Am I The One In Control?

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.

Am I The One In Control_I received this honest question in a text from a wife in a destructive/abusive marriage.  It’s far too broad and wide to answer in a text so I am writing some thoughts here:

“How is it that my husband is supposedly the blamer/abuser, when I have been the one for years believing he is someone he is not and pressuring him to be that man?”

First, you may or may not have responded to your husbands blame and abuse perfectly.  I don’t know of a single person who has always responded to someone else’s destructive behaviors perfectly…except Jesus.  

But, I would ask you a few questions:

Has he led you to believe he is someone he is not?  Has he said one thing and then done another? Has he said he would protect and care for you, but then been the most destructive person in your life?  OR has he said to you, ‘I am a lazy man and I don’t want to engage as a husband and a father’ and you are ‘pressuring’ him to be someone he doesn’t want to be?  

Secondly, who does the behavior serve?   Does your ‘pressuring him’ take away his voice and his choice?  Or are you pressuring him to keep his word to you? Are your expectations higher than what he is capable of?   Is your ‘control’ because you want the power over him or is it that you don’t want to live under his control?

I think we can have certain ‘common courtesy’ expectations, such as: calling when they will be late, keeping their agreements, taking everyone’s needs/desires into consideration when making decisions, personal hygiene, listening and working on issues and not stonewalling, and please and thank you.  These are things that are ‘common’ in our culture.  To require common courtesy is not being controlling.  They may have to be learned, but they are not too high of an expectation.  

Voice/Choice

We ALL have done destructive behaviors.  Every. One. Of. Us. Humans can be manipulative, selfish, and controlling.  We want what we want when we want it.

Abuse = power and control in taking away someone’s choice and voice.  Abuse is damaging to the human soul, psyche, mind, and body. We can even be abusive/destructive to ourselves and may need to learn healthy choices.  

The follow up question she had was telling:

“I don’t understand his inability to do the simplest things.  Like why should his hygiene even be something I have to bring up?  I am fed up with him not even showering or shaving. When I finally get fed up and ask him to shower, he just ignores me.  I feel like the only option I have left is to make him a spot in the basement to sleep. It feels like I am the controller.”  

My response:

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.  Give him options. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ statements. Rather than “you smell and need to take a shower”, say, “I don’t appreciate it when I smell you all night long.  I understand that sometimes you don’t feel like taking a shower. When that’s the case would you please sleep downstairs?” He can always say no, and then you need to make a decision…you sleep downstairs with a space heater, go to a motel, buy a cot and sleep in one of the kid’s rooms, etc.  

Remember, boundaries must be implemented kindly or they come across as you are the one with the problem.  When you hold a boundary in outrage, they will discount your boundary because they think you are just acting impulsively instead of acting decisively.  It can take a long time to learn to hold boundaries firm, confident, and kind, but when you are able to, it makes them far more effective. And yes…you can have boundaries!  They rock!  If when you hold boundaries it is met with further abuse, it is time to consider getting support and creating a safety plan.

Your original question is worthy to think through.  It is possible to attempt to pressure someone to be what we want them to be rather than who they want to be.  There may be desired expectations that need to be let go. But if your expectations have been communicated and agreed to or if your expectations are ‘common courtesy’, then finding your voice and implementing boundaries is not being a controlling person. It’s living in a normal relationship.  

 

How To Change Your Spouse

We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

How To Change Your SpouseOK…In all honesty, the title is misleading.  The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change.  But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.”  That’s not what you want to hear.  But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.

A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility.  We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person.  Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices.  It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children.  Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc.  But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it.  As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.

To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else.  It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something.  A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.

I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions.  But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse.  Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.

In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.”  It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage.
I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself.

I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises.
I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries.

I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing.
I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities.

I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum.
I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through
 coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through 
discipline and instruction.

I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies.
I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth.

A husband is not responsible FOR his wife
A wife is not responsible FOR her husband. 
They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.

God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6).  And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no.  Stay on your own side of the street.  Be responsible for you.  And THAT changes everything.

I Am A Ray: Overcoming Worthlessness

When my focus isn’t about me, as much as loving the world around me, it somehow comes back to give me a healthy self-esteem. 

I Am A RayI have opportunity to speak with many people about the struggles of life.  Often, at the very root of it, is a false belief of “I have no value”, “I am worthless”, or “I have nothing to offer”.  Women, particularly beautiful, gifted and kind women, struggle to see their beauty because it feels prideful to see it.  This belief causes depression, ruins relationships, and stops them before they get to the starting line.

I’d like to offer a word picture that is a mentally beneficial place to stay in terms of a healthy self-esteem.  Picture yourself as one ray coming off the sun and God as the ball of fire.  When we can see ourselves this way, we can acknowledge the uniqueness of our ray, while recognizing the beauty of it is coming from the ball of fire.  The ray’s purpose is to bring light and heat to the world.  Each ray is a unique expression of the ball of fire and therefore one ray cannot compare itself to any other ray.  Every ray is vital, because if there were only one ray of light and heat to the world, it would be a very cold, dark and colorless world.  It also allows us to celebrate every ray.

I developed a certain mantra in my later teens, which I believe has served me well for many years; do what I can, with what I got, and move on.  It has helped me to not take myself so seriously.  It’s not good to hide my ray underneath a shroud of worthlessness waiting for the world to discover it.  But it is good to take whatever natural qualities I have been created with and develop them.  I am to study well, foster hobbies, mature character, nurture health, and dress for success.  And then shine my ray (which stems from the ball of fire) to light and heat the world around me.  It therefore, becomes less about me, and more about seeing how God shows up and does amazing things.  When my focus isn’t about me, as much as loving the world around me, it somehow comes back to give me a healthy self-esteem.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  So, if you are looking to others to find acceptance and validation, you open yourself to an insatiable vortex that can never be filled.  You also open yourself up to be manipulated and coerced by those who also have an insatiable vortex within them.  There will always be some who don’t want what you have to offer.  There will be others who ridicule and demean what you have developed.  Your self-esteem takes care of itself as you use your gifts and talents to light and heat the world, but not if you become someone else in order to find approval.  Remember, Jesus WAS perfect and there were those who hated him, so you have to figure you won’t be able to please everyone.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful psalm which speaks to how God is intimately acquainted with you, having formed you in your mother’s womb.  And in Eph. 2:10 that God created you for good works.  It was the intention of God to create you specifically.

1 Cor. 12 shows that we are individually members of a body, with unique gifts.  We are not individuals apart from others, but we are individuals in concert with others. But, when you try to find your identity through effort to appease others in relationships, work, appearance, possessions, or reputation, you are not offering your identity but you are allowing your identity to be stolen. 

You also don’t have to be the most talented, the smartest, or the most dynamic person on a given subject to be able to offer it to others.  You can’t compare, because you have been placed in a particular time, in a particular place, in a particular setting to heat and light your world.  Accept the fact there will be others who are more attractive, wiser, have more talents, and have insanely dynamic personalities.  Be inspired by them.  Then, move on…to love the world around you.

If you know someone (or ten someones) who might struggle with feeling worthless or just a lack of purpose, would you consider sharing this with them to encourage them.  The world needs their ray.  The world needs your ray.

#IAmARay  #ShineBright

Trusting Outcomes or Trusting God

When bad things happen, it doesn’t mean God isn’t powerful…or He is useless…or He’s mad…or doesn’t love us.

Trusting Outcomes or Trusting God
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Recently, I’ve talked with several people who have dealt with anxiety or control issues.  As we are talking about the need to let go of control and to trust God, they will say something to this affect:

“I guess I need to trust God that my friend will forgive me.”

“I need to trust God that my mother won’t have cancer.”

“I need to trust God that my kids will be safe.”

“I’m trusting God to meet all my (perceived) needs.”

“I need to trust God that everything will be o.k.”

The problem is that this is “trusting” God with an expectation that He will do what we think is best. This is trusting for the outcome.  And, if God doesn’t do what we think is best, then we are tempted to think He doesn’t love us…or He’s useless to us…or He can’t be all that powerful.  It can also be an issue of trying to manipulate God.  It can lead to, “If God doesn’t do what I want, then I’ll be mad and give Him the cold shoulder.  I’ll go into depression and leave the church because He can’t be ‘trusted’.”

It can also lead to anger because we think “I’ve done my part of the bargain of trusting and God hasn’t kept His part of giving me what I trusted Him for.”  This is still an issue of trying to be in control.

Powerless and Fearful

If we leave it at “I need to trust God” without an expected outcome, it can leave us feeling powerless and fearful.  Much of what I do in counseling is to help people separate my part, their part, and God’s part.  It’s tempting when dealing with anxiety or control issues, to try to do God and other people’s parts.  When we come to recognize that I am responsible to do my part and not to do other parts, we retain the right kind of power.

Focusing on ‘my part’ leads to peace.  My part is to make amends and ask for forgiveness, even though I can’t expect forgiveness.  My part is to take care of myself by eating right and taking care of my body, and I still may get cancer.  My part is to take precautions in protecting my children, and I still may miss a danger sign.  My part is working and spending money faithfully, but may end up with medical bills.  My part is to make decisions for myself and let other’s make their decisions.

The fear comes because if we can’t control a particular outcome, then we believe we just have to let all the bad stuff happen.  But just because we can’t control an outcome, doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play.

Trusting When Bad Things Happen

Here’s the truth: bad things happen.  Rejection happens.  Catastrophe’s happen.  Death happens. And when bad things happen, it doesn’t mean God isn’t powerful…or He is useless…or He’s mad…or doesn’t love us.  It doesn’t mean we have to like it or we can’t grieve.  It also doesn’t give us the right to control others.

When bad things happen, scripture says He is with us.  Scripture says that when we trust Him with the bad, He will turn it for good (Rom. 8:28).  If we trust in everything being o.k., it will lead to a life of disillusionment or a life of control to make sure it will be o.k.  To ‘trust’ means we let go of God’s part and other people’s part and accept the responsibility of our part (Gal. 6:7-10).  We receive both the good and the bad (Job 2:10).  We let go of control, by receiving from the hand of the Father, His presence with us (Ps. 23:4).

 

FBS: If I’m Not in Control, Something Bad Will Happen

A healthy True Belief System (TBS) to move to is “My needs are my responsibility, your needs are your responsibility.”  

If I'm Not in Control
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

This post is part of a series I am doing on False Belief Systems (FBS).  What we believe matters because it affects how we think, which affects our emotions, which affects our behaviors.

A starting place to understand the FBS “If I’m not in control, something bad will happen” is to acknowledge that it comes from a good heart.  The reality is, you don’t want something bad to happen.  That’s good.

But, the main problem with it is the belief that you can and should control things you were never intended to control.  Some people would say you are “trying to play God”, but even God doesn’t control other people.  He has given us a free will.  So, the truth is, you are trying to create a happy and comfortable reality for yourself and for those you love.

But desiring to create a happy and comfortable reality for yourself isn’t the real problem.  Where it crosses into a problem is when you try to control things that you are not authorized to control, which is mostly other people’s decisions.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “but if I let a loved one make this decision (or not make a decision), something bad will happen!”  And with that hypervigilance, fear, panic and eventually exhaustion set in. An accident might happen, divorce might happen, failure might happen, or worse.  And there are actual consequences you may have to live with because of it.

So, if it comes from a good heart, why is this belief system so harmful?  It’s harmful because you take the freedom from others to make their own decisions.  This control fosters resentments, irresponsibility, rebellion, tension, and broken relationships.  You stand back scratching your head thinking, ‘this person (who won’t be controlled by me) has major problems.’  And maybe they do.  But it blinds you from seeing your part and letting go.

A healthy True Belief System (TBS) to move to is “My needs are my responsibility, your needs are your responsibility.”  The importance of letting others be responsible for themselves means they also must bear their own consequences.  This can feel devastating when it’s a loved one who loses a job, ends up homeless, leads to divorce, or ends up in jail (or worse.)  But the freedom you both experience and the health that comes to your relationship is amazing!

The truth is bad things might happen.  However, by attempting to be in control of other people’s decisions you ensure that bad things will happen because you’ve attempted to take away the autonomy of another and that is bondage.  Using fear, obligation, and guilt to control the outcome can be (and usually is) oppression, even when it comes with good intentions.

If (or when) bad things happen, you will need to take care of your responsibilities, and you can let others take care of their responsibilities.  If they don’t (or don’t do it in the way you approve) then it’s on them.

If panic is setting in right now, you have some work to do.  You are not alone as this is a common FBS that I work with people on.  Gather some community around you to help you let go of control and be accountable to them.  You will find freedom and so will those around you.

Why Celebrate Recovery Isn’t Just For Addicts

That’s right! It’s not just for addicts! It’s for anyone who is stuck and can’t move forward in life.  

Why Celebrate Recovery Isn't Just For AddictsCelebrate Recovery (CR) is a 12-Step recovery program designed to deal with any hurt, hang-up, or habit.  That is almost unbelievable! How can one ‘program’ help deal with coping mechanisms, divorce issues, sexual issues, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, rejection, substance abuse, or any other hurt, hang-up, or habit?  That’s right! It’s not just for addicts! It’s for anyone who is stuck and can’t move forward in life.  

CR presents 25 lessons which are broken down into four sections; getting ready to write down your inventory, writing your inventory, dealing with your inventory, and continue to manage your inventory.  The term inventory is simply a list of significant areas of your life including sins you’ve committed, sins committed against you, traumas, lies you’ve believed, attitudes you’ve experienced as well as blessings you have received and discovering your identity.

Getting Ready

CR takes eight (8) lessons just to get us ready to write down and deal with our inventories!

  • We start by coming out of denial and recognizing ‘I have a problem.’
  • We realize that we have tried to control this problem and can’t.  We need a power outside of ourselves to help us and that power is Jesus Christ.
  • We begin to hope again because we understand that we matter to Christ and He has the power to help us recover, which leads us back to truth.
  • We choose to turn our lives and our wills to Christ’s care and control.  And we recognize that we must do something different than what we have been doing to get a different result.
  • We commit to complete honesty about our lives and we surround ourselves with others who have gone this road before.

This sets us up for success!

Inventory

Now this is where the rubber meets the road and it starts spinning out, doing wheelies, and flipping over.  This is where we tend to lose people. I’ve heard it countless times, “Why do I have to rehash all the crap in my life?  Can’t I just move forward?” Yet, every recovery program has an inventory process so it must be important! So, the answer is, yes you can move forward but without healing from past wounds it’s like walking over broken glass with bare feet. You simply cannot heal until you deal with the past.

In CR, there are three inventory lessons in which we write down the good, the bad and the ugly.  We write down people who have hurt us, people we have hurt, life’s significant events, deaths, and how we’ve responded to these traumas.  We answer questions like who am I resentful of, jealous of, or am critical of? What makes me lose my temper or what do I worry over? Have I stolen from anyone or been dishonest?  We write it all down. I suppose that’s the scary part as we see ourselves looking back at us from the paper. We begin to own our stories, so that our stories will no longer own us.

Writing down our inventories is not meant to shame us or make us proud.  We simply write down the truth about our lives. We then take our inventories through God’s healing process to find freedom.

Dealing with our Inventories

Here is where the miracles happen!  God’s healing process is simple, but it’s not simplistic.  This is so difficult that we really can’t do it on our own.  We need safe people to help us navigate the truth by helping us see when we are still believing lies.  We need safe people to grieve with us in the losses of our life. We need safe people to be an example of how to walk the road to freedom.  And, of course, we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to do these things. It’s not meant to be done alone.

  • We start by confessing our sins, our needs, and weaknesses.  This is the first step of the healing process!  It’s a guaranteed promise.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness.”

  • We admit our wrongs to another person.  This is such a necessary part of recovery because this is where we walk out of shame.  I know it feels like we would be walking into shame, but that’s not the truth! We tell another person our sins and the world doesn’t end.  In fact, most of the time, at CR you will hear ‘me too.’ You get to take your mask off here, you get to be the real you, and you are loved for who you really are.  Your mask gets thrown away.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

  • We are ready to have God remove our character defects as we voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in our life.   (In religious terms that’s called repentance.)

Matthew 5:6 “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

  • We evaluate all our relationships.  We offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us and make amends for the harm we’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others.  This needs to be wisely done and having others help you navigate these relational issues is huge!

Luke 6: 31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

And there we have it!  Boom-Sha-ka-la-ka!! Confession – Admitting – Repentance – Amends –Forgiveness.  These steps break any bondage we are stuck in and put us back in right relationships with God and (as far as we can do) with others.  At CR, we call it ‘cleaning up my side of the street.’

You see, these steps don’t really make sense.  If I were to create steps, it would be all about gaining control of my own world or finding solutions to manage my own happiness.  That makes sense to me. But God’s plan is possible for all to follow because He does the work. When we have done our part in following God and in restoring relationships, He breaks any bondage we are held to and we find freedom. It’s interesting to note, that even secular recovery programs use this as a basis because God’s principles always work even when you don’t give Him credit.  It’s a spiritual law much like the law of gravity.

What this does not do is fix physical issues such as cancer or even depression, although many people have found relief from depression when they follow these steps.  It does not control another person to act the way you want them to, although it can free you from their control. It doesn’t save you from the consequences of poor past decisions.  And it does not make life easy…sorry, life is still life.

Continuing-On

The last eight lessons of CR are how we continue to walk in the grace of God.  We establish new habits of confession, admitting our struggles to safe people, repenting, making amends and offering forgiveness on a daily basis.  We establish safeguards for relapses in our character, develop an attitude of gratitude, and learn to give away what we have received.

Celebrate Recovery works because at its core is the Gospel.  We learn to recognize our part in all of life’s issues and we trust God’s plan of breaking the bondage through His provisions.

If you are in or near Moscow, Idaho I invite you to come any Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Real Life, Moscow Campus.  If you are outside of my area, then look up one of the 35,000 Celebrate Recovery groups world-wide here. 

Defining Codependency

Two people can have the exact same actions but for one it’s healthy and the other it’s codependent.

Defining
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

The problem of codependency is difficult to define because our actions often look like what we are taught to do as a “good Christian.”  We always put others first and we sacrifice ourselves in the process of serving others.  Many of our co-dependent actions have been our attempt of loving others.  We don’t want to see others make poor choices, we want what is best for them, and we want to feel loved.  These things are not wrong until we make unhealthy choices.  The problem comes in the motivation behind our actions.  We do not act independently for the welfare of others.  Instead we act out of fear, guilt and/or manipulation to obtain a desired result or for the approval of others.  In other words, two people can have the exact same actions but for one it’s healthy and the other it’s codependent.  As co-dependents, we:

are unaware of and suppress our own emotions.

  • Have difficulty identifying and expressing what we are feeling
  • Appease or rescue in an attempt to avoid our own anger, or the anger of others
  • Worry about how others may respond to our feelings, opinions, and behavior
  • Minimize, alter or deny how we truly feel in an effort to protect ourselves from others’ disapproval.
  • Do not ask others to meet our needs or desires
  • Are very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same instead of having independent emotions.
  • Are afraid to express differing opinions or feelings
  • Value others’ opinions and feelings more than our own

are consumed by the emotional state of another.

  • Assume responsibility for others’ feelings and behaviors
  • Feel guilty about others’ feelings and behaviors
  • Have difficulty making decisions without approval

willingly go against our own convictions for fear of rejection or fear of another’s reaction.

  • Are afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others
  • Feeling like we don’t have a choice in response to someone else’s choices
  • Feel a need to rescue others from their decisions
  • Willingly hide, lie, or remain silent to cover for someone else

do for others’ in hopes of approval, love, or control

  • we find ourselves resentful when we help others’
  • become angry when we don’t receive the approval we deserve
  • feel we don’t have choices and must do what others’ want us to do
  • try to control the actions of another through guilt and shame

The Process of Recovery

Many of our actions as codependents are similar on the outside to what the Bible teaches.  It is good to help someone in need, to care for and have empathy with those who are hurting, and to put others’ needs ahead of our own.  Many of us have good intentions and have a strong desire to follow and obey God.  But codependency occurs when we want to please man rather than God.  

Recovery begins by admitting our true emotions to God, to ourselves, and to someone we trust.  We take ownership of our own feelings. We let others have their own emotions without feeling guilty, anxious, or responsible for how they feel.  We learn to express our feelings and deal with others’ reactions in healthy ways.  We learn to offer help without rescuing others. We change when:

  • We begin to act out of mercy and not from a need to be needed.
  • We act with intention serving others by choice because Christ has served us, not out of guilt or fear.
  • We seek to please God, not people.
  • Our value comes because we were made in God’s image, not from our work, service, or performance.
  • Serving others becomes a choice, not a reaction based on our emotions.  Healthy Christian service comes out of joy, not guilt.
  • We make choices not allowing others to dictate our actions.
  • We learn how to have healthy boundaries with others and how to respect other people’s boundaries.
  • We learn to help others appropriately by allowing them to make independent choices rather than making them dependent on us.
  • We learn to live balanced lives by caring for ourselves as well as caring for others.
  • We are willing to begin the process of recovery and working through the 12 steps to heal and start living the life God has planned for us.
  • We will use the tools of recovery: calling our accountability partners, journaling and reading the Bible.

As we begin this process of recovery, it often feels like we are not loving others.  But as we learn that God has given us the freedom to act and love Him independently without compulsion, we learn to love others independently.  We also allow others to love us independently and without compulsion.