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Archive for the ‘Self Image’ Category

Finding Hope in the Midst of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from a book by Ed Hindson

The first key to growing through failure is realizing that God is greater than your mistakes.

Second, failure is a universal part of being human.

God wants us to learn from failure. We especially need to learn how not to make the same mistake again. We need to face our weaknesses. Whatever can be changed needs to be changed; wherever we can improve, we need to improve.

If you cannot succeed in a certain area of life, it may very well be that it’s not the will of God for you to pursue that area. You might love to play football, but if the doors aren’t opening for you to play professionally, then most likely that’s not God’s calling for your life. You may enjoy singing, but perhaps your voice isn’t of the quality that’s necessary to be a recording artist. If you aren’t achieving the goals you’d like to reach, that doesn’t mean you need to feel like a failure. It just means that God intends for you to succeed elsewhere.

Don’t let some initial failure cause you to go away discouraged, angry, and upset, or you will never accomplish what you could have had you just kept trying.

What Is Your Definition of Success?

In order to address the problem of failure, we have to start with a question about success. Does God really want us to be successful? There are some pious believers who say, “Oh, the Lord really doesn’t intend for us to be successful. We can be failures to the glory of God. The more everything goes wrong, the more spiritual we can become.” Then there are those who are bent on success at any cost. Their attitude is, “Do whatever you have to do to succeed, whether it’s biblical or not. After all,” they rationalize, “God wants us to be successful. He doesn’t need any more failures.”

But how does God’s Word define success?

Read Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” By this definition, success is doing the will of God. We may think that certain things we do will make God happy with us, but that’s not the way it works. Everything we do for God needs to be done according to the Word of God in order for it to be done in the will of God.

By some standards, Abraham was a total failure. Leaving Ur, the greatest city of his day, he went out to the middle of nowhere to the land of Canaan and there lived and died in obscurity. Yet he is one of the most illustrious men who ever lived. Moses led the slaves of Israel out of Egypt into a wilderness and never entered the Promised Land. He died a failure by modern standards, yet he is one of the greatest men God ever used. Christ died on a cross, initially appearing to be a failure, and yet by His death He won us an eternal victory. For in that death, He atoned for the sins of mankind.

Jesus talked about failure and success in the story of the successful Pharisee and the sinful publican, both of whom went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9–14). The Pharisee’s prayer was boastful—unlike others, he had never let God down. By contrast, the publican stood afar off and bowed his head in humility and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Commenting on this incident, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man [publican] rather than the other [Pharisee], went home justified before God.” The man who appeared to be successful was a spiritual failure. The one who appeared to be a failure was the one who was truly successful. Humility, not ability, is the only true success before God.

When people fail, they usually do one of two things.

Either they confess their failure, repent of it, and get right with God, or they go around making excuses for their failure. Those who confess get back on track and ultimately turn their failure into success. The latter never honestly face their failure. They never solve the problems that led to it, and their lives never get turned around. God wants us not only to repent and erase our failure; He wants us to go on and find real success in serving Him.

The Failure Factor

Understanding Failure Orientation
Failure orientation is that self-perception found in some people that limits not only their self-confidence, but even their ability to trust God as all-sufficient Lord. Individuals with a failure orientation are haunted by a sense of failure, which comes from one of two sources:

1. How we think we appear to others. If we are prone to a failure orientation, we tend to develop “ears” for negative feedback from others. Blocking out or downplaying positive feedback, the failure orientation makes us morbidly sensitive to any negative response we’re getting from others. Unfortunately, we tend to limit the feedback we receive—thereby limiting whatever useful information we might glean from the comments of others. We need feedback from others to help us develop the foundation stones of our value system, self-concept, and understanding of behavior.

Sometimes individuals with a failure orientation have trouble distinguishing between negative feedback directed at them personally and negative feedback simply directed at their behavior. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two in interpreting feedback. “Failure” that may come in the form of a negative response to one’s behavior is usually short-lived and may be overcome. Such “failure” should not be mistaken for a negative response to one’s own person or self-integrity.

As Christians, we may fail, but we are not failures. No matter what others choose to think of us, we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus Christ, who loves us (see Romans 8:37). From time to time, others may praise or ridicule us, but we must never lose our true identity and sense of purpose in the quicksand of struggling to prove ourselves acceptable to others. Scripture describes clearly how we should envision our efforts as we strive to achieve our goals in this life: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.… It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24 NASB).

2. How we view ourselves. Frequently, people with a failure orientation have an artificially high, unrealistic, or even perfectionistic set of expectations for themselves. When asked to rate their accomplishments in almost any area on a scale from one to ten, such persons inevitably rate themselves at five or worse. They rate themselves harshly, even when by all objective standards their performance is far above average. These individuals tend to categorically classify themselves as total successes or total failures. They have an “either-or” mentality when viewing their own accomplishments. They see their output as fully acceptable or totally worthless—more often the latter.

Such a sense of failure often paralyzes initiative. These individuals become cautious, diffident, unwilling to take risks their own judgment tells them are perfectly acceptable. Such persons need a comparison group of other individuals who are at a roughly equivalent skill and attribute level with whom they can identify and derive a sense of belonging without either being intimidated or bored.

Overcoming Failure Orientation
How can we overcome failure orientation? Here are some suggestions:

1. Fully analyze and understand our own failure-prone thinking. Analyzing the negative thinking and feelings of failure within us can help in identifying the various areas or aspects of life in which they appear. We need to try to delineate these areas as specifically as possible and look for hidden irrational ideas or unbiblical beliefs that serve to undermine our sense of God-given worth.

Usually, we can trace our failure orientation back to various setbacks and misconceptions coming from ideas about ourselves, our friends, job, parents, brothers and sisters, church, or school. Rather than perceiving the world through our mind’s “failure filter,” we need to analyze and approach situations from a biblical perspective. One way to do this is to write down every irrational or unbiblical idea we can pinpoint in our thoughts. Then match it with a passage of Scripture that refutes it.

2. Choose goals and objectives that will improve our self-concept. It is advisable to begin with an area in which we have a reasonable amount of self-confidence. A success-oriented self-concept is contagious within our own personality. When we are able to establish goals and begin to reach them, the belief that “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” begins to take on genuine reality in our own experience. From one area of success, this attitude of confident capability will snowball into other personal and professional areas of our lives.

3. Break the objectives down into bite-sized components. Once we have begun to take on an objective, it is necessary to approach that goal through a series of small steps. No one can jump from the ground onto the roof of a house, but ten or 12 small steps on a ladder will enable us to get there. By breaking the goal down into a series of smaller bite-sized behaviors and objectives, we simplify our task and heighten our chances for success. These smaller objectives should be undertaken in logical sequence, moving from shortest to longest or easiest to hardest. Here, the wise and thoughtful counsel of a spiritually mature person is invaluable, whether we need advice or just encouragement.

4. Implement a plan of action. This is the trial-and-error step. It will involve developing persistence above all else. It will involve the discipline to be well prepared for a task, and sensitivity to remain teachable and flexible. A change in a personal failure orientation of a longstanding nature won’t happen overnight. Many times, in fact, we will find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back, but time is on our side, and the outcome is guaranteed. We can be confident, that “he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Turn Your Failure into Success
Many people never overcome their failures because they never really forgive themselves for failing. They continue to punish themselves with self-inflicted guilt rather than moving beyond failure to success.

1. To fail is to be human. All human beings fail. God is fully aware of our limitations: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). True success is not avoiding failure, but learning what to do with it.

2. To fail is not be a failure. Studies show that the most successful people often fail. For example, Babe Ruth not only set the record in his day for home runs in a single baseball season—he led the league in strikeouts, as well. However, that didn’t make him a failure. Many Christians who have achieved a number of successes are quick to call themselves failures when they suffer a few strikeouts in life.

3. No one is ever a failure until he stops trying. It is better to attempt much and occasionally fail than to attempt nothing and achieve it. No one learns the limits of his ability until he has reached the point of total failure. Thomas Edison tried over 5,000 different types of light-bulb filaments without success before finding one that would work. His willingness to endure many failures without branding himself a failure gave us the electric light.

4. Failure is never final as long as we get up one more time than we fall down. Fear is much more damaging than failure. If you’ve failed, admit it and start over. Forgive yourself and learn to forgive others. Don’t be controlled by what has happened to you, but rather be motivated by where you are trying to go. Focus on your goals, not your failures. Move ahead with determination, for nothing worthwhile is accomplished without some risk. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). God has given you certain gifts and abilities to serve Him. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. Go and do it to His glory!

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Hindson, E. E. (1999). God is There in the Tough Times (62–68). Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Managing What Others Think of Me

Source:  Jan Johnson

Impression Management Versus Authenticity

 When I joined a group a few years ago and it was time for introductions, I stayed within the allowed three minutes and managed not to engage in my old game of “impression management.”  For me that means:  Say something that will make everyone laugh! or Say something so deep or authentic-sounding that people will be impressed!  It was difficult because I was used to doing my best to manage the impression of myself that other people walked away with.

Impression management is about using words, possessions and time allocation to convince others I am more or different than what I really am. It’s scary on several levels.  It means I want others’ approval so much that I can’t just be myself.  It isn’t OK to be who I am. It means that I can’t trust God to do whatever is appropriate concerning my reputation.  I must “help God out.” It creates bondage as we become enslaved to cramped schedules and others’ expectations. To be all things to all people means we have to squeeze in another appointment or errand. This seems like no big deal, except that we’re so rushed and distracted that our true authentic self of love and truth doesn’t have space to show up. Worry over our inability to do all this creates anxiety and fear.

Trying to manage what you think of me is a form of insincerity, even duplicity: what you see (impression) is not what you get when you know the real me. We are misleading people to think we are more clever, more witty or more spiritual than we are. Then we have to live up to that or risk disappointing them. At times, impression management is about trying too hard to be sincere because our simple speech is not enough. At its worst, it’s about exploiting opportunities and people so we can get what we want from them. Such a life is exhausting because we’re working against what is real and we’re not truly loving people (but only using them). It lacks the tranquility and authenticity of simplicity of life. In fact, that’s one way we can tell when we’re doing it:  I’m losing a sense of peace within. What am I up to?

So these days I’m finding that speaking simply (to “let  my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ be ‘no’,” Matt 5:37) without impression management is easier.  We build relationships more naturally because we can simply be and transparent without posturing. We are the same person in every situation. We always act in character, never working behind a mask. It’s easier to love others because we no longer try to manage them with convincing words to get them do what we want them to do.

People also find us easier to be around when we live in simplicity and authenticity of speech. They don’t have to guess what we’re really like or what we’re really thinking because we are refreshingly absent of pretense or affectation. The real me has the chance to connect with the real you. I want to keep moving forward to be content to be my unadorned self—the authentic self who does not need to impress anyone, but who also continues to experiment with trusting God more in all situations.

 

©Jan Johnson — The above is excerpted and adapted from chapter 4 of Abundant Simplicity

My Value Doesn’t Equal What I Do

SOURCE:  Brad Rymer/Living Free

“For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!  Galatians 6:14-16 MSG

Wanting to perform at a level of excellence is admirable. The problem is we are not created to be excellent at everything. The world seems to expect us to be, however, and we sometimes take on unrealistic views of what to expect from ourselves.

Our human tendency is to base our value on how well we perform. We strive to accomplish many things to feel a sense of value and worth. When we do well, we feel good about ourselves. When we don’t meet expectations we or others have placed on us, we see ourselves as failures.

The possibility of trying to earn God’s and others’ love through how we perform and what we accomplish can overshadow the truth that God loves us for who we are. You may have heard it said that we are human beings, not human “doings.”

God loves you for who you are–his creation. He loves you unconditionally. He won’t love you any more–or any less–because of your performance. Take comfort and rest in knowing that who you are is more important than what you can do. In God’s eyes, you are valuable because he created you and loves you. You belong to him not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus did for you. When you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, you became a new creation.

It is not what you do. “It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!”

Father, help me remember that my performance, my ability to succeed according to the world’s standards, does not determine my value. But I am valuable because you love me unconditionally, because Jesus died on the cross for me, and because of the person you are molding me to be. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Where is the Image of God in You?
by Brad Rymer.

The Top 10 Types of “Stinkin’ Thinkin”

SOURCE:  David Burns

One of the most common types of skills learned in psychotherapy today focuses on our thinking. Unbeknownst to many of us, we often engage in internal conversations with ourselves throughout the day. Unless we’re trained to examine these conversations, however, many of us don’t even realize we’re having them! For instance, imagine looking in the mirror at yourself. What’s the first thing you think when you look at yourself? That thought is a part of our internal conversation.

Having these kinds of conversations with yourself is perfectly normal and in fact, everybody does it.

Where we mess up in our lives is when we let these conversations take on a life of their own. If we answer ourselves in the above example with something like, “I’m fat and ugly and nobody loves me,” that’s an example of “stinkin’ thinkin’.” Our thoughts have taken on an unhealthy attitude, one that is working against us instead of for us. Psychologists would call these thoughts “irrational,” because they have little or no basis in reality. For instance, the reality is that most everyone is loved by someone (even if they’re no longer with us), and that a lot of our beauty springs from inside us — our personality.

It is exactly these kinds of thoughts that you can learn to identify as you go through your day. Often times it will be helpful to keep a little journal of the thoughts, writing down the day and time you had it, the thought itself, and the type of irrational thought — or stinkin’ thinkin’ — from the list below. As you learn to better identify them, you can then learn how to start answering them back with rational arguments. In this manner, you can work to turn your internal conversation back to being a positive in your life, instead of a running negative commentary.

1. All-or-nothing thinking – You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, “I’ve blown my diet completely.” This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream.

2. Overgeneralization – You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he noticed bird dung on the window of his car. He told himself, “Just my luck! Birds are always crapping on my car!”

3. Mental Filter – You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.

4. Discounting the positive – You reject positive experiences by insisting that they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positives takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

5. Jumping to conclusions – You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.

Mind Reading : Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.

Fortune-telling : You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it. What if I flunk?” If you’re depressed you may tell yourself, “I’ll never get better.”

6. Magnification – You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the “binocular trick.”

7. Emotional Reasoning – You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel terrified about going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly.” Or, “I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person.” Or, “I feel angry. This proves that I’m being treated unfairly.” Or, “I feel so inferior. This means I’m a second rate person.” Or, “I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless.”

8. “Should” statements – You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. “Musts,” “oughts” and “have tos” are similar offenders.

“Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general, lead to anger and frustration: “He shouldn’t be so stubborn and argumentative!”

Many people try to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything. “I shouldn’t eat that doughnut.” This usually doesn’t work because all these shoulds and musts make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite. Dr. Albert Ellis has called this ” must erbation.” I call it the “shouldy” approach to life.

9. Labeling – Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” You might also label yourself “a fool” or “a failure” or “a jerk.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist, but “fools,” “losers” and “jerks” do not. These labels are just useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration and low self-esteem.

You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: “He’s an S.O.B.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves very little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and Blame – Personalization comes when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulty in school, she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “If only I was better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” Blame usually doesn’t work very well because other people will resent being scapegoated and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It’s like the game of hot potato–no one wants to get stuck with it.

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Parts of this article were exercepted from the book, “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D. © 1989.

6 Prayers for Marital Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

SOURCE:  Jennifer Greenberg/The Gospel Coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Show me that sex is pure.

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

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

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

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

3. Show me Jesus in my spouse.

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

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

4. Bless my spouse.

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

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

5. Show me how you see me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

BEING PERFECT OR — FULLY FUNCTIONAL

by Jan Johnson

Have you been bothered by that verse: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? 

Many people are.

Some think it means we can or should drive ourselves with perfectionism. But perfectionism doesn’t lead to perfection—only to shame, as some of you have heard me say.  Others just give up and decide transformation is for someone else. Still others think that Jesus said things that just don’t make sense.

What if “perfect” means “fully functional”? 

The word for “perfect” there and elsewhere is telios, which means complete or mature.  It’s the word Jesus used on the cross in “It is FINISHED”  (looser translation:  we did it!).  Lately, Dallas Willard has taken to substituting “perfect” in these verses with “fully functional.”  Be fully functional, as your heavenly Father is fully functional.

So what does fully functional look like? 

The above verse is the summary statement from the “love your enemies” section of the Sermon on the Mount.  So to be fully functional is to be kind instead of crabby, to help other people out instead of wondering what’s wrong with them. To love difficult people means I’m fully functional, not taking the time and emotional energy to be offended by them or to judge them in my mind.

What a relief!

For days I’ve been connecting dots among the “perfect” verses and it turns out others relate to loving others as well. For example, several of the “perfect” verses occur in James, one of which describes the fully functional law (1:25), which a few verses later he calls the royal law and quotes Jesus’ great commandment (and OT law) and to love others the way we love ourselves.  (Don’t tell me you don’t love yourself;  if you’ve managed to feed and dress yourself in the last few days you’ve loved—or done what’s best for—yourself.)  To be fully functional is to love others as well as I treat myself.

Another dot:  When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler who obeyed all the laws, Jesus advises him that if he would be fully functional (perfect), he would sell all he had and give it to the poor:  radical love for others  (Matt 19:21).

Full functionality (maturity and completion) then seems to relate to moving away from self-absorption and thinking more about what others are going through. When I resent what you say to me or I choose to ignore you (not loving you), I’m not functioning with all of myself.  In fact, I begin to behave rather dysfunctionally:  self-pity, know-it-all, apathetic.  The heavenly Father is perfect in how God loves us fully. God invites me into that love and also invites me to ponder how I might love others a little more today than yesterday. Then I become a whole new me, one that is fully functional, able to stop making everything about me and willing to think about you with more generosity, mercy, and kindness.

With that in mind, Jesus’ invitation to be fully functional sounds like a really good idea.

WHERE DO I STAND WITH THE LORD?

(Adapted from Discovery Series – What Does God Think Of Me Now?)

As a Christian, where do I stand with the Lord?

What really happened the day I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior?

Who am I, really, to the Lord?

When God looks at me, what does He see?

When I come across God’s mind, what does He think of me?

Can there be any better way of answering these questions than to say that “we are who God says we are”?

Before we were Christians, God saw us in a completely different way than He sees us now. He used to see us as:

  1. condemned (John 3:18)
  2. lost (Matthew 18:11; 2 Cor 4:3)
  3. guilty (Romans 3:19)
  4. spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-5)
  5. alienated from Himself (Eph 4:18)
  6. His enemies (Romans 5:10; Col 1:21)
  7. children of wrath (Eph 2:3).

God saw us condemned because we did not live up to the light He had given us. He saw us as lost because we wandered aimlessly down our own sinful paths. He saw us as guilty because we kept breaking His laws. He saw us as spiritually dead because we had separated ourselves from Him. He saw us as alienated, His enemies, and children of wrath because we kept choosing wickedness instead of goodness.

God, therefore, saw us as needing forgiveness. He saw us as needing to be found. He saw us as needing a Substitute to take away our guilt. He saw us as needing a new birth to make possible a restored relationship with Himself. He saw us as needing reconciliation – removal of the hostility between ourselves and Him. Otherwise, without these needs being realized and given our unacceptable condition, we would be doomed to be eternally apart from God.

So, what does God think of me now?

Every Christian is seen by God as being “in Christ.” In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul tells us that in Christ we are:

  1. Blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3)
  2. Chosen before the beginning of time (1:4)
  3. Loved (1:4)
  4. Predestined (1:5, 11)
  5. Adopted (1:5)
  6. Accepted (1:6)
  7. Redeemed (1:7)
  8. Forgiven (1:7)
  9. Given wisdom and understanding (1:8)
  10. Shown the mystery of His will (1:9, 10)
  11. Given a guaranteed inheritance (1:11, 14)
  12. Made “the praise of His glory” (1:12)
  13. Secured by the Spirit (1:13)
  14. Recipients of God’s power (1:19)
  15. Made alive together with Christ (2:5)
  16. Raised up and seated in the heavenlies (2:6)
  17. Recipients of God’s grace and kindness (2:7)
  18. God’s masterful workmanship (2:10)
  19. Created for good works (2:10)
  20. Brought near to God (2:13)
  21. United into one body (2:15, 16; 3:6)
  22. Fellow citizens with other Christians (2:19)
  23. Members of God’s household (2:19)
  24. Built for the Spirit’s habitation (2:21, 22)
  25. Partakers of God’s promise (3:6)
  26. Given bold and confident access to God (3:12)

Other parts of the New Testament fill out this picture of who we are in Christ:

  1. Children of God (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1,2)
  2. Justified (Romans 3:24; 5:1; 8:30)
  3. Dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11)
  4. Recipients of eternal life (Romans 6:23)
  5. No longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
  6. Foreknown (Romans 8:29)
  7. Called (Romans 8:30)
  8. Glorified (Romans 8:30)
  9. Sanctified (1 Cor 1:30)
  10. New creations (2 Cor 5:17)
  11. Reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:19)
  12. Righteous (2 Cor 5:21)
  13. Citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  14. Rescued from Satan’s power (Col 1:13)
  15. Placed into God’s kingdom (Col 1:13)
  16. Complete (Col 2:10)
  17. Perfect (Hebrews 10:14)
  18. Holy and royal priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
  19. A chosen generation (1 Peter 2:9)
  20. A holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)
  21. God’s own special people (1 Peter 2:9)

This list shows a tremendous change from the way God saw us before we trusted Christ as our Savior and Lord.

We have this privileged standing before God, not because of anything we deserve, but because of who we are “in Christ.”

Think About What You Think About

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Faithgateway

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

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

In her blog she wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Think about such things.”

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

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

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

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

You can choose what you think about.

For that reason the wise man urges,

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

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

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

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

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

He comes as a thief

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

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

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

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

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

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

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety says…

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

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

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

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

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

But there is a better way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which do you prefer?

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

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

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

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

Anxious for Nothing

6 Hurtful Childhood Lessons That Linger into Adulthood

SOURCE:  

Children are, by nature, helpless and dependent human beings whose existence and well-being is dependent on the adults around them. This means that they have no choice but to trust their caregivers (parents, teachers, priests, family members, elders). Moreover, children are in development and new to the world, and therefore they are naturally ignorant and impressionable.

Because of all of this, the caregiver-child relationship is exceptionally momentous to us when we are growing up. Whatever people say to us, good or bad, often stays with us for a very long time. The way people treat us sets a precedent on how we see ourselves and how we see relationships and the world in general.

In this article, we will examine a few common messages children hear that haunt them long after they’re adults, and sometimes for their lifetime.

1. It’s not a big deal

Here the child’s feelings are minimized. What may not seem like a big deal from an adult perspective can be a very big deal to a child. If a child’s feelings and experiences are invalidated, they become confused, anxious, or dissociated.

As an adult, the person is often quick to dismiss their own feelings, wants, and desires. They are also out of touch with how they really feel and think, and why.

2. You always mess things up / You’re such a failure / You can’t do anything right

In this instance, the child feels hurt and anxious. Being treated as if you’re worthless teaches the person to believe that they are worthless. As a result, this person may struggle with self-care and low self-esteem in later life.

They routinely feel anxious because they are worried that they are doing something wrong, and apathetic because they feel like a failure no matter how hard they try.

They often feel self-loathing, sometimes to the degree of severe self-harm or even suicide.

3. Don’t pretend / You don’t mean that / That’s not how you feel

This is another form of invalidation and confusion. Often, if the caregiver doesn’t like something the child does, feels, or says, they tend to negate it by simply saying that the child’s thoughts and emotions are wrong or not real.

The person learns that it’s forbidden or even dangerous to feel certain feelings and express, or even have, certain thoughts and observations. In order to survive, they will also learn to dissociate from who they are and develop a persona that is at least marginally acceptable to their caregivers.

4. You provoked me / You made me do it / It’s all your fault

Here, the caregiver is engaging in victim-blaming, where they put the responsibility of being abused onto the child. Not only the child was hurt, but they were blamed for being hurt too. This is incredibly cruel.

As a result, the person learns to ignore and accept toxic behavior from others. They also internalize that if people mistreat you, then it’s your own fault, that you deserve it for being “bad” or “inherently defective. They learn to self-blame.

5. You’re too sensitive / You need to toughen up / This will teach you a lesson

This is in relation to being abused or otherwise expressing hurt. The caregiver is minimizing the child’s pain and fails to empathize with them.

Another lesson here is that the child’s emotions are wrong and that they should feel less of whatever they are feeling. That they should be “stronger,” “more mature,” meaning that you should repress your emotions, dissociate from them, and accept abusive situations as normal.

6. You make me look bad / Think about how I feel / Make me proud

Here, it’s all about the caregiver (meI). The caregiver explicitly lets the child know that they should live their life as the caregiver wants and meet their expectations even if that’s not what the child wants. Sometimes the child gets so lost and erased that they are convinced that living the scenario their caregiver imposed on them is what they actually want.

Also, if the child fails to be who the caregiver wants them to be then they get severely punished: either explicitly (beatings, yelling, threats) or covertly (rejection, emotional unavailability, conditional “love”). The child learns that the only way they can survive in the world is by being fake, complicit, and self-sacrificing. In other words, by living for others only and self-erasing.

Summary and final thoughts

Many people grow up in an environment where they are mistreated and taught harmful beliefs. When we are developing, our caregivers’ and other authority figures’ opinions and treatments of us are extremely impactful to our development.

As a result, many of us learn bad, untrue lessons and beliefs like “I’m worthless,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I have to please others,” “My emotions and thoughts don’t matter,” “It’s dangerous to feel and express my feelings,” “If people mistreat me it’s my fault,” “I’m inherently defective.” In this article we only explored a few and just from a few angles, but there’s so much more to it.

Overcoming, or even recognizing, these beliefs and their effects can be really challenging. However, it is indeed possible to challenge them and gradually become free of them.

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.

Protecting Your Son From Aggressive Girls

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

We’re seeing a surge in girls taking the initiative with guys at younger and younger ages, and aggressively attempting to lure them into sexual activity.

These experiences led to my book, Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date, which was published in 2007. I received a lot of positive feedback from appreciative dads, but I also got something that I didn’t expect. Quite a few parents contacted me to say, “I really appreciate the helpful advice for raising daughters, but we really need something to help our sons deal with aggressive girls in this sexually-saturated culture.”

Read this mother’s frustration:

I have a very outgoing, charming, attractive 15-year-old son. I have literally been chasing the girls away from the door ever since the seventh grade. The phone calls, identified by caller ID, were left for the answering machine to answer. The aggressiveness and promiscuity of young girls nowadays is beyond words. Their dress is so alluring and inviting to a young man, what’s a guy to do? Moreover, what’s a mom to do?

Another mother wrote after hearing the FamilyLife Today® broadcast we did on my book:

After listening to your “Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date” program today, I’m wondering if you have been on a high school or junior high campus recently. While I agree with your points today, I have a seventh grade son. Let me tell you that the girls are relentless. So aggressive. He’s at a Christian school, and this is a problem. I can only imagine what it may be like elsewhere. Please address this issue.

Back when I was growing up, there were some girls who were called “boy crazy,” but very few were as forward and aggressive as what we’re seeing today. Based on my conversation with parents, and what I’ve seen through research on the internet, I think parents are facing some serious challenges. We’re seeing more girls taking the initiative with guys at younger and younger ages and aggressively attempting to lure them into sexual activity. As I’ve done research on the issue, parents are telling me about groups of girls getting together and targeting young men.

Of course, I’m not talking about all young ladies. But the situation has changed enough in recent years that we need to ask: How can we prepare our teenage sons for dealing with the attention and temptation being thrown at them by some sexually aggressive girls?

What in the world is happening?

What is going on in the hearts of some young girls that causes them to be so assertive? I think there are several reasons for what we are seeing:

First, the culture is supporting it. Movies, television shows, commercials, magazines, books … they all glamorize sex and intimacy and the right of young women to go after whatever it is they think will make them happy.

Second, we have a whole generation of young men who are confused in their own sexual identity. Are they supposed to be sensitive or aggressive? Leaders or helpers? Many young men today are not being taught how to treat a young lady with nobility, dignity, and respect. Many are growing up without a father or male figure to provide guidance. As a result, some of these young men have no idea how they should expect to be treated by a real young lady.

Third, the breakdown of the family has resulted in a whole generation of daughters who have been abandoned. And in the absence of a healthy, emotional attachment to their fathers and mothers, they’re trying to fill their emotional gas tanks with the opposite sex.

Finally, there’s little or no preparation for adolescence occurring among parents of preteens or early teens. This may be the core problem. When you ask parents of preteens how many of them would like their children to have the same experience they had in adolescence, there aren’t many hands that go up. But those same parents often become increasingly detached as their children move into the adolescent years.

Teenagers need training to understand the culture, peer pressure, what’s happening in them with their hormones, and what’s happening with the opposite sex. That’s why we have resources like Passport2Purity®—to help parents ground their children in the Scripture that anchors their hearts to withstand the winds of culture and peer pressure.

Protecting your boys

There are six assumptions you need to make in training and educating your sons in how to handle aggressive girls:

Assumption #1: Young boys are clueless about a lot of what is going on around them. They need to be prepared for the reality of today’s world, and this preparation needs to start while they are still boys. This is why I’d suggest that mothers and fathers talk with their 10- to 12-year-old sons about how they relate to the opposite sex before they face the temptation. There’s a much greater probability of success if you can have these conversations before the hormones hit.

Assumption #2: Aggressive girls will likely come into your son’s life. The problem is that most parents won’t know it, because teenage boys don’t talk about anything. But it could be taking place in your son’s life and he’s just not letting you know, so you have to pursue him in the process.

Assumption #3: You, as a parent, need a proactive plan. That plan will involve fathers and sons, but …

Assumption #4: Moms, that plan needs to involve you. You know how girls think and you can help your son understand girls in ways that a father can’t.

Assumption #5: With a son, this instruction, teaching, and call to accountability doesn’t end with the adolescent years. It continues on into adulthood. (And in my opinion, it doesn’t stop after they get married.) Why? Because there are women who are still preying upon men who are married, and every man needs an older man in his life who is asking him “Remember those conversations we had, Son? You’re a married man now, but that does not exempt you from temptation. How are you doing with that?”

Assumption #6: Your son needs a call to manhood. Ultimately, the call to a young man is to step up and become a noble man, a moral man, a spiritual man, God’s man. You’re going to call your sons as they move through adolescence to step up to maturity and step up to real manhood. And to do that, they need a mother and a father repetitively teaching Scripture and encouraging them as they do take these steps toward maturity.

I think one of the finest illustrations of this is in Proverbs, chapters 5-7. In this passage, the writer was reflecting back on conversations he had with his son about aggressive women. And over and over he basically says, “Listen, my son. Hear my warnings. Embrace what I say, because it’s important.”

The writer concludes the whole passage by saying, “Don’t fool around with her, Son. Don’t go near her. Because she runs a halfway house to hell, and she has your grave clothes and your coffin, Son. Heads up. This is dangerous stuff we’re talking about here” (my paraphrase of Proverbs 7:24-27).

One other Scripture your son should be familiar with, and commit to memory, is 2 Timothy 2:22: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

That passage is equally helpful for young men and young women. And while we’re on the subject, what if you have daughters; how do you keep them from being drawn into this culture of aggressive girls?

Training your daughters

If you are raising a daughter, there are at least four things you should consider:

1. Equip your daughter with a biblical, healthy, God-centered perspective of her sexuality. She needs to understand how her clothes and her behavior affect boys. When girls are too flirty or too friendly with the opposite sex, they need to be told. If you witness this kind of behavior, rehearse it and relive it later on and talk about what it does to guys. Explain what is appropriate in terms of a friendly relationship between a young lady and a young man. This needs to be done without being rude, but we cannot let our daughters get away with being overly friendly or overly aggressive.

2. Moms, model what you teach to your daughters. You need to dress appropriately, the way you would want your teenage daughters to dress when they’ve matured. There is a mixed signal that is sent when a mom is telling her daughter to dress conservatively, but her own clothes call too much attention to her body.

3. Dads, actively love your daughters. Give your daughter words of affection, warm hugs, and gentle kisses that let her know that she’s sweet, you’re her daddy, and that no matter how big she gets and how mature she is, you’re never going to stop giving her those words and those hugs. No matter how threatening that may be as your daughter matures, you need to let her know that there’s a wholesome love through words and affection that occurs within a God-centered family.

4. Appropriately correct inappropriate behavior. Pray about how you should instruct her, help her, and correct her. Then begin to train her as to what is appropriate and what isn’t. This could be everything from how she looks at guys, to the makeup she wears, to the clothing she wears.

One of the most important things I did with our daughters was to go shopping with them. It was important for two reasons: First, it showed me how difficult it was for them to find appropriate clothing that is modest and fashionable; and second, it allowed me to give my approval or disapproval before the purchase was made.

Whether you’re a mom or dad, and whether you’re raising boys or girls, your children need your love and guidance as never before. They need to be loved when they don’t believe in themselves. They need to be clothed in wisdom that morally protects them like armor.

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For more help on this topic, order Dennis Rainey’s book  Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys: 7 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son.

3 Unrealistic and Detrimental Expectations About Marriage

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

There’s no shortage of unrealistic expectations about marriage. Which we can pick up from our families, from friends, from fairy tales, from television and movies, from magazine articles. And these supposedly true beliefs can sabotage our relationships, creating a whole lot of misunderstanding and chipping away at our connection.

Unrealistic expectations “set up couples to fail,” said Clinton Power, a clinical relationship counsellor. “When you expect that your relationship is meant to be a certain way, and that expectation doesn’t happen, this can create feelings of anxiety, sadness, and despair.” It can spark resentment, which can ruin relationships.

Below are three unrealistic expectations—and the truths behind each one.

Unrealistic expectation: Happy couples continue to feel the same intense feelings of love. “Falling in love is often called a ‘temporary psychosis’ for the very reason that when you are ‘head over heels’ in love with another person, you are often blinded to some of their differences and quirks,” said Power, founder of Clinton Power + Associates in Sydney, Australia. You love everything about your partner, and want to be with them. All. The. Time.

There are physiological reasons for this. According to psychotherapist and relationship expert Melissa Ferrari, “Oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin dance with the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, fueling our desire and keeping us on a ‘happy high’ of love and lust.”

But eventually, these electric effects dissipate. And what’s left are two people dealing with the reality of day-to-day life, Ferrari said. “And this is where the hard work starts.”

After the honeymoon period is over, it’s totally normal to enter a period of conflict, Power said. For instance, the quirks you once found adorable, like your partner regularly running late and losing things, are now like nails on a chalkboard. Now it’s a significant source of tension. After all, you take pride in your punctuality, and you have a penchant for organization. Which your partner keeps messing with.

The good news is that conflict isn’t inherently a problem. In fact, it’s actually an opportunity, Power said. When you’re experiencing conflict, you “learn to negotiate and manage your differences” and “how to successfully soothe one another when one or both of you are upset.”

Unrealistic expectation: Happy relationships remain the same. We assume that the person we married will remain exactly as they are, and thereby so will our relationship. This expectation might even be subconscious, but it rises to the surface in the form of surprise: Your spouse starts exploring a new career path or passion or moving away from something they used to love (and you still do), and you’re taken aback.

Maybe you even think, this isn’t the person I married. And maybe they’re not.

“[P]eople grow and change over time, and this means that the relationship changes,” Power said. He shared this example: A couple starts dating when one partner is only 19 years old. This younger partner receives a big promotion—and begins traveling more and more and spending more time at the office, building their dream career. The other partner, who’s at home, misses them and becomes increasingly bored. So they start going out more. Both partners are upset at their new reality because they feel disconnected from each other, drifting further and further apart.

“The issue is they haven’t accounted for some of the individual changes they are each going through. The relationship can’t be like it used to be, because they are different people now than they were when they first met.”

Unrealistic expectation: Partners are responsible for each other’s happiness. We tend to have expectations about what we’ll “get” from our partners, Ferrari said. And when our partner doesn’t give us what we think we should be getting, resentment emerges, and starts settling in. (“Over time, resentment can evolve into contempt, which is coined ‘the sulfuric acid of love’ because it will erode a marriage.”)

Ferrari works with many, many couples who expect their partner to meet their happiness quota. For instance, they expect their partner to earn enough money to give them anything they want. “That places pressure on your partner to make you happy about something that you could be aspiring to yourself.”

Plus, it’s very different from trying to understand your spouse in a profound, meaningful, vulnerable way, and fulfill their unmet needs. This might look like giving your partner a big, long hug every time you come home because you know that physical touch helps them to feel loved. This might look like making it a point to thank them for their kind gestures, because you know that as a child, they regularly felt unappreciated. This might look like talking calmly through conflict because they grew up in a volatile home.

The above is about being considerate and getting to know your partner. It isn’t about doing something for them that they can do themselves. It isn’t about taking responsibility for satisfying their needs. It is about supporting them.

It is about helping them to heal past hurts, Ferrari said. Which can “help them greatly psychologically, particularly in terms of confidence, feeling loved, safe and secure…” And that is incredibly powerful.

Explore the expectations you have about relationships—about what healthy, connected marriages look like, about how you and your partner should behave, about what you should “get.” Then explore where these beliefs stem from—and whether they’re genuinely true. Because many of our expectations are not, and many of them can interfere with our relationship.

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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4 Ways Emotional Neglect From Your Childhood Can Harm Your Relationships

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

One of the most difficult things about growing up with your feelings ignored (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN) is the way it affects your relationships once you have grown up.

When you grow up in an emotionally neglectful family, your feelings are not responded to enough by your parents. From your parents’ lack of response, you learn a secret lesson that lives deeply and unseen within you for the rest of your life. You learn that your emotions are not useful, and don’t matter.

Children who grow up this way do not learn how to value, understand, or use their own emotions. Instead, they may spend their entire adult lives running from their own feelings, or trying to push them away.

Among all the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect, two pack the biggest punch when it comes to your ability to connect with others.

  1. It leaves you disconnected from your emotions.
  2. It leaves you lacking some essential skills that you need. 

Like an invisible rain cloud, your CEN hangs over your adult life, coloring your world gray, and robbing you of richness and color, energy and connection. Imagine the effect this has on your ability to be close and comfortable with the right people, in the right way.

As you read the 4 effects below, I ask you to keep two very important things in mind. First, you did not choose to grow up emotionally neglected, so none of this is your fault. Second, all 4 of these effects have to do with the wall that disconnects you from your emotions, and your skills. That wall can be taken down, and you can learn the skills. It can all be fixed!

4 Ways CEN Affects Your Relationships

  • It makes them more confusing than they should be

To successfully manage any kind of relationship, it’s very important to have enough emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes the ability to know what you are feeling and why, manage your feelings, and talk about them with the other person, if needed. If you have all those skills, you can use them to understand what is going on with you, and you can also use them to read what the other person is feeling, and why. Then you can respond appropriately, as needed.

How your CEN interferes: If your feelings were not validated as important when you were growing up, you likely missed the “Emotion Training” that you were supposed to receive from your parents. Now relationships, especially your own feelings and actions, as well as other people’s feelings and behaviors, can seem like a puzzle for you. It’s hard to cope with a problem in a relationship when you can’t quite see it or understand it.

  • It drives you apart from the other person

Going through your life without enough emotional intelligence has another very impactful effect: it makes you feel unequipped to handle conflicts. This naturally makes you fearful of encountering problems in your relationships, and this is a fear that you must cope with. The most common way for folks with CEN to cope is to simply avoid conflicts altogether. If you have CEN and you are reading this, you may think that’s a pretty good solution to the problem. But it’s not.

How your CEN interferes: Avoiding conflict requires you to push your own feelings underground, and also ignore any signs of hurt or anger from the other person. What happens to feelings that are pushed away or ignored? They grow. They grow and they grow, and drive a wedge between you and the other person. You will drift farther and farther away from each other, and you may not even realize it is happening.

  • It keeps them superficial

Relationships of all kinds thrive on feelings: both positive and negative, believe it or not. Talking about difficult things with someone builds trust. Working through a conflict with someone builds understanding. Giving and receiving emotional support builds warmth and care. And all of those mix together to provide any relationship its depth. 

How your CEN interferes: When emotions are not addressed or dealt with enough in a relationship, not enough richness or depth gets a chance to develop. This leaves your relationships more shallow than they should be, which makes them far less rewarding. You are experiencing your relationships in grayscale, when you should be living them in rich and stimulating colors.

  • It makes them less interesting

Emotion is the ingredient that keeps relationships interesting. To understand why, think of every movie you’ve ever enjoyed, and you’ll realize that every single one made you feel something. All feelings, both positive and negative, are stimulating. They provide us with fuel and zest and zeal. They motivate us, drive us, and move us.

How your CEN interferes: When you don’t have proper access to your emotions, you aren’t able to put them into your relationships. You likely hold back on topics that could be bonding and stimulating or upsetting to other people. For example, you may convey a deeply painful story by relaying only the events and facts. You may not be able to experience the emotional aspects of a story your friend is telling. This can make your time spent together uninteresting, or maybe even boring. Not just for you, but also for the person you are with.

What To Do

I know you may be feeling daunted after reading about the obstacles above. But I want you to know that you should actually be hopeful! All these years, you’ve been experiencing your relationships in a dulled way, without fully realizing what you were missing. But now you know what’s wrong, and that your Childhood Emotional Neglect can be addressed and healed. You can break down the wall that blocks you from your feelings, and learn the emotion skills you missed. It takes perseverance and work, yes.

But your family will thank you, your partner will thank you, and your children will grow up happier and healthier. That is a win win win on every level.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible and unmemorable, so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

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To learn how to heal the effects of Emotional Neglect in your relationships, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become preoccupied with perfection. That’s different from envisioning perfection as a goal.

It’s about whether perfection is a goal, or something that you demand. Believing that you can realistically attain perfection is no different than wandering through the desert, ever-thirsty, toward a mirage that only recedes toward the horizon. A lot of people obsess over perfection. This obsession is a massive waste of time and energy.

Perfectionism is a distraction, a justification for procrastination, an excuse for never getting anything done. When perfectionism is about one’s own striving, it is hostility aimed inward. When it is aimed at others, it is a cold and compassionless hostility toward the world. Perfectionism is a refusal to accept reality, and it is rooted in fear. To the perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

For many people, perfectionism originates in childhood, with parental pressure to achieve. This can be motivated by a lot of things, from parents measuring their own status by the achievements of their children, to an egotistical desire to imprint their child with capabilities they wish they had themselves. Whatever the cause, perfectionism often has an opposite effect from what these parents would hope for their children to develop if they want them to become high achievers. Perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing, and the willingness to take risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes, are two essential characteristics of high achievers.

Perfectionists fail to accept that the world, and all of the people in it, are flawed. Understanding that concept is something that can fuel compassion, foster empathy, and help you develop healthy structures for continuously improving your own performance.

It’s fair to say that doing something the wrong way, whether at work or in a relationship, feels bad. By contrast, doing something the right way feels good. This is a core concept underlying the self-regulating systems of internal rewards that drive motivation. With a healthy, growth-oriented mindset, navigating these pathways will help us to increase our capacities in the most important areas of our lives.

In order to put that idea to use, we must be willing to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes we will not do things the right way. Someone who accepts that reality would understand that the mistakes we make are learning opportunities, glean what lessons they can from their experiences, and work on improving. The perfectionist fights reality. They do not want the bad feelings that come along with making mistakes. They drastically overestimate the pain that will be caused by those bad feelings. They become paralyzed. They do not grow.

Perfectionism is an incapacitating force. It stops us from connecting with the real, but it also stops us from connecting with others. The inward perfectionist will never feel good enough to be loved or appreciated, the outward perfectionist will always find the flaws in the details, unable to find redeeming virtues that are plainly visible to the rest of us.

Habits are hard to break, but the mechanics of overcoming perfectionism are easy to put into practice. All you have to do is be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Understand that that’s what we’re all doing all the time, continuously messing up, learning, and doing better.

There is a relevant passage from a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The scene takes place at a tennis academy. It’s a conversation between two players, one of whom is suffering from debilitating perfectionism:

“Suppose I were to give you a key ring with a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of those keys will unlock it, and this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?”

“Well, I’d try every darn one,” Rader tells Lyle.

“Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.”

Is Marital Indifference Emotionally Abusive? 

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If he doesn’t hit you, it’s not abuse?” This statement is not true. One of the most silent yet destructive forms of marital abuse is chronic indifference.

The opposite of love isn’t hate as many would think. It’s indifference. Indifference says I don’t care enough about you to give you my time, my energy or other resources to show interest, care, or love towards you. A person’s indifference says how you feel or what you want doesn’t matter to that person. Indifference says you are not a person to love, but an object to use. Indifference says I don’t need to change anything to make our relationship better for you if it’s okay for me. Indifference says that you exist for my benefit and when you don’t please me or benefit me anymore, you are replaceable or disposable.

One of the most horrific abuse stories in the Bible is one of gross indifference. A Levite and his concubine wife were traveling home when they stopped in the town of Gibeah. Expecting the typical Jewish hospitality, they waited in the open square, hoping someone would invite them to spend the night. As evening descended, an old man spotted the couple and graciously took them to his house. While the two men were getting acquainted, vile men of the city surrounded the home, beat on the door, and demanded the old man bring his guest outside so they might sexually abuse him.

The men of the town refused to listen to the old man so the Levite grabbed his own concubine and shoved her out the door. The men of the town raped her, taking turns until dawn.

The scriptures say, “When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. Coldly he said, “Get up! Let’s go! But there was no answer. So he tossed her lifeless body on his donkey and took her home” Later on he cut her up into twelve pieces and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel, portraying himself (not his poor wife) as the victim of a horrible injustice (Judges 19:1-30).

The rape and torture by those vile men was traumatic, but I often wonder if her greater suffering was that her own husband indifferently tossed her out the door like a piece of trash, knowing full well she would be used and abused.

Marriage is the one relationship where a man and a woman publicly make promises to not be indifferent. They promise to love, to cherish, to protect, and to honor one another. When a person regularly fails to keep his or her fundamental marital promise, the marriage is in deep trouble and to pretend otherwise is not healthy or biblical.

For example, Karen was a wife who loved her husband and wanted things to work between them but he had little time for her. He was too busy running a business and making money. When she tried to talk to him about her feelings, he became harsh and then gave her the silent treatment, sometimes ignoring her for months. When Karen pursued or pressured him to discuss their problems, he verbally attacked her. He accused her of being controlling and manipulative. The only personal connection he desired was sexual and this left Karen feeling empty and used.

Finally she decided to have a heart-to-heart talk about changes she needed in their relationship. Wiring up all her courage she said, “Steve, there is something that I need to share with you that’s really important. Do you have time tonight?” “Okay, but I don’t have all night. There’s a football game starting in about 15 minutes.”

Karen took a deep breath and began.

“I know you get very frustrated when I’m not responsive to your sexual needs. I know you want me to be more sexual with you and enjoy our physical relationship. But the way you treat me much of the time makes me feel angry and hurt.

When you ignore me for long periods of time or accuse me of being things that I’m not, I just can’t manufacture warm and affectionate feelings towards you when I’m upset and hurt.” Then she asked him the million-dollar question. She asked, “Wouldn’t you enjoy our sexual relationship much more if you knew I wanted to be with you and enjoyed that part of our relationship rather than me just doing my wifely duty?“

Steve’s answer floored her. “Of course I would,” he said, but added, “But if wifely duty is all I can get, I’ll settle for that.”

Steve’s response woke Karen up to his gross indifference toward her as his wife, as a woman, and as a person. Everything in their relationship revolved around him and his needs. As long as her body was available when he wanted sex, it mattered little to him how she felt.

Later, Karen told me, God never intended her to be a sexual object nor to sacrifice her body to enable her husband’s selfishness to continue unchallenged.

Indifference can be one of the most unrecognized yet damaging forms of emotional abuse in marriage.

Seven Reasons You’re Probably Unhappy

Source:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all driven to grow. We see a future that we want to live in, and we are either able to intentionally get there, or we cannot. A major determinant of whether you will get there or not is simply that you actually believe that you can.

We carry around a huge amount of personal baggage from our past experiences that forms our attitudes about the future. In many cases we develop a sense of learned helplessness that causes us to believe that we will never be able to get the future we want. This self-defeating logic is reinforced by our own inaction toward overcoming this baggage from our past. It becomes a pattern.

We get used to not getting what we want. We come to believe that it’s normal. That it’s simply the way things are.

Before we can overcome these issues, we have to understand what they are. This is by no means an all encompassing list of issues that characterize bad past experiences that can prevent you from realizing your own ability to move toward your desired future, but if you recognize yourself in any of these, it’s time to get to work.

1. You have historically associated closely with, and strongly feel a part of a group of people who are not finding success in love, life or work.

2. You have been so focused on simply getting by that you felt like you were unable to actually learn new ways to be better.

3. You were brought up in a religious tradition or other circumstance that instilled you with strong feelings of guilt and shame, but never focused on positive qualities like love, intimacy, vulnerability and learning.

4. All of your past relationships have caused tremendous pain and ended badly, leading you to believe that is simply an inherent quality of all relationships.

5. You have plateaued when pursuing your goals, and you come to believe that you are simply not the kind of person who is capable of achieving the success you want, incapable of understanding why others are able to reach their goals.

6. You have believed that you are just not trying hard enough when it comes to your goals, and later when you do try to commit stronger to achieving your goals with the same mindset and more effort, you expect things to turn out differently.

7. You associate change primarily with things turning out badly. Therefore change is scary and something to be avoided. You may not be happy with the way things have been, but they could likely be much worse.

What these dilemmas all have in common is that they use the past as a basis for constructing the future. They cause us to forget our own talents and abilities, to undermine our own skillfulness and resourcefulness. They squash our ambitions by prioritizing fear over risk and reward.

The experiences described above are universal. Every successful person has faced some variation or combination of these scenarios, and yet they have managed to get wherever it is that they were aiming at.

Why is that? Is it that others simply have greater abilities, or more potential? No. It is that they have not allowed the past to become a myopic lens for viewing the future. They have distilled experience into wisdom. They have recognized that failure and difficulty are necessary opportunities for stretching our abilities to enable growth.

The essential thing that you must do is to take the lessons you have learned from the past and put those lessons into practice by actually doing something. You will not overcome any one of these by letting the clock run out. There is no way forward in doing nothing. If what you have tried in the past has not worked, try something different. We are often drawn to work harder because we are choosing the more familiar path. That path is our default setting. It is often our first idea, and the one we feel most comfortable setting forward with.

But growing is not about feeling comfortable, it is about moving forward through the thick grass toward foggy vistas and breaking through all of that to discover new territory. The future does not live in the past unless you stay stuck where you are. The future is where you are going, not where you have been.

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

SOURCE:  Renee Jain, Contributor/The Huffington Post

All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous.

“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades.

Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

We Create Our Own (Often Distorted) Reality

One person walks down a busy street and notices graffiti on the wall, dirt on the pavement and a couple fighting. Another person walks down the same street and notices a refreshing breeze, an ice cream cart and a smile from a stranger. We each absorb select scenes in our environment through which we interpret a situation. In essence, we create our own reality by that to which we give attention.

Why don’t we just interpret situations based on all of the information? It’s not possible; there are simply too many stimuli to process. In fact, the subconscious mind can absorb 20 million bits of information through the five senses in a mere second. Data is then filtered down so that the conscious mind focuses on only 7 to 40 bits. This is a mental shortcut.

Shortcuts keep us sane by preventing sensory overload. Shortcuts help us judge situations quickly. Shortcuts also, however, leave us vulnerable to errors in perception. Because we perceive reality based on a tiny sliver of information, if that information is unbalanced (e.g., ignores the positive and focuses on the negative), we are left with a skewed perception of reality, or a thought hole.

Eight Common Thought Holes

Not only are we susceptible to errors in thinking, but we also tend to make the same errors over and over again. Seminal work by psychologist Aaron Beck, often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy, and his former student, David Burns, uncovered several common thought holes as seen below.

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality, or confusing feelings with facts

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method developed by GoZen! called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Let’s run through the 3Cs using James as an example. James was recently asked by his science teacher to chat after class. He immediately thought, “I must be in trouble,” and began to feel distressed. Using the 3Cs, James should first check to see if he had fallen into one of the common thought holes. Based on the list above, it seems he jumped to a conclusion.

James’s next step is to collect as much data or evidence as possible to create a more accurate picture of the situation. His evidence may look something like the following statements:

“I usually get good grades in science class.”

“Teachers sometimes ask you to chat after class when something is wrong.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before.”

“The science teacher didn’t seem upset when he asked me to chat.”

With all the evidence at hand, James can now challenge his original thought. The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is for James to have a debate with himself.

On one side is the James who believes he is in big trouble with his science teacher; on the other side is the James who believes that nothing is really wrong. James could use the evidence he collected to duke it out with himself! In the end, this type of self-disputation increases accurate thinking and improves emotional well-being.

Let’s teach our teens that thoughts, even distorted ones, affect their emotional well-being. Let’s teach them to forget positive thinking and try accurate thinking instead. Above all, let’s teach our teens that they have the power to choose their thoughts.

As the pioneering psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

5 Beliefs People with Adverse Upbringing Have about Themselves

SOUCE:    /PsychCentral

One of the negative effects of being raised in a difficult environment is a warped self-perception that manifests itself in various false beliefs. In this article, we will explore a few of the more popular ones.

1. I’m worthless

Believing that you are worthless is extremely common. Many children grow up into adults with a diminished sense of self-worth. That is the reality: if you treat someone whose mind is still developing as if they are worthless, they will believe that they are worthless.

This is understandable because if you are repeatedly told that you are stupid, incompetent, and useless, or even subtly or explicitly treated as though you are worthless, you receive the same message.

This is especially the case when those treating you this way are the very people that you are dependent on. You will, then, internalize this feeling and it will become your self-perception. Children pick up on these signals from their caregivers and adapt to their reality.

This belief is often accompanied by similar toxic beliefs:

  • I am unlovable.
  • I don’t matter.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • There’s no point of even trying.
  • I don’t deserve anything.

2. Everything is my fault

Excessive, unjust guilt is another common problem people suffer from. This belief develops if a child is punished for making mistakes, if they are micromanaged, if they are expected to meet unrealistic or unfair standards, and if they are blamed for things that they are not responsible for.

As a response to such treatment, the person learns to believe that whatever “bad” happens it’s their fault—because that’s how they were treated and led to believe. It often leads to feeling severe social anxiety and being in a constant state of alertness. It makes a person’s personal life quite challenging since they constantly concentrate on others and think that everything is somehow related to them.

Similar beliefs:

  • I deserve to be treated this way.
  • It wasn’t that bad.
  • I was a bad child.
  • I am inherently bad or defective.
  • Someone’s always watching me.
  • Everyone hates me.

3. I have to take care of everyone

This is an extension of the previous belief. Here, the person believes that they are responsible for things that they are actually not responsible for. It is very common for such individuals to try to take care of other people’s needs, preferences, and emotions at the expense of their own.

If a child is not allowed to be a child and is forced to take up on a role of a parent—to their own parents, their siblings, or others—then they grow up feeling responsible for others. Such role reversal in a person’s early life predisposes them to neglect their own well-being, dreams, aspirations, and life for other people. The easiest form to recognize is people-pleasing, but it takes other shapes as well.

Similar beliefs:

  • I am responsible for other people’s emotions.
  • If others are suffering it’s my fault.
  • It’s my responsibility to save others.
  • I have to make sure that everyone’s happy.
  • My needs and wants are unimportant.

4. I can’t do anything myself

Many people who grow up in a controlling environment become overly dependent. This is because they were treated as if they are incompetent and weren’t given freedom to pursue their own goals, to make mistakes, and to overcome obstacles. Instead, they developed codependent tendencies and a sense of incompetency.

Here, instead of being an individual, facing life’s challenges and developing competency, the person stays stuck in the role of a helpless, dependent child, where they need someone else to take care of their financial, emotional, and even physical needs. A common, more extreme example would be a battered spouse who is afraid to leave because they think they can’t survive the separation.

Similar beliefs:

  • I’m not good at anything.
  • Everything’s so complicated.
  • I don’t understand anything.
  • I am waiting for my savior.
  • I just want for someone to take care of me.
  • I just want someone who will make me feel safe.

5. I have to do everything myself

This is, in many ways, the opposite of the previous belief. Instead of being passive, the person feels that they have to do everything on their own. As a child, they had to take care of themselves because their caregivers were not very caring or reliable. They were forced to grow up quickly and deal with their struggles alone.

For people like this it is difficult to trust others, ask for help, or be vulnerable. They were routinely hurt by other people’s insensitivity, betrayed by those who were supposed to love them, and let down by people’s incompetency and unreliability. So they learned that you have to do everything yourself.

Similar beliefs:

  • Showing emotion is “unmanly” or weak (i.e., dangerous).
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I don’t need anyone.
  • Everyone is just selfish and doesn’t care about anybody else.
  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • You have to carry everything inside.
  • Nobody can understand me.

 

Codependency and Parenting: Break the Cycle in Your Family

SOURCE:   Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT/GoodTherapy.org

There are some common misunderstandings about what codependency is. It used to be that when one heard the term codependency, it was associated with being in a relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The term codependency is now more commonly associated with being emotionally dependent on others in relationships. While we are all emotionally dependent on others to some degree, when we make decisions that go against our value system in order to avoid rejection and anger, we are creating a codependent dynamic within the family system.

As parents, we want to avoid family dynamics that perpetuate codependency. Research (1999) indicates that patterns within the family system can be passed down through generations. Parents need to be aware of codependent patterns within the family system so that they can recognize when it’s necessary to break the cycle. If the cycle continues and is passed down as codependency patterns within the family system, the children may be likely to enter into codependent relationships and pass codependency patterns down to their children as well.

Some behaviors for parents to be aware of in order to recognize and avoid perpetuating codependency patterns include:

Being too rigid: When parents are so controlling of their children’s behavior that children don’t have the opportunity to explore their own choices, parents send a message to their children that they aren’t responsible for their choices and that someone else has all the power. Their children may then be more likely to choose relationships where they feel powerless.

Using your child to get your needs met: Parents need to ensure that they get their own needs met in other areas of their life such as hobbies, work, and relationships so that they don’t live vicariously through their children. Parents who live vicariously through their children risk sending their children the message that they must have their parents’ approval. While it is normal for children to go through a phase where they seek their parent’s approval, the need for parental approval could carry on into adulthood.

Acting on the desire to solve their problems: When children talk about their problems, parents need to listen more without offering advice as opposed to becoming reactive and/or trying to rescue children from their problems. If given the opportunity through a safe place to explore their feelings and options, children may be more successful at learning how to solve their own problems. Parents can provide support to encourage their children to be creative in finding ways to solve their problems.

When parents come up with a plan of action instead of allowing their children to develop a plan of action, they are interfering with the opportunity to develop problem solving skills. Children then receive the message that they are not capable of solving their own problems and that someone else needs to solve their problems for them. As adults, they could potentially be more likely to enter into relationships where they are told what to do.

How Can Parents Avoid Perpetuating Codependency Patterns Within the Family System?

In order to avoid passing down codependency patterns within the family system, parents need to facilitate children in developing a strong sense of self. By implementing some of these practices, parents can be proactive in helping their children develop a solid and healthy sense of self-esteem:

  • Be mindful of their safety, but give children the freedom and opportunity to solve their own problems.
  • Don’t emotionally neglect children.
  • Don’t be overly controlling or overly pampering. Doing so may result in some children creating a dependency on others and an inability to make independent decisions, while other children take on too much responsibility and are forced to give up their childhood.
  • Be mindful of your own patterns of behaviors such as passive-aggressive comments, giving children the silent treatment, disrespecting children’s boundaries, or being dependent on children for emotional support.
  • Encourage positive self-talk.
  • Teach children that value doesn’t come from pleasing a parent.
  • Parents need to practice self-care and ensure they are taking care of their own needs. This will help a parent avoid building resentment that often gets turned inward.

Reference:

Burris, C. T. (1999). Stand by your (exploitive) man: Codependency and responses to performance feedback. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18(3), 277-298. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224867940?accountid=1229

Your Attachment Style Influences the Success of Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT/Gottman Institute

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? What about someone who was emotionally exhausting?

People give up on finding “the one” after experiencing a relationship or two with someone who has either style. Self-doubt sets in and you think, “something must be wrong with me.”

To understand this phenomenon you must first understand attachment theory, one of the most well researched theories in the field of relational psychology. Attachment theory describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, most commonly a parent, creates our expectation for how love should be.

Our view of ourself and others is molded by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to met our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered by our romantic partners.

The attachment alarm

How are we triggered? Think about the availability of your primary caregiver.

  • Were they neglectful, always there for you, or inconsistent?
  • Who did you go to when you had a problem?
  • Was there someone there you could really count on?

You can start to identify your own attachment style by getting to know the four patterns of attachment in adults and learning how they commonly affect couples in their relating.

According to attachment theory, you have a secure attachment style if a caregiver was responsive and available to you as a child, making you feel safe and secure. Creating a secure attachment is important for dating to create a healthy relationship. In a secure relationship your partner is there for you and has your back. If you are an insecure style (and you choose someone with an insecure style), you will continually be triggered and never feel safe or secure in your relationship.

If your caregiver was unresponsive, you form an insecure attachment pattern. An insecure attachment style manifests in three main ways.

Anxious Attachment – develops when a caregiver has been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing the child about what to expect. As an adult, this person acts clingy at times and finds it difficult to trust their partner.

Avoidant Attachment – develops when a caregiver is neglectful. These are the children that play by themselves and develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they typically label themselves as very independent.

Disorganized Attachment
– develops from abuse, trauma, or chaos in the home. A child learns to fear the caregiver and has no real “secure base.”

All of these styles influence the way you behave in your romantic relationships and how you find a romantic partner.

So, this begs the question, can one change their attachment style to a more secure way of relating?

Changing your attachment style

The answer is yes, but it takes hard work. Often therapy can be incredibly helpful. Being aware of your attachment style and the choices you are making in a partner are crucial. A quality therapist will guide your development of the awareness necessary to discern whether you are reacting to past wounds.

We tend to recreate unhealthy relationship patterns from our childhood in our adulthood. As much as people may dislike it, the familiarity is comforting. You may even confuse the feelings of relationship chemistry with what is the familiarity of your early life experience.

You can challenge your insecurities by choosing a partner with a secure attachment style, and work on developing yourself in that relationship. By facing your fears about love, you can build new styles of attachment for sustaining a satisfying, loving relationship.

——————————————————————————————————-

Recommended resources

The following books will help you to understand attachment theory and how it impacts your relationship.

Levine explains how the three attachment styles create the types of relationships we end up in as adults and how to break those patterns to have healthier relationships.

What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by Dr. John Gottman

Trust and attunement are the foundation of a secure and healthy relationship.

Learn how to recognize and avoid “blind spots” in dating so you can find lasting love.

Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin, PsyD

Tatkin shares the complexity of attachment styles and how to love an emotionally unavailable partner so they can be more available, and how to love an insecure partner so they feel safe.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

Johnson offers seven vital conversations that help partners work with their unique insecure attachment styles to create a more secure and meaningful relationship.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

SOURCE:  Taken from the Prepare-Enrich Newsletter

Spoiler Alert:  It’s Not!

Self-care is taking time to care for yourself in whatever what makes sense for you. We often overlook self-care by thinking that it’s something only selfish people do and isn’t that important. However, the more I intentionally practice self-care, the more I see the positive impact on my relationship and I know it’s not a selfish act. Most importantly, I’ve found it allows me to be more present in my relationships because I took the time to make myself feel whole.

The problem with the idea of your partner being your “other half” is that you are unable to invest any part of yourself into your relationship if you aren’t whole. By reframing my thoughts around self-care, how loving and appreciating myself can create a stronger connection in my relationship, I have been able to overcome the negative stigma of “selfish self-care.” It’s important for me to take care for myself for mine and my partner’s sake.

Why Does Self-Care Matter

  • Increases your emotional/mental well-being
  • Allots time for you to take care of your physical self
  • Gives you the energy to care for others
  • Feeling positive about yourself gives you a better outlook on your relationship and life in general

How to Practice Self-Care

Simply take time to do something you enjoy, something that feeds your soul and inspires you. Here are some ideas:

  • Journal – write down your daily thoughts in the morning or at night
  • Volunteer – give back to others using your talents
  • Cook – develop a new recipe, make your favorite dinner
  • Be creative – draw, write, rearrange your living room
  • Pamper yourself – get your hair cut, take a long shower, get a massage
  • Spend time with family – look at old family photos, play a game
  • Go outside – take a walk, jog, or go for a run
  • Be active – go to the gym, practice yoga
  • Eat what you want – drink water, eat your veggies, and eat your cake too (in moderation)
  • Sleep – go to bed early, allow yourself to sleep in, take a nap

Self-Image: Three Questions

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by Ed Welch

So much of life comes down to the following three questions:

  • Who is God?
  • Who am I?
  • Who are these other people?

You might not wake up in the morning with these questions on your mind. In fact, you might never have asked these questions. But, as a human being, those questions are part of your DNA. You will find them sneaking around in your anger, happiness, contentment, jealousy, sadness, fear, guilt, cutting, sense of purpose, life meaning, decision making, moral choices about sex, friendships, school, work, and so on.

Notice, for example, how jealousy answers these questions.

Who is God?

“He is someone who should give me what I want.”

Who am I?

“I deserve better—better looks, better athletic ability, a better boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“I am a judge who is authorized to stand over others.”

Who are these other people?

“They are below me. They have things that I deserve more than them.”

 

Sadness or depression? Listen and you will hear their answers too.

Who is God?

  • “He is far away and doesn’t care.”
  • “He is someone who didn’t give me what I wanted.”
  • “He could never forgive me for what I have done.”

Who am I?

  • “I am nothing, literally nothing. It isn’t that I am trash; I am just nothing.”
  • “I am needy, and I haven’t gotten what I need.”
  • “I am alone.”
  • “I am God. I deserved something and I didn’t get it.”

Who are these other people?

  • “They are my life. I put my hope in them, and they let me down.”
  • “They don’t care, so I am trying not to care about them, but it isn’t working.”
  • “They can’t be trusted.”

You can see what’s happening. You already have answers to these questions. You just have to uncover them. You might know some right answers, such as “I am a child of God.” But our hearts are complicated. The right answer is rarely your only answer. Instead, you usually have at least two sets of answers: those that are “right,” and those that actually guide the way you live. To discover your real answers to these questions, watch how you live. In particular, track your emotions. Look for what makes you upset, depressed, angry, and anxious, or what makes you happy, calm, excited, and peaceful.

Once you settle into one of your less comfortable moods, who do you say God really is?

  • Angry
  • Far away and not aware of what you are doing in secret
  • Far away and uncaring about what is bothering you
  • Picky
  • Unfair

What about other people? Who are they?

  • Objects you manipulate so that they serve you
  • Protectors
  • Threats
  • Jerks
  • Things that can make you feel really good or really bad
  • Idols that you worship

And you? Who are you? Try to capture your view of yourself with a picture. If the picture is “child of God” don’t stop there. Find some others.

  • I am alone, living behind thick walls. I can see out, and everyone else looks normal, but I am isolated.
  • I am a leper who has to live with other lepers far away from everyone else.
  • I am the black sheep—unwanted, standing out in a bad way and not fitting in.
  • I feel like a baby bird, vulnerable, needy, waiting to be pushed out of the nest.
  • I am a piece of a puzzle, happy to fit in but not stand out.

Any you would add?

When it comes to being controlled by the opinions of others—the fear of man—there is one image that fits most of us: a vessel, cup, bowl, or some kind of container. Listen for words such as need, want, and empty. They hint that we want to be filled with something that only other people can give us. Ever feel empty?

Any thoughts on what you think would fill you?

Picture a cup, something like the animated walking teacups of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. There is already something in it; call it self-esteem for now. Some people have more, some less, but no one feels like they have much. You waddle around, hoping that no one bumps you so hard that everything spills out. You also hope that someone close by is in the shape of a pitcher so you can be filled.

What would cause a spill?

  • “Loser!”
  • “We decided not to hire you.”
  • “We regret to inform you that you weren’t accepted to . . .”
  • “Can’t you do anything right?!”

What would fill you up?

  • “Nice outfit.”
  • “Awesome game!”
  • “Good job.”
  • “I love you.”

“I love you” fills you up best. Sometimes it is enough to hear it from a parent. More often, parents can’t fill you with their words of affection, though they certainly can cause you to spill all over the place with words of rejection. The job of filling you is usually reserved for your peers. Get an “I love you,” or even an “I really like you,” from the right person, and life is wonderful. You feel great. Full. Who cares if someone bumps into you? “I love you” is high-octane fuel for your self-esteem.

If you don’t get filled, bad things happen. You wander around with a case of the blues, though you might not even realize it. Some people try to fill themselves with other things: achievements, sex, drugs, music, video games, Internet porn, and fantasy. But none of it really works. Even if you receive love it doesn’t work for too long. It is like a drug that fills you for awhile—about an hour or so—and then you need more. And there will be days when you feel so bad that even “I love you” won’t make any difference. Either your cup has a leak in it, or you weren’t intended to live like a cup. Which one do you think it is? (Both answers are correct, so you don’t have to worry about getting the wrong answer.)

Do you have any ideas why life as a love cup doesn’t work?

There is nothing wrong with wanting love. It would be positively inhuman not to want it. The problem comes when we desire it too much—when our desire for love becomes the center of life—which, when you think about it, makes us the center of our own lives. The problem is when we want to be loved more than we want to love. If only life could be a little bit less about us.

Then it gets worse. When we live as love cups, we will get hurt. There is no doubt about that. We can never get filled enough. When the hurts pile up, we feel ashamed and protect ourselves. We hide behind masks. You can’t let others see you or really know you. You try to spruce up your facade with grades, thinness, or some other accomplishment, but you never feel covered up enough. When other people are staring, it’s as if they can see through the mask. So you move on to something less revealing—if masks won’t work maybe walls will. But walls have problems of their own. Have you ever experienced the transition from love cup (or approval cup or success cup or . . .) to mask to walls? We all have, so what was it like for you?

What masks do you wear the most?

  • Intelligence
  • Athletics
  • Popularity
  • Creativity, being different

One problem with masks and walls is that, though their purpose is to protect you from hurt, they hurt you even more because they don’t allow relationships. You can’t have a deeper relationship if you won’t allow yourself to be known. All this leads to a dead end: if you allow people to know you, you get hurt; if you protect yourself from people, you get hurt. It ends in misery. But there is another way. This better way allows us to be open and honest and part of a community where we don’t have to put up self-defensive walls. Ever been there? Have you ever had the pleasure of being open with another person?

Think about it. What’s better than having relationships that let you be yourself? If you have ever experienced that, be sure to thank those people.[1]

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[1] Welch, E. T. (2011). What do you think of me? why do i care? answers to the big questions of life. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press.

9 Ways to Stop the Incredible Damage of Negative Self Talk

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Marissa Laliberte/Readers Digest

You’ve heard it before—you’re your own worst critic. Here’s how to silence that nagging voice in your head.

See yourself more accurately

Parts of your brain are hardwired to scan for problems, meaning they’ll latch onto your weaknesses and magnify them, says Amy Johnson, PhD, psychologist, life coach, and author of The Little Book of Big Change. “The thing that your mind is fixating on and seeing as this imperfection and horrible flaw, that’s pretty biased,” she says. Once you recognize that your mind isn’t telling the truth, you can let criticisms become background noise instead of a disruptive roar.

Focus on your good traits

“It’s hard to forget pain, but it’s easy to forget what makes us happy,” says Irina Popa-Erwin, founder of The NYC Life Coach. To remind yourself of your best qualities, she recommends looking in the mirror and finding three things you like about yourself every day for three months. “At the beginning you might not believe it—you’re just saying it because you gave yourself that assignment,” she says. “At the end of three months, you’ll actually embrace them because of the repetition that you keep telling yourself.”

Know what to blame on your mood

Just as you should give yourself time to cool off before sending an angry email, learn to ignore self-loathing when you’re feeling generally down. “Imperfections and flaws tend to change day to day and by our mood,” Johnson says. “When we’re in a bad mood, we think we have all kinds of problems. When we’re in a good mood, all of a sudden those problems don’t seem so big.” Once you’ve had a chance to cheer up, you’ll probably find that the failings you saw before aren’t worth dwelling on.

 

Ask yourself why you care

Do you want toned arms for your own benefit or because you’re worried about what other people think about your appearance? Popa-Erwin says understanding your real values and dreams will help you be more content when your shortcomings don’t stack up to others’ expectations (or what you think they expect). “I tell people to find what they want. Not based on what society says, not based on what their circle of friends has,” she says. “That will be different standards.” If your priority is spending time with family, don’t sweat the fact that you can’t spend hours at the gym.

Understand your inner critic has good intentions

“Never criticize the voices inside you that criticize you,” says Melissa Sandfort, IFSCP, founder of A Thousand Paths life coaching. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Instead of resenting your negative thoughts, appreciate their helpful purposes, she says. After all, beating yourself up over eating too many cookies is your mind’s way of trying to get your body healthier. Understand why you’re having those thoughts, but don’t believe them when they say you’re inadequate.

Learn to accept—not love—your flaws

If you try persuading yourself you love your imperfections, your inner lie detector will go crazy. “To convince yourself it’s a good thing can be sort of annoying,” Johnson says. “You know your giving yourself a pep talk, and it falls short.” Instead of forcing a positive spin on your weaknesses, give yourself perspective and remind yourself they seem worse to you than they really are.

 

Recognize what you’re beating yourself up over

Then decide what steps you’ll make to better yourself, Popa-Erwin says. The key is to pick steps you’re willing to take, not ones you feel obligated to take. “If you say what you’re willing to do, then you’re already a step forward and will feel much better because you see progress,” she says. Then build a long-term plan to work at it, checking your progress every few months to remind yourself how far you’ve come.

Recognize your accomplishments

Maybe your presentation at work didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, but that single shortcoming doesn’t define you. Remind yourself of everything else you’ve accomplished and that disappointment won’t seem like such a big deal anymore. “There is not one person on this earth who didn’t accomplish something,” Popa-Erwin says. “It could be saying ‘hi’ to someone, smiling at someone, helping a friend in need, or listening.” Reminding yourself often of these little wins can change your mindset and help you embrace the bright side of your failures, she says.

Address your vulnerabilities

Criticizing your flaws is usually self-defense. Painful past experiences leave you vulnerable, with your mind trying to prevent that shame, anger, or lack of control again by criticizing you when you make those same mistakes again. But often, the flaw really isn’t as big of a deal as your mind makes it out to be, Sandfort says. Figuring out why you started to hate that weaknesses can put it back in perspective. “Go to your vulnerable parts and witness the pain they’ve been carrying, and then they can let go of it and not be as vulnerable as in the past,” Sandfort says. Once you’ve accepted your past, your mind won’t have to work so hard to protect you from letting it happen again and you’ll react less strongly.

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.

Three Steps to Overcoming Toxic Thoughts

SOURCE:  Jimmy Evans

After experiencing many life hurts of my own and helping many others deal with pain, I believe the worst part of being hurt isn’t the direct, tangible pain. The worst consequence of being hurt is the message within the pain which is often subliminal and less obvious.

You’ve probably heard of the novel or movie “The Horse Whisperer.” I often refer to the devil as “The Hurt Whisperer” because of the deceptions and lies that he whispers in the soul of our hearts. He’s sneaky and stealthy. We don’t even realize he is sending us these faulty messages about ourselves and others.

Some common lies and deceptions we hear are: “You’ll never succeed.” “God loves other people more than you.” “You’ve sinned too much for God to forgive you or bless your life.” “You can’t trust people, they’ll always disappoint you.” “If God loves me, why did He allow this to happen?”

We all have deceptive thoughts and we have to deal with them in order to heal from the pain in our lives. When we have unresolved hurts or life issues, we have faulty messages within us that keep us from God and what’s best for us. I believe virtually everyone has these issues controlling their lives, even believers who have known the Lord for many years.

Some of my primary thoughts from pain that I believed were: “I’m a freak.” “Anything good will be taken away from me.” “If people really knew me, they would reject me.” “I’ll always be disappointed.”

Some of Karen’s thoughts from her pain that she believed were: “Something is wrong with me and it can’t be fixed.” “I’m stupid.” 
“I’m unattractive.” “Something is mentally wrong with me. I’m not normal.”

Even though we can sometimes be the source of inner thoughts, the devil is the source of most of these. He whispers deceptions to destroy our lives.

Here is what I’ve learned and how you can destroy the devil’s lies that limit your life and marriage.

First, expose the thought to the light. We must be honest with God and ourselves because the truth makes us free and God works in light. Say how you really feel to God. God knows everything and will help you remember events and expose issues you’ve covered up, denied or forgotten.

Just spend some time with God and say, “God help me take inventory of my life. What pain have I experienced and what messages have I heard within the pain.” Think about your years growing up, especially trauma or grief. Write down the messages that you remember.

Secondly, expel any thought that doesn’t agree with Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Paul writes that any thought that we don’t take captive will take us captive. A bondage is a house of thoughts. Every thought that comes through our minds, we must vigilantly and sometimes even aggressively put an end to its power.

If any thought or message that you have disagrees with God or Scripture, get it out of your mind and decide that this deception is not true and will have no power over you.

Finally, express your agreement with God’s word in Scripture. When the devil attacks and hurtful things happen, openly and daily confess the truth of God. Ephesians 6 tells us our confession with our mouth is our most powerful weapon. It’s literally like a sword that defeats the hurt whisperer.

Next time you feel inadequate and hear whispers like “You’re defective and inadequate.” “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve success.” I want you to know that you don’t have to believe these lies. Believe what God says. You can overcome these negative thoughts with truth.

God says you were created personally and intricately. Your life was planned before you were even born (Psalm 139). You have a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) and you can do all things with Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).

If you’ve ever had pain, failure or disappointment, then you’ve received an untrue message from the devil. To be free from that pain, we must expose it, expel it and express agreement with God.

Through this process God will heal your hurts and you’ll live in a new level of peace and freedom in your life.

When Life Doesn’t Turn out Like It’s ‘Supposed to’

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Ashley Eure

How to not worry about meeting other people’s expectations.

I’m a single female in my late twenties. So I’m in that stage of life where I literally cannot open Facebook without seeing another couple engaged or pregnant. I’ll be honest, there are days where it irks me so much I have to get off social media.

It’s because of “the list.”

That’s right, society has a list.

It’s a checklist of: “you are this far along in life, therefore you should have achieved these things.” For the post-grad the list is: an immediate steady job that can be transitioned into a long-term career, if possible in a cool hipster city. For young marrieds it’s a baby and a cute home. It seems that for a single woman my age it’s a husband, a steady boyfriend… or at least some exciting dating life worth bragging about. If you don’t have these things, you are woefully behind in life and worthy of pity or shame.

It can be paralyzing. And demoralizing. The more you look at “the list” the more boxes seem to be unchecked in your own life. Everyone’s great life news is suddenly eclipsed by the feeling of being left behind and left out.

I know I’m not alone in this. When I graduated college and grad school it seemed as if the majority of people I knew went through some sort of disillusioned frustration that termed the “quarter-life crisis.”

We all felt that if we jumped through all the college hoops and played our cards right, we were entitled to check the life boxes of “stable job” and “clear career decision” off our life lists immediately upon graduation. The reality was that it rarely works like that, and as a result many felt like society (or even God) had sold us a bill of goods.

The truth is, “the list” is a lie.

Society claims that these achievements—relationship status, careers, income, location—are the benchmarks of success and meaning and self-worth. That’s simply not true. Our worth is in who Jesus says we are—and He says we were worth dying for.

There was a time in my life where I felt like God stripped away all the things I tend to place my identity in besides Him. It was like He unchecked every box, and then looked at me and said, “If I tell you now—with none of these achievements to your name—that I love you and that you are worthwhile and important, will you believe me?” That question was difficult to answer. I had to fill my head with the truth of what the Bible says in order to undo the damage all the world’s lies had done to my self-worth.

Here are just a few of the other things the Bible says we are:

• A dearly loved child of God (Col. 3:12)
• A co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
• A conqueror (Romans 8:37)
• God’s workmanship, created for good works (Eph. 2:10)
• Chosen (Eph. 1:4)
• Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

The list goes on and on. If you are also feeling plagued by “the list” you are not alone. I know how holidays and time-markers like the start of a new year can amplify the unchecked boxes.

Let’s fill ourselves with the truth of who God says we are, what He says are the important check marks in life (hint: they don’t include a white picket fence and 2.5 kids). Let’s do our best for Him moment by moment and leave our worth for him to determine.

And when we start to look to the list, let’s fill each other up with truth again.

When Emotional Attachment Becomes Unhealthy

SOURCE:  JADE MAZARIN/Relevant Magazine

4 ways to let go when you are in a bad relationship.

I’ve had plenty of experiences in my life where I struggled with emotional attachment. Basically, I found my heart invested in someone and unable to let them go, even when I knew I couldn’t be with them. Maybe they weren’t interested, maybe we were no longer together, or maybe I knew that relationship wasn’t God’s plan for me. But regardless of what I knew mentally, I remained emotionally tied to that person.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that God called my attention to this tendency in a new way, and equipped me to tackle it head on. I started to understand reasons I stayed attached, even when I was never happy with it—and I got ideas to help me let go.

Why We Keep Holding On

Often, the first question we’re face when we’re attached is, “Why we can’t let go?” We know it’s unhealthy, and it stresses us out, so why can’t we move on? Basically it comes down to this: We’re not sure if we really want to.

Sure, we might feel tired with the situation. We might be mad at ourselves, embarrassed, ashamed and stressed. We can easily assume we want to let go and just can’t.

But the truth is, part of us doesn’t want to—even if we won’t admit it to ourselves.

Our inner self is in competition: Part of us recognizes the pain and the pointlessness of it, and another part of us continues to desperately hold on. That part of us usually clings to this person for multiple reasons: We think this person will meet our desires; we don’t believe we’re worth more; we figure that a little love is better than nothing. or we don’t believe God will bring something better.

We all know that famous verse, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Each of the reasons we hold on to are beliefs that are not true. If these are the core reasons why we stay attached, then each one has to be examined in the light—their truths thoroughly absorbed—in order to no longer hold us down. Each one of these motives can be remedied only as we grasp the reality of the situation and accept it.

Here are some keys for letting go of unhealthy attachments:

1. See Things as They Are

This happens first and foremost by seeing the relationship as it really is. This means recognizing its limitations. It means willingly facing the truth.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Sometimes we have blinders on to what’s in front of us. We may cling to the belief someone will change, or that the situation is better than it really is. When we’re attached, we have to consciously take off the rose-colored glasses every time we automatically put them back on.

Once we see clearly, we are invited to accept what we see, rather than trying to change it. We can relax our grasp, and rest from efforts that don’t work. We can choose to relinquish control, surrendering our need to make things different from what they are.

2. Realize What You Want Isn’t Here

While accepting things as they are, we have to tell ourselves that what we’re looking for isn’t found here.

We all want love. We also want peace and true joy. Those are our deepest desires. But in unhealthy emotional attachments, we are not at rest. We do not feel contentment and stability. The joy we have is flimsy and minimal—mixed with unpredictable anxiety or pain. Any love we experience is empty and practically cancelled out with the frustration we feel inside.

The idea that what we’re looking for isn’t found here is one we have to process internally. Only when we really, truly believe this attachment is only hurtful, will we no longer be interested in it.

3. Shift the Focus to Yourself

Attachment causes us to center our mental world around the person we are not meant to be with. Detaching involves making plans for our own life and asking ourselves honestly How am I doing? What can I do for myself? It means shifting out attention from what this person is or isn’t doing, how they may or may not feel, and putting it on yourself.

If you find you need healing, you need comfort, then you should put yourself in the place to get it. Ask yourself what freedom you need to start feeling better, and decide to move into it.

We also need to turn our attention to our potential, and how God sees us. Maybe we’ve been so worn down in thinking of the other person that we forgot how God values and cherishes us. It’s time to get that back.

God wants you to see His unconditional heart for you. He also wants you to treat yourself with the value He ascribed to you when He gave His life for you.

4. Truly Consider God’s Role

It’s important to remember we’re not alone in this. We’ve got a Father, literally right by our sides, who “gets” it—why we feel how we do, and what more there is for us. Not only is He by our side, He really is in control. It’s not arbitrary that we’re not with this person. We didn’t mess things up, nor did we miss His perfect will. He’s got a reason for the way things are.

Letting Go for Good

Fundamentally, letting go of attachment begins with a deliberate decision to do so. Every time you waver in that decision, remind yourself to do the above actions. You can also get around friends or family who will give you an objective view of the situation and help you think clearly.

You are not alone in this. Unhealthy attachment is one of the most common issues we have to face. The roller-coaster of emotions you experience is typical as well. On Monday, you might be fueled with anger and ready to let go, then Wednesday you sob with the desire to reach out to this person. Saturday you may call him or her, while Sunday you completely regret it.

That’s normal. And you won’t stay in that place. As time passes, these feelings will spread further out. The entire season is temporary. And you will in fact, get through it.

Celebrate every moment you feel a little freer, every action you take that focuses on your well-being. Let yourself cry if grief rises up within you. Just come back to remembering why you’re letting go in the first place. Recognize that while it feels awful now, it will truly get easier. And it’s OK when you fall back, as long as you decide to keep moving forward. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself—just as God is.

4 Lies About Introverts

SOURCE:  Amie Patrick/The Gospel Coalition

I’m an introvert.

Most people who don’t know me well wouldn’t guess this about me, but it’s true.

On a practical level, being an introvert means I’m generally more energized by time alone than by time with people, and I have a preference for a less externally stimulating environment. I feel very alive in a quiet, empty room. On the introversion/extroversion spectrum I fall closer to the middle, but still lean decidedly toward the introverted side.

The process of understanding introversion and the way it’s expressed in my life has been both a tremendous relief and also an ongoing source of doubt and concern. My daily reality is people-intensive and externally stimulating. I’m married to an extrovert, we have four children, and we live in an urban setting. Our home and surroundings are fun and energetic—not exactly low-stimulus. My husband pastors a large church, and we’re involved with many congregations and ministries throughout the world; consequently, our social circles are large and complex. To complicate things even further, my spiritual gifts are often expressed publicly as are the (non-innate!) social skills I’ve managed to learn and practice over time. These realities, combined with my definite need for quiet and solitude, have often left me and others confused about who I really am.

The lie I’m most tempted to believe is that the way God has wired me is incompatible with the life he’s called me to live. The logical conclusion of this lie is that joy and contentment aren’t possible—and that constant frustration is inevitable.

It took a while for me to unearth and articulate that lie under the layers of fear, doubt, and insecurity it was producing. I knew these beliefs didn’t line up with God’s character or promises, but it’s taken extended immersion in the truth of God’s Word to renew my mind and dismantle that deception. Along the way, I’ve discovered some subtle and not-so-subtle assumptions I’d unwittingly latched onto over time.

1. Extroversion is the biblical ideal

There’s little question our culture leans toward idealizing extroverts. Those with intrinsically good social skills, who appear to thrive in party-type atmospheres and exude confidence when meeting new people, are often considered worthy of emulation. I spent many years wondering why small talk felt so awkward for me when it seemed so effortless for my friends. In some churches, an appropriate focus on community life can inadvertently favor those who are most comfortable socially, quickest to share their thoughts and feelings, and most likely to throw a party. But there’s no biblical precedent for idealizing extroversion, just as there’s none for idealizing introversion either. I know extroverts who feel condemned because a quiet environment and time alone are somewhat distracting. They find it difficult to avoid comparing themselves to more introverted, contemplative types and avoid attributing their struggle to a lack of self-discipline when, in fact, a preferred environment has little to do with self-discipline at all.

The comparisons aren’t helpful and neither is holding up an ideal the Bible does not. The body of Christ includes persons at all points on the introversion/extroversion continuum, and no one’s contribution is more important than another’s. We’re all responsible to spend time both privately and corporately with God and others in worship, study, prayer, and service. Caving to a cultural standard that doesn’t line up with scriptural truth is destructive to individuals and to the body of Christ.

2. Introverts don’t like people

This has perhaps been the lie that’s stung most for me. I care deeply about people, but I need time alone to recharge in order to be able to give them my best. It’s taken me years to view this as good stewardship rather than some sort of flaw I need to overcome. Actually, and perhaps ironically, the chief thing that’s kept me from loving people well has been my attempt to be someone I’m not. The more I’ve tried to be that “life of the party” girl, endlessly accommodating others without considering what I need to recover, the less capacity I’ve had to actually love people well.

We’re all responsible to obey biblical commands related to loving people sacrificially and living hospitably and generously. And it’s a cop-out to use introversion as an excuse for self-protective isolation. But there’s not just one or even ten “right” ways to love people well. I’ve learned to get better at small talk and interacting with strangers, because it’s important and necessary, but it’s never going to be my greatest strength. I’ve become much more comfortable in opening our home to small and large groups of people, both in planned and spontaneous ways, but going deep with one or two people over coffee is always going to be a place where I thrive. Accepting my God-given introversion, I still allow myself to be stretched or uncomfortable. But I passionately pursue opportunities where I can love people deeply with my gifts and life, and then humbly take responsibility for what it looks like for me to be refreshed.

3. Solitude is selfish and indulgent

Now there’s a reality here that can be true. If my choice to be alone is primarily to serve myself and intensify a me-oriented focus, it is a problem. But for a long time I believed solitude for the purpose of prayer, Bible study, or worship is necessary, but anything beyond that is probably frivolous. However, I’ve come to experience great benefits from a variety of solitary activities. Solitude in itself isn’t inherently helpful or harmful, but the underlying purpose is pivotal. I can go for a run by myself to clear my head and enjoy God’s gift of nature—or to sinfully distract myself from something I need to confront. I can sit alone in a coffee shop in order to think deeply and process life events—or to worry about things beyond my control. When I cooperate with the way God has designed me, and surrender my solitude to him, he uses it to refresh my soul in often unexpected and powerful ways.

4. Introversion is incompatible with teaching and leadership gifts

Last year, after an acquaintance watched my husband and me team-teach in front of a few thousand people, he remarked in a good-natured way that I couldn’t possibly be an introvert. I knew he meant this as a compliment, and I also understood his confusion. People who are confident and capable in front of large audiences don’t exactly fit the introverted stereotype. And while it’s true many introverts aren’t comfortable in front of people, I am. How much of that is due to my natural personality, gifting, or years of training in music, theater, and teaching, I don’t know, and it probably doesn’t matter. What I do know is that once the adrenaline wears off after such an event, I need some silence and solitude in order to be replenished. I’m passionate about teaching God’s Word, and I love to get to use my gifts in this area, but it’s equally important for me to take necessary steps to make room for quiet rest. By God’s grace I’m learning to see my more public and more private sides not as incompatible or inauthentic, but as balances to each other. 

Additionally, my leadership gifts aren’t expressed in the same way as my extroverted husband. I tend to lead best from a more contemplative place. My creativity flourishes, and my best ideas rise to the surface when I have time to be alone more so than when I’m brainstorming with others in a highly dynamic environment. Since there is no one-size-fits-all model for leadership, our churches will be best served when there’s room at the table for extroverted and introverted leaders alike.

Accepting the realities of my God-given personality has been a process of sanctification. I’ve had to repent of people-pleasing and trying to be someone I’m not. I’ve had to humbly acknowledge my limits and weaknesses and to live in God’s strength rather than my own. Ultimately, this process has been about God and his kingdom, not me. The more I rest in his gracious acceptance of me in Jesus, the more free I become to be myself for his glory. And that’s a place where joy and contentment abound.

Anger, Pain and Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are ways to keep anger from feeding your depression.

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

Research Finds Emotional Abuse Is As Destructive As Physical Abuse To Children

SOURCE:  /Lifehack

It’s widely known that physical child abuse has long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for people, from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression to toxic relationships.What few realize is that emotional abuse in children can be as damaging and insidious as physical violence.

Recent research demonstrates that emotional maltreatment destroys a child as thoroughly as physical harm.Utilizing data from a previous study, David Vachon concluded that “although some people assume physical abuse is more harmful than other types of abuse, we found that they are associated with similar consequences.” A pair of doctors at the University of Minnesota and the University of Rochester validated the study, finding, through working at a summer camp for low-income families, that different types of abuse share “equivalent, broad, and universal effects.”

What is emotional abuse, and how can it be identified?

Child abuse falls primarily into three categories: Physical, sexual, and emotional. While each chief form of abuse is addled with consequences that often shadow a person for life, identifying emotional abuse in a child presents complications.Far less evident than physical abuse, emotional maltreatment involves a broader spectrum of actions and often encompasses undetected violence. Unexplained sadness, angry outbursts, withdrawn behavior, and poor performance in school are just a few of the symptoms that a child is being abused emotionally, which can be caused from shaming, indifference, emotional and physical withholding of love, as well as unjust punishment and neglect.

Andrew Vachss, a lawyer and advocate who has devoted his life to protecting children, describes emotional powerfully and poignantly here:

“…of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest–lasting of all.

Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self–concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.

Emotional abuse can be as deliberate as a gunshot: “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly.”

Emotional abuse can be as random as the fallout from a nuclear explosion. In matrimonial battles, for example, the children all too often become the battlefield. I remember a young boy, barely into his teens, absently rubbing the fresh scars on his wrists. “It was the only way to make them all happy,” he said. His mother and father were locked in a bitter divorce battle, and each was demanding total loyalty and commitment from the child.

Emotional abuse can be active. Vicious belittling:

“You’ll never be the success your brother was.” Deliberate humiliation: “You’re so stupid. I’m ashamed you’re my son.”

It also can be passive, the emotional equivalent of child neglect—a sin of omission, true, but one no less destructive.

And it may be a combination of the two, which increases the negative effects geometrically.

Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.”

Sound terrifying? Read on.

The sweeping, long-lasting impact of emotional abuse

To think that emotional abuse has a statute is faulty: The Journal of Pediatric Care found that of 3,000 adults with a history of major depression, a staggering 93% reported emotional maltreatment, while 31% were determined to have suffered both emotional and physical abuse.

“Emotional maltreatment, even more than physical and sexual abuse, may predispose a person to developing depression or anxiety.”

Troublesome? Certainly. While the enduring impact of emotional abuse has not been studied widely, reports across the board have determined the devastating effects it can have on an individual. Reactive Attachment Disorder–or RAD–is just one manifestation of the traumatic impacts of early childhood emotional maltreatment. Defined as “markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness that usually begins before the age of 5,” RAD is a rare, but potentially catastrophic, disorder. As infants and children, those with RAD cling indiscriminately to strangers and demonstrate developmental delay and disabilities; as adults, RAD can present itself as a failure to socialize appropriately.

More common than RAD, however, are a list of problems that are just as damaging: Anxiety, sleep problems, post-traumatic stress, and depression–not to mention substance abuse, obesity, suicidal ideations, and interpersonal complications. As one emotionally abused woman remarked, “I keep looking for the affection I was denied as a child in men.” Her choice in partners, she confessed, was “wildly inappropriate and careless,” and led to physical abuse, psychological torment, and too many heartaches to count.

The effect of emotional abuse on intimate relationships

Indeed, interpersonal relationships seem to take the biggest toll when it comes to adults who were emotionally abused as children. In some cases, the abused adult will shy away from intimacy out of fear of the unfamiliar, while others–like the woman mentioned above–will develop indiscretion, anger, and aggression towards those with whom they become involved. Why? Because a healthy precedent has not been set. As one study put it,

“being exposed to emotional abuse is a predictor to developing ‘overt forms of aggression.’”

In other words, the anger an individual experienced but didn’t know how to express as a child builds over time and is released in the unhealthiest of manners–through outrage and violence.

The indiscriminate nature of emotional maltreatment

Certain socio-economic classes determine, in part, the rate of emotional abuse in children. Parents with limited means–or none at all–are more likely to be stressed out and financially strapped, and that anger and anxiety is often exerted on their children. However, a study at Midwestern University revealed that

“emotional abuse and neglect each continued to exert an influence on later symptoms of anxiety and depression even after controlling for gender, income, parental alcoholism, and other forms of child abuse.” (Wright, Crawford and Del Castillo, 2009).

This corroborates the findings of Vachon about the widespread effects of emotional abuse regardless of gender, race and/or ethnicity.

Healing emotional wounds

Despite these recent discoveries–which might make many who spot a child that is alone and frozen in watchfulness think twice–the indiscriminate nature of emotional abuse and its lasting consequences need not deter individuals who have either suffered from it or witnessed it in another. Prompt identification and appropriate invention are assuredly key, but treating it after-the-fact has also shown to make a tremendous impact on one’s ability to heal. Vachss points out that,

“if you are a victim of emotional abuse, there can be no self–help until you learn to self–reference. That means developing your own standards, deciding for yourself what “goodness” really is. Adopting the abuser’s calculated labels—”You’re crazy. You’re ungrateful. It didn’t happen the way you say”—only continues the cycle.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life–choices: learn to self–reference or remain a victim. When your self–concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.”

Whether you are the victim, the abuser, or the witness to an unfortunate child, one fact remains the same: Scars are not just skin-deep, and there exists a salve in our souls.

Q&A: How Do I Forgive “Myself”?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  The hardest person to forgive is myself.  I once heard that this attitude or inability to forgive myself was an insult to God because if He forgives me, who am I to not forgive myself? Am I greater than God that I should withhold forgiveness towards my own self?

This perspective helped me for a while, but once I committed another sin or mistake, I went back to not being able to forgive myself. This is so hard. My problem becomes greater when I fail to succeed in a romantic relationship. I think about what I did wrong over and over again and how I could have changed it or made it better. How do I stop this? I’ve been unforgiving towards myself for the past 6 months and it is eating me alive. I’d really like to be free and forgiven by myself just like God forgives me and wants me to be free of guilt.

Answer: Your question is an important one because inevitably as human beings we all sin, make mistakes and fail at things. The writer of James says it well when he writes, “We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2). When we aren’t able move beyond our failures, mistakes and even sins, we can get stuck in a spiral of debilitating regret, depression and even self-hatred.

The person who told you that your inability to forgive yourself insults God brings up an excellent point. If the God of the Universe was willing to come to earth, become human and sacrifice himself to forgive our sins, who are we not to forgive–either others or our own self? Yet that theological truth can be difficult if not impossible to put into practice when we’re in the middle of ruminating over our stupidity, mistakes, missed opportunities or sin.

Most of the time shame, guilt and self-hatred arise because we have failed to live up to our own idealized image of ourselves. Do you ever hear yourself saying things like, “I should have known better” or “Why did I do such a stupid thing?” or “I can’t believe I did that?” or “What’s wrong with me?”

These kinds of statements are evidence that you have an expectation of yourself to always do it right, to always say it right, to always know ahead of time what the right answer should be or what solution will best solve a problem. When you fail (as you inevitably will), you feel disappointed in yourself. You tell yourself that somehow you should be better than you are. And, in your particular case, when you’re involved romantically and this happens, you make it the sole reason the relationship failed.

You rehearse over and over again what you could have or should have or ought to have done, said or not said, so that the relationship wouldn’t have failed. But guess what! Every single person messes up in relationships. We all say or do the wrong thing at times. We all are imperfect, flawed, sinful human beings and yet many of us have decent relationships with other flawed, fallible, imperfect, sinful human beings. So mistakes, failures and even sins aren’t the reason your relationships are not lasting or succeeding. If that were true, no one would be capable of having any long term or loving relationships.

The problem is that you want control over how the relationship goes and you believe a dangerous lie. The lie is: if only you could be MORE perfect, then the relationship will succeed. If only you were more perfect, then the other person would love you, or never hurt or leave you. That’s not true. Look at Jesus. He was perfect and people disappointed him. They didn’t always love him very well–even his own disciples abandoned him. His family thought he was crazy. He was spit upon, beaten, mocked, and nailed to the cross. Being perfect does not guarantee loyalty, love or lovability.

The reason you can’t forgive yourself is because you want to be like God–you want to be perfect and in control of things and you can never get there, even if you try really, really hard. There is only one God, and he’s not you.

Therefore, the way out of this bondage when you mess up is not self-forgiveness but rather self-acceptance. You must accept who you are. You are both saint and sinner, beautiful and broken, strong and weak, naughty and nice. Humility is the path that will give you the freedom you seek because, when you are humble, you can emotionally accept you are a creature–a fallible, imperfect and sinful creature. Once you do that, you will not be so shocked, or shamed, or disappointed by your darker, weaker, sinful side.

It’s not your mistakes and failures that are causing your greatest emotional pain. It’s your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your lack of acceptance when you make mistakes, you are weak, you do sin and you fail, which causes your emotional spiral downward into self-hatred and despair. In a backwards way, your pride has been wounded. You are disappointed that you aren’t better than you are, but the truth is, you’re not. In embracing that truth, you are set free.

The solution you’re seeking is not to forgive each mistake or failure, but to accept that you will make mistakes, sin and fail. Once you accept this truth, the self-hatred for doing so no longer has any power over you. Instead, that same energy can now be used to humbly ask for forgiveness from others where necessary. It can be used to learn from your sins or failures so you don’t continually repeat them, which, if left uncorrected, will harm your relationships.

One of my old fashioned mentors, François Fénelon wisely wrote, “Go forward always with confidence, without letting yourself be touched by the grief of a sensitive pride, which cannot bear to see itself imperfect.”

Go forward, friend, and emotionally accept your imperfections. It is in that place of humility coupled with Christ’s unconditional forgiveness that will you find the freedom you long for.

Talking to Your Children About Transgender Issues

SOURCE:  Jeff Johnston/Focus on the Family

Many were surprised when Bruce Jenner started appearing in public with long hair, wearing a dress and then announced his decision to “transition into a woman.” Jenner was an Olympic Decathlon gold medalist, a hero and role model for many in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Yet, now we learn that all along, he believed he was a woman. Photos of Jenner recently published in Vanity Fair magazine were even more shocking.

When confusing events like this are broadcast throughout the culture, Focus on the Family is asked a lot of questions. And we know parents get asked questions, too:

  • Daddy, why does that man want to be a lady?
  • Mom, what does “transgender” mean?
  • Can a boy turn into a girl?
  • Mommy, I’m a girl, but will I ever change into a boy?

Transgenderism — also called “gender dysphoria,” “gender confusion” or “gender identity disorder” — is tough enough for adults to understand. So when our children encounter these gender-confusing messages, what do we say? Most importantly, how do we help them develop a biblical, Christian perspective on this issue?

Focus on the Family wants to help parents navigate this topic, so here are some helpful guidelines and suggestions for addressing transgender issues with your children:

Keep It Simple

Relax. As a parent, you are the authority in your child’s life; but you don’t have to be an expert on every issue — including this one. And even the “experts” really don’t understand this issue. A few years ago, a gay identified psychiatrist was asked about gender confusion and responded, “The truth is we actually don’t know what it is. Is it a mental disorder or does the cause of gender dysphoria lie somewhere else?”    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/22/transgender-primer-manning/2687869/

So don’t think you have to understand everything about transgenderism or tell your children everything you know. Here are a few simple truths to communicate:

  • God made humans male and female.
  • Individuals are born either male or female.
  • Some people get hurt and confused, and they don’t like the way God made them.
  • As a result, some people wish they were the opposite sex.
  • Nobody can really change from one sex to the other.

Keep It a Dialogue

Use occasions such as this to connect with your children. Find out what they are learning, where they learned it and what they are thinking. Ask questions, such as:

  • Where did you see that?
  • Where did you hear that word?
  • Why do you think God made both boys and girls?
  • What do you think “transgender” means?
  • Do you think a boy can really turn into a girl?

This isn’t an inquisition but an opportunity to get to know your child better. So keep your tone conversational and friendly.

Older children and teens may have more questions, so we have a list of helpful resources at the end of this article. You might want to read some of these additional resources first, then read and discuss them with an older child.

Keep It Truthful

If you don’t know the answer to a child’s question, say so. Then tell your child you’ll look for an answer. Let’s say your son asks, “Why does he want to be a lady?” The real answer, if we’re honest, is “I don’t know.” None of us know all of the pain and false beliefs in the lives and hearts of persons who struggle with transgender issues.

Nevertheless, Scripture is clear about certain things, and those are what you can communicate to your children:

  • God made us in His image — male and female.
  • Sin entered the world and spoiled everything, including how we see ourselves.
  • God loves us and sent us Son to save us.

God wants us to live in truth about how He created us and who we are. We know God is powerful to save and transform lives — including the gender-confused. Tell your children this truth.

Keep It Kind

God has a deep love for sexually and relationally broken men and women — including those struggling with gender identity issues. These struggles are complicated and touch on deep aspects of our sexuality and being. The topic can provoke some to laughter or mockery, so work to maintain God’s heart for the gender-confused. He loves them with an everlasting lovejust as He loves each of us.

Your children will be watching you for cues about how to respond to gender identity disorder. Pray for God’s heart and for the ability to convey this to your children. Tone and attitude are as important as your words:

  • God loves all of us.
  • God loves men who wish they were women, as well as women who think they are men.
  • We may disagree with someone’s beliefs and choices; however, we can still be kind and loving.
  • We can pray for those who are gender-confused.

Keep It Affirming

When children see a transgender person on the news or on the street, they may feel curious, alarmed, confused or afraid. So when they ask questions about it, they’re not just asking for details about transgenderism. They’re also asking for comfort and affirmation. As a parent, you can respond positively:

  • I’m so glad God made you a girl!
  • I’m happy you’re my child and that you’re a boy.
  • What’s good about being a girl?
  • What’s good about being a boy?

Ask the Lord for wisdom and creativity for how best to affirm your sons in their masculinity and your daughters in their femininity.

Bruce Jenner: “Call me Caitlyn” Dear Bruce: “I Can’t”

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

I know what you’re asking, and with respect and sadness, I’ve got to say no.

Jenner as Woman

We know you feel that you’ve always been a woman in a man’s body – we saw the interviews and the magazine covers – and we’ve been anticipating photogenic proof of your new identity for months now. Well, as of today, the cat’s out of the bag. Your upcoming Vanity Fair cover shot’s gone viral, and there you are, posed and dressed as a female, saying “Call me Caitlyn.”

But honestly, Bruce, I can’t. If you really don’t care for your prior name, then I could call you other things. Like Accomplished, for sure, and Beloved of God. I’d also go with Valued, as one of the millions Christ died for; Intelligent, from all I’ve seen and heard; and Gifted (there’s a no-brainer!) both in athletics and articulation. I’ll gladly call you all of those, because they fit. But calling you Caitlyn isn’t an option, because I believe that to do so is to join you in a well-orchestrated delusion. I guess to your thinking, Caitlyn’s the real you. But to mine, she’s a
real myth.

Not that you care, and why should you? You’re an icon with a dazzling Olympic resume; I’m an unknown blogger who cheered you on decades ago and today has an opinion contrary to yours. But it’s an opinion shared by millions who hold the old-fashion notion that the sex we’re given at birth is a permanent assignment, not open to renegotiation or refashioning. So speaking as one of many who’ve admired you deeply, but are now bewildered and distressed over your high-profile transition, let me respond to your public request.

I Can’t Because We’re Planned —
The child you were born as became a man who’s trying to become a woman, but who began, in fact, as a boy. And that was no accident.

One of the first things said about any newborn human is a sexual identification – “It’s a boy!”, or, “It’s a girl!” That’s instinctive; nobody teaches us to say that, yet we do because the sex we’re born with is something we both acknowledge
and celebrate.

But more than that, it’s a primary characteristic; a divine and critical distinctive, endowed on each of us by a Creator who knows beforehand who and what we’ll be. (Jeremiah 1:5) And that “what” is foreordained for life.

It’s part of the distinction God Himself created from the beginning, a male/female distinction He placed such high value on when He said, in essence, that the human experience would be incomplete without it. (Genesis 2:18) So the body we’re given at birth, including its male or female status, matters hugely. It’s foreknown, assigned, immutable. Attempting to change it is not only impossible; it’s an affront to the Designer’s competence and selection.

You’ve publicly said, “Bruce lived a lie every day,” and for you to say such a thing, you must really have felt your manhood was, in fact, a falsehood. But isn’t it possible, and really more feasible, to instead see it as an endowment which, for reasons we may not understand, you never felt comfortable with? To my thinking, the lie was the discomfort, not the endowment. Rejecting that very thing which identified you from the womb is what seems to be the ultimate in dishonesty.

— and I Can’t Because What’s Planned Overrides our Passions
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t relate to the transgender experience. I’ve never wished to be anything but male, so I won’t pretend I know what your struggle’s been like in that regard.

And yet, I kinda get it. Because I know what it’s like having people tell you that you are what you are, and that you cannot change what you are, even if you feel you must. That much I understand, because, somewhat like you, I’ve been told I couldn’t change the unchangeable.

31 years ago I repented of homosexual behavior and disowned the identification of “gay.” Three years later I married. Old friends told me I couldn’t change what I was, that my marriage would be a sham, that it would never last, that I was deluded. That was 28 years ago, and both my marriage and the family it produced, though very imperfect, is just about everything to me. It’s certainly more than I ever thought I’d have.

So I get it. I appreciate the need to stand your ground, even when everyone seems to be saying it’s quicksand. But how, really, do we determine the difference?
I think it gets down to how we got here, and Who arranged it. If we as people just happened – no Creator; no plan – then what we feel is the final determinant.

But if we’re created beings, then what matters is not so much what we feel we are, but what our Creator says we are. And conformity to His plan, evidenced both by the sex He assigned us and the standards He’s commissioned us in Scripture, takes priority over what we feel, no matter how passionate and deeply ingrained the feelings may be.

Look at it another way. If I said that all my life I’ve felt like Napoleon Bonaparte, despite all physical and factual evidence to the contrary, and that I was therefore going to modify my body to look like his, you’d logically tell me that my problem was my feelings, not my body. If I protested by saying that I felt Joe Dallas was a lie and Napoleon was the truth, you’d perhaps appreciate how passionately I felt, but you’d still conclude (again, logically) that the problem was my feeling, or my self-concept, or my identity. But not my body. You’d encourage me to see my false belief as a thing to resist rather than indulge. And surely, were I to say, “Call me Napoleon”, you’d pass.

Which is why I, and countless others, will also pass on your request to be called Caitlyn. Because no matter how artfully you reconfigure your male body, it will remain, at best, a re-configured male body. Never female; always the sex you were assigned. And that both bothers and even frightens us, because there are those who made the same decision, came to regret it, and found themselves horribly disillusioned because the drastic move they undertook to solve their conflict didn’t solve it at all.

But who knows where all this is going? There are others who’ve made the decision you made, regretted it, but then reversed it as best they could, finding peace with God and themselves in the process. My fervent prayer is that you become one of them, reclaiming the man you were meant to be while renouncing the falsehood of a woman who – again, with all due respect – I firmly believe you can never become.

“As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out I’m free,” you recently said.

Well, God love ya, Bruce, I see it another way. I think your belief in Caitlyn is the vanity. And I hope and trust that as soon as that vanity comes out, and in its place Christ comes in and reigns, then and only then will the myth be put to rest. And that’s when the man so many of us miss will find himself to be truly free.

God’s will be done. We sincerely wish you the best.

 

Three Truths To Remember When You Are Feeling Worthless

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

When Henry David Thoreau came to this conclusion, I’m afraid he may have gotten it right. So many people are desperate in their marriages and in other relationships. They are suffering in silence with feelings of inadequacy and failure and don’t know what to do about it.

So how do you battle these lies of worthlessness and begin to understand the truth that you are valuable? Here are 3 truths to remember when you’re feeling worthless.

1. You are valuable for who you are, not for what you do.  You were created exclusively by God and for God. And because of that, you are valuable. There were no flaws in your design and no errors in your construction. You are hand-made, custom-designed, and fully loaded by God; and because of that, you have immeasurable worth.

2. You have gifts, embrace them.  Every person has gifts or strengths. If you don’t know yours, I’d encourage you to ask five family members and friends this question, “In one or two words, what do you think is my single greatest strength?” They’ll all probably give you similar answers. Those answers identifying your area of giftedness will help you understand the truth that you are valuable and have a lot to offer your family and the world.

3. You weren’t meant to do this alone.  If you’re constantly putting on a front that you have it all together, other people will start to believe that you really do have it all together. So, I challenge you to be honest with trusted friends and family. Share your struggles with them and let them help carry your burdens and encourage you. Because the truth is: you were never meant to do this alone.

We all struggle with feelings of worthlessness at one point or another in life. Instead of staying trapped in the mindset of thinking you have nothing to offer, remind yourself of these 3 important truths. 

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