07/03/2019

Shifting The Blame

Posted in Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , at 1:05 pm by The Water Bearer

I’m pretty lucky to have found a select group of people who defy our current untrustworthy culture. The people I trust in this world are far from perfect, none of us are. The reason this group are trusted is because they own their own shit. They have the courage to have the hard conversations, to admit when they’ve let their emotions get the better of them, to recognise when they deserve the consequences for those times they refused to listen to their conscience, and to face someone to address issues without resorting to abuse, gossip or slander.

These people give me so much hope! Though sadly, they are few and far between.

Our culture is so warped, it has become too scared to admit its faults (possibly for fear of a liability suit) that we’ve lost the art of conflict resolution. Its far more common to make excuses or ignore personal faults and magnify these same faults in others, than to seek resolution to conflicts with a little honesty, humility and compassion.

The masses of legal action pointing fingers at human errors has gotten way out of hand, and had some serious consequences on they way we resolve societal problems. It’s almost as if we find our flawed humanity as far too big an inconvenience that we no longer accept it as part of reality. We are now shocked beyond words when we suffer at the hands of someones mistake, and allow that shock to catapult our emotions into condemnation and worse. The rage increases when they refuse to own up, surely denial adds to the injustice, and yet saying sorry now admits liability, so we just don’t hear it.

But there is something profound about a genuine apology, it can resolve so much tension. Maybe we would hear more apologies if society just remembered how to accept one, without always demanding compensation. There is no denying that we all mess up royally from time to time, and people get hurt, yet there’s something wonderful about being able to admit your flaws without fear of ridicule and rejection.

It has only been in the last half of my life that I got to experience the value of these things. Once I understood the grace of Christ, I knew I could be honest with myself and with Him. This gave me the courage to be honest with others as well.

It was just over 18 years ago when I hit the bottom of my shame pit. My behaviour had gotten so out of hand, I was the worst version of myself and the shame of it almost killed me. I clearly remember sitting down with a friend and confessing it all. I’m not sure why I felt I could open up and tell this guy my innermost skeletons, but I still did it. I expected shock, horror and a lot of guilt trips, but instead he barely battered an eyelash, he listened, he understood and strangely enough he still saw my value. That man showed me what its like to not have to hide my flaws out of fear of rejection, instead I felt loved like I never had before. See, people often ‘love’ our best selves, yet hold our worst self against us, like a trophy of our worthlessness. A trophy that gives them permission to berate and belittle and condemn. Not this guy. He saw my absolute worst and ended up marrying me anyway! (Go figure)

I’m not sure how we can undo the damage this blame culture is having on our relationships and our lives. We have become bound up by so much red tape that no one knows who is accountable for what anymore. The lines of accountability are so blurred that we no longer know which way is up!

So once again I fall at the feet of Our Saviour and plead with Him to help us learn how to love each other at our worst and not be so offended by human faults, and to bring back the beauty of self-awareness. Then we may no longer have to hide our sins, no longer have to pretend we aren’t scared and broken and capable of hurting people. Can we see ourselves through God’s eyes and claim our limitless worth and face our demons, for we all have both. None are innocent, yet all are loved.

28/08/2018

How Healthy is Your Mind?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:16 pm by The Water Bearer

I often wonder why some people aren’t as concerned about their mental health as others. It seems to me in this current age of high stress and constant busyness, more of us would be vigilant at ensuring the healthy condition of our minds.

I’ve seen too many people out there wondering why they are trapped in an unhealthy and unhappy life, who avoid assessing their mental health for fear of the stigma attached. I was one of those myself until my car accident forced me to take a closer look at the way my mind works and why.

That old saying comes to mind “Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness.” I actually believe the opposite is true. If we don’t ask ourselves questions we believe the first thing that comes to mind and stay the same without growth or reaching our potential.

Over the past decade or so I have noticed people tend to fall into one of the following three common categories when it comes to mind health. I wonder if you recognise these traits?

Group 1 – IGNORE their Mental Health

This category contains those who take no time to be curious about the motives of their hearts. They don’t ask “why did I do that or say that?” even if they are abusive and dysfunctional, because they seem to believe the first excuse that comes to mind. They choose not to investigate the condition of their emotional health. They never ask themselves “what is the universe or God trying to purge from the selfish core of my soul?” They ignore or deny the feedback they receive from the social cues of the world. Rather than wondering how they can change themselves to adapt to their world, they waste copious amounts of effort and emotion on fighting against it. I’ve come to notice the fear that controls this group. They are afraid of facing their flaws, everyone else is the problem, even God’s plan is wrong (in some way or another). They often hate silence and can’t stand to be still or alone. They are likely to fight against a sleepless night rather than accept the words of that still small voice within.

Category 2 – BLAME their Mental Health

This group are the ones who know that life is unfair and yet use it to their own reward. Having a diagnosis of mental health, physical pain or grief often becomes a label used to avoid getting healthy and happy. Its far easier to get sympathy and sidestep the difficult challenges and responsibility of getting back on track after each trial. This group self-sabotage, finding excuses to stay miserable, usually thriving on drama and stress and become addicted to contributing negativity to the world. Blaming the reality of life and God for their discontent comes naturally, rather than seeking to discover the hope, growth and fortitude that is born from trials. They may ask for help and yet follow none of the advice given. I’ve noticed the bitterness that drives this group. It is deep seated and poisonous to their souls and ours if we stay around them too long.

You may know someone who fits into one or both of the above categories, you may even be one yourself, I wouldn’t be surprised. I have been there too….. In fact they’re easy to waver in and out from time to time.

It takes wisdom to see that giving sympathy and attention as rewards is actually enabling these groups to stay miserable. Yet our culture has somehow forgotten how to voice the truth with tact and honesty, and so we choose not to say anything at all, while our loved ones stay trapped in their misery.

And yet let’s not lose all hope, for we still have the third group to go. These people are actually more common than we might think, they just don’t broadcast their self-care.

Category 3 – NURTURE their Mental Health

This group of people understand the difficulties of life, they take the hits, go through moments of weakness and low periods. Some have been diagnosed with a mental illness, some have not. The things they have in common are self-awareness, self-responsibility, and trust. They make no excuses for their mistakes and struggles, they focus on the lessons. They accept the dark times as opportunities to see the light again one day. Faith gives them hope and courage to push on. They direct their efforts to caring for and protecting their mental health by setting up certain guidelines to follow that won’t lead them into a pit of self-pity. They practice letting go of control and being grateful, they practice being still and appreciate silence. They aim for a good sleeping routine and have very few unhealthy indulgences. They choose wisely who they spend time with. They pay attention to their own emotional stability and listen to sound advice in order to arrange themselves in a way that steers their course closer to the person they hope to be. They are committed to learning the truth about themselves, and the impact they can have on those they come into contact with. They are humble enough to admit when they are wrong and assertive enough to stand up for their truth.

As I look out into the faces of Sanctuary Stretch clients I see these qualities being nurtured. Some have only just begun their journey and others are well and truly reaping the benefits after committing to the practice.

Perhaps like me, you realise you are ready to change groups? I did it, and you can too.

 

13/10/2012

Confessions

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:26 am by The Water Bearer

Some years ago a series of events led me to understand that God was calling me. It took me a long time to swallow chunks of the pride I had relied upon since childhood, and answer Him, but when I did ….OH BOY!

My eyes were opened to the huge pile of sins I had been building up to the heavens, and all the time up to that point I had thought of myself as a “Good person”, better than ‘most’ anyway.

I believed in God and had no other God’s (not understanding that I let everything in my life control me rather than Him, He was always the ‘Last Resort’). I had no graven images (besides a few healing crystals, some tarot cards, plenty of pagan witchcraft symbols and ornaments, but I didn’t really believe in them, did I?) I honoured my Mother (as long as I was getting what I wanted) – (My Dad was out of the picture mostly up to that point, so I didn’t need to honour him, did I?) I certainly didn’t kill anyone (although I let my anger get so out of control that I spoke it out without a second thought). I didn’t covert anything (of course I was envious of everything anyone had that I wanted, but I let no one know about it, so that’s not the same thing is it? It’s normal to want to be happy and fulfilled, right?) I didn’t steal (much) or fall into adultery (well not the whole way) I remembered the Sabbath (Yep I remembered that my Mum left my Dad on a Sabbath, and that was it. If I happened to be resting on a Sunday it was because I was too hung-over to move!) I didn’t take the Lords name in vain (If you mean saying it in anger, then maybe a little, but only when I was really angry, which I suppose was a LOT) And I would never lie (unless it was for a good reason, which I could usually come up with every other day)

So there are all Ten Commandments broken! Shattered! And that is only the beginning!

I thought I was a loving person to my fellow man, but I realised I manipulated others with kindness into making me ‘happy’. I gave gifts and cooked meals, but was it really from a good place of generosity, or because it was expected and I wanted to appear good? I did like giving gifts and being kind and working hard, but I was not honestly in-touch with my heart enough to know what my true motives were. I believed the first reason or excuse I could come up with, without questioning the possibility of it being from a place of flesh, not from a Christ-like heart.

I can go on and on to list more and more of my sins. I could speak of my selfishness or my bad temper, of my weakness in temptation, or my provocative nature. I could speak of my materialistic tendencies, or my impatience and fear when I do not trust God. I could tell you of the countless times I listen to the lies of the enemy and let them convince me to act in all manner of sinful bitterness and hatred toward others. God knows them all and I continue to confess them every day, as they rear their ugly heads. No matter how many ‘good deeds’ I do, I will never pay the price and take away my blame. I can never do anything worthy of taking away the amount of shame I deserve to feel for my heart of flesh and worldliness.

Thankfully, through one Son’s sacrifice, breaking all these laws is not my one-way ticket to an eternity of torture and pain. God realises that we are incapable of upholding all these laws, they are there to show us our sin. That we may look at them and measure ourselves against them and become aware of how far from God’s will we actually are.

“Why then was the Law given? It was imposed later on for the sake of defining sin” Gal 3:19 (WEY)

“Know that it is NOT through obedience to Law that a man can be declared free from guilt, but only through FAITH in Jesus Christ. We have therefore believed in Christ Jesus, for the purpose of being declared FREE from guilt, through FAITH in Christ and NOT through obedience to Law. For through obedience to Law NO human being shall be declared free from guilt.” Gal 2:16 (WEY)

It is an understatement to say how lucky we are that the price has been paid for all the sins we have committed, and the ones we continue in as long as we are in the flesh of our human bodies. It is an understatement to say how truly blessed we are that God chose to give us grace and forgiveness through His Son, and free us from the laws, and from the penalty of death for our sins. For none of us, not one of us, are blameless.

If we look at another and say to ourselves “Their sins are worse than mine” then we are missing the point entirely!

We haven’t been forgiven because we aren’t ‘that bad’, we are the pits! We all are, because we are all separated from God while here on earth, because we all have flesh that our inner enemy can use against us!

We are forgiven because the Messiah suffered and shed His innocent blood to pay the price, to stand before God and say “They can come in. They are saved because I have paid the debt against them.”

Thank you, Thank you Lord! To You be the Glory Forever!!

27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

19/06/2012

Who is really in the mirror?*

Posted in Encouragement, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:10 pm by The Water Bearer

I read a post recently by a fabulous writer who I have found in the blogosphere. Author Jodi Ambrose was talking about her recent birthday and reflected on her youth by listing her traits at 20 years old. You can read her excellent blog post ­here. I enjoyed Jodi’s blog so much that we began exchanging comments. One thing we have both found to be a true blessing, along with spiritual faith, is self-awareness. It is one of the most important things we need to achieve growth and inner peace in this life, and something I write about often.

After our little ‘comment swap’ I began to think about those who may not have as much self-awareness as others. It got me thinking about those people who haven’t changed much over the years, and are still stuck in the same old patterns they have always been.

I read a little something recently, it said:

“If you are the same person, with the same perspective you had a decade ago; then you have just wasted ten years of your life!”

Before I gained some Godly self-awareness, I thought I was self-aware. I thought I was a ‘good person’. I prided myself on having good intentions and wisdom. My heart was in the right place (or so I thought), I knew the difference between right and wrong (or so I thought), and I was a good friend and family member (or so I thought).

Back then I had no regrets, I had no lingering, self-conscious guilt, because I always had a very good explanation for my actions. It was usually something like, “I meant well”, “I felt ….”, “I’m only human”, or “I had no choice” (because of what someone else did first).

I had little or no remorse for my own actions, (unless of course I got hurt in the fallout). I never set out to hurt anyone,  and if I did hurt someone else, I found a way to believe I was right, and that made it ok with me. I saw no reason to change, I was onto it (or so I thought). I used my excuses, and understanding to stay in my own spiraling cycle.

When I became aware of how God saw things, it smacked me in the face and it hurt!

I was SELFISH! I saw things from my way and didn’t consider that perhaps there was a better way. Sure I was always rushing to help people, I was thoughtful and did kind deeds all the time. I tried to find ways to show my affection for others so that they would know how much I thought of them. But I didn’t realise that I was really only doing it to be seen as a good person, not because I was actually a good person. I couldn’t admit the truth to myself so I figured all the trials of life were not lessons I had to learn, just tests to see if I was strong enough and if I could keep my faith through them.

Life will do it’s best to help us become aware of ourselves, and if we stop avoiding it we will be amazed by the realisation. And while it is a challenge to work hard and break the cycles you have been stuck in your whole life, it is definately worth it.

In a recent therapy session we were discussing the downfalls of having no self-awareness. My therapist put it this way “If you don’t regret your actions that affected yourself or others in a negative way, then you avoid the reasoning to need to repair the situation, and refuse to take a realistic look at yourself and make necessary changes.” In other words, these people can’t apologise without explaining why they aren’t really to blame, and they don’t see the need to alter the way they handle things.

He also said that “People who excuse their own actions and don’t own up to the pain they caused another, will continue to hurt others and will usually end up very lonely, they will also wonder why”.

How sad is that! Out of a lack of self-awareness we can damage our relationships so badly, and some will never find the inner peace of growth, or a new perspective and the truth about themselves. It may leave them without a clue as to why they feel isolated from others. We can easily blame everyone else yet we refuse to accept blame ourselves, it would simply be more productive if we swallowed our pride and took a good look in the mirror. That is the only area of our lives that we can bring about a true transformation.

The serenity prayer is one commonly found in households all over the world. It aims to tackle this self-awareness problem. We need the courage to face ourselves head on, to see the truth about ourselves and make the adjustments necessary to bring about a change in our lives, one we will never regret.

“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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