Have I Really Forgiven?

Forgiveness.jpgWhen I was reading my book Hope Focused Marriage Counseling written by Everett Worthington last night I came across something about incomplete forgiveness. It talked about how sometimes we think we have forgiven someone but we might not have fully forgiven. What it talked about next really got my attention and got me thinking. Do I feel a sense of happiness or satisfaction when I find out that something bad happened to or went wrong for someone I have “forgiven”? This was tough for me to read and really convicted me. Here I am thinking I’ve been obedient and have forgiven specific people who have hurt me, yet reading this made me realize I really haven’t.

Think about someone who has caused you pain that you think you have forgiven. If you found out tomorrow that something went wrong for him or her would you be happy about it? or would you feel compassion? My answer to this question definitely did not thrill me. To be honest with you, after reading this my initial thought was how in the world can I truly and completely forgive? What I realized was that forgiveness is a choice, one that takes purposeful action and God’s grace.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

This verse tells me that I am to lay down my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking. When I feel a sense of satisfaction at the expense of someone I claim to have forgiven I am not obeying this command. Additionally, as I mentioned before, If I have truly forgiven someone I should feel kindness and compassion towards him or her, especially when things go wrong. This can truly seem like an impossible thing to do, which is why I must rely on God’s continuing mercy and grace to accomplish this.

We have to remind ourselves of the forgiveness and grace that we received from God through Christ in order to offer this to another. One thing I have found helpful when I am lacking forgiveness is to pray for those I can’t seem to forgive. That God would bless them, encourage them, and heal them as He has healed me. Asking God to help me forgive is also something that has made a huge difference for me. Praying for strength to forgive doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you admit that you need God to accomplish such a difficult task. I’m still on my journey of forgiveness and hope that this encourages you on yours as well.

Advertisements

Four Ingredients for Improving your Marriage Connection

Marriage

Recently while learning about Attachment Theory I came across something referred to as PACE. It is basically a parenting technique for effectively nurturing your child’s secure attachment bond. PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. The funny thing is, while I found this really helpful in raising my daughter, I also found it to be a helpful method in improving my connection with my spouse. I have found that implementing these four things in my marriage has really improved our connection.

Below i’ll go into more detail as to how and why these four ingredients have proven useful in deepening my connection with my hubby.

Playfulness: To me this one is huge! I absolutely love it when my husband is goofy and works hard to make me laugh, doing silly things he would never in a million years allow anybody but me and our two year old daughter to see. We can honestly have so much fun! Its nice to be serious at times, but I’ve found that being playful and having fun really improves our connection and friendship. We have recently purchased a super nintendo and are currently working on beating Donkey Kong (in extreme moderation, of course). This has brought us back to our childhood years and has been a blast! It might seem childish, but enjoying this activity together and laughing our heads off at my weird faces and body movements while playing (as if me moving around will help diddy make his impossible jump..) has been so much fun. Enjoying playful, not so grown up, activities can do wonders for your marriage! Stop being such an adult all the time and have some fun!

Activity: Think of a playful and fun activity you can do with your spouse and try it out this week. I don’t know, maybe its going to the park and swinging as high as you possibly can, seeing who can jump off the furthest in mid air! Get creative!

Acceptance: There are no two people who are exactly alike. This is true for me and my husband and its true for you and your spouse too. Accepting each other for who we are and not always trying to change each other has been, i’ll admit a challenge, but has ultimately strengthened our relationship and has helped us to see each other with a new appreciation. I am not talking about being accepting of unhealthy and harmful habits or behaviors, as these types of things need to be changed. I am talking about differences in personality that were placed there by God himself for a beautiful purpose. I am much more sensitive and understanding than my husband and much less organized. Sometimes my sensitivity can be a bit much for him to handle. God has used my sensitivity and understanding to enable me to counsel and support hurting people. My husband is so organized! He notices every single little thing, while I am oblivious to just about every small detail. I never put things back in the same place I got them and I never even notice. His organization makes him an incredible leader of our home and enables him to accomplish so much. Early on we struggled to accept these differences, and others like them. After time this has become much easier and has been a huge relief. Allow your spouse to be who God created him or her to be, rather than trying to make him or her become just like you. This lifts the heavy burden trying to change each other creates.

Activity: Make a list of all the traits in your spouse that have irritated you. Beside each trait  write down something positive about it and how it makes your spouse a better person.

Curiosity: I love it when my husband is interested in what I have going on, especially when I know its not really his thing. This shows me that he is curious about me and my interests, not just concerned with what he has going on. Even though I don’t really understand business, I love hearing my husband explain it to me and tell me about his ventures. While business may not be my thing, my husband is, so what he loves I love! I know how much it means to him when I ask him how his day went and genuinely listen! Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. Ask your spouse to teach you something new that he or she loves to do. I love it when my husband seems curious about the new theory I’m studying or book on emotional bonding I’m reading. Believe me! I know for a fact that this isn’t his thing, so having him intently listen to me  go on and on about it really means a lot to me!

Activity: Think of something your spouse loves to do and get curious about it. Ask him or her to teach you something new and truly engage.

Empathy: Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The difference between empathy and sympathy is that sympathy involves your own feelings and empathy involves the feelings of another. Early on in my marriage I was so insecure! Whenever I noticed my husband was bothered I immediately assumed it was something I did and I sought out to fix it, all so I could feel better about it. I wasn’t really concerned with how he was feeling, but rather with how it made me feel. This was definitely hurtful and caused more issues. When you are less focused on yourself you are better able to focus on the other person and what he or she is going through, feeling what he or she is feeling. Pay attention to your spouses facial expressions and body language. It can be easier than you think to notice something is off. When you notice something is bothering him ask what is going on and really focus on paying attention to what he  is feeling, trying to imagine how it must feel yourself. Learn how to listen and not just offer solutions. Say something like, “wow this must be so difficult for you, I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” Instead of, “well maybe if you tried (solution) it would get better.” Its not all about the negatives either. When your spouse is excited or encouraged experience this with him or her as well! Rejoicing and sorrowing together is a huge connection builder in a marriage.

Activity: Practice this week looking for cues that signal your spouses feelings. Try to experience and understand these feelings and let him or her know about it. Express how much you care and understand what he or she is experiencing.

 

Building an Emotional Bond With your Spouse

IMG_9801I’m sure a lot of men and women would read this title and run for the hills. In fact I used to be the woman who was shut down emotionally and closed off to others. It wasn’t until my husband came around and attempted to engage my emotional side (over and over again I might add) that something changed. His persistence, patience, and secure love is what finally helped me to open up and break down the walls that were blocking me from emotionality. I have so much thanks to offer my husband for the emotionally secure and in touch woman that I am today. Building this emotional bond with my husband was critical for our marriage to thrive and is critical for yours too.

Think about the scripture on love below, could any person accomplish this without a secure emotional bond with his or her spouse? I would argue that he or she could not. Read it with me. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭(NKJV)‬‬

Doing all of these things becomes possible when coupled with a secure emotional bond with your spouse. Think about the way you love God, you have a close emotional bond with Him because He is consistently faithful to you, He loves you unconditionally, He doesn’t give up on you when you fail, and He is always there to listen to and attend to your hurting or joyful heart. This is what building an emotional bond looks like, and is how my husband helped me go from avoidant and closed off to emotion to secure and open to sharing my deepest needs, fears, and dreams with him, knowing full well that he would be there to listen and care with a genuine heart. I’m telling you this to offer encouragement. If your spouse won’t open up to you emotionally and tends to shut down, through offering continuous support, patience, and understanding you can help to break down the walls of fear they’ve built and become emotionally open to you, as my husband did with me. Just don’t give up. Do you offer this to your spouse? If not, it’s likely that you are lacking an emotional bond.

So how exactly can you form or reform this bond with your spouse to strengthen your marriage and connection?

Be present with your spouse: something I see causing so much damage to marriages today is technology. How many shows are you watching? How many games are you playing? Are your hands attached to your smart phone? When your husband or wife needs you are you half-focused on a game, show, or app rather than giving him or her all of your attention? Not only that, how much time do you spend really talking to and getting to know each other? Ask yourself this question,given the choice, would you rather spend time alone, time with your friends or other family members, or time with your spouse? if the answer isn’t time with your spouse then this is a huge problem. This indicates that you likely don’t have the strong emotional bond necessary for enduring love.

Be there when your spouse needs you: not just physically but emotionally too. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” As a husband or a wife we are called to comfort and edify our spouse. This means being available to him or her when he or she needs comfort or edification. If you aren’t there for your spouse he or she won’t feel safe to go to you during these times of need. Does your spouse know you are there for him or her? If you aren’t sure then ask. This will open the door to honest communication that will start you on the path to developing a secure emotional bond. Knowing with confidence that your spouse will be there when you need him or her offers a true sense of security. I am not saying that your spouse won’t ever let you down, but when you have this secure emotional bond it is much easier to face when it does happen. The only person we can truly depend on no matter what is God, but don’t think that this means we should not be able to trust and depend on our spouse to be there when we need him or her, because we absolutely should!

Be willing to share your fears, hurts, and joys with your spouse: Building a strong emotional bond with your spouse not only requires that you are there when he or she needs you, but that you are willing to share your fears, hurts, and joys with him or her too. No marriage is one-sided. As our relationship with God requires effort on both sides, the same is true for our marriages. We feel close to God when we get to know Him through reading His word, prayer, and worship. But this isn’t enough to build a close relationship with Him. This comes when we let down our guard and share ourselves with Him. In a marriage the only way to form a true emotional bond is by being fully known by your spouse and fully knowing your spouse. Do you know your spouses deepest fears and hurts? How about their dreams and longings? Or what brings him or her the most joy? Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” How can your spouse weep with you and rejoice with you if you aren’t sharing whats on your heart? Being dependent on your spouse is not a negative thing. God created us to depend on, not only Him, but on others for encouragement, support, and strength. If this were not the case He would not have looked at Adam and said “it is not good for man to be alone.” He has given each of us a beautiful gift in our spouse. when we start building an emotional bond the beauty begins to shine through the mire of let downs and disappointments, enabling us to build a secure emotional bond and lasting love.

Maybe you finished reading this and think, “I just don’t see how this will ever be possible with my spouse, he or she will never change.” If you are struggling to build an emotional bond, and its not for lack of trying, I would suggest seeing a competent counselor who can guide you through the process. After all, God’s Word has a lot to say about receiving godly wisdom and counsel from others. Just don’t give up. God can heal any hurt and reform or form a bond between a husband and wife, no matter how dark or ugly the circumstances.

Five Tips For Accomplishing Change

changeInsanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is a well-known statement and one that couldn’t be closer to the truth. How often do we hope for something different but aren’t willing to DO differently? This is insanity! I have changed so much over the last five or six years and want to share some tips on what helped make it possible.

Tip One: Be aware of what needs to change: This might seem obvious, but if you aren’t willing to look at yourself and determine what changes you need to make you will likely miss it. If you think there is nothing at all about yourself or your behavior that needs to change then you probably don’t have very good self-awareness. (My blog on self-awareness might be a good place to start). Becoming more aware of self (my behaviors, feelings, and thinking processes, and how this affects those around me) has helped me to discover things in my life and my personality that need changing. This is only the first step. Being aware of what needs to change doesn’t mean it will automatically happen; you have to be willing to put in the effort.

Tip Two: Surround yourself with people you want to imitate: Maybe you want to be more thoughtful of others but this doesn’t quite come naturally to you. Find someone who is thoughtful and spend some time with him. Learn from his behavior and model it. Perhaps you struggle with being too negative. Do you think anything will change if you are surrounded by negative people? Their negativity will only fuel your own, which is why surrounding yourself with positive people will help you see things in a more positive light.

Tip Three: Discover God’s purpose for your life: This is highly debated, as many people believe God doesn’t really have a purpose planned out for each individual. As for me, I believe that He does, and that He wants you to discover what that purpose is. When I first met my husband I had quit college and felt that it just wasn’t for me. I had no idea what God wanted from my life. After being encouraged by my husband, I began praying and asking God what His purpose was for me. I took some aptitude tests to gain a better understanding of myself and what I might be good at. This is when I discovered the option of becoming a counselor. I was immediately drawn to this idea and began praying about whether or not this was from God. After determining that this was in fact what God had planned for me I began the journey toward becoming a counselor. This required a LOT of change but with God’s strength He has enabled me to accomplish my goal. I personally feel that serving God and being a wife and mother is my greatest purpose, but after that, counseling hurting people towards hope and healing is what I was made to do. Remember, when you discover God’s purpose for your life you can expect that it will require a lot of change and dependence on God to accomplish.

Tip Four: Be willing to face some fears: This is a scary tip! One that I know all too well. If you aren’t willing to face your fears you probably wont experience much change in your life. I used to be a socially awkward anxious individual who would rather sit inside than have to talk to someone I didn’t know. I HATED this about myself! For a long time I was too afraid to do anything about it and I suffered for it. I finally had had enough. I remember when my boss asked me if I wanted to do a sales training on a new tool my team had developed. This was the last thing in this world I wanted to do, but I knew it would only help me overcome my fears. It was awful, but I did it. Each time I took on a challenge like this it got easier and easier, until before long, it really wasn’t that scary anymore! It took some time (Like 5 years!) for me to go from being the anxious, socially awkward girl to the confident and friendly girl who could comfortably talk to new people and make some friends, but I eventually got there and I did it by facing my fears.

Tip Five: Be open and accountable with someone you trust: Having accountability is huge when it comes to making changes. We as human beings are weak and incapable of standing alone. If you have secret struggles that you know you need to change sharing this with someone you trust can make all the difference! In the same way, when you create goals it is so much easier to accomplish them when you share them with someone who cares about you. Someone who will follow up and hold you accountable. My husband and I are so open with each other about flaws we need to change. Because we know exactly what the other needs to improve on its easy to see it and call it out. This can be extremely irritating!! But also extremely helpful. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to bail on some social gathering because of fear. My husband could see the anxiety and terror on my face and sympathized, but he also knew that I wanted to change and that I wasn’t happy with how I was. Because of this he pushed me to face my fears and helped me to make the changes I needed to make. I never could have done it alone and neither can you. Maybe you don’t have a spouse you can depend on for accountability, if not find a friend or a mentor who you can trust to encourage you towards change.

These are just five tips that have personally helped me accomplish change in my life. What are some tips for change that you can share?

5 Tips for Processing and Healing From Pain

man in yellow field

The more you ignore and avoid pain the deeper it is buried in the subconscious, escaping your awareness. The unfortunate thing about this is that even though the pain is hidden its effects are not. Additionally, pain becomes more difficult to process the deeper it goes. Healing from pain requires self-awareness and a willingness to do something about it once you’ve discovered it.

Below are some tips that have helped me to discover, work through, and heal from my own pain, which I hope will help you as well:

Examine your feelings: You might be totally aware of pain that you have never dealt with, as this is sometimes the case. Often, however, many people have ignored and avoided pain for so long that they aren’t aware of it or how it impacts their lives. For example, If you’ve never processed the pain of your parents divorce this can greatly effect your marriage. Maybe every time you and your spouse have a simple argument common to most marriages you have a total breakdown, turning it into a much bigger issue. This might be due to the emergence of your feelings and fears of rejection and abandonment from the pain of the divorce. These feelings are automatic, and while they seem rational to you, they typically seem irrational to others and can cause serious problems. You have to examine these feelings in order to discover where they are coming from so that you can process it and heal. Ask yourself these questions, “Why do I feel the way that I feel?” and why do I do what I do?” Through asking this question you might discover that a simple argument with your spouse really should not cause you intense fear of abandonment and rejection. This can open the door of understanding that something deeper is going on. Understanding your feelings and actions, especially ones that are negatively impacting your life, is critical.

Talk about it with someone you trust: Once you have discovered and acknowledged your pain that needs to be healed its important to talk about it with someone you trust. Talking about it not only reveals your feelings tied to the pain but it also uncovers beliefs you have developed about yourself and the world based on your pain. Talking about it can be a difficult thing to do but it is necessary for healing and truly moving forward without the effects lingering and causing you more issues. If you feel like you don’t have someone you trust to talk to consider seeing a professional counselor. The idea of talking about your pain to someone you don’t know intimately might be scary, but remember, the right counselor wont judge you and will listen to you with sincere care.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings: when you work hard to avoid pain you end up transferring your feelings associated with it onto unrelated people and situations. You might feel rejected by a parent but because you haven’t faced the pain you transfer this feeling onto your spouse or a friend. Allow yourself to feel rejected by the right person, experience the feeling and work through it. One good way to feel and experience your feelings are by writing them down and reading them aloud. This can be a huge breakthrough for you. Feelings are meant to be expressed, not ignored.  One common saying about depression is that it is anger turned inward. Anger that is suppressed and ignored doesn’t just disappear, it eventually becomes a part of who you are, seeping into all areas of your life. Additionally, encourage the people in your life to express their feelings as well rather than avoid them. The more comfortable you are with your own feelings the more comfortable you will become with the feelings of others.

Dispute and replace your irrational beliefs tied to the pain: Another important thing to do when processing pain is to dispute and replace your irrational beliefs tied to the pain. This is a more detailed process and one that I will discuss in my next blog post.

Surrender to God and allow Him to comfort you: Considering the importance of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this step is the most important for me when dealing with pain. God wants nothing more than to offer you His love, peace, and comfort during times of pain. For a lot of people this might seem confusing given the common belief that God allows painful things to happen, but this is for a different discussion and blog post.. In my own life, I have experienced true healing when I go before God and ask Him to comfort me in my pain and provide me with His hope. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ I strongly urge you to consider giving Him a chance at being your savior, it will forever change your life.

Work towards forgiveness: This can be really hard and can take a long time. Forgiveness is so important for processing pain, whether you need to forgive yourself or someone else, this step is crucial to the process. Just remember, forgiving someone does not depend on that person being sorry, but on you making a choice to do it so that you can move on. Think about what happens to you when you don’t forgive? When I don’t forgive someone else I start to develop bitterness towards that person and become irritable and angry. This can even lead to fatigue, anxiety, and a loss in energy. Think about the impact this can have. I know that when I make the choice to forgive someone I am able to fully move beyond the pain. Now an important thing to remember is that you cannot skip all of the other steps and move right to forgiveness, as this will likely be a superficial thing that wont last. Forgiveness should follow acknowledging pain, talking about it with someone you trust, expressing your feelings, and experiencing God’s comfort.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you and encourage you to take some steps toward processing rather than avoiding your pain. I promise you that, although it might be painful initially, it will be well worth it.

What are some things that have helped you process your own pain?

The Importance of Processing Pain

1I wont lie to you, facing and dealing with pain isn’t a fun process. It can be pretty painful. This is why a lot of people choose to ignore and “stuff” their pain and feelings in order to avoid it and move on. The problem is, avoiding pain doesn’t remove it, in fact it does just the opposite. The pain that you stuff and burry deep inside wont stay hidden for long. It will resurface as soon as you are faced with a “trigger.” A trigger is an activating event, often random, that causes a person to relive a painful experience. This can be confusing for people because they typically are not even aware of where the pain and emotions are coming from. Don’t believe the lie “time heals all wounds.” This is a fallacy. Time heals nothing, processing pain heals pain.

Why is processing pain so important? Living a healthy life and having stable and healthy relationships is one of the benefits of processing pain, rather than avoiding it. remember how I mentioned before that pain is often triggered by random events? This can leave a person who has not processed his pain feeling just as hurt and broken as he did when the actual event occurred. Imagine how this can negatively impact a person’s life and relationships? Below I will talk about what can happen when you don’t process pain and what can happen when you do.

What happens when you don’t process pain? When you avoid your pain you often end up avoiding people and situations as well, potentially leading to isolation and loneliness. When something starts to trigger your pain you might make efforts to flee. For example, say a woman who was cheated on and abandoned by her husband chose to avoid her pain rather than face it and heal from it. She might discover that the pain is triggered when being pursued by another man, or when around a married friend. Her hidden pain might cause her to miss out on friendships and a future relationship, keeping her from living life to the fullest and enjoying God’s blessings of marriage and friendship.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, triggered pain can be intense and debilitating. When pain is triggered all of the feelings hiding behind your buried pain will be exposed, poured out on those closest to you. Think of pain as a cap on a bottle that is holding multiple feelings inside of it. Feelings like rejection, abandonment, betrayal, neglect, and loneliness. All of these feelings spill out and effect every area of life until you can manage to stuff them back into the bottle, only to have them emerge again when triggered.

What happens when you do process pain? Triggers become reminders for individuals who have successfully processed pain. Rather than debilitating you, they remind you of pain that you have successfully worked through and healed from. It will likely still hurt, but rather than feeling as though you are re-experiencing it all over again, you might feel a sadness for what you had to go through. The pain is no longer a part of you, sneaking up on you when you least expect it. You are no longer controlled by fear and forced to avoid people and situations. I know this because I have processed some painful things in my life. I have experienced the freedom that comes from working through pain and then allowing God to comfort and heal.

Once you have successfully dealt with your pain you are capable of helping others do the same. Think of the woman I mentioned before. If she were to continue to ignore the pain associated with her husband’s unfaithfulness she would likely avoid other women going through the same thing for fear of her own pain being triggered. It is the woman who goes through something like this and chooses to face it rather than ignore it, healing from it, who is able to walk alongside another hurting woman and offer hope. The joy that comes from using your painful experience to help and support someone else is incredible. This is only possible once you have processed it and have healed from it.

Thankfully it is never too late to process pain and experience healing. In my next blog I will talk about some steps you can take to do this, gaining freedom and the ability to live the life God intends for you.

6 Negative Outcomes of Self-Absorption

%22Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.%22-2Being thoughtful of others can require some serious effort. This is especially true in the midst of a culture that promotes self-absorption through multiple platforms. Everybody wants to talk about what they did today, all that they have accomplished, the new toys they bought, how adorable their children are, etc. We have all been guilty of this and are all capable of being roped into believing the lie “its all about me.” So how do we overcome this tragic misfortune?

First of all, we need to realize that it is in fact not “all about me.” The people around us matter and thinking more of them than ourselves will lead to a depth of satisfaction selfishness can never achieve.

Here are some negative outcomes of self-absorption that will hopefully inspire change:

Increased Stress: often when you are self-absorbed you focus a lot of your attention on what other people think of you. This can sometimes include imaginations and negative assumptions, leading to increased defensive or avoidant behaviors. This includes worrying about whether or not people like you, if they think what you say sounds stupid, or if you offer value at all. Gosh that’s a lot to worry about! Additionally, people who are totally consumed with self and the way they appear to others will put an excessive amount of effort into attempting perfection. Think of how much less stressful life would be if you didn’t care about what other people were thinking of you and focused instead on how you can positively impact others. Stress levels could be reduced dramatically.

Here is a personal story. I used to have this weird concern about my clothes fitting just right. If something didn’t tuck in properly or seemed a little too baggy or a little too loose on me I refused to wear it. I was so worried people would think I looked stupid because I was focused entirely too much on myself. This caused a lot of unneeded stress. Once I recognized this and made some changes the stress over what to wear totally disappeared, leaving me more capable of thinking about more important things.

Lowered self-esteem: The more you think about yourself the greater the risk of developing a negative opinion of yourself, decreasing self-esteem. Think about it, if you find out a friend got a promotion and you immediately think “wow why haven’t I gotten a promotion?” what happens? You immediately think less of yourself and are also in danger of thinking less of your friend. The healthy response when confronted with joys and successes of others is to rejoice with them. Being consumed with self makes this much more difficult. Additionally, comparison is bred by self-focus, often leading to depression and bitterness. Stop comparing yourself to that beautiful friend of yours and instead give her a nice compliment. You will quickly realize the difference this can make and the joy it can produce.

Damaged relationships: Who wants a relationship with someone who thinks only of him or herself? In a blog titled The Pursuit of Selflessness, Joshua Becker writes “Nobody is intimately drawn to selfishness. Nobody seeks the wise counsel of a selfish person. Nobody is willing to give themselves up for one who desires his own kingdom above all things.” How right he is! Selflessness is the glue that holds marriages and friendships together. Everybody wants a selfless friend or spouse. The problem is, a selfless person wont be drawn to a selfish person, unless its out of compassion and a desire to help, lets face it that’s what selflessness does, but this likely wont last.. Jealousy, conceitedness, and bitterness, direct causes of self-absorption, are easily detected and often avoided.  Start focusing on others more than yourself and you will notice some serious positive changes in your relationships. You might even develop some new and exciting ones too.

Distraction from the needs of others: When you are busy thinking about yourself you are less capable of thinking of the needs of others. I’m not referring to neglecting self-care, as this is really important. I’m talking about self-absorption: preoccupation with ones own emotions, interests, or situations. A person preoccupied with their own “stuff” won’t notice when the people in his or her life are in need and will likely ignore those needs. Unmet needs can lead to serious conflict in relationships, especially in marriage.

Missed opportunities: The joy that comes from encouraging, supporting, and cheering others on is irreplaceable. If you are self-absorbed you might not realize this. But I promise, its true! I won’t lie, I can occasionally revert to my selfish side, thinking only of myself, and I know the lack of joy I experience in that place. When a friend shares a heartache and all you can think to do is make it about you you miss out on the chance to offer support and love. Risk focusing on yourself less so you can recognize the opportunities to serve and love others around you and experience a new kind of happiness.

Increased pride: The more you think of yourself the more you are in danger of becoming prideful. As you focus on self you focus on impressing and appearing worthy to others. This is a dangerous road to travel and one that becomes murky quickly. The deeper you go the less able you are to realize how far you have gone, and the less capable you are of turning back.

Don’t fool yourself: we have all been guilty of self-promotion. We tell the world about the great things we’ve done in order to “encourage” others. It’s really important that we, me included, really examine our motives. Are we really trying to help others or are we simply trying to promote ourselves and gain recognition? Instead of talking about yourself and what you did try talking about what you saw or heard someone else do. You want to encourage others, that’s great! Just don’t do it to commend self. share of a recent good deed you noticed someone else doing or an accomplishment someone else achieved. This will not only encourage others, but will protect you from promoting yourself and missing out on God’s blessings in favor of public praise.

For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.             2 Corinthians 10:18 (NKJV)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21

What other negative outcomes of self-absorption can you think of? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!

7 Tips For Increasing Self-Awareness

%22Until you make the unconscious councils, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.%22Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Being self-aware enables you to truly know yourself as a separate individual: your feelings, beliefs, desires, weaknesses, strengths, and motives, and to also know how you impact the lives of those around you. In contrast, being unaware cannot only wreak havoc on your own life, but on the lives of others as well. Increasing your self-awareness is only the beginning, paving the way for growth and effective change.

Here are some tips for increasing your self-awareness:

Determine who you want to be: If you don’t know who you want to be, it will be easier to ignore who you are. For example, I have determined that I want to be a compassionate person. Because of this I am more aware of my lack of compassion with certain people and in certain situations. My ability to see this deficiency only became possible when I determined my desire to be compassionate. Before, I was somewhat oblivious to it. Now when I am lacking compassion I try to be more aware of it and am able to change it. Begin by thinking about the person you want to be. Write down a few words that come to your mind that describe that aspired personality. Then analyze if those words currently define you or not. In doing this you become more aware of who you are today, and more capable of becoming who you want to be.

Take a personality test: I have learned so much about myself through personality tests. By simply answering some questions, honestly of course, you can gain valuable insights about yourself. An awesome and free test can be taken here. As you read about your personality type things start to make sense that never made sense before. Taking the test helped me recognize that I often take on the burdens of others, becoming overly involved emotionally. My empathy and concern for others is a strength, but it can quickly become a weakness. I have learned how to be responsible TO people rather than FOR people, and how to encourage and guide towards change, rather than “fix”.

Seek trusted feedback: this is a tough one. I for one don’t always like hearing what other people have to say regarding my behavior, especially if its negative. When feedback comes from a trusted individual, who cares for you deeply, it’s important to pay attention to it. There is almost always some valuable truth in it. Having a trusted mentor or accountability partner is a great way to do it. Find someone who will not only call you out on your weaknesses and blind spots, but will also point out your strengths and abilities, offering encouragement along the way. On your own you will fail, but with help and support from others you can overcome and succeed in ways that you never thought possible.

Examine your motives: Examining behavior is not enough; you need to look at the motive behind the behavior. For example, a good deed might make somebody appear selfless, but if buried beneath the good deed is a desire for praise from others it might actually be selfish. It can be the opposite as well. Someone who works excessive hours and makes a lot of money might appear to some as a workaholic or materialistic, but you might look beneath the service and find that he works so hard in order to fund several orphanages in third world countries. Looking at our own behavior or the behavior of others without understanding motives is futile.

Pray, Pray, and Pray: For me personally, prayer is number one when it comes to self-awareness. Who better to spend time with than the one who created me? The devil has done nothing but seek to destroy me and to keep me from the beautiful plans that God has for me. He doesn’t want us to become who God intended us to be; he wants us to be lost and broken, unaware of all we are capable of becoming and accomplishing through Jesus Christ and His perfect love. Additionally, we all have secret sins that we are totally oblivious too. Through prayer God can reveal those hidden places of darkness in our hearts, enabling us to become aware and overcome. In the Psalms King David said, “who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12) Through continual prayer God can help me become aware of the secret sins in my life and enable me to overcome.

Examine the way others respond to you: We all know that person who acts in such a way that drives everybody crazy! Its obvious based on body language, awkward comments, facial expressions, and avoidance. You wish somebody would just say something to stop it. Being around people like this causes me to think about my behaviors and how they affect others. How do people react to me when I’m around them? Do they seem uncomfortable, desperate to get away, down, annoyed? This can tell you a lot.  Our goal should be to positively impact the people around us, building them up rather than bringing them down. Examine the way the people around you respond to you and this will give you valuable insights into your behavior.

Get Professional Help: Sometimes deep-rooted pain and issues can block our ability to be self-aware. If you are working hard to ignore painful parts of your life you will likely block out important aspects of the self as well. In this case, working with a professional counselor can help to uncover and heal hidden trauma and pain. Maybe you are carrying around pain that desperately needs to be healed. Don’t allow fear or judgment to keep you from getting the help that you need so that you can become who God created you to be.