Reblog: Women Are the Talk of 2018’s Southern Baptist Annual Meeting

by Christianity Today (Kate Shellnutt) June 12, 2018

Both officially and unofficially, leaders of America’s largest Protestant denomination turn their attention to better responses to sexism and abuse.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a lot to talk about at its two-day annual meeting kicking off today in Dallas. This year, amid the standard business of elections, entity updates, worship sets, and messages, leaders of America’s largest Protestant body have brought unprecedented attention to the women in its churches and its pastoral response to abuse.

2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women attending the SBC annual meeting as messengers. At least two proposed resolutions up for consideration directly address the role of women in the complementarian denomination. But unofficially, the conversation is much bigger than that.

Many have awaited this national Southern Baptist gathering—the first since what some have deemed the #MeToo movement’s entry into evangelicalism—as grounds to engage an issue its leaders can no longer downplay.

At the start of the year, Southern Baptists watched as a decades-old, unreported sexual assault at a Houston Baptist congregation led to the resignation of two pastors, including the perpetrator Andy Savage, who went from being infamously applauded by his congregation to apologizing for his past immorality in a matter of weeks.

Months later, Executive Committee president Frank Page vacated the SBC’s top leadership role over an inappropriate relationship. And in recent weeks, longtime SBC figurehead Paige Patterson was forced out of his presidency at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over his mishandling of abuse allegations after weeks of controversy over his past remarks toward women.

Like Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler, who wrote last month that “judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” prominent leaders have pushed each other to speak and act during this public reckoning for their movement.

“The world is watching. We need to convey to the world that we care for women more than we care for our positions of power,” said Austin pastor Matt Carter, speaking Monday on a panel on abuse in the lead-up to the conference. “The church has hidden behind those power structures for too long.”

A pastor who oversaw Savage stepped down this year from Carter’s church, The Austin Stone, after the allegations became public. Carter appeared alongside Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore and Bible teacher Beth Moore, who last month called out sexism in the SBC in a viral open letter.

The popular author and speaker—herself an abuse survivor—commended Carter and Russell Moore for their resolute positions on reporting allegations to authorities, offering more resources for women to seek counsel, and spotlighting the stories of women who have undergone abuse.

But she also acknowledged the barriers that keep victims from trusting the church, even as leaders grow more open and more eager to help.

“In every case of abuse or assault is a misuse of power … it has turned on her and has done her wrong,” she explained. “By the time you’re in a church context, she’s already intimidated by power. Especially if there are not female voices, it’s just exaggerated the fear she might not be understood or not be heard.”

As they attempt to assure that the women within their denomination will be trusted and cared for, Southern Baptist leaders have been forced to recognize that this hasn’t always been the case.

“Sinful men have in Scripture and the history of the church wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women by ungodly comments and ungodly acts, preyed on women, left women unprotected, failed to report injustices and evils committed against women to civil authorities established by God, and failed to act out of the overflow of the image of Christ,” reads one popular resolution submitted for today’s meeting, written by Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Allen’s submission, entitled “On Affirming the Dignity of Women and the Holiness of Ministers,” condemns comments and behaviors that disrespect women within the denomination and calls for better responses to misconduct.

“Especially as we reel from events of recent days, the value of women inside the SBC needs to be proclaimed from the biggest stages we’ve got,” said Sarah Short, who’s attending the meeting from the Summit Church in North Carolina. (Her pastor, J. D. Greear is running for SBC president). “Our brightest and most revered leaders need to say it with their mouths and our convention needs to adopt it as a resolution. It’s time.”

Another line of the draft text states, “To the shame of the Southern Baptist Convention and the very obscuring of the glory of God, a number of Southern Baptist leaders, professors, and ministers have since our last annual gathering sinned against the Lord and against women by their ungodly behavior and language.”

Read the entire article here.

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Reblog: Sexual Abuse in Marriage

by Darby Strickland

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the sexual abuse of women in marriage. My goal is to help counselors and pastors to recognize when a wife is being sexually abused by her husband and then offer appropriate help. In this first blog, we will define what marital sexual abuse is. In the second, we will talk about why women might not realize what is happening to them. And in the third installment, I will offer some thoughts on how to help women in this situation.

God created marriage to be something beautiful and sacrificial in which the hearts and bodies of a man and woman are united as one. Sex is supposed to be a culmination of this emotional and spiritual relationship expressing unity, peace, and love (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:18-19; Song. 7:6-12). Given this foundation, the possibility that marriage could be a place where sexual abuse or violence occurs is almost unthinkable. But sadly, it does happen—and with surprising frequency.

Though the recent #metoo movement has revealed the prevalence with which people are violated sexually, my heart remains heavy for wives who are victims of marital sexual abuse. Their stories remain untold, and I am concerned that many pastors and counselors are unaware of its occurrence. I hear many stories (too many stories) of women being abused, violated or even raped by their husbands. It is a frightening reality for these women—one that they usually endure in isolation. The Lord is not silent on such horrors, nor should we be. My goal, therefore, is to identify what sexual abuse in marriage looks like so it can be recognized more readily and these women can get the help they need.

Sexual abuse in marriage occurs when husbands make demands on their wives that are not based on love .¹ These demands for sex are not sanctioned by 1 Corinthians 7:3-5,² though the passage is often used as a goad to require a wife’s compliance. To be clear, the men who do this are troubled themselves. They usually have deep-seated problems including a weak or non-existent relationship with God and an inflated sense of entitlement. They believe that other people (including their wives) exist for them—for their comfort and to meet their needs, including sexual ones. When their wives fail to respond as desired, it often results in a pattern of coercive and punishing behaviors designed to force their compliance.³

Sexual desire perverted by entitlement damages a couple’s sexual relationship in many ways. Here are a few examples of what it looks like:

  • Unrelenting pressure. Most couples need to work out differences in sexual desire or appetite, but what I am talking about here is a husband pleading for or demanding more sex in such a way that the pressure never lets up. Women tell me stories of being lectured (some for hours), being degraded, told there will be no affection unless it culminates in sex, or made to feel responsible for their husband’s use of pornography. Sex-on-demand has become an expectation or a “right” within the marriage.

I have found this pattern to be the most destructive in relationships where the husband is also disengaged from other foundational areas in the marriage such as parenting, household management, and connecting relationally.

  • Callous disregard. There are many occasions where sex is neither desired nor conceivable: an illness, a new baby, a particularly difficult day, a house full of guests, or after an abusive rant. But instead of yielding and caring for the whole being of his wife, a common characteristic of an entitled husband is to disregard his wife’s circumstances and expect or demand that sex proceed as usual.
  • Unwanted acts. When a wife has made it clear that she is uncomfortable with a particular sex act or implement, an entitled husband insists, disregarding her comfort. Other examples include: when a wife says something hurts and the husband does not stop, undesired sexting, or being filmed while engaging in sexual activity without consent. In some marriages, the abuse is so severe that a wife is too frightened to even give voice to her preferences.
  • Coercion. Manipulation in the form of threats may also be used, forcing the victim to submit to unwanted sexual acts out of fear or guilt. The husband may imply or state that he will get violent, leave, find “another” woman, expose her in some way, or punish her or her children. The threats do not have to be spoken; oftentimes wives experience punishments without explanation.

Coercive sex abuse can be very confusing because after being “persuaded” (a.k.a. bullied), consent was technically granted. The victimized wife is left wondering, “Was I sexually assaulted or did I agree to it?” Whatever form of coercion is used, be it physical, financial, or emotional, any sexual act which is not based on mutual consent constitutes sexual violation. It leaves a wife feeling confused, dirty, betrayed, and assaulted.

  • Violation. The worst sexual violation is rape, but there are many types of violation. Among them are sexual acts performed while someone is sleeping or intoxicated, unwanted sexual touch, being forced to engage in an unwanted act to avoid another abuse, or a husband ignoring tears or other expressions of discomfort. Sadly, I have heard many stories of Christian women who were raped on their honeymoon. They were conditioned early on in their marriage to be compliant or be terrorized.

These patterns are disturbing and have no place in a godly marriage.

Marriage does not equal consent. It does not obligate spouses to participate in any sexual act at any time. But devastatingly, many Christian women have come to believe that sex-on-demand is their “wifely duty.” Thus, they have a hard time separating being violated from what they have come to believe is their responsibility. Confusion, shame, and guilt are compounded.

Those suffering from these distorted, abusive demands should not be left questioning what God says about such evils. The Apostle Paul speaks clearly here. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5-6). Paul is calling on us to eradicate all sexual sin that stands against our identity in Christ—any sexual impurity. He is not setting a low bar here and saying “just don’t cheat on your spouses.” He is saying: Wipe out all sexual covetousness—all your greedy taking—for all sexual impurities deserve the wrath of God.

We, too, must identify these behaviors for what they are—evil. Like Paul, we need to call for the cessation of such terrors and clearly give voice to God’s hatred of such abuses. We need to speak up on behalf of victims—and speak with the full weight of Scripture behind us.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust.” (1 Thess. 4:3-5)


¹ Women can sexually abuse their husbands, but it happens at a substantially lower rate.

² This passage is often incorrectly applied. It does not give husbands permission to demand sex from their wives and does not sanction pressuring women into thinking that it is their “wifely duty” to give in to such demands. These distortions fail to account for the fact that sex is a gift from God designed for his purposes, not our own. Space does not permit a full discussion of the passage, but for a better way to look at 1 Cor. 7:4-5 see Tim Challies’ blog “Two Different Ways to Think about Sex in Marriage

³ I have written two mini-books on this subject. See them here.

From the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.

Reblog: 5 Minutes in Church History Podcasts (Martin Luther)

Here’s a link to Ligonier Ministries who did 31 episodes about Martin Luther for the 500th Anniversary of the posting of the 95 These on the Wittenberg Door. These podcasts are old (2017) but I wanted the link here on my blog. Martin Luther is a favorite hero of the faith for me.

5 Minutes in Church History can be found on Facebook, Twitter and through different audio podcast forms.

Enjoy!

Reblog: The Thing About Sex

by Tim Challies

One of the significant difficulties many husbands and wives encounter is the place of sexual desire and pleasure in marriage. I want to speak to this today by answering a representative question, one of many I’ve received. “You speak of sex like it is a pure and holy thing. Yet when my husband wants to have sex with me, I feel like he is just responding to bodily urges and wants to use me as a way to relieve those urges. It’s all about the release. What is holy about this?”

False Messages

I believe that the heart of the issue here is that very few Christians have developed a Bible-based theology of sex. Fewer still live out that theology of sex. Instead, much of what we believe has been imported from outside the Bible and carries messages antithetical to God’s desire for the sexual relationship.

From an evolutionary perspective sex is little more than a means of spreading genes, of ensuring survival from one generation to the next. From a pornographic perspective, the meaning of sex is physical gratification so that a person’s worth extends no farther than her (or his) ability to satisfy another person’s cravings. From a romantic comedy perspective, sex is a component of an exploratory phase of a relationship and one that precedes expressions of love and loyalty. These are ubiquitous, powerful messages that compete with truth.

A Christian perspective on sex could hardly stand in sharper contrast. There we see that sex belongs to marriage and that marriage has been created by God for a very specific purpose. Before it is anything else, marriage is a picture, a metaphor, of the relationship of Christ and his church.  Within that picture, that representation of Christ and his church, we have sex. Sex is a necessary component of marriage so that a couple desiring to live in obedience to the Bible will regularly have sex together (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). And here is where we come to your concern.

While it is always difficult to speak in generalities, it is probably fair to say that more often than not, it is the husband’s physical desire that motivates the sexual relationship. And I think the heart of what you are noting is an apparent contrast between a husband’s physical desires and this picture of Christ and the church. It is a contrast between what we believe sex is meant to be and what sex actually is. Aren’t these things at odds with one another?

Physical, Emotional, Spiritual

Here is what I want you to consider: What if the physical, “the release,” as you call it, isn’t the thing? What if it’s not the point of sex? What if the deepest purpose and meaning of sex is not physical but emotional and spiritual? And what if the physical desire is a God-given gift to compel us to take advantage of all the other benefits that sex brings?

This is where a Christian understanding of sex is so much better and greater than the alternatives. It heightens the purpose and importance of sex by celebrating all that sex is and all that it is meant to be, for it is here that the physical, the emotional and the spiritual come together in the most powerful way. Literally: the most powerful way. There is nothing in the human experience that brings these three together in such dramatic fashion and this is exactly why sex is reserved for the marriage bed. God wants marriage to be a unique kind of relationship and nothing marks marriage’s uniqueness more than sex.

Yet so few people think of sex in such terms. Even sex that is holy before God–sex between a husband and wife–can be marked by sin and ignorance. Few husbands have the words to express to their wives that the physical pleasure and relief that may come through sex are bound up in the much better and greater unity they find in making love to their wives. And yet somewhere they know it, they know that the greatest joy in sex is not orgasmic but in the joy of being body-to-body, soul-to-soul, and completely exposed before another person. The intimacy comes by way of vulnerability. There is no other place where a person is so exposed, so bare, so vulnerable. Sex is a declaration: This is who I am. Sex is a question: Do you accept me as I am? Sex is an answer: I accept you as you are. There is no other place where a person can be so loved and accepted.

This is the point of sex! This is its purpose. And the physical desire is a trigger, a reminder, that motivates us to pursue this kind of intimacy that is so integral to marriage. Not only that, but the physical desire allows this all to be a source of great fun and pleasure. It truly is one of God’s gifts to us.

The Call

I believe there is a call here for husbands to think about sex from a biblical perspective and to learn to express this to their wives. A husband should be able to explain to himself first, and then his wife, that the joy of sex goes far beyond the physical. It is not less than physical, but it is certainly so much more. And the husband needs to live as if this is true. Satan’s greatest victory in the area of sex is making it all about chasing that physical relief while ignoring the much deeper unity. A man can make hate to his wife instead of making love. He can have sex with his wife in such a way that he pursues nothing more than relief for his urges and when he does this he cheapens sex rather than elevates it. Husband, learn to understand and express to your wife what it really means to make love to her.

And there is a call here for wives not to resent the physical component of sex, but to see it as a God-given gift that motivates a husband and wife to pursue sex’s greatest gifts. She needs to understand that a man who is following the leading of his body toward that physical and emotional and spiritual unity, is a man who is looking to his wife for that thing that she and she alone can provide–this one expression of their deepest unity.

The fact is that as Christians we are good at teaching what sex is not, but not nearly as skilled at teaching what sex actually is and what it is meant to be and to display. The reality is far better, far more satisfying, than so many of us believe.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: The Rise of Reformed Charismatics

A 21st-century global movement sets the Word on fire with gospel preaching and powerful spiritual gifts.

by BRETT MCCRACKEN and posted on Christianity Today

The rollicking worship pulsed for nearly an hour in the humid Sanctuary: energetic singing, hundreds of hands raised, prophetic words referencing the Spirit’s flames, and sparks of spontaneous prayer among strangers from different states and nations.

When the worship ended, the crowd sat down, opened their English Standard Version Bibles and settled in for a 35-minute expository sermon on Galatians from King’s

Church London teaching pastor Andrew Wilson, who brought a different kind of fire.

Each night of the Advance church planting network’s global conference featured this sort of hybrid—doctrinally rich, gospel-focused, Reformed preaching sandwiched between free-flowing charismatic worship—a combination that would make many a Presbyterian (and a few Pentecostals) squirm.

But for the crowd gathered at Covenant Life Church in suburban Washington, DC, including pastors from Kenya, Nepal, Australia, and Thailand, it flowed as naturally as it does in their own Reformed charismatic churches—more than 70 of them across the globe.

Advance is hardly the only group in the middle of this theological Venn diagram, with growing numbers of theologically savvy, Spirit-filled followers in the United States, Britain, and around the world. Five hundred years after the Reformation, Luther’s 21st-century inheritors are embracing the Holy Spirit in new and deeper ways.

Newfrontiers, a network of global “apostolic spheres,” has planted hundreds of churches over the last 30 years, many of which fit the Reformed charismatic mold. The movement’s founder, Terry Virgo, a British pastor, serves as a sort of elder statesman of Calvinist continuationists and authored the book The Spirit-Filled Church.

Acts 29, the Reformed church-planting network, has also begun to showcase its charismatic side, holding a conference in London around the theme “Reformed & Revived.”

Matt Chandler, Acts 29 president and lead teaching pastor of the Dallas-area Village Church, has identified himself as Reformed charismatic. He believes the charismatic gifts are still active and should be pursued, a position somewhat uncommon among Southern Baptists.

Frontline Church, an Acts 29 congregation that has expanded to four locations in the Oklahoma City area over the last decade, combines structured liturgy (creeds, the Lord’s Table) with “planned spontaneity,” including small groups of prayer during communion, where congregants pray for each other’s healing and offer prophetic words to one another (e.g., “I believe the Lord wants to say to you . . . ”).

Lead pastor Josh Kouri thinks the church’s unique Reformed charismatic focus, “100 percent committed to both Word and Spirit,” is part of its appeal.

“Some people show up on a Sunday morning and don’t know where to peg us, but I think that is actually to our benefit,” he said. “It’s stretching, but it also feels safe to people. I think that commitment to hold in tension things we typically try to resolve . . . that’s been a big part of the unique story of our church.”

Wilson (also a CT columnist), Chandler, and Kouri, along with pastors Sam Storms (author of The Beginner’s Guide to the Spiritual Gifts) and Francis Chan, spoke in October at the Convergence Conference in Oklahoma City, an inaugural event focused on Word and Spirit.

Reformation and Revival

Historically, evangelicals of the Reformed and charismatic camps have been on separate ends of a spectrum, suspicious of one another’s views on the role of the Spirit’s miraculous gifts (e.g., the nine listed in 1 Cor. 12:7–10) for today’s churches.

“The mind and the emotions are not rivals. The way God reaches people is through both.” ~ Andrew Wilson

The Reformed tradition has tended to be cessationist, either denying or avoiding the continued practice of charismatic gifts like healing, tongues, and prophecy, believing they were only for the foundational era of the church. Charismatics, on the other hand, are continuationists, believing these gifts are still available and valuable.

Cessationists, like Reformed heavyweight John MacArthur, accuse charismatics of being light on biblical truth, often elevating spiritual experience above sound doctrine. As he writes in his 2013 book Strange Fire, MacArthur believes “Charismatics downplay doctrine for the same reason they demean the Bible: they think any concern for timeless objective truth stifles the work of the Spirit.”

Continuationists like Chan believe many evangelical churches neglect the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (the subject of his 2009 book Forgotten God) and, out of fear of abuses or unwieldy emotionalism, come close to what Paul warns against in 1 Thessalonians 5:19–20: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt.”

Read the rest here.

Remembering R.C. Sproul, 1939–2017

FROM 

R.C. Sproul, theologian, pastor, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, died on December 14, 2017, at the age of 78, after being hospitalized due to complications from emphysema. Dr. Sproul is survived by his childhood sweetheart and wife of fifty-seven years, Vesta Ann (Voorhis); their daughter, Sherrie Sproul Dorotiak, and her husband, Dennis; and their son, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., and his wife, Lisa. The Sprouls have eleven grandchildren, one granddaughter deceased, and seven great-grandchildren.

R.C. Sproul was a theologian who served the church. He admired the Reformers not only for the content of their message, but for the way they took that message to the people. They were “battlefield theologians,” as he called them. Many first heard of the five solas of the Reformation through R.C. Sproul’s teaching. When R.C. taught about Martin Luther, it was as if he had met the sixteenth-century Reformer. R.C.’s commitment to sola Scriptura led him to play a key role in drafting and advocating for the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). He also served as president of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Because of his commitment to sola fide, justification by faith alone, R.C. took a bold stand of opposition to Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) in 1994. He later opposed the New Perspective on Paul and also the Federal Vision view. Like the Reformers, R.C. was willing to take bold stands for the central and essential doctrines of historic orthodox Christianity. He was a defender of the authority of God’s Word and of the gospel.

As a trained philosopher and theologian, R.C. was a major advocate of classical apologetics. He was known for having a strong pro-life position, once remarking that abortion is perhaps the crucial ethical issue of our time. He was, above all, a theologian. He loved the doctrine of God. Through it, he found the gateway to knowing God, adoring God, and worshiping God. The doctrine of God may very well be the hub of the wheel of R.C. Sproul’s work and legacy, evidenced in his classic text, The Holiness of God (1985). As a father and grandfather in the faith, he helped an entire generation encounter the God of the Bible.

Find the rest of the article here.

Reblog: You Don’t Have to Deal With Toxic Behaviors of Others

by Dr. Henry Cloud

I was doing a seminar one day when a woman asked this question: How do you deal with critical people?”

My first response was, “Why would you want to do that? Dealing with critical people is awful.”

She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well … because you have to!”

“I don’t find that to be true,” I said. “Why do you have to?”

She got very circumspect and almost in a whisper so no one could hear, she said, “Because they’re everywhere!”

“Everywhere?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere.”

“Wow, let’s talk about that.”

And we did, right there in front of a thousand people. I asked her what these critical people were like and where she was finding them, and she began to describe judgmental, critical personalities that she knew in her work, her extended family and in her social circles. In a sense, she was right. They were everywhere – at least in her everywhere. Apparently, she had an uncanny ability to find them, no matter where she was.

It seemed that at her work or any other circle, she would somehow manage to be drawn to the most critical person in the group and become friends with them. After awhile, she would feel like, “all they do is criticize what I am doing and tell me I should be doing it differently.”

What I told her that while it was true that critical people can be found everywhere, it was not true that she had to keep finding them or become best friends with them. But as long as she needed approval of these people – which is impossible to attain – she would always need to find a critical person so that she could live out her lifelong strategy of finally getting one to like her. Good luck.

The observation here is that she needed a critical person to accomplish her goal of getting critical people to finally approve of her. Her “script” required a critical person, so without realizing it, she always looked for one. All she would know was that when she encountered a critical person, she would feel “not good enough” and would begin trying to be good enough in their eyes, exerting lots of effort and continually falling short.

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “Just be honest with them, and you’ll never hear from them again.”

“What?” she said.

“Just be honest with them. Tell them something like, ‘Yeah, I can see that you would do it differently, but I like it like this. What’s for lunch?’ ”

Recognize the boundary there?

“But they will keep telling me what is wrong with what I am doing,” she said.

“Probably. So then you just say, ‘Yeah, I understand you feel that way, but that is the way I want to do it. Let’s move on. What’s for lunch?’ ”

In this situation I just described, replace “critical” with a toxic behavior of someone you know. Now think of what you can do for yourself next time you think you have to “deal with” them. Recognize what you’re feeling and honor that. Define the boundary for yourself, and communicate it with the person with whom you have an issue.

For example, “I don’t like it when you treat me like that. If you continue to do so, I will choose not to be around you until you can respect me the same way I respect you.”

That’s a vague statement, but you can define the specific boundary that meets your needs.

Now take a moment to ask yourself: What role am I playing in the situation I find myself in? What am I contributing to this?

Understanding all of this gives you something you can work on. You can work on your tendency to allow toxic people to have that kind of power over you. You can work on staying separate from their opinions and have your own. And most powerfully, you can finally notice that there are other people in your life who don’t exhibit those behaviors.

Please note that if there is an abusive person in your life, the boundaries you set may require a strong support system. It is encouraged that you seek the help of a counselor, a group and/or contact local law enforcement as necessary.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Your Child to Cope with Anger

by Dr. Gail Gross

Do you find your child lashing out? Are you having trouble communicating with your child during moments of extreme frustration or aggression? While children are growing and still learning how to cope with anger, they tend to instinctively use anger as a defense against physical and emotional pain. As the parent, there are many ways you can help your child through these emotional moments.

Here are some helpful tips to teach your children how to cope with anger:

1. DO recognize and acknowledge your child’s feelings. If you validate your child’s feelings, then your child doesn’t need to defend those feelings and is less likely to respond in anger. Acknowledging feelings causes your child’s anger to soften and leaves a safe space in which he or she can learn empathy and coping skills. On the other hand, if you discount your children’s feelings and experience, their anger will intensify as they fight to establish and validate their own sense of self.

2. DO practice empathy. By listening to your child’s feelings without interruption or defense, you create space for your child’s anger to dissipate, as they no longer need to use up energy defending the fairness of their position. By empathizing with your child’s feelings, you are helping them regulate the cortisol — the fight-or-flight chemical — that emerges through emotional stress. The consistency of your open reception to your child’s anger teaches him or her to react less emotionally and more critically. Ultimately, this is how nature and nurture come into balance, as a child’s behavior affects body chemistry and therefore, their emotional control.

3. DO teach your children problem-solving skills. Neurological tracking occurs when children creatively problem-solve. The more children practice and rehearse problem-solving rather than emotional reacting, the more their neurological pathways assist them in controlling their impulses. Parents can teach their children how to recognize, acknowledge and appropriately cope with their feelings by asking questions that prompt children to think up their own solutions, such as “What do you think would happen if you did Choice A instead of Choice B?” or, “What sort of options do you think are available to you and what do you need to do to find a resolution?”

4. DO establish clear standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This means that though we want to validate all our child is feeling, allowing those emotions does not translate into the acceptance of bad behavior. There are common rules of engagement which include: no hitting, throwing, breaking objects or disrespect. By involving children in establishing the consequences for their behavior, you will find that your children are more likely to respect the rules. By limiting your children’s aggressive behavior, you are in a sense establishing a safety container for their feelings.

5. DO teach your child relaxation methods. By teaching children progressive relaxation, breathing techniques and other self-managing tools for stress, they can calm themselves down when confronted with anger. These techniques not only change the neural pathways, but also affect impulse control. Like every habit, the more your do it, the better you become at it. For example, if a child learns to breath in before giving in to the impulsive act of hitting, it gives that child a sense of control and lessens the need to establish control by acting out.

6. DO try a “time in” instead of a “time out.” As the parent, you are your child’s main guide in life, and as their guide, they rely on you to be there with them through their emotional experience, whatever that may be. Therefore, no time out, no isolation. Instead, try a “time in” — sit with your child and incorporate other methods mentioned in this post: work on breathing with them, ask them questions about their feelings. The important thing is to be fully present with them to help them through their emotions. Remember, you are teaching your child social cues and skills to be in relationships with others, rather than acting out alone. When children are isolated, they often ruminate and feel guilty for their behavior. This only serves to create concrete reasons for low self-esteem, which often cycles back to creating bad behavior.

7. DON’T attempt to orchestrate your child’s feelings. It is important to value what your child is experiencing. For example, if your child is hurt or crying, never say to them: “Stop crying.” But rather, validate your child’s experience, saying, “I know that hurts; that would make me cry also.” This makes an ally out of you, rather than a target for free floating anxiety and anger.

As an ally, your child learns to trust you, realizing you are there for them — no matter what, right or wrong, and that they can count on that. If your child can trust you, they can learn to trust themselves and the outer world. If, for example, your child tells you they hate you, or wants you to leave them alone, it is important to assure them that you will be nearby and that you will always be there for them — no matter what.

8. DON’T go down to your child’s level of behavior. Consciously and deliberately step into your role as the adult and remain there for the entire stressful episode. Little children can really work themselves up emotionally, especially while defending their position. Your job as a parent is to stay composed. Your state of calm allows your child to feel safe in the midst of chaos. A parent is always a child’s touchstone, the one they look toward, for security and safety. Children become afraid when their parents display anger. By staying in your adult role, you are teaching your child that it is okay to feel angry, and that when the feeling passes, you are still there, holding a secure space for them.

9. DO teach your children to recognize anger cues. If children can self-monitor, they can self-manage. By recognizing the feelings that accompany anger, children can recognize the onset of those emotions. This gives them time in which to self-manage before they are caught in the chaos of emotion. If you see that your child is over-tired or cranky, you have the opportunity as a parent to teach them to recognize their oncoming emotions by resting with your child, reading to your child, or spending some cozy time together.

10. DO teach your children how to bring their feelings to consciousness. By recognizing the emotions that drive their behavior, children can learn to skillfully manage that behavior. Writing, drawing and painting are wonderful ways to express the issues that are bothering children, especially if they have trouble verbalizing their emotions. When my children were little and reached the point of no return in their emotional intensity, I bought a Shmoo, which is balloon that can be punched and pops back up. I gave permission for my children to use the pillows on their bed or the Shmoo to release some of the pent-up feelings of emotions. Once those feelings are out in the open, you can collaborate with your child to find ways of coping with these feelings empathically.

11. Invest your child in the process of managing their anger. Ask your children to give you some tips on how they could positively manage their emotions. Make a list of five actions they can take — such as breathing deeply for one minute or drawing a picture — and leave the list somewhere your child can see it, such as his or her bedroom door or on your refrigerator door.

12. DO bond with your child. A well-bonded child can learn to cope and manage his or her emotions, to problem-solve, to process and to stick with a problem until it is resolved. They are also more adventuresome and will creatively explore different options as solutions to problems. The well-bonded child feels like he or she can depend on parents.

In the end, remember that you, as the parent, make all the difference. By following these tips, you can help strengthen your relationship with your child and give them the tools they need to cope with their anger. If you notice that your child has relationship problems, is a bully, or tries to hurt themselves, others or animals, do consider seeking professional help for both you and your child.

If you would like to learn more about how children process anger, please visit my website www.DrGailGross.com

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Help Kids Manage Anger

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

As a school counselor, one of the most frequently asked category of questions I receive centers around ‘how do I handle my child’s anger?’  The question is almost always spoken by parents in a voice burdened with shame and embarrassment—as if anger in childhoodwas a bad thing or that any ‘good’ parent would know how to keep their kids perpetually happy.  Neither could be further from the reality of human nature and no adult need berate themselves for the fact that their children act like human beings.

To reassure caregivers that their questions about how to handle anger in children are valid and that they are not alone (by a long shot) in feeling weighed down by the challenge, here are my responses to a few of the most frequently asked questions about helping kids handle anger:

IS ANGER BAD OR HARMFUL TO A CHILD?

Anger is a basic, primal, spontaneous, but temporary neurophysiological feeling.  It is usually triggered by some sort of frustration and often perceived as an unpleasant state.  Anger is real and it is powerful—but it needn’t be feared, denied, or considered bad in and of itself.  Bearing in mind that all living creatures experience frustration, it follows that the feeling of anger is completely normal and natural.  It’s what we do with our anger that counts.  When anger is dealt with in healthy, constructive ways, there’s nothing bad or harmful about it.  However, too often we find that young people express anger in destructive ways that are harmful to friendships, parent-child interactions, student-teacher relationships, and even to long-term health.

DO ADULT ANGER PROBLEMS ALWAYS START FROM CHILDHOOD?

Problems expressing anger in healthy ways often trace their roots to childhood.  Some young people learn from the adults in their lives that aggression—whether it be yelling, name-calling, shaming, or actual violence—is the go-to strategy for expressing anger.  They may be taught that their momentary feelings are more important than the rights of others and that they are free to act out their feelings on others, no matter what the impact.

Then, there are other very different childhood experiences that are marked by impossible standards of perfection.  In these homes, kids often get the message that “anger is bad” and that “good kids don’t let anyone know that they are angry.”  Young people growing up in this kind of emotionally-restricted environment learn from an early age to hide or deny their natural feelings.  Even though suppressing anger may appear far more civil than outright name-calling or aggression, kids who are forced to mask their anger can suffer a great deal as adults, as they turn their anger inward and experience depression, or engage in passive aggressive behaviors to hurt others in hidden ways.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEALTHY SPELL OF ANGER AND SOMETHING THAT’S A PROBLEM?

Healthy anger is marked by assertive communication.  In a healthy spell of anger, a young person can (and will!) honestly, directly and clearly tell someone else what happened that bothered them and make a specific request for that behavior to change or for amends to be made.  In some situations, this kind of communication is not an option and so a young person may make a conscious decision to distance themselves from the anger source or to “let go” of their angry feelings.  For example, in a school setting, students often don’t have the social power to be able to be 100% honest and assertive with a teacher they believe has treated them unfairly.  Making a choice to pick their battles and let a minor injustice go is a mature, emotionally-measured, and solution-focused way to make a bad situation bearable.

Problematic anger happens when an angry young person violates the rights of others through some sort of physical aggression, verbal outburst, or backhanded means of revenge.  Problematic anger is all about getting back at someone else and hurting them, while constructive anger is about solving a problem.

HOW CAN I HELP A CHILD WHO HAS ANGER ISSUES?

Any person at any age can learn that they have choices when it comes to how to express anger.  The good news is that just as aggression is a learned behavioral choice for expressing anger, so is assertiveness.  This knowledge is power.  When young people realize that their choices are bringing them results that they don’t want—scoldings, time outs, loss of privileges, restrictions on free time—they are often eager to learn better choices and strategies for expressing their angry feelings.

Physical strategies such as engaging in sports, exercise, mindfulness, and yoga are proven effective in helping young people learn to calm their brains and gain greater control over their choices in healthy behaviors.

As a mental health professional and school counselor, I encourage all schools to incorporate emotion management skills as part of the regular curriculum.  Since we know that emotional well-being is a pre-requisite for academic success, it only makes sense that schools make so-called “soft” skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and assertive communication a part of their regular skills curriculum.  Prevention is our very best bet for helping young people solve their anger issues before they become lifelong patterns.

And finally, timing is everything when it comes to helping a young person who expresses their anger in destructive ways.  Telling a person that they have “anger issues” during a fit of rage is pretty much guaranteed to worsen the problem.  The child’s emotional brain is dominating their actions and they are not able to effectively access the logical, thinking part of their brain that allows them to make good choices.  For a young person to truly understand that their way of expressing anger is a problem for them (and for those around them!), they have to be calm enough to be able to clearly comprehend the costs of their destructive anger expression.   Helping a child learn how to thoroughly calm down from a bout of anger is one of the most valuable skills an adult can teach.  Listening (read: not talking) while a young person puts their feelings into words after (and only after) they have calmed down is a lasting way to help kids learn to understand and manage their angry feelings.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 7 Reasons Why People Use Passive Aggressive Behavior

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

Frustrating. Confounding. Relationship-damaging. Effective. Passive aggressive behavior is all of these things…and more. It is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008) that occurs among both men and women, in all civilized cultures and at every socioeconomic level. Why is this dysfunctional behavior so widespread? This article details seven reasons why passive aggressive behavior thrives in families, schools, relationships, and the workplace.

1. Anger is Socially Unacceptable

Anger is a normal, natural human emotion. It is, in fact, one of the most basic of all human experiences. Yet from a very young age, many of us are bombarded with the message that anger is bad. During a period in our emotional development when we are highly susceptible to social pressure from parents, caregivers, and teachers, we learn that to be “good” we must squash honest self-expression and hide angry feelings.

2. Sugarcoated Hostility is Socially Acceptable

When people learn that they cannot express anger openly, honestly, and directly within relationships, the emotion doesn’t just go away. Rather, many of us learn to express it in alternative, covert, socially acceptable ways, often through passive aggressive behaviors.

3. Passive Aggression is Easier than Assertiveness

In this day and age of common core, standardized tests, and Race to the Top, social skills instruction is often edged out of a young person’s formal education. Yet study after study shows that specific instruction in such “soft” skills as assertiveness, emotion management, and relationship building are as essential to a young person’s development as any “hard core” math and reading skills.

Kids are not born knowing how to communicate their feelings in direct, emotionally honest ways; rather, assertiveness is a skill that needs to be taught and is best mastered though repetition. On the other hand, passive aggressive behaviors such as sulking, emotional withdrawal, and indirect communication are much more the mark of immature, untamed emotional expression.

4. Passive Aggression is Easily Rationalized

A young girl doesn’t feel like cleaning her room. When her parents insist, she pouts first, procrastinates second, and then shoves all of her earthly possessions under her bed. When her father becomes irritated by her behavior, she feigns indignation: “I don’t know why you’re so upset. I was going to do it as soon as I finished my homework.” When her mother shows exasperation at the alarming pile of dirty clothing peeking out from below her comforter, she plays the victim: “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, Mom. You just want me to be perfect!” With both parents, the girl rationalizes her string of compliantly defiant behavior, casting herself in the role of victim and blaming her parents’ “unreasonable” demands and standards as the real problem.

5. Revenge is Sweet

Passive aggression involves a variety of behaviors designed to “get back” at another person without the other recognizing the underlying anger. Jason feels overworked and under-acknowledged in the office. He calls out sick on two consecutive days, thereby missing a key deadline that sabotages his department’s productivity and ultimately reflects poorly on his boss. The boss is overlooked for a promotion; Jason’s mission is accomplished.

As in this example, passive aggression is often a crime of omission; it is what Jason did not do that indirectly caused a major problem for the target of his unarticulated anger. Because it can be difficult to “catch in the act” and often impossible to discipline according to standard HR protocols, passive aggressive behavior often exists as the perfect office crime.

6. Passive Aggressive Behavior is Convenient

Not everyone who uses passive aggressive behavior is a passive aggressive person. For example, a husband who typically communicates directly and honestly with his wife may not have the wherewithal on a particular weekend day to say “no” to her request to fix a leaky faucet, so he promises to do it while making endless excuses to put off the task. The man is not passive aggressive across the board, but on this day when relaxing and avoiding a fight with his wife are his top priorities, he chooses passive aggression as a convenient behavior of choice.

7. Passive Aggression can be Powerful

By denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive persons create feelings in others of being on an emotional roller coaster. Through intentional inefficiency, procrastination, allowing problems to escalate, and exacting hidden revenge, the passive aggressive individual gets others to act out their hidden anger for them. This ability to control someone else’s emotional response makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful. He/she becomes the puppeteer—the master of someone else’s universe and the controller of their behavior.

In the short term, passive aggressive behaviors can be more convenient than confrontation and generally require less skill than assertiveness. They allow a person to exact revenge from behind the safety of plausible excuses and to sit on the sofa all weekend long rather than complete a list of undesirable chores. So, what’s not to love? Truth be told, while momentarily satisfying or briefly convenient, in the long run, passive aggressive behavior is even more destructive to interpersonal relationships than aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a person who is passive aggressive become confusing, destructive and dysfunctional.

Find the original article here.

 

Reblog: The ABC’s of Emotions

By Kelly Graves 

Have you ever felt so angry that every time you think back on it you’re angry again? Or experienced fear that never really went away? Stubborn emotions can feel like rocks lodged in your gut. But no matter how heavy they feel, emotions are not fixed or permanent. Like a weather system moving across a landscape, our emotional world might be cloudy for days—it might even experience a sudden volcanic eruption—but  they inevitably transform. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Oren J. Sofer explores how to harness awareness and transform emotional intensity into wisdom.

The ABCs of Emotions

“A” is for Awareness

The first step is to be aware. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? Simply answering this question names the experience and creates a jumping-off point for a workable relationship with the emotion. Labeling an emotional state organizes the chaos in the mind so you can begin to notice and work with it more effectively. Cultivating awareness helps form the habit of acknowledging when an emotion has taken center stage, and naming the emotion provides space to work more skillfully with its drama.

“B” is for Balance

As your awareness grows, you’ll likely notice more often how difficult it is to stay balanced in the throes of emotional intensity—this is normal.  Balance does not mean never being knocked off kilter. It means being okay with the internal rollercoaster and having a willingness to go along for the ride. Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has. Instead, try to stay with the emotion. Notice what it feels like in that moment without trying to change it. Taking this balanced stance builds confidence in your ability to remain in any experience and have the endurance to witness emotions as they ebb and flow.

Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has.

“C” is for Curiosity and Care

Next, dig deeper and investigate the emotion. Be curious how it feels in the body. Does it feel tingly? Or hot? Where is the emotion most intense? Dropping out of your stories and into your bodily sensations deprives the emotion of reinforcement from thoughts, and eventually it will lose momentum. Curiosity also can reveal when an emotion has become too intense. At this point, it is important to take care of yourself by stepping back until you feel ready to return to your practice. Knowing when you need to exercise care is an important skill when working with emotional intensity in a way that is compassionate toward yourself.

“S” is for Support

When emotions reach a certain threshold where they are too intense to work with productively, tap into your support network. Support can come from friends, family, healthy habits, or resources available to you. Support can also come from inner states of mind, like cultivating self-compassion, loving-kindness, patience, and gratitude. Utilize your external and internal support networks when emotions become too overwhelming. Feeling connected during times of emotional turbulence will help you take better care of your well being and gently work with turning intensity into wisdom.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 5 Reasons Why an Alcoholic Cannot Love

By  Toshia Humphries

As a spiritual life coach and counselor, I have worked with many clients who are romantically involved with or identify as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. For the most part, they all have the same experience, feeling unloved or “not loved in an ideal way.”

The latter statement is typically a cover story for the real one; a way to stay in denial about the overwhelming sense of loss and grief over the familial or romantic relationship that either died or never existed. It downplays the fact that, regardless of whether or not they were told they were loved or given basic necessities, they did not feel a genuine connection, emotional intimacy or closeness of any kind. In other words, they did not ever experience love in action.

Here’s the real reason why alcoholics have a difficult time reciprocating.

1. They are codependent. Codependency is not love. In fact, it is based on dysfunctional needs and a lack of love or respect for self in the same way active alcoholism is. In a codependent relationship, the significant other or family member is treated as a means to an end (a hostage or a drug), rather than a feeling, thinking human being. Even if the word love may be thrown around a lot, it is typically used as a tool for manipulation or victimization, and therefore feels more like a weapon than a term of endearment. As this dynamic continues, it is likely that active alcoholics will never leave the relationship, but they’ll also never truly be there. Moreover, if given the choice, they’ll never let you go. Hence, the saying, “Alcoholics don’t have relationships; they take hostages.”

2. They don’t love themselves. It has been said that active addiction is an act of turning against oneself, and it is in recovery that an individual learns how to love. In essence, recovery is a movement away from ego and toward love of self and others. Given the fact that the relationship an active alcoholic has with themselves is the one in which they are most abusive and negligent – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually – it is very clear there is a complete lack of self-love. Additionally, that abuse and neglect inflicted upon self is projected onto and reflected in other relationships. As such, they are abusive and negligent in all relationships; romantic, platonic, professional and familial.3.

3. They are emotionally unavailable. Because any active addict uses substances to numb, escape or avoid pain, they are typically void of any emotional cues. More to the point, they avoid situations or conversations (intimate ones) that might trigger unwanted emotional responses. Additionally, because active addiction is a disconnection from self and therefore they are not in touch with their own emotional or spiritual needs, they cannot connect to those needs in others. In other words, where love is an easy enough word to say, it requires a movement away from ego and fear to truly offer and fully accept. Active alcoholics are in a constant state of ego and fear; the bricks and mortar that make a very substantial wall which impedes emotional availability.

4. They seem to love the bottle more. The key word here (of course) is seem. We all know, alcoholics don’t truly love the bottle. Again, it’s more like a codependent relationship with the bottle in which they cannot leave but it kills them to stay. Still, the bottle does become like a mistress in a marriage and a priority over family, friends and other responsibilities, as well as self. Even with regard to functioning alcoholics who manage to maintain a successful career, alcohol is the first to receive their attention any moment they are free to give it. It is their most prized and protected relationship. And, for the record, the latter explains the level of defensiveness encountered when anyone speaks against or threatens it.

5. They have “King Baby Syndrome.” Active alcoholics are self-centered and egotistical to the point of being easily labeled narcissistic. Even though there is no real love for themselves, they do demand all the attention via victimization, manipulation and dramatic antics. Therefore the world must revolve around them. Additionally, they are impulsive and want instant gratification. As such, they don’t play the tape the whole way through, which is another way of saying that they don’t think about the consequences of their actions and how they will impact others or the future. Learning how to love again or for the first time takes work, and it takes more than merely getting sober. Personal growth, healing and spiritual reconnection are all a necessary part of the process. They are expressions of love in action toward self, and the journey forward is about learning to love you.

Find the original article here on Sober Recovery.

 

Reblog: How Do You Process Your Feelings After a Divorce?

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Divorce is, be definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved.

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience.

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of their divorce are in jeopardy of either never getting over it or repeating it. When I am speaking to groups of divorced people, I often talk about this in terms of dating. I tell them, “When someone you are seeing tells you that divorce wasn’t that hard on them, and they really didn’t have a difficult time with it, burn rubber out of the driveway of that house.” A person who hasn’t grieved a significant loss has unfinished business inside and can cause others great grief as a result.

What does it mean to embrace grief in divorce? It means many things, including:

  • Allowing a painful feeling to come and go, without prohibiting them.
  • Reaching out to others to comfort and support you through this, rather than going it alone.
  • Putting an end to the protests and arguments in your head about how it shouldn’t have happened, or whose fault it was or was not.

Grief doesn’t allow us to be right, strong, and in control. Grief basically says, “You loved, and you lost. It hurts.” Yet, on the other side are safe people to catch, hold and restore us.

One of the most difficult yet important tasks in grief in divorce is that of remembering and experiencing value for the loved one. Let yourself feel the love you still may bear for your former spouse, the positive emotions you have, your desires for togetherness, your appreciation for that person’s good traits and characteristics. Most people who are trying to get past divorce don’t recognize the importance of this, thinking instead that they need to be aware of the other person’s faults, sins and mistakes. Sometimes they do this out of a desire for revenge; other times it is a reaction against the need they feel for the person, which causes the fear to get hooked back in. Sometimes they do this as a way to complete the letting-go process.

Yet grief does not work this way. When you let go of a love, you are to let go of the whole person: good and bad, weaknesses and strengths, positives and negatives. When we allow only the negative feelings, we then let go only of the person we dislike, which is just a part of the whole individual. We won’t grieve the other part, the person we still love and want, and with whom we have in our memories a repository of good experiences. That person is still in our present world, still active within our heart, and causing all sorts of difficulties. Let go of the desire to see only the bad, and allow yourself to appreciate and let go of the good person you are leaving. This is the key to freedom beyond grief in divorce.

Find the original article here.