How to Evaluate What Gives You Life and Eliminate What’s Dead

Uncategorized Apr 23, 2019

In order for a rose bush to achieve its full growth potential, every good gardener knows that it must be carefully pruned. There are three circumstances in which a gardener prunes a rose bush: 1) when the bush produces more buds than it can sustain, 2) in order to remove parts of the bush that are diseased, and 3) to remove dead branches in order to make way for new growth.

First, when the bush produces more buds than it can sustain, the overgrowth drains essential resources from the bush, and the gardener must choose which of the “good” buds are “best.” He then prunes the good buds so that all of the bush’s resources can be focused on helping the best buds thrive.

Our lives are just like the rose bush. We may have a lot of really good activities, relationships, or ideas that we’ve poured our resources into. But if we pruned some of the good stuff back, we would enable the best parts to get all that they need to thrive, making our relationships...

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9 Ways Words Kill a Relationship

Uncategorized Apr 20, 2019

In a group I was leading once, a man held the floor for some time. He’d go off on tangents, change the subject and spend inordinate amounts of time on irrelevant details.

(I promise it wasn’t me this time.)

He couldn’t seem to get to the point. Other members were spacing out, dozing off or becoming restless. Just as I was about to speak to the man’s struggle with getting to the point, a woman in the group spoke up.

“Aaron, talk net, will ya?”

“Talking net” rather than “gross” means putting a net or boundary on how many words we use and how we use them — and that can be a struggle for many. How we use language can deeply affect the quality of our relationships. The words we use can be a source of both blessing and cursing. They can be a blessing when we empathize, identify, encourage, confront and exhort others. They can be a curse when we use them to do the following:

  • Hide from intimacy by talking nonstop
  • Dominate...
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How An Addict Started to Make Changes to His Life

Uncategorized Apr 13, 2019

Sam, 28, was admitted into our hospital program after an accidental drug overdose. He had neglected to keep track of how much cocaine he was ingesting.

In the first few sessions, we discovered that although Sam had a genus IQ, he had failed out of two colleges and had never been able to hold down a job. His relational life was equally troubled. He would totally lose himself in a relationship and recklessly abandon the rest of his responsibilities. In the process, he would smother whomever he was dating and scare her away. At the time he was admitted, his last girlfriend had just dumped him.

When we asked Sam about his family, he told us that his father had died when Sam was four. Depressed and withdrawn for many years, his mother had never remarried. In an attempt to make up for the loss of their father, she had tried to be as nice to her children as possible. And she gave them everything they wanted. To hear Sam tell it, he had been “living his best life,” emphasizing...

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The Devastating Results of Spiritual Abuse, Shaming

Uncategorized Apr 11, 2019

Laurel’s father had insisted his 22-year-old daughter come see me. Laurel, a college student, was suffering from depression. She had no appetite and had trouble sleeping and studying. Her father accompanied her to the appointment.

“What’s the problem?” I asked Laurel, after we had chatted for a few minutes. But it was her father who responded.

“Well, it’s pretty obvious,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “She’s not living like she should.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She’s doing drugs and sleeping around,” he said with disgust. “She’s failing out of college, and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life.” Before I could ask another question, he continued, “If she would open her Bible, go back to church and find Jesus, she wouldn’t be so depressed! All she cares to do is hang around her loser friends.”

“What would happen if she...

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Your Anger is Valid. Don't Deny It.

Uncategorized Apr 10, 2019

Many people conceal their negative feelings of anger, sadness, and fear. These people are unable to cope with good and bad because they have never processed these negative feelings, and they suffer from many problems, such as fear of relationships, depressions, and anxiety as a result. Negative feelings are valid, and they must be dealt with so they won't cause problems. 
 
Anger, our most basic negative emotion, tell us that something is wrong. We tend to protect the good we don't want to lose. Anger is a signal that we are in danger of losing something that matters to us. When people are taught to suppress their anger, they are taught to be out of touch with what matters to them. It is good to feel angry because anger warns us of danger and shows us what needs protecting. But, we are not to be mean or abusive in our attempt to solve a problem. This would mean to resolve it in some unloving way and would ultimately hurt us as well as each other. 
 
Major...

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How to Handle Those Who Get Angry at Your Boundaries

Uncategorized Apr 08, 2019

When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

I'm going to give you six steps to consider when someone responds to your boundaries with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Let the anger be in the other person.

3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people...

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How We Keep Picking People Who Hurt Us

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2019

Please keep in mind that article is NOT meant to place blame on victims of abuse. It was written to address character weaknesses that lead to unfulfilling relationships. 

We must find out what it is about us that causes us to make such poor, hurtful choices. The truth is that it is not just a lack of knowledge. We usually make such choices out of our own weaknesses. For example, if we are unable to confront people who hurt us and set good boundaries, we will continually be attracted to controlling, hurtful people. So, in a very real sense, we bear responsibility for the problem.

Or, if we are so isolated and lonely that we are afraid to end or confront hurtful relationships, we will choose hurtful people to avoid being alone. We need to make sure that we have a good support system in place and are not so in need of any one person. Or, if we are still trying to please some perfectionistic standard in our own heads, we will find perfectionistic people to live out that...

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Help Your Adult Children Without Enabling Them

Uncategorized Apr 05, 2019

Being a parent doesn't stop just because our kids reach a certain age. Many of us find that our love for our children is wrapped up in our desire to protect our kids and make sure their basic needs are taken care of, and that can go on well past any given age for a lot of parents. Helping our kids feels really good in the right situation, and sometimes we're the only place they can turn to when they're trying to make positive change in their lives. But we're also the place they're most likely to turn when the going gets tough, and sometimes struggling is necessary for our development.

When do you think it's a good idea to support your adult child directly? Not just moral support or love, but financially?

Every parent-child situation is different, but let's say that all parties agree that you've found a fair way to provide support for your adult child and that you have the means to be able to help them while they work toward a goal.

When you help your adult children, you're a...

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Why You're Not Getting What You Want From Relationships

Uncategorized Apr 03, 2019

When I have talked to individuals who are not finding what they want, or who are settling for what they don’t want, there is a common theme: they are trying to fill something inside them with that relationship. There is some sort of loneliness or a need to find validation of themselves—or even meaning—in a relationship with a guy. Many women give men way too much power to prove to themselves that they are lovable and desirable and even to make life worth living. They feel as if life is somehow not complete if they are not in a relationship with a guy.

When this happens, it makes letting go of someone, or not getting involved with someone, more difficult. The mantra seems to be that a notso-good relationship is better than no relationship at all. But are those the only options?

The answer is that people who attract the best partners, and who pick the best partners, are those whose lives are complete without being in a serious relationship. “Aw, come on,”...

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The Difference Between Toxic and Imperfect People

Uncategorized Apr 02, 2019

Twenty five years ago, John Townsend and I wrote a book called Boundaries. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

In talking with some people who have read the book, we’ve realized that a few have selfishly misused the point, which is to make relationships better. Instead, these people have tried to use boundaries to control other people or to make a big deal out of very small issues. So understand what we mean when we say you are to avoid toxic people: Imperfect behavior is not the same as toxic behavior. It’s important to learn the difference between problems that we should expect in relationships because people are imperfect, and problems that are toxic and need to be worked through or else avoided.

Not all things or people are toxic. There is no reason to start a war over someone’s immaturity or perfections that rub us the wrong way. That is the time for us to grow in patience and longsuffering, the ability to wait on people as they grow and mature.

Wisdom tells us...

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