Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Problem with Saying “I Can’t” or “I’ll Try”…

The other day I got done teaching on the power of forgiveness and someone said to me, “Well, I can’t forgive.” Saying “I can’t” is something I’ve heard so often; I had to call this person on it. I said, “Is that true?  You can’t?”. Well, no. She said she just didn’t want to. Ahhh… big difference.

Saying “I Can’t”

saying I can't

Is it true that “you can’t”? Or is the truth that you won’t?

Saying “I can’t” is a way to justify in our mind why we won’t. That’s our subconscious way of resolving an inconsistency in our logic.  We know that we don’t want to forgive (or whatever it is we are facing) but we know that’s not a good enough reason, so saying “I can’t” is what we often do to convince ourselves. We hope it convinces others as well and gets us off the hook.

From Saying “I Can’t” to “I Won’t”

Saying “I won’t” reminds you that you are making a choice and forces you to take responsibility for your choices.  You are choosing your future.  Sometimes we don’t want to admit that. Saying “I can’t” implies there is no choice involved.  You simply have to do it. It removes any sense of guilt or responsibility. It’s much easier to live with.

I’m trying

Another phrase that causes me to question people is “I’m trying”. Maybe. But more often than not “I’m trying” means “I’m putting in the minimal amount of effort to keep me and others off my back. I’m not expecting to change. I don’t even want to change. But I can’t stand the pressure. So I’m just telling people that I’m trying.”

Just be honest

What if you start being honest with yourself and others? Start saying “I won’t do that” or better yet “I’m choosing to not do that”. The result is the same as “I can’t” or “I’m trying” but it forces you to deal with the deeper issue of why you don’t want to do it.  It forces you to deal with the fact that you are making a choice.

Maybe there are good reasons why you won’t do something. Saying “I won’t” will cause you to find those reasons. At the same time it will also cause you to consider and come to terms with the wrong reasons for not doing something.  It will also cause you to take responsibility for your actions and the future you are choosing.

Over time you might consider another phrase….”With God’s help, and the help of others, I CAN change. I will change.”  And then shortly after that you can start saying…”I AM changing” and eventually…”I’m a new person!”.  Or as the Bible says…old things have passed away and all things are new“.

Words have power. Some  words keep us stuck in the past. Other words open the door to a better future.

Question: What words or phrases keep you stuck? Leave your comment below.

  • Moving On From the Hurt (

This post was adapted from my new book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships


The Missing Piece to the Shame Puzzle

Shame Puzzle

The Missing Piece to the Shame Puzzle

This is part five of a six part interview/overview of my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past conducted at radio with Mark Halverson. Click the links below to see the previous guides. Listen to the interview here.

This session turned the corner on our discussion as we started to look at how to overcome the pain of shame.   My book offers a different solution than a purely secular approach to shame. Secular approaches typically do a good job of identifying what shame is and offering ways to start processing it.

Brene Brown on Shame

Brene Brown’s book on shame

For example: Brene Brown’s book called I Thought it was Just Me. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Brene does a great job of using both her research and personal stories to explain what shame is and how to unmask it.  She doesn’t take a biblical approach (I wouldn’t expect her too since she is an academic reporting her research) but her research and teaching strongly back up biblical teaching. I’d love to talk to her about this some day.  Her insights into relationships, connection, compassion and courage will help anyone seeking to crawl out of the pain of shame.


The Gold Standard of Self-Esteem

But…having said that… I still think there is a piece missing from the shame puzzle.  What I talked about on the radio program was “the gold standard” that backs up our statements, such as “you are valuable”. The problem I have with most self-esteem teaching is that it isn’t rooted in anything. We tell people, “Don’t listen to what people say…YOU ARE VALUABLE! YOU ARE A WINNER! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!”  My question to that is…Who says? YOU say that. Who are you?  You might be wrong.

It’s like our currency. I have two pieces of paper in front of me. One is an actual twenty-dollar bill. The other is a green slip of paper. I say they are both worth $20. That’s nice. But who am I to make that declaration?  Stores dont’ care what I say. They care what the government says.

The government backs up the worth of the twenty-dollar bill  (it was originally backed up by gold, hence the term, “gold standard”).  The government can point to their paper and say, “We declare that paper valuable. We created it and we back it up.” But they can’t say the same for my alternative piece of paper. My word means nothing.  The point is; value comes from people who can back it up. Not just wishful thinking.  Watch a two-minute tv interview using this analogy.

God Defines Our Worth

In the same way, the “gold standard” for self-esteem is the word of God (if you believe in God and the Bible as his word to us). The Bible tells us that God created us in his image. You can’t get any more valuable than that. The Bible also tells us that God came to earth in the person of Jesus and laid down his life out of love for us. Again, we MUST be valuable for God to do that. That’s our gold standard. That’s what we stand on. Don’t take my word for it!  Who am I?  Take God’s word that you are valuable!  It doesn’t matter what others say about you.

If you worked your way through my book and Brene Brown’s book you will have a great package to help you overcome the pain of shame.  My book will help you identify the lies you are believing about your worth (and where they came from) and help you hear from God the truth of your value. Brene’s book will help you identify your shame as well but she offers steps for people to start to tell their story and create connection with other people (connection being the opposite of the isolation that shame produces).

This is just a taste of what the radio show was about. I hope you’ll take the time to download the MP3 and listen to it.  Please forward this on to others on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure there are people hungry to hear how valuable they are.

  • The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability (
  • How to find Self-Worth Apart From Your Performance: TV interview (

Truth Comes From the Margins of Life- Rohr


Richard Rohr

It’s funny how you come across something that encapsulates an experience for you. That happened with me a I read something by Richard Rohr on finding truth.

This past week I have been in the nitty-gritty of people’s lives… a funeral, a divorce, a radio interview talking about shame where I answered some painful call in questions, and my usual sessions at the addiction treatment center.  These are situations that most people dread…topics that most people avoid.  Maybe I’m a little odd but I find something rich about talking about the pain we suffer. It just seems so pregnant with truth.

Richard Rohr on Truth

Richard Rohr summarizes my feelings…

The truth comes from the edges of society. Jesus’ reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the center is seldom ready for the truth because it’s got too much to protect; it has bought into the system. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt.”

Yes…the edges. The margins. That’s where I spend time with people…where things aren’t working so well.  Sadly, people apologize all the time to me for being there.  They are sorry to be there. Sorry to “waste my time”. But I want to push “pause” and say…no…wait…this is rich. This is where the really good questions in life come from. This is where we find clarity. Don’t apologize. Invite God into this moment and listen to what he’s saying. It could change your life!

Beauty in a Funeral

For example, the funeral I presided over last week for a man that was developmentally disabled and spent his whole life being cared for by others.  There were only ten people in attendance…no family…just a guardian and people that had cared for the man all his life.

I had never performed a funeral like that before. I didn’t have words to express what I felt needed to be said. So we put our rows of chairs in a circle and I asked these caregivers to tell ME why this man’s life was valuable. What a powerful time. One man who also lived in the margins with humble people shared about dignity of the deceased. He sat and shared stories with tears and insight that were priceless. I loved being there. It was such a privilege.

I’ve spent time with the educated and the rich and the theologically wise. But I have never found as much insight as I have in the margins with people who don’t see themselves as spiritual at all. There is wisdom there. We would all be better to slow down and listen.

Question: What truth have you found on the edges of society? Leave your comment below.


Tell Me Why I Should Not Commit Suicide Today

Suicide: Tell me why I shouldn’t commit suicide today

A few years back a woman came to me and said, “Remy, I promised myself that when my daughter graduated from high school that I’d commit suicide. Well, she just graduated last month and I want to know why I shouldn’t kill myself.” That is one of those counseling sessions you never want to have! Who is adequate to answer that question?

I stumbled around trying to give her some profound theological answer but then I thought of my friend who was also about this woman’s age (which was about 50). When my friend was in high school, she was a beautiful girl and got straight A’s. But she showed signs of psychosis in college and when she married and had her second child, he died of spinal meningitis. This led to a psychotic break and put her in a psychiatric hospital. She had two more children later but her marriage suffered and she divorced, losing custody of the children. Again she ended up in a psychiatric hospital, a broken woman.

That is when my wife and I went to visit her. There wasn’t much we could do for her. But we did have our faith to share. We told her how God loved her and was committed to her – that he was with her and would never leave her. Because of her condition and the medication she was on, her reasoning wasn’t the best. So we taught her a simple song that we used to sing in church. It went like this…

Something beautiful, Something good. All my confusion. He understood. All I had to offer Him, was brokenness and strife. But He made something, beautiful of my life.

She wept as we sang this song. God seemed to touch her in a gentle yet profound way. I’d like to say that everything was perfect after that moment but my friend had a number of hard years where she made attempts to get back on her feet. Eventually, in her 40’s, her parents took her back in and helped her grow strong…she met a newly widowed retired Marine. They fell in love and married and now my friend is living a joy-filled life. Her new life didn’t really start until she was 50.

A New Life After Considering Suicide

I finished my story and told my counselee that her value wasn’t gone just because her daughter graduated. If she would allow God to give her a new life, the next 50 years might be exceptional. She thanked me and told me that that was the story she needed to hear.

In the same way, I want to encourage you…if you have considered or attempted suicide, don’t beat yourself up. God doesn’t condemn you. He weeps for you. The Bible says that God longs to show you his goodness. He aches to think that you feel so bad that you would want to end your life.

Suicide is a logical ending to a life of shame. But God wants to re-story your life. He wants to give you a new life that doesn’t end in suicide but blossoms and flowers and becomes a blessing to others.

Whenever I speak on suicide there is always at least one person that was seriously contemplating it and my words seem to be perfectly timed to encourage them. Maybe that is what is happening with you right now. This prayer is written for you, coming from my heart:

Father, you know the despair that has fallen on my reader. You know the pain of their shame, their sense of worthlessness, their lack of hope, the fear that life can never be good again. I ask that your Spirit would surround them right now like a blanket. Might they sense an encouragement within their heart that they know is from you. Bring people into their lives to support them. Help them to expose the lies of shame and find the truth of their value to you. Might great grace be upon them now. I ask you to lift them up and show them the future that they can have with you. Amen. 

Suicide Prevention

Don’t Wait. Call the Suicide Prevention Line.

This post is taken from chapter seventeen of  Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Who knows what life it might save today from suicide?

Question: If you ever considered suicide, what kept you from it? What would you say to encourage someone from not carrying through on their plan?

You might also want to read:

  • Loved Before You Were Born (
  • Raw Shame: Ten More Ways We Manifest the Pain of Shame (
  • The Difference Between Shame and Guilt (

Raw Shame; Ten More Ways We Manifest the Pain of Shame

 This is part four of a six part study on the book Healing the Hurts of Your Past. These are the notes I used to guide a radio interview in the spring of 2012.  I discussed Ten Ways Denial Numbs Our Shame but I took a little time to discuss my final list of shame “fruit”.

The first group of fruit  we looked at consists of control tactics; coping mechanisms to keep the pain of shame from surfacing. When these tactics don’t work we turn to the second group; denial. And when denial fails then we have raw manifestations of pain.

Ten Ways We Manifest the Pain of Shame

  1. Envy – you wish you had what others enjoy but are convinced you never will because you don’t deserve good things in life.
  2. Anger – when you don’t have what you want you are always mad at somebody. Mad at yourself. Mad at people who put you down. Mad at God for making you so inadequate.
  3. Rage – shame based people don’t feel like they deserve to express their anger so they often suppress it…until it builds up and they let it rip.
  4. Anxiety – you live in fear of being exposed for the poser that you are. Some day everyone will know the “real” you and they will kick you out.
  5. Mistreating Yourself – you don’t think you deserve anything good and it manifests by…
  • accepting the inferior – relationships, jobs, food at restaurants, etc. 
  • sabotage – when you DO  get something good you feel so uncomfortable that you undermine the relationship, job, etc. so you don’t have it long.
  • harming yourself
  • eating disorders
  • a reckless lifestyle. Not caring about consequences because you aren’t worth preserving.   

6. Demand or Need for Affirmation – you trail people around hoping that they will feel obligated to like you. When they don’t you use it as proof of how unworthy you are.

7. Devalue Yourself; apologizing all the time, not accepting gifts.

8. Powerlessness – you live convinced that life will never be good and you can’t do anything about it. You let others control your life.

9. Self-pity – you are happy to get whatever kind of attention you can get.

10. Suicide – you give  up on life because your pain is too great and you don’t see it ever-changing.

Let me repeat one last time…if you see yourself in this list it doesn’t mean you have ten MORE problems. You have ONE problem…shame. These are simply manifestations of shame. Deal with your shame and this list disappears.

My book goes into depth regarding this topic. Shame doesn’t have to control your life. With God’s help, you can overcome it!

Question: How else do you so the pain of shame manifest? Please take a second to leave a comment below.

  • Ten Ways Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame (
  • Ten Ways Shame Manifests in Your Life – Study Guide 3 (
  • Study Guide 1: What Does the Bible Say About Shame? (

Ten Ways Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame

How Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame

How Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame

I previously touched on Ten Ways Shame Manifests in Your Life, taken from chapter fourteen of my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past. This post outlines my discussion of denial in chapter fifteen.

Recapping a little, shame is a painful emotion. Your brain works hard at keeping you from that pain. First it tries to prevent the pain from happening through a variety of control mechanisms. When they fail (and they always do) your brain then goes into denial mode trying to numb the pain of shame. Following are ten forms of denial;

Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame

  1. Suppression – You consciously choose to “not go there”. You avoid the topic. You dodge the counselor who wants to bring it up. You ignore the book or the blog post that someone sends you that discusses your issues of shame.
  2. Repression – Your subconscious mind gives you “selective” amnesia. It knows what you can’t handle and blocks your mind from remembering painful events in your life.
  3. Projection – This is when you see your problem in someone else but you can’t see it in yourself. How convenient!
  4. Care-taking – You invest in  helping others to take the focus off yourself.
  5. Medication – alcohol, pills, meth, shopping, exercise, food, sleep, self-harm, partying like a rock star…you name it. Whatever it takes to numb the pain and escape your reality.
  6. Lying – Don’t like your story? That’s easy. Just change it. Who needs to be a perfectionist (see previous list) when you can just lie about your life?
  7. Secretiveness – Not necessarily lying but leaving out the parts of your life that make you feel vulnerable.
  8. Defensiveness – You push back on anyone that gets too close to your issues. You point out their problems to deflect the spotlight from your problems.
  9. Rationalizing – We are all experts at this. Our minds are trained to provide a ready excuse for our shortcomings rather than bear the pain of admission and taking responsibility.
  10. MinimizingIt’s no big deal. I’ve always been this way and I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. Don’t get so bent out of shape. You’ve probably said something like this, right?

Hurting People Numb Their Pain

As I said before…you don’t do these things because you are a bad person. You do them because you are a hurting person.  People take painkillers to kill the pain. The solution to these coping skills isn’t to “work on them”. The solution is to face your shame…find out why you feel so worthless and let God speak to you about your inherent worth.

I think it helps to look at a list like this to connect the dots of your behavior. When you see that you do four or five things on this list it might cause you to wake up and realize that you have an issue that needs some attention.

Question: What other things do you see people do to numb the pain of their shame? Please take a second to leave a comment below and forward on Facebook.

  • Ten Ways Shame Manifests in Your Life – Study Guide 3 (
  • Coping Mechanisms are the Solution Not the Problem (
  • Why Would Anyone Harm Themselves? (

The Anger Behind the Anger

The Anger Behind the Anger

The Anger Behind the Anger

The following post is adapted from my new book  STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.  

Anger comes from loss. Whenever someone hurts you there is a primary loss and a secondary loss. Let me give you an example from my life.

When I lived on our farm we lived in a mobile home. We moved the mobile home to the farm thinking it would only be a year until we built a house. But that never happened because we couldn’t afford it. The farm didn’t generate as much money as we had hoped (surprise, surprise!). So I was feeling very stuck in our situation: very angry to be honest.  I had a growing family in a 2 bedroom trailer.

I came home one night from milking the cows and I was tired. When I got home my kids had left a bunch of toys out in the yard so when I got inside I told them to get out there and pick up after themselves. The next night I came home and it was the same thing…toys all over the yard. So I walk in the house and the kids are watching TV and I’m like…what don’t you understand about picking up after yourself? I told you last night to put things away. Get out there and do it again.

The Anger Behind the Anger

I really don’t remember saying that much but I do remember being really mad. So I thought about where my anger came from. You see the primary loss was a messy yard. I wanted things picked up. But as I thought about it…there had to be more …something deeper…to make me so mad. And there was. I realized there were a couple of secondary losses.  I wasn’t just mad at my kids. I was mad at myself. I was mad that I was still living in a mobile home.

Feeling Like “Trailer Trash”

Now, I don’t mean any disrespect to those of you who live in a mobile home. But I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities and the only mobile home park I knew about was full of run down trailers with toys all around the yard. And something deep inside of me was embarrassed to think that this was the best I could do. I felt like a loser. I realized I wasn’t mad at my kids as much as I was mad at myself for being a failure. I felt like, what people called, “Trailer Trash”.

The other loss I felt that day was respect. When my kids didn’t learn from my first scolding it made me feel like they didn’t listen because they didn’t respect my authority. Now, in reality, that’s not true. They were just being kids. But my shame was working against me and causing me to feel disconnected. And then at an even deeper level I probably feared that they didn’t listen to me because I was working too much so I felt like a failure as a father.

A Defining Moment

These thoughts were a major revelation to me. They caused a significant change in all my relationships and how I dealt with my anger. I realized that only about 20% of my anger had to do with my kids not putting their toys away. The other 80% had to do with my feeling trapped in poverty and disrespected and being absent as a father. Do you see that? So the primary loss was the messy yard. The secondary losses were respect and the sense of feeling trapped in poverty and being a poor father.

Unfortunately we often never think about the secondary losses and dealing with our issues. We just keep yelling louder at the kids or whomever we are mad at until they finally do what we want or walk away from us.

Take a minute and think about someone who has offended you recently. What did they do that made you mad? Now go deeper. What are the secondary losses that hurt so much?  Before you spend any more time obsessing about how you were hurt pray about the deeper issues…the 80% that I talked about above.

Question: What are secondary losses that often make you angry? Leave your comment below.

related post:

Four Keys to Restoring Broken Relationships (