Let’s Talk About Anger (Designed: Emotions)

FB_IMG_1543874342397.jpg“STOP!  I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!  I SWEAR I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

“I said I am fine!  Now please leave me alone!”

Both these statements are seething with anger.  Anger is a fundamental emotion to that every single person will experience several times through out their lifetime.  It can come out as shards of explosive rage injuring everyone in it’s path, or brew internally creating a cesspool of bitterness and resentment.  The ironic thing with anger is often times when you are dealing with someone who is angry YOU become angry, and if you are angry with someone they in turn become angry with you.  It seems as if anger is contagious.  Thankfully there are antidotes that will help you manage your own anger and can help soothe the anger of others.  Just as with all the other emotions we have examined you have a right to feel angry.  It is part of how you are designed.  Some people have been taught that anger is bad.  That believe that if they are angry it is a sin.  They refuse to openly acknowledge or express their anger.  They still feel angry, but they hide it and wrap it in a blanket of shame for even having the feeling.  They go through life burying the very emotions that God gave them to alert them to danger and trouble. On the other hand, while you have a right to the emotion you also have a responsibility in how you respond to that emotion. Some individual’s believe they must express every thing that makes them angry.  That they need to take control or they will be run over and taken advantage of.  They yell, intimidate, belittle, rage, and humiliate others in an effort to seek justice, to feel secure, or to remain in control.  In many cases this will lead to emotional or physical injury to the people who “bump into” this person’s anger.

So, exactly what is anger? The Cambridge dictionary defines anger as “the feeling people get when something unfair, painful, or bad happens”.  It is one of the primary emotions that we feel as human beings. Anger is neither good nor bad; it is simply an emotion.  What we do as a result of feeling angry is where the trouble can come in.  When we handle our anger in positive ways productive outcomes and lasting change can be made.  Poor management of one’s anger can result in damaged or ruined interpersonal relationships, poor work performance, destruction of property, physical and emotional abuse, and legal issues.  There will be times when we will have every right to feel angry, but along with that anger will come the responsibility to express it in ways that are healthy.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL INDICATORS:

Physical response:  Clenching fists, headache, grinding teeth, clenched jaw, upset stomach, redness/flushing,sweating, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, shaking, tense muscles, feeling hot like one’s “blood is boiling”, pounding in ears, raised voice, narrowed attention as your focus locks on the source of your anger, increased adrenaline

***The “thoughts about self and about God” sections are unique for anger.  The thoughts will depend on your individual perspective and will be demonstrated by your actions.  Your behavior (actions) will uncover what is in your heart and reveal the truth of what you believe about yourself and God.***

Thoughts about self:  I am powerless or  I am powerful.  I am in control or I am out of control.

Thoughts about God:  God is in control or God is not in control.  God is just or God is not just.

Our action/tendency/response:  Attack/Assert

Communication: “This is not fair!”,   “This is not right!”, “I am being disrespected!”, “I have been wronged!”

Anger may indicate a variety of different needs:  1.)  To create and protect boundaries 2.) To seek justice 3.) To gather more information, empathy, or a form of assurance 4.)  To decrease stress

TYPES OF ANGER. Primarily there are three expressions of anger:  aggressive, passive, and assertive which are demonstrated through six polar dimensions:

  • Direction (internal vs. external)
  • Reaction (retaliatory vs. resistant)
  • Modality (physical vs. verbal)
  • Impulse (controlled vs. uncontrolled)
  • Objective (restorative vs. punitive)

Let’s take a moment and look at a variety of ways in which anger can be experienced.  (Adapted from Marcus Andrews article 10 Types of Anger)

ASSERTIVE ANGER:  You acknowledge your feelings and express yourself in a way that promotes change.  You do not ignore your feelings, avoid confrontation, or lash out physically or verbally.

BEHAVIORAL ANGER:  You lash out verbally or physically.  You throw or break things.  This type of anger is highly unpredictable and often causes legal or interpersonal struggles.

CHRONIC ANGER:  This type of anger is generalized and long standing.  It can produce issues with one’s health.  Often times this form of anger is also experienced as bitterness and resentment.

JUDGEMENTAL ANGER:  Experienced due to a real or perceived injustice. It can also be an experience of seeing other people as “less than” or inferior to you.   It is expressed in an air of righteous indignation and moral superiority.

OVERWHELMED ANGER:  Think of being stressed to your maximum capacity.  This can be caused from taking on too much responsibility, not having enough time to complete tasks, or just being inundated by challenging life circumstances.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE ANGER:  You bury your feelings and avoid any direct confrontation.  You hide behind silence, sarcasm,stonewalling and behavioral hints that you are angry (such as murmuring under your breath, slamming doors or making noises in the kitchen)

RETALIATORY ANGER:  You instinctively  lash out when you have been hurt or wronged.  You deliberately seek revenge.  This type of anger is used to gain control over a person or situation.

SELF-ABUSIVE ANGER:  This is a shame based anger that materialized in the form of self-injurious behavior, negative self talk, or substance abuse.  It is steeped in a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, and humiliation and can spill out on to others through our speech.

VERBAL ANGER:  Can be a form of psychological and emotional abuse in the form of threats, shouting, ridicule, humiliation, intimidation, and blaming.

VOLATILE ANGER:  This type of anger is intense and sudden this anger come one quickly and leaves quickly.   Big issues or small annoyances get the same volcanic effect.   People around you may walk on egg shells for fear of setting you off

So what can I do? 

Create and protect your boundaries.  (Particularly helpful when experiencing passive-aggressive anger, overwhelmed anger or chronic anger.)  As stated above, anger may indicate a need to create and protect boundaries.  Both of which are your right and responsibility.  Remember, the problem isn’t that you feel angry, the problem comes when you incorrectly manage or express your anger.  EVERYONE will feel angry at times!  Think about the reasons behind your anger.  Do you need to set some limits?  What are the things that you need or expect? Spend some time figuring out what boundaries have been violated or need to be established.  Write them down.

Boundaries with no consequences for violation is the same as having no boundaries at all.   Therefore it is important that you determine the consequences that will be enforced for the violation of those boundaries.   Take some time and reflect on what those consequences will be.  When creating the consequences remember to make sure you are both willing and able to enforce the consequences.  It will be your responsibility to enforce your boundaries.  Write down the consequences.

After you have determined what your boundaries and consequences are try using the “DEAR MAN” exercise to help express yourself.  D- Describe: Use clear and concrete terms to describe what you want or need.  E- Express: Let others know how a situation makes you feel by clearly expressing feelings. A- Assert: Don’t beat around the bush.  Say what you need to say.  R-Reinforce:  Reward people who respond well and reinforce why your desired outcome is positive.  M- Mindful.  Don’t forget the purpose of the interaction.  It can become easy to become sidetracked and loose focus.  A- Appear:  Appear confident.  Consider your tone, posture, eye contact and  body language.  N- Negotiate.  No one can have everything they want in all situations.  Be open and willing for negotiations.  It may be beneficial to write out your DEAR MAN prior to engaging in the discussion with the other person so that you will have a clear focus when you do engage.

Remove your self from the situation.  (Particularly helpful when experiencing verbal anger, volatile anger, or behavioral anger.)   Use breathing techniques to calm yourself down and switch your focus.  The breathing exercise known as 4:7:8 is believed to calm you central nervous system and thus reduces stress.  It is a natural tranquilizer…which can be extremely helpful when you are feeling a rash of anger welling up inside of you!  To do this exercise you will sit or stand up straight (it may be helpful to use a wall for posture as you learn the technique).  You will be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.  Your tongue will be placed inside your mouth behind your top teeth throughout the entire exercise.  You will exhale by blowing the air out of your mouth while your tongue is still in place.  It will make a ‘whooshing’ sound.  To begin exhale all the air out of your lungs.  Now breathe in to the count of 4.  Hold your breath and count to 7.  Now exhale to the count of 8.  Repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.

Another exercise you can do which will allow you to focus on your breathing and hopefully distract you from a bit of the anger until you have time to generate a response rather then a volatile reaction is known as “breath counting”.  To do this you will simply breathe normally and count each time you exhale up to 5 times.  You can continue the cycle as many times as necessary until you are calm.  This exercise helps you to focus your attention and calms you at the same time.

Forgiveness. (Particularly helpful when experiencing retaliatory anger, judgmental anger, or chronic anger.)  One of the reasons anger can really hang on is because we are refusing to forgive the other person.  Instead we are choosing to replay the incidents repeatedly rehearsing all the offenses that were done.  When we do this we keep our anger on a constant slow boil never allowing it to cool down, this causes us to be in the position of continually having to deal with the angry feelings and often times consequences.  When we choose to forgive the other person it allows us to release the anger and begin the healing process.  Without forgiveness it is impossible to fully heal.  Before you discount the idea of forgiveness please look at the following article “Forgiveness:  What It Is and What It Is Not”  (https://confidenthope.blog/2018/02/06/forgiveness-what-it-is-and-what-it-is-not/).   If you do decide you need to forgive, but are unsure how to do it, the following article “How To Forgive” (https://confidenthope.blog/tag/forgive/) will walk you through the forgiveness process.

Mindfulness.  (Particularly helpful when experiencing self-harm anger.)  Mindfulness can be helpful when you are working through a variety of problems and issues.  For the emotion of anger, it allows you to separate from the emotion and experience it in a controlled setting which will allow you to explore the anger more fully from different angles.  Mindfulness simply means focusing one’s attention on the present moment while calmly accepting one’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  Mindfulness exercises are helpful with a variety of distressing emotions.  Here is a simple mindfulness exercise which you can practice to assist you when you feel angry.  Find a comfortable place where you can sit with your eyes closed.  Take a moment to become aware and notice how your body feels.  Inhale fully filling your lungs.  Then slowly exhale all the of the air.  Repeat this breathing exercises several times.  Now take a moment and remember a time when you felt angry.  Allow yourself to feel that anger again.  Take note of all the sensations you feel in your body.  Explore those sensations.  Are they hot or cold, intense or mild?  Now practice coming close to the anger without judgement or guilt.  Next let go of the feeling, release it.  To do this begin to refocus on your breathing.  Finally reflect on the experience you just went through.  How did it feel?  How did you get close to the anger without judgement?  What happened to the anger at that point?  This simple exercise may help you to gain more control over your emotional states as well as helping you tolerate situations which feel unmanageable in the moment.  (For more complete instructions visit:  https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-of-anger/)

Truth.   (Particularly helpful when experiencing self-harm anger, retaliatory anger, or judgmental anger).  Sometime our anger is generated from misinformation or a lack of full understanding.  One of the things that may be helpful is to try to gain all the facts about a situation.  It may also be necessary to challenge yourself regarding any  cognitive distortions you may be personally engaging in which are fueling your fire. Listen to the conversations that are playing out in your head.  Are you using words like always or never?  Or perhaps there is a preponderance of shaming or blaming going on towards the other person or yourself.

Another aspect of truth pertains to that of injustice.  Sometimes things really aren’t fair, and that will no doubt cause a person to feel angry.  When these types of situations arise it may be helpful to remember that God is a god of justice.  Ultimately He will take care of the situation.  It is incredibly hard to sit still and wait on God’s timing, especially if you are watching the other person thrive amidst their wrong doing.  You may find it helpful to refocus on the things you can change and do have control over.  This will take time and continual practice.  There is no sense in watching them flourish while you sit by idly.  Focus on the things you can do to grow your self.  Continue to pray for both yourself and the other person.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Here are a couple of links that can help you identify cognitive distortions and also assist you as you review the truthfulness of your thoughts.  “Beautiful Mess: Designed Thoughts”  (https://confidenthope.blog/2018/07/31/beautiful-mess-designed-thoughts/)  and “Cognitive Distortions:  When Your Brain Lies To You”  https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/cognitive-distortions/

Practice empathy and seeing things from the perspective of someone else. (Particularly helpful when experiencing judgmental anger)  When we are angry we don’t seem to have any trouble gathering “proof” to document our side of an argument…but what if we were to take some time to see the situation from the perspective of the other person?  Try for a moment to imagine what they are struggling with or how the situation is for them.  What reasons might they have had for what they did?  What emotions might they be experiencing?  What is it like for them to be on the other side of your anger?    By reflecting on what it is like for the other person you will gain a fuller, more complete understanding of the situation.  It may help soothe some of your anger.  Even if you are still angry after examining the experience from their perspective you may have the ability to address the situation in ways that are more helpful and compassionate.

Dealing with ANGER?  Here is your challenge:

As you review the types of anger above consider which ones you most frequently struggle with.  Do you tend to hold it in or give it full outward expression?

Select a situation in your life where you currently or recently have felt angry.  Choose one of the coping methods to apply to that particular situation.  Reflect and journal on how it went.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

I know that you created all emotions for a purpose.  I have to be honest.  Anger is probably my least favorite.  I hate feeling angry!  I hate it to the point that often I don’t even want to admit that I am angry.  It is such a powerful feeling and can create so much havoc in my life and the lives of others.  If I release it in the heat of the moment I end up saying and doing things that I later regret.  If I hold it in, it eats me alive and seeps out in so many other ways.

I know that you are familiar with the feeling of anger.  I know that you are a God who seeks justice.  And yet you are also loving and merciful. How do I mirror you?  How do I learn to express my anger in ways that will ultimately produce healing and restoration? 

Help me to submit to your authority.  Help me not to act out in vengeance.  Help me to trust you to grow me through the process of my anger.  Teach me to respond in love as you have called me to do, even when I am angry.  Teach me to be honest about my emotions and help me to express them in ways that will bring about healing and restoration.

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4: 26-27)

Fools give full vent to their rage,  but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11)

A gentle answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,  but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18)

But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. (2 Timothy 2:23-25)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

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.

A Temple, A Teacher and A Treasure (Designed: Physical)

FB_IMG_1531752466506

“Your body listens to everything your mind says.”

On first impression our physical self seems pretty self explanatory. However, it actually is more inclusive and complex then one might initially think. So what does the physical part include? 1.) our bodies 2.) our physical needs and desires 3.) our senses that shape our experiences 4.) our physical sensations, and lastly 5.) our actions. Along with these various aspects we also have specific rights and responsibilities in relation to ourselves and others. Our bodies are designed as temples, that inform our thoughts, teach others about who we are, and are the treasure through which God works. Lets examine the wonderfully designed physical self that God has given to us, and our rights and responsibilities that go along with it.

1.) BODY. Your body is miraculously designed. It is your most distinguishing feature. Most people will recognize you by your physical appearance. We all struggle with aspects that we dislike about our appearances. Still your appearance is part of what makes you uniquely you and therefore it is something to celebrate. Your body is the most basic way in which you set boundaries. You have the right to decide who will be allowed to touch you and how you will allow them to touch you. You also have a responsibility to provide for and care for your body. This includes sleeping, eating, exercising, setting limits, personal hygiene, maintaining health care and healthy routines.

2.) NEEDS. Your physical needs are the things you need to survive and include things such as; food, sleep, air and water, without these things you will die. Those physical needs can be expanded to include things such as touch, communication, attention, clothing and shelter, while you may be able to live for a while without these thing you will surely need them eventually. You have the responsibility to get these needs met and to help meet these needs for others who are in your care. Remember is that it is not bad that you have needs! It is part of being human. You have a right to ask others to help meet your needs. Seeking to get your needs met in appropriate ways is how you are designed by God to function. We are designed to be in relationship. It is not a flaw! Our needs give us an opportunity to move toward growth and affords a reason to develop relationships with other people.

3.) SENSES. Our senses include sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. These senses work together to help us gather information about the world around us. They alert us to things that may be dangerous, such as touching a hot stove, we would feel the pain and remove our hand. They also alert us to things that are pleasing, such as the taste of cold ice cream on a hot day. Our senses contribute to our individual likes and dislike of an experience. This makes our individual interpretation of an experience uniquely our own. For example we can both go to a symphony or a heavy metal concert and hear the same thing, but one of us love it and the other hate it. Simply because we have differing opinions on the experience doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other wrong. We have the right to our own unique opinions and experiences as well as the responsibility to express them respectfully. It is part of what defines each of us as an individual.

4.) SENSATIONS. Sensations are those things we feel physically within our bodies. For example before a job interview you might feel your heart racing. Other examples would be the feeling of physical pain in your chest as you grieve a loss, extra energy as you begin a dating relationship, or a tense neck and shoulders when you are under stress. These sensations are a physical manifestation of your emotional state and provide valuable information for you regarding your surroundings. If you are a person who has suffered abuse or trauma, it is possible that you will misuse or ignore these cues. For example, if you suffer from prolonged abuse, you may choose to ignore the uneasy feelings you get in your stomach when you’re around a certain individual so that you can continue to maintain a relationship with them. Or if you were the victim of a sudden traumatic event you may have escalated responses to anything that triggers memories of that event. You have a right to experience all your sensations with acceptance. There does not need to be a reason that you can specifically pinpoint for feeling uncomfortable around someone. Perhaps your body remembers things that are similar to people and situations that your mind can’t recall and is alerting you through sensations. We have the responsibility to pay attention to our sensations and respond appropriately by incorporating facts and emotions to determine specific actions.

5.) ACTIONS. Actions are what you choose to do with your body and words. You are always responsible for your own actions just like other people are solely responsible for their own actions. What you choose to do, or not to do, will almost always have an impact on others. Sometimes things will not be your fault, but you will still have the responsibility to fix them. For example if someone were to push you and cause you to fall and break your leg, that would not be your fault. Still it would be your responsibility to seek medical treatment and follow the treatment plan in order for your leg to heal. You have a right to set and enforce boundaries for through your actions, and the responsibility to take ownership of your actions.

DEVOTION:

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
(Psalm 139:15‭-‬16 NIV)

As I think about this verse I am struck anew by the thought “all my days were written in your book before one of them came to be”. So that means all of them! God knew my good days and bad days. He knew the days I would be victorious in my trials and the days I’d fail miserably and fall into sin. He knew every single moment I would have and exactly what I would choose. Still he chooses to love me. Not only does he know them, he uses them for good. That truth is true for you as well. There is nothing you have done or can ever do that excludes you from his love and plans for you. Also there is nothing anyone can do to you that will thwart his plan for your life. In fact God says in his word, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” {Romans 8:28) and “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you well carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phillippians 1:6) So, are you struggling with a past that haunts you? Or perhaps you are currently under the weight of a bondage that seems to powerful to break? Maybe you’re trapped in a situation that seems hopeless. What you are doing, what you’ve done, and what has been done to you are not the defining or limiting factors in God’s plan for your life. While you have rights and responsibilities you can rest in the confidence that God still has you and is able to work his purposes.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for creating me in such a way that I can experience the world that you have created. Thank you for all the marvelous sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that you have made for me to enjoy. Thank you for setting a rhythm to my days and night, for offering me times of activity and times of rest. I have to confess that sometimes when I think of my body I am very critical. I am not always pleased with my appearance and I often neglect to take care of myself the way I should. I also confess that I do and say things that I am not proud of, things that I know would be displeasing to you and hurtful to others. Thank you for not holding me to any standard of perfection in my appearance or in my actions. Help me to fix messes that I have created. Teach me to handle my rights and responsibilities in this area in ways that are pleasing to you. I ask for the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control so that I can learn to implement them in my own life, and demonstrate them to others.

Amen.

REFLECTIONS: Are you treating your body as a temple? What would you need to do to honor God with your body? Are you getting your physical needs met? Are you setting appropriate boundaries with your body, words, and actions? Are you maintaining healthy, balanced routines? What are some areas that you are strong in? What are some things you need to work on? Is there a specific area that you feel God is speaking to you about regarding the physical part of you? Journal your answers.

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.) Think about your daily routines. Consider ways to bring things back into balance. Choose one item from your list to implement and track. 2.) Consider if you are getting all your physical needs met. If they are not being met, make and implement a plan to ask someone to help meet your physical needs. Journal the result. 3.) Practice mindfulness. Take 5 minutes each day to sit, still and quiet. Take notice of the environment around you with all your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Try to stay focused in that moment with no distractions. 4.) Find a quiet place to lay flat and still. Take a couple moments to calm your body. Focus on the inner sensations in your body starting with your head, neck and shoulders and moving systematically body parts down to your toes. Focus specifically on each area how it feels in the moment, then trying to relax each body part. 5.) Think about some of your current actions. Journal a time when you someone else was at fault at it was your responsibility to fix it. Now ponder things that are currently happening in your life. How is God asking you to respond in this situation? Journal your response.

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”

 

 

 

 

How To Make An Important Decision

FB_IMG_1513645910654

Should I stay in this relationship? Should I move? Should I go back to school? Should I change careers? We are constantly making decisions, BIG decisions, that effect our lives and the lives of those we love. For some people the decision making process is a very logical process and they consider only the facts. For others it is an emotional process where only feelings are considered, and for still others decisions are made simply be the default of not actually making a decision. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to assist people as they work through making life changing decisions. However, it wasn’t until I myself was overwhelmed with the need to make a series of very serious life changing decisions that I developed a formula through which I could process the information and make those tough decisions. I have found that by working through this process I am easily able to see various aspects of the situation and take multiple factors into consideration. When I use this process I am able to stand secure and confident in the decision I have made and still be flexible to new information. I hope you will find it helpful as well.

In steps 1-4 you are simply examining the situation as it is now. As you take these things into consideration you may be able to gain a deeper understanding of the situation which will later help you come up with solutions.

STEP 1: Define the problem or situation. What does the problem or situation look like? Write out the situation exactly as you currently see it and express why a change may need to be made.

STEP 2: Get the facts. What are the facts relating to the problem or situation as it is at this moment? What specific things are making you desire to make a change? What is the history that led up to this situation.

STEP 3: Attend to your feelings. How do you feel about the situation? Remember you may have mixed feelings about any situation. You can love and hate someone at the same time. You are simply acknowledging your feelings as they relate to the situation and the facts. So consider the good, bad and the ugly; this is a judgment free zone.

STEP 4: Guiding lights. Are there any moral principals, values, or expectations that are entwined in the situation? For example: Loyalty to family or friends, religion or beliefs etc. Pay special attention to your personal expectations of yourself or others that may need to be examined or adjusted. Also, if you are a christian you will want to be sure you are spending time in God’s word and in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help guide you.

In steps 5-7 you will consider the opinions of others. You will also consider the effect of the situation and it’s potential outcomes on others who my be effected by your choices.

STEP 5: Consult your support people. These are the friends, family, or mentors in your life that you are willing to let see the real you. These are people whose opinions you respect, the ones who will be honest with you because they love you. There is no magical number of people, but typically I suggest you limit your choice to 3 or 4 people. Let them know some of the details of your situation. Ask them to pray for you and about the situation. Ask them to share their thoughts and ideas about potential solutions to the situation. This step is important because sometimes others will see things you miss and they may be able to offer valuable insight. Also, remember that while you are asking their opinions, you will ultimately be making the decision yourself. You are asking because you are in the process of gathering more information to help you make a good decision.

STEP 6: Consult with a professional. By reaching out to someone who is familiar with the situation you are going through you may find there are more solutions and resources available to you. The person you choose might be a counselor, a real estate agent, or a professor. The idea is to find some one with information to share from an area of expertise on the subject of your problem or one of your potential solutions. This step is meant to be an information gathering step. Ask lots of questions and be prepared to take notes!

STEP 7: Consider other’s perspectives. How does your partner view the situation? What about your children, parents and friends? How will making changes effect the people in your life? This is step will help you empathize with the other people in your life. The reason this step is so important is because as you make these decisions it is these people who will create the greatest source of comfort and motivation or distress. Attending to these issues now will help you to address their arguments and concerns when they arise later. They may not be in agreement with you, but at least you will have thought about how to give a thoughtful response to their concerns.

In steps 8-12 you engage in the process of defining a course of action. It is in these steps that you will set your course for your future.

STEP 8: Define your desired outcomes. What would you like to see happen? What would you like your life to look like in this area in the next 5 years? This is the dream step! Allow yourself to dream about the life you want! What does it look like? Take the time to write it out and reflect on it.

STEP 9: List possible options. Consider both the problem and the dream. List all possible courses of action including continuing to do what you have always done. For each course of action write out the pros and cons.

STEP 10: Choose course of action. Evaluate all the choices select one course of action to follow that will help you attain your desired outcome. What do you need to do to pursue that course of action? Decide what action steps you need to do and develop a timeline to get things done in. You may find it helpful to work with one or more of the people you identified in steps 5 and 6 to help you develop a specific plan and help hold you accountable for taking each of the steps.

STEP 11: Consider the obstacles. What are the obstacles that may hinder you in following this course of action? What may stand in your way or block you? Obstacles may come in the form of practical limitations such as education, finances, or safety. They may even come in the form of people or expectations. Make a specific plan for addressing each of the obstacles.

STEP 12: Implement the plan. Follow the plan you outlined in step 10. As you go through the plan continue to evaluate how things are going and making adjustments as new information comes in and as situations arise. Remember you can be flexible in your plan and make adjustments to move you closer to your desired outcomes and dreams.

Congratulations!! You have made it all the way to the end of the decision making process.

Forgiving Myself

FB_IMG_1519095987421Have you ever done something that you really were ashamed of?  Something that you thought if others knew what you did they would no longer love or respect you?  Maybe you struggle with an addiction, maybe it was an affair, or possibly it is the angry outbursts at the people you love.  What ever it was or is it makes you feel like a fraud. It has you trapped under a load of guilt and shame that feels inescapable and makes you want to hide.  The truth is we have all done things that we are ashamed of, things that need forgiveness.  Often we need the forgiveness of others, but even more often we need to learn to forgive ourselves.  Here is how you can be set free from the bondage of shame and guilt through forgiveness.

Step 1: Acknowledge what you did that was wrong.   Admit it was wrong, define how and why it was wrong.  At first glance, this might seem like a great way to make yourself feel even worse about what you did, but the truth is that you can only heal from what you can acknowledge.  You have to admit that you were wrong and know what it was that you did wrong and why it was wrong.

Step 2:  Acknowledge how your actions negatively affected you and others.  Every action has a consequence, and typically the consequence affects more than the one person who committed the offense.  First look at what the offense did to you.  How did it make you feel?  How did it make you think of yourself?  What are some of the consequences you will have to face?  Next think about how it affected the other person.  How might they have felt?  What might they have thought?  How did your actions hurt them?  What consequences do they have to face because of what you did?

Step 3:  Consider what you can do better next time.  Have a plan of how you want to respond if you are in that situation again.  Think about how you want to act, what you wish you would’ve done differently.  Develop a plan for the next time that will reflect the desire of your heart to behave better.  Consider what triggered you to behave or react in the manner that you did.  Were they internal or external factors?  For example; what were the things you believed about yourself, the other person, or the circumstance?  Was it something that tempted or triggered you?  What were you hoping to accomplish with your actions? How could that have been better accomplished?  What can you change so that things will go better next time?  Write out your plan.

As you work through this step you may find yourself stumped or blaming the other person for your actions.  Or you may discover that the you need help to thoroughly address the issues that led to the offense.  Do not let either of those things discourage you.  Seek out help in the advise of a trusted friend or counselor to work through this step if you need to.  It may take awhile to completely work through this step.  In the mean time simply do your best and make it part of your “plan”.   For instance, “one thing I will do so that I can handle things better next time is pursue counseling so I can figure out how I got myself in this mess”.  Then simply move on to step 4.

Step 4:  Consider what you can do to make it right.  How can you make restitution for what you did wrong?  It will not change the past, what you did still happened, and the damage remains.  But is there anything on your end you can do to try to make things right?  For example if you stole money from someone you can repay what you stole and add interest.  If you broke something you can offer to replace it.  Restitution does not erase what you did wrong, but it may help to set things straight and shows that your hearts desire is to make things right.

Step 5: Confess to God. The whole purpose of the gospel is to proclaim the good news that we are loved and that we can be forgiven from our sins.  A pastor I know used to say “1John 1:9 is the greatest mental health verse in the bible”.  It states that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.  What that means is that if you, no matter what you have done, if you confess your sins you are 100% forgiven!  The bible says that your sins are removed from you as far as the “east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), that you are made clean and holy in the sight of God.  Why is this so important?  Because if a perfect and holy God is not going to hold your past against you then you do not need to hold  your past against yourself.  You are free to forgive yourself and move forward.  Here is an example of what to pray:

“Lord Jesus, I admit that I was wrong when I (insert specifically what you did wrong).  I believe that you died to pay the price for all my sins past, present and future.  I admit that I need your forgiveness and love.  Help me to follow you, and to do what you would have me do.  I accept your payment for my sin and your forgiveness.  Amen.”

Step 6:  Confess to the person you wronged.  This is a very difficult step.  It can be extremely hard to go to someone you hurt and admit you were wrong.  Honestly, they may also have some fault in the matter, but it is not up to you to bring that up to them in this process.  This is about you admitting your faults and seeking forgiveness.  Your confession can be written or in person, but you may find it helpful to write it out first and practice what you want to say so you don’t get side tracked and begin rattling off the list of reasons why you did what you did or all the things they did that were wrong.  Your confession should be specific.  Here is an example:

“(Name of person you wronged), I am sorry that I (specifically state what you did wrong).  I imagine that what I did caused you to feel or experience (state what consequences you think they may have experienced due to your offense).  In the future I want to do better.  (State how you would like to behave differently and your reasons for wanting to behave differently).  Will you please forgive me?”

The person may forgive you and you can together reconcile and decide how to move forward.  Or they may choose not to forgive you.  Even if they do not forgive you, you can still continue with the process of forgiving yourself!  The forgiveness of yourself is NOT contingent on them forgiving you. God has forgiven you, therefore you are forgiven.  Additionally, you are doing what you can to try to make things right in the relationship.  If they do not extend forgiveness, you can accept that, you can forgive them for that, and you can continue to move forward in the process.

Here are a couple of additional thoughts on confessing to the person.  In some cases it may not be possible to confess to the person who you wronged, perhaps they are not accepting communication from you or they have passed away.  In those cases you can symbolically confess through writing your confession in a letter and pretending to read it to them.  You can envision them accepting your apology and extending forgiveness.  You can also pray for an opportunity to confess to them in person in the future.  In other cases it may not be safe for you to confess directly to the person you wronged.  If personal safety is an issue you need to carefully assess the situation and take necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Step 7:  Offer to make restitution.  Here is where you can offer the ideas you thought of previously to do what you can to try to make things right.  You can also ask the other person if there is something they can think of that you can do to make it right.  If what they suggest is acceptable to you, then you can do what is suggested.  If what they suggest is demeaning, demoralizing, or something you are unable or uncomfortable doing then you do not need to do it.  The purpose of offering restitution is to show your hearts desire of wanting to make things better and reconcile the relationship through an outward gesture.  It is not to punish yourself nor is it to allow the other person to punish you.  If there is nothing that can be done, it does not nullify the forgiveness.  You are still forgiven and can still extend forgiveness to yourself.

Step 8:  Accept the consequences.  All actions have a consequence.  When we wrong someone there may be a consequence of distance in the relationship, new boundaries may need to be set or a lack of trust may have developed.  Or perhaps what you did will result in legal consequences that need to be faced, fines paid, and other restrictions being placed on you.  You can accept the consequences and continue to move forward.  While you are in this process it may be difficult to remember to be kind to yourself.  You are not defined by your past and the things you have done wrong.  It is important that you remind yourself that you are free from the negative labels that you have applied to yourself because of your actions. Speak kindly to yourself.  The consequences are only a result of what happened and will one day come to an end.  In the future you will make better choices and get better results.  You are still loved by God.  You still have value and a purpose.  You are still in a process of learning and growing.

Step 9:  Forgive yourself.  Release yourself from having your identity tied to your actions.  While your past has helped to make you who you are becoming it is not the definitive answer on who you are as a person.  From every mistake you have made you have learned.  You are growing in character and maturity.  It may be helpful to write this out and keep it to review as needed. I have included two options, one for Christians (A) and one for non-Christians(B).

A.) “I have acknowledged that I was wrong when I (insert offense).  I have done everything I can to set things right between (insert name of person) and myself.  I have confessed my offense to God and I have accepted his forgiveness.  I have determined to try to do better in the future.  There is nothing more I can do.  I will no longer beat myself up over this offense.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross I am released from the guilt and shame tied to this offense.  I have learned valuable lessons from my mistakes and I will hold on to those as I move forward. I choose to agree with God that I am forgiven from this offense and with His help I will continue to accept the truth and agree with God that I am loved by Him and that he has a plan for me.”

B.) “I have acknowledged that I was wrong when I (insert offense).  I have done everything I can to set things right between (insert name of person) and myself.  I have confessed my offense and tried to make things right.  I have determined to continue to try to do better in the future.  There is nothing more I can do.  I will no longer beat myself up over this offense.  I release myself from guilt and shame tied to this offense.  I have learned valuable lessons from my mistakes and I will hold on to those as I move forward.   I choose to forgive myself and I will accept the truth that I am loved and valuable.”

Step 10: Instate your plan.  You made a plan on how you can respond better or choose better, begin doing those things.  Envision yourself being the kind of person you want to be and work toward that goal.  Remember you are not perfect and this will not go perfectly, you are in process and it will take time to make these things become more natural and more of who you are.  Keep going, keep pressing forward, don’t let slip-ups stop you.  It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just keep getting up and trying again.

Step 11:  Continue to remind yourself that you have done everything you can to make things right and that you are forgiven.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of shame and guilt, but it is not helpful to you or anyone else.  Continuously rehearing the shame and guilt will actually keep you trapped in the very behaviors you are trying to change and may create even more insecurities and issues.  Instead, remind yourself often that you are forgiven, you are loved, you are valuable and your are still in the process of learning and growing.  When you catch yourself wallowing in remorse or pity remind yourself that all of that is in the past and that you have decided to move forward.

How To Forgive

received_909583429213312Have you ever really wanted forgive someone but just couldn’t seem to make it happen?  No matter how hard you try to forgive them you just keep feeling hurt and angry when you think about what they did to you.  Forgiving someone is hard work.  It is more than just making a decision to forgive, telling yourself you have forgiven them, and then never mentioning the offense again.  Forgiving is a process with many layers, and while some of those things are parts of the forgiveness process, they certainly are not the whole process.  While you may or may not be ready to forgive the person who hurt you at this moment, it may still be beneficial to understand what would be involved if you did decide to forgive that person.

The Process of Forgiveness

Step 1:  Identify each individual offense.  Be specific about exactly what they did to you.  It is important that you recall exactly what happened as you remember it.  What were the words that were said and the actions that they did?

This may come easy, give fuel to your anger, and seem counter productive initially.  However, the point in identifying and remembering each offense is to remind you of the offenses against you.  Forgiveness is needed because you were wronged.  What the other person did was wrong, hurtful, or painful from your perspective, and you are acknowledging that in this part of the process.

Step 2:  Identify your feelings about the offense.  How did it make you feel?  Try to use one word descriptions for your feelings.  For example: lonely, rejected, angry, hurt, ashamed, abandoned, scared etc.  Try to identify and label as many feeling as you can that you experienced relating to each specific offense.

This part of the process is often very emotionally painful as you remember and focus specifically on how the actions of another person affected you.  Even though it may be very difficult, it is important for you to acknowledge these emotions in order to begin the healing process.

Step 3: Identify what consequences you may have had to pay as a result of the offense.  For example if your partner has an addiction you may have had to help pay for legal fines, drive to court dates, or pick them up in the middle of the night.

This is where you are acknowledging what life is like as a result of their actions.  This is also where you are beginning the process of taking responsibility for your own choices and responses.  In time you may choose different responses then you have in the past, but at this moment you are simply acknowledging how things are in the present.

Step 4:  Remember your personal need for forgiveness.  It’s no secret that you are not perfect, none of us are.  There have been many times when you have also needed to receive forgiveness.  Remember the times when you have been the person who did wrong or hurt someone.  Remember how it felt to feel ashamed for something you had done or said.  Finally, remember the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus who died for all your sins, past, present and future, so that he could forever have a relationship with you.

Step 5: Try to empathize with the offender.  Maybe they were tired, scared, or reacting out of a place of emotional insecurity.  The potential reasons don’t excuse their behavior or make it right, and it certainly doesn’t make it any less painful.  However, sometimes remembering that they have weaknesses just like you have weakness’ may make it a little easier to extend forgiveness.

Step 6:  Make the choice to forgive. This choice is made with the full knowledge that what the other person did was wrong and is deserving of punishment.  The choice is made with the full knowledge that what the other person did hurt you and has affected you in many ways.

Step 7:  Personally act on your forgiveness.  This is where you may want to write out your declaration to forgive the other person.   You may also choose to pray through your declaration to forgive.  The following is an example of a written declaration:

I, (insert your name), choose to forgive (insert the offenders name) for: (list the specific offenses) which caused me to feel (list feelings) and experience (list consequences you faced).  I will no longer seek revenge or retaliation for these offenses.  I choose to no longer ruminate on the offenses and I will not bring them up against (insert offenders name).  I choose to release (insert offenders name) from any obligation to make things right between us or to make me feel better.  I will take responsibility for my responses and my actions and I release (insert the offenders name) into the hands of Jesus.  Just as Jesus forgave me, so I forgive (insert offenders name).

Step 8:  Publicly act on your forgiveness:  If the person has sought out your forgiveness you would go to them and let them know that you have forgiven them.  You may choose to share your personal declaration with them.  After you have forgiven them the two of you may choose to discuss your individual needs and what things you could each work on to improve the relationship.

If the person has not sought out your forgiveness, does not acknowledge their wrong doing, or has passed away, you may want to demonstrate your forgiveness in an alternate manner.  One way this can be done is to have a picture of the person or visualize the person and read through your personal declaration of forgiveness to them.  Another way is to symbolically write out their offenses on sheets of paper and then burn the paper in a fire.

Step 9:  Make any necessary changes in your responses to their behavior.  One of the things that tends to hinder forgiveness is when we continue to be victims of another persons actions.  This is why is it is important to evaluate your own behaviors and responses to their actions and make necessary adjustments.  You may find that you need distance from the person to heal or that you need to put some boundaries in place so that you are not continually being hurt.  This is different than retaliation because in retaliation you are out to hurt the other individual, with boundaries you are trying to protect yourself from being hurt.  You may find it helpful to talk to a counselor or a mature trusted friend about personal changes that you might need to make.

Step 10:  Pray for yourself and the offender.  Pray for good and blessing in their life, or simply pray reminding yourself that you have placed the other person in the hands of Jesus.  This is an important step because it will help you desire to see good in them, in their life, and in your relationship.  Also, it is important because it connects you with divine power to strengthen, encourage, and empower you in the forgiveness process.

Step 11:  Continue to remind yourself of your decision to forgive and repeat the forgiveness processes as memories of past offenses resurface or as new offenses occur.  Relationships are messy, therefore forgiveness is often a process that needs to occur many times to cover the offenses.  Sometimes, after you have forgiven you will remember a new aspect or a new offense, and you will need to forgive again.  Having to go through the process many times does not mean you haven’t forgiven, it simply means your forgiveness is a work in progress.