Friday, May 27, 2011


I wonder if you are like me when it comes to certain issues?  Do you assume that there are “givens” when facing trials in your life?  These might be accepting limitations or perhaps doing some negative labeling of self (stupid, lazy, inadequate).  But did you ever consider challenging those assumptions?

ANTS – Automatic Negative Thought(S) may be the problem.

We all have them – those fleeting thoughts that we just accept as true. But are they really true? Or could they be half true, or actually lies? Where do they come from?

My ANTS generally attack me in my self-worth (not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, attractive enough, etc.) If I’m not careful, I end up with an attitude of defeat (Why try? Don’t bother. It won’t do any good.)

All of our beliefs are gathered from our life experience. We collect them from parents and teachers and friends and self-evaluation. After a while these beliefs become second nature to us. We no longer question their validity. But circumstances in our life change and what may have been true at one time may no longer apply.

For instance, as children we are all relatively powerless and dependent on others. If those that we depend on are consistent and trustworthy, then we probably judge our world as ‘safe’. But what if that is not the case? What if I was raised in a very chaotic environment? Then I might believe that people and circumstances are not to be relied upon. If I carry that belief with me into adulthood, I will likely be fearful of the unfamiliar. My ANT will be: “You are not safe.”

But I am no longer dependent, I am no longer powerless – things are different. I am able to protect myself to a great degree. My ANT is not true. So what do I do?

I must intentionally capture these ANTS and wring any deception from them. I must dispute my assumptions by shining the light of truth on them. I cannot just reject them out of hand, because they may be partially true. Only reality is helpful here.

When I become aware of one of these ANTS, I can dispute it on the spot, or I can write it down to deal with later. I might have to ask someone I trust to help me break it down. But I must not leave them uncontested or they may rule my life.

From a spiritual standpoint Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) – when we accept lies as truth, we are agreeing with him. This makes me uncomfortable, to say the least.

So my goal, and I hope yours, is to become a major league ANT killer.

In simple form:

1. Capture the ANTS

2. Examine for any false belief and replace with the whole truth

3. Tell myself the truth every time the ANT comes into my head.

John 8:32 (New International Version)
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fairness In Relationships

I had always thought that fairness shouldn’t be a big deal in relationships. After all, aren’t we supposed to be self-sacrificing and willing to suffer for our mate? Aren’t we called to prefer one another in love, and give 100%? Won’t God be proud of us now, and “even the score” one day? Well – yes. But is that sufficient for a vitalized relationship now? I'm not quite so sure anymore.

There are certainly times in our relationship when things are going to be out of balance. Sometimes it’s for a day, or a week, or even a season. There was a time when Nan went back to school and I carried most of the financial load, and perhaps more of the domestic load than I was used to. But there was also a time when I spent some time “on the road” as a musician and Nan was in charge of everything at home (while still working a job).  We took turns and it felt relatively fair.

But what about couples that are out of balance for extended periods of time?

I have seen many couples where one of the partners has carried the load both at work and at home for years. Even if the circumstances seem beyond the control of the non-working partner, resentment creeps into the picture eventually and erodes the intimacy. When the imbalance is not beyond the control of the slacker, the relationship may take a much quicker dive. This is particularly evident when one of the partners is trying to “find him/herself” or chasing a dream or elusive career, but doing little at home to help to carry the load.

Of course, part of this scenario is perceptual. I may judge the situation as unbalanced, but you may not. It makes no difference. If I see it as unfair, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed or I am likely to get angry or withdraw. We might need a third party to give us perspective.

The most common battles of fairness that I have seen are:

  • Housework – both work jobs, but one does the majority or the domestic chores.
  • Finances – one spends more money on themself than the other does.
  • Finances – one partner exerts little effort trying to contribute financially, even though the agreement was to create an egalitarian relationship.
  • Time – one has a lot more free time than the other.
  • Childcare – one takes much more responsibility for raising the children.

The Bible warns us that “love does not keep score”, but also advises us not to be engaged in vain or selfish pursuits.  

So what is your ‘fairness meter’ saying these days?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Never Too Late

I woke up the other morning from a dream with this thought:

“You have been living most of your life with a survivor mindset.”

It was a disturbing realization and I really didn’t know what to do with it. I wondered how my life had been altered because of it. As I thought, I came up with a few things that I know to be true.

I have not been as generous with my time, talent, or treasure as I could have been. I have often been pretty guarded emotionally even when unnecessary. I have not taken reasonable risks in many areas of my life – reasonable, not reckless.  

I have allowed a fear of what might be to overpower the possibility of what could be. As a result I may have traded ‘the best’ for simply good or adequate.

Somewhere along the way growing up I acquired the belief that the world is dangerous and unpredictable. I surmised that most losses are too hard to endure and therefore must be minimized at all costs. A wise man must constantly look out for potential trouble and manage it as effectively as possible. In short, life was about surviving, not thriving.

Although I can trace the origin of these beliefs pretty readily, I cannot overcome them so easily. They are locked down at a deep level within me and all the rational self-talk I can muster is frequently not sufficient to ameliorate the fears.

I would love to tell you that as a result of this awareness I have come up with a great solution – five easy steps to success. But I have not. Instead, I realize that I will need to monitor myself for unreasonable fear responses and subject them to the truth of the Word and the wisdom of others. It is a humbling process, because it may be in direct opposition to my feelings.

I do not think I was given that piece of information in my dream as a rebuke, but rather as a compassionate gift of tenderness, an invitation to release some of the weight I have been carrying around for years. Perhaps we are never too old to grow, and it's never too late to heal. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Death of Marriage?

I was really saddened to see an article from a (married) major mental health professional agreeing with an actress who claims that marriage is a dying institution (as if the Hollywood types are the experts on marriage or committed relationships). He gave four reasons why he thought this was true.

1. The government is involved and shouldn’t be. It makes marriage too confining.

2. Oral contraceptives make marriage unnecessary to express our sexuality – so we can move on when the passion in a relationship fades.

3. Marriage deprives people of being “chosen” on a daily basis.

4. Because of the failure of so many marriages, we are really a bunch of hypocrites mocking our vows.

I thought about this list for a while and realized what a narcissistic bunch of reasons these were. Basically he is saying:

 “I don’t want anything or anybody to control ME or tell ME what I can or can’t do, even when the consequences of my choices may damage others or society.”

He also cites marriage as one of two top stressors in 90% of the people he sees in counseling. Hello? People seek counseling because they are in pain. The conclusion then, is that stress is bad and to be avoided? My job causes me stress. Finances cause me stress. People I care about cause me stress. I could go on.

I suppose that if I believe that I am at the center of the universe and everything revolves around me, then this might be good logic. Anything that blocks my wishes, wants and goals is inherently bad. But then by definition all relationships are bad – because I will be opposed at times in any human relationship I form.

I thought further about this. If marriage is unnecessary or objectionable, why do those who have been married and divorced tend to get remarried? They have already been through the pain of a hard marriage and divorce and yet they choose to do it again.

Perhaps it is like childbirth. There is something wonderful about it that transcends the pain and trouble. And so women are willing to face another birth fully knowing what lies ahead. 

Obviously this is not an argument for multiple marriages, but rather a refutation of the silly notion that marriage is not wanted or valuable to the vast majority of folks. Our pre-married classes are always full as are our relationship classes. Why? Despite perhaps having come from broken homes or painful backgrounds, the desire for a secure committed relationship remains. It is not pain free. It is just worth it. 

And most of us know that.

Song of Solomon 4: 10-12

10 Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride.
   Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.
11 Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride.
   Honey and milk are under your tongue.
   Your clothes are scented like the cedars of Lebanon.
12 You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride,
      a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.