Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moving From Me to We

Sometimes one of hardest challenges for a newly married couple is adjusting to the loss of individual status. Prior to the wedding there were still a lot of decisions that could be made without regard to any other input. However, once we say “I DO” we move to another life position. In other words we move from “I and me”, to “we and us”.

Hopefully during the dating and engagement process we have been gradually making that shift as we see the possibility and then the near certainty that we are going to join our lives. By the time we finish wedding planning we should have had a lot of experience in this new “we thinking”.

But sometimes this is a difficult transition. I often hear the phrase “my wedding”, and “my honeymoon” and other similar phrases. In every case it does not mean that there is a problem brewing in this area – but it bears checking out. Will this continue into the marriage with “my car, my money, my house, my kids etc.”?

In a healthy marriage the “me and you” thinking takes a backseat to “us” thinking. Most decisions are now joint decisions. Compromising is the order of the day. Taking turns is gracefully accepted. Reasonable self-sacrifice is expected. This does not mean that we lose ourselves. There is still a part of us that is separate from each other.

What it does mean is that we trade our full independence for partial autonomy.

For less (emotionally) mature individuals, this shift can be especially difficult. There may be some leftover childhood issues to deal with, or some core personality traits that need to be surrendered to God’s authority. When things have been forcibly taken from you, it may be painful to share power.

We want to bring the healthiest possible self to a new relationship and this may require some rigorous self-examination and correction. But the rewards of that process are manifold.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Addicted To What?!

The other day I was waiting at a stoplight. The light turned green but the car in front of me didn’t move, so I gave a tap on the horn. The car began moving very slowly and I managed to pass on the left. I looked over and the driver was texting! Later that day I was in a small parking lot and the same type of thing happened. A car was blocking our lane and our ability to move. The woman in the car – texting! I won’t even mention the amount of times I have almost been run into on foot while someone was texting and not looking where they were going.

New statistics show that the risk of a car accident is equal for driving drunk or texting while driving. Only there is no Breathalyzer test to be administered or an open container to be found.

How about the relational fallout? How many times have you seen people eating a meal, while at least one person is texting, not engaged in the live conversation? We are not fully living in the present circumstances when our mind is engaged elsewhere.

And even the text communication is at risk as well. Only 7% of a complete communication is the actual words we use. The other 93% is composed of our tone and our body language – the greater percentage being our body language. That is why we try to only counsel people via Skype video (as an alternative to in-office), rather than telephone. The risk of a miscommunication is greater in voice communication only, and greatest in a text only message.

I believe that for some people, dependence on their cell phone has reached the level of a full-blown addiction. Try taking away someone’s cell phone and you may experience the same kind of rage that you would encounter from separating an alcoholic from his/her bottle. This is particularly evident with adolescents.

Try taking this little quiz. If you can answer yes to all these questions, you are probably OK.

1. I do not text while driving.
2. I can put my cell phone on silent while spending face-time with people.
3. I turn off my cell phone during church
4. I don’t text while engaged in a live conversation with others.
5. I can wait until later to read texts received while spending time with friends and family.

I hope you did well!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Healing A Hurt

Forgiveness is a word that conjures up a lot of different emotions for most people – particularly depending whether you are on the giving side or the receiving side of the equation. We are told that God requires us to forgive one another, but are there conditions that must be present?

We say that holding on to un-forgiveness or resentments is like swallowing poison but expecting the other person to die. Perhaps in His mercy, God does not want us to suffer the pain of this condition -- and that is why He requires forgiveness. When the forgiveness needed is for oneself, it is particularly meaningful.

Does forgiveness require reconciliation? 

The answer is emphatically NO! Reconciliation is a choice and certain conditions need to be met in order to be reconciled.

First of all we need a sincere apology – we need to know that the person is truly sorry and does not intend to hurt us in this way again. Then there is making amends. Is the offending person willing to make things right in any way possible? Can we be confident that the person will make both the attitude and behavioral changes necessary? If so then reconciliation might be possible.

Lastly, an authentic apology is not an account or an appeasement.

  • An account is just admitting what we did – anyone will do that especially if we have been “caught”.

  • Appeasement is reciting what we know the other person wants to hear in an effort to stop them from being mad at us or taking punitive steps.

  • An apology is heartfelt (they understand the depth of wound they inflicted), and as stated above carries with it the intention of change.

The good news is that real healing can take place when sincere apologies are met with an attitude of forgiveness. So where do you stand? Is there an action step that you need to take?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crisis or Chronic?

It is very typical for someone to come to counseling when in a crisis situation. That is the time when a person has the most ‘felt need’ to seek some relief from pain or fear or loss.
But the other condition under which people will seek help is when stuck in a chronic situation.

A crisis is defined as: a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life. It usually has the condition of being immediate and time limited.

On the other hand a chronic condition is defined as: continuing a long time or recurring frequently.

Both of these situations have the potential to cause great pain in a person’s life. And both of them have an additional risk of generating feelings of hopelessness.

When a crisis is not handled well it could turn into a chronic situation. This might occur if we do not face a situation head on, and allow it to get worse over time. That is why it is important to grieve losses, and to refrain from burying feelings, except as a temporary protection until we have enough strength to process the loss.

We can even have both conditions present at the same time, when a chronic condition erupts into periodic crises. For example, I can be chronically late, but when I miss an essential airline flight it might become a crisis.

  • Not all crises turn into losses, but all crises generate anxiety and fear and can cause secondary problems. In a relationship a secondary problem might be having to deal with the hurt feelings I caused because I got angry and impatient in my anxiety. In my personal life I might deal with a particular crisis by throwing money at it, only to have to face the resulting financial stress when the bills become due.

  • Of the two situations, a chronic situation is usually much more difficult to deal with. Behavior patterns may have become deeply embedded  Anger may have had plenty of time to develop into hardened resentment. Hopelessness may have raised its ugly head, obscuring our belief in the promises and comfort of God. And above all it might require a great deal more time and effort to break free of its grip.

We sometimes have the ability to hold off or prepare for a crisis – but more often we have the opportunity to avoid chronic problems by dealing with them as they come and before they become large.

Just something to think about.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


When we think about grief and grieving, we often think of the death of someone close to us. But that is not the only kind of grief that we experience. As a matter of fact we can go through grief when we experience any kind of loss – and the more significant the loss, the deeper the grief.

Some of the losses are tangible, as in the death of a person or pet or the loss of a job or relationship. But other losses are less tangible, like the loss of security, or our youth, or our mental sharpness. All of these losses matter, and if not dealt with, they can build up in us and take their toll.

Sometimes we think we shouldn’t feel these losses as deeply as we do, or feel them at all. But this is not a helpful attitude. Neither minimizing nor denying their existence will offer release. Only in admitting the pain and moving through it will you be able to be free of the hold it may have over your life.   

Grief must be shared. It cannot be released in isolation. You must seek a safe, compassionate person or group of persons who are willing to walk with you through the pain. Walking with a person means doing more listening and less talking. It takes maturity to do that well, but what a gift it is. James 1:19 says to be quick to listen and slow to speak (and slow to anger). How appropriate that is when applied to grief.

The traditional steps of grief are: Denial(of the loss), Anger(at the loss), Bargaining(to restore the loss), Depression(at the weight of the loss) and Acceptance(of the loss) – mostly in that order and mostly applicable to all forms of loss. Hence, the acronym DABDA. 

I have found that many people will often cycle between anger and depression. The cycle goes something like this: the inability to reverse the loss leads to anger which leads to a feeling of powerlessness that results in depression. Then a person may become angry at the depression until the powerlessness over the loss once again overtakes them and returns them to a state of depression. 

If we grieve in a healthy way, we eventually accept the loss and move on. If we do not, we may find ourselves stuck. At this point it might be wise to seek additional help.

All of us experience losses of different magnitudes. If we haven’t yet experienced a significant loss, rest assured it will happen if we live long enough. The goal is to be prepared to accept and give comfort as needed, and to develop resiliency by grieving well.