Let’s Talk About Shame and Guilt (Designed: Emotions)

49550355_1151586855012967_3196367300802379776_n

Dark, wet, cold, and heavy…perfect words to describe those guilty shame filled feelings that linger making you wonder if you will ever again feel the warmth of hope, the joy of freedom, confidence to pursue people and things you once loved.

Guilt and shame are two words that are unfortunately, intimately and personally familiar to me.  I have been guilty of wide variety of offenses and have felt ashamed of my actions more times then I care to remember.  Sometimes the reminders of my wrong doings are from people who were hurt by my actions.  Sometimes it’s from lingering consequences that I face.  Most frequently the shame and feelings of guilt arise from within.   On my worse days I rehearse my flaws and failures and use it as a form of self inflicted torture to feed what feels like the insatiable appetite of shame.  If that weren’t enough I also listen to the enemy as he hisses deep into my being “With all that you’ve done wrong you’ll never be good enough, you can never measure up.  Who do you think you are?  Get out now before you are humiliated!” or  “There you go again, screwing up like you always do.  You’ll never get what you want because you always mess things up.  You don’t deserve those good things.  You should stop now before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.”

If this sounds familiar to you please know you are not crazy and you are not alone.   Many of us struggle with this particular battle.  In the heat of it we long for the false security of being alone, hiding from people and relationships, yet in that isolation the “proof” of how awful we are is magnified and screams in the silence.  The answers for victorious healing can only be found in the things we most dread doing….to gain true victory there needs to be acknowledgement/confession, acceptance, repentance, restitution, forgiveness, grace and confident hope…all of which can only be found in the light of relationship.

I hope you will have the courage to continue reading to discover practical tools to help  you secure victory in this battle.

Let’s first make sure we have clear definitions and understandings of the words guilt and shame.  Guilt is “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.”  This means it is tied to something specific you have done that was wrong, hurtful, mean, immoral, illegal, or unethical .  If I have told a lie, then I am guilty of lying.  This is true and legitimate guilt. I did something wrong and I feel guilty about it.  In a healthy environment this kind of guilt should help prompt me to move forward to make things right.  The unpleasant emotion may also help keep me from making the same mistake again.

There is also such a thing as “false guilt”.  This occurs when I feel guilty over something I have not done wrong. Here is an example of false guilt.  Let’s say you are invited to go out to work with friends but you decide you really don’t have the energy to go out so you decline the invitation.  Afterwards you feel guilty because you said no.  This is false guilt because you didn’t actually do anything wrong, you simply enforced a boundary around your time and energy.  In this example your guilty feelings are not tied to a hurtful, mean, immoral, illegal, or unethical action so therefore it must be tied to something else.  We will explore that in the next section on shame.

Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”  Feeling ashamed goes deeper than feeling guilty or embarrassed, it touches the core of who you are as a person.  It makes you doubt your goodness, your worth, and your identity.  It leaves you without significance or security.  This type of shame typically comes when you have committed some serious offenses or suffered serious or continuous  injury to your emotional self.    When you experience this type of shame you have difficulty validating your own worth which in turn can cause you to become hypersensitive to situations in which you feel you may loose the acceptance or admiration of other people.  In a mild sense you can become hypersensitive to guilt.  In that scenario you would tend to perceive that you have done something wrong when you haven’t, like in the situation previously discussed above.  In a severe cases it can lead to codependent or narcissistic tendencies.  Both feed off the fear of loosing other people’s validation, approval, and acceptance.  Shame thrives on fear and in isolation.  It makes it difficult to give or receive love because it places you in a mode of self protection that is not easily penetrated.

A good way to tell the difference is simply this:  Guilt says I did something bad, shame says I am bad.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL INDICATORS OF GUILT AND SHAME:

Physical response:  covering ones face, looking down, avoiding eye contact, a sense of heat that radiates through the body, making your body become small, hunched shoulders, head down, tightness/heaviness in chest, upset stomach, crying.

Thoughts about Self:  I am bad.  I am worthless.  I always mess things up.  I was wrong.  It’s my fault.

Thoughts about God:  God couldn’t love me.  God can’t forgive me.  God won’t save me.

Our action/tendency/response:  Hide, place blame, avoid

Communication: “I did wrong.”  “I am bad.”

Guilt and shame indicate different needs: Guilt indicates a need to make things right.  Shame indicates a need for inner healing and forgiveness.

So what can I do? 

1.) Find the source of your true hope and identity.  It will always be difficult to overcome shame if you don’t have your source of identity secure in an unshakable, unchangeable source.  As Christians we know that source is Jesus.  There is nothing that you can do that will ever make you unlovable to Him (Romans 8:38-39). There is also nothing you can do that will make you more lovable to Him (Ephesians 2:8).  His love for you simply doesn’t depend on you.  He has said you are valuable and has paid the price for you with His life (Colossians 1:14). We have covered this topic in more depth in the following article:  Your True Identity: Your Roots (Designed: Roots) https://confidenthope.blog/2018/06/25/your-true-identity-your-roots-designed-roots/

If you are not a Christian, or you are not sure if you are a Christian, I beg you to please take the time to explore this.  You can reach out to your local church or other believers r you can follow these links:  How To Become A Christian http://www.sbc.net/knowjesus/theplan.asp  or How Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/advice/faithdoubt/how-can-i-be-sure-im-saved.html

2.) Confession.  You know how it feels when you have done something wrong and it eats at you.  It gnaws away at your heart making you feel guilty.  Here is how you get rid of that feeling…CONFESS.  Go and admit you did wrong.First and foremost confess to God (1 John 1:9).  Admit your wrong doing and ask for His forgiveness.  You can also ask for His power in helping you continue with the rest of the confessing.    It is incredibly difficult to swallow your pride and admit wrong doing, but there is something freeing about humbling yourself and owning your mistakes.  Your confession is the first key to unlocking your freedom.  It may surprise you to know that your confession isn’t really about the other person.  It is something you do for yourself.  It is coming out of hiding, taking ownership, and regaining freedom and power.  Sometimes you are able to go to the other person directly and tell them you were wrong.  In those cases be prepared that your apology may not be met with kindness.  They may still respond out of hurt or anger.   Sometimes you won’t be able to confess directly to the person, it may be the person is unknown to you, passed away, or it may simply put you in a very dangerous situation.  In those cases my suggestion is that you symbolically do a confession (example write a letter to the person and then destroy the letter) or offer your confession to a trusted friend or pastor.  We are always to confess our sins to God but the bible is also clear that there is healing power in the act of confessing one to another. (James 5:16)

Just to be clear….confession and apology are not the same thing.  A proper apology includes a confession and is delivered for the person who was injured by your offense.  There are many people who are willing to confess to an offense, but remain unapologetic.  The reasons behind this are typically because the person was directly caught, they believe they were actually in the right or justified in their actions, or they are trying to avoid a stricter punishment.

3.) Repentance.  In Christian terms repentance is defined as “turning around”.  What this means is changing your behavior, trying to not make the same mistake twice.  When we repent of a wrong doing we agree that it was wrong and we desire to do right.  You can repent of your wrong doing and still fail again.  We are not perfect.  You do your best.  If you fail again, you go through the process again.  Think about what went wrong,  what is needed to do better, put new safe guards in place and try again.

4.) Forgiveness.  When dealing with our own personal shame and guilt we often have to examine forgiveness from a variety of angles.  First, we can go to God and seek His forgiveness.  He is faithful to ALWAYS forgive us and cleanse us no matter what our offense was He will forgive us (1John 1:9).  Next, we may need to forgive ourselves.  This can be a hard step to take.  You may feel that what you have done is so awful, so shameful that you do not deserve to ever be free from it.  Let me ask you this:  If a perfect, holy and just God, is willing to extend forgiveness to you as a GIFT what right do you have to harbor unforgiveness in your heart toward yourself?  His sacrifice was enough for you and whatever sins you have committed past, present and future.  It is His desire that you live in freedom from the bondage of your sins, He died to give you that freedom (Romans 8:1-4).  For more information on how to forgive yourself you can review this previous Confident Hope article Forgiving Myself  https://confidenthope.blog/?s=forgiving+myself

5.) Make things right (restitution).  We are a people who typically like to “do” things.  We like to have some type of evidence that we have repented and are trying to be better.  In some cases you are able to make things right through an action.  For example if you have stolen something you can return it with interest, or if you have lied you can tell the truth and allow others to check/verify the truthfulness of your statements until their trust in your words has returned.  The process of restitution can be painful, but it will often produce a sense of setting things right, and can go along way in restoring a relationship.

6.) Acceptance.  Some times we are not able to make restitution.  Some times we simply have to accept the fact that we have done something wrong and try to move forward.  Acceptance can be a hard thing to obtain.  When dealing with the emotions of shame and guilt you may need to accept the fact that you will sometimes do things that will cause you to feel guilty or ashamed.  Part of acceptance is allowing yourself to identify and feel the emotion in a non-judgmental way and then release the emotion.

If you try to work through these steps and are continuing to struggle with these emotions I suggest you seek out trusted friends, a small group, a coach, a pastor, or a professional counselor.  There is not a medication that will “fix” this for you.  These emotions are a common struggle and part of being human.  Healing and victory are something that has to be done in the context of healthy relationships.

Dealing with GUILT and/or SHAME?  Here is your challenge:

Think about where you are at with guilt and shame.  Are there things you need to do in order to relieve those painful emotions?  Review the steps outlined in this article.  Review some of the other resources that are listed.  What are the steps that you need to take?  Do those steps!

As we draw to a close, I am reminded specifically of two passages of scripture.  One is the story of Adam and Eve in the garden.  After they sinned they felt shame and tried to hide.  They longed for isolation because of their sin…BUT GOD CALLED OUT TO THEM!  He drew them back into relationship with him so he could restore and redeem them (Genesis 3:1-9).  There were still consequences that needed to be faced, but they no longer needed to hide in shame.  The other passage and scripture talks about how darkness cannot hide in the light (John 1:5).  It reminds me that when we shed light (truth, forgiveness, love, grace, mercy) on those shameful places those feelings will disappear.  As we bring them to the forefront and deal with them they become less powerful and sinister.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

This is such a painful subject.  It hurts my heart as I remember the things I have done that have caused me to feel ashamed.  I think of other people who are also currently struggling under the weight of poor decisions and hurtful words.  I know that you are the one with the power to heal and forgive and restore.  I ask that you strengthen me as I pursue freedom from shame.  Give me courage to face my fears.  Grant me grace to forgive others and myself even as you have forgiven me.  Let me not run from relationships, but instead help me press into them so that I may find healing for myself.  And also so that I may provide a place of healing for others. 

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(Ephesians 2:8)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our  purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. CH shame and guilt.

ADAM AND EVE IN THE GARDEN:  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:1-9)

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Loneliness (Designed: Emotions)

FB_IMG_1542675955717.jpg

Unknown.  Unwanted.  Unseen.  Unheard.  Untouched.  Undesired.  Unchosen.  Unwanted.  Unneeded.  LONELY!

“It doesn’t matter if I am in a dark room all alone, or in a crowd of strangers, or even in the company of people who are supposed to love me….loneliness is there.  I feel empty.  Completely drained.  I long for relationship, for connection; yet I have no energy to put into any relationships.  All day long I paste on a smile and pretend to be happy so no one will know that I am dying inside.”

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s article in the Wall Street Journal, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years.  At the present time about 40% of Americans report being lonely.

Currently loneliness is an epidemic, and quickly becoming health crises.  Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.  (https://newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you)

So, exactly what is loneliness?  Loneliness is a feeling of social disconnectedness in which a person wishes that he or she had better social relationships.   It is also defined as being isolated or unfrequented by friends.  Based on this definition it is clear that a person doesn’t need to be alone to feel lonely.  One can also feel lonely while still desiring and needing time of solitude.  The difference is this:  loneliness feels draining, distracting and upsetting; while solitude feels restorative, creative and peaceful.

Types of Loneliness.  There are many types of loneliness that are generated from a variety of unique situations, experiences, and thoughts.

  • I don’t have a romantic partner.
  • Others don’t have time for me.
  • I just want someone around when I am home.
  • I want someone to do things with.
  • There is no one who really knows me.
  • I’m in a new situation/job/location/school and don’t really know anyone.
  • I’m different from everyone else.  I can’t find anyone who shares my beliefs, values, or interests.
  • I don’t know anyone I can really trust.

As you can see from the list about it is much more than simply having a romantic attachment.  Many people need BOTH a social circle of friends and an intimate attachment to one specific person.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL INDICATORS:

Physical response:  Depression.  Crying.  Numbness. Lack of pleasure.  Lack of interest. Decreased immunity.  Inflammation.  Decreased pain tolerance.  Increased risk for disease.  Poor sleep.  Increased engagement in dangerous or illicit behaviors.  Isolation.  Feeling empty.

Thoughts about self: I am unwanted.  I am all alone.  I am empty.  I am unworthy.  There is something wrong with me.  I am not enough.

Thoughts about God: God doesn’t care.  God made me this way.

Our action/tendency/response:   Ironically, when we are lonely our tendency is to isolate, withdraw and hide.

Communication: Loneliness says:  I cannot make friends.  No one wants to be with me.  I am not worthy of others time.  

Loneliness indicates a need to connect with others on a more personal or intimate level.   It will involve risk.  It may feel uncomfortable, but is needed.  Loneliness is killing us!  We were never designed to do life alone.  So it is vital to your health that you make and maintain some close connections with others.  Sadly, people who are lonely crave human contact and intimacy, but their state of mind makes it difficult to connect with others.  So, in order to get this need met you will have to battle your instincts and thoughts and press into relationships.

So what can I do? 

Practice small talk with people you encounter throughout your day.  I admit I was never a huge fan of small talk.  That is until I moved into an area where I knew no one.  I longed for those deeper connections and long conversations, but there was no one with whom I could have those conversations.  In the absence of those deep connections I quickly learned to LOVE the people who were willing to take the risk and work to engage me in small talk.

If you are a self identified introvert and not currently a fan of small talk let me tickle your intellect with this reminder…LONELINESS IS KILLING OUR SOCIETY!  Your attempts at small talk, no matter how awkward, might be the avenue that helps another human being feel connection and warmth.  In addition, it may be the door way through which you have to pass to make that one friend you desire to have.  It is a skill you can develop to use which will help you grow as a person while making the world a friendlier place to live.

So since it is a skill, here are a few tips and suggestions:

  • Eye contact-Moderate eye contact:  Somewhere between total avoidance and a death stare.
  • Smile-One that comes naturally or where you gently lift the corners of your mouth with your facial muscles:  Wide forced smiles with all your teeth showing look creepy.
  • Handshakes-Somewhere in the middle of a wet fish and a bone crushing death grip.
  • Proximity-About an adult arm length away.  If an infant child can stick her fingers in your mouth YOU ARE TOO CLOSE!
  • Volume: Medium inside voice.  If you are too quite, they will ask what you said and thus prolong the torture of having to engage in the small talk.

Small Talk Progression and Topics:

  • Start with a pleasant greeting and acknowledgement (Ex. “Hi” “It’s good to see you.”  “I’m glad you could come.” “What is your name?”
  • Discuss the weather
  • Give a compliment
  • Share an observation about the surrounding environment or situation
  • Ask an open ended questions:  “Where are you from?”  “What brought you here?”  “How’s your day going?”,   “How do you like or what do you think about  (XYZ) so far?”  etc.
  • End with a good-bye and eye contact: “Bye”, “Stay safe”, “Take care”, “Nice meeting you”, “Have a blessed day.”

You don’t need to carry on a long conversation.  You are just working on talking for a couple of seconds…maybe it will lead to a friendship down the road, or maybe you will just be a bright spot in someone’s day helping them feel a little less lonely.

Invest in nurturing others.  Another way to grow your community and help alliveate loneliness is to care for other people or animals.  Help out at an animal shelter, serve with people to promote a cause, take care of an elderly person or child.  This will foster altruistic feelings in you, will help someone else, and will help fill some of the emptiness.

Proximity and repetition are fundamental when establishing relationships.  It has been proven that as long as you are mutually kind you will become friends with the people you see most often.  So, one way to increase your friendship circle is to be kind and put yourself in situations where you will see the same people over and over again; join a class or committee, go to the same store or hairdresser, attend a church, join a gym, go the same park or venue often, etc.

Time. Relationships take time to form.  You will have to have at least 6-8 conversations with a person before they begin to consider you a friend.  From there you will be able to decide if this is a person you want to develop a deeper level of connection with versus someone you would like to keep as an acquaintance.

Real Life Relationships (RLR).  If there is one thing that social media has taught us is that it is that social media is not a substitute for having real life friends.  Having many friends on social media who hardly know you is NOT a protective factor against loneliness.  If I have 700 Facebook friends and Instagram followers, but no one who interacts with me regularly in a close and intimate way, then chances are I will still feel incredibly lonely.  The only way to combat loneliness is to engage in real life relationships.  There are 3 keys to developing RLR:

  • 1.) Take the risk of being vulnerable, sharing my thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
  • 2.) Invest my most valuable resource (time).  All RLR will take time to develop.
  • 3.) Learn to be trustworthy with other people’s secrets, faults, and failures.  To have a good friend, you must practice being a good friend.

Quality versus Quantity.   When combating loneliness it is important to develop a few high quality relationships.  These are the people who you will invest your life in and those who you will allow to invest in you.  It is not important to have many friends, just a few select friends that you will allow to know the real you, the messy you, the you that you don’t show to everyone else.

(For more on this topic see Developing Your Tribe:  (https://confidenthope.blog/2018/04/10/developing-your-tribe/ )

Dealing with LONELINESS?  Here is your challenge:

1.)  Identify which type or types of loneliness are you currently suffering from?

2.) Reflect on if there was ever a time you were not suffering from this type of loneliness.  What did it look like?  How were you involved in the relationship?

3.) Identify one way in which you could begin to counter act they type of loneliness you are experiencing.

4.)  Challenge yourself to engage in that activity at least once this week.

5.)  Document and reflect on how it went and how you felt.

6.)  Challenge yourself to combat loneliness for others by reaching out to them at least once this week.

7.)  Make an effort to get to know the people in the community you are a part of:  where you live, where you work, where you shop, and where you play.

MEDITATION:

We were never designed to live in isolation.  God created us for relationship.  We are created in the very image of God who himself is a model of relationship in the attribute of the trinity.  We serve one God, who is triune in nature.  Meaning he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All acting in accordance and unity together.  We as humans are created in that very same relational manner.  In fact, in Genesis it talks about this very topic.  After each thing that God created he commented “and it was good.”  However, after he created man He said “it is not good for man to be alone.”  At that point he created Eve.  Right from the beginning in paradise it was necessary for people to have relationship!  All through out scripture it talks about the dangers of being alone and the commands to engage in relationships; along with the principles for living successfully in those relationships.

Loneliness can feel like a slow death.  Some of the saddest moments in scripture are when individuals felt alone or abandoned.  I believe that is why God reminds us so often that He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.  While you may experience moments or seasons of loneliness, it is never His will that you do life alone.  Those moments are to serve as reminders of our need for community.  God will meet that need for intimacy through other people as we reach out and risk being known and knowing others.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

I feel so alone.  I long for community.  I long for close friends that I can laugh with and share with and do things with.  I miss having someone to call my own.  I can feel the ache for companionship deep inside me.  Yet I have to confess there is also a part of me that doesn’t want to risk being hurt again.  I don’t want to invest all the time and energy into someone else just to be let down and beaten up.  I don’t want to go through all the small talk, all the getting to know you phases……but I do want the closeness, the familiarity, the comfortableness.  Will I ever have the energy to build those types of relationships again?  Will anyone even want to build that kind of relationship with me?  Sometimes I just feel like all the good friends and partners are already taken. 

Do you even care that I feel lonely?  That I long for companionship?  That I miss the warmth of being loved and cared for?  Is that even something that I can pray for?  I know that you love me, but sometimes I just long for love that comes in human form.

I am asking that you please bring people into my life.  Allow me the chance to love others.  Give me courage to share who I am and to seek out the treasures of who they are.  Show me how to love and how to connect.  You are the perfect example of relationship and love.  Help me to live and love as you have called me to do.  Help disspel my loneliness as I give my love to others.  It is a mystery how giving love away could actually fill me up….but I trust that you do actually work in those mysterious ways.

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families,he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (Psalm 68:5-6)

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

 

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Let’s Talk About Grief and Depression (Designed: Emotions)

FB_IMG_1542070397682There she sat, staring at the floor with her shoulders slouched.  Her voice was small and shaky.  “How do you feel?” I asked.

“I feel fine, I guess.”  Weighted silence filled the room, before she took a deep breath and continued, “Honestly, I guess I feel kind of numb.  I’m really not sure how I feel.  I cry every time I step into the shower, or am driving my car, or if someone I love asks me how I am doing.  I don’t know what it is.  I just break out into tears.”  Her eyes began to water, and then her breathing changed and made way for sobs.

“Do you think you might be depressed?”  I asked.

“I don’t think so.  I have so many good things.  I can’t be depressed.  I mean life is hard for everyone……” and she continued on with her list of reasons why she couldn’t possibly be depressed.

Sometimes the depression is so deep and long standing, and you have tolerated it for so long that you no longer even recognize it as depression.   But there it lingers, causing havoc and chaos where you once had peace, contentment, and joy….now those things seem like a million light years away, a fantasy that was maybe never even real to begin with.

No one likes to admit to feeling depressed.  It is such a powerless, hopeless feeling.  Yet, all of us at times will feel the weight of depression in varying degrees and for various lengths of time.

Let’s take a closer look at that heavy feeling that causes you to feel like you are dragging around a 100 pound weight.  What exactly are the differences between sadness and depression?

According to Miriam-Webster dictionary; GRIEF is a “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement” where as DEPRESSION is defined as “a state of feeling sad”.  Both involve degrees of sadness. Both grief and depression have many similarities in how they present, but the course they take and how they are treated is often quite different.  So let’s take a moment and examine each one separately before we look at the similarities.

GRIEF:  Grief can be caused by almost any type of loss, the most obvious being  a death.  However, one can also experience grief at the loss of a marriage, relationship, job, home, dream, ability etc.  Grief is a normal reaction to loss.  Typically, the grieving process includes five different stages:  1.) Denial 2.)Anger 3.)Bargaining 4.)Depression 5.)Acceptance.  Through the grieving process you will go through each of these stages at some point.  However, the stages aren’t linear; you do not go from stage 1, to 2, to 3, to completion.  It is far more common that you you will vacillate between different stages at different points until finally the intensity of your grief begins to subside. There is no designated amount of time for grieving.  The process will take varying amounts of time depending on the individual and the type of loss or losses that were experienced.  The treatment for grieving is simply time to work through the grieving process and a strong support system that will be patient and loving while you do the hard work of grieving.

DEPRESSION:  Depression can be a  normal response to a life situation, such as a loss or set back.  Or it can be a response to hormones, such as during a woman’s menstrual cycle or menopause.  Lastly, it can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.  The cause of the depression will dictate which type of treatment and interventions will work.

Here are some potential indicators of grief and/or depression:

Physical Responses: Crying, fatigue, aches and pains, increased sensitivity to stress and pain, forgetfulness, inability to focus, decreased appetite, lack of energy, decreased immunity, lack of pleasure, excessive sleeping, restlessness, stomach aches, digestive issues, loneliness, letting responsibilities slide, poor hygiene.

Thoughts about Self: I am hopeless.  I will never change.  I am alone.  Things will never get better.  I would be better off dead.  Others would be better off without me.

Thoughts about God:  God is punishing me.  God doesn’t care about how I feel.  God has abandoned me.

Our action/tendency/response: Slow down. Withdraw. Isolate.

Men and women tend to manage their emotions differently especially when it comes to grief and depression.  Here are some of the distinguishing factors  in how the expression of depression may differ between women vs. men:

  • Women feel anxious and scared; men feel guarded
  • Women blame themselves for the depression; men blame others
  • Women commonly feel sad, worthless, and apathetic when depressed; men tend to feel irritable and angry
  • Women are more likely to avoid conflicts when depressed; men are more likely to create conflicts
  • Women turn to food and friends to self-medicate; men turn to alcohol, TV, sex, or sports to self-medicate
  • Women feel lethargic and nervous; men feel agitated and restless
  • Women easily talk about their feelings of self-doubt and despair; men hide feelings of self-doubt and despair-considering it a sign of weakness

*(https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.women.html)

Communication: There has been a loss. Things are not as they should be.

NEEDS. If there has been a loss of any type, big or small, there is a need to grieve and there will likely be some feeling of depression.   If the depression is stemming from a chemical or hormonal imbalance, medication may be needed.  It is always possible that working through the grieving process, in addition to lifestyle modifications and medication may be needed.

Reminder. While it would be great if you could just “cheer up and be happy” it doesn’t always work like that.   Changing the feelings associated with depression and grieving are a lot like trying to turn the Titanic around.  It’s a big job! A good place to begin, as you embark on the task of improving how you feel, is to take some control of your actions and thoughts.  This is where you have some power!  You have the right to all of your emotions.  Including your sadness, grief, and depression.  Honestly, sometimes it is healthy to sit with the sadness for a moment, to honor a memory, a loved one, or a dream.  Eventually, you will have a responsibility that will require you to move on and re-enter the world. At that point it is your responsibility to seek out whatever you need to improve those heavy emotions; it might be socialization, skills, lifestyle change, or medication.  Whatever it is you have a responsibility to get what you need to not be controlled by those emotions.  Remember, emotions are there to serve you, to help point out your needs, to allow you to have empathy for others.  They are not meant to crush or control you.

So, what can I do?

1.)  Here are some ideas if you are grieving a loss:  A.) Journal your loss, your feelings, and your process B.) Pray or meditate C.) Make a scrap book of memories D.) Visit with friends and family that love you, be open about what you are feeling and needing

2.)  Get a physical examination to determine if your depression has a physical cause such as a chemical or hormonal imbalance

3.) Get some physical exercise EVERY DAY!  Physical exercise releases the endorphins (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) in your brain which are natural mood regulators.  A daily dose of sunshine will increase those positive benefits.

4.)  Maintain a regular daily routine for meals and sleeping.   This will help restore balance to your system which will help regulate your emotions.

5.)  Be sure to create some small, measurable goals each day that you can achieve.  This will create a sense of accomplishment.

6.)  Do some thing that you used to enjoy.  Read a book, take a walk, play with a pet, watch a funny show or movie, listen to music, take a bubble bath, or create something.  Sometimes your emotions will change once you start engaging in the activity.

7.)  Challenge your thoughts.  Depression has a way of making everything look negative.  Saturate your mind with truth.  When you are facing negative self talk and negative thoughts; ask yourself, what would you say to a friend who was having those kinds of thoughts.

8.)  Depression breeds in isolation.  Talk with trusted friends or a counselor about things that are going on in your life.  Talking with people you trust can bring new insights and fuel hope.

9.)  If necessary take medication.  Some depression is from a chemical imbalance and truly needs medication.  For this type of depression the best results come from a combination of medication, lifestyle change, and talk therapy.  There is no shame in reaching out to get the help that you need.

Dealing with GRIEF AND DEPRESSION?  Here is your challenge:

1.)  Don’t let despair dictate your decisions.  I am reminded of the story of the Battle of Jericho.  Read the story in Joshua 5:13-6:27.  This is the second time the Israelites have come to the walls of Jericho.  The city is fortified and closed up, there is no way of getting in; but God has promised them victory.  God sets forth his plan.  They are to march around the city one time for six days in a row making no noise.  On the seventh day they are to march around the city seven times and then blow the trumpets and shout.  When they did that the walls came crashing down and the Israelites were able to go right in and take the victory that belonged to them.  Imagine if the Israelites gave up on the sixth lap around the city.  What if they had allowed what looked like a waste of time and energy, fuel their hopelessness and feed their despair?  They would have have walked away dejected and  never seen the victory, the would have never gotten the blessing that God wanted to give them.  They would have walked back to their homes defeated.  Instead in this moment they chose to trust God, obey his commands, and believe that things would be better in the future just as He had promised.

Question:  What feels hopeless?  What dreams and desires feel like they will never come to fruition? What has God asked you to do?

Are you willing to continue taking laps until your victory?

The challenge is to NEVER GIVE UP!

2.)  Build and alter.  Remember the things God has already done for you.  By remembering what God has already done, you will be increase your faith and your mood will not need to be dependent on your current circumstances.  Throughout the old testament God instructed his people to build alters as a reminder of what he had done.  In Joshua 4, after God parted the Jordan river for the Israelites, He instructed them to build an alter of remembrance.  He had them do this so that they would remember his might and power.  Whenever the Israelites would come into hard times that could look back at that visual representation and remember God’s ability to provide and rescue them.

Question:  What are some miracles God has done in your life?  How has He come through for you in the past?

Do you have things in your home that remind you of those victories (journals, notes, pictures)?  Rehearse how God has shown his faithfulness, goodness and mercy to you in the past.

The challenge is to NEVER GIVE UP!

3.) Remember God is in the resurrection business.  Scripture is laced with a theme of resurrection.  For something to be resurrected it must first die.  There is pain in the process of dying…whether it be the death of a career, a dream, a marriage or a loved one.  There is a sacredness in that space where God chooses to work.  When we have lost everything.  When we are desperate.  That is a space where we can relinquish our control, submit our will and allow God the freedom to work.  Once we release what has died, there is room for God to move in and work his miracles.  God is always taking something that was dead and breathing in new life.  He takes situations that seem hopeless and turns them into miraculous victories.  God promises that pain will only last for a moment.  In Isaiah 61:3 it says “He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of despair”.

Question:  What have you lost that you need to bury?  What is hurting that needs healing?

Are you willing to allow God to create His masterpiece from the rubble of what was?

The challenge is to NEVER GIVE UP!

4.)  God is never late, He’s never early, He’s always on time.  This is a tough one for me personally.  In the middle of my pain I often feel like God is late.   I long for God to arrive early, for him to comfort me with the plan of what lies ahead as a reward for going through the suffering, but that is simply not how God works.  I imagine that Lazurus’s sisters Martha and Mary were struggling with Jesus’ timing.  In John 11, John tells the story of Lazurus.  Martha and Mary had sent word that their brother was ill and that they needed Jesus to heal him.  These were people who loved Jesus and whom Jesus loved.  Yet, from a human perspective it seems that Jesus stalled.  He didn’t even get to them until days after their brother had died.  Hope was gone.  Jesus didn’t arrive early enough to heal Lazurus.  Right when people were convinced that all hope was lost, this is where Jesus enters the scene and does a the miracle.  He raises Lazurus from the dead.  His timing was perfect for allowing a miracle that couldn’t have been preformed if he had arrived on the scene early.

QUESTION:  What are you waiting on God for?  What do you need him to do?

Are you willing to trust His timing?

The challenge is to NEVER GIVE UP!

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

My heart is so heavy sometimes.  I can barely see through my tears.  My chest actually hurts as I feel my heartbreaking.  I want to move forward but I feel paralyzed by my circumstances.  I am uncertain how to get out of this deep pit that I have fallen into.

I know that you are a God who sees me and who loves me, but I feel alone, small, and abandoned.  I am scared.  Please help me to trust you.  I want to believe that you will create a way out…that you will do a miracle for me.  Remind me that you are still in control and are able to handle all that I am experiencing.  Remind me that no problem is too big for you to solve.  Remind me that you have a plan and a purpose for all of this pain that I am experiencing. 

I can remember times when you have done good things for me.  Thank you for the good things you have given me.  Thank you for the obstacles that I have already overcome.  Thank you for your promise that you never leave me, no matter what I’ve done or have not done.  Thank you for the promise that you are an ever present help in my time of trouble.  I ask that you once again come through on my behalf.

In Jesus Name- Amen

SCRIPTURE:

Story of the Jordan River:  Joshua 4

Story of Jericho: Joshua 6

Story of Lazurus: John 11

The Year of The Lord’s Favor: Isaiah 61

2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

 

Brave Heart (Designed: Emotions)

FB_IMG_1534300315645“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.” (Nicole Lyons) 

There is great pain in rejecting your feelings, denying your needs, disowning your desires,  eventually you starve yourself so much that you die inside.  You no longer even know who you are, you feel so little and insignificant, you loose your voice, your power, your passion and everything that once defined you as an individual.  At first glance one wouldn’t think that our emotions can be such a defining factor in who we are and how we are known.  But the truth is that our emotions are a critical part of who we are and how we are designed.  God gave you your emotions for a reason.  You are created in His image and your emotions are a reflection of that image.  When you deny your emotions you are denying a part of who God is and how he created you to function.

Let’s start by setting the record straight.  Feelings are feelings.  They are not good or bad.  Some are certainly more pleasant to experience then others, but in and of themselves they are neither good nor bad.  Feelings are designed to feel; not to think.  We are to take the information provided by our feelings and couple that with facts in order to make a decision.  If we were to allow our feelings to think for us we would only do what feels good and we would avoid everything that feels bad.  This would certainly put us in a very bad situation in just a short amount of time.

There are three levels of emotions; primary, secondary, and tertiary.  Primary emotions are the body’s first reaction to something that has happened.  These emotions come on almost immediately and are strong and transient. There are eight primary emotions; anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, and shame.  These basic emotions will be experienced in varying combinations and degrees of intensity which create the multitude of feelings one can actually experience.

Secondary emotions are much more complex because they often refer to the feelings you have about the primary emotion.  For example if your child runs into the road you might initially feel fear, but you might also feel and express the secondary emotion of anger.  Secondary emotions are our response to our understanding of the initial emotion.  These emotions may intensify with time.

Tertiary emotions are even more complex then secondary emotions.  Tertiary emotions are the layer of emotions that are on top of the secondary emotions and cover all of the other emotions.

When we allow our emotions to do what they are designed to do they can provide us with valuable information about our needs and our condition.  Just like in our physical bodies we have nerve endings to alert us to danger or pleasure we have emotional nerve endings that alert us to things we need.

Here are some examples: 

When we feel ANGER it let’s us know we need to create and protect our boundaries.

When we feel FEAR  it let’s us know we need safety.

When we feel HAPPINESS it let’s us know we have a level of satisfaction.

When we feel SADNESS it let’s us know we need to grieve.

When we feel GUILT it let’s us know we need to correct something.

When we feel SHAME it let’s us know we need approval or acceptance.

When we feel HURT it let’s us know we need healing.

When we feel LONELY it let’s us know we need relationship.

It is not wrong to have feelings or needs.  You have the right to experience all your feelings and to seek to get your needs met.  Feelings are part of what make you unique and define you as a person.  No one has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel!  Your feelings are yours and yours alone.  You have the right to express your feelings through words and actions.  However along with this right, there is also a responsibility to express your feelings in such a manner that it doesn’t infringe on the rights of other individuals.  You have the responsibility manage your feelings.  This is done by identifying, acknowledging, accepting and expressing your feelings.  For some people these can be daunting tasks.  Feelings can feel vulnerable, mushy and uncontrollable. Victims of long term abuse and trauma, may have chosen to cut themselves off from their ability to feel in an effort to protect their emotional safety.    Other individuals may have a “quick trigger” when it comes to emotional flare ups and outbursts, this may also act as a protective factor to provide a sense of control and power.

For some individuals it is difficult to identify what emotions they are feeling.  Sometimes it is simply due to not have a large “feeling” word vocabulary.  You may find it helpful to search the internet for a list of feeling words so that you are better able to express your emotions.  For other individuals, particularly for individuals who have cut themselves off from allowing themselves to feel or have needs,  they may not be aware of what they are feeling and will need to take some time to be intentional in thinking about what they are feeling.  This can be done by sitting and paying attention to what you are feeling without judging what emotions you think you should have.  Instead just accept the emotions that you do have.

Sometimes emotions come on so strongly that an individual may worry that they will be completely overtaken by the emotion if they choose to allow themselves to experience it.  In these instances it may help if you allow yourself to experience the emotion and think of, or visualize it as a wave.  Allow yourself to experience the emotion, and remember that it will pass over you and you will again experience calm.  Just like ocean waves will vary in frequency and intensity the same is true for emotions.  Just remember that in time the overwhelming emotions will subside and there will again be peace.

Sometimes the physical, mental and emotional toll that is being experienced seems insurmountable and there is nothing that can be done to change the situation you are experiencing.  In these instances it may be helpful to remember the serenity prayer as you learn to embrace with acceptance the “things you cannot change”.  It may be helpful to have a list of self soothing things you can do to help you get through those challenging moments while you are waiting for the emotions to pass.

DEVOTION: 

David is one of my favorite bible characters.  He was always going to God with all kinds of emotions.  He is filled with passion and that passion translates to life and energy.  I can only imagine the delight on God’s face as David worships Him with his whole being.  How painful it must have been as God watched David fall into the sins of adultery and murder.   However, through it all God loved him, God did not punish him for having the emotions that he had, it was his actions that invoked the consequences, not the emotions.  In fact, even after all of that God refers to David as a man after His own heart.

While we serve and unchanging and faithful God, we certainly do not serve a God that is non-emotional.  In his word he talks about being loving, delighted, angry, jealous, passionate, joyful, sorrowful, and the list goes on and on.  Since we are created in His image we also get to experience all of those emotions.  He understands that we feel fear, desire, sorrow, despair, anger and a vast amount of other emotions.  His heart breaks for those who are suffering.  He sees you in your distress.  He sees  you struggling day in and day out.  He sees you in your happy moments, and rejoices with you.  You are not invisible to him.  Your emotional pain is not invisible to him.  He cares deeply about all that you are going through.  He longs for you to come to him with all of your emotions and to freely express them to Him.

Just like David we all have emotions that are longing and needing to be experienced and expressed.  If we are willing to take our all of our emotions to God, the challenging ones as well as the pleasant ones, we will be less likely to fall into temptation.  God longs to be our comforter, our prince of peace, and our source of hope.  You can confidently bring all your emotions into the presence of God knowing that He understands, accepts, and loves you.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent Lord my God I will praise you. (Psalm 30:11-12)

Cast your cares on t he Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.  (Psalm 55:22)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold in times of trouble.  (Psalm 9:9)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  (Proverbs 4:23)

“I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear;  I will help you.”  (Isaiah 41:13)

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint,” says the Lord.  (Jeremiah 31:25)

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider:  God has made the one as well as the other.  (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart?  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

You know that I sometimes feel like an emotional mess.  You know that at times I can go from joyous to sobbing to furious to fearful in less then a minute.  I admit that I don’t always appreciate being a hot mess of emotions.  I admit that I often try to ignore my emotions  just get through my day.  Help me to appreciate the fact that I am created in your image and that part of that means that I am emotional.  Give me the courage to experience and express my emotions in ways that will be glorifying to you.  Help me to learn to understand your heart better as I seek to understand and accept my own heart.  Help me to show others who I really am by being willing to be emotionally vulnerable with them.  Keep my eyes open to the needs of others in their suffering just as you are open to me in my suffering.  Thank you for the gift of emotions.  Thank you for caring about how I feel.

In Jesus Name-Amen

REFLECTIONS: Where do you fall the continuum of being cut of from experiencing your emotions to being a raging hot bed full of emotional expression?  What emotions seem to consume most of your days currently?  How good are you at expressing your emotions, needs and desires to others in ways that are honoring to God?  Which of the verses above resonate with you in this moment and why?

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.)  Keep a feelings diary.  Write down one word that describes how you felt in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at night.  Journal about what prompted each of those feelings.  2.)  Find a feelings word guide and practice expressing your feelings using feeling words with people in your life.  For example “I felt happy when you…….” or “I felt hurt when you…..”  3.)  Take some time during the day to acknowledge and experience what you feel in the moment without judging the feeling.  4.) Create a list of positive pleasurable things you can do when your feelings feel like they will overwhelm you. 5.) Read in the book of Psalms and find Psalms that connect with how you are feeling.  Pray that Psalm back to God.

Let’s Talk About Jealousy (Designed: Emotions)

 

 

received_799917803513209

Her looks, his money, her fancy house, their marriage, those kids, his success, that ministry, those accomplishments….or even my relationship, my friendships, my belongings, my rights, family: You name it and I can be jealous over it.  Sad to say I am no stranger to this life sucking, vision clouding, strife producing emotion.

We all experience jealousy at one time or another, it is one of the many emotions we experience because we are designed in the image of God but living in a sin filled world in a fallen state.  Our feelings are part of how we are created in the very image of God.  However, it is what we do with our feelings that make a difference.  Remember, feelings are not good or bad; they are simply present.  If I allow my thoughts to feed my jealous feelings then I may take damaging action that is irrevocable.  I may speak words that I later regret or hurt someone in such a way that the relationship is irreparable.  We have a right to feel jealous, but a responsibility to choose to respond in a manner that will help alleviate the pain of the emotion.

Up to this point in the Designed Curriculum we have examined, God, identity, along with the roles of our physical being, our thoughts and our emotions.  Now it is time to see how they are all connected together just as a tree is connected with it’s roots firmly planted in the soil and extending up through it’s trunk.

So, exactly what is jealousy? Jealousy is a secondary emotion that is a combination of sadness, anger, insecurity and fear.  It is defined as:

  • Feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
  • Feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship.
  • Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

Here are some of the potential indicators of jealousy:

Physical response:  Crying, increased pulse rate, shaking, lack of sleep and sweating. Sometimes accompany the feeling of jealousy are racing or ruminating thoughts.

Thoughts about self:  “I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough etc.”,   “I deserve more.”   “I should have gotten that.”   “I have a right to…..” “This is not fair.”

Thoughts about God:  “God won’t take care of me or meet my needs.”  “God doesn’t care about what I want.”

Our action/tendency/response:  Belittle the other person. Brag about self or accomplishments. Protect at all costs. Attack the other person. Wallow in despair or hopelessness.  Try to “correct” the situation by getting whatever we think we deserve regardless or the cost.

Communication: Jealousy says: This is not fair.   This is mine. I deserve more or better.  I can’t have what I want or need.

Sometimes when our emotions get out of control, or are suppressed, we end up with what I describe as an emotional infection.  An emotional infection is similar to a physical infection.  When a person receives a physical wound and doesn’t engage in measures to protect from infection or seek the proper treatment there is a risk of infection.  The result of the infection can result in varying degrees ranging from mild symptoms to amputation, to death.  Emotional infections are similar to physical infections.  Many times we will be in a situation where we receive an emotional wound.  If we do not attend to that wound our emotions can become inflamed and can result in varying degrees of relational difficulties ranging from increased personal distress, to relational loss, and ultimately to death.  Therefore it is important to pay attention to the state of our emotions and engage in healthy emotional regulation and distress tolerance.

Infected Jealousy.  Jealousy is not a pleasant emotion to experience.  If we let jealousy have free reign in our hearts and continue feeding it with our thoughts it can cause tremendous damage inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly one can experience bitterness, rage, hatred, extreme anxiety, depression and self-loathing.  Outwardly one may end up lying, stealing, or hurting someone.  In some cases jealousy has even led to murder!

As we learned in our last lesson all emotions are designed to give us important information about our needs.  So exactly what does our jealousy indicate and how can we get those needs met?

Jealousy may indicate a need to learn to trust, to be content, or to develop an improvement plan.  Here are some examples:

You may need to learn to trust God.  That he is who he says he is and will do all that he has promised to do.  You can trust him to meet your needs and to provide discovery or protection as necessary.

You may need to learn to trust an individual or process.  If you are worried that a loved one may be cheating on you it can be difficult to trust them because they may not be honest with you. Their behavior or confession will eventually show the truth of what is going on.     By expressing your feelings, thoughts and needs you are allowing the other person an opportunity to help meet those needs.

You may need to learn to be content.  Celebrate what you do have and learn to live without the things you don’t have.  Situations are temporal, they change.  Sometimes you will have a season of plenty and other times a season of want.  You can choose to be content in both scenarios.  Often times it is through the difficult process of learning to accept things as they are in the moment that we learn valuable life lessons, develop strength of character and gain the power that comes from being able to let go.

You may need to develop an improvement plan.  This is a case where jealousy, when correctly focused, can help spur you on to achieve goals or dreams.  Perhaps you are jealous of some one who has attained a goal that you were hoping to obtain.  In this case you may need to learn to press into your goal or revise your plan for obtaining your goal.

So what can I do?  The important thing with jealousy, as with all uncomfortable emotions, is to 1.) acknowledge the emotion, 2.) uncover what is fueling the emotion, 3.) express the emotion in appropriate ways, and 4.) wait for facts before responding with irrevocable actions.

Dealing with JEALOUSY?  Here is your challenge:

1.)  Which of the 3 definitions of jealousy listed above best define they type of jealousy you are experiencing?

2.)  Exactly what are you jealous of?

3.)  Review the list of indicators listed above.  Which ones are experiencing? (If you are experiencing things that are not listed include them as well.)

4.)  Take a moment to reflect on your jealousy.  Are they symptoms of infection?  If yes, what are they?  (If necessary take some time to review the lessons on forgiveness and take appropriate steps.)

5.)  What needs is your jealousy indicating that you have?  What can you do to get those needs met?

6.) Practice expressing your emotion.  If the emotion has given you a lot of pent up physical energy engage in some healthy physical activity like running, walking, biking, swimming.  If it has given you a flood of emotional energy write out your emotions and thoughts in your journal in a prayer to God.  Try expressing your emotion to a trusted friend or loved one using the statement: “I feel jealous when…..”.

7.)  Take action.  Seek God. Get the facts.  Accept reality.  Make changes as necessary.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

I confess that I struggle with jealousy.  It is so easy to compare myself to others and find myself coming up short.  My insecurities will often overwhelm me if I let them.  Help me become so content with what you have given me that I am able to honestly and truly rejoice over the success of others.  Help me to keep my focus on you and build my faith in who you are and who you say I am.  Help me to trust you and to act in obedience to all you have said.

I can’t thank you enough for loving me.  I acknowledge that you are a jealous God and in your jealousy there is no sin.  Thank you for making me your beloved.  Thank you for your fierce protection of me and your vigilance over me. Help me to reflect your character when I experience the emotion of  jealousy.  Show me how to be more loving in my interactions with others, more truthful with myself, and more honoring to you.

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

A heart at peace gives life to the bod, but envy rots the bones.  (Proverbs 14:30)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Where jealousy and selfishness are there will be confusion and evil of every kind.  (James 3-16)

MEDITATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT:

PSALM 37:1-40

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord ; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the Lord ’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord ’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial. Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord ; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Perspective: Encouragement For When Life Is Unfair

FB_IMG_1526423031799

 

She sat and stewed about how he had gotten away with it…with all of it.  How he was able to hide his sins, how he was able to skirt the legal system, how he was able to get everything he wanted; money, assets, attention, a whole new life and all she could think about was how unfair it all was.  Her thoughts were consumed with his actions and her emotions were inflamed with bitterness, jealousy, and anger.

Does this sound familiar?  I know it certainly does to me.  If you have ever been through a break up or divorce you know what it is like to struggle with things being unfair and hopeless; you know what it is like to have your ex consuming space in your mind, creating negative emotions and casting a shadow on even the best days.

Recently I had one of those days where seemingly everything goes wrong.  I had received some bad news regarding some financial and legal matters.  Then I discovered yet another “situation” regarding my ex, which left my head spinning in a million directions and fueled an enormous amount of bitterness.  Then, the last straw was that the car I had just put a bunch of money into broke down, and when I say “broke down” I mean beyond repair.  I felt powerless, hopeless and alone.  I sat in my room in tears trying to figure out solutions.  I could feel the anger building in me as I rehearsed how unfair everything was.  I sank deeper and deeper into my hole of self pity and jealousy.

In my earlier years I would have stayed in that place isolated and alone trying to find solutions.  I would have much rather been isolated then appeared weak, vulnerable, or incapable of handling situations.   I would have prided myself on my independence and on my ability to somehow make it work.  However, I am no longer a person who can do that.  I chose instead to reach out to a few faithful friends, explained my situation, asked for their suggestions and for them to pray for me.  They had some wise ideas and also “carried some of my burden” by doing some of the research for me in finding solutions.  Through their prayers and my desperate cries to God I was able to get some answers, and as usual they were not necessarily the answers that I was expecting or wanting.  Here is a glimpse of what God showed me, and what I think he may want to pass on to you:

1.)  It’s not fair.  God is not about fairness.  He is about justice, love, mercy and grace.  “I have told you these things that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart?  I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  He has given us all of scripture to speak truth to us, to remind us that we are his and that one day all accounts will be settled, and that we will overcome, just as he overcame.

2.)  You are a masterpiece in progress.  Through your trials God is maturing you so that you will be equipped and mature.  He does not want you to lack anything!  “Consider it pure joy brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:2-4)  God knows our journey; past, present and future.  He knows exactly what we will need in the upcoming days and is providing it through the lessons we learn in our trials probably even more so then in our triumphs.

3.)  You do not have to go it alone.  God himself will stand up for you and he has given you people in your life that you can risk reaching out to in your time of need.  The truth is we are weak and vulnerable when we choose to allow our pride or shame to isolate us from one another. Bravery is reaching out to your community, risking being known and allowing them to help you.  “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing: but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psalm 68:5-6)

4.)  His plans for us are greater than our own plans.  In my case I had a vision of how I wanted things to be, where I wanted things to go, but God saw it differently.  He allowed me to make plans, but faithfully intervened to set me on the course that would be far greater than I could have set for myself with my limited vision.  “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

So as I sit here and ponder what to do about my car situation, and all the other situations that are so seemingly unfair, my heart is a bit lighter as God encourages me with his word:  “Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8).

Heavenly Father,

I ask that you help each one of my dear sisters as they continue in their journeys and fight their battles.   Encourage them with your words and lead them by your spirit.  Lift them out them up out of the pit and give them your renewed perspective that includes hope, life, and an excellent future beyond anything they have known to this point.  Remind them that through these challenges you are laying the ground work now for all the good you have in store for them.

In Jesus Name-Amen

 

Developing Your Tribe

AirBrush_20180120181758In this age of isolation, introverts and social media it is hard to make real life connections with people who are available to hang out, grab coffee, talk about life, and help in a jam.  Regardless of whether you are single, happily committed, or in a “complicated” relationship, it is important that we develop our support systems; our tribes.  This is an essential piece to developing a healthy and happy life.

There are some people who you will meet who will stay in the large outer circle of your tribe.  These are people who you may interact with in your neighborhood, at work, at church, or at your child’s school.  You may be friends on social media and hang out on occasion, but they are not the people who you would pour out your heart and soul to simply because you do not know them well enough.  Maybe they are “inner tribe” worthy, maybe they’re not, only time and testing will tell.  For now they are on the outskirts of your tribe.  They are people with whom you have something in common and that you enjoy or find helpful on some level.  While they are essential and enjoyable, they have not yet earned the right to be in the inner circle of your tribe.

Then there is the inner circle of your tribe.  These are the people who love you and who you love.  These are the ones who will do anything for you, who will tell you the truth even when it hurts, who will always have your back.   It is this inner circle, this core group of people, who will help clarify who you are and who you are becoming.  They will help you solve problems and create an atmosphere where you can grow and flourish.  These people are your inner tribe.

If the people of this inner circle are not carefully selected and the deep friendships not cultivated, then you risk being isolated and lonely, or deeply hurt and betrayed.  That is why it is so important to carefully choose who you allow into this sacred part of your heart.  That being said, here are some things to consider:

1.)  How big should your tribe be?  There is no magic answer to this question.  Typically I suggest cultivating around three or four really close friendships at any given time. The longer you live and practice the process the more close friendship you may end up with over the course of time.

2.)  Where do I find these people?  It would be fabulous if it were super easy and we could just go to the mall and grab a few that met our criteria.  Unfortunately that is not the way friendships work.  They take time to develop and require that we develop a history.  So examine the people in the outer circle of your tribe.  Who do you have some history with?  Who do you admire or enjoy?  From that group of people begin to select a few that you think might make a good inner circle for you.

3.)  Is she safe?  Let’s face it, if you are going to open your heart to someone you want to know that they are safe.  A key factor in determining the safety of someone is watching how they handle the hearts of others who have entrusted their secrets to them. Does she break confidences? Does she gossip about other people?  Does she tolerate listening to gossip from others?  Does she tear people down or build people up?  It’s a pretty safe bet that if she does it to others she will do to you.

4.)  Do you have similar values?   Since you will hopefully one day be coming to this person for their advice and opinions you are going to want to make sure you have similar values.  Are you on a similar page when it comes to dating, marriage, parenting, partying, fun etc.?  If you have totally different values in practically every area then it could pose problems when you come to her for counsel or advice.  While she may make a wonderful friend, and a great person to bounce ideas off of for a different perspective, she may not be the person you want to go to for advice regarding upholding your own values and morals.

5.) Do you trust their judgement?  By choosing this person to be a part of your inner circle you need to be able to trust them.  Have they demonstrated that they will do what is right concerning you and your relationships?  Do they seek to make good decisions in their own lives?  Have they consistently given you good advice even when it was not what you wanted to hear?

6.) How do they handle conflict and confrontation?  It is important to notice how they handle these things because with out a doubt this will become a part of the relationship.  This will ultimately affect how you deal with others as well as how you and she deal with interpersonal issues between the two of you.  Does this person handle conflict in a way that you would like to imitate?  Consider what a confrontation with them look and feel like if you were on the receiving end.

7.) Are they loyal and available?  There is really only one way to test this out.  Ask them to be involved.  Now I don’t mean straight up ask, but I do mean test things out.  Send them a text or call them.  Invite them to an event or to get coffee.  This is how you will learn if they are available.  If they consistently turn you down, or don’t respond, I would suggest that they are not available to cultivate a friendship with you at this season in their lives.  As far as loyalty watch to see if they keep their promises.  Are they ditching others to spend time with you or vice versa?  If so that is a good indicator that at some point you will be the one being ditched.

8.) How often and in what ways can you invest in each other’s lives?  Let’s face it we only have so much time that we can truly give, that is why it is so important to intentionally invest in these relationships.  Figure out how frequently you can check in with your friend and be faithful to do it.  Find ways to connect with them, bless them, pray for them, encourage them, and celebrate them.   This is an investment that will have great rewards for you and for them.

A couple other things to think about.

While it is important to find the people you want in your tribe, it is even more important to be the kind of person you want in your tribe.  Re-read through the list and evaluate how you are doing in each of those areas.  Make a plan to improve in areas where you are weak.

No one is perfect.  People are messy and relationships are messy.  To have these kinds of friendships you have to be willing to take some risks knowing that the possibility exists that you may get hurt.  You also need to be willing to try to work through things showing the same measure of love and grace that you would want to be shown.

These kinds of relationships take time to build.  Be an observer of others.  Choose carefully with whom you will begin to share and build a relationship.  Offer little pieces of your heart at first and evaluate how they handle it.  If they do well, offer more.  If they do not do well, then you can always address that with them and use that as an opportunity to develop your own conflict resolution skills, which will make you an even better friend in the end.

Sometimes people are available only for a season in your life.  Allow the natural flow of life to move some people in and out of your life.  Treasure them while you have them and continue to connect when you can.

If you are currently in a destructive relationship it is likely that your partner will hinder your attempts to reach out to other people.  Building this support system is critical to your emotional, mental, and possibly even physical health!

Bible References:

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 27:5-6 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals”