While I Wait

We don’t like not having answers.  Not having answers requires waiting…or maybe even dangling. 

WhileIWaitBy nature I’m impatient.  I like to plan, and I like to execute the plan.  I’ve never been accused of being a perfectionist…I’m more the “get ‘er done” kind of person.  So, the Lord has taken me through decades of refining me, and I am confident He hasn’t finished the job yet.  

With that said, I find right now with the Coronavirus, the whole world is waiting.  Most of the country is on lockdown or stay-at-home orders. I’m hearing much angst from others about not knowing how to proceed in life.  

When will the lockdown be over?
When can I travel again?
How can I finish the semester?
How long will it take for a cure or vaccine to be found?

We don’t like not having answers.  Not having answers requires waiting…or maybe even dangling. 

Here are a few lessons the Lord has taught me on waiting well–and is teaching me–that I am currently attempting to practice. 

Doing what God has called me to do today

It’s true that I don’t feel as much pressure or have as many urgent items to accomplish.  There is even a slower rhythm to my day. But it doesn’t mean I have nothing to do. If every single to-do item was accomplished, I could always find someone to encourage, journal my experiences, pray, practice a skill, phone an old friend, take my exercise routine to a new level, clean out the pantry (now be honest, you haven’t gotten to that one yet), or any of a dozen other self-improvement opportunities.  My day isn’t purposeless just because I haven’t found its purpose yet. While I wait, I am learning to fully live in today with joy.   

 Find what God has for me during the waiting

I used to think that God found pleasure in making me wait.  Like backing away from a horse when I’ve got a carrot in my hand, I thought God might be laughing at my irritation.  But I don’t believe God is like that anymore. Now more than ever, I believe God has a gift to give me as I wait that I wouldn’t be able to receive if the waiting ended.  In waiting, I’ve experienced personal growth, surprise visits, money, re-direction, rest, new ideas, restored relationships, new skills, renewed strength, vision, perspective, etc.  All of which would not have happened had I received the answers in my time frame instead of His. Now, while I wait, I begin to look for the treasure He has for me.

Gratitude 

Gratitude is essential for waiting successfully.  There is always something to be grateful for. I don’t think we have to give thanks for the sickness, or the pain, or the trial itself.  But we give thanks during the hardship. Today, as I wait, I am thankful for speedy news updates, social media connection with friends, civil accord for the most part, time to write, time to research, etc. 

 There is an overwhelming peace I am experiencing as I accept this pause in my life.  When I keep these things in mind, I am actually becoming excited knowing God has a great movement ahead for my life, and He is preparing me for it.  

What have you found that helps you to wait well? 

 

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.  

Dear Spouse of the Depressed

Here are six helpful things to consider when living with a severely depressed person.

Dear Spouse of the DepressedDear Spouse of the Depressed,

Depression acts like a sucking vortex that threatens everything in it’s whirling sphere.  Your spouse or loved ones depression is out to suck you into its vacuum. You try mightily to rescue both yourself and your spouse.  Each of you sees completely different perspectives of the same thing.  It’s a little like seeing a tapestry from the bottom or the top.      

Your spouse is having a hard time getting up out of bed, getting menial tasks accomplished, and even eating takes a lot of effort.  They see the dark side of everything and the things that once brought them some level of happiness are now non-existent. Their dark comments about everything weighs like a cement block attached to your feet.  

You have tried to be nice and cheer them up, see the bright side, and encourage them, but to no avail.  You may have tried guilt-tripping, manipulating, and shaming them to get them to change.  You may feel rejected by them because you think you should be enough to ‘make them feel happy.’  You may be worried because severe depression is a killer.  Living with a depressed person takes its toll on you and your emotions.  

First, understand that depression is a complex issue.  There is not a universal cause of depression.  There are many drivers of depression including loss, being overwhelmed, not feeling that you have choices, health issues, medications, significant changes in your life, guilt, anger, genetic predisposition, worry, conflict, unhealthy thinking patterns, false belief systems, lack of nutrition and a host of other things.  Then there’s the whole combination of any two or ten of these drivers.  

Depression is a killer of self and of relationship.  To start, I would encourage you to resist the urge to deal with your spouses depression from a place of offense, so that you are able to offer real hope and help.  Here are six helpful things to consider when living with a severely depressed person.

It’s Not About You

Their depression is not about you.  They may be nit-picking you for all of your weaknesses, but it’s really not about you.  While you can and should put up some healthy boundaries around how and when they offer “constructive criticism”, you must also realize the window they are looking through is caked with mud and splattered with gunk. Their perspective is skewed and so you must be able to let certain things go.

Resist the urge to tell them how you’re feeling and how it’s affecting you.  It’s not that this isn’t important, because it is very important.  It’s just that in the midst of deep depression, they can’t respond to it.  They might even want to, but they can’t.  The day will come when this will need to be discussed, but it can’t be today.

Talk About It

You may need to insist that you have a conversation about their depression.  They can be pretty good about minimizing, blaming, and deflecting these conversations, so you will need to keep it focused.  Keep in mind that it can’t be about your wounding or how you feel.  I am not saying your wounding is not real or important.  It is very important.  But they can’t help you with it right now.  You must be able to step out of any offense you are experiencing in order to help them.  Your “help” must come from a place of concern for them.

When you attempt to have an honest conversation about their depression, they will probably try to turn the tables on you with, “well you have problems too”.  This is very common when someone doesn’t want to look at themselves…expect it and don’t get offended. Just agree with them about your issues and promise that you will work on it with your counselor. But let them know you expect them to continue to work on their depression.  

Resist ‘Telling’ Them

The responsibility for change needs to be on the depressed person.  Resist the urge to “tell” them what to do.  Here’s the kicker…I know, that if they just did what you suggested (eat better, exercise, think positive thoughts, etc.) they really would feel better.  You are not wrong.  But it simply doesn’t work to “tell” them what to do. I think you can mention some of the things they are doing which is adding to their depression, like alcohol, sweets, lack of exercise, isolation, etc.  But stop there and don’t tell them what to eat or how to exercise.  They must take on the responsibility for themselves to find the answers.

Set Expectations

While you can’t expect a depressed person to be happy, you can expect them to do their part by not feeding the depression. Coping mechanisms often act like a double bind in that they feel like they will rescue us, but in fact, they continue the cycle.   Like a diabetic is responsible to watch their diet and take their insulin, if they “have” depression, then they are responsible for their depression. You can let them know you expect them to take on their part.

Boundaries

If they refuse to help themselves, then you may need to implement healthy boundaries like not helping them financially.  You can limit the amount of rants that you will listen to.  And you may need to walk out of the room if they begin to nit-pick or yell at you.

Another helpful boundary is to let them know that if they continue in harming themselves, you will widen the circle of people who know so as to get them the help they need.  Any boundary you create will need to be with an attitude of helping them and not as a punishment.  Begin inviting people over who love the depressed person specifically to talk about their emotional state.  Again, not in a shaming way, but in a way that aims to help.  They may not like that, but it’s o.k.  Depression loves to hide and you can help them not to hide.  Anyone who comes to help will need to be coached to not ‘rescue’ the person, but to ‘assist’ the person as they begin making healthy choices.  If the depressed person decides to start eating healthy, then a friend might stand and talk to them as they throw away unhealthy food.  Or a friend might meet them at the gym to start exercising.  A helpful guideline is only do for a person what they are incapable to do for themselves.

There may come a day when a depressed person steadfastly refuses the loving help offered. At that point you might lovingly say, I will separate myself from you and not be near you until you start making healthy decisions.  This must continue to be done in a way that invites them into healthy living/relationship, but keeps you safe.

Find Your Own Support

You will need to find a support network to help you keep your perspective.  This is extremely important because your feelings and wounds are important.  Until your spouse can raise their head above the depression, your support network are the people you need to go to for your needs.  They can also offer perspective, support,  and ideas of boundaries you can set.  

Living with a person who is suffering with depression will take it’s tole on you.  Taking care of yourself and understanding your own emotions will be very important as you help them.  The most difficult task is to not allow the vortex to suck you under so that you can offer real help and hope.  

Reclaiming Healthy Sexuality part 3

When we view our sexual appeal as a means to get validation of ourselves from our spouses, we set ourselves and them up for great disappointment because it doesn’t come from them.

HealthySexualityPart3
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

This is part three of Reclaiming Healthy Sexuality.   In part 1, I wrote on how as a culture we’ve lost the concept of what healthy sexuality is, that it’s an important part of marriage and there is healing available for those who carry baggage.  In part 2, I wrote on seeing sex as good, and it as mutual.  

In this post I will be writing about what we bring into intimacy and what it is that we try to get out of intimacy.  As we reclaim what has been damaged, it will take work to get back to a good place.  

Sex is About Giving and Receiving, Not Taking

One of the most helpful changes I made was seeing that I had something to offer my husband.  I didn’t understand that before and it used to feel like something was being taken from me.  I still don’t know that I can name what it is that I offer or that he offers me…maybe it’s believing in each other, or trust, or understanding.  What I do see is that it goes beyond the physical act to something more of an essence.  When it simply remains the physical act of self-fulfillment, it loses its potential for good.  When I chose to believe that I had something to offer it brought healing to me.  It’s helped to bring sex back to good.

One thing that has helped in this is communication.  In the movies we often see a glance across the room, an intense and passionate kiss, and then a whisking away to a bedroom scene all happening in about three seconds.  I don’t believe this is the norm, or the standard we should set.  

My husband used to approach me with a hug and I was left wondering, ‘is this a hug or is this a HUG?’ Where was this going?  Because I have a to-do list, you know?  I was intense and flying through the day, or exhausted from the day and now there was a hug.  I was less than receptive, wondering if he wanted something I was not prepared to give. He felt rejected.  It brought on hard feelings on both sides.  

I found it very helpful when we could speak to each other, “hey, I’m thinking of a rendezvous after dinner tonight, are you up for that?”  It allows me to be prepared to give and be prepared to receive what he has to give. We’ve developed our cues, our code words, our glances which invite instead of setting an expectation that gets disappointed.  The verbal or gestured invitation allows for choice.  It’s not a lack of passion to plan an intimate time.  It’s a thoughtful offer to connect.

It’s Not About Self-Image or Validation

We often try but we can’t get our self-image or validation from our partners.  This never works.  Our culture sets us up to believe that our femininity or masculinity is derived from our partner making us feel good about ourselves.  The problem with this is if I don’t feel good about myself to begin with, there really is nothing he can do to change that. Self-image starts with self and he can’t give it to me.  He can’t really even take it away if it’s base is from a clear conscience.  

In other words, if I think I’m worthless, and he tells me I’m worthless then he has just proven my point.  If I believe I’m worthless and he tells me I have worth, then I’m not going to trust his judgment.  I will think he is lying, he has a poor standard, or he doesn’t know the real me.  But, if I believe I have worth and he tells me I’m worthless, then I am going to think he is crazy.   When I have to suck my self-image out of my spouse and he can’t give it to me, I am guaranteed frustration and heartache.

John Eldredge writes in his book You Have What It Takes, “Every boy wants to be a hero. He wants to be powerful, dangerous. He wants to know . . . Do I have what it takes?  Every girl wants to believe that she is captivating, worth fighting for. She wants to know . . . Am I lovely?”

We get our understanding of how to answer those questions as children from our familial and cultural surroundings.  We first pick up what it means to be a man or woman from our parents or significant role models.  We look to them for approval to answer those meaningful questions.  As we enter adolescents it shifts to our peer group.  This is normal but still immature because it opens us up to be manipulated by others.  Ultimately, in the maturing process, it needs to shift to our own conscience before God.  Scripture tells us that every man can know right from wrong (Rom. 1).  When we live in a right way, our conscience affirms us and we don’t fall prey to trying to pull it from someone else.  

When we view our sexual appeal as a means to get validation of ourselves from our spouses, we set ourselves and them up for great disappointment because it doesn’t come from them.  If I don’t measure up to the standard I have set then there is nothing my spouse can do to convince me any differently.  For instance, If I’m not skinny enough for my own standard then nothing my husband can say or do will change my self-perception.  

Getting back to good means finding our validation through a clear conscience before God and liking the person we are becoming.  We then bring the person that we like to our spouse and give of ourselves and receive from them who they are.

In my next blog post I will be writing about honoring our differences, finding connection and what to do with problems beyond relationship issues.