Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

Guarding my Heart and Mind

February 1, 2016

A man’s heart determines his speech.  A good man’s speech reveals the rich treasures within him.  An evil-hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it.   Matt 12:34-35

We all know what it feels like when we can’t wait to tell someone what is on our mind.  Our thoughts, good or bad, when connected with emotion, good or bad, are just bound to come out in our speech.  When we’re angry at someone, we can’t wait to get it off our chest.  When we want to complain, we have those who will listen.  When we are very excited by good news, we want to share that, and when we have what we think is a great idea, we can’t wait to show it off.  The best speech of all, is the one that comforts and encourages someone else, but even that has to come from somewhere.  We have to think about what to say, or at least draw on springs of compassion from somewhere deep within us.

So, if we want to be one of those people who always seems to have a good word for everyone, and great ideas to share, we have to do some serious work on the contents of our minds.  Many people have no idea they can control their thoughts.  They just let any and all thoughts wander through the living room of their minds like a herd of sheep, complete with dirty feet and scattered remains.  Counselors have long called depression the result of “stinkin’ thinkin'”  and if that is true, its time to clean the house of our minds.  We can train ourselves to periodically examine our thoughts.  We can ask ourselves, “whats been uppermost in my mind today?  Or what were the top 5 things I gave a lot of thought to today?”   Then we can examine whether these thoughts were productive thoughts, enjoyable thoughts, anxiety producing thoughts, or angry, resentful thoughts.  We can then consciously dismiss the negative, useless thoughts.  With practice, we can learn to recognize a negative thought right away and chase it out like we chase wildlife away from the house.

Since most minds ( multitasking is really whirling tasks around, not concentrating on multiple things as once) can only dwell on one thought at a time, there is limited space on the mental agenda.  If the agenda is full of positive thought, its harder for the negative to get in.

How can we get more productive, happy, useful thoughts into our minds?  Fill them with nourishment.  First of all, pray.  Thank God for all that is good and beautiful in your life.  Ask His help to be a positive person.  Ask Him what good and lovely things He wants you to work on today or this week.  Read good, inspiring thoughts every day.  Scripture verses, chapters of scripture, and devotionals are a start.  Biographies of people who led uplifting lives are good, as are “heartwarming” fictional stories and shows.  Try to spend more time around the people who bring you “up”, and less time around those who drag you “down”.  As you get stronger, you can try to tackle lifting those negative people, but you have to breathe the oxygen yourself first.

Being Merciful

January 31, 2016

“I want you to be merciful more than I want your offerings”   Matthew 12:7

These are the words of Jesus.  They are striking, because they put His priorities in an order most of us have never thought about.  We tend to think of God wanting us to attend to doing things.  We are supposed to use our talents for good, we are supposed to do good works, we are supposed to achieve, we are supposed to give of what we have–but aren’t these things mostly in the category of offerings?  It would seem Jesus cares more about our quality of being merciful than He cares about these other things.  So what is being merciful all about?

It appears that mercy is more about our attitude.  There are works of mercy, to be sure, such as feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing those who need it etc.  But the mercy itself is more of an attitude of the heart.  Being merciful means a number of things.  First, it is having a compassionate outlook, recognizing we all fight our inner battles, and seeing someone at their worst doesn’t define the totality of who that person is.  Second, it is being willing to forgive–not wishing for revenge on the person who has hurt us.  Third, it is giving a person the benefit of the doubt, even if it looks to us as if they have caused their own misery.  Fourth, it is not demanding justice, or our own rights, even if we could, when that would cost the other person.  Fifth, it is choosing not to condemn, recognizing only God knows all the facts of a situation and all the truths about a person.  Sixth, it is humility, knowing we have all required the mercy of God.

God cares about our thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts.  Being humble people before Him, recognizing our own need of His grace, realizing we are not our own, but owe God for everything including our own life, sets us up for a closer and deeper relationship with Him.  Intimacy with God is our purpose.

Being Honest with God

January 24, 2016

“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?  Psalm 13:1,2

David was expressing something like exasperation to God, and it was almost exasperation with God.  He had been suffering, being cornered by enemies who sought to destroy him, and he was not seeing any action on God’s part.  He had a certain daring.  He dared complain to God, and yet he felt safe enough to do so.  God could have destroyed him.  God had punished the complainers among his people in the past.  But God didn’t punish David.  God actually called David “a man after my own heart.”  What was the difference?

David wasn’t taking God for granted.  He didn’t lack faith in God.  In this same psalm David said “But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” (Verse 5)  David was just tired, heartbroken, and longing for some reassurance from the Lord, some movement on his behalf that would give him some hope.  He wasn’t distrusting God, but just being honest with God.

Sometimes it feels wonderful to just unburden ourselves, talking about our problems with someone who will listen without condemnation.  God knows how we are made, and He doesn’t mind at all that we ventilate our emotions before Him.   He is pleased that we trust Him like that.  It is good for us to be honest about our feelings, not acting as though we have to play some holy pretend game before God.  It is good for us to unburden ourselves to the only one who can do anything to help us.  And it is good when we then tell God we are willing to do what He wants.  It is good when we tell Him we trust Him to work out our problems for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)

Dealing with Hostile People

March 17, 2011

Its so hard to have compassion when someone is hostile.  No matter how ill they are or how disordered are their circumstances, if they are hateful in their comments or body language, its difficult to maintain a kindly or even just objective manner.

One thing that helps is to remember the hostility is sort of a presenting symptom of what is going on underneath.  Its like a fever–meaningless alone, but it indicates something else is happening.  Under anger is usually pain, sadness,  fear or helplessness.  Remembering that, its easier to be helpful.  Lord, help me see the hurt under the difficult behavior, and help me soothe that hurt.

A Prayer for Help to Forgive

March 12, 2011

Lord, I know unforgiveness blocks Your living water in my own soul.  It cuts off the flow in my spiritual arteries.  What am I to do?  I see things and hear things that stab my heart.  Immediately I must bring them to You.  You saw what I saw.  You know I feel what I feel.  I am to leave this in Your capable hands.  You know what I cannot know.  You see into the heart of the other person, and You will deal with them in love, as is necessary.  I am to let go and just love.  I can “just love” by praying for their good, and by saying and doing good to them if and where I am able.  I am to think their good by remembering that You love them and You are bringing about good in their life.  Help me have Your thoughts and an attitude that pleases You.

When Christians Get Depressed

March 8, 2011

When Christians get depressed, there are reasons unique to being Christian, and reasons in common with everyone.  I’ll include eight reasons here.  These are non-medical things and assume one has first been checked out for physical causes of the depression.

1.  Anyone, Christian or otherwise is not thinking clearly when depressed.  Things in life, both good and bad tend to be out of proportion to their actual importance.  Many things, both good and bad are forgotten.  The negative tends to be exaggerated and the positive is downplayed.  A sensitive listener who can interject the positive can help.

2.  Christians who are depressed aren’t on speaking terms with the Lord.  They may be angry with Him, or have the perception that their prayers aren’t being heard.  Faith at this time is very weak and fragile.  Lengthy time in the scriptures, especially the psalms can help.

3.  Christians who are depressed aren’t remembering what God has done.  A simple list of blessings is difficult to compose.  With assistance from a friend in making one, a list may help a depressed person gain some perspective.

4.  All depressed people tend to be separated from nurturing relationships.  The isolation is usually self-imposed, and sometimes difficult to penetrate.  A good friend or two who “keeps knocking” can help.

5.  Depression is often the aftermath of great victory.  It seems the huge expenditure of energy needed to achieve the victory leaves one with a let down.  Reminders that this is normal and will pass, as well as a time of rest can help.

6.  Physical and emotional exhaustion are often components of depression for all people.  Whether the exhaustion is the result of fighting a battle and achieving victory, or fighting anything over time, rest is often a necessary part of recovery.  Depression used to be called “nervous exhaustion” in lay terms, and still is quite descriptive in many cases.  Again, physical, mental and emotional rest help.

7.  Self pity is also part of depression for all sorts of people.  Seeing only the negatives in one’s situation and feeling “life is unfair” are strong contributors to depression.  A good listener who can interject some balance can help.

8.  Comparing oneself unfavorably to others is also a big part of depression, with guilt and a “why try” attitude riding along.   One has to simply give up the bad habit of comparing.  No two people or their situations are alike, and no human is qualified to judge others or even oneself. 

All of us get off track, even Christians, and it takes the time of patient friends as well as time with God in prayer and scripture to regain perspective.  This of course, assumes one has already been checked out medically for something physical or chemical which must be fixed first before the rest will work.

Achieving a virtuous character

January 13, 2011

After looking at all the virtues enumerated in my previous posts, I really want to achieve them.  However, I find it is a lot like making New Years Resolutions.  I fall back into old habits and I forget my desired new ways of thinking and living.  Its a lot like trying to lose weight.  What I want to do I do not do.  What I do not want to do I do all too easily.  It reminds me of the apostle Paul talking about his own struggles in Roman’s  chapter 7.  The answer is God’s help.  If I am a Christian, I have repented of selfishing living and of not loving God as He deserves to be loved.  I have accepted the forgiveness God promises me when I turn to Him and accept Jesus Christ as my savior from sin and as the Lord (boss) of my life.  When that happens, God’s spirit comes to live in me.  It is God’s spirit who changes me over time and makes me more able to be what pleases Him, more virtuous, and having a more worthy character.  I simply cannot do this as a self help program.  That is why the virtues I posted about yesterday are called “Fruits of the Holy Spirit.”  But, thanks be to God, He is working harder than I am, and will be faithful to complete the good work He has begun in me.

Self-Control as a Virtue

January 13, 2011

Self-control is pretty obvious.  It means subordinating one’s instincts to a greater goal.  The “Message” bible says its being “able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.”  We only have so much energy in a day and so much time.  How will we spend these?  Will we waste them on trivia, or self-indulgence, or work on worthy goals we’re pursuing.  Will we live life intentionally, or just sort of muddle through, doing whatever pleases us at the moment?  To learn the virtue of self-control, I need to pray about God’s priorities and then make those my own priority.  I need to quit squandering my energies and hours on trying to please myself or please people or even in trying to pile up a lot of religious points that aren’t what God has called me to do.  It seems what Jesus found so frustrating in the Pharisees was their tendency to invent new check off lists for God instead of listening to what God in their midst was actually saying to them.  Self-control is ultimately about idolatry.  Who is God?  Me?  People?  Things?  or the God who will tell us what He wants when we are listening with a wholehearted desire to please Him.

Gentleness as a Virtue

January 13, 2011

Gentleness is giving up the need to have my own way.  I can best do this through silence and non-interference in other’s decision making.  I can quietly let others do what pleases them even if I don’t especially enjoy it.  It means letting the other person have his way.  Of course, this doesn’t extend to issues of right and wrong, people’s character or similar moral matters.  Gentleness can also mean to refrain from giving advice, trying to have an answer for everything or needing to always express my own opinion.

Faithfulness as a Virtue

January 13, 2011

At first glance, faithfulness might look a lot like patience because of the “sticking to it” quality both have.  But it is a little different.  The “Message” bible defines faithfulness as being loyal.  This is loyalty to my convictions, to my commitments and to the people I love.  It has something to do with integrity in that it means I will not compromise my convictions no matter the cost.  It has something to do with honor in that I will not put aside my commitments no matter the cost.  My word is my word.  It also has to do with loyalty to people in that I will stand with my friends even when it is not easy or popular to do so.  Ultimately it means I will stand for God and what I believe He wants even when it costs everything to do so.  This is not a virtue that has an emotional reward in the same sense that joy and peace have, but there is a quiet strength in knowing with God’s help I did not cave in through weakness to something I believe in my own heart to be wrong.