Destructive vs. Growth Suffering

Uncategorized Jun 03, 2019

Suffering can be good. It can take us to places where one more season of “comfort” cannot. But suffering can also be terrible.

Destructive suffering inflicts evil on a person’s heart and soul and is totally outside God’s desire. Although God can bring good out of the experience, the experience itself is no good at all. But there is also therapeutic suffering or “growth suffering.”

So the first thing to do is to distinguish between the destructive and the “growth” sufferings.

Good Pain

Some suffering does have value and produces growth. I call this good pain. We all have coping mechanisms that cover up pain, help us deal with fear, cope with relational inabilities and help us hold it all together. Trials and suffering push those mechanisms past the breaking point so we find out where we need to grow. Then true spiritual growth begins at deeper levels and we are healed. Righteousness and character take the place of coping.

This kind of...

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Identifying the Source of Our Pain

Uncategorized May 31, 2019

After more than 20 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way. Consider these questions:

  • Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
  • Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
  • Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
  • Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?

Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their relationships leave them lacking in some way, leaving them to wonder why they end up in the situations they do. They wonder...

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Addressing Mental Health Goes Beyond Prayer

Uncategorized May 27, 2019

 God is a person who does certain things that produce life, over and over again. And, he has created us in his image, able to do those same things. We are to be “like him,” living healthy lives. So, as we grow in his image, doing what he does, healing occurs as a result. I began to understand that salvation equals healing, just as the Greek word implies. Said another way: The more that God helps us to become like him, bearing his image, we get well. So what does that look like?

As I wrote in my book “Changes That Heal,” I think this happens in four basic areas:

First, God is able to form emotional connections. He bonds with the other members of the Trinity, and then with us. He has ongoing, unbroken relationships, and created us to be able to do the same. What we know from science and experience is that disconnection, or emotional isolation and detachment lead to all sorts of emotional and relational problems. From depression, to anxiety, to breakdowns...

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7 Steps to Help Someone Have More Awareness

Uncategorized May 27, 2019

If someone in your life behaves in a way that causes problems but he doesn’t know his behavior is a problem, you are dealing with unawareness. It can be something bothersome but not dangerous. Or it can be something life threatening, as with an alcohol, drug, or prescription pill addiction.

You may be acutely aware of the issue yourself, much more so than the person with the problem. You may want to address it with the person for his sake and yours. At the same time, you may be at a loss on how helpfully to approach him. Use the following seven steps to help that person come to awareness and find a solution to the problem:

1. Take a “Presumed Innocent” Approach
Until you know better, assume a person is innocent of bad motives or intents, and approach him accordingly. If the person truly does not know what he is doing, he needs compassion and gentleness from you. Being innocently unaware is a far cry from being resistant, defensive, or blaming. The other person may...

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Supporting Our Troops After War

Uncategorized May 24, 2019

I will never forget the day that I was almost taken out by a U.S. Marine. I was a little kid working in a boat dealership when I walked into the shop one day and said, “Hey Tommy, have you seen that spare tire for the trailer?” When I did, I startled Tommy, a Viet Nam vet, and he immediately grabbed a shovel, spun around and started swinging at everything in sight, including me. I dived for cover and was hiding behind a fishing boat when he just “snapped out of it,” and was suddenly himself again. I had no clue what had just happened, but it was terrifying. Tommy told me later that he had the “jitters,” as he put it, since he had returned home from the war. 

Now, as a psychologist, I understand more. PTSD and other scars of war are real, and life-altering. What Tommy was experiencing then we have much more knowledge of now. We know what causes it and we know how to treat it. But there are...

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Having Healthy Boundaries Means You Don't Think About Revenge

Uncategorized May 24, 2019

Those who have good boundaries have transcended the need for revenge. Their first goal is to make things better for the other person or group. The other’s benefit is their utmost concern. That does not mean they have no interest at all in their own benefit. It simply means that in their treatment of others, their goal is to do well by them regardless of how they are treated.

They are not interested in settling the score or getting even. Revenge is for immature people, and they know that ultimately the offending person is going to get what he deserves without his needing to bring it about. Life has a way of making that happen, as does also the natural law of sowing and reaping. But even this ultimate payback is not something that those with healthy boundaries wish on another person, and that is the true hallmark of their character. They truly want the best for others, even those who do not do well by them.

That is why people who have healthy boundaries are not full of...

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Revenge is the Worst Response to Pain

Uncategorized May 22, 2019

No one wants to suffer, and it’s natural to want to avoid pain and discomfort. Yet, if you’re seeking to grow, normalizing suffering will facilitate the growth process in your personal development.

Let’s start by understanding how suffering actually helps with growth. Although it presents a negative experience, we recognize that it’s part of life – especially the growth part of life. No one grows to maturity who doesn’t understand what it means to endure pain.

So, when we think about pain, what is one of the worst types that comes to mind? In many cases, it includes a painful experience that is inflicted upon us by someone else. We already bring a great deal of pain to our lives by our own transgressions, and at the same time, others can inflict just as much injury on us. It adds salt to our wounds.

We have natural responses to being hurt that are part of our imperfections. We do not always respond well to stresses in our lives. These responses...

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Embrace the Power of Saying No and Live with Fruitfulness

Uncategorized May 20, 2019

Much of our identity comes from the positive assertions of who we are. We say things such as, “I love sports,” or “I love to travel.” We are asserting positive truths about who we are.

There are many people who aren’t in touch with their “not me” experiences. They don’t know how to disown who they are not.

I once knew a student in med school who wasn’t performing very well, but he felt pressured to stay because it’s what his parents wanted him to become. He needed to scream at the top of his lungs, “I hate medicine!” until he was finally heard, but he kept quiet. His “voice” eventually came out in his poor performance in school and his failure in residence.

Negative assertions are a reality. Just as we need to take responsibility for what lies inside our boundaries, we need to admit to ourselves what lies outside. Some negative assertions would be: “No, I don’t like to speak before large...

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How You Can Address the Patterns that Lead to Divorce

Uncategorized May 17, 2019

Jason and Sara came to see me for premarital counseling. They wanted to prevent any unnecessary problems in their marriage as much ahead of time as possible.

This couple was especially concerned because each had been divorced. The devastation that the split-ups had played in their lives had made them more wary and thoughtful this time around. They were more sober about the marriage and less idealistic than your average “never-married-early-20s” pair.

“What have you learned about yourself from your first marriage?” is one of the questions I ask in this case. It helps people understand their character patterns and look at the possible pitfalls in the relationship.

When I asked them the question, Jason and Sara were somewhat perplexed. They’d honestly never considered the issue before. As we continued exploring, I found out why. Both of them had simply figured they’d married a bad person the first time around, and now they were marrying a much better...

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You Can Create Separateness from Your Mom and Thrive

Uncategorized May 12, 2019

Julia was in her early 30s when she began discussing the ideas of separateness, differences, and boundaries with her mother. It wasn’t easy at first: Mom thought Julia was rejecting her as a person. But they both persevered in the relationship. Mom agreed to respond to Julia’s truth and try not to hear it as pushing her away.

Julia told her mom, “Mom, when I tell you I can’t bring the kids to visit, instead of withdrawing and being hurt, would you just tell me you’re sad about it, and would you try to understand?” Mom learned that Julia’s differences were for Julia, not against Mom. And she began to respect, not resent, her daughter’s independence.

In fact, Mom became even more supportive. When Julia came for a visit, her mother surprised her by saying, “Let me take care of the kids while you and Rich leave for a few hours. You two probably don’t get enough time together.” They gratefully accepted. Then, when the...

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