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Archive for the ‘Self-Control’ Category

How to Handle Toxic and Critical People

SOURCE: Leslie Vernick

We all have encounters with difficult people who leave us rattled and shaken. A co-worker undermines us in front of our boss; our friend puts us down and says she was “just kidding.” Our spouse rages and then turns everything around to make us think that it’s our fault.

Most of us would prefer to minimize our contact with people like this but sometimes it’s just not possible. We may work with them, be married to them, or have some other connection that keeps us in regular contact with toxic individuals. For a long time, Christians have been taught to forbear and forgive. While Biblical in essence, most of us aren’t exactly sure how to live it out in real life.

We know that Jesus tells us that we’re to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us but actually doing it is much more challenging. The apostle Paul counsels us in these instances not to be overcome with evil but instead, to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). But honestly, there are times when evil feels stronger and we are not sure how to stop it from getting the best of us.

Below are 5 specific steps I have found helpful in putting these Biblical truths into practice, especially when dealing with a toxic or destructive person.

1. Press Pause: As soon as you feel that poisonous dart, take a deep breath and pray for God’s help. The words or behaviors of another person have just knocked you off balance and will infect you with its toxic effects if you don’t quickly apply an antidote.

2. Don’t panic and overreact or be passive and under-react. Stay calm and don’t fall for their bait. Try not to take what they have done or said personally (which is very tempting to do). Remember, the way someone treats you, whether it be good or bad, really has little to do with you. It reveals something about who they are.

3. Ask yourself this question: What in this present moment do I need to learn (or change) in order to become the person I want to become? Here are a few examples of things I have found I needed after I asked myself this question.

Courage

Humility

Generosity

To speak the truth in love

To set firmer boundaries

Patience

Not to worry so much what others think of me

Let go of my desire to make everyone happy

Not to let this person get the best of me or to make me act crazy

Believe me, it is very tempting in the moment to defend yourself, feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, become totally intimidated and overwhelmed, or strike back with your own attack. None of these responses will help you move forward with a toxic person. However, God does promise to use these painful moments for our good. Therefore, learn what you can and let go of the rest.

4. Teach yourself to respond out of who you want to be rather than how you feel at the moment. We already know how to do this when we act responsibly and get out of bed to go to work even when we want to sleep in or when we patiently work with our child on their homework even though we’d rather be doing anything else. If you must respond to a provocative situation, speak calmly, truthfully and firmly especially when you have to set a limit or say “no”. Refuse to engage in arguing, defending yourself, or circular conversations that go nowhere.

5. Practice (and this takes time) looking at this difficult/destructive person in a different way than you have in the past. Instead of meditating on his or her faults or sin against you, search for her goodness, his humanness, or his/her woundedness. When we can see a person in this new way, it’s much easier to allow God to fill us with His love and compassion for this pitiful person who would be so blind as to treat us (or anyone) in such a sinful way. Having this change in perspective doesn’t excuse the toxic person or give him or her license to continue to do damage, but it does help us not to judge and empowers us to forgive him/her, even if we can’t reconcile the relationship.

We can honestly pray God’s best for this person and leave him/her in His capable hands. We all encounter evil situations and difficult and destructive people, but by practicing these five steps, we can learn to overcome evil’s toxic effects in us with good.

Family Wounds Are Slow to Heal

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Family wounds are slow to heal.

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

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

The book of Genesis is a relative disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What was going on?

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

Maybe you don’t either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revealing leads to healing.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

For Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 Consequences of Adultery

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by David Boehi — Family Life Ministries

If I committed adultery…

  1. My relationship with God would suffer from a break in fellowship.
  2. I would need to seek forgiveness from my Lord.
  3. I would suffer from the emotional consequences of guilt.
  4. I would spend countless hours replaying the failure.
  5. My spouse would suffer the scars of this abuse more deeply than I could begin to describe.
  6. My spouse would spend countless hours in counseling.
  7. My spouse’s recovery would be long and painful.
  8. My spouse’s pain would grieve me deeply and compound my own suffering and shame.
  9. Our marriage relationship would suffer a break in trust, fellowship, and intimacy.
  10. In our marriage, we would be together, yet feel great loneliness.
  11. The reputation of my family would suffer loss.
  12. My children would be deeply disappointed and bewildered.
  13. My grandchildren would not understand.
  14. My friends would be disappointed and would question my integrity.
  15. My employment or job performance would be affected.
  16. My witness among neighbors would become worthless.
  17. My witness to my family would be worthless.
  18. My testimony among my spouse’s family would be damaged.
  19. My service in ministry would be damaged.
  20. My ability to work within the church would be damaged.
  21. I would suffer God’s discipline.
  22. Satan would be thrilled at my failure.
  23. Satan would work overtime to be sure my shame never departed.
  24. My spouse might divorce me.
  25. My children might never speak to me.
  26. Our mutual friends would shy away from us and break fellowship.
  27. I would bring emotional pain to the person with whom I committed adultery.
  28. I would bring reproach upon the person with whom I committed adultery.
  29. If my affair partner is married, that person’s spouse might attempt to bring harm.
  30. My affair partner’s spouse might divorce her.
  31. An unwanted child could be produced.
  32. My part in conception might trigger an abortion, the killing of an innocent child.
  33. Disease might result.
  34. Some might conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
  35. My business could fail because I couldn’t be trusted.
  36. My leadership among those I have led in the past might also be diminished in impact.
  37. My zeal for ministry would suffer and possibly result in others not continuing in ministry.
  38. My health would suffer.
  39. I might have to start life over again.
  40. This same sin might be visited upon my family for four generations.

It’s a pretty sobering list, isn’t it? What’s even more sobering is that many people will consider these consequences and still proceed in their sin. The fantasy is more important to them than the reality.

The biggest benefit of this list may be in helping us realize the need to set up strict safeguards to ensure that we are faithful in our marriage commitment. If I am convinced of what adultery would do to me and to my family, I will watch my wandering eyes, guard my thought life, and avoid any situations that could put me in harm’s way.

The fantasy is just not worth it.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Make Up Your Mind to Manage Your Mind

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

The reason why most people are ineffective in life is that they’ve never learned how to fight the battle of the mind.

If you want to learn to manage your mind, you have to be delivered from destructive thoughts. That isn’t easy, because there are three enemies that keep you from fulfilling all your good intentions of changing your life.

  1. The first enemy is your old nature.

Paul says in Romans 7:23, “There is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (NLT).

Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t really want to do? That’s the battle in your brain between your old, sinful nature and your good intentions.

  1. The second enemy is Satan.

Satan cannot force you to do anything, but he can make suggestions, and those suggestions are incredibly powerful. He is constantly planting negative thoughts in your mind. He’ll use other people or he’ll use the TV or he’ll just throw a thought in your mind.

  1. The third enemy is the world’s value system.

Does anything in our society encourage self-discipline? Not much. Advertisements tell us, “You deserve a break today. Have it your way. We do it all for you.”

The Bible says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV).

With enemies like that, no wonder we struggle with discouragement and despair and failure!

So how do you fight this battle? Look at what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

You have a choice. Your mind has to listen to you. God didn’t give you just a mind. He gave you a will! The best time to win the battle with temptation is before it begins.

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

How to Set Boundaries Within a Dysfunctional Family

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

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

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

Identify the Conflict

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

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

Identify the Need That Drives the Conflict

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

Take In and Receive the Good

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

Practice Boundary Skills

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

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

Say No to the Bad

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

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

Forgive the Aggressor

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

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

Respond, Don’t React

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

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

Learn to Love in Freedom and Responsibility, Not in Guilt

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

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

Your Child Is Not Your Enemy

SOURCE:  Brooke McGlothlin/Gospel Centered Mom/FamilyLife

Here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

When the days of mothering grow long and make a girl weary, and when what you really want to do is lock your child in a bedroom and throw away the key, it’s good to remember this: Your child is not your enemy.

Our goal for our children isn’t to create super kids, nor is it to strip them of all the quirks and traits that make up their personalities. Our fight is to help them grow toward Christlikeness, into the best version of them that they can be.

With that in mind, here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

1.Tell God He can have you. I made this number one because it’s the most important. None of the other steps matter much at all unless you’re willing to let God change you first.

I’ve learned firsthand the importance of allowing God to strip me of old, sinful habits that hinder my ability to fight for my children. In other words, most of the time the battle for my boys involves battling with myself. I’m the parent, and I can’t win if I allow myself to be dragged down to their level. My goal is to rise above and invite them to come with me.

2. Get in the habit of prayer. Every one of us wants to know what God wants us to do so we can just do it and be done. I sometimes feel frustrated because it doesn’t seem like God gives me clear direction when my heart is ready to do whatever He tells me to do. But I’ve come to this conclusion: Most of the time I’m too busy talking to actually hear when He is speaking to me.

That’s why taking a break to pray before I speak, before I react, and before anyone else gets up in the morning, and praying throughout the entire day is so important. God wants to give us direction and comfort, but we’re often too busy juggling life on our own to ask.

3. Embrace the power of a mommy timeout. It doesn’t necessarily take long to recharge if you know what works for you. What gives you a healthy sense of relief almost instantaneously? Is it music? A good book? Reading your favorite Bible passage? Getting on your knees in prayer? Whatever it is—and it may vary from day to day—do that.

You cannot parent your children well when your heart is frazzled. Even if you have to take five-minute mommy breaks multiple times a day, do something to focus your attention on Jesus. Remember that peace has nothing to do with what’s happening around you. Peace comes only from relationship with Jesus Christ. You can’t manufacture it with things or even changes in circumstances. It comes from within as you surrender your life to Christ.

4. Prepare ahead of time. Just as I have my own triggers, certain things tend to agitate my sons. After studying them for years now, I’m beginning to recognize these triggers and to be physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared for the inevitable.

When it’s time to leave the pool, I get their attention about 20 minutes beforehand and let them know we’re leaving in 20 minutes. Then I give them updates every few minutes so that when it’s actually time to leave they’re not taken by surprise.

I don’t think I can overemphasize prayer’s importance as an in-the-moment tactic as well as part of the advance preparation. I pray a lot. For my response as well as for my sons’.

5. Be stronger. When they were very young, I would often pick up my boys and carry them, despite their flailing and kicking, to a safe space for them to calm down. Now I can ask them to go somewhere safe, and they will, albeit not always without emotional drama. We’re fast approaching the day when they’ll be much stronger than I am, so what I’m talking about here isn’t physical strength so much as emotional and spiritual strength.

You may have heard it said that a leader can take his followers only as far as he has traveled. As a parent, you are, by default, a leader. God gave you to your children to teach them, train them, and make it as easy as possible for them to know Him. To lead them well, you don’t have to know the answers to every theological question or have your whole life together; you just have to be a few paces ahead of where they are.

6. Love harder. There are a lot of amazing things about my boys, things I know God will use one day for His glory and purpose in their lives. But for right now, they’re raw and unrefined and often drive me crazy.

One day, they’ll fight for something instead of against it. Until that time, it’s my goal to love them harder than they fight me. If my boys go to bed each night feeling more loved than fought and more a treasure than a hindrance and know there’s nothing they could ever do to make me not love them, I call that day a success.

7. Be a student of your child. There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to raising godly children. Sometimes, I wish there were. Other times I’m glad it’s not up to me to change their hearts. God can do a much better job of that than I can.

What is within my power is to study my son, to really know him—his personality, what makes him happy, what makes him tick, what sets him off, what makes him feel loved. When a mom knows those things, she can tailor her parenting to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the child. It empowers the parent to reach the heart of the child, deep down inside, instead of just trying not to be inconvenienced by his bad behavior.

8. Refuse to give up. I know you’re tempted daily to give up. So am I. When things don’t go as planned, when children continue to be resentful or disobedient regularly, when the clutter grows unmanageable, and the pile of laundry threatens to avalanche, we might be tempted to say, “I quit. I’m not even going to try anymore.”

The circumstances we’re in today are not forever. If we stay the course, we will reap a harvest, even if it happens on the other side of heaven. There’s more waiting for us when we get there. The choices we make today to press on and fight the good fight will make a difference in generations to come, influencing who among our family and friends will get to join us with Jesus. Do not give up.

Relational Conflict: The Four Horsemen — The Antidotes

SOURCE:  Ellie Lisitsa/The Gottman Institute

All relationships, even the most successful ones, have conflict. It is unavoidable. Fortunately, our research shows that it’s not the appearance of conflict, but rather how it’s managed that predicts the success or failure of a relationship. We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve,” because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects that provide opportunities for growth and understanding.

And there are problems that you just won’t solve due to natural personality differences between you and your partner, but if you can learn to manage those problems in a healthy way, then your relationship will succeed.

The first step in effectively managing conflict is to identify and counteract The Four Horsemen when they arrive in your conflict discussions. If you don’t, you risk serious problems in the future of your relationship. But, like Newton’s Third Law, for every horseman there is an antidote, and you can learn how and when to use them below.

You can download a free PDF version of the The Four Horsemen and Their Antidotes here.

The Antidote to Criticism: Gentle Start-Up

A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, but criticism attacks a person’s very character. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame by using a soft or gentle start-up. Avoid saying “you,” which can indicate blame, and instead talk about your feelings using “I” statements and express what you need in a positive way.

To put it simply, think of these two things to formulate your soft start-up: What do I feel? What do I need?

Criticism: “You always talk about yourself. Why are you always so selfish?”

Antidote: “I’m feeling left out of our talk tonight and I need to vent. Can we please talk about my day?”

Notice that the antidote starts with “I feel,” leads into “I need,” and then respectfully asks to fulfill that need. There’s no blame or criticism, which prevents the discussion from escalating into an argument.

The Antidote to Contempt: Build a Culture of Appreciation and Respect

Contempt shows up in statements that come from a position of moral superiority. Some examples of contempt include sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is destructive and defeating. It is the greatest predictor of divorce, and it must be avoided at all costs.

The antidote to contempt is to build a culture of appreciation and respect in your relationship, and there are a few ways to do that. One of our mottos is Small Things Often: if you regularly express appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect for your partner, you’ll create a positive perspective in your relationship that acts as a buffer for negative feelings. The more positive you feel, the less likely that you’ll feel or express contempt!

Another way that we explain this is our discovery of the 5:1 “magic ratio” of positive to negative interactions that a relationship must have to succeed. If you have five or more positive interactions for every one negative interaction, then you’re making regular deposits into your emotional bank account, which keeps your relationship in the green.

Contempt: “You forgot to load the dishwasher again? Ugh. You are so incredibly lazy.” (Rolls eyes.)

Antidote: “I understand that you’ve been busy lately, but could you please remember to load the dishwasher when I work late? I’d appreciate it.”

The antidote here works so well because it expresses understanding right off the bat. This partner shows how they know that the lack of cleanliness isn’t out of laziness or malice, and so they do not make a contemptuous statement about their partner or take any position of moral superiority.

Instead, this antidote is a respectful request, and it ends with a statement of appreciation.

The Antidote to Defensiveness: Take Responsibility

Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack. Many people become defensive when they are being criticized, but the problem is that being defensive never helps to solve the problem at hand.

Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying that the problem isn’t me, it’s you. As a result, the problem is not resolved and the conflict escalates further. The antidote is to accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict.

Defensiveness: “It’s not my fault that we’re going to be late. It’s your fault since you always get dressed at the last second.”

Antidote: “I don’t like being late, but you’re right. We don’t always have to leave so early. I can be a little more flexible.”

By taking responsibility for part of the conflict (trying to leave too early), even while asserting that they don’t like to be late, this partner prevents the conflict from escalating by admitting their role in the conflict. From here, this couple can work towards a compromise.

The Antidote to Stonewalling: Physiological Self-Soothing

Stonewalling is when someone completely withdraws from a conflict discussion and no longer responds to their partner. It usually happens when you’re feeling flooded or emotionally overwhelmed, so your reaction is to shut down, stop talking, and disengage. And when couples stonewall, they’re under a lot of emotional pressure, which increases heart rates, releases stress hormones into the bloodstream, and can even trigger a fight-or-flight response.

In one of our longitudinal research studies, we interrupted couples after fifteen minutes of an argument and told them we needed to adjust the equipment. We asked them not to talk about their issue, but just to read magazines for half an hour. When they started talking again, their heart rates were significantly lower and their interaction was more positive and productive.

What happened during that half hour? Each partner, without even knowing it, physiologically soothed themselves by reading and avoiding discussion. They calmed down, and once they felt calm, they were able to return to the discussion in a respectful and rational way.

Therefore, the antidote to stonewalling is to practice physiological self-soothing, and the first step of self-soothing is to stop the conflict discussion and call a timeout:

“Look, we’ve been through this over and over again. I’m tired of reminding you—”

“Honey, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need to take a break. Can you give me twenty minutes and then we can talk?”

If you don’t take a break, you’ll find yourself either stonewalling and bottling up your emotions, or you’ll end up exploding at your partner, or both, and neither will get you anywhere good.

So, when you take a break, it should last at least twenty minutes because it will take that long before your body physiologically calms down. It’s crucial that during this time you avoid thoughts of righteous indignation (“I don’t have to take this anymore”) and innocent victimhood (“Why is he always picking on me?”). Spend your time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music, reading, or exercising. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it helps you to calm down.

You’ve got the skills. Use them!

Now that you know what the Four Horsemen are and how to counteract them with their proven antidotes, you’ve got the essential tools to manage conflict in a healthy way. As soon as you see criticism or contempt galloping in, remember their antidotes. Be vigilant. The more you can keep the Four Horsemen at bay, the more likely you are to have a stable and happy relationship.

Porn: A FEW QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU CLICK

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

This is a familiar scene to you: you’ve got some spare time, you know watching porn will deliver high impact and release, nobody will know, you’ll be forgiven by God as soon as you ask, then you can move on.

No big deal.

Which is, of course, the problem. Because it’s gotten to be a much bigger deal than you realize.

When something’s wrong but no longer shocking, it’s a lot easier to give into it. And since porn use it so common today, not to mention so convenient and easy to use, it’s lost a lot of its shock value. We have an epidemic which we’re not alarmed about. That’s alarming.

So today, if you’re one of the millions of believers who feel the enticement to use the stuff, you’ll be making a simple decision to either resist or indulge. Those of us in the Body of Christ who love you and are joined to you (much less your wife and family who need you in ways that can’t be measured) are counting on you to make the right decision when the urge hits, because believe me, the entire Body is weakened when you don’t. So to help yourself make the right one, would you please consider a few simple questions?

  1. Would you view this material, and stimulate yourself while viewing it, while sitting on the altar of your local church? Because if you wouldn’t think of doing such a thing inside an earthly building, why would you do it with your own body which is the literal temple of God?

  2. Do you think the woman in the video has feelings, dreams, loved ones, and parents? Because if she’s someone’s child, mother or even wife (and she is!) and if she has a heart, which she does, what do you think this film did to her and them, and why would you support that?

  3. How long will you enjoy this time of viewing the porn, in contrast to how long you’ll feel badly about it? Because if the length of time you enjoy is significantly less than the length of time you’ll regret it, isn’t that a rather stupid investment you’re about to make?

  4. God will surely forgive you if you view this, but does it matter to you whether or not you grieve Him and hurt His heart? Because if it does, is His grace something you really want to exploit, or something you want to appreciate by responding in obedience?

  5. Are you trying to give yourself something – comfort, relief, distraction – by viewing this porn? Because if you are, is it really so hard finding more legitimate ways to get what you’re looking for?

Know what you’re doing, and know you have a choice.

Then please – from all of us who need you – make the right one.

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.

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.

What Should Be the Husband’s ‘Role’ in Marriage?

SOURCE: Dennis Rainey/Family Life

The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and father.

There is a story of a man who died and went to heaven to find two signs above two different lines. One sign said: “ALL THOSE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” That line of men seemed to stretch off through the clouds into infinity.

The second sign read: “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” Underneath the sign stood one man.

He went over to the man, grabbed his arm and said, “What’s the secret, how did you do it? That other line has millions of men and you are the only one standing in this line.”

The man looked around with a puzzled expression and said, “Why, I am not sure I know. My wife just told me to stand here.”

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. During the last few decades our culture has redefined the meaning and responsibilities of men and women in society and in the home. Many men are confused and insecure. Many do not know how to act in the home. Growing up, they lacked a good model for leadership at home and have no mental picture of what it means to lead a family. Consequently, they do not lead effectively, or they do not even try.Increasingly, many men are becoming passive in the home. They’ve decided that the easiest thing to do is nothing. The simplest thing—with the smallest risk—is to stay on the fence with both feet firmly planted in mid-air and let the wife do it. When a man is married to a strong wife who will take over, he often lets her do just that.

Fortunately, there is an answer. The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and a father. I call that model the “servant/leader.”

I hope that the concepts I share will help you understand the biblical role of a husband more clearly than ever before. When correctly interpreted and applied, these concepts not only result in freedom for the husband and wife, but will also help you work better as a team to combat isolation and conflict in your marriage.

#1: Be a leader. The Scriptures provide a clear organizational structure for a marriage. For example:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. —Ephesians 5:22-30

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God “… placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband . . . The Lord has assigned the wife the duty of obeying her husband yet … this obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man.”

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

Are you a leader? Men who are natural leaders have no trouble answering the question “yes.” They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or are not natural leaders. How can they lead in the home?

Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. I believe our wives want us and need us to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You will not lead her perfectly, but you must care for you wife and family by serving them with perseverance.

Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband, however. Those same passages you just read also provide a model for that leadership. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. “This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife’s ‘head.'” Hendriksen writes, “He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ, who, as head of the church, is its Savior!”

Let’s look more closely at two responsibilities that flow out of proper leadership.

#2: Love your wife unconditionally. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. I have discovered that I simply cannot do that enough.

There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.

#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).

One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife’s top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures.

What do you know about your wife’s hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?

Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God’s Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.

To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for hers and, at the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Adultery: The Pathway from Porn to Adultery — LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

SOURCE:  Kent Butterfield/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

You know why I am writing to you. In our last conversation, you shared the pattern of your sinful thoughts, and how it often leads you to look at pornography. We agreed together on the importance of having dominion over our imaginations and putting on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Viewing pornography is already a lamentable breach of your faithfulness to your wife, but I’m concerned it may only be the beginning.

I fear for you, and your wife, if you do not repent from these patterns of sin. Beyond the pornography, members of our church have noticed how you seem to be preoccupied with other women. They and I fear for how you shower them with flattery, which many perceive as flirting. You appear to be on a pathway that ends with adultery as you already betray a lack of fidelity to your bride.

Sin Always Begets Sin

Viewing pornography is not a stagnant sin. Sin begets more sin, because our hearts are desperately wicked. We will justify the temptations in our hearts unless we combat them. Rationalization is part of the self-deception of sin. How easily we think, This is not that bad, then soon, Not bad at all. Eventually, we are saying, It is a good thing that I desire.

My friend, learn to hate your sin. You must treat it with a kind of seriousness that your seared conscience may find difficult to feel at this point. You must guard your mouth, and heart, as you speak to other women in the congregation, going out of your way to treat them as sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1–2).

You must also resolve to control, God helping you, what you set your eyes upon, remembering righteous Job, who took the temptation to look with lust seriously: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Obedience to our Lord, and faithfulness to your wife, is not passive. You will not coast into faithfulness.

You Are Free

Instead of exploring the pleasures of sin in your mind, and in unrighteous conversations, combat that sin with another voice, a better one: the voice of God himself. Meditate on his words in Scripture. God’s own word, by the power of his Spirit, will be the most potent source for both feeling conviction over sin and growing in grace and love.

Remember Joseph. When he was tempted daily by his master’s wife, he considered how God had blessed him, and how his master trusted him, and concluded, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Your infidelity is not only a breach of trust against your wife, but against God almighty.

But because Jesus Christ is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure, you have been redeemed — a hostage freed through a ransom paid at infinite cost. In Jesus, you are holy! I believe your faith is genuine, even as you have struggled in these ways. You are free from the bondage of sin; now be free. You are no longer enslaved to your old master Satan to follow your lusts. You are free, really free, in Christ. You now have the mind and heart to seek after God, to follow him in the ways he teaches us, and to reject the fatal promises of pornography and adultery.

You Are Not Alone

Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd of the faith, has promised to be with you and guide you to all truth and fruitful works along the way. His commandments will help you walk in the ways of holiness and righteousness.

The child of God is not burdened in striving to keep the commandments of God; we are burdened, as you have been, when we do not keep them. God’s work in us does not replace our own vigilance against sin. His grace empowers us to be on guard against sin. Although sin no longer reigns in us, it still remains inside of us. The warning to Cain is for all of us: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Painted Poison

The temptation to be drawn toward other women, on the screen and in the fellowship hall, is defiling your marriage bed. God’s word says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). I am praying for you, and will continue to hold you accountable.

Your confession of love to your wife, and the preciousness and pricelessness of your affection for each other, will soon sound hollow if you linger here on the door of adultery. Adultery is a selfish act. It is profoundly unloving. You betray and wound your wife and your children, and you defy your God. You aid the enemy of the faith and give ample opportunity for the world to blaspheme his name through your open hypocrisy.

Sin is your enemy and deceives you with its false promises of joy. It paints itself beautifully, but it is poison. The consequences will be deep and long-lasting. Look beyond the empty offers of momentary pleasure and see the enduring pain. Remember how it has brought shame, guilt, and disruption to your communion with Christ. Remember your marriage vows and resolve afresh to be utterly faithful to your wife. God will bless and reward your faithfulness.

Learn to Love Her More

If you struggle with the degree of intimacy you have with her, be a man and have that hard conversation. Share your heart. She is your great companion for life. She was given to you as that special help both physically and spiritually. God has made her, and will continue to make her, suitable for you, and you for her.

Sin’s evil progression has been at work in you. But our Lord’s offer of repentance is immediate. Receive it now while you still can (Hebrews 12:15–17). True repentance is a radical renouncing of all that is contrary to the character and revelation of God. It requires discipline that grows in the soil of God’s grace.

So, go now to him in your time of need to receive his help continually and abundantly. Do not cry out only, but purposely labor to walk in his Spirit. Exercise your faithfulness in marriage as you love and cherish your wife. Love her and consider the many ways that Christ has beautified your wife and made her a vessel of honor in his glorious body. Your love for her is a gift you, and you only, can enjoy. The omnipotent God stands ready to help you as you seek to live out the calling he has given you in your marriage covenant.

As you love your wife, and exercise that love with patience and tenderness, you will find new depths of love for her and discover joys in her that no other woman can provide.

Adultery: Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

SOURCE:  Noël Piper/Desiring God

Dear Wife,

Cleave is a strange word. It’s a contranym — a word that can have opposite meanings.

In an upper story of a concrete apartment block in a small Chinese city, I watched Rene wield her cleaver like a top chef, preparing vegetables for her family’s dinner. I was impressed how she positioned her fingers so they didn’t get chopped with the carrots. “Wow! I want some of those knives to take home as gifts,” I said. Rene pointed out the window toward a shop across the busy street. “You should be able to find them there.”

The name of one brand was Family Cleaver. It was easy to see how the difficulty of grasping a double meaning in English must have tripped up a Chinese translator. I was glad to discover a different brand with a happier name (that wouldn’t have implications of splitting a family apart).

On the opposite side of the word, there’s the other meaning of cleave, as it’s used in a time-honored wedding text: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Or as the ESV translates the same word, the husband shall “hold fast” to his wife.

Johnny Picked Me

At a small country church in middle Georgia, on a mild Saturday afternoon in December almost 49 years ago, we were married. We had waited two and a half years for this day. I still could hardly believe that Johnny Piper had chosen me, and that he wanted to spend his life with me just as much as I wanted to be with him.

I understood — as well as a person can at the beginning of the rest of her life — the happy, solemn weight of promising to be faithful to him until death parted us, no matter what challenges God might bring into our lives. It didn’t seem possible I would ever want anything else.

“Noël, do you take John to be your wedded husband to live together in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love him . . . and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?” There was not a doubt in my mind or heart when I declared, “I do!”

How could I have known that the worse of “better or worse” would lead to a season of sleepless nights when I wondered how I could keep on? I felt desperate for something different. That’s the time in our marriage when I would have been most likely to turn to someone else. But thank God, it didn’t happen. He held us together. There were a few habits that helped.

Faithfulness to Johnny, through the years, from boyfriend to husband, meant:

  • Not flirting with other men.
  • Avoiding men who seemed too interested.
  • Not meeting alone with any other man.
  • Having regular devotions together with Johnny.

Faithfulness required more than four habits, but these four have been central and essential.

Hardest Habit

The last is the hardest, but most important. My appreciation for it began, as with many things, with my parents. It is amazing my parents stayed together. About twenty years into their marriage, their rampaging differences seemed about to rip them apart.

Through even the most difficult months — years, really — Daddy and Mother took us all to church every Sunday. And every evening of the week, one of us kids was sent to the front porch to holler down toward the pasture and out toward the woods, “Sto-o-ory and pra-a-yers ti-i-ime!”

After all nine of us kids (later we were ten) had tumbled into the living room from the barn and creek and kitchen, Daddy read the next passage in our years-long path through the whole Bible. Then we kneeled at our chairs and took turns praying.

I realize now how difficult that must have been for my parents. Often they must have felt like hypocrites, going through motions when they didn’t feel like worshiping or praying together.

Of course, it would have been ideal if they had come before God with whole and happy hearts. But it was better to come somehow than not at all. And God held them together until he brought their marriage through the tempest into peace, using his glue of faithfulness — his faithfulness to them, and their faithfulness to each other and to those family devotional traditions.

What Kind of Cleaver?

What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us.

Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

Adultery – I Would Rather Die: Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

SOURCE:  Francis Chan/Desiring God

“Lord, please kill me before I cheat on my wife.”

This is a prayer that I prayed many times when I was first married. I’m not saying that it was mature or biblical, but it gives you a glimpse into my mind. I did not ever want to bring shame to the church, and I knew that this potential for evil was in me.

I spent my single years battling for purity and often failing. At times the battle was all-consuming. Days were filled with a paralyzing guilt that kept me from effective ministry and enjoying Jesus. I tried many things to discipline myself. At one point, I even decided that if I gave into lust, I would spend the next day fasting. This forced me to spend days in prayer, asking for more strength and self-control. I’ve found that when you refrain from eating, it makes refraining from sin easier. While it didn’t work perfectly, it was helpful. (And I did lose a few pounds.)

The Bible is clear and simple when it comes to impurity: Run! “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Run away from temptation, and run towards righteousness. How we each pursue this may look different, but here are some pillars that have helped me in my journey.

Fear Can Be Good

The Scriptures teach, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). I am grateful that by his grace, God has gifted me with a deep-seated fear of him.

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a man who had a fatal heart attack while having sex with a prostitute. I imagined how terrifying it must have been for that man to enter into the presence of a holy God at that moment. If nothing else keeps you from adultery, maybe the fact that Almighty God could take your life amidst the very act would terrify you enough to repent.

It was years later that a friend of mine, a fellow pastor, committed adultery with his assistant. I didn’t see him for months after it happened. When he came into my office, he looked awful. He proceeded to tell me the whole story. He explained how one thing led to another, and before he knew it he had committed the act he preached against for years.

What impacted me most was when he explained his thoughts and feelings after sinning. He told me of how he kept looking at his revolver, tempted to pull the trigger. He reasoned that everyone would be happier if he was dead. The other woman’s husband would be happier. His own wife and kids would be happier. His church would be happier. It was only by the grace of God that he was still alive.

Of course, taking his own life in the aftermath of adultery would only be multiplying the sin. But I was struck by the misery he felt. He seriously thought it would be better to be dead than to have done this and to live with the consequences! His misery was both a wake-up call and a warning to me. Fear can be a great grace.

Vigilant Discipline

My pursuit of sexual purity has been a discipline. I have said with the apostle Paul, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I live each day with severe caution. I rarely counsel women, and never alone. I won’t go anywhere with a woman alone. In 23 years, I have never even been in a car alone with another woman (aside from relatives). It has felt silly at times to inconveniently tell women they had to drive separately even though we are going to the same location, but I believe it’s been worth it. My wife has access to all of my email accounts, phone records, and I don’t have a Facebook profile. There are no secrets between us.

I have alcoholic friends who were supernaturally delivered from any desire for alcohol. I have other friends who pray for deliverance, but are tempted daily. They refuse to have any alcohol in their homes, and stay away from tempting situations. After reading John Piper’s letter to a would-be adulterer, it sounds like his story has been one of supernatural deliverance, while mine has been one of discipline and daily strength. I believe God is glorified by both.

Focused Mission

Early on in my Christian journey, I focused only on running away from sin. I believe it was good and right, but not complete. It was later that I discovered the truth of Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

God calls us not only to run away from temptation, but to run toward him. He promises that when we are walking by the Spirit, we will not gratify the flesh. As I have followed God’s Spirit into meaningful ministry, it has been amazing to see the craving for sin diminish. The thrill of the Holy Spirit manifesting himself through me to bless others fills me thoroughly, crowding out sinful desires that might otherwise have had room to grow (1 Corinthians 12:7).

It’s like playing in an intense basketball game. I get tunnel vision. Winning is all I think about. My mind does not wander one bit. In the same way, when my wife and I are intensely pursuing God’s cause and kingdom, our minds don’t wander toward sin. Soldiers stay focused when they are in battle. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4). It’s when we relax, when we forget we are actually on a mission, that trouble comes.

More of Jesus

Just this morning, I read in Psalm 73,

I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:23–25)

I pictured God holding my right hand, guiding me, receiving me into glory. The longer I imagined that, the more I understood why the next verse says, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Take time to meditate on these truths. If you’re anything like me, you tend to take God’s commands more seriously than his promises. He wants us to have faith in both, and to find enjoyment in both.

While I am fifty years old, and have been walking with Jesus since high school, it has really been over the past few years that I have grown significantly in my enjoyment of him. A few months ago, I told a friend that I didn’t want to have any sin in my life because I am enjoying such close fellowship with Jesus. That was a new experience for me.

Fear, discipline, and mission are all biblical motivations — and have all helped me in my pursuit of holiness. But now that I have been enjoying deeper connection with Jesus, I feel like I’ve missed out.

I hesitated in writing this letter after reading Piper’s. I have been praying the five prayers he suggests there, and it has been life-changing. It has opened my eyes to the shallowness of my prayers, and it brought a new satisfaction into my life. It makes me wonder if the struggle could have been lesser, and the journey sweeter, if I had read and followed his letter years ago.

Or maybe the path to righteousness will look different for each of us, so long as we arrive in a place of deeper enjoyment of Jesus.

Adultery – Flee from the Darkness: Letter to a Would-Be Adulteress

SOURCE:  Lisa Chan

Dear Wife,

I have really wrestled with what God wants me to share in a letter like this. I’ve stopped and started a hundred times. I have found myself thinking, “They have already heard everything!” And then I remember that Paul, when writing to the churches, would often say things like “It’s no trouble for me to remind you of these things” (see Philippians 3:1).

“If we see just how near death is and how precious life is, adultery will look like the shriveled lie it really is.”

I guess I’m worried that it will just sound too obvious. But maybe you need to be reminded of the obvious. I know I do — about so many different struggles! So, it’s my joy to remind you why you would never want to have an adulterous heart toward your husband, and more importantly, toward God.

I have pictured myself sitting across the room from you, not knowing your whole story, but passionately compelled to snatch you away from the darkness.

Hunger for God’s Presence

Sin invites separation from God, and separation from God should terrify us. But our hearts are easily deceived, and 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” I praythat you still have enough of the Spirit’s presence in your life to recognize what is leading you into darkness right now.

Where is your fight? Where is your struggle and straining and pressing on? I say this with tears in my eyes, but where is your desire to know the presence of God in your life?

The presence of the living God must be something you can’t live without! Nearness to him should be the most desperate cry of our hearts. With David, we should plead, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Are you so far from God that you don’t love the sound of his voice anymore? Has the surpassing worth of knowing Christ been lost in your heart?

Many women think that adultery happens when the passion for their husband is at war with their passion for someone else. But adultery really happens when your passion for the power and presence of God in your life is at war with the passions of lust and self-indulgence.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). I see a lot of women hungry and thirsty for many things (attention, material things, freedom from responsibility, affirmation, something new). But a desire and a hunger to be righteous?

If you develop an appetite for righteousness, God himself will satisfy you. His presence and love will overwhelm you.

Pray for God’s Power

“If you develop an appetite for righteousness, God himself will satisfy you.”

Remember that this fight against adulterous temptations and for God’s presence is not a battle you can see.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

This passage used to sound a little dramatic to me — maybe even alarmist. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. But here I am now, overwhelmed by the intensity of the spiritual warfare that abounds. We wrestle against spiritual forces of evil? Yes, I believe it now. Do you?

If it’s true — if our battle is mainly a spiritual one — then we need to wage war with spiritual weapons. I know of a woman who was brokenhearted after finding out her husband was struggling terribly with pornography. But instead of crumbling at the enemy’s feet, she committed to fasting and praying regularly over her husband and their marriage. I know of other couples who fast and pray weeklytogether because they know how fierce the battle for their affections is.

When one of my friends heard that a young wife in her church was struggling with lustful thoughts towards another man, she boldly told her, “I want you to call me every time you feel that attraction and are struggling, and we’re going to pray in Jesus’s name for freedom and deliverance.” What an amazing response to something that we can’t talk people out of. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).

Again, to state the obvious, fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. I cannot imagine that you could be so far down the road toward adultery, and still say you were faithfully praying and fasting and seeking God.

Don’t you want to watch God powerfully intervene?! I’m not talking about intervening by making your husband suddenly seem perfect, or taking away every sinful desire. But if you will humble yourself and pray, God will rescue you from the enemy.

Number Your Days

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). I don’t know why it’s so hard to be kind sometimes. Would your husband describe you as kind and tenderhearted?

A couple years ago, I had a doctor’s appointment that didn’t go very well. They saw some suspicious spots and wanted to do further testing. After they called me back in for more tests, I had to wait the weekend before getting the results. It was one of the best weekends of my life.

Call me gloom and doom, but I had my funeral planned by Friday night. That left two days to see everything in a different light. It was sort of an out-of-body experience, but in the best way. I was so affectionate toward my husband, I snuggled longer with my children, I seemed to know instinctively what not to care about, and all that was left was the pure enjoyment of the sweetness of life and love. At night I would tell God all my fears, and let his Spirit comfort me. I can’t tell you how good that was for me.

“If we are not fighting to enjoy the light of God’s presence, we are likely being lured by deceitful desires.”

Life is short. Please don’t forget that. Plead with the Lord to soften your heart, to offer forgiveness and to receive it. If we can see just how near death is and just how precious life is, adultery will look like the shriveled, satanic lie it really is.

If you are walking down that path that leads to anything but righteousness, turn back. I am praying that you will hear the voice of God calling you to himself, and you will drop everything and run to him.

He is worth it.

Adultery: Husband, Lift Up Your Eyes

SOURCE:  John Piper

LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

Dear Husband,

You may think I am ill-suited to counsel a young man on how to be faithful to his wife, because, in almost fifty years with my wife, I have never felt enticed to be romantic or to have sex with another woman. However, it might be worth probing whether this (perhaps unusual) fact has causes which are transferable to you.

Let me clarify. It’s not as good as it sounds. My eyes are as magnetized toward excessive female skin as most men’s. I am not designed for beach evangelism. I find airports to be problematic enough. I have zero tolerance for nudity in films — or even suggestiveness (which rules out almost all of them). One reason (among many) is that any sexually charged image lodges itself in my mind, with regrettable effects.

One more clarification: I have enjoyed a life of sexual intimacy with my wife, that is, I think, as intense as any can reasonably hope for. In other words, I don’t think my disinterest in sex with other women is owing to deficient hormones.

So, back to the point that needs some explanation: I am 71 years old and have been sexually attracted to Noël for 51 years. For 48 of those years (since we married), that attraction has been gratified with joy. During those 51 years, I have never been attracted to another woman romantically. I have never desired sexual relations with another woman. When I fell in love with Noël in the summer of 1966, a focused sexual longing exploded into being. That peculiar desire to be intimate with Noël has never shifted onto another woman.

Are there any discernible causes for this that might be shareable?

1. Plead with God to take away illicit desires.

“God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting.”

The first thing to say is that I consider this disinterest in sex with other women a pure gift of God’s sovereign grace. It does not feel like a reward for some virtuous discipline. It’s as if God said, “I have other sorrows you will have to deal with in your family. But I will spare you this one.” I have not felt like a valiant sailor lashed to the mast while the Siren voice of alien sex sang her seductive song. I didn’t need to be lashed, because the song was not attractive.

So, the first transferrable thing I would say is this: “Ask God for it.” Don’t just ask him to keep you from giving into temptation. Ask him to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.

2. Feel how revolting and disgusting adultery truly is.

The second thing I would say is probably going to sound strange, maybe even questionable. One way God protected me from adultery is by making it feel revolting to me. Ever since I fell in love with Noël and I knew we would spend a lifetime being intimate, the very thought of touching another woman sexually became disgusting, sickening. This may sound weird. I have not talked about it with many people. But I have said to myself often, with amazement, “The thought of having sex with any other woman besides Noël feels as nauseating to me as the prospect of having sex with a man.”

I mean this quite literally. I am not merely raising the moral stakes by using physically strong language. I mean God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting. That is one of the greatest works of divine grace I have ever experienced.

Now let me speculate about the origin of this gift. When Jesus wanted to help us deal with adultery and lust, he said,

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

He might have said, innocuously, “If your eye causes you to sin, turn the other way, because giving in to temptation can only be harmful.”

Why did he gross us out with the revolting image of digging our eyeball out of our head and throwing it like a slimy egg yolk into the garbage? Maybe it was to awaken in us something more than mere moral disapproval — something visceral, something like a gag reflex in our throat.

“Ask God to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.”

I have been reading and believing my Bible since I was a child. The realities of God, Christ, heaven, hell, faith, and holiness have been ever-present realities to me — sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible. They are not add-ons to who I am. They are baked in. They’re part of me, shaping what I love and what makes me want to throw up.

So, my speculation is that somewhere along the way in my life, God took the reality of his massive disapproval of lust and adultery, and the threat of indescribable suffering in hell (Matthew 5:29), and created a connection between the physical terror of eternal burning and the moral outrage of cheating on my wife. The form that this connection took was physical revulsion at marital unfaithfulness. It may be way more complicated than that. But that’s the best I can do for now.

However this happened, it seems biblically fitting to me, and I thank God for it. It has freed me wonderfully to focus on other things. Whether it is transferrable to you depends on God’s free grace. But my suggestion is that you saturate your life thoroughly with the realities of Scripture, and pray for their profoundest effects in transforming what you find desirable and what you find disgusting.

3. Don’t trade permanent pleasures for temporary trysts.

I’ll mention one other thing that seems to me to be part of the explanation for why adultery has felt not just wrong to me, but also nauseating. When I was a junior in high school, something awakened in me that I could call poetic, or spiritual, or aesthetic, or otherworldly. It was a sense that there is something stupendously wonderful and joyful to be experienced beyond the sensuous pleasures of the body.

If I weren’t a Christian, I would call it the “numinous” or the “Other” or “Beauty.” In other words, many people have this sort of awakening, not just Christians. But for me, it was distinctively Christian. The wonder and beauty and greatness were in God, through Jesus. Since those days, I have experienced a kind of ache for a Pleasure beyond the pleasures of the body.

But here’s the link with nauseous adultery. At the same time as this longing for the ultimate heavenly Pleasure was awakened, I discovered that sexual sin (like lust and its mistress, masturbation) caused my soul to plummet from any heights of joy they attained. It seemed to me that I was faced with the choice of wallowing in the mire of brief physical sensations (called pleasures) or soaring in my heart where something much more substantial and lasting and satisfying was offered.

“Sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.”

This built into me the visceral conviction: Sexual sin and spectacular satisfaction are utterly at odds. As Jesus put it, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

I now see this as God’s existential gift of Colossians 3:1–5:

Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above. . . . Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality . . .

In other words, sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.

But I wanted this Joy with a vengeance. And as this desire grew, so did my opposition to anything in me that stood in the way. And Colossians 3:5 put sexual sin at the head of the list. I believe God turned this opposition into physical revulsion in proportion as the desire for real Pleasure in God grew stronger.

Keep Asking God for Help

Well, that’s my effort to interpret my experience in the light of Scripture. I hope there are lessons to be learned here that are transferrable to you:

  • Ask God that he would make sin sickening to you, not just morally wrong.
  • Ask him to make biblical realities, like hell and heaven, terribly and wonderfully real to you — real enough to taste and feel.
  • Ask him to open your eyes to the glory of the spiritual world “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
  • Ask him to give you a massive desire for ultimate Pleasure in God that is so strong that it makes sinful pleasures nauseous.
  • Ask him to transpose the pleasures of intimacy with your wife into foretastes of the unending ecstasies of heaven.

When you have prayed, lift up your eyes. Lift them up to the deep, blue sky. Lift them up to the brilliant whiteness of the billowing clouds. Lift them up to the unfathomable star-filled darkness of the night. Lift them up to misty mountain ranges, and to the rivers that have run for a thousand years, and to the mighty trees that took their time to become strong imperceptibly, and to the orange day-lilies and purple vines and the yellow-souled daisies, and to the ripple-free lakes at dusk, and the great bow of the ocean horizon.

Take your eyes off your computer, off your mirror, off your pain, off your dead dream, off your self-pitying lust. God is speaking to you. He is waving a thousand flags to get your attention. He has more to give you than you have ever tasted or felt or dreamed. The price he paid to satisfy his people, with never-dying joy and ever-new beauties, was great. Don’t push him away.

Chastity by C.S. Lewis

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by  C. S. Lewis/Mere Christianity

We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity…..

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the hypothesis of “starvation” the only one
we can imagine. Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

Here is a third point. You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean two things. They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body–which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other
religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.” If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.

What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it. A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, “Oh Lord, make me chaste,” his heart had been secretly adding, “But please don’t do it just yet.” This may happen in prayers for other virtues too; but there are three reasons why it is now especially difficult for us to desire–let alone to achieve–complete chastity.

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural, so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humor. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth–the truth, acknowledged above, that sex in itself (apart from the excess and obsessions that have grown round it) is “normal” and “healthy” and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and “nature,” but between Christian principle and other principles in the control of “nature.” For “nature” (in the use of natural desire) will have to be controlled anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. The Christian principles are, admittedly, stricter than the others; but then we think you will get help towards obeying them which you will not get towards obeying the others.

In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity–like perfect charity–will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting: the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the Human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

Mere Christianity, 1945

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Where Could Sin Lead Me? Imagine the Aftermath!

SOURCE:   /The Gospel Coalition

Envision the End of Your Sin

In the past few weeks I’ve witnessed several dear friends flirt with sin in a terrifying way. These friends love Jesus very much, but circumstances have exposed areas of easy entrance for the tempter.

As I’ve pondered their struggles, and my own wandering heart, I’ve been reminded of an exhortation I received many years ago in seminary.

Chancellor Chuck Swindoll was preaching in the morning chapel service.

As he stepped to the pulpit, he carried a weight on his brow, a Bible in his hand, and a written statement. He shared that a pastor from our seminary had fallen into grave sexual sin, disqualified himself from the ministry, and destroyed his family.

Swindoll then challenged us to consider where sin would lead us. Over the years I’ve followed his advice, and I’d like to help you do the same.

Imagine the Aftermath

I want to walk you through a scene to see what lies ahead on the path of sin.

This scenario is aimed at fellow pastors, but the idea is applicable to all.

Envision yourself calling together your elders and sitting in their midst, telling them how you have betrayed their trust. See their sunken faces and feel their broken hearts.

Listen to them consider how they’ll tell the church. Imagine the congregation’s confusion and how it will affect those who’ve heard you say so often that Jesus is better than anything else.

Imagine how the name of Christ will be mocked in your community and beyond.

Then I want you to picture walking out to your car and getting in.

Drive down the road near your house and circle your neighborhood a few times. Picture the place where you walked the dog with your children in the evenings.

Now, pull into your driveway and walk up to the door of your home.

Hear the scampering feet of your children running up to you and putting their arms around your legs, saying, “Daddy’s home!” See the way they love and trust you.

Drink that in deeply.

Now, tell them to go outside and play because you must talk to Mommy about something. As you walk to the kitchen where she’s faithfully going about her day, look at those smiling pictures on the wall. Remember the happy days you shared together.

Lead her by the hand to your bedroom where you used to make love.

Ask her to have a seat.

Feel your heart scamper and the lump form in your throat.

See her eyes ask what’s wrong. Then watch her weep as you tell her you’ve been unfaithful.

Hear her wail.

See her sob.

Feel her hit your chest and fall to her knees in despair.

Imagine the phone call to her parents, and to yours. Hear the silence on the phone as they take in what you’ve told them.

Imagine the day you gather your children and sit them down to explain why Mommy and Daddy are going to spend some time apart and sell the house they love so much.

See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again.

Do you see it?

Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?

Sin Hides the Price Tag

Satan doesn’t tell you sin’s true cost, because the cost is too high.

He’s a liar (John 8:44) and deception is his forte (2 Cor. 11:3). He wants to lull you into thinking sin won’t cost you as much as it will. You can keep things hidden. You can get out at any time. Your compromises are small. They won’t lead to a great fall.

He only speaks lies.

Friend, sin is stronger than you or I will ever be.

Some of you are standing at a crossroads right now. You’ve been sipping on sin’s potion and are becoming intoxicated by its lies. Satan wants you to keep sipping so you’ll become drunk, unable to consider God’s warning of the destruction that lies ahead: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

If you are entangled in sin, call a trusted friend right now and tell them you need help. Don’t wait another minute. Sin wants you to think you can stop by yourself—don’t believe it. Secrecy is the ground in which sin grows strong.

If you think this could never happen to you, be careful. “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, as long as you don’t part with your sin.

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, so long as you don’t part with your sin. But John Owen’s counsel is always true: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Satan aims to destroy your life now, and to harden your heart so you’ll inherit eternal destruction.

Lift Your Eyes

Friend, Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who shed his blood to save you from sin—on Judgment Day and every day before it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Whether you’re a pastor or not, married or not, have children or not, we all need grace to resist the power of sin’s deception. Thankfully, Jesus promises to supply it.

Plead with God to help you see the end of your sin—and then flee to the Savior. Let the sobriety of sin’s end lift your eyes to where our help resides (Ps. 121:1). May we avoid the ruin Proverbs warns about:

Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Prov. 5:8–14)

Gracious Lord, we need help. Make us sober-minded. Keep us vigilant. Help us see the end of our sin.

To Change How You Act, Change the Way You Think

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes”

(Ephesians 4:23 NLT, second edition).

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.

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 changing the way you think.

For instance, I can say, “I need to love my kids 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, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT, second edition).

Let me sum it up this way: You are not what you think you are. Rather, what you think, you are. 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, start with your thoughts and your attitude.

The renewal of your mind is related to the word “repentance.” I know repentance is a murky word for a lot of people. They think it means something you don’t really want to do or 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’s about 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 turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from Hell to Heaven. 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!

That’s the kind of change I need to be able to change the rest of my life.

Parenting: You’re Driving Me Crazy

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are other habit-changing behaviors:

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

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

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

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

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

Anger: Unmet Expectations

SOURCE:  Annie Chapman/Focus on the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, I avoided talking to myself about the situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Angry

SOURCE:  Bob McCully/Thriveworks

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

Am I truly understanding the other person?

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

Are my expectations reasonable?

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

Am I angry at the right person?

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

Is my anger getting me what I want?

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

Is my anger out of proportion to the offense?

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

How are they feeling?

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

Can I really change this situation?

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

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

Doctors Say Your Word Choice Can Hugely Change Your Brain

SOURCE:  /Lifehack

Be careful because the next word you say could determine how your day is, or the rest of your life might pan out. Doctors at Thomas Jefferson University explained that the choice of our words could actually have more impact on our lives than we actually think. Think the words of “I can’t”, “I won’t” or “it’s tough”, are harmless? Use them long enough and it will literally change your brain and here’s why.

Positive words strengthens frontal lobe

Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldmen, authors of life-changing book, “Words can change your brain”, wrote that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” By using more positive words in our daily lives, the areas of our frontal lobes are exercised, making it more effective.

By stimulating frontal lobe activity, you are developing an area that is in charge of telling you what is right from wrong and the ability to override and suppress socially unacceptable responses. As a result of frequent use of positive words, it will then give you the motivation to take charge of your life and your choices.

Negative words increase stress hormones

So what happens when we use too much negative words? The use of negative words activates the fear response in us which raises the levels of our stress hormones which the Amygdala is responsible for. Too much negativity and we become edgy as the stress hormones take over our body.

Although it might be true that a little stress is good for our bodies, but too much of it can cause many problems to our physical and mental health.

Changing the way we view ourselves and others

The doctors added further that the use of positive language can start to change the functions of the parietal lobe which is in charge of how we view ourselves and others. With a positive view of ourselves through the use of positive and encouraging words, it will make us lean towards seeing the good in others too.

However, a negative self-image brought about by negative use of language can fill us with suspicion and doubt causing us to be more wary of others which changes the way we behave socially.

The experiment

Studies were conducted to see whether it is true that using uplifting words can help to rewire our brain and thought processes. A group of adults ranging from age 35 to 54 were tasked to write down three things every day for the next 3 months that make them the happiest and why they chose those three.

Three months into the study and it showed that these adults felt more happy and less depressed. The study was also able to tell us that we are all capable of rewiring our brains to become more positive by focusing on the events that make us happy instead of events that don’t.

Practical methods of using positive language

When we’re angry, there are many times when we use words which we regret using once we cool down. Experts say that this is because when angry words are used, they partially shut down the areas of logic and reasoning located in our frontal lobe. The amygdala which is our center for ‘fight or flight’ responses will then take over. This explains why most of us are not able to think before reacting when we are angry. Some experts term it, ‘amygdala hijacking’.

With the habit of using positive language, we can train our frontal lobes to be more effective even when we’re angry so that we become more logical when dealing with heated situations.

If you are currently unaware of whether you are using more positive words than negative words, start to pay attention to your word choice and write them down if you can. Also, to put yourself in a more positive frame of mind, try writing down 3 things that makes you happy every day and start to see that positive change in your life.

You Can Change the Way You Think

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” 

(2 Corinthians 10:5b NCV).

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.

Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the less important stuff.

It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to just change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.

So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).

The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice.

And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Emotions: Who’s In Charge Of Yours?

SOURCE:  New Life Ministries

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

Who is in charge of your emotions?

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

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

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

– Steve Arterburn

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

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

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

8 Ways to Be a Super Mom (Not Supermom)

SOURCE:   Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk/Family Life

There is no such thing as a superhero mother. Here’s how to stop trying to do it all and start learning to be you.

Supermom has super powers.

She is able not only to keep her home immaculate; she bakes and cooks from scratch all of the meals she sets before her family on the handcrafted table she whipped up over the weekend after seeing a DIY project on her Pinterest board.

Supermom is also a fantastic manager. She runs a tight ship. The home’s schedule runs like clockwork, and she makes certain her children are not tardy to anything. This woman could not only run a small country, she could probably do it in her sleep.

She is also a super wife. Although sometimes Supermom is super tired, she must put her fatigue on the back burner in order to be emotionally and physically available for her hubby.

Now I am certainly not trying to beat anyone up for this little phenomenon. We women are strong. Capable. Clever. Competent. Resourceful. But sometimes these strengths can transform into weakness because we don’t take into account one little thing that we women also have: Limitations.

If we don’t realize our limitations, we can soon find ourselves physically incapable of carrying out all that we have said yes to.  And we can find ourselves emotionally distraught.

There is no such thing as a superhero mother. No Supermom. But there are ways to still be a super mom—the best mom you can be for your particular children. Here are eight ways to stop trying to do it all and start learning to be you.

1.  Relax.  Stop stressing as you look around at what other mothers are doing and how many things they seem to be accomplishing. You don’t have to keep frantically racing to replicate someone else’s life. Instead, learn to seek and embrace the unique life God has for you at this age and stage of motherhood. So take a deep breath. Pause. Stop stressing. Quit running. Just relax.

2. Reevaluate.  Get alone with a notebook and sketch out your typical week. What commitments do you have inside your home? At work? At church or other civic organizations? Now go back over them and ask yourself if there are any you are participating in that really aren’t the best fit for your life right now. If you identify such activities, come up with a plan of action for how you will release yourself from these commitments in order to free more time for your family or for yourself.

3. Relinquish.  Let go of your desire to be everywhere at once. Accept the fact that you have limitations. That you cannot clone yourself and be two places at one time. The sooner you let go of the notion that you can have it all, all at once, the better. So relinquish.

4. Resolve.  When asked to take on a new responsibility outside your home, learn to ask yourself a few questions: Is this really my call? You should only be doing it to please God and because you feel that it is His plan for you right now.

5. Rest. Learn to build in periods of rest in your week. God’s pattern at creation was for us to take one day each week to cease working and really rest. Sometimes we are just as busy on the Sabbath as we are any other day of the week. Consider making Sundays a set-apart day to cease from any type of work and just focus on worship and rest.

6. Renew.  Renewal of your mind happens when you are involved in studying God’s Word both alone and with a group. If you can’t find a group to study with at your local church, consider joining our online Bible studies at Proverbs 31 Ministries (proverbs31.org). There thousands of women gather together online to study God’s Word together and renew our minds.

Also renew your body. Make sure that you are taking time to eat healthy. Build in time to exercise and enjoy fresh air when you can. And be intentional to renew relationships that encourage and strengthen you and build you up in your mothering. We must constantly be renewed so we do not burn out.

7. Relate. Make sure that you have a sounding board of other people in your life who will help you to work through the various options and set your schedule accordingly. A trusted friend or two, along with your husband if you have one, can help you see where you are stretched too thin when you can’t seem to notice it. A mom should not be an island.

8. Revisit. Be sure to revisit your commitments at least once—if not twice—per year. Hold them up to the Lord. Ask Him if there is anything you currently have on your plate that you should remove.

Also ask your family. Enlist the opinions of your husband and children, if they are old enough, when it comes to how you are spending your time. Perhaps you can’t see that an outside commitment is stressing you and messing with family life, but perhaps others who live in your home will notice it. Be open to their feedback. Take their thoughts into account. Make adjustments as needed.

When we learn to hone in on our calling and clear our too-full plate, we can begin to focus on making beautiful music in our life. This includes how we spend our time both inside the home and with outside commitments.

We each have a song to strum. We do not need to simply copy the score others around us are following. As we take our concerns prayerfully to the Lord—along with our schedules—He will certainly help us to say “so long” to the striving to be Supermom and help us to discover how to mother in our own distinctive way.

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Taken from Hoodwinked, copyright © 2015 by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.

Don’t Lose Your Cool as a Mom

SOURCE:  Jenae Jacobson/Family Life

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

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

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

Before and during the situation

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

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

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

After the situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships when the Relationship has been Injured

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Do you have any injured relationships in your life?

Broken hearts, hurt feelings, or grudges from the past are common among relationships. At some point we all have relationships, which have gone from bad to worst.

In fact, sometimes the people we have to be around, by default – blood relatives, in-laws, or co-workers – are people we wouldn’t choose to be around unless we had to be.

It’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.)

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most – or who always seems to say the wrong thing – or who is, honestly, even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

You can’t control other people’s response – only yours, but how should you act in those injured relationships?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are 6 tips for healthier, happier relationships:

Bite your tongue

When you are tempted to snap back – don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26) Memorize and learn to pray Psalm 141:3. (Look it up. It’s the first step towards learning it.)

Extend grace

Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes

Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too – by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience

Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t this what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility

When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break through in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them

The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer the One whose yoke is easy the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Infidelity’s Warning Signs

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Nancy C. Anderson

Be on guard for your spouse … and yourself.

Kate found out her husband was having an affair the same week he asked her for a divorce—she didn’t see it coming. She told me, “My ‘gut’ was telling me that things weren’t quite right, but Bob had convinced me I that was just paranoid and insecure. I had no idea he was such a good liar. He talked me out of my suspicions.”

I asked her, “Could you make a list of his unusual behaviors? New actions that weren’t necessarily bad—just odd. But now, looking back, you see them as signs that he was having an affair.” Here is Kate’s top-ten list:

  1. About six months ago, he started working longer hours and having more “client dinners.”
  2. When he was home, he would seem restless and often claim he had “work” to do, so he spent a lot of time in the den—with the door closed.
  3. He started some new patterns that I thought were wonderful. He took the dog for long walks, and offered to run errands for me in the evenings. If I commented that I wished I had some cookies for the kids’ lunches, he’d say, “I’ll be happy to go to the store for you.” I found out later that he’d call his mistress on his cell phone while he was walking or running errands.
  4. He gave me a goofy, silly card for my birthday instead of his usual romantic, sentimental one, and he only signed his name—not Love, Bob.
  5. Our sex life lost its sizzle. On the rare occasions when we did make love, it felt awkwardly cold—just a physical act, not an emotional connection. I think he may have felt as if he was being unfaithful to his girlfriend by sleeping with me.
  6. He started referring to a person at work named Pierce. He would tell me how funny and talented Pierce was. That was his mistress’s last name!
  7. He started to skip desserts and be very careful about what he ate—he lost weight and started exercising.
  8. He dyed his hair—to cover the gray. “She” is twelve years younger than he is.
  9. He seemed more short-tempered. Things that didn’t usually bother him suddenly did. He was especially impatient with the children.
  10. After I saw the way he reacted to “her” at a company party, I asked him if there was something between them, and he lied to my face. Looking back, I know he lied to me about credit card and cell phone bills, and that most of the new clients he’d been taking to dinner were not clients at all.

Kate summed it all up: “I wish I’d been more alert. I just didn’t put all the pieces together until it was too late.”

When Secret Service agents guard the President, they continually scan the crowd. They’re looking for unusual movements or odd behaviors that may be an indication of danger. The agents have studied how innocent people usually behave, so they can spot a person who’s acting “guilty.” We can apply some of these lessons to guarding our marriages.

These warning signs may indicate an affair:

  1. Changing eating and sleeping patterns;
  2. Wearing a different style of clothes;
  3. Starting arguments or becoming very passive;
  4. Working longer or different hours;
  5. Pulling away from church and extended family;
  6. Taking more showers than usual;
  7. Comparing his or her spouse to other people;
  8. Hiding credit card charges and cash withdrawals;
  9. Taking off his or her wedding ring;
  10. Becoming secretive or defensive about phone calls and emails.

You don’t need to be paranoid or to see things that aren’t there. I don’t recommend that you spy on your spouse . . . but if you need to, feel free. It would be wise, however, to be on guard.

Guard Yourself

Affairs begin in many ways and for many reasons, so we must be always on guard for the slightest hint of temptation.Corinthians 10:13 says that God will always provide a way of escape, but we have to make a decision to run toward the door.

When you’re hints turn into flirtations, flirtations turn into attractions, attractions turn into affairs, and affairs turn into disasters. 1st guarding your marriage, you’re not guarding just your spouse, but guarding yourself too. I rationalized my way into a boatload of trouble because I thought, The rules don’t apply to me. I’ve been to Bible College, I’m smart, I have self-control, and I can stop before it gets too far. All lies!

My affair began at work, so I’m an expert on workplace temptation. Once, the most common type of office infidelity was between male bosses and females who were lower-ranking employees, but that’s changed in the last ten years. With more and more women working, the most common office affair is between coworkers. The man I had my affair with (Jake) was not my boss; we were both sales reps—equals.

My relationship with Jake started innocently. I noticed that we laughed at the same things, and he noticed that we liked similar music, so we started to sit together at lunch. We were just friends … until we weren’t.

I remember the first time we went out of the friendship zone and into the danger zone. We were sitting next to each other at a sales meeting when his leg brushed up against mine. I felt a spark at the contact point and was a bit disappointed when he pulled away. A few minutes later, he shifted slightly in his chair and his leg, from knee to thigh, pressed gently against mine. I liked it, and I didn’t pull away.

I should have. But because I didn’t, I sent him a signal that I was unguarded. We both began to look for excuses to be together. If I’d not responded to his flirtations, I would have avoided the biggest regret of my life.

Dealing with Attraction

Coworkers sometimes work on projects or solve problems together, and the resulting closeness can build teamwork—but it can also build a feeling of intimacy. If you feel an attraction to someone in your office, consider a transfer to a different department, a different position, or maybe you should quit. No job is more valuable than your marriage. I knew that I could not continue to work with Jake without being tempted, so I quit my job the same day I confessed my affair to my husband.

Be honest with yourself. If you’re dressing to please someone at work or lingering in the parking lot hoping that person will ask you to lunch, stop now, before you’ve gone too far. If you’re in doubt as to what conduct is inappropriate, ask yourself,Would I do this in front of my spouse? And if you’re still not sure, ask yourself, Would I do it in front of the Lord? (You are, you know.) Here is a simple rule to keep you on the straight and narrow: If you’d have to hide it or lie about it—don’t do it!

The key to growing effective guarding hedges is to be honest about your weaknesses, both as individuals and as a couple. Set up distinct boundaries and enforce them. If your spouse reminds you of the rules, don’t be defensive or point out your mate’s faults; accept his or her correction because it’s for the greater good of the marriage. Some of the most difficult phrases to say—you’re right and I’m sorry—can save your marriage—and your love.

When Secret Service agents guard the President, they regard the President’s life as more important than their own individual lives. Guard your marriages in the same way. You may be required to sacrifice part of your individual life—hobbies, profession, TV time, computer time, sports activities—to strengthen your marriage. If you’re both willing to make your marriage a priority, however, and guard it from internal and external dangers, your home will be a safe haven.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like those who do not know God.” (NIV)

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Adapted from Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage, Kregel Publications.  © 2004 by Nancy C. Anderson.

 

3 Excuses We Use When We Mess Up

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Adam Highfill

Most of us get shy and shameful when we hear the word “self-control,” mainly because most of us aren’t good at it. Self-control is discipline’s ugly big brother that is almost impossible to get right, and nearly as difficult to talk about. Every since I was eight years old, the very term has made me fidget in my chair. It’s uncomfortable for me because I’m bad at eating healthy and I really like buying shoes.

On a deeper level, there are other things I want to abstain from in my mind and my spirit, but my human greed wants them so bad it hurts. That is where it gets tricky. It a challenge, but if we can watch out for the right things, we can all get better at self-control. Maybe if we can manage to stand up to ourselves in the same way we stand up for ourselves, it would change the trajectory of our thought processes. Of course, there’s grace when we mess up (because we will mess up, and often). But learning to recognize and guard against the big enemies of self-control can help free us from bad habits—and the guilt that often comes with them.

In the face of a generation that says spontaneity only involves “doing what you feel” and chalks most poor decisions up to #YOLO, self-control introduces a different perspective.

Here are a few enemies of self-control to be aware of in moments of weakness.

1. “I Just Feel Like It!”

The idea of risk reversal was created long ago to help ease a buyer’s mind in the buying process. This is where all the “love it, or your money back, guaranteed” stuff comes from.

Unfortunately, however, life can’t be undone and exchanged for store credit. Mistakes that don’t wear price tags can cost you much more than you bargained for. Ephesians 5:15-16 warns us about these kinds of decisions. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says, “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.” Being a proactive and wise person requires the ability to recognize your own impulsiveness, pause before you make a snap decision, and ask, “How does this fit into the value lane I’ve created for myself?”

Ahhh mannn! That’s boring, right?

The truth is, this doesn’t have to be restricting. In the face of a generation that says spontaneity only involves “doing what you feel” and chalks most poor decisions up to #YOLO, self-control introduces a different perspective. Choosing a few areas in your life as non-negotiables can actually provide incredible freedom and clarity, and help you define what you want your life to look like in 10-20-30 years.

If you hold onto those values with everything you have, you can be free to live incredibly spontaneous and whimsical in all the other areas of your life, without fear of flying off the tracks.

2. “Just This Once”

Another large threat against self-control is the whisper that says “It’ll be OK just this time.”

Clay Christensen, a Harvard business professor and world-renowned innovation expert, addresses this brilliantly in his book How Will You Measure Your Life. He says,

Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.” In our minds, we can justify these small choices. If you give in to “just this once,”… you’ll regret where you end up.

It’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. The boundary—your personal moral line—is powerful because you don’t cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there’s nothing to stop you doing it again.

Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.

The ability to delay gratification—and choose sustainable happiness over short-term pleasure—has been proven to be a core quality of successful, happy people.

It is easy to slip into bad habits and temperaments when you accept a “just this once” mentality. But this causes us to live in fear of the unknown, wondering if we’ll have what it takes to make the right choice tomorrow or next week.

But self-control says, “I will stand up to myself, and conduct myself against the same code whether the moment is chaotic or calm, complicated or clear.”

3. “It’ll Make Me Happy!”

Where the Fruit of the Spirit live in Galatians 5, the word self-control in the original language is closer related to the ability to master desires and passions, especially sensual appetites. One of the ugliest ways to undermine self-control is through pleasure, settling for the immediate “good feeling” over the longer-term, sustainable benefits.

A popular study done by Stanford University tested preschool-aged children’s ability to delay gratification. They sat a child down in a private room with a single marshmallow in front of them on a table. The mediator told the child that he was leaving the room, and the child could eat the marshmallow while he was gone. But if the child did not eat the marshmallow, they would be rewarded with two marshmallows when he returned. But if the child chose to eat the marshmallow, they would not receive another.

It was a choice of one now or two later.

No surprise, the camera footage of the children alone in the room was quite hilarious. Some ate the marshmallow as soon as the door shut. Others squirmed for a few minutes examining, or even licking, the marshmallow before choosing to devour it piece-by-piece. But there were a few who chose not to eat the treat.

Though this experiment became quite popular when it was published in 1972, the really interesting reports didn’t come until years later. After performing follow-up studies over the next 10-12 years, the researchers found that the children who were able to wait for the two marshmallows were found to have higher SAT scores, lower susceptibility to substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better social skills and better response to stress.

The ability to delay gratification—and choose sustainable happiness over short-term pleasure—has been proven to be a core quality of successful, happy people. Just take it from the kids: pleasure is not happiness, and we’d do well to consciously choose the latter.

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