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

FBS: Don’t Trust Anyone, Ever

Relationships and experiencing emotion in relationships (even hurt) is an important part of our mental health and well-being. 

FBS_Don't Trust Anyone, Ever
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

False Belief System (FBS): Don’t trust anyone because they will just let you down. 

The problem with this FBS is that people will let you down.  The opposite belief of “trust anyone because they won’t let you down” simply isn’t true.  So how do we think about this wisely and what is a healthy True Belief System (TBS)?

Relationships and experiencing emotion in relationships (even hurt) is an important part of our mental health and well-being.  So, let’s start by looking closer at the FBS.  “Don’t trust anyone” implies ALL people will let you down ALWAYS.  Of course, this simply isn’t true, but your guard is always up so it can feel true.  But ‘all people will let you down occasionally’, probably is true.  And, you will at some point let others down.

“You will just be let down” implies to be let down is bad, horrible, and you must control the relationship to not experience the pain.  My guess, is that when someone does let you down, you go into shut down mode in order to ‘not care’ and turn your emotions off.  Am I right?  It’s normal if you do.  The problem is once you start shutting down your emotions, it leads to shutting down all of your emotions because we can’t select to just turn off some emotions.  This leads to being numb, which leads to depression.

So…if I am right…the healing work that needs to be done is to list out those who have ‘let you down’ in the past, and actually let yourself FEEL the emotion of being let down; cry, get angry, have the regret.  Ask Jesus to come alongside of you to bring comfort, telling him of your emotions.  Share it with a few friends.  And then offer forgiveness.  Not because ‘they didn’t mean it,’ or ‘it was alright’ or ‘it didn’t matter’, but because IT DID MATTER and their actions were actually wrong and they hurt you.  You forgive by trusting the person and the hurt to God and letting God heal it.  To forgive does not mean that you need to trust the person who let you down.  But it also does not mean you can’t trust anyone.

You then trust God with the consequences their actions had on you.  For instance, if you told your best friend in 6th grade a secret and they told it to your class, that wrong needs to be forgiven.  It affected you.  You felt like you couldn’t tell anything about yourself to anyone and never learned to develop deep friendships again.  This affected your marriage because your spouse feels shut out and you ended up divorced.  You need to accept responsibility for your part of the fail marriage, but you also need to forgive your 6th grade friend again for the affect their actions had on you.

So, if “trust everyone because they won’t let you down’ isn’t true, what is a TBS I can go to?  One possibility is to replace the FBS with a TBS of “When people let me down, (because they will…I even let myself down) I can trust God because He is bigger than the disappointment.” God, in His amazing grace, can take any loss and bring good out of it (Genesis 50:20).  That never makes the original offense ‘good’, but we can expect good to come out of hurt when we trust God with it.

Or perhaps the new belief is “To love others well means I will be hurt by them.”  You see…God wants us to be conformed to HIS image.  He uses others to rub away our self-centeredness in order to sculpt us to His image.  If He is trying to help us be forgiving people (because He is a forgiving God) then what do I need in my life to become a forgiving person?  I must have people offend me.  There’s just no other way.

You see, relationship IS in the emotions.  If we deaden ourselves in our emotions so we don’t get hurt, we hurt ourselves because we end up in isolation.   In relationship, you will also experience joy, excitement, interest, a sense of not being alone, etc.  It’s all fine and dandy to sit and have an intellectual talk with someone, but you don’t have a relationship with them in the intellect.  If a person FEELS excitement or connectedness in the intellectual talk they can feel friendship.  But if a person FEELS dissension or disconnectedness in the intellectual talk they can feel like enemies.  So, relationship happens IN emotion.  It’s shared enjoyment in life that brings connectedness.  It’s hurt that brings disconnectedness.  When we shut down all emotion it brings isolation, even when people are present.

It doesn’t mean you trust everyone, but you learn to identify safe people who are willing to forgive you as well.  You will need to know how to process that hurt so you don’t shut down in isolation.  Being willing to experience hurt in relationship is a risk worth taking.

Love & Relationship Addiction

Recovery isn’t about ending a particular romantic relationship.  It is about healing and growth in several areas of our life within relationship.

Love & RelationshipAddiction
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Love & relationship addiction is identified when a romantic relationship isn’t about love.  It’s about fear of being alone or achieving validation because of a relationship, and it tolerates damaging behaviors without resolution.  As a person addicted to romantic relationships, we may know the relationship is wrong, but we can’t walk away.  The painful cycle includes attraction, bonding, rejection, panic, reconciliation, and the cycle starting over.

Patterns of addiction to “Love” are:

  • Love at first sight
  • Going quickly into the relationship without time to establish common values, goals, or to build trust
  • Neglecting ourselves or loved ones in order to be with this person
  • Feeling isolated and detached from family and friends
  • Feeling overwhelmed by daily living and see their only way to survive is to attach themselves to someone else
  • Mistake intensity for intimacy
  • Romanticizing about the object of affection
  • Attracted to needy people
  • Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at all cost
  • Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
  • Using others alters mood or relieves pain
  • Highly manipulative and controlling of others, self & circumstances
  • Desperation to have peace in a relationship is defined by a cycle of begging and pleading to win the favor of a partner regardless of previous mistreatment
  • Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior
  • Partner comes back with demands that the addict changes, but is not looking for a healthy relationship
  • Cycle continues of the partner leaving and the addict panicking

The Cause of Addictive Relationships

The beginning of an addictive relationship often starts in childhood where relationships with parents were absent, abusive, or neglectful.  We seek to heal what has been broken.  As children our emotional needs were not met when we faced rejection and/or abandonment. We came to believe we were not worthy of love.  The cycle continues as we seek validation from a person like the parent we were missing the affection from.  

The Process of Recovery

Recovery from love and relationship addiction is possible. The first step is to admit our need for a healthy change.  Here are some possible steps:

  • Recovery begins with admitting the relationship is addictive
  • It’s necessary to recognize and desire change in ourselves
  • Realize that obsession is not the same thing as love.  
  • Using relationship to prove you have worthiness is a warning sign
  • Understand your emotional triggers.  Being alone can trigger feelings of unworthiness. Believing that you are only worthy in a relationship can also be a trigger.
  • Connect your emotions to your childhood and recognize that your feelings and emotions are valid.  Also realize that they are not an excuse to stay in a destructive cycle.
  • If you feel immediate bonding and a sense of complete dependence in a romantic relationship, pull back as this is a sign your relationship addiction has been triggered.
  • Get a support team to help you seek out healthy relationships.  Possibly consider counseling to help heal childhood issues.

We start the process of recovery and working through the 12 steps to heal and start living the life God has planned for us.  Recovery isn’t about ending a particular romantic relationship.  It is about healing and growth in several areas of our life within relationship.  The foundation is spiritual healing.  Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  It’s also about finding healing physically, socially, mentally, and emotionally.  Romantic relationships have played a domineering and oppressive role in our life.  The goal of recovery is about finding their healthy place in our lives and to build healthy relationships with God, self, and others.  

Celebrate Recovery is a 12-Step Support Group designed to bring healing to all of our hurts, habits, and hangups, including Love and Relationship Addiction.  It can be a great place to begin your recovery today!  

 

Book Review: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Helpful for: Christians who have sidelined connecting with their emotions and who are desiring to grow towards an emotionally authentic life.

EHSEmotionally Healthy Spirituality  by Peter Scazzero Book review

by Dede McReynolds*

5 of 5 stars for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

4 of 5 stars for Readability, written in plain terms this book is not full of glitz, glam or poetry yet it was an effortless read to the end.

5 of 5 stars for Content, he address a serious issue with practical and Biblical solutions.

Author Peter Scazzero pastors a charismatic church in Queens, New York and founded the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Ministry. He writes about his personal journey of being emotionally silent to emotionally healthy.  

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality puts in plain terms the problem that we have all seen; Christians who can devolve into the deepest depths of doctrine, who have “the best” theology, eschatology and ecclesiology YET are emotionally stunted. Meanwhile there are others who love in profound ways yet have no understanding of the God of the Bible.

He diagnoses emotionally unhealthy spirituality and provides a  solution through maturing in emotional health and contemplative spirituality. Peter defines contemplative spirituality as living a Mary life instead of a Martha life.  He guides readers toward contemplative practices that are relevant for the Christian of today and proposes serious work on self that will make space for the necessary emotional growth.

Helpful for: Christians who have sidelined connecting with their emotions and who are desiring to grow towards an emotionally authentic life.

Highlights:

  • It may seem out of place but pg. 42-43 gives a radically relevant interpretation of the Beast of Revelation.
  • This pastor’s definition of emotional health pg.45 is clear and concise, better than that of most self-help professionals.  

Author: Peter Scazzero

Title: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 228 pages. ISBN #978-310-34246-5

Publisher: Zondervan 2006

Website: http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org

*Dede McReynolds is the Service Coordinator of the Hope Center in Moscow, Idaho.  She coordinates the Hope at Work Program which helps those who struggle to get or maintain employment.

Sometimes You Gotta Let a Friend Feel Bad

A good friend will not try to stop these emotions, but will sit in the emotions with them.

Let a Friend Feel Bad
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

When my husband, kids or friend feel bad I want to be there for them.  What kind of a friend would I be if I wasn’t there for them?  I have assumed to be ‘there’ means I try to fix the problem and make them feel better.  If I don’t at least try it’s somehow a reflection on my ability to be kind and compassionate.

Here’s the problem with this…what if my friend needs to feel bad?  I actually feel awkward writing that sentence.  I feel like a heel…like what kind of a friend would I be to think my friend ‘needs’ to feel bad?  Who am I to judge what my friend needs?

There are two areas of life where it’s good to feel bad; grief and regret.

Grief

When we have experienced a loss, we need to feel the loss.  It’s part of a mature life.  It takes time to understand how the loss has affected our life.  We need to consider how to continue without the thing lost.  We need to miss it.

When we don’t spend the necessary time to miss what has been taken from us, we run to addictions in order to not feel the loss.  In America, our favorite addiction is busyness in order to escape our emotions.

But a good friend will sit with someone who is recognizing a loss in their life.  They won’t rush in with platitudes and quick fixes such as, “at least you have other children”, or “God must have other plans for your life”, or “it’s just a house, you’ll get over it.”  No, a good friend will say, “Oh I miss that thing too.”   I’ve written more on grief here.

Regret

We’ve all felt regret at some point.  It is an awful feeling and we don’t like to sit in it.  In order to out run regret we blame, justify, and ignore the effects of our actions.   So, when a friend has regret we sometimes help them to do the same because we know how awful that feeling is. We can even feel good about ourselves because we helped them outrun regret.

This last week I had three people tell me of some very destructive behaviors of their spouses and each of them followed it up with, “but I told him I loved him and everything would be ok.  I forgave him and tried my best to make him feel good about himself.”  Instead of allowing them to sorrow, they fixed the problem.  They rushed in with a platitude of forgiveness instead of communication about resolving the issues at hand.  The rescuer wanted to be seen as kind and merciful.  They also didn’t want to sit in the grief and regret any longer.

I’m not suggesting making a person feel bad.  I am suggesting letting a person feel bad.  Let them bear the weight of the damage of indifference.  Let them experience the brokenness that breaking their word or lies create.  Let them understand the destruction of anger.  Let them suffer the panic of letting go of control.  Let them feel and let them make amends. This is the only way back to a healthy relationship.

The rescuer has many fears in this.  We fear the emotion will last forever.  We fear they will feel so bad that they will run.  We fear they won’t put the effort into changing.  And so, pretending the pieces are back together again is better than requiring the pieces be put back together.  Being seen as a person who holds it together is better than letting it fall apart.    

But here’s the thing… It’s only in the emotion of regret that we come to be ready to change. 

When we stop regret, we stop change and we leave our friend…we leave ourselves…in cycles of destruction.  “If we confess our sins, HE is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

Feeling Grief and Regret

I think Christians are particularly bad at letting anyone feel grief and regret because we know the end of the story.  We believe that victory is ours.  We believe that our sins are forgiven.  We believe God makes all things good.  But when we rush through to the end, we circumvent the very elements that get us to healing.  It’s as though we should get on a long train of restoration, but we take a teleportation shortcut and we end up in space.

Grief and regret are probably the worst feelings in this life.  Our human nature is to do anything to avoid them.  But these are the very emotions that change the world. A good friend will not try to stop these emotions, but will sit in the emotions with them.  God meets us in the valley of the shadow of death and He restores our soul.