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Dog Named Ranger

I have dog named Ranger who loves to give hugs. He has been giving hugs to people since he was a puppy. On occasion, I have brought Ranger to my offices to act as a therapy dog. He loves it. He gets to hug numerous people and some of my clients have gotten to experience their very first dog hug. It is fun to see them experience their first hug and when they are done with their session, they want more. Why do they want more? Because the love is given freely and without conditions. 

I think about my dog’s interactions with people each time I bring him home and I think about how we all crave love. We have an inborn need that has been hardwired into us that needs to feel love. So what do we do with that inborn need when those around us do not give love freely. When love comes with conditions or not at all? It is a loss when people do not know how to love us or do not know how to give love freely. Loss stirs so many unhealthy coping mechanisms to the surface . We do not wish to feel loss so we do all sorts of things to help us not feel that loss. We keep our minds occupied with tasks, the internet, TV, reading, food and alcohol to keep ourselves from feeling loss. We “busy our brain” to avoid the loss and ashes the loss has created. God promises to exchange our ashes for beauty, but rarely do we give him the ashes. Most of the time we busy ourselves with things that will distract us from the ashes of loss. It is time to stop our unhealthy coping mechanisms and take those ashes to God in prayer. It’s time to trade in the ashes of loss for the beauty that comes from God’s love.

Write a short journal entry to God today asking him to trade in these losses for beauty and write about how you need to learn to receive love in healthy ways from people around you and from him.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1a,3 Amplified)

The Paradox to Vulnerability

I was rude to several people yesterday while attending church. During the official greeting time of the church service, I refused to shake their hands. My rudeness was a really a desire to protect people from the head cold I have had for the last week. As I was greeting each person, instead of shaking their hand, I would place my palms in front of me as if in the surrender position and declared to each person, “I do not want to give you my cold germs.” Each person I greeted me thanked me for not shaking their hand.

How many times do we do what is socially polite with people instead of doing what we really feel we need to say? How many times do you ache to say how you really feel or what you really struggle with inside of your head? We tend to worry how people will perceive us if we share the “sick” parts of ourselves and worry how our “stuff” will impact others so we do not share. We probably will not be able to change the longevity and strength of our physical illness by sharing our germs with others. However, we can significantly impact the longevity of our emotional suffering if we share our story with safe people. This is one of the most powerful aspects of the counseling room. Counseling is sharing our story with an individual who will extend grace and healing to those parts of our story that we share with them.

There is a paradox to the vulnerable sharing of our story with others. At the same moment our chance of being hurt increases is the same moment that fresh and new perspective can occur. If we never share our story, we are assured us that that part of our story will not receive further hurt, but it almost always assures us that new life will not be able to touch that part of our story. The benefits outweigh the risks on the balance scale. If we want new life to be the byproduct of two people sharing, then we must vulnerably share our story and hear new perspective with safe people and with God.

Who are the safe people from whom you are hiding your story today?

Pray with me today.

“God, I need to grow in my ability to share my story with others so that new life can occur. Please help me identify the people, the times, and the places I can share my story today and the rest of this week. My motivation is to receive new life into the parts of myself that need new life and to break the grip of shame that keeps me hidden and not moving. I choose to trust that my sharing with safe people and you God will produce new life in me.”

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Three Tools to Help You Begin to be More Vulnerable with People in Conversation

1. Do not allow yourself to give a pat answer to a friend who is asking you how you are doing. This would include responses such as “fine”, “good” and ” fine, how are you?” Many people have been taught that polite conversation is appropriate in all situations. Yes, it is good manners in general society, but when it comes to friendship, it sends the message that you are walled off.

2. Include some mention of how you are doing emotionally. ” Feeling words” will evoke a sense of opening up to the person on the receiving end of the response.

3. Answer in small paragraph form. For example, instead of replying with your standard ” fine, how are you? ” response you could respond by saying something like; ” I am really worn out emotionally and physically from staying up with sick children this week. The whole week has made me feel a bit POWERLESS.” A vulnerable word such as powerless will invite people who are safe into your vulnerable world.