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Posts tagged ‘enabling’

Codependency: Definition – Signs – Characteristics – Resources

SOURCE:  Mental Health America

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

How Do Co-dependent People Behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.

How is Co-dependency Treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

When Co-dependency Hits Home

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships. Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Other Resources

Co-dependents Anonymous
PO Box 33577
Phoenix, AZ 85067
Phone:
(602) 277-7991 {This number provides only meeting information}
(888) 444-2359 {Toll free}
(888) 444-2379 {Spanish toll free}
Website: http://www.coda.org/

Rescuing is not caring for someone

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often that needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others.

While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible “to” others, the codependent becomes responsible “for” them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing.

Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility.

Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Five Good Reasons to say “No!”

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sarah came to her coaching call astonished that it has taken her fifty years to finally learn how to say “No”. “I’ve always put everyone else first,” she said. “Now I see that I’ve only enabled my husband’s and children’s self-centeredness to flourish.”

One of my relatives recently shared a similar story. At 74 years old, she wired up her courage and said, “No” to her overbearing sister. “Stop telling me what to think, or to do,” she said. “I am my own person and have my own thoughts and my own ways of doing things.” She said it felt really good to say no.

One of the reasons that many of us find it so difficult to say no to people is that we genuinely don’t desire to hurt anyone’s feelings or have them upset with us. Therefore, we’ve learned to please, to placate, and to pretend so that we don’t make waves.

In addition, many of us have been taught that as Christians we should go the extra mile, do more, submit to authority, and always think of others before we think of ourselves. Therefore, whenever we do say no, we feel guilty and selfish.

Yet the Bible tells us stories of people who said “No”. One of my favorites is Queen Vashti. If you don’t know her, she was Queen Esther’s predecessor. Queen Vashti refused to allow herself to be treated as a sexual object for her husband’s drunken friends to ogle. When her husband ordered her to parade herself before them, she said “No.” (See Esther 1 for the story.)

Abigail was another brave wife who did not go along with her husband’s foolish decision. Instead of submitting, she overruled him by taking charge when her family faced the fiery wrath of David and his men (1 Samuel 25).

Earlier in Jewish history we find two midwives who said “No”. They refused to obey the Pharaoh’s orders to murder Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:17).

Jesus himself said “No” when Peter asked him to return to his house and continue healing the sick who had camped out there overnight. Jesus told Peter he needed to move on to Jerusalem to preach. (Read Mark 1 for the story).

Here are five good reasons to say “No”.

  1. Saying “No” acknowledges both to you and to others that you are a finite, limited person. You cannot do two things at the same time or be in two places at once. Jesus couldn’t say “Yes” to Peter’s request and also preach in Jerusalem. He had to choose. All of us have limited resources of time, energy and money. If we say “Yes” to one thing, it means we are saying “No” to another. When we say yes because we’re afraid to say no, we often allow good things to take the place of God’s best. 
  2. Saying “No” to others, especially early in a relationship helps you discern fairly quickly whether the other person can be respectful of your time, your needs and your priorities. Try it. Next time you’re on the phone with someone and you’re busy, be honest. Tell him or her, “I can’t talk right now, I have to go.” Pay attention to her response. Does she hear you? Or, is she so focused on her own needs that she totally ignores what you said? Or perhaps he may pressure you to stay on the phone longer, or make you feel guilty for not having the time to talk right now. Noticing these particular patterns early on can help us weed out manipulative and toxic individuals before we get too close to them. 
  3. Saying “No” to people, even those you dearly love, helps them not become overly dependent on you to meet needs that they should be capable of meeting on their own. When we do too much for people they grow lazy, self-centered, and self-absorbed. They also begin to adopt an entitlement mindset rather than being grateful.

  4. Saying “No” to sin, injustice, and abuse, is not simply sticking up for yourself, it’s standing up for what’s good, right, and just. Jesus always stood for what was right and against what was wrong. He confronted the legalistic views of the Pharisee’s and healed on the Sabbath, even when it angered the religious rule keepers. Jesus taught that the law of love always comes first. 
  5. Saying “No” to foolishness can rescue a person from the error of his or her ways. Abigail not only saved her own life, she saved her entire family’s life. She also helped David come to his senses when she challenged his decision to repay Nabal’s foolishness. James reminds us “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19).

When have you been too afraid, too nice, or too passive to say “No”? What has it cost you or others?

Ask God to give you the courage to say “No” when necessary for your good, for another person’s good, or for His purposes and glory.

Your Family Voyage: Codependency – Characteristics

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

Codependency is sometimes defined as a tendency to have compulsively unhealthy relationships. Originally the term was used to describe the condition of spouses of alcoholics. These people had developed a living pattern that was not only unhealthy for themselves but actually promoted the alcoholism. They were obsessed with “fixing” their partners; without someone to rescue, they had no direction or purpose in life. Being emotionally dependent on their chemically dependent partners they were “codependent.”

Today we have a much broader understanding of this condition. The term codependent is used to describe an individual who is so preoccupied with others that his or her own life suffers or becomes unmanageable. Codependency is a futile attempt to deal with internals – fear, hurt, anger, insecurity – by trying to control externals – people, events, objects.

Compulsion is an old, familiar term rooted in the verb compel. A compulsion is a behavior we feel compelled to perform, repeated behavior patterns that are extremely resistant to change even though they cause numerous personal difficulties. Symptoms of an internal, emotional struggle, compulsions may take a variety of forms: gambling, criticizing, excessive shopping, nail biting, arguing, excessive hand washing, and lying are some examples.

Characteristics of Codependency. Having these problems does not mean we’re bad, defective or inferior. Some of us learned these behaviors as children. Other people learned them later in life. We may have learned some of these things from our interpretations of religion. Some women were taught these behaviors were desirable feminine attributes. Most of us started doing these things out of necessity to protect ourselves and meet our needs. We performed, felt, and thought these things to survive – emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. We tried to understand and cope with our complex worlds in the best ways. We have done the best we could.

However, these self-protective devices may have outgrown their usefulness. Sometimes the things we do to protect ourselves turn on us and hurt us. They become self-destructive. Many codependents are barely surviving, and most aren’t getting their needs met. These characteristics are typical of codependency:

1. Discontentedness. The codependent lives with the sense that something is missing in his or her life. This chronic discontentment is the driving force behind much of his or her behavior.

2. Blame. The codependent consistently looks to others as a source for his or her own happiness. The resulting unmet expectations amplify discontentment. The codependent often feels like a victim and blames others for his or her circumstances.

3. Guilt. The codependent is inwardly self-critical and frequently feels guilty. Never feeling quite “good enough”, he or she minimizes or rejects compliments or praise. Nevertheless he or she has a low tolerance for criticism and is defensive when corrected. The codependent attempts to bolster his or her low self-concept by helping others.

4. Over-responsibility. The codependent takes unreasonable responsibility for others and feels compelled to solve other people’s problems. He or she is attracted to needy people and often feels empty without a problem to solve or someone to rescue.

5. Control. The codependent is consistently worried about and preoccupied with situations beyond his or her control. Control is a major motivation in the codependent’s life, and he or she attempts to control others through manipulation, blame, guilt, helplessness, threats, coercion, or directives. The codependent feels frustrated and angry when his or her attempts to control fail, and he or she in turns feels controlled by others.

6. Approval. The approval of others is very important to the codependent. He or she has a deep fear of rejection and abandonment and as a result says yes when meaning no, over commits and neglects his or her own needs. The codependent may compromise his or her values and preferences to avoid disapproval.

7. Extremes. The codependent’s lifestyle and relationships are a series of extremes, frequently involving other compulsions. He or she vacillates between love and hate, hoarding and spending, hot and cold, up and down. He or she may lack a sense of healthy balance in one or more life areas.

 

Are You Helping or Enabling Your Spouse?

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Does your spouse want or need to change something in their life? If so, it’s critical to know the difference between helping and enabling them through that change.

The change they want or need could be something serious like an addiction to prescription drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. Or it could be something simpler like eating healthier, exercising more, or changing an annoying habit. They may talk about it, they may whine about it, they may pretend it doesn’t exist, but being their spouse, you see it better than most anyone.

In general, helping your spouse is doing something right and healthy for them that they cannot do for themselves. Enabling is doing for them what they can and need to do for themselves, allowing them to live an irresponsible life.

A recent reality show my friend was watching about a severely obese person illustrates both helping and enabling. A woman needed to lose hundreds of pounds or she would die. Her relatives had been going to the store for her every day (since she couldn’t go herself), but they bought only the unhealthy food that was killing her. That was not helping; that was enabling her obesity. Later, the relatives saw the reality of what they were doing, moved in with her, and helped her change her eating and cooking habits by cooking only healthy foods for her for several months. That was helping. She learned to choose healthier options, and successfully lived alone again, with a radically different lifestyle and weight loss that gave her hope.

Here’s what enabling looks like:

  • You do for your spouse the things they can and should do for themselves.
  • You cover up for your spouse when their issues create problems for them and others.
  • You make excuses for their behavior with others.
  • You lie to them, to yourself, and to others about the extent and eventual consequences of their issue.
  • You protect your spouse from the normal consequences of their problem.
  • You ignore your spouse or their issue altogether. Ignoring is enabling.
  • You blame others or indulge your spouse blaming others, for their issue.
  • You make empty threats related to the consequences of their choices and don’t follow through.
  • You avoid being around your spouse. Sometimes, this is necessary for a dangerous situation but usually, it only allows the spouse to wallow in the problem.
  • You repeatedly get your spouse out of the trouble their issue creates, usually at a high cost to yourself.

Here’s what helping looks like:

  • You do for your spouse the things that they cannot do for themselves.
  • You are honest with them about the consequences of inaction.
  • You don’t lie for them, and you don’t lie to them.
  • You don’t create excuses to others to cover up for their problems or issues.
  • You don’t clean up the messes their struggles or issues create.
  • You love them unconditionally, just as they are, yet you also love them enough to hope they choose to change.
  • You help them focus on the goal, without dwelling on any missteps or failures along the way.
  • You cheer them on and celebrate even small steps towards their goals.
  • You accept that you cannot change them, that they will not change unless they want to change. This may feel like giving up, but accepting this truth gives them freedom to own the change.
  • You refuse to take responsibility for their bad choices.

These are just some of the ways you can check yourself to see if you are truly helping them or enabling their destructive choices. But these are not exhaustive checklists. Don’t delay to seek out professional counsel for yourself if you have a serious situation. Don’t give up hope, but don’t give in to the temptation to indulge them in keeping the peace. And remember, your spouse can only experience true change when they want true change.

10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

SOURCE:  /Lifehack Magazine

Codependency.

Many people are not  familiar with the term codependency and are often not aware that they might struggle with it.

Often a term used in recovery circles or counselling sessions, it is not usually talked about or brought up in regular conversations. The actual definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

In some way shape or form, everyone is codependent on another to a certain extent.  Codependency becomes unhealthy when it affects your overall mental health and happiness.

I was a part of two very codependent relationships and did not realise it until I wondered why both of my relationships ended the same way even though they were with two completely different people. After I learned about codependency and examined my motives for why I did certain things in relationships, I was able to overcome many of my codependent habits.

Here are 10 signs you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. You might not feel complete as a person without that relationship

Often times when you are in a codependent relationship and not aware of it, the relationship can be confused as a Twilight version of true love which is actually not healthy at all. Edward and Bella’s relationship is actually the perfect example of a codependent relationship: If you feel like you cannot function without the other person around or that your life would be over if the relationship ended, that is normally a sign of emotional codependence that is often confused with “true love”. A healthy relationship is when two people that are happy and healthy on their own choose to be together because both of their lives are improved when they are together.

2. You feel the other person cannot function without you around

Many times this is true if you are in a relationship where one person caters to another and truly believes they do so much for that person, they would not know what to do without you. I truly believed that in one of my past relationships. When the relationship ended, that person was just fine without me catering to every need or request they had. Human beings in general are pretty self reliant. When involved in a codependent relationship, many times one person in the relationship is using the other to get what they want and the other is truly convinced they are needed or have to stay in the relationship for the other person. If you have ever thought about leaving a relationship but talked yourself out of it because “they won’t know what to do without me, I have to stay” – that is a clear sign of codependency.

3. You do whatever you can to maintain peace in the relationship

This might be where the term “walking on eggshells” came from. If you are changing your actions and reactions to try and maintain peace in a relationship or your household due to another person’s outbursts or anger, this is a sign of codependency. Instead of choosing to set firm boundaries of how another person is allowed to treat you, you are actually repressing yourself as a person to try and avoid another person acting out and causing emotional harm. What is important here is what are your true motives in any given situation. Many victims of physical and emotional abuse live this way and it is probably the worst type of codependency.

4. You feel responsible for the other person’s thoughts or actions

You might feel like another person’s actions are a reflection of you. You might also feel that because they made a negative choice or decision, you are a failure. This is often true of parents and their children or people in dysfunctional relationships. In these types of situations it is important to realise that we are responsible for our own thoughts, actions and reactions and no one else’s. If we ever feel emotionally responsible for the choices someone else is making and it brings us anxiety or worry, that is a clear sign of codependency. I felt this way for a long while until I realised that no matter what I do or say, the other person is going to make their own choices even if they are not healthy ones. My only responsibility with another person’s actions is how I choose to respond and what I am willing to accept in the relationship.

5. You allow their decisions and behaviours to emotionally affect you

This is similar to number 4, yet different. This is typically described as a martyr role. If you continually experience anger, worry, anxiety or guilt from another person’s choices, that is a clear sign of codependency. If you worry about another person’s feelings or emotions because of a situation they are going through, that is codependency. When you allow what another person says or does to emotionally affect you, that is not a healthy relationship. When what another person says or does causes you to act out in anger or your addition, that is codependency. I experienced this many times until I was able to take a step back and realise that I have a choice of how I allow someone else’s words or actions to affect me. Often times when codependency is modelled in childhood and growing up, it is harder to break those habits but it is possible. The first step is focusing on yourself instead of the other person and accepting that you are only responsible for you. It is not our responsibility to own other people’s feelings, emotions or decisions.

6. Your self worth is wrapped up in the relationship

At one time I believed that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship. I was afraid to go somewhere alone for fear of being judged. I believed that I was someone because someone else loved me. I sometimes believed the person I was with was an extension of me. In many ways I had lost my own identity in the relationship and felt almost too emotionally connected to them as well. When you begin to live life for another instead of doing life alongside of someone, codependency can slowly grow and cause an unhealthy balance in the relationship. Once you are perfectly accepting of yourself and who you really are, you can be happy alone or in a relationship. Once you realise that, your self worth begins to grow and relationships begin to improve.

7. You have little or no boundaries with how the other person in the relationship treats you

Sometimes the prospect of being in a relationship where you are not treated the best is still better than being alone. Often times it is easy to stay in a relationship that has turned into a draining one instead of ending the relationship. Many times people are afraid of the unknown or being alone, so they stay.  If you currently deal with any issues like emotional or physical abuse it is time to evaluate and ask yourself if you actually deserve a relationship that is currently causing you harm. We often get in our lives what we allow. If we set hard and direct boundaries with consequences for negative behaviour, we then protect ourselves from further harm and gain the strength to walk away from harmful situations even if it means ending the relationship.

8. You feel that your negative relationship issues are the other person’s fault

This statement is often a hard one to swallow. For true victims of domestic violence, often times the majority is the other person’s fault but we still have the power to stop that behaviour by walking away.  In my relationships, I was not the drug or alcohol abuser so I believed there was nothing wrong with me. I was the victim because that person continued to destroy the relationship because of their actions or addictions. I was a blamer, and I did not want to take responsibility for the part I played in my past negative relationships. I was in a lot of denial about the truth of my past situations. Once I took ownership for the way I acted to every negative situation I was presented with, I was able to slowly change. I eventually realised I had a choice to stay on a roller coaster of addiction with my past partners, or I had the choice to get off. Once I set hard boundaries with the other person as to what I was and was not willing to accept, it became easier. The other person’s refusal to get help or improve their situation ultimately ended the relationship. When I set boundaries it was easier to handle that relationship ending because it was the other person’s choice to choose their addiction over getting help or working on the relationship.

9. You are extremely loyal in the relationship and often remain in harmful situations too long

This is often found in abusive relationships. With abuse, control is a huge factor in the relationship and along with fear or even threats, often the victim stays because they believe their abuser will follow through with those threats. Other times, it is a negative situation or relationship that may not be that severe. It could be a relationship where many years have been invested and they feel stuck or even believe that their life will always be wrapped up in chaos and negativity. The truth is, we have the power to choose how people treat us. If every woman experiencing domestic violence knew that they had to power to say no, true change could happen. When we invest time and energy into a relationship that is not a positive and enriching one, it is time to move on. Leaving the situation does not always have to be the answer if both parties are truly willing to work on the relationship together by tracking and encouraging positive change.

10. You feel it is your responsibility to “fix” everything for them

I was a fixer. If something went wrong or my partner screwed up, I was there to swoop in and cover it all up or at least do my best to try. Some parents who have children wrapped up in addiction have the fixing problem. For a while, I truly believed I had to stay in the relationship to save that person from their addiction or issues. I often believed I had the power to force people to change their bad decisions, but in fact that was all a lie. I cannot fix anyone but myself. Once I realised that I was harming the situation by allowing that person to continue to make bad decisions without having hard consequences, I stopped fixing and stopped allowing them to continue to act out in their addiction with me around. Instead, I took a step back and focused on myself.  Eventually I realised I had no control or power over the situation and I decided that it was time to get out of the chaotic relationship I had chosen to be a part of. The decision was not easy but it was the best one I could make for my emotional health and sanity.

Q&A: Am I Enabling Or Being Godly Wife?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: I would like to have you explain what “enabling” the emotionally abusive person means? The balance of walking the Christian walk, submitting to my husband but not enabling is a very difficult line to draw. I don’t feel I enable, and my husband is not physically or verbally abusive, but he is emotionally abusive, without knowing it, even though I have tried to raise his awareness of it. The Christians I confide in say that I am an enabler, but I do not like that term and I don’t feel I am. Can you clarify?

Answer: It’s difficult to hear people tell us something about ourselves we don’t believe is true. And, you’re right sometimes it is a fine line. It might be helpful for you to ask them what they see in you that make them think you enable your husband’s emotional abuse. But let me ask you to look for a few red flags that might indicate enabling behavior.

1. Do you ever lie, cover up, or make excuses for your husband’s emotionally abusive behaviors? You might believe you have a very good reason like you don’t want to embarrass him or disrespect him by calling it what it is, but right now, just be honest with yourself.

Sometimes we think that this is our duty or responsibility as a submissive wife or godly person to cover up sin, but I don’t believe God wants us to exchange the truth for a lie or call evil good.We can speak the truth with a gentle spirit and in love (with their best interests in mind).

The apostle Paul says that we are to having nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). When abuse remains hidden and secret, it flourishes.

2. Do you do regularly change your behaviors, stuff your feelings, or guard what you say just to keep the peace, prevent an argument, or make him happy?

Again in any marriage there is a fair amount of give and take and at certain times for good reasons we might do any of the above. But when we are the one who is doing most of the accommodating or significantly changing who we are or stuffing how we feel then the relationship is unhealthy.

For example, perhaps your husband is insecure and jealous. For these reasons he does not want you to work, or go to Bible study, or even go to the mall without him. To accommodate such controlling demands actually enables his insecurity and jealousy to flourish, not to change and heal. That’s where the fine line between submission and enabling starts to blur. Do you submit to your husband’s demands to stay home all the time or it actually better and healthier for you, for him, and for your marriage to challenge them?

3. Are you doing things for your husband that he should be doing for himself?

Again in marriage, there are times spouses do extra and do favors for one another. But when you are the one doing the most of the work and your spouse is not sharing those responsibilities, you are enabling him to be selfish, lazy, and indifferent.

4. Are you taking the responsibility or blame for things that you are not responsible for. For example, when your husband loses his temper and says “if only you were more organized, or more submissive, or cooked better, or didn’t upset him” do you enable him to blame shift and make you responsible for his bad behaviors?

In each of these things, you cannot change your husband. You may be doing all you can and he still may be abusive. You can’t make him help you, or take responsibility for his own emotional outbursts, or be more secure and less threatened.

I don’t know your particular story or what your spouse is doing that you feel is emotionally abusive, but you can and must look at the part you play in enabling his behaviors to flourish and grow without protest or consequence.

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. 

Codependency and Relationship Dependency

SOURCE: Excerpted from  Jeff  VanVonderen – Families Where Grace is in Place

CODEPENDENCY

On a recent talk show, I heard a man who had the dream of becoming a professional athlete in a certain sport. He spent up to eight hours a day, six days a week, playing that sport. He had no job. He had no real marriage. His relationship with his kids was nonexistent. The family was in danger of losing the house and all of their possessions. Audience members accused him of lacking respect for his family. He was appalled. He just liked to play his sport.

Members of the audience also accused him of preferring to play rather than work. He admitted it. He just wanted to play. As far as he was concerned, if he could just play six days a week without having to listen to the gripes of his family, life would be just fine.

This scenario recalled for me a book I’d read entitled The Peter Pan Syndrome.1 It was written to help women who thought they had married a man, when really they had married a “Pan.” You will recall that Peter Pan and the lost boys lived in Never Never Land, where no one ever had to grow up. They just played all day long, going from one incredible adventure to another. The gentleman on the show was very much like a lost boy.

As incredibly out of touch as this man was, my attention was drawn to his wife.

While she hated his lifestyle, she funded it. She believed him when he said he respected her, even though all of his actions communicated blatant disrespect. Where he fell short, she took up the slack. Why was she willing to waste her entire life playing “Wendy” to the “Peter Pan” in her husband? She was obviously the smartest, most capable of the two. Yet she lived as if she had no life without him.

Why?

Because she was a codependent—that is, stuck in a controlling, rescuing relationship that was wearing her out. And the model she provided for her kids, about how to have an adult relationship, was every bit as dysfunctional as that of her husband.

As I said earlier, codependency is another word for relationship dependency. At its very core, it is a spiritual idolatry. Remember, idolatry occurs when one person turns to anything or anyone besides God in order to gain life, security, and value. In a codependent relationship, God is not the source. Pat Springle, Senior Vice-President of Rapha Hospital Treatment Centers, defines codependency as “a compulsion to control and rescue people by fixing their problems.” The codependent needs the loved one to be “fixed” in order to feel good about themselves or as an attempt to have their own unmet needs satisfied.

It is never your job or mine to protect our loved ones from bad news. We can, instead, support them as they learn to cope with the tough challenges of life. We do not have to sacrifice our own needs, feelings, or values as we try to help others with theirs. We can take care of ourselves and be resources to our loved ones as they learn to be responsible for their own needs.

You don’t have to live in ways that are codependent. If you are not able to stop, get help. Living this way will enable those around you to stay sick or irresponsible.

 

A PRAYER FOR WISDOM ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Can’t FIX… It…Him…Her………

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 NLT

Some of us—if not all of us—have known the frustration of being caught up in a situation we can’t control and can’t fix.

Are you suffering pressures, stress and pain from dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem?

Those pressures are very real, but even in the middle of that frustration and tension, you need to believe that there is hope.

This kind of hope can be described as the confident expectation of something good. It is hope based on our knowledge of God and his willingness to meet us right where we are. He is here now and is ready to work in us and in our difficult circumstances.

If you are not already doing so, determine to begin spending regular time praying and studying the Bible. When feelings of hopelessness fill your mind, go to God in prayer. Ask him for his strength. Ask him to bring to mind the promises you have studied from the Bible. Ask him to work his will and his plan in your life and in the life of your loved one. He loves you and he will meet your need.

Lord, thank you for this reminder that there is always hope if I am willing to trust in you. You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Helping Others By Taking Care Of Yourself FIRST!

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” 1 Peter 5:7 AMP

When trying to help a loved one struggling with a life-controlling problem, we need to be aware of the “Three C’s”: cause, control and cure.

We did not cause our loved ones’ problems. They are responsible for the choices that led to where they are, no matter what the circumstances may have been.

We cannot control our loved ones’ problems. As much as we might want to, we cannot fix them—only God can do that. Accepting this fact of powerlessness is the first step toward recovery for you as a helper.

We cannot cure our loved one’s problems, but the Bible tells us that Jesus cares and we can trust him to help us through any situation.

We must commit our struggling friend or loved one into God’s care.

The best way we can help others is to take steps to get and keep our own life on the right path. As we trust God and make him the center of our life, he will take care of the rest.

Lord, I’m beginning to realize that I can’t fix my loved one’s problems, but it’s so hard to let go. Help me turn all my anxieties, all my worries, all my concerns over to you once and for all. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Supporting or Enabling — Discerning the Difference

SOURCE:  Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

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

When someone we love is in the grip of a harmful substance or behavior, we naturally want to help. In spite of our best intentions, our efforts are sometimes harmful rather than helpful. Enabling is good intentions gone wrong.

Enabling allows people to continue in their self-destructive behaviors without feeling the painful consequences that might convince them to stop before the problem spirals out of control. Today’s Scripture cautions us that if we rescue a person from the consequences of his or her choices, we’ll just have to do it again … and again.

Do you find yourself covering up the behavior of a friend or loved one, or bailing them out of jail? You might make excuses for them or even blame yourself for their problem. And it’s very easy to give them “one more chance” over and over again. These are common examples of enabling.

Our responsibility to our troubled loved ones is to be supportive. We need to empathize but not fix. To encourage but not protect. We must allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions and not rescue them. To confront them with truth, but not try to control. All of us need to look at whether we are helping … or harming … the struggling people in our lives. And then we can begin the process of being a supporter instead of an enabler. We need to “let go and let God.”

Lord, it’s so hard not to fix my loved one’s problems. But when I come to the rescue instead of letting him suffer the consequences of his actions, I do find that I have to come to the rescue again and again. Nothing really gets fixed. Teach me to be a supporter instead of an enabler. Help me to trust you more. In Jesus’ name …

 

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Is Your Spouse’s Depression Hurting You?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

What to do when his depression is hurting you

Question:  My husband and I have been married for 27 years. I have been reading your books and articles and they have been a blessing to me. Without going into great detail, my husband suffers from major depression.

 He controls the finances, disregards my feelings and desires, lies constantly and can be emotionally and verbally abusive. There is–or was–a kind and honorable man in there, but I don’t see him much anymore, and living with the ” other guy” is wearing me down to nothing.

  After facing financial ruin 5 years ago and managing to get out of debt by the grace of God and start over, he went behind my back to fund his “projects” and we are right back where we started. I have been an enabler who vacillates between keeping the peace and occasionally breaking down and yelling/ crying, but I am trying to change.

 I just need to know…can I hold a depressed person accountable for these actions? His view of reality is skewed and I’ve tried so hard to be kind and supportive but I am so drained. I am afraid if he is forced to confront his behaviors he will be suicidal, but the stress of living this way is too much.

 Also, how do I set boundaries on the spending? We have agreed on budgets, etc., but he ignores them. He promised me he would not put us in debt again, but he broke that promise in a big way, some of it behind my back, some of it while I begged him not to. What can I do to protect me and my son? He is not speaking to me today because I confronted him about some lies I just discovered regarding finances. I am scared of what he will do if I try to take this away from him, and don’t know that I can anyway.

Answer:  You are struggling with several issues at once so I think it might be helpful to separate them a bit for greater clarity. The first is your husband’s depression. How long has he been depressed and is he getting any treatment for it? Does he have a doctor or counselor that he’s working with? If not why not? Depression is a treatable problem. Does he have any family history of bi-polar depression? His spending issues may indicate some mania. If so, be sure to mention this to his treatment provider.

Male depression typically manifests differently than female depression. A depressed woman tends to internalize her pain and blames herself. A depressed male usually externalizes his pain and blames others and circumstances. His externalized pain results in lashing out toward loved ones, sometimes leading to abusive incidents (either verbal and/or physical).

Although depression does rob an individual of his or her ability to think clearly, it does not rob them of all sense of reality or truth, nor does being depressed give him an excuse to sin or act in ways that injure those he says he loves, whether financially, relationally, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes it’s our compassion, sometimes it’s our fears, but It sounds like you’ve been giving your husband a get out jail free card when he sins against you or your family because you’re trying to be sensitive to his depression. The problem I see is that it’s not helping. Shielding your husband from the reality and consequences of his behavior is not helping him get better. It’s not helping him stop his abusive/deceitful behaviors, and it’s taking you to the edge of your own cliff where you are feeling like you can’t take much more. Therefore, let me suggest a different approach and it starts with asking God for wisdom because it’s scary to set boundaries and implement consequences when you’re not sure of what will happen next.

First, I want you to accept the very painful reality that the only person you can take full responsibility for is you (unless you have an infant in the home). Therefore, you need to get your own help to handle yourself in this situation. You acknowledged you are an enabler. Until you address why you keep enabling behavior that becomes destructive to you, to him and to your future, you will probably keep repeating it or will be too afraid to change it.

One thing you mentioned is your fear of him committing suicide. Yet you also indicated in your question that you just recently confronted his lying about finances and he didn’t threaten suicide, he just stopped speaking to you. Suicide is a real possibility with someone who is not only depressed, but has lost hope. But threatening suicide can also be used to manipulate others into doing what they want.

I hear you loud and clear that you are nearly at the end of your rope. Living with a depressed person definitely takes its toll on the rest of the family. That’s why it’s so crucial that you get your own support and help right now, not only to stop enabling his behaviors, but to stay healthy and strong yourself.

I’m going to give you a few things to think about – hopefully you will have the courage and strength to implement them. They will be crucial to your long term sanity as well as safety.

Tell someone what’s going on. Secrets are lethal and you need some support. You can share what’s happening without throwing your husband under the bus. Be wise who you share this with, but you need someone who can pray for you and perhaps be an advocate with you in talking with your husband. That might be another family member such as an adult child or one of his siblings, a good friend, or your pastor.

You must also start to exercise some stewardship over your life. You do not have power over your husband’s life although you do have considerable influence. Therefore, I want you to tell your husband that his depression is now affecting you and your marriage. You can say it lovingly like, “I need for you to get help now. You may be able to live with your depression but I can’t. You’re not behaving like the man you once were.”

You said in your question that somewhere inside of him there is a kind and honorable man but his negative emotions rule him and cloud his thinking and judgment. That can happen to all of us and sometimes it’s helpful when we have a grace-filled truth teller come along side of us to remind us who we are. Read the story in the Bible where Abigail had a heart-to-heart conversation with David after her husband refused to feed David and his men. David was humiliated and outraged. He vowed to kill every male in Nabal’s household. Boldly yet humbly, Abigail went to meet David with supplies of food. In their conversation, she reminded him who he was (the Lord’s anointed and the future king of Israel). This helped him to press pause on his destructive emotions of rage long enough to rethink his decision to kill all of Nabal’s men. (Read 1 Samuel 25: 29-35) for the story.)

In a similar way, I’d like you to try to have that kind of conversation with your husband. Humbly remind him who he is (a child of God, an honorable man, whatever good characteristics you know of him) and encourage him not to allow his depressed feelings to rule his heart or his decisions. Ask him to be willing to receive help to manage these depressed emotions so that he can be the person God wants him to be.

He may have all kinds of objections to getting outside help. Here is where you must stay strong and firm. His depression is not only causing him distress, it’s causing you distress. He is making poor decisions and these decisions affect you and your child. Affirm that you love him and want to see him get well and your marriage to thrive. If he agrees to see a doctor, or if he has one already, insist on going with him and report to the doctor the changes in him that you observe. For example, he doesn’t’ sleep well, he’s spending recklessly, he’s angry all the time, he is impulsive, etc. If he goes alone, he may minimize his symptoms or not recognize some of the things he does that are upsetting to you.

You don’t share whether or not you are employed, but at this time I would separate your finances and open a separate checking account with just your name on it exercising good stewardship over your finances. Since he has been irresponsible and deceitful with the finances, the consequences are that you are going to be in charge of family finances until he gets better. That may motivate him to get the help he needs as well as set some limits on his access to family money. Do not sign for loans or credit cards or home equity loans. This is not helpful to him or to you. This is where your enabling may need to be addressed so you don’t fall victim again.

It’s important that you realize that you are not only doing this for your protection, you are doing it for his. When you know someone is not making good decisions, you don’t give them unlimited access to things that could harm them or others. For example, if you had guns in the house you would remove them or make sure they were locked up. If you had a lot of prescription pills in the house, you would lock them up. Taking charge of the finances is not just for your protection, it’s for his. The shame that he feels for lying and failing again to appropriately manage money contributes to his feelings of worthlessness and feeds the cycle of depression and may lead to hopelessness – thinking he’ll never get better.

There is an excellent book I’d recommend you check out of your library called, How You can Survive When They’re Depressed:  Living and Coping with Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield. It will help you be a good steward of your own life as well as wisely set appropriate boundaries with your spouse.

Why Are You Afraid To Say, “NO!”

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

Turn the Other Cheek … or NOT?!

In the past, it was difficult for me to say “no.”

Saying “no” to a request rarely makes the asker feel good. More often, that person feels hurt, rejected, or let down. Our natural tendency is  “going with the flow” or “not making waves.” So we become conflict avoiders … some of us a little, but others of us a lot. You see, a prime contributor to our feelings of discomfort as well as some of our baggage is that other people feel bad as a result of our actions or behaviors.

As Christians, this usually gets amplified because we are called to be “peacekeepers” or “peacemakers.” Forgiveness is a fundamental concept and action of our faith.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to give our clothes to a thief. Saying “no” seems like a very un-Christian response to someone in need. However, God says “no” many times in the Old Testament. Jesus also said “no” many times as well … to the Pharisees, to Satan, to the demon-possessed man whom he healed, to the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Him but wouldn’t give up his possessions, to the moneychangers in the temple, and to the thief on the cross.

As a psychiatrist and former church elder, I have seen many burnt out Christians, both leaders and church members, who seem to think that more is better … believing it is un-Christian to say “no.” Their efforts become scattered and they always seem to be out of steam. But, like that Energizer bunny, they just keep on doing. Their motivation is not that the Hold Spirit prompts them to say “yes.” It’s that they are too uncomfortable to say “no.” Satan is always trying to trick you into thinking you are selfish, self-centered, or mean if you say “no.” But a loving, caring parent says “no” many times. Just think how many times God answers your prayers with a “no.”

Today, before you jump into or get stuck in the “Christian” trap … by blindly saying “yes” and adding more stress to your plate … spend time with God. Pray that you receive both direction and empowerment consistent with His will. In order to know His will … you gotta spend time in His presence. He has a specific plan and purpose for you. You need to be more purposeful in seeking it with Him and from Him. This is not a job or a task, but rather a beautiful and peaceful privilege.

Also, dig and decipher why you say “yes,” especially when you know you should be saying “no.” Why are you afraid to say “no?” Learning this answer and correcting it will bring an amazing freedom to your interactions with others, God, and life! Saying “Yes” and “No” for the right reasons is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Gracious and Holy God, I know that You designed a path for my life. I pray, Father, that You reveal this pathway to me … and that You give me the strength and courage to follow it. Help me seek Your approval, not the approval of those who make requests of me. Empower me, Father, and let me see that I am powered by You. Let me not focus my efforts on simply doing more, but let me focus on doing what You want and need of me. Help me today, Lord, to do what is within my ability to further Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive, refresh, and empower me, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16:11

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  Mark 6:31

Leaning in the Right Direction

SOURCE:  Living Free

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7 AMP

If you are trying to help a loved one with a life-controlling problem, you must first reach a point of accepting the reality of their situation. Only then will you feel free to turn your loved one over to God. This is a time when you are able to detach yourself from the one you love so much. You will be able to truly lean on and trust in the Lord—and stop depending on yourself to fix your struggling loved one.

The prodigal son’s father was not an enabler. He allowed his son to be responsible for his own actions (read Luke 15:11-32). The rebellious son asked to receive an early inheritance and then squandered it all on wild living. He then had nothing—he was hired to feed pigs and found himself yearning for their food. Even at this point, no one reached out to rescue him from the consequences of his behavior (verse 16). And so … he “came to his senses” (verse 17). He finally was ready to take responsibility for his behavior. He showed humility and took positive action (verses 18-20). He returned home and confessed his sin toward his father and heaven.

This father had faith that his son would return. Although he showed compassion, there is no record of his enabling his son. He allowed the son to be responsible for his own actions. Do you love the struggling person in your life enough to let go … and lean on God?

Father, I have tried leaning on my own understanding. I know now that I must let go of my loved one, allow him to suffer the natural consequences of his behavior, and lean on you. Help me fully trust in your way and your time. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (Part 2)

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

[In a previous article], I [wrote] about safety being the number one priority and first step we need to take as Biblical counselors when working with a couple in a destructive marriage.

Words of remorse and tears of apology are never enough when there have been repetitive actions and attitudes of abuse, deceit, dependence and indifference. We want to see a change of heart as well as a change of habit.  Putting off old destructive ways and putting on of new godly ways takes time, energy, and specific effort.

Along with safety, we must help the couple gain sanity. For a long time both the husband and wife have believed lies.  She believes it’s her responsibility to make this marriage better.  If only she were more loving, or more godly, or more submissive, her husband would change.   Jesus is the example we look at to refute this kind of thinking.  He was godly, loving, and appropriately submissive, yet certain people, such as the religious leaders, never changed.

Thinking truthfully as well as living truthfully is a high value to God.  When someone continues to pretend, placate, live in fantasy, deny reality, self-deceive or deceive others, the more insane and destructive he or she becomes (Romans 1:25-32).

Before you can work with a couple together on solving serious marital problems, these untruths must be uprooted, exposed as lies, and refuted. This is done in individual counseling, not marital work.  If these lies are not recognized, challenged, and changed, they will continue to form the foundation of the destructive individual’s thinking and therefore his problem solving strategies.

There is no possibility of working together to build a healthy relationship if both individuals in the marriage are not free to talk, to question, to disagree or to hold one another accountable for the commitments they’ve made.  The bible says that one of the main steps we all need in order to grow and change is to renew our mind (Romans 12:2).  Therefore a husband and wife together and separately must be committed to truth seeking and truth telling if restoration is to take place.

For example, let’s look at some of the sanity needs for a destructive husband.  First, he must be willing to reexamine his unrealistic expectations of marriage and of women and expose his underlying attitudes of entitlement.  He must come to understand the truth; there is no perfect wife or marriage. He must come to value his wife as a person to love, not an object to use.  She has her own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and needs. She can’t and won’t meet his every need or always revolve herself around his wants. He needs to recognize the lie he tells himself when he believes he’s entitled to the blessings of a warm and trusting wife no matter how he treats her.

Sanity also means that he understands and accepts God’s law of consequences.  When you are deceitful, abusive, indifferent, and controlling, there are negative consequences in the marriage. Forgiveness does not entitle someone to automatic restoration with no consequences, no amends or no work.  Sanity means he must learn to take responsibility for his own thoughts and his own behaviors without blaming his wife.  He must also learn to handle his emotions such as disappointment, frustration, anger, and hurt in new ways that don’t damage people, things, or relationships. If he wants to have a good relationship with his wife,  sanity means that he now understands he needs to take responsibility for his part and do the work to make that happen.

Once the destructive spouse (as well as the enabling or compliant spouse) has completed the sanity stage, the couple is ready to begin to work together on marital issues because now there is safety and sanity.  This provides the proper foundation to build a new history together.

In summary, to work through the sanity stage with a destructive individual means that he move through the five steps of change.

1.    Clarity:  He sees that he has been destructive, abusive, indifferent, deceitful, controlling toward his partner and he no longer wants to behave in those ways.

2.    Commitment:  He is willing to be accountable and teachable in order to grow and become the person he wants to become.  If there is any question of safety violation, he will immediately call his supportive community and temporarily remove himself from the situation or the home when needed.

3.    Community:  He will allow others, including his wife to speak into his life. He will listen and prayerfully consider what the community has to stay about what they observe in his attitudes and behaviors.

4.    Confession:  He will own his wrong doing instead of blaming, minimizing or rationalizing it.  He will confess his sin to God and to the person he’s hurt. If engages in abusive tactics such as verbal bullying, intimidating, withdrawing or engages in other behaviors that frighten his spouse, he understands that restoration of the marriage is not possible at this time.

5.    Consequences:  He humbly accepts the consequences of his sin and makes restitution where needed to restore the relationship.

People Pleaser or God Pleaser?

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Who doesn’t want to see their kids happy, especially if we are bringing them delight? I love to please my daughters. But I also want to see them safe and healthy. So when they make unhealthy or dysfunctional requests, it is easy for me to say “NO!” even though they aren’t pleased, and in fact, they might actually be upset, or cry because of my answer.

Need a couple of examples? What about when they ask … for their third bowl of ice cream … for the keys to the car and they’re only 13 … to stay out until midnight on a school night when they’re 14 … to camp out with a boyfriend, alone, when they are 16. All these will easily get a “no” answer from me regardless of how displeased my beloved daughters might be with my answer.

When fellow adults make dysfunctional requests, for some reason, for most of us, it is much harder to say “no”.

Why is it hard to say “no” to other adults? Sometimes it’s because I think they know more than I do about the situations … or they know what’s best for themselves more than I do … or I fear and hate being uneasy when people are mad or upset at me … or I fear their rejection … or I need their approval … or I need to be needed or accepted. “I need…” and “I fear…” lenses are based on a me-centered mentality. These distorted lenses significantly interfere with perspective, and lead to disrespectful, dysfunctional, or even sinful relational conduct.

When we focus on trying to please people by acting dysfunctionally, then our behavior is not serving or pleasing God. If we are truly His servants, then our primary goal will be to please God first, not others.

 When Jesus lived on earth, many who believed in Him would not admit their faith. Because these people were more concerned about personal safety and other people’s opinions rather than God’s opinion, they did not live out their faith. Likewise, when we live as people-pleasers, we are demonstrating the fact that we want approval from people instead of from God. Consequently, our walk with Him will always be hindered.

Today, ask yourself, “What is my greatest perceived need or greatest perceived threat when someone makes a request of me … or when I feel the need to people-please in a relationship? Whom am I trying to please … God or that person?” Maybe most of your life is lived to please God, but there are still situations or people that trigger a people-pleasing response in you.

God wants us to put Him first in all things … we cannot please Him by placing more importance on people’s opinions … or our needs … over His.

Pleasing God is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I do want to please You. Forgive me for the times I let my desire to be accepted by a person outweigh my desire to please You. Thank You for Your love and for accepting me unconditionally. Help me to be a better servant, doing the right thing, not the people-pleasing thing, as I grow healthy relationships with others. Give me courage and peace to withstand the pressure I feel when others are displeased with my answers. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who was the perfect servant, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

John 12:42-43

Lord, Show Me The Way Out

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

God does not want us to enable others in their wrongdoing. Neither does he enable us when we choose to walk in disobedience to him. He loves us too much to enable us in our wrongdoing. He knows that we will not come to our senses and change our ways unless he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what we do.

The great thing is that, just like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father is loving us and watching for us. He wants us to come home and will run out to meet us, showering his love, mercy and forgiveness on us when we return.

Consider this … 
Do you need to return? Perhaps you have recently fallen into something you know you shouldn’t do … Your Father is waiting for you.

Perhaps you have been locked into a downward spiral and feel as though there is no way out. God always provides a way. He is just waiting for you to come to him with a repentant heart. His arms are open wide … no matter what you have done. Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Receive his forgiveness. He loves you unconditionally and is waiting to help you.

Prayer
Father, I am so sorry for what I have been doing. Please forgive me and show me the way out. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Suffering Consequences = Coming To Senses

Source:  Living Free Ministry

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'” Luke 15:17-18 NIV

Thoughts for Today
Robert and Gayle, Christian leaders in their church, were dismayed to realize that their son Eric had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had developed a drinking problem. After visiting a Christian counselor, they told Eric that they loved him very much but that he would be expected to live by house rules, obeying curfew and not drinking alcohol in their home.

Eric decided he would rather leave home. Devastated, Robert and Gayle pondered their decision, but chose to follow the example of the prodigal son’s father and let him go. They trusted God to bring Eric back and prayed for his safety.

Several months later, Eric returned home, desiring to change and ready for help. Suffering the consequences of his behavior had brought him to a point of repentance.

Consider this … 
Although they loved him very much, Robert and Gayle had not enabled Eric. They had not lowered the standards of their home, nor had they tried to rescue Eric after he made the decision to leave home. As difficult as this was, they recognized it was the best way to help him.

Are you ready to show this kind of tough love? Every situation is different, but God will give you the wisdom to know what you should do. And he will give you the strength and courage you need.

Prayer
Father, my loved one is walking in disobedience. Show me how I can help. If this means letting go and allowing the natural consequences to take place, give me the strength to allow this to happen–all the while trusting you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

I Won’t Stand In The Way (of your consequences)

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” Luke 15:12-13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior. Enabling behaviors may actually hinder what God is doing in our loved one’s life.

In Luke 5:11-32, we learn that the father of the prodigal son understood the dangers of enablement. The prodigal son chose to take his part of the inheritance and leave home. He went to a distant country and wasted his wealth. Finally, out of money and working in a field feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go home and ask his father’s forgiveness.

Consider this … 
Although it had been painful to see his son leave, the prodigal’s father allowed him to be responsible for his own actions … all the while, praying for him and waiting to receive him with open arms when he returned. But in the meantime, the father did not send care packages to the pigpen.

When the son recognized his sin and confessed it, his father welcomed him home and showered him with mercy and love.

It is vital that we don’t try to deliver our loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions, but instead allow God to work his perfect plan in their lives.

Prayer
Father, help me not to interfere with your plan for my loved one’s life. Help me not “jump to the rescue” when I should stay back and trust you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Is It Unkind To Allow One To Suffer “Natural Consequences?”

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

Thoughts for Today
Is your loved one struggling with a life-controlling problem? Are you helping him (or her) overcome … or are you becoming part of the problem?

Enabling is anything that stands in the way of the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

Raymond’s parents tried repeatedly to help him with his drug use. At age 12, he started drinking at a friend’s house on the weekend and was dependent on drugs by age 15. At 21, Raymond’s life was a wreck. His drug use resulted in his killing a very close family friend and serving a lengthy prison sentence.

Raymond’s parents were Christians. During his teenage years, they tried to help him by bailing him out each time he got into trouble, rather than allowing him to suffer the consequences of his behavior. By trying to help, Raymond’s parents became part of the problem. They enabled Raymond to continue a downward spiral until his behavior ended in tragedy.

Consider this … 
Is someone you care about struggling with a life-controlling problem? It is natural to want to protect those we care about, but protecting them from the natural consequences of their wrongdoing only enables them to continue on the same path. Ask God to give you the wisdom–and the strength–to say “no.” To pray and love and support … but not to enable.

Prayer
Father, this is so difficult. I want to help the one I care about so much. I want to make everything better. But I can’t. And I am beginning to realize more and more that I am doing more harm than good by rescuing him from the consequences of his behavior. Help me to be strong. Help me to pray and love and support … but not enable.” In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. This book offers biblical strategies for ministry to our family and friends. Contemporary issues and needs faced by society are addressed with biblical principles that are timeless. 

The Gift Of Consequences

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  While the thrust of this article is geared toward wives concerning their husbands, I believe the wisdom of what the author shares can be applied equally by husbands toward their wives.

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Today I want to talk about a gift of love that is often harder to see as loving, yet it may help your husband make the changes both of you need in order to have a better marriage. Sometimes it can be the only thing left that may save your marriage. It is the gift of consequences.

One of my coaching clients grumbled recently, “My husband doesn’t pick up after himself. This drives me crazy. I’m either nagging him or feeling like I’m his slave. I don’t want to resent him but how can I get him to care about my feelings and be neater?”

This dilemma is classic because it represents many of the minor irritants of married life that challenge our ability to respond and love in a God-honoring way.

God calls us to love even when we don’t feel like it. So, what would loving her husband look like in this specific situation? First I’m going to assume that there have already been numerous conversations about this topic with no positive result. I’m also going to make the assumption that her husband is not generally disrespectful or uncaring, but that he is not in the habit of picking up after himself and his need for neatness is not at the same level as his wife’s.

That being the case, there are two biblically valid approaches. First, as covered in my previous blog, this woman could love her husband by giving the gift of acceptance. All of us enter married life imperfect. Part of our own growth and maturity is to learn to forbear with our spouse’s weaknesses in a gracious way. When you accept your husband’s messy habits, it results in one of two changes. You either learn to live without complaining, criticism or disrespect in a messier home, or you accept he doesn’t value neatness the same way you do and you take care of it and pick up after him without criticism, complaining or disrespect.

Another valid biblical way to love your spouse in this example is by giving him the gift of consequences. What that means is that you don’t pick up after him but allow him to experience the consequences of his own messiness. Unfortunately when his messiness spills over into mutual living quarters, you too suffer, and so it’s important that when this happens, you are patient with the process of your spouse coming to understand the change he needs to make.

Let me illustrate how the gift of consequences might work in this situation. Instead of nagging or criticizing her husband when he left his dirty clothes all over the floor, my coaching client gave her husband a gentle wake up call. She said, “Honey, I’m tired of nagging you to put your clothes into the hamper. I know God doesn’t want me to be resentful and angry about this and I’m really sorry for the way I acted earlier.”

Immediately her husband’s ears perked up because he too was tired of the fighting. She continued, “But I don’t want to feel angry and resentful toward you either. So from now on, if your clothes don’t make it into the hamper, you’ll have to wash them yourself. I won’t nag or ever mention it again.”

And, she didn’t. It was difficult for her to see all of his dirty laundry accumulate on the floor but it only took several weeks of unwashed clothes for him to realize that his wife meant what she said. His clothes soon found their way into the hamper each week. He realized it was easier to pick them up than to wash them himself.

In marriages where there is serious marital sin, the gift of consequences may indeed be the most loving thing you can give your spouse. Consequences are meant to wake us up and help us recognize the damage we’ve caused. The pain of our sin is meant to teach us not to repeat the same things over and over again.

The scriptures are clear. What a man sows he reaps (Galatians 6:7). When a man or woman sows discord, abuse, enmity, strife, addiction and pain in a marital relationship, he or she doesn’t reap the benefits of a good marriage.

I think this is where many Christian women have been misadvised and foolish in trying to be godly women and wives. They have suffered terrible mistreatment and yet are counseled that they must try harder to “love” their spouse (meaning forgive and forget) and continue to provide the relational closeness of a healthy, loving marriage.

But in these instances, a more biblical approach to love would be the gift of consequences. Consequences act as a potent yet loving wake-up call that reminds him that he cannot reap the benefits of a good marriage if he chooses to continue to sow deceit, abuse, discord, and chronic selfishness in the relationship.

Forgiveness is only one step of healing a broken relationship. Without repentance and change by the offender, the blessings of a close marriage are impossible. Unconditional love does not equal unconditional relationship. God loves humankind unconditionally but does not offer unconditional relationship to anyone. Our sin separates us from God, and our repeated unacknowledged and unrepentant sin also separates us from one another.

Marital intimacy, trust, fellowship, and warmth cannot exist where there is chronic serious sin. A marriage with no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy, nor is it spiritually sound.

C.S. Lewis wisely said, “Love is more stern and splendid than mere kindness.” The gift of consequences may indeed be the most loving thing you can do for a wayward spouse in order to help him come to his senses, repent, and change so that your marriage and family have a chance to heal.

For another example of the gift of consequences, see Leslie’s blogspot at www.leslievernick.blogspot.com.

Portions of this blog were taken from Chapter 9, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook Publisher, 2001).

The problem with caring too much or “over-caring”

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

While walking downtown Main Street the other day I met a beggar coming my way.

My mind hit a momentary pause button and then I re-indexed and ran a few thoughts through my head about how I should respond to this man.

As he came closer to me, he popped the question.

“Mister, can you spare a dollar or two. I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday.”

I told him it would be a privilege to help him.

With a quick glance to my right, I pointed to the local Subway restaurant and told him I’d love to buy him a sandwich.

He said that he didn’t want a sandwich, but preferred I give him a couple of dollars to help him out.

I declined to give him cash and attempted to carefully explain that to him.

He was fixed on what he wanted.

I let him know that I could not help him that way, but would love to serve him.

He declined and continued on to his next prospect.

Within minutes of that encounter he became a fading event of my past, one of a million things I have done in my life that I hardly remember anymore. I was not perturbed, bothered, upset, or annoyed that he was working me.

It was just one of those events that happens to all of us. It was a quick opportunity to discern the Spirit and ask the question, “What would the Savior do in a moment like this?” You deal with it the way you believe God would want you to deal with it and you move on to the next thing that He has prepared for your day.

I did not dismiss this man or show a lack of care for him. It could possibly be analogous to the rich young ruler who wanted something from the Savior. The Savior encountered him and sought to serve him, but believed it would not be wise to give the young ruler what he wanted the way he wanted it.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. – Luke 18:22-23 (ESV)

The rich young ruler did not want what Jesus was offering. He had another motive. I’m not sure if this young man ever became a Christian. Minimally he became a Bible illustration regarding salvation.

I don’t think I was unkind to the beggar-man. He asked for money for food. I offered him food instead. He decided that he did not want the food after all. He wanted the money. I believed I did what I was supposed to do. I went on with my day. I tried to care for him, but did not feel tempted to over-care.

When caring becomes over-caring

Brent has been my friend for many years. We went to high school together and then separated shortly thereafter as marriage, family, and work took us to different places around the country.

Years later we reconnected. During the intervening years Brent’s life went from good to bad. His wife was about to leave him, his children did not have a heart for God, and Brent’s head was immersed in the worldly cares of this life.

He wanted to meet to work through some of these problems. We met. And we met. And we met again. And again and again and again. We met for nearly six months.

During this time Brent proved to be stubborn and disinterested in the kind of change that was necessary to bring reconciliation to his family. He said he wanted to change, but he was not willing to do what it took to change.

I prayed and pondered many hours about how to help this man to change. I would present change this way and then talk about it another way. It didn’t seem to matter. Nothing worked for Brent.

Not being deterred, I would back up and start all over again with a totally new approach. That new fangled approach did not work either. Over time I started becoming critical of Brent. Initially I never said anything, but sensed my heart growing frustrated with him.

After awhile I began to go home and tell my wife about how difficult he was being–about how rough and challenging the counseling was going. As the weeks went by and my personal investment in his life grew, I began to grow impatient with him.

It wasn’t long before I became harsh and unkind toward Brent. Sadly, I actually had a growing disinterest in helping him. He was not listening. I was over-caring. The investment had grown deep and the change was not happening according to my expectations.

Being concerned – Being responsible

Have you ever over-cared for someone or something? Have you ever cared too much? If you are a Christian with the love of God in your heart, I suspect you have. Have you ever over-worried? Have you ever been over-anxious?

Let me ask the questions this way:

  • Do you generally feel responsible for certain people?
  • Or can you guard your heart from being responsible, but still show concern?
  • Do you know the difference between being responsible and being concerned?

It is one thing to be concerned for someone regarding whether they change or not. It is a wholly other matter to be responsible for people–including your own children. I’ve illustrated the two positions with the stories above.

I am concerned – I was concerned for the beggar on the street, but I did not sense a responsibility to change him. I wanted him to change. I even thought about how I could serve him before he popped the question. But I did not feel like it was my job to make him change.

I did not act disinterested by showing no concern and I did not cross the line as though his change was my responsibility. I offered him some food and hoped to continue the conversation by introducing Christ to him. He wanted one thing–money.

I am responsible – With Brent it was a different story. I crossed the line from being concerned to thinking it was my responsibility to change him. I treated him much different from the beggar in the street or the way Christ interacted with the rich young ruler.

I forget what my role was with Brent. It’s simple: my role for all people at all times is to be concerned, but I am not to be responsible for anyone. I cannot make people change.

Righteousness is not something that can be forced on anyone. It is a personal choice between an individual and God. This has been my story regarding how I have changed through the years. No one could make me change, except for God.

  1. They could water.
  2. They could plant.
  3. But they could not give the growth.
  4. Change is God’s job.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV)

When the water boy sins

I am forever grateful for the people who have loved me enough to speak into my life. I love all water boys and seed throwers for Jesus. But I do not hold anyone responsible for my personal change.

Sometimes I can forget this very basic truth about the Gospel. Sometimes I can cross the line from being God’s water boy and seed thrower to trying to make a person grow–to change or what the Bible calls repentance.

When I forget my role, it is as though I believe I am responsible for their change. There is a world of difference between being concerned for someone and being responsible for someone. If I cross that line it won’t be long before I’m sinning against them.

You may ask, “How do I know when I have crossed the line from being concerned for those I help versus feeling responsible for them changing?”  That is the million dollar question and it’s easy to answer.

When I begin to over-care for a person there are certain things that begin to happen in my heart. Initially they are not discernible to the human eye, but if I don’t take these heart sins to God, they will soon manifest in behavioral sins that are clearly discernible.

What I try to do is keep an eye on my heart by sensing when I am caring too much. If these sins (below) begin to rear up then I know I have crossed the line from being appropriately concerned for someone to caring too much for someone.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of heart attitudes and behaviors that I commit when I’ve crossed the line. If any of these things happen to you, then may I suggest that you are caring too much–that you have forgotten your role in the change process:

  • I’m tempted to become angry when a person does not change.
  • I’m tempted to become critical when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to gossip about him to others.
  • I’m tempted to be cynical and lose faith in God that he will ever change.
  • I’m tempted to become impatient when I am with him.
  • I’m tempted to exhibit more sadness than joy when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to uncharitably judge him because he won’t change.
  • I’m tempted to worry or become anxious as though his lack of change is because of me.

When I sense these sinful temptations in my soul, then I know that my trust is slipping from the Savior of the universe to my own abilities, agendas, and preferences for this particular individual (think Brent here).

I am mini-Messiah, hear me roar

In short, I have become a Mini-Messiah. In those moments I have become a functional atheist–a man who believes the change process rests more on him and his opinion of how things should be than whatever God may be thinking or doing in a person’s life.

This is hardcore pride that must be repented from. In the case of me, I have to reposition myself within the framework of God’s purposes for that individual’s life.

If I do repent of my pride and realize that my main purpose is to water and to plant the seed while trusting God to bring the growth, then my human ability to serve my friend does not impede what God is doing in his life.

However, when I begin to feel more responsible than God wants me to feel, then I typically sin against the person–according to the list above. My sin then becomes a distraction in the helping process. My faith for change and the timing for change must be fully in God’s will, especially when I’m helping a seemingly unchangeable person.

For me, the tipping point is usually a person I have spent more time with rather than a person I will meet only briefly. That is why it was easier for me to not become emotionally attached to the beggar. He was a temporary encounter. That is also the reason I crossed the line with Brent. He was a long-term investment.

Typically people will sin against a person they have spent a long time praying for, pulling for, and generally helping and hoping that they will change. That is normal. The more time you put into somebody’s life, the more you expect them to change.

A lot of mothers are this way with their children. They are tempted to cross the line from being concerned and helping to taking it personal and getting in the way or becoming a distraction regarding what God might be doing in their child’s life.

It is one of the toughest lessons for a parent to learn. Can we discern and obey our roles in the change process, especially with our children? One of the triggers that will let you know if you have crossed the line is when you begin to sin. If you’re sinning, you’re not helping.

If you are becoming more anxious, worried, fearful, fretful, impatient, frustrated, or some other sin, then you’re out of line and in the way. You must repent and trust God. This is one of the most remarkable things about the Savior. He was cool in all contexts. He shared His Word and went on His way.

He was not uncaring and He would not force His righteousness on anyone.

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.

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