Monthly Archives: February 2012

Could Poverty Help us Forgive?

Forgive ...how poverty helps us

Henri Nouwen

Can Poverty help us forgive? In Henri Nouwen‘s devotional, “Show Me the Way” he talks about how the key to hospitality is a sense of poverty. When you have nothing, you can give everything.  It sounds paradoxical and foolish. But let me explain and then expand it into the realm of forgiveness as well. Nouwen says this…

Once we have become poor, we can be a good host. It is indeed the paradox of hospitality that poverty makes a good host. Poverty in the inner disposition that allows us to take away our defenses and convert our enemies into friends. We can perceive the stranger as an enemy only as long as we have something to defend. But when we say, “Please enter — my house is your house, my joy is your joy, my sadness is your sadness, and my life is your life,” we have nothing to defend, since we have nothing to lose but all to give.

Turning the other cheek means showing our enemies that they can be our enemies only while supposing that we are anxiously clinging to our private property, whatever it is: our knowledge, our good name, our land, our money, or the many objects we have collected around us. But who will be our robbers when everything they want to steal from us becomes our gift to them? Who can lie to us when only the truth will serve them well? Who wants to sneak into our back door when our front door is wide open?  Show Me the Way

Poverty Helps Us Forgive

If I have nothing to defend or protect, nothing to lock up or hide away, nothing I fear you will take,  then all I have is yours. I’m free to be fully present with you. This is true about hospitality. But let me take it farther. Isn’t this true in forgiveness too? I think that’s where Nouwen is going when he talks about “turning the other cheek”. He believer a sense of poverty enables us to forgive.

If you have offended me I can only cling to unforgiveness as long as I cling to my reputation, my name, my image.  You took something from me…that’s why I’m so mad.  But if I don’t have an image or a reputation to defend…then I can forgive you without a problem.

(I’m not talking about having no self-esteem. I’m talking about being in a place where you are so convinced of your worth – it is God-given – that you don’t have to cling to it. You have no fear of losing it or letting someone strip it from you because you know you can’t lose it.)

Our problem is that we so often have the need to feel good about ourselves.  We work so hard at building a case for it. We barely pull together enough proof of our worth and then we are offended again, our house of cards falls and we are indignant at the person who robbed us of our dignity.

But what if you didn’t play that game? What if you stepped  out of that system all together and played by a different set of rules? What if you didn’t feel the need to prove to the world or yourself your worth? What if you believed that you have intrinsic value simply by the fact that you were created by an infinite all-loving God?

I think that’s what Nouwen is getting at.  When you get to that state of poverty (read humility) then no one can take anything away from you. You are free. Free to give. Free to forgive.

Question: What keeps you from stepping out of the “system” and needing to prove to others your worth? Leave your comment below.

Learn more about finding your worth in Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

Shootings and Shame – what is the connection?

A gunman opened up on a movie theater in Colorado recently.  These shootings happen on a regular basis. Is there any common thread?

Earlier this year T. J. Lane walked into a high school and started shooting. We know that T. J. Lane‘s parents were divorced and he lived with his grandparents. We also know that his father was arrested for attempted murder a few years back and served four years in jail. And we know from T. J.’s acquaintances that he was a sensitive person, someone that wanted to engage with others but failed in his attempts.  His shooting was not random. He targeted some boys that had made fun of him.

Shootings and Shame

This is what I call in my book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past, the pain of shame.  We all know it to some degree. We all experience the pain of falling short of our expectations or the expectations of others and we are  familiar with our attempts to prove to others our value.  T.J. knew the pain of shame intimately but didn’t have the coping skills or restraints to keep him from striking back.  Plus, in striking back he made a name for himself…something that he desperately wanted.

Katherine Newman, makes this insightful observation in her recent article, “Why We Miss School Shooting Warnings” (attached)…

High school shooters are rarely loners. They are “failed joiners.” The difference is important. A loner absents himself from social contact and withdraws from the world around him. Shooters are engaged, but not successful. They reach out to cliques, only to be rebuffed. Their daily social experience is of rejection and frustration, not isolation.

Whenever I see this kind of traumatic event I personalize it. I say, “So, how am I striking out to hurt those that don’t accept me?”.  It’s easy to watch the news reports about someone else’s meltdown. It’s much harder to look in the mirror and do something about the pain inside ourselves that causes pain in others.

Question: How do you strike out to hurt people that don’t accept you? Leave your comment below.

Fourteen Years of Rock Bottom – Chris Herren

Chris Herren Hit Rock Bottom

Chris Herren Hit Rock Bottom

You’ve heard it said that you need to hit rock bottom before you seek a change. In a recent article, Chris Herren, former NBA player, said that he had lots of “rock bottom” moments with his addiction.

In fact, he had 14 years of “rock bottom” before he finally made a change. I like this article because it models some important steps in the change process.

How to Climb Up From Rock Bottom:

  1. Hitting rock bottom. Rock bottom is when you finally see that the cost isn’t worth the benefits. Up to that point you can always say “just one more time” or “just one more day” because you always perceive a payoff. But at rock bottom there is no longer a payoff.
  2. Having a solid friend’s support. When there is no one to turn to it’s easy to give up. You only have yourself for support and that’s clearly not enough.
  3. Effective INTENSIVE treatment. Nothing dramatic or dynamic takes place casually. You don’t do great things in your spare time. Great things happen when you turn your focus and energy toward a specific purpose.
  4. A sense of purpose and giving back. When life is just about you or even your recovery it lacks something. Deep down you know that you aren’t the center of the universe. You are important but not that important. When you can put your energy into helping others, you gain purpose and a sense of meaning. You realize that you are making a contribution (finally!) and it feels good. It’s what makes you want to get up in the morning.
  5. The ability to reframe your life – Herren doesn’t play the victim or dwell on the past. He uses his past failure as a turning point for change.

Question: How did you hit rock bottom and how did it help set you on a road to recovery? Leave your comment below. It will help others to do the same!

Learn more about how to overcome your past in Healing the Hurts of Your Past

Guilt That Leads Away From God

Guilt that Leads Away From God

Guilt that Leads Away From God

Did you know that there is a guilt that leads away from God?

In Henri Nouwen‘s daily devotional called “Show Me the Way” he speaks about two kinds of guilt; one that leads you to God and one that sends you away.

Two Kinds of Guilt

He says…

There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but rather to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says: “I am too sinful to deserve God’s mercy.” It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride.

…The question is: “Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?”  

The Peter/Judas contrast is striking to me. Peter went on to lead the church. For some reason he was able to tap into the true essence of God’s mercy and forgiveness and it was life changing. But Judas let his sin and guilt crush him.

How do you handle your guilt? Does it lead you to God or away from him? My prayer for you is that you, like Peter,  might find God’s life changing mercy and forgiveness for your past and rise to fulfill your God-given purpose.

Adele and Her Insecurities – What you can learn

Did you catch the interview of Adele on 60 Minutes?  I like her because, as Anderson said, she is the anti-popstar. She hasn’t chased after the trappings that many singers feel they need to become a success.

Adele and  her insecurities

Adele has her insecurities

But, as with most people, she has her share of insecurities. Here’s a snippet of the interview…

Adele Interview

Anderson’s narration: The other baffling thing about Adele is that – despite being known for the power of her live concerts – in front of audiences she experiences near crippling stage fright.

Cooper: How does it manifest itself?

Adele: It starts from the minute I wake up. If I know I’ve got a show, it starts…

Adele: But it has gotten worse as I’m becoming more successful. My nerves. Just because there’s a bit more pressure and people are expecting a lot more from me.

Her words reminded me of the doubts of Whitney Houston that I wrote about recently.  How much energy saps us from our concern that “people are expecting a lot from me”?

Adele is qualified and so are you!

What will it take for us to give our best and then rest without the constant doubts? I don’t know if it’s ever fully possible but I think we can move a long way in that direction by finding our value outside of what people think of us.

Maybe you’ve heard it said that we perform for an audience of One (God). I read this passage in the Bible this morning that gives us some insight into our audience…

…giving thanks to the Father, WHO HAS QUALIFIED YOU to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,  the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14

Sleep well tonight. You’ve been qualified by God.

Question: What are the situations where you feel people are expecting a lot from you? Leave your comment below.

Perfectionism and Depression

Taylor Bucholz was a major league pitcher who had to quit due to his depression and perfectionism. From the article in the Delaware County Daily Times it says…

Perfectionism and Depression

Perfectionism and Depression

For much of the past two years, he has put up a false front. A façade of a happy-go-lucky major league relief pitcher who loved the sport he had played since he was a 5-year-old in the Springfield Athletic Association.

“It was all a big lie,” Buchholz said. “I put this fake smile on and pretended everything was all right until I finally just cracked and said, ‘I need to get help.’ I hit a wall. There was something truly wrong with me.”

Buchholz, 30, has been diagnosed with a form of depression. He also suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Both issues manifested into a perfect storm for Buchholz, a perfectionist who was recovering from a long-term injury.

“Being a perfectionist is a double-edged sword,” said Buchholz, a Daily Times Player of the Year as a Springfield High senior in 2000. “You have to be one, to an extent, to succeed on that level. But I let that take over. Perfectionism led to a downward spiral for me.”

Perfectionism’s Downward Spiral

Has perfectionism led to a downward spiral for you?  Are you afraid of not measuring up? Are you afraid of being as good as yesterday’s performance followed by a crushing depression and then anger at yourself for not coming through? And what about the weight of living the  lie that Bucholz talked about? Is that true for you too?

What would life be like if you could come out from under the weight of those expectations? That’s what God offers you; the ability to walk away from that load. When you are convinced of your worth in God’s eyes you no longer have to live under that burden. You are accepted.  You aren’t a disappointment. You are your Father’s child and no one can take that away from you. This sense of acceptance is what releases you from the weight of perfectionism.

Question: How has perfectionism led to a downward spiral for you? Leave your comment below.

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Cancel the Audition!

I  like to pass on the word of others who have a gift of empowering people.  I heard a message today from Steven Furtick called, “Cancel the Audition.  You’ve Already Got The Part“.  It’s great.

Steven talks about watching The Voice for the first time. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a take off on American Idol but different.  Four judges listen to singers with their backs turned to the singers as they audition. If the judges like the voice they turn their chair around and qualify to be their coach.  But the talent actually gets to choose the coach, assuming more than one judge turns around their chair.

Steven didn’t quite understand how it works.   But he cued in on the idea that the judges accept the talent before they see them and he compared that to how God accepts us regardless of who we are.  And that’s how he got the title.  “Cancel the audition” means that we don’t have to try out for God. We don’t have to prove ourselves. God accepts us before the music starts!  He said, we don’t need to achieve God’s acceptance. We just need to receive it.

It reminded me of what I read in the New Testament today.  It said…

…let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:16

In other words, God has given us everything we need to live a Spirit-filled life of joy and success.  Now just live it.  Quit hoping that God is happy with you.  Just live knowing that he is happy and let that knowledge take you to a new level.

Give Steven’s message a listen here.