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Posts tagged ‘anger’

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Children and Spouses of Troubled Families

SOURCE: Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

*The Children — Many children of dysfunctional families (termed CODF’s) have to cope with baffling and painful situations.  Children who are subjected to abuse of different kinds may receive little or no help from others, mainly because their teachers, neighbors, and church leaders may not realize their plight.  Without assistance from others, children try to fix themselves.  Clumsily, with childish hands, they suture the wounds, often leaving ugly scars or unhealed lesions that split open in later life.  All of this is an attempt to protect themselves from the abuse.  The home has the power to produce angry, rebellious, or disheartened children.  Families can aggravate serious psychological disorders.  Kids under stress can develop an abundance of physical and emotional problems even while in the womb.  Many scientists how believe that stress can program a fetus to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and other disorders in adulthood.  So sensitive is the brain to its environment that absence of emotional warmth can kill brain cells.  The loss of these cells is devastating during a child’s early years, when brain connections require learning skills for language, math, and getting along with others. As infants, if anything interferes with bonding with their mothers, they may have permanent emotional scars that will influence the outcome of the remainder of their development.  The extent of the damage done to CODF’s depends on lots of factors, for example, when in the life of the child the parent became addicted, how the family reacted to it, how long the addiction continued, and the severity of the abuse and neglect.

Thankfully, despite the severity of the situation, not all of these children will be severely wounded.  Psychologists call them resilient or stress-resistant children. Some CODF’s may have a strong orientation toward personal growth.  They are able to initiate and intentionally engage in the process of self-change.  Second, they may possess a trait termed hardiness.  Hardy people are actively involved in living, believing they can control their circumstances.  Some kids are less affected by their stressful family life because of the presence of another adult in their lives.

The children of troubled families may sometimes feel frustrated and unable to control their own lives. Their helplessness may be compounded by a feeling of failure.  This is due to their trying to solve the problem in their family.  Kids feel responsible for their parents’ problems partly because they are so egocentric, believing they are the cause of most everything that happens around them.  But they also may think they are to blame for the problem because the troubled parent tells them they are.  Taking such responsibility on themselves is usually destructive to children because they are doomed to failure.  Without someone explaining to them that they shouldn’t take the weight of the family on their shoulders, they may continue to do this into adulthood and even have trouble stopping then.  Their failure to solve the family’s problems may make them angry.  Thinking their good behavior will make their parents break free from their dependency or compulsion, they may be upset when they don’t get the hoped for results.  Their anger may take the form of resentment.

Expressing anger is complicated by the attachment the child has for the parents.  Besides needing the parents’ care, children are taught to love and respect them, making it very hard to accept the anger and hatred they feel.  Feelings are mixed – love and hate, pity and disgust, anger and sympathy.  The child plays the same Jeckyll-Hyde role the troubled parent is playing. Fear may also keep children from directing anger toward the parent.  And the “don’t feel, don’t talk” rules will make them keep their anger bottled up inside of them.  This may cause them to resort to sarcasm, forgetfulness, hostile jokes, and other passive-aggressive behaviors.  They may also overreact to normal events and become extremely angry with people who haven’t done anything to deserve such a reaction.

One way CODF’s express anger is by reverting back to an earlier stage of development.  Also, a child may make light of the stressful situation at home or resort to humor to handle it. Additionally, children may be deeply hurt by a parent’s abusive ranting and raving and lack what are known as “self-soothing” abilities.  They lack inner resources to calm themselves in the face of severe stress and intense emotions.  Finally, children in stressful situations may develop a false self.  Instead of the addicted parent’s encouraging the children to express themselves and commending them for it, the parent’s behavior demands that they become something else.  If the parent is also physically or sexually abusive, the squelching of the child’s personality can be extremely severe.

Shame is another emotion that inhibits children’s development of their true self.  Theirs is not a shame for what they have done, but for who they are—an absence of self-respect.  The time between eighteen months to three years is a time when a child gains a sense of autonomy.  Restricting the child, as dysfunctional families are prone to do, may make them doubt and dislike themselves.  Guilt feelings may also develop very early from ages three to six.  In an addictive family, the children may receive little affirmation for their ventures and be blamed for innocent mistakes, causing them to feel guilty for attempts to exert themselves.

They will also be shamed by the embarrassing activities of their parents.  Their shame may also be due to the fact that all children tend to identify with their parents.  Of course, constant parental criticism may result in children’s having little self-respect.  When little children are verbally harangued by their parents, told they are worthless or bad, they will believe these things.  They lack the maturity to realize these messages are lies of an evil, addicted, compulsive person.

Trust will almost always be a problem for the dysfunctional family’s children, too.  Consistent care teaches them that they can rely on others.  If their care is sporadic, harsh, or unkind, they learn to mistrust, making it difficult for them later to form close relationships.  Distracted and disturbed, a dysfunctional family may early breed mistrust in children.  The inconsistency of the wet-dry cycle probably is enough to instill distrust in a child.  Children in dysfunctional families are often compulsive and have a tendency to become addicted to something.  Or they may turn to an addiction as an escape from pain.  The enmeshed family system has taught them to depend on things outside themselves for happiness and satisfaction.  Additionally, children of dysfunctional families are often obsessed with pleasing others.

CODF’s cast themselves in various roles.  The child may choose the role as a survival tactic, or, because each role performs a function in the family system, the system itself will force the child into the part.  Sometimes a specific child will play more than one role or through time switch from one to another.  These roles help the family maintain its dysfunctional homeostasis and can eventually be harmful to the children.  The following are various roles:

Chief Enabler – shelters the addict from consequences of his or her behavior; cost to them is martyrdom;

Family Hero – keeps family’s self-worth, acts as family counselor; cost is a compulsive drive;

Family Scapegoat – diverts attention from the addict; cost is possible self-destructive behavior and often addiction;

Lost child – escapes family stress by emotional and physical separation; cost is social isolation;

Family Mascot – diverts attention from the addict by humor; cost is immaturity and/or emotional illness.

Family members learn “addictive logic” to deny the chaos.  They learn to lie and say the problem doesn’t exist so as not to betray the family.  To survive in an addictive system, children learn to deny healthy responses that tell them they are in danger; they have to keep increasing these dishonest coping skills as their situation worsens.  Also, a torrent of negative thoughts may be coursing through children’s innocent minds:  “I can’t do anything right; I am a failure; I’m not loved; I will be abandoned; I am ugly and bad…etc.”  They desperately need someone to tell them these are lies and help them see the truth about themselves and their families.

*The Spouses — Being married to an addict can be like a ride on a roller coaster – terrifying.  Life is chaotic and unpredictable, up one day, down the next, depending on how the spouse is behaving.  Emotions fluctuate and are mixed.  The dry period, when life is on the upside, inspires hope that it will last, along with nagging fear that it won’t.  In cases of spousal abuse, the cycle is well documented:  abuse followed by remorse followed by forgiveness followed by abuse followed by remorse, and so on.  The same happens in addictive marriages:  The husband manifests an addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober and pleads for forgiveness.  The wife forgives, and the two are reconciled.  The husband manifests the addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober, and on and on.  The spouse will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as the children – fear, anger, helplessness, loneliness, and the like.  Some will hate their husband or wife, their bitterness created out of years of broken promises and neglect.  Spouses will also blame themselves for their partner’s problem.  Shame too can be intense.  And to cover his or her embarrassment, the husband or wife of the troubled person will strive hard to make a contribution outside the home.  He or she may be driven to succeed in the workplace.  Some will devote themselves to social work or church ministry.  The marriage relationship will deteriorate.  Feelings of love that were likely present in the beginning of the marriage will slowly die as the partner’s addiction progresses.

Three of the most important marital resources – respect, reciprocity, and reliability – will be challenged.  Respect involves conveying to another person (through words, deeds, or simply being present) that the other is of value.  By their irresponsible behavior and neglect of family duties, addicts and the like will not be likely to keep this resource in their relationship.  Reciprocity in relationships refers to the balance of giving and receiving care and consideration.  Not much fairness will be felt in a dysfunctional family where the weight of maintaining the family falls on the addict’s spouse and/or children.  Reliability refers to the expectation that the person will be there for us on an ongoing, fairly consistent basis.  Broken promises and no-shows will destroy this resource.  An addiction, like any other violation of the relationship bond, will chip away at trust.  People married to the addiction/compulsive behavior often convey to their partners that they are not important.  This deterioration of the marriage and emotional struggles of the spouse will sometimes diminish his or her capacity to parent.  Sometimes the spouse, wrestling with the partner’s addiction/behavior, will dump his or her responsibilities on the children.  Because of this neglect, some adult children are angry at the spouse of their addictive/compulsive parent more than they are the one with the addiction/compulsion.

*The Role of Codependency — Codependency is another form of enmeshment.  The spouse of the troubled individual is referred to as the “co-addict.”  This can be described as one person’s addictive patterns aligning themselves with another’s so that there is some degree of systemic collusion or addictive pattern.  Essentially, a codependent is related to another in an unhealthy way.  One person cares so completely for the other that he or she neglects himself or herself, living almost entirely for the other person.  Being an enabler is sometimes part of such a relationship.  Enablers don’t usually consciously do things to help their partner continue his or her destructive behavior.  In fact they will probably attack their partner’s problem with a vengeance, doing everything possible to get him or her to straighten out. Yet, at the same time, they will do things that facilitate their spouse’s behavior.  For example, they will protect their spouse from the consequences of his or her actions:  phoning his boss to report him sick when he can’t go to work because of the addictive behavior; giving money to a wife who has a money related addictive problem; making excuses to the kids for a parent’s absence, and so on.  Then, too, the partners contribute to the addicts’ problem by facilitating the reorganization of the family around them.  Children, too, can play the role of codependent.

Codependents sacrifice unnecessarily and to the detriment of others as well as themselves.  Following Jesus’ example, Christians are encouraged to make sacrifices, but they are not to make senseless ones.  Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself benefited others.  But the codependent’s sacrifices are harmful to the one for whom they are made.  It is not really loving.  Love, as conceived in the New Testament, is concern and care for a person’s highest good.  Preventing an addicted/compulsive spouse from suffering their own consequences is not showing this type of concern and care.  This troubled spouse needs to see the results of his/her lifestyle and choices.  As Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”  Love is sometimes expressed by not doing something for someone.  Also, codependents need to understand that it is not wrong to care for themselves.  As indicated in Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 19:19, we are commanded to respect others as we respect ourselves.

Some write that codependency is defined as “a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity.”  By this, they mean that people who live in enmeshed families develop a tendency to live this way in general, even with people outside the family.  Symptoms include the following:

* Thoughts and attitudes dominated by the other person: “I think more about your life than mine.”

* Self-esteem related to the other person: “I value your opinion more than my own; I need to help you in order to feel good about myself; I need to be needed.”

* Emotions are tied to the other person: “When you are hurting, I often react more deeply than you do.”

* Interests geared to the other person: “I know more clearly what you want than what I want.”

* Relationship to others is affected by the other person: “I neglect my friends to get overly involved in fixing you; I am compulsive about pleasing others, yet I get upset by their demands on me.”

In selecting a mate, some men and women seem to be attracted to a person who needs their care.  Besides the obvious shortcomings, one major problem of this type of relationship is the powerful dependence these partners have on each other.  They become so enmeshed that they seem unable to function as individuals.  They become so intertwined that it becomes difficult for the other to leave the relationship regardless of how dysfunctional it is.  Codependents will have considerable psychological distress.  They will suffer from poor self-esteem, since they may feel little worth apart from what is derived from rescuing others.  They will also suffer from an extreme need to be needed, making them depressed when they feel they are not.  Also they may have an unhealthy willingness to suffer, somehow believing that suffering for someone will make that person love them; being a martyr will make them feel rewarded.

Despite codependents’ sorry state of affairs, they will have a strong resistance to change.  Leaving the troubled spouse, even as a step toward healing, accountability, and re-creation of the marriage,  is not an option, because they fear feeling guilty, living alone, or not being able to make it financially.

In conclusion, when we or our families experience trouble, we must call upon the Divine weapons and resources that God has provided us.  We must remember that we cannot face the vast array of past and present problems on our own. Therefore, we must keep our focus on the Lord since we don’t know how to deal with these things (2 Chron 20:12b).  He has the willingness and power to do the impossible, demolish the past and present strongholds that have enslaved us, and make us to be who He created us to be (Phil 2:12; Luke 1:37; 2 Cor 10:3-5).

Healthy Relationships Will Have Conflict

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

You’ll never have a strong relationship without conflict. It’s impossible. Open and frank conversations are a bridge every relationship must cross to reach relational depth.

Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship” (GNT). Being candid and connected go together; you can’t have one without the other. That’s why a true friend doesn’t use flattery. Empty encouragement is a sign of a manipulator, not of someone who sincerely cares about you.

It sounds counterintuitive, but all healthy relationships must allow for the opportunity to express frustration and anger. Out-of-control anger isn’t good, but anger is part of a loving relationship. If you don’t get angry, you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t love.

Many people are too afraid of showing any anger in their relationships. They run from conflict. As a result, they’re always masking the issues and refusing to deal with them. That may lead to a 20-year-old friendship with hidden conflict that could have been resolved 10 years ago.

Going through the tunnel of conflict

You won’t have a genuine friendship without going through what I call “the tunnel of conflict.” This truth relates to your marriage, friendships, and all of your other significant relationships. I’ve told this truth to countless married couples throughout the years.

On one side of the tunnel you have superficial intimacy, where you’re acquainted with someone and you like them, but that’s as far as it goes without conflict. You might go to a movie or sit in a Bible study with the person (or even be married to the person for years), but you’re not ready to share your deepest, darkest secrets with them. You’re not dealing with the gut issues of the relationship: your faults, their faults, and what’s causing both of you pain. You’re ignoring the tough parts of the relationship, as well as the greater connection that comes from them.

On the other side of the tunnel is genuine, deep intimacy. It’s a place where you’re fully understood by another person in a way that you never thought was possible on this planet. Every person craves to reach this level in their relationships.

How do you get from a superficial relationship to genuine, soul-satisfying intimacy with another human being? There’s no smooth path to the other side. You must go through the tunnel of conflict—it’s the only way.

Moving toward intimacy

Conflict is painful, which means it isn’t easy; this often leads to poor decisions. Conflict is necessary for intimacy, but don’t make the conflict harder than it needs to be. Here are three guidelines that will help conflict bring your relationships closer rather than pulling them apart:

  1. Compliment in public, correct in private. This statement is true regardless of the relationship. You need to do this with your children, your spouse, your best friend, and so on. Save your criticism for a time when others aren’t around. It’ll increase the chances that the other person will hear and respond to your concerns.
  2. Correct when they’re up and not down. Nobody handles correction well when they’re fatigued or depressed. My wife has always given me great feedback on my sermons, but she never gives me constructive criticism immediately after the service. She knows that after preaching multiple services, I’m out of energy. I can handle almost any correction when I’m feeling strong but not when I’m worn out. Timing is everything in candidness.
  3. Never offer correction until you’ve proven that you’re open to it. This is an area of relationships where you need to lead by example. Demonstrate that you are able to receive correction before you start giving correction. You must open up your life before you expect others to open up theirs.

You’ve got to be candid and honest and genuine if you want healthy relationships—and you won’t grow if you’re missing those kinds of relationships. Go through that tunnel of conflict and move toward greater intimacy, and watch your life change.

ANGER, COMMUNICATION AND PROVERBS

SOURCE:  Compiled by Bill Bellican

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

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

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

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

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

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

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

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

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

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

Our model of forgiveness is God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anger Iceberg

SOURCE:  Kyle Benson/Gottman Institute

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

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

The purpose of anger

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

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

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

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

Anger as a protector of raw feelings

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

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

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

anger-iceberg-1

3 tips for listening to anger

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

1. Don’t take it personally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Affair Does Not Have to Mean the End

SOURCE:  Carrie Cole M.Ed., LPC/The Gottman Institute

Ralph and Susan had been married for 13 years with two adorable children. Their suburban life was packed with work, school, and the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Neither made their marriage a priority, but overall they felt their relationship was good.

Susan withheld her suspicion when she noticed that Ralph was on his phone more than usual. At times she couldn’t help but ask “What’s going on?” only to receive “Nothing. Just checking the news,” or “There’s a lot of drama at the office that I need to take care of.” She trusted him.

When Susan discovered that Ralph had been texting another woman, she was devastated. Her world came crashing down. In her mind, Ralph was not the kind of person to ever have an affair.

Ralph lied about it at first. He felt like he needed to protect Susan from the ugly truth. But as more evidence came out, he couldn’t lie anymore. He was having an affair.

He didn’t know how he had got involved so deeply with someone else. It just happened. He and a co-worker had become close friends over time. It felt good to have someone to talk to who listened and made him feel special. He hadn’t had that in a long time with Susan.

During the affair he had to convince himself that Susan didn’t care. He felt she wasn’t interested in him sexually anymore. They were more like roommates than soulmates.

As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I have heard many versions of this story in my couples therapy practice over the last 15 years. An affair, whether emotional or sexual, is devastating. Both partners suffer tremendous pain. But an affair does not have to mean the end.

The PTSD of an Affair

The betrayed partner experiences a tidal wave of emotion. The pain, hurt, anger, humiliation, and despair are overwhelming. After the traumatic moment the affair is realized, they become fearful, anxious, and hypervigilant, wondering where or when the next blow is going to come – not unlike symptoms of PTSD felt by military veterans.

Their mind races with thoughts of What don’t they know? What’s the whole story? Scenes of their partner with someone else appear in their mind when awake and when asleep, making life a living nightmare.

The Guilt of Betrayal

The betrayer also experiences a great deal of emotion. The hopeless feeling of witnessing your partner in pain and knowing you can do nothing to alleviate their suffering is a horrible experience. The feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation are almost unbearable.

So, what causes an affair? Why do partners choose to cheat? The answers are complicated and may take months to unravel.

Recovering From an Affair

Is it possible to recover from an affair? The answer for most couples is yes.

Many couples I’ve worked with have actually created a stronger, more emotionally connected, and richer relationship from the ashes of an affair. However, it’s not quick or easy. As with any serious injury, it takes time to heal. And it usually takes therapy.

It’s tempting to think that it will automatically get better with time. The problem with “sweeping it under the rug” is that the anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt felt early on by the betrayed person often give way to resentment – a slow seething anger that leads to total contempt for the betrayer. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that contempt is deadly in relationships and very difficult to recover from.

Couples therapy can help partners explore and understand what happened. The betrayed partner needs to have their questions answered, such as:

  • When did you meet?
  • Where did you meet?
  • How long did the affair last?

The betrayed partner attempts to understand how it happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. They also seek consistency in the stories from one telling to the next. Do I know everything? Are you lying to me now? These questions are best asked and answered in the emotionally safe environment of a therapist’s office.

It is best not to ask questions about the specifics of the sexual nature of the affair. Those questions usually do more bad than good in that they conjure up images that might haunt the betrayed partner’s thoughts.

When the betrayed partner feels that they have all the answers they need, the couple can begin to work on rebuilding trust. Couples like Susan and Ralph have turned away from each other in many small ways over time, which compounds into the feelings that ultimately led Ralph astray. They neglected the relationship.

Once couples process what happened, they need to begin to tune back into each other. Susan and Ralph found that they avoided each other to avoid conflict. Tuning back in requires dialoguing about problems – both ongoing perpetual problems and past issues that might have caused some injury to the relationship.

Recognize That Conflict is Inevitable

Conflict is a natural part of your happily ever after. Every relationship has conflict due to different values, beliefs, and philosophies of life. When these differences are discussed safely, and when honored and respected, the couple will experience greater intimacy. At times this can feel uncomfortable and take some push and pull. Communication skills provided by a therapist can help the navigation of these discussions go more smoothly.

Once the couple has tuned back into each other, it will be helpful to create some meaningful rituals to stay connected. Couples can be creative about ways to do that which are special and unique to them. One couple I worked with decided to have morning coffee together for 30 minutes. They would discuss the events of the day, check in with each other emotionally, and take the time to really listen to each other’s hearts.

Another couple developed a ritual of a bubble bath after the kids were in bed. They said they did their best talking in their big round Jacuzzi tub.

Sexual and emotional betrayals are a hefty blow to a relationship, but an affair does not have to be the end. Couples who have the emotional fortitude to reach out and seek the help they need can create a much more meaningful and intimate relationship in the aftermath of infidelity.

 

Anger: Unmet Expectations

SOURCE:  Annie Chapman/Focus on the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, I avoided talking to myself about the situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Angry

SOURCE:  Bob McCully/Thriveworks

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

Am I truly understanding the other person?

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

Are my expectations reasonable?

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

Am I angry at the right person?

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

Is my anger getting me what I want?

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

Is my anger out of proportion to the offense?

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

How are they feeling?

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

Can I really change this situation?

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

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

Emotions: Who’s In Charge Of Yours?

SOURCE:  New Life Ministries

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

Who is in charge of your emotions?

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

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

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

– Steve Arterburn

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

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

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

Expressions of Anger

SOURCE:  Larry Heath/Living Free

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

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

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

 We all feel angry at times.

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

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

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

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

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These thoughts were drawn from …

    Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Anger, 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.

Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Family Life/Sabrina Beasley McDonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What causes bitterness?

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

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

What’s wrong with bitterness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting rid of bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Trauma Terminal?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Matthew 11:28–30

The definition reflects devastation:

Trauma: An injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent . . . a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress.

Like potatoes in a pressure cooker, we twenty-first century creatures understand the meaning of stress.

A week doesn’t pass without a few skirmishes with those “extrinsic agents” that beat upon our fragile frames. They may be as mild as making lunches for our kids before 7:30 in the morning (mild?) or as severe as a collision with another car . . . or another person.

Makes no difference.

The result is “trauma”—a two-bit word for nervous. You know, the bottom-line reason Valium remains a top seller. Our emotional wounds are often deep. They don’t hemorrhage like a stabbing victim’s, but they are just as real and just as painful . . . sometimes more.

Years ago, a stress test carried on by Dr. Thomas Holmes and his colleagues concluded that an accumulation of two hundred or more “life change units” in any year may mean more disruption—more trauma—than an individual can stand. On their scale, death of a spouse equals one hundred units, divorce represents seventy-three units . . . and Christmas equals twelve units! That helps explain the idea behind “something snapping” inside certain people when the final straw falls on them. Our capacity for trauma has its limits.

Joseph Bayly could certainly understand. He and his wife lost three of their children—one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia). In my wildest imagination, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. In the backwash of such deep trauma, the Bayly couple stood sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as they watched God place a period before the end of the sentence on three of their children’s lives. And their anguish was not relieved when well-meaning people offered shallow, simple answers amidst their grief.

Eyes that read these words might very well be near tears. You are trying to cope without hope. You are stretched dangerously close to the “200-unit” limit . . . and there’s no relief on the horizon. You’re bleeding and you’ve run out of bandages. You have moved from mild tension to advanced trauma.

Be careful! You are in the danger zone, emotionally. You’re a sitting duck, and the adversary is taking aim with both barrels loaded, hoping to open fire while you are vulnerable. Bam! “Run!” Boom! “Think suicide.”

Listen carefully! Jesus Christ opens the gate, gently looks at you and says:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28–30 MSG)

Nothing complicated. No big fanfare, no trip to Mecca, no hypnotic trance, no fee, no special password. Just come. Meaning? Unload. Unhook the pack and drop it in His lap . . . now. Allow Him to take your stress as you take His rest. Does He know what trauma is all about? Remember, He’s the One whose sweat became like drops of blood in the agony of Gethsemane. If anybody understands trauma, He does. Completely.

His provision is profound, attainable, and right. He’s a master at turning devastation into restoration.

Look again at His invitation in Matthew 11:28–30, and accept it with all your heart.

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Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

A PRAYER FOR WISDOM ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

   If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Dear heavenly Father, what a great Scripture with which to begin (and continue) this day.

I praise you for the free, full, and perpetual access we enjoy with you, all because you’ve declared us to be perfectly righteous in Jesus. And I praise you that as we come seeking wisdom, we’re kissed by your welcome and inundated with your generosity.

Indeed, Father, I need your wisdom about a few matters that confuse me, all of them having to do with relationships.

I need you to show me the difference between a costly investment in people’s lives, versus co-dependent entanglement and enmeshment. I know that loving well—as Jesus loves us, always requires more than we’d easily give, but I’m not always sure what that looks like.

I need wisdom for knowing the difference between rightly validating the emotions of those I love versus wrongly taking responsibility for their emotions. My broken default mode is to try to “fix” people; but I know you’re not calling me to fix anyone, but to love everyone. Grant me wisdom, dear Father; grant me wisdom.

I need wisdom, Father, about my own emotional world. The emotion of anger has always confused and threatened me. Help me to know when the anger I feel is nothing more than my selfishness on display. Help me to know when to express appropriate anger in ways consistent with the gospel. Help me to listen and understand the emotion of anger in others, and not rush to judgment or rush out of their story too fast.

Father, just praying this prayer stirs up many other thoughts and feelings inside my heart. My joy is in knowing that we can keep this conversation going throughout the day. My great joy is in knowing that you will give us the wisdom we need, and you will do so generously. My even greater joy comes from resting in the gift of your Son, Jesus—”who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30)

So very Amen I pray, in his mighty and merciful name.

Make Anger Your Servant…Not Your Master

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

[Recently], we talked about how anger is not necessarily the result of doing something wrong, dysfunctional, or sinful. Jesus and God expressed anger many times, so we know anger can be positive and serve us well.

But we are still left with the important question, “What causes anger?”

We often assume that our anger is caused by situations like a rude driver, an unfair criticism, or a friend’s betrayal. In reality, the answer is “nothing” around us causes anger, even though these situations are usually followed by our own angry reactions. In fact, the angry feeling is actually our own doing. You see the lenses we use to view a situation precipitate the feeling of anger. Nevertheless, we usually blame others for “making” us feel that angry way.

Let me give an example to help clarify.

During a basketball game, if my team scores a last minute, game-winning basket, I am excited. But someone rooting for the other team who experiences the same event may actually be angry or frustrated, or have other negative emotions immediately after the shot goes in. The event, a made shot, doesn’t cause the anger. If it did, everybody experiencing the event would be angry. You see, the difference is the lens you use you we witness or experience each event. That’s what determines your emotional response.

Understanding this key point is so freeing and eye-opening. Anger (or any negative feeling) is a great warning system. Anger lets us know when something is not going right or when potential danger exists. If I were in the jungle and saw a tiger, I would get angry, sad, worried, and frightened. That’s an example of a good warning system letting me know I’m not safe, and it pushes me to action. Without negative feelings I would probably walk along merrily and be devoured by the tiger.

When someone insults us or treats us badly, we should get angry. That lets us know a problem exists in the relationship and needs to be addressed. Hopefully, we look at our options and choose appropriate options as we respond. God has given us free will to control our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Will we choose unkind words and find a way to “get even”? Or will we problem-solve and forgive? It’s our choice. Despite our backgrounds or the current circumstances, we are responsible for our own behaviors. We can’t blame them on our emotions.

Unfortunately, we often let anger rule us. It becomes the main influence on our decision-making. Anger serves us well as a warning system. However, anger is a very poor master. None of us express our feelings appropriately all the time. However, the Bible tells us, For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. Philippians 4:13.

Today, notice when you feel angry and STOP!

Then thank God for a great warning system. Then look past the anger to the actual problem the anger warned you about and address it. If you do not, your warning system (anger) will keep on alerting you until the problem is resolved. Let Jesus help make anger your servant instead of your master. Follow His attitude, actions, and teachings.  Whether you use you anger to function better or you let it ruin you is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, thank You so much for my anger, and all my negative feelings. It is awesome to know You gave me a warning system that alerts me to problems and danger. When I get angry, help me to choose the Godly response … the one that is pleasing to You. Teach me to control my anger, to have patience, to problem-solve, and to forgive. Thanks for Your soothing Spirit when I feel angry and show me how to access it easily. Help me to follow You when I feel this pain. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who teaches me how to handle all things well, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. Proverbs 19:11

“BUT”

SOURCE:  Tim Clinton/AACC

“You face your greatest opposition when you’re closest to your biggest miracle.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” G. K. Chesterton

Often, the most powerful, life-changing miracles seem to happen in the “buts” of life.

Consider the story of Naaman. 2 Kings 5:1 describes him with glowing accolades.

Commander of the army of the king of Syria.

A great man with his master.

High favor.

A mighty man of valor.

Then out of nowhere – life-altering words.

But…he was a leper.

Think about that. Leprosy. The most dreaded disease of his day. A visible outward malady that in reality defined who he was. Putrefying infected sores that in time caused loss of fingers, toes, nose. Everyone who came in contact with him saw the miserable condition he carried with him everywhere he went. There was no hiding it.

Many Christ followers understand this reality in their own journey. No doubt, many of you are living there right now.

You love God, and you really do believe that God loves you. You read the Word, pray, give your tithes and offerings, attend worship services, desiring to obey and walk in His Spirit.

But…

The doctor gave you terminal news.

But…

Your spouse left, and the hole in your heart grows deeper and wider by the hour.

But…

Your position at work was eliminated, as was your pay check, and you find yourself in the unemployment line.

But…

A son or a daughter rejected a lifetime of nurture and admonition and the relationship is strained, broken and seemingly destroyed.

“Buts” that now seem to define who you are. “Buts” that perhaps even cause you to question God and His plan, much less His goodness. “Buts” that understandably cause you to ask “Where are you God?”

Let’s look again at the well-known Bible story of Naaman. At the recommendation of a young slave girl, he travels to find the prophet Elisha. Elisha sends a servant out to instruct Naaman to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Albeit reluctantly, and even with quite a bit of raging about how irrational the command is, he obeys.

I wonder how Naaman felt after he dunked himself the first time. No change. The second time. No change. Third time. No change. After number six, he might have been thinking that this was a horrible joke and a waste of time. The anger he had initially felt was returning. Someone was going to pay for this public act of embarrassment.

Have you been there? Faith…trust…obedience…and seemingly no change. You find yourself confused, distraught, and perhaps even a bit angry at God.

Then Naaman dipped the seventh time and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:14 ESV

He went back to the “man of God,” stood before him and declared, (now) “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel…” 2 Kings 5:15  ESV

God was in the midst of his pain. Faithfully at work in the “but” of Naaman’s life. Steadfast in His in plan in Naaman’s journey, which ultimately brought Him glory.

And God is in the midst of your pain also. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He is faithfully working in the plan of your life, and He will ultimately get glory by taking your storyand making it His story.

Don’t be defined by the “but” in your pilgrimage. Don’t give up. Keep believing that He is God, and that He is good.

Your miracle could be just one more “dip in the Jordan” away.

A miracle that will turn your life around.

Four Reasons for Addictions

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

So many things in life seem relatively straightforward on our first pass. Later we discover that there is more to it.

For example, at first, all deciduous trees seem to look alike—tall and leafy. Gradually though, our eyes can tell the difference between oaks, maples, poplar and ash. Finer discriminations come over time. We could also do the same with fear, anger, bipolar . . . almost any category. And we can do it with addictions.

On our first pass, addictions are lusts. They are out-of-control desires that usually hurt the addict and anyone else who is close by. But if we spend enough time with addicts we might notice subgroups within addictions, and though lust applies to them all, there are other biblical approaches that could be even more suitable.

I’ll identify four subgroups.

1. The hurt, fearful, or shamed addict. These are well known and most common. Addiction covers pain, guilt, shame, fear—stuff that just hurts. If we miss these reasons we will be unhelpful.

2. The angry addict. These drink and drug at others. They have enduring anger at certain people and the addiction is aimed at them. You won’t hear a sentence or two without some expression of judgment, sarcasm, or cynicism. Sometimes these angry addicts are also hurt and fearful; sometimes they are just plain angry. They are scary, not so much because they might hurt you, though they certainly can lash out at family and friends, but because anger is so delicious and satisfying to the angry person. For these addicts, anger becomes part of the addiction.

3. The bored addict. These are difficult. We can understand the desire to numb pain, and we are familiar with anger, but life is certainly not boring. And though we can easily summon some respect and empathy for those who are thrown by the pain of life, boredom has more in common with the spoiled brat. For the bored, addiction is a way to feel more alive and above the ordinariness of daily life. Anger and entitlement might not be too far away.

4. The “what happened?” addict. These moved into addiction by way of naive experimentation or simply because friends were doing it. But, for some reason, they seemed to like it more than most, so they did it again, and again, and, at some point, the addiction owned them. And the whole thing is a bit of a blur. The reality is that some people like the experience of being high or altered more than others. Is there biology involved? Probably.

There are dozens of other reasons for addictions. I am not suggesting that these are even the top four. I do think, however, that a growing taxonomy such as this can help us understand people more clearly and enable us to counsel them with the truth that is most relevant to their addiction.

 

 

Understanding The Bitter Heart

SOURCE:  Julie Ganschow/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger and resentment. It is the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief. Bitterness is seething and constant. Bitter people carry the same burdens as angry people, but to a greater extent.

Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for whenever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison.  Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)

Bitterness does not affect only you, dear counselee; it affects everyone with whom you come into contact.

In the book of Ruth we read about Naomi (which means pleasant), the wife of Elimelech. Elimelech took his wife and two sons down from Bethlehem to the country of Moab because there was a famine in the land. While living in Moab, the sons took wives named Ruth and Orpah from among the native people. Elimelech and his two sons died in Moab and left Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah to fend for themselves.

When news came that the famine in the land of Judah had lifted, Naomi decided to return home to her own people. The three women set out together, but on the way, Naomi gave the young women the freedom to return home to their own people.

“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.”  Ruth 1:10-14 (NLT)

Orpah did turn back, but Ruth was committed to Naomi and to her God.

So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was stirred by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, [meaning bitter] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the  LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”  Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT) 

What do you suppose it was that caused the whole town to stir? Could it have been Naomi’s appearance? Do you wonder if they could see the changes that had taken place inside her heart or on her face? Note the things Naomi says in verses 19-21:

“Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” And “. . . call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”

Naomi blamed God for making her life bitter and empty. All she could see was that she no longer had what she loved. Her bitterness reflected a heart of unbelief in the justice and sovereignty of God. She held on to the anger for what had been done to her and stood in judgment over God. In the entire text, we see nothing of Naomi’s quest to understand the purpose of God in her suffering. We only read that she was angry and bitter for what she had lost.

Perhaps you struggle with the same type of bitterness. Sometimes women and men who have lost children to illness or accident blame God for their loss. “God, how could you take my beloved child  from me? Don’t You know how much I loved him? How could You do this to  me?” An abandoned spouse may become bitter as they wonder: “God, don’t You see how much I am struggling to raise these kids while he is out living the high life?How can you let him get away with this? I am the one who was faithful, and now I am  he one who is miserable while he has it made! Don’t you care about me? Why aren’t you punishing him?”

The honest businessman sees a crooked businessman prospering while he flounders. “God, how can You stand by and let this happen? I am an honest businessman, and  my business is failing! How can You let him get way with such thievery? I have a wife and kids to feed, God; why are you doing this to me?”

The childless couple is bitter when they see families with several children and they cannot seem to have even one. “God, why don’t You let us have even one child when these other people have so many! It isn’t fair that we can’t have even one child to love while so many are being aborted and abandoned! God, why are You doing this to us?”

You become bitter out of a belief that God will not punish the people who hurt you, that God does not hear your plea, or that He does not care about your plight. Since God is apparently not going to intervene in your circumstances,  you stand in as judge, jury, and executioner in the lives of other people.

It becomes a circular pattern. The more you dwell on what has been done to you, the injustice you have suffered, or the loss you have incurred, the deeper goes the root of bitterness. You already know that carrying around a load of bitterness is exhausting.

Bitterness hardens your heart on the inside and your features on the outside. It also defiles those around you because it is contagious.

Curing The Bitter Heart

Do you want the cure for bitterness? You must understand that the only cure for bitterness and anger is forgiveness.

Bitterness is focused on what has been done to you. To break up bitterness, you must also be willing to look at what you have done to others. Your task is to admit what your responsibility is in the matter and go to those you have hurt, confess your sin, and first seek their forgiveness. You must be willing to get the log out of your own eye prior to examining your neighbor’s eye.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT) 

The examination process begins right here at home. Start with yourself and seek God’s help in revealing the contents of your heart in relation to how you have sinned against others.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) 

There needs to be a willingness on your part to forsake your sin of bitterness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,  even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) 

Confession of your own sin and repentance for that sin must take place in your heart first. Then you must seek for other relationships to be healed and restored. You may want to pray a prayer similar to this one:

Gracious Heavenly Father, I realize now that I have a root of bitterness in my heart. Thank You that You have chosen this time in my life to reveal it to me. I ask for Your help, dear Lord, to see the areas of my heart and life where bitterness has grown. I trust the Holy Spirit will reveal to me my sin and I confess to you the sin of bitterness regarding the following circumstances in my life : __________

Thank You, dear Lord, for revealing to me the areas of my life over which I am bitter. Please help me to overcome this sin that defiles many and begin to put on the fruit of forgiveness in my life. Please help me to restore and repair the relationships that I have wounded and destroyed by my bitterness. Thank You for Your great gift of grace to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Forgiving others is not an option for the Christian; it’s required, and it is step number one in removing bitterness.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)

In forgiving others, it is important to remember a few important rules: When I forgive, I resolve never to bring this circumstance or situation up again to the one I forgave, to anyone else, or even to myself. It is a closed book. If you are going to pattern your forgiveness after that of the Lord, then you will choose to remember no more the sin committed against you.

But what if you are bitter toward God? What if it is God who has hurt you and caused you pain? My dear friend, please take hold of this truth: God is the sovereign God of the entire universe. It is His, and He does with it what He wishes, and it is always good. In fact, it is always very good!

To believe you must forgive God for what you perceive He has done against you insinuates that God has sinned, and this cannot be. God is a loving, holy, and perfect, sinless God who does not make mistakes.

Naomi, as recorded in the book of Ruth, may have believed for a time that God somehow made a mistake in taking her husband and sons from her, for she said He “brought me back empty.” It was no mistake, however. God was purposely unfolding His divine plan for humanity in Naomi’s life and in the death of her loved ones. Take note, dear one, that if Naomi’s son would have lived, Ruth would have remained his wife. Without the death of her husband, Ruth would not have been free to meet and marry Boaz, who became her kinsman redeemer. Ruth would not have given birth to their son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who is the father of David, from whose lineage comes the Christ.

Acceptance of hard things at the hand of a loving God is not easy. I encourage you to seek God in your circumstances and to trust that He is unfolding a divine plan that you cannot see right now, just as He did in the case of Naomi and Ruth. God’s sovereignty is always balanced by His love, and He promises to bring good out of every tragedy and heartache.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) 

Family Dysfunction: The “Rageaholic” Family

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Living Free

“Discipline your son while there is hope, but do not [indulge your angry resentments by undue chastisements and] set yourself to his ruin.” 

Proverbs 19:18 AMP

[There are] five types of dysfunctional families (described in The Thin Disguise by Pam Vredevelt) that can lead to the development of eating disorders. Perhaps you or someone you know has a loved one struggling with an eating disorder. Or perhaps you will identify some potentially harmful characteristic that needs to be addressed in your family.

In the “Rageaholic Family” only the parents (one or both) are allowed to express feelings. The predominant feeling is rage or anger. Unfortunately, the children are taught to believe that they are responsible for that anger. Mothers in rageaholic families may have anger and rage from their family of origin, and in some cases the daughter becomes an “emotional receptacle” for that rage. Although the mother is in actuality angry with herself and her parents, she pushes that anger onto her daughter.

Children in rageaholic families learn to repress their anger completely. This repressed anger can cause stress, bitterness and depression, leading to many types of inappropriate behavior.

Although there are appropriate times to discipline our children—always in love—we are not to be controlled by anger. And sometimes anger vented on children does not even relate to their behavior—it comes from a parent struggling with rage or bitterness caused by something else altogether. [The above] Scripture makes it clear that angry resentments and undue chastisements can lead to our child’s ruin.

Father, forgive me for sometimes taking out my anger on my children. Help me to admit when I’ve been wrong and allow my children to see that they are not at fault for my unfair words and actions. Help me to be sensitive to my children’s honest feelings and to allow them to feel safe in expressing them. In Jesus’ name …

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

FORGIVENESS: God’s Antidote for Bitterness

SOURCE:  Living Free

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

Prolonged unforgiveness can breed bitterness.

When facing major disappointments in life, most people make one of two choices: They turn to God to heal their distress and with his help forgive the one who wronged them. Or they turn away from God and become bitter.

Sometimes people become bitter toward God for not repairing or healing a situation. More often they pour anger out on the person who caused the hurt and pain. Widowed singles may deal with anger at God for allowing their spouse to die, but this temporary anger does not have to turn to bitterness. Only anger that is fed, nurtured, and encouraged will turn into the soul-killing and body-killing emotion of bitterness.

Divorced singles often have to deal with bitter feelings toward God for allowing their marriage to fail. However, they more often reserve their intense bitterness for their ex-spouse.

Single Christians who have never married yet deeply desire a mate may feel bitterness about their single status or even at God for not answering their prayer.

God’s antidote for the poison of bitterness is forgiveness. Forgiveness is never easy, and the worse the hurt involved, the more difficult it is. However, God tells us to forgive, so we would do well to begin to move from bitterness toward forgiveness, even if we stumble in the beginning.

Refusing to forgive the one who has hurt us causes us more difficulty than it does the person with whom we are angry. Medical science has identified several physical and many emotional illnesses that seem to have roots in our unwillingness to forgive. Bitterness can adversely affect relationships with friends and family. And most of all, it hinders our relationship with God.

We have a choice. We can choose forgiveness over bitterness. Each of us is responsible for our own attitude toward the ones who have hurt us. If we choose forgiveness, God will help us forgive . . . and move on.

Father, forgive me for the unforgiveness I’ve carried for so long. Help me forgive the one who hurt me and release the bitterness. In Jesus’ name . . .

———————————————————————————————————–

These thoughts were drawn from …

The Single Christian: Living as One in a World of Twos by Dr. Elizabeth Holland.

Silence Can Be Destructive

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Dennis/Barbara Rainey_Family Life

Killing Me Softly

I have become mute, I do not open my mouth.
Psalm 39:9

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. The husband realized he needed to be awakened early one morning to catch a business flight, but he didn’t want to be the first to break the silence. So he left a note on his wife’s side of the bed that read, “Please wake me at 5 A.M.”

By the time bright sunshine roused him the next morning, it was 9 A.M. Furious, he threw back the covers and shouted to his wife (who was nowhere to be found), “Why didn’t you wake me up like I asked you to?” That’s when he saw, stuck to the lamp on his bedside table, a note in her handwriting that read, “It is 5 A.M. Time to wake up.”

It doesn’t take much to make us angry and create emotional distance from each other.

But it does take great, courageous effort to fight through the silence to a place of forgiveness and oneness. Isolation seems to offer us protection, a certain kind of self-preservation. There is a type of peace found in avoidance that appears much more appealing than the pain of dealing with reality.

Silence feels like a security blanket. But in fact, it is one of Satan’s most deadly disguises. The silent treatment is perilously deceptive and ultimately destructive.

When you find yourself tempted to square off against each other, retreating to your corners and refusing to give in, remember that Jesus could have given us the cold shoulder. He could have taken one look at our many, many sins and shortcomings and never sought to draw us out. May His reaching, redemptive love be our model and motivator.

We serve a God who both seeks and speaks. Be sure you’re a spouse who does the same.

Pray that God will show you both what you should do if one or both of you becomes silent.

ANGER: OK or NOT OK?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath.” Psalm 37:8 NIV 
“In your anger do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26 NIV

The Bible tells us to refrain from anger.

It also tells us to be angry, but not to sin.

Although this first sounds like a contradiction, a study of the scriptures reveals that there are times when anger is accepted and appropriate – and other times when it is not. The Bible teaches that it is what makes us angry and how we express it that determine whether anger is right or wrong.

Throughout the Old Testament we read time and again of God’s anger – always directed at people’s sin. And in the New Testament, Jesus expressed his anger and cleansed the temple of the greedy money changers who were showing dishonor and disrespect and defiling and disrupting God’s house.

And so we know that there are times when anger is the most appropriate behavior. But what about when we become angry for selfish reasons … or express our anger in spiteful ways? In your anger do not sin.

What is the source of your anger? Do you get angry when you are denied something you want? Or because someone didn’t respond to you the way you desired? … Or are you angry because God is being dishonored? What is making you angry … and what are you going to do about it? The answers to these questions will determine the right and the wrong of it.

Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve become angry for the wrong reasons and the times I’ve expressed anger in hurtful ways. I pray that you will help me not to sin in my anger. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Anger: Our Master or Our Servant
 by Larry Heath.

ANGER: Take a Deep Breath

SOURCE:  Living Free

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 NLT

Anger is a God-given emotional energy designed for good. It can lead to sin, but doesn’t have to. We can control our thoughts and actions. We can stop allowing anger to master us. The Bible teaches that we should not be quick-tempered.

We need to slow down and think about things before we respond in anger. We have all blurted out hurtful angry remarks and then wished we could take the words back. Slowing down can help us avoid these situations.

The next time someone does or says something that you don’t like—stop! Take a deep breath. Consider your response. You can avoid a lot of hurt and regret by making the right choices at this point.

Father, help me look beyond what people say and see their heart. Forgive me for the times I have responded to quickly—and foolishly—in anger. Teach me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Anger: Our Master or Our Servant
 by Larry Heath.

Don’t Lose Your Cool as a Mom

SOURCE:  Jenae Jacobson/Family Life

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

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

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

Before and during the situation

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

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

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

After the situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Disarm an Angry Person

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

It is the most difficult of maneuvers. There are no guarantees of success. And the stakes are high. But we have no choice: we must learn how to do it.

How do you disarm an angry person?

The angry person could be a child, parent, spouse, friend, neighbor or counselee. And, of course, we could use a little disarming ourselves sometimes.

It all depends on your preparation. Our most common responses to anger are either fear or anger – responses that have very little potential to disarm anyone. When you retreat or withdraw in fear, the angry person still has the loaded gun, and will keep it handy because the one with the gun wins. All they have to do is brandish their side arms around and angry people get what they want. The cycle never ends.

Following the old fight or flight tradition, others respond to angry people by getting out their own guns. After all, justice demands a fair fight. If the angry person is going to wave a gun, you will wave yours too. The problem here is fairly straightforward: someone is going to get hurt and since the angry person is likely to be more skilled and experienced than you, you are the one who gets shot. And yes, as in the cartoons, you get up to fight another day, but people are still shooting each other.

Your preparation for a more effective confrontation is counterintuitive, as are most of God’s ways.Humility is the way of strength. Weakness is the new unstoppable force. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). The cross of Jesus Christ changes everything. Satan himself – the angriest in all creation – is disarmed through self-sacrificial humility. The way to be a true human being, in all its strength, is now portrayed clearly in Jesus and is available through the Spirit.

For us, this path begins as we hold loosely to our desires. For example, most of us want something from the angry person – love and respect are high on that list. There is nothing wrong with wanting love and respect, but you would do best to shoot them yourself before the other person does. You will find that you won’t die. Instead, as you put to death the things that you want from the angry person, you will notice—perhaps for the first time—a hint of freedom and even boldness. When you have nothing to lose you can perform some unusual feats of strength.

Think about it. The angry person is screaming about how you are such an idiotic jerk, and if you aren’t as concerned with pleasing people or bolstering your own reputation, you can respond with something other than anger or fear. If the angry person’s pleasure or your own reputation is critical to you, you will be controlled by the angry person. So kill these before the other person shoots. The result is that there is nothing left to shoot, and you are free to speak from a place of weakness and say something like:

“Could you help me to see how I am an idiotic jerk – I will listen to you if you want to talk about it.” (Important note: NO sarcasm).

“What’s wrong?”

Or, you might decide that, at that moment, you can’t say anything to the deranged gunslinger, because you don’t have a clue what to say and the angry person has become an utter, animal-like fool, so you raise the anger incident later. With nothing to lose, your options are endless.

Track the life of Jesus and you will see that he was never angry because of the insults and derision of the religious leaders. He never took the attacks of others personally. That’s what happens when you live to enhance the Father’s reputation, you empty yourself of any interest in your own personal honor and reputation, and you love other people more than they love you. That’s what happens when you know that your Father is the perfect judge, so you don’t have to be the judge pro tem.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Here is how to move forward.

  1. Don’t minimize the destruction of anger. You are getting shot at! Of course it hurts.
  2. You are setting out to learn a disarming strategy that takes humility and love, and this is way over your head. As such, “Lord have mercy on me” is the order of the day.
  3. Remember that angry people are blind to their own anger. They are the last to know that they are killing people. Instead, all they see is that they are right and others are wrong. Assume that they are spiritual lunatics.
  4. Divest yourself of all the things you desire and cherish for yourself. Do you want love? Toss it and keep only the necessities, such as the desire to love. Do you need respect and understanding? It will only be an encumbrance. Get rid of it.
  5. Move toward the angry person in love and humility. Fear runs away, anger attacks. Humility and love move toward. In a surprise attack they blindside angry people with weakness. Your timing will be important. Sometimes you can say something while the gun is aimed. Other times you will wait and speak later.

The person’s anger could have many reasons – you being one. But murderous anger is always wrong. At some point, from your place of love and humility, you will hold up the mirror and help angry people see themselves (Matthew 7:5).

[Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF.]

Hindrances In Connecting With God: Idolatry

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

In the Old Testament, Israel not only struggled with unbelief, but also with idolatry.

Their hearts were drawn away from loving the one true God, and they began worshipping other things like a golden calf or a wooden pole. When we read these stories, we say to ourselves, “How stupid could they have been?” Yet, today we do the same things. Our idol isn’t a golden calf, but it is gold or money. It may not be a wooden pole but it might be the ladder of success or popularity.

One way I look for my idolatry is to be mindful of the things I love. Loving things other than God is not wrong, but God says that we are to love him first and most.

Often my other loves aren’t bad things; they’re good things that I love too much. Richard Baxter, a Puritan preacher and biblical counselor in the 1600s wrote, “Were nothing over loved, it would have no power to torment us.” One way we know whether we love something too much is to see how much power we give it to wreak havoc on our mental and emotional life when we think we might not get it.

Some people love approval and acceptance from others. Who doesn’t love it when everyone thinks we’re wonderful, but are we distraught when we don’t receive it? Do we get anxious and teary at the slightest hint of disapproval or rejection? Most of us love control and desire to have some measure of control over our lives and the people and things around us. But what happens to you and in you when you don’t have control? Do you become angry, fearful, or despondent? These emotions can be good warning lights to remind us that we have allowed our heart to be captured by other loves and we’re trusting in our idol instead of in God.

God says he is a jealous God and will show us our other loves (see Jeremiah 3), but he hates being second or third in our lives (Psalm 78:58). When we continue to love other things more than we love him, we forfeit our intimacy with him (Isaiah 42:17; Jonah 2:8). God won’t be relegated to the position of a cosmic errand boy that we call upon when we think we need him or want something. He wants to be our lover, our best friend, our King and our Lord.

Having idols distracts you and keeps you from intimacy and a deeper relationship with God. Anger, depression and discouragement may result when our idols disappoint us as they always will. We have lost our first love, and we are undone. This suffering will either draw our heart back towards God or make us bitter towards God.

God knows that we can only hold on to him with all of our heart when we have let go of everything else.

Q & A: Is My Spouse’s Verbal Abuse My Fault?

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Leslie Vernick

My husband says his verbal abuse is all my fault!

This week’s question is:  I read your blogs and books. My question is I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve read and re-read your book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. My husband fits the example of the “should” husband you talk about. He is a believer and has recently admitted to me that he has been verbally abusive after I told him the definition. For a long time he denied it, but he feels that I haven’t been submissive, respectful and obedient to him and that in order for our relationship to ever move forward I have to admit this to him and to our children, ages 17,15 and 11. We have been to counseling jointly and separately.

I have seen how my desire to please him has led to lots of problems. It has excused his behavior and allowed it for far too long. He is saying he has admitted his problems and I need to admit and change myself and the children’s attitude and behaviors toward him in order for him to stay. He has already seen an attorney as have I. Please help…I’m so tired.

Answer:  You seem exhausted trying to be heard and understood. It sounds like your husband is still saying that all your marital problems are your fault. Of course he now admits to being verbally abusive toward you but it’s because you haven’t been respectful, submissive or obedient. So if you change, in his mind, all will be well.

From your question, it sounds like you have tried to please him and that your desire to gain his approval has actually led to more abuse. He’s saying he’s admitted his problem but what exactly has he admitted to? Losing his temper when you won’t do what he says you “should” and then blaming you for his ugly words? That doesn’t sound like the kind of change you’ll need to turn this around. Does he not have any responsibility to learn to handle his disappointment and anger toward you in a godly way?

You might want to ask him, “Do you believe you’re entitled to verbally abuse me when I fail you, upset you, or disappoint you? How do you think other men respond when their wives upset them? Do all of them become verbally abusive or do some of them handle their anger or disappointment in a more constructive way?”

I also want you to consider whether or not it’s true that you have been disrespectful toward your husband and/or contributed to the children’s poor attitudes toward their father. Confession of wrong doing is important in relationships and is a very important first step toward healing and reconciliation. You’ll have to pray about that and examine your heart and past behaviors to see if there are specific ways or times you have been disrespectful, even if in the context of being provoked.

There are some husbands who believe that if their wife doesn’t give them carte blanche authority or if she questions his judgment in a situation, she is being disrespectful, disobedient and/or unsubmissive. I don’t believe God’s words teaches that submission means that we don’t have a right to question or challenge our spouse or that we are called to live with our eyes closed and mouth shut especially when we observe our spouse driving the entire family straight off the cliff.

On the other hand, there are many things that we as wives comment on that our husband’s may find disrespectful even if we don’t see them that way. For example, my husband hates when I question why he chooses to drive to the shopping mall a different way that I would have gone. He sees that as “You don’t know how to drive as good as I do.” I don’t mean it that way; I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t choose our normal route. But he’s different than I am, and he has every right to think and choose differently than I would.

People are not blank walls that do not have any of their own thoughts, feelings, and personality. Yet some men seem to want their wife’s entire life to revolve around loving him, serving him, and doing whatever will make him happy. If she balks, or wants to do something of her own, he finds that unloving or disrespectful. Trying harder to be that kind of woman will only result in more abuse and selfishness on the part of your husband.

Going back to your question, you’ve both been to counselors and both been to attorneys. If you and your husband both want to make your marriage work, it begins by identifying what the root problem is. You can’t apply the right medicine to something if you don’t have the right diagnosis. I don’t think you’ve reached any consensus on this. Perhaps the best course at this time is to see a counselor (who understands the dynamics of verbal abuse), not for treatment per se, but to create a working definition of the problem so you can both decide whether or not you want to do the necessary repairs and changing to reconcile your relationship.

Hindrances In Connecting With God: Bitterness

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

There is a huge difference between not understanding God, even complaining to him about our plight, and being bitter with him about it.

Job experienced severe loss, great physical pain, and relationship difficulties that would trigger deep depression in most of us. Job was confused, hurt, and angry, but in all of this, Job did not get bitter toward God. Job spoke honestly about his feelings, all the while hoping in God’s character (Job 13:15; Job 16:19-21; Job 19:25-27).

Although we’d be ashamed to admit it, some of us are in a relationship with God only for what he gives us.

Our bitterness exposes this truth. So does our chronic grumbling and complaining (see Exodus 16:8). When God doesn’t come through for us as we’d like or expect him to, our bitterness says, “God, you’ve failed me. You do not love me very well. You’re not giving me what I need to live my life the way I want or planned.”

This was Jonah’s response to God when God allowed the vine that sheltered him to wither. Jonah became so angry with God that he said, “I am angry enough to die” (Jonah 4:9). Through this loss, God was trying to show Jonah that their relationship was superficial and hindered by Jonah’s self-centeredness and lack of love. Jonah desired God’s favor and love for himself, but he didn’t want to show God’s compassion or love to others.

These painful experiences aren’t meant to drive us from God, but to expose our sin and our incorrect or distorted view of God. Often in our anger, we’re not honestly looking for God. We’re just looking for him to make things better for us or give us what we want. In order to remove this stumbling block, we must learn to humble ourselves, allowing God to be God and draw near to him so that he can change our heart.

If you find yourself chronically angry and bitter with God because you feel he’s gypped you out of something you need, understand you’ve fallen for the oldest lie Satan’s used.

Isn’t that what he told Eve? You need more than God already gave you?

How do we change this mindset?  God always loves us and cares for us even when we’re mad at him or involved with other loves, but we might not be noticing it or appreciating it because all we have eyes for is what we’re lacking.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, each morning write in your journal three to five specific things you can thank God for. At the end of the day, draw your attention to ways God has shown his love and care for you that day. Thank him. Our relationship with others grows deeper and sweeter when we appreciate them and notice the little things they do for us.

The same is true with God.

ANGER: Right OR Wrong?

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry … but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” Ephesians 4:26-27 MSG

Anger: right or wrong?

The answer is that anger is right … but it can be wrong.

Anger is God-given emotional energy designed for good. The expression of this anger-produced energy can lead to sin … but it doesn’t have to. With God’s help, we can control our thoughts and actions.

The Bible tells of many times when anger was a positive force for good. Moses’ anger when the Israelites worshipped idols resulted in their repentance (Exodus 32:19-35). Jesus’ anger motivated him to clear abusers from his Father’s temple (Luke 19:45-48).

Our anger can be a positive force as well.

Appropriate anger at our children’s wrong behaviors can motivate us as parents to exert firm but loving discipline. Anger against injustices and wrongdoing in our communities can motivate us to do something positive about the situation.

Our anger can also lead to sinful acts of selfishness, unkindness or even aggression. It is our responsibility to use our anger-induced energy in positive ways, even if it’s just walking around the block to cool off.

The next time you feel angry, remember that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s your choice.

Father, forgive me for the times I have used my anger in sinful ways instead of as a positive force. Help me control my thoughts and actions and to use my anger in positive ways. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

When Fears Collide

SOURCE:  Elaine Creasman/Today’s Christian Woman

Four ways you can grow closer by dealing with what scares you

I’ve noticed when the dust settles after a major fight, and Steve and I communicate about what caused the dispute, one word comes up repeatedly.

That word is fear.

Every husband and wife enters marriage with fears. It’s part of what some counselors call “our baggage.” Too often when a fear in my husband is combined with a fear I’m battling, explosions occur that threaten to destroy our marriage. Steve and I didn’t know this early on, and we had battles that rivaled heavyweight matches in their intensity. Yet we’ve been fortunate over time to bring our fears out in the open and deal with them. Here are some ways we did that, and in the process strengthened our marriage and increased our intimacy.

1. Ask God to reveal fears.

As I’ve asked God to show me my fears, he has. One day when I asked, “What am I so afraid of?” after a skirmish with my husband related to my cooking, God revealed this, which I communicated to Steve:

“Honey, when you criticize my cooking, it really stirs up my fear of failure.”

Then I gave details.

“When I was growing up my father was a perfectionist, and I felt like I couldn’t please him. It seemed no matter what I did, such as cook him a meal, he had a negative comment about it. When you criticize me, I feel as if I’m a failure as a wife, just like I felt I was a failure as a daughter.”

It was after one of many fights that Steve and I began talking more about our childhoods. In doing so, we realized my number-one fear was fear of rejection—especially from men.

Because much of my feeling rejected as a child was because of my father’s anger, Steve’s anger triggered my fear of rejection.

On the other hand, Steve’s number-one fear was being controlled by women because of his mom’s and older sister’s controlling ways.

So how had I been trying to avoid feeling rejected and hurt by my husband’s anger? I had attempted to control him. And how did he try to keep me from controlling him? By using anger, which I interpreted as rejection. What a vicious cycle.

God revealed that our deep fears were colliding and setting off sparks which led to fiery fights. Once we became aware, we also became more empathetic. Our fighting has decreased dramatically.

Now when Steve raises his voice, I know that one reason might be fear that I’m trying to control him. I can back off and return later with a gentler approach.

After revealing our fears, we began to pray for healing. We are still in the process of being healed of childhood hurts, which are at the root of our fears.

2. Be honest and loving when communicating fears.

When I’ve asked Steve, “What are you afraid of?” I’ve wanted him to be honest instead of acting macho and saying, “Me? I’m afraid of nothing.” He has been.

I have to be honest also. Sometimes I want to pretend I’ve overcome all fears. But the truth is, fears seem to stay hidden like weeds underground. At various times—especially during trials and hardships—suddenly they’re back and trying to choke the life out of our marriage.

I’ve learned that when Steve admits a fear and gives details, I need to show empathy and not say things like “You shouldn’t be afraid of that.” Because Steve and I have different fears, it’s easy for me to think, “That’s a silly fear” or “He should be over that by now.” Instead, I need to remember that our fears were formed in childhood and are deeply rooted and not necessarily logical.

As we became honest with one another and before God, my husband and I made lists of our top fears. Each of the fears on our lists is intertwined with other fears on that list.

Steve’s top three fears:
Fear of being controlled by a woman
Fear of failure
Fear of intimacy

Elaine’s top three fears:
Fear of rejection—especially from men
Fear of failure
Fear of feeling disconnected

To help him understand my fears, I told my husband more about my family of origin. I related that I had often felt disconnected. We had a large family with eight children. I remember longing for more time with my parents and thinking that if I ran away no one would miss me. This left me with a longing for intimacy and reassurance that might be greater than other people’s. This collided with Steve’s fear of intimacy.
I communicated to my husband that after we were married I noticed he seemed to enjoy being disconnected from me and spending long periods of time alone (because of his fear of intimacy).

These days, he works at initiating time together, and I work at not triggering his fear of intimacy by avoiding demanding togetherness. Instead I invite it—something a counselor taught me. I’ve realized that demanding intimacy from someone who is afraid of it and fears being controlled is not a good idea and can ignite a fight.

As I maintain an awareness of Steve’s fears and my own, I can keep them in mind to avert a conflict or fight. He tries to do the same.

3. Avoid taking things personally.

Early in our marriage, Steve seemed angry so often. At first I saw him as a monster who wanted to destroy my soul. But as I prayed about how God saw him, I realized he was like a frightened child (just like my dad). That picture of him helped me to not withdraw, lash out, or take to heart his hurtful words when he got angry. Instead I asked him or the Lord what he was afraid of at the moment.

For instance, Steve often got angry about money. He would shout, “Where did all the money go?” If I couldn’t remember every penny I spent, he seemed about to panic. I would argue about how unreasonable he was being. This only caused him to shout louder.

Why? God showed me that it was because I wasn’t dealing with the fear he had—the fear of being a failure as a provider.

These days if he starts to get upset about money, I realize it’s not about me, and I remember he battles that fear. Then I say something to calm the fear rather than try to argue against the anger and/or defend myself and my spending habits (I confess I do sometimes waste money).

What works is to say, “Honey, you’ve been an excellent provider. And God has been faithful to bless us financially over many years. I don’t think he’s going to stop now.”

4. Seek the Lord to deal with fears.

I can’t make Steve deal with his fears, but I can do what the Lord leads me to do so I can deal with mine.

The verse I’ve clung to in dealing with fears is Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (NIV).This is not a one-time seeking. Whenever fear rises up in me, I try to go to God and pray my way through it. I like how one man put it: “I go to God in prayer afraid, and then I keep on praying until I am no longer afraid.”

Another verse that helps me overcome fears is Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (NIV). Often I’m afraid because I feel Steve can’t be trusted, but that’s OK. As I learn to put my trust more fully in the Lord, fears dissolve.

I’ve concluded that perhaps all of our fears are tied in with trust issues. But can anyone but the Lord be trusted 100 percent? I don’t have to trust my husband completely to love him.

Steve’s fears sometimes cause him to reject, disconnect, and communicate, “You’re a failure” when he criticizes. That triggers my fears and my desire to fight, but instead of concluding, “He doesn’t love me anymore,” I can choose to allow God’s perfect love to flow through me to Steve. This erases my fears and soothes his. As God’s Word reminds me, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18, NIV).

Dealing with fears can take a lifetime together. When fears collide, we can let them take over or work with each other to defeat them, realizing that fear—not our spouse—is an enemy of peace and intimacy in marriage.

Steve and I have chosen to embrace this Scripture for both of us and for our marriage: “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

Elaine Creasman is a freelance writer and speaker living in Largo, Florida. She and her husband, Stephen, have been married for more than 30 years. They have two grown daughters and one granddaughter.

Loss: Downsized or Fired?

SOURCE:   Living Free

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” 

Psalm 139:13-18 NLT

In these days of industrial downsizing, as many as 3.5 million workers are laid off or fired each year. Loss of a job can produce anger, guilt, grief and fear.

If you have recently lost your job, you might be feeling like a complete failure. It is vital for you to understand that your worth is not measured by what other people think of you—it is measured by God’s love for you. And his love is unlimited and unconditional.

While it is important to evaluate your own job performance and learn from any mistakes you might have made, it is also important to remember that you are precious to God and he wants to help you through this loss.

Remember—you are special. Not because of what you have or haven’t done. Because God made you and his workmanship is marvelous! His thoughts about you are precious. When you wake up each morning, he will still be with you!

Evaluate what has happened, learn from it, forgive if you’ve been treated unfairly … then move on, trusting God for his plan for you, his help, his love and his strength.

Father, help me to remember that my worth is not determined by what I’ve done or not done … it’s not determined by what other people think of me … but it’s determined by the fact that you designed me, and you loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. Thank you for loving me … thank you for caring … thank you that with your help, I can move one with hope. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Handling Loss and Grief: How to Face Losses in Life and Grieve Christianly by Raymond T. Brock, Ed.D.

The “Passive Aggressive” Always Wins

SOURCE:   Les Carter, Ph.D./AACC

As Nancy rolled her eyes, heaving an exaggerated sigh, her face said it all.

She was at her wits end, not knowing how to proceed with her husband, Norman. “He’s the most unreachable person I know,” she said with exhausted self-restraint. “He’ll make one promise after another about improving our marriage but nothing ever comes of it. I’ve talked with him until I’m blue in the face. I’ve pleaded. I’ve cried. I’ve yelled. But nothing can get him to change course. In fact, the more I persuade, the more it seems to energize him in the wrong direction.”

Nancy went on to explain how Norman was the type of money manager who could screw up any budget. He was a slob and a procrastinator. Rarely did he follow through on chores. Occasionally she would receive reassurances from him about being more responsible, but inevitably she would later realize he was just saying what was needed to get her off his back. Commonly he would give one-word responses to her queries. Sometimes he would not speak at all when spoken to. He was secretive. He forgot birthdays. He had moments when he seemed friendly, yet he was not affectionate and had no particular interest in sex.

“What angers me the most,” she said, “is that he did such a good sales job to get me to marry him. Prior to the wedding he was a gentleman. He was considerate and had a sense of humor. I genuinely believed he liked me because he was so available.” Sighing heavily again, she said, “I feel so defrauded.”

Nancy was living with the quintessential passive aggressive person.

This manner of life is typified by belittling treatment of others via non-cooperation, evasiveness, being dismissive, and avoiding emotional attachments. The goal of the passive aggressive person is to preserve self’s perceived needs at the other person’s expense with the least personal vulnerability. Though they may never speak these words overtly, their behavior covertly communicates: “Try as hard as you like, but you will never pin me down. I’m only interested in my agenda.”

To the passive aggressive, relationships are a competition and they will win no matter the cost.

While passive aggressive people may indeed have pleasant and congenial moments, time eventually reveals such qualities to be part of a disguise. Beneath the surface are trends that could be adjusted but are not.

Most prominent among these trends are: (1) a quiet commitment to anger, (2) entrenched fear, and (3) a powerful need for control. Let’s look at each separately.

A quiet commitment to anger.

Some people falsely assume that anger is only evidenced in loud raucous behaviors. If you do not shout or curse or throw things, so the reasoning goes, you probably do not have anger issues. Anger, however, is not that one-dimensional. It is the emotion of self-preservation, prompting individuals to stand up for personal worth, presumed needs, and core convictions. Communicated respectfully, it can actually serve a useful purpose.

Passive aggressive persons have determined to manage their anger on the sly. Wanting to maintain the upper hand, they disdain clean anger since it requires an attitude of dignity and equality. In the spirit of competition, their behavior quietly shouts: “I like my anger because it deflates you and I’ll punish you every time you attempt to put me into your mold.”

Entrenched fear.

Passive aggressive individuals find traits like openness and accountability threatening. They tell themselves, “If I fully expose my feelings or perceptions, you’ll try to invalidate me.” They operate with low confidence that others can be trusted. It is likely that they have historically received shame messages, so they have determined that no one will ever again succeed in making them emotionally vulnerable. Their defenses are overly developed because they are so binary (all or nothing) in their thinking that they do not consider the possibility that some individuals would truly like to relate as one equal to another. They do not allow such hopeful thinking to guide their behaviors.

The need for control.

Passive aggressive people are convinced that the way to succeed in relationships is to be as fully in control as possible. Being cooperative or understanding would mean giving up chunks of power, something they absolutely will not do. When another person has a separate opinion or preference, it cannot be managed at face value. It is instead interpreted as the other person intending to dominate, prompting all sorts of stubborn retorts.

People like Nancy who are trying to come to terms with someone like Norman often make a common mistake by asking the seemingly reasonable question: “How can I make that person cooperate?” Such a question positions them to enter into the One-up/One-down game that they will surely lose. It is a guarantee that when they try to force standards upon the passive aggressive, adversarial responses will ensue.

When advising others about ways to respond cleanly to passive aggressive behaviors, I offer three notions:

1. Recognize that the other person’s behavior is not a referendum about your worth. Do not attempt to persuade that person to give you the respect that will not be given.

2. In sober moments speak non-coercively about your desires for the relationship. Make no demands, but be clear about your preference for honest, fulfilling exchanges.

3. Live with well-defined personal boundaries. If the other person chooses to be difficult, you can proceed with resolve and consequences. Maintain calm firmness even as you choose not to beg for cooperation.

It is sad that some individuals maintain a commitment to an adversarial manner, yet you can determine not to become so drawn into the undertow that you too become unhealthy. The passive aggressive may persist in the attempt to win, but you do not lose when you opt out of the game of rude responses.

————————————————————————————

Dr. Les Carter is the best-selling author of The Anger Workbook and The Anger Trap. He maintains a private practice at the Southlake Psychiatric and Counseling Center in Southlake, Tx.

Unresolved Anger Has Poisonous Roots!

SOURCE:  Adapted from  Lighthouse Network

When you feel angry with someone or something, do you express your feelings … or do you hold the anger inside?

People who bury their anger usually believe they are doing the right thing by appearing calm on the outside and not blowing up. The reality, however, is that unresolved anger will fester and develop into resentment, bitterness, or even depression.

Some people respond to anger by immediately holding it in, and then releasing it or letting it go a short time later without hurting themselves or others. We can do this by playing ball or scrubbing the dishes while calming down, and then having an honest conversation with the person who upset us. When we handle our feelings like this, the results are often beneficial. But if you tend to hold your anger inside and grow resentful, ask God to help you share your angry feelings with people as they occur. We don’t want to share in a rage or with unkind words. We just want an honest but controlled expression of our feelings.

The Bible teaches that we shouldn’t carry anger overnight. Get it settled before going to bed. Otherwise, it’s likely that resentment will grow. We see various Bible passages in which God and Jesus expressed their anger or displeasure, but did so with a heart, motivation, and method that were healthy and purposeful.

Anger is just a God-given warning system … letting us know when a real or potential problem exists. Thankfully, until you actually do something about the underlying problem, your brain will continue to warn you. Not addressing the problem is what allows anger to grow, fester, and come out in harmful ways. Or it can be directed inward and lead to negative self-talk, low self-image, depression, isolation, or self-loathing. The negativity against ourselves may include cutting, excessive piercing and tattooing, addictions, or promiscuity.

Perhaps you are already experiencing bitterness because of unexpressed grievances from the past. The answer: when anger starts to warn you, acknowledge the hurt … forgive or ask for forgiveness … address and solve the original problem. You won’t have to work hard at letting go of the anger … because, when the problem is resolved, that original anger will quickly melt away.

Holding on to bitterness can damage your relationship with God, relationships with others, and your peace of mind. It even harms your health, especially your heart, blood pressure, digestive system, and brain chemistry. Being a problem solver, and forgiving and being forgiven can change all that. Ask God … He will guide and help you.

Today, if you notice that someone is angry, ask them, “You seem angry or upset. That anger is warning you about some problem. Can I help you work on or solve that problem?” Ask yourself the same question as well.  What you do with your emotions is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, forgive me and help me deal with the resentment and bitterness I have been carrying. Give me the strength and wisdom to move forward by acknowledging the hurt, controlling my anger, identifying the problem, solving the underlying issue, and forgiving. Thank You for the wonderful way You designed me. Help me understand that design better so I can be a great steward of my mind and free will. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the best mirror for my eye exam, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

Hebrews 12:15

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

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