasure that we can enjoy one another and glorify Him together.  But, again, that's a part of growing and grace and growing in sanctification.

Dennis: One of the additional pieces of advice you give the strong personality is to turn away from perfectionism and control.  Now, whose point is that between the two of you?

Tara: Both of ours.  Judy taught me a wonderful statement.  She said, "Tara, you need to write this down.  Ready?  Get a pen.  Okay.  Now, memorize it once you write it down."  I think this is in the book.  I said, "I'm ready."  It was when I was still director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation at Peacemaker Ministries and you know when you work for a ministry, there's limited funds, limited staff, way more things than you can do – talk about pressure.  She said, "This is what you need to write down – 'This is the best I can do today.  It may not be the best, but it's the best I can do today.'  Now repeat that back to me," she said. 

 Really, there is so much in life that, sure, if I had limitless staff and funding I could accomplish so many things, and they'd be professional and wonderful and dadada, but here we are today.  You asked the question, bob, you know, why is this so important?  What would it take to turn us from our tasks to this relational orientation and isn't it true it takes a miracle?  I mean, it takes a miracle – this is evidence that Christ lived, and we see that in John 17, you know, the high priestly prayer of Christ in John 17 is the longest recorded prayer of Christ in all of Scripture, and so many things He prays but in John 17 beginning at verse 20 He says, "My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message; that all of them may be on, Father, just as you are in me and I am you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me."

 Listen, all the people who are accomplishing all the tasks, their Christian task list, there is so much to do, and they want the world to see Jesus, right?  But here He lays it out in John 17 – when will the world believe the Father sent the Son and the Father loves them.  When we have the same unity in our relationships as the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  When our relationships are marked by such fellowship and oneness and love that you cannot help but see God, because left to our own devices, we'll squabble, and we'll fight, and we'll hold petty grudges, and we'll be bitter, and that's just the way in marriage, in parenting, in any relationship.  But when we lay that aside, and we say, "O Father, be glorified and let us love You and love our neighbor."  The world looks and says, "Well, something is happening here that's different.  Tell me about this Savior."

Judy: There was a time I could not bear Tara's name onto my e-mail in box list, and I know that this is real.  But I also know is that this is about the Gospel.  People will not engage in the pain of making peace unless they know the true Gospel for themselves, and here is the Gospel – We are saved by God's grace and God's grace alone.  We are free to see our fault, and when we see our fault, we can take responsibility, acknowledge it, and seek forgiveness because we know we are safe and secure in God's hands; that we will spend eternity with Him.  People who do not know the Gospel for themselves are terrified.  They can't bear to see their fault; they can't bear to have done wrong and take responsibility.  They must be right, and so when we know the fact, the truth is we are safe in God's hands, we are free to see our fault.  It doesn't change His love for us.

Dennis: Forgiving one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.

Judy: Amen.

Dennis: Ephesians, chapter 4.  That verse probably has done more to propel me back into the pain of dealing with stuff in relationships because it's not easy.

Judy: That was the verse that turned my heart back towards Tara.  I was months in major hypocrisy, and a friend called me and talked to me and sent me an e-mail, and he asked me the question – "Judy, how did God forgive you?  Ephesians 4:32.  I began to write it out in an e-mail response, and I remembered God forgave me while I was the sinner; while I was offending Him, and that began to do a great work in my heart. 

 I remember it was late Monday night at 10:30, and I was crying on my laptop thinking, "I hope my tears don't short out my laptop" because it's a brand-new laptop, and it was that verse and that idea of how much God has forgiven.  It turned my heart back towards Tara, and I e-mailed her the next day.  She had asked me many times to meet, and I refused, and it was that next day I said, "Yes, let's meet."

Dennis: Well, I'm glad you wrote her that e-mail, and I'm glad you wrote your book, because I think women as well as men have need of being equipped biblically in how to resolve conflict. 

 I think the person, Bob, who doesn't think they need this ministry doesn't have real relationships, because if you have real relationships, at some point you're going to get off in a ditch where you and the other person are not going to be able to pull yourselves out on your own.  You're going to need somebody who is already on the road to take both your hands and to gently pull you out of that relational ditch.

Bob: You've got your choice, right?  You can either keep pretending, or you can get real, get the stuff up, skim it off, deal with it, and move on.  Which do you want, right?

Dennis: Yes, and I just want to thank you guys for dealing with it and for being on FamilyLife Today.

Judy: Thank you very much.

Tara: Thank you very much.

Bob: And let us, in the meantime, encourage listeners to get a copy of your book.  Again, it's called "Peacemaking Women."  We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website,, you click where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you right to a screen where there is more information about resources that are available, including this book.  And there is a Young Peacemaker's curriculum, it's actually a series of comic books that teach these same peacemaking principles to children.  I know a lot of homeschoolers have used this as a part of their curriculum.  Church groups have used it, parents have used it simply as a way to deal with sibling rivalry, and we've got the "Young Peacemaker" resource in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with Judy and Tara's book.

 Go to our website,, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will show you what resources are available.  In addition, if you order both the book and the "Young Peacemaker" series of comic books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation on this subject with Tara and Judy.  Again, the website, or, if you'd prefer, call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make sure to get these resources sent out to you.

 Well, tomorrow we are going to talk about why men don't like going to church.  There may be some things that churches can pick up on so that they can learn how to more effectively connect with the men who are coming and with some who aren't coming right now.  David Murrow is going to join us; we hope you will as well.

 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, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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