Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Confessions of a Control Freak

I come from a long line of control freaks. My mother was a control freak with anger issues. My grandmother was a control freak who used sugary sweet manipulation to entangle her victims. And my grandfather was nothing short of a force to be reckoned with. They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and that has never been more evident than in my life.

At first, I thought that I was simply a people-pleaser who was being controlled by more than my share of control freaks. That might have been true at times.

But like Clark Kent, I could easily transform—without the help of a phone booth—into a super control freak if put in the right situation.

So the thought that I could be a control freak seemed unimaginable. I even hated the sound of the words. I wanted to say that I’m just conscientious, hard-working, and meticulous—but never a control freak!

“I” opening moment

It took years for God to finally open my heart to the fact that “I” was the worst control freak in my life. And then it was just a matter of time before the horrible truth about control freaks came spilling out . . .

The truth that control freaks lack faith in God.

They question if God is really as good as He says He is and worry that He might not rescue them from their troubles.

So all good control freaks must keep their cape tucked neatly in their backpacks for just such an occasion—the time when God wouldn’t come through for them and save the day!

Once I finally accepted the ugly truth, I felt afraid that people would find out and reject me and my control freaky ways. However, at some point, I realized that I couldn’t “control” that.

So here’s I a couple of ways I use to curb my control-freaky ways . . . (yes, it’s a work in progress)

 1. Make myself accountable

I share my weaknesses with certain people I trust in my life and give them permission to speak truth into my life. I don’t always like what I hear—especially at first. But I’ve come to realize that God uses these people to chisel away the rough spots in my life—one of which is my need for control.

2. Surrender my illusion of control to God

This is a daily, even moment by moment battle. But when my anxiety is on the rise, I take notice and immediately turn my problem over to Jesus before my control freaky ways kick into high gear.

If you can relate, then take the humble first step of admitting the fact that you are a control freak . . . at least once in a while.

If I hadn’t come clean with God and others, I would’ve continued to wall people out, offend some, destroy God-given opportunities, and make royal messes in my life and relationships (check out messymarriage.com for a few chronicled examples).

I’ve put away “my cape” and changed from management to God-agement! After all . . .

 God truly is the only One who can save the day!

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters
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Opposing Perceptions

My husband and I took a two-day trip down to the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois this past week. On one of those two days, we did some hiking. We wandered deep down into the forest on some trails.

It took probably less than five minutes before we began to feel the heavy weight of thick humidity in the center of that forest, since it had rained earlier that morning. Even though the temperature that day was only in the upper 80’s, in the middle of that forest it felt much, much hotter.

When we emerged from the forest we saw a man who had been biking loading his bike on the back of his car. My husband said, “Sure is humid today!” The man replied back, “Well, it’s better than it could be.”

I thought about that man’s response as we walked back to our car drenched in sweat. He was in the same park, in the same location in that park, at the same time as we were in the park, yet he had a different perspective about the day.

Then I thought about what he had experienced compared to us. He had just been on a bike ride through the park, probably feeling the cool breeze blowing against his face and body (nature’s air conditioning!) the entire time. Yet, we had emerged from the same park as if emerging from a sauna—soaked with sweat and burning hot from the oppressive, sticky heat.

Here’s my point:

So often we think that our perception is the only right opinion, but the truth may be:

  1. We both have valid perceptions and opinions that are vastly different.
  2. We think we are right when, in reality, we are completely wrong.

In our case, we were option number one. But very often I’m fighting for something that is my opinion, but very wrong. I’m not saying all of this to ask you to second-guess yourself, but rather to recognize your limitations. We all need to train ourselves to recognize that our perceptions are not always true or the only reality. The only absolute truth I know of is God and His Word, everyone else has cracks and flaws in their viewpoint.

If you are currently struggling in a relationship, check to see if this may be at least a part of your problem. If it is, remember that you are not alone. We all have limited points of view.

“One of the primary indicators of a character problem is a person’s resistance to questioning his perceptions about his situation or relationships.”  —Cloud and Townsend, It’s Not My Fault

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Victims can be like Ice Cream or Sour Milk

Sandra Bullock’s been in the news quite a bit lately.  I think I can speak collectively for most Americans that she has our sympathies due to her husband’s betrayal.  We all seem to see her as a victim and feel terribly sorry for her.  If not, you’re either a Nazi sympathizer or really into tattooed porn stars—clearly not my readership!

Sandra is the kind of victim everybody loves.  But as I’ve contemplated this, I’ve realized that not all victims evoke love and compassion from us. I believe there are two very distinct views of victims.

The first group is representative of all the Sandra Bullock’s out there . . .

1.  The “Ben and Jerry’s” Victim

These are the victims who are sweet and creamy very much like “Ben and Jerry’s” ice cream. “B and J” victims win our love and adoration instantly.  We can’t get enough of them and crave their stories because they inspire us to frostier heights!  We feel instantly drawn to them—wanting to scoop them up and lick their wounds like we would a double dip of “Chunky Monkey!

I think what makes a “B and J” victim so appealing—even delicious—is their sweet self-effacement and a cool and forgiving demeanor.  And this is what sets “B and J” victims apart from the rest: they do not whine, pout, or milk the moment.

On the other hand, there are those who, sadly, seem to fall into the second group of victims . . .

2.  The “Sour-Milk” Victim

These victims have the same experience of abuse, neglect, persecution and/or trauma as the “Ben and Jerry’s” victim, but with one exception—they take on a victim mentality.

Unfortunately, it seems this group has allowed the hard knocks of life to sour their disposition rather than sweeten it.  If you encounter them, you’ll discover that they are constantly going into, in the middle of, or just coming out of a major pity party.  Other tell-tale signs of a“Sour Milker” are the need to grumble, mope and, sigh a lotwhich tends to stink up any conversation in a hurry! The problem is that these “S.M.’s” think that if they continue to complain about their abuse, that somehow things will magically change. But the only change occurring is the curdling of your stomach when you have to be around them.  These victims need to quit crying over spilled milk and start mopping it up with the healing power of God.

Now it may seem easy to identify others who fit into one of these two categories.  However, it is really quite difficult to know when you, personally, are in either of these two camps.  If you are a “Ben and Jerry’s Victim, then you probably are so humble that you won’t want to give yourself the credit for making the most out of your tragedy.  And if you are a “Sour Milker,” then you probably are too busy feeling sorry for yourself to notice how annoying it is to everyone else.  So my suggestion would be to pray about it.  God will reveal the true attitude of your heart and give you the ability to make “Ice Cream” out of the “Milk Duds” life has handed you.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Peter 2:19 (NLT)

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us  . . .” 2 Corinthians 1:8b-10 (NIV)

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Having Difficulty Loving Someone?

When I was a kid, there was a girl who occasionally came to my church that I did not love.  I would look at her and think that she was from wrong side of the tracksShe smelled funny and didn’t have the same nice clothes that my friends and I wore.  She even acted a little odd.  So I never reached out to her or accepted her as a friend.  I judged her.

There’s an account in the Bible that I read recently that reminds me of my judgmental attitude.  It is about a Pharisee, named Simon, who invited Jesus over for dinner.  Probably there were lots of clean, well-dressed people at this dinner—all but one.  She was an uninvited guest and out of her deep love for Jesus, she washed his feet with her tears and anointed him with rare perfume.  In contrast, Simon had neglected to do for Jesus the bare minimum of courtesies that were expected in that day.

Ironically, Simon couldn’t contain his disdain for this woman and slammed Jesus in the process by saying of him,

“If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him.  She’s a sinner!”

Jesus responded with a parable that clearly nailed Simon’s judgmental attitude to the wall.  And before the account ends, Jesus says something I found very important,

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

I always thought that Jesus was being sarcastic about Simon’s state of sin, and perhaps he is.  But this time when I read it something else stood out.  I don’t think Jesus was sarcastically saying that Simon was innocent or had avoided the stench of sin.  I think Jesus was saying that Simon had not recognized the sin in his life.  He had not asked for forgiveness because he did not see that he needed it.  So he was “forgiven little.”  And when we do not seek forgiveness, we are unable to love.

Are you having difficulty loving someone?  Are you comparing yourself to someone and feel that you are so much better than they are?  Perhaps you have not smelled yourself lately.  A normal phenomenon happens when we live with a stink in our lives.  We get used to a smell that might have knocked us off our feet when we first took a whiff.  I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for me to take a bath—in Christ’s forgiveness.  Thank you God, for being willing to make me clean again!

*passages taken from the account in Luke 7:36-50 (NLT)

Hungry for Healing

Do you know the power of confession?  When I was newly married I didn’t.  I thought it was better to hide my mistakes.  Unfortunately, in hiding my mistakes, I hid myself. Over time, a wall began to erect between me and my husband.  I feared even the idea of dropping my guard and being real with him.  I felt that I had to “save face.”  This resulted in more arguments, more alienation and a higher and higher wall.

Long story short, I learned that I had to eat a heaping slice of humble pie on a regular basis.  Don’t get me wrong.  To this day I still struggle with the desire to hide.  And humble pie has only gotten slightly better tasting over the years!  But I know that it’s like much needed medicine for my soul.  It heals me and my relationships.

God has created our hearts and minds with a need to confess.  We not only need to confess our sins and mistakes to others but to God as well.  Ironically, I find that it is often easier to confess my sins to God than to others.  God is a gracious and forgiving God, and I know that He won’t hold my sin over my head or look down on me if I admit my weaknesses.  But people sometimes do.  At least that is what I have told myself.  However, I’ve discovered that when I sincerely confess, I do not face rejection.  In fact, the opposite has occurred.  I’ve been welcomed, embraced and the walls have crumbled down.

Do you feel a wall between yourself and God or yourself and another person?  If you’re hungry for healing, perhaps you simply need to eat a slice of that good ol’ humble pie!  The recipe can be found below:

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  James 5:16 (NLT)

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6 Questions about Apologies

Addressing some questions a reader has posed to me regarding “7 Purposes of an Apology.”
1. When do we owe an apology?
We need to apologize whenever there is damage done to the other person either emotionally, relationally, spiritually, sexually, physically or monetarily.
We also need to give an apology whenever the other person perceives a hurt. In other words, it doesn’t matter that we didn’t intended to hurt the other person. If that person feels hurt by our attitude or actions, we need to apologize for how it came across or simply be sorry for how the other person feels, even if we cannot see the damage. In this situation you might want to say, “I’m sorry that you feel specific feeling because of my specific action or attitude.”
2. How do we word an apology?
You could say, “I’m sorry for specific action or attitude. Will you accept my apology?” or “I was wrong about specific action or attitude. Will you forgive me?” Either way, you need to make sure to be as specific as possible in order to demonstrate genuine remorse. You could also add, “What can I do to make it up to you?” Finally, it is of utmost importance not to use your apology as a springboard to blame the other person. Never, never, never say, “I’m sorry for ___________, but I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t ___________.” A healthy and appropriate apology is one that takes full responsibility and does not cast blame. If the other person needs to become aware about an offense that he committed against you, then discuss that with him at a later time, but only after much prayer and preparation.
3. How do we truly accept an apology?
It’s also important to receive the apology constructively. A person who makes himself vulnerable enough to admit his fault and accept responsibility deserves a full acknowledgement. It would not be helpful or right to resist accepting the apology with statements like, “Words are cheap.” On the other hand, minimizing the damage done with, “It’s no big deal,” or “It’s okay” is equally inappropriate. Simply say, “I accept your apology” and/or “I forgive you.” If you cannot forgive the person, then say, “I accept your apology, but I need to work on forgiving you. And I will let you know when I’m able to do that.” Then make sure to work towards forgiving the other person and don’t neglect to get back with him as soon as possible.
4. What if you don’t get an apology when you think you deserve one?
Let’s consider some simple examples:
• What if someone walks in on you when you are in the restroom?
• What if someone makes a joke that you feel goes too far?
• What if you don’t get proper or polite treatment from a cashier or customer service rep?
• What if someone agrees to do something for you, but then doesn’t?
• What if someone simply neglects a relationship with you?
All of these are examples of injustices and offenses that we deal with on a daily basis. The hard truth is that we cannot require or even expect others to treat us properly. How we’ve been treated may be completely wrong, but if the other person does not see his violation, we cannot demand an apology. If we have a relationship of any depth, then perhaps we need to consider how to discuss this offense with the other person. But if the situation is with someone we only have brief contact with, then we need to call upon God for comfort and self-control. Perhaps it can be an opportunity for us to evaluate just how kind, polite or appropriate “we” are in every interaction. As Christians our calling is to show love no matter what treatment we receive in return. Remember: “They will know us by our love” (John 13:35).
5. What if the other person accepts your apology, but acts as if they have not forgiven you?
This is another example of a time to pray and carefully prepare for a difficult conversation—addressing the incongruity you sense. But depending on the depth of the relationship, it might also be an example of surrendering the situation to God rather than trying to take matters into your own hands.
6. What if the person apologizing appears to be insincere or sarcastic?
If this occurs, it probably means that the apology is being offered too soon or that the apologizer is not emotionally mature enough to take on full responsibility in the matter. You might want to say to the apologizer, “I don’t feel like you’re ready to apologize at this time. Let’s talk about this later when we’ve both had a chance to calm down, think and pray through this problem.” There’s no need to rush or push for an apology. Prayer during this time of waiting is the best course of action and will soothe the hurt feelings that you may have about the insincere apology in the meantime. You might also have to come to terms with the fact that some people are never going to see the hurt they’ve caused the way that you do, and therefore may never take responsibility for it. Thankfully, we are not left in this world without hope (1 Peter 1:3). When we turn to God, He can comfort and heal our broken hearts better than any human apology ever can!

Let me know if you have further questions or comments about this post!

7 Purposes of An Apology

Just the other day my 16 year old son decided to play a joke on his younger 13 year old brother.  While his brother was in the bathroom he held the doorknob so that when his little brother wanted to come out, he couldn’t.  Funny joke, right?  Not if you’re the one being held hostage in a 4’ x 6’ room!

Once my older son released his prisoner, my younger son was still not satisfied.  So my younger son attempted to address the issue with his brother who refused to acknowledge his dastardly deed!  After several frustrating attempts, my younger son turned to me, the “peacemaker,” to bring some closure.  I warned him, “Are you sure you want me to intervene?” (Because between brothers, turning to “Mom” for help can be a fate worse than death!) But he threw caution to the wind and turned to me anyway.  So once I was able to get the older brother to confess, (which is pretty easy, because for some reason when I confront this particular son with a lie he’s told, he can never keep a straight face!) I asked him to apologize to his younger brother.  Unfortunately, my older and “should-have-known-better” son asked me a crazy question, “Now, what is the reason for apologizing?”  After I threw away the hairs that I had pulled out of my head, I calmly replied, “Because it’s important for you to admit your part and because it helps your brother to feel respected.”  With that he nodded and offered up the coveted apology.
I grew up in a family that didn’t offer up apologies very often or at all.  I am not blaming my parents, because they probably didn’t see it modeled in their own homes.  But the fact remains that I went into my own marriage feeling that somehow to offer an apology meant something was wrong with me—so why admit that? I felt it made me vulnerable or set me up as a sitting duck!  Thankfully, God and my husband Gary helped me to realize that this belief was far from the truth.  As soon as I recognized the necessity and power of apologizing, I began to use it—sparingly at first (because, after all, humble pie tastes terrible to a newbie!).  Once I began to witness the amazing healing properties of an apology, I began to use it much more indiscriminately.  And to my surprise it got easier and easier, tasting better and better.  But most of all, I saw how powerfully medicinal it was not only to the offended, but also to my own heart!  So allow me to share seven purposes that I have found to be true in regard to apologies.
Purpose One – It Acknowledges the Hurt
FOR THE OFFENDED: It definitely helps him feel that his feelings matter to the offender.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him to begin to understand the negative impact his actions have had on the other person, drastically decreasing the likelihood of reoffending in the same way.
Purpose Two – It Demonstrates that the Offender is Taking Responsibility
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel relieved of a burden that does not belong to him.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him commit to better behavior in the future.
Purpose Three – It Shows that the Offender Knows What He Did was Wrong
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel validated and respected—helping him to reopen his heart to the relationship once again.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him to recognize the seriousness of his violation.
Purpose Four – It Indicates that the Offense will be Avoided in the Future
FOR THE OFFENDED: It gives the necessary reassurance that the offense will not continue.  Without that reassurance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to move toward trusting the other person again.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It brings into focus what needs to be avoided, which results in a greater likelihood of success in changing the offending behavior.
Purpose Five – It Ignites the Healing Process
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel heard, valued, and respected.  It is not absolutely necessary to have these feelings in place for healing (since God can provide what is missing), but it does help to ignite and speed the healing process.
FOR THE OFFENDER: Knowing that the offended has not rejected him helps him to be able to move toward healing more effectively as well.
Purpose Six – It Refocuses the Relationship on Respect
FOR THE OFFENDED: The benefit is obvious—we all need and want respect.  Respect needs to be a foundational element we build every relationship upon in our lives.
FOR THE OFFENDER:  It helps him to find his way back to the right relationship path which is paved with mutual respect.
Purpose Seven – It Strengthens Trust
FOR THE OFFENDED: It is important to know that the offender sees his wrongdoing as just that, wrongdoing! If there is no apology or admission of guilt, there is no assurance that the offense will not occur again.  No one, but a fool, can offer trust in that kind of environment.
FOR THE OFFENDER: When the offended person opens himself up to reestablishing trust, the offender is given a
second chance.  And everyone likes second chances!
God be with you as you venture into the healing waters of apology!