Sustainable Self-Care Ideas to Improve Your Wellbeing

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly trendy to talk about self-care. This is especially true for people whose work or lifestyle puts them in positions where it is hard to take time for themselves, whether because they work long, exhausting hours, or because they are home with children all day and can’t seem to get a meaningful break. Also, let’s be honest with our current times. COVID-19 has added additional stressors on top of everything else in our everyday lives.

But for many, the understanding of self-care doesn’t go too much further than taking time for yourself, whether by going out for a cup of coffee alone, meeting up with friends, or being available for a long luxurious soak in the bathtub.

However, I would suggest that self-care goes deeper than making sure that you can take those 10-15 minutes (or more) for yourself every day, as one can very quickly go from that relaxed feeling in one moment, back to feeling stressed and under pressure from the next triggering event.

This suggests that you are over-extending yourself and what you perceive to be a state of relaxation is actually a state of constant stress. This state of stress that you perceive to be relaxed is just a lower level of stress compared to the previous overwhelming event—which is why we are easily stressed out by any small event that is stressful. Our cup is already filled to the rim.

Self-care, when we are stressed, keeps our cups from overfilling. But, self-care when we no longer feel as overwhelmed will help lower your cup even more so that when stressful life events happen, you can handle them with more patience, grace, understanding, and love.

Self-Care Ideas to Maintain Overall Health

Self-care needs to make some sort of effort to meet your deeper needs if it is to be meaningful and sustainable. It needs to look at all the areas of your life, your physical needs, like rest and taking care of your physical health, as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Focus on your physical health

One of the first steps in self-care is recognizing that you are responsible for taking care of your physical health. As an adult, no one is going to remind you that you need to eat or to get enough sleep. So, you need to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy and nutritious meals, and getting some form of daily exercise, such as going for a walk or cycle around the block.

All these things are important if we want our bodies to be operating at peak capacity. We need to make sure to set ourselves up for success by giving ourselves the fuel we need to feel good and manage our day-to-day responsibilities, and a healthy diet, rest, and movement all contribute to our general good health and wellbeing. Exercise is also known to help counteract feelings of stress by producing endorphins, so it has a double benefit.

Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. These are often also called the “feel good” chemicals. If your body is not producing enough endorphins you might experience depression, anxiety, or moodiness. This is why your physical health plays an important role in your mental and emotional well-being.

Know yourself

The next step in self-care is to do a little self-reflection. Take some time to look at your life and think about how the various aspects of it affect you and your wellbeing. Understand your capacity and limitations, so that you can know more easily when to say “no” to taking on too much.

Recognize what energizes you and what depletes you so that you can know what to say “yes” to and how to best recharge. Think about what kinds of things add significant stress so that, if possible, you can remember to practice your coping skills and make plans to manage the stress.

Prioritize what relaxes you, make time in your schedule to unwind, and allow yourself to show love to yourself. For some people, a warm bath with music or a book every day is relaxing. For others, cooking, dancing, or drawing are relaxing activities.

Think about what motivates you, so that you can commit yourself to what is important and follow through. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to anticipate stresses and work to mitigate them, and the better you will be able to identify what is important to you and be able to plan to meet your needs.

Only by taking the time to think about what works and what doesn’t work in your life can you make better decisions about how to use your limited resources of time and energy and how to be your best self.

There’s a saying about self-care being about choosing to create a life that you don’t regularly feel the need to escape from. So, ask the tough questions about your life, career, and habits, and whether these things are draining you or fulfilling you. And then make changes accordingly.

Establish boundaries

Once you have taken the time to figure out what is most important to you, and what you are best capable of handling, then you can begin to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. These will look different to different people and in different situations.

You may find you need a certain amount of time alone to refresh yourself, and once you’ve decided that this is a priority in your self-care you can determine where to take this time and set up boundaries to protect it. Your boundaries may look like saying “no” to certain commitments, or to saying “no” beyond a certain number of social hangouts. But there will be times where you need to establish a limit, and then enforce it.

Yes, life is not perfect, and things will come up that may require the relaxing of a boundary; however, the general trend of protecting your time and the things that are important to you should become a habit that you don’t feel guilty about. Boundaries will help you to prioritize what is important, and then you can let the less important things slide a little if necessary.

Focus on your mental and emotional health

Once you have taken care of your physical needs and taken the time to establish boundaries to protect what is important to you, you can focus on investing in things that will build you up mentally and emotionally. For some, this may look like a change in their job to find something more fulfilling or making better use of their gifts and interests.

But momentous changes like this are not always options for everyone and looking after your mental health may mean investing in a hobby or other activity that challenges you and gives you a feeling of fulfillment. This might include getting involved in community service or taking a class in something that interests you, whether art or economics.

For some, it might mean being available to regularly spend time reading an enjoyable book. However, it is important to be available for things that challenge you positively and give you a sense of progress and growth.

Invest in friendships that build you up

While you may have hundreds of friends on social media, it is important to recognize the friendships that you have in real life. One rarely has the time to invest meaningfully in many friendships in real life, but when you have a solid friendship that uplifts you and builds you up, take the time to invest in that person.

We are made for relationships and do not function well in isolation, and that time with a friend can be life giving, especially when you are going through a challenging time. So don’t forget to prioritize time and energy for investing in the people that are close to you.

Focus on your faith

For many people, the spiritual aspect of life is particularly important. This is a part of life that shouldn’t be left as the last priority. It should be our first priority. For a Christian, God is more than a distant idea, but a close comfort and help in times of trouble.

If your faith is important to you then you will not find fulfillment in just going through the worldly motions but will need to seek a relationship with God by reading His living Word daily, praying without ceasing, and following His commandments.

It will also be important to fellowship with people who share your faith, whether only for the weekly gathering or more frequently. Pay close attention to the people you gather with. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Invest in your faith community and you will find yourself spiritually fulfilled. If your spiritual life is not in alignment with God, it gives license to Satan to attack you in those areas that are not in alignment. Jesus gave us “The Great Commission” as our purpose on earth. Neglecting what Jesus commands us to do can be physically felt as an ache or need that we cannot satisfy in any other way.

This is the Holy Spirit convicting us, “and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). When you are in alignment with God’s Word, you will feel peace in your Spirit and no longer be at war with your flesh.

Make time to fill your cup

All these things may feel like a lot that needs to be thought through and prioritized, but at the end of the day, we are complex people with needs across all parts of life. If any of these needs – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – are not being met, then we will struggle to feel satisfaction and contentment where we are.

But if you make good choices when it comes to how you fuel your body, what you prioritize, and how you guard what is important to you, you will find yourself increasingly fulfilled by the life you are building. And while you are investing in all these things, you mustn’t forget to allocate time to rest. “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man’”(Mark 2:28).

Give yourself time to unwind and do the things that fill your cup, whether that is spending time in nature, socializing with good friends, or relaxing with a book, or even taking a long candlelit bubble bath. When the rest of your life is well balanced, these moments of rest will easily refresh and revive you and help you feel prepared to face the next challenge that comes your way.

Photos:
“Wake up and Glow”, Courtesy of Ellieelien, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Self Love”, Courtesy of Content Pixie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Mug on Chair Arm”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Forgive Someone: Biblical Guidance on Forgiveness

Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? How did you respond to the challenge? Sometimes in life, we face situations that take us to our limits and beyond. The sort of people we are – our character – shows in those moments. Though we may fail in the attempt, being willing to give something a go has great value.

If we are familiar with what the Bible says about living a life that is rooted in love for God and neighbor, then we know how challenging living such a life can be. We don’t always meet our self-expectations, and that’s to say nothing of the high standard to which God holds his people.

Nonetheless, we try to live faithfully, to be just and loving people through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not get it right, but we try; and when we fail, we dust ourselves off ask the Lord for His grace and mercy and try again. It matters that we keep going despite the challenges and setbacks. The life of faith as a disciple of Jesus means staying in alignment with the Word of God.

One area that most of us find challenging is forgiving others. When people wrong us, we may find ourselves inclined toward wanting to see them pay for what they did. In other instances, we may not wish them harm, and many times we certainly want nothing more to do with them.

The sins we and others commit are many, varied, and complex in the kinds of effects and traumas they produce. In the Bible there are three categories of sins mentioned: sin, transgressions, and iniquities. Forgiving others is thus not always a simple matter, and it may feel like we are betraying ourselves and our experiences to forgive someone who has wronged us.

What is written below is in no way intended to guilt us into forgiving someone or to do something we aren’t ready to do. Forgiveness is ultimately a choice we must make to let go of our anger and desire for revenge and forgive as our Father forgave us.

Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, not the person receiving the forgiveness. That’s not a choice anyone can make for another person, but we must reflect on the biblical teaching about God’s will for us to live free of resentment and vengeance.

After all, holding onto unforgiveness, according to some research studies, negatively affects our physical and mental health by making us more vulnerable to stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

We too are forgiven

One of the realities with which we are regularly confronted in the Bible is that we all need God’s forgiveness. The word “sin” doesn’t roll off our tongues easily, but essentially what that word conveys is the notion that we are morally bankrupt. We miss the mark in a variety of ways, whether it’s by not doing what we’re meant to do, or by doing the things we aren’t supposed to. We sin because we seek after fleshly gratifications.

Our attitudes towards other people may be less than generous; we might treat others with more respect because they are like us in one way or the other. We show favoritism or partiality; at other times we are unwilling to consider the feelings of others. In our thoughts, feelings, and actions, none of us is perfect and lives the way God wants us to. For this and more, God has forgiven us.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.Ephesians 2:1-10

This is a powerful message that shows how God has bestowed on us his undeserved favor. The first few verses of that passage read, “Though we were disobedient, God forgave. us and gave us new life.

This forgiveness isn’t a thing of the past. We continue to sin, and God continues to forgive us – “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” –1 John 1:8-9

God meets us in our weakness and forgives us. Even as we consider how others may have wronged us, we must also consider how we have wronged God and others, and yet we are forgiven.

We forgive others as we are forgiven

Forgiving others is likely one of the hardest things about the Christian life. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness means that you aren’t taking a person’s actions seriously. On the contrary, because we understand that God’s forgiveness came to us through Jesus and the sacrifice he made on our behalf, we know that forgiveness is serious business.

It’s so serious in fact that we are reminded that if we understand just what it is God has done in forgiving us, we will extend that forgiveness to others. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” and then he adds this difficult word – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. The gift we have received from God, we are to pass along to others; if we have understood God’s gift to us, that is.

Additionally, forgiving another person is more about us than it is about them. Have you ever noticed how stressful it is to be around someone you have something against? You either try to avoid them, or you grit your teeth when they’re speaking all the while thinking less-than-healthy thoughts.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of our toxic emotions such as hatred towards the other person. We reclaim our thoughts and don’t allow them to live “rent-free” in our hearts and minds because of the negative emotions we bear toward them. When we forgive them, we can move on with our lives, free of resentment.

We forgive often

The things that people do that require forgiveness may vary, but the act of forgiveness, the choice of letting go of the desire to pay back remains a tough one. It often doesn’t happen overnight; we must sometimes choose to forgive daily. If you live with the person, or if the things the person does occur often, that makes the act of forgiveness a daily choice.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples once asked Jesus the question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responded, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter’s question is all too relatable. It would be nice to have an upper limit when it comes to forgiveness, beyond which we can hold onto our resentment with divine approval. Jesus scuppers that hope. We forgive as often as we must.

Of course, we must understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that no natural consequences will flow from their actions. If a crime has been committed, forgiveness doesn’t mean the law can’t take its natural course. If a person repeatedly breaks their word to you, forgiving them doesn’t mean you are required to give them anything more than that forgiveness.

We can do all things

Forgiveness is hard. But in this, as in other areas of life, God has not left us to our own devices and to figure it out on our own. We “can do all things through him who gives [us] strength” as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13. God gives us strength to do the impossible – to forgive those who sin against us and to trust in God’s good judgment, leaving vengeance to God alone (Romans 12).

For the sake of our mental, physical, and spiritual health, forgiving others is a healthy practice that is tough in the doing, but worth it in the end. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Prayer for forgiveness

This prayer was written by Sue Fernandez in her book, Deliverance for Christians: Claiming Your Freedom In Christ.

“Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that You take back the ground that was given to the enemy when (Name of Person)(List Specific Incidents). I ask that You break every stronghold from my soul. And as an act of my will, I choose to forgive (Name of Person) and I ask that You give me Your Grace to do so, from the bottom of my heart. I renounce unforgiveness. I renounce bitterness, and I ask that You remove every root of bitterness.

“If anyone has been defiled by my bitterness, I ask that You show me who that is and what I need to do. I ask that you bind the enemy from (Name of Person); take off all the veils of the enemy: and open his eyes, ears, heart, and soul to the truth of God. I also ask that You bring someone to him who can lead him to salvation. I release (Name of Person) now to You, Lord, for You to work in his heart, soul, and life, as You will.”

Photos:
“Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Cathy Mu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Purple White Flowers”, Courtesy of Vlad Zaytsev, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hug”, Courtesy of Igor Erico, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Flowers”, Courtesy of Hannah Olinger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness

Depression as a Christian seems contradictory since the Bible promises us peace and joy. Peace and joy are very different feelings when compared to a depressed mood. We can have peace in our hearts about the future and our current situation. We can have the joy of the Lord through our salvation. However, our mood may tell us that we are sad even though there is no identifiable reason to be sad.

This is where I like to implement distractions. I may know in my mind that there is nothing to be sad about. I may have a wonderful life, a great spouse, successful children who are walking with the Lord, but I still don’t feel good, and I lack the desire to participate in things I once found interesting. The enemy tries to discourage a person and pressure them to feel guilty about these feelings. Naturally, we tend to look inward for the reason.

The goal is to immediately use Scripture to fight those automatic negative thoughts (fiery darts) that the enemy shoots into our minds. Find certain Scriptures that speak to you in the specific area in which you are struggling. Write these down on a small piece of paper to carry with you until you memorize them.

Do not allow these darts to enter your long-term memory. Short-term memory is anything under thirty seconds. If you rehearse something, a telephone number, a name, a time, or a phrase using certain rehearsal techniques they will convert to long-term memory. The trick here is to get to those fiery darts immediately with Scripture you have previously memorized.

Repeat God’s word to yourself and get his promises into your long-term memory. Carry your Bible around with you wherever you go. Put it in your purse, carry a small Gideon’s Bible in your back pocket so you can get used to using your sword. Keep seeking, keep knocking. Don’t grow weary.

Another reason we may continue to be affected by feelings of sadness is that we may have conditioned ourselves to be in this state. People find it comfortable to sit in darkness, wallowing in self-defeating thoughts. Though it’s not necessarily a desire to feel depressed, we may experience a physiological response (physical response throughout the body) to a depressed mood.

When we feel tired, we prefer to lay in bed to get some additional sleep. We feel hungry so we find something to nourish our bodies. Working through depression feels unnatural because our emotions or our bodies may prompt us to do things that will keep us remaining depressed:

  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Depression has many faces and many different presentations, and the sufferer may experience a variety of symptoms. As Christians, we may think that the Lord would relieve us from these feelings if we were in His good graces. This is false. There are instances where we may be experiencing guilt, shame, sad mood, and difficulty sleeping due to unconfessed sin. If we continue to live in a specific sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and prompt us in this way.

Do not mistake this for condemnation, however. Christ sent his Holy Spirit to us to encourage us and to convict us of sin. Conviction is meant to prompt us to repent, not to condemn us. The Bible says that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Out of love, we turn back to Christ knowing that his plans for our lives are far better than our own.

The enemy has effective methods of making us feel as though we will never measure up, leading us to feel beaten down by the world and our sin. Don’t grow weary of doing good, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).”

A thorn is a struggle or an ailment that the Lord has not freed us from so that He may be glorified through us. This is not to be confused with a stronghold. A stronghold stems from a certain sin we continuously fall into (i.e., binge-eating, sexual sin, continuous anger outbursts, slander/gossip, pride, lying, or substance use.)

Jacob experienced a thorn following his wrestling with God. Paul had a thorn that he was forced to live with, the nature of which the Bible does not reveal (however, many Biblical scholars think it may have had something to do with his eyes). A thorn may also be the loss of a child, the death of a spouse at a young age, a physical ailment, cancer, and even mental illness. The propensity to experience depression may also be a thorn.

It may keep us clinging to Jesus, running back to Him for continual support because we realize that during periods of intense depression, He is the only way we can make it through the day. Ultimately, Jesus wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to spend time in His word and rely on Him.

This does not mean that the Lord is devious and crafty, but He permits these ailments so that we will cling to Him. We live in a fallen world and as fallen creatures we do not fully understand His methods. We may not know why He would allow a young child to die prematurely, but we trust in His essential goodness and love. We constantly fight a spiritual battle with an enemy who is much smarter than we are, so we reach to Jesus to guide and strengthen us moment by moment during times of depression.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18

One biblical truth you can hold fast to is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t lose faith or become discouraged when the storm rages between your ears. Cling to the hope that though you may be sitting in darkness, the Lord is your light (Micah 7:7b).

If you are in grip of mental health difficulties such as these depressive symptoms and would like to speak with someone to help identify the problem in a more clear and identifiable way, please reach out to a counselor for guidance and encouragement. We have a team of mental health professionals that will provide a hand to help you walk through your spiritual wilderness. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Photos:
“A Walk in the Woods”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Skeleton Keys on Book”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Victory!”, Courtesy of Svyatoslav Romanov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

8 Marks of a True Friend

In a world where people count friends by the hundreds on social media, one may want to consider how you can determine whether someone is indeed a true friend. There are many kinds of friendships, colleagues, and acquaintances, but not all friends are the kind of friends that one would want to keep close or allow into your deepest confidence. So how does one recognize a true friend?

8 Signs of a True Friend

1. A true friend is loyal.

A true friend is the kind of person that will stand by you no matter what. They will have your back when it feels like everyone else is against you and will defend you to anyone that questions your integrity. A true friend will not participate in gossip and will not stand for others gossiping about you.

When a friend has been around long enough to know your weaknesses and failures, but they think that you are worth having around anyway, then you know that you have found a true friend. They will accept that you are not perfect and not expect perfection from you. A true friend will remain committed to you despite your faults, flaws, and mistakes that you may have made in the past.

Their friendship isn’t fickle or changeable when the seasons in your life change. When a true friend is hurt or offended by you, they will allow you the chance to make it up to them and keep the door open to reconciliation. They won’t easily give up on you and will want to make the friendship work, even if for a time it is difficult.

2. A true friend is trustworthy.

A true friend is someone that you can always count on. They will have earned your trust over time, and you will know that whatever you share with them will be kept in strict confidence. You can also count on a true friend to keep their promises and do the things they commit to doing.

Not all people are naturally dependable, and some people will struggle more than others to show up when they say they will, but if someone is a true friend, they will prioritize the relationship to the point that other things will rarely stop them from doing whatever it is that they have promised to do.

You will also find that your deepest feelings and concerns are always safe with that friend. You can trust that your friend’s intentions towards you are good, and they will not be looking for ways to do things that would hurt you. They will respect your boundaries and not push you to do anything that you do not wish to do.

3. You can be real with a true friend.

When you have a true friend there will be no need to put your best foot forward on every occasion and you will know that you can truly be yourself with this person. When a friend can join in with you in everyday activities and participate in your daily life without finding such activities mundane or boring, then you will know that you have found something special.

A true friend will find joy and freedom in knowing that they are included in your more personal moments and that they can relax and be who they are around you. True friends will be content spending time in each other’s homes and will become well known to each other’s families.

Some may even begin to feel like they are a part of each other’s families. They will enjoy the freedom of being able to be completely real with each other and not worry about censoring themselves about any topic of conversation. This is because there will be a level of trust that they will be accepted wholly as they are, even if there are areas where you may disagree.

4. A true friend will show their care in practical ways.

While there is room for showing affection for a friend in a variety of ways, whether through gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, and practical help, etc., a true friend will make the effort to show their care in some or other practical way. The true friend will make the time to help in ways that show they understand your needs at the moment.

If you are going through a tough time emotionally then a true friend will be the first to call just to see how you are doing. They are the kind of people who will send an unexpected gift or note of encouragement when you need it.

They will also step up to help where they are able when you are in need, whether in need of a ride somewhere or of something material, like bringing by some groceries or a cooked meal if you are unwell. They will take the time needed to be there in a way that will lighten the load and help to ease any burden that you carry.

5. A true friend will share common ground.

This one seems obvious, but true friends enjoy spending time together and this is usually done around things that you both enjoy. Most friendships are initially formed around things that two people share, whether an interest in similar things or a shared activity.

With a true friend, shared things will likely hold a higher significance in your life, whether through a shared history or shared values. While true friends do not need to share the same faith and can have a mutual respect that allows for different beliefs, true friends usually have the things that are most important to them in common, like their faith. That way true friends can pursue their faith together, encouraging one another in that journey.

6. A true friend celebrates your success.

There is no room for envy in a true friendship. True friends will celebrate each other’s successes and be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. A true friend will want you to succeed in your endeavors and provide support and encouragement along the way.

7. A true friend will challenge you to be better.

On the other side, a true friend will also be willing to challenge you when you do something wrong. They will challenge any negative thinking or actions that are unhelpful to you. They will also be brave enough to speak out when they think you are making a mistake or acting in a way that is unhelpful or unkind or to those around you.

If you share a common faith or belief system this may also be something that they challenge you on. They won’t be afraid to risk offending you if they believe that challenging you in something is for your good. They will want you to grow as a person and will be ready to challenge you to do better whenever it is needed. They will also feel secure enough in the relationship that they will feel it is safe to do so.

So, if you have a friend who is brave enough to disagree with you, or to challenge a decision you have made, don’t be quick to discard them as a bad friend. Rather, recognize the courage it takes to confront someone and take the time to weigh the wisdom of what they are saying before deciding whether you will act on what they say or not.

8. A true friend is a rare treasure.

While a person may have many friends in their lives, many sharing characteristics of true friendship, a true friend is a precious and wonderful gift. True friendship takes time to develop and doesn’t happen without a solid commitment on both sides to push through the challenges together, even on the hard days.

It is only when a friendship has survived the storms and stood the test of time that its sweetness can best be appreciated. This kind of friendship only happens when both parties are equally committed to it, and willing to put in the effort for each other. Nothing dulls a friendship like one where a person feels like they are constantly giving and not receiving similarly from the other party.

A true friend will give without expecting to receive, but for the friendship to last, at some point, the amount of investment must be reciprocated. The way to determine how important a friendship is to you is to ask yourself how much you are willing to invest in it to keep it. To slightly modify the adage, the best way to gain a true friend is to be a true friend.

Photos:
“Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Briana Tozour, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Cynthia Magana, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of KaLisa Veer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Jonas Weckschmied, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

In the Christian world, marriage is held in high esteem. It is largely considered a natural step toward a mature and fulfilling Christian life. This emphasis, while in many ways positive, can overly-glorify the experience of marriage. It’s not that marriage isn’t a significant gift from God, but that gift does not come without relational difficulties.

The tensions of marriage are not as often discussed as the beauty and sacredness of marriage. This absence can create an unrealistic expectation of marriage and even make newly married Christians think that marital problems are abnormal, creating a sense of shame surrounding getting help for their marriage.

Spoiler Alert: Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

One specific area of conflict not openly discussed is communication. Other than saying something like, “communication is key,” pastors and Christian leaders rarely spend much time illustrating the need for clear and honest communication or teaching on how to become a better communicator in marriage.

As a result, when seriously dating or engaged Christians experience conflict and poor communication, there is the temptation to brush it aside, thinking something along the lines of “when we get married this will get better.” That is a false reality.

Marriage will not make you a better communicator. Only you can make yourself a better communicator, and it will require time and effort. However, if you push it to the side and continue to hope for marriage to solve the problem, then your frustration at your or your partner’s inability to communicate will continue to grow into deeper and deeper marriage problems.

The reality is marriage will not make you a better communicator. Acknowledging this fact is a step toward building a better marriage. Once you are aware of this, you can begin identifying the communication issues in your relationship and work toward establishing healthy patterns of communication to fortify your marriage and intimacy.

The Marriage Lie

The marriage lie is the idea that marriage will fix the problems in your relationships. These problems can be financial, relational, in-laws, career – the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, if you think marriage is the solution, you are mistaken. In fact, marriage often times intensifies the conflict. For the sake of this article, we will only discuss the issue of communication and how to become a better communicator.

How does marriage make your communication conflict more intense? For starters, marriage is initiated by the wedding, a season that often brings tremendous emotional, financial, and relational stress. Many couples survive the crucible of the wedding rather than thrive through the experience.

Even if your wedding is a positive experience, there is still the added stress of covenant commitment. When you are dating someone, there is always the security of separating if things don’t work out. This may sound callus or uncaring, but it’s human nature. If in the back of your mind you know that you can walk away, then there is always a certain level of security you feel. You have control and can opt out if you feel the need.

Once you get married, however, the commitment is final. If you are seeking to honor God with your marriage, then Biblically, there are very few circumstances that allow for a divorce. This sense of commitment can escalate your conflicts because where before you felt like you had a back door (whether you planned on using it or not), now, you are committed to this for better or for worse.

So when you experience conflict, things can get primal and instinctual very quickly as you fight for what you feel you need. It should come as no surprise that primal and instinctual are not great qualities for communication.

While you may have hoped for marriage to help your communication issues, you will quickly discover that the added commitment of marriage can actually create more stress, resulting in more marital problems.

It is important to note that marriage doesn’t create the problems. The problems were already there. It’s just that marriage cannot and will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems. That will require patience, love, commitment, and humility. You know, the hard stuff.

Communicating through Marriage Problems

So if marriage is not the solution to your communication issues, then what will help you handle your relational and marital problems? There are a lot of answers to this question. Each person and relationship will need something a little bit different. But that being said, there are some universal practices that can help you become a better communicator and resolve communication issues.

The first is recognizing your communication style. Are you someone who speaks what’s on your mind and can’t hide your feelings? Or are you someone who stuffs everything you feel inside hoping to avoid conflict? Step back and consider how you usually communicate.

Consider asking your partner or close friends to get their input. If you are struggling to understand how you communicate, then you may want to meet with a Christian counselor who can help you reflect on how you communicate with other people.

Second, consider the communication culture of your family. Was your family a place of healthy, mediated discussion where everyone got to share and express their emotions? Or was there an unwritten rule that the family does not discuss problems openly? Or maybe your family was more characterized by explosions of anger followed by peace as family members recovered from the intense outbursts.

You and your partner will likely repeat or continue the patterns you learned in your family. Discussing the pattern of communication in your family can be a helpful way for married couples to recognize their own issues in communication and set a vision for how they want to communicate.

If you begin to seriously explore your family patterns and find them painful or difficult to understand, then you should give serious consideration to working with a Christian counselor. Family of origin issues are complicated and very difficult to parse out on your own. Having a trained professional to help guide you and draw out your experience with your family is tremendously important.

Finally, recognizing the patterns in your marriage is key. Marital problems don’t appear overnight. They take time to grow and develop. Once you’ve considered your own style of communication and how your family communicated, it’s time to look at the details of how you and your spouse are communicating.

Look for patterns in your conflict. Are there topics, phrases, or behaviors that set you or your partner off? It is very important to recognize the detailed progression of your communication conflict in order to stop and resolve the issues before they get out of hand.

If things are already extremely tense between your partner and yourself, and you need relationship help, then consider Christian marriage counseling. Don’t wait until you are in a serious crisis to get professional help. A Christian marriage counselor can help mediate the conflict and explore the deeper issues behind the communication conflict.

These kinds of marital issues are not uncommon and there is no reason to feel ashamed to seek relationship help. Christian marriage counseling is too often seen as a last resort when it actually is much more effective at resolving issues earlier on in the process.

Don’t wait to get relationship help

In marriage, like in any other relationship, there will be conflict. But marriage is different because the commitment level is much, much higher. Most people put hope in marriage to solve their problems and are surprised to find that marriage can actually aggravate the problems.

Don’t let the shame of acknowledging issues in your marriage prevent you from seeking relationship help. Christian marriage counseling can turn a struggling relationship into a healthy, strong relationship. It will take openness, sacrifice, and humility, but remember resolving conflict in your marriage is possible.

Photos:
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5 Tips for Life After Divorce

There is a saying that “you never step into the same river twice.” Transitions and movement are a part of life – we change, or our circumstances change, or we find both changed in ways that are irrevocable, and sometimes painful. One of life’s changes is when you get divorced, a reality that has been in decline in the last few years in the US, but still affects thousands of people every year.

Getting married is usually attended with joy at the transition into life with someone and getting divorced separates you from the person with whom you shared life and dreams for that life together.

How to Navigate Life After Divorce

The situations in each marriage are different, and so divorce can bring with it a broad mix of emotional responses, from anger, relief, confusion, grief, or a combination of these. Life after divorce is about navigating a new reality with its own complexities that others may struggle to relate to. How do you move into life after divorce in a way that allows you to flourish?

Grieving loss

One aspect of life after divorce for some is that it is a time of grieving loss. Even in the most difficult marriages where their end comes as a relief, there is still a sense of loss. Sharing a life with someone isn’t an easy thing; you form emotional, physical, and other ties to one another, and that includes whatever hopes and dreams you shared with the person you married.

When you get divorced, all of what could have been, all that you’d hoped for and desired from a shared life must be laid to rest. The relationship changes in profound ways, and that’s something you must come to terms with, whether you’re happy, feeling regret, or lost because of what’s happened. Grieving is about giving yourself the room you need to feel your feelings, whatever they may be, and not gloss them over or pretend they aren’t there.

One avenue for this important work is through therapy. Group and individual therapy might be helpful as a part of your process of coming to terms with what’s happened and addressing issues in your soul.

The work of regaining your sense of self can happen in a therapy setting where you have the support and understanding of others. And if you need to heal, take time out for that to happen. The point behind grieving is not to wallow in self-pity but to acknowledge that in getting divorced, something profound has happened in your life, and you need to come to terms with the full scope of it.

Practice self-care

Being able to take care of yourself is important no matter what stage of life or experiences you’ve gone through. Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person will ever experience. Stress has many negative impacts on one’s health, and that includes comprising the immune system, something that many studies have shown.

Going through a divorce and dealing with the aftermath of it can have a significant impact on your overall health, which heightens the need for practicing self-care. There are several ways to deal with stress and make sure that you’re staying healthy.

Get some sleep. Good sleep allows the body to recover from whatever wear and tear it has experienced during the day. Not only does it help with energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence, but sleeping well also helps with what you eat.

Poor sleep has been linked to the consumption of foods that aren’t good for you because they are too refined, are high in sugar and the fats your body could use less of. You make better eating choices when you sleep well, and when you eat well it also impacts your sleep positively.

Eat well. As pointed out above, eating well by eating foods that help with your digestion, boost your immunity, and improve brain health not only keeps you physically and mentally healthy, but it aids good sleep and the emotional benefits from that. So, eating good fiber, taking in nuts, citrus, fresh vegetables, oily fish, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids all help to boost your health.

Move. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, dancer, or walker, do whatever you enjoy doing that gets you moving and that has your physician’s backing. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it keeps your body healthy, and your mood elevated.

Deal with the negative self-talk. In some situations, there may be negative talk from the people around you about your divorce, but also from yourself. You may be blaming yourself, calling yourself names, or feeling unworthy of love. Practicing self-acceptance and speaking gently with yourself are effective ways to counter this negative self-talk that only serves to paralyze and disempower you.

Lean on your circle

At all times, community matters. Life after divorce is no different, even if your community might shift a little during and after the process. Divorce may cause your circles to change – people can take sides about your divorce, and friends can be lost in the process.

However, you need your people – whoever they may be – in your life after divorce. This may be to help with chores that your partner used to do or to take the kids when you can’t, or just to come alongside you in support.

As mentioned before, group therapy can function as a supportive community to help bear some of the load of a new situation. Your spiritual community, as a community of people also on the way, may also be a bastion of support. Instead of shying away from the community, drawing nearer towards others who are safe is vital for emotional and mental health.

Dealing with the new you

Life after divorce doesn’t stop, and neither does your growth as an individual. God has built us in such a way that even the devastating events in our lives aren’t the end of us, and the evil that comes upon us can be used for good by God (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28), though it’s hard to tell at the moment how pain can birth anything good.

Part of life after divorce is to deal with the new you and come to terms with the changes your new status brings. Being married shifts not only our self-understanding but how other people relate to us. Getting divorced can have the same impact, and that sense of who we are and how people treat us can shift because of the new status.

Where you may have gotten used to going certain places because of and/or with your spouse, including the people you mingled with, you now must figure out doing life without them. The things you liked, and indeed the entire trajectory of your life may have changed because of your contact with your ex, and rediscovering who you are again away from that relationship becomes a whole new adventure. Take your time in figuring out what comes next for you.

Continue living your life

Divorce is not the end of your life, but a new chapter in it. If you have children with your ex, continue being present for them. They need to be reassured and know that their parents love them and that though things have changed for the adults in the room, how they are loved hasn’t.

Whatever may have happened between you and your ex, being present for your kids is important, as is protecting them from whatever issues you may have with your ex. They don’t need to be read in on the messier points of the relationship, used as spies to find out what your ex is doing or as messengers to communicate with your ex.

Go to work, keep enjoying your relationship with God, your hobbies, your church community, your friends, and continue developing yourself as a person. Though you may not be ready for love again just yet, it’s a possibility that may lie ahead in your future, and something that you can remain open to.

Photos:
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of [ik] @invadingkingdom, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lego Lady”, Courtesy of Jackson Simmer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Barrier”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Fix a Broken Relationship

One of the hardest parts about relationships is when they break down. Whether it’s a platonic friendship, or between siblings, parents and their children, neighbors, or between spouses, the heartache that flows from a relationship breakdown is unique among the many hardships we face in life. Human beings are social creatures, it’s part of our make-up as beings made in the image of a relational God.

We delight to connect with others, to know and be known and loved by others. In our relationships, we make ourselves vulnerable, build networks of mutual dependence and build parts of our lives based on those relationships.

The sad thing is that the breakdown of relationships is nothing new, and it’s a reality we will continue to face in our lives. Relationships break down for a variety of reasons, and some of those are things we can control and address, while other things need the balm of time and a refreshed perspective from the other person.

What can you do to fix a broken relationship?

What’s going on?

In some cases, when a relationship breaks down, we know precisely what happened. We may have had the power to prevent or slow down the breakdown, or we may have been completely powerless to stop it. In other situations, you may be at a loss as to what happened.

When that happens, it’s important to take the time and effort to figure out what happened. It may require some conversations with the person with whom you were in the relationship if they are willing to engage with you, but it may also require some introspection.

Whether you do this by journaling or talking with a trusted friend to process what happened, or you spend time with a therapist to do that, understanding what happened matters. If the relationship broke down because in your anger you said or did things you shouldn’t have, you need to address that otherwise it can prevent you from restoring your relationship and can affect other relationships as well.

Part of trying to address a broken relationship is to understand why it broke down in the first place and to do the challenging work that may be needed to change. It may be that in trying to understand what happened, you may uncover a misunderstanding and that gets things back on track.

Sometimes we misspeak, or people mishear us and our intentions, and that can be the cause of the broken relationship. But it’s also possible that the breakdown in the relationship is mostly or entirely our fault and knowing that can empower you by clarifying what needs to happen next.

Apologizing

Sometimes relationships break down because of things we’ve said or done. When we are the cause of pain to someone else, we must apologize, particularly if it was uncalled for. A good friend sometimes causes pain to their companion, but it is well-intentioned.

As the Proverb says, “Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” (Proverbs 27:6). Not all truths are pleasant to hear, and we may lose friends because of truth-telling.

It’s important to say here that while the truth may sting and at times people who are unwilling to hear the truth would prefer to cut off those truth-tellers rather than face their issues, one must always be mindful of how the truth is told, and whether it’s our place to do so. Earlier we spoke about doing important soul work to figure out what may have happened to break the relationship. Even if you may have been right in saying what you did, that work is still necessary.

It may be that even if what you said was true, and even if the other person reacted out of anger and fear, you may still need to apologize because of how you said it. You may have overstepped a boundary if you and the person weren’t that close or didn’t have the kind of relationship with room for that.

In other words, it can get complicated, but being willing to examine ourselves and apologize may be a necessary precursor to reestablishing the relationship. This doesn’t mean backtracking and dismissing what was said but acknowledging the pain that may have been caused or boundaries traversed.

In a situation where what you said or did was wrong and hurtful, apologizing is an effective way to get the relationship back on track. The apology must be unambiguous, accepting responsibility for what you did without making excuses or justifying yourself, and stating clearly what you will do differently in the future.

Compromising

In addition to apologizing, it may be that the way to fix a broken relationship is to compromise with the other person. Each of us has our own ideas about how things should be, and that can cause friction in a relationship. Neighbors may have vastly different definitions of what constitutes “noise.”

While one thinks playing drums at 5 am is acceptable and drums are great, their neighbor may strongly disagree. Things can escalate, leading to the breakdown of a relationship.

One way to fix a relationship that’s gone down this way is to compromise. Perhaps you can play your drums later in the day when your neighbor is out, or you can arrange a pair of noise-canceling headphones for your neighbor, or you can play your drums somewhere else altogether.

Each of you, by yielding a little ground, might be able to find a way around the impasse. Acknowledging that each of you has legitimate needs, and then going on to find a way to co-exist, can go a long way toward fixing the relationship.

In each situation, you must be clear in your own mind what things you are and are not willing to compromise on and continue to exercise some empathy. Even for the things on which you’re unwilling to compromise, being empathetic may help you hold the line in a way that doesn’t alienate others.

Putting in the work of rebuilding

When a relationship is broken, both parties may agree that things went wrong, and that the situation needs to be resolved. When things go awry in a relationship, the sense of trust and vulnerability may be broken, and you become a bit more wary of one another. A relationship, even one that the people in it are willing to work at, doesn’t just snap back to what it was before the issue arose.

Working through the fresh questions that arise when things go wrong, doing the work of reconfiguring or reimagining your relationship anew, etc. all take time and effort to put into place. If trust was broken, it takes time to restore. A relationship can be what it once was, or even stronger than before, but it takes putting in the demanding work of rebuilding and listening to one another to get there.

Grieving what was

With God, nothing is irreparably broken. Even the dead things can be brought back to life, and that gives us hope that even broken friendships or marriages can be restored. However, it takes two to do the necessary work to restore a relationship, and you can’t compel someone to work on the relationship if they don’t want to.

In other cases, you may both agree to work on your relationship, but that doesn’t guarantee you will restore things. The relationship may never be what it was, but at least you’ve addressed the issues that broke the relationship and emerged on the other side of it.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Sometimes, the relationship doesn’t get restored at all as you’d hoped. In any of these situations, it’s appropriate to grieve what was. A broken relationship is a loss that we experience, and it’s important to process that loss. It’s not unheard of for a broken relationship to affect other relationships down the line.

Get the help that you need to process the loss of relationships, particularly the ones that matter most to you. Getting counseling and speaking to a trained specialist may be just the thing you need to deal with a broken relationship, and to gain tools to fix and strengthen your relationships.

Photos:
“Sitting on the Sidewalk”, Courtesy of Odonata Welnesscenter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Hold my hand”, Courtesy of Pixabay.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Teamwork”, Courtesy of Fauxels, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Exploring Personality Disorders from a Christian Perspective

Personality disorders are some of the most misunderstood mental health problems that a person can face. Not only is there a stigma to be faced from the general public, but from the psychiatric community as well.

Although attitudes are slowly changing, it has not been that long since newly qualified counselors and psychiatrists were being advised to stay away from people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD).

An Overview of Personality Disorders

The most recent edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) considers personality disorders to be:

“enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts,” and “are inflexible and maladaptive, and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress.”

Personality disorders cause a range of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to function in their daily life and, contrary to popular opinion, people with personality disorders aren’t being difficult on purpose. A personality disorder isn’t something that a person chooses or decides to have.

There are ten different personality disorders and while their symptoms differ in many ways, there are some symptoms that seem to affect most people with personality disorders to some extent. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining friendships
  • Addiction

Up to ten percent of Americans have a personality disorder so these disorders aren’t rare. In fact, if you have 100 people in your church, statistically, ten of those people will have a personality disorder.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are generally three clusters of personality disorders (as described by DSM-5). These are:
Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders)

  • Paranoid (irrational suspicions and mistrust)
  • Schizoid (lack of interest in social relationships)
  • Schizotypal (odd behavior or thinking)

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

  • Antisocial (lack of empathy and a pattern of criminal activity)
  • Borderline (impulsivity, black and white thinking, self-harm, manipulation)
  • Histrionic (exaggerated emotions, inappropriate behavior)
  • Narcissistic (high levels of jealousy and arrogance, grandiose behavior)

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

  • Avoidant (social avoidance, social inadequacy)
  • Dependent (psychologically dependent on others)
  • Obsessive-compulsive (rigid conformity to rules, obsessing over details)

Personality disorders are clustered in these ways because there are common traits that people with personality disorders in the same cluster experience. For example:

  • people with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (cluster B) may seem to be highly-emotional and attention-seeking,
  • people with paranoid personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder (cluster A) can bedescribed as suspicious, withdrawn and irrational.

Causes of Personality Disorders

Research has demonstrated that although there may be some genetic predisposition towards developing a personality disorder, in most cases the biggest cause of personality disorders is severe suffering. This may include traumatic experiences, abuse or neglect and in most cases, this is experienced during childhood, when the personality is still developing.

Does the Bible Talk About Personality Disorders?

Since personality disorders weren’t properly recognized until the twentieth century, it may seem impossible for the Bible to contain references to, or mention characters with them. However, Renewal Christian Treatment & Recovery has actually identified a couple of biblical characters who exhibit symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Specifically, the “stubborn and rebellious son” in Deuteronomy 21:18 shows signs of having ASPD, and Gomer in the book of Hosea exhibits symptoms of BPD.

However, the Association of Biblical Counselors describes personality disorders from a biblical perspective:

The so-called “Personality Disorders” (i.e. paranoid, narcissistic, etc.) are simply descriptions of long-term behavioral, emotional, interpersonal, and thought patterns developed by an individual over a period of time. The Bible clearly articulates the influence of depravity and sin on a person’s behavior, thinking, and feeling. Therefore the influence of the “law of sin” must be a focal point for individuals citing these labels (Eph. 2:3). Following the flesh always leads to further corruption, death, and darkness (Eph. 4:22-24, Rom. 8:5).

Hope for Healing

Dr. David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), points out that while psychiatry often considers severe personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be virtually untreatable, Christian counselors have a different perspective. Secular therapists may give up on clients with BPD, but Christian counselors can lead people with personality disorders to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The solution for so-called untreatable personality disorders is to bring Christ to the center, as Powlison explains:

“The people who get this label [Borderline Personality Disorder] are really stuck. These are deep, deep weeds to live your life in. You can also see that the solution, in Christ, (can and does, when genuine) cuts as deep as the problem. Because in BPD you are the center of a world that is wholly misshapen. When Christ becomes the center, the world starts to take on a completely different shape.”

Christian counseling offers a kind of hope for people with personality disorders that secular counseling fails to provide. Where secular counseling regards personality disorders as a fixed problem that can’t be changed, in Christian counseling there’s recognition of the inexplicable power of Christ to completely transform lives.

A Biblical Counseling Approach

Let’s look at a personality disorder from each of the three clusters but from a biblical counseling perspective.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

In psychiatric terms (DSM-5), those suffering from Schizoid Personality Disorder are reclusive, unsociable, loners who find relationships with other people almost impossible. From a biblical perspective, however, at the heart of schizoid personality disorder is self-absorption.

In other words, a person with schizoid personality disorder has made an idol out of themselves and everything in their world centers on themselves. They are cold and unsociable because other people do not matter to them.

This kind of personality disorder can be a challenge even for experienced Christian counselors because there needs to be a radical change in the way that the person thinks and behaves. For a long-lasting change, the sufferer needs to choose to love God more than himself and serve others as Jesus did.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Perhaps one of the most commonly-known personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder causes people to feel empty, experience rapid mood swings, and exhibit extremely disordered patterns of attachment. Suicidal threats are frequent, although only 10% of people with BPD will complete suicide.

In biblical terms, a person with BPD has a self-seeking way of life, is prideful, depends on other people instead of on God, and has a sinful view that other people should rearrange their lives to meet the BPD-sufferer’s needs.

In this case, the root issue is that the person with BPD’s identity revolves around their disorder. Therefore, the goal must be to put off this identity and put on their identity in Christ:

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:22-24

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

It’s important to recognize that Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is NOT the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder tend to focus so much on details that they achieve very little, don’t have time for friends, and are very self-critical.

In biblical terms, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a manifestation of ungodly fear. In Christian counseling, the goal is to change the focus from fear to God, as well as identifying sinful behavior that has resulted from ungodly fear.

Christian Counseling for Personality Disorders

While secular counseling is rarely successful in achieving lasting change, a biblical focus on changing patterns of thinking and behavior so that God is placed at the center of the person’s life is much more effective.

If someone that you care about is struggling with the symptoms of a personality disorder, Christian counseling can be the solution you’ve been searching for. Healing is possible when Jesus truly becomes the center of the world for people with personality disorders. Only He can break the patterns of destructive thoughts and behaviors at the heart of personality disorders.

Sources:

borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/a-most-misunderstood-illness

David Powlison, “What Hope of Healing Is There for Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder” ccef.org/resources/video/what-hope-healing-there-someone-borderline-personality-disorder renewalchristiancare.com/2013/04/02/does-the-Bible-offer-a-treatment-for-personality-disorders/

Association of Biblical Counselors, “General Personality Disorder Criteria” christiancounseling.com/resources/general-personality-disorder-criteria/

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Opening New Doors: Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication skills, when strengthened, can help you express your feelings clearly and precisely. You can use these lifelong skills to move further up the career ladder, express yourself to your spouse or children, make new friends, and network with people who can help your cause.

The good news is that most people are not born with good communication skills. It’s a skill you can begin mastering today to effectively and assertively convey what you mean.

The Different Types of Communication

There are several different types of communication, but they all boil down to verbal, nonverbal (actions), written, and visual. These skills also referred to as people skills, can take you far.

Unfortunately, some people find it difficult to communicate with people and allow others to control and manipulate them. By learning it’s okay to speak up (and how to do so constructively), you can develop self-confidence.

The types of communication are:

Verbal – Verbal communication uses spoken language to convey meaning to others.

Nonverbal (actions) – Nonverbal communication includes nodding, shaking your head, and other actions such as crossing your arms over your chest (body language), facial expressions, or slamming doors when angry.

Written – Written communication includes books, letters, emails, newspapers, text messages, and other printed or digital words.

Visual – Visual communication concentrates on the things we can see and understand as an outlet in expressing feelings and thoughts. This includes artwork, graphs, charts, drawings, and pictures.

Some people learn better when several of these types of communication are combined. For example, you might be more comfortable learning new information using written and visual materials. And it might be easier for you to express your thoughts of very detailed, personal matters through written material (a journal) rather than talking (verbal communication) with someone.

Another type of communication frequently forgotten, but possibly the most important skill is active listening. Active listening is trying to not only hear the person but to understand them. This means not losing your focus to distractions or thinking about how you are going to respond to their comments. While active listening, you nod or shake your head, speak when necessary, and show empathy.

Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Perhaps you do well with one or two public communication skills but are sorely lacking in the others. You can learn how to develop good communication skills with a little practice. You can begin by implementing a few of the suggestions listed below.

If you are interested in learning more about how to strengthen your communication skills, you can find printed books and eBooks on the subject as well as courses that cover interpersonal and public communication.

How to Develop Active Listening Skills

Developing the ability to actively listen to someone requires you to focus solely on the person speaking. If the person is sharing an emotional story with you, be sure to respond as necessary with kindness and empathy. This is not the time to judge the person in front of you, but to try to understand what they are going through or the instructions they are giving you.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on our responses to the other person that we simply stop actively listening. Take your time in your response if you need to. You want the other person to feel important and heard.

How to Develop Verbal Communication Skills

To truly improve your verbal skills, you should expose yourself to a wide range of vocabulary. Read books (both printed and eBooks) in various genres as well as nonfiction. Consider joining a book club to discuss insights on a book to improve critical thinking skills or join a debate team to pick up how to form an argumentative opinion.

Speak precisely and with confidence. It is not necessary to bog down a conversation with five-syllable words as most people will come away from the exchange either intimidated or bored.

If you are nervous about meeting a new acquaintance, approach the person with a kind smile, compliment them, and ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and what is important to them. Start with asking about their family, career, hobbies and interests, and what they want to do with their life. As people confide, they will begin to trust you because you care to know about them.

How to Develop Nonverbal Communication Skills

Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly giving away your thoughts and feelings with body language and facial expressions. For example, crossing your arms over your chest while talking to someone is considered a defensive move for protection. Do you feel threatened by what they are saying? Do you find their comments hurtful?

Strive to be mindful of your facial expressions and posture when you are talking to someone. Smiling and maintaining a relaxed and open posture will translate to others that you are a warm and friendly person with whom they can spend time conversing.

How to Develop Written Communication Skills

The written word surrounds us daily with billboards, newspapers, chat messages, text messages, and emails. How many emails and texts do you send daily? It is important to improve your writing skills, so you convey the correct meaning and induce the appropriate response.

People today have shorter attention spans due to the constant barrage of distractions. Keep your sentences short and cut out any flowery words. Make sure you reread your material for clarity and accuracy. If writing seems awkward to you, try journaling. The act of recording your thoughts and emotions is simply the practice of communicating with yourself.

How to Develop Visual Communication Skills

You can use visual images to communicate with others. Most people remember pictures and videos even if they don’t remember the words they read. You can use visuals to help you remember important things.

For example, a student might draw a diagram, breaking down a difficult topic for a class. Or, a mother might create a chores graph for her children to use to make the daily tasks fun.

If you want to express your beliefs and thoughts to others using social media, you can create videos or pictures. You might find it easier to record and edit a video of you talking than speaking in-person to a group of people.

Social Communication Disorder

A child who cannot seem to express himself with the appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues may be tested by their pediatrician for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If autism is ruled out, the physician may diagnose the child with Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Children demonstrating signs of SCD may have trouble responding appropriately to others, misjudging when to take their turn speaking, expressing their feelings verbally, and using language to ask questions and hold conversations.

Children with Social Communication Disorder may also have another mental health condition that requires therapy. Speak with your child’s pediatrician about adding the professional services of a speech-language pathologist, either at school or home. Some states provide programs, such as “Birth to 3,” to help babies and toddlers to overcome speech disorders and delays.

There are things you can do to help your child improve his communication skills. Make reading a priority in your home. Not only will your child enlarge his vocabulary, but he will learn to think critically and form opinions.

When possible, combine written and visual materials to teach your child about important topics. Many children are visual learners and can pick up a subject quicker with images.

Arrange for your child to spend time with other children and help him get started with conversations by asking questions. Once he sees that he has common interests as the other children, it may be easier for him to hold the conversation.

One Final Word

Communication skills are vital in every area of life. Whether you speak to a room full of peers, work behind a desk answering phones and sending emails, or need to assert your self-worth, mastering the skills to effectively communicate will serve you for the rest of your life. It’s a skill that no one can take from you.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Phone Call”, Courtesy of Kevin Laminto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chatting”, Courtesy of Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Porn: The World’s Most Powerful Addiction

Many people are praying to God, “HELP ME!” They are screaming inside of themselves for help with their addiction to pornography. Porn is the number one addiction in the world, way more than any drug or vice known to man. It does not take much research to learn that this industry is making hundreds of billions of dollars around the world.

Cell phones and the internet have made it easy for anyone to make a few clicks and be instantly connected with someone else. Pornography also has different channels of enticing many others, for example: collect calls with random call girls, strip clubs, movies, magazines, TikTok, apps, games, etc. Porn is not just on the internet, it is everywhere.

Unfortunately, this industry takes no prisoners and makes a fortune while at it. The porn industry is ruining marriages, getting professionals fired, hurting families’ finances, and destroying people’s faith. To discover what can we do about it we must understand why it is so powerful.

First, it involves other people. The truest form of intimacy is to be completely naked with someone else and spend time with them. Being naked with someone is the greatest form of invitation to connect with them and it produces chemicals in our bodies that create an emotional high.

In Genesis 2:15 the Bible reads “it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells us that we are designed to connect with others. God gave us social relationships to bond. He also gave us families to live with and create beautiful memories in the home. Marriage is, without a doubt, the most intimate relationship in the physical world.

Marriage is a bond where you know your spouse’s greatest strengths but also can see them in their most vulnerable state. That is why many want to be married because they want to cherish those moments with that special someone. Unfortunately, we at times can rely on vices to try to give us this “fix” to somehow replace that type of intimacy.

This is why porn is so addictive. It’s not like a substance with which you don’t have an emotional bond with. If your substance is spilled or broken, you may get mad, but you just go ahead and buy some more. But the emotional bond that you can get with seeing someone else naked and in a vulnerable sex position is bizarrely bonding.

I can speak from a man’s point of view that men who are addicted to porn have a tough time bonding with anyone. While they spend hours involved in their vice, they do not realize that they are losing connection with others.

So, what can we do? Connect with the same gender consistently and constantly. In 2 Samuel 11, you will read the story of King David who took time off from his busy military campaign. He sent his army to go off to battle while he remained in the palace all alone. We know from Genesis that it’s not good for man to be alone.

So having idle time, he goes out wandering and notices a beautiful woman bathing. She is naked and David is struck by that vulnerable connection. What King David should’ve done is go back inside his home and be sexually intimate with Abigail, his wife. They were married in 1 Samuel 25. It’s a wonderful and beautiful love story.

But David is not content over the many years of battle. He is worn down and tired. No one can blame him for taking some time off. However, this move by David was selfish because not only did he have wives, but he also had many concubines. 2 Samuel 5:13 tells us that David had both concubines and wives who bore him sons and daughters. This man was having lots of sex.

Why did he want to sleep with Bathsheba? A conqueror always wants to conquer more – they are never satisfied. They could be satisfied with God, their family, and themselves. But when we are giving ourselves over to our vices, we are communicating that we are unsatisfied. We think we are incomplete – not whole.

David was not completely satisfied. His greed wanted more. This mirrors greatly how individuals get addicted to porn. Fifteen minutes leads to one hour. One hour is not enough and that ends up to multiple hours. Then it turns into an entire day and then sadly to a lifetime. Why do you think people can’t just give it up?

The real reason is that the mind has been trained to be reliant on false images in an emotional way. Emotions are fire and they guide us so powerfully. A nation can change by having empathy for one incident. A nation can go into war because they learned of something that triggered the government.

I once saw a movie called Equilibrium that whose premise was if we had no emotions then there would be no more wars and murder. Maybe so. But who wants to live an emotionless life? Nobody. We all want to be free to live our lives as we want. However, emotions can lead us astray and we must break that cycle.

I mentioned in the earlier two paragraphs that getting help from the same gender is key. In 2 Samuel 12, God sends Nathan, a prophet, to correct David’s way of thinking. Why not send a woman? Or a family member? Remember that David involved his “secret service” and his main generals so who would stand up to this mighty King? A man of God. That’s who.

A man of God will help another man become a man of God. This is key in many support groups dealing with addiction because you can’t have a mixed-gender group talking about porn addiction. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Men wouldn’t feel comfortable describing their fetishes with another woman when an actual woman is staring right at them.

It wouldn’t work. So, a man would need another man to listen, confirm and challenge him as part of his sobriety plan. Same for a woman though. A woman shouldn’t be open to a man about her struggles watching porn online. It wouldn’t be a productive talk. A woman may be best suited to talk to another woman to get help. Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful for spouses to support each other in their struggles. But it’s best to leave the heavy lifting to the same gender.

Same-gender help is crucial. David would only have listened to a man who had deeper convictions than him. Earlier in King David’s life, he had such a friend by the name of Jonathan. Jonathan and David had many adventures together as they were more than brothers. The bond these men had was unbreakable only by death. Sadly, Jonathan is killed in battle and David mourns for him.

In 2 Samuel 1:25-26 David states “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother, you were very dear to me, your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women”. You see that David’s heart is real and open about how close these men were. They were born in battle. The wars and adventures they fought there together helped them respect each other to a point where their bond was so tight that no one could interfere.

Just like David we are all capable of having such deep and rich friendships. It takes a lot of work. It’s not easy to be in battles day in and day out. However, if we decide to join in battle with one another then we can help each other have victories.

What great battle is there like the war with porn addiction? It’s a beast. Humiliating, depressing, sad, and hopeless. Therefore, we need those Jonathans in our lives to help us grieve, process, and seek help to overcome our issues. We cannot overcome porn addiction on its own. We need help and not just any help, but the help from someone who is the same gender that is willing to keep us accountable.

This is challenging because we don’t want to be called to a different standard, so we want to keep those defenses up. However, in my many years as a professional, and can only tell you that the secret to the success of many leaving this addiction behind is simply getting constant and consistent training from someone who has deep convictions on this issue.

Don’t expect to get much help from someone who is struggling with the same thing. They can be an encouragement and support, but the true catalyst will be the one with deep conviction because they’ve proved themselves capable of staying sober. We need to learn from them and follow in their footsteps. That is the way we are going to get out of this pit.

My question to you is, who is your Jonathan in your life? Maybe you’re not the one who’s addicted but you want to help. Are you someone that can help others? If so, set up a support group and invite people to learn. Please feel free to use this as a launching pad to start helping others who are enslaved to this vice.

If you are looking for someone else, find out if there’s a group, a minister, or a mentor who can help your friend out. This issue is not only for men. My wife, who helps counsel and mentor women, has told me that women are falling into this trap as well. My wife doesn’t tell me specifics or mentions names of course but she tells me that she is shocked to learn that many women are also dealing with this.

According to Psychology Today, statistics say that about 45% of women watch pornography with their partner and about 35% percent on their own. The thing with watching porn once though is that with or without a partner, the craving continues, and once is not enough. It is spiritual cancer that destroys men’s and women’s lives all over the world. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it can be overcome with help – help in form of the same-gender partnering with those people to have victories in their lives. Let’s not look down on men because that won’t help. Let’s also not look down on women for struggling.

Let’s help one another to get to the root of the issue, which is accountability. We need best friends to talk to and be open. That’s the definition of true intimacy. We want to know and be known, so let’s practice it and marvel at the changes we see in their lives. Then they will see no need for fake intimacy when they can experience the real thing. God Bless!

Photos:
“Anguish”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laptop”, Courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Weighed Down”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Romantic Sunset”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License