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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by!

I’m a pastor and author, plus I consult in an addiction treatment center where I help people consider how God might join them in their recovery.

My goal is to help people overcome everyday problems in practical ways with God’s help. I purposefully write and speak in a way that makes God approachable and understandable.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and “like” my Facebook page in the margin. As my way of saying “thanks,” please download the Kindle version of my book, “Out of Exile” for free right now.

Feel free to send me a question. I promise to read it and reply. Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

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Are You a Victim of Spiritual Abuse?

If you are a victim of spiritual abuse, would you be interested in helping me to write my fifth book? The topic is toxic faith and spiritual abuse. The working title for my new book is: Toxic Faith, Spiritual Abuse…and AMAZING Grace.victim of spiritual abuse

This book is a book that I wish I didn’t need to write. In fact, it’s probably the last thing I WANT to talk about. No one likes to talk about it. But for the sake of Jesus and his church, we have to. 

I blogged about it extensively in the wake of a toxic church imploding two years ago in my area. Those posts have since become my most read posts. That’s sad to me! Really? There’s that much interest?

Of all the posts, the most read post is: How to Confront a Toxic Pastor. So disappointing. But that tells me it’s a huge problem.

I pulled together all those posts along with a sermon series I did on Toxic Faith from Galatians. As I started the drafting process I started to wonder if I had answered all the questions people have. Probably not. 

That’s where you could really help me.

Helping the Victim of Spiritual Abuse

I want to help two primary groups of people:

1. People in a toxic church who are SUPER confused. Why are people so passionate about teaching that makes you so uncomfortable? Why is it wrong to question it? Are you a bad Christian? Are you even saved? Do you really have to work THAT hard for God to love you?

2. People who realize the problem and want to do something about it. The right answer might be to quietly leave. For others it might mean a confrontation, if not a series of confrontations.

My hope is to pull together anywhere from five to fifty people who would read through my original writing and tell me what helps, what doesn’t help, and what’s missing.

I’d like people who are in one of the two groups above so they can give me personal feedback. I came out of a toxic church, but it was years ago now. I may have forgotten some of the pain and some of the issues.

What will you do on this team?

Read my work and write me your thoughts. If you have friends in the group, you might read it together.

My hope is that the group would not only help me (and thereby help my readers) but be a source of healing for people on my team.

Like I said, I’ve been there. I am a victim of spiritual abuse. It caused me to drop out of church for five years. I almost gave up on church altogether. Instead, God used me to start a church! Pretty ironic.

So there it is. If you are interested in being a part of this group, please email me here. 

One qualifier: some people come out of a toxic church both bitter and vindictive. I’m open to their involvement if they can restrain themselves from using the group as a dumping ground for their anger. But I’d love to help them work through that, so I’m happy to include them.

Please share this post with people whom you think might be interested.

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The Power Paradox: Gaining and Losing Power

Power is an interesting study. Reading the book, The Power Paradox, opened my eyes to how power power paradoxand powerlessness play into our lives in dramatic ways. I’ll talk about power in this post and powerlessness in an upcoming post.

Author, Dacher Keltner believes that our culture’s understanding of power came from Machiavelli’s book, The Prince. He says:

The Prince offers a philosophy of power suitable to such violent times, treating power in its purest form as “force and fraud.” We gain and keep such power by committing coercive and unpredictable acts that are impetuous, fierce, and violent.

We hold on to such power by appearing virtuous even though we harbor other intentions. This kind of power quiets (or kills) rivals and critics, inspires allegiances, and mutes the masses. Through coercive force and fraud, we dominate. Dacher Keltner. The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence (p. 20). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This definition relates so closely to what I’ve written in this blog about toxic pastors and what I observed in the recent political campaign. The “force and fraud” isn’t as blatant as in Machiavelli’s era, but is present nonetheless.

This expression of power doesn’t stem from confidence but fear. The Machiavellian leader is afraid they are losing power so they resort to manipulation to grasp power before it slips away.

This grasp might work in the short run but, ironically, it eventually leads to a loss of power…the very thing they feared. People subjected to abusive power will only submit to it for a season before they say, “enough” and revolt (think abusive marriages, churches, bosses, and governments).  The author explains:

People resort to coercive force when their power is actually slipping. In our professional lives, people who endorse Machiavellian strategies to social life— lying, manipulating, and stepping on others to rise in the ranks— actually report experiencing less power and influence than the average person…Today coercive force is a more likely path to powerlessness than to gains in power.  The Power Paradox (p. 21).

The Power Paradox and Gaining Power

So, how does one gain power? Keltner says that power is not gained by grasping it but by receiving it from others. People are eager to give you power in their lives when you show acts of kindness that benefit them. The author says that power:

…is given to us by others rather than grabbed. We gain power by acting in ways that improve the lives of other people in our social networks…Our power is found in simple acts that bind people together and yield the greatest benefits for the group. The difference we make in the world depends …on raising the right question, offering encouragement, connecting people who don’t know one another, suggesting a new idea. Power is surprisingly available in daily acts of social life.   Critical to avoiding the power paradox is recognizing   that enduring power hinges on doing simple things that are good for others. The Power Paradox (p. 35).

Kelner adds by saying:

…we empower others through daily acts of influence: by acknowledging another’s good work, by offering an encouraging phrase or making appreciative eye contact, or by giving others responsibilities, resources, and opportunities. The Power Paradox (p. 38).

The Power Paradox and Losing Power

What I found especially interesting is how people who gain power can easily lose it. While gaining power came from showing kindness, the power they receive often causes them to distance themselves from others, lose empathy, grow selfish, and eventually lose power.

People are eager to give you power in their lives when you show acts of kindness that benefit them.

I saw this played out recently in my study of King David in the Bible. When David was young he fought for the people and they championed him as their king. But once he gained power he grew distant and selfish, choosing to commit adultery and even murder to cover up the adultery. The people took note and when David’s son Absalom offered them his leadership as a viable alternative, their hearts went with him. Power gained and lost. (You can find this story in 1 & 2 Samuel).

Whatever your position of power might be (teacher, pastor, parent, manager, etc.), be aware that your position naturally tempts you to neglect the empathy and kindness that put you in power in the first place. Don’t fall into the trap of coercing people to maintain your power. What got you power (empathy and kindness) will keep you in power.

Check out The Power Paradox here.

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“Return From Exile” is Now on Sale

Return from ExileI’m pleased to announce that my latest book, “Return From Exile,” (RFX) is fully up and running. It’s available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle.  See below for a special offer.

As I said in the book, “EXILE” is when life throws you a curveball and you end up in a place you never thought you would be. The book looks at the impact of loss in your life in a forty day journey from despair to hope.

All my books are very personal. They are personal in what I share. And they are personal in how I address my readers. My goal is that, in reading this book, it will be as if I’m sitting down with you each day for a few moments to offer you my best advice about how to process your setback.

“Return From Exile is a road-map through the wilderness of loss.”

Having been a pastor for over twenty-five years now, and an addiction consultant for twenty, I’ve sat with many people overcome by loss. This is my way of saying, “Let me walk with you through this season of life. Let me help you learn from your exile and then help you find your way back.” 

EXILE is Not The End. It’s a New Beginning.

I’m convinced that exile is not a mistake. God can use any experience in your life to make you a better person and a bigger blessing to the people in your life. One reviewer called the book, “A road-map through the wilderness of loss.” You can read reviews here.

I hope you will think of friends and family who have suffered a devastating loss and would like to find God’s help to reclaim their lives. Read the first five days of the journey here.

Be patient with the Amazon site. In the early days of a new book, there seem to be various linking bugs. For example, right now none of my reviews are showing.

SPECIAL OFFER:

If you would like to get the paperback edition of RFX for free here’s what you should do:

  1. purchase the Kindle version (only $3.99 for a limited time),
  2. read it and post a review on Amazon.com,
  3. send me a link to the post, with a receipt of purchase, and your address.

I will sign a copy of the book and send it right off to you. Limited to the first 20 people who review it through this offer (don’t go by how many reviews are on the Amazon page. For example, I might have 22 reviews on Amazon but only two of them are through this offer.)

I look forward to hearing back from you after you’ve read the book. My prayer is that God will use the book to help many people learn and return from their exile.

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Overcoming Loss: a free book offer for reviewers

Have you suffered a devastating loss and haven’t known how to get your life Overcoming lossback? Whether it’s a divorce, a death, a health issue, a job loss…well, you name it. These can all leave you feeling like you’ve landed in “exile.” My new book was designed to help people in overcoming loss, failure, and personal setbacks.

What is exile? Exile is when life throws you a curveball and you end up in a place you never thought you would be. You feel stuck, like a beached whale, with no way back. Exile convinces you that life will never be good again.

It’s lonely. It’s confusing. And it’s painful.

But exile can also be a time of transition that opens a door from one season of life to the next. In “Return from Exile” you will learn that, whatever pain and loss you have experienced, it is not the end of your story. You are not finished. You are not a washout. Exile is merely a rite of passage: an intensive character-building workshop preparing you for a richer, fuller life…if you let it.

Read a Preview of “Return From Exile.”

I’ve created a short preview of the book that takes you through the introduction and the first five devotions of a forty-day journey. You’ll hear a bit of my personal story and get a feel for where the book is headed.

Click here to download the preview.  Answer the questions to rate the preview and request a free copy of the book in exchange for reviewing the full version on Amazon.com. I don’t know about you, but I rarely buy a book without combing through at least a few reviews. I’d appreciate your posting a review when you finish the full book. My book page should be “live” on Amazon.com by the time you finish the book.

I hope you’ll share this post with your friends, especially those who might be hurting right now.

I appreciate your willingness to be a part of the publishing process!

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Trump’s Apology and Cheap Grace

Trump's apologyDonald Trump’s apology last week,  and the quick acceptance by some of his apology,  provide us with a teachable moment. I’d like to bring some clarity to what makes up an apology so we can all be better at it.

(Please note, this is not a political statement. My blog and books are dedicated to helping people to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Put aside your politics for a moment. See what you can learn about apologies so you can apologize well and expect more from those who apologize.)*

What Is An Apology?

First, let’s look at what makes up an apology. I’ve written a number of posts about making an apology on this blog. In fact, I wrote four posts on each aspect of an apology. But here is a brief overview of the four components to an apology:

  1. Fully admit (100%) to what you did, and it’s impact, to everyone offended.  Resist the temptation to excuse, minimize, blame others, or justify your actions in any way.
  2. Express true sorrow for the impact of your offense. Speak in terms that show people you understand the pain you’ve caused them (empathy).
  3. Ask forgiveness of all those offended.
  4. Work to rebuild trust by stopping the offensive behavior, taking corrective action, and making amends.

When you take these four steps, there is a good chance that people will forgive your behavior. They might also give you a shot at  restoring the relationship. If you cut corners, you run the risk of intensifying the offense instead of removing it.

Measuring Trump’s Apology

If you read/watch Trump’s apology, observe how it lines up with these four steps. Trump’s words fail the test of a true apology at each point. For example:

  1. Full admission: Trump said he has “said and done things” he regrets, but he never mentioned what they were. He never apologized directly to the women he referenced. He minimized his actions by saying his words were merely “locker room talk,” a mere distraction to more important issues, and that the event was ten years old.
  2. True sorrow: Trump never mentioned the impact that his actions had on anyone or expressed sorrow for the impact.
  3. Asking forgiveness. He did not ask for forgiveness of any individuals or the public at large.
  4. Making amends. Nothing was said about how he would try to make this up to the people he hurt or the trust he broke. Eighty percent of the words in his statement sought to justify himself, divert people’s attention, and even attack Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Chris Christie, one of Trump’s biggest backers, thought the statement fell short of an apology:

When asked whether he thought Trump’s apology was enough, Christie responded, “I didn’t think it was on Friday or Saturday, and I told him that. I would have done it much differently.” “He should have been much more direct and much more focused on saying, just saying, “‘I’m sorry’ and only ‘I’m sorry,’” Christie added. ABC News

What bothers me so much about Trump’s statement is that it set a poor example for other people to follow.  It reinforces our low view of what makes up an apology. He’s not alone. Most people in the news offer an apology similar to Trump’s.

These “apologies” confuse people about what is necessary to reconcile an offense. Just because they use the words “I apologize” doesn’t mean it’s a true apology. We should expect more from them.

Cheap Grace

The response that I’ve heard from many people is that, “He apologized. I forgive him. Let’s move on.” I’m all for forgiveness, but the sentence I just quoted lacks a great deal of logic for these reasons:

  • “He apologized.” No he didn’t, for the reasons I mentioned above. He only said the words “I apologize.” It was merely his attempt to appease people who were offended.
  • “I forgive him.” To “forgive” simply means to give up the right to get even with someone: to pay them back. So yes, we can hopefully all forgive Trump and not try to pay him back. No one should slander him or rob him of dignity, even though his words did that to others.
  • “Let’s move on.” To move on just because someone used the words, “I apologize” is naive at best. If the behavior in question is a pattern, then we have a right to ask for verification of a change of behavior.  We aren’t talking about the misbehavior of a neighbor or co-worker here. This is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. It’s fair to expect more.

I can forgive you for your behavior, but if your behavior broke my trust, then you need to rebuild my trust before I gift you with it again. To trust someone who hasn’t shown, what the Bible calls, “the fruits (evidence) of repentance” is foolish. You are asking to be hurt again.

It’s shameful to accept an “apology” or offer forgiveness simply to white-wash immoral behavior and release someone from their accountability to their behavior. That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace.” God’s grace is more than mercy. It’s the power to live a new life and be a better person. I can forgive Donald Trump without him changing his behavior. But to trust him without him offering a true apology and rebuilding trust is to misunderstand and misuse the grace of God.

Seizing a Teachable Moment

I’m not writing this post to promote Hillary Clinton. She might be just as guilty of what I’m saying about Trump. Trump’s behavior is what’s in the news right now and provides us with a teachable moment on the issues surrounding what it means to apologize. Vote for whomever you’d like, but let’s be clear that the examples of Trump’s apology, and his supporters acceptance of that apology, miss the mark. My hope is that you and I will have a higher standard whenever we seek to recover from a broken relationship.

You might enjoy this article by two experts in the field of forgiveness.

  • updated, 10/15/16, 11:30 a.m. CST.
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Forgiveness is Not Being Nice

One of the biggest deterrents to forgiving someone is believing that you need to be nice to them. Think about a serious offense: betrayal, abuse, even a rape. Something recoils at the thought of being nice to someone who has violated you to such an extreme. But forgiveness is not about being nice.forgiveness is not nice

The simplest definition for forgiveness is to “give up the right to get even.” Even simpler: letting go. If you want to add being nice to the equation, that’s your choice. The Bible refers to “blessing those that curse you” as a step beyond forgiveness. So it’s not unheard of to be nice to an offender. Just don’t fold that into your definition for forgiveness. Being nice is not required to be successful at forgiving.

Forgiveness indeed helps the offender. It releases them from your hatred and any attempts you might make at payback. Hopefully they use that grace to thank you for your forgiveness, make restitution, and rebuild your trust. It might open the way to restoring the relationship and for them to become a better person. But trust and reconciliation go beyond forgiveness. They need to be thought of separately from forgiveness.

Forgiveness is Not…

In my book, “STUCK…how to overcome anger and rebuild your life,” I mention five things that forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not:

  1. Forgetting: we forgive what we can’t forget.
  2. Excusing: we can only forgive those to whom we first assign blame.
  3. Trusting: we only trust people who have proven themselves trustworthy.
  4. Reunion: we only reunite with people who have rebuilt our trust.
  5. Conditional: forgiveness has no prerequisites. We can forgive immediately because it simply means that we refuse to retaliate.

Now, let me add a sixth.

Forgiveness is not:

  1. Emotion: we don’t have to feel nice or any warmth toward our offender.

I find this list helpful because we tend to load too much into our definition of forgiveness. If forgiveness includes the six words above, then who could do it? Most people’s response would be “Forget that!” Forgetting and excusing an offense is wrong and trusting and reunion prematurely will only complicate the offense.

Forgiveness certainly opens the door for the possibility of trust and reunion. When I give up the right to get even, it allows my offender to start rebuilding my trust. There might be a chance for us to reconcile the relationship. And if that happens, I will start to feel emotion toward them again. But forgiveness is only the first step in a long process of reconciliation. It does not equal reconciliation.

Forgiveness means being nice to yourself.

Forgiveness may not mean being nice to your offender, but it is one thing you can do to be nice to yourself. By not forgiving, you consign yourself to thinking continually about the offense. You rehash the event, first condemning your offender for hurting you, then condemning yourself for allowing it to happen. You think of what you could have said or done. You think of ways to pay them back. The thoughts consume you and take up space in your brain that should be given to more positive things, like loving your friends and family.

By refusing to forgive, you allow your offender to make you less of a person. You give them control of your life, turning you into someone you never wanted to be. Your offender hurt you initially, but now you exacerbate the offense by refusing to let it go.

When you forgive, you are free from all that. You show your offender that, though they hurt you, you can overcome what they’ve done, with God’s help. You trust God can still make something special of your life, even though you suffered a minor setback.

What are some other misconceptions that have kept you from forgiving your offender? Scroll down to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

To learn more about how you can forgive someone who has hurt you, check out STUCK here.

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What Would You Call This Book?

I’ve got just a quick note for you about a new book I’ve written. new book

I need your help in picking a title.

Would you click this link and pick which one you like the best?

Much appreciated!

What’s it About?

The book is a rewrite of “Out of Exile,” a book I wrote to help pastors recover from setbacks. But since everyone experiences setbacks, I wanted to offer something that helped everyone. I rewrote, “Out of Exile” offering examples that fit all kinds of loss: death, divorce, health, career, etc.

The book is written with 40 short chapters to help people understand loss, how it impacts you, what you can learn from it, and then how to overcome it to make a comeback in life.

I look forward to hearing from you. The survey will take less than a minute.

You can request a free copy of the book in the survey in exchange for a review on Amazon.com. Here’s the link again.

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