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Archive for the ‘Anger’ Category

Family Wounds Are Slow to Heal

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Family wounds are slow to heal.

I hope your childhood was a happy time when your parents kept everyone fed, safe, and chuckling. I hope your dad came home every day, your mom tucked you in bed every night, and your siblings were your best friends.

But if not, you need to know you aren’t alone. The most famous family tree in the Bible suffered from a serious case of blight. Adam accused Eve. Cain killed his little brother. Abraham lied about Sarah. Rebekah favored Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau and then raised a gang of hoodlums.

The book of Genesis is a relative disaster.

Joseph didn’t deserve to be abandoned by his brothers. True, he wasn’t the easiest guy to live with. He boasted about his dreams and tattled on his siblings. He deserved some of the blame for the family friction. But he certainly didn’t deserve to be dumped into a pit and sold to merchants for pocket change.

The perpetrators were his ten older brothers. His brothers were supposed to look out for him. Joseph’s next of kin were out of line. And his father? Jacob was out of touch.

With all due respect, the patriarch could have used a course on marriage and family life.

Mistake number one: he married a woman he didn’t love so he could marry one he did. Mistake number two: the two wives were sisters. (Might as well toss a lit match into a fireworks stand.) The first sister bore him sons. The second sister bore him none. So to expand his clan, he slept with an assortment of handmaidens and concubines until he had a covey of kids. Rachel, his favorite wife, finally gave birth to Joseph, who became his favorite son. She later died giving birth to a second son, Benjamin, leaving Jacob with a contentious household and a broken heart.

Jacob coped by checking out. Obstinate sons. Oblivious dad. The brothers needed a father. The father needed a wake-up call. And Joseph needed a protector. But he wasn’t protected; he was neglected. And he landed in a distant, dark place.

Initially, Joseph chose not to face his past. By the time he saw his brothers again, Joseph had been prime minister for nearly a decade. The kid from Canaan had come a long way.

Joseph could travel anywhere he wanted, yet he chose not to return to Canaan. He knew where to find his family, but he chose not to contact them.

He kept family secrets a secret. Untouched and untreated. Joseph was content to leave his past in the past. But God was not.

Restoration matters to God. The healing of the heart involves the healing of the past.

So God shook things up.
All countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. — Genesis 41:57


And in the long line of folks appealing for an Egyptian handout, look what the cat dragged in.

Joseph heard them before he saw them. He was fielding a question from a servant when he detected the Hebrew chatter. Not just the language of his heart but the dialect of his home. The prince motioned for the servant to stop speaking. He turned and looked. There they stood.

The brothers were balder, grayer, rough-skinned. They were pale and gaunt with hunger. Sweaty robes clung to their shins, and road dust chalked their cheeks. These Hebrews stuck out in sophisticated Egypt like hillbillies at Times Square.

They didn’t recognize him. His beard was shaved, his robe was royal, and the language he spoke was Egyptian. It never occurred to them that they were standing before their baby brother.

Thinking the prince couldn’t understand Hebrew, the brothers spoke to him with their eyes and gestures. They pointed at the stalks of grain and then at their mouths. They motioned to the brother who carried the money, and he stumbled forward and spilled the coins on the table.

When Joseph saw the silver, his lips curled, and his stomach turned. He had named his son God Made Me Forget, but the money made him remember. The last time he saw coins in the hands of Jacob’s older boys, they were laughing, and he was whimpering. That day at the pit he searched these faces for a friend, but he found none. And now they dared bring silver to him?

Joseph called for a Hebrew-speaking servant to translate. Then Joseph scowled at his brothers.
He acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. — Genesis 42:7


The brothers fell face-first in the dirt, which brought to Joseph’s mind a childhood dream.

“Uh, well, we’re from up the road in Canaan. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

Joseph glared at them. “Nah, I don’t believe you. Guards, put these spies under arrest. They are here to infiltrate our country.”

The ten brothers spoke at once. “You’ve got it all wrong, Your High, Holy, and Esteemed Honor. We’re salt of the earth. We belong to the same family. That’s Simeon over there. That’s Judah… Well, there are twelve of us in all. At least there used to be.
The youngest is now with our father, and one is no longer living. — Genesis 42:13


Joseph gulped at the words. This was the first report on his family he had heard in twenty years. Jacob was alive. Benjamin was alive. And they thought he was dead.

“Tell you what,” he snapped. “I’ll let one of you go back and get your brother and bring him here. The rest of you I’ll throw in jail.”

With that, Joseph had their hands bound. A nod of his head, and they were marched off to jail. Perhaps the same jail where he had spent at least two years of his life.

What a curious series of events. The gruff voice, harsh treatment. The jail sentence. The abrupt dismissal. We’ve seen this sequence before with Joseph and his brothers, only the roles were reversed. On the first occasion they conspired against him. This time he conspired against them. They spoke angrily. He turned the tables. They threw him in the hole and ignored his cries for help. Now it was his turn to give them the cold shoulder.

What was going on?

I think he was trying to get his bearings. This was the toughest challenge of his life. The famine, by comparison, was easy. Mrs. Potiphar he could resist. Pharaoh’s assignments he could manage. But this mixture of hurt and hate that surged when he saw his flesh and blood? Joseph didn’t know what to do.

Maybe you don’t either.

Your family failed you. Your early years were hard ones. The people who should have cared for you didn’t. But, like Joseph, you made the best of it. You’ve made a life for yourself. Even started your own family. You are happy to leave Canaan in the rearview mirror. But God isn’t.

He gives us more than we request by going deeper than we ask. He wants not only your whole heart; He wants your heart whole. Why? Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. Why do you fly off the handle? Why do you avoid conflict? Why do you seek to please everyone? Might your tendencies have something to do with an unhealed hurt in your heart?

God wants to help you for your sake. And for the sake of your posterity.

Suppose Joseph had refused his brothers? Summarily dismissed them? Washed his hands of the whole mess? God’s plan for the nation of Israel depended upon the compassion of Joseph. A lot was at stake here.

There is a lot at stake with you too. Yes, your family history has some sad chapters. But your history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.

Talk to God about the scandals and scoundrels. Invite Him to relive the betrayal with you. Bring it out in the open. Joseph restaged the hurt for a reason.

Revealing leads to healing.

Let God do His work. The process may take a long time. It may take a lifetime.
Family pain is the deepest pain because it was inflicted so early and because it involves people who should have been trustworthy.

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. — Romans 12:2


Let Him replace childish thinking with mature truth (1 Corinthians 13:11). You are God’s child. His creation. Destined for heaven. You are a part of His family. Let Him set you on the path to reconciliation.

Joseph did. The process would prove to be long and difficult. It occupies four chapters of the Bible and at least a year on the calendar, but Joseph took the first step. After three days Joseph released his brothers from jail. He played the tough guy again. “Go on back. But I want to see this kid brother you talk about. I’ll keep one of you as a guarantee.”

They agreed and then, right in front of Joseph, rehashed the day they dry-gulched him:
Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us’. — Genesis 42:21


Again, they did not know that the prince understood Hebrew. But he did. And when he heard the words, Joseph turned away so they couldn’t see his eyes fill with tears. He stepped into the shadows and wept. He did this seven more times. He didn’t cry when he was promoted by Potiphar or crowned by Pharaoh, but he blubbered like a baby when he learned that his brothers hadn’t forgotten him after all. When he sent them back to Canaan, he loaded their saddlebags with grain. A moment of grace.

With that small act, healing started. If God healed that family, who’s to say He won’t heal yours?

For Reflection

Listed below are several words and phrases that characterize some of the hardships and dysfunction evident in Joseph’s family. Which issues have marked your family?

❑ abandonment
❑ troubled marriage(s)
❑ premature death
❑ hatred
❑ sibling rivalry
❑ favoritism
❑ severe grief
❑ disregard for others
❑ parental abdication
❑ guilt
❑ deception
❑ betrayal
❑ infertility
❑ resentment
❑ abuse
❑ extramarital relationships
❑ harsh treatment
❑ brokenness
❑ self-absorption
❑ secrecy
❑ neglect

Part of the healing process includes unearthing the details — the specifics of how you were hurt — and inviting God to relive those experiences with you. What help do you need from God? How do you want to experience His presence, comfort, or guidance?

Coming face-to-face with old hurts can be disorienting. When Joseph first encountered his brothers again, he withheld his identity, spoke harshly, made false accusations, jailed them, released them, put conditions on their departure and return, held one of them hostage, concealed powerful emotions, and was secretly generous to them (Genesis 42:6-28). What conflicting thoughts and emotions surface when you consider the possibility of engaging old hurts and the people connected with them?

Joseph’s path to reconciliation with his family was long and difficult, but it began with a small act of mercy and grace — he loaded his brothers’ saddlebags with grain and quietly returned the silver they had paid for it. A gift, free and clear.

What small act of mercy and grace do you sense God inviting you to extend to someone in your family?

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Excerpted from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Conflict is a Normal and Natural Part of Your “Happily Ever After”

SOURCE:  Aaron & April Jacob/Gottman Institute

When Sara and Ryan were newly married, they experienced a handful of frustrating conversations that evolved into emotionally-charged disputes.

Sara was devastated.

She thought that their relationship was in a bad place and that they were, perhaps even worse, doomed for divorce.

That’s because Sara loathes conflict. Like, really, really loathes it. And so, whenever things aren’t going perfectly well in her relationship, she’s a total mess.

Her husband, Ryan, has always been okay with conflict and doesn’t feel a need for things to be resolved immediately. While Sara is the type of person who never wants to go to bed angry, Ryan is a firm believer that going to bed angry is sometimes the best option.

You see for Sara, conflict breeds stress and the false assumption that her marriage is terrible, irreparable, and that it might end in divorce even though she and her husband are both deeply committed to making it work and staying together through thick and thin.

What Sara didn’t realize as a young love-struck newlywed is an important lesson for all married couples: conflict in marriage is inevitable.

One more time: conflict in marriage is inevitable.

In fact, not only is conflict in marriage inevitable, but it’s also perfectly normal. It’s a part of life. Why do you think wedding vows include phrases like “for better for worse,” “for richer for poorer,” “in sickness and health,” and “through thick and thin?”

They include those phrases because a) the people who wrote those vows are pretty smart and have experienced this thing we call “marriage” and b) conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and therefore, an unavoidable, and even important part of your “happily ever after” — even though it’s not something you see in the movies!

In reality, Sara was in error over the years by believing that if there was conflict in her marriage, she couldn’t be truly happy since conflict was a clear sign that her marriage was doomed to fail. Sara was in error by thinking that a happy marriage was synonymous with the absolute extinguishment of all conflict. So. Not. True.

Sara was wrong. Way wrong! And perhaps that’s because Sara and Ryan had limited conflict-management skills and sometimes even used The Four Horsemen. Gasp!

To Sara, and others like her, it’s time to realize this truth taught by Dr. Gottman:

“It’s a myth that if you solve your problems you’ll automatically be happy. We need to teach couples that they’ll never solve most of their problems.”

Really? Sara and Ryan will never solve most of their problems? Yup, that’s right.

Thankfully, the key to a happy marriage isn’t to eliminate all conflict. Mind-blowing!

Dr. Gottman says, “Although we tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness, a lasting relationship results from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.”

Did you catch that? Being happy now and living happily ever after comes “from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are INEVITABLE in any relationship.”

Conflict is inevitable — no matter who you marry. Please don’t fall for the fallacy that you wouldn’t be dealing with X conflict if you had married Bob, because Bob would have come with his own set of problems. You know it’s true.

Because of this, gaining the skills and developing the ability to successfully navigate conflict becomes critical in creating happiness and harmony in your marriage.

So, what are those specific skills that will lead to happiness now and to your “happily ever after” in the future?

Dr. Gottman has provided the following six skills to help couples learn how to manage conflict and live happily ever after:

  1. Practice physiological self-soothing

Take a timeout when conflict arises. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, do whatever it takes to breathe, calm down, and return to a better frame of mind. How long is the perfect amount of time for a break? According to Dr. Gottman, it’s 20 minutes.

  1. Use a softened startup

It’s true that conversations usually end on the same note they began, so start softly. Don’t blame. Use “I” statements. Describe what is happening. And be polite.

  1. Repair and de-escalate

Use scripted phrases like “Let me try again,” “I don’t feel like you are understanding me right now,” and “I’m sorry” to help de-escalate and begin making repair attempts.

  1. Listen to your partner’s underlying feelings and dreams

Perpetual gridlocked problems between you and your partner often conceal underlying feelings and dreams that aren’t getting communicated. So, start by contemplating what your dreams are and how you can communicate them more clearly to your partner. Second, become a better listener and seek to discover your partner’s deepest feelings and dreams. The purpose of this skill is to truly understand who your partner is deep down inside in order to accept influence and compromise together.

  1. Accept influence

Recognize that your partner has good ideas and important opinions (shocker — your way isn’t always the best way or the right way). Show respect for those opinions and find something you can learn from your partner. Take this quiz to see where you most need to improve when it comes to accepting influence.

  1. Compromise

Compromise is an art. What’s Dr. Gottman’s advice? “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something… the important thing is feeling understood, respected, and honored in your dreams.” So work together with your partner to find common ground and compromise that will leave you both feeling valued, respected, and supported.

If you practice these six skills from Dr. Gottman and learn to manage conflict in positive and healthy ways, then happily ever after can be yours today and everyday as you recognize conflict for what it is — an opportunity to learn, grow, progress, and live a full and meaningful life now.

 

Asking Forgiveness From My Kids … Again

SOURCE: FamilyLife Ministries

My kids need to grow up with the knowledge that I require a Savior just as much as they do.

I yelled at my kids tonight.

It started before the mouthwash spilled all over the floor, my jeans, and my new shirt.

That I have an issue with anger and emotional control is not something I’ve kept secret. But it’s still painfully destructive in my own home: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

So when my blood pressure had returned to an appropriate range and I determined the mouthwash only minimally soaked my front, I called all of my kids to our little loveseat. Some of them crawled out of bed. They piled around me like puppies. And I took the time—again, like I have to do so often—to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness.

Then, I led us in praying and repenting to God. It was duly needed for all of us.

I thanked my kids for forgiving me—also not so bad a quality to practice—and ended with tickling them into screaming laughter.

As I backed out of their room in the dark later, I yowled in pain after stepping on an electrical plug someone had left in the doorway. My second son was quick on the draw: “Still love me?” He collapsed in giggles.

None of this, I’m afraid, undoes what I did.

I wish I could take away my eruptive lack of self-control, or the way I morphed instantly into a drill sergeant. I wish I could subtract what I modeled for my kids. But what still remained in my power were two words: “I’m sorry.”

Their sin doesn’t justify mine

A family that practices repentance keep short accounts with each other, apologizing quickly and sincerely. The point of apologizing to my kids even when they’re in trouble isn’t at all to detract them from their sin. They need to grow up with my willing confession as the norm, to give them the knowledge that Mom requires a Savior as much as they do. An awareness of the log in my eye—even when my children or spouse are the offenders—is biblically commanded (Matthew 7:1-5).

So take it a step further, even, than those two critical words. Deliberately ask for forgiveness, and then humbly and verbally extend forgiveness: “I want you to know that I completely forgive you, and that I believe God forgives you, too.”

I guess it can sound a little hokey when we’re not used to using such language in our homes, but that’s my point. Should it be?

Call me an idealist, but I’d like this replication of Christ’s words to become the norm, a chance to apply the gospel to myself and to my loved ones daily.

Four Lies About Anger

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Anger is a normal part of being a human being, but it can be a dangerous emotion and has the potential to wreck our relationships and our lives.

Here are the four most common lies about anger.

1.   When I feel angry, I must let it all out.

Too much damage has been done to people we love by blurting out angry feelings in the moment of their greatest intensity. Doing this might provide some sort of relief but it is never beneficial to the hearer or the relationship.  I liken it to vomiting.  You do feel better getting it out, but vomit belongs in the toilet, not on another person.

Proverbs 12:18 says, Reckless words pierce like a sword and Proverbs 29:11 warns us that, “Only a fool gives full vent to his anger.”

Better ways to get some relief from intense anger is to journal or pray your honest emotions to God.  In the process, you might find some perspective on what to do with them and how to express them constructively.

2.    Other people or provoking situations make me angry. 

We all believe this lie at times. We say things like, “You make me so mad!” or “If you wouldn’t have done that, then I wouldn’t have reacted that way.”

Difficult people or situations don’t MAKE us angry, although they do tempt us. What really happens when we encounter these kinds of people is that they expose us.   Jesus tells us, “It is out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).

What comes up and out of your mouth when you are angry exposes what’s in your heart. Often our heart is filled with self-centered lies or desires.

Start to listen to your internal self-talk when you feel angry. For example, “I can’t believe this is happening to me” or “it’s not fair, why me?” or “I need to teach him/her a lesson” or “they can’t get away with this.”

Instead of blaming others or the situation we’re in, we can start to understand what the real problem is that’s causing our anger to escalate. Our own thought life.

Then we can work to calm ourselves down (with different self-talk and God’s Word) instead of demanding that life always go our way or that everyone do what we want or make us feel better.

 3.    I’m entitled to use my anger to get what I want if what I want is a good thing.

Anger motivates us and helps us to speak up against wrong, as well as take action to fight against injustice and evil in our world. Because it is such a powerful force, however, the apostle Paul warns us not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Most of the time what we want is permeated with self-centered desires. We WANT our way. We want to be right. We want to be first or catered to. We want our needs met. And we’re angry because we’re not getting what we want.

James 4:1 asks us what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among us?  He says it comes because we’re not getting what we want.

Part of spiritual maturity is to learn to accept that we don’t always get what we want, even if what we want is a good thing.  Living peaceably with other people involves realizing that what I want and what someone else might want may be very different. The Bible tells us not to merely look out for our own interests (what we want), but also the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4).

The truth is anger is a powerful emotion that deceives us into using it to demand our own way.

4.    I have always had a bad temper and this is just the way I am. I can’t change.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that he not only redeems us but he restores us. He changes us.

If you want to get a handle on your anger, anger is not the problem you must address. Your temper is a symptom of what’s going on in your heart. If you gain self-control over your temper that’s great, but the deeper problem that causes your anger is what needs to change.

Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

How we act and live flows from what is in our heart – what we desire or want the most. God wants to rearrange the desires of our heart so that we no longer want our own way the MOST, but rather we want to please him and love him and others.

When God changes our heart it’s not that we never get angry, but we no longer want to use our anger as a weapon to demand our own way, prove our point or make sure everyone knows we’re right. We don’t want to hold onto grudges, nurse resentment or harbor bitterness in our heart. Instead, we want to forgive and reconcile.

When Jesus changes our heart, instead of only wanting MY way, I want to look out for the interests of others because I care about them and therefore I hold my anger in check when I’m not getting what I want and weigh that with what other’s might want or need.

How?  I’ve had a change of heart and I no longer see myself as the most important person. I am no longer at the center of my life, Jesus is.

Becoming more and more like Jesus is not just trying to do the right thing, but wanting to do the right thing and then learning how.

James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger (or a woman’s anger) does not produce the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19,20)

6 Ways Passive-Aggressiveness Destroys Relationships

SOURCE:  

Your partner has been giving you the cold shoulder for most of the morning. When you ask what’s wrong, the answer is a very chilly ‘I’m fine’.

We’ve likely all been on the receiving end of this type of response, and some of those reading this may recognize themselves in the scenario above.

Passive-aggressiveness is fairly common in our culture, and can range from subtle (the silent treatment, use of sarcasm, hiding ‘digs’ behind the veneer of humor) to more overt and serious (withholding affection and attention, constant verbal negativity/hostility, manipulation, sabotage).

Passive-aggressiveness, like many other unconscious behavior patterns, is largely a learned response to an environment in which a child or youth was not permitted to express their needs, desires, or emotions freely because they feared reprisal (punishment, abuse, neglect, loss of love and affection) for doing so.

Alternatively, one or both parents may have been passive-aggressive. In this environment, the child might learn that it’s not ok to express anger or frustration, to say no, or to ask for what they need. In response, the child learns to suppress his or her true feelings and desires. Hostility and resentment build as a result.

Unfortunately, these suppressed feelings and desires don’t disappear, and instead leak out in unhealthy ways, sometimes in an overtly aggressive manner, but often in more subtle but no less damaging passive-aggressive behavior. While many of us may resort to this type of language or behavior on occasion in our adult relationships, the passive-aggressive personality type uses it as their primary means of expression, and as a way to maintain control and power through manipulation. 

The hidden or indirect hostility, and often toxic negativistic attitude of the passive-aggressive person is a harmful defense mechanism that can slowly destroy relationships. Here are six ways passive-aggressiveness does just that:

1. Less Intimacy

The passive-aggressive typically fears intimacy, and so has difficulty establishing close, personal relationships with others. This creates distance and isolation for the passive-aggressive as well as for those in relationship with them.

2. Lack of Trust

Because passive-aggressive behavior is deliberately ambiguous and indirect, others have great difficulty trusting those who exhibit it, sometimes without being fully conscious of why. 

3. Inequality

The driving force behind much of the passive-aggressive’s behavior is to manipulate situations and other people in order to get their needs met. They use manipulation to maintain a sense of power and control; unfortunately, power struggles require the ‘other’ to submit and take a lower position, which is ultimately damaging to their self-esteem. 

4. Blame

The passive-aggressive will typically be very uncomfortable and unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions and behaviors. Instead, they blame their partner for any relationship issues, leaving no room for the partner to have their own needs met. 

5. Frequent Fighting

Because passive-aggressive behavior and language often sparks defensiveness in others, these relationships will be marked with plenty of fighting and arguing. In addition, there is seldom any resolution because the passive-aggressive refuses to accept responsibility.

6. Negativity

Quite often, the passive-aggressive person is overly negative, engaging in frequent criticism of and complaining about others, which breeds a toxic environment from which support, playfulness and fun are largely missing. This can be particularly damaging to children of passive-aggressive parents.

Ultimately, the passive-aggressive individual is no different from anyone else in that they are simply trying to get their needs met, though they subconsciously lack the confidence to do so directly. Their actions, albeit often painful and destructive to themselves and others, are motivated by a basic need for acceptance and love.

If you are in a relationship with a passive-aggressive, or if you recognize many of these behaviors in yourself, it’s important to understand the underlying motivation. In this way, you can maintain a level of compassion for those involved, even as you work towards addressing the problem and changing the behaviors. 

How to handle those who get angry at your boundaries

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

I’m going to give you six steps to consider when someone responds to your boundaries with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Let the anger be in the other person.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your response.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate.

They Call it Narcissism

SOURCE:  /CCEF

It is always their “birthday.”

Today, tomorrow, and the next day are dedicated to their interests and desires, so don’t expect that you will be known or understood. No empathy here. No room for guilt either. If you interfere with the party, expect to receive their anger. That anger might come at you as a bully who wants power and control or one who doesn’t even have time for you, so they turn away. Expect lasting grudges. Perhaps, if you are penitent, you might be able to get back into an orbit that surrounds them but they will not move towards you in return.

It is always their birthday, but they never seem to grow up.

There are different versions of this self-absorbed style, commonly called narcissism. They are all maddening. Some are dangerous. And this very real problem is worth much more time than I will give it here.

As a catalyst for thought, I read Disarming the Narcissist by Wendy Behary¹. Though not a Christian book, I was helped by her kindness and insight, and she actually rekindled my interest in engaging those who fit the narcissist description. Rather than review the book, I will identify a few of the points that helped me rethink how to love those who show this level of entitled self-interest.

Say “no” to your angerYour anger will not help you or the self-absorbed person. If you expect the other person to actually be moved by your anger and change—you will be disappointed. In fact, your anger will be interpreted as further evidence that you are the problem. Instead, you need a calm and measured engagement that invites discussion.

If you are feeling great pain and rejection from the narcissist’s predictable outbursts, you also will be unhelpful, unless you are able to seek the good in that person, even in the midst of your pain. We believe God gives grace for this, and we expect that our own growth here will be hard fought.

Somehow, people who fit the narcissist description can make fools of us all in that they know how to irritate us and we begin to act like them. Instead, conversation will be more productive if there is at least one thoughtful person in the room.

See the other person as a child. I have found this helpful; it limits my expectations. It’s similar to how I view people who have a long-term history of addiction: the addiction essentially shields from the challenges of life that mature us, and the addict is easier to understand as a twelve-year-old rather than a forty-year-old. Though this could be an affront to most children, the image fits more than it doesn’t. The benefit is that you will be more patient with the person if your expectations have been adjusted.

Practice your own empathy skills. Empathy is the ability to step into someone’s world in a way that the person feels understood. It is not approval of that world, but it is an understanding of it. An apparent absence of empathy is what is most difficult about narcissist-types. They do not understand either your world or their own. In response, we redouble our efforts to grow in empathy, to which there are so many ingredients. Here are three:

  • Know their story. When someone is hard for us to understand, it is helpful to know something of the culture of their family. With narcissism, we might find a history of being spoiled or deprived, or parents who were preoccupied in their own selfish worlds and never affected by the good deeds of their children.

Don’t expect such discussions to help the person directly though. Those who lack insight are rarely enlightened by their past. More often, they see past hurts as no big deal and resist our attempts to suggest long-term patterns. But these insights encourage our own patience and kindness.

  • Assume that they are normal human beings. Amid all the boasting, entitlement, and “I don’t need you or anybody else,” expect to find people who would like relationship but act in ways that push people away (which confirms to them that they can never really have relationship). Expect people who fear failure and, in response, blame others when things go wrong. Expect people who don’t know how to deal with or express their struggles. This all comes out as meanness and covert behaviors. Sometimes addiction becomes a way to ward off the discomfort within. Expect people who are alone and living on that unsettling ground of the opinions of others.
  • Look for good. When someone is demanding or showing off their greatness for our affirmation, it is hard to offer anything good. But empathy looks for the good. If someone is often talking about their achievements, look for “unadorned” good such as an inadvertent interest in another or other kindness you notice. After hearing someone’s complaints about how the world is not serving them as it should . . . Sometimes it is hard to find the good, but if you pray for love that sees the good, you will see some good.

Among the helpful features of Behary’s book were words that someone could speak, which bring together empathy and wisdom. Here is a response by a wife, spoken with preternatural calm, to her fuming husband (not me, a different Ed).

“You know, Ed, I don’t believe a word of that. It’s not that I think you are lying. It’s just that I know you, and I know how difficult it can be for you to tell me that you miss me. When I’m distracted, like this week, you often feel as if you are unimportant to me. I can understand how upsetting that must be for you. But there is no need to put me down or blame my job. You aren’t giving me a chance to care about you when you speak to me that way . . . I’d like to start the conversation over. How about you?” (pp.158-159).

To speak to a self-absorbed person like this might not bring instant repentance, but you might have helped.

I am raising a number of issues and questions in this brief reflection. How do we help self-absorbed people? How do we help their family and remaining friends? And how might we be helped by secular literature? Secular literature is most helpful when its descriptions of difficult-to-understand behaviors are coupled with years of experience and when its practical suggestions come close to the wisdom and love we find in Scripture. With the behaviors that are called narcissistic, we know that the Spirit can change us and teach us more about how to love wisely, and we invite all comers to give their ideas on ways to love.

————————————————

¹Wendy T. Behary, Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed, Second Edition, New Harbinger, Oakland CA, 2013.

Do You Control Your Emotions or Do Your Emotions Control You?

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

No matter how mentally tough a person is, emotions are a very powerful part of our lives. And there are times when the emotions of a moment overwhelm us. It might be grief at the loss of a family member or sadness because of a broken relationship. It might be anxious thoughts when dealing with a rebellious teen. It might be an overwhelming sense of love at the sight of your spouse or pride in watching your child succeed.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with expressing emotions. God wired us with emotions. But there are some emotions such as anger, anxiety, and fear that need to be controlled. Do you control your emotions or do your emotions control you? The next time you feel any of these types of emotions welling up inside you, try to remember these tips.

1. You can be the boss of your thoughts.

Don’t let yourself believe that you have no authority over your own thoughts. Emotions certainly affect our thoughts, but our thoughts can also be used to guide our emotions, either by strengthening them or by countering them. Your thoughts and your emotions, although strongly linked, are not automatically the same. Try to look at your situation objectively. And maybe even bounce it off a trusted friend who can see your situation with less bias to help you sort out your thoughts.

For example, the fears and worries about making a career change can be countered by an objective list of “pros and cons.” That way, your thoughts about the choice can better affect your emotions about the choice. But you might need the help of someone who has been down that road before to give you the confidence that your list is thorough, accurate, and meaningful.

Don’t let yourself believe that you have no authority over your own thoughts.

2. You can be the boss of your actions.

Even if your emotions continue to be negative, you still have choices to make about your actions. You are capable of choosing to act or not to act on your emotions. Try to take a step back and consider what your choices are, instead of instinctively acting on emotions. The choices you make for the very next actions you take may not make your negative emotions disappear, but they can lessen the power of those emotions over you.

For example, sometimes anger with our children can lead us to react in ways that we will quickly, and later, regret. Rather than letting your anger lead to those regrettable actions, be the boss of your actions by stepping away, taking some deep breaths, and reminding yourself that what you do in the next few minutes may be the difference between a loving or a disconnected relationship 20 years from now. Then pick your next steps carefully. Don’t just react in the heat of the moment; act with wisdom.

Don’t just react in the heat of the moment; act with wisdom.

3. You can control only yourself.

One of the common threads in many of the negative emotions that we deal with is the thread of control. We get angry because we can’t control others to get what we want. We worry because we can’t control what tomorrow will bring. We grieve because we lose something or someone due to circumstances that, more often than not, are out of our control. We are afraid because we feel threatened by something we cannot control. When we recognize that, more often than not, we can only control ourselves, it’s easier to let go of the things we can’t control. Start focusing on what we can control — how we respond to our emotions.

ANGER, COMMUNICATION AND PROVERBS

SOURCE:  Compiled by Bill Bellican

The Bible has a great deal to say about anger, ineffective ways of communicating, what to avoid, and how to pursue a healthier way to communicate. The following selections of Scripture are taken from the book of Proverbs (NIV).

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Prov. 10:12

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Prov. 10:19

A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. Prov. 11:17

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. Prov. 12:16

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Prov. 13:3

A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated. Prov. 14:17

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Prov. 14:29

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov. 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Prov. 15:18

Better a patient man than warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Prov. 16:32

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Prov. 17:9

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Prov. 17:14

He who loves a quarrel loves sin (Prov. 17:19a).

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Prov. 17:27

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. Prov. 18:2

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Prov. 18:13

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers. Prov. 19:8

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Prov. 19:11

A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. Prov. 19:19

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Prov. 20:3

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome [wife]. Prov. 21:9

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered [wife]. Prov. 21:19

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Prov. 21:23

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Prov. 22:24

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. Prov. 25:15

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Prov. 25:28

Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking.” Prov. 26:18-19

A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him (Prov. 26:24-25a).

A quarrelsome [wife] is like a constant dripping on a rainy day (Prov 27:15).

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Prov. 29:11

Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Prov. 29:20

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. Prov. 29:22

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

If Someone is Angry at Your Boundaries, it’s Their Problem, Not Yours

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone else, the most common form of resistance one gets is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

When they hear the word “no,” they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: “Bad Mommy!” They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is “bad,” and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done “to them” at all. Someone will not do something “for them.” Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others’ freedom.

The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry. Here are six steps to consider when someone responds with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” When we get caught up in the “eye for eye” mentality of the law, or the “returning evil for evil” mentality of the world, we will be in bondage. If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. “I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?” Just remember that when you empathize, changing your no will not help. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. This is a true risk, and when people choose their own ways, you let them go.

The Anger Iceberg

SOURCE:  Kyle Benson/Gottman Institute

Have you ever wondered why we get angry? According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, “emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us.”

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman tells us that anger causes blood to flow to our hands, making it easier for us to strike an enemy or hold a weapon. Our heart rate speeds up and a rush of hormones – including adrenaline – create a surge of energy strong enough to take “vigorous action.” In this way, anger has been ingrained into our brain to protect us.

The purpose of anger

Think of anger like an iceberg, a large piece of ice found floating in the open ocean. Most of the iceberg is hidden below the surface of the water. Similarly, when we are angry, there are usually other emotions hidden beneath the surface. It’s easy to see a person’s anger but can be difficult to see the underlying feelings the anger is protecting.

For example, Dave believed he had an anger problem. When his wife would make a request of him, he would criticize her. He didn’t like his reactions, but he felt he couldn’t help it. As he worked on mindfulness and started noticing the space between his anger and his actions, he opened up the door into a profound realization.

He didn’t really have an anger problem. Instead, he felt like his wife was placing impossible demands on him. By seeking to understand and accept his anger, rather than fix or suppress it, he began to improve his marriage by recognizing his anger as a signal that he needed to set healthy boundaries for what he would and would not do.

Dave’s story points out an important concept. As Susan David, Ph.D., author of Emotional Agility says, “Our raw feelings can be the messengers we need to teach us things about ourselves and can prompt insights into important life directions.” Her point is there is something more below the surface of our anger.

Anger as a protector of raw feelings

Anger is often described as a “secondary emotion” because people tend to use it to protect their own raw, vulnerable, overwhelming feelings. Underneath Dave’s anger was pure exhaustion and feeling that he wasn’t good enough for his wife. So his anger was protecting him from deeply painful shame.

Learning to recognize anger as a protector of our raw feelings can be incredibly powerful. It can lead to healing conversations that allow couples as well as children and parents to understand each other better.

Below is what we call the Anger Iceberg because it shows the “primary emotions” lurking below the surface. Sometimes it’s embarrassment, loneliness, exhaustion, or fear.

anger-iceberg-1

3 tips for listening to anger

One of the most difficult things about listening to a child or lover’s anger, especially when it’s directed at us, is that we become defensive. We want to fight back as our own anger boils to the surface. If this happens, we get in a heated verbal battle which leaves both parties feeling misunderstood and hurt. Here are three powerful tips for listening to anger.

1. Don’t take it personally

Your partner or child’s anger is usually not about you. It’s about their underlying primary feelings. To not taking this personally takes a high level of emotional intelligence.

One of the ways I do this is by becoming curious of why they’re angry. It’s much easier for me to become defensive, but I’ve found thinking, “Wow, this person is angry, why is that?” leads me on a journey to seeing the raw emotions they are protecting and actually brings us closer together.

2. Don’t EVER tell your partner to “calm down”
When I work with couples and one of the partners get angry, I have witnessed the other partner say, “Calm down” or “You’re overreacting.” This tells the recipient that their feelings don’t matter and they are not acceptable.

The goal here is not to change or fix your partner’s emotions but rather to sit on their anger iceberg with them. Communicate that you understand and accept their feelings.

When you do this well, your partner’s anger will subside and the primary emotion will rise to the surface. Not to mention they will feel heard by you, which builds trust over time.

Maybe you grew up in a family where anger wasn’t allowed, so when your partner expresses it, it feels paralyzing and you freeze. Or maybe you try to solve their anger for them because their anger scares you. Open yourself up to experience you and your partner’s full spectrum of emotions.

3. Identify the obstacle
Anger is often caused by an obstacle blocking a goal. For example, if your partner’s goal is to feel special on their birthday and their family member missing their special day makes them angry, identifying the obstacle will give you insight into why they’re angry.

The bottom line is that people feel angry for a reason. It’s your job to understand and sit with them in it. By doing so, you will not only help them to understand their anger, but you will become closer to them in the process.

What to do When Someone is Angered by the Boundaries You Set

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone else, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

When they hear the word “no,” they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: “Bad Mommy!” They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is “bad,” and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done “to them” at all. Someone will not do something “for them.” Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others’ freedom.

The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry. Here are six steps to consider when someone responds with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. You can come from a place of love when you speak the truth. You don’t have to own their anger, because if we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to show love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. “I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?” Just remember that when you empathize, changing your “no” will not help. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. But when we let people go, they choose their own way, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for you.

Strengthen Your Relationship Roots

SOURCE:  Prepare-Enrich

After being gone almost all day I arrived at home at about 4:00pm.  The door we use to enter our house leads to the kitchen and the first thing I saw was a counter full of dishes.

My frustration levels grew instantaneously.

My heart started beating faster.

Angry emotions gripped me.

I thought, “I have been gone all day.  My husband and kids have been home all day and they left all their breakfast and lunch dishes for me to do!  How am I to cook supper with no counter space?”  I proceeded to walk into the living room and complain to my husband in front of the kids about why he didn’t do the dishes and why he left them for me to do.

Bad choice.

As you can imagine the rest of that evening was not harmonious, nor were the next few days as my husband hardly spoke to me.  This incident was a tipping point.  Brad was feeling falsely accused in front of the kids.  He thought he had been this great dad, spending the day with the kids and giving them his full attention and I came home and immediately complained about how he spent the day.  I was feeling taking advantage of.  We both needed to learn a new way to communicate our feelings.

Later that week, Brad gave me a piece of paper with three life rules, some pertaining to this instance and some pertaining to other struggles we were having.

 

While this is not a fond memory for us, it forced us to form new habits and new understandings, new relationship roots.  We are not perfect, but we seek to understand each other – not accuse each other, to talk about our frustrations with each other in private, to always speak well of each other in front of others, and to forgive each other. It was hard, yet we are better today because of it.

What relationship roots are you and your partner growing?

  • Are you allowing the tough times in your relationship to grow deep roots, shallow roots or no roots?
  • Roots need room for water to flow in and out.  Are you giving and receiving forgiveness to keep communication flowing?
  • Are you growing new roots by seeking different ways of communicating or spending time together?
  • What are you doing to listen to the old roots – the lessons you have already learned, the lessons that provide structural support to your relationship?

6 Ways To Argue And Not End Up Divorced

SOURCE:   Brittany Wong/The Huffington Post

Marriage counselors share how to argue the smart way.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to argue in a relationship. To have an effective argument, both partners need to show up and be ready to tackle the issues like grown ups. If either spouse is too wound up to talk rationally, conflict resolution isn’t likely to happen.

What else do couples need to know if they want to argue effectively? Below, couples counselors share six tips on everything from having the right tone to timing the fight. (Forget what you heard before, you can totally go to bed angry.)

How you start a conversation is likely how it will end. When you’re peeved about something your spouse did (or didn’t do), resist the urge to rant and instead use what researcher and psychologist John Gottman calls a “softened start-up.

In other words, slowly ease into the conversation with a calm, respectful tone, explained Leslie Petruk, a counselor and director of The Stone Center for Counseling and Leadership in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“If you begin the conversation with an angry attack, that is likely how it will end,” she said. “If you enter it with curiosity and compassion, the dialogue is much more likely to end that way as well,” she said.

Stop looking at your marital fights as something to win or lose. Instead, try your hardest to frame your argument as a healthy conversation between two deeply committed, mature partners, said Amy Kipp, a couples and family therapist in San Antonio, Texas.

“Instead of looking at it as a conflict, view the argument as a problem you are working on together. This allows more room for a resolution that meets the needs of everyone,” she said. “Being constantly at odds with your partner creates a you-against-me dynamic. Conversely, being able to view an issue as one that you are jointly solving creates feelings of connection and teamwork.”

Instead of stonewalling or shrugging off your spouse, try to acknowledge what they’re feelings, said Amanda Deverich, a marriage and family therapist in Williamsburg, Virginia. Simply saying “I can see why you feel that way….” or “it makes sense you thought that…” goes a very long way when you’re trying to de-escalate your emotions.

“Validating your spouse’s feelings doesn’t mean you’re giving up your own truth, it just helps you reach a compromise,” Deverich explained before offering up an example.

“Let’s say you were supposed to look after the kids when you came back from work,” she said, noting you arrived home to do this at 7 p.m. “If your spouse remembers you saying you’d be home by 6 p.m. but you don’t recall saying that, you could validate it by saying, ‘I can see why you’d be frustrated if you thought that, given how many times I’ve been late in the past.”

It may be tempting to insist you said 7 p.m. on the dot, but ultimately, what’s the point?

“That will just culminate into a fight over facts, and while facts are important, they’re a lot less important than an apology, understanding and ultimately a change in behavior,” Deverich said.

If you need to go to bed angry because you have no energy left at midnight, by all means, go to bed angry. If you need to table the conversation because it’s 7 p.m. and you’re mega hangry, do it. What matters most is tackling your problem when you’re both in the right state of mind to see it through, said Zach Brittle, a a mental health counselor who works with couples in Seattle, Washington.

“It’s not about resolving. It’s about staying connected,” he said. “Repairing the problem can occur during or after an argument.”

When you’re ready to talk, Brittle said effective repair requires three things: “Accepting responsibility for how your choices affected your spouse, expressing empathy for the impact of those choices and articulating some new commitment to change,” he explained. “None of those steps require the words ‘I’m sorry’ but each of them is a kind of repair.”

Unless your spouse explicitly told you how they feel, don’t build a case against them in your head based on what you assume they’re thinking, Petruk said.

“Couples will often say, ‘I know he or she was thinking this or that…’ and put their own spin on their partners’ behaviors or words without checking it out first,” she said. “That’s the wrong way to go about it; you have to enter the conversation with questions rather than accusations. Check in and see if what you’ve been telling yourself is accurate.”

Unfortunate as it sounds, there are some issues that will likely play out for the lifespan of your relationship, Kipp said. Once you make your peace with that, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the smaller fights you have about these issues, she explained.

“There will be issues that are just going to be unsolvable, perpetual problems in your relationship,” she said. “If you are always on time and your partner is always running late, that is likely to be an ongoing source of frustration. But learning to talk about the problem respectfully and with acceptance for one another means that no one feels attacked.”

Marital Distress: Why Do I Have to Be the One to Change?

SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis/The Huffington Post

You’re really mad at your partner. You’ve explained your point of view a million times. S/he never listens. You can’t believe that a person can be so insensitive. So, you wait. You’re convinced that eventually s/he will have to see the light; that you’re right and s/he’s wrong. In the meantime, there’s silence. But the tension is so thick in your house, you can cut it with a knife. You hate the distance, but there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re mad. You’re really mad.

You try to make yourself feel better by getting involved in other things. Sometimes this even works. But you wake up every morning facing the fact that nothing’s changed at all. A feeling of dissatisfaction permeates everything you do. From time to time, you ask yourself, “Is there something I should do differently,?” but you quickly dismiss this thought because you know that, in your heart of hearts, you’re not the one to blame. So the distance between you and your partner persists.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you and your partner been so angry with each other that you’ve gone your separate ways and stopped interacting with each other? Have you convinced yourself that, until s/he initiates making up, there will be no peace in your house? If so, I have few things I want to tell you.

You are wasting precious energy holding on to your anger. It’s exhausting to feel resentment day in and day out. It takes a toll on your body and soul. It’s bad for your health and hard on your spirit. It’s awful for your relationship. Anger imprisons you. It casts a gray cloud over your days. It prevents you from feeling real joy in any part of your life. Each day you drown yourself in resentment is another day lost out of your life. What a waste!

I have worked with so many people who live in quiet desperation because they are utterly convinced that their way of seeing things is right and their partner’s is wrong. They spend a lifetime trying to get their partners to share their views. I hear, “I’ll change if s/he changes,” a philosophy that ultimately leads to a stalemate. There are many variations of this position. For example, “I’d be nicer to her, if she were nicer to me,” or “I’d be more physical and affectionate if he were more communicative with me,” or “I’d be more considerate and tell her about my plans if she wouldn’t hound me all the time about what I do.” You get the picture… “I’ll be different if you start being different first.” Trust me when I tell you that this can be a very, very long wait.

There’s a much better way to view things when you and your partner get stuck like this. I’ve been working with couples for years and I’ve learned a lot about how change occurs in relationships. It’s like a chain reaction. If one person changes, the other one does too. It really doesn’t matter who starts first. It’s simply a matter of tipping over the first domino. Change is reciprocal. Let me give you an example.

I worked with a woman who was very distressed about her husband’s long hours at work. She felt they spent very little time together as a couple and that he was of little help at home. This infuriated her. Every evening when he returned home from work, her anger got the best of her and she criticized him for bailing out on her. Inevitably, the evening would be ruined. The last thing he wanted to do after a long day at work was to deal with problems the moment he walked in the door. Although she understood this, she was so hurt and angry about his long absences that she felt her anger was justified. She wanted a suggestion from me about how to get her husband to be more attentive and loving. She was at her wit’s end.

I told her that I could completely understand why she was frustrated and that, if I were in her shoes, I would feel exactly the same way. However, I wondered if she could imagine how her husband might feel about her nightly barrage of complaints. “He probably wishes he didn’t have to come home,” she said. “Precisely,” I thought to myself, and I knew she was ready to switch gears. I suggested that she try an experiment. “Tonight when he comes home, surprise him with an affectionate greeting. Don’t complain, just tell him you’re happy to see him. Do something kind or thoughtful that you haven’t done in a long time…even if you don’t feel like it.” “You mean like fixing him his favorite meal or giving him a warm hug? I used to do that a lot.” “That’s exactly what I mean,” I told her, and we discussed other things she might do as well. She agreed to give it a try.

Two weeks later she returned to my office and told me about the results of her “experiment.”

“That first night after I talked with you I met him at the door and, without a word, gave him a huge hug. He looked astounded, but curious. I made him his favorite pasta dish, which was heavy on the garlic, so he smelled the aroma the moment he walked in. Immediately, he commented on it and looked pleased. We had a great evening together, the first in months. I was so pleased and surprised by his positive reaction that I felt motivated to keep being ‘the new me.’ Since then things between us have been so much better, it’s amazing. He’s come home earlier and he’s even calling me from work just to say hello. I can’t believe the change in him. I’m so much happier this way.”

The moral of this story is obvious. When one partner changes, the other partner changes too. It’s a law of relationships. If you aren’t getting what you need or want from your loved one, instead of trying to convince him or her to change, why not change your approach to the situation? Why not be more pragmatic? If what you’re doing (talking to your partner about the error of his/her ways) hasn’t been working, no matter how sterling your logic, you’re not going to get very far. Be more flexible and creative. Be more strategic. Spend more time trying to figure out what might work as opposed to being hell bent on driving your point home. You might be pleasantly surprised. Remember, insanity has been defined as doing the same old thing over and over and expecting different results.

Look, life is short. We only have one go-around. Make your relationship the best it can possibly be. Stop waiting for your partner to change in order for things to be better. When you decide to change first, it will be the beginning of a solution avalanche. Try it, you’ll like it!

How to Handle Anger in Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed./Gottman Institute

Anger can be processed by going on a run, practicing yoga, or mindfully engaging in deep breathing. While these are all great tactics, what happens when your anger is directed at your partner in the heat of the moment?

Anger can overwhelm even the most self-reflective and self-aware person. When you are flooded, your pulse races and your limbic system takes over, making rational thought almost impossible.

It’s important to understand that anger is often a red herring which covers up more vulnerable feelings such as embarrassment, sadness, and hopelessness.

While deflecting anger in the moment may not be possible, it is possible to identify the feelings beneath. So how do you do this?

Consider the narrative of your anger and use those phrases as keys to unlock your underlying primary emotions.

For example, this is how Ruth feels after her husband bailed on their date night:

I am so angry at you. You always cancel on me to meet up with your friends. You make me feel so small and unimportant.

The key emotion here is feeling unimportant. Once she identifies this, she can communicate in such a way that her partner can understand her.

She can then construct a more coherent and loving start-up to their conversation:

Ruth: “Is this a good time to talk about something that’s been on my mind?”
Steve: “It is.”
Ruth: “I feel unimportant when we make plans and you cancel them. I’m sure you don’t mean to make me feel that way. Can we make time this week to do something together?”

By focusing on your feelings beneath the anger, you welcome your partner to offer empathy and make a repair instead of becoming defensive. Instead of starting a fight, you’re starting a respectful dialogue about your feelings. You are also asking your partner to be on your team.

Couples who understand that respect, kindness, and love are more effective than harshness and criticism are what Dr. John Gottman calls the Masters of Relationships.

Resisting the urge to blame

Blaming feels good in the moment, but the effects can be disastrous. Even if you feel angry at your partner, it doesn’t mean that your words should be harsh or critical. In fact, in order to get your message across, it’s vital to avoid the Four Horsemen. Here, old adages such as “you catch more flies with honey” are spot on.

While expressing anger or blame can get your point across, it will also erode your intimate bond.

If you attack with criticism, your partner will likely become defensive and blame you right back. They may also get flooded and be unable to focus on the discussion, cause it to escalate.

Conversations like this eventually create emotional distance because the more critical and contemptuous you are, the more you will chip away at your friendship. Choosing your words and emotions with care is not easy. It takes practice, but once you start using this approach, it can repair and actually strengthen your bond over time.

So the next time you get angry, stop and think about why you’re angry. Is it because you’re embarrassed? Worried? Disappointed? Tell your partner what you feel and what you need. Learning to recognize when anger isn’t really what you’re feeling is a skill used by emotionally intelligent couples.

Marriage: Opposites Attract

SOURCE:  Leslie Schmucker/Desiring God

God Draws Us in Marital Differences

My husband and I often don’t see eye to eye. After 31 years of marriage, you’d think that we would have figured out how to navigate our differences. We do love each other. We both have come to understand, by God’s grace, that love is not a feeling but a choice. People who don’t have that figured out don’t last 31 years.

My husband is a kind and generous man who I admire and love deeply. He is absolutely “respected at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:23, NIV). He and I are just wired so differently that our wires seem to cross more than they connect.

I’m an extrovert. When I’m stressed, I become re-energized by a good game night with the family, or a night out with friends. My husband is an introvert. When he is stressed, he re-energizes by catching a good documentary alone in the basement, or getting out of the house by himself for a while.

My husband is mindful of money, watching our spending closely, providing the checks and balances we need to keep from going into debt. I tend to see money as a means to bless others and enjoy new or interesting experiences. I’m the reason for the checks and balances.

The Greatest Challenge

Our differences seem endless at times. He likes a skinny Christmas tree; for me, the fatter the better. He is tidy; I am not. He is more formal; I’m more comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. He comes from a family of seven children; I have one sibling. His love language is acts of service. Mine is words of affirmation.

Perhaps the most challenging difference between my husband and me, though, is the way we handle anger. When I am angry, I need to talk about it. Often passionately. My husband goes inward with his anger. He becomes quiet and sullen. I run him over with a bulldozer of words. He shuts me out with a wall of aloofness. This has often resulted in a maddening cacophony of yelling and silence, resulting in resentment that compounds the conflict.

Still, we remain steadfast in our resolve not to divorce. In the moment, when tensions and emotions are running high, and frustration threatens to undo us, the temptation to split feels enticing. What stops us from making our lives easier (albeit temporarily) by parting ways?

In a word, Christ.

Would Divorce Be Better?

Divorcing my husband, apart from the pain it would cause us and our family, would only serve to remove the largest indicator and brightest illuminator of my principal sin: pride.  Choosing the easy road removes challenge. The removal of challenge removes the opportunity for growth. A lack of growth causes stagnation in our walk. Stagnation in our walk keeps us from Christ and everything he still has for us in this life, including in our marriages.

Romans 14:1 tells us not to quarrel over disputable matters. Here, God is speaking about the church. But this principle can be applied to marriage, as well. If God used marriage as a type of Christ’s church, should we destroy it for the sake of issues that have nothing to do with salvation (and everything to do with our selfish ambition and pride)?

Unequally Yoked?

God also admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Unequal yoking of oxen leads to a lack of productivity and a lot of frustration.

Though my husband and I are equally yoked in Christ, we have felt unequally yoked in lesser things. We have more than once almost allowed ourselves to be ripped apart over opinions. However, we do not get a free pass to unyoke ourselves from each other for lesser things. We both have submitted to the easy yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:30). We are believers and, as such, we have no right to tear apart what God has joined (Mark 10:9).

What, then, do we do with our jostling and bumping within the yoke Christ has fitted us with? Christ’s yoke is easy in the sense that we can put to rest our confusion and uncertainty about our future in him. We are saved, secure, and bound to Christ eternally. But we’re still here on earth, tilling the rocky, seemingly impassable soil of our marriage.

How do we learn to walk in step with one another as sinners within the yoke?

One Love Language

Burk Parsons said, “The love language of all marriages is self-denial.” In my marriage, I often feel frustrated, hurt, tired, angry, and sometimes unloved. I know my husband feels the same at times. We regularly react to the other person’s failure to meet our expectations. He didn’t affirm me. I didn’t serve him. We have corroborated with ourselves instead of denying ourselves. And now we are unhappy.

I know what the world’s wisdom says about marriage. If I am unhappy, I should leave and find someone who will make me happy. Or I should just “eat, pray, and love” my way to happiness by pursuing endeavors that would help me find myself.

Christ, though, would have me carry my cross right up to the top of the hill of my marriage, loving my husband with no conditions, through the fiercest of storms. Why? Because my husband is my brother in Christ. He is a fellow believer, who came to Christ in 1997 right alongside me, entering into the covenant of grace, which binds us together even more than our covenant of marriage.

Reminders for the Married

In marriage counseling, Christ would have me obey Ephesians 4:29–32, which admonishes me to use my words to build up. It tells me to put away bitterness, clamor, and anger. It tells me, instead, to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.

Christ has told me in John 15:12 to love my husband as Christ has loved me. And in Luke 6:31, he instructs me to treat others, especially my husband, as I would want to be treated.

Shouldn’t I be considering Colossians 3:14, which exhorts me to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”?

Why do I forget these marvelous commands when I come in my front door? Why can’t I keep 1 Corinthians 13 in front of me in marriage?

I love Christ, I really do. And I love my husband. Still, I fall into sin in my marriage more times than I care to admit.

But God

But I serve the God who calmed the storm with a word (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39). I love the Savior who brought this world into being, watched it fall, then suffered and died to redeem it. I believe in the God who saved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). And he did these things for my husband, as well.

Last summer I typed out the words of 1 Corinthians 13, and I keep them in a frame above my desk. When I am tempted to keep a record of wrongs (see verse 5), I go to these framed words. I pray for God to remind me how much he loves my husband, and how much Christ suffered so that I could have a godly marriage. I am still very far from conquering my relentless regard for self, and I am still adamant about a fat Christmas tree, but I know that our yoke is held firm by the One who put it there.

Parenting: You’re Driving Me Crazy

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I am not alone when it comes to frequently losing it with my children.

My research shows that screaming is a common problem in motherhood. While there are specific circumstances in which yelling is imperative, such as with safety issues or an emergency, I confess that valid reasons for my outbursts have been infrequent.

In my study, moms listed the top anger-causing stressors as fatigue and being overwhelmed with demands on their time. Stressors or not, a loss of control often leads to self-imposed guilt. And families are too often left wounded and confused by a yelling mom.

I remember when Seth, then 2, was supposed to be in his crib and going to sleep. My husband, Curt, was out of town, so I was facilitating the bedtime routine solo. After giving Seth a bath and reading him a bedtime story, I retrieved one last drink of water, listened to his prayers and settled him for the night.

I was eight months pregnant and exhausted, so my focus, after closing his bedroom door, was on relaxing with a good book and drifting off to sleep. In less than five minutes, I heard the door of his room creak open.

“Seth,” I said sternly, “you better climb right back in your bed.” He closed the door, and I could hear him climb back into his bed. This scenario repeated itself two more times. Finally, I put down my book, heaved myself out of the recliner and charged into his room yelling, “You are driving me crazy; stay in your bed!”

Seth began to cry, and through his sobs he replied, “But it’s just so lonely in here.”

A wave of guilt engulfed me. My sweet toddler had been wounded by my loud, angry words.

That was several years ago, and I’ve since learned that being honest with myself and recognizing the destructive influence that screaming has on my children is the first step in changing this pattern of poor communication.

Here are other habit-changing behaviors:

  • Committing to lowering my voice toward my children when the stressors propel me toward screaming has been an effective way to keep my emotions at more steady levels.
  • Taking time to discuss with my children, according to their age and understanding, about why I may be on edge can help all of us be more sensitive to one another.
  • Realizing that I am not alone in this struggle has strengthened my resolve to break the screaming cycle. Friends help spur me on to change.

Whenever the triggers for “losing it” are present, I recognize the problem, lower my voice and acknowledge I am not alone in this struggle, which helps defuse my anger. The response I give my children is always more appropriate.”

The freedom from guilt has been my catalyst to parent in the way that God desires.

After all, my goal is to reflect Him well to my family.

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Sue Heimer is an author and Christian speaker on topics ranging from “Living a Life of Faith” to “When You Feel Like Screaming — Help for frustrated mothers.”

Anger: Unmet Expectations

SOURCE:  Annie Chapman/Focus on the Family

As I was leaving for a four-day trip with my teen daughter and her friend, my husband, Steve, agreed to have the house in good shape when I returned, because we’d be having company on the weekend.

The trip with the girls was fun, but by the time I got home, my nerves were stretched, and I was ready for a break. As I walked into our kitchen, I struggled to process the sight and the odor. There was a stack of unwashed dishes, fish guts in the sink and the floor was sticky with some sort of marine-life slime.

Steve walked into the room. “You’re back earlier than I expected. I went fishing this morning and thought I’d have time to clean up before you got home. Then the mower needed some work, and I reckon I got sidetracked.”

Steve and I have been married for 38 years, and although I can’t say I respond correctly each time I’m angry, that particular day I chose to face the reason for my anger — my expectations had not been met.

James 4:1-2 reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” It’s a pretty simple explanation.

I asked Steve to give me some space — alone — instead of giving him an immediate verbal lashing, and put on latex gloves to start the restoration process. While cleaning, I did a few things that helped me deal with my anger before the razor-sharp words finished forming on my tongue.

First, I avoided talking to myself about the situation.

I have a friend who says that when she gets angry with her husband, she takes a walk and talks to herself about it. While that may work for her, it doesn’t work for me. The one time I tried the “walk and talk” idea, all I did was practice throwing verbal spears at Steve.

Then, instead of ranting to myself about Steve’s fish-gut gaffe, I talked to God about it.

James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I’ve learned that when I humble myself before God and respectfully talk to Him about a matter, He really does give me grace. It’s a grace that prevents a small gust of anger from turning into a destructive tornado of emotion.

After I talked to God, I was better prepared to talk to my husband.

Talking humbly, yet frankly with God about my anger, seemed to put me in a more civil state of mind. As a result, I was able to respectfully and candidly talk to Steve.

By recognizing that not getting what I wanted was the true source of my anger, I created an environment in my marriage that allowed Steve to apologize without the fear of getting lambasted — and I was in a better place to accept his apology.

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Annie Chapman is a musician, speaker and author of several books, including Letting Go of Anger.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Angry

SOURCE:  Bob McCully/Thriveworks

Everyone gets angry, but some of us get angry more often and with greater intensity than most people. If you’re one of those people, here are some questions to ask yourself that might lead to less anger.

Am I truly understanding the other person?

Perhaps you misunderstood. Maybe you assumed inaccurately that he or she intended to hurt you with their comment. Maybe you really got angry because her posture reminded you of that teacher years ago who used to berate you. Stop and think.

Are my expectations reasonable?

Larry grew up in a household where his Mom was a full-time housewife. She cleaned every day and expected him to help. Now his wife works full-time and they have a 2-year-old son. He gets angry at her when anything is out of place. Is he being reasonable? Sarah expected her adult daughter to call her every day. Is that realistic? Examine your expectations, and change them, if appropriate.

Am I angry at the right person?

Stress can build up from a hundred little annoyances during the day. You’re angry at your boss, but you can’t express it or you’ll lose your job. The weather is cloudy and cold; the traffic is slow and irritating on the way home. Then when your son leaves his bicycle in the driveway, you blow up. Breathe deeply. Focus on the present moment.

Is my anger getting me what I want?

Alex spent much of his time at home yelling at his wife and his children. What he wanted was a cooperative family. What he was getting was a distant relationship with everyone. His wife was contemplating divorce. His children resented him and never talked to him for fear that he would start yelling. If anger is not working, try calm dialogue.

Is my anger out of proportion to the offense?

Teresa had a way of making mountains out of molehills. Every little inconvenience was a great catastrophe that she complained angrily about to her friends. Her friends learned to tune her out or avoid her. For this kind of anger, the deeper question is, are you going to spend your life angry because the world does not conform to your needs, or are you going to accept the fact that real life circumstances are often inconvenient and sometimes difficult? Accept life as it is.

How are they feeling?

That is, how are the objects of your wrath feeling? Are your children feeling oppressed and unloved? Is your employee feeling hopeless and frustrated? Is your spouse feeling irritated and resentful? Empathy can make us stop in our tracks and try a different strategy.

Can I really change this situation?

You are only one person in a great big world. You have some power, but it is limited. You may be wasting your energy being angry. Twelve step groups use this helpful prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.” Practice wisdom, not anger.

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Bob McCully is a licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks Counseling Charlotte.

Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” –Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

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Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

Emotions: Who’s In Charge Of Yours?

SOURCE:  New Life Ministries

Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. – 2 Peter 1:6

Who is in charge of your emotions?

Is it you, or have you formed the unfortunate habit of letting other people—or troubling situations—determine the quality of your thoughts and the direction of your day? If you’re wise—and if you’d like to build a better life for yourself and your loved ones—you’ll learn to control your emotions before your emotions control you.

Human emotions are highly variable, decidedly unpredictable, and often unreliable. Our emotions are like the weather, only far more fickle. So we must learn to live by faith, not by the ups and downs of our own emotional roller coasters.

Remember: Your life shouldn’t be ruled by your emotions—your life should be ruled by God. So if you think you’ve lost control over your emotions, don’t make big decisions, don’t strike out against anybody, and don’t speak out in anger. Count to ten (or more) and take a “time out” from your situation until you calm down.

– Steve Arterburn

Sometime during this day, you will probably be gripped by a strong negative feeling. Distrust it. Reign it in. Test it. And turn it over to God. Your emotions will inevitably change; God will not. So trust Him completely as you watch those negative feelings slowly evaporate into thin air—which, of course, they will. Our feelings do not affect God’s facts.Amy Carmichael

Don’t bother much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behavior. – C. S. Lewis

The spiritual life is a life beyond moods. It is a life in which we choose joy and do not allow ourselves to become victims of passing feelings of happiness or depression. – Henri Nouwen

Anger in Relationships

SOURCE:  Larry Heath/Living Free

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

Unresolved anger can lead to a “root of bitterness” and wreak havoc on a person’s emotional life and personal relationships. Unchecked resentment can grow into hatred and could even lead to physical or verbal abuse. 
 
Genesis 4:1-8 tells about this happening between two of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was jealous of Abel and the resentment grew and festered to the point that anger became his master. The result? Cain killed Abel.
 

Of course, unchecked anger doesn’t always lead to murder but it can lead to other painful results. Angry words we can’t take back. Depression. Broken friendships. Divorce. Losing our focus on Jesus and what he wants us to do. The list is endless.

Are you having a problem dealing with anger? Is anger ruining a special relationship? Prayerfully consider these scriptures and others like them. What answers do they provide? How can you apply them to your situation?

 

  • Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 NLT) 
  • “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT)
  • Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16 NLT)
  • Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)
  • Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1:19-20 NLT)
  • Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NLT)

Father, I know my anger has affected my relationships. In fact, it seems to control my attitudes and behavior much of the time. Please help me apply the teaching in your Word to my life. Help me let go of the anger so your love can flow through me to others. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

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These thoughts were drawn from …

   Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Expressions of Anger

SOURCE:  Larry Heath/Living Free

“Short-tempered people do foolish things.” (Proverbs 14:17 NLT)

Anger in daily life can range from irritation to explosive responses.

Without emotional expression, life would be “unfelt” and appear as only rational or cognitive. However, thoughts and behaviors are connected to our feelings. Rational thought alone will not provide the energy needed to function as human beings in experiencing life. We all require feelings to motivate us sufficiently to do the enjoyable in life as well as experience suffering and pain. Anger is one of those feelings.

 We all feel angry at times.

 It may be righteous anger . . . or anger aroused by selfishness. We can choose how to respond to that anger. As the above Scripture points out, we sometimes make matters worse because we respond with foolish behavior. Children, youth, and adults differ in their expression of anger. Children may yell, pout, hit, or even become depressed by holding in the anger. Teens may respond to their anger with by withdrawing, becoming isolated, fighting with peers and siblings, or becoming aggressive with parents, teachers, and authority figures. Adults often express their anger through bitterness, resentment, self-pity, and depression.

It is important that we learn to manage our responses to anger rather than just erupting and lashing out at others . . . or holding everything in. The Bible makes it clear that anger is an ethically neutral instrument or force that we can use to glorify God rather than for expressing sinful thoughts or behaviors. It has potential for danger and can lead to sin.  God wants us to deal with it quickly—and wisely—lest it lead to greater harm. “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT).

Christian mental and spiritual health that can help us manage anger wisely is characterized by humility, teachability, and peace—not a stubborn, angry, unteachable spirit that gives Satan a foothold.

Father, I know that sometimes I let anger take over and I respond foolishly. Please forgive me. Help me to be more teachable and humble. I know I need your help to manage my anger wisely. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

    Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

ANGER: Choose Your Response

SOURCE:   Larry Heath/Living Free

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NLT)

Part of making anger your servant instead of your master involves making choices. Make choices about how you will respond when those feelings of anger are rising up in you. Choose to keep your words and your attitude pleasing to the Lord. And ask God to help you do that.

A good place to start is to examine how you are expressing anger now and then prayerfully overcoming the negative responses with positive ones.

Think of the people in your life: spouse, children, parents, employer, coworkers, friends, and others. Have you expressed anger to any of them recently? How? By holding it back? By expressing it indirectly? By expressing it directly? In each instance, how did they respond to your expression of anger?

What can you do to make your expression of anger healthier and more productive?

Set some goals and ask God to help you meet them.

Consider this …

Use these scriptures and others like them to guide you in your goal setting:

  • Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
  • A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
  • Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 NLT)
  • There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. (Proverbs 29:20 NLT)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted. (Proverbs 12:16 NLT)
  • Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT)
  • Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Colossians 3:13 NLT)
  • “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NLT)
  • 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)
  • “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44 NLT)

Father, help me be more aware of how I am expressing my anger. Give me the wisdom and strength to make right choices. I pray that anger will be my servant, not my master, and that I will use anger only for God’s glory. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

    Anger: Our Master or Our Servant 

5 Things to Do When God Seems Distant

SOURCE:  Rebecca Rene Jones/Relevant Magazine

A few ways to wait well.

That June, I stood at the podium draped in black cap and gown. I was 18, my tassel dancing as I lifted lips to the mic and delivered a valedictory address full of all the right bluster: Drive slow and enjoy the brave journey. Believe in your beauty. Live out loud.

Two months later, in August, I moved into my freshman dorm. Three days in, my dad died.

After his funeral, I unplugged my mini-fridge. I hiked across campus to the registrar’s office, surrendered my meal card, un-enrolled. I stripped my mattress clean of my new sheet set and hugged my roommates an awkward goodbye. On the ride home, I began what would flower into months of questioning all of it: my dreams, my design, my direction. I balled my fist, banged hard on heaven’s screen door, and here’s the hard part: For a while, God kept quiet.

If you, too, find yourself here, on this same front porch, famished for even the faintest nudge in the right direction—sit down. Here’s what I know about waiting when God feels distant.

Know That What You’re Experiencing Is Normal

It is so unshockingly normal that C.S. Lewis actually said our fluctuating feelings about God were perhaps the only constant of our faith. “The law of Undulation,” he nicknamed it. In a nutshell, “undulation” implies that the Christian walk is a back and forth rocking between sweet “communications of His presence” and then, later: wilderness and soul-numbing silence.

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes that God “withdraws, if not in fact, (then) at least from … conscious experience … He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.” This may seem unpleasant, but it works in us something that’s critical to our spiritual maturity: a decoupling of our faith from our feelings about it.

Undulation forces us to go beyond our own gut—and beyond our circumstances—and agree that God is good and attentive even when life suggests otherwise.

Embrace Boring Things

Today’s temptation is to bide time by distracting ourselves. We are categorically bad at waiting, at welcoming quiet, at actively wanting from God. We are much better at filling in downtime and numbing our aches with Pinterest, Twitter and Netflix.

But God dares us to do something different: To stay expectant. To stay hungry. To practice hope, as Paul says, by patiently and confidently fixing our attention on the promises we don’t yet possess (Romans 8:24-25).

Carve out quiet places to remember what you’re hoping for. For me, after Dad died, that meant taking lots of lonesome bike rides and a tedious part-time job counting pills at a local pharmacy. It’d be a stretch to call these spiritual disciplines, but I’ll go to the mat for this: they helped me protect a precious hush that God eventually spoke into.

Tell God What You Think

It’s OK to be blunt. The great prophet Elijah even prayed to die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said (1 Kings: 19:4). His earnestness isn’t exactly an anomaly, either: so many psalms echo some version of this, peppering God with the same rolling questions: Why haven’t you moved sooner? Or in quite the way we’d hoped?

On the surface, they might seem presumptuous, but at their heartbeat, these questions are actually something different: They are appeals to God’s good character. They’re sincere questions that finger a perceived disconnect between who God says He is and why His action—or seeming lack of action—seems out of step with his nature.

Sometimes, we confuse waiting on God with plunking down until we’re handed crisp itineraries.

Don’t Demand Burning Bushes

God can use pyrotechnics, of course, but our brushes with Him aren’t always so theatrical. When we knock, ask and seek, sometimes He doesn’t match our decibel level.

God honors and often uplifts the quietly faithful, and what’s more: He often comes in the quiet. When God tells Elijah to wait before Him on the mountaintop, we witness something remarkable: God doesn’t show up where we think He’d appear. He’s not in the snapping windstorm, or the earthquake or the blaze. Elijah can’t find God’s voice in any of them. Then comes a gentle whisper, and it is so divinely flooded that Elijah covers his face with his cloak.

What if God intends to meet us precisely in the places we’d least imagine?

Don’t Lose Your Cool as a Mom

SOURCE:  Jenae Jacobson/Family Life

 Ten ideas to help you diffuse your anger when a child misbehaves.

We’ve all been there. You ask your child (for the fifth time) not to do something, only to turn around and find him doing that very thing. A situation like this one can get even the calmest person’s blood boiling and might normally lend itself to yelling, screaming, or harsh anger.

Although the misbehavior needs to be dealt with swiftly and fairly, there are much healthier alternatives to losing your cool in the process. Implement one of the suggestions below to keep yourself in check. Once the misbehavior is handled in a calm manner, try one of the “After the situation” suggestions to get your blood pressure back to normal and restore unity in the home. And before you think I’m claiming to be an expert on the topic, let me assure you that you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’m writing this as much for my benefit as anyone else’s!

Before and during the situation

1. Pray. Pray for patience. Pray for peace. Pray for the supernatural ability to handle the situation as God would want you to.

2. Take a few deep breaths. As you exhale, attempt to mentally release whatever anger you are harboring. As cheesy as it sounds, it helps.

3. Take a time-out in the bathroom—and lock the door. As moms of young children, sometimes we just need a few minutes to clear our head before venturing back into the battlefield. And say a prayer your kids won’t hurt each other in the process of your “Mommy time-out.”

After the situation

4. Be spontaneousdon’t say a word to the kids, but instead go outside and start blowing bubbles (or something equally as fun). Invite them to join you whenever they are ready. Obviously, this should happen after the discipline and consequences have taken place.

5. Open your Bible and quickly thumb through your index to find some Scriptures on anger. Repeat them over and over to yourself. I’ve also found it helpful to have those particular Scriptures memorized so that they can be recalled at a moment’s notice (Proverbs 15:1, anyone?).

6. Turn on a movie for the kids and jump in the bathtub. Although I don’t think TV should frequently be used as a babysitter, you shouldn’t feel guilty in those moments when you need to use it as one (for your own sanity and for the temporary well-being of your children).

7. Start a tickle fight. After moments of tension (especially after a child is disciplined), she needs to be assured of your love for her and that you generallyenjoy spending time with her. What better way to show that than a tickle fight? Plus, laughter is good for the soul … so everyone wins!

8. Read a book together. There are few things in our household that will calm my very energetic boys quicker than sitting down to read a book in my lap. Not only does this give everyone an opportunity to settle down, it also allows for some good cuddling time.

9. Spend some one-on-one time with the perpetrator. If you have more than one child, it is amazing how enjoyable and easy it is to spend time with just one child at a time! And it could be that the child who ignited the flame of fury could be needing just a little bit of affirmation. Taking an hour or two to spend time with that child will not only reassure him of your love, but it also will be an enjoyable bonding experience for both of you.

10. Stop feeling guilty and inadequate. Every mother has regretsfor an unkind word, perhaps, or a harsh tone, or full-blown screaming. I fervently believe that God uses child rearing to humble our (at times) prideful hearts. Through this He is teaching us to rely on Him and not to depend on ourselves. We can’t be the kind of mothers we want to be, or the mothers our children need us to be, on our own. We must look to His strength, love, and kindness.

Those feelings of self-doubt and continual guilt are not from God. They are Satan’s way of attacking us. When we feel like this, we become debilitated. We become grouchy. We become irritable and short-fused. We don’t want to serve because we don’t feel like it. And that’s just what the enemy wants.

So next time you are faced with an otherwise explosive situation as a mom, try one of these tips to help diffuse both you and everyone around you.

Numbing Out The Voice of God

SOURCE:  John Taylor/Relevant Magazine

Confessions of a Drunk Worship Leader

One man’s story of overcoming his secret alcohol addiction.

Hungover and leading worship on Easter Sunday, Seth Haines felt a sharp, nauseating pain in his stomach. Two thousand churchgoers sang along, unaware, as he, nervous about hitting high notes, struggled to keep from vomiting. He led the congregation in singing:

He has cheated hell / And seated us above the fall / In desperate places / He paid our wages / One time once and for all

After the service, a couple of friends caught Haines as he exited the stage. “You have a special anointing,” they told him, with their hands placed on the worship leader’s shoulders.

Haines forced a smile before stumbling back to his seat.  “Anointed?” he thought. “What are you talking about? I’m hungover. I was probably still drunk when I got here this morning.

It all began with a Nalgene bottle.

Two years before that Easter Sunday, Haines sat in a hospital waiting room, trying not to think about Titus, his infant son born with a hole in his heart and a rate of respiration that jogged a little faster than most.

“You get enough alcohol in your system and you don’t feel anymore.”

Friends, family members and strangers visited in rotation. They offered prayers for swift recovery.

Haines and his wife, Amber, watched as doctors squirted blue liquid into Titus’ mouth through a syringe. The 6-month-old gurgled, squirmed and wailed as plastic tubes entered his nose and reached down into his still-developing intestines.

The doctors shook their heads when they found clumps of blood the size of popcorn kernels. The Haineses discussed what songs they would play at Titus’ funeral.

That was when Haines called his sister and said, “I need you to bring me gin to the hospital. Smuggle it in.”

Hours later, a Nalgene bottle arrived, filled to the top with Tanqueray. Haines unscrewed the cap and poured its contents into a plastic cup filled with ice.

In that moment, Haines—the believer, husband, father of four, full-time attorney, worship leader, home group host and editor of the blog “A Deeper Church”—was becoming an alcoholic.

Because, as Haines would say later, “You get enough alcohol in your system and you don’t feel anymore.”

***

“I think everyone’s story of belief is pretty complex,” Haines says. “Mine is no exception to that rule.”

About two years ago, in that hospital room, gin and tonic became “more gin than tonic” for Haines.

He started with casual single shots. Then doubles. Then triples. And eventually, regardless of the pour, he consumed as many as 10 drinks daily.

Before long, and almost unwittingly, he found himself hiding his drinking from his wife, Amber.

To keep her from noticing his rapidly growing addiction, Haines says he would store empty bottles in his car, then drive garbage bags of them to the dumpster behind his office.

When he and Amber hung out in their living room—talking and usually listening to worship music—Haines would wait for his wife to go to the bathroom, turn up the stereo volume and run to the kitchen for another drink before Amber could get back.

Despite his efforts, Haines couldn’t hide from his wife.

“Do you think you’re drinking too much?” she asked one afternoon about a year into Haines’ downward spiral. “When’s the last time you went without drinking?”

“I just knew, ‘All I have to do is plod away at my desk, keep my Christian facade up, then get home at night and drink away the voice of God.’”

He couldn’t remember. “Last…” he looked away, trying to think of a day Amber would believe.

“Thursday,” he lied.

***

A few months later, Haines was out-of-town attending a Christian conference and staying with some friends. As usual, on one of his nights away, he’d “had a good bit to drink.”

“It was 3 a.m. and there were these college kids who came across the yard and introduced themselves,” he explains. “I started talking to them about church. Before long, I was pretty much witnessing to them.

“The next morning, when I sobered up, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing?’”

That same weekend, as he describes it, the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to him through a concerned friend. Somehow, she’d guessed that he had a problem. He says their conversation was revealing.

“I would say things like, ‘Yeah, but I’ve never been pulled over for a DWI.’

“And she would say, ‘Well, you know that doesn’t matter, right?’

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve never hit Amber.’

“And she said, ‘You know that doesn’t matter either, right?’”

Later that day, Haines dialed Amber’s number and said, “I think I have a problem, and I don’t really know what to do.”

When he arrived home, the Haineses started a long journey of drying out.

***

In his first therapy session, Haines tried to answer tough questions: “Were you drinking to pass out?” “Do you have the shakes?” “Have you been drinking and hiding the evidence?” “Is it starting to interfere with your job?” “What are you covering with the alcohol?”

After he admitted his problem, Haines needed to discover the reasons behind it.

Titus wasn’t getting any better, he explained to his therapist. He and his family prayed for Titus’ recovery for months, but those prayers seemingly went unanswered. Haines feared losing both his son and his faith, in that order.

“Sickness, I fear, is the permanent plague of my son’s life,” he said to his therapist. “Of my life.”

A breakthrough came while Haines and his therapist discussed the initial source of the pain that first drove him to that Nalgene bottle.

Throughout his life, Haines has suffered from asthma, and it was particularly severe when he was young. As a child, he regularly spent time in the hospital for it. And it seemed after a while that his parents exhausted their options. In a kind of last-ditch effort, the elder Haineses turned to a faith healer.

Haines remembers the experience vividly. The healer marked a cross on young Haines’ forehead, his finger dipped in olive oil bought from a nearby grocery store.

“With enough faith, all things are possible,” the man said. He prayed so loudly that he was nearly shouting.

It didn’t work, and Haines still struggles with asthma today.

“That moment, more than any other moment in my life, has haunted me,” Haines says. “It was the moment where my faith was put to the test, when my faith as a 6 year old didn’t measure up. And if my faith as a 6 year old didn’t measure up, it’s definitely not going to as a 37 year old.”

The experience drove doubts into Haines’ faith, and it continued to “undermine the good seasons” in his life. Off and on during the next three decades, he would question just about everything about God: “Is He really there?” “Does He really intervene?”

“I would have those seasons of intense thoughts,” he says. “But I always seemed to come through them.”

Then Titus got sick. Haines was back in a pediatric ward, this time with his son.

“Today, I’m dry. Tomorrow I’ll be dry. And then we’ll see what happens. ‘One day at a time’ is a real thing.”

“We were visited by a person who comes to the room and says to me, ‘I know Titus is going to be fine, because you’re a man of great faith. Through your faith, God is going to heal your son’,” he remembers.

That was the last thing Haines wanted to hear.

In therapy, Haines realized that Titus was a constant reminder of the loss of his childhood faith. From his experience with the faith healer, Haines internalized the idea that his faith wasn’t good enough for God. And with Titus, Haines was seeing that his faith—and all of his church involvement—again wasn’t good enough. Slowly, he stopped trusting in God.

Cognitively or not, Haines thought God abandoned him. More than fear for his son or any kind of parental stress, that’s what drove him to the bottle.

“For me, it was, ‘If I drink enough, I don’t have to hear the voice of doubt in my head,’” he explains. “I just knew, ‘All I have to do is plod away at my desk, keep my Christian facade up, then get home at night and drink away the voice of God.’”

***

The same friend who identified Haines’ addiction suggested he journal as a part of the recovery process. On one particular night, well into his dry-but-searching phase, Haines read through the passion of Jesus—the suffering Christ endured in the hours leading to His crucifixion.

A familiar story took new life.

“In the Luke account, one of the last things Jesus says to His crucifiers is, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,’” Haines recalls.

That moment became the “touchstone” in Haines’ recovery. He knew what he needed to do. And so he journaled, “Father, teach me to forgive the faith healer.”

This September marked a full year since Haines’ last drink. And, yes, he’s a little nervous.

“I don’t like to think about what this looks like in five years,” he says, “because today, I’m dry. Tomorrow I’ll be dry. And then we’ll see what happens. ‘One day at a time’ is a real thing.”

The key, he says, is to believe God, and then to lay his anxieties at the Creator’s feet: Titus. The thirst for alcohol. The desire to be a better husband, a better father to his children.

As a part of his daily recovery, Haines says a simple prayer: “Lord, forgive my unbelief.”

Three Things to Avoid When Angry

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin.” (Ephesians 4:26a GNT)

We all get angry from time to time. We may handle it differently, but none of us can escape the emotion entirely. But just because we get angry doesn’t mean we’re sinning.

The Bible says, “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin” (Ephesians 4:26a GNT). Paul tells us in this passage not to let our anger lead us into sin. That means that anger isn’t necessarily sin. The truth is, we can deal with our anger in both appropriate and inappropriate ways.

Unfortunately, most of us express our anger in ways that get us further from our goals instead of moving us closer to them.

For example, here are three things to avoid when angry:

Don’t suppress your anger. Don’t store it up inside. When you suppress anger without expressing it in proper ways, it’s like taking a soft drink bottle and shaking it up. One day it’s going to pop! It’ll impact your body eventually. Doctors tell us a number of physical ailments are often brought on by suppressed anger.

Don’t repress it. When you repress your anger, you simply deny it’s there. Deny your anger often enough and you’ll be depressed. When I used to do more counseling, I’d hear many people tell me they were depressed, but they were really just angry. They just didn’t think that Christians should get angry, so they simply bottled it up inside. Denying anger is a sin. It’s called lying.

Don’t express it in inappropriate ways. We can express anger in a variety of inappropriate ways. We pout, spit sarcasm, manipulate, or do something stupid (get drunk, have affairs, etc.). None of those approaches get us anywhere near the result we’re looking for.

So what should we do with our anger?

Confess it. You don’t just admit the anger, but you also admit the cause. You tell God — and whoever you’re angry with — that you’re frustrated or you feel threatened. The more honest you can be in your relationships, the easier it will be to get to the root causes of your anger.

Here’s the good news about your anger: You may have grown up in a home where anger was consistently expressed in appropriate ways. Inappropriate anger is learned, but it can be unlearned, too. You can change. You don’t have to stay the same.

Anger, Pain and Depression

SOURCE: Nando Pelusi, Ph.D./Psychology Today

Anger, pain and depression are sometimes perceived as one big emotion, but when you don’t distinguish between them, they could end up fueling each other.

Anger, pain and depression are three negative experiences so closely bound together it can sometimes be hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Pain is a complex phenomenon that has emotional and physical components. The emotions play a huge role in the experience of pain, and pain is intimately associated with depression. It’s long been known that the psychic pain of depression feeds anger. But just as often, anger fuels depression.

A powerful emotion physiologically and emotionally, anger often feels good—but only for the moment. It can be a motivating force that moves you to action. But there are good actions and bad ones; it’s vital to distinguish between the two.

Many people confuse anger and hostility. Anger is a response to a situation that presents some threat. Hostility is a more enduring characteristic, a predisposition, a personality trait reflecting a readiness to express anger.

Anger is usually anything but subtle. It has potent physiological effects. You feel it in your chest. You feel it in your head. You feel it coursing through your body.

Nevertheless, anger can be insidious. Anger confers an immediate sense of purpose; it’s a shortcut to motivation. And if there’s something depressed people need, it’s motivation. But anger creates a cycle of rage and defeatism.

When you feel anger, it provides the impulse to pass the pain along to others. The boss chews you out, you then snap at everyone in your path. Anger, however, can eventually lead you into self-pity, because you can’t slough off the self-hurt.

Anger is classically a way of passing psychic pain on to others. The two-step: You feel hurt, “poor me,” “I hate you.” It’s a way of making others pay for your emotional deficits. It is wise to change that tendency. Whether or not anger fuels depression, it isn’t good for the enjoyment of life.

Here are ways to keep anger from feeding your depression.

  • First, of course, is to identify anger and to acknowledge it. Anger is one of those emotions whose expression is sometimes subject to taboos so that people can grow up unable to recognize it; they feel its physical discomfort but can’t label it.
  • Build a lexicon for your internal states. If you have a word for your emotional state, then you can begin to deal with it. Feelings are fluid; you need to stop and capture them in a word, or else you lose them and don’t know you have them. A label improves your ability to understand your feelings.
  • View your anger as a signal. It is not something to be escaped. It is not something to be suppressed. It is something to be accepted as a sign that some deeper threat has occurred that needs your attention.
  • Make yourself aware of the purpose your anger serves. Be sure to distinguish purpose from passion. Things that have a positive purpose seek betterment, growth, love, enhancement, fulfillment. Things that have a negative purpose are motivated by a sense of deficiency. Your boss yells at you, you feel diminished; the anger you express at others is driven by the blow you’ve just received. Are you enraged about an inequity or unfairness?In order to identify your motivation, you need to look within. It’s a matter of becoming psychological-minded and engaging in introspection. Tune into the inner dialogue that you customarily have with yourself.
  • If your anger is deficiency-motivated, driven by a wish to rectify a wrong you believe done to you, work on acceptance. Give up your obsession about the wrong. See that the opposite of anger is not passivity but more functional assertiveness.
  • Uproot mistaken beliefs that underlie your response. Very often anger is the result of beliefs that lead you to place unreasonable demands on circumstances, such as, that life must be fair. Unfairness exists. The belief that you are entitled to fairness results from the mistaken idea that you are special. If you feel that you are special, you will certainly find lots to be angry about, because the universe is indifferent to us.Insisting that life must be fair is not only irrational, it will cause you to collect injustices done to your noble self. Even if you are experiencing nothing more than your fair share of unfairness, such a belief can still fuel rage and lead to depression.Those who hold the deep belief that life should always be fair cannot abide when it is unfair. That leads directly to rage that is totally inert, because they believe there is nothing that they can do about the unfairness. They feel helpless and hopeless—in other words, depressed. Self-pity is another description of the same phenomenon.
  • Notice your own complaining. Listen for both overt and covert complaining. Overt complaining hassles others. It’s really a manipulative strategy. Know when it’s becoming a downer and a barrier to a strategy of effectiveness—like complaining about a fly in your soup. Covert complaining hassles you; it drags you down into passivity and inertia. Once you notice it, determine to give it up.
  • Once you can accept that life sometimes is unfair, then you can pursue positive purpose. You can work constructively against injustices you find, transforming your anger into passion. Or you can pursue fulfillment in spite of the unfairness that exists.

23 Things to Remember If You Love Someone with Depression

SOURCE:  

You’re in love with this wonderful person–a man who truly gets you, or a woman who makes you laugh every day. There’s a kind of connection you feel in your solar plexus and you know this is someone you want to stay with, be loyal to, and love with your whole heart.

Your relationship grows and deepens.  But after a while, something seems not quite right with your beloved.  Maybe he snapped at a waiter over nothing, which he’s never done before.  Or maybe she has started to doubt that you love her, which makes no sense because you’re more in love with her than ever.

Eventually it becomes clear:  your loved one is suffering from depression.  And precisely because it is depression and not, say, gallstones, your beloved is having trouble reaching out and explaining the experience to you.

Below are 23 things your loved one wishes you understood about depression and how it’s affecting them.

1.  They’re suffering from a brain imbalance, not a character disorder

Research has shown that in some depressed people an important part of the brain (called the hippocampus) is 9-13% smaller than in people who do not suffer from depression. And the more bouts of depression the person has suffered, the smaller it is. To complicate things a little more, research also shows that a heavy load of stress over a long period of time can shrink this area of the brain.  So, depression can start from intense emotional strain and become biological over time.

2.  Their motivation is impaired

The brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) responsible for that the feeling we call “motivation” are dopamine and norepinephrine. If you’re lucky enough to have ample amounts of them surging through your brain, you get up every morning feeling ready to tackle your tasks and responsibilities for the day. But many who are suffering from depression have low levels, leaving them devoid of even enough motivation to get out of bed. Telling these folks they just need to start exercising or find a job is like telling someone with the flu they just need to stop throwing up. It’s not something they can instantly control.

3.  The worse the depression, the less they care…about anything

Motivation isn’t the only casualty that depressed people experience. As the brain becomes increasingly depressed, the person often experiences apathy—a lack of interest in life’s activities and relationships. Barrie Davenport gave the best description of it in her blog post on Live Bold and Bloom: “It’s white noise. Dead air. You feel like a chunk of flavorless tofu. Not happy. Not sad. Not angry. And certainly not passionate.” It is one of the most heartbreaking aspects of depression, because it creates so much interpersonal upset: loved ones fret more and more about the person’s wellbeing, but the person cares less and less about their fretting.

4.  They often feel “broken”

You may even hear them use this term about themselves. There is a sad finality to this word, so it’s important to disagree with this judgement. People with depression are not broken any more than people with diabetes or cancer are broken. It is a condition, an illness—something to address and manage. It might be a life-long challenge, but it does not mean the person is condemned to life-long pain.

5.  They don’t want to be a burden

Depression is not a ploy for attention. The last thing people with depression want is to inconvenience people they care about. They already feel bad about themselves; becoming a burden only deepens that. And yet, they need help. They need people to show up for them. So the trick is to convey your unwavering love and support for them, regardless of what it’s doing to your life. Not easy, but crucial.

6.  Their illness may show itself as deep sadness

Most people equate depression with sadness. In fact, most people will loosely describe anyone who is bereaved and crying a lot as “being depressed.”  If the person suffered through abuse, abandonment, or a significant loss as a child, it may have imprinted their sadness deep into their minds, which they basically relive every day. Without these experiences being processed in adulthood, they stay stuck in their childhood grief, manifesting as depression.

7.  Or it may show itself as anger

In my work with combat veterans, I found that many depressed soldiers experienced their depression as anger or even rage and not as much as sadness…at least not initially. (I also often found that when they felt safe enough to dig into it further, underneath that anger was profound, almost unbearable, grief and sadness from all the layers of loss they witnessed and experienced.) Uncharacteristic anger is another way depression can show itself–a sign that can be easily missed.

8.  Or it may show itself as anxiety

Research is showing more and more genetic and neurobiologic overlaps between depression and anxiety. This would explain why 90% of people with an anxiety disorder have many of the symptoms of depression and why 85% of people with depression also experience anxiety. Is this because the experience of depression makes us worried that we’ll lose our jobs or our families? Is it because anxiety disorders are so difficult to deal with that we get worn down emotionally and start to feel hopeless? Hard to tell. But increasingly, we’re understanding that there are many complex issues at play.

9.  They may be extremely sensitive to criticism

One of the least recognized symptoms of depression (specifically “atypical depression”) is an extreme sensitivity to criticism. What might have been meant as nothing more than an opinion, e.g., “Blue is a better color for you,” is perceived as a criticism that the person is wearing green. This is not a personality trait; once the depression is treated, this hypersensitivity resolves.

10.  It may have started with a specific incident

As I mentioned earlier, painful things that happen to us early in life can leave imprints on our brains that affect us our whole lives. The more powerful the experience, the more difficult it is for a child to understand and integrate it fully and therefore the bigger the impact it’s likely to have. But events in adulthood can be just as devastating, especially if it causes upheaval of one’s identity. Divorce is hard for almost everyone, but it’s hardest on those who feel that the meaning of their roles and lives have been altered because of it. A mastectomy is always painful and scary, but it can become a source of deep depression if it threatens the woman’s identity.

11. Or it may be cumulative from many incidents

Research shows that there can be a cumulative effect from a long string of “minor” events. For instance, being verbally criticized or ridiculed over many years almost always wears down the person’s sense of self-worth, which can become a depressive episode. Multiple job losses can create a new (but inaccurate) negative narrative that the person comes to believe, deepening into a depressive episode if it’s not robustly challenged.

12.  Or it may be chemical and not from any incident at all

Genetics play a role in pretty much everything, and those who have a long familial history of depression are more vulnerable to depressive episodes than those with no family history.  If the person was exposed to those family members directly while growing up, they may have also unwittingly learned negative patterns of thinking that contribute to depression.

13.  Their sleep patterns are usually way off

Some will sleep every minute they can, even to the point of sleeping through important events (like getting up in time for work!) And others have a terrible time sleeping, even when they’re exhausted. A change in sleep pattern is one of the classic signs of depression.

14.  Their eating patterns are usually way off, too

Like sleep, a change in their usual pattern of eating is almost a given. Again, some will eat compulsively trying to feel better and others have no energy or motivation to eat at all. It shows up as significant weight loss or weight gain.

15.  They may also have a lot of body pain

Sometimes people present in the doctor’s office with body pain that ends up having no medical cause.  Headaches, back pain and stomach pain are the most frequently reported kinds of body pain associated with depression, and are frequently misdiagnosed.  Most of these improve as the depression is treated and abates.

16.  They feel profoundly alone

Our culture values productivity and strength, so being crippled with exhaustion and paralyzing emotion (sad, mad, or scared) puts the depressed person at risk of being ridiculed, criticized, or in some other way degraded, all of which creates a sense of being “different” and somehow “less.” Often, the depressed person thinks the “solution” is to use all their energy to hide what’s happening from their co-workers, friends, even loved ones, which only intensifies their sense of alienation.

17.  They may frequently think about death or suicide

Alienation—that feeling of being utterly alone in the world with no one to talk to or lean on—is one of life’s most painful experiences. For some, it is unbearable and leads to thoughts of suicide as a way to end the pain. People who are severely depressed think about suicide far more often than anyone would imagine, and certainly more often than they let on.  In fact, research shows that most people who die by suicide have been “rehearsing” it in their minds for quite some time.  So it’s essential that you take this condition seriously and help your beloved get some kind of intervention.

18.  Exercise helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

Motion improves emotion. It helps reduce anxiety, it helps dissipate anger, and it helps ease depression. Even a 10-minute walk (in an environment that feels nurturing, not stressful) can mobilize the body’s fluids and the brain’s blood flow in positive ways. Research has shown over and over again that there is a segment of the population who can completely erase their depressive symptoms through exercise, and that the more exercise these folks do, the better they feel. It’s not true, or even possible, for all of us (for instance those who are wheelchair bound or chronically ill with another disease), and it is no small task to start when you’re seriously depressed.   But it has completely changed the lives of many.

19.  Psychotherapy helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

People who have suffered neglect, abuse, trauma, great loss, combat, or assault often need someone knowledgeable and grounded with whom to talk through their difficult experiences. Even without those major events, some people experience a significant improvement in their symptoms through psychotherapy. Those of us trained in providing psychotherapy have studied and practiced this art extensively under expert supervision. There is a long list of helpful techniques a therapist can employ that helps ease depression, but there is an equally long list of things not to do, and only someone trained will be adequately skilled to provide safe care.

20.  Medication helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

I suffered a terrible bout of depression in my 30s that no amount of psychotherapy could fully treat. When I finally accepted my doctor’s urging to try an antidepressant, the effect was nothing short of miraculous: within 3 weeks, I had a kind of mental resilience I had never known before. The best way to describe it is that it gave me a new kind of mental shock absorbers. Instead of every pebble in life’s road feeling like a boulder, I glided over them with grace. Sometimes, medication is exactly what the person needs.

21.  It may take several weeks before an antidepressant starts to work

Don’t expect your beloved to “snap out of it” once he or she is on medication.  When prescribed, let’s say, fluoxetine (also known as Prozac), the capsule is not filled with serotonin. It’s a medication that rebuilds the serotonin receptors (among other things). That rebuilding process takes time; how much time is different for each person. For some, they start to feel better in a week or two. But lots of people take longer—up to 6 weeks—before they feel the effects.  So be patient.

22.  It may take several months to find the right medication

If the antidepressant the doctor has prescribed hasn’t improved the patient’s condition by 4-6 weeks, usually the doctor will prescribe another antidepressant. And then another, and so on, until the patient starts to feel significantly better. Unfortunately, there is no short-cut here—no blood work that will tell the doctor what to prescribe. There are some antidepressants that are better at certain things than others (for instance, escitalopram—“Lexapro”—treats both depression and anxiety, and bupropion—“Wellbutrin”—is used to treat atypical depression.) But there can be a significant period of trial and error.  They’ll need reassurance that you understand this and don’t blame them for not getting better.

23.  Friends and family who stick by them are treasured beyond words

Because of the alienation those with depression so often feel, the friends and family who stick with them and weather their storm of depression become their most trusted and appreciated allies. That kind of loyalty can be life-saving.

Depression is at nearly pandemic levels world-wide, so don’t hesitate to let others know these important points about depression.  The more we know and understand, the stronger we all are.

God Doesn’t Want You to Always Feel So Guilty

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Jason Jones

After my son, Jacob, died in an accident while I was asleep in the house, I struggled with debilitating guilt.

Guilt can be powerful.

For the first few years after the accident, it felt like an all-consuming force that I couldn’t let go of but one that I wanted desperately to run away from. I hated myself so much for all the things I could have done differently that day.

I felt so ashamed, angry, stupid and unworthy. I felt like a failure as a dad and a husband. The weight of carrying the guilt was something my therapist and I worked on for quite some time. Session after session, we would talk through it. There were a lot of tears and painful discussions.

Eventually, my therapist was able to help me realize some truths that slowly started to sink in over time. None of it was overnight. And none of it was like a light bulb moment to point to that instantly made me feel better.

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on.

Therapy is like a farmer tending to his garden. You keep watering and picking weeds, and one day you show up and something starts sprouting out of the dirt. You just have to keep showing up to do the work. During that time, I learned some really important realities while working on my guilt:

We Aren’t Defined By Our Mistakes

Early on, I beat the heck out of myself over what happened. I felt like I had failed my family. Most of all, I felt like I had failed Jacob.

The shame was permeating my entire identity. This caused unhealthy behavior, added stress and was a strain on my marriage and my ability to be a father to my daughters.

Through therapy, though, I was able to realize that one accident or mistake doesn’t define who I am. I’m still a good person, husband and father.

Healing Can Start When You Accept Responsibility

This step was incredibly difficult and took a very long time for me to work through. Although I definitely felt it, I was scared to death to say that I had any responsibility in Jacob’s accident. I fought as hard as I could and as long as I could to not accept it.

I was terrified to think what it meant about me that my decisions may have led my son’s death. What does it say about me as a father? Does it mean I am a bad person? Am I a terrible father? Did I fail my family? Am I worthy of being loved?

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on. This put me on a hamster wheel of personal torture that I couldn’t figure out how to get off of.

Thankfully, with hours upon hours of working with my therapist, I was able to get to a place where I could bear the guilt without it continuing to rule my life. Bearing the guilt meant I had taken and accepted responsibility for what I could have done to prevent this accident. There were things I could have done differently. I accept that. I bear that guilt, but it doesn’t control me anymore.

Giving Up Is Not an Option, No Matter How Bad It Gets

There were times when I wanted to die because I felt like such a failure in my guilt and shame. I thought about how I wouldn’t have to feel this way anymore and I would be with Jacob.

But, then I would quickly realize the amount of pain I would leave the rest of my family in. What a wreck I would leave behind. My therapist would tell me, “All you have to do is think about getting through each minute, each hour, then each day. Get out of bed and put your feet on the ground. Take a step, then another step. One foot in front of the other and keep breathing.”

It felt like torture at times, to keep going, but I knew inside that I could not give up. I couldn’t give up on my wife and my daughters. And I couldn’t give up on myself. No matter how hard it gets—you can’t give up.

This summer, I stumbled upon a song from a band called Colony House that really resonated with me.

Two of the members of Colony House, Will and Caleb Chapman, are sons of Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth Chapman. Back in 2008, one of Mary Beth and Steven Chapman’s daughters was killed when she accidentally ran out in front of Will’s car when he was driving up the driveway at their home. It was a total accident and terrible tragedy. From interviews I’ve seen, Will struggled with a deep sense of guilt after the accident.

In the song “Won’t Give Up,” Colony House sings about those feelings. The song starts:

I wear the guilt upon my chest
Cause I feel like I’ve earned it
And keep the bloodstains on my hands
To show that I’ve done this

Oh how I wish I could escape that day
Take back time and make everything OK
But I can’t

Oh, the pictures in my head
They roll like the movies
I shut my eyes to cut the thread
But my memory shows no mercy

It was like someone climbed into my head and pulled out how I felt and then wrote a song about it.

It ends like this:

Too many dreams I didn’t want to dream
Too many nights alone where I can’t sleep
I’ve got the devil on my back
Trying to take home from me
But I see Jesus out in front
He’s reaching back for the lonely
Reaching back cause He loves me
I take His hand because she loved me

No I won’t give up now

Sometimes our guilt feels like it’s taking a hold of us and dragging us into hell. It’s like our past mistakes are yelling at us through a megaphone, constantly reminding us of what we’ve done.

But I can tell you it is possible to find freedom from what can seem overwhelming and paralyzing.

Healing can begin when we accept that we are human and we all make mistakes. And the transformative healing takes place when we accept that our mistakes don’t define who we are as a person.

Relationships: Healthy Conflict

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a book by Steve Arterburn

Often the big problem with anger in marriage is not that anger sometimes appears, but how the couple handles it when it does. One of the weakest links in most relationships is how conflict is addressed and resolved.

Conflict problems come in two sizes: conflict avoidance and conflict escalation. Either can be the cause of the other.

Avoiding conflict allows issues to build to a boiling point, which upgrades them to atomic-level explosions when they come to a head. Conflict escalation, on the other hand, can be such a traumatic experience that it leads couples to avoid facing their issues altogether. The resulting cold war creates an atmosphere of tension that reduces intimacy and builds walls. The solution is not to avoid important differences, but to set ground rules for effective communication when conflict arises.

It’s a simple, three-step process.

STEP 1: LISTEN

The first rule in effective conflict resolution is to listen carefully to everything your mate is saying—both on the surface and beneath it. Failure to listen is one of the most common causes of miscommunication. As one man told his friend, “My wife says I don’t listen to her. At least, I think that’s what she said.”

To see whether you really listen to your mate, do this two-point check on yourself the next time the two of you attempt to resolve a conflict. First, when your mate begins to speak, do you find yourself getting angry and planning your response even before your mate’s first sentence is complete? Second, do you find yourself interrupting and refuting before your mate completes all he or she intends to say?

These common tendencies indicate that you are not listening. Your castle is closed, the drawbridge is up, and you are notching your arrows for the counterattack. When both partners do this, they might as well be locked in separate rooms for all the good their discussion is doing. Neither is hearing the other.

Observing sound speaker/listener techniques can do much to resolve conflicts effectively. The first rule is that one person—let’s say your spouse— has the floor at a time and holds it without interruption as long as needed to say what she feels.

The spouse should limit what she says to the subject at hand, and it’s important that she avoid being accusative. She should talk about her own thoughts and feelings concerning the controversy and not attack her husband’s point of view or motives. (“Here is why I think we need to buy that new sofa …”) That means using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I” statements unite, while “you” statements are interpreted as attacks and create alienation and distance. (“You never seem to notice how ragged and lumpy those cushions are.”) She should avoid name-calling, judgments, criticisms, and all-encompassing assumptions such as “you always” or “you never” statements.

You must remain quiet and listen carefully and respectfully until she finishes. Though you disagree and may be angry yourself, you must not appear bored or show contempt with body language or facial expressions. Disagreement is no excuse for disrespect.

STEP 2: REPEAT YOUR MATE’S POINTS

Before you present your own view of the issue, you must paraphrase what you heard back to your wife to be sure you understood. She listens to your paraphrase without interrupting, and then she either affirms or corrects as needed. To ensure complete understanding, you should limit your paraphrase to a maximum of three sentences at a time before pausing for her affirmation or correction.

STEP 3: REBUTTAL

When your wife agrees that you have understood her correctly, you make your rebuttal to her original statement. As you do this, your positions reverse, and she becomes the listener, making no interruptions until you finish and then paraphrasing your words back to you as you did for her. The two of you continue this process back and forth until you reach some kind of agreement or resolution.+

You may think this procedure seems unnatural. Bingo! That’s the whole point. You already know what happens when you tackle controversy by doing what comes naturally. Having an ordered procedure tends to defuse the powder keg.

 

+These rules of engagement are adapted from the book, A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998).

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Arterburn, S. (2013). 7-minute marriage solution, the: 7 things to start! 7 things to stop! 7 minutes that matter most!. Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing.

Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Family Life/Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Over time, repeated hurts can build up to destroy a relationship, but these suggestions can help you heal before the damage is done.

For nearly two centuries, Beethoven’s death was a mystery. The famous musician suffered from irritability, depression, and abdominal pain. His dying wish was that his illness would be discovered so that “the world may be reconciled to me after my death.”

In 1994, two Americans launched a study to determine the cause of Beethoven’s end. Chemical analysis of a strand of his hair showed his killer—lead poisoning1.

More than likely, it was a little poison in everyday activities that took his life. It could have come from drinking out of lead lined cups or having dinner on a lead lined plate—both common household items in that day. Or perhaps it came from eating contaminated fish or even the extensive consumption of wine. It didn’t come in one lump sum, but the lead killed him slowly and quietly—one little bit of poison at a time.

That’s also how bitterness destroys a marriage. It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It’s a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it.

Recently, I have witnessed what a bitter wife does to a relationship. The problems with her husband are real, and her anger is justified. However, what keeps their marriage from healing is not only the problems that he has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness she guards in her heart.

Little by little, day by day, she has allowed this bitterness to poison her. Her husband will do something disappointing, and instead of confronting the problem, she silently holds it against him. He continues to make the same mistakes, and she continues to harbor her resentment.

This pattern has gone on for years, and now the love she once felt has numbed and hardened her heart. Recently she walked out on their marriage wearing a list of her husband’s transgressions as her armor. Reflecting back on his behavior, she nurses her wounds with words that assure her that their marriage was a mistake—”I knew it all along,” she says.

What causes bitterness?

In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.

Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person who hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.

What’s wrong with bitterness?

A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible:

1. Bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your spouse doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he or she straightens out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you?

Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our spouses?

Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your spouse, but also for yourself.

The other day, I found that my disappointment in my friend was turning into its own form of bitterness. So I sought the Scriptures for guidance. As always, the Word of God shone brilliant light on my own darkness. I was so moved by the verse I read that I wrote it down over and over until there was no more room left on the page. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love mercy as much as they love justice?

2. Bitterness doesn’t give your spouse a chance to repent. If you’ve been holding in your hurt, your spouse may not even know he or she has offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure—eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. In this case, go ahead and tell him or her what’s been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out.

Perhaps your spouse does know of your unhappiness, but chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give your spouse the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as marriage counseling, may need to take place.

You may ask, “How many times does my spouse have to do something before I’m justified in my bitterness?” Peter had a similar question in Matthew 18:21 (NASB). He asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus replied in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

No matter how many times your spouse may do something, you are still responsible for forgiving him or her.

(Note: If your spouse is physically abusing you, get out of your house and do not stay there. A person who is physically abusive needs extensive counseling and rehabilitation. However, no matter how the situation ends, you can still work on forgiveness from the heart.)

3. Bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of moldy bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you were to look at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn’t reflect what’s really happening below.

Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, demeanor, and even your health.

In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person’s criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It’s the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:6). When you allow bitterness into your life, it extends to your family, your church body, and everyone else involved in your life.

Getting rid of bitterness

You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you’ve convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing begins with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Here are four steps to take to begin healing from bitterness:

1.Confess your bitterness as a sin. It’s so easy to justify our attitude when we’ve been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’  springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” You must seek peace with your spouse and the grace to forgive.

2. Ask for God’s strength to forgive your spouse and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It’s hard to be tender-hearted to a spouse who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit. For more information on how to forgive, read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s article, “When It’s Hard to Forgive.”

3. Make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your spouse about it. After you’ve made your list, pray about which things you can let go and which need to be resolved. If you can let them go, then do so. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your spouse about them.

Before talking to your spouse, let him or her know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to your spouse. Then talk about your hurts. Don’t just dump all your irritations and criticisms on your spouse, but speak in love, rationally and gently.

If you feel like you can’t talk to your spouse alone, then ask a pastor or mentor couple to join you in the discussion. Make sure your spouse knows that someone else will be there. Once you begin, your spouse may deny the behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.

4. Worry about changing yourself, not your spouse. You cannot change your spouse—only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your spouse’s eye? (Matthew 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your spouse and need to be mended. Even though your spouse’s sin goes unresolved for now, he or she will answer for it one day before God (Matthew 10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.

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