Don’t ever participate in “Stop-It” therapy or pastoral counseling.
How will you know if you have a “Stop-It” therapist or counseling pastor? He or she will point out the error of your behavior and immediately tell you that you just have to stop it. Stop looking at pornography, stop feeling angry, stop feeling depressed, stop being anxious, stop being emotionally bonded to someone other than your spouse, stop it, stop it, stop it!
While I agree that those issues need to be addressed, the approach to getting the behavior to change is the difference. When a therapist/counseling pastor tells you to stop a certain behavior and you do, then the problem is solved, right? But what if you are living as a “dry drunk” from the pull of the temptation? By this I mean that an alcoholic can stop drinking but be white-knuckling it everyday. They never figure out the root of the addiction; they just stopped drinking excessively but are struggling. A stop-it therapist or counseling pastor will feel that a victory has been achieved if the ACTIONS change. However, what about the true condition of the heart? This is where some faith-based counseling falls short.
Stop-it counseling is much like gardening. Pulling off the top of the weed will make it look like the weed is gone – but the roots are still there. The weed will grow back given the right soil conditions. This is the same as sin. You can stop yourself from committing a certain sin but if you don’t spend adequate time understanding why the sin was appealing to begin with, the sin can often “grow” back.
Another symptom of a stop-it therapist/counseling pastor is that they will often encourage change within two or three sessions. This is usually not adequate time to get to the root of the issue and practice the new way of living without a particular sin. While I completely believe that the power of Holy Spirit can do amazing things quickly within someone’s heart, the path to healing and complete restoration is often a process that takes patience and time. You need a therapist/counseling pastor who has the patience and time to walk with you. If they cannot, do not feel bad if you need to find another person to partner with you for the journey.
Be a better parent and spouse than your parents were – even if they were great – but especially if they were not
Most people know that their parents greatly influenced them but few people really understand how influential a parent is – that is until they have tried to undo faulty beliefs that were ingrained within them during childhood. Faulty beliefs come in many forms but some of the most common are thoughts that tell us we are doomed to fail, are too thin/too fat, can not succeed, won’t find a spouse or have a loving marriage, will never be as good as an older or younger sibling and the list goes on. Think to yourself about what statements your parents repeatedly said to you while growing up and ask yourself if you would say those same things to a child.
If you were blessed with great parental/marriage role models, then you are lucky but still try to improve in ways that will bless you and your loved ones. However, if you are like many of us and lived with not so great role models, don’t give up hope that you can feel better about yourself and not repeat the hurt that you experienced.
There is a wonderful book called “Toxic Parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life” by Dr. Susan Forward. I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels that they may have been raised by a toxic parent. There are specific steps that can be taken to heal what is still painful, set boundaries with living toxic parents and reclaim the truth about yourself.
Taking good care of ourselves – before we care for others – is not selfish.
It’s smart and healthy
As a therapist, I work with many people who are extremely busy. Busy with careers, kids, relationships, extended family, hobbies, community involvement, and on and on. Many clients come in to my office burned out and tired. On several occasions, people have told me that coming to counseling is the only hour in their week where they turn off their cell phone and are able to sit and relax in a quiet environment. Why are we so exhausted all the time?
As a society we have lost the ability to care for ourselves very well. If you look back at the advertising campaigns in the 1950’s, modern-day inventions were suppose to give us more leisure time. We were promised lots of time with our families if we just bought this or that gadget for our home. The lies of advertising are still with us. Getting the latest and greatest cell phone with Internet access will allow us to be in constant contact with the people who are important to us. What about taking time to care for ourselves? To rest, sit in quietness, listen to music we enjoy uninterrupted, read a good book and best of all; listen to what God has to say to us.
There is a myth that taking care of ourselves before we help other people will label us selfish. You may have even been told by – and I use this term deliberately – a toxic person that you are selfish for taking care of yourself before meeting their need. Beware! There are people lurking out in the world who want you to meet their needs above all other’s, including your own. I am not advocated that everyone only do what they want to do without regard for others. I am suggesting that we must know ourselves well enough to recognize when burnout and fatigue has settled into our spirit and body. This is true no matter what profession you are in or whether you work at all. We will be better fathers, mothers, employees, employers, volunteers, friends, parents and human beings if we care for ourselves and then care for the needs of others.
Reflect for a moment on whether any unfortunate circumstances you have faced in life have made you a better person on the other side of it – or a more bitter person.
It’s usually one or the other
Life just somehow has a way of running us over and at times, backing up to make sure the job of discouraging us is complete. It is a fact that things will happen in this life that we don’t want, don’t like and wish would go away. I am so incredibly grateful to serve a God who walked this earth and knows first hand what it is like to have unfortunate circumstances pay a visit.
I have seen over and over (and over) again that people emerge from difficult seasons one of two ways; either better or bitter. If people come through hard times clinging to Jesus and having an overcoming spirit, then they usually are better people for the experience. They have softer hearts for others who are suffering, more transparency about their own shortcomings and a general humbleness that is wonderful to be around. However, there are those individuals who will go through adversity and not get better but will grow increasingly bitter about their circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, being frustrated is a natural response to hard times. The challenge is to not stay in our frustration so long that it turns into bitterness.
During a season of unfortunate circumstances in my own life, a wise friend would remind me enthusiastically that “Jesus has a plan and it’s working out perfectly!” This was hard to hear when I felt that things were far from perfect. If you find yourself in a difficult life experience right now, I challenge you to feel all the feelings honestly that come from this season and determine in your heart that you will emerge from this better and not bitter.
Book recommendation: “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb.