Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Telling Your Story Helps You Connect

Telling your story. That’s the goal. I’m hanging out with my staff (from Cedarbrook Church)  for 30 hours at a retreat center right now. The sole purpose of our retreat is telling your story to each other.

It dawned on me a while back that we know very little about each other beyond our daily office interaction.  But how can we fully appreciate where each person is coming from without more knowledge of one another? If we gain a bigger context for each person we’ll understand where we are coming from in day-to-day interactions. And that just has to help us value each other, communicate better and create a greater sense of team.

Brene Brown and Telling Your Story

We started our day by watching Brene Brown’s TED talk about the power of vulnerability. Then we piled in our van and headed north to about the remotest part of Wisconsin we could find.  They tell me we are nine miles from Minong, WI.  Minong. Doesn’t that look like a word with a few typos? Anyway…it’s remote. We are staying at the Heartwood Conference and Retreat Center. It’s a great setting to unplug and hang out with each other.

With a staff of nine we have already heard five stories today with four to go tomorrow. It’s a powerful time. Each person takes 30-60 minutes to tell how they got from birth to present day.  We can ask anything we want but they don’t have to share more than they are comfortable sharing. It’s amazing what we heard today already. I never would have guessed what I heard. It’s opened a whole new world of understanding for each person. I can’t believe we haven’t done this before.

Telling Your Story Creates Connection

I’ve been on a Brene Brown kick lately after seeing her videos last week. I downloaded her book called The Gifts of Imperfection and got half way through it last night.  Brown notes that telling your story takes courage but when you take the risk it  opens you up for people to move toward you with compassion and empathy. When that happens you connect. Connection is what you were made for. Connection is the source of joy and love.

I can see connection happening here already just after a few stories. I’m excited for the impact this time of story telling will have on our staff. I think it will overflow to our entire church. But it also makes me think of all the stories that go untold.  When our stories aren’t told then people don’t move toward us and connections aren’t made.  That’s a sad thing.

God didn’t make us to live in isolation but to connect. Story makes that  happen.

Question: Have you experienced connection from story telling? Or maybe you tried and it blew up on you. I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comment below.


The Difference Between Shame and Guilt

shame and guilt

shame and guilt

The difference between shame and guilt often confuses people. Most people think that shame is something that “other” people have and so they rarely want to think about it or talk about it. But  everyone deals with shame to some degree. As Brene Brown (see TED video below) says…the less you want to talk about shame, the more you probably have it! That’s why it’s so important to understand it…if not for yourself then at least to better understand the people around you.

One misunderstanding people have is that shame is something that only guilty people have…people with lots of regrets. They assume that if they don’t have a life full of regrets that they have no shame. Not true.  Here’s an excerpt from my book that clarifies the difference.

The Difference Between Shame and Guilt

Whenever I ask a group to define shame the first answer is almost always “guilt”. But shame is not guilt. True guilt – feeling a sense of remorse for wrong doing – is a good thing. This is also what some people refer to as being “a-shamed” or “good shame”. Adam and Eve experienced this sense of guilt when they disobeyed God in the Garden. The Bible says that they were naked and ashamed.

When I speak of shame, I am always talking about something bad – something destructive. You see, guilt is con-structive. It tells you that you have done something wrong and motivates you to both make amends as well as to seek forgiveness and restoration.

There is a remedy for guilt. But with shame, there is no remedy. Shame is de-structive. Shame is not about what you have done. Shame is about who you are. It is a condemnation of you as a person. That is why it is so devastating. If I have done something wrong, I can usually fix that. Or, if I can’t fix it I can at least seek forgiveness. But if I am wrong – if there is something inherently wrong with me – I can’t do anything about that and it makes me want to give up. Taken from Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

My point here is that shame affects everyone. It’s not about what you’ve done. More often shame is about what’s been done to you or said about you that is demeaning, disrespectful and undermines your sense of value, dignity and worth.  If you are a victim of abuse, ridicule or neglect then shame has most likely attached itself to your identity.  If your family has secrets or you’ve experienced any kind of trauma then shame may also have entered your psyche through these means.

People who suffer shame  have a whole tool belt full of coping mechanisms to off-set their shame.  Remove the shame and you can  throw the tool belt away and you’ll be amazed how much lighter  your load is every day!

I hope this helps you understand the difference between shame and guilt and how shame might play a role in your life even if you have no big regrets.  Now the question is…how can you go about removing  the shame from your life and dumping that tool belt full of coping mechanisms?  That’s a process that I outline in Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

Question: Are there other ways you would differentiate between shame and guilt? Leave your comment below.


What Silence Reveals About Your Self-Worth

Self-worth and silence

Self-worth and Silence

How would you rank your self-worth? Try this.  Be quiet for ten minutes. That’s it. Just ten minutes.

How’s that working for you? No, I mean totally quiet. No thinking either. No brain chatter. No “to-do” lists being created. Not even prayer.

Ten minutes. Total silence.

Set a timer because after about three minutes you’ll want to check the time.  After five minutes you’ll want to check your phone.

What is it about silence that is sooooo uncomfortable?  It’s just so unproductive.

Self-worth and Silence

Silence is powerful because it reveals your self-worth. The longer you can sit in silence the healthier you are.  The more secure you are.  But discomfort means you NEED activity in your life to feel adequate. You NEED someone texting you or emailing you to make you feel wanted. You NEED to create that “to-do” list because it’s only in doing something that you have value.  You NEED to pray or think great thoughts to justify your existence. Come on, admit it. It’s okay. Reality is your friend!

You might say…well, I have ADHD. That’s true for some of us. But a LOT more people call themselves ADHD than really are. The real issue is they are approval junkies looking for their next fix and they typically find it in doing something that will win approval from others.

Henri Nouwen says…

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive…In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us…It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts…In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness. Show Me the Way, page 67,68

Work on being quiet for a few minutes each day. If you must think something then keep telling yourself…God accepts me just the way I am.  Let that be your mantra. The world around you wants to make you dance to their tune and jump through their hoops to earn their acceptance. That’s why Nouwen says that a life without a quiet center is destructive. But not so with God. Silence is a discipline that will help you break the hold that performance based acceptance has on you.

Question: What is it about silence that makes you uncomfortable? Leave you comment below.


Low Self-Worth Turns Friends into Enemies


Low Self-Worth Makes Enemies of Friends

In his book, Show Me the Way, Henri Nouwen challenges our source of self-worth. He says…

When we cling to the results of our actions as our own way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life. page 67, Show Me the Way

What Defines Your Self-Worth?

Let me unpack this a bit.  Think about whatever it is that you do that gives you a sense of worth; your athletic ability, your work performance, your looks, your children, your Bible knowledge, your grades, etc. If you are honest this behavior easily becomes your identity. It becomes your scorecard that you show people to prove your worth and justifies your existence.

Take a second. Don’t be so quick to say “not me”. Go ahead. Admit it. That’s human nature.

The question really isn’t IF you think this way. It’s, What can I do about the way I think? How can I shift my thinking away from this faulty validation system?

The problem with this kind of scorecard system is that you have to defend it. That’s what the Nouwen quote is about. You have to prove to others the importance of your specialty and why you must spend time on it. You need to protect not only the specialty but your record. It’s work! It’s easy to see everyone as a threat. Every person in your life can potentially deny the value of what you depend on for self-worth. You can’t let that happen!

Low Self-Worth Creates Enemies

That’s why Nouwen says that people become our enemies and not our friends. Our talents are not gifts to share with friends. They are merely badges to prove our self-worth.  This behavior doesn’t draw us close to people but distances us more and more into a place of isolation.

Has that happened to you? Maybe that’s why you are lonely…you spend too much time proving your worth, to others, and even yourself.

Find Your Self-Worth in God Alone

What if you reject this validation system and find validation from God’s love?  Suddenly people are no longer your enemy. You don’t need their approval. You’ve already got your approval from God. Instead of needing something from your friends you’ve got something to give them. Something to consider.

Question: How has low self-worth caused you to distance yourself from friends? Leave your comments below and be sure to “share the knowledge” by clicking the links. Thanks.

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What Scoreboard Measures Your Self-Worth?


What Scoreboard Measures Your Self-worth?

What measures your self-worth? Our culture fixates on finding self-worth in places that ultimately don’t satisfy.  Too many people crash and burn because they invest in things they thought would make them happy but didn’t.

I’m here to point to a different source of happiness and success. When you tap into the life and love of God you find a strength that doesn’t come and go on a whim.

Henri Nouwen on Self-Worth

In “Show Me the Way”, Henri Nouwen addresses self-worth saying…

When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers…

  • We are intelligent because someone gives us a high-grade.
  • We are helpful because someone says thanks.
  • We are likable because someone likes us.
  • And we are important because someone considers us indispensable.

In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes. page 67

If my self-worth depends on my success then I’m in trouble. It’s a double-edged sword. If I have no success then I have no self-worth. If self-worth is what I need then I am driven to succeed no matter what the cost. How many people fall into one of these two camps? I’m afraid it’s astronomical and the weight is crushing.

At some point we have to wise up and stop playing the game. We have to realize that self-worth is not a game won by scoring points. Self-worth is a gift given by a loving God.

I’d like to give you permission to walk off the field right now. Shut off the scoreboard and take the trophy. It’s yours without ever playing the game!

Question: What scoreboard are you using to measure your worth? What has to happen before you can feel good about your life?  Leave your comment below and “share the knowledge”. Thanks.

Get the free e-book, “Forgiven…once and for all” when you subscribe to this blog.


Connecting the Dots of Your Past

Do you wonder if you can ever get beyond the pain of your past?

People don’t always give themselves much credit.  They see dysfunction in their life and assume it’s for life: they are deficient by nature and will never get any better. There are haves and have nots in the world and they conclude that they  are one of the have nots.

Does that describe you? Then you suffer from shame.  We all have it to some degree.  But if you look deeper…if you connect the dots in your past…you’ll see that you aren’t “just messed up”.  There is a theme. There is cause and effect.  And once you see that then you won’t feel like such a misfit.  It breeds hope.

The Lies of Shame

Shame has to do with the lies you believe about yourself. One lie you might believe is that if something is wrong inside…you are ALL wrong.  Another lie is that if something is wrong, it can’t be fixed. Neither are true. Don’t give up on yourself so easily.

You can break the pain of shame and the pattern of your past. You can reverse the trend. You are looking at an effect that was caused by something. So address the cause and get your life back. There are three steps to this process.

  • Believe it’s possible. Studies show that people are shut down from change simply by not believing it’s possible.  When you have no hope you don’t bother to try. If you have no hope in yourself then at least put hope in God to work a change.
  • Get a plan. If you are passive about changing your life nothing will happen. I lost ten pounds when I came up with a plan to watch my calories and exercise. But the plan came first.
  • Take action. Once you have a plan then activate it. Step by step. Block by block. (In my case, pound by pound). It doesn’t happen over night. But you’ll get there as long as you are moving forward, and the sooner you start the sooner you arrive.

My point is…give yourself some credit. You have issues. Sure. We all do. But there is something you can do about your past. You don’t have to stay stuck. God is present right now to help you move to a better place.

Start the conversation:  If you’ve been able to make a change it your life, what set it in motion?  Leave your comment below.