Christian Marriage Counseling: When to Go and Why it is Helpful

Too often, couples believe that they must be on the brink of divorce and feel repulsed when in the presence of their spouse as their cue to attend marriage counseling. Christian marriage counseling should be considered more of an emotional first aid kit for your marriage. This emotional first aid kit can aid you in the minor cuts, major falls, sprains, and breaks of your marriage.

“Couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy with their relationship before receiving help.”John Gottman

Perhaps you are on the brink of divorce. Perhaps you feel yourself or your spouse pulling back in your marriage and you are not sure why because you cannot pinpoint what is distant, lacking, or repulsive to you.

How to Know if Christian Marriage Counseling Might Benefit You

Here are some circumstances that you might be able to relate to right now and why Christian marriage counseling might benefit you.

Something is off.

You cannot name it. You feel like you are communicating, you are still intimate, and you consider your spouse your best friend. Perhaps one or both of you are dealing with anxiety. Perhaps the stress and chaos of work and managing the home and kids are making it difficult for more time to connect on a deeper level, leaving you feeling somewhat distant or disconnected.

Perhaps you are in a season of raising babies and toddlers and the lack of sleep and quiet is just wearing on your mind, body, and relationship. Marriage counseling might benefit you in this stage of life because your mind is always whirling in a million directions. Your mind might feel stuck like the spin cycle on an aged washing machine, making it important to take time to work through your emotions and stressors together.

Your communication is lacking.

Tony Gaskins said “Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it…it dies.” Relationships take work. Healthy communication takes a lot of work and marriage counseling can be helpful to help you work through the kinks of different personalities, different love languages, different coping mechanisms, and through various forms of communicating.

Communicating is about so much more than the words that come out of your mouth – your tone, your timing, and your body language are all telling in the way that you communicate with your spouse.

Your finances are stressing you out.

Finances can be a divisive quicksand in your marriage if you are stressed about your financial situation, are drowning in doubt, or found out about an extensive debt that you did not know your spouse was bringing into your marriage.

Marriage counseling is a powerful tool in working through the ins and outs of finances, what is stressing you out, how to make a plan, and how to communicate and deal with your situation without letting it impact the continued blooming and blossoming of your relationship.

Sometimes it is the stress of not knowing how to talk about finances that creep into your marriage and try to rip it apart. Marriage is about teamwork, not trying to figure everything out on your own.

You are thinking about starting a family, but you are not sure if you are ready.

Marriage counseling might benefit you and your spouse if you are considering starting a family but are unsure of how to talk through your own upbringings and why you want to do things differently. Perhaps you both have different ideas of a family timeline and want to talk about it with a third-party who can ask different questions and facilitate healthy discussion and planning for your future.

Maybe one or both of you were raised in an unstable home and want to begin working through that emotional baggage and turmoil so that when you have a family of your own, it does not bring up unhealthy feelings and memories at every milestone. Marriage counseling can offer a different perspective to help you prepare for your future together so you can thrive.

One or both of you is carrying emotional baggage and it is weighing you down.

When you are carrying emotional baggage, it can impact you without you realizing it. It can also impact your closest relationships because you are holding back and trying to ward off those unwanted feelings and memories. Perhaps your baggage comes from a previous relationship, making it difficult to bare your soul with your significant other.

Dr. Steve Maraboli said, “How many of us walk around being weighed down by the baggage of a journey? You can’t possibly embrace that new relationship, that new companion, that new career, that new friendship, or that new life you want while you’re still holding on to the baggage of the last one. Let go…and allow yourself to embrace what is waiting for you right at your feet.”

Your partner is right at your feet, and it is important to be willing to serve them, have fun with them, talk with them, laugh with them, and cry with them. It is important to be able to grow together, evolve together, and blossom in your relationship with Christ together.

You are having issues with in-laws or extended family.

We often value the opinion of our parents and close family, and when family members are unsupportive of your marriage or talking badly about your spouse, then it is time to consider marriage counseling. When you get married, your priority is your spouse and your home. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

While your family will always be a priority to you, your spouse must come first. When you make this commitment, you mustn’t let others try to come between it. Mark 10:9 reminds us, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Guard your marriage. Protect your relationship. Prioritize your spouse. Make Christ the center of your marriage, rather than the opinions or approval of other people.

Absolutely nothing is wrong.

Christian marriage counseling can be beneficial not because your marriage is falling apart, but because you want your relationship to thrive. Perhaps you want to be challenged on a deeper level. Every marriage must weather the torrential storms of life, but it might be helpful to walk through the bountiful and the weary seasons of marriage with a counselor.

Christian marriage counseling can serve as a “wellness check” for your marriage – talking about life, growing in your relationship together, challenging you on a spiritual level together, improving your communication, and continuing to work through any baggage from the past. Marriage counseling is helpful for any day and any season of life.

Today might be a day of sadness or distance in your marriage. Today might be a day when you feel like life is throwing you curveball after curveball, and you are not sure how to move forward. Today is the day to choose reconciliation – with yourself, your spouse, and others. When your overall emotional health is in check, your marriage will continue to grow and thrive.

Do not let six years of unhappiness be the alarm that sounds in your mind to schedule your marriage counseling appointment. Marriage counseling can be for a rainy day, a slightly cloudy day, or a day where the sunshine is on full display.

Whether you feel like your marriage is stale or constantly surprising you, take to heart these verses for your marriage. Pray them with your spouse. Start a Bible study with your spouse. Make your spiritual health a top priority.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.Ephesians 5:25-33

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:12

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14

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How Family Counseling Can Change Your Family Dynamics

Families today face a wide range of difficulties and challenges that impact family dynamics. Families may deal with the effects of divorces, separations, deployments, moves, or identity crisis. Families may also deal with a financial crisis, death of a loved one, medical issues, disabilities, or behavioral ups and downs.

Families may need to address overarching issues of grief, anger, stress, or poor communication skills. It is definitive that all families will face obstacles of various kinds; however, it is important to note that your family does not have to deal with these roadblocks without the support and guidance of a counselor who can aid you in your family’s journey.

If one of your children is struggling with explosive anger outbursts, family therapy can help the child specifically as well as help the family determine how to best aid the child during their outbursts. The therapist will work to get to the root of the issue and determine the best way to help the child deal with and process their emotions.

If one of your family members is battling severe anxiety, family counseling can help the person struggling with anxiety as well as educating the entire family on how to help identify and deal with anxious behaviors.

If your family dynamics are impacted by the effects of stress because of finances or dealing with the loss of a loved one, family therapy can help you learn effective coping strategies to work on the betterment of your family’s emotional health.

Friday nights should be more about making memories together than avoiding one another because of underlying issues or avoiding conversation because you are unsure of what to say.

How Family Counseling Can Change Your Family Dynamics

Family counseling may be the pathway to establishing healthy communication.

Kevin Thompson said, “Communication thrives in healthy families. Unhealthy families have many topics that are off-limits.” For the betterment of the emotional and spiritual health of every family member, it is important to lay a strong foundation for communication skills. Every family member needs to know that their family conversations are a safe place.

They need a safety net, a place of trust, a place to ease anxiety and make their feelings known. Children need a place to ask questions because the world will fill their minds with many thoughts and feelings that they are unsure how to process. Adults need communication with their spouse where they can make their feelings of depression or anxiety known without feeling like a failure.

Family therapy can address family dynamics and ways to improve communication without judgment. Every individual, marriage, and family can improve in this area; it is not something you need to feel like a failure in if your communication is suffering or at a halt. Does everyone feel heard? Does everyone understand how to communicate without immediate judgment? Is everyone given the opportunity to voice their opinion or ask a question?

Family therapists can also serve as a mediator if the issues are more resentment-driven or someone is simply having a difficult time knowing how to voice their feelings.

Family counseling may be the fresh start your family is desperately longing for.

Perhaps your marriage is on the rocks or you feel like you are not getting through to your teenager. Maybe your teenager is inwardly struggling to find themselves or is unsure of what their future should look like. Perhaps their college decisions or sports scholarships are weighing heavy on their shoulders.

Family counseling is a great opportunity to discuss important topics or past issues in a safe, judgmental free place. Sometimes people do not realize how quickly they begin talking over someone else or a child is unsure how to ask a parent for help because of the fear of disappointing them

Sometimes it is more about children aiming to make their parents proud and feeling uncertain of how to voice their struggles. It may be the peer pressures that weigh like a ton of bricks on their adolescent shoulders.

Family therapy can help your family determine how to walk alongside one another in the struggles of life when you feel like you are currently at very different phases of life.

Family counseling can deal with a variety of issues.

If one person in the family is struggling, it impacts family dynamics and likely means that the entire family is functioning differently. Most of the time, we do not struggle during the initial spiral of emotions and crisis, but afterward when the initial wave of support has come and gone.

A child struggling with peer pressure needs continued support. Someone battling anxiety and depression needs continued support. Someone battling struggles from their past, the loss of a loved one, or fear of the future needs more support than what one day can offer.

Family counseling can help family members at large address their struggles and involve the entire family in establishing a plan of continued support for the future. Jen Williamson said, “There is no right speed at which to process one’s healing. There is no one path that serves everyone all of the time. Not every answer is everyone’s answer.”

Every person processes, deals with, and copes differently. Family therapy can aid your family in establishing emotional first aid and help determine how your family can best function through phases of grief, anxiety, anger, poor communication, and withdrawal.

Family counseling can help children establish healthy coping skills for their future.

Not only is family counseling effective and helpful for the entire family at large, but it can also help children learn and establish healthy coping skills for today and in the days and years to come. Helping children establish healthy coping skills is first done by helping them realize it is healthy to be vulnerable and express their feelings and emotions.

It is not a weakness to ask for help. Children need to know that their home is a safe place – one where they can cry, laugh, sing, dance, ask for help, and dream gargantuan dreams.

One thing children in today’s society are longing for is a voice. They long for their voices to make waves and to make a difference. It is crucial to their development to help them understand this voice and the impact it can have. Our goal is for them to be world-changers who know that they can make a difference by doing the right thing.

Today, you can begin your family’s journey to health by:

  • Scheduling a family therapy session. Today is your day! It can be a place of reset, rest, and resolutions. Your heart may need to hear “you are not alone.”
  • Ensure that your family is pursuing open and honest conversation. Start by sitting down as a family and just having an open conversation. Ask everyone how they are really doing. Do not accept “I am okay” as an answer.

Dig deeper. Ask your teen how school is going. What are their favorite/least favorite classes and why? Do they still enjoy the sport they work so hard at? Ask dad how work is going. The first step is to approach conversations out of love and compassion rather than judgment and feelings of failure.

The key to open communication is to check your tone and your heart. Are you empathic or harsh? Are you truly asking someone how their day was, or are you going through the motions and not really listening?

  • Realize every family faces their fair share of setbacks and crises. Do not feel like your family is wrong or failing because of a personal or overall family setback or crisis. You are not alone in facing personal issues. You are not alone in dealing with financial crises, poor communication, staleness in marriage, or having a trying time conversating with teenagers.
  • Get involved at church and have a strong support system. An often-overlooked support system is right under our noses in the churches we attend on Sunday mornings. Ann Landers said it so well, “Church is not a museum for saints, but rather a hospital for sinners.”

It is so easy to feel like we must put on a façade at church. We feel we cannot ask for help or admit areas in our lives that are not picture-perfect. We can truly begin to experience a breakthrough when we put on fewer facades and more true faces.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” The church should be that place where we can come together like a village to help one another through the periods of darkness and ride along together during the periods of bountiful and immeasurable blessings. That is what family is really about.

Christian Counseling to Improve Family Relationships

If you’re looking to improve the family dynamics in your home, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory. We would be happy to meet with you and your family to strengthen the bonds in your home.

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How to Deal with Rejection

Most of us can agree that rejection is painful. Whether rejected by a potential spouse, a loved one, or a career maker, the ego takes a hit. Sometimes it is difficult to move past the hurt and carry on with life as we know it. But life does go on, and we can learn how to deal with rejection in a healthy manner that will propel us forward into our future.

How to Deal with Rejection

Some people can experience a painful rejection and yet find it in themselves to regroup and try again to reach their goal. However, others have trouble once rejection has taken root, especially if they have heard the word “no” constantly. Why are some people resilient after rejection and others are not?

Resilience after a rejection is not a trait only some people are blessed with. Dealing with rejection is a behavior that you can learn. It is how you identify and analyze your thoughts and emotions after rejection. It is learning how to use that hurt to mold and create your purpose by shifting your perspective.

Learning how to deal with rejection is not easy. Being slighted by someone stings and according to studies using MRI scans, the brain responds similarly to physical pain and the pain from rejection. Unfortunately, with social media only a swipe away, more and more people are experiencing rejection on a frequent basis, but there are things you can do to help build your resiliency and bounce back to reach your goals.

Remember Who You Are

When the world rejects you, it’s easy to forget who you are and whose you are. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). No one wants to be hated, disliked, snubbed, or rejected. Yet, Jesus prepared us for how the world reacts to people.

Most of the time, it’s not that people are meaning to slight you. It may be that they are in a hurry or have important matters on their mind and simply forgot to speak or acknowledge your presence. They may feel overwhelmed at work and take a quick break to scroll social media and inadvertently skip “liking” your post. Or, perhaps they are trying to manage all the small details for a social gathering and forget to personally invite you.

Of course, there are situations where you are outright rejected – a potential spouse or clique at school or work. This is the time that you need to remember that God created you and loves you just as you are. You don’t have to prove your worth to Him. You are already a part of His eternal kingdom. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 2:25).

In Him, you are whole, eternal, and perfected in every way. It doesn’t really matter what other people think. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Give Yourself Grace

Rejection is hard enough without the inner voice chiming in and over-analyzing situations. We can tear apart a conversation or something as simple as a look from across a room. The thoughts that form can take on an ugly personality – attacking with negative self-talk. Some of this inner voice originated when we were children through experiences that left an imprint.

More of the inner voice stems from adult experiences that seem to confirm what the childhood inner voice already demands. Have you heard any of these thoughts from your inner voice?

  • You can’t please them because you will never be good enough.
  • No one will ever love you.
  • You’re not meant to do great things.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will never like you.
  • You’re not smart/pretty/clever/wealthy/talented enough.
  • Why even try? You will only fail.

These are harsh statements living in your head and it’s time to put a stop to them. It’s time to give yourself grace. Why should we listen to that negative inner voice say things to us that we would never say to another human being? Even if these are comments you heard from someone in your past that doesn’t mean you have to talk to yourself that way now. Don’t believe these lies. Be kind to yourself.

It’s Okay to Feel the Pain

Keeping the pain from rejection bottled up inside however is unhealthy and can lead to other long-term problems. You can feel the hurt, just don’t get lost in it. You don’t want the emotions to override your controlled behavior. Under the initial sadness, anger, or resentment of rejection is the hurt that needs to be addressed.

In some people, especially those who have faced rejection multiple times, the pain is too much. These people feel the pain, but they can’t seem to separate themselves from the hurt. This can lead to anxiety and depression.

If you think you are having trouble moving past rejection, consider seeking help from a professional therapist. Using a combination of talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist can teach you techniques to move past the pain and shift your perspective.

Feeling the pain can bolster you to higher goals. Celebrities, business executives, CEOs, among others have told stories of being rejected only to reemerge stronger than before. The rejection was actually a blessing and opportunity in disguise. However, these successful people would never have realized that if they hadn’t first embraced the rejection and acknowledged the hurt.

Avoid Dwelling on the Situation

As we recall the painful scenario, we tend to dwell on the pain which gives permission for the inner voice to give its opinion. Slowly we chip away at our own self-confidence. We begin to doubt our ability, talent, skills, worth, appearance, and other things that are important to us. We become our own worst enemy. We manage to twist the truth to fit into new belief molds that are not necessarily true.

Allowing a situation to take the forefront in your mind can also exacerbate the pain and emotions toward the person or people involved. Anger, bitterness, and resentment can grow exponentially. The problem with allowing these emotions to grow is that they end up hurting you.

You are probably not in a place where you can readily forgive the other person just yet for hurting you but holding onto the pain only keeps you from moving forward. “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26). As a child of God, you have more important things to think about.

When Your Hurt Can Help Others

Not all rejection is personal. Yet, rejection can also serve a purpose in God’s plan for your life. Consider the heroes from the Bible. For example, Moses was rejected by his Hebrew brethren which led to his running away until God called him to return to help His people. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife until God moved him into a position that others may not have thought he was worthy to hold.

The rejection you recently faced may have a purpose to it that you aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes in order to get our attention or to steer us back on track, God will use rejection. Ask Him what the purpose of this hurt is and to reveal your purpose.

As seen countless times in the Bible, God doesn’t use someone for something great without first testing them thoroughly. Perhaps what seems like rejection is really part of a test to make you stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future.

Your story could one day inspire another person, maybe the entire world. If you need help dealing with the rejection so you can get back to fulfilling your purpose, seek help from a Christian counselor who can point you not only to techniques that work but also to biblical truth about yourself as someone God created in His own image.

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Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Recover

Do you feel like taking a step back when things get tough in your life? If so, you may be using emotional withdrawal as a defense. This is a common situation, but it can lead to other problems if not addressed.

Withdrawal is a coping mechanism for pain. It’s a self-protective measure a person uses to keep from getting hurt again. However, when withdrawal is used over long periods or repeated, it can cause further relational decay.

Reasons for Withdrawal

The reasons for withdrawing can be myriad in number. They can be due to either real or perceived threats to one’s mental, physical, or emotional safety. Here are several common examples of why people may withdraw.

  • A boy is bullied at school and withdraws from all social contact with peers.
  • A young girl is sexually abused by an uncle and withdraws from all males in her family.
  • A wife withdraws from her husband after he has an affair with a coworker.
  • A young woman experiences spiritual abuse at church and refuses to attend organized services again.
  • A man is treated poorly by his boss and withdraws from social contact with other coworkers.
  • A divorced father withdraws from his children.
  • An elderly mother refuses to see her adult children.

Shame is often a root of withdrawal. In each example above, the people may partially blame themselves for the mistreatment they received. They may even feel like they deserve poor treatment, due to a damaged self-image. Shame can hold us down and keep us from living the life God intended for us to live.

Real guilt may also be involved in withdrawal situations. While shame is attached to false guilt, real guilt is attached to something we did to hurt others. The divorced father may feel guilty for turning his children’s lives upside down. The elderly mother may feel guilty for prioritizing her career over her children when they were young.

Anger is often a reason for withdrawal. The bullied boy is understandably angry at the bully. Likewise, it’s reasonable for the wife to be angry about her husband’s affair, and the teen girl to be angry over the breakup. Anger is a normal, even healthy, reaction to unwanted changes. But when it is not handled properly, it can cause a person to withdraw.

Fear can be attached to reasons for withdrawal. Many people who withdraw live in dread of getting hurt so badly again. Though the real threat of danger may have passed, the trauma from the original incident runs deep. The fear of getting hurt again can drive the urge to withdraw.

No matter the reason for your withdrawal, a caring Christian counselor can help you deal with it. In many cases, talk therapy is highly effective for handling withdrawal and moving toward healing. Your counselor will be able to help identify the reason for your withdrawal and get you past it.

Signs of Withdrawal

The signs of withdrawal run parallel to the signs for the underlying feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and fear. Here are some signs you may notice if you are withdrawing from others.

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • One-word answers
  • Silent treatment
  • Leaving the room when someone enters
  • Fear of returning to where the original incidents occurred
  • Spending much more time alone than usual
  • Not responding to texts, emails or calls

Withdrawal can lead to intense loneliness, and untended loneliness can lead to depression, which can have major risks. These are the signs of depression to watch for:

  • Bouts of tearfulness
  • Feelings of inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Irritation or uncharacteristically short temper
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy even with normal daily activities
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Memory problems
  • Negative impact on work
  • No longer attending normal social engagements
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia
  • Slow movements or slowed, quiet speech
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Recurring thoughts about death, dying, and suicide

If you have at least three of these symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s important to meet with a counselor. In counseling, you’ll receive the help you need to overcome your depression and start connecting with safe people again.

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Emotional withdrawal symptoms can last for a few weeks after a trigger incident. If not handled right away, these symptoms can persist for months or even years. You need help to deal with these symptoms, so they don’t exact a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being.

If you’ve had any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s time to get help.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense loneliness
  • Irrational fears
  • Not leaving your home

No one can successfully navigate these problems on their own. We can help you discover the roots of your withdrawal so you can eliminate these symptoms. If you are not making progress on your own, a consultation with a professional can give you a new perspective plus practical tips for recovering.

Recovering from Emotional Withdrawal

To recover from emotional withdrawal, you not only need to deal with the roots of the problem but find new ways of relating to others. A counselor can help you find the solutions, plus role-play improved relationship dynamics. Let’s look at the examples above to see how these people were able to move past withdrawal.

  • The boy who was bullied gains some boundary-setting skills with his counselor. He learns to view his classmates as not “all bad” any longer. By taking a few calculated risks, practiced with his counselor, he connects with one child in the class and begins building a friendship.
  • As the young girl receives counseling, she learns to grieve her losses and heal from the trauma. Her counselor helps her see that while her uncle made very poor choices that hurt her, other males in her family have been consistently loving and kind. She begins taking baby steps toward a closer relationship with her father.
  • The wife attends her own counseling sessions in addition to marriage counseling sessions with her husband. As they work to repair and restore their marriage, the wife works on her own tendency to use the silent treatment when she’s hurting. By overcoming that relationship problem, she learns to stay connected to her husband even when they experience conflict.
  • The young woman who was spiritually abused walks through the grieving process with her counselor. In her counseling sessions, she learns what personality traits attracted her to the abusive church, and how to overcome those weaknesses. She begins testing out other churches with her friends, not committing to any but keeping her eyes open.
  • Through counseling, the man decides he needs to quit this job, mourn the losses, and build up his emotional strength to start a new job. When he finds a new job, he’s better prepared to build connections with coworkers from the start.
  • The divorced father deals with his guilt and shame in the counselor’s office. There, he discovers that he still has great worth in God’s eyes and finds the courage to rebuild the relationships with his children.
  • The elderly mother talks with a counselor about her past. Though she cannot go back and change anything that happened, she learns that a sincere apology goes a long way toward building bridges. She practices that conversation with her counselor and hopes that her later years will be the best ones yet.

If you are suffering from emotional withdrawal, you can find the same hope and healing as in the examples above. A compassionate Christian counselor is waiting to help. Give us a call today at Seattle Christian Counseling to set up a meeting.

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What is the Christian Perspective on the Law of Attraction?

Ever since the publication of the 2006 book The Secret and the 2007 movie of the same name, the law of attraction has circulated in our pop culture vernacular. Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, and other celebrities are adherents of this movement. You might not even realize the roots of the movement, but maybe you’ve heard people talking about positive vibes, manifesting what you want, and other similar buzzwords or phrases.

If you’re interested in self-help or self-development, you might have noticed popular social media figures promoting law of attraction concepts. For example, YouTuber Lavendaire, who has a million subscribers, wrote this on her blog:

All realities begin in the mind: your beliefs become thoughts, thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become reality. As you take action towards your dream, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

What exactly is this philosophy? Where does it come from? Is it compatible with a Christian worldview? Let’s talk about the background of the law of attraction and compare it with Scripture, and consider how we as Christians can think about this philosophy.

What is the Law of Attraction (LOA)?

The law of attraction is based on the New Thought movement, which began in the early 1800s in the United States under the teachings of Phineas Quimby. Quimby believed in mind healing and practiced hypnotism. Throughout the 1800s, Quimby’s ideas gained popularity, and in the early 1900s, the New Thought Alliance was formed, based on the idea that your mind creates your reality.

In 2006, Australian author Rhonda Byrne published the book and created the documentary called The Secret, and these ideas subsequently went viral. Dr. Neil Farber, writing for Psychology Today, summarizes the law of attraction:

The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. It is believed by many to be a universal law by which ‘Like always attracts like.’ The results of positive thoughts are always positive consequences. The same holds true for negative thoughts, always leading to bad outcomes.

In other words, you focus on your desired outcome, and the universe will give you what you want. Your thoughts become your reality, and even more so, your feelings become your reality. The more you focus on health and prosperity, the more healthy and prosperous you’ll become. The more you focus on sickness, negativity, and poverty, the more sick and unhealthy you’ll become.

Of course, this concept is attractive! It offers us a sense of control. Who wouldn’t want to be healthy and wealthy? But is this belief based on science and evidence, or is it pseudoscience? And more importantly, does this concept align with Scripture, or is it based solely on humanistic or New Age teachings?

LOA ideas include many concepts you may have heard in passing, including visualization, positive vibes, manifesting, mind over body, source energy, and more. This article will address some of those specific concepts and compare them to the truth of Scripture.

The LOA sucks people in by convincing them that they can receive their truest desires if they:

  •     Believe hard enough,
  •     Visualize clearly enough,
  •     Put out enough positive energy,

These ideas hold a kernel of truth. Positive thinking can, to a certain extent, improve your mental and physical health. Optimism is one key to resilience. Treating other people well and being a happy, upbeat person tends to have a ripple effect on those around you. In the book of Proverbs, we often see that wisdom is its own reward (e.g. Proverbs 8:18, 9:12, 22:4).

However, LOA ideas represent a perversion of these truths. You can’t trust the universe to bless you just because you’re putting out positive vibes. Indeed, because the universe is a created thing, it has no power at all to either bless or to curse – that power belongs to God, alone. In the end, this belief is just another futile attempt to manifest happiness and prosperity through one’s own efforts.

Criticism of the LOA

Scientists, psychologists, and other experts claim the law of attraction is pseudoscience, yet its ideas are still wildly popular and gaining traction. Writing for How Stuff Works, Nathan Chandler says:

But Byrne’s ‘secret’ is not really a secret. For centuries, both philosophers and con men have leveraged the LOA and its ilk both to buoy the spirits of the downtrodden and in some cases bilk vulnerable targets out of their cash.

Certain aspects of positive thinking can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You decide to be positive, so your happiness attracts people to you, leading to improved relationships, career progress, etc.

Ultimately though, the law of attraction requires belief in order to “know” if it works or not, which is why it can suck you in. You place your faith in attracting positivity, but you have to be fully invested – mentally and emotionally – to see if it “works” for you.

And if it doesn’t work? Well, instead of acknowledging their ideology is false, LOA proponents will claim that you didn’t put out enough positive vibes:

If you are focused on the belief ‘The Law of Attraction isn’t working for me’ then you dramatically increase the chances that the Law of Attraction won’t work. This is because you are focused on the concept of lack, which attracts yet more lack into your life.Katherine Hurst

The Bible and the Secret Law of Attraction

Let’s compare some of the most popular concepts from the law of attraction with relevant Scripture passages:

Cognitive reframing and creative visualization.

The law of attraction requires that you reframe your thoughts from negative to positive, and visualize what you want to achieve. There is a scientific basis for visualizing an action before performing it, and how that makes you more likely to succeed. This is different from visualizing yourself winning the lottery, however.

The Bible teaches us to reframe our thoughts according to God’s Word (Romans 12:1-2). It also teaches us that we can trust and rely on God to take care of us (Proverbs 3:5). We don’t have to rely on putting out the right energy into the universe. The Bible tells us that God wants us to rely on Him, and He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Positive vs. negative and like attracts like.

Again, there is a kernel of truth here. Science shows us that positivity improves mental and physical health. Common sense tells us that happy, healthy people tend to have more stable and functional lives.

But this doesn’t mean that your mind creates your reality. While God’s word teaches us to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), it also teaches us that we’ll have trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that we must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:1).

Mind over body.

LOA proponents teach that you can overcome sickness and poverty, etc. if you let your mind conquer your body. But God’s Word teaches that he is the Creator, who is sovereign over his creation (Colossians 1:16).

If you’ve ever had the stomach flu, you know that all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to get you out of it. You can’t manifest a cure for cancer (or coronavirus). Instead, we must turn to God the Creator and trust him in both good times and bad.

Source energy.

We don’t all come from the source energy of the universe, as The Secret Claims. We were made by God, and he is a being whom it is possible to know.

Manifesting.

Some adherents of the Law of Attraction claim Bible verses to support their beliefs (e.g., “with God all things are possible”). The prosperity gospel and Word of Faith movements teach similar concepts: if you believe in God’s Word, you will have a good life with many blessings; if you “speak truth” from God’s Word, you will attain material benefits and wealth.

The Secret claims that we are all divine and have one consciousness. If we just tap into the source energy, meditate, and put out positive vibrations, we will attract wealth and happiness.

These concepts are not in line with Scripture or science. They provide a false sense of control, as well as the temporary benefits that you can derive from optimism and healthy positivity. The shreds of truth can suck you in. We don’t manifest our reality. We simply take action, as human beings whom God created.

The law of attraction is not the same as the Bible. Here’s what Christians should do instead to improve our lives: live by faith, walk in obedience, and trust God. God is pleased by our childlike faith, rather than our hope that the universe will manifest wealth for us.

If you are struggling with hope and want to experience the mental health benefits of optimism and positivity, grounded in a biblical worldview, don’t hesitate to contact our office to set up your first appointment for Christian counseling.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-blame-game/201609/the-truth-about-the-law-attraction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/boundless/201706/the-law-attraction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_attraction_(New_Thought)

https://www.britannica.com/event/New-Thought

https://people.howstuffworks.com/law-of-attraction.htm

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-science-of-visualizat_b_171340

Photos:
“Barbed Wire Crown”, Courtesy of Jclk888, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Milky Way”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Intersection of Impossible and Possible”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Compass”, Courtesy of MarandaP, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

The Fear of Abandonment: Getting the Help You Need for Abandonment Issues

The fear of abandonment can create lasting problems from childhood long into adulthood. Adults with abandonment issues may sabotage, consciously or subconsciously, personal relationships with others. This can take the form of pushing a partner away after a period of time to keep that person from eventually leaving first.

For example, a man with abandonment issues may leave his wife of ten years for another woman for fear that his wife would have eventually left him. Before the marriage ended, he may have emotionally pushed her away. In another five or ten years, he may repeat the behavior with his second wife due to his fear that she too will someday leave him.

Although these issues can stem from childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma, adults can develop a fear of abandonment as a result of traumatic experiences later in life.

Abandonment During Childhood

It is common for children to become teary-eyed and sad when their parent leaves them at daycare. A child may cry when their guardian leaves them in the church nursery for an hour or two while the adult worships in the sanctuary. However, children with healthy emotions will move on and play with toys after a while. Or, if they are new to daycare, they will adjust within a week or so of consistent attendance.

Children with emotional abandonment issues, on the other hand, may panic at the thought of the guardian leaving them. The child might develop a severe case of anxiety or refuse to sleep alone. Sometimes this behavior is due to the fear of being left alone. Other times, it is the result of a child having been abandoned.

Abandonment can come in many forms. The parent may physically leave, such as when one parent leaves indefinitely due to divorce or death. Or, it might be from emotional abandonment as when the parent refuses to meet the child’s basic needs for love, attention, and nurturing.

If the child comes from a poor family where the basics of food, running water, power, and heat are not provided consistently, the child may associate that with a lack of love. Loving parents try to provide for their children’s basic needs, and on some level, children instinctively know this.

However, it is not only children from low-income households at risk. Influential families can raise their children without meeting their emotional needs. Children who feel that their parents or guardians are withholding love and attention may develop abandonment issues.

Abused or neglected children from all social-economic backgrounds are at a higher risk of developing a fear of abandonment. These feelings of rejection can shape a child’s mind and their self-belief. This can lead to issues later in life as they try to manage personal relationships.

A child’s mind also perceives events differently than an adult would. A child might conclude that a parent leaving the family permanently due to divorce is because the parent no longer wanted the child in their life. They may believe that the parent felt their life would be easier (or happier, richer, etc.) without the child present. The child may begin to show signs of separation anxiety with the remaining parent.

Separation anxiety is common in children for whom one parent is gone due to death. The loss may have been forthcoming, such as a long illness, or sudden, like a tragic accident. The loss is still deep in either case. Some children suddenly become hyper-aware of the remaining parent’s presence and are afraid of losing them. Other children may feel a sense of betrayal, especially if the living parent is domineering, abusive, or emotionally distant.

During the aftermath of a parent’s death, the surviving parent must cope with their own emotions. Sometimes this means that they wind up neglecting their child’s emotional needs. This isn’t necessarily done on purpose; both child and parent are hurt.

If you are the parent or guardian of a child with abandonment issues, let the child know you are open to hearing how they feel. If it is your own child, they may feel awkward or afraid that they might hurt your feelings. Assure them that you will not overreact. Allow them to express their fears.

If you are worried about the child’s emotional health, seek professional help. You can speak to your child’s pediatrician or school counselor. Sometimes the act of sharing their fears and having someone reaffirm that they are wanted and loved can place a child in a better mental state. Your child’s doctor may refer you to a therapist if the anxiety from the fear of abandonment is extreme.

Abandonment Issues in Adults

Adults are at a higher risk for developing abandonment issues if they experience a traumatic event. This can include sexual assault, domestic violence or abuse, the end of a relationship, or another high-stress situation. It is not only the fear of physical abandonment or neglect but of emotional abandonment as well; the feeling of the other partner pulling away and leaving the person unloved and rejected.

These adults may leave relationships to keep from getting hurt. This fear of intimacy can also result in shallow relationships. The person wants a deeply committed relationship but is terrified of someone they love eventually leaving them. The hurt they will feel at the dissolution of the relationship (not on their own terms) is an emotion they need to avoid at all costs.

This person may sabotage their relationship by becoming emotionally distant, verbally abusive, or indifferent to their partner. They may engage in extramarital affairs or choose work over family life. They may start arguments and contradict their spouse when the spouse tries to confirm that they would never leave the marriage.

The adult with abandonment issues may accuse their spouse of infidelity or some other betrayal. Furthermore, to widen the emotional gap, they may tell others about this alleged betrayal, so that no one will blame them for leaving the spouse.

The behavior from the fear of abandonment causes a reaction from those involved. Unfortunately, the adult with these issues may get a sense of satisfaction from these reactions and the attention they garner and cycle through the behavior again. To the outside world, these people appear full of drama and consistently in new relationships. However, the truth is that the person is hurting with an emotional need that is still unmet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fear of abandonment can cause a person in a bad relationship to stay longer. The fear of loneliness outweighs the fear of staying in the relationship. Even if their partner is emotionally or physically abusive, the person with abandonment issues cannot break free for long. This “stuck” feeling can lead to additional mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Getting the Help You Need

If you recognize the symptoms of abandonment issues in your own life, seek the help of a licensed mental health care professional. Your primary physician can refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counseling center near you.

A faith-based counseling facility can help you overcome the fear of abandonment while reassuring you that there is One who will never abandon you. By relying on your faith in God, you can resist the urge to ruin and flee a loving relationship. You will find the necessary courage to leave an abusive relationship that does not adhere to your Christian values that love is patient and kind, not jealous, boastful, or proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).

A common treatment for emotional abandonment and the fears that accompany it is psychotherapy. This includes talk therapy which can be done in an individual setting with the therapist or in couple’s sessions.

The therapist will help you to identify the thoughts and emotions that accompany these issues and change your responses. It will take time to learn to react with the new behavioral patterns, but this is something you can do. It is not only for you but for the future of your relationship.

Photos:
“Dog on the Beach”, Courtesy of Chris Henry, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Doing Her Makeup”, Courtesy of Photo Hunted, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the City”, Courtesy of Remi Boyer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bridge in the Mist”, Courtesy of Parker Coffman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

The Importance of Choosing Forgiveness

There comes a point in each person’s journey when forgiveness is needed. People will hurt you. You will hurt people. And you will break the heart of God, too.

Forgiveness is such a heavy word. There are feelings of pain that come up for some, feelings of release that come up for others. It is complicated and hard to understand and even harder to do.

But as Christians, people are commanded to forgive just as Christ forgave them (Ephesians 4:32). So if this is this important, then what is it? How do you forgive others? How do you ask for forgiveness? Why it is so important?

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a major theme in the Bible, if not the theme. It is a part of the whole narrative of scripture, describing the process of the fall of man in sin and God’s forgiveness of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

God’s forgiveness is radical, even to the point of completely forgetting sin (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17; Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus talks of forgiving “seventy-seven” times, and Paul says that you “should forgive just as the Lord has forgiven you” (Matthew 18:21; Colossians 3:13).

To know God’s forgiveness, simply ask for it. He freely gives it when you ask for forgiveness. To really know it, read and study it in the word. It is beautiful and rich and undeserved. It is given freely to anyone to turns from his sin, turns to God, and asks Him to forgive him.

Those in the world of secular Psychology have also found the value of practicing forgiveness. They see it a little differently than how the Bible discusses it. This is how most seem to define it:

“Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition).

Many in the world of psychology have also focused on what forgiveness is not because it such a complicated and heavy concept.

What Forgiveness is NOT

In Anger Management for Everyone, the authors define forgiveness like this:

“A process that allows you to untangle the relationship among your thoughts, your actions, and the responses of your body. As you’ll see, forgiving people for what they did doesn’t mean forgetting what they did. It also doesn’t mean accepting it, excusing it, defending it, or being neutral about their nasty actions. It doesn’t mean becoming passive and taking no action to make things better. Rather, forgiving requires developing a better understanding of the actions of others and taking steps to improve your family life, work life, and overall happiness. Forgiveness means letting go of the anger.”

The authors then list what forgiveness is not:

  • Forgetting: Though forgetting what another has done to you is possible, it is not necessary for the forgiveness process. “Forgive and forget” is near impossible in some hurtful situations, but it is possible to not dwell on them as much in your thoughts.
  • Accepting: To forgive does not mean to passively accept or be indifferent to some injustice done to you or another. For example, a teacher sees a student cheating on a test. While the teacher does forgive the student when the student asks, she still will not accept the behavior. The student receives a failing grade.
  • Excusing: Similar to accepting, forgiveness is not saying what happened was OK as long as there was a reason for it. For example, he is only mean when he is drunk, but he has a drinking problem. He is not mean when sober. This is an excuse for his mean behavior.
  • Neutrality: This suggests that no sides are taken in a conflict. Forgiveness does not have to mean this. One can forgive and still “choose a side.” For example, someone drinks and drives and crashes into your daughter’s car. You can choose to forgive the driver, but you remain loyal to your daughter in the legal battle that follows.
  • Justifying:Forgiving does not mean acting as if nothing wrong happened, or as if all is right. Though Christ’s forgiveness does this for those who believe in Him, it does not seem to look like this in relationships. For example, a friend says something unkind that attacks your character and does not apologize or think he is wrong. You are hurt, choose to go through a process of forgiveness, but you still share with him that it is not OK for him to treat you that way.
  • A One-time Thing:Forgiveness is a long process. It is not usually a one-time decision, but a long road of decisions to daily forgive. It occurs over time. This is possibly what Jesus meant when He said to forgive seventy-seven times. He knew it was a process of choosing to forgive over and over again.
  • Seeking justice and compensation: At times, people think they will only feel better if justice is served or they get some sort of compensation for the wrong done to them. Forgiveness is an act of understanding, not demanding something in return. In fact, many times forgiveness is one-sided, meaning that they receive nothing in return, except freedom from the burden of their own anger.
  • Condemning: There is no condemnation with true forgiveness. There is no attack on the person or their character.

Why should someone choose to forgive?

“By minimizing your anger, resentment, bitterness, and desire for revenge, you become stronger and more able to live with greater joy. Forgiveness involves letting go of negative attitudes and anger and adopting a perspective of understanding, compassion, and goodwill toward the person who triggered your anger.” (from Anger Management for Everyone)

When you choose forgiveness, you choose to release the hold that bitterness has on you. Unforgiveness does not hurt the other person as much as it hurts you. It plants anger in you that grows and simmers into resentment and mistrust of others. It is often what keeps you from entering into new meaningful relationships in the present and future.

More than the relational and psychological benefits, forgiveness is an act of obedience to God. It is not easy to do, and it requires full dependence on God to be able to do it in a way that honors Him. Though it may not be humanly possible to forgive each other as radically as Christ forgives, His model is a great place to start. However, some have worked to demonstrate what this process of forgiveness could look like.

How do you forgive someone? (from Anger Management for Everyone)

Step 1: Uncover anger

The process of forgiveness really begins when you can acknowledge the wrong done to you and the effect it had on you. What happened that hurt you or triggered your anger? How did you feel about it? How did you react? When anger subsides from a situation that led to anger, what feelings are below the surface?

Step 2: Decide to forgive

Continuing to focus on the triggering event and unhelpful thoughts associated with it will only lead to more anger and bitterness. Forgiveness is a choice to let go of those feelings and thoughts. Ask yourself, “What is my anger toward this person doing to me?”

Step 3:Know what forgiveness is/not (see above)

Step 4:Work to understand why others behave badly

It is important to find some compassion and understanding for the one who harmed you. This does not mean you are justifying their actions or release them from their responsibilities. It just simply means that you attempt to understand their actions.

Why did they do what they did? No matter the situation, human beings are imperfect and inevitably hurt and disappoint one another. There always will be more to the story, but that is one thing to remember.

Step 5: Give

Offer forgiveness to them, even if (when) they do not deserve it. It could be as simple as stating, “I am choosing to forgive you.” This is an act of grace and mercy toward another. It demonstrates to them that you are letting it go, and it gives them a picture of the way Christ forgives them, too.

Forgiveness is challenging, but it is possible. When you choose this road less traveled, you will experience freedom from the burden of bitterness, and Christ promises that you will be forgiven, too.

Resources:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition

Bible Verses from the English Standard Version

Tafrate, Raymond C., Ph.D. and Kassinove, Howard, Ph.D. Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life. 2009.

Photos:
“Hands and Flower”, Courtesy of Lina Trochez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Gus Moretta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience for Improved Mental Health

All around the country, individuals suffer from mental health issues brought about by various circumstances in their life. This is why many seek professional assistance to help them overcome their situation. Recovery, however, may come in differing ways and in varying speeds, as each circumstance is different. Regardless, what is important is that the client is able to get back on their feet and, hopefully, not regress. For those who were able to make a complete recovery, one factor is quite clear among them – they generally have greater emotional resilience than other sufferers.

About Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability to quickly or easily recover from difficulty or a change. If a person has emotional resilience, though they may still experience and struggle in tough situations (such as a battle with addiction, depression, or severe trauma), they are able to get better a lot faster than others in similar situations.

This is quite different from those with less inner strength as these individuals usually end up returning to their old ways, negating whatever progress was made in their therapy – much to the detriment of family and friends, and their bank account.

Many believe that emotional resilience comes about because of a person’s upbringing. If as a child the person was able to learn from someone resilient (e.g. a parent bravely dealing with their life issues) or if they encountered and solved troubles on their own, then chances are their inner toughness was strengthened. This is why it is easier for them to deal with big issues in their adolescent or adult years compared to their peers.

Others, however, realize that resiliency can be learned, even if one is already an adult. It just takes practice and focus in order to become mentally and emotionally tough.

9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience

Just like in other aspects of life, resiliency will not suddenly occur overnight. The person must purposely strive to achieve it. The following are nine important steps to become a more resilient person.

1. Strengthen Your Spirituality

Perhaps the biggest building block of resiliency is to truly have faith in a higher power. This is not just the casual church goer or having one’s named registered at the local church; this means being able to anchor one’s life around a set of beliefs that drives the person forward, regardless of their circumstances.

Many who have overcome difficulties like addiction, assault, depression, or domestic abuse attest that it was their faith that allowed them to believe that positive change was attainable and that God would empower them to achieve it. Such faith, however, did not mean that they could just sit back and watch God work to resolve their issues.

They still had their own part to play to remain sober, improve their attitude, change their environment, or mend their relationships. But it was their spirituality that allowed them to keep pushing forward despite emotional, mental, and even physical setbacks (e.g. withdrawal symptoms).

2. Discover Your Purpose

After strengthening one’s spirituality, it is necessary for the person to discover their purpose in life. Why are they here? How can they contribute to their family? their community? the world? What does God want them to do? What does God want them to do differently?

A person who is still figuring out who they are often has more difficulties recovering from major setbacks in life since they are still clueless as to what direction in which to head. Many times it becomes far easier for them to just give up and return to what they were before, believing they are useless.

But a person who knows their purpose is aware that there is still something more to be done. This makes it easier for them to pick themselves up and do what is necessary to fulfill God’s plan for them, even if they are still hurting inside.

3. Develop Compassion

The third important step to build up resiliency is to develop compassion for others. When a person is too self-absorbed, they often focus on their personal flaws and hurts while missing out on the small, yet good things happening around them. This is why they often wallow in their own sadness or bitterness as they wrongly believe that God’s blessings have been given to others, not to them.

Acts of compassion, however, redirect the person’s focus from themself to others. It is often in these small acts of service that the person begins to notice God moving in the background, touching lives, and making changes. This allows the person to now see the blessings they have in their own life which then builds up their inner strength and their appreciation for what God has given them.

4. Seek Mentorship

The next step towards emotional resilience is to seek mentorship, something that many people lack in today’s time. Nowadays, many believe the lie that they are strong if they can discover and do everything on their own; hence, the generation now proclaims the need for “independent living.” But life was not meant to be that way. This is why so many become frustrated with life because they shoulder their burdens on their own when they are supposed to be loving and helping one another.

A true mentor is someone who takes the individual under their wing to share invaluable insights about life. These insights greatly help the learner as they can avoid many pitfalls in life, as a life of trial-and-error is very difficult indeed. The mentor is also there to help pick the person up should they fall, making challenges easier to overcome. Their care and words of advice do much to build up the resiliency of the person.

While parents are often the first option, sometimes busyness or relationship issues prevent parents from doing a good job. Other than parents, one can also seek mentorship from other older relatives, teachers, bosses, pastors, or church elders.

5. Practice Discipline

The fifth step is to practice discipline. Sadly, with everyday mantras such as “Live for the moment,” “Seek your own happiness,” or “You only live once,” discipline has become something that people wish to ignore unless they are an athlete, musician, or soldier. Such thinking, however, is far from the truth as discipline is necessary for success, especially if one wishes to recover from mental health issues.

If a person has discipline, it becomes easier to follow helpful routines, such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest. Discipline also allows a person to better manage their work and leisure schedules to avoid conflict and burnout. Moreover, a disciplined person is able to keep their thoughts and emotions in check, making it easier for them to focus on and solve their problems.

6. Embrace Hard Work

The sixth step is to embrace the need for hard work. Similar to discipline, this is another trait that is missing today. In this world of instant food and instant messaging, many people, particularly the young, expect instant success.

Unfortunately, such thinking leads to much disappointment which is why lots of individuals suffer from mental health issues like anxiety or depression. And when they do try to recover from such issues, they sadly regress since they were expecting instant recovery as well.

But when a person understands that hard work is necessary to accomplish their goals, their heart and mind are better prepared to push forward despite the obstacles. When coupled with strong faith, understanding the importance of hard work also leads one to become more patient in waiting for God’s timing, rather than insisting that they see the fruit of their labor right away.

7. Become More Ambitious

The seventh step is to become more ambitious. In most cultures, people derive meaning from the work they do, so it is important to have ambition. An ambitious person is someone who wishes to accomplish something. Though a person may recognize their purpose in life (Step 2), if they do not have much ambition, they may not have many achievements which may greatly affect their self-esteem.

Such ambition, however, should not be solely focused on one’s career or financial status. It ought to also include other creative passions (e.g. art, gardening, music) and helping others in need (e.g. community work). As mentioned earlier, if a person has compassion for others (Step 3), they are better able to appreciate the small joys in life.

Though it may be possible that those who lack ambition are just lazy, oftentimes the deeper story behind it is that they do not believe in themselves which is why they do not seek newer challenges. So ambition is necessary to build up self-worth, increasing one’s resiliency.

8. Change Your Behavior

Another key step to building resiliency is to change one’s behavior. Those who suffer from mental health issues (or even just low self-esteem) have problems with how they think and behave (speech or actions). Instead of thinking or reacting positively, they do something different which may hurt their self-worth (e.g. blaming themselves for the wrongs) or hurt others (e.g. lashing out instead of keeping calm). While some are unaware of these aspects, others simply believe that that is who they are and that they cannot be changed.

Fortunately, behavioral changes can be made with the right help and if the individual desires to seek such changes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, is one method that seeks to make incremental adjustments in how the person reacts to situations, aiming for more positivity than before.

Though it takes time and much practice, the small adjustments in how they control their fears, words, and actions do make a difference. But again, it all starts with the individual making a conscious choice to change their behavior for the better.

9. Adjust Your Perception

The final step toward increasing emotional resilience is to adjust one’s perception. How a person views their world and their problems impacts their resiliency. If they believe all is hopeless, then the desire and energy to recover will not be there, causing them to regress or even develop more mental health issues e.

But changing one’s perception is easier said than done. It does take much time and requires a shift from how they view life to how God views it, which is why spirituality is so important. Once they are able to understand that the negatives in their life may actually be building blocks of character or possibly consequences of sin, they may have a better understanding about what life is really all about and be able to finally move forward, rather than dwell in the past.

Seek Christian Counseling to Increase Emotional Resilience

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

The previously mentioned steps can really help a person build up resiliency that leads to mental health recovery. Conscious effort and patience are needed to help an individual achieve this, yet it can be done.

However, for those who have difficulty in achieving this as they may lack the willpower or wisdom to do so on their own, it is best to seek Christian counseling to help build up their emotional resilience.

In Christian counseling, the latest therapeutic techniques will be used to help the individual overcome any lingering mental health issues they may still be suffering from. The counselor will then be there, acting as a mentor, to help guide the person to achieve the steps needed for resiliency.

But most importantly, the faith-based counselor will seek to strengthen the person’s faith in God through a strong relationship with Jesus Christ which is very necessary for healing. The counselor will also answer any questions the person may have about their understanding of faith or about their personal walk with God, as many usually have such unanswered concerns. Once their faith has been truly strengthened, then resiliency and true recovery are possible.

If you or a friend is recovering from a mental health issue and stronger inner strength is needed, then seek Christian counseling soon. Full recovery will be possible once God is involved.

Photos:
“Happy”, Courtesy of Matias Saw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy Couple,” Courtesy of Arentas, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Journaling,” courtesy of Hannah Olinger, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Is Fear of Commitment Ruining Your Relationship?

Emily and Eric had been dating for one year, and they’d had several conversations about getting married, but Eric hadn’t popped the question yet. Emily’s friends asked her regularly when they were planning on getting married because she had often talked about wanting to be a wife and thinking that Eric was the one.

Everything seemed to be going well. Emily and Eric’s friends liked the relationship, and their families thought they seemed very compatible. So Eric was shocked when after two years of dating, Emily turned his marriage proposal down.

That night, Emily’s mom called. Through tears, Emily told her mom, “I wasn’t ready yet. I love Eric, and I want to be his wife, but when I saw him kneeling there with the ring, I just couldn’t say yes. I feel like I’m going to be trapped if I say yes.”

Maybe you’ve never turned down a marriage proposal, but have you ever been flooded with fear before making a big decision? It can be so much more comfortable to linger in uncertainty instead of choosing a course of action, knowing you can’t go back.

The fear of commitment can surface in other areas of your life besides romantic relationships. It might prevent you from settling on a career path, moving to a new area, or choosing a major in college. Any decision that limits your future can seem daunting and frightening. It’s too hard to deal with the overwhelming fear, so you end up avoiding these decisions or putting them off as long as possible.

What causes an unreasonable fear of commitment? How can you overcome it, and how can you know if and when your fears are justified? If you’ve realized that your commitment phobia is affecting your life, you’re probably ready to do whatever you can to overcome it. Or maybe it’s your partner who has a fear of commitment and you’re feeling hurt that they are keeping you at arm’s length.

Keep reading to find out more about the fear of commitment and how you can work through it in your relationships and your life.

What is Fear of Commitment?

How can you tell if you just have “normal” cold feet in your relationship, vs. allowing a dysfunctional fear to wreak havoc? Don’t most people feel kind of afraid to commit? When does it cross a line into something you might need help overcoming?

If you’re reading this article, you probably recognize that the fear of commitment is causing problems in your relationship, whether it’s you or your partner who is fearful. So let’s break it down a little more. The word commitment means “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”

A commitment restricts your freedom. Isn’t that the root of your fear? When you keep your options open, you still feel free. But there’s a problem with this kind of freedom. When we always keep our options open, we never get to enjoy the rewards of commitment – a fulfilling marriage, for example, or a rewarding career.

A fear of commitment can also be known as commitment phobia or relationship anxiety. These terms aren’t an official diagnosis; they’re just used to a sense of extreme anxiety in a relationship that prevents the relationship from moving forward naturally. According to Psych Central:

“People with a commitment phobia long and want a long-term connection with another person, but their overwhelming anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressed for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or they may initially agree to the commitment, then back down days or weeks later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears.”

As you can see, relationship anxiety prevents you from having what you really want. You might desire to be in a long-term relationship, to get married, to trust your partner and enjoy your life with them. But you’re held back from this ultimate goal by your own overwhelming fear.

If this describes you, don’t lose hope – you can overcome the fear of commitment. It doesn’t have to prevent you from having the relationship or life you desire.

Commitment and Attachment Theory

Psychologists offer a few explanations for the root of commitment phobia, and one of the explanations stems from attachment theory. Good Therapy explains:

“According to attachment theory, the quality of the relationship will depend on an attachment figure’s alertness,responsiveness,and availability to meet the individual’s personal needs. Additionally, attachment theory suggests that prior social interactions – particularly those experienced in childhood – can also influence a person’s behavior and may have a significant impact on the way an individual perceives relationships in adulthood.” [emphasis added]

So, if you experienced an insecure attachment with your caregiver(s) as a child, you might struggle to have a healthy attachment in adult relationships. You might be afraid to trust them and make a long-term commitment.

Or you might have experienced an insecure adult relationship that has led to fears of committing to someone else. Your partner may not have been emotionally available or responsive to your needs. Here are a few more possible causes of the fear of commitment (Psych Central):

  • Dysfunctional environment in the family of origin
  • Experience of trauma or abuse in childhood
  • A past unhealthy relationship
  • Specific fears: of the relationship ending without prior notice, of someone hurting you unexpectedly, etc.

Many experiences can act as triggers for a fear of commitment, causing you to struggle with ongoing anxiety.

Symptoms of the Fear of Commitment

Here are some behaviors that you or your partner might display if you are afraid to commit:

  • Feelings of anxiety or uneasiness when your partner brings up plans or talks about commitment
  • Avoiding planning for the future or discussing where the relationship is headed
  • Avoiding emotional vulnerability and closeness
  • Engaging in a series of short-term relationships that lack depth; moving on before things get too serious
  • Ghosting the other person for days at a time, especially once you’re past the very early stages of a relationship

Every relationship moves at its own pace, and it takes some people longer than others to make a decision to commit. That’s normal. But a chronic fear of commitment can prevent you from moving forward even when you really want to. It can become an inner battle to allow yourself to commit to someone. This struggle can prevent you from enjoying a fulfilling relationship.

Is a Fear of Commitment Ever Justified?

It’s crucial to listen to your intuition in every relationship, not just romantic ones, but especially before you make a lifetime commitment to someone. A fear of commitment and a sense that something is wrong or unhealthy are two different things.

If you are in a relationship and you are hesitating about commitment, ask yourself whether this fear is a pervasive pattern or whether it’s specific to this relationship. The younger and more inexperienced you are, the harder it can be to tell the difference.

Get advice from your family, friends, or a qualified Christian counselor if you need help discerning whether you’re dealing with an unhealthy relationship. Don’t ignore red flags, warning signs, or the fact that you and this person may not be compatible. Taking your time, praying, and using discernment are all healthy behaviors that partners should respect in each other.

But allowing a chronic fear of commitment to prevent you from forming an emotional attachment is something altogether different. Don’t feel bad about taking time to commit, but don’t let fear control you, either.

Overcoming a Fear of Commitment

Anxiety isn’t a rational thing; it’s a stress response to a perceived threat. So you can’t just reason yourself out of your fear of commitment. But you can start gradually teaching your brain and emotions that you’re safe and it’s okay to let your guard down little by little, and eventually make a long-term commitment.

You can start by taking small steps in the right direction. Commit to short-term plans. Commit to plans a few months away. Gradually increase your capacity to make a commitment for your future.

Recognize that regret is part of life. None of us have perfect foresight and unrestricted freedom. Every choice we make to do one thing is a choice not to do something else. None of us will choose perfectly. Our realities will always be limited by our own decisions.

Trust God’s plan for your life and that he can and will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28). Commitment and responsibility are inextricably linked. Once you’ve committed to a course of action, you now have responsibilities related to it, and that’s okay. Living up to your responsibilities and commitments will make you a healthier, stronger person.

If you or your partner is struggling with a fear of commitment, don’t be afraid to talk about it together. The individual struggling may choose to get individual counseling for fear of commitment, where he or she can work through possible attachment issues, childhood experiences, and past relationships. Couples counseling can also help you work through these issues together.

The fear of commitment doesn’t have to stop you from having a fulfilling life and relationship. Reach out for a risk-free initial appointment with one of our Christian counselors today so you can take the next steps towards living in freedom.

Resources:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/fear-of-commitment
  • https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/commitment-issues
  • https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-is-commitment-phobia-relationship-anxiety/

Photos:
“Dilemma”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Do I Love Him?”, Courtesy of Jonathan Andrew, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of TranStudios Photography Video, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Bonds of Love”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Scriptures on Relationships: What Does the Bible Say about Friendship?

Our lives are made up of a web of relationships – with colleagues at work, at home with parents, siblings and children, with our neighbors, and so much more. One important type of relationship, which can take different shapes and develop around a variety of interests, is friendship.

Friendships range from the casual acquaintance or former classmate you bump into or “friend” on social media, to the kinds of friendships where you would entrust your life and the lives of your loved ones into their hands.

Some friends are the people we rely on – we cry, laugh, sing, pray, and do life with – and they can do the same with us. To find and have a good friend is something priceless.

Scriptures on Relationships

What does the Bible say about friendship, and what timeless wisdom can we glean from the Scriptures on relationships to navigate this important part of our lives?

We are built for relationships

One of the realities about us as people is that we generally gravitate toward other people and toward relationships with them. Even if we struggle to trust people or connect with them, we have something of a yearning to meaningfully relate to other people. This is understandable when you realize that human beings were built for relationships.

Do you know why you really, really enjoy your friends and their company? And why we crave connection with other people? Genesis 1:27 says that human beings were made “in the image of God.” This means there is something about us which reflects who God is.

We will get into this more a little later, but one of the things about God is that God is relational by nature. God made us to be in relationship with one another – despite being surrounded by immense beauty and a plethora of animals, God thought that human solitude was ‘not good’ (Genesis 2:18).

We need the company and connection with other human beings. That’s why one of the worst punishments which can be inflicted upon a person is to place them in solitary confinement.

While there may be many complications involved, we are fundamentally built for relationships and connection with other people. The capacity and desire for meaningful relationships is an integral part of who we are as beings made in God’s image.

Friendships are enriching

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” says the ancient wisdom from the book of Proverbs (27:17). When we are friends with someone, we let them into our space, let them get to know us, and allow them to have influence in our lives.

When a friend speaks into or over your life, because they are someone you have grown to trust, you take what they say seriously. And so, our friends have a role in developing and molding our character.

If they tell us something true about ourselves, even though it might be hurtful, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). Deep friendships enrich us because good friends challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. In the same way that iron sharpens iron, good friends help to build us up even as we do the same for them.

The Bible also talks about friendships that are deeper than even the bonds of blood. Proverbs 18:24 speaks about “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” One example of this in the pages of Scripture is the relationship between David and Jonathan.

These two men pledged friendship to one another, so much so that when Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was hunting down and wanting to kill David out of jealousy, Jonathan went out of his way to warn his friend to keep him safe (1 Samuel 20). Some friends will go way out on a limb for us, much more than even our own siblings or parents. Such friends are precious.

This is the positive side of friendship, but there is another angle the Bible also talks about.

Certain friendships can derail us

The dark side of friendships is that they can derail us, depending on the person. Because our friendships can shape us in profound ways, we need to be careful who we befriend and invite into our inmost spaces.

As kids, many of us had at least one friend that our parents warned us about that they didn’t want us to play with. At times these parental bans were reasonable, because that kid didn’t care about school and her influence was affecting your grades.

At other times, parents had their own hang-ups and they simply didn’t want their kids to hang with a kid from a different background, and this was often not reasonable. But when God tells us to be careful who we associate with and who we let into our friendship spaces, it is being done from a place of wisdom and love.

God knows us through and through – our strengths, weaknesses, and so much more. God also loves us deeply and desires for us to flourish. The Bible is full of verses that warn us that we can become ensnared in the bad behavior of our friends, such as being hot-tempered (Proverbs 22:24), plotting violence (Proverbs 24:1) or overindulging in alcohol and food (Proverbs 23:20-21).

Whoever we invite into our inmost spaces to become our friends, to have influence in our thinking and behavior, they will have a profound impact on the development of our character. As Paul puts it, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

This does not mean that we are to be unloving, judgmental, hostile, or unhospitable to people who display some of these behaviors. No; Jesus was loving towards us and hung out with the “lowest of the low.” We are to always be courteous, loving, and kind, regardless the individual.

As Paul put it elsewhere, if we refused to associate with everyone who acted in this and other ungodly ways, we would have to leave the world altogether (1 Corinthians 5:10). Friendship, however, is deeper than mere association. To exercise wisdom in choosing our friends, the question is whether we are letting people into a position where they can influence and counsel us toward what is ungodly, or toward what will build up our character and theirs.

A true friend

There is one friendship we have not spoken about yet. Earlier, we touched on how as people we are hardwired for relationships, and that’s because we reflect who God is. Is it any wonder, then, that one of the friendships the Bible talks about is between God and people?

You may know of the song that goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear . . . .” This song is talking about something profound – that God desires relationship with people.

Jesus says that His disciples are His friends, and not just simply followers or servants. Do you recall that verse about a friend who sticks closer than a brother? Jesus – who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – exemplified that.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus said this on the evening before He laid down His life for the sake of His friends, and the world. He demonstrated that great love for us.

What’s remarkable about all this is what another Bible writer says: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8). It’s not for nothing that Jesus was called the “friend of sinners.”

Conclusion

As people, we are hardwired for relationship. We crave connection with other people, and despite some of the difficulties we may have in forming deep and long-lasting friendships, our hearts always yearn to find meaningful relationships.

By applying wisdom in this area of our lives, we can pursue healthy friendships that nourish us and our friends, helping us to grow more into the people we can become as bearers of God’s image.

Photos:
“Friends”, Courtesy of Omar Lopez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Trung Thanh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laughing with Friends”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friendship,” Courtesy of rawpixel, unsplash.com, CC0 License