Friday, August 26, 2011

Embracing Our Challenges

I think one of the hardest things to do is admit the areas of our life that are flawed and in need of rehabilitation. There are parts of my personality that I was either born with or developed over my lifetime that I wish weren’t there. There are two ways to deal with them – one works and the other doesn’t.

The first way is the path of blame; to see my issues as other people’s problems.

“It’s not me, it’s them. I don’t have to change; they need to change to accommodate my behavior.”

This attitude can be particularly evident with certain disorders. (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, etc.)

The problem with taking this tack is that people will eventually keep you at an arm’s length or farther. There is a limit to what most people are willing to put up with. Interactions will be frustrating and unsatisfying as you seek to be loved and accepted.

The other way is the path of humility. This way is harder at first, because it requires changes to many of our habits and coping methods. But eventually it leads us into deeper relationships with others who will embrace us and help us with our struggles.

For example, if I struggle with compulsive neatness, instead of demanding that others maintain my standards I might say:

“Clutter really causes me anxiety. I know it’s my issue, but anything you could do to help me keep things picked up would really be appreciated.”   

Or perhaps you have the opposite problem as with Attention Deficit Disorder. You might say:

“I have a hard time remembering to turn off lights, close doors and drawers, and put things away after I use them. I would appreciate it if you would remind me nicely if you see me forgetting to do these things.”

It really is hard to break denial and take responsibility for our shortcomings. The people who make little progress in counseling are the ones who fail to do so. They may resist because of fear, or arrogance, or contempt, or stubbornness, or just plain blindness.

But those who are able to surrender in humility will more likely find themselves laboring along with friendly travelers.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Traveling Lightly

In keeping with the theme of “simplicity”, Nan and I are foregoing checked baggage on our vacation this year and flying with only what we are permitted to carry on with us. We have pared down our list of clothes and things to the essentials, the necessary.

I thought: “What a great metaphor for entering into marriage!”

What if we could begin our married life taking with us only the things that are essential to a good marriage and leave behind the heavy baggage? How wonderful that would be. So I thought about the things that are best left behind.

  • ANGER – our pastor Mark Pickerill says that it is impossible to be in a relationship with an angry person. They will eventually kill all the love and safety. Romans 12:18 “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”
  • DEBT – It is a relationship stressor like no other. Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.”
  • RESENTMENT & UNFORGIVENESS – Leftovers from old relationships, especially family, will damage your marriage.   Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
  • ADDICTIONS – No matter what kind they are (alcohol, drugs, shopping, pornography, entertainment) they will negatively impact your marriage. Deal with them before you say “I do”.
  • UNNECESSARY POSSESSIONS – Wouldn’t it be nice not to burden your new spouse with all kinds of collected “treasures”. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a clutter-free home.

So what do we want to take with us? How about:

  • A GREAT ATTITUDE – It makes it easy to be around us
  • WARMTH – Others will feel valuable and wanted
  • KINDNESS – You will be a person who is safe to share pain and failures with
  • PATIENCE – People will not feel anxious around you
  • FRIENDLINESS – You are approachable
  • THE ABILITY TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF – People will relate to you

For all you married folks out there it is not too late to shed the negative out of your relationship and work the positive attributes in. 

It may take some real effort to reverse old behaviors and develop new skills. But like Paul’s admonishment for our faith journey, the same may apply to our marriage. 

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I am sure that you can add to both my lists. Some of these items have been mentioned in previous blog posts. So how do you rate yourself?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Money and Sobriety

Not all drunkenness comes from overindulgence in substances (drugs, alcohol). Everyone has heard the term “drunk with power”, but there are many other ways to lose our sobriety as well.

The dictionary defines sober this way:

“marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor: unhurried, calm: marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness: subdued in tone or color: showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice”

In our culture one of the most insidious addictions is the craving for money and the pursuit of “more”. The resulting fallout is the root of a lot of pain and the break-up of marriages, businesses and friendships.

A drunk does not make good decisions. Actions are not well thought out. They do not adequately consider others’ feelings or see the “big picture”, but rather live for the moment.  

I am not just talking about the obvious results of spending addictions (stuff-lust), but also the loss of relationship that comes when money and the pursuit of it becomes an all-consuming idol.

Why do I call it an idol? It is because we are constantly making sacrifices to it. I sacrifice time with my family and friends. I sacrifice my need for sleep. I sacrifice recreation time. I may sacrifice my integrity through compromise. And I sacrifice my time spent with God.

I think it is also possible to sacrifice our Christian worldview.
Matthew 16:26 (NLT) And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
I wonder how many well-intentioned parents have spent huge amounts of money to send their children to secular universities only to have them return as atheists and skeptics. The intended purpose was to prepare their sons and daughters to succeed in life financially (to have more). And so education also becomes an idol with its attendant sacrifices.

Sociologists have claimed that we have created a generation of narcissists, drunk with entitlement, many of whom cannot do much of anything useful, but believe they deserve everything. When everything does not come, they may become angry or depressed.

How can we correct this?

It is not easy. We must very thoughtfully consider whether our behavior is consistent with our values. We must become restrained in our pursuit of more. We must consider what we are modeling for our children. And yes, we must have a budget and make our wants obedient to it.   

And more importantly we must consider whether our values are consistent with God’s values and a Christian life.