Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

The Ugly Side of My Spiritual Gift

Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory?

Very often they can be a helpful tool in pinpointing exactly how God has specifically designed you for His purposes.

Moses being inspired about a new blog post?

On many spiritual gift inventories, I’ve scored high on the gift of “prophecy.” That doesn’t specifically mean that I have the urge to go around preaching damnation to every hooker on the corners of all busy inner-city streets! But it certainly means that I’m drawn to “the truth” of God’s Word and want to share that “truth” in many ways with others—hence, my blogging takes on a whole new meaning.

But along with every “gift” or “talent” that God gives us, there’s this other-side of that same coin, that can be negative, even hurtful.

And the negative, hurtful side of being a truth-teller is an inability to have compassion or extend grace.

I’m not saying that I can’t have both in my life at the same time, but it is often a difficult balance for me to strike. I have to really lean into God, asking for His grace, when I am feeling a conviction rising up within me (especially when that conviction involves perceptions about other’s wrong-doing!).

God has been showing me this area of weakness for a lot of years. And although I think I’ve softened somewhat over the years, I still tend to err to the side of cold, hard truth. There isn’t anything that can get my blood boiling more than when a lie is being believed/propagated or when an injustice is being committed.

But when it comes to having compassion for those who make those same mistakes, I often fall short.

One way that I’m trying to work on this weakness in my life is by biting my tongue. I’ve realized that I’m not the only person in the world who can recognize God’s truth. I’ve realized that God often uses my love and compassion to influence others toward change more than my harsh words of challenge. I’ve realized that God is a lot more active than I give Him credit for. It’s not just up to me to set the wayward straight. The Holy Spirit’s got that gig down already.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I should never confront someone.

But I think I tend to feel that God cannot reveal a sin to someone without my help!

How arrogant is that?!

Which leads me to my next way of dealing with this weakness—I release the person/situation through prayer to God. I pray that God would convict, provide, direct, whatever for that person and trust God to do just that.

If I’m still in doubt about whether I should say something, I pray that God would strongly urge me to take a specific step perhaps of confronting. But then I always need to “speak the truth in love.” It’s a delicate balance that I hope to have figured out by the time I’m 90 or so!

So, what spiritual gift has God given you that sometimes trips you up?

And, how do you positively deal with that hurtful side when it emerges?

Today’s post is linked to Faith Barista and answers the question – What has God been saying to me in my time alone with Him?


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How to Encourage through Validation

You want to talk about f-f-f-feelings?

GASP!

Yes, I live in a household full of males, and that’s often the refrain I hear when I want to have a “deeper conversation.” But the truth is, even women don’t often know how to talk about feelings—or more specifically, how to validate them.

So today I want to talk about one of the best ways to encourage someone—through the validation of feelings.

I have to say that validation is a fine art that should be practiced often and with great precision, because it is like a warm embrace to a frozen heart. But first, we must understand the steps to take in our efforts to meet this important human need.

Step One: Understand the magnitude of someone’s spoken feelings

When people disclose personal feelings, realize there are invisible questions that every person thinks:

  • Are my feelings okay?
  • Do you understand them?
  • Do you care about them?
  • Do you accept them?  (And remember, accepting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with them)

So, be sure to communicate a welcoming attitude to your friend from the outset.

Step Two: Acknowledge their feelings

This can be done by simply reflecting back what you’ve just heard the person say. For example: “It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you.”

Third Step: Seek Clarification

Most of the time, we don’t understand all the emotions that are brimming under the surface for our friends. It’s easy to skim over this and try to shift the focus back to ourselves, where we feel more comfortable. Resist this tendency and ask for more details about how the person feels. So the next step connects the words in step two with step three . . .

“It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you. Is that what you’re feeling right now?”

Remember, don’t rush this part or move on until you’ve gained an assurance that you’ve clearly heard and understood the other person’s feelings.

Fourth Step: Show Empathy

Hopefully, once you’ve fully explored all that your friend is feeling, you will catch a glimpse into the pain or confusion that is your friend’s feeling(s). So at that point, communicate how your friend’s feeling(s) has emotionally moved you.

For example: “It breaks my heart to see you in this pain. Please know that I want to be a safe place for you as you go through this time.”

If you practice this simple method of validation, I can guarantee that you’ll have given your friend an invaluable gift. Emotional validation is the soft and comforting embrace we all want and need when life gets hard. Try it today!

“Like free radicals, feelings wander around the conversation looking for some acknowledgement to hook onto.  They won’t be happy until they get it, and nothing else will do.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend

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3 Life-Changing Things My Mother Taught Me

Me and My Mom - cropped from a family picture (that apparently was dragging on too long for me!)

Here it is the week before Mother’s Day and it’s gotten me to thinking about my mother. Very often I have, unfortunately, used her as an example of what not to do in my marriage relationship.  After all, I didn’t look to my dad to figure out how to be a wife and mother! For good or ill, my mother was my inspiration for all array of women’s ways.

So, as I reflect on her life and its impact on me, I have to give credit to her for the many ways she showed me how to be a better mom than I would have been on my own.

Here are some of the best things my mom taught me:

1.  How to open up and share the deepest feelings I have inside with trusted friends and family

I know this is a special gift that God wanted me to have through my mother. I see it being used now in my life and ministry every day. And although my own sons are like most boys who don’t want to talk about “feelings,” I have to hope that my candor with and in front of them will help them to be better husband’s and father’s someday.

2.  How to depend on God as if my life depended on it!

That’s because my life does depend on it, but I don’t think I would have known that if my mother hadn’t patiently mentored me in my faith. God became real to me in those times when she pulled up a chair and talked with me about the hurts I was experiencing in life—always using the Bible as her guide. Her compassion gave me a glimpse into the compassion of God, my heavenly Father.

3.  How to be committed

If there is one thing that both of my parents modeled well, it was commitment—to each other and to God. They were willing to weather the hard times together, always striving for that unifying focus in their Lord and Savior. If God asked them to do something, like work through the pain and misery of a wounded marriage, then they were willing to do it. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m so committed to helping messy married couples too.

It’s your turn now, . . .

What positive things has your mother taught you?

And if she’s still alive, why don’t you tell her! That may just be the best Mother’s Day gift she will ever receive!

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How is Empathy Developed?

When empathy has been shown to me, I’ve felt as if someone has wrapped a warm blanket around my shivering cold shoulders. But when I’ve had to share that same warmth with others, especially those who’ve hurt me, it hasn’t been so easy to achieve.

I see many in my counseling office who struggle in the same way to show empathy toward a controlling spouse, a rebellious teenage son or daughter, or a rude and demanding boss. Sadly, this gap must be bridged with empathy or there will be no understanding, no connection, no healing.

I will be sharing in a future post, what I’ve learned and done to develop empathy and compassion in my life. But for now, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what you’ve done that has worked to soften and open your heart.

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Does Mel Gibson Deserve a Break?

Is it just me, or are there so many male celebrities in 2009 and 2010 who’ve sunk to despicable levels? Maybe there have been years where we just didn’t know about the misdeeds certain celebrities were committing, or maybe there are just more people spinning out of control.

Now there’s this whole Melodrama with Mel. How could it be? He’s the “Patriot.” He’s “Braveheart.” He’s the grieving “Father” in the movie “Signs.” He’s even the only Hollywood star who dared to make a realistic movie about Christ.  Mel Gibson has tried to appear to be the good guy throughout all his movie-making years, but now we see him as the ultimate bad guy.

To tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing the recordings with Mel’s raspy, ranting voice. I don’t know if he really said those terrible things to his girlfriend and the mother of his child, although it seems quite likely. But if those recordings are authentic, then I would hope that the judicial system would bring justice and protection to Oksana and their daughter.

So if he really is a villain, then . . .

  • Do we write him off and never go to another one of his movies or rent his DVD’s?
  • Do we shake our heads in disdain whenever we see his wrinkled mug on television?
  • Do we ignore his rants, chalking it up as just another celebrity gone awry?
  • Do we learn a lesson from his temper run amuck?
  • Do we pray for him and his family?

I must admit, as of yet, I haven’t prayed for the guy or his family. And even though I don’t have all the facts, I have a whole lot less respect for him than I did just six years ago when the “Passion of the Christ” was first released.

I’m not saying we should crucify him (pardon the pun). I’m not saying we should let him off the hook. I’m also not saying that we need to make a list of fallen celebrities to pray for—after all, we do only have 24 hours in a day! I’m just wondering what you, the reader, think you should do?

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Waiting to fully form my opinion about the man until more is known.
  2. Asking myself why I should or should not pray for him, and if God convicts me to pray for him, determining how to pray for him and his family.
  3. Using his public humiliation as a reminder that I need to surrender my anger to God on a daily, even moment by moment, basis.

Tell me what you think!