Archive for the ‘Facing Denial’ Category

My Frustrated Prayer

A few days ago I was rushing to get some time in with God. I have a lot of reasons excuses for that important time not happening.

As some of you may know, I type my prayers. So I have this indelible reminder—for good or for ill—of what I’m saying to God.

When I prayed the other day, my words seemed to leap off the page and hit me between the eyes. Maybe they will hit you in the same way—moving both of us to become fully devoted to Christ!

My Prayer:

Here I am rushing to get in some time with you. Maybe I can spend a bit more time with you later, after I finish another appointment on my “to-do” list. I’m sorry that I put you so low on my priority list. Why do I keep on doing that? What would it take to get me to fully focus on you? Being at the brink of death and life? I pray that is not what it takes to make me fully devoted to you.

Help me to remember that you died for me—an excruciating death, a death that you didn’t have to give. Why do I forget that? If I had gone through that, I would want whoever I died for to honor and remember me! I would be angry with whoever would put me behind all their list of “to-do’s.”

If I died tonight, how ashamed I would be. But I don’t want shame to motivate me to do what is right, what is best. I want to want you. But I know that I don’t want you enough or I would break down whatever barrier gets in my way. So I’m probably lying when I say that.

Help this wretch, Lord. Help me to see you for who you are.

I want you to be so much a part of me that you change me and people actually notice.

So far, that ain’t happenin’.

The Truth of Our Problem

Are you friends or enemies with the truth in your life? Very often when we face trials or long-standing problems, we become enemies of the truth.  We feel that to know the truth is to know pain.

But when we make truth our enemy, we invite denial into our lives—which only makes our situation worse and more painful. And in order to find our way through our problem . . .

We need to make the truth our friend, not our enemy.

You may not know if you’re friends or your enemies with the truth, but if you continue to feel worse over time, you’re probably buddying up with a lie or two.

So I’ve compiled a list of ways that people make truth their enemy. Check to see if you are doing any that are on the list.

Ways you make truth your enemy:

  • Stuff your feelings
  • Avoid admitting your fault
  • Look to false escapes from your pain—drinking, shopping, television, internet, etc.
  • Isolate from true accountability
  • Avoid reading the Bible or praying
  • Reject God’s promises
  • Focus on your problem rather than on your Problem-Solver (God)

If you are doing some of the list above, then consider making an effort to put into practice the following list:

Ways to make truth your friend:

  • Become aware of your feelings at any given moment, but especially when you are hurting.
  • Confess your feelings and thoughts to God moment by moment.
  • Ask God to speak to you about your feelings and your problem; then listen.
  • Read and meditate on what the Bible has to say about your feelings/situation.
  • Find a trusted friend to talk to about your feelings on a regular basis.
  • Practice telling those who are involved how you feel (when you can say it in a respectful way).
  • Quit playing God and surrender your problem to Him.

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Marriage Mistake #7 – Refused to Admit My Fault

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I really had a hard time seeing my wrong behavior as . . . wrong. Or maybe it was just that I couldn’t bear to admit to myself that I was weak. I’d say, probably a little bit of both.

Unfortunately, that meant that I rarely, if ever, admitted my fault to my husband. After all, it seemed to me that every conflict or problem we had was all his fault anyway! And even if it wasn’t, I usually felt like he handled the conflict so much worse that it canceled out any wrong doing I had done.

Yuck! Grandiose thinking at its best!

As time marched on, the fact that I believed I was so much better than my husband actually began to make my marriage worse (surprise, surprise)! So at some point, I was forced to wake up to the unfamiliar reality that it couldn’t always be my husband’s fault. Talk about a bitter pill to swallow!

A funny thing happened when I cracked open that door. When I offered my husband an honest and humble admission, I felt him moving toward me. I saw that he accepted my brokenness and failure. He embraced the parts of me that I felt were ugly and should remain hidden.

This miracle transformed my perspective and my way of relating, which in turn, with time, transformed my marriage. I’m not afraid any longer to be completely open and vulnerable with my husband. Admitting my faults has given me the intimacy and acceptance with my husband that I always longed for, but felt could never truly be mine.

So I’m here to tell you, intimacy and acceptance is possible when you humble yourself and reveal who you really are.

If you’ve never really made this your practice—if you have remained in hiding—I challenge you to come out into the open today. Then come back here and tell me how it went!

“If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.” Prov. 28:13 (NCV)

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Boxing with God

I’ve been resisting God in a certain area of my life. I feel like I’m wearing boxing gloves and I’m stupid enough to take God on. So I dance around the ring like I’m Muhammad Ali who, “Floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.” And the ugly truth is, I feel just about as invincible and grandiose.

But what if I realized just who I’m taking a swing at?

Consider this picture –

I’m ready. I wait for my opponent with sweat pouring down my brow. I can’t wait to get at him. And then I see him step into the ring like a Servant who –

“. . . grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground.”

He is not who I thought I was fighting, but I ignore that fact and take one good look at him—really stare him down and see

“There’s nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract [me] to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. [I] turned [my] back on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and [I] did not care.”

Doesn’t matter. I give him a left jab to his gut. He flinches, but still he doesn’t pull away –

“. . . it was [my] weakness he carried; it was [my] sorrows that weighed him down . . . he was pierced for [my] rebellion, crushed for [my] sins. He was beaten so [I] could be whole. He was whipped so [I] could be healed.”

I turn a blind eye to his pain. I’m only concerned about my own, since I have . . .

“. . . left God’s paths to follow [my] own.”

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to ignore what he has done –

“He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away.”

But my pain is still more important, so I come at him—punching, pounding, pulverizing. Never realizing –

“ . . . it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.”

But am I satisfied? No way! I feel justified in rebelling—in wrestling with God—even though –

“He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”

. . . like me.

When will I wake up to what I’m doing and have done? When will I realize that my pain is nothing compared to his? When will I wake up to the reality of the immense pain I’m causing him? When will I surrender?

What about you? Are you boxing with God?

If you have or if you are, tell me about it. Maybe you’ll be the one to help me drop my gloves.

(Excerpts taken from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, NLT)

Today’s post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chattingatthesky blog

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

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7 Ways to Develop Empathy and Gain Insight

I have a unique vantage point as a counselor that many never get to see. I get to take a step back and “see the forest for the trees” whenever I’m dealing with a couple in crisis. The couple probably came to me because they feel like they are on different wavelengths and the frustration is building to the point of a melt-down. When I stand back, often I see multiple problems, but none is bigger than the inability to feel empathy in the relationship.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to come alongside someone, and not only see a person’s point of view, but also experience the other person’s pain. You go beyond feeling sorry for that person, since that would be sympathy. And go deeper, seeking to understand that person’s pain until you are able to feel the hurt, which in turn should move you to a comforting response.

What Does Empathy Do?

Empathy soothes. Empathy heals. Empathy fills the gap. In fact, I think empathy is like the “Super Glue” of distant and hurting relationships. It can pull you tightly to your partner and keep you together in all kinds of trouble.

How Do You Develop Empathy?

There are seven ways, among many, to develop empathy. I hand picked these, because I feel they are among the best strategies. And to help you remember them, the methods are an acrostic for – INSIGHT.

Imagine – Use your imagination in several ways to your advantage.

  1. One way is to imagine yourself in that person’s situation. Really take time to think through how you would feel if you were in that person’s shoes—especially regarding the pain they are experiencing.
  2. Another way is to imagine the person as a child. If you have photos of the person as a child, use them to help you visualize. Often when we consider the person in the vulnerable stage of childhood, our defenses tend to lower and lessen.

Nurture the Relationship

Make a point to regularly practice caring behaviors with this person. When you act lovingly toward someone, it actually increases your feelings of love, as well as, your ability to empathize with that person.

Set Aside Your Beliefs, Concerns and Personal Agenda

When you are dealing directly with this person, you have to go into the conversation empty handed—with no personal expectations or goal of fixing them. Very often couples come at each other with baggage from their past or presuppositions that muddy the communication waters. Instead, you must be willing and eager to have your mind and perspective changed. Your only agenda is listening to your partner’s feelings and trying to understand your partner’s point of view.

Identify with Their Experiences

When the other person begins to share, focus on the feelings and situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar. This will deepen your emotional insight into the other person’s plight.

Gain Personal Perspective

This method involves working on your personal identity. In other words, you need to learn who you are separate from the other person. If you do not have a clear sense of identity, then you can become “enmeshed” (emotionally entangled and dependent upon the other person) and will tend to take things too personally. When you take things personally, you cannot separate yourself enough to feel the other person’s pain. Begin to practice emotionally detaching—not allowing the other person’s negative behavior to determine your mood or choices. In time, you will gain a greater sense of identity and separateness that will offer you the advantage of perspective.

Heal Past Hurts

If you don’t heal past hurts, you will be like a walking wound and anyone who brushes up against you will send shock waves of anger and pain through your body. This anger keeps you from seeing the other person’s feelings. Instead, you become self-absorbed with your own pain. If you find ways to resolve your hurts, you can turn your focus off of yourself and clearly see your partner’s pain.

Turn to God

As humans, our ability to empathize is extremely limited without God’s help. We may try to empathize based on sheer will-power, but when the heat is on or the situation endures, our empathy quickly evaporates. That’s why it is essential to turn to God, because He gives us the mercy, compassion and grace that are necessary to develop empathy. It’s as if our empathy cup never runs dry, when God is the One pouring His abundant compassion into our hearts.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

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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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4 Ways to Handle the Crazy-maker in Your Life

Is there someone in your life who drives you crazy?  If so, I can relate.  Here are 10 tips that I hope are helpful to dealing with that crazy-maker in your life.

1. Pray about your attitude.

Tell God exactly how you feel about this crazy-maker. He already knows, so you might as well be honest with him.  And the need to vent about your stress and frustration will be released into the arms of the only person who can do something about it!   In other words, ask God to change and rearrange the crazy-maker in your life, and more than anything, ask God to change your heart too!

2.  Stop expecting the other person to change.

The sad facts are that we cannot change someone else.  We can influence the other person, but we cannot change the crazy-maker in our life.  But if we adjust our expectations when the crazy-maker makes us . . . crazy, then the dynamic shifts.  Often the irritation we are feeling is drastically reduced simply because we’ve adjusted our expectations of the other person.

3. Journal about your feelings.

Yeah, yeah, I know some of you are groaning out there!  But even though every counselor recommends journaling, it really does help!  And of those of you who groaned—how many of you know that exercising is important to your physical health?  Well, journaling is like the exercise of your heart, mind and relationships, and is necessary to bring and maintain that health.  I like to address my journalings to God.  But you can simply write out your thoughts and feelings about the crazy-maker in your life, and it will help you to feel better and, most importantly, help you to gain perspective.  We all need more perspective in our relationships—especially with the crazy-makers in our lives.

4.  Find one or two ways you can positively impact the situation.

It may seem hopeless at times, but often there is at least one thing that you can do to improve the way you feel.  For example, if the other person resists doing things your way, then stop suggesting ideas for him or her.  Instead, ask “What are some strategies you think we should try to deal with this problem?”  Of course, that means you might have to give up control of how the situation is handled, and that can be harder than dealing with resistance! But often the other person comes up with at least one solution that you both can agree on and do.  This also can ignite personal responsibility in the other person, who may have needed that vote of confidence from you in the first place.  As the other person feels you are listening to his or her concerns or just sharing the decision-making, you may see the crazy-maker’s fears and resistances transforming into cooperation. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

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