“Wives, submit to your husbands”
Just the mention of this Bible verse from Ephesians 5 makes many wives angry and makes their husbands duck for cover.
Let’s look at the full context of this verse. The chapter begins with
“Be imitators of God… and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us”and“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ”These two commands are written equally to wives and husbands. BOTH are to love and BOTH are to submit.
So, if that is true, then why did the Apostle Paul call out the husbands to love, and the wives to submit? Our distinct gender nature.
Wives don’t need extra explanation on how to love; they get it already.
Husbands don’t need extra explanation on how to submit; they get it already.
Consider the historically male dominated industries, such as the military and police. It is immediately apparent that there are ranks, as this is the way that the male mind works. Men are intuitively accepting of hierarchies.
Women do not have the same intuition, so Paul felt the need to further explain to them what submission looks like. Consider the historically female dominated industries, such as day care or teaching elementary school. It is immediately apparent that there is nurturing and love. Most men are ill equipped to survive in such environments, so Paul felt the need to specifically explain to them what love looks like.
Many couples have problems because the husband is submitting to his wife, believing that if he gives her everything she asks for she will be happy. Too often, wives don’t reciprocate and then end up feeling like the entire burden of the family is on them. God was wise when he laid out the solution. Wives should work on reciprocating submission, and Husbands should work on reciprocating love.
As a husband, I can say with certainty that my wife’s submission motivates me to love and care for her. Wives, submission is NOT a sign of weakness. Submission energizes Husbands to tenderly care for you!
Happiness Destroyed from Within
The Christmas season brings such joy to so many people, yet this same joyful season also yields the highest depression and suicide rates.
To the degree that we have unreasonably high expectations, we fill ourselves with potentially destructive disappointment. Surely some loved one will not call, or will give a cheap and thoughtless gift, or won’t attend your party, or won’t spend enough time with you at the party, or…
Science shows that many small annoyances are more damaging to our happiness than large calamities, and similarly, many small encouragements elevate our mood more than any major events. This being true, how can we reduce the frequency of annoyances and increase the frequency of small encouragements?
Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying “I'd rather be a pessimist because then I can only be pleasantly surprised.”
While we don’t advocate pessimism, perhaps ol’ Ben’s words have particular application to us during the exciting, yet volatile Christmas season.
Jesus is famously quoted as saying “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
It isn’t our enemies that disappoint us during the Christmas season because we don’t have any expectations of them. We do, however, have expectations of those that we love, and therein is the problem. We may have a misguided understanding of love. Love should be less about how we expect to be loved, and more about how we will love others. What Jesus was saying is that we need to refocus our expectations of others downward, as we turn up the love in ourselves.
A story of suicide
My struggle with suicide happened when I was a teen. My dad had an automotive shop, so I grew up around cars. At that time, Detroit was putting out the legendary muscle cars that today are being copycatted. Fast was in, and I was directly in the middle of that subculture.
Having the full use of my dad’s shop put me at a huge advantage over the other teens, and I took pride in restoring some great muscle cars. I was so immersed that I pursued a college education in “Engine Power Technology” and actually built hot rod engines for a living.
One particular Friday night, I put the finishing touches on a frame-up restoration of a burgundy red 1967 Chevy Chevelle. For 6 months I poured my soul into every aspect of that gorgeous piece of machinery, and this night I rolled it out on the street for the very first time. Many gathered to admire it, and I graciously bestowed the honor on a few awestruck souls to actually ride in it. This was the apex of all my money, time, and energy. This automobile clarified my identity as a Master-Builder worthy of respect.
This car had considerable power, and although I had some ridiculously oversize tires on the jacked-up rear end, it was effortless to make them spin. Spinning tires is fun! Fun, that is, until you wreck the car against another car.
While others watched. Without insurance.
In an instant my self-identity plummeted from “Stud” to “Loser”, and I was filled with shame for my stupidity. My heart was filled with embarrassment, and although I knew that I needed to fix my car as soon as possible, it would never be the same. I'm referring not to the car, but to myself.
That night, the enemy of my soul tempted me for the first time to end my life. Now, perhaps you are thinking that a wrecked car is a ridiculous reason to end your life, and today I would join you in that assessment. However, it was much more than just a car; it was my identity that was wrecked on that day.
I doubt that anyone reading this has been suicidal over wrecking a car, but let's break down the anatomy of the temptation.
I wanted other people to understand how I felt. I wanted them to know the depth of my pain. I wanted them to erect a statue of me and my car for all time, as a testimony to how successful I was.
For others, perhaps the catalyst is a failed marriage, a failed career, or the untimely death of a loved one. Issues like these are used by the enemy of our soul to trick us into doing the unthinkable. He whispers to us “If you kill yourself, everybody will understand just how much you really loved them!” “If you kill yourself, everyone will believe that you really meant what you said!” “If you kill yourself, people will have to acknowledge how much your contribution to their life really meant. Don’t you want to see them cry as they speak wonderful words of you at your funeral? Finally everyone will really appreciate you!”
Thoreau famously wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” In my professional opinion, there is a great deal of truth to this. We buy the lie that we need to 'suck it up' and put on a happy face so we don't bring anyone else down. We buy the lie that we need to do something extreme to get our point across. We buy the lie that nobody really knows us or understands us. We choose to live behind masks; prisons of our own making.
My friend, God knows more about you than even you do, and fully understands why you do everything that you do. He knows how hard you try, how much you love. He has been a silent witness your entire life, not only of what you do but what you were thinking and what motivated you. He knows all the bad stuff too, and loves you anyway. You fool yourself when you believe that you are all alone, because He is forever with you!
New Life Counseling Center exists to help you to express yourself in healthy and productive ways, which leads to genuine and healthy relationships. Yes, there is real evil in the world, but the world is also full of love and beauty. Let us help you to discover the unconditional love, unqualified acceptance, and unhurried presence that you need.
How to change others
The well-known mythological Greek god Poseidon had an infamous son named Procrustes. Procrustes was a narrow-minded sort, who thought that he was always right. Anyone that didn’t see things his way was either strange or bad. One day he set up a rectangular metal bed on a busy road between two cities. By force, he made every traveler lay on the bed in order to measure how tall they were. When he found someone too tall, he cut off all the parts that hung over the bed, thereby killing them. When someone was too short, he stretched them to the ‘right’ size, killing them as well. The only people that were allowed to live, in Procrustes’ world, where those that he believed to be ‘just right’.
Thankfully, he made so many enemies that he was killed.
Does a version of Procrustes live on in you?
“Procrusteanism” is a term in psychology defined as “enforcing uniformity or conformity without regard to natural variation or individuality”
The Apostle Paul did a splendid job of describing the economy of love, as he likened the church community to a human body. He famously said “The body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
A large and often overlooked part of becoming mentally stable and emotionally happy is to fully appreciate and accept who you and others are uniquely created to be, and to stop trying to conform to others or reform others into your image. The divine Creator imagined your very special design and being. Equally, He uniquely shaped and formed others. Let’s learn all about who God created each of us to be. The change comes from discovery, and ceasing our striving.
This is the mission of New Life Counseling Center.
Character Vs. Personality
The Greek word translated to Character in English is the tool that shapes other substances. When the hammer and the stone meet, it is the stone that changes, not the hammer. In the same way, your character represents who you truly are inside, which does not change.
Personality is distinctly different. Your personality is the mask that you wear. We tend to wear whatever mask we believe will cause other people to give us what we want. It is manipulative, and is the human condition. We pretend to be friendly when we wish to sell something, we pretend to be sad or mad when we want our way with our spouse, and we pretend to be busy when we don't want to be disturbed. Perhaps when someone else close to us puts on their angry mask when they don't get their way, we put on our happy mask to avoid setting them off. Our kids put on their pout mask to get their way and we put on our.... you get the idea.
Oh the games we play.
The problem with putting on masks is that it is impossible to feel loved. Others may express a great deal of love to us, but we intuitively know that they are loving the imaginary person that we are projecting, not us. The only way that we are capable of receiving love is to expose our true selves.
Liberation from the good opinion of others is healing. The Apostle John said much about how God first loved us, and how we then reflect that love to others. God sees right past our petty masks and loves us more than anyone else possibly could. Even though that is true, we tend to wear a mask with God!
There is a sequence to our healing.
1: Start by being honest with ourselves. This sounds simple, but is actually quite hard. It takes strength and determination. Maybe you really were wrong in that argument. Maybe you really are proud, or sloppy, or insensitive. It takes a strong person to actually admit faults, even when nobody else is listening.
2: Be honest with God, after all, He already knows! Paul said that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ, so there is no reason to fear. Being honest with God is your first chance to experience receiving love for who you really are. Paul also said that there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.
3: Be honest with others, but from a position of strength and fulfillment that comes from #1 and 2.
Many find this simple teaching easy to read, but impossible to do. Therein is the benefit of professional guidance. Let us help you to actually put into practice more of what you already know.
Just the word brings a shiver down the spine, and a breath-prayer “Dear God, don’t let that happen to me”!
Amputation is so… permanent! Once it’s done, it’s over; you will never have that part of you again.
Living life after an amputation can be done, but you will have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. You can still play an instrument with a missing finger, but not like everyone else. If you have a prosthetic, you can still run with an amputated foot, but probably not the same as before.
Why would anyone ever want to undergo an amputation? Let’s look deeper at that question.
If you had gangrene in your foot and the only way to stay alive was to consent to amputation, would you do it? Sitting in your chair right now with your two healthy feet, you might say “I would rather die!”, but chances are extremely good that if you were really in that position, your instinct to live would take over.
Divorce is like amputation.
The Bible says “God hates divorce”, and for some people that is the beginning and end of the discussion. To them, anyone who has ever gone through a divorce has a “Scarlet D” on their chest; the permanent mark of failure. To use the amputation metaphor, they would rather see someone die than divorce. While that is not the culture of today, that belief system was extremely common not that many years ago.
If this represents the ditch on one side of the right path, let’s look at the opposite ditch.
Most people today take an incredibly flippant view of the marriage vows, not thinking past their own happiness and preferences. The current statistics don’t lie; 50% of first marriages end in divorce, 67% of second marriages, and 73% of third. If children from prior marriages are added to the mix, you can add about 5-10% to the latter two statistics. Clearly, people are deceived into believing that the problem is the marriage, or their spouse, and that they will be happy with someone else. The problem is that they are survivors of an amputation and they will not be able to function as freely and easily as they did before.
Divorcing your spouse is like volunteering for an amputation. You need to know in advance that this is like cutting away a part of you that will not grow back. With help, you will learn to function, but it takes help.
That is the mission of New Life Counseling Center; divorce prevention and recovery.
“The Honeymoon is Over”
Most people enter into marriage because they are in love. Engaged couples are easy to spot; they sit close to each other holding hands, gazing deep into each other’s eyes. All is well in their world.
Then they get married.
Inevitably, at a later date they are found lamenting to their friends that “The Honeymoon is over.” Welcome to reality.
What causes this common problem?
During the dating phase, oftentimes the couple’s time together consists of dinner and a movie, or some other pleasant activity. If something troubling is experienced during this time together, the tendency is to smile through it and let it go, after all, we want the other person to like us! We may go back home and do some activity that we enjoy in order to recharge our batteries.
Marriage is very different, in that when we go home our spouse is there! Oftentimes, married people speak of how their spouse has changed. However, they haven’t really changed, rather, their true self is exposed.
So, how can dating couples avoid this common disappointment? The answer might surprise you.
Dating couples generally try to avoid arguments, and thereby don’t develop good conflict resolution skills. They enter the ‘battleground’ of marriage without proper training!
Lest you take this too far, let’s examine proper balance. Some people avoid arguments and the unresolved tension drives distance between them. This is ‘Cold War’ and the resulting stress causes all sorts of psychosomatic illnesses. Other people argue about every minor thing, under the banner of ‘being real’. Neither one of these is healthy.
Research suggests that the happiest couples have a 4/1 ratio of positive to negative comments. Positive is defined as agreement and/or affirmation, while negative is defined as simple disagreement. Pay attention to yourself and keep a mental tally. If you are higher or lower than this ratio, you may have an opportunity to improve your relationship.
If yours is lower than 4/1, ask yourself why you find it necessary to always get your way. Are you soliciting others input and searching for a win-win?
If yours is higher than 4/1, speak up and express your true opinion instead of hiding behind a forced smile. By definition, in a win-win, everybody gets something that they like, and that includes you!
New Life Counseling Center exists to help you to improve your important relationships. If you are stuck and need a helping hand, please reach out to us today.
The hidden danger of diagnosis
All through grad school, even while studying the various diseases and disorders, my attention always gravitated toward health. Certainly one needs to be able to identify pathology, but the natural human tendency is to move toward the object of focus. When Psychologists announce their diagnosis of disease or disorder to their counselee, there are several potential undesirable outcomes.
- First, the counselee may take on this label as their identity.
- Second, the counselee may use this label to excuse their behavior.
- Third, those in close relationship with the counselee may use this to excuse behavior.
- Fourth, those in close relationship with the counselee may use this as an excuse for a defeatist attitude.
In my personal opinion, the industry of psychology is driven by money. That is NOT to say that those in the industry are greedy or that anyone is not genuinely concerned for the well-being of their counselees. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that money dictates protocol. Insurance companies often require a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in order to cover expenses. From a purely business standpoint, this makes sense. Where I believe it is sometimes damaging is when the diagnosis is pronounced to the counselee and becomes the focus.
So what exactly am I suggesting? Simply to avoid the potential pitfalls listed above. I have the privilege to counsel several couples that have had a diagnosis given by a prior therapist, and find it often difficult for counselees to shift focus. What is even more prevalent are those that self-diagnose, or worse yet, diagnose their loved ones. These labels are rarely spoken with a gentle and loving spirit, but rather are thrust at each other like a spear.
You ask, “Isn’t it important to identify the problem”? Absolutely, but in my opinion it does not then naturally follow that the counselee benefits from being given a label. I’ve found great results from simply casting a vision of what mental health looks like, and coaching thoughts and behaviors toward that end.
Have you been defeated by a ‘support system’ that holds you down? Call us today and take the first step toward freedom.
Community vs. Communitas
What do a married couple, an African tribe, and the VFW all have in common?
We all know that ‘Community’ describes a social unit that shares something in common. Examples include neighborhood associations, churches, and sometimes the workplace.
So what is Communitas?
Communitas is defined as “The closeness that people feel when they have gone through something adverse together”. Why do veterans gather at the VFW? Because they have shared adversity together and are uniquely qualified to understand each other. Why are African tribes so tight-knit? Because they live surrounded with danger and band together for their mutual benefit. The first time that a group of teenage warriors is run up a tree by a threatening animal, they are friends for life!
Here are some findings on the state of marriage in the United States that may shock you:
70% of married people at some time in their marriage have cheated on their spouse.
Contrary to the speculation of many, 70% applies equally to both men and women.
95% of these men and women NEVER cheat again because they realize that the greener grass on the other side of the fence is covering a septic field!
5% become serial cheaters. Jesus said it is OK to divorce such people.
the cheater comes clean, and IF the couple does not divorce but instead works through the adversity, after five years their average marriage satisfaction rate scores higher than at any time prior, and higher than the average.
Why? By working through the adversity together, the couple achieves Communitas.
Are you one of the 70% that has cheated? With guidance, come clean.
Are you one of the 70% that has had your spouse cheat? If you are willing to work through the root cause and learn to forgive, chances are good that you will be rewarded with a marriage that is far better than you ever dreamed it could be.
New Life Counseling Center exists to help you achieve the happiness that you dream of in your marriage.
How people change
Have you had braces? Read on.
Most of the stress in life comes from our relationships. If only people saw things the way we do everything would be just fine… right?
People can be so stupid! You tell them a thousand times the “right” way to act or think, but they just don’t get it!
So we nag them. We pressure them. We continually repeat our demands, and we manipulate them. This is our human nature.
How’s it working for you? Is your life more enjoyable this way?
We buy the lie that we would be happy if only the other person changed. The irony is that we make ourselves miserable in the process!
So what’s the answer?
How can we be happy when someone else isn’t doing what we want them to do?
The Bible teaches that God is an expert at changing minds and hearts, and that we are not. For those of us that submit to God, He promises to mature and perfect us, using all of the events and circumstances of our life (including annoying people). This is part of the answer to the eternal question “Who am I and why am I here?”
The difference between our approach and God’s can be illustrated by crooked teeth. Our desire to force conformity is like straightening teeth with a hammer and pliers. Our methods may force the teeth into alignment, but damage the root. When the root is broken it may take years for the tooth to fall out, but it is already dead.
God’s methods are like braces that gently influence in a positive direction. Every so often the braces get tightened and we suffer pain, but over a lifetime of gentle influence we develop a beautiful smile!
So what part do we play in this change process? In short, it is to focus on our own walk with God and stop trying to be God to other people. The Bible says that attempting to change others is witchcraft. It also says that others are influenced in a positive way by the positive example of our own lives.
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Kill your spouse?
What is it about this cartoon that makes us chuckle? Beneath the surface of humor is something true that we can relate to, and hearing it spoken out loud makes us laugh.
About marriage and relationships, James wrote “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Right here in 5 short sentences is the answer. God created us with needs, and much of our life is spent working to get our needs met. Is that bad? Absolutely not! Consider for a moment how much you enjoy your favorite meal or dessert. Why do you enjoy it? You enjoy it because you are hungry or you have a taste for it. Have you ever been ill and lost your appetite? When you don’t have an appetite, there is no joy in eating. It was God’s good pleasure to create us with hunger so that we could enjoy the fulfillment of eating. In the same way, he created us with the need to feel significant, the need to feel competent, and the need to feel lovable, in order that we could enjoy having those needs met.
- Having needs is a good thing.
- Having needs met is even better!
- Unmet needs drive behavior. In some ways, this is what it means to be alive.
Presupposing that we have needs, the question is how should we go about getting our needs met? If we are hungry, we could steal food and eat it. Alternatively, we could purchase food with money that we rightfully earned. One way leads to feeling guilty and the other to feeling satisfaction.
Similarly, we have a variety of ways to meet our emotional needs; some destructive and others constructive. The destructive way to get your emotional needs met is to “kill” your partner by forcefully taking what you need from them. This includes the following:
- Control and dominance.
- Tell them to change.
- Don’t listen or care.
- Don’t talk.
- Don’t let them talk.
These are just a few sample ways in which we abuse and “kill” to get our own needs met.
Thankfully, James gives us the cure.
- Accept that we have needs.
- Identify what our needs are.
- Look to God to meet those needs.
- Let God's provision bless others through you.
Imagine a relationship where each person has their needs met fully by God. When they come together, they nourish the other, and the overflow pours out on those around them. That is God’s design. When teaching us to pray, Jesus said “Give US this day OUR daily bread”. When you ask God to meet your needs, ask for enough that you can meet others needs as well. It is His pleasure to answer a prayer like that.
At the wedding, the old men are heard telling the groom “You can be right, or you can be happy, but not both”. Similarly, the old joke says that “the only argument you win is the one you avoid”. Is this advice correct? If it is, then it explains why Thoreau famously wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.
If you don’t wish to lead a life of quiet desperation, read on.
Unresolved conflict never really goes away. It builds up and involuntarily surfaces as negative nonverbal communication, (avoiding eye contact, rolling eyes, crossed arms, etc.) and guttural language. (grunts, sighs, etc) The internalized stress damages your physical health by causing psychosomatic or somatoform illnesses. These terms are often understood to mean “imaginary illnesses”, but in fact the illnesses are very real, and are either caused or aggravated by mental and emotional stresses. 50-80% of all illnesses are psychosomatic or somatoform, including heart problems, arthritis, ulcers, asthma, skin conditions, etc.
You need to express yourself and resolve conflict, but you have tried before and it never works.
When problem areas are not discussed promptly and properly, inner negative feelings sabotage the process. The conversation may start out calm and reasonable, but then becomes a shouting match or cold war. Out of pure habit, every argument follows the same pattern as the last one.
You already know the rules for proper conflict resolution:
Focus on one issue, not many.
Focus on the problem, not the person.
Focus on the behavior, not the other person’s supposed motives.
Focus on specifics, not generalizations.
Focus on the facts, not judgments.
Use “I” statements, not “You” statements.
Focus on understanding, not winning.
Yes, it is useful to write these down for future reference, but in the heat of the moment, many people get enraged and vomit their emotions all over their partner. Why?
Imagine that unpleasant emotions are gunpowder. Sprinkle a day’s worth of gunpowder on the floor and when a spark hits it, there are some short-lived sparkles that you might even learn to enjoy. By contrast, take a year’s worth of gunpowder that has been tightly pushed down, and the same spark causes an explosion that truly hurts people. Now nobody is laughing.
Are the emotions the problem? No! The problem is that they have been tightly bottled up for so long!
At New Life Counseling Center, we skillfully guide individuals through a specially designed process of expressing and releasing these pent-up emotions first, and then later bring the couple together for a guided tour of how to properly resolve conflict.
Are you about to explode? Call us today.