Why Men Don't like counseling
After practicing counseling for over 15 years in various capacities, there is one population that is the most aversive to this thing called therapy. Men. I understand. I have a hard time telling other men that I am a counselor. Usually I get the look like, “What’s wrong with you” that quickly turns into “Is he seeing what’s wrong with me”. It is very similar to the reaction I received when I was a youth pastor. All of a sudden a person would “shape” up and go into a monologue about how they have been meaning to go to church. There is a lot to these interactions and there is more to men coming into counseling. Most of the articles I read with regard to this subject, once again tell us what is wrong with us as men. Pride, weakness, biology, you name it. To some degree, I do agree with some of the assessments but I believe there are some reasons not mentioned that are worth mentioning.
Isolation. My tendency as a man is to isolate. Even in a dove hunt this weekend I didn’t want the other guys to know what a bad shot I was, (goal: work on shotgun skills) so I camped out in a part of the field that was distant from the other guys. The funny thing about this idea, is the other men could still hear all the shots fired and the lack of dove being brought to the table. Isolation is a tricky concept because it creates the delusion that no one else will know what is really going on. Men if you’re married, your wife always knows what’s really going on! As men we don’t ask each other what is really going on, but we still know something is wrong with our buddy because shots are being fired and nothing is being produced. A man in isolation is a scary thing because there is no accountability and a limited desire to ask for help from anyone. I get it! A key to this is community and vulnerability with other men. Part of counseling is getting men to come out of isolation and tackle the skills they could use to help build community.
Personality. I have noticed over the years that certain personalities in men have an easier time accepting help, where as others do not. The Doer personalities are usually dragged into counseling with their wife and an ultimatum. The Thinker personalities have usually overanalyzed their own problems and come in because they’re stuck and depressed. The Feeler personalities have no trouble coming in and enjoy another person to talk to. Regardless, personality has a huge part in men coming in and “getting” something out of counseling. This also has a huge part in seeing counseling as something of value and worth their time and money. I think in understanding our personality as men helps us in the way we interact with our world and in relationships. If you haven’t, I recommend taking a personality test online to get a better understanding of yourself.
Therapists. I have to admit that my field is an interesting one, filled with “interesting" people. The joke in counseling is often, therapists usually go into counseling to fix themselves and find out they can make money fixing others. This isn’t too far from the truth. I have found that a lot of male therapists have a hard time relating to “manly” things and are for lack of better word, weird. For guys, talking about feelings is weird in itself but not being able to talk about sports, hunting, fishing and other “manly” things, often make therapists “not relatable” to other men. Men, there are some therapists who enjoy manly things and can talk about emotions too! Male therapists are one thing, but going in to talk to a woman can be even more difficult for guys. Some guys actually prefer talking to a female therapist because women are the “ones who talk about emotions”. Despite the hang up with therapists, men can find some valuable characteristics of empathy, listening and some one who is willing to walk through tough times with you.
If you’re a guy and you’re being drug into counseling or asked by some you love to go, don’t worry you’ll be ok. If you are in a spot where you’re stuck, sometimes asking for help no matter what the circumstance can be the best thing you can do. ( You would ask for help if you got your truck stuck in the mud... eventually) Understanding how you’ve isolated yourself, your personality and hang up with the idea of therapy can all be steps in a direction toward personal growth.
On my last post I ranted about my late night rendezvous with my crazy thoughts!! Yet again Noah (my 18month old) has taught me some valuable lessons in the wee hours of the morning!! Choices!!
Let me break it down for you... My wife and I decided to go visit some friends in Dallas Friday afternoon. That trip is about 2 hours and we left late afternoon. 1st choice! We then had a wonderful time catching up and enjoying the fellowship of our dear friends. During this time my son, who knows what he wants, decided chocolate would be a good idea because it was in plain view! Me being the good dad that I am decided, 'Heck one or two won't hurt". 2nd choice! One or two became about ten at about 8pm (past his bed time). No big deal, he's so cute I'll give him whatever he wants!! 3rd choice!! We finished our time with our friends and started the drive back to Tyler around 10:30! 4th choice!! He slept like a champ all the way home. We got home (thanks to the expert driving of my beautiful wife; I was asleep!) and put the kids to bed at around 12:30am!! Then the night began!!! 1:45 my son woke up and was wired. (my wife later told me that dark chocolate has caffeine, good to know!!) We tried the old milk trick and that lasted about 20 mins then he was up again. Then we tried rocking, lasted 20 mins! This poor kid probably had the equivalent of 15 monster drinks and we were trying to make him go to sleep. He was not having it!! There were explicative and foul language through out the night thrown at my boy and my wife. Not my finest hour. Finally at 6 am my wife brings him down to our bed and the kid passed out finally!! The whole time, poor Noah was so wired he was shaking! He slept the whole next day and so did we.
What do choices have to do with this silly event int he joys of parenting? I didn't know either until I processed it with my bride the next day! There were many events/choices leading up to the night from hades that could have been avoided! (It seems I write a lot about choices! ) We could have postponed the trip, went earlier in the day. I could have not given chocolate! We could have stayed the night...The list goes on and on! The point is not the choice I didn't make but taking ownership for the choices I did make. I couldn't blame my son for the way the night panned out. It was all our fault!!
I think a lot of people ( I'm people) have a hard time taking owner ship of the choices we make. We also have a hard time recognizing the 50 choices before the final choice that gets us in trouble. Like I said there were a lot of choices that got us to the point where we had a bad night. As in relationships there are a lot of bad choices that get us to a point of resentment and bitterness. There are even choices that can help make a better result and we still don't choose that choice.
The point of this article is starting to recognize the choices as just that, a choice. There are things we think before we act that can save a lot of misery. Once we make the choice we are the only persons responsible for that choice. It is a tough pill to swallow because I often see people who want to blame someone else! (Read Gensis about the fall of man). Like Adam, we even try to blame God. "The woman you gave me" ( I use that line a lot!). Ultimately to recognize something gives us the freedom and choice to leave it. To see we have a lot of outs before we make a death blowing or sleep depraving choice!!
Once I see the choice and the consequences of that choice, the best thing is to own it. It is a humbling thing to apologize to your children as a result of your choice, but it is something that is required for good relationship. It is even more humbling to apologize to a hurt spouse. Either way Christ life compels me to ownership and true repentance is something truly out of this world.
What choices have you made that have hurt those you loved? What ways have you blamed or skirted responsibility? Today's the day to be the owner of you and your choices! What God reveals, He heals.
Significance is Given by the Creator
So I was up last night after my 15 month old woke me up for a 2am snack. He went back to sleep but my mind was racing. At that time of night the weirdest things harken the semi conscious thinking. The thing that popped into my head this night was the Lego creation I had made with a client that evening. (Therapist enjoy play therapy too!!) The thoughts were obsessive over every detail of this creation and the pride of my accomplishment in making it was probably similar to a child bringing a similar product to a parent. I thought how clever I was to bring these pieces together and make it in such a way! Like I said bizarre thinking!
As I processed this scenario in a semi dazed state, the thought came to me ,"the significance of the creation is given to it by its creator". Who knew God was awake at these hours... but I pondered this simple revelation and wrote the thought in my "notes" on my phone. Great way to go back to sleep by the way; get it out on something (paper, phone) so your brain can process it the following day.
Simple but profound... "The significance of a creation (me) is given by the Creator (God)!!" The reason this is important is because every day I'm talking to people who are looking for significance. Whether it be through other people, possessions or title, we all want to know we have meaning and significance. In relationships, we want to know some one is obsessing over us (in a healthy way of course). Everything about us! In possessions, look what I've accomplished and what my hard work gained. Then we brag and show them to others. In title, we want to know others see us as having some sort of importance by how others view us. All in all whatever we try to find our significance in, eventually that thing fails to meet our hopes and expectations.
Back to Legos... There was nothing special in the creation that I made other than the fact I made it!! I was proud of my creation and was obsessed over it (even if it was late at night). I have similar reactions to other things I've made...(see my article of perfectionism) I said it had value because I made it. Now the next kid will come in and destroy my creation then be proud of the one he makes.
The value I have is because my Creator said I have value. This is the same Creator who spoke everything into existence. He is proud of His creation, He doesn't make mistakes. He's obsessed over every detail of us (read the Song of Solomon).
The problem is when I believe the lie my value is based on what I or others have said about me. That is always a skewed version of reality. When I realize my Creator knows me and said I have significance because I am His; I need to believe what He says is truth! The process becomes exchanging what I've said for what He says!!
So if you're up at night and can't go to sleep, remember their are gems that early in the morning!! You have significance because your Creator says you do!! He said it, that finishes it!!
There are many filters through which we see our world and others. Whether it is based on a previous experience or interpretation of the event, no two people's filters are the same. Here is where it gets tricky!!! We're constantly surrounded by people!
A couple comes in... He had intended to take his wife out on a date but never followed through. She saw it as par for the course and instead of allowing it to upset her, she gave him a pass (outwardly) but added to her filter, "my husband will never follow through". A client blows up at her kids and her husband adds to his filter, "she's just like her mom". A teen wants to go hang out with friends but his parents don't think it a good idea so he creates the filter, "my parents don't like me and don't want me to have fun." What ever the filter they distort our view of what the situation truly is.
There are several I see on a daily basis that if people can work through might have some enjoyable times with their loved ones.
1. Personality: So often we're in relationships with people who God has made so different than us. The beauty of this phenomenon is that God does that on purpose to help us focus on some one other than ourselves! When I project my personality on to another and assume their thinking the same way as I am, there is often disappointment and let down. There is a great personality test I use at www.abininglife.com. He breaks it down to three types based on the mind, will and emotion. Correspondingly that is the Thinker, Feeler and Doer. When people find out what their normal is and give themselves permission to be themselves, they then can love other for the unique way God created them.
2. Gender: Many articles have been written on how men and women are different. The funny thing is many people "know" this but few let it really sink into the way then interact with the opposite sex. We differ in so many things that it wouldn't suffice to try to make an argument here. The places I see it the most is in sex life, communication processing, relationship dynamics, task completion, and roles. A great place to start on this journey are the books "For Men only" and "For Women Only" by Shante Felman. She has some research based findings that allow couples to really laugh about their differences.
3. Past: Our past shapes every interaction we have with our life. The problem I see is when I allow the past to define me rather than merely shape me. Every statement heard, is filtered through our past and usually the reaction that comes out it has nothing at all to do with the situation. Our life is full of objective statements by people in our life. Objective means based in fact. What happens is we make it subjective which means I make it about me or what my past has told me. Our core beliefs are direct results of our past significant relationships or events in our life. I recommend people write a time line to map out their past and talk to a good counselor as to how it effects them.
4. Enemy vs Ally: Often couples come in and based on the previous filters have made their spouse out to be the enemy or worse, which helps explain why they treat them so bad. Once the bitterness and resentment set in, the other person becomes the worst possible human on the face of the planet. The irony is when people have got a divorce, they all say "I really want the other person to be happy". If we would work towards making the other person our ally then we would realize we are fighting for our marriage not because of it!!
5. Self: The biggest hurdle to jump is self- centeredness. I believe this is God's role for any relationship is to get us out of ourself and to focus on others. When I actually begin to think of how I can bless others I can be happy! There is much to be said about a self-centered person because they have a hard time addressing any of the other filters until "self" is dealt with. It takes others to reveal self, and it takes God to kill self. Even in our own attempts to deal with self, it always comes back to focus on self. As I think about God and the salvation from self, then I am free to love who he has made me to be in the middle of all my filters.
There are several more filters I've come across and I will write more in the future. These are some of the big ones I see on a daily basis. The whole point is if I can recognize where I am, then I have the freedom and choice to leave where I am. What God reveals He heals. Filters are not all bad but some just need to be updated or replaced.
Freed from need, free to Love
When we look to others for needs like Love, acceptance, security, total commitment and significance,(LASTS) we are often let down. We put an expectation on a person they were never meant to fulfill. This isn't to say they cannot meet other significant needs, but when it comes to Identity, we must find that in God. This is easier said then done when it comes to real life application but when I'm freed from need, then I'm freed to love.
So a couple comes in and they are asking each other to meet the needs that LASTS. When the other person doesn't fulfill it to level of expectation God has placed in us, there begins the descend into resentment. Bitterness and resentment do start with legitimate wants or desires but get twisted when we look to the wrong source to get those desires met. Not only do I resent the other person but they become my enemy. Everything they do is either against me or to put me down. When this occurs I no longer can truly love that person. I hear it often said, " I love the person, I'm just not in love." When asked to define this common phrase it usually boils down to some level of unrealistic expectation the other person hasn't met or that my feelings aren't aligned with truth because that person is now my enemy.
Parents bring their kids in because they are performing to the level that "our family" expects. Something is wrong with this kid because they aren't trying hard enough. Kids will get exasperated because they cannot perform to the level their parents "need" them to. Now there is nothing wrong with making good grades or performing well in sports, but when the kid has jumped through all the hoops and it still isn't enough, more often than not, the parents have made their kids their "gods". I need my kids to give me identity and worth. Both kids and parents feel the strain and don't have a sense of freedom that comes from a loving relationship that is freed from need (LASTS).
When I free my spouse or loved one from need then I'm freed to give freely from those needs being met in God. How does God meet these needs when I have legitimate needs in this world? I believe it is a two edged sword in the sense that we cannot get eternal needs met from others, but God meets those needs in and through others. The epistles often talk about how the Church functions as a body tied together with each member having a specific function. The problem is when an eye is asking the ear what it needs to do to be an eye, when the ear doesn't know. But they both depend on each other to make the entire system work. When one is trying to function apart from the others, it doesn't serve its true function. When I know who I am and Whose I am, I'm freed to be myself and let others be uniquely themselves. I can't go to them to get my identity, but as I accept my Identity as from my creator, I can play my part in making the body work. We then by working together meet each others needs.
The same is true for marriages, kids, friends, parents, etc. When I recognize the unique function and Identity of that person in Christ, we can work interdependently on each other without compromising God's design for our lives. In fact when I free the other person from need to be my "god" then they can take their proper place in complimenting my part and their part in the body of Christ. So God, in and through them, as them, can bless me and meet my needs.
The moments I feel most free is when I'm not looking to my wife, my kids, my job, my possessions, my status to give me worth and value. The moments I feel most free is when I can freely chose to love them because they no longer have to meet any unrealistic expectation I may put on them to be my "god".
Day to day is learning experience and a choice in expecting others to be my god or getting my worth from my Source in God! Today chose freedom!!
Cup of Soup
After some personal discovery and working with clients, I'm amazed at what we'll settle for instead of the pursuit and blessing of our marriage. We settle for a cup of soup instead of the blessing! Hebrews 12: 14-17 says this,
"14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears."
This is a passage that I have skimmed over in the past but something stuck out to me after some personal struggles. I allow a root of bitterness to take hold in my heart and then use bitterness/anger to justify my behavior. Esau was the oldest son of Issac and brother of Jacob. He had the Abrahamic blessing because of that position which was, " through your seed all the nations will be blessed" (speaking of Christ) . He was the man's man and was in charge of hunting and providing for the family. Jacob on the other hand was the stay at home guy who was bitter his brother had the blessing instead of him. So he constantly looked for an opportunity to get it. His opportunity came when his brother came in from hunting and was hungry. Jacob being the good homebody that he was, had some soup cooking and now he had his opportunity. His brother sold his birthright/ blessing for a cup of that soup because of his physical need. Jacob now had the birthright, but that wasn't enough. When his father Issac was dying, Jacob tricked his dad into thinking he was Esau and yet again Esau lost what was his. Jacob then flees for his life because Esau is ready to kill his brother. The ironic part about this story was it all started with Esau not seeing the value of what he had but he quickly turned it into bitterness against his brother.
This story is part of the epic tale of God's great pursuit of us. He seems to be saying we do not see the value of the blessings he gives to us and we quickly turn our decision to give it away into bitterness toward our spouse, others or God. I see this on a daily basis in counseling where a couple develops bitterness toward each other and forget the blessing they have in each other. I think like Jacob, the enemy is waiting for his opportunity to take advantage of a "need" we have, to literally steal our blessing. So often people don't feel their emotional, physical, or mental "needs" are being met so they turn to another. Whether its another person, possession, status, drug, and even "good" things like church, a person gives up his/her blessing in order to fulfill his/her need.
My journey started with a 1998 Ford Expedition that was generously given to me by my parents because my 4runner had blown a head gasket. God had blessed me with no car payment and a sense of financial blessing. As shallow as it is, my only problem with the car was it was baby blue. From the day my 4runner had gone out I was looking to get a truck and my beautiful wife and I had decided at an appropriate time I could get my truck but that time could wait because we had the Expedition. This obsession went on for a year until I drove past the Toyota dealership and on a calculated adventure ended up "test driving" some cars. I found a deal (on a truck I didn't even like) and against my wife's counsel bought it. I realized what I had done and after only owning the truck for a few hours drove back to the dealership to find out my Expedition was already gone! I plead for it with tears, almost like Esau! They said I could come back the next day and find something different. I found a 4 runner and that is a whole different article, but yet again my vanity caused me to give up blessings in my marriage.
Now the scary thing is, this is a very common story I hear in my office. Men or women making decisions against the wishes of their spouse. Now I realize I gave up the blessing of truly getting the truck I wanted and inviting my wife to be a part of the process. I gave up the blessing of peace between us, the blessing of unity in finances, the blessing of trust, and the blessing of security. The new 4runner has been a constant source of contention and bitterness for both my wife and I but I see God's refining process through out. I do believe he uses things in our life to conform us to the image of the son. I would have never imagined it would have come in the form of a car.
What blessing are you giving up for a temporary "need"? A cup of soup is gone in the blink of an eye but a blessing has been given to us for a lifetime. Is this one thing worth my marriage or worth my ministry? There is hope for our poor decisions when truth is revealed. When God reveals the attitude of our hearts, he heals in a deep way so that we can receive blessings from him. He heals us so that we can see even the worst of things as blessings from Him. Eventually Esau and Jacob do come back together and God restores but there was a lot of turmoil in the process. It is a hard journey to start reconciliation after a blessing has been given up, but it takes ownership on all parties to see their contribution.
When I was young, I remember going to summer camps and having a great time. The dilemma I had being an introvert was that it took me a while to warm up to the idea of being away from my parents and being in a totally new environment. As the week went on, I warmed up the the idea and I began to participate in the activities and have a good time. Thanks to the counselors doing their jobs and the quality of camp, I have fond memories of those summer weeks. As I got older I realized the quicker I started the participation, the more I enjoyed the experience. Whether that was camp, school, youth group, jobs and almost every area of life.
After having the conversation with a few people, I began to realize we have a choice when it comes to abiding in Christ and experiencing the abundant life. A lot of times we feel as though we don't have what it takes to be a good Christian or the list of things to do in order to be one, is daunting. With that mindset a lot of Christians miss the freedom in the moment by moment that God has given to us. Active participation begins with the subtle shift in thinking that starts with Identity. When I know who I am and whose I am I can begin to live in a "from" mindset instead of a "for" mindset. If I'm in Christ and Christ is in me, I now have full acceptance "from" God. When His life has become my life I can now love from that life living in me. Religion tells us the opposite that in order to get God's acceptance, we have to work "for" it. In order to be a good Christian we have to work "for"it. "Do this, don't do that". Many have tried and many have failed to work "for" God's acceptance and that usually ends in Christian burnout. Others continue to work "for" God's acceptance and their pride tells them they can do it.
Active participation in the life of Christ within us starts at a point of dependence. I couldn't even save myself, what makes me think I can save myself daily. This is what Paul's argument was toward the Galatians. "Who has bewitched you". Some one had tricked them into thinking they could complete the work God had begun. That is a "for" mentality. The difference is subtle but what grace tells us is that it began in faith and it is carried to completion by faith. It is God who does the saving once and for all. To rest in this glorious truth and the "from" mentality allows me live daily in dependence on God.
The reason I say that it is active participation is it is the same as the summer camp. I can choose to go through my life going through the motions or blaming my past, others, or circumstance for my lack of living. Or I can choose to abide each moment. That takes activity just like camp takes activity. I have to be willing to trust those in charge that they have the best for me. In the same way when I rest in who I am and whose I am, which frees me to trust that because I'm working "from" God's acceptance each day and circumstance is orchestrated to prove just that. As I grow and rest, I become more active in the participation in the Life of Christ with in me.
To be continued...
Rooted and Grounded in Love
Ephesians 3: 14-18 says:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Speaking on the topic of love, I think I see a common identity message in people that they are somehow unlovable. Maybe it was a message they received growing up from parents, friends or that first breakup. They then carry that ID into everything they do. It creates a fear that people will abandon them, find them out, and then once again prove their fear that they are in fact unlovable.
This passage in Ephesians is huge for people who believe themselves to be unlovable at any level. At the root of any behavior there is a belief or Identity message that is driving it. If someone acts out in anger there is usually a root to that. If someone is depressed or anxious there is a root to that. It is much like a fruit tree. We know the tree by its fruit. But what makes the fruit is the root. If there is a root of being unlovable, my anger is the fruit of that root. And in turn I push every one away with my anger and prove my fear. Most therapist try to cut the limb off of anger. The problem I find in pruning is that usually where I cut of one limb, two more sprout. So we get rid of the anger but drinking and depression soon fill its spot. The best way to get rid of the fruit is to dig up the tree and replant.
That's why this picture is so important. The verse is written in the present tense that means it is true now. You have a new root in Christ and that is you are loved!! I might not feel like it, but the problem with lying emotions is that they take a long time to catch up with truth. The reality is that you are loved!! The Christian walk is not trying to become something you're not (holy, spiritual, righteous), it discovering who you already are in Christ!!! As Christ dwells in my heart I begin to comprehend the full extent of God's love for me! And like I said, the fruit reveals the root! The root of being loved means the fruit is loving myself and others. Love then frees me to be myself and enjoy my creator in the relationship He has with me!
Love Frees to take Responsibility
There is something that every human avoids like the plague and that is taking responsibility. I have had clients get up and walk out of my office when we get to the point of taking responsibility. (granted we were dealing with anger!) I believe I am the expert of blaming some one else for my decisions or lack of decisions. This gets us into all kinds of trouble in our relationships, jobs, community; you name it. There are many elements of responsibility but what I'm finding is that when I know that I'm loved and will be loved after epic screw ups, I am then free to own what I've done.
At a very young age we innately know how to blame others. My 2 year old before her sister was born colored on the wall and said that Kate had done it. I couldn't help but laugh, yet in the same sense she started very young at what we all eventually become very good at; blaming people who are not to blame or can't be blamed. I am the only one in control of my actions, thoughts and feelings. Now every behavior I do has some sort of benefit to it or else I'll stop doing that behavior. There is a lot of benefit in not taking responsibility. It justifies my anger, guilt, fears, choices, thoughts, feelings the list goes on and on. Responsibility takes owning what I've done and dealing well with the ramifications of my actions. It also takes listening to the people I've hurt and making a choice to change course of action.
Now I think that the before mentioned has be stated a lot and can be generally accepted. The difference I'm finding is that when love is involved, it frees me not only to take full responsibility but also reason to work through the consequences of my actions. 1 Corinthians 13 is a good description of love.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
In 1 John 4:15- 18 the author says that "God is love".
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
I often have my clients do and exercise where they insert "God" into the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 every where it says "love" and really get a new emotional concept of God. When we know how loved we are and who it is that is loving us, we are free to take responsibility for whatever we've done, said or thought. The good news is that when I take responsibility I don't have to keep beating myself up for it. I confess it (agree that its not who I really am, as a child of God) and move forward in love.
I've seen this reality work itself out in so many relationships and they are great opportunities for us to express this. As I invite Christ (love) into my marriage, my parenting, my work environment, my church, to live in me, through me, as me, then I am free to take responsibility for how I treat those other people. This reality is true in all areas of my mental health as well. As I invite Christ (love) into my anger, addictions, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, then I begin to recognize the root of the things that brought me to that place and the freedom to own it and allow Christ to heal it.
This is only the preface on this topic, but the challenge is then to receive love, take responsibility, then give love so that others can become free as they begin to own their choices, actions, thoughts and feelings.
Struggle Reveals the Identity
Often people wonder why they are uncomfortable with certain behaviors, thoughts, emotions and choices that in essence are "wrong/bad". In the same sense something may appear to be "good" but the motives behind the action make the person uncomfortable. Now there is a lot to the idea of conscience but I believe it goes much deeper than that, especially for people who believe in Christ. I think the fact that there is morality in this world shows that God has given man a conscience, but I have seen it at a deeper level that the Holy Spirit is doing His job and "convicting the world of its sin". The believer, especially in sin, is often very convicted or as I like to say, "convinced" what he/she is doing is not beneficial.
Often I tell my clients that the inner struggle they have reveals that whatever they are doing/thinking is not really them. The fact that the Holy Spirit lives in a Christian means that any thing contrary to the Spirit will make them uncomfortable. This is great news!!! The fact that I have a struggle with sin means 1: its no longer who I am, 2: I can chose not to continue to do it. Gal 5: 1 says "It is for freedom sake that Christ has set you free, therefore no longer submit yourself to the yolk of slavery. " Ultimately we are already free and when we become in bondage to anything, good or bad, then the Spirit with in us convinces us that this bondage is not for me. This is a life long process but the struggle reveals the identity!
Romans 6 in the Message puts a unique perspective on this in the way they translate the first part of the chapter. He says that because we have been baptized with Christ, our death with Him means that we have died to sin. (Gal 2:20) But he goes on further to say that our life, when we are raised, is now completely fully in Christ. The part I like is that he says that sin is now a foreign language to us, because we have a new life in Christ and our mother tongue is Christ's. When sin speaks to us, we don't understand it because it is not who we are.
When I was in Costa Rica, I got a head ache trying to keep up with the Spanish. I took some Spanish in High School so I knew enough to get the basics, but the conjugations, sentence structure, and speed blew my mind. Over time I was able to understand it better, but I was only there for a week. People have said that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself into that culture. I think this concept is very true for believers as well. When be are born again in the Spirit there is a new passion and we all of a sudden have a new language. The things we used to do, give us a headache and the very thought of them gives us a headache. The struggle reveals the Identity. But over time we immerse ourselves in the old ways of thinking and living and convince ourself that it really is our language because we can once again somewhat understand the language. The awesome reality is that even if we become fluent in a language, it is not our native tongue. So as I get back to speaking the language I was born into, then I find myself being who I was born to be. After that trip, it was great to hear English again. I know that this example has its limitations, but the idea is sin no longer suits me and it is no longer my native tongue!! In Christ I have a new language and a new Identity!!
To be continued....
Zach Herrin has a heart to see people experience true freedom in Christ