Category Archive: Relationships

Jan 09

The Troubled Journey: A Parable of Life, Obstacles, and Hope

This week I am excited to share a parable written by my son.  It’s an amazing picture of what I’ve observed personally in my own life and as a counselor who sits with many people on a troubled journey.

Troubled Journey

There was once a person, who sat, troubled. For this person had been on a journey, and had come to a cliff blocking their path. They saw no bridge to cross it, and saw no way around it for the air was too dark. So they sat, wondering if their journey had come to an end. After what seemed like a very long time of sitting and staring, they began to question if they need only walk off the cliff. And up they stood, with rash, to walk off. 

But then they saw something approaching them in the darkness. A spirit had come to them. The spirit seemed to have a familiar face and they greeted the spirit as one does. Then the spirit turned them around. And all of a sudden, they felt comforted by a presence that had always been with them but they had never noticed. They saw that the path behind them was light, and they saw many faces all smiling towards them. Many faces of which they knew as old friends, and many faces of which were unknown to them.

Guided by the comforting presence they walked to the smiling people and told them their problem. Then all of the smiling people walked to the edge and began to form a bridge. All together the smiling people formed a bridge and for the first time the person, once troubled, could see the other side of the cliff. So they walked across the bridge with the comforting presence. While walking across, they almost fell many times, but whenever they did the comforting presence carried them back to balance.

Eventually, they crossed the bridge and stood at the other side that once did not exist to them. The smiling people stood together with them and they began to walk the new path they saw. And through the time walking this path they crossed many cliffs where the smiling people made bridges for them, and they helped make many bridges for others of the smiling people who then frowned. But they could always tell that the comforting presence was with them, either guiding or carrying.

Written by Nathan Thompson

Everyone sees something a little bit different in this parable. Please comment below with your thoughts and reflections. Like it? Please share it on social media. There is always hope!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/troubled-journey/

Nov 02

Parenting Struggles? Master the Art of Understanding

understandingWe all want be heard, seen, valued, and understood for who we really are. We desire unconditional love and acceptance. This isn’t debatable. We all recognize this desire, right? Isn’t this behind all the fairy tale romance stories and the cry for tolerance? See me, know me, love me, warts and all.
Maybe we focus so much on being understood that we forget to really understand those we love. Enter our children. Did you know they have that drive too? Kids need to be fully known, loved and accepted first by their parents. I’ve sat with people who did not experience this in their childhood and are dealing with the impacts this has left on them. The opposite of being understood is rejection. If a child doesn’t feel fully understood and accepted first at home, they may be sensitive to rejection in the future.
Now, I know we are put on this earth to guide, teach, train, and discipline our kids. Yet, I think sometimes we focus only on the externals and we miss what is going on in their heads and hearts. We miss their insecurities or their fears. Our kids are more than grades, athletic accomplishments, or artistic performances. They are more than their behavior.
We all want be heard, seen, valued, and understood for who we really are. Click To Tweet
Maybe we focus so much on being understood that we forget to really understand those we love. Click To Tweet
If their behavior is rebellious, ugly, or emotional, they may be struggling in a way that they don’t feel safe to share with you.
If their behavior is always good, they may be attaching their identity to never making a mistake and this is a recipe for anxiety.
Behavior is just one component of personality. We are physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual beings. Behavior is the physical domain. It seems to me that as parents we focus a lot on that aspect of our children and less on the mental, emotional, or spiritual domains. Why is that? Well it’s much easier, right? But I know you want to raise a child who is confident in all areas of who they are, not just that demonstrates good behavior. And what if, by seeking to understand them in all areas you have an impact on their behavior.
I have witnessed many kids who have great behavior but are stressed and overwhelmed trying to maintain the “perfect” life. Just looking at their achievements and grades, you wouldn’t know how much they are struggling. But there are moments that it comes out. You see, the danger of focusing only on behavior, good or bad, is raising kids who focus on the external things they do or ahieve for their sense of value. Now I am not anti-discipline, this is needed  (ask my kiddos we have rules and limits in our home). However, relationship and understanding your kids comes first. How do you know what discipline will work if there is no understanding?
Let’s face it, feeling understood is extremely powerful.
Let's face it, feeling understood is extremely powerful. Click To Tweet
Pause and think of a time you felt completely seen, loved, and accepted for who you really are? Visualize the moment. Who gave you that feeling? How did they do it? What would you have done for that person? How did you feel toward them? It’s an incredible feeling right? Did you know you have the ability, the superpower, to give this experience to your kid? Can you see how it might change everything?
So how do you learn understanding and give your child the experience of being understood?
  • Get to know them. Use the phrase “tell me more”. Tell me more about  (what’s behind the tears, the emotional outburst, the difficult situation, etc.).
  • Validate their feelings. This sounds fancy but it is simply letting their feelings be valid and real, no matter what they are. Regardless of how you would react in the situation, their perspective and feelings are what they are. Let them be that. Tell them you see it and remember a time you felt that way. “You really seem happy about something, tell me about it” (see how I combined them both) OR “Wow, you are really upset about this, tell me more about how that hurt you”. “That’s so sad, I’ve been sad to and it’s hard”. Let it be okay for them to feel what they feel. Be a safe place for their feelings. This helps them learn to validate their own feelings as they grow.
  • Learn what matters to them and how they are struggling. Listen to understand and not fix things.
  • No matter what, start and end things with how much you love them.
  • Compliment effort not results. “Wow I saw your grades, it took a lot of hard work and I admire how much time you invest in your studies”.
  • Be real about your own struggles.
  • Spend time with them. Have fun. Be silly. Take a genuine interest in what interests them. (don’t ask me how much I know about all kinds of things that I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for my kids….star wars, star trek, magic the gathering, pokemon, legos, marvel comics, etc etc etc.)
  • When in doubt, ask them for guidance. Just be real
I challenge you to look at your kids differently this week, whatever their age. Seek understanding. What are their passions, who are their friends, what’s the latest thing they are interested in, what are their fears, or current struggles? Warning: don’t ask all that in one sitting. LOL. It doesn’t work. Understanding comes over time as you deliberately seek to take the time and opportunities that present themselves. I think learning about my teens and watching them grow into who God designed them to be rocks! I have to set aside my agenda sometimes but that’s okay…my stuff will be here long after they are grown. Let’s seize the moment when it comes.
Seize the moment when it comes to really understand your kids. It's your parenting superpower. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/understanding-parent/

Jul 11

Top 5 Things that Hurt a Marriage and the Top 7 Things that Help

Marriage are like plants
We all want a better, closer marriage. Learn what you are doing that is damaging your relationship and how to make it better. Want to change your interaction patterns? Want to do something different? Take a minute to consider these things that that hurt and wound the marriage relationship. Then take a look at the things that specifically help marriages grow and thrive. A relationship is like a plant. It needs to be both nurtured and weeded
A relationship is like a plant. It needs to be nurtured, watered, and weeded. Click To Tweet
5 Things that Hurt Marriages 
  1. Assumptions. Yep, you heard me right. The number one thing that hurts relationships are assumptions. We assume our spouse’s motives. We assume they intend to hurt us or personally wound us by their behavior. We assume they aren’t interested in something without asking. It is my experience that our assumptions are frequently wrong. In fact, they are often based on our wounds, fears, or insecurities. Our assumptions are frequently wrong. They are often based on our wounds and fears. Click To Tweet
  2. Attacking the person during a conflict. We are going to disagree with our spouse. It is inevitable. Yet how you approach conflict matters. Is it you and your spouse against the problem? Or is it you against your spouse. If it is you against your spouse, then this is a dangerous place to be. Nothing tears away at connection like attacks.
  3. Busyness. We are crazy busy in our culture. With cell phones, we are always available for work. When we aren’t busy with work, sports, school, kids, volunteering etc…we have unending options for distractions available. It is easy to let life just blow by and relationships take a back seat to the busy.  It is easy to let life just blow by and relationships take a back seat to the busy. Click To Tweet
  4. Focusing too much on the kids. This is so easy to do. Let’s face it…every stage of parenting is demanding. We love our kids and there are things that have to be done. Yet, neglecting the marriage relationship actually is harmful to your kids.
  5. Not taking time for each other. This is similar to busyness but it is worth noting separately. Not taking time to connect emotionally, mentally, relationally, and sexually on a regular basis will damage the core relationship. How can you have a thriving relationship where there is no connection?
7 Things that Help Marriages Thrive
  1. Assume your spouse is a person of good will. I know…I used the word assume. THIS IS THE ONLY ASSUMPTION THAT IS OKAY! You married this person and they may be different than you but ultimately they love you so give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume they are for you. The only exception to this would be if they are abusive. Please reach out and get help if you are being abused. Click here for resources.
  2. Bring everything into the relationship. If you feel slighted or hurt. Talk about it. Share your fears and concerns. Let your partner tell you what they are thinking and feeling so you don’t have to guess or assume. Let them comfort you and be your safe place. When your partner brings something to you that you’ve done to hurt them, own it…even if it was unintentional.
  3. Use I statements. When sharing with your partner only start you sentences with I. I feel…….I think…..When that happened, I……. Please don’t start sentences with you. That assumes motives, puts others on the defensive, and is an attacking stance.
  4. Listen. I know what you’re thinking. You know how to listen. Do you really? Most of us spend the time we should be listening thinking of what we are going to say next. Listen. Summarize what they’ve said and ask if you heard it right. Listen for the emotions they are feeling and share that with them.
  5. Deal with your own stuff. We all have stuff. We have strengths and weaknesses. Know your weaknesses and work on them. Actively work to grow as a person. Some of us have more woundedness from childhood than others. I promise…your woundedness from childhood will impact your marriage relationship. But, there is so much hope here because this can be healed, you need a good therapist but it can be healed!  Your woundedness from childhood will impact your marriage relationship. But there is hope. Click To Tweet
  6. Study your partner. What do they like to do? What is their personality type and how is it different from yours? How do they experience love? What energizes them and what drains them? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their fears? How are they different because they are a male and you’re a female (or vice versa)? Make it your goal to know them well and appreciate the uniqueness that is your spouse.
  7. Spend time together. Relationships only grow in closeness when you are together. Do you talk each day about life? Do you have regular date nights? Do you put the kids to bed early so you can spend one on one time with each other?
Now it would be great if both partners read this and applied these principles. I hope you’re married to someone open to that. You may not be. There is great power in one person changing. It really can change the whole relationship. If you struggle with any of these things, I would recommend seeing a counselor who works with couples. Most people wait too long before they see a counselor. There is so much hope.
There is great power in one person changing. It really can change the whole relationship. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/marriage/

May 10

Guard Your Heart. A How-To Guide.

Guard Heart

We hear this phrase a lot: guard your heart.
What does this mean?
Is guarding your heart a defensive maneuver meant to shield us from hurt?
If that is true, does it mean isolating ourselves from others?
Is it strictly for those that are dating?
If it is about protection, that seems to contradict what God tells us other places in scripture. God commands us to love, be light, have compassion, and be humble. How can we do that and guard our heart? How on earth does this all connect? C.S. Lewis captured the tension in his book The Four Loves. 
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
To love is to be vulnerable. Click To Tweet
Loving clearly puts our heart at risk and yet God calls us to love Him and love others. So, what on earth does guard your heart mean? I’m not sure I know the exact answer but I have discovered a few things that I think are key:

How to Guard Your Heart

  • Anchor your identity in Jesus: We could end the conversation here really. The first part of Proverbs 4 talks repeatedly about gaining insight and wisdom. Proverbs defines wisdom as the fear of the Lord and insight as the knowledge of God (Proverbs 9:10). So in context, we guard our hearts by knowing, loving, and pursuing a relationship with God. This relationship is the only secure, safe relationship. The only one that won’t hurt or disappoint us. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us how deceitful our hearts really are. As a result of our deceitful hearts, we seek to find our identity in things other than God. In doing so, our hearts are left unguarded. Life and relationships are full of hurt. The intensity of the hurt and the ability to recover depends on where you place your identity. Is it in God? If it is, then when life becomes hard and painful your boat won’t sink. Is it in a job, talent, or relationship? Watch out…you anchor is thrown into a neighboring boat and a storm is coming. Anchoring your identity in the depth of God’s love for you allows us to love, be vulnerable, and risk because we know we are first and foremost forever loved by God. Perhaps thats why God commands us to love Him first before we can love others. (Luke 10:27). Click here to read more: We Dig: The Daily Struggles with Addictions and Idolatry and Identity Attacked.
  • Know and pursue your passions: We are all different…we have different strengths, different weaknesses, different temperaments, different life experiences, and different passions. Frequently, we compare ourselves to others and feel less than. Comparison can drive our heart away from God and cause us to miss the unique person He created us to be.
    Comparison can drive our heart away from God and cause us to miss the unique person He created… Click To Tweet
    guard your heart expectationsKnowing and celebrating how you are uniquely made serves to protect us from comparison and guide our choices. Not sure about how God designed you…seek out personality tests that can help you figure it out. Draw close to God and ask him to show you. Consider what gives you energy and excites you. All these things will help you on your journey to discover your purpose and passions.
  • Have realistic expectations: Expectations unconsciously drive our emotional reactions. If what we expect happens, then we tend not to notice it. BUT, if what we expect doesn’t happen….then watch out….we feel violated, irritated, annoyed…and we react. All of this happens in a split second without a lot of thought involved. The problem comes if our expectations are unreasonable and unrealistic. See we live in a broken world with other broken people. We want (and need) others to give us grace but we often don’t expect to have to give it to others. People demonstrate who they are over time. Whether you agree with how they choose to be in the world or not, they are who they are. Are your expectations based on the real and not what you wish or hope for? Life involves difficulty and struggle. Do you expect things to be difficult at times or do you have idealistic expectations? Realistic expectations help guard our hearts from unnecessary emotional reactions and pain. Read more about expectations and reactions.
          Expectations unconsciously drive our emotional reactions. Click To Tweet
  • Keep safe friends: Safe people accept us for who we are and don’t try to change us. They are trustworthy, compassionate, real, and care for us as guard heart with boundarieswe care for them. These are (or should be) your best friends. These friends help you guard your heart because they love you, know you, and accept you. If you find yourself withdrawing from these safe friends, think about why. Reflect on the person or circumstances. Pulling away from safe people is a warning sign that we may not be guarding our heart well. If we are in close relationship with people who are not safe, than our heart is unguarded because we are in relationship with someone that doesn’t love the real you. This can leave your heart unnecessarily exposed. Read more about safe people here.
  • Set boundaries when needed. Fences around our yards are the best visual for boundaries that I can think of. If a tree falls in my yard, than I know it is my responsibility to clean it up. If a tree falls in my neighbor’s yard, that’s not my responsibility but his. We all have personal boundaries around our soul. They are emotional, physical, mental, and relational. Just like a fence, we all have imaginary gates that allow things in and out of our soul “yard”. Some of us never learned we had a gate and so our gate is stuck open….everything comes in to impact our soul. Learning how to close your gate, learning what is yours to own, and learning what to take in or let go is all a part of boundaries. Boundaries guard our hearts. Read more about boundaries here.
       Boundaries guard our hearts. Click To Tweet
  • be real guard your heartBe real: We all love people who are real. Who don’t hide…who share their imperfections…and own their strengths and weaknesses. It draws us to them. These people appear confident and we envy their confidence. It’s not confidence as much as embracing who they are and being real. Hiding our imperfections and weaknesses while only presenting our strengths or a mask breeds shame and self-criticism. This is highly toxic to our heart.  “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” (Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection). Embracing who we are (warts and all) and bravely sharing that with the world guards our heart. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  (Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection). Read more about embracing imperfection.
    So guarding our heart is more complex than most people think and it’s definitely not about  isolation and protection. It’s loving God first and then loving others in a healthy way. So how are you doing at guarding your heart? Need help with any of these ideas….seek out solid resources or find a counselor. There is always hope!
Guarding your heart is about loving God first and then loving others in a healthy way. Click To Tweet
If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/guard-your-heart/

Oct 02

Life Wisdom from Coach Chavis

John ChavisWe moved to Bryan/College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, when I was 9. Man, that place is different…its spirit is infectious. The University traditions create a sense of belonging and pride that grows as you fall in love with the school and the people. I swear it is one of the friendliest places in the world!! As a result, there was never a question of where I would go to school….
Aggieland was community, it was pride, it was honor, it was authentic, it was family, it was tradition, it was home!
So it should be no surprise that years later I love Aggie sports and no sport is greater in Texas than football! (Sorry son…I love soccer too.)
I don’t just watch the games…we celebrate the games! In true Aggie fashion, we’ve developed traditions around how we watch the football games. We plan special meals, gather with my sister, and make it an event!!

Texas A&M

I’m such an Aggie football nerd, that I even watch all the press conferences on YouTube…..I know…I may have a problem.
But every now and then, I come across life wisdom that has to be pointed out and acknowledged. That happened a few weeks ago….
For non-Aggie followers…our offense for the last few seasons has been okay (not Johnny Manziel okay but not bad). Our defense has struggled, mostly because we had a lot of young guys. So Coach Sumlin, in his brilliant wisdom, hired John Chavis to head up the Aggie defense. This season there has been a night and day difference in our defensive line!
How is this possible, is Coach Chavis really that awesome? Did these young kids just train all summer? How? What? Huh????????????
Now Coach Chavis is good and they did train hard all summer but I think I heard the secret one day during a press conference. Coach Chavis was asked how he had been able to build confidence in the team that had played so poorly last season….brilliant question because we were all wondering.
His answer was GOLD….
You put young men in situations where they can have success. You coach them and give them the tools that they need to go prepare. But when they have success they start gaining confidence. You got to be very very positive with them. If you’re not careful coaching can be a negative profession because you’re always correcting. And you got to make those corrections but you got to do it in a way where you’re not beating kids down. We expect a lot out of them. We hold them accountable and they hold each other accountable but we are not going to beat them down, we are not going to beat them down. That’s been the approach we take. We have high expectations for them but each one of those guys is somebody’s son, they’re our football players and we got to treat them that way. Have high expectations, show them how they can get it done, and they’ll go get it done for you.”
You coach them and give them the tools that they need to go prepare. Click To Tweet
So let me tell you what this counselor heard:
  • Give kids the right tools and support them.
  • Connect with them (build relationship).
  • Encourage them to have a team that supports them.
  • Set them up for success.
  • Be very positive.
  • Be very careful about how you correct, do it in a way that doesn’t destroy their spirit.
  • Have high, reasonable expectations but remember that they are human.
  • If you do this, they will go out and get it done!
Now that is a solid approach to coaching, parenting, teaching, leading, and team building.
Criticism kills relationship. If you are in a role where you have to correct (like any of the roles listed above) then how you correct is important. If you beat people up with your words, you may accomplish your initial goal of behavior change, but you have lost the relationship. Relationship is what grounds us, connects us, and makes us want to work hard for people.
Those Aggie boys are fighting hard on the field for Chavis because of his approach, because they are inspired to do well for him.
As parents, isn’t that what we want? Kids that are inspired and empowered to reach their maximum potential? Unfortunately, too often we think constant criticism, harshness, or belittling will change behavior. It wouldn’t work for me and it wouldn’t work for you. In fact, think of the last time you were treated that way? Didn’t it make you want to NOT be around that person?
Correction doesn’t have to be negative. If we focus on the relationship first and major on the positives, then we earn the right to speak correctively.
If we focus on the relationship first...then we earn the right to speak correctively. Click To Tweet
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 
Watch the press conference below, the question is asked at about 2 minutes, 30 seconds in.

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/coach_chavis/

Sep 14

The Benefits of Looking Back

Looking back into our past hurts. It’s messy and vulnerable.  As much as we probably don’t want to admit it, we are fundamentally shaped by our childhood experiences. We learn lessons that impact us at a core, relational level, like:

  1. How to view the world (safe or unsafe)

  2. How to think about ourselves (capable or incapable; worthy of love and comfort or not)

  3. How to relate with others (trustworthy or not trustworthy)

How our parents interact with each other and with us directly influences our identity and our ability to connect with others. I could go into the psychological and sociological research (because it’s extensive) but you probably don’t want to hear all that.  In our independent, move out and move on culture, we have two problems with this reality.

  1. We want to believe we can move out and move on

  2. We want to believe we don’t need other people

Yet, we ARE relational and do NEED genuine connection. The first connections we have in life (with mom and dad) influence all our other connections. Denying this reality causes relational conflict and internal discontent. If we just focus on our current problems, as individuals or couples, and don’t look back to see if the past is influencing us, then we are denying our relational existence AND limiting our opportunity for growth and healing.

Now, none of us has perfect parents and none of us will be perfect parents. We all come out of our families with some sort of dysfunction. Unfortunately, some of us have more dysfunctional families than others. That’s just the reality of life in a broken world.

The good news is that these imprints can be understood AND changed (redeemed)! Wounds created in relationship can be healed in relationship. Spouses, good safe friends, or a relationship with Jesus can provide the secure, safe space needed for us to heal and grow. For more information check out one of my favorite resources: www.howwelove.com.

Some of us will need more help, so find a counselor, knowledgeable in attachment theory who can help you take that look back, not to stay stuck or judge the past but to understand, to heal, and to grow!

understand heal and grow

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/the-benefits-of-looking-back/

Feb 24

The Comparison Identity Trap

So what is up with girls? Deep down inside, we each long desperately to be known, understood, and loved for who we are (warts and all). We love finding girlfriends who just “get us”, who find us silly and fun. We are drawn to those friends that we have things in common with. As young girls, we delight in our friendships.
Then something happens…..I am not sure when it does but at some point we start comparing ourselves to other girls. In the process we begin to judge ourselves as less than in some area: beauty, fitness, style, intellect, heart, personality, talent, etc. We create an “ideal” self-image that, let’s be honest, is probably super unrealistic. Yet, we judge our self against it day after day. And day after day, we feel less than, unimportant, unworthy (especially when we are super active on social media)!
So what do we do?? We try to be the best at something: the most popular, prettiest, most fashionable, most athletic, most intelligent, most fun, most rebellious, most artistic, etc., etc.
In the process of trying to create for ourselves this awesome “ideal” self-identity, we stomp on friends along the way. We may drop friends because they don’t fit our ideal or we may be so caught up in our goal that we don’t realize we hurt them.
WHAT KIND OF MADNESS IS THIS????
Making yourself better (at anything) does not bring you what your heart deeply longs for! What you really want, more than anything is to be truly known and loved for who you ARE. In your effort to create this ideal self, you are no longer “who you are”.   Whoever loves this “ideal” version of you doesn’t really know the real you! And, deep down you know it! That’s why chasing these things feels empty. Not only that, you often hurt the real friends you had all along.
Where you look for your identity is important. For Christians, our identity is IN CHRIST! We are completely, fully, and finally loved. All the belonging and acceptance that you long for is already yours IN CHRIST. You have it, now, just as you are!
So, pursue the things that God uniquely created you to do (sports, school, arts, beauty, etc) but do it as a reflection of God’s glory through you. Love others with the love that God has poured into you. Forgive other ladies when they fall victim to this comparison/identity trap and hurt you. You understand it’s power and you’ve fallen victim to it yourself.
Seek safe friends that can be REAL (warts and all). Friends who embrace you for your uniqueness and celebrate their own.   Friends who are aware that they mess up and can own it.   Friends that push you to Jesus. Remember we live in a broken world and people are going to hurt us (because we all sin). We can’t change what happens to us but we can decide how we let it impact us and what we do about it. And remember, when you are hurt by another person this does not change your worth or value!!! Run to Jesus when you are hurt and hear Him say “Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17 .  He loves you completely as you are (the current, messed up, non-perfect version of you).
This is an imperfect process since we still live in a broken world.  We will continue to struggle with comparison, identity, and looking to things other than Jesus for our identity.  Sometimes we do great for a while and then catch ourselves looking to something else for meaning.  THERE IS AMAZING GRACE FOR THAT!!  It Is FINISHED!  You are forgiven, move on, fix your eyes anew on Jesus.
Sharing your real struggle with safe people is a great way to start finding real connection. How have you struggled with this?  What are your fears? Where do you tend to place your identity?  What is your deep longing?

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/the-comparison-identity-trap/

Feb 11

What Am I Reacting To?

What Are You Reacting To? Reactions are strong emotions (i.e. anger) that we have in response to external events (i.e. being cut off in traffic) or people.
For example, let’s say my spouse points out a mistake or corrects me in some area (this is a made up example…ha ha). I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry. Seems simple enough, a lot of us have been there. However we don’t just leave it at…I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry… we take action based on these strong emotions. In my above example, when I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry, I might lash out with some disrespectful retort or stomp off but give the silent treatment later (again, this is made up and has never happened…wink, wink).
There are a million ways we act based on how we react!
But what if, we aren’t reacting completely to the words or actions being done to us? What if there is more behind it? Knowing what is really behind my emotions could make a huge impact.
So there are a few questions to consider when we feel a strong emotion, like anger, fear, or sadness:
  1. Does this remind me of something from my past? Could you be reacting to a past trauma, a past relationship, or a controlling or dysfunctional parent?? Since our emotional brain, pairs emotions with situations and bypasses our thinking brain, it is common for us to be in a situation that our brain sees as similar to a past experience and feel the past emotion in the present. This happens without your awareness, so your perception may be that the current situation caused the emotion but it’s possible that you are reacting to something else entirely. This is very common for people who have experienced any type of trauma.
  1. What am I assuming? Could I be making some assumptions about the other person’s motives? Am I mind reading their intentions? Could they have good, loving intentions that I am assuming are evil? Am I assuming something about the future? Am I considering my assumed version of the future is truth rather than just one possible outcome? Our assumptions taint our reality. I may think that someone is intentionally being critical, mean, and is out to harm me in some way…but, perhaps they had a totally different motive. Yet, I react to what I assume the other person was thinking and feeling. And let’s be honest, we have no way of really knowing what someone else is thinking and feeling unless we ask them. Yep, don’t tend to want to do that in the middle of an unpleasant emotion. What if I did and I learned their real motive, perhaps my emotional experience changes?
  1. What am I expecting? Am I expecting this person to not notice that I have weaknesses, sins, and imperfections? Am I expecting that person to never sin or show their personal weakness and imperfections? Am I expecting that person to meet a need that no human can meet? That’s really at the heart of a lot of it, we don’t like to see our yuck and it hurts to have it pointed out. We don’t like other people’s yuck because it impacts us. We expect things from situations and relationships that just are not realistic.
Now most of the time our past, our assumptions, and our expectations happen automatically without a lot of analysis on our part. Something happens, we feel, and then we react. But, what are you reacting to? How can you slow the process down?
One big way is to learn to share your emotions instead of your action in response to the emotion.
Back to my totally made up example, my spouse points out a mistake and I say, “wow that hurt and I am starting to feel angry”.
I know what you are thinking, “people don’t talk that way…that’s only for touchy, feely, counselors”. You may be right; most people don’t talk that way. However, talking that way:
  • Brings your experience into the moment.
  • Brings your experience into the relationship.
  • It gives the other person the benefit of the doubt and allows them to say, “Oh, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought I was being helpful because I love you” (or something like that).
  • It gives people an opportunity to comfort us.
  • It gives people an opportunity to tell us their real intentions.
  • It helps distinguish this situation from past situations.
So what am I reacting to??? Worth some more thought, don’t you agree? I would love your thoughts.
If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/reacting/

Aug 15

Parenting

 mom juggle

Parenting, The Great Surprise!

Well, I became a mom almost 14 years ago (wow, when did I become so old?).  Although I love my kids and I love being mom, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, prepares you for this!

I mean how did I become the finder of all lost things, the fixer of all broken things, the chef, the maid, the clothes washer/dryer/folder, the chauffeur, the teacher, planner, organizer, hostess of many friends, etc., etc., etc.!  My favorite moment this month is when my kid wakes me up to tell me that he is awake!  Really, he couldn’t be awake by himself…I had to lose out on the bliss of sleep as well?

Thankfully, God gives us incredible love for our children and grace to cover each and every mistake.  Watching my boys transition from kids to teens is pretty cool!  I mean they can do stuff for themselves (hang in there moms of littles…it does come) and they are pretty cool to be around!

Parenting is hard and definitely not for perfectionists, pleasers, or wimps (yikes, I have a little of all of that in me)!  Nothing has grown me up more than growing as a mom with my kids!  As I reflect on years past, here is what I would tell my young mom-self (if I could):

  • Building the relationship with my kid is way more important than the condition of my house!

  • Frequently what frustrates & angers me is simply childish curiosity or accidents, so relax!

  • Read Dr. Kevin Leman, he ROCKS!

  • There is grace for me when I mess up &  grace for my kids too!

  • Children learn just as much about life when I mess up and apologize, as they do when I do it all right!

  • Rigid expectations for myself and my kids could lay a heavy burden on me than is reasonable.

  • Have fun!

  • Get sleep!

  • Learn to say no!

  • Take care of myself so I can care for others, no guilt!

  • Have friends & be the village for each other!

  • Don’t neglect my relationship with God!  He is # 1!

  • Don’t neglect my marriage, husband comes before kids!

  • Laugh often!

Moms, you’re not alone!  We got this!  There is always hope!

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/parenting/

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