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Thou Shalt Not Steal From Others

“Thou shalt not steal from others” means much more than just not stealing physical property. I came to this realization when I read a portion of “The Practical Bible” by Dennis Prager. People typically speak about the 8th commandment “Do not steal.” strictly from the viewpoint of physical theft. Yet, in the Hebrew translations of the word, stealing is used in a much broader context where it refers to the of stealing of another person’s mind. In my counseling practice, I see and hear the effects of robbery related to the soul and spirit. Some people have been robbed of trust. Others were manipulated into believing a lie about another person or idea. In addition, many people have had their dignity stolen by another person through humiliating emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If we think of stealing using this broader definition, we see that many people are struggling with crippling issues because their personal dignity has been stolen.

If we think about how to prevent the robbery of physical property, it will give us clues about how to prevent the robbery of our soul and spirit. So how does one prevent the robbery in a home? Many people do not know how to protect themselves physically or emotionally because of what they were forced to endure in their childhood. Consequently, they do not know how to protect themselves emotionally as an adult. The following is a short list of theft protection methods for our soul and emotions:

1. Be careful who you invite into your home. We don’t allow strangers into our home without knowing who they are and whether they are safe. Hence, we do not allow strangers to know the more intimate details of our life until they have earned our trust. Vulnerability and intimacy are earned. It is not a right of those who try to enter our lives. If you grew up in a home where your parents demanded things of you that were inappropriate, you might not know how to set boundaries with new people or demanding people.

2. We look for evidence of actions that proves a person is who they say they are to us. What is their identifying information? Are their words and actions in agreement? Anybody can spin words to create the right impression but their actions reveal who they really are regardless of the spin. If we grew up in homes where parents said all the right things but acted hypocritically, we might be easily confused because we were forced to trust hypocritical parents.

3. We let safe people in our lives know when we will be away so that they can watch for things that might be out of the ordinary. We need the people around us to be part of our safety net so they can report suspicious behavior to us or to the proper authorities. We need to lean into the protection of a caring community that can see past our blind spots. Sometimes we grew up in isolated families where this was absent. Therefore, it feels uncomfortable to allow others into our lives. However, the truth is that the safest place to be is with safe people.

4. We invite our beloved guard dog friend to take a position of protection in our lives and to alert us when something concerning is happening. Sure, they might alert bark at a lot of things, but in the end, they will alert us when something is off. Who is that nurturing person who protects you? We may need to invite them to be more of a protector to us than we are currently allowing them to be in our life.

5. We have fences, locks, and security systems that keep our property from being vandalized and we keep them in proper working order. If there is a door that doesn’t lock, we figure out how to repair that lock or replace that lock. Are there things or issues in your life that keep allowing destructive influences into your life? If so, you need to address these issues differently so that you can live in a safe environment.

God does not want you to be a victim of theft any more than you do. The reality is that He created the ten commandments for his people to live by so they would be safe and protected. He clearly stated this commandment as the only open-ended commandment by which we were to live by. Therefore, do not steal. Do not steal dignity. Do not steal trust. Do not steal joy. Do not steal freedom. Do not steal a reputation. Do not steal property. Do not steal.

Mental Health and The Church

Mental Health and The Church

There is a different kind of math that we as therapists use when we meet people. I refer to it as therapy math. It is different because we are assessing people based on their family mental health history, traumas, life experiences, childhood communication patterns, and a number of other assessment tools. These different factors help create a detailed picture of the person sitting across from us in the therapy room. Rarely is there a simple reason that explains why the person makes the choices they do. Most of the time, the emotional math equation that defines the person is more involved than a simple equation such as 1 + 1 = 2. In most situations, we are trying to discover the algebraic equation that brought us to our present day sum and identifying the unknown factors can sometimes be confusing.

Our western culture tends to process information from surface observations and then constructs a scientific math equation. However, there can be other unknown factors in the equation that are not easy to identify that also play a role. For example, we might look at a person who is overweight and perceive them to be lazy. However, we haven’t taken the time to discover the reasons a person struggles with their weight.  It could be a thyroid or other hormonal imbalance problem that continues to fluctuate, verbal abuse a person endured as a child over their weight, poverty that prevents them from buying healthy food, or sexual or physical abuse in their youth that makes them want to hide their body or a myriad of other reasons. There is a multitude of factors that can cause a problem and part of the healing process is uncovering the root that keeps the person stuck in the behavior they find to be uncomfortable, whatever that may be.

Our western rational thinking has also invaded how the American Christian church interacts with mental health issues. As a therapist, I hear people repeatedly misapply biblical principles to mental health issues that need other solutions to find freedom. For example, I might have a very depressed or anxious individual come into my office who is living in an abusive environment. They might think they need to pray harder or work harder at submitting to their spouse or must read their Bible more. In actuality, they need to start using some personal boundaries to restrict the evil behavior being perpetrated against them so they feel less depression and anxiety.  It is essential the western church start understanding that psychotherapy can help and empower people to live more free and full lives. Understanding the therapeutic math equation that keeps people from moving forward with others (and even with God) is the first step to gaining freedom. In the attached podcast Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss this topic of mental health and the church. Expand your therapeutic math skills to understand people in more profound and compassionate ways.