Reblog: What Keeps People Together and Why They Break Up

By Dr. Henry Cloud

I talk to a lot of couples, professionally and obviously just as a regular human being with friends. One of the things that I am always most curious to talk to couples about is their initial attraction. What made them decide to get together? And what happened in the first little while that helped that grow and enabled them to create a lasting relationship? The differences are sometimes stark. What brought them together and what keeps them together are rarely the same thing.

That should be obvious. Beginnings of relationships are often at least a little bit superficial, mostly because you don’t really know the person yet. And yet, the criteria for what someone is looking for in a relationship always seems to hover over those initial attractors.

When you talk to people about what they are looking for in another person, you tend to hear the same things over and over again:

I want someone who’s witty. I want someone who likes to hike. I want someone who is ambitious in their career. I want someone who is good looking. I want someone who reads a lot. I want someone who is physically strong.

People have a habit of defining themselves and terms of their likes and preferences. But we are equally defined by the things that we do not like. It is much less common for a person seeking a relationship to be looking for character traits that embody things that they know will hurt their relationship.

Maybe it’s happened, but in my experience, I’ve never encountered a couple who got divorced or went through big relationship problems over the fact that their partner didn’t want to hit the trails, didn’t spend enough time reading, or didn’t like the same sports.

The dating process is about having fun and getting to know people. The initial, more surface oriented factors that comprise your personal taste in dating partners is what makes the beginning of a relationship fun. But there is an opportunity that you must make sure you are seizing in order to size up a person’s character traits and realize if you’ll want to get more serious with them. These things often reveal themselves early.

The types of things that cause relationships to end are things like being a bad listener. Having unrealistic expectations. Irresponsible spending. Lack of emotional identification. Inability to just be real. Temper flare-ups. Perfectionism. Tendencies toward controlling behavior.

We often rationalize these character flaws as personality quirks even though they are big red flags. When you contrast that with the comparatively lightweight nature of the criteria that we select people by — the kind of superficial traits that comprise our tastes — it starts to seem like dangerously shortsighted behavior.

What good is a witty person who can’t make you feel safe?

What good is an ambitious, career-driven person if they can’t be real with you?

What good is a person who reads a lot but doesn’t hear a word you say?

When you’re starting out with someone, consider whether you’re being too limited in the way that you’re assessing them as a dating partner. Are there superficial things that you can look past for now? Those things will fade in time. Are your concrete, but ultimately superficial preferences preventing you from dating someone who could be really good for you?

Likewise, are there signs of trouble that you’re writing off because someone does meet other more ‘fun’ qualifications? How’s the future look in that scenario? There’s a good chance that all of the initial attractors will have fallen away, absorbed into the fabric of your connection, and completely overshadowed by problems that may doom your relationship, hurt your quality of life, and ultimately waste your time.

Time and energy are finite resources. When it comes to dating, you need to find a balance of what’s fun, but you also need to temper it with what’s real. You will save yourself a whole lot of heartache if you consider the kinds of things that you’re NOT looking for with the same weight of the things that you find attractive.

Reblog: How to Forgive Someone and Set a Boundary

by Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Don’t Marry Your Future Ex-Husband

by Harriet Lerner PhD

Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make, so chose wisely.

First, consider the top five reasons that wise women sometimes make foolish choices.

1. Timing.  We’re most prone to fall mindlessly in love at difficult emotional junctures—on the heels of a breakup, divorce, or death of a family member, for example.

2. Steamy starts. The rush of romance and sexual attraction can act like a drug, and blur our capacity for clear thinking.  When we get obsessed with a guy we confuse intensity with intimacy.  In fact, intensity blocks us from taking an objective look at our partner, ourselves, and the relationship.

3. Idealization. We’re convinced he’s so brilliant and special, that we put him above us.  Perhaps he has a gift we don’t possess, for example he can fix your computer,  has a photographic memory, and can conjugate Latin verbs.  Discerning his strengths and weaknesses is part of knowing him better, but an idealized view leads us to undervalue our own worth and ignore his shortcomings. We’ll make excuses for negative traits, qualities and behaviors because he’s “so brilliant.”

4.  Desperation and fear. Your two best friends just got married, you’re about to turn forty, and someone reminds you that your biological clock is ticking.Your anxious brainwakes you at 3:00 in the morning with scary pictures of your future without a mate. Fear has never helped anybody make good choices. It leads to clinging when we should be walking.

5.  Lack of Self-Focus:  You’re looking for someone to fill up your empty bucket, give you some kind of direction, or provide meaning in your life.  Poor choices happen when we’re not putting our primary energy into having our own life plan and figuring out how to live our own life (not someone else’s) as well as possible.

Here are six tips to give you the best chance of making wise choices.

*Slow things down and get to know him as well as possible.   

*Don’t insulate your relationship with him from other important relationships, even if he says he wants to spend time only with you.  You won’t really know him if you don’t make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his.

*Keep your primary focus on your own goals and life plan, which will put you on firmest footing whatever happens with a particular guy.

*Don’t silence your voice or avoid conflict in order to preserve relationship harmony. Get out sooner rather than later if there is a big red flag waving in your face. 

*Don’t count on the quality of your love or nagging to create things in the future that aren’t there to begin with.

 *Never forget that there are many possibilities for intimacy and connection other than pairing up.

find original article here.

Reblog: The Lingering Stench of Sin

by Tim Challies

We used to live on the fringes of a small town surrounded by farmland. We quickly learned that of all the farm creatures in the world, pigs must be the stinkiest. It was not unusual to drive down the highway on a hot summer afternoon and to begin to detect a faint whiff of pig manure in the air. As we kept driving the smell would get stronger and we’d soon spot a truck in the distance ahead of us. Drawing closer, almost choked by the reek, we’d see that, sure enough, it was stuffed full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. These pigs were so smelly that they would leave a trail of stink that would stretch for miles and linger for hours.

This world reeks of troubles and sorrows. Sometimes we are innocent victims of other people’s sin and sometimes we are willing participants who cause trouble all our own. At other times we are simply caught up in the stink of a sinful world. In any case, we are regularly called upon to respond to situations that are difficult or even excruciating. How can we respond? How should we respond? What’s the best way to bring hope, to bring healing?

The problem with sin is that it is too dreadful, too ugly, too pernicious to allow solutions that are perfectly clean and neat. Instead, a stink lingers in the aftermath of any great sin. We long for good solutions or even perfect ones, but invariably there are only mediocre and bad and worse ones. Sin is too sinful to allow perfection.

I think of people I’ve known whose marriage has been rocked when one spouse admitted to an addiction or an affair. Their friends, their church, and their family offered supported and gave counsel. But there was no neat and tidy way to heal a devastated relationship. There was no clean and easy way to dissolve a broken marriage. It was never a matter of finding a perfect solution, but of finding the least bad one. Why? Because sin is messy. It leaves a stink in its wake. We pray earnestly, we labor faithfully, but all the while we acknowledge our insufficiency. We acknowledge that even our best efforts will be imperfect.

I think of churches whose pastor failed to keep a close watch on his doctrine and began to lead his church into error. Some of the church identified the sin and expressed concern; some of the church embraced the sin and expressed admiration. Words were thrown, sides were taken, rifts were opened. People offered their solutions, but none of them was perfect, none was just right. Why? Because sin is too sinful, and the stink lingered in the aftermath. It would be naive to expect a perfect solution to such an evil problem.

Sadly, there will always be little messes in the wake of big messes, little hurts in the wake of big hurts, unanswered questions in the wake of attempted solutions. Where there is great sin, there will be great stink. We ought to labor to find the best possible solutions, to bring the deepest and truest healing. But we simply can’t expect there will be perfect solutions to messy problems. Not on this side of heaven, at least. The stink of sin always lingers.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Control Your Sexuality

By Tim Challies

This whole series titled “Run to Win“ had its genesis in a number of real-world conversations. In one, a woman told of her struggles with her husband. She considered herself a caring and attentive wife who over many years had done her best to respond to her husband’s frequent requests for sex. Yet even when she responded positively, she found his desire was rarely quenched, and within hours he would be after her again, grumbling and dissatisfied if she declined. Another young wife learned that her husband was regularly masturbating when she wasn’t around. Do all men do this? Still another found a trail of pornography on her husband‘s laptop. Is this normal? If so, why does it feel so wrong?

It feels so wrong because it is so wrong. It isn’t normal, and it isn’t okay. This series began with men who have a problem with sexual self-control. As I pondered these situations, I asked, What do these men really need? Surely their inability and unwillingness to control their sexuality reveals a much deeper spiritual problem. I pondered and plotted, and soon a series was born, a series meant to examine a powerful biblical metaphor for our lives: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Today I want to challenge you in this way: If you are going to run to win, you need to control your sexuality.

An Age of Incontinence

I suppose we all know what it is to be incontinent. I was once in an airplane with a passenger who struggled in this way, and in a sealed aluminum tube soaring at 30,000 feet, her problem quickly became our problem. When we speak of continence we are usually referring to bodily functions, especially the ability or inability to control urinary and fecal functions. But the word has a wider meaning than that. As you read older Christian authors, you will often encounter the notion of continence applied to sexuality. A man who exercises sexual self-control is a continent man. Conversely, a man who lacks sexual self-control is an incontinent man, no better than the one who cannot or will not control his bowels.

Sexual incontinence dominates the world today. Sexual expression and carnal pleasure are regarded as unassailable rights. Children not even old enough to understand their bodies are encouraged to explore, for masturbation is said to be physically pleasurable and morally commendable. From a young age, children are taught that anything consensual must be ethical and that repressing sexual desire is far more harmful than expressing it. Teens are told that abstinence is old-fashioned and that any sexual expression is fair game as long as they use protection. Sex: Our bodies long for it, society celebrates it, pop culture promotes it, pornography trains us in it.

Sadly, sexual incontinence pervades the church as well. Even many men who profess faith in Jesus Christ are out of control in their sexuality. Perhaps they developed bad habits when they were young and have simply never replaced those habits with better ones. Perhaps they’ve let themselves slip and over time have allowed healthy patterns to be displaced by unhealthy ones. Perhaps they are simply apathetic about the whole thing. Either way, we see the brutal fallout in churches ruined, ministries undermined, families wrecked. Many men have been willing to risk it all for the sake of fleeting sexual pleasure.

No wonder, then, that the Bible calls Christian men to self-control in all of life in general, and in this area in particular. To men struggling with sexual self-control, God’s Word offers stern rebukes and sweet promises of forgiveness and reformed behavior. The very gospel that saves your soul is the gospel that grants the virtue of self-control.

A Man of Self-Control

Self-control is a virtue of uncommon beauty, the promised result of a relationship with God, for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Yet it is a rare virtue because so few Christians diligently seek it. In the morass of a sinful mind, self-control can feel like captivity, the denial of what is good and satisfying. In reality, though, self-control is the key to what is good and satisfying, for it steers you away from counterfeits and directs you toward the greatest sources of the highest pleasures.

God is the creator of the gift of sexuality and, as its creator, the one who has defined its purpose and determined its boundaries. The greatest enjoyment of the gift is found within God’s boundaries, not outside of them. Paul speaks to you when he appeals to the Christians in Rome “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Their presentation of their bodies was their surrender of their very selves. You, too, must voluntarily surrender everything to God, including your sexuality. You must determine to seek his purposes for it and use it only in ways he permits.

God says that sex is given to a husband and wife for pleasure and procreation, a gift through which they enjoy unique intimacy and create new people formed in God’s image. With this in mind, God gives you sexual desires so that you will pursue a wife first, and then so that you will pursue your wife within marriage. And, as you already know, God tends to give men a greater measure of sexual desire, perhaps to encourage the man to take the lead in the loving pursuit of his bride. We are, after all, prone to laziness and shirking our responsibilities. Perhaps God has given us this increased sexual desire to motivate us to do what we would otherwise avoid or procrastinate.

According to the Designer, sex is a good gift that is inextricably tied to the marriage covenant. It is only within marriage that you are called to voluntarily give the rights over your body to your spouse. Paul explains it in this way: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Any and all sexual activity is to be enjoyed consensually between a husband and wife. You have no right to pursue sexual activity on your own. Your sexuality belongs to your wife, and only she can determine when and how it is expressed. This means you have no right to ogle other women, to concoct inappropriate fantasies, to stare at pornographic images, or to sneak off and masturbate. In all ways and at all times you are to show self-control, to withhold sexual expression for any purpose other than making love to your wife.

It is possible that your wife will not desire sex as often as you do. It is probable that there will be extended periods when, for various reasons, she will not able to participate at all or as freely as the two of you might like. In these times you will have the choice to sin or show self-control. Too many men choose sin! Too many sin by badgering their wives, by wallowing in self-pity, or by engaging in secret sexual sin. Some go so far as to force themselves on their wives, to make a horrific mockery of God’s gift by brutally seizing what is meant to be gently won and lovingly received. The antidote to it all is self-control, that precious virtue that keeps the good gift within its proper boundaries.

My friend, if God has granted you a wife, he has also granted you the joy of pursuing her, of enjoying her, and of finding pleasure in her. This is the only context in which he endorses sexual activity of any kind. If God has not granted you a wife, he has called you to refrain from all sexual activity. As a single man, you may not yet experience the pleasure of sex, but you can experience the pleasure of obedience. Even Jesus, the one who shows the way to be most fully human, lived and died a virgin. There is pleasure in sex, but much greater pleasure in obedience.

Do It Now!

All of this calls for action. Here are a few places to begin.

Stop masturbating. Is that too blunt? I don’t think it is. I think men need to hear it. Whether you’re single or married, just stop. Masturbation is self-love. It runs entirely counter to the heart of our Savior, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). It is counterfeit and fraudulent sexuality. Because it involves no woman, it is more properly a form of homosexuality than heterosexuality. It’s immature, it’s a misuse of God’s gift, it’s just plain dumb. You ought to be ashamed and embarrassed by it. So cut it out already and show some self-control.

Bounce your heart, not just your eyes. I am sure you are well familiar with the temptation to allow your eyes to linger on the female form. I am equally sure you have been given the common advice to “bounce your eyes.” It is well and good to stop looking at what is not yours to have, but do better than that—bounce your heart. The Bible assures us that evil does not begin with our eyes but with our hearts. The heart, after all, is the seat of our deepest desires and affections. As you address the behavior of your eyes, do not neglect to reform the desires of your heart.

Get accountability. As men we tend to harbor our thoughts, to bury our questions, concerns, and secrets. Yet there is joy and freedom in unburdening ourselves, to externalizing what we prefer to internalize. Find a good friend, perhaps one who is older and wiser than you, and speak openly and freely about your sexual sin and victories. Ask that friend to hold you accountable and to help train you in godliness. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

Give it all. Make the commitment to surrender 100% of your sexuality to God and to direct 100% of your sexual energy to your wife. Pursue her with gentleness and love. When she refuses you, respond with grace. When she accepts you, respond with joy. Enjoy her. Enjoy all of her for as long as you both shall live.

Seek and receive forgiveness. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he recounted some of the sexual sin they had once participated in, but reminded them that they had since been recreated: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). If you are in Christ, this is true of you. Your sexual past—whether decades ago or hours ago—has been forgiven by Jesus Christ. Seek his forgiveness, receive it, then live as one from whom the power of sin has been broken. You can be free.

Run to Win

The Bible commands and commends sexual self-control. Yet there is one way in which it promotes and celebrates indulgence. Writing to young men, Solomon warns of the danger of illicit sexuality and wanton women, then says this: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:19). Go ahead and get intoxicated, he says, but get drunk in the love and passionate pursuit of your wife. What wine does to your body, let your wife do to your affections and desires. Let her captivate you. Let her fascinate you. Let her have that kind of power over you. Be addicted to her. When you are with her, when you are in her arms, let yourself go and enjoy God’s good gift of sexual pleasure. As you run to win, enjoy the wife God gives you, and control your sexuality.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry

John MacArthur has had a long, faithful, fruitful ministry unblemished by great scandal. For decades he has maintained a tight focus on teaching the Bible verse by verse and book by book. In 2006 he taught through 1 Timothy 4 and there he saw Paul providing his young protégé with “a rich summary of all of the apostle’s inspired instruction for those who serve the church as ministers, as pastors. And it all begins with the statement, a noble minister, an excellent minister, a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What are the marks of such a man? MacArthur reveals twelve of them.

An excellent minister warns people of error. Paul urges Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines… rather than furthering the administration and stewardship of God” (verse 3). The same instructions are given two chapters later and in 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and 1 Thessalonians 5. An excellent minister “understands the devastating potential of lies” and instructs his people against teaching and believing them. “When you point out error, you are a noble servant of Christ.”

An excellent minister is a faithful student of Scripture. This is a continual process he gives his life to. “You will spend your whole life mastering one book – one book, the only book that God has inspired which he has placed all of his truth. The Bible becomes the sole content of your ministry, the sole theme of your preaching and it must saturate your mind and your soul. You make a radical commitment to the Bible and to Bible study and to Jesus. That is being lost rapidly in ministry.” That loss is evident in a culture in which the Bible is no longer authoritative. Publishers, pressured to bring Bible sales back up, feel they must “appeal to felt need rather than the revelation of God.” The Bible is not fiction, it is not a book of suggestions, it is the inspired Word of God. “We are to saturate ourselves with the teaching of Scripture, the content, the words of the faith, and the dedoscalia, that which Scripture affirms propositionally.”

An excellent minister avoids the influence of unholy teaching. “Have nothing to do with worldly fables” (verse 10). The word used here is Peritaomi which means to radically separate from what is holy. There are some things so evil that a pastor must not even listen to them. “Many young men who started out in ministry have been ruined, not by learning error as error, but by sitting under someone teaching error as truth. Being seduced with error from someone who believed that the error was true.” An excellent minister separates himself from the “corrupting influence of unholy teachers.”

An excellent minister is disciplined in personal godliness. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (verse 4b). This implies “strenuous training, self-abnegating, self-dying discipline in the direction of godliness – pulling up the loose ends, girding up the loins of your mind, as Peter would say it, beating your body into submission, lest in preaching to others, you become a documas, disqualified.” All the while the excellent minister needs to keep his conscience clear. Paul was speaking to a culture that like ours, was obsessed with vanity and physical exercise, but “an excellent minister, while responsible for his physical health, is far more consumed with his godliness and the disciplines that produce godliness.”

An excellent minister is committed to hard work. “If a man is willing to pay the price for fatigue and weariness, his ministry will not be mediocre.” Excellent ministry should be exhausting. Paul calls Timothy “to labor and strive “ (verse 10). The word for this is agonidzimi, to agonize in struggle. The gospel is worthy of a minister’s agony for his labor has eternal significance. “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17). MacArthur continues, “There is no more important, no more glorious, no more wondrous work than as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4… adding souls to the heavenly hallelujah chorus so that their voices can redound to the glory of God.”

An excellent minister teaches with authority. Verse 11 says “command and teach these things.” The Bible does not give prescriptions or suggestions, it gives commands. “Authority comes from God through the Scriptures to you when you handle the Scripture accurately, clearly and boldly.”

An excellent minister is a model of spiritual virtue. “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” Paul commands Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather… show yourself an example of those who believe” (verse 12). MacArthur, reflecting on his first week at his church remembers being introduced in this way: “We don’t know what this young kid is gonna be able to tell us.” How did he overturn this? By living a godly life: “The single greatest support of truth in your preaching is the power of an exemplary life. This is your most reliable weapon. This is what makes everything believable.”

An excellent minister maintains a thoroughly Biblical ministry. Verse 13 is a summation of what a minister is called to do: “Until I come, give attention to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Read, explain, apply, and be consumed with Scripture. “The greats of the past understood their whole life was given comprehensively to the word of God.” MacArthur, when asked by his students the secret to great preaching answers, “keep your rear end in the chair until you finish your work. Come out when you have something to say.”

An excellent minister uses his spiritual gift and employs it. “That is to say he is faithful to the usefulness of that gift, that calling, that ordaining, that setting apart over the long, long haul.” Verse 14 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” The excellent minister knows that the gift he has, given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his life, is a gift he has for life: “You’re headed for a long life. And I hope it’s long – very long.”

An excellent minister is passionate regarding his work. The phrase used in verse 15 literally translated means, “in these things be you.” This applies to all life – there is no work/life separation here. “In this you live, move and have your being.” In these things be you.

An excellent minister is manifestly growing spiritually. Already, MacArthur established that the excellent minister’s life must be one of spiritual advancement, but a key word here is “manifestly.” This ought to show! “Let your progress be seen by everybody. People can live with that. They can love someone like that. They need to see your weakness. They’ll embrace you for it. They’ll love you for it. And they’ll know you understand their weakness.”

Finally, an excellent minister perseveres in ministry. All eleven elements thrive on this. Here, MacArthur reflects on 37 years of ministry: “I’ve seen 37 years of the work of the word in his church and what a joy, what an unspeakable benediction to my life. And when you do all these things, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

This is what an excellent pastor does. and the solemn commitments he must make. In closing, MacArthur asks, “You want results? Those are the best results you’re gonna get. Heaven—that is the greatest result.”

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

by Sam Eaton

I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street.

I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from The Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free.

It seems all-too-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good, and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note.

According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most drastic among millennials described as 22- to 35-year-olds.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

As I sat in our large church’s annual meeting last month, I looked around for anyone in my age bracket. It was a little like a Titanic search party…

IS ANYONE ALIVE OUT THERE? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Tuning in and out of the 90-minute state-of-the-church address, I kept wondering to myself, where are my people? And then the scarier question, why I am still here?

A deep-seated dissatisfaction has been growing in me and, despite my greatest attempts to whack-a-mole it back down, no matter what I do it continues to rise out of my wirey frame.

[To follow my publicly-chronicled church struggles, check out my other posts The How Can I Help Project and 50 Ways to Serve the Least of These.]

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these STAGGERING statistics.

Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is ANTI-CHURCH?

The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really.

So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us

Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

Solution:

  • Create regular outlets (forums, surveys, meetings) to discover the needs of young adults both inside AND outside the church.
  • Invite millennials to serve on leadership teams or advisory boards where they can make a difference.
  • Hire a young adults pastor who has the desire and skill-set to connect with millennials.

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements

Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.

Of course as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.

Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?

Solution:

  • Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jambo and get back to the heart of the gospel. If you have to explain your mission and values to the church, it’s overly-religious and much too complicated.
  • We’re not impressed with the hours you brag about spending behind closed doors wrestling with Christianese words on a paper. We’re impressed with actions and service.

3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.

If the numbers are not equal please check your Bible for better comprehension (or revisit the universal church mission statement stated above).

“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –Radical, David Platt

Solutions:

  • Stop creating more Bible studies and Christian activity. Community happens best in service with a shared purpose.
  • Survey your members asking them what injustice or cause God has placed on their hearts. Then connect people who share similar passions. Create space for them to meet and brainstorm and then sit back and watch what God brings to life.
  • Create group serve dates once a month where anyone can show up and make a difference (and, oh yeah, they’ll also meet new people).

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture

From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “twerking,” every older generation comes to the same conclusion: The world is going to pot faster than the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture—believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.

Solution:

  • Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
  • Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. (If this teaching isn’t happening in your life, check out the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel)

5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect

There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic Mean Girls.

In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”

The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.

Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.

Solutions:

  • Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service.
  • Create and train a team of CONNECT people whose purpose is to seek out the outliers on Sunday mornings or during other events. Explicitly teach people these skills as they do not come naturally to most of the population.
  • Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. We have to find ways to bridge that gap.

6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?

Solution:

  • Go out of your way to make all financial records readily accessible. Earn our trust so we can give with confidence.
  • Create an environment of frugality.
  • Move to zero-based budgeting where departments aren’t allocated certain dollar amounts but are asked to justify each purchase.
  • Challenge church staff to think about the opportunity cost. Could these dollars be used to better serve the kingdom?

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See: millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips.

For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.

We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)?

Solutions:

  • Create a database of adult mentors and young adults looking for someone to walk with them.
  • Ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.

8. We Want to Feel Valued

Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”

Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.

We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.

Solutions:

  • Return to point #1: listening.
  • Go out of your way to thank the people who are giving so much of their life to the church.

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)

People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.

We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.

No, I don’t think a sermon-series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to create a place where someone older is showing us a better way because these topics are the teaching millennials are starving for. We don’t like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either.

Solutions:

  • Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable.
  • Create an opportunity for young adults to find and connect with mentors.
  • Create a young adults program that transitions high school youth through late adulthood rather than abandoning them in their time of greatest need.
  • Intentionally train young adults in how to live a godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

10. The Public Perception

It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.

We desperately need to be calling the schools and the city, knocking on doors, asking everyone around us how we can make their world better. When the public opinion shows 1/3 millennials are ANTI-CHURCH, we are outright failing at being the aroma of Christ.

Solutions:

  • Call the local government and schools to ask what their needs are. (See: Service Day from #3)
  • Find ways to connect with neighbors within the community.
  • Make your presence known and felt at city events.

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)

Words without follow-up are far worse than ignoring us completely. Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. Lip service, however, doesn’t cut it. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what you say (because we’re sick of being ignored and listening to broken promises).

Solutions:

  • Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
  • If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.

12. You’re Failing to Adapt

Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells

Solution:

  • Look at the data and take a risk for goodness sake. We can’t keep trying the same things and just wish that millennials magically wander through the door.
  • Admit that you’re out of your element with this generation and talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what I am still doing here.

You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.

You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.

Feel free to write to me off as just another angry, selfy-addicted millennial. Believe me, at this point I’m beyond used to being abandoned and ignored.

The truth is, church, it’s your move.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the meantime, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

About the Author: Sam Eaton is a writer, speaker, and in-progress author who’s in love with all things Jesus, laughter, adventure, hilarious dance parties and vulnerability. Sam is also the founder of Recklessly Alive Ministries, a mental health and suicide-prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide. Come hang out with him atRecklesslyAlive.com.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Coaching Moms

By Dr. Henry Cloud

I remember Elisa Morgan once describing a mom as one of those juice boxes with multiple straws coming out of it, with little ones sucking energy out all day long. Not a bad description of the kind of demands that moms find themselves under each and every day. Add to that being a working mom, or a single mom, and the straws just multiply, because there is a second set of straws as well: time.

In the lives of moms, those are the two great commodities: time and energy. And the reality is that there is usually less of each than there are those who want to take them. So, the trick is to make sure of one thing before everything else: mom must be in control of both.

In all kinds of coaching, one of the most important first steps is to help the person regain a realization that they are “ridiculously in charge.” That is a phrase I wrote about in, “Boundaries For Leaders” for CEO’s to wake up to in their leadership: the fact that they are ridiculously in charge of what occurs in their organizations. But, moms need to realize the same thing. While they are not in charge of many of the demands upon them, they are in charge of which ones they invest themselves in, i.e. what they say “yes” to and what they say “no” to. And to get to that agreement is a tough tug of war in many instances. They often feel more out of control of the demands than “in control.” To help them, I suggest a few strategies.

First, prune to a specific budget. The first step is to help them realize that their time and energy is not unlimited. It is finite. There is only so much of them. So many hours in a day, and so much of themselves to give. Therefore, by definition, they must begin to treat time and energy just as they do money: a finite amount that must be budgeted.

What this does is to force them to prune their activities. Pruning occurs in three instances:

1.) The rose bush produces more buds than it can feed, so the gardener has to differentiate the best from the good, and cut the good ones, leaving only the best to get the resources of the bush.

2.) There are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well. The gardener has tried all he can do, and no amount of fertilizer, minerals or medicine is going to help. It is time to let it go.

3.) There are some branches that have long since been dead and are just taking up space. Other branches need this space to have room to stretch their limbs. So, the gardener must clip the dead ones. (For a full diagnostic paradigm for pruning, see my book “Necessary Endings.”)

Sit with your client and go through a pruning exercise in each of these categories of all of their activities:

Which meetings, friends, groups, activities, sports, clubs, social groups, etc. are “good, but not best?” Be ready to continue to drill further into her with questions, “And why is that the best way to spend your time, given your stated mission?”

Which activities, or even relationships, are “sick and not going to get well?” Maybe an extended family member, or friend, who is in denial and taking much time and energy, but is not using the help that is being offered? Maybe helping has turned into enabling, and that activity should be pruned, as it is not going to help the sick to get well.

And which ones have really not been contributing anything to her mission for a long time? They have been “dead” for a long time and should be cut.

So, what pruning leaves you with is the things that actually matter for her stated mission and objectives, whatever those are: the health of her children, her marriage, her work, her spiritual life, her well-being, etc.

Then, look at the budget and see how much time there is to spend, and spend it. Specifically in a calendar. Put in the “big rocks first,” meaning that the most important activities get a time and a place in the calendar. The most important, the vital ones, get put in first. Period. If not, the urgent will always get in the way. Then, she is left with the discretionary time and energy blocks to spend on what comes next in priorities. Remember, hone in on priorities, not on desire. Priorities are what drives activities, not desire.

At that point, she is realizing what reality truly is: there is only so much time and energy that any of us have, and we must be in charge of making the choices of how we are going to invest them. This exercise will drive those hard decisions.

Your job then becomes helping her to work through the conflicts and difficulties saying “no” to everything that there is not time left to do. Those are the choices that drive success in every area of life. What are we going to say “yes” to, and what are we going to say “no” to? When we realize that, and get our “yes’s” on the side of the things that really matter, we are truly back in control, the kind that we were meant to have: “self-control,” the “fruit of the spirit.” Then we are focusing on the things that are truly vital.

find the original article here.

Reblog: Why You Don’t Need Your Parents’ Approval as an Adult

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Ben was 30 years old when I met him. He came into my office burdened by the opinions of what his parents thought of his life choices. It sounds crass on the surface, but one of the first things I told him to do was to “grow up and get a life.” But the problem with this common phrase is that there is great difficulty in the process, so let’s look at both sides: growing up and getting a life.

Your symptom, feeling like you give too much weight to your parents’ opinion, is a sign that some growing up has not happened. And while you feel like you always have to honor your parents, you don’t always have to obey them. If you’re still in the child position, then that is getting in the way of how you were meant to live your life. So, we have to look at two reasons for still remaining in the child position: not growing up, and not having a life.

Some people stay in the child position with parents because they are either unable to “grow up,” or they are unwilling. Inability to get out of the child role and still want parental approval involves the process of needing something from your parents that you did not get. When there is something you are still looking for like love, acceptance, approval, validation or other ingredients that parents are supposed to give children to prepare them to be adults; you can be stuck waiting for them to finally grant you what you never had. You never really leave and become an adult because you are still waiting for “something.”

The truth is if it hasn’t happened by now, they are probably not able to give you what you want anyway. You have to get those things from the people you surrounded yourself with. If you are still waiting for your parents to give you something they cannot give, then it is time to grieve that and get on with growing up.

The next part, “to get a life,” involves taking control of your actions and your feelings, because you were created to have a fulfilling life that belongs to you and only you. If your parents still have that much power, then you are in the child position, still dreaming of one day having a life instead of getting one. Children dream of what they will one day be or do, and adults go for it.

The hard work is this – stepping out of the security of the child position, (where the biggest risk one ever faces is the disapproval of other mere mortals) – and into the risk of living life as it has been given you (where bigger things are at stake than someone’s approval). At stake is the ultimate wager – will what you do with your talents, abilities, opportunities and resources mean more to you than what your parents think?

find the original post here.

Reblog: Why Sadness Needs to be Honored and Processed Respectfully

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Sadness is our next basic emotion, for it tells us about hurt and loss. We live in a world where we get hurt and lose things. We need it to help us grieve and let go. If we repress and deny sadness, there is inevitable depression. Unresolved sadness always leads to depression and often other symptoms.

Sadness is always the way to joy, because sadness says that there is a hurt of some kind that needs to be processed, and usually it involves a loss.

When people deny their sad feelings, they “harden” the heart, and that is to lose touch with tender grace-giving aspects of who they are. They become unable to love and be tender, and to feel grief over their wrongdoings. This state leads then to become insensitive persons. In addition, it leads to all sort of symptoms – depressions, physiological problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the inability to get close to others.

Here’s a story:

Susan was in her mid-twenties when she began to have panic attacks. She would wake up in the middle of the night fearing that she was dying. If she saw anything on television about death or heard about death in any way, she ceased to function. The panic and dread of death overwhelmed her. She was referred to me when the panic rendered her unable to work.

“I feel ashamed that I am so afraid to die,” she said in the first meeting. I will never forget the confusion and hopelessness that she showed over the problem, she didn’t know what to do.

She had grown up very isolated in her family, with the exception of feeling some love from her sister, who was a few years older than she was. Her parents were non-relational people. When Susan was fifteen, she got up one morning and tried to get her sister out of bed, to no avail. Her sister had died during the night.

Understandably, her grief was enormous. But her father told the family that day, “There will be no more discussion of this. We must all be strong. Let’s forget the past and move on.” That was the way the death was handled.

As it turned out, Susan had many unresolved grief feelings about her sister. She was very sad that she was gone, and because she didn’t work through the grief, she still had a very deep wish to be with her sister, her only source of love. The wish was registering in her conscious mind as a fear; in reality, it was what she wanted, to be with her sister.

We began to talk about that loss, and she went into the long-awaited sadness and grief. She was able to talk out all of the feeling she had been denying for so many years. Over a period of months, she went through a normal grief cycle, letting go of her sister. That should have happened when she was fifteen, but because the family had a rule against sadness and weakness, it was delayed.

She lost her fear of dying as well as the vague depression she had experienced off and on for years. She also regained some loving parts of herself. The loving part that was sad and buried, away from time, was again available to get to grow and nurture. In addition, her sexual feelings returned, which she had not been able to feel either.

Whenever trauma is not worked through, the development stage present at that age gets affected. In her teens, it was love and sexuality. By processing her pain, she regained herself. There was joy after sadness.

When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of the ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted.

Sadness does not equal weakness. Rather, processing sadness leads to strength.

find the original article here.

Reblog: When is it Time to Leave Your Addicted Partner?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Deciding whether to end a relationship is a big decision. In fact, it’s one of the things I see people struggle with the most as a therapist.

For a codependent, the decision to leave an addicted partner is especially hard.

You’ve tried and tried, but things don’t ever seem to get better (or at least not for long).

You’re low on self-esteem.

You’ve devoted mountains of time to taking care of and trying to fix your partner.

However, despite the conflicts and disconnection, you love and care about your partner.

You wonder what will happen to your partner if you’re not around to help.

And what will you do without someone to take care of?

Leaving feels like a failure.

Things to consider when deciding to leave a relationship with an addict:

  • Is your relationship abusive? Abuse isn’t just about whether your partner beats the sh** out of your every time he gets wasted. It’s also the occasional shove or grabbing your arm. It’s forcing you to have sex or perform particular sexual acts when you don’t want to. It’s telling you you’re worthless or you’ll be alone forever if you leave. It’s threats to harm you or your kids. It’s blaming you and making you feel “crazy”.
  • What will happen if things continue on their current trajectory? I know you can’t predict the future, so the past is our best gauge for what’s to come. Have things gotten worse over time? Does your partner use more frequently or larger quantities? Do new problems continue to stack up?
  • How is this relationship affecting your kids? Are your kids really better off with you staying together? Perhaps their standard of living is higher in a two parent household, but don’t fool yourself into believing your kids don’t know what’s going on. Kids are very aware of arguments, abuse, or Mom being too drunk to drive; even babies can sense tension and conflict.
  • Is this an equal partnership? Marriage may not be 50-50 all the time, but it should even out to a reasonably equitable partnership over time. Are you carrying the bulk of the work and responsibility? Can you confide in your partner and feel supported? Are you appreciated and valued?
  • Is your partner invested in change? Remember the old saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”? Well, that’s the truth. Change takes sustained effort. Has your partner shown you that she is going to work at recovery day after or day or does she repeatedly quit programs, relapse, and make excuses?
  • What does it cost you to stay? Is staying eroding your self-esteem, your mental health, your physical health, your sense of peace and well-being? What else are you giving up in this relationship – your friends, goals, career advancement?
  • How long are you willing to wait? Change is hard and scary. It’s always easier to do the same thing rather than change even when you know the current situation is toxic. There’s a strong desire to hang in there thinking your partner will eventually change. You can’t rely on empty promises to change, you need hard cold facts. The truth is that even if there’s no evidence of change right now, your partner may eventually find long-term sobriety and recovery, but how long are you willing to wait? Six months? A year? Five years? 10 years? This is your life, too. What else are you missing out on while you’re waiting for your partner to change? You’ve put your life on pause. You deserve to live a fulfilling life with a partner that meets your needs.
  • Is your life unmanageable? Instead of waiting for your partner to hit bottom, consider whether you’ve hit your bottom. Do you want to live like this anymore? Are you sick and tired or being sick and tired?

Answering these questions will only be helpful if you can take an honest look at yourself and your partner. The sneaky thing about denial is that you don’t even know it’s there. Sometimes you need someone outside the situation to give you unbiased feedback.

It’s time to seriously consider leaving, if your addicted partner:

  • Hurts you physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually.
  • Puts you down; calls you derogatory names.
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for mistakes; blames you for everything.
  • Apologizes, but continues to hurt you in the same way.
  • Refuses to go to therapy or treatment.
  • Denies problems.
  • Tells you that you’re “crazy”.
  • Lies, cheats, steals, or other dishonest and unethical behavior.
  • Controls where you go, who you see, what you wear, or your access to money.

Deciding to stay

I’m actually not suggesting that everyone should leave their addicted partner. There are also times when a couple can recover from addiction and codependency together. I believe that in order for this to be possible, two primary things need to happen:

  1. Both you and your partner must be committed to recovery and participate regularly in recovery activities (in-patient or out-patient substance abuse treatment, psychotherapy, group counseling, 12-step or other self-help groups).
  2. Abusive behavior ceases completely. I can never advocate that you stay in a relationship where you’re being hurt physically, sexually, or emotionally. You deserve better.

I know from my personal and professional experience that relationships can survive addiction and become healthy. But I also know that codependents often stick around long after change is likely. Please remember that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t fix it. It’s not about whether she loves you enough to quit or about what you did wrong or what else you can try. Sometimes you need to save yourself before you go down with the sinking ship.

When I was at this crossroads, going to therapy was a lifesaver that re-centered me and helped me find acceptance. I can’t possibly know what you should do in your particular situation. If anything in this article spoke to you, I strongly suggest you get some support as you wrestle with these questions and try to see your life realistically.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Why Your ‘Friend’ may not be a Safe Person for You

by Henry Cloud

I received a message from an answering service one evening, and it told me that one of my clients was suicidal. I called Theresa on the phone. She was distraught.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“It’s not going to work, “ Theresa replied, sobbing.

“What isn’t going to work?”

“Telling other people about my problems,” she said. “I was talking to one of my friends tonight and told them about my depression and the problems with my boyfriend, and she really came down on me for being depressed and all the other stuff that’s been going on.”

“What was said?”

“Well, she said that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, and that if I was still having all these problems, then I was filled with too much negativity and that I bring everything on myself. I’ve tried all this ‘safe relationship’ stuff, and I’ve shared my feelings, and it just doesn’t work.”

“What if I told you that you still haven’t found safe relationships?”

“What do you mean? This is supposed to be my friend. I’ve known her for a long time.”

“Well, a ‘friend’ isn’t always safe,” I told her. “Safe is defined by helpful, and it doesn’t sound like tonight was too helpful.”

“How do you know what a helpful relationship looks like?” she asked.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Let’s talk about that.

We value friendship. We believe that friendship is one of the most powerful tools we have in our lives to change and heal character. In relationships with others, we are healed, and our character is changed. We know several people who have developed a support system of restorative friendships that have been of enormous help.

Friends give us what we need in the areas of acceptance, support, discipline, modeling and a host of other relational ingredients that provide change. But in picking good friendships that produce growth, several qualities are important:

  • Acceptance and grace
  • Mutual struggles, although they don’t have to be the same ones
  • Loving connection
  • Both parties need other support systems as well to avoid the same kind of toxic dependency on each other that led to the problems
  • Familiarity with the growth process where both parties have “entered in” and have some knowledge of the process so as to avoid the blind leading the blind
  • Mutual interest and chemistry, a genuine liking
  • An absence of keeping score
  • Honest and realistic
  • An absence of controlling behavior

Friendships of this kind are an absolute must for our personal growth. There are many good people out there, and to find them, make sure that you use discernment, wisdom and information to trust your experience with others. If someone is destructive or toxic, be careful. Keep looking and seeking until you find safe people, those who will give you all the benefits that are in store for your future.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Independence and Autonomy

by Henry Cloud

One parent once described adolescence as the terrible twos all over again, but this time in a bigger body. We personally don’t see either time period as “terrible,” but each one can be a time full of difficulty if you don’t recognize the important stage of independence, separateness and autonomy that a child is going through. In the “twos,” toddlers are moving away from the early dependency of infancy. In the teens, children are moving away from their lifelong dependency of learning on parents for a lot of functioning. They are looking to

  • Think for themselves and have their own opinions
  • Question, evaluate and choose values
  • Follow their own desires and goals
  • Build skills and abilities
  • Develop their own spirituality
  • Find their own ways of making money
  • Have parents available to them while they are working all of this out

These are all good things. Participate in your adolescent’s emerging autonomy by being proactive. Many parents just back off, wait for the testing of limits to begin, broaden the boundaries. In short, they put all the planning on the adolescent and then try to prevent the developmental path from working!

Being a partner in your teenagers’ independence is a good way to look at this issue. They will establish independence one way or another because they’re wired to do so. So it is better if you become a partner instead of an adversary. If you become a partner, they will need you and look to you. If you become an adversary, you will lose them, and they will lose the ability to grow into independence in a way connected to love and authority.

Partnering in independence and autonomy means to think always about your children guarding and managing themselves at the appropriate level. Give them enough space to fail and then manage the failure with empowerment, support discipline and correction. Or, when they succeed, give them more. Here are some areas where your teenagers are likely to demand more freedom and control over their lives:

  • More freedom to go places and stay out later
  • More freedom to do what they please without your being there all the time
  • More freedom in choosing things they like instead of what you like
  • Freedom to question things you have taught them and make up their own minds
  • Freedom to pursue their own interests
  • More control over their likes and dislikes
  • More control over their spiritual life

When these desires emerge, remember that your goal is to use them to manage the process of independence in a way that leads to teenagers being able to manage themselves. Give them the freedom within limits, and require them to use it responsibly. Do not see every drive to be independent as a testing of limits, although testing will come. See each incident as an opportunity to find out what kind of freedom they can manage and what kind they cannot. Do not give them more than can manage, for your role as a guardian and manager kicks in when they are in danger. But at the same time, do not restrict their freedom when they are able to manage it. To the extent that you are guarding and managing them in areas where they are showing responsibility, you are redundant and unnecessary.

Look for individual expression in music, clothes, hobbies, political views, overall appearance and the like. If their choices do not get them into danger, let it go. In most cases, their peers will enforce the limits of what is okay and what is not. If they go too far, they will run into trouble in their own social circles. But remember, their norms are different from yours.

In short, you want your adolescents to develop independence. If they don’t you will still be bailing them out when they are forty. This is the time to help them develop independence in the right way. Give them areas in which they can be different from you that do not involve values. If you allow them to do this, they won’t have to sacrifice more important areas of life to show you that they are their own person.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: What’s My Attachment Style and Why Does It Matter?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

If you’re in an unhappy relationship, feel stuck in a pattern of failed relationships, or can’t seem to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right, your attachment style may be the reason.

We all learn about human relationships from our first relationships – those with our parents or primary caregivers. Understanding your attachment style can help you get to the root of your relationship troubles.

Ideally, parents provide security and safety and children learn to trust that their parents will meet their needs. Parents provide comfort and help calm their children when they’re upset or afraid. As a result, children form a bond with their parents that builds a secure emotional foundation. Children can then confidently explore the world knowing their parents will keep them safe.

We know that humans are meant to connect to and depend on each other. Our survival hinges on it! Depending on others is healthy even in adult relationships. We are more successful and happy when we can form healthy, trusting attachments to other humans.

“We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.” – Brene Brown

There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant, and anxious. I have described each attachment style below.

Secure Attachment

  • You had your needs met as a child. Your caregivers were attentive and responsive to your needs helping you to feel safe and cared for.
  • You feel comfortable being close and emotionally intimate.
  • You seek and maintain close, stable relationships.
  • You feel comfortable expressing your feelings and needs.

Avoidant Attachment

  • Your caregivers were probably distant, cold, or unresponsive. As a result, you became more independent and self-reliant, not wanting to depend on inconsistent people.
  • Close relationships tend to feel smothering and like they’re impeding your independence.
  • You pull away from intimacy when it feels too intense.
  • You need a lot of time to yourself.
  • You may resist commitment.

Anxious Attachment

  • Your caregivers were inconsistent in attending to your needs. As a result, you hold on tight in order to try to get your needs met.
  • You crave intimacy and can never get enough closeness.
  • You question whether you’re partner really loves you or whether you’re lovable and seek frequent reassurance.
  • An anxious attachment can be described as “needy” or “clingy.”
  • You desperately seek security and attention from your partner, but this can push him/her away.

Why does my attachment style matter?

Attachment theory originated with work of John Bowlby, who studied mothers and infants, but we now recognize that our attachment style is still at play in our adult romantic relationships. The parent-child attachment sets the stage for our ability to trust that our adult partners will meet our emotional needs.

Our attachment style becomes a blueprint for the rest of our intimate relationships. Our attachment style impacts our choice of romantic partners and how we relate to them. We replay these attachment patterns over and over with new people as a way to find evidence for our beliefs about ourselves. This is why people often feel stuck in the same kinds of relationship patterns. For example, many anxiously attached people date or marry avoidants who can never seem to give them enough closeness and reassurance. This confirms the anxiously attached person’s fears of abandonment and belief that s/he is flawed or unlovable.

Understanding your attachment style is useful not only because it gives you insights into your relationship with your parents and how you felt as a child, but it can also help you understand difficulties you have in your adult relationships. Ultimately, understanding your attachment style can help you figure out how you can change in order to have more fulfilling relationships. In other words, having a healthy relationship is about choosing the “right” partner and about developing a healthy, secure attachment.

How can I become more securely attached?

Although attachment patterns are well established, you can shift toward a more secure attachment style by learning new skills and practicing a lot.

A few ways to start changing your attachment style are:

  • Notice your relationship patterns. Becoming more aware of your anxious or avoidant behaviors is the first step in change.
  • Pay attention to what you need and how you feel.
  • Share your feelings with your partner.
  • Recognize cognitive distortions and challenge them.
  • Communicate your relationship needs and expectations clearly to your partner.
  • Take good care of yourself.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself; acknowledge your strengths and successes.
  • Work with a therapist (shifting your attachment style is hard work).
  • Spend time with people who model healthy relationships.

I hope this post has shed a bit of light on understanding your attachment style and how it influences your adult relationships. For additional information, I recommend the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. As always, be patient and gentle with yourself as you challenge yourself to change.

Find the original post here.