Archive for September, 2010

Reader Response to “Emotional Withholding”

September 23, 2010

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

Today’s devotional blog post was inspired by a comment from a reader named Laurel. Here comment and my response are included.

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Dear Lorie,

I really appreciated this post (Emotional Withholding). Sometimes I think we as Christians feel like we need to be “flawless and perfect” in everyway and in that thinking we unknowingly shut out others because we seem “unhuman” to them.

I personally have caught myself behaving in a manner that instead of inviting someone to express their pain and thoughts, I feel like I need to fix it by offering antidotes and suggestions. When all they wanted was a listening ear and emotional support. And unless we let them express themselves we aren’t really listening anyway, we’re just doing our “Christian” work.

I’ve found that being honest and human is one of the most sincere gifts we can give to those we care about, all else is just checking off our “Christian to-do list.”

Thanks for your honesty and your transparency, we should all consider how we sound to those we care about.

Laurel

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 Dear Laurel,

Thanks for reading and responding to “Emotional Withholding.” Your words and life discoveries are a picture of humility. Like you, I’m shedding the false expectation of needing to provide a solution to the problems, challenges, and pain of others. Since I’m no longer the source of information, my focus becomes listening to others and seeking to understand them. I’ve released myself from playing God (there was no vacancy in the Trinity) and no longer appoint myself as God’s spokesperson.

 This new freedom helped me discover the underlying cause of my problem was fear. This fear was rooted in insecurity. To counter my sense of inadequacy, I tried to overcome it by providing solutions and direction to others. This same fear of inadequacy (lacking knowledge of good and evil) is what tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Even as the knowledge of evil was dangerous and destructive for Eve, even so, the desire to provide solutions for others, is equally dangerous and destructive. I’m back to usurping a position in the Trinity.

 When we realize the first step of healing is discovering our pain and facing our inadequacy, we stop putting a bandage on an infection and begin looking for a surgeon. In “Emotional Withholding” I was not exposing my hurt. This resulted in bitterness and anger. Honestly sharing my hurt with my friend (without judgment) could have helped me deal with my hurt in healthy ways.  When we experience a freedom to share hurt with a true listener who responds in love we are on the pathway to healing.

 I will pray that others will find a freedom to express their pain with you and that their sharing will become first steps of their healing journey.

 Thanks again Laurel for sharing a response to my writing that hit home and inspired more writing. You’ve given me more to think and reflect on and now others can join.

 Warmly,

 Lorie Reichel Howe

 Personal Prayer

Father,

You are the Great Healer. I am not anyone’s source of healing. You have a purpose in all our pain and in everything we experience. Every situation we face, whether good or evil, presents an opportunity to know You in a deeper way.

Because You live in us, Your healing power resides within. Therefore, give me a humble heart to acknowledge my hurt and to listen to the hurts of others. Help me not to dismiss what You desire to expose. Give me Your guidance and direction in listening, sharing, and discovering Your truth that brings healing.

Reflection Question

When do I dismiss my pain or the pain of others?

When is humility present in my listening? Absent?

 Thought to Ponder

One of life’s greatest challenges is to understand and talk about our feelings.

 Quote to Consider

A genuine friend hears the message in your heart that words are unable to communicate.

Lorie Reichel Howe

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Emotional Withholding

September 20, 2010

“Speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

When I am hurting, the worse thing a friend can do is either dismiss my feelings or judge them. The second worse thing one can do is invite them to escalate and control me. Emotions shouldn’t be dismissed or judged; they are real and need to be acknowledged and understood. At the same time, emotions may not be rooted in truth and may have formed because of faulty perceptions. When our feelings are consuming or trapping us, we need to identify the thoughts and perceptions that trigger our emotions. Emotions need to be addressed whether they appear right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. Some emotions can not be prayed away. When you pray for a release, and they remain, redirect your prayer on how to respectfully communicate your emotions.

I recently discovered this ugly tendency of not expressing my emotions. I was hurt because a friend was unable to attend specific events I hosted throughout the year. Each time he wasn’t able to attend, I communicated that these were important to me. Yet, what I wasn’t saying was that I was hurt when he didn’t show up.  I was withholding my hurt. Withholding blocked my friend from understanding my heart and realizing I had been hurt.

Unfortunately, withheld emotions when triggered, explode like dynamite ignited by a match. My eruption contained unkind and judgmental words. Now not one, but two people were wounded. I still shudder recalling what happened. Even so, I’m determined to learn from this episode the danger of hiding hurt. A simple statement of, “I am hurt and feel unsupported when you don’t attend my meetings” would have been a pathway inviting understanding and healing. Open sharing would have given my friend a picture into my heart and opened a door to understand the challenges my friend faced in not being able to attend.

I think when God came searching for Adam after his disobedience in the Garden, God was really asking Adam to come clean with his feelings and his actions. Like Adam I hid my emotions and let them fester until accusations and judgments poured out. I’m thankful for a dear friend, who instead of retaliating was able to communicate his hurt and open the door to explore mine.

Personal Prayer

Father, help me not to hide my emotions, dismiss them, or be ruled and consumed by them. Empower me to live honestly before you, others and myself. Give me grace to speak the truth in love.

 Reflection Question

When is withholding unhealthy? Dishonest? Deceitful?

What’s the difference in withholding hurt and withholding judgement?

Thoughts to Ponder

Emotions not faced are not conquered. You don’t have to agree with your emotions or those of others, you do have to face them in God’s strength.

 Quote to Consider

The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation.

C. Northcote Parkinson

Hope In Darkness: Dealing With Disappointment

September 8, 2010

If you’re a glutton for rejection, become an author. I’m unaware of any other career where hours, week, months of labor crafting your work is declined in a rejection letter composed in a few minutes or in a form letter.

Life is challenging for authors. How I wish writing was like it was in grade school. You turn in your assignment; the teacher reads your work, grades and returns it. Good teachers find something positive to compliment. Sometimes you get a smiley face

It’s not like that in today’s writing world. Just getting a publisher to look at your work takes tremendous labor and diligence. Getting them to publish your writing takes an act of God.

I recently complimented a friend on an article she published. She shared that my encouraging works penetrated her heart like a needed therapy. After a few exciting months of publishers responding, “Yes, we’d like to see your manuscript.” She is now experiencing the painful wave of, “We’ve looked at it and will pass.” These are the words that make an hourly paid job an appealing relief.

Part of writing is searching for the right home for your work. The searching time can leave you feeling homeless. When open doors are closed shut, the light of desired possibilities you’ve envisioned  is extinguished leaving you in darkness. We all know the disappointment of failed plans, unsatisfied desires, and the discouragement of painful circumstances.

Christ experienced three hours of darkness at Calvary. Rejections were hurled at him, he was mocked, blackness filled the world and his soul, but resurrection followed. What’s amazing is our all seeing God, unlike us, has the ability to see and work in the dark. In absolute blackness, he conquered sin, death, demonic forces, and the power of Hell.

I’m curious what God is working in the darkness of my friend’s life. I believe an incredible story is unfolding that will eventually be a story worth writing about.

Personal Prayer

Father,

When life appears dark and I’m unable to see that anything positive, help me remember that, even while darkness filled the earth, You conquered sin and death. When doors of opportunity close and my desired outcomes dissolve, remind me that You are at work behind closed doors doing amazing things.

 Reflection Question

What darkness are you facing?

How does Christ’s life and death bring you hope during times of darkness?

Thought to Ponder

Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,

And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard do Chardin

Quote to Consider

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Corrie ten Boom

You Are Not Damaged Goods

September 3, 2010

The Truth:

I am loved and accepted.

I am fully redeemed.

I possess infinite worth.

God’s Word:

He hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.  Isaiah 43:1, 4 (NIV)

You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  Isaiah 41:9-10 (NIV)

The Lie:

I Have No Value.

The Deception:

As A Result My Choices, Decisions, and Circumstances,

I’m Damaged Goods, Worthless, and Disposable

Today’s Reading:

John 4:1-30

Within every human heart is a longing for love, acceptance, significance and value. Tragically, humanity’s fall into sin not only separated us from God, but also introduced evil into our lives. Like Adam and Eve, our attempts to satisfy our desires independently from God, leave us feeling damaged, empty, unloved, and hopeless.

The Samaritan woman’s pursuit for love left her experiencing all these emotions. Her culture and her choices set her up for rejection. Samaritans were dismissed by the Jews and believed to have no value. They considered any vessel handled by a Samaritan unclean and defiled. With a string of five husbands, plus the current lover, this woman’s domestic arrangement was not only culturally unacceptable but unthinkable in the first century. Even the Samaritans discarded her worth and shunned her life-style.

Like the couple in the Garden, her sin sent her into hiding. During the heat of the day, while others found a protective spot away from the open sun, this social outcast emerges to fill her water jar away from the disapproving glances and judgmental stares of others. Her physical body had a better chance of surviving the scorching sun than her heart had in enduring further emotional rejection.

We’ve all made choices we’ve regretted, spoke words we’re unable to take back. The longing for love, and the unloving actions of others and ourselves, make it natural for us to want to hide away from society and from God. Yet, our emotions expose us. There’s no hiding away from the guilt, regret, and our shameful past.

Instead of allowing us to hide away, Christ approaches us. Our sin, not our strong moral character caused Him to come to earth. Like the Samaritan woman, he shares his complete knowledge of our sin thereby inviting us to come out of hiding and into facing our empty pursuit that led us into sin. Christ then invites us to find our acceptance in Him, to embrace the unconditional love from the genuine source, to discover our worth from the one who created us, and to live fully free in his acceptance.  

An encounter with Christ brings more than forgiveness of a sordid past, it births a life impacting discovery of one’s untarnished value and worth before Christ. The result of this kind of love ignites us with boldness and confidence. This woman eagerly returned to the community that shunned her and invited them to come, see, hear, and meet the Promised Messiah. Her acceptance of Christ’s love and forgiveness and the discovery of her identity and purpose in Him, transformed her and sent her out to invite others to discover The Messiah. Within two days, these new converts experienced a deepened discovery of Christ and knowledge of God’s Word that transformed their lives.

Turn today to Christ and turn away from the rejection of others and your own self-rejection. In doing so embrace His acceptance and receive His empowering love.

Personal Prayer

Father, I’m tired of my empty pursuits for love, acceptance, and approval through others. Help me to turn away from false sources and to turn to you. Help me to live in the awareness that your death at Calvary is greater than my past and powerful enough to enable me from this day forth to live a life that glorifies you.

Reflection Questions

How does Christ’s acceptance and redemption help you overcome feelings of guilt, shame, condemnation?

Do you have thoughts of the past or areas of regret that make it challenging to accept Christ’s love and acceptance?

Thoughts to Ponder

Your life has been redeemed.  You may not be walking it out, embracing it, believing it, transformed by it’s truth, nonetheless, you are accepted and have been redeemed.

Until we accept and embrace God’s love, we will not be changed by it.

 Quotes to Consider

“What is notoriously missing from the external, mechanized concept of salvation is self-acceptance, an experience that is internally personalized and rooted in the acceptance of Jesus Christ. It bids good riddance to unhealthy guilt, shame, remorse, and self-hatred. Anything less-self-rejection in any for-is a manifest sign of a lack of trust in the total sufficiency of Jesus’ saving work. He has set me from the fear of the Father and dislike of myself, or has he not?…Unbounded trust in the merciful love of the redeeming God deals a mortal blow to skepticism, cynicism, self-condemnation, and despair.”

Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning pf. 7-9