By: Ariadne Crane, MA, APC, AMFT
If we were to compare deities from various religions, we would notice that the God from the Christian Bible is the only God that left his throne and met his people face to face. He literally came down from the high mountain to meet us and interact with us. We were created to be in relationships with others, modeled by God. Not only is it important to Him to relate to us, He also desires for us to relate to Him. He came to live among His people to model how to relate to one another.
One of the most significant versus in the Bible is in Matthew 22:37-40: "Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The word love has been used and abused throughout the centuries and thousands of books have been published interpreting the significance of love, so let's introduce a few questions that help identify the love demonstrations between a couple.
Often Marriage and Family Therapists begin a session with a focus on how the couple interacts and shows affection. Is there a friendship between them or a connection at all and if so is it purely physical? Do they trust each other? It is important to know how they connect or bond with one another. Do they feel protected as well as respected and do they feel they can count on each other no matter what. How the couple communicates is vital. How they solve conflict is also important. In most relationships there will be disagreements, but how they are worked through is critical.
What God models best is that being in relationships can be difficult because it often means having to give up our wants and needs. Being in a relationship takes sacrificial love to forgo one's own goals and dreams. This goes beyond being united or part of the team. It is the selfless act of wanting the other to succeed, to be part of the same team fighting and defending for the same objectives. This sacrificial love is not an obligation, but a desire to serve one another due to the commitment to the relationship, even if there is no benefit to the giver.
We can rely on His Word for guidance, though not everything is spelled out for us in the Bible. Jesus Christ demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice when He laid His life down for all of us. I believe that there is only one God; He is also known through Jesus Christ (our Advocate) and the Holy Spirit. No verse in the New Testament describes sacrificial love better than John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
In order to put the relationship ahead of the individual one must put his or her needs and desires aside and follow Christ's example of sacrificial love. This is love in its truest manifestation.
Photo Credit: Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash
Chip Carter, MA, LPC
I wish I had the boldness of Jesus in so many ways. Here are just a few…
-How He called a spade a spade, or more accurately, a Pharisee a Pharisee when He observed their legalism time and time again.
-How He knew when to rest, even amidst the storms
-How He met people where they were - ravaged, hurting, embarrassed, desperate - and sent them off with a completely different perspective and belief system
-How He asked others to come along on His journey, even though He had all the power in the world and could commune with God whenever He wanted
Jesus knew people, knew how they operated inside and out, and still – STILL – asked twelve to join Him on His mission. Surely, He did this to teach and model what God wants and desires for His children. Absolutely, He knew what was coming three years down the road and needed to have them in place to carry out his mission long after He was gone. But, I believe, He did this also because He was a human being, He didn’t want to be alone while His mission unfolded, and knew that having community in his life would bless Him in ways that spoke to His soul.
Jesus sought community. Thus, community must be a good thing.
Not so fast you might say. In Jesus’s gang of twelve, one betrayed Him in such a huge way it was a crucial step that led to his death. Knowing this, what did Jesus do?
He washed his feet.
Another publicly professed he would never deny Jesus, that he was His most ardent follower and then denied Jesus not once or twice, but three separate times. In turn, what did Jesus do?
He called him a ‘rock’ and stated this future thing He labeled ‘the church’ would be built on him.
Have you ever been at your doctor’s office and they bring out that instrument that looks like a hammer to test your reflexes? And then the doctor bangs your knee and it automatically springs up. That’s what they're looking for – that your reflexes are sharp; that they’re working; that they’re doing what they were made to do.
Jesus had the best ‘reflexes’; always sharp, always working, always moving towards God’s redemptive plan. He served where I would have been really angry and scared. He encouraged and empowered where I would have scolded and brooded.
Isaiah 55, verses 8 and 9 are familiar verses to many of us – ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…for as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. And my thoughts than your thoughts.’
And, if you’ll allow me a little room here… ’For my reflexes are not your reflexes.’
But here’s the ticket: He wants us to be more like Him. He wants our ways, our thoughts, our reflexes to be like more like His. He wants us to serve when instead we want to say ‘Get out!’ He wants us to encourage and validate when we would rather point fingers and be hurt. What blows my mind and heart though is He did these things within His community, a community of his choosing. He would not have had these examples if He had not brought others on his journey.
The truth is this: people are going to hurt us, especially those we know well. The truth is also this, many of us (hand raised here for sure) have shied away from community because the hurts have hit us hard. But now, when I look back at times when I’ve been hesitant about allowing people in, I look at it from the lens of whether my reflexes were sharp or dull. The hammer is going to hit us eventually; let our reflexes be more like His.
Tray Tankersley, Th.M, Counseling Intern
In the counseling industry, I've discovered a key ingredient to marriages that “succeed” in therapy and those that don’t. You may venture your own guess- Is it improved communication techniques, great conflict resolution skills, proficiency in identifying feelings? I love all of those…and they are ALL important to building marital satisfaction.
What about discovering my spouse’s love language? Becoming more attuned to the other? Yep, those are good, too!
Praying together, attending church, joining a small group? Fabulous choices!
However, what stands out to me in counseling as a key factor for working towards greater fulfillment in marriage is HUMILITY.
I wish I had a nickel for every moment in couple’s therapy when I thought to myself – “if one of you, just one of you, would self-administer one small dosage of humility, the entire tone of this conversation and marriage would change.” I call it a Neil Armstrong moment – “One small step for spouse…one giant leap for marriage.”
Here’s the catch- Easy to say…hard to do! It's easy to talk about humility and the need for its presence in all relationships. But inviting humility into the counseling room and into every corner of the marriage relationship? Well, therein lies the challenge. We all know, however, that we must build our marriage on more than words.
An ancient hymn provides the Christian with a well-lit path to developing a heart of humility. Before referencing the hymn’s words, the author instructs his readers, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
In other words, have the same mindset as Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!”
The thing is, we cannot manufacture humility in our life. Humility flows only from a heart that is consistently reminded that God made himself nothing so that we might have everything. Our God left the security and comforts of heaven to come to this broken world and experience its brokenness and injustice so that we might avoid the justice of God for our multiple wrong doings. Instead of walking around demanding that people recognize him, bow down to him, serve at his beck and call, our God used his divinity to pay our debt.
The language of humility is simple – “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I did not intend to do that, but I clearly see how you experienced my words like that. Will you forgive me?” Good words! My hope is that those words come from a heart transformed by the Good News that our Creator humbled himself, valued us above his own interests and died so we could live!
M. Diane Pearce, Phd
Finding myself having an intense reaction to others, because I feel slighted, discarded, overlooked or without value warrants a renewal of practicing meditations on truth. This calls for an adjustment of my auto-pilot or muscle memory reactions.
When someone says or does things that hurts me, it is time to consider and think on what I know to be true. Meditating on truth is a necessity!
Help me, Father, to remember and rest in the awareness that…
I know that Abba Father values me as His own, because He made me.
I know that Abba Father calls me by name, because He rescues me from myself.
I know that Abba Father calls me to do for others, because He equips me.
I pray - Help me to remember and rest in the awareness of these truths, especially when I am hurt by the unavailability, abandonment, forgetfulness or unkindness of others.
Help me when I am hurting to admit it to you, my heavenly Father, and to the other person when appropriate. Help me to do this without blaming, accusing, or labeling them or their actions. After all, I do not answer for their actions, I answer only for my own. Have mercy on them, as they do not know the effects of what they have done.
Give me courage and strength to change my reactions to others.
Give me serenity to accept where they are at and that I do not know their circumstances in full.
Give me discernment to know the difference between what I can change and what I cannot change.
Give me wisdom to only invest my thoughts and energy in changing what I am in control of, nothing more and nothing less.
If I am granted the right amount of courage, serenity, and discernment, I will be equipped to invest with those who are receptive, and I will also be able to ‘shake it off’ with those who are not receptive.
Help me to listen to the voice of truth and reason while never underestimating the power of my emotions.
To ignore my emotion sets me up to have a spillover reaction towards others. To place too much value on emotion will lead me to isolate in hopes of avoiding discomfort. So, there is a delicate balance that I am incapable of managing on my own. This is the reason for me to be conscious of the ever-present help of my creator, my heavenly Father.
To be conscious of His presence, I choose to be mindful and fully tuned into His words more than any other words spoken by others.
For further study: Scripture adapted from NIV Holy Bible, Hosea 6:8, Zephaniah 3:17, Matthew 10, 12 & 13.
Warmly, ~dr P
Laura Lee Baker, MA, LPC, NCC
Have you ever found yourself dreading the holidays because you are still trying to recover from last year? Over spending, unmet expectations, exhaustion, and weight gain are just a few repercussions from holiday burn out. I can remember past holiday seasons being over booked, stressed out, always trying to make people happy, that I did not even have a chance to really enjoy friends and family. My focus was on “the task,” not connecting to others and celebrating “The Reason for the Season.”
How can you celebrate what is really important to you this holiday season instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations? What are you trying to teach your children? How do you enjoy family and friends while setting limits and saying "No" during this time of year? Understanding your boundaries and the why behind the things you do is vital to avoid potential stress overload.
Below are a few things to consider:
1.Know your why and what you really want to be celebrating over the holiday season. What do you want to remember when the holidays are over? Make sure that activities you plan or participate in reflect your “why.” For my family, it's celebrating the birth of Jesus. What does that look like for us and how do we want to do that?
2. Why am I spending this?
Set a budget and make a list of gifts you need to buy so that you are not over spending. Be creative. Draw names. Don’t buy for people out of guilt, or because you “have to.”
Make cookies or spend time with loved ones instead of gift giving. Give gifts to those less fortunate instead of only to each other. These are just a few ideas.
3. Why am I saying yes?
Look ahead at your calendar and don’t over book. Learn to say no to parties or activities that you truly don’t have time for. Don’t say yes to things like volunteering, etc. out of guilt. Make sure it fits in with your “why.” Pause before saying yes to activities. And please remember, it's okay if you don’t win the “best decorated house.”
4.Why do we do this?
In regard to blended and extended families, be creative. You don’t have to schedule Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings on the same day. Instead of going to 20 family members homes and eating 20 thanksgiving meals, consider alternating holidays every other year. Gather on or before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Consider a progressive dinner. Set a time limit at the homes you visit. These are a few creative examples to prevent burn out.
5. Why am I eating this?
For those of you who don’t want to gain weight from all the sugar cookies and pie overload, plan what you'll be eating ahead of time and stick to it. Just because Granny wants you to try her pecan pie doesn't mean you have to. Stick to your game plan and try not to eat out of guilt or stress. If you are bringing a dish, make one that you know fits your balanced eating plan.
6. Why do I set limits?
Alcohol, sugar, and sleep deprivation can increase stress levels. Tempers flare and conversations can become heated without personal limits. Be intentional with self-care even when traveling or having visitors. It's okay to take some time for yourself to recharge.
7. Last but not least: Enjoy your family and friends. Don’t forget those who are less fortunate or who are alone and missing their loved ones.
Know your WHY and be thankful for all that God has blessed you with this holiday season.
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Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.