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Posts tagged ‘self-control’

Anger: Unmet Expectations

SOURCE:  Annie Chapman/Focus on the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, I avoided talking to myself about the situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Angry

SOURCE:  Bob McCully/Thriveworks

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

Am I truly understanding the other person?

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

Are my expectations reasonable?

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

Am I angry at the right person?

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

Is my anger getting me what I want?

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

Is my anger out of proportion to the offense?

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

How are they feeling?

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

Can I really change this situation?

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

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

Emotions: Who’s In Charge Of Yours?

SOURCE:  New Life Ministries

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

Who is in charge of your emotions?

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

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

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

– Steve Arterburn

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

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

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

Infidelity’s Warning Signs

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Nancy C. Anderson

Be on guard for your spouse … and yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

These warning signs may indicate an affair:

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

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

Guard Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Attraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3 Excuses We Use When We Mess Up

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Adam Highfill

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

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

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

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

1. “I Just Feel Like It!”

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

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

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

Ahhh mannn! That’s boring, right?

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

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

2. “Just This Once”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. “It’ll Make Me Happy!”

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

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

It was a choice of one now or two later.

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

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

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

SIX STEPS TO CHANGE OUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

SOURCE:  David Murray

Feelings have big muscles.

They are often the most powerful force in our lives. They can bully our minds, our consciences, and our wills. They can even knock out the facts and bring truth to its knees.

This is perhaps okay when the feelings are good, when we experience joy, peace, and happiness. But more often anxiety, fear, sadness, and guilt rear their ugly heads and start shoving us around. That vicious tag team can quickly bruise and bloody us, confusing our minds and blurring our vision. Nothing looks good when we’ve gone a few rounds with them. We just want to slink out of the ring of life and crawl back into bed again.

How then can we get our emotions under control? How can we knock down guilt and wrestle fear to the ground? How can we summon allies like joy and peace to our side, especially when we often feel so alone in the fight of our lives? How can we be happy when there is so much to be sad about?

The Bible trains us to think ourselves out of bad moods and painful feelings. Consider, for example, Asaph’s experience in Psalm 77.

Step 1: What are the facts? Asaph’s life situation is not defined in detail in Psalm 77. Asaph calls it “the day of my trouble” (v. 2), a deliberately general description that fits many life situations.

Step 2: What does he think about these facts? When he considers the troubles in his life, Asaph concludes that God has rejected him, doesn’t love him, has broken His promises, and has even changed in His character (vv. 7–9). As a result, he thinks that the past was great (v. 5), but the future is bleak and gloomy (v. 7).

Step 3: What is he feeling? He is inconsolably distressed by his trouble (v. 2) and overwhelmingly perplexed when he even thinks of God (v. 3). He feels abandoned by God and pessimistic about enjoying God’s love and favor again (vv. 7–9).

Step 4: Can he change the facts? There’s no evidence that Asaph could change the facts or that his situation changed.

Step 5: Can he change his thoughts about the facts? At the end of verse 9, he pauses, and he takes time to be quiet, to still his soul and calm down. When he does that, new thoughts begin to form, transforming his perspective and outlook.

In verses 10–12, he deliberately forces his mind to think new thoughts, to explore new areas for meditation. He says, “I’m not going to think like this anymore. I’m going to change my thinking habits and patterns.” He firmly resolves:

I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord.
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And [I will] talk of Your deeds. (vv. 10–12)

Notice that he refocuses his thinking upon God’s powerful acts of providence through the centuries (vv. 13–20). Specifically, he notes how God sometimes leads His people through deep waters (v. 19) and sometimes through the wilderness (v. 20), but ultimately He leads them to the promised land (v. 20). For the believer, this is not just about thinking better; it’s also about believing better. It involves thought patterns in the head, but it also involves faith patterns in the heart.

Step 6: What is he feeling now? Judging by Asaph’s words in verses 13–20, there’s a very different tone in his voice. He no longer questions God’s existence, character, and providence but praises Him:

Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people. (vv. 13–15)

Instead of doubt, there is confidence; instead of pessimism, there is optimism; instead of vulnerability, there is security; instead of distress, there is comfort. Asaph’s facts have not changed, but his feelings have because, with the help of God’s Word and works, he has changed his thoughts about the facts. We can see similar patterns of spiritual and emotional therapy in Psalms 42 and 43; Job 19; and Habakkuk 3.

Notice, I’ve asked six questions in two groups of three. The first three—about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us identify our thoughts and recognize how they affect our emotions and behavior.

The second three—also about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us challenge our thoughts, change them, and so change our feelings and actions. That’s fairly easy to remember, isn’t it? In summary:

  • How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.
  • How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.

The key is to identify which specific thoughts drive particular emotions. If I think about loss, I’ll be sad. If I think about sin, I’ll feel guilty. If I think I’m too thin or too fat, I’ll feel embarrassed.

But if I think about God’s gifts, I’ll be thankful; if I think about God’s beauty, I’ll be inspired;  if I think about God’s sovereignty, I’ll feel peaceful.

Develop an ability to challenge and change your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions by using this biblical pattern.

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This article was extracted from Dr. David Murray’s new book, The Happy Christian (2015).

ANGER: Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande

In responding to an angry reaction, remember that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Respond to anger with a gentle voice, relaxed posture, and calm gestures. Communicate in every way that you take the other’s expression of anger seriously and want to help resolve the problems that prompt it. Plan ahead how to respond to possible objections and deal with them specifically and reasonably.

If you’re counting on excellent self-control or a naturally sunny disposition to keep you from responding harshly to a burst of anger from someone else today, you’re drawing from an awfully shallow well. Chances are your “well of gentleness” will run dry … at exactly the worst moment.

The source of the “gentle answer” to anger that’s recommended in Proverbs isn’t you at all. It is none other than Christ, as he desires to make an appeal through us precisely at the moment that another unloads anger.

As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this”–including the ability to respond to anger with a gentle answer–“is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

So if you find yourself on the receiving end of a blast of anger today, don’t rely on yourself to respond gently. Instead, pray briefly, then invite Christ to make his appeal through you. As Paul notes, God has committed the message of reconciliation to you; it is your birthright as a Christian. Far more reliable than your own pleasant demeanor, it is a constant within you. Pray for God’s guidance to draw upon it even in the most trying circumstances.

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