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Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

Living With A Narcissist

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Les Carter/CareLeader

Helping those living with a narcissist

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is defined as a personality so consumed with self that the individual is unable to consistently relate to the feelings, needs, and perceptions of others.

Why is it so difficult for someone to live with a narcissist?

It is quite challenging to live with a narcissist since chronically controlling and exploitive behavior is at the core of this personality, and over time narcissists have a knack for generating exasperation in those who simply want to relate with equality and respect.

Anyone can be self-centered. What makes a person a narcissist?

When we refer to a narcissistic personality, we acknowledge that self-absorption is not just present, but it is the defining feature. Even when they appear helpful or friendly, narcissists eventually illustrate that their good behavior has a self-serving hook on the end of it. (“Now you owe me.”)

What are some indicators that someone is a narcissist?

Key indicators of a full-blown narcissistic personality include an inability to empathize; expecting special favors; an attitude of entitlement; manipulative or exploitive behaviors; hypersensitivity when confronted; being loose with “facts”; extremes in emotional reactions, both positive and negative; idealism; an unwillingness to deal with reality; an insatiable need for control; the need to be in the superior or favored position; and an ability to make initial positive impressions.

How can someone have a healthy relationship with a narcissist?

I know it seems pessimistic for me to state this, but when someone engages with a narcissist, he or she cannot afford to think “normally.” Normal relationships have an ebb and flow of cooperation, something a narcissist knows little about. (Keep in mind, the narcissist thinks he or she is unique, meaning above the standards of everyone else.)

Is it wise to try and reform the narcissist?

While it is tempting to plead or debate with the narcissist, such efforts will only increase one’s aggravation. The narcissist has no interest speaking as one equal to another. The narcissist must win, meaning the other person must lose. There is a very small probability that person will respond to another person’s good comments with, “I really needed to hear that. Thanks for the input.” Don’t waste emotional energies by bargaining, insisting, or convincing.

How should someone communicate with a narcissist?

A very predictable tactic of the narcissist is to argue the merits of one’s beliefs or needs. This strategy draws a person into a debate that will never end well for the person (Prov. 26:4). The good news is that the hurting spouse is not required to be a master debater, and in fact, after the spouse has explained his or her thoughts and feelings once, those words do not need to be repeated. For instance, when the narcissist continues to argue, instead of being sucked in, a person can say something like, “I know we differ, but I’m comfortable with my decision.” When receiving the predictable pushback, he or she can say, “I’m comfortable with my decision, so I’ll stick with my plans.” No debate, no needless justification.

Why is it important for those living with a narcissist to demonstrate a belief in their own dignity?

Someone may often feel poorly about him- or herself since a narcissist so readily discounts that person, leaving the person to wonder, “What’s so awful about me?” Encourage the person not to fall into that trap. Contrary to the narcissist’s assumption, one’s dignity is a God-given gift, and it does not vary due to the narcissistic person’s invalidations (Ps. 139:13–14). Encourage the person who feels poorly to connect with friends and associates who understand how relationships can be anchored in mutual regard.

What can a person do to stay at peace with a narcissist?

Narcissists can stubbornly persuade and coerce, telling others how to think and behave. Being inebriated with correctness, they quickly turn discussions into a battle for dominance. The best way for a person to be in control of him- or herself is to drop the illusion that he or she can control the narcissist, and also to remember that sometimes there’s only so much one can do to keep the peace (Rom. 12:18).


Additional resources

For more detailed instruction on how to live with a narcissistic/self-centered spouse, see Brad Hambrick’s free online resource Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse. It’s a helpful guide you can use to help spouses develop Christ-centered strategies to deal with a narcissist. The resource is also designed for self-study.

18 TEXTS THAT SAY “I’M SORRY”

SOURCE:  Marriage 365

While it’s important to give a formal apology in person when you’ve messed up, it’s also good to follow up with a phone call or text to remind your spouse how sorry you really are.

Sending “I’m sorry” texts shows that you’re trying to rebuild trust and repair your relationship. Now, these texts are to help inspire a more in-depth conversation, and please make them personal… make them your own.

  • I am sorry for arguing with you. I want us to be a team. Please forgive me, babe.
  • I’m sorry for avoiding our issues. I’m sorry for not showing up and working on our marriage, especially when you’ve needed me. I’m sorry for neglecting your feelings.

  • I want you to know that I love you and take responsibility for the words I said. I promise I’ll work on thinking before I speak.

  • Angry is ugly, forgiveness is sexiness. Forgive me, please?

  • I’m apologizing because I value our relationship more than my ego. I’m so sorry my love.

  • I am extremely sorry for hurting you yesterday and want your forgiveness. I love you.

  • I don’t know what to say but to apologize for being such a jerk. I hope you can eventually look beyond this mistake and forgive me.

  • I feel like the worst person in the whole world. I’m truly sorry and want you to know that you didn’t deserve that.

  • I want you to know that I am willing to get help for our marriage. I will do whatever it takes to make sure we are happy and thriving.

  • I need you in my life and I’m very sorry about last night.

  • If I could, I would take back all the things I did to hurt you. But since I can’t, please consider forgiving me. I want us to work on healing our marriage.

  • You need to know that I was a fool. I allowed my pride to get the best of me. I forgot that you are on my side. That you are my best friend. I love you so much.

    I want to validate how you’re feeling. You are completely justified in feeling that way.

  • I love that you help me become a better person. I need you in my life. You are my everything.

  • You are the kindest person I have met. Forgive this fool who can’t live without you.

  • I know forgiving me will take time and is a process. I am waiting patiently. You’re worth it. We’re worth it.

  • You mean the world to me and I want to do everything I can to make up to you for last week. Let me know if there’s anything I can do or say that will show you how much I am sorry.

  • I’m sorry for putting work before our marriage. It’s not healthy and it’s making you feel unimportant. Please forgive me.

Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Terry Gaspard/Gottman Institute

Ben and Alicia are both waiting for the other person to change. I see it all the time in my private practice.

“I’ve been miserable for years,” complains Ben. “I’ve asked Alicia to give me space, but things don’t appear to be changing. It feels like I can’t breathe.”

“Ben has his friends over every weekend,” Alicia reflects. “He doesn’t consider my needs and I feel so alone.”

If you want your partner to change, start by accepting them for who they are. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman says, “People can change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted the way they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.”

Instead of criticizing your partner, remind yourself of all of the things you appreciate about them, and share those things with them. Be genuinely interested in learning about why they see or do something differently than you, and be open to respecting and even celebrating what makes each of you unique.

Of course, there are some things that should never be tolerated in a relationship, like abuse, addiction, or infidelity. These behaviors should be addressed in a loving and direct way with the help of a professional. Even in those cases, it is possible to accept the person even if you do not accept their behavior.

Vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand

What Ben and Alicia don’t realize is that they aren’t really arguing about the amount of time they spend together. The underlying issue in their marriage is that neither partner is able to express their needs in a non-blameful way.

They had never discussed what alone time and time together meant to each of them. By talking about this in my office, Ben finally understood Alicia’s fear of being alone. His understanding led him to carve out time to spend together on the weekends.

Couples seeking a deeper emotional connection need to understand that vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand. In other words, intimacy can only occur when partners are vulnerable enough to share their deepest hopes, fears, and dreams without judgement.

Change starts with you

Do you spend more time questioning your partner’s words or actions than examining your own? Blaming your partner can feel good in the moment, but it’s dangerous because it can lead to anger and resentment.

Conflict is not a bad thing in relationships. After watching thousands of couples in his lab for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman discovered a simple truth: all couples argue. The difference between the couples that stay together and the ones who divorce is the way they repair after conflict. The Masters of relationships take responsibility for their role in the issue and change their own behavior.

Dr. Gottman explains, “The couples that don’t repair those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger day by day, the month, and the year until they finally break the couple apart. Repair is absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate relationships.”

Here are four things you can do instead of trying to change your partner that can change your relationship for the better.

1. Be a better partner
Many people stay in bad relationships with the desire to change their partner. In Marriage Rules, Dr. Harriet Lerner writes, “If you don’t change your part in a stuck pattern, no change will occur. Change comes from the bottom up: that is from the person who is in the most pain, or who has the least power, or who has lost or compromised too much in the relationship.”

2. Focus on the issues at hand
When you focus on changing your partner, you miss the opportunity to work together to come up with a solution. You’re no longer on the same team. Instead, focus on the issues at hand to meet both of your needs.

Anger is usually a symptom of underlying hurt, fear, and frustration, so speak in I statements and focus on expressing your feelings in a vulnerable way that invites your partner to understand your pain, rather than pushes them away.

3. Take responsibility
We are responsible for how our words and actions make our partner feel. Apologize to your partner by taking responsibility for the problem, even just a small piece, and this will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on.

4. Complain without blame
In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Dr. Gottman explains that criticizing your partner is one of The Four Horsemen that predicts divorce. It is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. A criticism attacks the core of a person’s character while a complaint focuses on a specific behavior.

Successful couples remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt and consider that they are both doing the best they can. In The Science of Trust, Dr. Gottman advices couples to talk about their feelings in terms of a positive need, instead of what they do not need. By being good friends, you can build a healthy bond that will help you repair and navigate challenging moments together.

There is a saying to be the change you wish to see in the world. Gandhi advises us, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” I believe this to be true in relationships as well.

Instead of trying to change your partner, be the change you wish to see in your relationship.

IS THIS A SPIRITUAL ATTACK, OR IS MY SPOUSE JUST A JERK?

SOURCE:  Dr. Mike Bechtle/Focus on the Family

“Who are you …. and what have you done with my spouse?”

Have you ever wondered if you and your spouse are under spiritual attack or if your spouse is just a jerk? Before you said “I do,” your spouse seemed perfect — except for a few tiny dings and scratches. But after a few months (or years), all you can see is the imperfections in your relationship:

  • Your spouse isn’t as kind or loving toward you as they used to be.
  • They know which of your buttons to push and the worst time to push them.
  • You’re afraid to bring up any tough issues because it leads to conflict.
  • You have a low-grade irritation with your spouse most of the time.
  • Your husband or wife doesn’t meet your needs.
  • You try to stay positive and focus on their needs and interests, but you’re faking it.
  • You blame one person for every issue; either it’s your fault or their fault.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” you say. The marriage feels defective, and there’s no warranty or “return policy.” You don’t want to form the words aloud, but inside your head you’re saying, My spouse is a jerk.

Then a friend suggests that there could be a bigger issue: spiritual warfare. Satan is attacking your marriage, and you need to rebuke him and pray for protection. A spiritual battle needs to be fought in the spiritual realm.

So, which is it? And what should you do?

Acknowledge two truths

We can spend a lot of emotional energy trying to determine if it’s a spiritual attack or just an everyday marriage issue. But does it really matter?

Two things are true:

  1. Satan has your marriage on his radar and wants to mess it up.
  2. Your spouse is human — and so are you.

Yes, you’re under attack. And yes, growing in marriage is a process and takes serious work. Both things are true at the same time. If that’s accurate, your strategy should always involve a two-pronged approach:

  1. Pray for protection.
  2. Work on your relationship.

It’s not one or the other. Both things occur simultaneously, so our response should deal with them together.

Make conflict a trigger

We know that prayer should be our first response to everything that happens in our lives and marriages. But in the heat of the battle, it’s often our last response. We’re emotionally involved and focused on the conflict. That’s OK, because it’s happening in real time and needs to be dealt with in real time.

What if we made that conflict a trigger to ask God for wisdom, right at the beginning? That doesn’t mean dropping to your knees and spending 10 minutes in prayer. It’s just a simple acknowledgement and connection with God for wisdom during the conflict. It’s saying, “OK, I’m frustrated (or angry or discouraged or afraid). Help me think clearly and see my spouse through Your eyes. Block the Enemy in our marriage.” This acknowledges the reality of Satan’s plan as well as the process of growing our relationship.

Philippians 4:6 tells us that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known to God.” The word “everything” is pretty clear; prayer should be a component in dealing with every marital challenge, no matter how big or small.

“With thanksgiving” gives us a practical way to keep our perspective about our spouse. While we’re taking our spouse before God in prayer, we can ask for a spirit of gratefulness. It might seem tough to be grateful for the spouse who’s irritating us. Through prayer, God can give us a thankful spirit that we might not have on our own. It might not happen right away, but that’s OK. We don’t have to fake it; we’re giving God “permission” to work on our attitude.

Pray for your marriage

Dealing with the spiritual side of our marriage simply means consistently inviting God into our relationship. We talk to Him about what we’re thinking and feeling. And ask Him to do His work.

Here are some practical suggestions to make prayer a meaningful and powerful tool:

  • Don’t pray “fix-it” prayers about your spouse. Be honest with God about what you’re feeling, but simply ask Him to do His work in your spouse — and in you.
  • Ask God to give you the confidence that He’s capable of working in your lives.
  • Don’t give God a timetable; His schedule might not match your desires.
  • Pray for spiritual protection for you and your spouse.
  • Pray for God to bring the right people into your spouse’s life — the ones who can come alongside and help them grow.
  • Pray for empathy, the ability to see through your spouse’s eyes. It doesn’t mean you agree with them on everything; it means you’re seeking to understand.
  • Pray that your communication skills will grow.

Get on the same team

When you’re frustrated with each other, it’s easy to assume that the other person is the problem. That’s a no-win situation, because you’re convinced that things won’t get better until the other person changes — and they’re assuming the same thing.

Instead of making your spouse the enemy, make the current issue the enemy. Find a time when there are no emotional issues and discuss how you can become partners in solving these issues when they occur. It’s not a panacea for every problem, but it puts you on the same team. Joining forces multiplies your strength in solving problems.

Work on yourself first

Here’s the biggest practical issue: The only person you can change is yourself. You can pray for your spouse, influence them and use logic with them — but you can’t force them to change. If that’s what you’re waiting for, you’ll end up continually frustrated.

Instead, work on becoming a better person and spouse. That’s something you can control. If you grow, your capacity to invest in your marriage grows.

Make regular investments in your marriage

Finally, don’t forget regular maintenance on your relationship. Just as your car needs regular oil changes, your marriage needs consistent tune-ups. Read a marriage book, attend a seminar or take a course together at least once a year. It’s a way of catching little problems before they grow into big problems. That’s why Solomon said, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)

If the problems are already big, look for professional help (such as what’s available through Focus on the Family). If I have a sore throat, I might take care of it on my own. But if I had a brain tumor, I seek out the best professional I can find — a seasoned, trained expert.

The key to a healthy marriage is to recognize the reality of Satan’s attacks, as well as the challenges of normal communication and growth issues. Both are taking place all the time, so look for solutions that deal with both aspects simultaneously.

Focus on the solutions, not the problems. Then let God do His work!”

How to Not Lose It on Your Kids After a Stressful Day at Work

I shudder at the times I’ve acted irritably toward my kids because I was still stressed from work.
How do we come home as the loving parents we want to be?

Any working parent knows the struggle of bringing frustrations from work straight into the house at the end of the day. Most of us have been guilty of this.

Sliding from work to home carrying baggage is too easy to do—it’s the default mode of operation. I shudder thinking of the times I’ve acted irritably toward my daughters when it was really a work problem irking me.

So how do we consciously interrupt our thoughts and come home as the engaging, loving, calm parents we want to be?

1. Maximize your commute time by using it as a “third space.”

Adam Fraser coined the term “third space” to describe the transition between work and home. He says your third space doesn’t need to be a physical location, but a mental shift. Fraser suggests giving closure to your workday by contemplating the high point and low point of your time at work. Then consciously deciding what kind of attitude you want to bring home.

Use this time to pray for patience as you enter your home. Pray for excitement when you greet your children. Ask God to provide you the ability to shift your mind and attitude away from one priority to another.

“How you show up determines what sort of evening you have,” Fraser said in a Ted Talk. “And how you transition home determines how you unwind, relax, and socialize—or obsess and worry about the day.” Another way to transition in a healthy way is to listen to inspiring podcasts, worship music, or thought-provoking audio books during your ride home to shake off any lingering concerns about work. If schedule allows, a trip to the gym could serve this purpose also.

2. Maintain boundaries by leaving work at work.

Most people would agree that spending your entire day at the office texting your spouse, browsing social media, or shopping online would be an egregious abuse of your employer’s trust and time. Plus, using your hours for personal matters is a waste of a workday because you would not be accomplishing a thing for your company.

In the same way, spending your evenings responding to business emails or tackling work projects is an egregious abuse of your family’s trust and a waste of your precious (and few!) hours with them. Leave work at work so you can be fully present with your family! Our time is the very best gift we can offer our kids and spouse.

My husband confronted me about this early in our marriage. I frequently picked up my Blackberry (remember those?!) after dinner to respond to emails for my nonprofit job. One night when he asked me what I was doing on my phone, I told him I was dealing with an emergency—without even looking up from my device.

Calmly and lovingly he responded with, “Leigh, the police handle emergencies. Emergencies involve 911, the law, and sometimes blood. Is that what you’re dealing with?” Talk about perspective! That really stuck with me.

Sometimes we have busier seasons at work that require putting in supplemental hours at home. On those occasions, I talk to my husband about it in advance. If we communicate, we can make a plan that will allow me to steward my responsibilities at work well without totally neglecting my family. This plan usually involves him taking our girls out for ice cream so I can knock out my project undisturbed and efficiently. And they still feel cherished!

3. Make a plan.

The evenings I know what we’re doing for dinner and am aware of our evening extracurricular activities are much less chaotic than the nights I try to “wing it.” As much as I wish I loved cooking, I’ve accepted that it doesn’t come naturally to me or “spark joy,” in the words of Marie Kondo. However, I still try to serve my family by having some kind of plan for dinner—and one that’s easy to execute.

I’m a fan of one-dish meals and my crockpot. I’m an even bigger fan of kids-eat-free nights at our favorite restaurants. We also have a whiteboard on the refrigerator where I write down our evening commitments one week at a time. We post our soccer game times, homeowners association meetings, and everything else to keep us all straight and set expectations for our time outside of work. I include our dinner plans on the whiteboard, too.

4. Keep the house tidy.

love coming home to a neat house. Dirty dishes, papers, and toys strewn about make me tense. We try to get our home in order before we leave for the day.

I’d be lying if I said this happens every single morning. But my husband and I try to stay on top of things and ask each member of the family to participate in this effort. One way we set ourselves up for success in this area is by straightening up, starting the dishwasher, and packing lunches before bed the night before.

One final thought: Give grace.

Give it to yourself, your colleagues, and your family.

None of us are perfect.

We all have days that require us to stretch. Try to be honest and communicate when it’s “been a day” and you may need an extra measure of that grace.

Your family will thank you!

CODEPENDENCY: STEPS TO A SOLUTION

SOURCE:  June Hunt

The primary problem with codependency can be called “idolatry”—giving a greater priority to anything or anyone other than God Himself. Our God is the One who created you and who has a wonderful plan for your life. He is the Lord who loves you and knows how to fulfill you.

If you are in a codependent relationship:

• Your excessive care causes you to compromise your convictions.
• Your excessive loyalty leaves you without healthy boundaries.
• Your excessive “love” allows you to say yes when you should say no.

However, our Maker and Master has the right to have primary rule in our hearts and over our lives. Any other substitute is simply idolatry. The Bible says …

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Key Passage to Read and Reread

Notice two thoughts in this passage that seem to be in opposition to one another:

“If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:1–5)

Does Scripture Contradict Itself?

Verse 2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens,” and verse 5 says, “Each one should carry his own load.”
Since these two clear-cut directives seem contradictory to each other, which one is true? When you carefully analyze what is being said, there is no contradiction.

• Verse 1—Gently encourage another person to change from negative behavior, but beware of your own temptation.
• Verse 2—The Greek word for “burden” is baros, which means “weight,” implying a load or something that is pressing heavily. When you help carry what is too heavy for someone else to bear alone, your caring response fulfills the law of Christ.
• Verse 5—The Greek word for “load” is phortion, which means “something carried.” Clearly, when you carry what others should carry, you are not wise. You are not called by God to relieve others of their rightful responsibilities.

CONCLUSION: Those who are codependent try to get their needs met by carrying loads that others should be carrying. To move out of a codependent relationship, both individuals need to quit trying to be the other person’s “all-in-all” and instead encourage each other to take responsibility for their own lives and to live dependently on the strength of God.

KEY VERSE TO MEMORIZE

No other verse in the Bible is better at helping us set our priorities straight, put our relationships in the right order. We must put “first things first” or else we, in our relationships, will never have the fulfillment that God has planned for us.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

RECOVERY STEP #1: Confront Your Own Codependency

Codependency does not flow from an unchangeable personality flaw or some genetic fluke. A codependent relationship is rooted in immaturity, a fact that should give great hope to those caught in its addictive cycle. While change is never easy, growing up is always within the grasp of anyone who desires to move from immaturity to maturity.

Any of us can move from codependency to a healthy, mutual give-and-take in our relationships. The key to change is motivation. What kind of motivation? When your pain in the relationship is greater than your fear of abandonment, the motivation for change is powerful. Moving away from the pain of codependency then becomes a matter of choice and commitment. If you feel that the relationship you are in is more a curse than a blessing—when it brings more death to your soul than life—this is motivation for change.

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you … may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)

• Confront the Fact That You Are Codependent.

▆ Admit the truth to yourself. Before you can be free from the grasp of codependency, you must be honest with yourself about your emotional addiction to another person.
▆ Admit the truth to someone else. Identify the beliefs and behaviors that have perpetuated your emotional addiction and share them with an objective, trusted friend.
▆ Admit the truth to God. Realize that your emotional addiction is a serious sin in the eyes of God. Choose now to confess it to Him.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

• Confront the Consequences of Your Codependency.

▆ Accept responsibility for how your past experiences and reactions have hurt your adult relationships (such as your becoming manipulative, controlling, possessive, or angry).
▆ Accept responsibility for the pain you have caused yourself because of your codependency (such as your becoming jealous, envious, selfish, or obsessive).
▆ Accept responsibility for the ways in which your codependency has weakened your relationship with God (such as a loss of quantity time, quality time, and intimacy with the Lord).

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

• Confront Your Painful Emotions.

▆ Understand that you will have pain no matter what you choose. If you leave the codependent relationship, you will hurt, but if you stay, you will hurt. However, the only hope for future healing is leaving the codependent lifestyle.
▆ Understand that when the intensity of the relationship diminishes you will experience emotional “withdrawal” from the exhilarating highs.
▆ Understand that you will need the support of others to get you through the initial pain of withdrawal and to help you avoid anesthetizing your pain with a “secondary addiction.”

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

• Confront Your “Secondary Addictions.”

▆ Recognize that, in an effort to numb the emotional pain of the relationship, codependency often leads to other addictions, such as a chemical dependency, sexual addiction, compulsive eating, or excessive spending.
▆ Recognize your “secondary addictions”; then seek counseling and spiritual support to overcome them.
▆ Recognize that recovery from a “secondary addiction” is dependent on recovery from your primary addiction.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)

• Confront Your Current Codependent Relationship.

▆ Acknowledge your codependent role in the relationship and cease relating through codependent patterns.
▆ Acknowledge your destructive behaviors. (Write them down.) Then replace them with constructive behaviors. (Write them down.)
▆ Acknowledge the natural pain of emotional withdrawal (common to the healing of addictions) and focus on God’s supernatural purpose (conforming you to the character of Christ).

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

• Confront Your Codependent Focus.

▆ Stop focusing on what the other person is doing and start focusing on what you need to do in order to become emotionally healthy.
▆ Stop focusing on the other person’s problems and start focusing on solving your own problems (those resulting from your neglect of people and projects in your life).
▆ Stop focusing on trying to change the other person and start focusing on changing yourself.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” (Proverbs 14:8)

• Confront Your Codependent Conflicts.

▆ Do not allow yourself to become trapped in heated arguments or to become emotionally hooked by the bad behavior of the other person. Instead, say to yourself several times, I will not argue—and then disengage from the conflict. Decide ahead of time that, when agitation begins, you will distance yourself.
▆ Do not defend yourself when you are unjustly blamed. Instead, say only once, “I’m sorry you feel that way. That doesn’t reflect my heart.”
▆ Do not be afraid to leave if the conflict continues. State, “I will be gone for a while.” Then calmly walk away.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

• Confront Your Codependent Responses.

▆ Remind yourself that “problem people” have the right to choose wrong. Don’t react to their problem behavior—they are independent of you.
▆ Remind yourself not to return insult for insult—refuse to raise your voice.
▆ Remind yourself that your Christlike role is to respond with respect—even when others are disrespectful.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. … But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:9, 15–16)

• Confront What You Need to Leave in Order to Receive.

▆ Leave your childhood and your dependent thinking. (I can’t live without you.) Then enter into healthy adulthood. (I want you in my life, but if something were to happen, I could still live without you.) That is reality.
▆ Leave your immature need to be dependent on someone else and embrace your mature need to be dependent on the Lord, who will make you whole within yourself.
▆ Leave your fantasy relationships (thinking, You are my “all-in-all”) and instead nurture several balanced relationships of healthy give-and-take.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6)

• Confront Your Need to Build Mature Non-Codependent Relationships.

▆ Establish several interdependent relationships—not just one exclusive relationship. You need mature relationships in which your codependency issues can be resolved and your needs can be met in healthy ways.
▆ Establish emotionally balanced relationships without being needy of the extreme highs and lows of codependent relationships.
▆ Establish personal boundaries in all of your relationships, saying no when you need to say no and holding to your no.

“Let us … go on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1)

RECOVERY STEP #2: Look at Your Past Love Addictions

One effective way to confront codependent love relationships is by using the “written word.” Spelling out your thoughts, feelings, and actions will actually distance them from you so that you can look at them. Putting your relationships on paper helps paint a more complete picture, which in turn enables you to gain insights and devise a recovery plan. Putting your life on paper is not easy, but until you are ready to take a close look at your love addiction, you cannot expect to change it.

Write down the history of your codependent love relationships. First ask the Spirit of God to bring to mind what you need to know and then to teach you what you need to do. He will give you both understanding and wisdom to know how to free yourself of the fettered addictions and how to live in His glorious freedom.

“He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.” (Proverbs 19:8)

Make a list of every person with whom you have had a codependent relationship. Think through your family and friends. Put each name at the top of a separate page and then answer the following questions for each relationship:

1. Write out …

• How did you meet and how were you attracted to this person?
• How did you pursue and draw this person to you?
• How did you feel and what did you fantasize about this person?

Conclude by answering …

• How do you think God felt about your choices?
• Realize that the Lord is ready to meet your deepest emotional needs. Yet, when we live with misplaced priorities, the Bible says we commit spiritual adultery.

“I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.” (Ezekiel 6:9)

2. Write out …

• How did the relationship progress through various stages (Fascination, Fantasy, Fog, Fear, Forsaking, Fixation, Frenzy)?
• How did you feel in each stage?
• How did you act during each stage?

Conclude by answering …

• How did you fail to involve God in your life during each stage?
• Realize how ready the Lord has been to intervene.

“When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.” (Isaiah 50:2–3)

3. Write out …

• How did you become preoccupied with the relationship?
• How did you start neglecting yourself and start focusing on taking care of the other person?
• How did you come to expect that person to meet all of your needs?

Conclude by answering …

• How did you start neglecting God and when did you stop relying on Him?
• Realize how ready the Lord has been to make you fruitful.

“I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21)

4. Write out …

• How has this relationship replicated your painful childhood experiences?
• How were you mistreated in the relationship and how did you react?
• How does the relationship impact you today?

Conclude by answering …

• How is God replacing (or wanting to replace) your self-destructive, love-addicted patterns with constructive, healthy, holy patterns?
• Realize how ready the Lord is to “re-parent” you in order to meet your deepest needs and heal your deepest hurts.

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10)

5. Write out …

• How have you experienced fear, envy, jealousy, abandonment, and anger in the relationship?
• How did you assign a higher priority to this person than to everything else?
• How have you made the person the focus of your thought life?

Conclude by answering …

• How can you appropriate “the mind of Christ” in order to overcome destructive feelings and to live out of your resources in Christ?
• Realize how ready the Lord has been to give you His thinking.

“We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

6. Write out …

• How do you feel about the person and the relationship now?
• How has your perspective changed?
• How did things, people, and circumstances become factors in changing your perspective?

Conclude by answering …

• How do you think God has been involved in changing your perspective?
• Realize how ready the Lord is to complete His perfect plan for your life.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

RECOVERY STEP #3: Get on the Road to Interdependent Relationships

We all love to see pictures of babies and then to see their stair step growth into young adulthood. Built within little, immature children is the ability to grow to maturity. Why should it be any less for immature adults? They too can move from their immaturity and develop mature relationships.

Once we understand the goal of each developmental stage for reestablishing healthy relationships, we can set out to accomplish those goals—without the aid of earthly parents. Many have done this by “taking the hand” of the heavenly Father and allowing Him to “re-parent” them. You too can do this by having a plan and then working your plan with the caring support of others. It is an enormously important journey with enormously gratifying rewards. This is the journey God intended for you to take from the beginning.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

• Make it your goal to develop an intimate relationship with God and to form interdependent relationships with significant people in your life.

▆ Commit to becoming actively involved in a group Bible study and in group prayer.
▆ Commit to reading God’s Word on a daily basis and memorizing Scripture.
▆ Commit to finding an accountability group and a Christian “relationship mentor” who will be available to you, spend time with you on a regular basis, be honest with you, and coach you in your relationships.

“Let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

• Make a plan to move toward maturity in your relationships.

▆ Ask God to help you discern where you are stuck in the relationship developmental stages.
▆ Ask your mentor or another wise person to help you identify your relationship needs (for example, sharing, problem-solving, listening, negotiating).
▆ Ask your accountability group to hold you accountable to establish appropriate goals in order to meet each of your relationship needs.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

• Make your relationship with your parents complete.

▆ Choose to resolve any unhealthy patterns with your parents. Break any unhealthy bond and, if possible, establish mature, adult bonds with each parent.
▆ Choose to not be emotionally enmeshed, needy, or controlled by your parents. If necessary, separate yourself emotionally until you can respond in a healthy way with “no strings attached.”
▆ Choose to identify and process your “family of origin” problems, forgive your offenders, and grieve your losses. Say, “That was then; this is now.”

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

• Make a vow to be a person of integrity in thought, word, and deed.

▆ Learn to free yourself of any family secrets—refuse to carry them any longer.
▆ Learn to listen, to say no, to set boundaries, to give and receive, and to ask for what you need from people. Then practice, practice, practice these new, healthy patterns.
▆ Learn to feel your feelings, to express hurt, and to withdraw and think about what you need to do or say. Write out your action plan; rehearse it; then do it.

“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (1 Peter 1:13–15)

• Make a new job description.

▆ My job is to discern the character of a person and to respond accordingly with maturity.
▆ My job is to be a safe person for my friends and family and to be present and attentive in my relationships.
▆ My job is to take care of myself and to be responsible for myself without hurting, punishing, attacking, getting even, or lying to myself or to others.

“I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:6)

• Make a new commitment to yourself.

▆ I will let go of the “old,” self-centered me because I am growing into a “new,” Christ-centered me.
▆ I will exchange the lies I’ve believed about myself for God’s truth about me according to His Word.
▆ I will no longer betray myself by making immature choices, and I will redeem my past, bad choices by making good, mature choices.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

• Make maturity, not emotional relationships, your highest goal.

▆ Focus on forming friendships in which you are free to learn, grow, and mature, not emotional attachments that lead to roller-coaster relationships.
▆ Focus on any potential relationships that might trigger your codependent tendencies and guard your heart from the emotional highs and lows.
▆ Focus on building relationships with trustworthy, mature Christians whose goal is Christlikeness.
▆ During a severe time of trial, David’s dear friend, Jonathan “helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)

RECOVERY STEP #4: Find the Road to Freedom

When you are behaving in a codependent way, you are trying to get your needs met through a drive to “do it all” or to be another person’s “all-in-all.” However, you can “travel the road to recovery” by releasing your desire to control or to change the person you love.

RELEASE

RECOGNIZE that you are overly dependent on a person and instead place your dependency on God.

Admit that your codependency is a sin.

• Pray that God will give you the desire to put Him first and to please Him in all your relationships.
• Determine to look to the Lord to meet your needs for love, for significance, and for security.
• Realize that God did not create you to meet all the needs of another person.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

EXAMINE your patterns of codependent thinking.

Don’t believe that pleasing people is always Christlike.

• Don’t think that you should always assume the role of peacemaker.
• Don’t fear losing the love of others when you allow them to suffer the consequences of their negative actions.
• Don’t say yes when you really believe you should say no.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:6)

LET GO of your “super responsible” mentality.

Confess that you are trying to be like God in the life of another person.

• Trust God to be actively working in the life of your loved one.
• Realize that you cannot make another person be dependable or responsible.
• Rest in God’s sovereign control over all people, events, and circumstances.

“What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17–18)

EXTEND forgiveness to those who have caused you pain.

Reflect on any type of abuse you have experienced in the past—verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual.

• What has been unjust and painful in your life?
• Whom do you need to forgive?
• Would you be willing to release this person and your pain to God?
• Choose to forgive again whenever your angry feelings resurface.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

APPROPRIATE your identity in Christ.

Learn to live out of your resources in Christ Jesus.

• Know the truth: “I can be emotionally set free because Christ lives in me.”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

• Believe the truth: “I can change my dependency on people through the power of Christ in me.”
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

• Appropriate the truth: “I will nurture only healthy, godly relationships because I have been given Christ’s divine nature.”

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

SET healthy boundaries.

Communicate the necessity for change.

“I realize that I have not been responding to you in a healthy way. I have been far too dependent on you to meet my needs. And I have sought to meet all of your needs. I am committed to having healthy relationships and to putting God first in my life. I know that I have had negative responses to you, and I intend to begin having positive responses by making decisions based on what is right in the eyes of God.”

• Establish what you need to ask forgiveness for.
“I realize I was wrong for _________ (not speaking up when I should have, not being the person I should have been in this relationship, etc.). Will you forgive me?”

• Establish what your limits of responsibility will be.
“I feel responsible for _________. But I am not responsible for _________ (making you happy, making you feel significant, etc.). I want you to be happy, but I don’t have the power to make you happy.”

• Establish your limits of involvement.
“I want to do with/for you, but I don’t feel led by God to do .”

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

EXCHANGE your emotional focus for spiritual focus.

Make God and your spiritual growth your first priority.

• Attend an in-depth Bible study in order to learn the heart of God and to grow spiritually with the people of God.
• Memorize sections of Scripture in order to put God’s Word in your heart and to learn the ways of God.
• Redirect your thoughts to the Lord and take “prayer walks” (talking out loud to the Lord as you walk regularly in your neighborhood or on a trail).

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (Psalm 119:35–37)

The cure for codependency is rooted in developing an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. Your increased intimacy with Him will naturally conform you to His character. When you let the Lord live inside you, you can live in His power. This means that because Christ was not codependent, you have His power to overcome codependency.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS
“God, You know the pain
I experienced in my past.
I don’t want to keep carrying all this pain for the rest of my life.
I release (list hurts) into Your hands,
and I ask You to heal my emotional pain.
Lord, You know what (name of person) has done to hurt me.
As an act of my will, I choose to forgive (name).
I take (name) off my emotional hook
and put (name) onto Your emotional hook.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for setting me FREE.
In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

CODEPENDENCY PRAYER
“Lord Jesus, I renounce as a lie
the thought that I could ever be
truly abandoned or alone.
Thank You that You will
never abandon me
or leave me without support.
Thank You that no matter what I do
or what my circumstances,
no matter who is in my life
or not in my life,
You will be with me and
provide for my needs.
Thank You that Your plans for me
are for my good and that
You will carry them out.
Thank You that You are not
dependent on anything or anyone
other than Yourself to bring about
Your good intentions toward me.
I trust in You and You alone
to give me meaning and purpose and fulfillment in life.
In Your holy name I pray,
Amen.”

Help for an Unhealthy Relationship

Releasing You
Releasing is not to stop loving you, but is to love enough to stop leaning on you.
Releasing is not to stop caring for you, but is to care enough to stop controlling you.
Releasing is not to turn away from you, but is to turn to Christ, trusting His control over you.
Releasing is not to harm you, but is to realize “my help” has been harmful.
Releasing is not to hurt you, but is to be willing to be hurt for healing.
Releasing is not to judge you, but is to let the divine Judge judge me.
Releasing is not to restrict you, but is to restrict my demands of you.
Releasing is not to refuse you, but is to refuse to keep reality from you.
Releasing is not to cut myself off from you, but is to prune the unfruitful away from you.
Releasing is not to prove my power over you, but is to admit I am powerless to change you.
Releasing is not to stop believing in you, but is to believe the Lord alone will build character in you.
Releasing you is not to condemn the past, but is to cherish the present and commit our future to God.
—June Hunt

My Commitment Because of Christ in Me
Because Jesus lives in me … I will conquer codependency.
Because Christ was not a “people-pleaser” … I will not be a “people-pleaser.”
Because Christ refused to compromise … I will not yield to compromise.
Because Christ kept healthy boundaries … I will keep healthy boundaries.
Because Christ stood up to pressure … I will not cave in to pressure.
Because Jesus lives in me … I will conquer codependency!
—June Hunt

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

——————————————————————————————————
Hunt, J. (2013). Codependency (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.

BLEW IT AGAIN?

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

Day has begun and I’m already sinning
Help me to change this heart that I have
Lord, help me taste of the grace that You’re giving.
I want to be a spiritual man.
“Let the Old Man Die” lyrics by Chuck Butler

 

Every one of us struggles with something. Some of us relapse into that “something.” Afterward, how we handle the relapse will have a lot to do with our future successes or failures.

To struggle is to have temptations, sometimes towards one particular life-dominating sin. You knew the type. It’s usually some bodily pleasure that we’ve discovered, then returned to, and then, after years of repetition, we’ve established as a pattern.

Overeating, porn, smoking, gambling, and drug abuse are all pretty good examples. What we discover we incorporate, and what we incorporate becomes predictable – a regular, often destructive part of our routine.

Predictable, that is until God puts His finger on that part of your life. That’s when He calls you to repentance, and when that happens, a new standard gets birthed.

Suddenly, what you used to allow is unacceptable, and abstaining from that “something” is a new mandate. New standards of what we do or don’t allow are sure to follow anytime we say “yes” when God says “this has to go.” That’s part of discipleship living.

But to say “God has called me to stop doing this” is also a way of saying “I’m committed to resisting the desire to keep on doing it.” Sometimes the desire is resisted successfully; sometimes not. And that opens up the possibility of relapse.

Relapse happens when you return to behavior you renounced. It’s often called “breaking sobriety” because it means you broke a commitment to abstain from something addictive; some would also call it a backslide. But whatever name the relapse rose goes by it smells just as bad, and is a thing to be avoided, guarded against, but also prepared for. It’s somewhat like John’s interesting statement about sin:

These things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. I John 2:1

Clearly John wasn’t saying it’s OK to sin. But he was saying that if you do, you have an advocate. Likewise, when you commit to abstaining from porn, fornication, drunkenness or gluttony, you don’t by any means have to relapse. You can stay clean; there’s no reason to return to those behaviors.

But if you do, you have an advocate with the Father who will cleanse and restore you. In that vein, let me offer a few immediate steps to take if, God forbid, you should relapse.

1. Notify

Decide now who’d you’d call if you relapsed. In most cases, an accountability partner is your best bet (and if you’re committed to abstaining from addictive behavior, then an accountability partner really is a must!) since he works with you weekly and you’re probably in regular contact with him.

But a trusted friend or member of your church will also be a good choice, or perhaps a pastor or counselor. What matters is that you know who to call and what number to use, and that you call him immediately. Tell him you relapsed, and that you’ll need his prayers and support. If you have a severe crisis situation, meet with him ASAP.

2. Identify

With the help of whoever you notify, figure out what went wrong. Usually, people relapse because they slacked off on their prayer life, scripture reading, fellowship or accountability.

But there may be other reasons, so spend time exploring what you were doing before the relapse, what you could have done differently, and what you’ll do differently in the future to prevent this from happening again. Human error is a terrific textbook, so you may as well use it.

3. Move It!

Get back on the saddle immediately, because you’ll accomplish nothing by wallowing in grief over your relapse, and there’s no reason to delay beginning again. If you refuse to start over, you’re yielding to a more severe, deadlier sin than relapse: despair. Sin is something you can repent of, but despair? Yield to that, and you’re really finished.

Don’t be. Relapse is a temporary set-back; despair is the end.

You’re protecting a treasure when you guard your purity, so apply yourself to its longevity the way you’d protect a valuable antique or piece of jewelry. Recognizing its worth, you work both to keep it, and keep it in its best possible shape.

The freedom of godliness, likewise, is a purposeful, challenging, exciting way to live, and keeping the ball in play is worth all the blood, sweat and tears a committed athlete has to shed.

So move ahead today in the power of gratitude for God’s grace, and let it manifest in the smallest and largest areas of your life.

When to Say NO as a Mom

SOURCE:   Jill Savage/Family Life

 

You can’t do everything. Here are nine strategies to help you set some boundaries.

I was supposed to bring dinner to Amanda, a new mother at the church.  On the day the meal was to be delivered, Austin came down with a fever.  I left him at home with his homeschooled sister while I attended a parent-teacher conference for our son Kolya.  Then I dropped off a couple of boxes to be mailed, and stopped by the store to pick up a few things we needed. Once home, Erica needed some help with her schoolwork and Austin just wanted Mom to sit on the couch with him, rub his back, and watch a movie.  When my husband, Mark, came home, I was quite proud that I actually had dinner in the oven, considering the craziness of the day.

When we sat down to eat, Mark’s words stopped me in my tracks, “Jill, this is a great meal.  Is this what you took to Amanda’s family tonight too?”

I choked on the food I had just put in my mouth as I gasped in horror.  In the midst of everything that had happened, I had completely forgotten to take the meal to the new mom!  I was horrified as I pictured them sitting there waiting for me to bring their dinner, which should have been delivered well over an hour ago.

I rushed to the phone and dialed Amanda, apologizing all over the place and offering to order them a pizza that would be delivered to their home.  This sweet young mom was so gracious and reassured me that they had so many leftovers from the other meals brought that they had already warmed up some food and eaten.

I felt like such a failure.  How could I forget something I’d promised to do for someone else?

When I evaluated that incident over the next few days, I came to realize that it had nothing to do with that particular day, but it had everything to do with how much was on my plate in general.  I had enough going on that week that I had no business saying yes to bring a meal.

I needed to set some boundaries, and then I needed to abide by them.

Following Jesus’ example

Jesus said no when His mother and brothers tried to use their relationship to pull Him away from the people He was ministering to (Matthew 12:46-50).  Jesus said no to Peter and the disciples who thought Jesus should be a political king or military warrior rather than a Savior who would go to the cross for us (Matthew 16:23).  He said no to King Herod when he requested a miracle just for the purpose of entertainment (Luke 23:8-9).

Following His example, we know it’s perfectly okay for us to learn to say no as well.  As a mother you can’t do everything people ask you to do.  So here are several suggestions for setting boundaries that will help us follow Jesus’ example:

1. Keep in mind that you know what is best for you and your family.  With many mothers working outside the home, there are fewer school, church, and community volunteers available during the day.  Therefore, you are likely to be asked more often, simply because you are perceived to be more available.  Remember, even with church activities, that our families are our first ministries.

2. Never say yes on the spot.  Always tell them you will call them back after you’ve had time to pray and think about it.  This keeps you from making an on-the-spot decision you may regret later.  You can say no immediately if you know that the position or responsibility is wrong for you.

3. When considering a time commitment, make sure you take into account preparation time.  Most of us underestimate the time it really takes to do a job.  If you have been asked to bake five dozen cookies, look at the calendar and determine whether you truly have that much free time available before the cookies need to be delivered.  If it looks too busy, say you’re sorry, but you can’t do it.

4. Carefully consider the “brain space” this responsibility will require.  Have you ever been listening to your children, but really thinking about a new project or the hundreds of things you need to do?  When your mind is cluttered, you are not mentally available to your family.

5. Remember every minute of your day does not have to be scheduled!  If you have a doer mentality, you will think of a spare hour or two as a way to fit in one more yes.  Yet we need some time to do nothing.  If you need to, schedule in downtime each day.  Write it on your calendar and say no to anything that would fill that time.

6. Ask for accountability.  Ask your husband, a close friend, or your Bible study group to hold you accountable for the number of commitments you will carry.  Be open to their insight.  If you have trouble saying no, ask them to help you during the first few months while you get things back in balance.  When you tell someone you will call him or her back, check with your accountability partner first before answering.  Sort through your schedule with her.  Eventually you won’t need the partner’s help, but it can help you while you are learning to say no.

7. When you do say no, don’t feel that you need to give a long list of excuses.  You know what is best for your family and for yourself.  If you feel you need to give an excuse, simply say that it would not fit into your schedule at this time.

8. Keep in mind that you do not have to say yes simply because you are capable.  You may have strong leadership skills and will most likely be asked to lead most anything you will be involved in.  That doesn’t mean you have to say yes to those responsibilities.  You should say yes only after considering your time availability, other volunteer responsibilities, your family commitments, and what you might need to give up to properly do this job.  Of course, above all, you should say yes only after praying and seeking God’s will.

9. Remember that saying no allows others the opportunity to say yes.  Don’t take service opportunities away from others.  Don’t forget to make time to have a friend over, take your kids to the park, write a letter, or go on a date with your husband.  We don’t usually schedule these kinds of activities, but they are the first to go when we are overcommitted.

Remember that saying yes to some activities outside the home will be important to your sanity.  Moms of young children need to get out of the house to socialize and think about something other than diapers, bottles, and coupons.  Contrary to popular belief, your brain will not turn to mush—it will just feel like it at times.  We need to carefully choose those activities we will be involved in so that our time will be used wisely.  You will be amazed at the patience you will have with your family when you find balance in your activity schedule.


Adapted from Real Moms … Real Jesus ©2009 by Jill Savage. Published by Moody Publishers.

Five Good Reasons to say “No!”

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sarah came to her coaching call astonished that it has taken her fifty years to finally learn how to say “No”. “I’ve always put everyone else first,” she said. “Now I see that I’ve only enabled my husband’s and children’s self-centeredness to flourish.”

One of my relatives recently shared a similar story. At 74 years old, she wired up her courage and said, “No” to her overbearing sister. “Stop telling me what to think, or to do,” she said. “I am my own person and have my own thoughts and my own ways of doing things.” She said it felt really good to say no.

One of the reasons that many of us find it so difficult to say no to people is that we genuinely don’t desire to hurt anyone’s feelings or have them upset with us. Therefore, we’ve learned to please, to placate, and to pretend so that we don’t make waves.

In addition, many of us have been taught that as Christians we should go the extra mile, do more, submit to authority, and always think of others before we think of ourselves. Therefore, whenever we do say no, we feel guilty and selfish.

Yet the Bible tells us stories of people who said “No”. One of my favorites is Queen Vashti. If you don’t know her, she was Queen Esther’s predecessor. Queen Vashti refused to allow herself to be treated as a sexual object for her husband’s drunken friends to ogle. When her husband ordered her to parade herself before them, she said “No.” (See Esther 1 for the story.)

Abigail was another brave wife who did not go along with her husband’s foolish decision. Instead of submitting, she overruled him by taking charge when her family faced the fiery wrath of David and his men (1 Samuel 25).

Earlier in Jewish history we find two midwives who said “No”. They refused to obey the Pharaoh’s orders to murder Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:17).

Jesus himself said “No” when Peter asked him to return to his house and continue healing the sick who had camped out there overnight. Jesus told Peter he needed to move on to Jerusalem to preach. (Read Mark 1 for the story).

Here are five good reasons to say “No”.

  1. Saying “No” acknowledges both to you and to others that you are a finite, limited person. You cannot do two things at the same time or be in two places at once. Jesus couldn’t say “Yes” to Peter’s request and also preach in Jerusalem. He had to choose. All of us have limited resources of time, energy and money. If we say “Yes” to one thing, it means we are saying “No” to another. When we say yes because we’re afraid to say no, we often allow good things to take the place of God’s best. 
  2. Saying “No” to others, especially early in a relationship helps you discern fairly quickly whether the other person can be respectful of your time, your needs and your priorities. Try it. Next time you’re on the phone with someone and you’re busy, be honest. Tell him or her, “I can’t talk right now, I have to go.” Pay attention to her response. Does she hear you? Or, is she so focused on her own needs that she totally ignores what you said? Or perhaps he may pressure you to stay on the phone longer, or make you feel guilty for not having the time to talk right now. Noticing these particular patterns early on can help us weed out manipulative and toxic individuals before we get too close to them. 
  3. Saying “No” to people, even those you dearly love, helps them not become overly dependent on you to meet needs that they should be capable of meeting on their own. When we do too much for people they grow lazy, self-centered, and self-absorbed. They also begin to adopt an entitlement mindset rather than being grateful.

  4. Saying “No” to sin, injustice, and abuse, is not simply sticking up for yourself, it’s standing up for what’s good, right, and just. Jesus always stood for what was right and against what was wrong. He confronted the legalistic views of the Pharisee’s and healed on the Sabbath, even when it angered the religious rule keepers. Jesus taught that the law of love always comes first. 
  5. Saying “No” to foolishness can rescue a person from the error of his or her ways. Abigail not only saved her own life, she saved her entire family’s life. She also helped David come to his senses when she challenged his decision to repay Nabal’s foolishness. James reminds us “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19).

When have you been too afraid, too nice, or too passive to say “No”? What has it cost you or others?

Ask God to give you the courage to say “No” when necessary for your good, for another person’s good, or for His purposes and glory.

BOUNDARIES – What Are They?

(Adapted from Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend)

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.

We are responsible to others and for ourselves. “Carry each other’s burdens, ” says Galatians 6:2, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse shows our responsibility to one another.

Many times others have “burdens” that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; He saved us. This is being responsible “to.”

On the other hand, verse 5 says, “… each one should carry his own load.” Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular “load” that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own “load.”

Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Boundaries are not walls. The Bible does not say that we are to be “walled off” from others; in fact, it says that we are to be “one” with them (John 17:11). We are to be in community with them. But in every community, all members have their own space and property. The important thing is that property lines/boundaries be permeable enough to allow passing in and out, but strong enough to keep out danger.

Examples of boundaries:

Words – The most basic boundary-setting word is “no.” Being clear about your no – and your yes – is a theme that runs throughout the Bible (Matt. 5:37; James 5:12). “NO” is a confrontational word. The Bible says that we are to confront people we love, saying, “No, that behavior is not okay. I will not participate in that.” The word “no” is also important in setting limits on abuse. People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that is they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control.” Your words also define your property for others as you communicate your feelings, intentions, or dislikes. It is difficult for people to know where you stand when you do not use words to define your property. God even does this when He says, “I like this and I hate that,” or “I will do this, and I will not do that.”

Truth – Knowing the truth about God and His property puts limits on you and shows you His boundaries. To be in touch with God’s Truth is to be in touch with reality, and to live in accord with that reality makes for a better life (Ps. 119:2, 45). Satan is the great distorter of reality. Honesty about who you are gives you the biblical value of integrity.

Geographical Distance – Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did. Or, you can remove yourself to get away from danger and put limits on evil. The Bible urges us to separate from those who continue to hurt us and to create a safe place for ourselves. Removing yourself from the situation will also cause the one who is left behind to experience a loss of fellowship that may lead to changed behavior (Matt. 18:17 – 18; I Cor. 5:11-13). When a relationship is abusive, many times the only way to finally show the other person that your boundaries are real is to create space until they are ready to deal with the problem. The Bible supports the idea of limiting togetherness for the sake of “binding evil.”

Time – Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.

Emotional Distance – Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living. Sometimes in abusive marriages the abused spouse needs to keep emotional distance until the abusive partner begins to face his or her problems and become trustworthy. You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until the real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back. Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness and not make sure that the other is producing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Forgive, but guard your heart until you see sustained change.

Other People – You need to depend on others to help you set and keep boundaries. For many, a support system gives the strength to say no to abuse and control for the first time in one’s life. There are two reasons why you need others to help with boundaries. The first is that your most basic need in life is for relationship. The other reason we need others is because we need new input and teaching. Boundaries are not built in a vacuum; creating boundaries always involves a support network.

Consequences – Trespassing on other people’s property carries consequences. “No Trespassing” signs usually carry a threat of prosecution if someone steps over the boundaries. The Bible teaches this principle over and over, saying that if we walk one way, this will happen, and if we walk another way, something else will happen. Just as the Bible sets consequences for certain behaviors, we need to back up our boundaries with consequences. God does not enable irresponsible behavior. Consequences give some good “barbs” to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

What falls within our boundaries; what are we responsible for?

Feelings – Feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge. The Bible says to “own” your feelings and be aware of them. Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships. They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem. But, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.

Attitudes and Beliefs – Attitudes have to do with your orientation toward something, the stance you take toward others, God, life, work, and relationships. Beliefs are anything that you accept as true. We need to own our attitudes and convictions because they fall within our property line. We are the ones who feel their effect, and the only ones who can change them. People with boundary problems usually have distorted attitudes about responsibility. They feel that to hold people responsible for their feelings, choices, and behaviors is mean.

Behaviors – Behaviors have consequences. To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behaviors is to render them powerless.

Choices – We need to take responsibility for our choices. A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay the responsibility for them on someone else. We think someone else is in control, thus relieving us of our basic responsibility. We need to realize that we are in control of our choices no matter how we feel. Throughout Scripture, people are reminded of their choices and asked to take responsibility for them. Making decisions based on others’ approval or on guilt breeds resentment. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for our choices. We are the ones who make them. We are the ones who must live with our consequences.

Values – What we value is what we love and assign importance to. Often we do not take responsibility for what we value. When we take responsibility for out-of-control behavior caused by loving the wrong things, or valuing things that have no lasting value, when we confess that we have a heart that values things that will not satisfy, we can receive help from God to “create a new heart” within us. Boundaries help us not to deny but to own our old hurtful values so God can change them.

Limits – Tow aspects of limits stand out when it comes to creating better boundaries. The first is setting limits on others. In reality, setting limits on others is a misnomer. We can’t do that. What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right. God sets standards, but He lets people be who they are and then separates Himself from them when they misbehave. But God limits His exposure to evil, unrepentant people, as should we. Scripture is full of admonitions to separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways. The other aspect of limits is setting our own internal limits. We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out. We need self-control without repression. We need to be able to say “no” to ourselves. This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.

Talents – Our talents are clearly within our boundaries and are our responsibility. Yet taking ownership of them is often frightening and always risky. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:23, 26-28) says that we are accountable — not to mention much happier – when we are experiencing our gifts and being productive. It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure that the “wicked and lazy” servant gave in to. He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult. He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.

Thoughts – Establishing boundaries in thinking involves three things.

  1. We must own our own thoughts. Many people have not taken ownership of their own thinking processes. They are mechanically thinking the thoughts of others without ever examining them. Certainly we should listen to the thoughts of others and weigh them; but we should never “give our minds” over to anyone.
  2. We must grow in knowledge and expand our minds. One area in which we need to grow is in knowledge of God and His Word. We must use our brains to have better lives and glorify God.
  3. We must clarify distorted thinking. We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways. Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong. Also we need to make sure that we are communicating our thoughts to others. Many people think that others should be able to read their minds and know what they want. This leads to frustration.

Desires – Our desires lie within our boundaries. Each of us has different desires, wants, dreams, wishes, goals, plans, hungers, and thirsts. We all want to be satisfied, but too often we are not. Part of the problem lies in the lack of structured boundaries within our personality. We can’t define who the real “me” is and what we truly desire. Many desires masquerade as the real thing. We often do not actively seek our desires from God, and those desires are mixed up with things that we do not really need. God is truly interested in our desires; He made them. God loves to give gifts to His children, but He is a wise Parent. He wants to make sure His gifts are right for us. To know what to ask for, we have to be in touch with who we really are and what are our real motives.

Love – Many people have difficulty giving and receiving love because of hurt and fear. Having closed their heart to others, they feel empty and meaningless. We need to take responsibility for our God-given loving function and use it. Love concealed or love rejected can both kill us. Many people do not take ownership for how they resist love. They have a lot of love around them, but do not realize that their loneliness is a result of their own lack of responsiveness. Often they will say, “Others’ love can not ‘get in.'” This statement negates their responsibility to respond. We maneuver subtly to avoid responsibility in love; we need to claim our hearts as our property and work on our weaknesses in that area.

Considering all of the above, setting boundaries and maintaining them is hard work. But it is worth it!

Decision-Making: Christian Liberty in the Gray Areas of Life

(Adapted from Ethics for a Brave New World by John Feinberg & Paul Feinberg)

The Bible offers guidelines that can help Christians decide which activities are acceptable for them. These guidelines may be stated as eight questions (tests) that each Christian must face when deciding whether or not to indulge in a given activity. If one answers any negatively, he should not do it. Each person must ask and answer for him self alone before the Lord.

  1. Am I fully persuaded that it is right?       Paul says (Rom. 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not, we doubt rather than believe we can do this and stand acceptable before God. If there is doubt, though, Paul says there is sin. So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed so one could indulge; but while there is doubt, he must refrain.
  2. Can I do it as unto the Lord?          Whatever we do, Paul says we must do as unto the Lord (Rom. 14: 6-8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving Him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.
  3. Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ?      Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20-21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For the one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.
  4. Does it bring peace?    In Rom. 14:17-18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.
  5. Does it edify my brother?     The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities, which both bring peace and edify.
  6. Is it profitable?     In 1 Cor. 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits playing cards, but if my card playing causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.
  7. Does it enslave me?     (1 Cor. 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.
  8. Does it bring glory to God?     Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Cor. 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

5 Toxins of the Tongue That Can Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Toxic words poison, and sometimes even kill, relationships. Words like, “I hate you” or “I wish I never met you” can cause irreparable damage. I confess there have been too many times when harsh, harmful words have come out of my mouth toward my wife, Susan, my kids, and others. It grieves me. I’m continually working hard to choose my words wisely.

Here are five toxins of the tongue that we must work to avoid:

1. Sarcastic Words: Comments like, “The lawn isn’t going to mow itself,” or “Do I look like your maid?” seem like no big deal on the surface, right? But sarcastic words are sometimes just symptoms of an underlying unmet expectation that has frustrated a spouse for quite some time. They can be used as a cowardly way to “dig” at your husband and wife…poisoning slowly.

2. Unsupportive Words: Every husband and wife wants to know that they have their spouse in their corner cheering them on. When a spouse says things like, “That’s a crazy idea,” or “Do you really think you can do that?”…what they may really be saying is “I don’t believe in you,” or “I’m not on your team.” Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t tell your spouse when you think they have a truly bad idea. But, instead of saying, “That’s the worst idea ever,” you could say, “That’s a great idea, but I feel like you would be better at this…” Supporting one another’s aspirations is essential to a happy and productive marriage. We should be our spouses #1 fan, not their biggest critic.

3. Disrespectful Words: Respect is not something that has to be earned. It should be given unconditionally in marriage. Disrespectful comments like, “Can’t you find a real job?”, “I don’t care what you say; I’m going to do it anyway”, and “You’ve really been putting on weight” are insulting, offensive, and can undermine a spouses sense of worth.

4. Comparing words: When saying things like, “Jonathan would do that for his wife” or “Why can’t you be more like Karen?” what you’re really communicating is “You don’t make the grade…you’re not good enough” as a husband or wife.

5. Selfish Words: “I don’t care how you feel, just get it done.” “I want that new dress.” “I need someone who really meets my needs.” Spouses who care more about themselves than their spouses often start their sentences with “I.” It’s all about their wants and their needs, rather than their mates.

Have any, or many, of these toxins of the tongue been injected into your marriage? If so, here are several antidotes you can use to counteract their effects.

  • Apologize to your spouse for all the poisonous things you’ve said to them over the years. Healing can only begin when toxins are removed. And in the case of verbal toxins, relationships begin to mend when couples ask for forgiveness from each other.
  • Be slow to speak. There’s an old adage that states you never regret what you never say. It’s okay to be quiet, reserved, and thoughtful about what comes out of your mouth…especially when you are upset.
  • Make a personal vow that toxic words will no longer come out of your mouth. Putting a post-it note by your bed or on your mirror can serve to remind you of your commitment. Give your spouse the freedom to inform you when toxicity starts to stream from your tongue.
  • These 10 Things Husbands Want to Hear from their Wives and 10 Things Wives Want to Hear from their Husbands can give you some ideas on how you can breathe life-giving words into your spouse. You were created to build each other up, not tear each other down.

How to Set Boundaries with a Hostile Spouse

SOURCE: Dr. Henry Cloud

Amy and Blake had been married for eight years, and they loved each other. However, when he was angry or upset, Blake became moody and would withdraw from Amy and the kids, except for occasional outbursts of anger. When his manufacturing business was struggling, he would sit silently through dinner. Once, during this period, the children were arguing at the dinner table. Out of the blue, Blake said, “Amy, can’t you keep control of the kids? I can’t even have a quiet meal in my own home!” And with that, he stormed out of the kitchen into his home office, turned on the computer, and stayed there until the kids went to bed.

Amy was hurt and confused. But she had a pattern of “handling” Blake’s moods. She would try to cheer him up by being positive, encouraging, and compliant. “He has a hard job,” Amy would think. “Nurturance is what he needs.” And for the next few hours, and sometimes days, she would center the family’s existence around Dad’s mood. Everyone would walk on eggshells around him. No one was to complain or be negative about any subject, for fear of setting him off again. And Amy would constantly try to draw him out, affirm him, and make him happy. All her emotional energy went into helping Blake feel better.

Amy and Blake’s struggle illustrates the importance of the first law of boundaries: “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.” Simply put, this principle means that our actions have consequences. When we do loving, responsible things, people draw close to us. When we are unloving or irresponsible, people withdraw from us by emotionally shutting down, or avoiding us, or eventually leaving the relationship.

In their marriage, Blake was sowing anger, selfishness, and withdrawal of love. These hurt Amy’s feelings and disrupted the family. Yet Blake was not paying any consequences for what he was sowing. He could have his tantrum, get over it, and go about his business as if nothing had happened. Amy, however, had a problem. She was bearing the entire burden of his moodiness. She stopped what she was doing to take on the project of changing her moody husband into a happy man. Blake was “playing,” and Amy was “paying.” And because of this, he was not changing his ways. Blake had no incentive to change, as Amy, not he, was dealing with his problem.

What consequence should Blake have been experiencing? Amy could have said to him, “Honey, I know you’re under stress, and I want to support any way I can. But your withdrawal and rage hurt me and the children. They are unacceptable. I want you to talk more respectfully to us when you’re in a bad mood. The next time you yell at us like that, we’ll need some emotional distance from you for a while. We may leave the house and go to a movie or see some friends.” Then Blake would have to deal with the result of his actions: loneliness and isolation.

When you sow mistreatment of people, you should reap people’s not wanting to be around you. It is to be hoped that the pain of this loneliness would help Blake take steps to deal with his feelings. Sowing and reaping has to do with how spouses affect and impact each other’s heart. Amy and Blake had a problem in relational sowing and reaping. He was being hurtful and difficult, yet Amy took the consequences of his behavior for him.

In their relationship, the one who has the problem isn’t facing the effects of the problem. And things don’t change in a marriage until the spouse who is taking responsibility for a problem that is not hers decides to say or do something about it. This can range from mentioning how her spouse’s behavior hurts her feelings, all the way to setting a limit on the behavior. This helps place both the sowing and the reaping with the same person and begins to solve the boundary violation.

You’re Never Responsible for Your Parents’ Feelings

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Micah had taken an overdose of drugs. At 24, he had dropped out of school and was living at home.

Since his parents were “good Christians,” his behavior was very upsetting to them. It tarnished their image to their group of friends, so they brought him to therapy.

As Micah and I began to explore why he was suicidally depressed, I discovered that his parents were having serious marital problems. They would get into screaming fights and then wouldn’t speak to each other for days. They would bring Micah into conflict. Micah’s father would ask Micah to ask Micah’s mother something, and vice versa.

At other times, Micah’s parents would both confide in him about the other person, instead of confronting each other directly. Micah’s mother told him that she could never stand to be left alone with his father. If Micah left home, they would divorce. If that happened, she said, she would commit suicide, implying it would be “Micah’s fault.”

Micah wanted to move out of his parents’ house and get on with his life, but he was afraid that his moving out would cause his parents’ divorce and his mother’s suicide. He felt he had no choice.

After months of hard work in therapy, Micah learned that he had another option. He learned that he wasn’t responsible for his parents’ feelings toward one another, nor was he responsible for his mother’s depression if she got divorced.

I will never forget the day in a family session that Micah gathered up his strength to confront his mother.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking. I think it’s time for me to finish school. I want to get a job.”

“But the family needs you here. Your father and I are still …”

“No, Mom,” he interrupted. “What you and dad do is up to you. I’m 24, and I’m going to get on with my life.”

She started to cry.

“Mom, you can turn off the tears, because they aren’t going to work anymore. Every time I have ever tried to do something for me, you cry, and I change my mind. I’m not going to do this again. If you are sad about me leaving home, and you and dad are going to fight, that’s your problem.”

Micah had learned what his mother had never learned: each of us responsible for our own feelings. Trying to change the way someone else feels is like losing the ability to steer our car.  We are out of control.

How to Become More Self-Aware

SOURCE:  Dr. John Townsend

Have you ever made a mistake in relationships or at work, and then said to yourself, “I was clueless!” We all do, and it’s all tied up in having problems in being self-aware (of which cluelessness is a part).

People who have healthy self-awareness tend to have better relationships, be generally more content, make better decisions, and focus better at work. And people who suffer from low self-awareness tend to not only make mistakes in life, but they repeat them and repeat them, even when those mistakes have a negative impact on those they care about. But things can change. Here are some tips to help increase your capacity to observe yourself.

Practice a mindfulness exercise. I have a habit that has paid off for my own self-awareness. On a daily basis, get a few minutes away from people and tech and ask yourself these 9 simple questions, takes about a minute:

  1. What am I seeing?
  2. What am I hearing?
  3. What am I smelling?
  4. What am I touching?
  5. What am I tasting?
  6. What positive feeling am I experiencing about myself?
  7. What negative feeling am I experiencing about myself?
  8. What positive feeling am I experiencing about someone else?
  9. What negative feeling am I experiencing about someone else?

You will be surprised about how “in touch” you will become about your body and your interior life. There is a lot of information there to be aware of.

Develop the habit of asking “Why?” Curiosity is one of the highest level developers of self-awareness. It helps us search out our motivations behind our actions and cures cluelessness. When you make a mistake, instead of beating yourself up, or blaming others, just ask yourself “Why?” Why did I snap at her in the meeting? Why did I keep answering emails and avoid finishing the report? Why did I shut down and not say anything when I went out on that blind date? The very practice of “why” will help you figure out what kind of person you are, and help you make better decisions as well.

Deal with fear. Often, individuals with low self-awareness are afraid to stop and look in the mirror, for they fear they won’t like what they see. They don’t scrutinize their behavior or check out how they come across. Inside them, they are pretty sure the answer is painful, as in “I am a selfish failure who is useless to anyone in my life.” So they basically put the engine of life on autopilot, and run through their days running into things and people, but never stopping to figure it out. The answer here is to be able to tolerate the bad news about ourselves in the community of good people who won’t cast you aside and judge you.

Ask for feedback. Getting info from a few safe and honest people in your life can be extremely helpful in developing self-awareness. Simply say to them, “I’m working on improving my self-awareness. I’d like your opinion on situations when I seem to show a lack of awareness of how I’m coming across or impacting people.” I did this with my wife Barbi and she said, “When we are talking and you start thinking about something, you look over my shoulder.” I had no idea! Now I look at her eyes, and things are better.

Know thyself. It pays off.

How to Get Past the Fear to do Really Hard Things

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Fear is the biggest obstacle we all deal with. The nature of fear is to get in the way. When we want to do something, or we want to learn how to do something, but we hold back because it seems like the thing we want to do will be too hard — that’s fear.

I would like to suggest a way of looking at hard things that may be new to you. There are no hard things. There is only new things. When you are facing a daunting task, it’s not that this thing is really hard to do, it’s just that you don’t know how to do it yet and you’re afraid to give yourself over to the possibility of failure.

Something that is hard is a challenge. It’s a challenge to yourself — are you going to grow or are you going to stay the same?

Human beings sent other human beings to the moon. You are reading this on a device that translates ones and zeros into something you can read, and it was made by people. Thousands of airplanes fly safely across the world every day. Submarines are currently circling the depths of the oceans. Somewhere out there, right now, a person is learning to speak their fifteenth language. People everywhere are solving problems and discovering new ones.

At this very moment, future Olympians are beginning their training. They’re kids. And at this juncture, they are terrible at their sport. I’m not being a jerk. They’re lousy. Their performance is indistinguishable from all of the other kids who will not go on to the Olympics. Also happening right now, at this very second, a young woman is writing a short story. Some day she will go on to write a celebrated novel. It will be marketed with quotes from the New York Times that praise its dazzling prose… but this short story she’s working on right now? It is laughably bad. If you read it, you might charitably encourage her to consider another line of work.

When we see high performers, it is tempting to ascribe their success to natural gifts. And to be sure, aptitude plays a role. But the far bigger component of their success is that they are unafraid to do bad work. Doing poorly does not discourage their persistence. The willingness to endure repeated failures in order to improve is the defining characteristic of every success story.

You can plot the progress of any achievement by the number of failed attempts as a ratio to the number of successful attempts. Starting out, you might have 100 failures for every small victory. Soon, you’re successful 1 out of every 50 attempts. If that sounds discouraging to you, you’re not doing the math right. That is twice as good as when you started out. Over time, the rate of failure decreases, and the rate of success increases. What once seemed hard is now just something that you do the right way most of the time.

This is true of every single thing you may wish to do, but presently believe that you cannot do. It does not only apply to big newsworthy achievements. It applies just as well to everything in our lives. We learn. Human beings were designed to improve.

Exercise, weight loss, making friends, learning job skills, cooking, playing the piano, kayaking, having intimate conversations, telling the people in your life that you love them, respecting yourself… Becoming excellent at every single one of these things is down to persistence.

So if all it takes is persistence to accomplish virtually anything, why are there so many people who are inept at what they want to be doing? The catch is that time and energy are finite resources.

There is an opportunity cost to every choice that you make. People become Olympians by prioritizing their training over everything else in their lives. Learning to write code involves spending months alone in a room staring at a computer screen, being confused and writing a lot of lousy code. Becoming a pilot involves thousands of hours of training, and many more hours of comparatively low paying work before you are experienced enough to land a better job. That might mean delaying family planning, or going without a lot of the niceties in life.

The good news is that the stakes are not always so high when it comes to doing most things. You don’t have to forgo everything in your life in order to learn how to do anything new. But you do have to make choices. When you set out to improve in some area, the only way that you will succeed is by committing to becoming a changed person at the end of the process.

The person you are today thinks that this new thing is hard to do. The person you must become in order to do that thing does not think it is hard to do. It is just something they know how to do. The person you are today might spend a lot of time watching TV, having a really active social life, going to the movies, eating out at nice restaurants. The person you must become may not have enough time or energy to do those things.

That is the choice you are making when you decide whether you want to grow or stay the same.

Four Truths About Feelings That Will Set You Free

SOURCE:  Nathan Regier 

Healthy conflict without casualties requires a lot more than simply being aware of your emotions. It involves taking full responsibility for them as well. Many people are happy to identify and share their feelings, but not always willing to own up to them.

Leading self and others out of drama with compassionate accountability starts and ends with emotional responsibility.

Here are four truths about feelings that may challenge you, and are guaranteed to increase your integrity and authenticity if you apply them.

Your feelings belong only to you

They do not belong to anyone else, and might not be shared by anyone else. Don’t assume others feel the same as you do.

Your feelings matter

Owning them and sharing them is an act of self-respect and assertiveness. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you authentic.

Your feelings are your responsibility

Nobody else is responsible for your feelings. Not even the person or group with whom you are having conflict. They may have done something despicable which needs to be dealt with. Still, they did not cause your feelings.

Your feelings are a unique product of how you interpret what’s happening around you

You bring a unique set of experiences, history, values, and filters to any situation. The next person may have a completely different emotional response. So don’t blame your feelings on anyone else. Owning your feelings means owning the unique aspects of you that influenced those feelings.

Here are some examples of common feelings statements that violate one or more of these truths. See which ones you can detect.

“You really hurt me when you said that.”

“I can’t be responsible for how I feel. I just feel it.”

“I shouldn’t share how I really feel. It won’t matter anyway.”

“I don’t want to make you mad.”

Here are some authentic feeling statements that show emotional responsibility.

“I feel defensive because I want to be perceived as capable.”

“I am angry because I have invested a lot in this project.”

“I feel uneasy because I don’t know how to respond.”

“I feel anxious because I’m comparing this to a previous experience that turned out badly.”

Your feelings belong to you, they matter, they are your responsibility, and they are a unique product of your life. Take more authentic ownership over your life by recognizing and owning these truths.

Things to Ponder

  • What attitudes or beliefs do you hold that work against these truths about feelings?
  • What could change for you if you believed and acted on these truths?

Q&A: Have I’ve Done All That I Can Do Or Has My Marriage Died?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Today’s Question:  How can I be confident that I’ve done all that I can do and nothing is going to change in my marriage? When will I have enough evidence that it’s time to leave? My husband says lots of “right” things, but his belief system, which drives his actions, reveals that for the most part, he doesn’t really care for anyone but himself. 

Answer: I’d like to rephrase a common myth. The myth is that it takes two to break a marriage. That’s a lie. One person can kill a relationship effectively all by himself or herself.

The truer reality is that one person cannot keep a marriage together all by herself. It always takes two people to keep a relationship alive or to put a marriage back together especially once it has suffered broken trust.

A marriage is more than a legal agreement or a piece of paper. It is a living relationship that needs regular maintenance and sometimes, repairs. 

I was talking to a man this week at a business meeting I attended and he told me how unsuccessful he’s been in marriage. The problem was that he hadn’t found the right person yet.

I asked him what he meant and he said he’s been divorced three times and when he finds the right person, he’ll know. Meaning…the right person will make it easy for him to stay married long term.

I challenged his thinking. I said, “If you built a brand new house – one that you loved and thought was amazing, and you never maintained it, never took out the garbage, never cleaned it, never repainted the walls, or cut the grass or weeded the yard, or only did those things once in a blue moon, how would that house look and feel in 10 years? 30 years? Horrible! Like a stinky dump.” He agreed. Then I went on to add…

“A house needs more than regular maintenance. It also usually needs repairs over time. What if you ignored the leaky roof or the black mold growing in the bathroom, or the infestation of termites? How would it feel to live in that house?”

YUCKY!  TOXIC! Exactly.

This man lived with a mindset that if love is real, or I find the right person, then keeping the relationship alive will be easy. I shouldn’t have to work at it. But that’s not true.

Therefore, I’m curious about your mindset. I wonder if you believe that if only you do more, somehow you should be able to change your marriage into something enjoyable and safe.

From what you wrote, it sounds as if you’ve been doing the heavy lifting of maintenance and repairs in this relationship with dismal results. You’re tired and worn out. You feel scared because you see the marriage dying and you’re worried that maybe you haven’t done enough.

How do you know?

Your question reminds me of ER professionals who work hard to save a person who’s had a heart attack or was brought in after a terrible automobile accident. As hard as they try, at some point, they have to accept that they’ve done all they can do.  When that time comes, they don’t try harder. They stop and call the time of death. They accept their limitations. They cannot save everyone. Nor can they always bring someone back when seemingly dead, no matter how hard they try, because the patient is really dead.

As Christian women, we’ve often been blamed and blamed ourselves when our marriage feels dead. “What else could I have done?” we ask. “How can I do more to get my spouse to see? To change? To repent? To stop doing destructive things.” And the truth is, there are some things you can do to open his eyes to the dying marriage problem. But only he can decide to change.

Here are some things you can do. Speak to him about your feelings and concerns.  You’ve probably done that hundreds of times over the years. He gives you back the right words, but over the years there has been no meaningful change. Some people will never wake up with words alone. That takes you to the next step.

You allow your spouse reap what he sows (Galatians 6:7-9). In other words, he doesn’t get the perks of a happy wife and good marriage when he sows abuse, indifference, deceit, selfishness, and/or other destructive behavior. Often times that consequence is separation, whether an in-house separation or asking him to move out. But understand this: even with painful consequences, some people still refuse to wise up or change.

Proverbs 1:28-30 says,

“Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
Would have none of my counsel,
And despised all my reproof,
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
And have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
And the complacency of fools destroys them;

You don’t know the future. All you know is the past and present and those are pretty good predictors of someone’s future behaviors. God doesn’t expect you to be omniscient and know everything. He is asking you to walk in truth and faith, not fear and condemnation.

Please don’t put your hope in your husband changing his ways since the past and present show no indication that’s going to happen. You trying harder will not get him to change because you have no power to get him to change no matter how hard you try.

Trying harder to love him more, forgive him more and enduring more destructive/abusive behavior only feeds his entitlement. It feeds the lie he believes that he is so special and wonderful, so unique, he doesn’t have to do the regular work ordinary people have to do to maintain and repair relationships. He believes he’s entitled to a loving partnership even if he behaves in selfish, unloving ways.

Trying harder doesn’t help him face the truth. It also doesn’t help you, nor will it help your marriage to get better.

So you have three choices.

You can keep doing what you’ve always done and getting the same results, which is the definition of insanity.

You can decide to stay well, which means you let go of your desire to have a loving, mutual relationship, and live your life as best you can with a selfish man.

Or, you can decide to leave well, and say, “I don’t think God is asking me to lie and pretend we have a loving marriage when we don’t. I’m going to work on me, to get healthy and strong, and I invite you to do the same.” And then see what he does.

Probably he will do what he always does by giving you empty promises, but as you get stronger, you won’t fall for them as quickly. John the Baptist wisely challenged the religious leaders of his time when he said, “Prove, by the way you live that you’ve repented of your sin and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

Help Your Adult Children Without Enabling Them

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Being a parent doesn’t stop just because our kids reach a certain age.

Many of us find that our love for our children is wrapped up in our desire to protect our kids and make sure their basic needs are taken care of, and that can go on well past any given age for a lot of parents. Helping our kids feels really good in the right situation, and sometimes we’re the only place they can turn to when they’re trying to make a positive change in their lives. But we’re also the place they’re most likely to turn when the going gets tough, and sometimes struggling is necessary for our development.

When do you think it’s a good idea to support your adult child directly? Not just moral support or love, but financially?

Every parent-child situation is different, but let’s say that all parties agree that you’ve found a fair way to provide support for your adult child and that you have the means to be able to help them while they work toward a goal.

When you help your adult children, you’re a resource. All resources can be depleted, and it’s important that your kids understand that. While earned success is the best and most rewarding way to demonstrate the effectiveness of one’s efforts, living up to an agreed upon standard of accountability is the right way to conduct this kind of support.

You’re saying: I believe in your future enough to invest in it with my hard-earned money. You have my faith in your ability and desire to accomplish your goals, and I have a strong wish for you to have a wonderful life.

Making this situation work is about connecting the resource that you’re providing them with to a commitment to making progress in their goal. Failure to progress needs to have appropriate consequences attached to it. If your son or daughter lacks seriousness about accomplishing his or her goal, or gets lazy, or loses interest, you have to be ready to pull your financial support. Something to keep in mind though is that not all failures are equal.

There’s a saying in business — Fail fast, fail often. The lesson here is that we can learn our best lessons from our failures and that we can utilize that knowledge to improve our future attempts to achieve our goals. Failure doesn’t mean that progress has stopped, it means we’re about to learn something hard. What we do with that knowledge defines our character.

Teaching Our Kids Not to Be Bystanders to Bullying

SOURCE:  Jonathan McKee/FamilyLife Ministry

Most kids on today’s campuses probably fall into the category of “bystander.” They know they should probably do something, but they don’t.

“I feel guilty about it every day,” he told the crowd, a little choked by his own words.

The church youth group was captivated by Blake’s vulnerability.

Blake seemed like a normal high school kid: decent grades, a soccer player, and from a good home. But this particular young man was obviously plagued with guilt.

“I saw him being made fun of every day,” he said, “and I did nothing to stop it.”

Blake went on to share about how the two of them used to be really good friends. They went to the same school, hung out at recess, and went to each other’s birthday parties.

But then came middle school. In middle school you’re judged by who you hang out with, and Blake’s friend was definitely on the nerdy side. Blake’s new soccer friends noticed this and began making fun of him.

“Is he your friend?”

“Why are you hanging out with him?”

So Blake cut off his relationship with his friend.

The situation took a turn for the worse. By high school, Blake’s athletic friends began regularly hurling insults at his old friend during lunch or in gym class. Blake never chimed in. He just watched in silence.

Blake confessed that he could still picture the look on his friend’s face. He was haunted by the image.

As I heard Blake’s story I winced, because I knew the story well.

Blake’s old friend was my son.

Peer Intervention

Blake was never a bully. He was the dictionary definition of a bystander, someone who watches and does nothing. Most kids on today’s campuses probably fall into this category.

But bystanders hurt others just the same. It’s a sin of omission. They know they should probably do something, but they don’t.

We need to equip bystanders to advocate for kids who are bullied. I firmly believe today’s young people are the cure for bullying. I speak to younger people at countless events encouraging and equipping them to stop bullying at the outbreak.

Bystanders don’t need to do what their name implies: stand by. They can stand up and do something.

When bystanders stand up and do something, it’s called peer intervention. I use the term peer intervention because those two words have become buzzwords in bullying research as researchers have come to realize how much difference one kid can make.

We can help our kids truly make a bullying breakthrough by teaching them the 5 Rs:

1. Recognize the effects of bullying

Much recent research has revealed that increased screen time is slowly killing empathy. The more people stare at screens and communicate using screens, the more socially hindered they become. We need to help young people look up from their screens, notice others, and think beyond their own little world.

Whenever I speak to young people about bullying, I always tell plenty of stories. Stories help us all look beyond our own perspective and see through the eyes of others. Stories cultivate compassion and empathy.

Parents and teachers can raise awareness by talking about the effects of bullying and sharing stories that help young people consider the perspective of others. Many bystanders have never paused to think through the ramifications of laughing at someone, teasing them … or watching and doing nothing.

2. Realize you can make a huge impact.

One kid can make a huge difference. Really. Just one.

Countless studies show that one friend is enough to prevent the downward slide toward depression.

A report in the journal Development and Psychopathology revealed, “Just one friend is enough to buffer an anxious, withdrawn child against depression. And it doesn’t have to be a particularly close friend—not an intimate or a confidant, as an adult would understand it, just some kind of social connection with someone their own age.”

We need to help our kids understand just how powerful their simple acts of friendship can be.

Maybe a peer steps in and says, “Hey, that’s not okay.” Or if that’s too risky, maybe they approach the victim later and say, “Would you like to talk?” Those simple gestures are by far the most effective in helping those experiencing bullying.

3. Resolve not to bully others.

Most movements begin with a decision, a commitment, a “resolve.” I think of Daniel in the Bible when he was plucked from the safety of his home and plopped down into a world brimming with temptations. He made a decision, a commitment. He “resolved not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Whenever I speak to today’s young people, I give them the opportunity to make a public commitment. It’s one thing to be moved with compassion. Commitment puts feet to those feelings.

Compassion without action is nothing.

Resolve is the decision to take actions. Which brings us to specific actions kids can take…

4. Refuse to join in.

One of the most important actions in which kids can engage is in not engaging.

Bystanders have the ability and responsibility to avoid any behaviors that build up bullies by tearing down others. Bullies thrive on attention and affirmation. Give them neither.

So help bystanders learn to avoid the following:

  • Laughing at jokes at the expense of others
  • Listening to rumors, gossip, or hate speech from anyone
  • Physically standing with a group that is mocking or gossiping about others

Refusing to join doesn’t always necessitate speaking up or saying, “Hey, this isn’t okay.” Sometimes bystanders can walk away, or in class they can just keep their attention on their schoolwork.

If bullies don’t receive any affirmation or attention for their mean behavior, they’ll usually stop said behavior.

5. Reach out to someone who is hurting or alone.

The best bullying advice I have ever heard comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians in the Bible:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Can you imagine if everyone actually lived out this advice? We could cut down on a whole lot of bullying for sure! It’s amazing what simple acts of kindness can do. But these acts are rare. Kids are all about “mine!” Put out two pieces of cake for your two kids and both will grab for the bigger piece. It’s uncommon to find a kid who genuinely offers the bigger piece to their brother or sister.

At school it’s the same. Kids typically value self above others, not the inverse.

But this generation of young people really wants to do something and make a difference. Often, they just don’t know how. It’s an interesting tension. They’re self-centered, but want to help others. Sometimes a caring adult can help connect the dots by showing how to get from A to B.

What would it look like to invite that awkward kid over to hang out after school … knowing full well that it might be awkward?

Passages like the one from Philippians 2 are impactful as we teach our kids how to reach out. Be humble. Consider others better than you. This is what Jesus modeled.

Showing humility and valuing others above self are concepts kids don’t spend much time thinking about, but you’ll be surprised how much kids will rise up when given the opportunity to demonstrate these values.

Bystanders don’t just have to “stand by.” One friend really does make a difference.


Excerpted from The Bullying Breakthrough, copyright © 2018 by Jonathan McKee.

Someone Else’s Feelings Aren’t Yours to Own

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Our feelings, whether good or bad, are our property. They fall within our boundaries. Our feelings are our responsibility; others’ feelings are their responsibility. If other people feel sad, it is their sadness. This does not mean that they do not need someone else to be with them in their sadness and to empathize with them. It does mean the person who is feeling sad must take responsibility for that feeling.

Sandy was confused about her boundaries because she felt responsible for her mother’s feelings. She felt like she had to change her mother’s anger to happiness by changing her own behavior. This puts Sandy’s mother’s anger in control of Sandy’s life.

If we feel responsible for other people’s feelings, we can no longer make decisions based on what is right; we will make decisions based on how others feel about our choices. If we are always trying to keep everyone happy, then we cannot make the choices required to live correctly and freely. We can’t determine how successfully we are living our lives by who is unhappy with us. If we feel responsible for other people’s displeasure, we are being controlled by others.

Many people are stuck in the stage of development where they think they can control others by getting angry or sad. This tactic often works with people who have no boundaries, and it reinforces the controlling person’s immaturity. When we take responsibility for our own disappointments, we are setting clear boundaries. When we take responsibility for others’ feelings, we are crossing over their boundaries.

Some of you may think that this approach to boundaries is mean and insensitive. Please hear something loud and clear: We should always be sensitive to others’ feelings about our choices, but we should never take responsibility for how they feel. Taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings is actually the most insensitive thing we can do because we are crossing into another’s territory. Other people need to take responsibility for their own feelings. If they are mature, they will process their own disappointment and own it. If they are not, they will blame us for their disappointment. But dealing with both their disappointment and their blaming is their responsibility. None of us gets everything we want.

 

Q&A: Can I Have Good Boundaries And Be Compassionate?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Today’s Question: Where is the line between understanding and having compassion for your emotionally abusive spouse and protecting your own healthy emotional boundaries and beginning the healing process?

Answer: This is an excellent question. People usually fall in one of two categories. On the one side, you have so much compassion and empathy for someone that you have no boundaries. Instead, you enable and/or excuse destructive and damaging behavior that’s directed towards you and continue to suffer believing that God calls you to do just that. You say to yourself, he came from an abusive childhood, therefore you allow him to mistreat you because he was mistreated himself.

But would you think that same way with a two-year-old? Yes, you have compassion that your child is tired. He didn’t get his nap. He doesn’t feel well. But he bites you or kicks you or hits his baby sister. Do you allow it and make excuses for his behavior because you feel bad for him? I hope not. You can have compassion with firm boundaries. “I know you’re tired, or don’t feel well, but hitting mommy or your sister is not allowed and if you don’t stop, you will have a time out.”

When we don’t couple firm boundaries with our natural compassion our children grow up under a lie. The lie is, “I’m allowed to behave poorly when I feel bad or I’m unhappy, hurt, or angry.” Those lies underlie entitlement thinking. The belief that says everyone and everything should revolve around meeting my needs, feelings, wants, and desires and when they don’t, watch out. You will have a price to pay.

The opposite mistake you may fall into is hard-heartedness. You’re done. You feel only disgust, contempt, and hatred towards your abuser. There is zero compassion for his or her struggle or any pity for the sad human being he or she has become. We may start to retaliate, call him names, turn away in disgust, and sometimes in our own anger, we turn into someone we don’t like very much.

Neither place is Biblical or healthy. God calls us to love even our enemy. But that doesn’t mean God would expect you not to have any boundaries with an enemy. Precisely because Jesus uses the word “enemy” and not “stranger” he knows that an enemy is dangerous and has caused you harm in the past.

Loving your enemy isn’t a command to change an enemy into a friend. Its goal is to help you not be filled with hatred towards your enemy which would turn you into someone just like your enemy.

So your question of what exactly does it look like won’t be the same for everyone because everyone’s situation is a little different. However, to accomplish both goals, means you have to learn to walk in and stay in CORE Strength.

Two of the steps in CORE are the R step and the E step. The R step means you will be responsible for yourself and respectful towards your spouse without dishonoring yourself. It’s your job to steward your own physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and financial well-being.

This is your Biblical responsibility as an adult. So often we don’t fully mature and instead rely on others to do our thinking for us, make our decisions, take care of us or rescue us from our unhappiness or problems. This is not the posture of a healthy or godly woman (or man).

It’s now time to stop focusing on your marriage or your man and spend time on your own healing and growth so that you can become the woman God called you to become. This requires you to detach yourself from NEEDING your spouse to love you, take care of you, validate your choices, or meet your needs.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have needs, but right now you will learn to take responsibility for your own needs. If your spouse chooses not to voluntarily meet those needs, you will detach yourself from begging, pleading, threatening or feeling victimized because he refuses or he can’t. As you do this you will grow to trust God in a deeper way with what you need right now. You can be kind while not demanding he do or change anything. If you aren’t able to detach safely while living together, then separation might need to take place.

But detaching doesn’t mean disregarding someone else or being cruel towards him (or her). That would not be of God and we forfeit the E step of CORE, which states: I will be empathic and compassionate without enabling destructive behaviors to continue.

If your spouse and you can live together in a compassionate, respectful way, while you both do your own growth and healing, it may be possible to live together. This would require you both to be able to commit to being responsible to mutually care for the house, the children and the finances without power plays or abusive behavior. However, by your question, it sounds like your husband is not as committed to his growth as you are to yours. Therefore his destructive behaviors continue while you are working on getting healthier.

You haven’t described what kinds of abusive behaviors he engages in, nor have you gone into details about the impact they have had on you. Not every person is the same, not everyone has the same threshold for pain or ability to handle toxic people.

This is where the church makes some crucial mistakes in their advice to victims of abuse. “If name calling wouldn’t hurt me, it shouldn’t hurt you.” Or, “There is something flawed about you if this bothers you, you’re too sensitive.” Or “That’s not abusive, if I don’t see it as abusive.”

But what one person can handle, perhaps another person cannot. For example, if you are highly sensitive to smoke, you may have a boundary that says, “I can’t drive with you if you smoke in the car.” If your husband refuses to honor that boundary, you can have compassion on his addiction, but you still may choose not to get in his car or let him in yours if he refused to respect your right to steward your health. If he continued to smoke in the house and it impacted your health, you may have to live elsewhere. Not because you didn’t have compassion on his addiction, but because you are responsible to steward your health, and if chooses not to care about your health, you must.

In the above example, I would hope a church leader would talk to her husband for being disrespectful towards his wife and the effect his smoking has on her. Sadly, with emotional abuse, it’s often the woman or abused who gets chastised because somehow she (or he) is supposed to be able to “take it” without any thought to the consequences to their body, soul, or spirit.

So you can have compassion and have firm boundaries at the same time. Even with someone who is brain injured and dangerous because he or she isn’t thinking properly. Of course, you would have tons of compassion for the injury he or she suffered and the impact on their thinking and personality. But if they were coming at you with a knife, or setting the house on fire, or doing other dangerous and destructive things to you or your children, it may not be possible to live in the same house.

THE SIN OF PROXIMITY: RUN!

SOURCE:   Living Free

Run from sexual sin!

No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.

For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

When it is in our power to change a situation that will likely cause us to sin and we choose not to act to change it, we are guilty of the sin of proximity—sometimes called the sin before the sin.

The sin before the sin involves the little decisions we make that set us up for temptation and sin. If we are to overcome the strongholds in our lives that constantly pull us in the wrong direction, we have to come to a place of radical obedience and do everything possible to eliminate those occasions for sin that are in our control.

Failing to take appropriate actions to eliminate the stumbling blocks that lead us to sin is a serious issue for many of us. Sexual temptation has presented itself to most of us at some time in our lives.  Scripture advises us to run from sexual sin.

With sexual sin, the longer we are in the presence of temptation, the less likely we are to escape without sinning.

It is so much better to avoid the sin before the sin.

To run from the sin of proximity . . .

Stay in fellowship with Jesus.

Turn to him for the strength you need.

With him, you can do all things.

Prayer . . .

“Lord, help me to run from all temptation to be involved in sexual sin. 

Help me to run from the sin and run to you.

In Jesus’ name …”

Codependency Defined

SOURCE:  Living Free/Jimmy Ray Lee

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Romans 1:25 NAS

Codependent behavior has existed nearly as long as men and women have walked the earth. A codependent person is addicted to another person, creating an imbalanced relationship.

If another person’s misbehavior is affecting your sense of well-being and you have become obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior, you are in a codependent relationship.

Codependents take ownership of another person’s problems, get their sense of well-being from managing the behavior of the dependent person, and end up being controlled by the person they are trying to help. By centering their lives on the person they are trying to help, they exchange the truth of God for a lie, worshipping and serving a created person rather than God the Creator.

Codependency is sinful because the person becomes mastered by a loved one’s problem or becomes a loved one’s master (playing God).

Think about whether you have seen any of these indications of codependency in your own life or anyone else’s. If you see codependent traits in someone else, pray for their eyes to be opened. If you see them in your own life, ask God’s forgiveness and his help. Recognize your helplessness and place your trust in him.

Father, I recognize some of these codependency symptoms in my own life. I’m beginning to see that I’m not able to help my loved one this way. Please forgive me. I need you and want to place my trust in you and you alone. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Am I “Supportive” or “Enabling”?

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Galatians 6:1 NLT)

Enabling can become a habit. Your loved one needs you to support their denial and deceit. They become expert at making you feel guilty if you try to stop your enabling behavior. They may say, “If you love me you’ll . . .”

So what is your responsibility to your troubled loved one? You should be supportive — without enabling.

Consider This . . .

Think about the differences between enabling and supporting.

Enabler: Tries to fix
Supporter: Shows empathy

Enabler: Attempts to protect
Supporter: Encourages

Enabler: Repeatedly rescues
Supporter: Permits the person to be responsible for their own actions

Enabler: Attempts to control
Supporter: Lovingly confronts with truth

Enabler: Manipulates
Supporter: Levels, speaks honestly

Enabler: Expects the other person to live up to “my” expectations
Supporter: Expects the other person to be responsible

Where do you see yourself?

Lord, I realize I often enable more than I support my loved one. Teach me to gently and humbly help them get back on the right path. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 

 Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

7 Toxic Behaviors You Should Never Tolerate

SOURCE:    /Psych Central

Humans tend to normalize behaviors of close intimates, tucking certain responses and behaviors into folders labeled: “Just the way he is” or “So typical of her.”

We do that because, in the moment, we chose to stay in the relationship, even though the sailing isn’t always smooth. Some of the time, we fail to recognize that we’re actually excusing behaviors that should never be tolerated. People with insecure attachment styles whose emotional needs weren’t met in childhood do this more often and for longer than securely attached people who are much more likely to call out hurtful behavior because, for them, it’s anomalous.

Those who were used to being marginalized, ignored, mocked or picked on in their childhood homes are much more likely to normalize or excuse bad behaviors. It’s a bit like the pile of boots and shoes by the front door that you get so used to that alas you no longer see it. (For a more in-depth discussion of how this affects unloved daughters, see my new book, Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life.

Tools of manipulation and power

All of these behaviors are ways of exerting control over you, and are signs of an imbalance of power in the relationship, as well as clues to the other person’s motivations. Some of them are more obvious than others but the real key is whether or not you’re calling them out for what they are or whether you’re pleasing, appeasing, rationalizing, denying, or making excuses. We all need to take responsibility for whether or how we tolerate behaviors that shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s emotional landscape.

Marginalizes your thoughts and feelings

Laughing at you or telling you that he or she doesn’t care what you think is not okay, or that your feelings are unimportant or perhaps laughable. Or that your thoughts are wrong—based on fuzzy thinking—or that you’re “too sensitive” or “too emotional.” These are manipulations, pure and simple.

Calls you names or disparages you

It’s one thing to complain about someone’s action or inaction—how he or she failed to deliver on a promise, kept you waiting for an hour, didn’t take out the trash, etc. It’s quite another to criticize someone’s character, replete with examples; These criticisms usually begin with the words “You never” or “You always,” and what follows is a litany of everything the other person finds lacking or wrong about you. This is not okay, ever. If this is a pattern in the relationship and you feel denigrated or put-down most of the time, do not rationalize the other person’s behavior by making excuses (“He only called me names because he was frustrated with me” or “She really didn’t mean what she said. It was just the heat of the moment.”) By making excuses, you encourage the behavior and, yes, normalize it.

Gaslights you

This is a power play, used by people who perceive the other person in the relationship as weaker or easily manipulated; parents do it to children, using the force of their authority, as do adults who are intent on control. The gaslighter calls the other person’s perceptions or vision of reality into question by denying that something was said or done, and then suggesting that you’ve made it up or misunderstood. The gaslighter preys on what he or she knows about your level of confidence in your perceptions as well as your insecurity and games both.

Treats you with contempt

Mockery, laughing at you, or displaying physical gestures like eye-rolling to communicate contempt for you, your words, and your actions is never okay and always aimed at exerting control over you. Every healthy relationship requires mutual respect, and the absence of contempt should be a hard-and-fast rule for everyone.

Projects his or her feelings on to you

In his book, Rethinking Narcissism, Dr. Craig Malkin points this out as a narcissist’s favorite ploy, calling it “playing emotional hot potato.” Rather than own his or her feelings and take responsibility for them, the narcissist projects those onto you—trying to make his or her anger yours, for example. This shifts the balance of power in a subtle way because while you can see his anger—his fists are clenched, his jaw muscles working, his face is flushed—now you’re on the defensive, saying that you’re not angry.

Manipulates your insecurities

This ploy is akin to gaslighting but goes further to shut you down, stop you from speaking out, and keeps you contained and controlled. With this behavior, he or she takes advantage of the knowledge he or she has about you—that you get nervous when someone gets angry, that you’re likely to back down if you’re challenged strongly enough, or that a stray comment about your weight will make you docile and apologetic, for example—and uses it to make sure you stay in line. This can be harder to see but if it’s a pattern, you’re floating in a toxic sea.

Stonewalls you

A refusal to listen or even discuss an issue you’ve brought up is one of the most toxic behaviors of all, and both frustrating and demeaning at once. The worst thing you can do is take responsibility for someone’s refusal to communicate, especially by falling into the habit of self-criticism or blaming yourself for picking the “wrong time” to initiate discussion and the like. This is a highly toxic and manipulative behavior—that’s the bottom line.

All of the behaviors are efforts at control. They have no place in a healthy relationship.

Don’t Be Afraid to Let Someone Struggle

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

I want to share a story with you on how NOT to be ruled by fear.  
 
“I know that I hold on to people too long, way past when I know I have to make a change,” a CEO told me. “I have always done that, and it costs me.” 
 
“What are you afraid of?” I asked. 
 
“I don’t think I’m afraid,” he said. “I just don’t want to hurt them, and I always try to protect them.” 
 
“What’s the fear?” I asked again. 
 
It took him a while to get to it, but underneath it all, he was afraid for others to have to go through a struggle. 

The problem is that the brain is wired to avoid pain and anxiety.

Over time, when you continue to avoid things that cause you fear or anxiety, such as this CEO’s fear of letting someone struggle, a pattern builds up, causing you to respond almost automatically to any situations that would cause you anxiety. But you cannot allow a pattern of fear and avoidance rule you.

If you are afraid of making a mistake, you will never make bold moves. If you are afraid of upsetting or disappointing people, you will never be able to deal with discomfort in relationships. You’ll be the one who continues to struggle and suffer. 
 
In my experience, many great people go through a three-stage process when it comes to facing their fears. First, they fear it and put it off. Next, they push through the fear, make the decision, and it is painful. And finally, they wonder why they waited so long to make it after the pain is gone and they have resolved the problem. As these stages are internalized, and they become aware of them, people find it easier to make these hard calls. But as long as you don’t confront those uncomfortable feelings, your emotions will control your actions. Grow past the fear! 
 
Look at what you are afraid of and get to the bottom of it. Is it failure? Is it loss of approval? It is fear of confrontation? Is it fear of causing someone distress? Is it fear of change?

And remember: You can have fears without being “fearful.” “Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so… don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fear is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional. Fearful leaders – that is, those who respond out of fear – are the worst leaders, period. 
 
So, feel your fear, name it, accept it, talk it over with those you trust, and then choose to do the right thing, no matter how uncomfortable you feel.

How to Stop People Pleasing and Focus on Your Own Goals

SOURCE:  Karl Shallowhorn/bphope

Learning to define and set your own goals can free you from other people’s expectations and allow you to go beyond your previously conceived limitations.

Growing up as a young child my mother used to reinforce the need for me to try to excel at whatever I did. “Even if you’re a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger there is,” she would reiterate. This regular kind of prodding produced a dual-pronged response. At first, I accepted her challenge eagerly, thinking that I did have the ability to be the best at whatever I attempted to do. As I got older I came to realize that being “the best there is” wasn’t always possible (if ever).

Then—at the age of 18—bipolar disorder hit. I went from a promising future to one that was very unclear in a matter of weeks. At that point, my hopes and dreams were dashed against the rocks. I was being told what I needed to do just to get better. Essentially, I was powerless.

This whole experience was difficult for my mom. She had such high hopes for me and seeing her only child dealing with such a disabling disease hurt her dramatically. Eventually, she could no longer bear seeing me in the hospital. It was just too much for her.

However, there were times early in my life with bipolar disorder that I had brief periods of remission when I was able to continue school and eventually earn my Bachelor’s Degree. I vividly recall my mom’s mantra during this time, “Either you go to school or get a job. But you’re not going to lay around the house on me!”

Say what you want about this, but it worked, and sometimes too much. During those years of transition, I struggled to meet the expectations of others—not only my mother but also family, school faculty, and even my therapeutic team.

It got to the point that I was trying to please others and failing to take into account my own aspirations (and limitations). I was still healing during this period and I felt the pressure to have to perform in some way or manner to satisfy others.

There were many times during this period that the stress of having to live up to the expectations of others caused me to seriously question what I was capable of. What I came to learn, the hard way was to set goals for myself. In traditional mental health therapy, treatment plans are often utilized for this purpose.

One way I learned later was to approach this using the SMART method of goal setting:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Reasonable
  • Timely

Setting SMART goals are great because they:

  1. Help one to be more objective
  2. Quantify what the goal is
  3. Allow for the individual to set a goal which requires effort and challenges one to go beyond their comfort zone
  4. Set a distinct time-frame in which to accomplish the goal

So what does this all have to do with expectations? By being clear on what my personal goals are I then have the capacity to understand the difference between what I want to accomplish versus what others want.

In recovery, I’ve strived to go beyond my previously conceived limitations. These are things that I want to do and not what others want me to do. This is the whole idea behind self-determination. I’m the one in the driver’s seat. It’s empowering to realize that I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards. Mind you, I work, have a family, and take on other responsibilities. I’m not saying that I just settle for what I need to do to just get by. Actually, it’s the opposite. I like to go a little bit further in what I try to achieve in life. Some would say that this means I’m goal driven—and yes I am. But these are my goals—not someone else’s.

If you find yourself questioning your ability to succeed in recovery, break your goals into small parts. Remember you don’t have to do it all at once. Even achieving small goals can be a huge victory.

The Necessary Endings For Marriage

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

It felt a bit like I was taking my work home, but I still found myself engrossed in an episode of “Hoarders” on TV last night. If you are not familiar with the show, it lets you see in great detail the struggles of people who hoard. Close up and personal, you get to see what happens to people’s lives, families, marriages, health, spiritual well-being, psyche’s and souls, when they are beset by one basic problem: the inability to let go of “stuff.” Whether it is memorabilia, toys, electronics, appliances, clothes, or whatever, the basic issue is the same. The person just cannot let it go. So, he or she keeps it around.

The problem is that life is not a one-stop shopping event. Reality is that as time goes on, we get even more stuff. We need and buy more clothes, sports equipment, toys for children, or gadgets for daily use. We take more pictures, collect more souvenirs, and keep up with changing trends and styles. Nothing wrong with that, and in fact we would question anyone today who was showing off their 80’s style. The problem is that as we are accumulating and gathering new “stuff,” we have to recognize that there has to be a parallel process of not only gathering the new, but letting go of the old and the broken as well. We have to make room for today and tomorrow by saying goodbye to yesterday.

The second principle is pruning. In the same way that a rose bush needs pruning to get beautiful roses, for us to have a healthy life, we have to continually prune as well. A gardener must prune a rose bush in three instances: First, the bush produces more buds than it can sustain and feed and there are too many buds taking the resources of the bush.

So, the gardener prunes the “good” ones, and keeps only the “best” ones so they can fully mature. Second, there are diseased branches that are not going to get well. Even after trying all that she can try to bring them back, they “refuse” and so are pruned away. Third, there are some branches which are long since dead and are taking up space that the healthy ones need in order to stretch out and grow. If all three of these pruning functions are done regularly and well, then the roses thrive.

Think what would happen if the hoarder did the same three things: 1) only keep the possessions that best add to their life, the life of the family, and other loved ones. (2) Get rid of what was broken beyond repair. (3) Toss out the pure junk that had no life left whatsoever. Then, they would get their homes and their lives back, and their children could thrive as well.

Put the two principles together, seasons and pruning, and you get a clear realization of how life was created: there are “necessary endings” that we must embrace to have the life that we’re meant to have.

In the physical world of hoarding “stuff,” this problem is easy to see. You can’t even walk through their houses, much less create happiness in all of that clutter. We can all see that and sometimes want to cast stones. But, let’s make it more personal to us. While most of us don’t have a hoarding issue that could make TV, we probably can all confess to the hoarding in some context of life.

Said another way, most of us avoid facing the fact that the season has passed for some aspects of life that we are still invested in, and we should let go of them. But, for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to upset someone, guilt, or fear of the unknown, we hang on. Similarly, in terms of pruning, there are some areas of life that might be “good,” but are not “best” for us to be giving ourselves to. They are taking time and energy from the “best” things that we should be invested in. Or, some things in life are broken and not going to get better, and should be pruned just as the ones which are clearly dead. The idea here is that for you to be able to build the marriage, family and life that has called you to have today and tomorrow, there are always some things from yesterday that have to end. You have to say “no more,” or “good bye.” Here are some examples:

• A small group, or groups, which served you well in a particular season of your spiritual life, or marriage, is no longer doing so. Its legitimate season is past. But you are not free to find and invest in a group that is appropriate for this time of life because of fear or guilt. Or, you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

• A group of friends or social circle (once important to you) is going a different direction in life, with different values than you wish to build in your marriage, family, or friendships. Spending time and energy there is keeping you from investing in the friends that are heading in the same direction and should get the best of your time.

• A good practice, such as every holiday at a parent’s house, may not always be best at every holiday because your own family needs some holiday traditions of its own as well. Yet, you are afraid of the conflict that may bring.

• An extended family member, with whom you have tried all you know to do, continues in their denial causing your marriage or your family unnecessary grief. Every time you interact with them, your own family suffers in some way as you are not as emotionally available for them in the aftermath.

• You attend a church whose season is past, or is toxic, or is not the best for what you, your marriage of family is being called to be. Yet because of some kind of fear, you are afraid to pull up roots and find what you need.

• You spend time on a hobby or other practice that, while good, might be keeping you from investing time and energy pursuing something that will build more life for you or your family.

• Your kids or family is simply overextended in too many sports, clubs, spiritual activities, arts, or social functions and as a result, the quality time that you need with each other doesn’t happen.

• You give financially or in service to help a person, or organization that is not being a good steward of your gift. Yet, you are afraid for some reason, usually guilt, to let go.

All of these scenarios are common to life. And I am not saying that we should just “throw away” all of our activities or relationships that are not “feeding us” in some way. That would be a selfish way to go about life, as we are called to commitment and redemption. But, I am saying that sometimes commitment and redemption are only served well when intentional stewardship is applied using the principles of seasons and pruning. We should be wisely choosing where we spend our time and energy, and pruning what does not fit. We are commanded to do so, and will be held accountable for our choices when we don’t.

These “necessary endings” are never easy. But, if we are going to have an abundant life and our families are going to thrive, we will have to recognize what seasons we are in, and always be pruning with courage and faith.

Q&A: Did I Make a Mistake Ending My Affair?

Source: Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW

Question:

Years ago, I had an affair. My wife found out, and I stopped the affair. But I can’t get the other woman out of my mind. Did I make a mistake ending the affair? Should I have left my wife?

Answer:

When people decide to end affairs, they often expect the feelings about their affair partners to fade away in short order. After all, they have made conscious decisions to reinvest in their marriages, so shouldn’t the longing for their paramours simply go away?

Although the saying Out of sight, out of mind often has merit, when it comes to infidelity, it often doesn’t work that way. This is particularly true if the affair was long-lasting, deeply meaningful and/or sexually passionate. People frequently say that their affairs made them feel greatly appreciated, sexier than they’d felt in years and even “alive again”—and it’s hard for whatever comes afterward to compete with that.

That’s why when an affair ends, even if it’s for all the right reasons, there’s a sense of loss. With loss comes grief. Sometimes when people grieve over an affair that has ended, they feel guilty about the grief. They tell themselves they “should” be over the relationship. To compound matters, betrayed spouses seem to have radar for their partners’ lingering feelings of love or lust for their affair partners and often (understandably) become upset and accusatory, only adding to the complexity of the situation.

The truth is, overcoming loss takes time. Feelings do not come and go on a schedule. Judging oneself for reflecting on the importance of an affair and mentally reliving meaningful moments only serves to prolong the challenges in letting go—but it’s all understandable.

That doesn’t mean you have to just live with it. Rather than allow your continued thoughts about the affair to make you question the wisdom of staying in your marriage, why not ask yourself the reasons you decided to end the affair and recommit to your wife in the first place?  Did you value your history together?  Were you unwilling to break up your family? Did you realize that despite your decision to have an affair, you really love your wife? Is there a part of you that recognized that in many ways, the excitement of the affair was just that it was a responsibility-free relationship?  Did you recognize that your marriage would improve if you funneled your energy toward your spouse rather than your affair partner?

Chances are you had good reasons for deciding to stay in your marriage. Don’t lose sight of that. At the same time, don’t judge yourself for having lingering thoughts about the past. And after considering all the above, if you still feel torn about your decision to remain with your wife, you can seek professional help to sort things out. Be sure to reach out to a therapist who specializes in marriage therapy. Although the best way to find a referral is word-of-mouth, you also can search through a directory on the website for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT.org).

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Source: Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW, founder of The Divorce Busting Center in Boulder, Colorado, that helps on-the-brink couples save their marriages. She is the best-selling author of eight books including Healing from InfidelityThe Sex-Starved Marriage and Divorce Busting.

Dysfunction Interrupted: Are You Building Healthy Boundaries or Emotional Walls?

SOURCE:  Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

I talk often about boundaries, the healthy need for them and how they define the ways you treat yourself as well as how you allow others to treat you. There are physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual boundaries that you develop in order to know where you stand in life in relation to yourself and others.

It has come to my attention that clients sometimes do not understand the difference between healthy boundaries and emotional walls.  Emotional walls are like boundaries on steroids. Your brain develops them in order to protect you. They are often seen as or referred to as defense mechanisms. Sometimes they are a good thing, but sometimes your brain goes overboard in its efforts to protect you. Emotional walls are not usually conscious efforts to define yourself but unconscious efforts to protect yourself. If you have these, there is nothing wrong with your brain, it is working just fine, but maybe a bit overtime.

Think reactive rather than proactive when you think of emotional walls.  An example of this would be:

You have been hurt in some way in past relationships so you begin doing things or involving yourself in activities that pretty much guarantee you will be solo. You may tell yourself you have too much to do, not enough time or some other excuse not to engage in things where you might meet someone.  You really want someone in your life but can’t see how to have that happen and not experience pain so you are essentially walling off the opportunities to meet someone.

If your basic thoughts about people are that they can’t be trusted, you may be guarded with how you share yourself. By these behaviors, you remain alone and lonely. A boundary around this topic would be allowing yourself to trust until someone has broken that trust. Your boundary would be ” I give people the benefit of the doubt but if they break my trust I am done.”  You maintain the power in that decision and allow yourself the freedom to be open to meeting others.

In an effort to protect yourself you may also come up with a definition of the perfect person for you that can never be attained. You may tell yourself this is the profile of the only person that could work out for you. You can see the problem with this as it becomes an order that can not be fulfilled. Although it is important to find a good match, it is not likely a person will be “perfect” in every way. You have built an insurmountable wall.  A healthy boundary setting for choosing a significant other would be to set guidelines pertaining to how they speak to you, how they treat you overall, spiritual, educational and political preferences and let the rest fall into place.

One of the main differences between setting boundaries and establishing emotional walls is that boundaries leave in place the opportunity for joy and for you to be in control of your life. Emotional walls, on the other hand, usually limit you in some way and reduce potential experiences and opportunities. Emotional walls make you feel like a victim of something while boundaries allow for control and freedom.

It is not to say that someone won’t break a boundary and hurt you in some way, that can always happen. The “perfect” person could also just die or be in an accident. Unfortunately, life can dole out some very nasty experiences. We really can’t protect ourselves against all of them and living in fear limits our life in many ways. It is better to develop the skill base you need to get you through those times than to live fearfully trying to protect against them.

Without the necessary skill base, you may experience emotionally painful things and not know how to come through. You may become depressed, anxious or angry and not be able to see your way clear of these negative emotions.  Not everyone learns the necessary skill bases to overcome negatives in life, many times parents don’t know how to teach these skills or the opportunity just doesn’t present itself in childhood. Sometimes there has been a very dysfunctional background that has taught dysfunctional thinking patterns that don’t allow for healing and moving on.

These can be learned. There is no need to wall yourself off from the joys of life.

My Big Flaw: I’m an Impatient Mom

SOURCE:  Kelsie Huffstickler/Family Life

When I’m in a hurry, I tend to plow over my children.

Here we are again, all buckled in and driving down the road. I’m at the wheel. My two girls are behind me strapped in their car seats. The music playing on my Christian radio station is uplifting, but my heart—it’s heavy. I’m weighed down by my own actions, not five minutes before.

Getting ready and out the door is a chore, as any mom of littles will tell you. No matter how much extra time you allot yourself, it’s never enough. It seems those last 10 minutes before leaving are pure and utter chaos.

It never fails. Somebody poops right as I step out the door. Did I get the paci? Oops, I forgot to water the dog.

It’s enough to drive someone mad—at least if that someone is me.

I like to think I am a good mother. But I know for a fact I have one motherly flaw that protrudes like a plank from my eye: I lack patience. At no time is this flaw more evident than when my girls and I are trying to get out the door to go somewhere.

The problem is, I’m an “arrive on time” kind of girl. Or at least I used to be. Now, with two kids, I rarely reach my destination on time. But the drive to do so still pushes me to run over any obstacles in my path.

Even if those obstacles are often my children.

Today my 4-year-old, finally strapped down behind her five-point-harness, crying in the back seat, asked me, “Why are you being so mean to us?” I was buzzing down the road, my eye on the prize of my destination, but in that moment my heart stopped, and I knew I was in the wrong.

At the next stop sign, I turned around, looked her straight in the eyes and asked her to please forgive me. She said she did, as she always does, and we kept on driving. But my heart couldn’t move on because I knew the truth—this wasn’t the first time this had happened. In my determination to get out the door and to wherever we’re headed, I tend to plow over those I love. (I know my husband’s been in the line of fire plenty of times too!) The fact is, my actions show that I place more value on the opinion of whoever is waiting for us than on that of my own family.

I decided right then and there that enough was enough. I don’t want my children to remember their mother always in a hurry or always about to burst from frustration. I want them to remember examples of patience and love.

Lord, please help me remember the power of my words and attitudes on my children’s hearts. And in those moments of frustration, help me reflect on Your Word and remember that my character is more important than them perfectly meeting my expectations.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT).

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1, NIV)

Dysfunction Interrupted: What is Acceptable in a Relationship and What is Not?

SOURCE:  Audrey Sherman, Ph.D

If you have experienced any type of dysfunctional past it is likely that you have as an adult put up with behaviors and treatment that you should not have and not trusted yourself to speak up or move on. Sometimes the behaviors are something you grew up with, know how to handle and so you don’t even question them, but you know they make you feel badly. Your tolerance level for unacceptable is high and you may not realize it. You may overlook things that your friends would not tolerate for one minute.

Tolerating or accepting such behaviors takes its toll. You may feel depressed, anxious, angry or all of the above. You may not sleep well as you ruminate over how the person is treating you or a negative event that took place. You may not be able to focus as your mind reenacts the last disturbing thing he or she said. You may just have an uneasy feeling that something is very wrong. You may feel despair if you feel you are headed down the wrong road in a relationship again and feel helpless to stop it or at what point you should stop it. You may feel like you are “walking on eggshells” around the person, waiting for the next negative interaction to occur and hoping to prevent it.

Sometimes all you have is your intuition to go on, your brain knows when you aren’t being treated well, but due to ingrained dysfunctional thought patterns or beliefs you may be in over your head. In my last post pertaining to “red flags”, I cover this in more detail.

This simple guide will help you know when to bail before you get the life sucked out of you. For each item under “Unacceptable” there is a counterpart below in the “Acceptable” list that allows you to compare similar occurrences.

Unacceptable:

  • Lies of any kind.
  • Dating you or attempting a relationship while still married.
  • Hurtful anger directed at you.
  • Chronic anger of any kind.
  • Putting you down, derogatory remarks.
  • Ridiculing you in front of others.
  • Refusing to discuss problems in the relationship.
  • Withholding affection or physical contact as punishment.
  • Telling you there are no problems when you have identified one, saying you are crazy for thinking that.
  • Having no interest in your life, career, friends, dreams. Only interested in themselves.
  • Flirting or handling other people in an inappropriate way then saying you are crazy when you bring it up.
  • Not willing to discuss finances in relationship, elusive about money issues.
  • Being chronically late or cancelling things frequently at the last minute.
  • Secretive behavior that doesn’t make sense.
  • Physical abuse of any kind. (There is no acceptable counterpart below)

Acceptable:

  • Waiting till the appropriate time to tell you something important.
  • Papers are legally filed in divorce court, they are not living with spouse.
  • Situational anger directed at themselves.
  • Infrequent upset with themselves or others.
  • Playful teasing that doesn’t leave you feeling badly.
  • Playful teasing that doesn’t leave you feeling embarrassed.
  • Refusal to discuss problems until they have a chance to think calmly about problems.
  • Withholding physical contact due to a need for some space to process, not ongoing.
  • Truly not understanding the problem but willing to listen and try to understand your side.
  • Being too tired or busy to talk sometimes.
  • Greeting someone with a cheek buff or handshake.
  • Financially open if appropriate.
  • Having to cancel things or be late once in a while due to work or something important.
  • Secretive behavior around your birthday or other holiday.

This is not an exhaustive guide, there are of course many other behaviors that could go here, but it is enough to get you started. These are the main ones that cause people distress and they are usually the ones that send the red flags flying in your mind.

Learn to listen to yourself. Don’t settle for any of the above behaviors and don’t look for reasons why the person is that way or make excuses for them. It doesn’t matter if they are a narcissist, if they were abused as children, are a control freak or if they have an alcohol problem. None of that is something you can fix and it does not enhance your life in any way, shape or form. If you really love the person and they get help that sticks and corrects the problem, fine. In my experience, the individuals who exhibit the above unacceptable behaviors are usually not open to change. They manipulate you into thinking you should change or that you are crazy. Neither is true, don’t believe it. Move on.

Don’t Get Caught in the Triangulation Trap

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

You’re probably familiar with the term “triangulation” as it relates to issues in communication. Let’s break down what it really does and how it affects our relationships.

Triangulation sets up something called the “Victim-Persecutor-Rescuer Triad.”  It works like this.

Let’s say you have some issue with me, maybe even for a good reason. So, you give me some feedback, or disagree with me, or do something that I either don’t like or don’t want to hear. In any case, I feel like an innocent “Victim” and feel like you are somehow hurting me unfairly, in my mind seeing you as the “Persecutor.” Then, instead of talking through the slight, or the issue, directly with you, I take my hurt feelings and go to a sympathetic third person, and I gripe about you. I do not say to them, “He mentioned this to me, I am sure to help me, and I would like to get your perspective on it as well to see what you think … whether there might be something to learn that I am not seeing ….or maybe not.” If that were the motivation to talk to the third person, that would be a different story.

But in the VPR (victim-persecutor-rescue) scenario, I am not looking for truth or growth in my conversation with them. I am instead looking for that person to “rescue” me from this mean person (you) or what you said or did, and talk about you, saying “he was so mean … can you believe he treated me that way? What right does he have to tell me that, judge me like that?” or whatever else I might say to them about you. I am using that person to join me (agree with me and rescue me) in my hurt and anger about what you did or said. Said another way, I am getting that person to be “on my side” against you. I am looking for validation for my position, not resolution or growth.

Ever seen this happen? Say there is a meeting, topics are discussed, talked about, perspectives or feedback is given. Then, instead of saying what someone should say right there in the room to whomever they disagree with, the person waits and discusses it after the meeting, in what is referred to as “the meeting after the meeting.” They say what they would not say directly to someone, to their face, but say it to someone else “after the meeting.” So, they get the third person on their side, and never take the issue back to the room, with everyone there.

This is destructive for several reasons. First and foremost, as we said is the obvious point, the issue does not get addressed and is allowed to remain unsaid and thus unresolved. If I am mad at you, or hurt by you, or disagree with you, I (and you) really need me to talk directly to you in order to resolve it. That is the only way we are going to get to some resolution of the matter, hear each other out, gain understanding, receive the feedback or at least discuss it, or whatever is needed. Instead, it just festers, and goes into the darkness.

Second, I have now created division between you and the person I went to for rescuing. Now they have a very one-sided perspective about you and what you said or did, and I have biased them and did not properly represent you or your intent, or even whatever truth might have been in what you said. I might not tell them accurately the part I played in the problem as well. In essence, I have now turned them against you for my benefit.

Third, the original person might have actually been wrong, or hurtful, but because the “victim” did not talk to them directly, they never had a chance to own their behavior, use the feedback and change. Telling them directly might be the best thing that ever happened to them, but the “victim” went to the “rescuer” instead, and never gave them a chance.

Fourth, and maybe the worst, I now feel absolutely zero inclination or motivation to look at my part in the conflict, or the idea, or issue and ask how I might be wrong or could do better. The third person has “rescued” me from that possibility by agreeing with me about how bad you are instead. I am totally innocent, according to the rescuer, and have no impetus to examine myself. I am now “fixed” in my position, and even feeling more morally superior in the meantime.

This is so destructive. Not only do things not get resolved, but division happens. Divisiveness is probably the most destructive force in teams, companies, families, marriages, friendships and any other relational system. It not only prevents resolution, growth and forward movement, but worse, it makes problems worse by using one person against another and creating further splits throughout the team, family, organization or whatever.

This is how boards, teams, companies, marriages, circles of friends, extended families and other relational systems get sideways with each other, and ultimately often split or divide. The victim and the rescuer leave to form another company, or church, or organization. The spouse who feels they are not being treated well in the marriage, “victimized,” finds a listening, agreeable ear at the office or marketplace or social circle. Then that person makes them feel listened to and understood and agreed with in a way the “persecuting” spouse did not, and an affair begins. Or they are supported in thinking the other spouse is a bad person, and the divorce ensues. It happens all the time.

Then, predictably, sometime later the love dyad between the victim and the rescuer goes bad as well, as soon as one of them feels “victimized” by the other, and finds another rescuer. Because neither one of them has developed any more conflict resolution skills, they jump from relationship to relationship, job to job, business partner to business partner, church to church, community to community and so forth and so on. So, with one simple pattern, triangulation, they have managed to keep issues from getting resolved, turn people against each other, prevent individual growth and change, divide organizations and then infect other situations with that same pattern.

How to Set Boundaries Within a Dysfunctional Family

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Look at your own life situation and see where boundary problems exist with your parents and siblings.

The basic question is this: Where have you lost control of your property? Identify those areas and see their connection with the family you grew up in, and you are on your way.

Identify the Conflict

Discover what dynamic is being played out. For example, what “law of boundaries” are you violating? Do you triangulate? Do you take responsibility for a sibling or parent instead of being responsible to them? Do you fail to enforce consequences and end up paying for their behavior? Are you passive and reactive toward them and the conflict?

You cannot stop acting out a dynamic until you understand what you are doing. “Take the log out” of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to deal with your family members. See yourself as the problem and find your boundary violations.

Identify the Need That Drives the Conflict

You do not act in inappropriate ways for no reason. You are often trying to meet some underlying need that your family of origin did not meet. Maybe we are still entangled because of a need to be loved, approved of, or accepted.

Take In and Receive the Good

It is not enough to understand your need. You must get it met. You must humble yourself, reach out to a good support system, and take in the good. Do not continue to hide yourself (and your resources and talents) in the ground and expect to get better. Learn to respond to and receive love, even if you’re clumsy at first.

Practice Boundary Skills

Your boundary skills are fragile and new. You can’t take them immediately into a difficult situation. Practice them in situations where they will be honored and respected. Begin saying no to people in your supportive group who will love and respect your boundaries.

When you are recovering from a physical injury, you do not pick up the heaviest weight first. You build up to the heavy stuff. Look at it as you would physical therapy.

Say No to the Bad

In addition to practicing new skills in safe situations, avoid hurtful situations. When you are in the beginning stages of recovery, you need to avoid people who have abused and controlled you in the past.

When you think you are ready to reestablish a relationship with someone who has been abusive and controlling in the past, bring a friend or supporter along. Be aware of your pull toward hurtful situations and relationships. The injury you are recovering from is serious, and you can’t reestablish a relationship until you have the proper tools. Be careful not to get sucked into a controlling situation again because your wish for reconciliation is so strong.

Forgive the Aggressor

Nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive others means letting them off the hook, or canceling a debt they owe you. When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to that person forever.
Refusing to forgive a family member is one of the main reasons people are stuck for years, unable to separate from their dysfunctional families. They still want something from them.

If you do not forgive, you are demanding something your offender does not choose to give, even if it is only confession of what he did. This “ties” him to you and ruins boundaries. Let go of the dysfunctional family you came from.

Respond, Don’t React

When you react to something that someone says or does, you may have a problem with boundaries. If someone is able to cause havoc by doing or saying something, she is in control of you at that point, and your boundaries are lost. When you respond, you remain in control, with options and choices.

If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain control of yourself so family members can’t force you to do or say something you do not want to do or say and something that violates your separateness. When you have kept your boundaries, choose the best option. The difference between responding and reacting is choice. When you are reacting, they are in control. When you respond, you are.

Learn to Love in Freedom and Responsibility, Not in Guilt

The best boundaries are loving ones. The person who has to remain forever in a protective mode is losing out on love and freedom. Boundaries in no way mean to stop loving. They mean the opposite: you are gaining freedom to love. It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others. But you need boundaries to make that choice.

Practice purposeful giving to increase your freedom. Sometimes people who are building boundaries feel that to do someone a favor is codependent. Nothing is further from the truth. Doing good for someone, when you freely choose to do it, is boundary enhancing. Codependents are not doing good; they are allowing evil because they are afraid.

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