One of the best and most life-changing books I’ve ever read is Succulent Wild Love: Six Powerful Habits for Feeling More Love More Often by SARK and John Waddell. It’s transformed the way I approach relationships, especially with my wife, in the most INCREDIBLE ways. At the top of the list is what they describe as “finding a joyful solution,” which has the potential to bring blessings in any relationship.

Compromise. What do you think of when you hear the word “compromise”? Does it bring a smile to your face? Does it cheer your thoughts? I’m willing to bet not. Compromise is simply something we have to do to stay in relationship. It’s a deal where we give up wants, desires, or happiness in order to “please” the other person. While compromises have their benefits and places, in their worst forms I think we compromise ourselves and, more to the point, I’ve found there’s something better for everyone: A Joyful Solution.

So, what is a “joyful solution” then? As hard as it may be 😉 assume you and another person disagree about how to proceed on a given subject, be it what to cook for dinner, what to watch on TV, where to buy a house, what kind of car to buy, whose house to go to for Christmas, or anything else. Joyful solutions are resolutions to relational dilemmas that bring bliss to all parties involved, WITHOUT compromising. As I type this, it occurs to me that a core and fantastic aspect of this approach is it embodies nondualistic thinking. Dualistic thinking is our normal approach to life, it’s the “either”/”or” approach. During a sports event do you root for Team A or Team B? In politics do you support the Liberals or the Conservatives? In a divorce do you back Person A or Person B? Do you turn the light on in the room or not? Do you workout today or not? Is ISIS good or bad? Is America good or bad? Is Trump good or bad? Is Obama good or bad?

As I understand it, dualistic thinking is where we put people/places/actions in one category or the other, we define them/it as X or Y, and this is not only the norm, it’s an easy place to spend one’s whole life. That said, and noting that dualistic thinking is helpful and has its time and place, there’s another, dare I say wiser way of considering things: Nondualistic Thinking. Nondualistic thinking is a “both”/”and” approach to life, others, and the world. In this modality, not only do we see people and the world are more grey than black or white, we realize in most circumstances there aren’t just two possible solutions, if we look for it there’s a third way, a wiser way, a more peaceful path, a road with more bliss. It helps us see ISIS has beautiful people made in the image of God, and does some terrible things. America brings much good into the world, and has created an imperial culture of violence that does significant harm. Trump has lovely and terrible qualities. Obama did some really helpful and hurtful things.

My point here is joyful solutions often lead us to a third solution, a wiser way, a more lovely lane, a more blissful boulevard. For example, my wife Lisa and I got engaged last January 5th (i.e. the 12th Day of Christmas). As we went about setting the date, we realized the earliest we could do it and have everyone we wanted to come be able to join us, was September. Up until that point, Lisa had been coming to my house quite a bit for dinners, lunches on the weekends, and so on. We did something together most every day/night. Note, due to a traumatic injury I have no peripheral vision, which means I can’t drive. My point is, this was financially and emotionally stressful on Lisa, as she was heavily invested emotionally and monetarily in us and my place, while also living elsewhere.

As we tearfully sorted through this predicament, we thought there were only two options: (1) Lisa spends way less time and money with me until we get married in September, or (2) Lisa moves in with me now and we get married later. NEITHER OF THESE WAS JOYFUL! So, having already adopted the mindset of joyful solutions, we decided to take some time to think, pray, meditate, and converse, because we were convinced there was a different, more blissful option. Sadly, there wasn’t …. Just kidding. 🙂 Since we’d both been previously married, we decided to get married right away in a small ceremony at my sister’s, and then have the big ceremony/celebration in September. Needless to say, joy abounded!


(This pic is from Wedding 1.0, as we ended up dubbing the September one Wedding 2.0)


Recently, Lisa and I had a similar experience in regard to our living situation. To make a long story short, our lease is up in March, the owner plans to sell then (we’re not interested), we want to buy, and our best option for a loan is to use my VA Loan, but it’s tied up in a house in Tucson I’m renting. In wrestling through this we thought we had only two options: (1) Sell the Tucson house from under our current renter, or (2) move to a new rental in March. Note, there’s more to the story than this, but hopefully I’ve said enough to give you a feel for the situation. Anyway, neither of these solutions seemed pleasant to us. So, we talked, prayed, meditated, researched, and so on.

A third way occurred to Lisa: What if we were able to stay in our current home for another year? So, with no expectation, we asked the property manager … and looks like we do get to stay for another year, which solves both the issues I mentioned and those I didn’t. BLISS!

When it comes to discovering a joyful solution, an answer to a dilemma that brings bliss to everyone involved, it seems to me patience, listening, waiting, and praying are key … especially when it comes to bigger decisions.

What about smaller, everyday choices though? What if there are more than two parties involved? In both instances, Lisa and I have found joyful solutions work. It starts with committing to trust there is a blissful way for all to be found. As silly as it may sound, if you make up your mind that there’s a way for everyone to “win”, it essentially sets a space at the “table” for a joyful solution to come and sit.

My daughter, Lara, is 12 and lives with Lisa and I on the weekends, so we get plenty of opportunities to practice pursuing joyful solutions in a group context. For example, on the negative side of things, I can think of several times when one or more of us fell into the compromising mindset, meaning she/he sacrificed desires and happiness. I’m pretty sure EVERYTIME this happened, the person later had a lament/meltdown, wherein he or her effectively said, “I didn’t feel seen and cared for.”

On the flip side of things, time and again when it comes to planning family outings/evenings, dinner, movies to see, and so on, when we’ve worked for a joyful solution, we’ve found it. When it comes to potential sources of conflict or sadness, joyful solutions enable everyone to feel heard, seen, and valued. Multiple times, I’ve noticed when the three of us disagree on what to do Lara will automatically assume she’s going to get the raw end of the deal. Yet, every time, I’ve also observed when Lisa or I assures her “there’s a joyful solution for us all,” Lara buys in, she participates, she “believes”, and together we come up with a plan that brings a smile to everyone’s faces.

I’ll wrap this up by noting something I’ve only recently read/heard. When Jesus says “love your neighbor AS yourself,” it’s important to note the Christ did NOT say love people like you love yourself or in the same way as you love yourself, but “love your neighbor AS yourself.” We’re to love others as a continuation of loving ourselves, realizing there’s truly no difference between us as we’re all equally precious and amazing. There’s no separation between us, as we’re all connected and linked together in life. We love people not at the exclusion of ourselves, but via inclusion. We approach one another neither meekly nor arrogantly, but from a grounded confidence that recognizes we’re all equally important, so works for the thriving and flourishing of everyone involved … including you!

In joyful solutions, then, we put into practice the Truth that YOUR voice, worth, and bliss matter just as much as other people’s. In its space we create safe, joy-filled places for everyone. They foster an environment where everyone is given room to shine. Joyful solutions help us recognize we’re all equally worthy, loved, and important, bringing balance, harmony, and bliss to relationships.

Looking for joyful solutions has radically changed Lisa, Lara, and my lives for the better, and I bet it could yours too! What do you think? I hope you try it on for size, decide to believe it’s true, stick with it, and wait patiently and with listening ears for an answer to come.


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Grace and peace,