Do You Stink?
Recently the power went out in the building where I work and I wound up having to do three counseling sessions via candlelight that night. The candle lighting was subtle, however, the fumes from the five different candles were so overwhelming that they overpowered my sense of smell. I was so overcome by the fumes to the point that I questioned whether I was high by the end of the evening. One scent may have been tolerable over the course of three hours, but five different scents were toxic. I had that smell burned into my olfactory sense for days!
Since that evening, I have been thinking of the aroma that I and others emit. We know we can be overpowered by someone’s bad breath or body odor, but we can also be overpowered by someone’s “emotional” smell. Sometimes the emotional aroma is so powerful that it can affect those with whom we share life. How do we “emotionally smell” to others? I tell my family when they are emitting unpleasant physical smells so that they have the opportunity to do something about their aroma. The truth is that unless you are middle school boy who finds terrible smells amusing because you can annoy others, most people do not want to smell unpleasant to others.
I remember the days of my perfectionism when it came to entertaining people in our home. Nobody in our home except our guests experienced the event with great joy because the aroma of tension, anger, and anxiety filled our house before our guests arrived. I needed things to be perfect! My family was forced to take in my unresolved emotional issues of perfectionism and they had to experience the unpleasant aroma I was producing. Fast forward twenty plus years, and I and my family are in a much different place. I have empowered them to tell me their feelings when my behavior aroma is negatively impacting them.
Here are the steps you need to take to create a more pleasing aroma in your relationships:
1. Talk about and use vulnerable feeling words within your home. This will enable your children to learn the language of feelings at a young age. Then, they can openly talk about the unpleasant things they are experiencing from you instead of acting out their emotions.
2. Permit your family and friends to let you know when you stink.
3. Take the feedback given to you and ask yourself if there is a way you can be a more pleasing aroma. You may need to work on your issues to eliminate those unpleasant emotional aromas!
4. Don’t make excuses for the way you smell by blaming it on others or by focusing on someone else’s smell. If you want to be a pleasing aroma, you need to work on your own scent.
5. If someone else stinks, you have a choice of how much you allow their unpleasant aroma to affect you. If you walk in relationship with them, you are responsible for telling them about their offensive aroma. However, it is not your job to convince them of their smell or tell them what to do with it. You only have to choose how close you sit to them.
God calls us to be a pleasing aroma. He says in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?
When I was five years old, my parents took our family on a day trip to an amusement park outside of Philadelphia. I begged my parents to ride the wooden roller coaster at the park only to discover that it was a traumatic experience that would linger with me for many years. The amusement park did not have height restrictions, seat belts or other safety precautions back then. They should have had those safeguards though because my mother fought to keep me from falling out of the ride! Many years later, I can still remember the trauma of being unable to hold onto the safety bar and bouncing around the car only to feel as if at any second I would fall out. That experience stayed with me and I was unwilling to try anything adventurous at amusement parks for many years after that. Finally, a friend convinced me to try the roller coaster again when I was 14 and I discovered I enjoyed the adrenaline rush! After that, I tried anything and everything until I hit the age when motion sickness became the norm.
I share this story as a means of explaining recovery. Sometimes, you can hold on really tight to recovery and the sheer exhaustion of holding onto recovery causes us to tire and release our grip. Then, we bounce all over the place in times of high stress. I call this kind of recovery “White Knuckle” Recovery. I am holding on to my recovery so tightly because I have not grown emotionally to the point that I have the strength to hold on the emotional safety bar with ease while I ride the hills and curves of stress. Many times people are white-knuckling their recovery to please a person who is also riding through life with them. They hold on to the safety bar of recovery so tightly that they eventually lose strength, let go, and give up again. There is a constant cycle of holding onto the safety bar of recovery only to eventually cycle out of recovery when the going gets rough. It can be a vicious cycle. The person holding on tightly to the safety bar of recovery is emotionally weak because they have not worked to strengthen their emotional muscle energy. True recovery comes when people do a variety of activities to make sure they can hold on to their recovery. These activities include :
1. Working on the issues of their childhood that cause them to lose their grip.
2. Growing in their understanding of the truth about themselves and replacing childhood beliefs with adult beliefs. Just like we grow physically, people will grow emotionally when they focus on self-growth.
3. Feeding on a steady diet of emotional and spiritual truth. This is the food that enables a person to have the strength to withstand the speed and stress of the ride of life.
We are not promised a life without struggle. However, we are promised that truth will bring freedom, that love can replace fear, and that letting go of childish ways can enable us to ride through life in a freedom that helps us intuitively know what to do when we encounter difficult stress. Are you “white knuckling” your recovery or are you taking the steps to enable yourself to make stronger decisions and ride in freedom? Believe it or not, you can enjoy the ride when you take the steps to no longer ride as a child.
I Corinthians 13: 8-13 ( NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full
I am not sure if anyone ever told you that you were a water bottle, but you are. When your water bottle is full, it cannot be tipped over easily; however, when your water bottle is empty, you will be more readily knocked down physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When you are born your body is about 78% water, and by the time you are an adult, men need their body to have a water hydration level of 50-60% and women need their water hydration levels to be 45-60%. Water runs all of the systems of our physical body including our brain, and we need to take in water to keep our systems running in a healthy manner. This is a good correlation to keeping yourself hydrated spiritually and emotionally; if you’re not hydrating yourself in these way, then when troubles come, you will be knocked to the ground easily. When you are hydrating yourself emotionally and spiritually, you will make better choices in the care of self and others, but when you are not…well, the consequences are apparent. I believe that from the moment you are born, you have needs and longings that are hardwired into you from your very creation. From the moment a baby is born they are crying to have their physical and emotional longings fulfilled, but somewhere along the way, we learn to suppress those longings and we use addictions and control of various things as a means of suppressing those longings. However, no person can fulfill all the longings of another, and thus we have a puzzle of how to let in our spiritual creator and other safe humans to take care of these longings. Proverbs 13:19 states that a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but most people who have no idea what they have natural longings for because they have been suppressing those longings for so long. When your needs and longings have received the emotional and spiritual water they need to to be healthy, you will make better emotional and spiritual choices and will be less likely to medicate or control things in life. What do you need today to fill your water bottle? Here is my general list of emotional and spiritual elements people needs. What would you add to the list?
⚪Healthy Touch like a safe hug, a comforting hold, holding hands, snuggling
⚪To be heard- talking with someone who listens so I feel valued and heard
⚪Affirmation – need to hear something good about myself
⚪Joy – a good laugh, doing something I love, being with people who are joyful, having a spiritual experience, singing
⚪A need to create – art, music, dance, write, decorate, cleaning, organizing, building, fixing.
⚪Peace – quiet, alone time, a nap, a bath, etc.
⚪Beauty – Outdoors time, beautiful things, color
⚪Passion – something to get excited about, vision, new experience, new knowledge
⚪To feel useful- to feel like I am making a positive impact on my world
You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abound in glory that just pours out into eternity. Phil. 4:20 (MSG)
January happened and is still happening. It’s been a month of snow and ice and sickness in my house, which always makes things a little more unpredictable. However, I find that I clean out more drawers and closets in January than any other month of the year because I tend to be inside and have more available downtime. And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to do during this winter season. It’s time to do what winter in the natural was designed to do: allow the season to expose the things that are choking out life. Here in the Northeast, we have had an excessively cold winter and we need to celebrate what that will do for the forthcoming growing seasons on farms. The cold kills the hibernating insects and bacteria that will affect the summer harvests if not killed off. And for many fruit growers, they know that the excessive cold will benefit fruit production because it will cause the trees to rest and reserve their energy for spring and a more bountiful production. We come to see that what happens in the physical world is representative of what happens in the emotional and spiritual world in the winter if we allow it to happen. Just because you are more aware of negative thoughts, weak spots or just feeling like you are going backward does not mean that you are what you are currently experiencing. It may be that these things are exposed so that you can purposefully move toward the removal of them to increase your productivity in the future. It’s been a rough month for many, but it is necessary for one to recognize the issues of the heart that are being exposed to the “cold”. The issues of the heart are always exposed to a cold harsh reality for the intention of removal, not for harm. God desires you to prosper and abound in much good fruit, but that often means that the issues of the heart will be exposed so that you can understand the faulty beliefs that keep you unproductive.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (ISV)
3 There is a season for everything,
and a time for every event under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
Are You Embracing Winter?
Here in the Northeast, we start dreaming about tropical climates and Island getaways by the beginning of January. By the end of February, we are pretty sure we will buy a beach home, and by the end of March, well, we won’t go there.
For most of us, it is hard for us to embrace winter, both in the natural and in the emotional and spiritual. Spring and summer are easy to embrace because everything is new. New growth, fresh fruit, and new beauty. We need winter in the physical and in the emotional and spiritual because in winter the pests die. It is in the winter that we are forced to deal with the conditions on the inside. So, for all those who are in a “winter” season in their lives, be reminded that winter is only a season. Thank God it doesn’t last forever!
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (NIV) There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.
What Happens in The Quiet
This morning, I got up early and walked the dog as I always do before I came to work. I savored my alone time on the walk, and then on my drive into work as it was the first quiet, non-stimulating alone time in five days. The holidays are exciting because we spend time with people, and have special foods, specials concerts, and stimulation of all shapes, sizes, and textures. However, my walk this morning told me I desired the structure of my alone time more than I realized. This year I have valued my solo pre-dawn walks of the dog so much that I went out of my way to ask for a Christmas gift of a unique, heavy-duty coat for walking in the extreme cold. It’s long, heavy, and it has this fantastic, all-encompassing hood that kind of makes me look like the grim reaper; however, it gives me the coverage to continue below zero walks of the dog. When I take the time to be in the quiet, I organize my thoughts, perceptions, needs, and desires in a manner that makes me feel empowered in my life. When I fail to take the time to be in the quiet, I am more disorganized, forgetful, less spiritually focused and I put aside the things that I need without taking the time to recognize what I need to pursue. I am a more focused and happier version of myself when I include daily periods of silence.
In my line of work, I hear all the reasons why people cannot have the alone time they need, but not all the ways they are working to make it happen. Many people desire the quiet at the same time they fear it. We need calm. We were designed to value quiet so that we would pursue that which impacts our body, soul, and spirit. However, many people fear the quiet and the alone because their tormenting thoughts invade the space of the quiet. Tormenting thoughts are the signal you need to process your thoughts on paper with God or with someone like a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. If you ignore the feelings that come in the silence, they will grow louder and will begin to be heard by you in your interactions with people, your work, and your family relationships. The holidays are winding down; I look joyfully to the reboot of peace and structure of the new year. How about you? Are you dreading the silence of January? Do you have tormenting thoughts to be processed so that you can embrace peace? Isaiah 30:15 b says this about quiet, “In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength, but you refused.” It’s important to understand that many of the individuals that achieved much take the time to retreat into the quiet to build their strength instead of running harder to get to their goals. If you are training to be stronger spiritually and emotionally, it’s essential that you begin to incorporate quiet into your day. Make the decision to face down the elements that prevent you from entering the quiet and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and boundaries that make quiet possible.
Start asking yourself and God why you prevent yourself from being in the quiet and make a plan to move toward it.
I’ve been thinking a lot of the allegory of physical pain and emotional pain, and how you treat both as I go through extensive physical therapy for my physical pain. My physical pain requires me to focus on stretching out my muscles multiple times a day so that I am in less pain each day. It’s a challenge to choose to do painful exercises that take away time from other portions of my day, but my physical pain increases when I decide not to do the stretching exercises. Likewise, it is this way in the therapy process. Clients ask me, “How long will this take? How many months or how many sessions will this take to get better?” My response is always the same: to whatever level you put into practice the things that I tell you to do outside of the sessions is to what degree you will recover faster. Last time I was going through physical therapy, I had a severe achilles injury that required doing daily stretches. The problem was that I was in the midst of a move to another house and forcing myself to stop packing up my house and do the necessary stretching was very difficult. I wound up requesting that my doctor sign off on doing more physical therapy so that the therapist would force me to do the work I needed to do to get my leg back. The process of physical therapy took longer because I was putting many other things ahead of my recovery. Moving towards emotional pain and the work we need to do to recover ourselves to psychological health is a painful process. We are forced to stare down the things that we avoid dealing with in life, and we are forced to deal with the feelings that we would medicate by keeping our minds occupied. However, I have noticed that the higher my physical pain levels are, the more I self-medicate and the less I reach out to others. My mind is so preoccupied with my pain that I am unable to focus on giving proper care to those close to me. I realize that I must force myself to do the exercises that cost me time and pain in order to get better for both myself and others. My life is happier when I am pain free. I am not hindered in my daily life and the activities that I can choose to do when I my pain is lessened. The same is true for my loved ones. I give them better care when I am not focused on my pain. I am much more pleasant and amiable when my pain levels are down. How about you? How are you dealing with the emotionally painful things in your life? Are you facing them down daily or are you avoiding them at all cost? Each decision has its own payoff. Avoidance of the pain feels as if it lessens the pain in the short term, but the less we deal with it, the more the pain grows, the slower the process of recovery, and the less I give those whom I love the quality of care they need.
I’m currently in the midst of recovering from a severe shoulder injury. My injury creates an inability to move my arm above my head, to carry weight with the arm, and to do anything that would require the twisting of my arm. It’s been a hassle and frustration to deal with the loss of ability. However, I’m slowly learning to be more ambidextrous. I realize the number of times I can use the other arm to do the same thing that I’m used to doing with my primary arm. It’s fantastic to understand that I am capable of doing the same task with a different limb, and I’ve never done it that way before this point in time. The same can be true when we’ve had a significant loss in our life. Be it the death of a family member, a loss of a spouse, or change in a relationship, we think we know what we are capable of doing but many times we are capable of doing much more than we perceive because we’ve never done it that way before. Emotional ambidexterity (which is my made-up word) is my way of explaining that you are capable of doing something different and ,with practice, you will become skilled at doing it differently. At the moment I am talk typing because typing with my right arm is virtually impossible, and typing with my left arm is slowly progressing. How about you? Do you stop trying when what you’re used to doing things one way and that can no longer be done? Or do you try to learn new ways of doing what you used to do? It’s very empowering to think that we can do things differently when we force ourselves to learn new ways of doing things. The first time I did something with my left arm I felt a little proud of myself because I was learning how to develop a whole other part of my being that has been virtually unused. I have to remind myself always to use my left hand because the old way keeps kicking in and taking over and then the pain comes from doing it the old way. How about you? Are you learning how to use different emotional muscles than you used before this point in time? Even as I type with my left hand, I feel more powerful to be using a skill I never developed before today. You may be used to doing things one way, but the reality is you hold unlimited capability within you that has yet to be tapped from the inside! Keep reminding yourself to do it the new way, and soon you will find yourself skilled in areas you never knew you were skilled.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The other day I found myself walking the dog before the sun had risen and I reflected on the fact that I now enjoy the solitude and peace of our early morning walks together unlike seasons past. There was a time that walking the dog before sunrise would have been repulsive to me; however, as my season of life has shifted and what I value in this period is different than the last. One of the keys of embracing the season you are in is not focusing on the season to come or the season from the past but concentrate on embracing the good in your current season. People tell me things they don’t like or don’t want for their future, but we change just like the seasons and what is of value to us in the seasons to come may not be of value to us to us now. When I look back on my life in the last five years, I can see that I was changing through those years to the point that I am now a morning person and a person who likes walking the dog before dawn. Who knew I would enjoy that habit of pre-dawn walks, or be a morning person for that matter?! If you look to your future to be filled with the same elements of today, you will be disappointed because life, people, circumstances, and everything else changes. Five years from now you will be a different version of yourself. Have hope, friends. Life will not be as it is today. In fact, life will be a better version if we continue to push toward the disciplines our heart is calling to us right now.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11