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Posts tagged ‘control’

7 Toxic Behaviors You Should Never Tolerate

SOURCE:    /Psych Central

Humans tend to normalize behaviors of close intimates, tucking certain responses and behaviors into folders labeled: “Just the way he is” or “So typical of her.”

We do that because, in the moment, we chose to stay in the relationship, even though the sailing isn’t always smooth. Some of the time, we fail to recognize that we’re actually excusing behaviors that should never be tolerated. People with insecure attachment styles whose emotional needs weren’t met in childhood do this more often and for longer than securely attached people who are much more likely to call out hurtful behavior because, for them, it’s anomalous.

Those who were used to being marginalized, ignored, mocked or picked on in their childhood homes are much more likely to normalize or excuse bad behaviors. It’s a bit like the pile of boots and shoes by the front door that you get so used to that alas you no longer see it. (For a more in-depth discussion of how this affects unloved daughters, see my new book, Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life.

Tools of manipulation and power

All of these behaviors are ways of exerting control over you, and are signs of an imbalance of power in the relationship, as well as clues to the other person’s motivations. Some of them are more obvious than others but the real key is whether or not you’re calling them out for what they are or whether you’re pleasing, appeasing, rationalizing, denying, or making excuses. We all need to take responsibility for whether or how we tolerate behaviors that shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s emotional landscape.

Marginalizes your thoughts and feelings

Laughing at you or telling you that he or she doesn’t care what you think is not okay, or that your feelings are unimportant or perhaps laughable. Or that your thoughts are wrong—based on fuzzy thinking—or that you’re “too sensitive” or “too emotional.” These are manipulations, pure and simple.

Calls you names or disparages you

It’s one thing to complain about someone’s action or inaction—how he or she failed to deliver on a promise, kept you waiting for an hour, didn’t take out the trash, etc. It’s quite another to criticize someone’s character, replete with examples; These criticisms usually begin with the words “You never” or “You always,” and what follows is a litany of everything the other person finds lacking or wrong about you. This is not okay, ever. If this is a pattern in the relationship and you feel denigrated or put-down most of the time, do not rationalize the other person’s behavior by making excuses (“He only called me names because he was frustrated with me” or “She really didn’t mean what she said. It was just the heat of the moment.”) By making excuses, you encourage the behavior and, yes, normalize it.

Gaslights you

This is a power play, used by people who perceive the other person in the relationship as weaker or easily manipulated; parents do it to children, using the force of their authority, as do adults who are intent on control. The gaslighter calls the other person’s perceptions or vision of reality into question by denying that something was said or done, and then suggesting that you’ve made it up or misunderstood. The gaslighter preys on what he or she knows about your level of confidence in your perceptions as well as your insecurity and games both.

Treats you with contempt

Mockery, laughing at you, or displaying physical gestures like eye-rolling to communicate contempt for you, your words, and your actions is never okay and always aimed at exerting control over you. Every healthy relationship requires mutual respect, and the absence of contempt should be a hard-and-fast rule for everyone.

Projects his or her feelings on to you

In his book, Rethinking Narcissism, Dr. Craig Malkin points this out as a narcissist’s favorite ploy, calling it “playing emotional hot potato.” Rather than own his or her feelings and take responsibility for them, the narcissist projects those onto you—trying to make his or her anger yours, for example. This shifts the balance of power in a subtle way because while you can see his anger—his fists are clenched, his jaw muscles working, his face is flushed—now you’re on the defensive, saying that you’re not angry.

Manipulates your insecurities

This ploy is akin to gaslighting but goes further to shut you down, stop you from speaking out, and keeps you contained and controlled. With this behavior, he or she takes advantage of the knowledge he or she has about you—that you get nervous when someone gets angry, that you’re likely to back down if you’re challenged strongly enough, or that a stray comment about your weight will make you docile and apologetic, for example—and uses it to make sure you stay in line. This can be harder to see but if it’s a pattern, you’re floating in a toxic sea.

Stonewalls you

A refusal to listen or even discuss an issue you’ve brought up is one of the most toxic behaviors of all, and both frustrating and demeaning at once. The worst thing you can do is take responsibility for someone’s refusal to communicate, especially by falling into the habit of self-criticism or blaming yourself for picking the “wrong time” to initiate discussion and the like. This is a highly toxic and manipulative behavior—that’s the bottom line.

All of the behaviors are efforts at control. They have no place in a healthy relationship.

10 Signs You May be an Authoritarian Parent

SOURCE:  Amy Morin, LCSW/verywell.com

 “My Way or the Highway”

Authoritarian parenting is one of the four main parenting styles recognized by researchers. It’s characterized by rigid rules and high demands. Authoritarian parents have high standards and can be highly critical when those standards aren’t met. They also tend to offer less emotional warmth compared to authoritative parents. Read on to find out if you exhibit any of the characteristics of an authoritarian parent.

  1. You have little patience for misbehavior.

Authoritarian parents don’t want to waste energy explaining why something isn’t a good choice and they’re not likely to spend much time discussing feelings. Instead, when a child breaks the rules, they’re more likely to remind him that he should “know better” without any room for discussion.

  1. You try hard to control your child’s behavior.

Rather than teach children to control themselves, authoritarian parents exert their control. Kids have fewer choices and fewer opportunities to practice self-discipline. The focus is on obeying the rules, with little room for creativity.

  1. You try to shame your child into behaving.

Authoritarian parents are very critical. They may say things like, “You aren’t a good listener,” or, “How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?” They aren’t concerned about building or preserving a child’s self-esteem. In fact, they often think that shaming a child is one of the best ways to motivate him to behave better next time.

  1. You don’t hesitate to use corporal punishment.

Spanking is used liberally in authoritarian households. Parents may use other forms of corporal punishment – such as making a child do push-ups or assigning manual labor – as a consequence for misbehavior.

Read More: Is Spanking Effective?

  1. You don’t believe in ‘exceptions to the rule.’

You won’t catch an authoritarian parent negotiating. Their children certain don’t get any type of vote and it’s made clear that the household rules aren’t up for discussion. Parents often leave little room for any “gray area.”

  1. You’d rather use punishments than positive reinforcement.

Most authoritarian parents don’t believe in rewarding kids for good behavior. They think that kids should behave well and don’t need to be praised or rewarded simply for following the rules. But as soon as a rule is broken, a consequence is swiftly handed out.

  1. You value discipline over fun.

Authoritarian parents are more likely to be nagging or yelling rather than playing with their kids. They tend to want kids to behave in an orderly fashion and they expect them to “be seen and not heard” most of the time.

  1. You have a lot of rules.

While permissive parents have few rules, authoritarian parents thrive on having rules about everything. In addition to household rules about safety or morality, there are often unwritten rules about how to do things “right.” Authoritarian parents often micromanage their children. They may hover while their children do their homework or complete their chores to make sure that everything is done in the manner they want.

  1. You don’t trust your child to make good decisions.

Authoritarian parents have interesting expectations of their children. Although they have high expectations, they don’t allow for enough freedom for kids to show that they can be trusted. They’re quick to enforce their demands and prevent children from making mistakes and facing natural consequences.

  1. You often say, “Because I said so!”

Authoritarian parents don’t waste time explaining the underlying reasons why certain rules need to be followed or why they’ve set certain limits. Instead, they’re famous for saying, “Because I said so!” They expect that to be the end of the discussion and don’t invite a child to weigh in with his opinion about why he disagrees or why he thinks the rules are unfair.

 

It’s Not About the Toilet Seat: Understanding Power Struggles in Marriage

SOURCE:  Ron Welch, Psy.D/AACC

“Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.” —William Gaddis

In my forthcoming book The Controlling Husband: What Every Woman Needs to Know (Baker/Revell, 2014), I write:

“It can happen in the car, at the ball game, in the grocery store, on the phone—you name the place—and if the conditions are right, you and the one you love can end up in a disagreement. It may start as a minor difference of opinion, and sometimes it ends right there. There are times, though, that the disagreement turns into an argument and the argument into a major conflict. Some of you can get into arguments that would make your mother (or at least your grandmother) blush. Others of you have perfected the silent treatment. Regardless of your technique, you are probably concerned about how conflict is being handled in your relationship.

Control and power in relationships are best seen on a continuum; they will be present in all relationships to some degree. Sometimes the power struggles are very small and easily resolved, while others can last for hours or even days. In a world of finite resources, there is no way we can have everything we want. There are times when negotiation is possible, but often, one party (or both) has to give up some of what they want. If the power struggles are resolved well, through honest and direct communication, couples can move on and be no worse for wear. However, when resentment builds up and scorecards are kept, trouble is just around the corner.”

Lest you think I am simply writing about clients I have worked with or sharing some ivory tower concept written from afar, let me share one other excerpt that explains why this is personal for me: “I never wanted to be that guy…you know, the one who thinks the world revolves around him and lets everyone else know it, the man who always wants to be in charge and drives people nuts because he always thinks he’s right. Somehow, without even realizing it was happening, I became that guy. I’ve heard all the names—control freak, ego maniac, narcissist, know-it-all, controlaholic (okay I made that last one up)—but you get the picture. For many years, I was the poster boy for controlling husbands.

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly bad man and I don’t believe I suffer from any specific mental illness. I can be narcissistic at times, I have problems with anger control, and I can be extremely selfish, but I’m not evil. What I have done is spent much of my marriage caring more about myself than my wife and children.”

Here is what I think a counselor needs to understand about power struggles in marriage: they are not about what they are about. Let me say this another way—a power struggle that occurs due to a conflict over where to go for dinner is not about the dinner. I’m a huge process guy—I think most things those of who serve as therapists deal with are much more about the process than the content.

Let’s use the timeless example of the husband leaving the toilet seat up—something most couples who have been married can relate to. When he leaves the toilet seat up and she becomes offended, it’s not about the toilet seat.

She is hurt because she feels that he doesn’t care enough to think about the inconvenience leaving the seat up causes her (even though it doesn’t really take a tremendous amount of effort to put it back down). It’s the principle of the thing, right?

Power struggles in marriage are often based more on issues of safety and security than on any specific difference of opinion. One partner feels threatened or unsafe, while the other may be defending his or her territory out of fear of losing the security of being in control. As counselors and therapists, we would do well to focus on the underlying issues of safety and security, instead of the surface conflict that represents only the tip of the iceberg.

I know for me, focusing on my own selfishness, which is rooted in insecurity and anxiety, is the best way to understand power struggles that I find myself involved in. When I get away from the content of the disagreement and focus on the process driving it, the power struggle goes away, and I can deal with the real issues that created it. I think you will find this to be true with the clients who allow you the privilege of working with them, also.

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Dr. Ron Welch has been a clinical psychologist for over 20 years and is the author of the book, The Controlling HusbandWhat Every Woman Needs to Know (Baker-Revell, June 2014).

8 Signs You’re a Codependent

SOURCE:  Elements Behavioral Health

Many people who love an alcoholic or addict begin to lose themselves in the relationship. They frequently struggle to control or change the person they love and after a while they become reactive and may barely be able to remember their own goals and dreams. In many cases, loving an addict affects people to their core and overtakes their lives.

When this happens, the addict is no longer the only sick person in the relationship. The other person has developed a disorder called codependency.

How do you know if you have developed this disorder? One way to describe it is that codependency is an unhealthy way of relating in which you have made your relationship more important than your own well-being. You may not be addicted to drugs or alcohol yourself, but you are addicted to the addict. You revolve your life around drama and unpredictability. You forget how to focus on anything except the addict.

There are many other characteristics of people who are codependent. You may have all of these characteristics or only one or two.

  • Low self-esteem – Codependents often don’t feel very good about themselves, and they look outside themselves for someone to let them know they are OK. People may feel unlovable deep down even if they appear to be self-assured. 
  • Strong nurturing tendencies – If you like taking care of other people and tend to put their needs ahead of your own, you may have a problem with codependency. You may put a lot of energy into fixing other people, solving their problems or trying to do things for them that they should do for themselves.
  • Desire to be in control – What do codependents get out of remaining in dysfunctional relationships? In many cases, they have a strong desire to be in control. By taking care of an addict or another person who appears incapable of managing his or her own life, the codependent gets to run the show.
  • Desire to be pleasing others – If you’re a codependent, you may spend a lot of time desperately seeking approval from other people. You may bail the addict out of his problems or lie for him or try to solve all of his problems because you don’t know how else to get love.
  • Being reactive – Are you a bundle of emotions all the time? Do you spend a lot of time and energy imagining the worst possible outcome of things that happen? Do you find yourself reacting to what you think other people are thinking? If you are a codependent, you may fly off the handle because you think someone gave you a “dirty look,” or you may pick up on emotions that other people are feeling because you are so other-centered.
  • Failure to set healthy boundaries – You may have a hard time distinguishing where other people end and you begin. You may obsess about other people’s problems as if they were your own.
  • Dependence – If you are a codependent, the thought of not having someone to revolve your life around feels like the end of the world. You may have a strong fear of abandonment, or you may panic at the thought of rejection. You may remain in a painful or abusive relationship because you are terribly afraid of being alone.
  • Often experiencing negative emotions – You may be filled with a lot of negative emotions. You may be sad, angry, depressed, resentful, fearful, irritable or anxious. Life may seem to be full of one disappointment after another and you may feel hopeless. Or you may be so weary of feeling negative emotions that you have learned to numb out your feelings.

Codependents often deny that they have any kind of a disorder. They believe their problems are caused by others, so they continually obsess about fixing the other person. But if you’re a codependent, the only person you can fix is you.

If you recognize yourself in some of these behaviors, consider attending a meeting, try Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon. You can also approach a therapist or minister to talk about your behavior patterns or struggles. Recognizing that you have a problem with codependency is the first step toward self-love and healing. 

Spiritual Abuse: What it is and Why it Hurts

SOURCE:  Dr. Phil Monroe

In 21st century United States, does spiritual abuse really happen? Can’t we all just choose churches where we feel safe? No one makes us (adults) go to church so shouldn’t spiritual abuse be nonexistent in this day—or at least happen only once (e.g., fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…)?

Sadly, spiritual abuse happens in all sorts of churches and for all sorts of reasons.

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse is the use of faith, belief, and/or religious practices to coerce, control, or damage another for a purpose beyond the victim’s well-being (i.e., church discipline for the purpose of love of the offender need not be abuse).

Like child abuse, spiritual abuse comes in many forms. It can take the form of neglect or intentional harm of another. It can take the form of naïve manipulation or predatory “feeding on the sheep.” Consider some of these examples:

  1. Refusing to provide pastoral care to women on the basis of gender alone
  2. Coercing reconciliation of victim to offender
  3. Dictating basic decisions (marriage, home ownership, jobs, giving practices, etc.)
  4. Binding conscience on matters that are in the realm of Christian freedom
  5. Using threats to maintain control of another
  6. Using deceptive language to coerce into sexual activity
  7. Denying the right to divorce despite having grounds to do so

For a short review, consider Mary DeMuth’s 2011 post on spotting spiritual abuse.

Why it is so harmful

If someone demands your wallet, you may give it but you do not think they have a right to it. You have no doubt that an injustice has occurred. You have been robbed! When someone abuses, it is a robbery but often wrapped up in a deceptive package to make the victim feel as if the robbery was actually a gift. Spiritual abuse almost always is couched in several layers of deception. Here’s a few of those layers:

  1. Speaking falsely for God. Spiritual leaders or shepherds abuse most frequently by presenting their words as if they were the words of God himself. They may not say “Thus sayeth the Lord” in so many ways but they speak with authority. When leaders fail to communicate God’s words and attitudes, they are called false teachers and prophets. Some of these false words include squelching dissent and concern in the name of “unity.”
  2. Over-emphasizing one doctrinal point while minimizing another. Consider the example of Paul, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). In three other places in the NT, Paul says similar phrases. The application is that our leaders are to exemplify the character of Christ. Sadly, it is easy to turn this into, “do what I want you to do.” Paul does not say to imitate him. He says to imitate him whenhe imitates Christ. There are other examples as well: forcing forgiveness, demanding victims of abuse to confront their abusers in private so that they will meet the letter of Matthew 18.
  3. Good ends justifying means. It is a sad fact that many victims of other kinds of abuse have been asked to be silent for the sake of community comfort. Indeed, community comfort is important. But forcing a victim of abuse to be silent and to forego seeking justice is a form of spiritual abuse.
  4. Pretending to provide pastoral care. I have talked with several pastors who crossed into sexual behavior with those they have been charged to counsel. All too commonly, the pastor deceived self and other into thinking that the special attention given to the parishioner was love and compassion. In fact, their actions were always self-serving. However, the layer of deception made it feel (to both parties) like love in the beginning stages.

The reason why spiritual abuse hurts so much is that it always fosters confusion, self-doubt, and shame. This recipe encourages isolation, self-hatred, and questioning of God. When shepherds abuse, the sheep are scattered and confused. They no longer discern the voice of the true Shepherd.

This is exactly why the Old Testament and New Testament speak in such harsh terms against abusive and neglectful Shepherd: Ezekiel 34:2; Jeremiah 50:6; John 10:9. Words like, “woe to you…” and “you blind guides…” reveal that spiritual abuse for any reason is destructive and is not of God. And it gets no harsher than, “better than a millstone be tied to your neck and thrown into the sea” to illustrate the depth of evil in harming vulnerable people.

Q&A: Is It Controlling To Check My Spouse’s Emails and Texts?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addresses control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts. He was acting differently for several months and was protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge, I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn’t looked in a long time, but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling, and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn’t looked in a while, but started looking again at his texts because I felt he was again not being truthful and maybe he never was, and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn’t looked up until that point? Again, I love this book and can’t put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn’t look, I might not have realized what was going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently, I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said “listening to this song thinking of you” and another said, “Me too Babe, it’s been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him, but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn’t look, on the surface things appear normal.

ANSWER:  I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage. Apparently, he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet, he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior? With the way you worded your sentence though, I wasn’t sure if it was your husband or his counselor who felt your husband was in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If it’s the counselor, he would do well to find another counselor.

That said, the question you’re asking is are your behaviors controlling when you keep checking your husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? It’s not to find out if he’s lying to you. You already know the answer to that. So what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer, too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea this was going on if you didn’t check. From that, I assume that you want your marriage to stay in-tact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing, then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people, such as a good male accountability partner, to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check. You will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious. This is not to control him, as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild the trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do–stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it. You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

I’m Controlling my “LIFE-CONTROLLING” Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NLT

Preoccupation with a substance or behavior generally develops into a growing rigidity in lifestyle.

  • Rituals develop that lead to use/behavior in small, seemingly innocent steps. (e.g. a gambler need to check the odds daily)
  • Frustration and anger occur when the ritual is interrupted or when someone interferes with the ritual. (e.g. becoming angry with a spouse who comes home early or who asks for help with tasks that interfere)
  • Particular times of the day are set aside for use or practice. (e.g. after-work drink, bedtime pill, etc.)
  • Self-imposed rules are adjusted or ignored as the need grows. (“My ‘no drinking at lunch’ rule can be broken just this once.”)
  • Social events and free time activities are limited to those that accommodate the practice or usage. (“I cannot go anywhere without my medication.”)

We might try to fool ourselves into believing that some of these rituals are actually good for us because they appear to “limit” our use or practice to certain times of the day some other kind of “safe limit.” In fact, they are far from harmless as they begin–step by step–to take over the shape and structure of our lives.

There is only one way to stop this progression of a life-controlling problem–God’s way.

His weapons of warfare are found through prayer and in His Word. Using His weapons can knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and destroy false arguments.

It’s time to do battle against this substance or behavior that is gaining hold in your life. God has provided an arsenal of weapons in his Word.

Are you ready to fight?

Father, I’m ready to do things your way. I know this behavior has to stop before it goes any further. Forgive my sin and help me to wage war using your weapons. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Insight Group: Discover the Path to Christian Character by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Bulimia: The New Normal

SOURCE: Ed Welch/CCEF

Bulimia is the new normal.

The thin and wealthy specialize in it, but you can be sure that it is a cornerstone of any culture in which the preferred body type is thinner than is actually possible on a normal diet.  You’ll find it in any culture that is obsessed with looking younger or where everyone is looking for that elusive weight-loss secret.

True story: parents protested when a youth group leader began talking about eating disorders. Why? They were concerned that their daughters would gain weight.

It begins with a desire to be thinner. Once purging is discovered, young women talk about it as if it were their best friend, or their narcotic addiction. “The feeling I got afterward was amazing!” Then they discover other benefits, most notably a sense that they can, finally, be in control of something. And don’t you dare stand between them and the object of their affection!

Two questions to those who practice it.

First, if you have any interest in God, does the secretive essence of this behavior concern you? Secrets separate relationships. They separate friends and spouses, and become a private place in which you hide from God.

Second, has it improved your life? The answer to that is easy: no. But you say: “So what? It works for me.” Perhaps you feel as though nothing will improve your life so you might as well be thin while you go through the drudgery and misery.

Consider this from another angle.

If you are a near-daily practitioner of purging, you are saying much more than “I want to be thin.” The word control is almost always a part of bulimic vocabulary. You have been controlled or dependent on the whims of people who treated you poorly, and you are sick of it. You live with incessant self-loathing and suicidal hopelessness and bulimia gives you some sense of control over this darkness. Its benefits, however, are ephemeral and fleeting.

Human beings were intended to turn to their Maker and Father when life is hard. Left to our own devices, life just gets more out-of-control. Think of yourself as a child. It is right and good for a child to run to a parent when life is overwhelming. God knows your secrets. He knows what you need.

If this sounds too familiar and you don’t know how to even begin leaving it behind, go to the psalms and borrow some of those words. God will surprise you. He is not like those who have hurt, criticized or rejected you. To the contrary, you are the one who has shunned him, yet he keeps knocking on the door and pursuing you (Rev. 3:20).

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 2)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This kind of dependency isn’t I NEED you to LOVE me in order for me to be okay, but  I NEED you to NEED me in order for me to be okay.

The same emphasis is on the word me but with a slightly different bent. This kind of dependent person often functions as a rescuer, hero, fixer, or the more capable one when in reality he or she is also quite needy but unaware of it. He uses people to feel better about himself. He does this by taking care of other’s problems or being over involved in people’s lives all the while staying completely blind to his own problems. He or she is usually attracted to someone who is weak, vulnerable, or one who needs fixing or rescuing.

The destructive thing about a fixer or rescuer is that they don’t really want the other person to get healthy because then he or she wouldn’t need them any longer. We often see this kind of dysfunctional pattern with parents who are unable to let go of their adult children, enabling them to stay weak and dependent on them because of their need to be needed.

Brenda was married to a chiropractor who loved taking care of everyone, including her. He was well loved by his patients because he took the time to listen and was readily available whenever they had a need. For Brenda however, his hovering over her felt demeaning. He called her constantly, checking on her whereabouts, making sure she was safe. He questioned how she did things and whether or not it was the “best” way they could be done. He evaluated her diet and told her where she could make improvements to lose weight. He insisted she put socks on at the airport because he didn’t want her bare feet touching the dirty floor when they went through security.

At first she found his attention flattering, but now she hated it. She wanted to make her own decisions about what she ate or whether or not she wanted to put socks on during their travels without a constant commentary about what she was doing wrong or what she could do better. Brenda often tried asserting herself, but it never ended well. Once she told Ted that she was not going to order something on the menu just because he said it was better for her, and then Ted sulked the rest of the evening, saying she didn’t appreciate how much he loved her.

And, Brenda had to admit, she didn’t. She felt angrier and angrier and hated being treated like a child. Sometimes she found herself acting like a compliant little girl who did whatever her daddy wanted, and then she’d switch into a rebellious teenager who talked back and wasn’t going to listen at all. She loathed what was happening to herself and her marriage, but didn’t know how to change the unhealthy dance they both were dancing. In a mature relationship, the goal is for both individuals to fully function as healthy adults. However, in a dependent relationship where one wants to fix and control someone else, attempts for independence are seen as threats to the rescuer’s sense of worth and are usually squashed or undermined creating a destructive pattern to the marriage and both individuals in the relationship.

Clinging, smothering, demanding and controlling are the signs of unhealthy dependence in one or both people in the relationship. If you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, don’t beat yourself. Instead, see it as God opening your eyes to your unhealthy dependency and listen and learn what he calls you to do in order to become emotionally healthy and whole.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

As biblical counselors our goal is to help marriages stay together but we must be careful to not be like the priests in Jeremiahs’ day who healed God’s people superficially by saying peace, peace, when there was no peace.

When working with couples in destructive and abusive marriages, I think it’s important that we understand what it takes to put their marriage back together in a godly way.  And, if one of them won’t do the work required, then what?  Do we encourage them to stay legally together even if they’re relationally separated or divorced?

God gives us a means for healing damaged relationships, but his blueprint is not unilateral.  Healing a destructive marriage can never be the sole responsibility of one person in the relationship.   It always takes two people willing to work to achieve godly change.  There needs to be forgiveness sought, and forgiveness granted.  There needs to be amends made and a willingness to rebuild trust.  There needs to be constructive feedback given and willingly received.  When one person refuses to participate or take responsibility for his or her part, healing or restoration of the relationship cannot fully take place.

As biblical counselors, working with individuals and couples in destructive marriages, I want to give you a few mile markers that will help you identify where you are on the healing journey or whether or not you’re even on the right path toward getting there. [I’m] going to talk about the importance of safety.

Safety

Safety in an intimate relationship such as marriage must never be underestimated. You cannot put a marriage together in a healthy way if one person in the marriage feels afraid of the other. Without question, whenever there has been any kind of physical abuse, destruction of property, and/or threats against one’s self or others there is no safety.

Shirley e-mailed me.  She wrote, “My biblical counselor says that I must allow my husband back into the home if we want our marriage to heal. He said, ‘How can we work on our marriage when we’re not living together?’

“What are your concerns about him moving back home?”  I asked.

“We’ve been separated for over a year after he gave me a black eye. It wasn’t the first time he hit me, but it was the worst. I never pressed charges or called the police, but I told him he’d have to move out. Honestly, I haven’t seen any real change in him. My counselor says that Ray is changing.  He hasn’t hit me for a long time. I agreed, but his underlying attitudes of entitlement are still there.”

“Give me a few examples,” I said.

“He badgers me to give in to him when I disagree. When he visits with the kids at the house and I tell him I’m tired and I want him to leave, he says I’m selfish and only thinking about myself. He thinks it’s okay if he walks into our house without knocking even though I’ve asked him not to.  If he won’t respect my requests when we’re separated, how will he do it if he moves back home? “

“He won’t. ” I said. “Either he’s not willing to respect you or he’s not capable of doing it but either way you are not safe until he learns to do this.  Please, stick up for yourself with your counselor.  Before you can work on the marriage, your husband need to value the importance of your safety and demonstrate that he can control himself and honor your feelings and boundaries without badgering or retaliation.  If he won’t do this much, you cannot go any further to repair your relationship. ”

There are other issues of safety that also must be resolved to some degree if a marriage is going to be wisely restored. For example, Kathy still loves her husband despite his sins against her. She longs for Jeff to be the man she knows he could be. Yet she must not throw caution to the side and be fully reconciled with Jeff without the proper safety measures in place.  She knows Jeff has a problem with sexual addiction.  He has a long history of pornography, affairs, prostitutes and one night stands.

Does God ask Kathy to ignore these dangers to her health and safety in order to reconcile her marriage?  Or, is it both in her and Jeff’s best interest that she stay firm and not resume sexual intimacy with Jeff until he gets a clean bill of health as well as demonstrates a change of heart and some progress in his change of habits?

In a different situation, Gina’s husband, Matthew, feels entitled to keep his income in a separate bank account with only his name on it.  He gives Gina an allowance each week for household expenses but requires her to give him give a detailed account of everything she spends.  Gina is an RN, but she and Matthew agreed it was best for her to stay home with their four children.  Gina does not feel safe financially or emotionally.  She feels like a child when she has to give an account, yet Matthew refuses to let Gina know what he’s spending.  He says it’s his money.  Gina feels vulnerable and scared whenever Matthew travels, especially overseas.  What if something happened to him and she ran out of cash?  When she’s expressed her concerns to Matthew, he tells her not to worry, nothing will happen to him.

Legally Gina is an adult and considered an equal partner in their financial responsibilities, yet she has no voice, no power, and no idea what is happening with their assets. Should she submit to Matthew when he says she’s not allowed to have a credit card even though she’s never been irresponsible with money?   Gina’s observed Matthew being deceitful at times in his business expenses. What if Matthew has been deceitful in other ways?  What if he has underreported their income tax?  Gina would be held equally responsible even if she didn’t know.   What if he is not paying their mortgage or their home equity loan faithfully?   The financial consequences of his irresponsibility would fall equally on her shoulders. Gina and Matthew will never have a healthy marriage if these issues aren’t discussed with the underlying imbalance of power and control changed.

I’m dismayed by the number of people helpers, pastors, lay counselors, marriage mentors and professional counselors who don’t understand safety issues must come first. There can be no constructive conversation about other marital issues nor can there be any joint marital counseling  if one person has no say or isn’t safe to tell the truth or disagree without fear of physical, emotional, sexual, financial or spiritual retaliation.

A Wife’s Inner Beauty: Convicting and Compelling

SOURCE:  Gordon Bals/The Gospel Coalition

Years ago, I wrote a newsletter called Every Husband Feels Like a Jerk and Every Wife Agrees.

It was meant to explain a common phenomenon that kept emerging in the course of my marriage counseling practice. No matter what else they brought to the table, couples seemed to agree on one thing: No one believed the husbands demonstrated loyal love in their marriages.

In fact, whenever I began to talk about the quality of love in the marital relationship, most husbands began to act ashamed. They were like Isaiah when he saw the Lord sitting on his throne, “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). It seemed like their wives were so good at love.

It’s true. In almost every case, a wife approaches marriage with a deeper understanding of and passion for loyal love. I consider this a God-given gift, one way she reflects the image of God (Gen. 1:27). I began to identify this as an aspect of a wife’s inner beauty.

This inner beauty exposes areas where a husband is lacking.

Just as Isaiah encountered the Lord’s beauty, I heard husbands echo his response: “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of sinful race” (Isa. 6:5).

But unlike Isaiah, who was reduced to humble contrition in the presence of such loveliness, husbands tend to fight back. “My wife wants too much from me,” they declare. The wives counter with a long list of their husbands’ failures. This tension increases because neither the husband nor the wife responds well to her gift of inner beauty.

Couple Implications

If inner beauty is God’s gift to a woman, then it stands to reason that it’s a gift that can be employed in the service of building redemptive marriages. I want to suggest a couple of implications for each couple.

To grow in loyal love, a husband must not be afraid for his sin to be exposed in his wife’s presence. 

This requires humility. He must stop telling his wife she wants too much and instead look to the Lord for his help. Typically, a husband wants to be a knight in shining armor. Instead, he needs to be willing to humbly see the ways he hides and casts blame. As a husband opens up to this exposure and learns to look to the Lord for forgiveness and care, he has more to give his wife. A wife’s inner beauty matters because a husband can let it expose his deep need for God’s grace and mercy. A wife’s inner beauty is meant to turn a husband toward the Lord, not drive him to intimidation, control, or defensiveness.

To use her gift to enhance loyal love, a wife must remember that her husband experiences shame in her presence. He experiences this whether or not she says or does anything. Her gift of inner beauty can be that powerful.

When a wife trusts this, she can relate to her husband with more kindness and rest instead of feeling compelled to help her husband recognize where he is lacking. When Peter encourages wives to let their “adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” (1 Peter 3:4), he is telling wives to rest as their husbands learn how to make room for the ongoing conviction of sin that comes with marriage. Peter wanted women to stop expending so much effort. A husband’s struggle to love well should turn a wife toward more faith and less activity as she waits for him to grow into God’s love.

In fact, as a wife rests and shows kindness in the midst of her husband’s frustration, she can have a powerful effect. After Isaiah witnesses God’s beauty and expresses humility, a seraph touches his lips with a coal and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isa. 6:7). Later, we find Isaiah willingly responding to the Lord’s direction. Beauty and kindness together inspired courage in Isaiah. He is moved to stand up and follow the Lord.

It works the same way in marriage.

When a husband responds well to his wife’s inner beauty, and when a wife mixes it with kindness, she becomes a compelling force in her husband’s life.

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Gordon C. Bals founded Daymark Pastoral Counseling in Birmingham, Alabama, a ministry committed to restoring people to God and to one another. Anyone interested in reading further about this topic and/or related marital themes can find them in his recently published book, Common Ground: God’s Gift of a Restored Marriage,available on Amazon or on his website, www.daymarkcounseling.com.

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.

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).

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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.

What I Learned About God From My Children

SOURCE:  Judy Douglass/Family Life Ministries

God uses our children to help us learn to walk in the Spirit and build our character.

As parents we have the responsibility to love, nurture, provide and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, contributing, authentic adults. Most of us try to do this, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God also has an equally important role for our children in our lives: to help us learn to walk in the Spirit, build our character, and develop skills we need for life and ministry. Here are two truths I have learned from my girls.

DEBBIE: You are not in control

Before Debbie was born, I was editor of Worldwide Challenge magazine. I loved that we had a specific schedule for each month, week, day. The magazine was so compliant. Every month it came out on time, and it was beautiful.

I stepped away from that responsibility shortly before Debbie was born. I knew I would need to learn to be a little more flexible about my schedule, but I was sure I could get her on a good routine.

Surprise! Debbie had colic. Not the evening kind. The always kind. Her tummy hurt. She cried. And cried. She didn’t sleep except a few hours each night—maybe five to six hours. But that was it. No naps.

My day went like this: Up by 5 or 6 a.m. with a screaming baby. An hour of nursing (no crying then). A few minutes of peace: quickly put some clothes on. Then carry her, entertain her, sing to her, anything to get her not to cry until the two-hour mark when I could feed her again. Repeat. Until midnight. For four months.

I cried almost as much as Debbie. I was sure I would never be rested, dressed, and presentable again.  I would never be in control of my life again. “Lord,” I said desperately, “this is not working. I am not the right mother for this child.”

His reply was gentle: Oh Judy, you are exactly right for Debbie—the one I created to love and comfort her in her great discomfort. But she is also just right for you. I created her to help you learn some important lessons: You are not in control. Things will not happen according to your schedule. You need to learn to let go, to flex, to relax.

“But I don’t like not being in control.”

Exactly!

Then: Judy, I am in control. I know much better than you the what, when, and how for your life—and for Debbie’s. Rest in Me. You won’t be disappointed. My plan and schedule and timing are perfect.

MICHELLE: Enjoy the journey

From the day she was born, Michelle has not been in a hurry. She slept much of her first year. She cuddled, laughed, listened a lot, talked enough.

She played quietly, explored, created, painted, invented, rescued. But she never rushed.

I’m more of a destination person. She’s more of a journey person. I like to get there. She likes the getting there. So often she heard:

“Hurry up, we’re late.”

“We’ll be late to church, Michelle.”

“Carpool is waiting, Michelle.”

“Time for soccer practice, Michelle.”

Nothing hurried her. But I know I frustrated her, discouraged her, hurt her.

Over time, I began to hear the Lord whispering, What’s your hurry, Judy? He reminded me of those famous sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha was focused on getting dinner ready. She rushed around, fretting that Mary wasn’t helping her. And Mary? She was enjoying Jesus. Listening, learning, reflecting.

Slowly Michelle’s ability to live in the present, her not hurrying to the future, began to rub off on me. I still like to get things done, but I have learned to let things go, stop for people in my life, leave tasks for another day. I don’t get as much done. But I enjoy the journey so much more.

“I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly”

(Isaiah 60:22)

Countering the Manipulator’s Tactics

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

. . . it’s important that you understand that you will never change the manipulator when you confront their manipulative tactics directly. They will just switch to another tactic. So if you want to change, change begins with you.

You must recognize that someone is attempting to manipulate you.

Awareness is the first step of all change. But you are not going to change the person doing the manipulating. You are going to change you. Manipulation is only effective if it works to control you. Therefore, you must begin to identify what’s going on in you that keeps you easily manipulated by others.

The three most common reasons we allow ourselves to be manipulated are:

Fear:  Fear comes in many forms. We may fear the loss of relationship, we fear the disapproval of others, or we fear making someone unhappy with us. We also fear the threats and consequences of the manipulators actions. What if they actually succeed at doing what they threaten?

We’re too nice:  We enjoy being a giver, making people happy, and taking care of other’s needs. We find satisfaction and our self-esteem and self-worth often comes from doing for others. However, when we don’t have a clear sense of self and good boundaries, manipulators sense this in us and exploit it to their own advantage.

Guilt:  We live under a lie that we should always put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own. When we try to speak up or put our own needs out there, manipulators often exploit us and attempt to make us feel like we are doing something wrong if we don’t always put their wants and needs ahead of our own. Manipulators define love as always doing what I want/need you to do. Therefore, if we have a different opinion, need, want or feelings, we are told we are unloving and feel guilty if we express or want to do something different.

What you need to overcome a manipulator’s tactics:

Develop a clear sense of self:  You need to know who you are, what you want, what you feel, and what you like and don’t like. You need not apologize for these things. They are what make you, you. Often times we fear that if we state what we need, feel, think or like, we’re being selfish. But it isn’t selfish to know who you are or what you want. That’s healthy. Selfishness is demanding that you always get what you want or that other’s always put you first. In the same way, when someone else demands that of you, they are being selfish and disrespectful of your personhood.

Jesus knew who he was. Because of his strong identity in the Father’s Word, he was not manipulated when people wanted him to do things the Father did not call him to do. He also was not derailed when other’s defined him as crazy or demon possessed.

The ability to say “no” in the face of someone’s disapproval:  Healthy people live in reality. The truth is, when we can’t accommodate someone else’s desires or needs, they naturally will feel disappointed. That’s human and most people will adjust and move on. Healthy people know that they don’t always get everything they want even if what they want is legitimate.

However, when we cannot tolerate someone else’s disappointment or disapproval when we say “no”, then it’s harder for us to say it or have boundaries. Manipulators capitalize on this weakness and use disappointment and disapproval in extreme forms to get us to do what they want.

Read Mark 1:29-39 and see how Jesus said no to Peter and his friends who were waiting to get healed. Do you think they felt disappointed? How did Jesus handle that?

Tolerate someone else’s negative affect (disappointment, sadness, and/or anger withoutbacking down):  We can show empathy for someone else’s sadness or hurt or even anger when we can’t accommodate him/her without backing down and reversing our decision.

For example, in many of the examples of manipulation [I’ve previously written about], a mother was attempting to get her adult child to come to her home for the holiday. If you don’t want to be manipulated into saying “yes” when you want to say “no”, you can say, “Mom I know this is hard for you, and I understand that you’re disappointed and sad that we won’t be there. I hope you will try to understand it’s just too difficult for us to travel that far over the holiday with all the children.”

Remember, a healthy relationship is characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. If you are in a relationship with someone who uses manipulation regularly, as you get stronger, you can invite him/her into healthy change simply by not allowing yourself to be manipulated. This will create a crisis of sorts in your relationship.

Either the manipulator will begin to back down and respect your time, your feelings, your desires and your needs, or they will move on to another person who is more easily manipulated.

Don’t let that be you.

Am I Manipulative and Controlling?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:   My wife says I’m manipulative and controlling. I don’t think I am. Let me give you an example. We have been separated for about a year, but recently we were out to dinner. While we were sitting there, she was friendly to some other patrons (policemen who she knew). She wasn’t flirting, but I felt slighted and insulted that she was ignoring me. I told her how I felt and she accused me of being controlling. Is that true? I don’t see it?

Answer:  First, let me applaud you for even asking the question. Most people, when given that kind of feedback, totally ignore or discount it. The fact that you are asking the question suggests that you might be open to the possibility that it’s true, even if you don’t see it.

Manipulating and controlling behavior is often subtle and hard to prove in the moment. It becomes much more obvious over time. If we just take this one incident, you might find it difficult to see your behavior as controlling. I think most people feel a little uncomfortable when they are out to eat with someone and that person has an extended conversation with someone else and does not include us, whether it is in person, on a cell phone or even texting.

So the only way we can truly answer this question is to examine your patterns over time, especially in relation to your interactions with your spouse. As you do this, you may begin to see a pattern of manipulative and controlling behaviors emerge.

Most people who use these kinds of behaviors don’t usually recognize them as wrong or harmful. It’s just the way they have learned to cope with uncomfortable or painful emotions, or the way they’ve learned to get their own way or what they want from others. Underneath these dysfunctional behaviors are usually attitudes of entitlement as well as unrealistic expectations of how others should be or how they should treat you.

For example, perhaps you felt insulted at the restaurant because you believed that you were entitled to your wife’s undivided attention and anything less than that meant that she wasn’t interested in you or your conversation. Ask yourself, were you attempting to control her friendliness with others by making her feel guilty about “slighting” you?

Or you may believe, “A wife should never talk with other men, even as friends. If she does, that means she doesn’t love me or I’m not most important.” Again, your response to her indicates that you had some expectations of her to give you her undivided attention the entire time you were together. You didn’t say how long she was engaged with the policeman, but was it extensive or just a few minutes?

Here are a few more ways people manipulate and control others. Read through the list. Perhaps you will recognize some ways you attempted to get your wife to do what you wanted using these methods.

Arguing:   You don’t take no for an answer, but instead you continue to make your point over and over again until she wears down and finally agrees with you. The underlying message is that it’s not okay for her to disagree or have her own opinion.

Begging:   “Please? Please? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease? You continue to ask, beg and plead until she changes her mind. The underlying message is that she is not allowed to say no.

Bargaining:   “If you do this, then I’ll give you…” You use a bribe to get her to do or not do what you want. You use favors as a means to manipulate someone into doing something that they would not have wanted to do otherwise.

Guilt Trips:   You might say, “you’re not following God,” “you’re being an un-submissive wife,” “God hates divorce” or “if you really loved me or our children, you would…” The message here is that if you don’t do what I think you should do, God will really be upset with you, I won’t be able to handle it, or you are not a good/godly person.

Micromanaging:   This is usually in the areas of time and money where one person makes the other person feel like a subordinate employee or child. They are not allowed to make their own decisions or handle their own life without asking your permission.

Misquoting or Twisting:   You state, “you said…” when in reality the person didn’t say it that way, but you twist what they said to suit your own purposes. For example, “You said we were going to get back together soon,” when what she really said was, “I don’t know if we can get back together soon.”

Playing Holy Spirit:   We are all tempted to do this when confronting someone with his or her sin, but it is not our job to convict or change someone else’s behavior to line up to what we think it should be. When we see someone caught in a sin or trespass, we can try to restore them in a spirit of humility and gentleness (Galatians 6:1), but if we try to hold someone accountable to a change that they have not initiated, we are attempting to play God in his or her life.

Promises:   You say, “I will do anything, just …” Whether or not you keep your promise is irrelevant. You use a promise to get her to do something you want her to do.

Punishing actions:   You use physical, sexual, economic, or verbal pressure, abuse or tactics to punish her for not doing what you think she should do. You might stop paying the bills, close the bank account, curse at her, call her names, accuse her of things, or tell friends and neighbors untrue things about her to teach her a lesson for not doing what you want her to do. You feel justified, because she did something “wrong” and won’t change, stop or admit she was wrong.

Irritation or silence:   You are so bothered or angry that she won’t do what you want, that you won’t speak with her or treat her kindly until she changes and does what you want.

Threats:   You threaten to leave, to hurt yourself or others, or to hurt something she loves like her pet, her parents, her children or her stuff if she doesn’t do what you want her to do.

Some of these overlap and are used together to try to get someone to do something we think they should do or to stop doing something that we don’t want them to do. When we do that, we certainly are trying to control their behavior and often their thinking.  That is not our place.

If you see yourself in these examples, that’s a good start, but it usually doesn’t result in permanent changes unless you begin to invite your wife and others to tell you when you fall back into them. Then it is your responsibility to learn how to maturely tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that you may feel when she disagrees with you, doesn’t want to do what you want her to do or wants to do something different.

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.

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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.

Only “I” Can Fix Your Problem!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NLT

Thoughts for Today
We need to accept the fact that we cannot cure our loved one’s problem. Our best caretaking efforts will not succeed “fixing” things. In fact, we need to understand that we are not responsible for our loved one’s cure. Our responsibility is to deepen our relationship with Christ, pray for our loved one, and trust Jesus to guide us.

The simplest definition of codependency is “to be dependent along with.” That doesn’t mean that you necessarily use the same substances or participate in the same kinds of behaviors as the one you care about. What it does imply is the idea of being so deeply drawn into his or her life-controlling problem that it becomes your problem as well. This can result in your being filled with guilt and blame and other downgrading thoughts.

But that’s not who you are. Your significance is in Christ–and in Him is where you find freedom and confidence.

Consider this … 
Learning to “live out” the reality of who you are in Christ begins with making a choice: Who will you honor? Then, after that choice is made, you may need to do some work on putting that reality into action in your life.

If you have centered your life around your loved ones instead of around God, this is the point where you need to reaffirm who you are in Christ and recognize the identity and the freedom you have in Him. As it is with all other human needs, establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most effective way to overcome codependent relationships.

Prayer …
Father, thank you that Christ lives in me. I’ve been so wrapped up in my loved one’s problems that I have forgotten the freedom, the forgiveness, and the righteousness I have in Jesus. As your child, I know the best thing I can do is focus on my relationship with you, pray for my loved one, and trust you to guide me and to help my loved one. Please help me to honor you in my choices. In Jesus’ name …


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These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. This group is designed for the many people who have a current or past relationship with a person who has a life-controlling problem.


Is Your Problem My Fault?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.”James 1:14 CEV

Thoughts for Today
If you are struggling with codependency–or want to avoid falling into its trap–you need to understand “The Three Cs.”

  • You didn’t cause your loved one’s life-controlling problem.
  • You can’t control it.
  • You can’t cure it.

You may blame yourself for your loved one’s addiction or other life-controlling problem, but you need to accept the fact that you did not cause it. The Bible tells us that each person is drawn into sin by his or her own desires.

Feeling that you are responsible for your loved one’s behavior can cause you to experience low self-worth. You need to understand that your loved one is responsible for the choices that have led to his or her problems, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Consider this … 
None of us live in a perfect environment. Parents make mistakes. Spouses sometimes let us down. Friends may treat us badly. But we each have choices about how we will respond to adversity. We can blame other people for our choices, but they are not responsible. God gives us each opportunity to do right and has promised His help–if we want it.

No matter what the circumstances, you have not caused your loved one’s problem. He or she has made wrong choices. If you live in guilt over their choices, your own behavior will be controlled by your guilt. You may excuse rather than encourage them to face their mistakes. You may continually bail them out rather than let them suffer the consequences of poor choices. And so the poor choices will continue.

Ask God to help you see the reality of the situation. Ask Him to help you let go of the guilt.

Prayer …
Father, I know I’ve been blaming myself for my loved one’s life-controlling problem. Your Word says that each person is responsible for his or her own choices. Help me to absorb that truth and to let go of the guilt. In Jesus’ name …


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These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. This group is designed for the many people who have a current or past relationship with a person who has a life-controlling problem.


Surrendering Control to God

SOURCE: Taken from an article at  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network Ministry

If you were ever a victim of abuse of any kind, you certainly felt you had no control in the situation…whether it was mild, like ridicule or harshness from your parents, or ranged to any other form of mistreatment like neglect in a dating relationship, or misuse of power by someone in authority. Unfortunately, for some, the abuse might have been extreme or even violent…bullying, sexual coercion while dating, mugging or physical assault, sexual molestation, or even rape.

Unfortunately, none of us escape all mistreatment.

We associate the abuse with losing control, so we make a subliminal promise to ourselves never to be in that dependent position again. We then try to control most situations…including every relationship in our lives…to make sure our vulnerability never answers the door when potential abuse knocks. An important downside of this self-protective strategy is we now have a hard time being vulnerable to, and dependent on God and His loving but controlling hand in our lives.

So, we rebel against His instruction and control. I know. I was hardheaded about turning control of my life over to Him, letting myself be vulnerable to someone…and although I am much better, I still struggle with it. But in the past, I tried being independent, controlling all areas of my life. It landed me in jail, with alcohol and a fear of other’s opinions and feelings as my masters.

None of us can be free to become all we were meant to be until we recognize that God is in control…that He loves us and wants to care for us. We are fooling ourselves when we think we can successfully make it through this life on our own. In reality, we need to lean on Him…on His wisdom, strength, love, character, promises…and especially, on His son, Jesus Christ.

Today, assess whether you are in control of your life, or whether God is.

Remember, this man you read about, Jesus, loves you. He is inviting you to put your hands in His and let Him guide you and help you through all circumstances of life…regardless of what ever has happened in the past. Stop trying to figure out everything on your own. Stop trying to forge through life depending upon your own strength and understanding. Let Jesus love you. Let Him help you reach your full potential and accomplish all the good things He has called you to do. He actually died for you…for the simple reason that He loved His Father…AND YOU! Your decision, so choose well.

 Prayer

Dear Father, forgive me for thinking I could make it through life on my own. I need Your help and Your guidance in everything I do. Help me to stop trying to control everything…help me to listen to Your voice…to obey You…to trust You. I have been leaning on myself and what the world offers, and my hole only gets deeper. Thanks for loving me more than I love me, and for showing me how much You really love me by taking my penalty and place on the cross. I pray this in the name of the One who was sent to take my place, and who teaches and guides me, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Proverbs 3:5-7

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17

Can Helping Your Spouse Be a Sign of Disrespect?

SOURCE:  Karen O’Connor/Kyria.com

UNWANTED HELP

Sitting with my husband at a seminar on love and respect in marriage, I squirmed. Some of what I was hearing hit close to home. It seemed that what one spouse sees as “helpful,” the other might consider disrespectful. I turned to Charles, wondering what he was thinking as he listened to the same message. The more I heard from the presenter, the clearer it became that I had some work to do.

For example, that very week I had laid out his vitamins and prescription meds at breakfast every morning even though he’s perfectly capable of doing this himself. In fact, he knows the routine better than I do. After all, they’re his pills, not mine. But I assumed that unless I took charge he’d ignore or forget them. I also “suggested” what foods would help him lose weight and coaxed him into eating a salad each day. And I took over researching some facts he needed for a speech he was writing because it would be faster if I did it myself.

TAKING CARE OR TAKING CHARGE?

Some might see these actions as helpful, even loving things to do for one’s mate. But in my case, they weren’t about help or love—or respect. They were about control, my trying to manage and direct my husband in matters that are his business. I thought my way was better, so I imposed it without giving thought to how it might affect him.

One time when I offered my point of view (without being asked) on a dilemma he faced with one of his grown children, Charles said in a firm tone, “You’re treating me like a 5-year-old. Please back off.”

I was stunned—and hurt—until I realized he was right. He rarely steps into my space and takes over. He doesn’t lay out my vitamins, tell me what to eat, or impose his will on my relationship with my children. In fact, he respects my abilities and often tells me how much he admires what I accomplish.

We returned home after the seminar, equipped with a book, pages of notes, and a commitment to talk about what it means to each of us to love and respect the other. That event occurred ten years ago. Our relationship has changed considerably since then—for the better.

Charles now has a vitamin case and takes care of filling it or neglecting to do so, and I stay out of it. He voices his food choices. And when issues arise about his kids, I listen with interest but comment only if he asks for my opinion. Of course I slip now and again, but mostly I show love and gratitude for who he is and what he does, and my life (our life together) is so much happier, easier, and pleasant because of this.

WHEN YOU GET OFF TRACK

It’s one thing to learn a new way to behave. It’s quite another to practice it. Following the seminar, we joined six other couples once a month for prayer, discussions on topics related to marriage, and refreshments. These meetings made a huge difference to all of us. When things got rough at home, we knew we had a safe place to go where people would hear, love, and support us. Here are some of the challenges couples encountered and the changes we made.

 Old Behavior:      Answering a question directed at our spouse.

New Behavior:     Remaining silent while our mate replies and learning                                                       something new about him or her.

 Old Behavior:      Giving advice without being asked.

New Behavior:     Listening with interest, trusting our mate to find his or her                                           solution, and supporting  that discovery.

 Old Behavior:      Explaining our partner’s point of view for him or her.

New Behavior:     Waiting eagerly to hear his or her viewpoint and                                                                encouraging it.

 Old Behavior:      Making financial decisions without consulting our mate.

New Behavior:     Presenting investment opportunities and talking them over                                         as a couple.

 Both husbands and wives admitted to feeling embarrassed, judged, put down, and angry when their spouses stepped into their zone and answered or made decisions without asking them.

One man I know quite well does everything for his wife, from driving to shopping to cooking, and then complains that she’s not much of a partner. How can she be? The moment she lifts a finger, he steps in and tells her to relax; he’ll take care of it. None of us deliberately sets out to diminish our husbands and wives, but this effect occurs over time when we keep our eyes focused on what they don’t do well or fast enough to please us. Then to make ourselves feel better, we claim we were “just trying to help.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AUTHENTIC HELP AND MANIPULATION

Everyone needs real help at times. If you’re sick, you welcome a cup of hot soup and someone to fluff your pillow. If you’re behind on a deadline at work, you could use a hand with typing or filing or mailing. If you have to be in two places at the same time, it’s nice to know your spouse can step in and cover for you.

That kind of help goes with the territory of being married and is something we all treasure. But crashing our mates’ boundaries and manipulating the outcome to our satisfaction in order to look good, deal with our emotions, or gain favor is something else. When we are anxious or uncertain about when to step in and when to step aside, we can pray for instant guidance. “For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

 True help includes humility and respect:

 Allowing our spouses to be who they are—created by God—flaws and all. My elderly friend Mabel told me years ago to bring my hurts and feelings to God first, then “ask him to minister to both of you before you hurt one another with damaging words or regrettable actions.” I have treasured that advice.

Respecting their opinions even if different from ours. Barbara Jean told me she was married for nearly 50 years before she realized that her husband’s point of view is as valid as hers. “At that moment I gave up my right to be right,” she quipped.

Permitting our mates to make mistakes without our interference. Hank and Joan agreed that a sense of humor has led to healthy respect even when one of them messed up. They laugh and forgive rather than punish and sulk.

The next time you wander into your spouse’s territory, ask yourself if you are helping or hindering, respecting or disrespecting. And if you’re not sure, ask. Your husband or wife may be more than happy to tell you.

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Karen O’Connor is a freelance writer and writing mentor from Watsonville, California. You can reach her through her web site: http://www.karenoconnor.com/.

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

This reality about parenting came to me recently.  I’ve observed it for years, but I am just now formulating my thoughts around the concept.  The reality for most of us is that we tend to try to control less when our children are younger and more when they are older.  It should be the opposite.

When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue.  Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting.  I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see this at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just don’t like it.”  The fact is that you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to.  You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than they are.  You may not feel that you are, but you are.  The time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years.  Our children naturally begin to resist authority and so what do we do?  We attempt to control them even more.  The problem is they have more freedom in their schedules.  They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers.  They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around.

The biggest problem with trying to control our children into their teenage years is that if we don’t protect our relationship with them, when they can they will completely rebel against our authority.  Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Almost as a side note, but equally important: If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally.  You don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish  when they are young, but by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young.  When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if that love relationship has been developed.  The time to have ultimate control of their behavior is when they are young.

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years.  If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

Why do I keep doing the same sin over & over again?

Editor’s Note:  As called out in the following article, Christ-centered and clinically sound support systems (such as offered by ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Living Free) are vitally needed to overcome any life-controlling problems.

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at The Counseling Solution/Rick Thomas

The alcoholic spends his entire paycheck at the bar, in one night.

The crack addict steals money from her daughter’s savings to get her fix on.

The fearful person is in a situation she can’t control. Now she’s afraid.

The porn addict is tired and exhausted, feeling defeated. He gets his fix by surfing the net…again.

The gossiper needs her “approval fix,” so she passes along some juicy info about a friend.

The mocker fulfills his desire to control others by making fun of people through put downs and sarcasm.

The insatiable shopper has two closets full of clothes. She softens the blows to her conscience by calling herself a “comfort shopper.”

And what do these people have in common?

They all are habituated in a sin habit that has been going on for many years and they believe it will never go away. In this sense, the gossiper, the fearful, the druggy, the alcoholic, the mocker, the shopper and the porn guy are all the same.

It is important to understand when you think about addictions that you also include the more refined addictive sins like frustration, fear, self-righteousness, criticalness, insecurity, or mocking.[1]

Addictive behavior is not just reserved to the more sensational or socially understood sins like alcohol, homosexuality, and drugs. We’re all addicts in our own way. I’m an addict; you’re an addict.

I’ve never met a person who was not an addict in some way. Sinful addictive behavior is a result of our fallenness. Therefore, the obvious questions are:

  • How did these people get this way?
  • How did you get this way?
  • How did I get this way?
  • Did we choose one day that we would yield our lives to the cruelty and slavery of sin?
  • Are we responsible for our condition? …our actions?
  • And the most important question of all, “Can I stop my addictive sinning?”

I’m in a trap. I can’t get out.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

To begin unpacking these questions we must begin where Paul began. As a son or daughter of Adam, our default heart condition is an unquenchable and undeniable loyalty to ourselves. At our core we are self-centered.

With a pre-conditioned heart that is motivated toward self-centeredness it is not hard to understand how and why we have been caught in various sin patterns.

When I say “we have been caught” I’m not saying we have been caught as though we were busted like a policeman pulling someone over for speeding. Though that can be called “getting caught,” that is not what Paul means by the word “caught.” Paul is saying we get caught as though we are in a bear trap and we cannot get out of it.

I do not control it. It controls me.

For example, there was a day when each of us made a choice to sin, whatever that sin may have been. Inthat day, we were in control of our sinful choice. We had power over our sin and could pick and choose when, where, and how we wanted to participate in sinful thoughts, desires, cravings, behaviors, or activities.

However, in process of time, we began to lose the control we once exercised over our sinful choices. We began to develop habits. Habits are, in part, how God wired us. Habits were never meant to be evil.[2]

The bad news, post Genesis 3, is that we do not just develop good habits. Because of the invasive power of the doctrine of sin, we have the ability to create bad habits too. Habit is the word for repetitive behavior. The word habit does not distinguish between good or bad. The word is neutral. It is our heart motives, which eventually becomes specific behaviors that determine if the habit is good or evil.

When evil habits begin to exert its power over our hearts, then we’re not far from what our culture calls an addiction. Paul called it being caught, as in being caught in a trap.

My strength is weaker than my sin

Let’s pretend you are caught in a bear trap somewhere deep in the woods. Let’s further pretend that your strength is zapped and you have no ability to open the jaws of the trap to release your bleeding ankle.

Your hope is diminishing by the second.

It is the nature of the bear trap to exert a greater power over your ability to overcome it. No Bear Trap Maker would ever make a trap that was easy to escape from.

It is the nature of sin to exert a greater power over your ability to extricate yourself. If you could extricate yourself from your sin, then you would not need a Divine Rescuer. There would be no need for a Gospel. The only way you can get out of the traps you get yourself into is through God-ordained means.

Back to the woods

You decide to pray (yell) to God for help. How do you expect God to answer your prayer? Do you expect Jesus to show up and loosen the trap? Do you expect the jaws of the trap to miraculously pop open? It’s not likely that either one of those events will happen.

Does that mean God did not hear you and, therefore, is not going to help you?

The answer to that question really depends on your understanding of prayer as well as God’s ordained means of helping His children. What does Paul say?

…you who are spiritual should restore him… – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Rescue happens in community

Did you know that every time you prayed to God for help to get out of your habitual sinning that He heard you? Did you further know that He provided a solution to your problem?

One of the biggest reasons people get caught in sin and stay in sin is because they do not want anyone to know about the sinfulness of their lives. The man trapped in the woods needs the help of his friends. The man trapped in sin needs the help of other Christians.

That is the way it has to be.

A fool thinks he can habituate himself in sin all by himself and that he can get out of his sin all by himself. Not likely.

In Galatians 6 Paul is calling the body of Christ to attention. The “spiritual” in this verse simply means those who have the Spirit, the Christians. This is essential counseling my friends. You and I need the community of faith to help us out of our addictive behaviors.

And this is where the rub is. We don’t want to tell anyone about our messes.

Keys to breaking addictions

If you apply these simple biblical truths to your life, then you can get help for the repetitive sins in your life:

Humility – The road to change always begins with humility.

Transparency – You must intentionally and completely expose yourself.

Honesty – Only the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who you really are will help you.

Repentance – While all of the previous keys are part of repentance, I have created a ten-minute video that carefully unpacks a fuller understanding of the Doctrine of Repentance. Watch it now.

Contexts – Place yourself in the community of faith. A small group setting is ideal for habituated sinners like you and me.

Friends, do not over-think the situation. Do not look for the next best book for your problem. The church, historically, has never needed the “next best book.” If you carefully apply God’s Word to your life, while authentically living in the context of likeminded believers, then sin can be defeated, no matter how habituated you have been.

Intimate Partner Violence: Healthy Steps You Must Take

SOURCE: Adapted from an article from the American Association of Christian Counselors

Provide for your Safety

Ensuring your safety (and that of any children involved) is always the first priority. You must take steps to separate from your abuser if necessary.

Have a Plan

Develop a plan for the next time abuse occurs. Be sure that you have numbers to call — police, a family shelter or hotline, and a trusted friend or counselor.  If you decide to leave, where will you go? Who will you call? Have bags with essentials packed and in an easily accessible location so you and the children can leave quickly if needed. You should photocopy important documents and have them packed as well. You should think through how you can access money, car keys, and the important documents if you do need to leave suddenly.

If you need to leave at some point after an abusive incident, no argument or discussion with the abuser should happen at this point. You should calmly exit and go to a location you have predetermined with the people at that location.  Do not hesitate to seek out expert consultation in this very serious and complicated problem.

Follow Up

As a victim of Intimate Partner Violence, seek continued help.

Be Reassured

Abuse is never deserved but is always wrong.  A spouse’s role in a marriage never includes the right to manipulatively control or abuse another person.

Assess Relationships

Assess how much support you have and be encouraged to reach out to others for help.  Have supportive family members join the effort.  A victim of abuse is often isolated, both out of shame about the situation and the abuser’s need to control.

Biblical Insights

Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.  Genesis 31:7

Trust involves being trustworthy and being willing to trust another. Originally Jacob fled from home because he had deceived his brother (Gen. 27:41–43); here he fled because he had been deceived by his father-in-law. Violated trust can destroy relationships.  How much better to build a bond of trust with those closest to us.

And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”  Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Numbers 20:10–11

Moses reacted in anger, and it cost.  Anger can be the most damaging of all emotions, causing people to say or do things they regret.  Out-of-control anger can ruin friendships and marriages and even cause nations to go to war.  Some people end up living forever with the consequences of choices made in a moment of heated anger.  People who struggle with destructive anger must find help to discover alternative ways to manage it.  This begins by turning it over to God.

Then [Abimelech] went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone.  But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself.  Judges 9:5

The tragic story of Abimelech pictures extreme violence used for selfish reasons. This illegitimate son of Gideon and a concubine (Judg. 8:29–31) brought disaster on the rest of Gideon’s family.  Violence and murder became his way of dealing with all threats to his power (9:22–49).  In the end, however, his violent ways resulted in his own destruction (vv. 50–56).

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Parents ought to be careful in their training and discipline not to provoke their children “to wrath.”  In other words, sometimes a parent’s discipline can be overly harsh, unfair, unloving, or irresponsible, causing children to become angry, discouraged, and resentful.  Parents who discipline fairly, consistently, and lovingly are raising their children well.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

Although children are commanded to obey their parents, this does not give parents permission to be cruel or unreasonable in their treatment of their children.  Parents who nag, belittle, or deride their children destroy their self-esteem and discourage them.

The purpose of parental discipline is to train children. Consistent discipline, administered with love, will help children grow into responsible adults. The hard and unvarnished truth is that violence doesn’t resolve anything, and ultimately leads to more violence.

Not only does a violent person fail to gain control, but he or she loses the person who would have loved him or her.

Life-Controlling Problems: Let’s Make A Deal

SOURCE: Adapted from an article at Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

It’s common for people concerned about someone with a life-controlling problem (addiction), relational struggle, or health issue to try to strike bargains with themselves, with the person, with others, and with God. We might promise ourselves that we will be better. We will say the right thing next time. We will make things right. We will refrain from something enjoyable … or harmful. All these things in exchange for something we desire from others or ourselves.

We might set up deals with the loved one to reward them for refraining from their problem behavior. Or we might bargain with God and try to make a deal with Him … a promise to give to the church, to do some good deeds, to give up gossiping or a sexual sin, if only He will fix our or our loved ones’ problems.

If you are in this deal-making stage, you need to understand that help for a friend or loved one doesn’t depend on your performance. God has a specific plan for that person’s life and their change process is between them and God. God may want to use us in the person’s life and work through us. We all have some potential influence, but we have no power. We are in no position and have no leverage to bargain with God. When you think about it, what do we really have to offer in a trade with God?

Today, accept your powerlessness to change another person. Don’t try bargaining with God as if He is on another team. Learn to actually join God’s team and let Him be your captain, and then follow His instruction. Maybe He does want to utilize your influence on the person or situation. You need to view the experience as one of growth for you. If the other person is able to see God through you and engage with God more, again, that is between that person and God.

Prayer

Dear Father God, all my efforts have failed. No matter what I do, I realize now that I can’t fix my loved one’s problems. But I thank You that You can. Your grace is enough. Help me to let go and trust You. Saying that, let me know how you want me to engage with my loved one so I can grow in You and personally. Help me understand how You want to use me for my growth and help me leave the changing of my loved one up to You. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who can fix all things, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Slaves To Sin, Free From Christ – OR – Slaves To Christ, Free From Sin?

SOURCE:  John MacArthur/Grace To You

As much as we’d like to abolish slavery in practice, and even from our memories, the Bible demands that we remember. Slavery has everything to do with our relationship to Christ. We are His slaves, and our slavery to Him is the guarantee of our eternal security.

Historically, nearly every society on earth has practiced human slavery. In the Roman Empire, during the time the New Testament was written, slaves accounted for roughly one-fifth of the population. Slaves were of all ages, ethnicities, and both men and women. Some slaves engaged in hard labor, while others had an easier, domestic existence, serving in a household.

No matter what kind of slave labor they performed, every slave was owned by a master. Slaves did not have personal rights. They had to obey their master. Disobedience guaranteed severe punishment; more serious offenses could result in death.

Slaves from Birth

Not many today know what it’s like to be treated as a piece of property, forced to serve a human master. But the Bible tells us in Romans 6:17, “we were slaves to sin.” The verse before that says “we obeyed sin.” Sin was our master and we had no choice but to obey.

John MacArthur, in his recent book appropriately entitled Slave (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), gives us a picture of sin as a domineering master,

Sin is a cruel tyrant. It is the most devastating and degenerating power ever to afflict the human race, such that the entire creation “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:22). It corrupts the entire person – infecting the soul, polluting the mind, defiling the conscience, contaminating the affections, and poisoning the will. It is the life-destroying, soul-condemning cancer that festers and grows in every unredeemed human heart like an incurable gangrene. (pp. 120-21)

The Bible tells us the truth: we were not only infected by sin, it owned us. Sin was our master and we had no choice but to serve.

But we didn’t think of ourselves as “enslaved to sin,” did we? No, we thought we were free! And in a warped, twisted, perverted sense, we really were free: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Romans 6:20). But our pride deceived us about our true condition, making us think we were free when we were wrapped in the chains of our depravity.

We had no resources to free ourselves, just as a human slave can’t buy freedom from his human master. The only hope we had was if someone would purchase our freedom.

Redeemed by Christ

And that’s the good news: Jesus redeemed us from the slave market of sin—that’s the doctrine of redemption. Redemption is Jesus Christ paying a price we could never pay to deliver us from our bondage to sin through His death on the cross.

Redemption has its roots in the Book of Exodus where we read of God liberating His people, Israel, from their bondage as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 6:615:13). The picture of redemption became clearer, more specific, and more profound when Christ came to die on our behalf. His death ransomed us, purchasing us from the slave market of sin so that now we are slaves to Him (Romans 6:1822). When He died, we died too, which is what Romans 6 tells us: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (vv. 6, 7).

Paid in Full

When we consider Romans 6, (along with other passages in the NT), the truth of our redemption will not only fill our hearts with joy that we have been ransomed from sin, but also strengthen the confidence in our eternal security.

Our redemption has a divine origin. God is the one who initiated our redemption. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). We did nothing to earn it. We could no more contribute anything to our redemption by God than an impoverished slave could contribute to his purchase by a human master.

Our redemption delivered us. Paul writes in Galatians 1:4 that we are “delivered from this evil world” and in Colossians 1:13, “He delivered us from the power of darkness.” Before we were Christians we were slaves to sin, free from Christ; now we are slaves to Christ, free from sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

Our redemption is complete and certain. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:1819: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible [or perishable] things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

God did not purchase our freedom with gold or silver, the typical currency for buying human slaves, but with the blood of His beloved Son. Christ paid full price to secure our ransom from slavery to sin, to seal our salvation. He paid the price of His own precious blood, which is incorruptible.

Christ’s redemption signals an eternal change in our relationship to Him.

  • God did it, so it can’t be undone.
  • Christ delivered us—we are under a new Master now, and our old master can’t get us back.
  • God paid the full price of the precious blood of His Son. There’s no person, there’s nothing in existence that can pay a higher price to buy us back.

He bought us with His life. We are His slaves. He is our Lord.

Jesus Christ, Lord of All

Let me draw this to a conclusion by delivering what I promised. How does slavery to Christ guarantee the security of our salvation? Historically, slaves didn’t leave their human masters at will—if they tried, they were hunted down, captured, severely punished, or killed. Likewise we don’t have the liberty to walk away from our masters in the spiritual realm. It requires the power of God to part us from slave-master Sin, and once His redemption is accomplished and applied, there is no power that can break the hold our Master has over us. We belong to Christ. We are His slaves, His precious possessions forever.

Unlike the slave-owners throughout human history—from the cruel to the benevolent, and everyone in between—Jesus Christ is the greatest, most tender Master. Here are His words to all who would surrender to His lordship: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Jesus Christ is the only Master worthy of our devotion. It is He who cements the connection between slavery, redemption, and eternal security. His redemption is perfect, final, and forever, and those who are His slaves, though they be prone to wander, can never walk away.

False Control or Real Security: The Choice Is Ours

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

We all have sensitive buttons that when pushed, cause some pretty sorry and regrettable responses to come out of us. One we all have is the control button. Whether we see ourselves as leaders, controlling personalities, or at the opposite end, as followers or passive personalities, we all have the need to be in control of a situation or to have our agenda or plan be followed.

Most people feel more secure when they are in control. A trip down a steep mountain road doesn’t feel as dangerous to us when we’re the ones with our hands on the steering wheel. The passengers will always be more anxious or fearful because they are vulnerable to the skills and decisions of the driver.

Having control over our circumstances is very important to most of us … it allows us to feel more secure, competent, and confident. But we can’t always be in control … actually, we have a lot less control over external circumstances than we think. When facing situations beyond our control, we may feel helpless, vulnerable, anxious, fearful, angry, or overwhelmed. We may experience panic or depression.

In today’s world, a sense of safety and security may be difficult to find. The good news is there is one way we can always be secure.

God provides a way for us to experience a sense of security at all times. He leaves it up to us … we can either continue depending on ourselves, panicking or losing hope when we can’t control a situation … or we can depend on the Lord. If we choose Jesus and His way for our lives, we can always be secure in His love. We will still experience problems and trials on this earth, but we will begin to view them from His perspective. When we turn control over to Jesus, we can know that no matter what challenges or trials we face, He will ultimately work them out for our good, like our favorite teacher who gave us a tough homework assignment to expand our mind and future, or our greatest coach who drilled us knowing we were getting stronger and better equipped to succeed in the big game, or the acting instructor who stretched our comfort zone pushing us to a wonderful and exhilarating performance.

Today, examine whose hands have control of your steering wheel? During especially stressful situations are you still trying to control every detail of your life? If your confidence is in yourself, usually it will be your emotions and fear of pain, the me-centered motivators, that will direct your steps, and poor decisions will be the norm. Do you experience frustration, fear, or even anger when you can’t control what is happening to you? Turn everything over to God. You can trust Him. He is way more equipped to handle life than you are. Then be a good steward of the instructions He gives for your part of the plan.

Prayer

Dear Father God, it seems that every time I turn a situation over to You, I hang on to some little part of it and pull it away from You again. I want to be in control, and yet I know that doesn’t always work out. Please forgive me for not trusting You with every area of my life. Help me to trust You more and to leave the control of my life in Your hands. Help me to rest securely in Your love. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One You sent to teach me how to trust, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Marital Jealousy: Overcome It Before Damage Is Done

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

How can people overcome jealousy before it reaches the point of disaster?

Below are several useful tactics for battling and overcoming jealousy in one’s marriage.

Action Steps:

  1. Listen to Others
    • If good friends and loved ones comment on their jealousy, it’s a good sign that a problem exists and should be faced.
  2. Be Honest
    • If you are being accused of jealousy, do not react with, “I’m not jealous!” You must ask yourself, “Do I try to control and manipulate my loved one? What or who is causing these jealous feelings? Am I pushing my loved ones away? Do I attempt to make my loved ones account for every minute, look, or thought?”
  3. Spend Time with God
    • If you are dealing with jealousy, you must soak each question above in prayer, asking God to reveal the truth and to give you the courage to act on it. You must ask God to transform your need for security into dependence on and confidence in Him.
  4. Transform the Mind
    • If you are a jealous person, you can use your anxious thoughts and suspicions as cues to stop your dark reactions, take a deep cleansing breath, pray, and get control. Then you should pray for the beloved, think about all the positives in the relationship, and consider what special things you could do, right then, to show love to him [her]. A phone call, a touch, or a gift could do wonders — for both of you.

Biblical Insights:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast… Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:3–5, 8 NIV

Jealousy is a dangerous emotion that has been with man for a very long time. Jealousy can get out of control, as is evidenced in the story of Cain and Abel. Think about the drastic contrast displayed in the above passage: Cain is giving an offering to God, and soon afterward his jealousy drives him to commit a terrible deed.

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. 1 Samuel 18:8–9 NIV

The Israelites sang a song that was designed to honor David and tease their king, Saul. If the Israelites were trying to get at Saul with their teasing, they very much succeeded. When Saul realized David’s popularity, his envy was so great he became an adversary to him.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.Proverbs 14:30 NIV

This piece of biblical wisdom from Proverbs has been proven in many lives. New clinical evidence shows the detrimental effects of stress on the human body—and jealousy always brings on a great deal of stress. Persons who harbor jealousy — emotionally, spiritually, and physically — are doing damage to themselves.

IT’S “YOUR” LIFE, CHILD!

(Author:  Unknown)

I gave you life, but cannot live it for you.

I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.

I can allow you freedom, but cannot account for it.

I can give you directions, but I cannot always be there to lead you.

I can take you to church, but I cannot make your believe.

I can teach you right from wrong, but I can’t always decide for you.

I can buy you nice clothes, but I cannot make you lovely inside.

I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.

I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.

I can teach you to be a friend, but I cannot make you one.

I can teach you respect, but I can’t force you to show honor.

I can grieve about your results, but I cannot doubt those in authority over you.

I can advise you about friends, but I cannot choose them for you.

I can teach you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure.

I can tell you the facts of life, but I cannot build your reputation.

I can warn you about drinking and drugs, but I can’t say “NO” for you.

I can tell you about lofty goals, but I can’t achieve them for you.

I can allow your decision-making, but I can’t be responsible for your actions.

I can teach you kindness, but I can’t force you to be gracious.

I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make your morals.

I can love you as a child, but I cannot place you in God’s Family.

I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.

I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Him your Savior.

I can teach you to OBEY, but I cannot make Jesus your Lord.

I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you Eternal Life.

What Makes It Hard to Do Your Job (as a parent)?

Here are some factors that can make it tough to validate, nurture and keep your fingers off the “control” button.

Source: Tim Sanford

Your job description is doable.

You can validate and you can nurture.

That’s not to say, of course, that people and events won’t conspire to make your job harder. Here are some factors that can make it tough to validate, nurture and keep your fingers off the “control” button.

1. The judgment of other parents. It’s easy to talk about other parents, evaluating their parenting based on how their teenagers are choosing and behaving. Since moms are often more closely tied to raising children than dads are, they’re especially susceptible to this kind of talking, comparing, and evaluating.

Some parents even do this comparing in the “fellowship” halls of their own churches. Is that fellowship? Is it encouraging and uplifting?

I don’t think so.

The sad news is that it’s so common. Have you been on the receiving end? Did you respond by trying harder to control your teen’s behavior in order to silence the critics?

One lesson I’ve learned as a parent is to guard my mouth and not talk in an “evaluating” manner about another mom or dad. I’ve also learned to guard my heart when I hear others talking about me in that way.

Sure, it’s easier said than done. But nobody said parenting was easy — just doable.

2. Catching up. When a child hasn’t been sufficiently validated or nurtured, he or she can be thrown into an unconscious emotional “survival mode.”

This can put a record like the following on his or her mental turntable: “The only person in this whole world I can trust to look out for me is me. So I will do whatever I think I have to do to get my needs met.”

If you think I’m talking only about a child adopted from an orphanage overseas, think again. Not getting enough validation or nurture can and does happen in our society, even among upper-middle-class, churchgoing, intact families.

These kids can be found on a continuum ranging from mild to extreme. Those on the mild end of the scale are often underdiagnosed and labeled as strong-willed, having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, perfectionistic, “control freaks,” lazy, underachievers, or just plain selfish.

While these may be partly accurate assessments, they don’t tell the whole story. Attempts to help the teen “get his act together” will be met with limited success, because only surface issues are being addressed and not the underlying attachment and bonding problems.

Young people on the extreme end of this scale get noticed more quickly. Their negative behaviors usually are diagnosed as — among other things — oppositional defiant disorder, rebellion, antisocial behavior, or conduct disorder. Even if these diagnoses are correct, they still don’t address the deeper issue of what’s needed when validation or nurture is lacking.

Whether symptoms are mild or wild, the damage can be deep and severe. Professional therapy with a counselor familiar with bonding and attachment issues is in order.

3. Single parenthood. If you’re a single parent, you may be facing a real battle.

Is that an understatement, or what?

I’ve said that dads are supposed to validate and moms are to nurture. Where does that leave you?

Mentors and other healthy role models can be very helpful, though most single parents I talk with say it’s not easy to find such people for their teenagers. And finding them may not be enough. You and your teen may need to wear a path to a counselor’s office — being sure to find a professional who has a working understanding of bonding and attachment issues with teenagers.

Melinda had been a single parent to her son for more than nine years when I met the two of them. Andy was now 13. During our first session I asked why they were talking to a therapist like me, since there seemed to be no real issues at hand.

Melinda explained that she just wanted a “checkup” for Andy and herself, to make sure they were both ready for the changes the teenage years would bring.

As the sessions progressed, it became apparent to me that this single mom had gotten it right. Yes, Andy was an “easy child” as far as personality goes. But Melinda had been purposeful in her parenting, and had kept Andy around spiritually solid men in the church through various activities. She’d given Andy enough nurturing and had done her best to see that he’d gotten as much validation as possible. The situation wasn’t perfect, but for Andy it was enough.

There are many stories like Angie’s — and many like Andy’s, too.

If you’re a single mom, you can nurture and validate your teen. If you’re a single dad, you can nurture as well as validate.

Defining Success as a Parent

Get into the mind-set that everything you do as a parent ultimately is part of validating or nurturing your children.

Regardless of your parenting situation, you can erase “control” from your job description and add “validate and nurture.” While you’re at it, don’t forget all that fine print about paying for things, coaching your daughter’s soccer team, correcting your son’s awful table manners, sitting through countless piano recitals, teaching spiritual values and how to balance a checkbook, driving all over town, disciplining, encouraging, saying no at times and yes at others, setting boundaries and repeating all this as needed.

In doing this year after year, you greatly increase the opportunity for your teenager to choose what’s wise and right. Even though you can’t control the final outcome, you’ve stacked the deck in your child’s favor. That’s what your job as a parent is.

Get into the mind-set that everything you do as a parent ultimately is part of validating or nurturing your children, especially during their teen years — preferably in ways they don’t consider offensive or embarrassing.

And don’t forget that it’s not about being perfect or exactly “right.”

It’s about “enough.”

Relax. You can do these things. And while there may be hard times, you can do them successfully, even if your teenager doesn’t turn out “right” — now or later.

Remember, the results aren’t in your hands.

The clearer you are about this job description, the more able you’ll be to maintain a balanced approach to this thing called control.

Taken from Losing Control & Liking It, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

How Much Validation and Nurturing?

Every person needs both validation and nurture to fully develop into a healthy adult.

SOURCE:  Tim Sanford

Validation from Dad, plus nurturing from Mom, equals “mission accomplished” as parents. You’ll notice that the word control doesn’t appear anywhere in that equation.

But speaking of equations, how much validation and nurture does your teenager need?

I’ve known teens praised for their accomplishments, but hardly ever validated for just existing.

I’ve known teens kept neat and clean and “mothered,” but neglected and lacking those qualities needed to become fully alive as human beings.

Every person needs both validation and nurture to fully develop into a healthy adult. That’s why God’s ideal plan includes every child being raised by a mom and a dad. It doesn’t always happen that way, of course, and I’ll say more about that later in this article series.

What happens when a child is raised in a home marked by too little validation or nurture or both? In my 20 years as a professional therapist, I’ve seen as many people in my office — if not more — who lacked these ingredients as I’ve seen who were abused by a parent. Don’t get me wrong; abuse and neglect are very destructive. But the damage can be just as severe for those who didn’t get enough validation from their dads or nurture from their moms.

I remember the story of a missionary kid in Ecuador. Though I’ve long forgotten the details, one statement from this boy — close to my age at the time — still rings in my ears. He said, “My dad will spend three hours talking to a drunk on a street curb, but he won’t spend three minutes talking to me.”

This boy was part of a missionary family, doing God’s work in a foreign country. There was no abuse here — just lots and lots of “not enough.” The damage was just as deep as if it had been caused by active abuse.

The pain, woundedness, and emptiness in case after case like this may be covered with a practiced smile or an impeccable résumé. But they’re still there.

So how much is “enough”?

Do you have to be a perfect parent?

No, and no again!

Dad, your validation doesn’t have to be flawless. It just needs to be enough for that individual child.

Mom, your nurturing doesn’t have to be world-class, either. It needs to be enough for that particular child.

But how do you know what’s “enough”?

“Some” is not the same as “enough”

Consider another word picture. Let’s say you need 50 “units” of oxygen to stay alive. If you have 52, you have enough to live on — maybe not enough to run a marathon, but enough to survive.

If you have 96 units, you have enough — and some left over to climb Pikes Peak.

But if you only have 9 units, you don’t have enough. You will die.

So if you have 49 units, do you have “enough”?

No.

“What are you bellyaching about?” someone might say. “You have

a whole lot more than the person who only got 9!”

Some adults might say, “I know my parents loved me, and they gave me what little they could in the way of validation and nurture. I got more than a lot of other people did growing up.”

But was it enough?

Some is not equal to enough.

“Enough” varies from child to child, personality to personality. What’s enough for one child may not be for the next. If a child doesn’t get enough validation and nurture, he or she may not physically die — but will be emotionally damaged and maybe even emotionally cease to exist.

What happens when your child doesn’t get enough

That was the case with Angie. Sixteen years old, she was brought into my office because she was angry, hurting herself, and depressed.

She came from an upper-middle-class “Christian family,” to use her parents’ words.

As I got to know Angie, she told me of the daily routine in her home. Dad was always busy with work, even when he was in the house, and rarely spoke a word to any family members. Mom was clinically depressed — nonfunctional in private, but upbeat and social when in the public eye.

There were no harsh words, no abuse, no molestation. Angie was just left to fend for herself — not because her chores were assigned, but because they wouldn’t get done otherwise. She did her own laundry, made her own meals, checked her own homework, paid for her own things, and answered her own questions about life.

Yes, she was angry; she was all alone. There was no validation, no nurturing — no “fussing.” Yes, she was harming herself; she was taking her anger out on the person she thought was at fault. She told me it was her fault for being born — a tragic jukebox record she’d been playing for years. And yes, she was depressed; you’d be depressed, too, if that were your life.

It was all because she hadn’t gotten, and wasn’t getting, enough validation and nurture — at least for her.

This story breaks my heart as I recount it. Angie chose illicit drugs rather than therapy to deal with her situation, and I never heard from her again.

Her story isn’t unique, either.

This is not a call to “blame the parents for all the teenager’s problems.”

It’s a statement of reality and truth.

That’s the vital nature of validation and nurture. Unfortunately, the necessity of both may be forgotten until after a child has been raised — often by moms and dads who spent their parenting years searching in vain for control.

Taken from Losing Control & Liking It, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

The Real Job of Dads

A dad’s primary, underlying job isn’t control.

SOURCE:  Tim Sanford

A dad’s primary, underlying job isn’t control. It’s to validate every one of his children.

To validate means to let your child know over and over and over, through words and actions, that the following are true:

  • “Hey, you exist and you matter to me.”
  • “You’re good enough.”
  • “You’re an okay kid.”

Psychotherapists sometimes talk about the looking-glass-self principle. It’s the idea that children get their earliest, most lasting impressions of who they are from what’s reflected back to them by their parents. These impressions become those “records” in the jukebox of your child’s brain.

Let’s say four-year-old Johnny walks into the room where his dad is reading the newspaper, and Dad doesn’t confirm Johnny’s presence. Dad doesn’t say, “Good to see you, son!” He doesn’t even say, “Don’t bother me. Can’t you see I’m trying to read?” Johnny may begin to doubt his own existence.

It’s like the old, philosophical question: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, did it make a noise?

In Johnny’s case, the answer is no. His existence hasn’t been validated by any response. He interprets that to mean, I’m not an okay person. This may be a totally wrong interpretation; his dad may not believe this for a second about his son, but this is how Johnny — and most children — will interpret this scenario. That’s the way children’s brains operate.

That’s often why children do bad things, as in these cases:

  • Sixteen-year-old Jenny barely saw her dad, thanks to his 12-hour days and golfing habit. He did give her a new computer, though, and thought that would be enough to show her he loved her. She used it to post suggestive photos of herself on MySpace. When her mom found out and tipped off Dad, he went ballistic and banned Jenny from using the computer for the rest of the year.
  • Fifteen-year-old Ace saw his math grade going down the tubes, so he figured out a way to cheat on the final. He was desperate for a good grade because his dad only seemed proud of him when he did well in school. His cheating technique wasn’t very practiced, though; he was caught and flunked the test and the course. As a result, Dad ruled that Ace would have to wait a whole year to take the driving lessons needed to get a license.
  • Thirteen-year-old Bob remembered the fun he used to have playing chess with his dad. These days, though, Dad traveled all the time and buried himself in televised sports when he was home. Without asking, Bob borrowed his father’s expensive chess set and took it to school for chess club. Somewhere along the way, he lost a few pieces. When he confessed, Dad yelled at him for being a “careless idiot.” After that, Bob didn’t think there was much chance the two would ever play chess again.

In all these cases, a failure to do his job led a father to “clamp down” and substitute control for validation. That’s a substitution that doesn’t work.

Note, too, that by misbehaving these kids got some response — even if it was negative. By acting out, teenagers can affirm they exist and that their existence has impact on the world around them. Their lives have made “ripples in the water,” so to speak. They get something from their parents, even if it’s punishment.

To avoid that kind of acting out, remember: A teenager needs as much of your time and attention as a toddler does. In fact, a dad’s validation is so critical to a child’s emotional health that he or she will go to any length — and I do mean any — to get it, whether it’s real or artificial.

What Validation Isn’t

What do you think of the following example? Does it fall under the definition of validation or not?

Jason wanted to play basketball, but he was no star athlete. In fact, he never shot baskets at home and barely dragged himself to practice for the YMCA team, frequently skipping at the slightest excuse. At home he whined to his dad about how hard the coach made the players work, demanding extra running drills.

When games started and Jason spent most of his time on the bench, he got frustrated and decided to quit. His dad felt sorry for the boy and told him it was all right to drop off the team.

“Some people just don’t recognize natural talent,” Dad assured Jason.

Is that validation?

And the answer is . . . no.

Validation doesn’t mean lying. It doesn’t mean telling me, “Great game, son!” when I really played poorly.

Many parents have so bought into the self-esteem movement that no matter who wins or loses the baseball tournament, everybody deserves a trophy. In a feeble attempt to “validate” every player (and assuming the only way to do that is with a shiny cup), we end up extracting the genuine power and intention of true validation.

Just as validation has nothing to do with control, it has no relation to being a “softie” as a parent. You can be firm and strong and still validate your child. It means acknowledging your son or daughter, certifying his or her existence, affirming the person apart from the not-so-good performance.

Some fathers go to the opposite extreme, withholding validation when kids don’t “measure up.” Our culture is so conditional in its validation — affirming only those who’ve won fame or fortune, or been born (or surgically assisted) with “good” looks — that the same approach often creeps into our parenting. It’s easy for a man to validate a good performance; it takes a lot more time and energy to see and value the human being in the absence of any performance and put it into words.

In a way, these forms of “invalid validation” are another attempt to control the way our kids turn out. We want them to grow up full of confidence, so we give even mediocre performances rave reviews. Or we want them to achieve, so we skip the praise so they’ll try harder to earn it.

A dad’s biggest job is to relinquish that kind of control and affirm that the existence of each of his children, with or without any great (or poor) performance, is acceptable. If you’re a father, recognize that each of your children is worthy of being alive. You may know that, but each of your children needs to hear it from you.

Value that child as a person, even when disciplining an action or attitude. Make sure your child knows he or she is good enough for you.

Otherwise, when that tree falls in the forest, the silence will be deafening.

The best time to begin validating is the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. Parenting a teenager begins when he or she is born.

When he or she is born. Really.

But it’s never too late to start. Do it often enough to cut a record in your teen’s jukebox that says, “I’m okay. I’m good enough.” If you can do that, trying to compensate with control won’t be such a temptation.

Taken from Losing Control & Liking It, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

A WAY OF HOPE – ABUSE

(Adapted from Family Life Today/A Weekend to Remember)

You Are Not Alone

When you are abused, you feel desperately alone.  You may think, Why me? Other women don’t have this problem.  Something must be wrong with me. And you may feel so ashamed that this is happening to you that you don’t want anyone to know about it.  But the truth is that many wives suffer some form of domestic abuse regardless of racial, religious, educational or economic backgrounds.

According to the American Medical Association, husbands and boyfriends severely assault as many as four million women every year.  One in four women will experience some type of spousal abuse during their lifetime.  Many of these women feel trapped, anxious, afraid, and helpless.  Some feel they are to blame – that if they could just do better at pleasing their husbands, they could change their situations.  Others don’t know what to do, or where to go to get help.  Most suffer in silence, hiding their situations from family and friends because of the shame and embarrassment they feel.  Or perhaps they fear others will not believe them.

No, you are not alone.  But there is hope!  Many women have taken bold and courageous steps to seek help, to find freedom from abuse, and to begin the journey toward to a new life.  Some have even seen their abusers find the help they desperately needed to stop their destructive behavior and to experience healing and recovery in their own lives.  Some couples, through the help of intervention and a structured recovery process guided by pastors or qualified counselors, have been able to experience healing and reconciliation in their marriages.

Yes, it is true that change does take time, a lot of courage, and a great deal of support, but change can happen.  And if you are in an abusive situation, change must happen.

What Is Abuse?

A crucial first step in this process will be to acknowledge and understand the abuse occurring in your marriage.  Abuse means to mistreat or misuse someone.  People abuse others to dominate or control, or to prevent others from making free choices.

There are several different forms of abuse:

*Emotional or psychological abuse:  Mistreating and controlling someone through fear, manipulation, and intimidation, and by attacking that person’s sense of self-worth.  The abuser seeks to make his wife feel afraid, helpless, confused, and worthless.  This form of abuse includes:  name-calling, mocking, belittling, accusing, blaming, yelling, swearing, harassing, isolating from family and friends, abusing authority, withholding emotional support and affection, and betraying trust.

*Physical abuse:  Assaulting, threatening, or restraining a person through force. Men who batter use physical violence to control women – to scare them into doing whatever they want them to do.  Physical abuse includes:  hitting, slapping, punching, beating, grabbing, shoving, biting, kicking, pulling hair, burning, using or threatening the use of weapons, blocking you from leaving a room or the house during an argument, driving recklessly, or intimidating you with threatening gestures.

*Sexual abuse:  Behavior that dominates or controls someone through sexual acts, demands or insults.  Sexual abuse includes:  making you do sexual things when it is against your will, when you are sick, or when it is painful; using force (including rape in or out of marriage), threats, or coercion to obtain sex or perform sexual acts; forcing you to have unprotected sex, or sex with others; treating you like a sex object, and calling you names like “frigid” or “whore.”

Facing the Facts … And Facing Your Fears

Denying the abuse or the impact of abuse may have helped you to cope with the problem until now.  However, denial is also the very thing that will hinder you from breaking the cycle of violence in your life, and from experiencing peace and freedom from abuse.

Facing the fact that you are being abused or battered by your husband, and that his behavior is not normal, can stir up deep emotional feelings – especially fear.  You must acknowledge these fears in order to face and deal with the problem.  In her book, Invisible Wounds – A Self-Help Guide for Women in Destructive Relationships, Kay Douglas writes, “Unacknowledged fears play on our minds and sap our confidence until we have no energy left to deal with the problems at hand.  The way out of fear is through it.”  She goes on to say, “As we face and feel our vulnerability, our fear may increase in intensity for a brief time.  Then it begins to diminish.  When we know what we are dealing with, much of the power of that feeling goes.  We move through fear to a calmer, stronger place within.  Having faced the worst, we are free to put our energy into coping creatively with our situation.”

It’s Time to Make the Right Choices

You do not deserve to be abused, nor are you to blame for the abuse that you have suffered.  Abuse of any type is wrong, and if you are in an abusive situation, the first step toward new life and freedom is to recognize that there is a need for a change in your life.  Change can be difficult, and in some cases, change can be frightening.  However, in any type of an abusive situation, change is absolutely necessary for your own well being.

Remember, abuse is about power and control.  You may be experiencing verbal or emotional abuse now.  But if changes are not made to resolve your current situation, then when your husband begins feeling as if he still does not have enough control, the abuse will escalate into more violent forms.  According to some authorities, when abusers hit or break objects or make threats, almost 100 percent resort to physical battering.  What might be verbal abuse now could turn into physical abuse down the road.  No form of abuse is acceptable!

Contrary to what you may believe, you are not powerless! You are a worthwhile person and you do not have to continue to accept the mistreatment of your husband.  You have the power to make your own choices.

 

 

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