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Archive for the ‘Emotions/Moods’ Category

3 Ways Your Childhood Impacts Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Ann Malmberg

Let’s go back in time. Think about when you were a kid. Are there things your family did that you were later surprised to learn was not how everyone else did it?

Did you keep butter in the fridge or on the table? Were birthdays a week-long celebration or not that big of a deal? Did you sit down at the dinner table every night at 6:00pm on the dot? Are there things you do a certain way today simply because that’s how it was always done in your home growing up?

The fact is, what we experience in our family of origin (which is the people who raise us and who we spend most of our childhood with) often does show up in your couple relationship in one way or another. How so? The following scenarios demonstrate three ways family of origin experiences can manifest in your relationship:

How strongly you adhere to traditions
Scenario A: On Christmas Eve, you always drink hot chocolate out of your special Christmas mug and open one present, saving the rest for Christmas morning, when you practice patience and build your anticipation by always opening stockings first. It’s just how things are done—it wouldn’t feel like Christmas otherwise.

Scenario B: On Christmas Eve, sometimes you celebrate at home, some years you travel to your aunt and uncle’s house a few hours away, and a couple years you even got to celebrate in Florida with your grandparents! Your family went with the flow – being together was the main goal.

Whether you identify more with the first or second scenario, chances are you’ll carry these tendencies with you as an adult and into your relationship. As you begin to form your own family unit, you’ll likely think about the role traditions will play and how important it is to you to carry on the ones you grew up with or create your own. If you grew up in a more go-with-the-flow family, you’ll probably have a similar attitude.

How you handle a major stressful event
Your grandfather was just admitted to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. Your mother needs to go to see him and be with your grandmother at the hospital – she’ll be gone for three days.

Scenario A: Your family goes into emergency mode. You and your siblings each have specific chores you’re in charge of, and everyone is expected to step up and help out. There are specific “dad’s-in-charge” rules that everyone knows and is expected to follow.

Scenario B: Your family goes into chaos mode. The house is a mess and homework isn’t getting done, but hey, McDonald’s for dinner! (You never get that when Mom’s home.) Dad just does his best making sure you’re getting off to school in the morning fully dressed.

It might not have been this black or white, but you likely have a general sense of how your family reacted to out-of-the-ordinary events. You might have actually felt a sense of rigid order or disorganized chaos during those times, or you just felt like this is how it must be for everyone.

Have you gone through stressful life events with your partner? What tendencies do you fall back on? If they are the opposite of your partner’s, you might experience some conflict, especially if you don’t have an understanding of where each other is coming from (and sometimes even if you do.)

How you deal with conflict and emotions
Your older sister has been skipping school – and your parents just found out about it.

Scenario A: The dinner table is icily silent except for the clinking of silverware on plates. You look nervously from your parents to your sister as both sides seethe silently. Your mom says, “Please pass the rolls,” and with those four words you know your sister is so in for it later.

Scenario B: The dinner table is silent for exactly one minute before the yelling begins. There is no mistaking the fact that your parents are pissed, and your sister is defiant. Punishment is dealt out amidst tearful protests and the whole thing ends with a dramatic stomping exit and slamming bedroom door. “Please pass the rolls,” your mom says chipperly.

What is your natural inclination when handling high emotions or addressing a conflict? Do you display your emotions clearly and confront the issue/person head on in the heat of the moment? Or do you maintain a reserved exterior subscribing to the notion that emotions are best tempered and kept to yourself while conflict is dealt with quietly? Neither is really ideal, but the behavior you were accustomed to growing up has likely etched itself into your psyche in some way. Perhaps you’ve learned to lower your voice instead of yelling when you’re angry or your logical side knows not to bury your emotions, but when you’re tired or stressed, these natural, knee-jerk tendencies can still bubble up.

So what does all of this mean for your relationship?

Takeaway #1: Your family of origin experience does have an effect on your couple relationship, whether you’d like it to or not.

Takeaway #2: Understanding differences and similarities between you and your partner’s family of origin can give you a lot of insight into certain dynamics of your relationship.

Takeaway #3: Communication is key. Talking to each other about your family of origin experiences not only increases intimacy and mutual understanding, it also gives you the opportunity to reflect on what each of you wants to carry forward or leave behind. What is most important to you? What are possible benefits and pitfalls of your similarities and differences? Where might you have to compromise? Discussing expectations now can prevent conflict and hurt feelings later.

9 Tips for When You Can’t Forgive Yourself

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

I can’t believe you did that. You idiot. You can’t be trusted. You’re terrible. And I’ll never forgive you.

These words can be devastating to someone who is asking for forgiveness. But when these are the words you say quietly to yourself, they can be absolutely crippling. Some of the harshest words you may ever hear are the words you say in your heart: “I’ll never forgive myself.

Earlier, I wrote about what forgiveness is not, what it is, and why it’s important. I described how the wrong that one finds difficult to forgive is like a “painful video [that] plays inside your head” that you “cannot erase…from your mental hard drive.” It’s even worse when the person starring in this video replay, over and over again, is you.

Here are just some of the ways you hurt yourself when you can’t forgive yourself:

  • You keep reliving what you’ve done.
  • You let it affect your decisions.
  • You feel paralyzed by your past.
  • You verbally abuse yourself, quietly in the recesses of your own heart.
  • You make yourself feel unworthy.
  • You are afraid to take healthy risks.
  • You spiral into despair.
  • You don’t try to make things better because you don’t think you deserve to make things better.
  • You struggle to forgive others.
  • You struggle to trust yourself.

If this describes you, for whatever reason, I urge you to reconsider how you are handling and viewing yourself. Your marriage and family may ultimately be at stake. Working through this issue won’t be easy. Forgiving yourself can be hard work, but it’s worth it.

Here are 9 tips to consider when you can’t forgive yourself:

  1. Decide You Want to Let it Go

In my earlier forgiveness blog, I mentioned, “In the process of forgiving, the first barrier you have to remove is within your own mind. You must make the decision: I will not dwell on this incident.”  That decision doesn’t guarantee you’ll stop the mental video, but it draws a line in the sand that you have that goal. It’s a starting point.

  1. Look at What You’ve Done…Objectively

A big obstacle to forgiving yourself is the inability to see things objectively. Maybe what you did was a big deal…or maybe it just feels like it was. Pretend it was someone else who you love who did what you did. Ask yourself how you would view them. If you need to, look for help from someone you trust to examine what occurred.

  1. Own It, but Don’t be Owned by It

Taking responsibility for what you did is important. But one bad choice doesn’t have to own you or define you. You can’t control how others define you, but you can control how you define yourself.

  1. Grieve Your Loss

If a tragedy was averted in your situation, focus on the good of that, and be thankful. If, however, a tragic loss occurred, know that it’s okay to grieve the pain. Beating yourself up constantly is not a requirement of grief.

  1. Seek Forgiveness from Others, If Needed

Forgiveness from others can free you up to forgive yourself. If you haven’t yet, seek forgiveness from the person you hurt.

  1. Focus on What Can Be Learned

Everyone fails. Everyone stumbles. Everyone hurts others eventually. It’s part of the human experience and condition. But not everyone will learn from what they do. Be someone who is willing to learn from your past to benefit your future.

  1. Record Your Reflections

Sometimes capturing a record of your thoughts and feelings can help you face them honestly. Do some light journaling for a few days. Focus on what you are struggling to let go of and what you would do if you could be free of the burden of guilt you feel.

  1. Feel the Love

I hope you know someone in your life who loves you unconditionally. If so, draw them into your struggle—for encouragement. Their best help may be simply to listen well and to remind you that you are loved.

  1. Agree with God

If you know God and have confessed your wrongdoing to Him, you can know you are forgiven. So if Almighty God, the One who knows you better than yourself, forgives you, then you should agree with Him and forgive yourself.

FEAR & PANIC: DO’S AND DON’TS for Family and Friends

SOURCE:  June Hunt

To support a loved one who is struggling with fear, learn what to do and what not to do. You can very well be that person’s answer to prayer.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

• Don’t become impatient when you don’t understand their fear.
Do understand that what fearful people feel is real.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)

• Don’t think they are doing this for attention.
Do realize they are embarrassed and want to change.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

• Don’t be critical or use demeaning statements.
Do be gentle and supportive, and build up their self-confidence.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

• Don’t assume you know what is best.
Do ask how you can help.
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

• Don’t make them face a threatening situation without planning.
Do give them instruction in positive self-talk and relaxation exercises.
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13)

• Don’t make them face the situation alone.
Do be there and assure them of your support.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

• Don’t begin with difficult situations.
Do help them to begin facing their fear in small increments.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)

• Don’t constantly ask, “How are you feeling?”
Do help them see the value of having other interests.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

• Don’t show disappointment and displeasure if they fail.
Do encourage them and compliment their efforts to conquer their fear.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be absurd; there’s nothing for you to fear!”
Do say, “No matter how you feel, tell yourself the truth, ‘I will take one step at a time.’”
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be a coward; you have to do this!”
Do say, “I know this is difficult for you, but it’s not dangerous. You have the courage to do this.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

• Don’t say, “Quit living in the past; this is not that bad.”
Do say, “Remember to stay in the present and remind yourself, ‘That was then, and this is now.’”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

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

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa TerKeurst   Faithgateway

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

What You Have to Do Before You Forgive Someone: The Surprising First Step

SOURCE:  Heather Caliri/Relevant Magazine

My grandfather molested my older brother back when all of us were kids.

And not long after I found out, Grandpa died. When I heard the news of his passing, I felt a colossal indifference settle in my chest. I was surprised how much space nothingness takes up. I knew that nothingness is not forgiveness. I knew I was commanded to forgive my grandfather. But for a long time, I did not care.

This year, our grandmother also died. I realized I could not really mourn her passing without figuring out how to feel something about my grandfather. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. We refer to it during the Lord’s Prayer, study the Sermon on the Mount and confess our sins in order to rest in God’s pardon. I used to think I understood forgiveness. I used to think believing in Jesus made forgiveness easy. I imagined forgiveness was an act of will.

I used to think believing in Jesus made forgiveness easy. I imagined forgiveness was an act of will. Instead, I have learned that forgiveness is an undoing.

While I struggled to forgive my grandfather, I read Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms.

Much of the book is devoted to the complaint, or lament psalms, the ones we often avoid or edit because of their violence and bitterness. Brueggemann writes, “The psalms issue a mighty protest and invite us into a more honest facing of the darkness.”

It was in Brueggemann’s book that I started learning a way to forgive my grandfather. It did not involve clichés or forgetting. It lay in lament: a fierce reckoning with what had happened, and how I felt about it.

Brueggemann taught me that without lament, there’s no forgiveness. Here’s why:

Lament Forces Us to Be Honest With God

Psalm 137 starts so prettily—“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept. …” But its ending has a shocking twist: the Psalmist wishes for the deaths of Babylonian infants. Back when I thought I understood forgiveness, I did not know what to make of it.

But I’ve found answers in the book of Daniel. Putting Daniel and Psalm 137 side-by-side, it’s shocking that Daniel chose to be a faithful servant to the empire that decimated his world.

How did Daniel forgive?

I think it’s because his community did not sugarcoat their rage or explain away their bitterness. Instead, they shouted everything at God. As Brueggemann puts it, “What is said to Yahweh may be scandalous … but these speakers are completely committed. … Yahweh is expected and presumed to receive the fullness of Israel’s speech.”

I think the Israelite’s lament helped them surrender their hatred, reconcile with their enemies, achieve positions of influence and sow seeds for their eventual return to the Holy Land.

Lament Ensures We’re Not Deluding Ourselves About the State of Our Hearts

It’s easy to pay lip service to forgiveness when we’re still stuck in indifference. It’s easy to say we’ve forgiven if we haven’t felt our anger.

But if we look at Christ, He raged in the temple and wept by a grave. On the cross, God’s forgiveness was accompanied by tearing, shaking and darkness. It required suffering, torture and anguish.

How could I think forgiveness is ever easy?

In his book, The Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender says that smooth, unruffled acceptance is delusion. “For many [Christians], strong feelings are an infrequent, foreign experience. Their inner life is characterized by an inner coolness, bordering on indifference. Unfortunately, this is often mistaken for trust.”

It’s easy to pay lip service to forgiveness when we’re still stuck in indifference. It’s easy to say we’ve forgiven if we haven’t felt our anger.

Lament allows us to unleash our emotions to God so that we can get real about what we actually feel.

Lament Protects Us from Exposing Ourselves to People Who Aren’t Safe

When people hurt us, God commands us to forgive, period. But that doesn’t always mean we reconcile with them. In fact, without repentance, complete reconciliation is unwise.

Lewis B. Smedes put it this way in Forgive and Forget: “Forgiveness involves a heart that cancels the debt but does not lend new money until repentance occurs.”

Lament is an audit of our heart that gives us clear-eyed understanding. That process of discernment shields our hearts from unsafe people, so we can stay tender for everyone else.

It took years for God to start shifting the cold indifference I felt for my grandfather. And the biggest shift happened when I started writing laments.

I asked my brother for permission. Then, I sat and wrote out my anger, bitterness and numbness. I shared it with my siblings. I discussed it with some of my extended family. I posted it on my blog.

And to my surprise, the act of expressing my rage started moving my heart.

I am still trying to forgive my grandfather. I feel pity for his weakness and selfishness. I ache to consider the state of a heart capable of such destruction. I wonder if what he did to my brother was done to him.

I no longer expect forgiveness to happen easy-as-pie. Instead, I depend on the incredible power of lament. It will lead us to truth, connect us to God’s mercy and soften our hearts.

Depression: Take Steps In The Right Direction

SOURCE: AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELORS (AACC)

PORTRAITS

● Angela is frightened. Each morning she struggles to find the energy to get out of bed.  She feels so listless and down. Her kids need her, but she can’t summon the energy to even interact with them—much less prepare meals or clean the house.
● George is having a hard time thinking clearly.  He lost his job and just can’t seem to crawl out of the hole he feels like he’s fallen into. He can’t interview because he’s so down, so he sits around at home and plays on the computer.  And he just keeps spiraling downward.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS

● Depression differs from sadness.   When people are sad, they keep their self-respect, they feel better after crying, and they confide in others and it helps.
With depression, self-respect fades, crying does not help, and depressed persons often feel alienated because other people cannot seem to understand how they feel.
● Depression is a mood disorder and can be caused by difficult situations, unhealthy thought patterns, or can have a physiological cause.
● The most important symptoms are sadness and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
● Depression is often undiagnosed and untreated in older adults and can be viewed as a natural result of aging.
● Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men.
● One in eight individuals may require treatment for depression in their lifetime.
Despite the progress in detecting and treating depression, the majority of depressed people never get treatment.

Causes of Depression

–Inherited predisposition to depression
–Hormonal or chemical imbalance
–Feelings of failure or rejection
–Grief or loss
–Family problems—separation, divorce, abuse
–Thinking one has no control over any part of life; feelings of futility
–Negative thinking
–Isolation or loneliness
–Substance abuse
–Side effects of prescribed medications

Depression is not something you can just “snap out of.”  It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors.  Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.

 

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

—PROVERBS 12:25 (NKJV)

WISE COUNSEL

The most dangerous symptom of depression is suicidal ideation.  If you think you might hurt yourself, do not hesitate to get immediate help from family members or a mental health professional.

It is OK for you to take medications if needed to get depression under control.  It doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have enough faith.  It is possible that the depression is biochemical and that medication can straighten out the chemicals in your body and help you get over the depression.

According to the 2003 National Comorbidity Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:
● 35 million Americans (more than 16 percent of the population) suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives.
● In any given period, 13 to 14 million people experience the illness.

ACTION STEPS

1. Take care of yourself physically.
● Research shows that thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise is very helpful in elevating mood.  If there would be no health risks, assign yourself to moderate exercise such as a brisk walk.  Do this every day and get a partner to walk with—it makes it harder to skip a day if someone is waiting for you.
● Depression is best treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Get a medical checkup, and work with a doctor on a diet and exercise program.  Medication may be needed to treat a chemical imbalance.   Better eating habits (for example, less sugar and more vitamins) can also be a big help.

2. Deal with whatever situation might be behind the depression.
● For example, if you have recently suffered a significant loss, acknowledge that loss and begin to let yourself grieve.  Give yourself permission to feel, but then bring yourself back to the light.  It’s OK to feel bad, but it’s not OK to feel bad forever.
● Encourage honest thinking about what might be deep down, behind the depression.
You may need to talk to someone who is adept at drawing out buried hurts that might be fueling the depression.
● Keep a journal in which you write down thoughts that occur over the next couple of weeks regarding what is behind the depression.

3. Reconsider your thoughts.
● For example, you may be thinking, “I’m totally worthless. I have nothing to give to anyone.”  These are common lies people tell themselves.  The fact is that every person has value.
● Prepare a list of ten things you like about yourself—and three of them have to be physical characteristics.

4. Assess your social support systems and consider joining a support group.
● Who are your friends?  Are they people who help you feel better about yourself?
● What groups are you currently involved in?
● What is your church involvement?  Who at church could be of help and support?

Depressed Christians certainly should continue praying, reading the Bible, confessing sin and pursuing holiness, but unless God or a professional Christian counselor says otherwise, don’t assume the depression is caused by a spiritual problem.  That type of thinking can keep a depressed Christian from seeking professional help.

BIBLICAL INSIGHTS

But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.  And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough!  Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” —1 Kings 19:4
● Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs.  Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.
● While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.
● Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to
comfort us.

Then as [Elijah] lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank, and lay down again. —1Kings 19:5, 6
● Depression drains energy, twists values, and assaults faith.
● Depression can affect anyone.
● God responded mercifully. He did not castigate or condemn Elijah for his condition—something that many depressed Christians expect from God.  Even in the depths of depression God shows loving concern and a way out.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.— Psalm 42:5

● Depressed feelings sometimes cause some people to turn away from God.
● Others like David, however, allow those disquieted, depressed feelings to make them “hope in God,” remembering His goodness.
● During such times, living by faith takes on new meaning.  Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot feel or see.

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
— Isaiah 61:3

● The Bible recognizes the heaviness of depression.  God’s love and understanding reach out to those who are depressed and discouraged.
● He promises to give consolation, beauty in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.

 

PRAYER STARTER

“Lord, I feel like I am in darkness with no way out. I pray that You will help me discern what is really going on deep in my heart. If there is a chemical problem, help the doctors to discover it and treat it. If there is deep pain or shame, help me to bring it into the light and deal with it by Your grace.”

RESOURCES:

WWW.DEPRESSION.COM

WWW.CELEBRATERECOVERY.COM

When Fear Seizes You

SOURCE:  Stacey Reaoch/Desiring God

This past fall my husband had the privilege of going to Turkey to speak at a conference for Christian workers. Although I was excited for his opportunity, I was also feeling somewhat hesitant with the terrorist activity in nearby Syria. Thanks to modern technology, we planned to FaceTime every day to keep in close touch with each other.

One day during that week, our appointed time to connect went by with no contact from my husband. Maybe he’s just running late, I reasoned. I looked for text messages . . . negative. I checked to make sure my ringer was turned up loud enough . . . affirmative. Maybe he’s deep in conversation with someone. . . . But as the minutes turned into hours, fear began to seize me. Unfortunately, I learned of terrorists near the Turkey border as I began watching world news reports.

As fear began to consume me, every worst possible situation played out in my head. Had terrorists overcome the conference and taken captives? What would I do? My mind went through multiple scenarios: explaining to our children what had happened, looking for a job to support our family, and wondering whether to sell the house. By the time my husband was finally able to call, I had already decided where to move and how much to sell the house for. Come to find out, he was just fine.

Fear Feeds Irrationality

“During our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us.”

When fear seizes you, all your ability to think rationally evaporates. Life becomes overwhelming, and the promises of God are thrown out the window. When Moses sent the spies into Canaan to gather information for the people of Israel, fear of the looming giants became much more visible than any of the blessings Canaan had to offer. Although they obediently gathered fruit from the land, their report focused on all the seemingly impossible obstacles they faced.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27–28). As the spies exaggerated and gave the worst report possible, they compared themselves to grasshoppers and claimed the land would devour them (Numbers 13:32–33).

This fearful exaggeration infected the Israelites who succumbed to crying and grumbling against Moses and Aaron, and it even led them to claim they wish they’d died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:2–3)!

It seems Israel forgot God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan, despite the obstacles that looked so intimidating. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel” (Numbers 13:2). If the Israelites had truly trusted God’s promise, even their enemies in Canaan shouldn’t have been a threat to them. God was going to give Israel the Promised Land, just as he’d said to Abraham hundreds of years before. And during our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us too.

Fighting Off Fear

When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume your mind, here are seven things to remember:

1. God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

“We can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.”

2. God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

3. God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

4. God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).

5. God’s listening ear. Pour out your heart to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

6. God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).

7. God’s big picture plan. No matter how awful this trial may seem, God promises to use everything together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good in our situation at the time, but we can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.

So, when your child is diagnosed with cancer, or you just learned of a loved one in a car accident, or your husband comes home with news that he was let go from his job, prepare yourself for battle. Don’t let the Enemy use fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and his unchanging character.

9 Tips For Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety

SOURCE:  Helena Negru/Lifehack

Parents want nothing more than to see childhood remain a time of carefree wonder and joy for their children, an age of innocence wherein the troubles of the wider world are kept at a safe distance by caring adult oversight.

As such, the parents who have anxious children are faced with a difficult dilemma: How do they protect their children from the multitude of relatively “normal” activities (e.g. going to school, socializing with friends) that provoke anxiety and fear while also ensuring that they experience life fully and develop properly? How do they help their child manage anxiety?

There are no easy answers to the above question. Psychologist Tali Shenfield, PhD suggests that parents first evaluate the level of child’s anxiety with a free child anxiety screening test and then, depending on test results, use the following anxiety management strategies:

1. An “empathy first” approach

When most parents hear their child expressing irrational fears, their first response is to assure their child that, logically, there is nothing to worry about. While this act is well-intentioned, it’s usually ineffective; the brain of any anxious individual – young or old – is too engaged in the “fight or flight” response (wherein activity in the prefrontal cortex, the “logical” part of the brain, is suppressed) to properly process new information.

What an anxious child therefore really needs is a parent who simply feels with him- one who pauses with him, joins him in taking a few deep breaths, and then validates his emotions as being acceptable.

Once you have empathized with your child and he has visibly calmed down, then and only then should you look for possible solutions. Do this while engaging your child: Ask him what he thinks would help him to feel better and overcome his fears.

2. Avoid making your child feel like a problem to be fixed

Children – even children without chronic anxiety – frequently struggle with fears of being “different” from their peers or unacceptable to their parents. If your child feels like his anxiety means something is “wrong” with him, his issues with worry will only increase as he will be plagued by constant self-doubt.

To prevent the above from happening, avoid labelling your child (i.e. don’t call him an “anxious person” or a “worrier”); instead, explain to him fear’s historically beneficial role in protecting us from harm (i.e. our instincts once helped us to avoid predators in the wild).

Ideally, you should teach your child to see worry like a tool: It’s useful in some situations, but in others, our brains are simply reacting to “false alarms” due to instinct. Tell your child that it’s possible to learn a few simple methods for recognizing these false alarms and for dealing with them effectively.

3. Consider using play to help your child understand his anxiety

Role playing exercises, such as having your child create a character which embodies his worry, can help your child learn how to dismantle his anxieties. Use a toy (such as a doll or stuffed animal) to represent the character your child creates, then you and your child can sit together and practice talking the character out of his misplaced fears. Make sure that every time the character succeeds in overcoming his anxiety during the stories created for him, he ends up with a “happy ending” as a result.

4. Teach your child how to centre himself in reality

Our fears have a way of distorting reality, making situations appear much scarier than they actually are. To help your child overcome the mind’s innate tendency to exaggerate objects of worry, teach him to:

  1. Recognize worried thoughts as they happen. Visualization is useful here: Tell your child to imagine thoughts floating above his head in “thought bubbles,” then ask him to practice catching the fearful thoughts as they pop up.
  1. Deconstruct the thoughts he catches using factual evidence. Emphasize to your child that feelings are not facts. When faced with a worry, tell your child that he should weigh up factual evidence for and against what his mind is telling him (for example, if he fears failing a test, he should review the many times he has passed tests over the years and remind himself that he has studied thoroughly, making failure unlikely).
  1. Debate with his thoughts (if necessary). Using the facts he has just gathered, you child can debate with the worried thoughts his mind is producing until he eventually wins and overcomes them.

5. Allow your child to worry

The more your child feels as though he should be able to simply shove his worries away, the more he will believe he is somehow failing when he cannot. You should therefore avoid saying things like, “There’s no reason to be afraid” and instead encourage your child to express his worries.

Creating a “worry diary” is an excellent strategy for getting your child to vent what’s bothering him; have him spend 15 minutes a day writing down any worry that is weighing on him – no matter how small – and allow him to share those worries with you if he wishes. At the end of the 15 minutes, have him literally close the book on his worries and set them aside.

6. Affirm the importance of remaining in the present moment

Like anxious adults, anxious children spend a lot of time preoccupied with “what ifs.” Instruct your child to try to catch his “what if” thoughts and replace them with “what is” thoughts. For example, if he’s thinking, “What if my new friend stops liking me?” he should pause, focus on nothing but his breath for a few moments, then look around and take in “what is”: The sun shining as he waits for the bus, the sound of the birds in the trees, the feeling of the warm air.

Intentionally returning one’s focus to the present in this way (by focusing on sensory perceptions) is a form of Mindfulness, a popular therapeutic practice which has been repeatedly shown to lessen anxiety.

7. Help your child take “baby steps” in order to overcome fearful situations

It is usually impossible – and always unhelpful – for an anxious individual to avoid everything that is causing him anxiety. Instead, your child should try the “ladder” approach: Overcoming fearful situations by working up to them in a succession of small steps.

If your child is afraid of dogs, for instance, have him start by observing a familiar dog (one that belongs to a friend, for example) from a distance, then have him walk closer to the dog while it’s safely leashed, then have him try to pet the dog while another person is still holding the leash, and then finally, let him interact with the dog briefly while it’s off its leash. If this process is repeated a few times with a few different friendly dogs, your child will likely overcome his terror.

8. Have your child create a “calm down” checklist

Ask your child to write down a series of steps to take when he needs to calm down (e.g. pause, breathe deeply, count to ten, evaluate the facts of the situation, etc.), so that he has something clear to refer to when he begins to feel panicky and confused. Make sure that your child carries a copy of this checklist with him until he memorizes the steps.

9. Don’t blame yourself for your child’s anxiety

Many parents of anxious children wonder if they have somehow “caused” their child to become excessively fearful, but this is usually not the case: Genetics and environmental factors over which parents have limited control (bullying at school, for example, or a traumatic accident) often lie at the root of childhood anxiety – not “bad parenting.”

It’s important to avoid blaming yourself for your child’s anxiety; the more you do so, the more emotional you will become about the situation and the less able you will be to help your child stay calm (your own worry will eventually cause you to become reactive, which will affirm your child’s idea that there is something to be afraid of). Instead, see yourself as your child’s ally, a member of his team as he fights against anxiety.

Remember, being compassionate to yourself, as well as to your child, is essential when creating a calm, loving, and healthy home for your whole family. If you find yourself struggling to cope with your child’s anxiety, don’t go it alone – seek the aid of friends, family members, and if necessary, a mental health professional. With the right support, you and your child can triumph over irrational fears and live full, happy lives.

6 Prayers for Marital Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

SOURCE:  Jennifer Greenberg/The Gospel Coalition

“Can I ask you a personal question?” she said.

“Of course,” I replied. I already knew what she was going to say. Many before her had already asked, but I was still grappling with how to answer.

She hesitated, as if bracing herself to speak words physically painful to pronounce.

“Did your dad’s sexual abuse negatively affect your romantic relationship with your husband?” she asked. “I’ve been married for 20 years, and I still can’t shake this feeling of shame and anxiety. Every time we’re intimate, I feel sick. I’m afraid something is broken in my mind. I’m afraid my trauma is hurting my husband and destroying our marriage. What should I do? How can I heal from this?”

If you’re a pastor or counselor, you’ve likely encountered similar questions. If you’re a survivor of abuse, you may have asked them yourself. The devastating trauma of abuse is incalculable. Its pervasive pain affects the most intimate aspects of life.

And it’s not just women asking these questions. Men and women have confided that, while they desire intimacy, they can’t imagine feeling secure in a relationship. They fear their marriage is doomed to misery and divorce, or that they’d make terrible parents. Husbands and wives of survivors have asked me how they can help their traumatized spouse feel safe, loved, and attractive.

Part of the reason I struggle to answer such sensitive and complicated questions is because I’m still experiencing and working to understand my own recovery. I know from experience that these injuries are raw, painful, and personal. I don’t want to give superficial advice, or weigh survivors down under works-oriented to-do lists.

Thankfully, God has blessed us with therapists, physicians, and medications that can help us manage depression, anxiety, and other emotional injuries resultant from trauma. Ultimately, though, only God can heal the soul.

With that in mind, I’ve composed a series of prayers, in hope that you’ll be able to adapt them to fit your own situation, pray them for a loved one, or share them with a friend in need.

1. God, help me understand that you made sex.

Lord, in the beginning, you told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). You designed Adam to be attractive for Eve, and Eve to be attractive for Adam. You said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

It’s not good for me to feel alone. It’s not good for me to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or fearful of my own sexuality—you made it, and you designed it for me to enjoy. The pain of my past and the evil of others has clouded my perception of what you have made; yet I know everything you do is good.

Please help me to understand that sex is not sinful, degrading, or harmful. Free me from anxiety, humiliation, and dark memories. Let me feel the peace and love that you intend for me. Let me rest in the knowledge that you are my Creator and every part of my body—from my figure to my hormones—was designed by you.

2. Show me that sex is pure.

In Song of Solomon, the bride exclaims, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. . . . No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song 1:1–4).

Lord, I can’t imagine feeling the way this bride does. I can’t imagine viewing sex or sexuality with such innocence or confidence. She is bold. She is unabashedly desirous and flirtatious. She finds her fiancé attractive, and she can’t blame all the other ladies for thinking so too. She is eager to express her love physically.

I was taught by experience to be embarrassed and fearful of sex. Ungodly sexuality distorts my understanding, inhibits my expression, and weighs down my soul.

Lord, take away the confusion caused by abuse, betrayal, injustice, and other people’s evil. Help me to see sex as you see it: a pure gift from a holy God. Help me to realize that—though my abuser is guilty—I am innocent. Though my abuser expressed sexuality in heinous, distorted ways, I can express mine in righteous and loving ways. Because of your work in me, I can desire my spouse without shame or reserve. I can express the longings you gave me in holiness and healthiness.

3. Show me Jesus in my spouse.

Lord, you have blessed me with a godly spouse. They aren’t perfect, but they love me. They sometimes sin, but they aren’t abusive. Lord, teach me to view them how you view them. Let me see Jesus working in them. Let me seek and treasure the fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions. Lord, empower me to me see my spouse as you see them; someone you are conforming into the image of Christ.

Lord, free me from associating our intimacy with abuse, or their motives with my abuser’s motives. Instead, allow me to associate their good character with the Good Shepherd. Grow me in faith to adore my lover with unabashed passion and grace. For you did not give us a spirit of fear and embarrassment, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Free me to love fearlessly.

4. Bless my spouse.

God, it’s hard to trust that you’re good and faithful. It’s even harder to believe that my spouse really loves me. My abuser betrayed me. Those who should have intervened abandoned me. I expect disappointment and rejection, because that’s what I’m used to. But you, God, are unchangeable, righteous, and true. You are sovereign over my spouse’s heart. Fill me with such certainty of your devotion that I cannot doubt your work in my heart or theirs.

Help my spouse to forgive me when I’m wrong and be patient when I’m weak. Help me to forgive them when they’re wrong and be patient when they fail. Bless them with wisdom, Lord. Give them the clarity they need to help me navigate these challenges, and the wise advice to support my healing. Bolster them up behind and before. May my recovery be such a miraculous work, that their faith is strengthened because of it.

5. Show me how you see me.

Before your face, God, my value is not defined by what’s happened to me, or even by what I have done. Rather, my value is defined by what Jesus has done for me.

Teach me, Lord, to see myself as you do. Help me to know myself as your perfect, spotless, beautiful child and cherished heir of heaven. If I truly grasped in my heart of hearts how treasured, lovely, and pure you consider me, I’d never be ashamed again. Scatter the shadows that haunt me. Lift the veil that shrouds my face. Let me see myself as loved and accepted by you.

6. Take my heart and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.

Jesus, I cannot overcome my pain. There is too much fear, sorrow, anxiety, and confusion for me to untangle, let alone fix. But you are the Great Physician. You are my Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). You carried my sin to the cross. Jesus, you can carry my trauma, too. Bury it far from me. Let it weigh me down no more.

You are the Redeemer who made the lame walk and the blind see. By your power, the sick are healed and the dead raised to life again. You can heal my broken heart.

My recovery isn’t a to-do list. My happiness isn’t a standard I have to live up to, or a goal I must struggle to achieve. When I rely on my own efforts, I rely less on yours. Fix my eyes on you, Lord. You are my joy. You are my peace. You are Love. You knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13); knit me whole again now. Heal me for your glory, Lord. Empower me to love you better, not because I deserve your love, but because you deserve mine.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

Start Over

Source:   Dr.Woodrow Kroll

 

When you’ve trusted Jesus and walked His way,

When you’ve felt His hand lead you day by day,

But your steps now take you another way   …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry,

When you’ve tried your best ’til there’s no more try,

When you’ve failed yourself and you don’t know why …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do,

When you’ve trusted them but they’ve not come through,

Now you’re all alone and it’s up to you …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone,

When you’ve done your best but it turned out wrong,

And now your grandchildren have come along …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve prayed to God so you’ll know His will,

When you’ve prayed and prayed but you don’t know still,

When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill …   START OVER.

 

When you think you’re finished and want to quit,

When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit,

When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it …   START OVER.

 

When the year’s been long and successes few,

When December comes and you’re feeling blue,

God gives a January just for you …   START OVER.

 

Starting over means victories won,

Starting over means a race we run,

Starting over means the Lord’s “Well done,”

… so don’t just sit there …   START OVER.

How to release emotional pain

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

We have natural responses to being hurt that are part of our imperfections. We do not always respond well to stresses in our lives. These responses come easily to us, but they are not helpful to our personal growth. Next time someone hurts you, try using these tools:

Acknowledge the Wound. Don’t Deny it.

When we are hurt emotionally, we tend to deny it. For example, an unloving wife may wound a husband’s heart, but he may not want to appear weak or vulnerable. Or he may think he is being overly sensitive. Or he may think that admitting his hurt is being disloyal or mean to his wife. So he shrugs off the wound. However, he is living a lie. Just saying something doesn’t hurt us doesn’t make it go away, and the wounded heart stays injured.

Stay Connected. Don’t Isolate.

We tend to withdraw from a relationship when we hurt. Some people are afraid of their dependencies on others. Others feel guilty about burdening friends with their problems. Still, others try to be self-sufficient. None of these responses helps a person heal and grow.

Love and Forgive. Don’t Retaliate.

People also “naturally” lash back when they are hurt, and they desire revenge on the one who hurt them. Like little kids, they will harbor murderous intentions and attempt to retaliate. For example, a woman who has been betrayed by a man she is dating may then do the same to him. Perhaps they had agreed to an exclusive relationship, deepening their commitment and trust. Then she found out he was seeing someone else. The problem with rationalizing retaliation is that while he certainly needs to know how he hurts others, it’s more likely to help him justify his own behavior.

Practice Self Control. Don’t be Controlled.

Our initial response to being hurt is that we lose self-control. Our getting hurt in a relationship is proof of how little control we have over others in the first place. Many times we transfer power onto the person who has hurt us, which makes things worse. For example, a man may realize his parents have been emotionally unresponsive to him all his life. He may see how this unresponsiveness has made his relational life difficult, as he has not been connected enough to his inner self to connect to others. As he understands this, he may then also become obsessed with trying to get his parents to see what they did to him or get them to apologize, or get them to re-parent him and provide him for what they did not when he was a child.

Good relationships do involve confronting, forgiving, and reconciling. However, some people make the injured self the focus of their lives, letting the other person control them. In this way, they put their hearts under the power of the very ones who injured them. That’s not a productive way to live.

20 Brilliant Ways People Avoid Their Feelings (and the Havoc it Wreaks)

SOURCE:  / PsychCentral

An important fact that most people never consider: We cannot choose what we feel.

The feelings we naturally feel are biological and automatic. Emotions arise automatically from our deepest self, a deeply personal expression of who we are, what we want, what we need, what we enjoy and who we like.

Our emotions tell us when we need to protect ourselves (fear), when to prepare (anxiety), when to reach out (lonely), when to let go (grief), and what we need (longing). They also tell us much more about ourselves, if we would only listen.

It is also true that, however useful our feelings are, they can hurt us. Feeling sadness, rage, grief or pain can be deeply unpleasant. Especially when we do not know what to do with those feelings.

In truth, it is our responsibility to listen to our feelings, use them to guide and connect us, and also manage them.

But if you grew up in a family that did not know how emotions work and did not teach you how to listen to your feelings, use them, and manage them (the definition of an emotionally neglectful family or Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), you may find yourself with only one trick up your sleeve when you come upon rapids in the river.

Unfortunately, it’s the lowest common denominator of tricks and the trickiest of tricks. Because it seems to work but it only makes things worse.

Avoidance.

You can indeed become brilliant at this tricky trick. You can discover genius ways to avoid your feelings. Few people make a conscious decision to avoid their feelings. And likewise, you do not consciously choose your ways to do it. Your brain makes the choice for you out of necessity, probably outside of your awareness.

As the psychologist who coined the term CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect), I am in a good position to see the myriad ways people distract and avoid their feelings. Below is an incomplete list of the infinite variety of possibilities.

Part of what makes this trick so tricky is that many of the strategies listed below are healthy, positive activities that make you feel good. Do not be misled by that. Instead, as you read them, please think deeply about not only what you are doing, but why you are doing it. Are you “using” these ways in a healthy way?

Or are you using them to avoid your feelings?

20 Ways to Avoid Your Feelings

  1. Work
  2. Exercise
  3. Obsessing
  4. Netflix/Hulu/Screens
  5. Shopping
  6. The avid pursuit of hobbies or interests
  7. Chronic and excessive busyness
  8. Dwelling on the past or future (avoiding the now)
  9. Over-focusing on other people’s problems or needs
  10. Video games
  11. Surfing online
  12. Social media
  13. Phone gazing
  14. Sleeping
  15. Planning
  16. Worrying
  17. Smiling/joking/humor
  18. Drinking
  19. Eating
  20. Drugs

You may be surprised to hear that one of the most giveaway signs of someone who grew up with Emotional Neglect is excessive smiling and joking.

Research on smiling has shown that just pulling the corners of your mouth up makes you instantly feel better. And nothing says, “I’m fine. I don’t need anything at all,” better than a smile. I have seen CEN adults smile through painful stories, and crack jokes while crying. All in an attempt to avoid feelings.

It is very common for movies and TV to show favorite characters drinking to escape their pain. It is often glamorized, normalized, and made to appear dramatic and cool in these depictions.

Feeling better is good! But not if it makes you more vulnerable to painful feelings overall. And that is exactly what avoidance does…

Why None of These Ways Actually Work

Another important fact about emotions is this: Ignoring, escaping and avoiding them does NOT make them go away. It only feels that way at the moment.

Denied, avoided, or escaped feelings actually become stronger because they have not been processed. Unprocessed feelings linger under the surface waiting for something to touch them off. Then they come out even more powerfully.

So the longer and more successfully you avoid your feelings, the more powerful, painful and potentially harmful they can become.

And in this process, you lose in two pivotal ways. You not only increase the power of what you’re trying to avoid, but you also lose out on all the vital guidance, connection, motivation, energy and stimulation that your feelings should be providing for your life.

3 Ways to Stop Avoiding Your Feelings

  • Accept that you have feelings, off and on, every single day. Accept that it is normal and healthy to have them.
  • Decide that you are going to change how you deal with your feelings. Decide to pay attention to what you are feeling. Get curious about your feelings, what they mean, and how to listen to them and use them as they are meant to be used.
  • Learn the emotion skills you missed in childhood. It is never too late to learn how to sit with your feelings, even painful ones. You can learn what your feelings are telling you, learn the skills to name and manage your feelings as well as the skills to express what you are feeling to others.

I have watched scores of people go through the process described above, dramatically changing how they view and handle their feelings. It is a remarkable series of steps that gradually transforms how you view, understand, and feel about yourself.

By following the steps of CEN recovery, you learn much more about yourself from the inside. Who are you? What do you want, need and feel?

As you become aware of your own feelings, you become aware of your self. And you realize that what you’ve been running from all these years is actually a vital, useful expression of your deepest self.

No need to run anymore.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World

SOURCE:  Bobby Schuller

You Are What You Think

Do not conform 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

Once there was a man walking through his city who came upon a construction site. Curious about what was going on, he asked the first worker laying bricks what he was building. In a bored, slightly irritated voice he said, “I’m building a wall.”

He kept walking and met another bricklayer and asked the same question. “Oh, I’m building a church,” he replied in a relaxed tone. “It will be nice.”

Finally, he met the third bricklayer and asked him what he was building. “I’m building a house of God,” he said with both joy and conviction.

In describing this colloquial parable, Angela Duckworth says the three men see their work in three different modes; the first as a job, the second as a vocation, and the third as a calling. All are fostering different thoughts, and ultimately these thoughts will form very different paths. You see, you become your thoughts.

Every circumstance in your life, whether good or bad, is affected by your thinking. Though it seems overwhelming, this is good news because it gives you the power to transform one part of your life and reap great rewards in nearly every other!

Your thoughts today are your results tomorrow.

Small Changes Lead to New Destinations

When it comes to changing your thinking, it’s helpful to recognize that making minor adjustments can reap great rewards.

When I was growing up, I spent most summers on a fishing boat, and I enjoyed watching the captain as he maneuvered the vessel. There was a shiny wheel up top, but our skipper actually navigated using a three-inch plastic dial on a computer to the left of the helm. This tiny tool could alter our path by a minor yet measurable degree. Though small changes were not immediately noticeable, an hour later, two clicks set our course or took us off of it.

The same is true with our thoughts. Minor changes such as forgiving a past wrong, not blaming authority figures, or being grateful every day can make a gigantic difference in our lives, especially over time.

Your thoughts really are your destination
.

Change Your Perspective

One of the most profound changes you can make on the journey to renewed thinking is to adjust your perspective. You can control your attitude and how you react to situations, but assuming a more positive view will not come naturally.

When I was sixteen-years-old, I got my first job as an “expeditor” at a big Mexican restaurant that was owned by a family friend. Though I was happy to have it, one night, a server pushed me to the limit. He brought in some leftover food and dropped the plates down hard on the counter, spilling cheesy rice all over the floor. This meant I had to clean up a big mess that I didn’t make, even though I was just about ready to leave.

Now, my typical reaction would have been to blame and complain, but that moment was a turning point for me. Instead of arguing, I decided to sweep the floor for God. I let it go; I wasn’t doing my work for anyone except Him. Though nothing looked different from the outside, I knew something had changed inside of me.

You Can Help What You Think About

Controlling your thoughts is like strength training for the soul, and it happens through meditation. Though it sounds like a strange Eastern sort of thing, the Bible talks more about meditating on Scripture than it does about memorizing it.

Rightfully understood, meditating begins with memorizing verses that elevate your thinking, and it continues by incorporating those scriptures into your prayer life. In other words, you don’t only read and study the Bible, you dwell on it.

Even though you can’t control every thought that comes to your mind, you can control what you focus on. My wife’s grandfather used to say, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

Good News

No matter what situation you find yourself in today, change is possible! There is a way out of every difficulty if you choose to cultivate the right thoughts. Like a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, when you renew your mind according to the Word of God, you experience metamorphosis — a complete and total transformation.

Growth begins when you acknowledge that you have the power to change your thoughts and begin making minor adjustments to your course. As you choose to shift your perspective on challenging situations and meditate on the truth of God’s Word to feed your spirit, your life goes from ordinary to truly extraordinary.

Your mind is like a garden. When you plant and nurture good ideas and pull out the weeds of blame, jealousy, judgment, self-pity, and pride, your thoughts cultivate good fruit that feeds and blesses those around you!

Think About What You Think About

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Faithgateway

In her short thirteen years Rebecca Taylor has endured more than fifty-five surgeries and medical procedures and approximately one thousand days in the hospital.

Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, talks about her daughter’s health complications with the ease of a surgeon. The vocabulary of most moms includes phrases such as “cafeteria food,” “slumber party,” and “too much time on the phone.” Christyn knows this language, but she’s equally fluent in the vernacular of blood cells, stents, and, most recently, a hemorrhagic stroke.

In her blog she wrote:

This past week’s new land mine was the phrase “possible hemorrhagic stroke,” a phrase I heard dozens of times used by numerous physicians. Over and over and over that phrase filled my mind and consumed my thoughts. It was emotionally crippling.

This past Sunday our preacher, Max Lucado, started a very fitting series on anxiety. We reviewed the familiar Philippians 4:6 verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I presented my requests to the Lord as I had so many times before, but this time, THIS time, I needed more. And so, using Philippians 4:8-9 as a guide, I found my answer:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…” What was true in my life at this particular moment? The blessing of all family members eating dinner together.

“Whatever is noble.” The blessing of enjoying each other’s presence outside of a hospital room.

“Whatever is right.” The blessing of experiencing my two sons’ daily lives.

“Whatever is pure.” The blessing of all three children laughing and playing with each other.

“Whatever is lovely.” The blessing of watching Rebecca sleep peacefully in her bed at night.

“Whatever is admirable.” The blessing of an honorable team working tirelessly on Rebecca’s care.

“If anything is excellent.” The blessing of watching a miracle unfold.

“Or praiseworthy.” The blessing of worshiping a Lord who is worthy to be praised.

“Think about such things.”

I did. As I meditated on these things, I stopped the dreaded phrase “hemorrhagic stroke” from sucking any joy out of my life. Its power to produce anxiety was now rendered impotent. And when I dwelt on the bountiful blessings in my life happening AT THAT VERY MOMENT, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” DID guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. A true, unexpected miracle. Thank You, Lord.1

Did you note what Christyn did? The words hemorrhagic stroke hovered over her life like a thundercloud. Yet she stopped the dreaded phrase from sucking joy out of her life.

She did so by practicing thought management. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news: you can pick what you ponder.

You didn’t select your birthplace or birth date. You didn’t choose your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion.

You can choose what you think about.

For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying. — John10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, islogizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart. — Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite Him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist. — Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, his news will be good or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.

So you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not heavied by worry, but buoyed by faith.

Which do you prefer?

Christyn Taylor discovered calmness. Recently she and her family went back to Rebecca’s doctors in Minnesota. Seven months earlier Rebecca was barely surviving. Now, one day before her thirteenth birthday, Rebecca was vibrant and full of life. She had gained a remarkable thirty pounds. Her health was improving. She was named the hospital’s “walking miracle.”

Christyn wrote: “I watched these interactions with a silent sense of awe. It is easy to praise God during seasons of wellness. But it was during my greatest distress when I felt the Lord’s presence poured upon me. And it was in those heartbreaking moments I learned to trust this God who provided unimaginable strength during unimaginable pain.”2

He will help you as well, my friend. Guard your thoughts and trust your Father.
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1. Used with permission.
2. Used with permission.

Excerpted from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

Anxious for Nothing

Four Truths About Feelings That Will Set You Free

SOURCE:  Nathan Regier 

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

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

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

Your feelings belong only to you

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

Your feelings matter

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

Your feelings are your responsibility

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

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

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

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

“You really hurt me when you said that.”

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

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

“I don’t want to make you mad.”

Here are some authentic feeling statements that show emotional responsibility.

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

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

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

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

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

Things to Ponder

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

The Wrong Reason to Say “Yes”

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

If anyone had it together, it was Jason. He had a good job, beautiful wife and two children whom he loved. He exercised regularly and looked it, and he was always one to keep in touch with friends and family members.

But one day out of the blue, a deep depression hit Jason so heavily, he could hardly get out of bed. It made no sense to him. He came to see me.

We talked for awhile about Jason’s snug and untroubled life before his breakdown. We gradually uncovered that Jason’s structured lifestyle was basically a way to send off a lifelong depression. He had grown up in an alcoholic and abusive family, where he’d lived through all sorts of chaos and crises.

His activity and responsibility saved Jason. Because no one else in the house washed his clothes, prepared meals and budgeted money, Jason learned to. He became a 30-year-old at the age of 9.

Jason did the right thing, not because he was selfless and loving, but to stay alive. The depression inevitably caught up with him.

Not that it’s unhealthy to be responsible. The reasons behind the responsibility are the problem. Jason has lived a lifetime of sacrifice. Fearful of falling apart inside, he stayed busy and active to ward off a breakdown. He was driven by fear and panic.

A truly responsible lifestyle is the product of being loved just as we are, with our imperfections, our wounds, our weaknesses. Then as we are loved in that state, we learn to give back and love. Jason had not been so loved, and so it was impossible for him to obey love.

Some people lead highly functional lives not so much to keep their depressions away, but to keep from being shamed by others. I knew a woman who kept her weight in check by being around critical people who would come down on her for gaining weight. When her critical friends moved away one year, this woman put on 70 pounds in several months. The shaming external control hadn’t solved the problem — it had postponed it. She finally lost the weight for the right reasons, but she first had to learn mercy and sacrifice: She had to receive mercy in order to sacrifice her longing for food.

When we do the right thing reluctantly or under compulsion, not freely, we live in fear. It may be fear of loss, of falling apart, of guilt, or of others’ disapproval. But no one can grow or flourish in a fear-based atmosphere. Love has no place there, for perfect love drives out fear.

3 Things to Remember When It’s Hard to Forgive

SOURCE:   Lysa TerKeurst, author of Uninvited

Have you ever struggled to choose forgiveness over bitterness in the midst of feeling rejected, abandoned, or hurt?

Let me be the friend who takes you by the hand to say… I understand. Choosing to forgive is hard, especially when it feels like you or someone you care for has been treated unfairly.

But the truth is, it’s good (and biblical) for us to extend forgiveness. And when we release the offense into the hands of God, we can begin to make room for healing in our hearts.

Here are 3 things to remember when forgiving others is the last thing we want to do:

Forgiveness doesn’t justify them, it frees YOU!

Forgiving someone is making the decision to choose mercy and grace over bitterness and resentment. To love God is to cooperate with His grace. Luke 6:36 says,

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Since I’m so very aware of my own need for grace, I must be willing to freely give it away, too.

Each hole left from rejection must become an opportunity to create more and more space for grace in my heart. Forgiveness doesn’t validate them, and it doesn’t justify their hurtful actions.

Giving grace helps me. It sets me free.

What does giving grace look like in my life?

…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. — Luke 6:27-28

Today I will:

Speak with honor in the midst of being dishonored.

Speak with peace in the midst of being threatened.

Speak of good things in the midst of a bad situation.

We have an enemy, but it’s not each other.

Truth proclaimed and lived out is a fiercely accurate weapon against evil.

How I feel:

I very much feel like my struggle is against them.

I have been deeply hurt by this struggle.

It’s hard to see that my struggle isn’t with them or caused by them.

However, truth tells me something different. Truth says I have an enemy… but it’s not the person I’m trying hard to forgive. They may very well be the cause of some hurt in my life, but they’re not my enemy.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. — Ephesians 6:12

Point your crosshairs at the real enemy and start firing off positive statements about this person who has caused pain in your life. List three things about them that are good. Then remember a fourth and fifth. Picture each of these positive statements wounding the devil and shaming him away from you.

Forgiveness releases an offense into the hands of God so that you can heal.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean I’ll get my storybook ending. But it will bring peace and honor to a situation that would otherwise leave me bitter, defensive, and hurting. I have to trust God to get me through this forgiveness journey so that I can finally heal.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. — Isaiah 26:3

Lift up your hurt and honest feelings to the Lord through prayer, whether it’s written or verbal. Here’s one to get you started:

Lord, I don’t know all the details entangled in this issue. But You know all. Therefore, You are the only one who can handle all. There are a lot of things my flesh is tempted to seek — fairness, my right to be right, proof of their wrongdoing, to make them see things from my vantage point — but at this point, the only thing healthy for me to seek is You. You alone. I’m going to be obedient to You and let You handle everything else. In Your Name, Amen.

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Original devotion written by Lysa TerKeurst for Devotionals Daily featuring Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, copyright TerKeurst Foundation. 

What You Think, You Are

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

Change requires new thinking. In order to change, we must learn the truth and start making good choices, but we also must change the way we think.

I’ve talked about this before: The battle for sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior.

The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with the way you think.

Think – Feel – Act

For instance, I could say, “I need to love my kids more,” but that isn’t going to work. Or someone could say, “I need to love my spouse more,” but that isn’t going to work. You can’t fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act.

The Bible says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

Let me sum it up this way: You are not what you think you are; rather, what you think, you are.

The battle for sin, the battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don’t like, starts in your mind. If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, you start with your thoughts and your attitude.

The renewal of your mind is related to the word repentance. I know repentance is a dirty word for a lot of people. They think it means something bad, something you don’t really want to do, something painful. They think of a guy standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Repent! The world’s about to end!”

Repentance has nothing to do with your behavior. It is about changing your mind, learning to think differently. “Repent” simply means to make a mental U-turn. It’s something you do in your mind, not with your behavior. Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and your behavior.

When I repent, I make a mental U-turn. I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light. I turn from hell to heaven. I turn from hatred to love.

I also change the way that I think about God. He’s not mad at me. I’m deeply flawed, but I’m deeply loved.

I change the way I think about others, I change the way I think about my kids, and I change the way I think about my wife. I change the way I think about the world, I change the way I think about the economy, and I change the way I think about my past, my present, and my future.

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

Source: Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW

Question:

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

Answer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 TLB).

God is always ready to give you another chance.

That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt.

And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself.

You need a Savior.

You need Jesus.

My Big Flaw: I’m an Impatient Mom

SOURCE:  Kelsie Huffstickler/Family Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if those obstacles are often my children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

8 Things People with High-Functioning Depression Want You to Know

SOURCE:  Meagan Drillinger/healthline.com

Even though it might not be obvious, getting through the day is exhausting.

It can be difficult to spot the signs of someone with high-functioning depression. That’s because, on the outside, they often appear completely fine. They go to work, accomplish their tasks, and keep up relationships. And as they’re going through the motions to maintain their day-to-day life, inside they’re screaming.

“Everyone talks about depression and anxiety, and it means different things to different people,” says Dr. Carol A. Bernstein, professor of psychiatry and neurology at NYU Langone Health.

“High-functioning depression isn’t a diagnostic category from a medical standpoint. People can feel depressed, but the question with depression is for how long, and how much does it interfere with our capacity to go on with [our] life?”

There’s no difference between depression and high-functioning depression. Depression ranges from mild to moderate to severe. In 2016, about 16.2 million Americans had at least one episode of major depression.

“Some people with depression can’t go to work or school, or their performance suffers significantly because of it,” says Ashley C. Smith, a licensed clinical social worker. “That’s not the case for people with high-functioning depression. They can still function in life, for the most part.”

But being able to get through the day doesn’t mean it’s easy. Here are what seven people had to say about what it’s like to live and work with high-functioning depression.

1. You feel like you’re constantly “faking it”

“We hear a lot now about imposter syndrome, where people feel that they are just ‘faking it’ and aren’t as together as people think. There’s a form of this for those who deal with major depression and other forms of mental illness. You become quite adept at ‘playing yourself,’ acting the role of the self that people around you expect to see and experience.”

— Daniel, publicist, Maryland

2. You have to prove that you’re struggling and need help

“Living with high-functioning depression is very hard. Even though you can go through work and life and mostly get things done, you’re not getting them done to your full potential.

“Beyond that, no one really believes you’re struggling because your life isn’t falling apart yet. I was suicidal and close to ending it all in university and no one would believe me because I wasn’t failing out of school or dressing like a complete mess. At work, it’s the same. We need to believe people when they ask for support.

“Lastly, a lot of mental health services have needs-based requirements, where you have to appear a certain amount of depressed to get support. Even if my mood is really low and I am constantly considering suicide, I have to lie about my functioning to be able to access services.”

— Alicia, mental health speaker/writer, Toronto

3. The good days are relatively “normal”

“A good day is me being able to get up before or right at my alarm, shower, and put on my face. I can push through being around people, as my job as a software trainer calls me to. I’m not crabby or anxiety-ridden. I can push through the evening and have conversations with co-workers without feeling total despair. On a good day, I have focus and mental clarity. I feel like a capable, productive person.”

— Christian, software trainer, Dallas

4. But the bad days are unbearable

“Now for a bad day… I fight with myself to wake up and have to truly shame myself into showering and getting myself together. I put on makeup [so I don’t] alert people about my internal issues. I don’t want to talk or be bothered by anyone. I fake being personable, as I have rent to pay and don’t want to complicate my life any more than it is.

“After work, I just want to go to my hotel room and mindlessly scroll on Instagram or YouTube. I’ll eat junk food, and feel like a loser and demean myself.

“I have more bad days than good, but I’ve gotten good at faking it so my clients think I’m a great employee. I’m often sent kudos for my performance. But inside, I know that I didn’t deliver at the level I know I could.”

— Christian

5. Getting through the bad days requires an enormous amount of energy

“It’s extremely exhausting to get through a bad day. I do get work done, but it’s not my best. It takes much longer to accomplish tasks. There’s a lot of staring off into space, trying to regain control of my mind.

“I find myself getting easily frustrated with my co-workers, even though I know there’s no way they know I’m having a hard day. On bad days, I’m extremely self-critical and tend to not want to show my boss any of my work because I fear that he’ll think that I’m incompetent.

“One of the most helpful things I do on bad days is to prioritize my tasks. I know the harder I push myself, the more likely I am to crumble, so I make sure I do the harder things when I have the most energy.”

— Courtney, marketing specialist, North Carolina

6. You can struggle to focus, and feel like you’re not performing to the best of your ability

“Sometimes, nothing gets done. I can be in a long drawn out daze all day, or it takes all day to complete a few things. Since I’m in public relations and I work with individuals and companies that champion a great cause, which often pull at people’s heartstrings, my work can take me into an even deeper depression.

“I can be working on a story, and while I’m typing I have tears streaming down my face. That may actually work to the advantage of my client because I have so much heart and passion around meaningful stories, but it’s pretty scary because the emotions run so deep.

— Tonya, publicist, California

7. Living with high-functioning depression is exhausting

“In my experience, living with high-functioning depression is absolutely exhausting. It’s spending the day smiling and forcing laughter when you are plagued by the feeling that the people you interact with only just tolerate you and your existence in the world.

“It’s knowing that you’re useless and a waste of oxygen… and doing everything in your power to prove that wrong by being the best student, best daughter, best employee you can be. It’s going above and beyond all day every day in the hopes that you can actually make someone feel that you’re worth their time, because you don’t feel like you are.”

— Meaghan, law student, New York

8. Asking for help is the strongest thing you can do

“Asking for help does not make you a weak person. In fact, it makes you the exact opposite. My depression manifested itself through a serious uptake in drinking. So serious, in fact, I spent six weeks in rehab in 2017. I’m just shy of 17 months of sobriety.

“Everyone can have their own opinion, but all three sides of the triangle of my mental health — stopping drinking, talk therapy, and medication — have been crucial. Most specifically, the medication helps me maintain a level state on a daily basis and has been an intricate part of my getting better.”

— Kate, travel agent, New York

“If the depression is greatly impacting your quality of life, if you think that you should be feeling better, then seek out help. See your primary care doctor about it — many are trained in dealing with depression — and seek a referral for a therapist.

“While there’s still considerable stigma attached to having mental illness, I would say that we are starting, slowly, to see that stigma abate. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you have an issue and could use some help.”

— Daniel

Depression: Trapped in My Own Mind

SOURCE:  Sarah Walton/Desiring God

Three Lies Depression Loves

“I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ. If we feel unlovable, we must be unloved. If we feel sadness and hopelessness, we must be hopeless. If we feel lonely, we must be alone. And if we feel shame, we must be unforgiven.

For a time, Job believed that God targeted him out of anger. “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past” (Job 14:13). But in the midst of these bouts with despair, God planted Job’s feet firmly on the truth of salvation. “Though he slay me,” Job confessed, “I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Like Job, we must keep the hope of the gospel in front of us in order to fight back against all that bombards us from within. Though we may struggle to digest much Scripture, and though the words of a hopeful person may bounce right off our hardened shell of depression, we anchor our feet firmly in the truth that we are forgiven and loved by God in Christ, not in our ability to feel his love.

2. Depression does not mean God is absent.

Similarly, depression can cause us to feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Not only do we feel as if the world is going on without us, but we can even feel estranged from ourselves — as if we have lost our former identity. This loneliness can also cause us to feel, as Job did, that God has abandoned us. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” (Job 23:8). But as Eswine writes,

Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace. It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that he is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of his tender touch, he holds on to us still. Our feelings of him do not save us. He does. (Spurgeon’s Sorrows, 38–39)

3. Depression does not make you useless.

Though we may feel useless under the cloud of despair and depression, nothing could be further from the truth. When despondency strips from us our natural ability to see and feel hope, joy, and purpose in our sorrow, we realize that Someone greater is holding us up. And when others witness our dependence on Christ for the endurance to press on in darkness — especially when we have no earthly reason to — we become a picture of Christ’s sustaining grace, flowing from the Father to his children.

Once again, consider Spurgeon. He battled deep depression through the majority of his life, and yet God used his suffering for the good of multitudes that he never met. And then there was Job, whose life became a cosmic display of God’s power and worth for our comfort. If we are God’s children, then even our depression will display his glory and purposes as he holds us secure in his unfailing love.

Suffering brother or sister, lift your heavy heart. As Spurgeon once said, “We need patience under pain and hope under depression of spirit. . . . Our God . . . will either make the burden lighter or the back stronger; he will diminish the need or increase the supply” (“Sword and Trowel,” 15).

Embracing Anxiety to Exterminate Anxiety

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Challenge It’s estimated that 40 million people experience anxiety, and when our minds go into fight-flight response, the body is protecting itself from perceived danger.

Solution We don’t have to let our overeager fight-or-flight instinct rule our every response, and by forcing it to take the back-seat, we regain a little more control over our lives.

======================

The chills are eating me from the inside-out. I can barely feel my hands, gripped tight to the steering wheel as they are, and what I can feel is coated with clammy perspiration. My heart is racing in a flurry of shuddering beats. Instead of being warmed by the heat blasting from the vents in my car, cold blankets my skin, and I might as well have been exposed to the elements in the thick of winter. Blinking twice, I remind myself that I’m not dying — yet.

Driving somewhere new. Going to an interview. Calling a business on the phone. Meeting new people. They can all make my hands shake and my skin crawl. The anxiety wells up like blood in a fresh cut and spills over into my whole body, paralyzing my senses and making it difficult to talk, and even walk.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health[1], anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Myself, and an estimated 40 million other people, live a not insignificant amount of our lives in a state of mortal panic.

Anxiety is the “fight-or-flight” reflex[2] built into our physiological systems. This means that, when we’re anxious, our fight-or-flight response charges our metabolism and prepares us for what has been deemed the inevitable: an all-out battle, or a mad dash. This is one of those adaptations that seems beneficial to other mammals, but humans? Personally, I don’t have to literally fight for my life with any regularity.

Anxiety may be our fight-or-flight response, but that doesn’t mean we have to let it be our only response, nor must we be defeated by its chilly grip. In fact, engaging that chilly grip is one method of — believe it or not — extinguishing it. I may not be able to escape my anxiety, but by embracing it I have a chance to let it exist without owning my existence. As my hands begin to shake and my palms sweat, rather than turn a blind eye to my body’s reaction and let it run its wild course, I take the chance to step back and observe its approach.

As the cold takes over I allow myself to mentally take flight, observing my physical reactions to insignificant stimuli with interest and curiosity. When anxiety sets your heart racing, don’t simply ignore that absurd cadence. Instead, stare it down, consider it, mull over why your body is responding in such a way, and understand that its response is out of proportion to the situation. The physical feelings of anxiety tend to ebb and flow differently for every person. Figuring out the when, how, and why of your overwhelming anxiety is the first step to embracing it — and then, ultimately, to exterminating it.

By understanding your body, you give your mind the chance to take back control, and when your mind comprehends the situation, your emotions inevitably will follow suit. You may not be facing a literal lion when your anxiety kicks in, but that anxiety itself may be the real lion. By acknowledging its existence and giving the physiology behind it a nod, you can conquer one side of your anxiety disorder. Anxiety often plays off of uncertainty, and by being certain that you don’t need to be anxious you can help to lessen its damaging- and deeply uncomfortable- physical effects.

The next time your body thinks it needs to fight or fly, embrace that instinct. When I do that, my mind stays in control, my emotional state doesn’t waver, and eventually, my anxiety subsides.

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

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No More Dragons

Too Overwhelmed To Pray

SOURCE:  Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Your Helper in Prayer: Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit

When I think of Charles Spurgeon, my mind goes to one story before anything else. I once heard that when Spurgeon’s depression flared, his wife Susanna propped him up and pushed him back into his chair so he could continue working. I was so taken aback by my imagining of this scene — it made me think about all of the times me and the other women in my family had been that low in depression. Spurgeon’s weakness ran much deeper than work-related stress, and was not just a symptom of physical exhaustion.

This kind of weakness is hard to overcome. Spurgeon touches on this deep weakness in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. The reason the Father gives us his Spirit to help us pray is because we are weak; we don’t know how to pray properly, we often don’t feel like praying, and we struggle to put our worst life pains into words.

Spurgeon brings out the beauty of this doctrine by explaining that God is not angry because of our failures in prayer, but has compassion on us as his children. Instead of acting the disinterested King who says, “if you do not have grace enough even to ask properly, I will shut the gates of mercy against you,” God says, “I will write out your petition for you, I will put it into proper words and use fitting phrases so that your petition shall be framed acceptable.”

“If you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet [the Holy Spirit] will help you to speak with God; ah! and if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God…never reads our petitions according to the outward utterance, but according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying…

God knows our needs without hearing words, like a mother knows the needs of her baby when it “makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger” but are understood by the mother who “comprehends incomprehensible noises.” If that were not intimate enough, the Spirit even claims our groanings “as his own particular creation.”

Prayer is for your own benefit and comfort—it’s an “outlet for grief” and a “lotion” to “bathe our wound in.” Rely on the Spirit to help you know what to say in prayer, and in the worst times, when you do not have the words or the strength to say anything, know that the Spirit is propping you back up into your chair so you can press on.

Why God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The next time someone says that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, point them to Judges 7. God’s instructing Gideon to take on over 100,000 enemy soldiers with just 300 fits in the “more than you can handle” category. Imagine how Gideon and his servant, Purah, must have felt trying to come to grips with a humanly impossible assignment.

Standing on the side of Mount Gilboa, Gideon gazed over the Valley of Jezreel, which sprawled beneath him northward toward the hill of Moreh. The valley was a sea of tents, teeming with more than 100,000 Midian warriors.

That morning, the Lord had judged Israel’s army of 32,000 too big to face Midian’s. Israel would think more highly of himself than he ought to think when God gave him victory. So Gideon had sent home whoever was afraid. When 22,000 hit the road, Gideon had to quiet his own fear. Now Israel was outnumbered ten-to-one. But God was with them and armies had overcome such odds before.

Oddly, the Lord considered these odds still too much in Israel’s favor. So in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, Gideon brought his small, thirsty army down to the spring of Harod. And he gave his servant, Purah, the strangest command of his brief military career: “Observe all the men as they drink. Have every man who laps his water like a dog stand off to the side.”

Gideon supervised the selection, but when so few were being chosen, he just let Purah finish the count and he climbed back up Gilboa to pray and survey.

It wasn’t long before Purah emerged from the trees. “So what’s the total?”

“Three hundred, sir,” said Purah.

Gideon chuckled to himself. “Three hundred.” He looked back toward the human hoard in the valley and was quiet for a moment. “That’s less than I expected.”

“Yes, sir,” said Purah. “But thankfully, three hundred doesn’t reduce our strength much.”

Gideon breathed deeply. “No, Purah. The three hundred are not the reductions. They’re the army. The others are the reductions.”

Purah stood dazed for a moment, staring at Gideon. “The three hundred are the army?”

Gideon nodded slowly, still looking into the Midian-infested Jezreel.

“But that’s not an army! That’s how many should be guarding an army’s baggage!”

Purah stepped up beside Gideon. Together they watched smoke columns rising from ten times more cooking fires than they now had warriors. Purah shook his head and said, “Even if we were all like the mighty men of old, three hundred could not overcome 100,000.” He paused. “And we aren’t mighty men.” Another pause. “And there’s more than a 100,000 down there.”

Both were silent for a while. In the quiet, the Lord spoke to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.

Then Gideon said to Purah, “During the exodus, how many mighty men did it take to destroy Egypt and its army or part the Red Sea?”

Purah thought briefly. “None.”

“How many did it take to tear down Jericho’s walls?”

“None.”

“How many did it take to feed two million of our people in the wilderness every day for forty years?”

“None. I get your point.”

“The mightiest are those who trust in the Lord and obey him, no matter how impossible things appear.”

“In our people’s history, the mightiest have not been the strong warriors,” Gideon said. “The mightiest have been those who trusted in the Lord and obeyed him, no matter how impossible things appeared. He has promised us that Midian will be defeated. He has chosen only three hundred of us. We will obey; he will act. And when Midian falls, it will be clear to everyone who felled him.” Then he looked at Purah and smiled. “Maybe the Lord just needs us to guard his baggage!”

Purah didn’t laugh. He only replied, “Should we dismiss the others?” Gideon nodded.

Later that night, in the tiny camp, Gideon lay praying. Every plan to mobilize 300 against 100,000 seemed ludicrous.

Suddenly, he was aware of the Presence. He sat up, his heart beating fast.

The Lord said, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.

Purah woke to Gideon’s nudge and whispered words, “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Purah whispered back, getting up quickly.

“To the Midian camp, just you and me. The Lord has something he wants to show us.”

They quietly crept toward the nearest Midian outpost, veiled by the clouded sky, and saw two inattentive guards talking. Just as they got within earshot, one said, “I had a strange dream before being woken for duty tonight.”

“Tell me,” the other said.

“This cake of barley came tumbling into our camp, crashed into the tent, turned it over, and flattened it.”

The other guard looked at him alarmed and said, “I know what that means! The cake can be none other than Gideon, the son of Joash! God has given us all into his hand!”

Gideon and Purah looked at one another with the same stunned expression.

Cast Your Cares

With renewed faith, Gideon and Purah roused their mini army and launched a night attack. This threw the Midians into a panic and they slaughtered each other in confusion. It was a rout. Not one of Gideon’s three hundred perished in the battle. God gave them more than they could handle to force them to rely wholly on him.

“God gives us more than we can handle to force us to rely wholly on him.”

When we’re confronted with an impossible situation or trial, Gideon’s three hundred preach to us that “salvation . . . is from the Lord” (Psalm 37:39) and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). These are no domesticated platitudes. God really intends for us to cast our all on these massive truths and for them to give us more-than-conquerors confidence and peace (Romans 8:37), no matter what we face.

It is not hyperbole to say that the defeat of our sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross dwarfs Gideon’s victory. Compared to overcoming God’s wrath against our sin, defeating 100,000 Midianites was very small. And if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

God certainly does give us more than we can handle. And he does it “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). If you’re facing some overwhelming adversary or adversity and you wonder how God could possibly deliver and work it for your good (Romans 8:28), then take heart. He is granting you the joy of experiencing the reality of Judges 7, Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Five Ways to Avoid Overreacting in Your Relationship | Healing Together for Couples

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

Anyone in a relationship knows that partners have the uncanny ability to bring out the best and worst in each other. Accordingly, whether newly married or celebrating many years together, partners can find themselves overreacting in a way that rarely happens anywhere else in their lives.

  • “He got me so upset that I was screaming in front of the kids.”
  • “ She doesn’t stop until I walk out and slam the door.”
  • “ How does he end up the victim, when he insulted me?”

Overreactions are like flash floods—all of a sudden they are there, be it from a deliberate or unintended provocation or the build-up of unrelated feelings that burst loose over something as simple as,

“How could you forget the milk?”

In the moment, it is very difficult to untangle what has happened, much less consider remedies to handle personal and interpersonal triggers. Here are five ways to avoid overreactions.

  1. Account for Physical Realities

Physical realities of fatigue, hunger, and pain compromise our functioning, particularly our capacity to regulate anxiety and anger. In a culture that gets too little sleep and demands multi-tasking, the stage is often set for overreaction.

  1. Self-Reflect and Disclose

“ I think if I can just unwind and change before I respond…”

“ We are exhausted and never do well discussing these issues late at night…let’s pick it up tomorrow.”

When partners can take a moment to reflect upon and disclose their needs, hear each other, and try to work together– the chance of an overreaction based on basic needs is lowered.

Sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Anxiety

Are you the partner who feels such urgency that you cannot wait 10 minutes and insist on talking no matter how the other feels? Persisting or insisting rarely leads to a good place.

Try reducing the likelihood of an overreaction by regulating your anxiety:

  • Take 10 minutes to write down your thoughts so you don’t lose them or to do something for yourself for a short time while your partner catches his/her breath. This may actually give you a sense of mastery about waiting and improve the discussion.
  • Put words to your anxiety. If postponing discussing an issue until the morning feels like a “gag order” that fuels your anxiety, make that feeling known. Reasonable disclosure often invites a middle ground solution.
  • Sometimes, for example, simple acknowledgment of a problem offers enough relief that discussion can be postponed or becomes possible. Showing mutual respect and flexibility lowers overreactions.

“ So the boys want to drive to Maine with their friends… I am a bit nervous. Do you want to talk about it now or tomorrow?”

(If a partner chooses “tomorrow” and really follows up the next day – a big step of trust is taken for working together in future situations)

  1. Avoid Presumptions

A presumption is an act or instance of taking something to be true or adopting a particular attitude toward something, although it is not known for certain.

“ You never like spending time with my family.”

“ You have no interest in doing anything.”

Presumptions are triggers to overreactions in partners.

In most cases, they are critical and overgeneralized, leaving a partner feeling unfairly attacked and judged.

Robert Allan, author of Getting Control of Your Anger, suggests that one of the major hooks to anger is injustice.

  • It is not surprising that negative presumptions provoke partners to counterattack with anger and often a defensive screaming litany of proofs.
  • Often the accused becomes angry and feels he or she has been set up to overreact.

4. Use Assertion and Containment

If presumption is a negative pattern in your relationship, and inquiry and conversation have simply fueled the fire, believing in yourself and asserting what you know to be true is a powerful alternative to overreaction.

“ I have always enjoyed spending time with your family. They live very far away but I enjoy their company.”

Avoid Defensiveness-Stopping the back and forth with the assertion of what you know to be true is the most important thing you can do. There is power in certitude that needs no defense.

Regulate and Ignore the Bait-If your partner continues to pursue the presumption in an accusatory way – pause and use containment. Don’t take the bait. Regulate your urge to react by doing something else like getting up to make a cup of coffee or walk the dog. You are walking away from a negative pattern that hurts both you–and your partner. Come back prepared to proceed normally with the day or evening. The subliminal message is, “I am here but I will not participate in negative interactions.”

5. Evaluate How Much of Your Interaction is Overreaction

The quality of a relationship is key to mental and physical well-being. Step back and evaluate your interactions together. Is there so much shaming and blaming in a relationship that overreaction has become the painful method of interaction.

Psychologically this is a very dangerous situation for adults and children. When parents are constantly battling, children are in a storm of dysregulation without a lifeline. No one wins.

Friends and family often feel like a captive audience to a couple’s endless put-downs and blow-ups. Sometimes friends and family want to avoid the fray but stay for the children or stay to help. Not easy.

“ I no longer like who I have become.”

“ I am always angry because I feel so disrespected.”

“ I don’t know how this happened to us – We are stuck!”

  • This situation of overreactions often fueled by disdain warrants professional help for the sake of the partners and the well-being of the children.
  • Books, videos, on-line material, and groups that invite questions about co-dependency, fear of intimacy, hidden resentments, anger management and re-kindling love, can be invaluable in supporting partners who want to try to re-build or want to separate.
  • Children need their parents to be safe-so that they can be safe.

It is likely that if you are in a relationship, there will be times when you will overreact. Those times don’t have to mean the end of the relationship or the start of a war.

Looking closely at how and why you overreact, and using strategies to enhance understanding and restraint, can become a pathway to protect and expand your love and relationship.

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.

Emotions: Four Ways to Defeat Hijacking

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

In last week’s blog, we considered a neurological/emotional process known as “hijacking.” This week we will look at four steps to defend yourself from this problem.

But first, let me illustrate the behavioral signs of hijacking with a short clip from the movie, Cinderella Man.

In this scene, Mae Braddock is struggling with a deep fear that her husband, James, is going to be killed in an upcoming boxing match with Max Baer, who has reportedly killed two men in the ring. Watch how Mae’s emotions overpower her in this scene (click here to view the clip).

Mae’s outburst at her children demonstrates the three classic signs of “amygdala hijacking”: (1) the sudden onset (2) of an intense emotional reaction (3) that is later regretted.

Part of this dynamic can be traced to tensions between different parts of the brain, which no longer function as seamlessly as God originally designed them.

Competition in the Brain

Last week we noted that because of the way the brain is wired, sensory impulses arrive at the limbic system, where emotions are centered, a few nanoseconds before they get to the neocortex, where rational thinking is located. This means that our emotions can get rolling before we are able to rationally process critical information.

Using functional neuroimaging, a team of neuroscientists led by Matthew Lieberman discovered another competing relationship between the amygdala (a central part of the limbic system) and the neocortex.

Picture1 - CopyThey found that when the amygdala is highly stimulated with intense emotions, it utilizes more blood and oxygen than normal, leaving less of both for the neocortex. This deficit causes a corresponding decrease in our capacity for reasoning, problem solving, and impulse control. This can lead to a temporary loss of 10 to 15 IQ points!

Yes, you really do get dumber when you’re highly emotional.

So when someone asks, “What were you thinking?” after an emotional outburst, part of your answer can be, “I was thinking with a lot less brain power than I normally have at my disposal.”

Practical Defenses Against Hijacking

Realizing that emotional hijacking makes it difficult to think clearly, our ministry has developed a few simple acrostics to make it easier for you to manage your words and actions wisely in stressful situations.

One of these acrostics is set forth in this principle: “To become more self-aware and self-engaging, READ yourself accurately.” This acrostic summarizes four key steps that can help you resist hijacking:

  • Recognize your emotions
  • Evaluate their source
  • Anticipate the consequences of following them
  • Direct them on a constructive course

Recognize – What am I feeling?

Neuroimaging, as well as practical experience, have shown that labeling emotions can help to reduce their intensity and shift more of their management back to the prefrontal cortex.

For example, in a study conducted by Dr. Lieberman, when people attached a word like “angry” to an angry-looking face, neuro-activity in the amygdala, which processes fear, panic and other strong emotions, decreased significantly. This dampening effect was accompanied by a corresponding increase of activity in the neocortex, which controls impulses.

Recognizing and labeling emotions also helps us to pull them out of the shadows and identify those that pose risks to our relationships. Just as pneumonia is a more dangerous illness than a common cold, bitterness is more dangerous than disappointment, self-pity can lead to more problems than sadness, and fear can be more crippling than concern.

So it is important to practice looking into our own hearts and accurately applying labels such as sad, discouraged, depressed, angry, lonely, embarrassed, rejected, bitter, jealous, and self-pity, to name a few.

If you’re not used to doing this, a way to practice identifying emotions is to read a novel or watch a movie and constantly ask yourself, “What is that character feeling?” As you get better at reading emotions in others, you’ll get better at reading them in yourself.

Evaluate – Why am I feeling this emotion?

The next step is to ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” Asking these kinds of questions helps to move your thought process from the amygdala to the neocortex.

When I’m attempting to override a hijacking, I actually visualize grabbing my thoughts with both hands and dragging them from the back of my brain to the front of my brain, where my prefrontal cortex (and reasoning capacity) is located.

That’s also where all my sermon applications, memorized Scriptures, and lessons learned the hard way are stored, which is exactly what I need to draw on in order to defeat emotional hijacking.

More importantly, asking yourself why you’re feeling certain emotions helps to identify the circumstances and desires that are driving them, which is a crucial step toward controlling them (see James 4:1-3; Matt. 15:18).

The process looks like this: “I’m feeling angry. Why? Because Corlette just questioned my judgment. Why does that bother me so much? Because I’m proud and want her unqualified trust, respect, and support. Why else? Because I’m busy and I’m lazy and don’t want to spend more time explaining myself to her.”

Or, “What am I feeling? Self-pity. Why? Because I work my tail off for my family and make all sorts of sacrifices for them. And here when I needed just a little bit of support from them, they say they’re too busy. It’s just not fair. Really? So why have you been serving them all along, to put them in your debt?” Ouch!

As we dig into the depths of our own hearts in the middle of intense emotional times, we will often find that God is using the situation to free us from the grip of sinful desires and passions that have become controlling “idols.” (For more guidance on overcoming desires and emotions that seek to rule your life, see Getting to the Heart of Conflict.)

Anticipate – What are the likely consequences if I give in to this emotion?

Here again we are making a conscious effort to move our brain activity from the emotional zone to the reasoning zone. We draw on memories, experience, and learning by asking, “What is likely to happen if I give in to these emotions?”

It looks like this: “If I give into my anger, I’ll become defensive and say harsh things to Corlette, which will make her feel guilty and disrespected, and reluctant to voice questions or concerns in the future, which would not only hurt her but also undermine our ability to work as a team.”

Or, “If I give into self-pity, I’ll withdraw from my family and give them the cold shoulder. I’d like to label that as a defense mechanism, but the hard truth is that it’s simply a way to punish and manipulate them for not treating me the way I want. That will only build walls and distrust between us.”

“But worst of all, these reactions will offend my loving God who sent his Son to free me from these very sins.”

You’ll find equally uncomfortable but course-changing mental conversations when the emotions in question are bitterness, envy, jealously, depression, or hopelessness.

Direct – How can I channel my emotions onto a constructive course?

Although emotional hijacking can be almost instantaneous, these defense mechanisms take time. So what do we do to gain this time?

Buy some time. As I mentioned last week, one of the simplest anti-hijacking techniques is to always have a bottle of water or cup of coffee in front of you in any meetings or conversations that could become emotionally volatile. Make a firm resolution that you will not respond to an irritating or offensive comment without first taking a sip of water or coffee. The six seconds it takes to do so will usually give your neocortex time to catch up with your amygdala.

Another way to buy some time is to simply ask for it. “You know, this is really important to both of us, so I’d like to take a few minutes to walk around the block and think about our options.” Or, more simply, “We’ve been talking quite a while, and I need to take a bathroom break.”

Oxygenate. Slow down the conversation and breathe deeply. In emotional situations your brain is working intensely and using up a lot of oxygen. Be deliberate in replacing it. Your mother probably never heard of neuroimaging, but somehow she knew that counting to ten was always a good thing.

Rejoice in the Lord … and remember that he is near. This is a discipline the apostle Paul urged the Philippians to practice when they were wresting with a conflict: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:4-5). It’s difficult to have two strong emotional experiences simultaneously, so rejoicing in God—remembering his character, works, and promises—is an excellent way to counteract strong negative feelings about another person.

Pray. Paul goes on in Philippians to teach, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). In addition to appropriating God’s grace, prayer moves your thoughts off of what is provoking you and centers them on God himself … which should put worldly issues in a clearer context.

Be thankful. Since it’s difficult to entertain competing emotional experiences at the same time, being thankful is another way to counter a hijack (see Phil. 4:6). While it’s especially effective to be thankful for the person you’re talking with, other kinds of thankfulness can be helpful … whether it’s thankfulness to God for his many kindnesses to you, or thankfulness for other people he’s placed in your life. As Paul told the Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things … and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).

Do a 180. If you realize that our emotions are trying to lead you in a direction that is contrary to the love and character of Christ, ask him for grace to “do a 180,” that is, to do exactly the opposite of what you feel like doing (Luke 6:27-36; Rom. 12:20-21; see this blog for more specific guidance).

Learn from your mistakes. If you are hijacked, get a benefit from it. After your emotions cool, spend some time reflecting on what happened and why. Identifying the trigger for that event can help you be better prepared when you face a similar situation in the future.

There are no panaceas. Since we live in a fallen world, we will always be faced with the challenge of mastering our imperfect minds and emotions. But if you practice the spiritual principles that are summarized in the READ principle, you can steadily improve your ability to head hijacking off at the pass, and channel the power of your emotions into constructive words and actions.

This truth is beautifully illustrated in another clip from Cinderella Man, after Mae has spent time doing the kinds of things described above (in real life, Mae Braddock was a devout Christian). Watch what happens when she uses all of her mental and emotional gifts to bless her husband before he heads into the ring (click here  to view the clip).

What an excellent illustration of the simple but life-changing relational wisdom summarized in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[Emotionally] Hijacked

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Peter, James, and John were hijacked. So was Paul.

The same was true of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rachel … even David, the man after God’s own heart.

Chances are that you’ve been hijacked too. Probably within the last week.

It has nothing to do with being on an airplane. It has everything to do with having a marvelously complex and yet defective brain.

In simple terms, hijacking occurs when the emotional part of your brain (the limbic system) overpowers the rational part of your brain (the neocortex) … and gets control of your whole body along with it, including your mouth.

Think, for example, of a time when you hit your thumb with a hammer and blurted out an expletive … only to remember a moment too late that your five-year-old daughter was standing by your side.

Or a time when someone said something that offended you, so you threw a sarcastic comment back at him … only to wish later that those words had never left your mouth.

It’s bad enough when this happens in private; it’s so much worse when it’s done during a congregational meeting.

Hijacking Can Be Humorous

Sometimes hijacking is funny. Like the time my daughter wrote all over a wall and her own face with lipstick. Although the evidence against her was conclusive (and a quick confession would have been wise), when asked how the wall got all red, fear of admonishment led her to say, “I don’t know.”

We also smile when we read the account of a servant girl named Rhoda in the book of Acts. Peter had just been miraculously released from prison and was knocking on Rhoda’s door. Note how her emotions overpowered rational thinking: “Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate” (Acts 12:14). So Peter kept on knocking …

Hijacking Is Often Harmful

Unfortunately, hijacking is usually not funny. When we are overtaken by sinful emotions like anger, jealousy, lust, or fear, we often respond impulsively and say or do things that hurt other people, damage our relationships, trigger long-lasting shame, and weaken our witness as followers of Christ.

Like James and John when their anger flared and they sought to bring down fire on the Samaritans because they would not welcome Jesus (Luke 9:51-55).

Or Joseph’s brothers, when jealousy drove them to sell him into slavery (Gen. 37:11; 27-28).

Or David, when lust led to seduction, pregnancy, manipulation, and murder … and eventually to civil war (2 Sam. 11:1-17; 2Sam. 12:11-15).

Or Peter, when fear compelled him to deny Jesus three times … which he deeply regretted within moments as he wept outside the gate (Luke 22:54-62).

Sin-Damaged Brains

When we read these biblical narratives, we typically explain them by simply saying, “They sinned.”

That’s true, but painting with such a broad brush robs us of a full understanding of the problem and an effective plan of action.

Sin is definitely central to these harmful dynamics, but its impact is far more nuanced than most of us realize. Let’s look at this from both a theological and neurological perspective.

At creation, God made us in his image (Gen. 1:26). Among other things, this means he designed our minds to function perfectly in every situation, no matter what kind of stress we might be feeling. The limbic part of our brain, where emotions and motivations are centered, was designed to work in perfect harmony with our neocortex, where rational thinking and decision making takes place.

But sin threw this beautifully designed system out of whack. Instead of meshing smoothly, the various parts of our brain sometimes get out of synch. Emotions, desires and passions can get so intense that they compel us to do things we know are wrong and will soon be regretted (see Rom. 7:18-19; James 4:1-3).

A Matter of Nanoseconds

Part of what goes wrong in these situations (and this is only one part) has to do with the wiring of our brains, which no longer works as perfectly as God initially designed it. So here’s what happens …

Data from our senses enter the brain through the thalamus, which relays impulses to other parts of the brain. Due to small differences in the distances to be traveled, impulses arrive at the limbic system a few nanoseconds before they get to the neocortex. This means that our emotions can get rolling before we are able to rationally process the information.

Simple illustration. My wife is terrified of snakes. If we were walking along a high mountain cliff and she saw a small garter snake beside the trail, she would probably scream and leap ten feet out into thin air before her neocortex reminded her that she can’t fly. But by then it’s too late.

Saved by a Water Bottle

Next week we’ll look at several ways to use the READ principle to guard against hijacking. But let me leave you with a simple illustration today.

I once counseled a man who frequently got himself into trouble at work by speaking impulsively during business meetings. If he was irritated, surprised, or simply wanted attention, he would throw out little sarcastic comments that steadily eroded his credibility and relationships. He wanted to stop but the little jabs just kept on coming.

Although a thorough solution would require a prayerful examination of his heart (Matt. 15:19), I gave him some immediate help simply by advising him to always take a water bottle or cup of coffee into his meetings … and to never say a word until he had raised the bottle or cup to his lips and taken a sip.

The six seconds required to take a sip gave his brain time to work around his emotional impulses and get a message up to the neocortex, where his higher reasoning powers had time to evaluate the situation and send an overriding message to his mouth: “I really don’t need to say this.”

Not very fancy, but it worked. And that little bit of progress motivated him to pursue the more comprehensive solutions we’ll look at in next week’s blog: Four Ways to Defeat Hijacking.

11 Brutal Truths About Emotions That You Really Need to Hear

SOURCE:  Justin Bariso

Make emotions work for you. Instead of against you.

Since it was first introduced decades ago, the concept of emotional intelligence has been heralded by many as the secret, intangible key to success. But as this concept has increased in popularity, it’s also become widely misunderstood.

So, what is emotional intelligence exactly?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a person’s ability to identify emotions (in both themselves and others), to recognize the powerful effects of those emotions, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior. Practicing EI can help you reach your goals and make you more persuasive.

So, here are 11 tips brutal truths about emotions that will instantly increase your EQ:

1. Emotional intelligence begins when you ask the right questions.

Asking the right questions gives you valuable insight into the role emotions play in everyday life.

For example, if you’re frustrated at work, you might ask:

  • Where is the underlying problem? Is it an assignment, a colleague, a situation?
  • Do I have any control over this? What can I change, and what can’t I?

You can find a list of more thoughtful questions here. Get familiar with them, and you’ll start to be more proactive, and less reactive.

2. You can’t control your feelings. But you can control the reactions to your feelings.

Since emotions involve your natural, instinctive feelings and are influenced by brain chemistry, you can’t always control how you feel.

But you can control how you act upon those feelings.

For example, let’s say you have an anger management problem. The first step is to increase awareness of how anger affects you. Then, you need to develop an appropriate method for responding to that feeling–by focusing on your thoughts and actions.

All of this won’t take your anger away. But it can keep you from actions that will hurt yourself and others.

3. Others see you much differently than you see yourself.

This isn’t about right or wrong; it’s simply understanding how perceptions differ, and the consequences those differences create. But for many, all of this goes unnoticed.

By asking those close to us–like a significant other or close friend or workmate–about our interactions with them and others, we can learn from their perspective.

4. Empathy can greatly increase the value of your work.

The ability to relate to another person’s feelings goes a long way in building and fostering great relationships.

But learning to see things from another person’s perspective yields immediate, everyday benefits as well–like making you a better writer, presenter, trainer and manager. (More here on the practical benefits of empathy.)

5. It’s all about the long game.

Science has shown that changing deeply-ingrained behaviors and habits requires repeated effort and substantial commitment.

How can you do so? Here are seven methods that you can begin practicing today.

These methods aren’t easy to apply. But with dedication and hard work, they’ll help shape the way you experience even the most powerful emotions.

6. Criticism is a gift.

Nobody’s right all the time; that’s why criticism can help us to grow. Unfortunately, emotions often prevent us from taking advantage of negative feedback.

Instead of wasting time and energy rating how ideally criticism was delivered, ask yourself:

  • How can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?
  • Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?

Even if negative feedback is unfounded, it can still give you a valuable window into other perspectives.

Of course, not everyone has this ability. That’s why…

7. It’s vital to gain trust before delivering negative feedback.

Humans all share certain emotional needs, like a general craving for sincere acknowledgement and praise. Recognizing that, good leaders first focus on the positive (and potential) in his or her team. Additionally, by getting to know your team, their challenges, and their way of working, not only will you begin to see things from their perspective, you’ll begin to earn their trust.

Negative feedback can be difficult to swallow. But if your team is confident that you’ve got their backs, they’ll appreciate your efforts to make them better.

8. Remember that “negative” emotions can be just as beneficial as “positive” ones.

When we’re happy, the coffee tastes better, the birds sound sweeter…and there’s no challenge too great to handle.

But “negative” emotions (like anger, sadness, or fear) can give you the impetus to dig deep, learn more about yourself, and develop a strategy to make things better. (More on that here.)

9. Raising your EQ isn’t all fun and games. But it can be…sometimes.

Researchers have found that some of our favorite recreational activities can produce an increase in emotional intelligence. For example, watching films, listening to music and reading in the right way can actually help you understand and practice empathy for others.

10. EQ and EI aren’t the same thing.

Nowadays, many use EQ (Emotional Quotient) and EI (Emotional Intelligence) interchangeably. But that’s a mistake.

EQ is useful as shorthand to refer to a person’s knowledge of emotions and how they work. It can be adopted liberally: Just as we speak of athletes having a high basketball or football IQ, an allusion to one’s EQ is easily understood.

But by definition, emotional intelligence is a practical ability. And while a person may comprehend the principles of how emotions work in real life, application of that knowledge is another story. (This is the foundation of my forthcoming book, EQ, Applied, which explains how emotional intelligence works in the real world.)

11. Emotional Intelligence can be used for evil.

It’s important to know that, like any ability, emotional intelligence can be used both ethically and unethically. Every day, certain politicians, colleagues, and even supposed friends use emotions to manipulate others.

Of course, this is just one more reason why you should work at raising your own EI, to protect yourself.

Because in the end, that’s what emotional intelligence is all about: making emotions work for you, instead of against you.

Wishing He Were Your Husband

SOURCE:  Sabrina Beasley McDonald/Family Life

When you’re caught in emotional adultery, these four steps will help guide your heart back to your spouse.

Pam is a faithful follower of Christ and very active in her church, so when she discovered her husband’s pornography addiction, she felt betrayed. It wasn’t long until a male Christian friend at work caught Pam’s attention. He was a family man, seemed to have his life together, and there was something about their personalities that just “clicked.” The more time she spent with him, the more she wished he was her husband, instead.

“We have the same ideas about life,” she said. “And there was something about his demeanor that I found lacking in my husband—he already had my respect, where my husband had lost it.”

This connection or attraction is called “emotional adultery.” A woman may not be cheating on her spouse in a physical way, but her emotion and mental devotion has been violated. That connection is so dangerous it can make a godly woman like Pam wish someone else was her husband.

Emotional adultery is an issue of the heart as much as physical lust is for a man. The Bible calls this coveting, and the Ten Commandments condemns it: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” [or in this case, husband] (Exodus 20:17). It may come in the form of long conversations, a look in the eyes, body language, a sense of warmth or belonging, a trust or confidence that makes you want to talk to him and share personal feelings. If any of these things occur, then you are in danger of emotional adultery.

If you’re thinking of a man right now and you’re wondering if you’re in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are. We women know when we’ve made a connection, and if that’s the case, it’s time to stop. A “friendship” like this one could result in an actual physical affair.

How to stop the connection

If you are involved in an emotional relationship with someone other than your spouse, you must get out of it. Second Timothy 2:22 tells us to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Even if you’re unsure whether the relationship is inappropriate or not, it’s better to sacrifice the friendship than it is to endanger your marriage.

Here are four steps to help you get out of the relationship:

First, break all ties. The first and most important thing you must do is sever the friendship. There is no way around this. I have heard people express that they can still be friends with a person while maintaining a distance, but that is almost impossible. The safest thing to do is to stop speaking to this person altogether.

If you attend the same church and find that you still see each other too much during church activities, change places of worship. If he is part of your daily activities, such as jogging or meeting during breaks at work, then stop participating in those activities. If you can’t stop these activities, then change the times that you take part in them. Go jogging in the morning instead of the afternoon or take breaks at 2:00 and 4:00, instead of 3:00 and 5:00. If he is part of the PTA meetings, then sit as far away from him as possible and don’t make eye contact. Pretend that he isn’t there.

Cutting off the relationship will be the most difficult part of the healing. You will feel like you’re being hateful or a “snob.” But it’s better to appear to be a harsh person than to sin in your marriage. You may very well hurt your friend’s feelings, but it’s the sacrifice you must make to do the right thing.

Second, guard your heart and mind. Hollywood and the media have a way of making us unhappy with real life. The hero of the romantic comedy may seem perfect and make you wonder why your husband doesn’t measure up. Then you become unsatisfied with your imperfect husband.

Judy Starr is a Christian author who was involved in an emotional affair. In her book Enticement of the Forbidden, she says, “We must take care not to engage in anything that draws our thoughts and hearts away from the Lord and from our husbands. By guarding what we see and hear, we keep impurity out and strengthen the walls around our marriage.”

This action is comparable to a man who looks at pornography. When a man views pornography, he sees a woman who is physically unreal. But in his mind he may compare her image to his wife, and a real woman cannot compete with imagined perfection. It’s the same with characters in television shows, movies, and books. No man in real life (not even your new friend) can compete with a movie-maker’s imagination. If you don’t want your husband to compare you to Playboy models, what makes you think he wants to be compared to Hollywood’s leading men?

Third, look beyond your husband’s faults into the man that he is. No one is perfect. Romans 3:23 assures us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Your husband will fail and disappoint you at times. But that’s why God has given us grace. How much grace have you given your husband for his shortcomings? How much grace do you expect from him for your shortcomings?

Start looking for the things that you love about your husband. Why did you fall in love with him in the first place? In what ways has he been good to you? Start trying to build the same friendship with him that you had with your male friend. Plan dates, share your dreams and confide in him.

You will find that if you look beyond his faults you will find a dear friend, and this disconnection that caused you to move beyond your marriage for love, will begin to disappear.

Fourth, find a trustworthy female accountability partner. You need a good girlfriend with whom you can be brutally honest. James 5:16a says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Confess your feelings for the other man, and give your accountability partner permission to question your actions and hold you to God’s Word.

The rest of the story

It wasn’t long until my friend, Pam, realized that her newfound connection was a temptation from Satan. At one point, the two of them ended up on a business trip together and were often left alone in the car, but Pam chose to do the right thing.

Each time they were forced to spend time together, Pam made a concerted effort to keep from making eye contact. She turned cold in their communications and prayed that God would help her combat this temptation.

Eventually, Pam took an opportunity to leave her job, and she began to purposefully look at her spouse in a new light. “I’m really glad that God brought me out of that temptation,” Pam says. “Now when I look at my husband, I don’t feel the pain that I used to feel. I realize that God is working on him just like He’s working on me, and I’m glad that God has us together.”

10 Facts You Need To Know About Emotions

SOURCE:  /PsychCentral

Do you tend to feel things more deeply than do other people? Or are you more on the intellectual end of the spectrum, more in touch with your thoughts than your emotions? What are your beliefs about feelings? Do you fall prey to any of the following myths?

  1. MythEmotions are irrational/silly/a sign of weaknessTruthEmotions allow us to express to ourselves and to those around us what we are experiencing. Also, emotions provide important clues to what we might need to do next. While it’s optimal to meld emotions with reason, do listen the next time you feel a depletion of energy, a sinking feeling, or a burst of anxiety when in a particular situation or have spent time with a specific person.
  2. MythTrying to manage my emotions will make me feel like a robot. TruthThere’s a difference between suppressing feelings and regulating them. The goal is to have a healthy and full range of emotions without allowing our emotions to function as the sole barometer of what is true or to lead us into destructive behavior.
  3. MythI should feel differently. I’m wrong to feel the way I do. TruthYou have a right to your emotions. True, sometimes your feelings may be based on a misinterpretation of your current situation, but you are always entitled to your feelings. For instance, if you are woken up in the middle of the night by a loud noise, you believe that an intruder has broken into your home, and your heart starts beating quickly, this is understandable. If when investigating the matter you realize that the noise was due to a harmless thunderclap outside, this doesn’t mean that you were wrong to initially feel anxious.
  4. MythVenting will make me feel better. TruthYelling, punching a wall, or keying someone’s car will just intensify your anger. Going on at length about how terrified you are about an upcoming plane ride or surgery is likely to magnify your anxiety. There is a difference between talking with someone about your feelings, which can be helpful, and going on for an extensive length of time, with the intensity of your emotions escalating to a 10, which can just fuel the fire.
  5. MythOther people make me feel certain ways. Truth: You are the guardian of your emotions. While other people’s behavior may be annoying, threatening, or draining, you are responsible for how you react. If you find yourself consistently feeling a certain way after interactions with a particular person, you might talk with them about your relationship or choose to spend less time with them. Do be open to examining your own part in the nature of the relationship, rather than assuming that the other person is entirely to blame.
  6. MythMy emotions just happen to me – I can’t control them. TruthWhile it wouldn’t be advisable or possible to put yourself in an emotional straitjacket, you definitely can learn to modulate the intensity of your reactions and to see the world, other people, and yourself in less threatening and more positive ways. Choose to change the way you think and behave. Consider how your best possible self would behave. Hint: “Best possible” does not mean perfect.
  7. MythThis is just the way I am. TruthWhile there is almost certainly a genetic component to being emotionally sensitive (which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing), there’s a lot you can do to manage your feelings while still having a healthy range of emotions. When left to their own devices, some people just instinctively react more extremely than do other people. Similar to how some people’s immune systems may be overly sensitive. Why are some people allergic to peanuts, and other people aren’t? Let go of self-judgment, accept your nature, and then work to refine your reactions, so you are most effective. While there is almost certainly a genetic component to being emotionally sensitive (which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing), there’s a lot you can do to manage your feelings while still having a full and healthy range of emotions.
  8. MythI can’t handle uncomfortable feelings. Truth: This belief is likely to lead to your avoiding situations that you associate with feeling a certain way, which usually results in your feeling less able to cope with this situation and possibly other situations in general. The way to build the belief that you can tolerate discomfort is to let yourself experience it (if need be) and learn that you can weather the emotional storm. Doing so would be an example of what is called “building mastery” in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and is a powerful antidote to despair.
  9. MythIf I feel that something is true, then it is absolutely true. TruthThis is emotional reasoning, one of the most common cognitive distortions. For instance, let’s say that you tossed and turned all night and are thus sleep-deprived. As a result, the amount of work waiting for you at the office seems insurmountable, although in general you perform well at your job, and you feel that your professional skills are inadequate. It’s likely that your fatigue is contributing to your feelings and consequent belief – so remember how your beliefs and actions can be skewed by your being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (in other words, HALT).
  10. MythI will never stop feeling the way I currently do. Truth: It can sometimes seem as if our present emotional state will go on forever. The absence of a sense of hope that things will ever change can feel devastating. If you feel this way most of the time for two weeks or longer, you may want to consult a mental health professional regarding the possibility of your being in a depressive episode. However, sometimes life is just rough. Do believe (even if you don’t “feel like it”) that your feelings are likely to shift, either through your taking action to address uncomfortable circumstances, accept unavoidable disappointments or tragedies in your life, connect in meaningful ways with family and friends, or just the passage of time.

Be your own best advocate and do what you can to be proactively self-compassionate, mindful, and non-judgmental about your feelings. Ask yourself:

  1. Do my emotions fit the facts of the situation?
  2. Would acting on my feelings right now be in my best interest?
  3. Would acting on my feelings right now create an additional problem?

When experiencing painful, unexpected, or intense emotions, accept that you feel a certain way instead of beating yourself up, and recognize that you have the ability to choose how to respond to that feeling.

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