Marriage Tip: Forgive Your Spouse for the Little Things

It’s the little things that count.  Too often the big things in a marriage get the most attention while the little things go unrecognized for lack of importance.  However, if you can begin the practice of forgiving your spouse for the little things, then when the big things come up it will be a much easier task.  It’s like running a race.  You train for the race gradually, increasing your speed, intensity, and distance with each practice.  Eventually you are prepared to run the race at your best because of the practice even if you didn’t feel well that day.  Yet, if you were to run the race cold, even with the best intentions at heart, you would not do as well as if you practiced a little every day.  It is the same with forgiveness.  Practice forgiving the little things each day and when the big things come along you will have your training in forgiveness to fall back on even when you don’t feel like forgiving.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Advertisements

Don’t Lose Your Christianity in Your Divorce Part 2

So what does it meant to love someone who you are divorcing?  Let’s review the second part of this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Not Demanding.  Wanting things the way you want them is demanding, selfish, immature, and often unrealistic.  It is so hard to see things from your ex’s point of view during a divorce but your Christianity asks this very thing of you.  It takes a great deal of self-control to put your wants aside and see things from your ex’s perspective however if you can do this, your divorce will go far smoother.

Not Irritable.  Being irritable at you ex will come very naturally for you as just a text or picture of them is likely to spark intense feelings.  This is one of those times when either your emotions will control you or you will control your emotions.  It is normal for you to feel irritable towards your ex but that does not give you permission to act irritable towards your ex.

No Record Keeping.  Forgive, forgive and when you don’t know what else to do, forgive again.  Your ex may entice you to anger every day during the divorce proceedings, forgive them.  Your ex may make rude comments or remarks on texts, emails, in person, or by phone, don’t return the remark but forgive them.  Your ex may relive the past over and over, don’t return the record keeping but forgive them again.  You will have to forgive your ex a thousand times during your divorce and when the thousand is up, forgive them yet again.  This is not about being a door mat or letting your ex take advantage of you, rather it is about not letting your ex control you through your unforgiveness.

Truth Wins.  You may not see the truth win out during your divorce, you may not see it win out after the divorce, and in fact you may never see the truth win during your lifetime.  But the end of the story is that truth does win when Jesus comes to reign as King and you may not even know the full truth.  So don’t rejoice when things go badly for your ex for you never know when things may go just as badly for you.

Don’t Give Up.  Too many times this verse is quoted trying to convince the other person that they should not give up on their marriage.  It is often wrongly used in the context of trying to control and manipulate behavior by saying that you should never give up on your marriage.  But when this verse is put in the context of love, it is love doesn’t give up.  Not giving up on your ex is not about the marriage, it is about your attitude towards them.  Because you love them, you will not give up on loving them regardless of their behavior.

Don’t Lose Faith.  Having faith in your ex is having faith that their intentions, however horrible they may have been at one time, are honorable now.  Again, if evidence proves to the contrary and your ex’s intentions are not good, you don’t have to keep expecting a different more hopeful result.  But you can remain faithful in love and with good distance that one day the tide will turn and there will be closure and restoration of a limited relationship.

Hopeful.  Love is hopeful that in the end all things, issues, differences, struggles, frustrations, troubles, and relationships will be resolved.  Our hope is not in this world or in this lifetime, rather it is a hope and promise in meeting your Creator and spending all Eternity with Him.  Keep your perspective big picture instead of little picture and your ability to remain hopeful will return.  By the way, the hope for the future includes spending all of Eternity with your ex and if you have not prayed likewise for that, now is a good time to start.

Enduring.  Last by not least, love endures through every circumstance.  Not some circumstances, not most circumstances, not the circumstances you want to endure but every single circumstance that you could or don’t even want to imagine.  This translates into loving your ex even when they are speaking lies about you, even when they are yelling at you, even when they are unfair to you, even when they are unforgiving towards you, and even when they use the children against you.  You can still choose to love.

And that is the finally conclusion, that you can still choose to love despite all of the rejection, stress, anxiety, struggles, lies, manipulation, abuse, destructive behavior, broken promises, and betrayal.  Yes, you can still choose to love and in that you will experience what Jesus experienced on this earth and have an even greater appreciation for what He did by dying for your sins.  You can lose your Christianity in your divorce or you can allow your divorce to draw you even closer to God.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Don’t Lose Your Christianity in Your Divorce

Sadly being a Christian is no guarantee that your marriage will survive.  The statistics for Christians getting divorced are exactly the same as non-Christians with the same reasons for getting a divorce: adultery, addiction, abuse, pornography, financial problems, sexual problems, parenting problems, and many more.  Just because a person is a Christian does not mean that they are free from the same struggles that plague everyone else.  The Christian too is born with a sinful nature that must be actively worked against on a daily basis.  So while a Christian can obtain freedom in Christ Jesus, the road to repentance and restoration is the road less traveled because it requires humility, honesty, and a heart change.

There is no doubt at this point that your marriage will end in divorce usually for more than one reason.  But just because your marriage is ending, this does not give you permission to become un-Christ-like in your behavior.  If as a Christian you are taught to “Love your enemies”, than treating your soon to be ex-spouse in a loving manner should go without saying.  However, it does need to be said and reminded over and over as emotions are intense, anger is easily provoked, neither of you trusts the other, and forgiveness is in short supply.

So what does it meant to love someone who you are divorcing?  Let’s review the first part of this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Patience.  Being patient with your ex is extremely difficult during a divorce as most want the divorce to be over with as soon as possible.  However, depending on your State’s laws and how complicated your divorce is with stuff, kids, and money these issues can take months if not years to resolve.  Having the expectation that things will go smoothly and quickly in a divorce is unrealistic especially since things did not go smoothly in your marriage.  Change your expectations to more realistic ones and recognize that you will need to be even more patient with your ex than before.

Kind.  Showing kindness to your ex is very difficult especially when it is not reciprocated but we are not called to love just those who love us but those who don’t love us as well.  Your ex knows how to push all of your buttons at one time, being kind is not pushing their buttons even when you could or even when you are right.

Not Jealous.  Jealousy is an ugly beast as it is usually not about one person moving on to another relationship rather it is about the other person “getting a better deal”.  Even the best negotiators cannot divide everything equally and someone is likely to feel jaded by the divorce.  Don’t let your feelings of frustration blossom into jealousy because you did not get your fair share.  Instead recognize that in the end you are not the final Judge, God is.

Not Boastful.  Bragging about how much better off you are without your ex in your life is boastfulness.  Bragging about how you got this thing or won that battle is also boastfulness.  Neither should be done even with your friends or family who are on your side.  The truth is that neither party really won in the divorce, both of you were hurt in some way and both of you will have scars from the divorce for the rest of your life.

Not Proud.  Pride creeps up in the strangest of places.  For instance, talking about how much better you were able to handle everything, comparing your sins with your ex, or minimizing your responsibility is all prideful behavior.  Take responsibility for what was your contribution to the divorce, recognize that you needed support to even get the divorce and start viewing all sin as being equal.  This is reducing your prideful behavior.

Not Rude.  Not enough can be said about this category as most people would never even talk to a stranger the same way they talk to their ex.  Just try treating a friend or co-worker with the same lack of respect and level of rudeness as you do your ex and see how long your relationship lasts.  But for some reason because you have been hurt, you justify the rude behavior as being well deserved.  This is not Christ-like behavior.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Do I Feel Guilty?

guilt flyers

guilt flyers (Photo credit: bpp198)

Admittedly there are times when you should feel guilty.  For instance, if you cause harm to another person, take something that does not belong to you, or lie about something to get your own way, you should feel guilty because you have done wrong.  But this is not the guilt that plagues you, that guilt is understandable as the cause is easily identified.   Rather, the guilt that plagues you is an almost constant annoying feeling which continually questions your character, motives, thoughts, actions, and feelings in nearly every circumstance no matter how insignificant.

It becomes this voice in your head challenging you, criticizing you, critiquing you, and condemning you far beyond the expectations of others.  And yet it is the fear of not meeting those expectations that ultimately drives the intensity of your guilt to a heightened level of discouragement, detachment, and depression.  If this describes you, then know that you are not alone but there are some reasons for why you feel this way and how you can make it stop.

Who does the voice remind you of?  This is the first question to ask yourself when you feel guilty.  If the voice is your conscience identifying some harm, hurt, or damage you have done to yourself or others, then confess the wrong and seek forgiveness.  If instead the voice reminds you of your mother, father, grandparent, teacher, or preacher, then recall the previous time you have heard this voice.  Perhaps you were a teen and told that only bad girls call boys first or you were five and told that only bad boys talked back to an adult.  Whatever the event, identify it and ask if you still agree with their belief system.  As an adult you can make these decisions for yourself now and do not have to carry over the beliefs of the influential people in your life just because they said things were a certain way.  One of the reasons for feeling guilty could be that you are still holding onto beliefs that you no longer agree with as an adult just because they come from someone you love.  You are not abandoning a person just because you no longer agree with them; rather you are abandoning a belief.

What is the voice really saying?  For instance, does the voice use a lot of “you should have”, “you ought to”, “you must”, or “you have to”?  These key words are indicators that there is an unmet expectation either you have placed on yourself or someone else has placed on you.  Expectations can come in all forms such as the goal to complete a project within a certain time frame, the desire to “out-do” yourself and exceed other’s expectations, or a hope to please someone by your actions.  If you did not get the response that you wanted: the person was not overly impressed, you did not get the recognition you hoped for, or the project was not completed, then your response could be intense feelings of guilt.  Setting reasonable expectations is the key to disarming this guilty feeling and more importantly learning to be satisfied with a job well done because you believe that it is well done is even better.

Why are you listening to the voice?  One of the hardest areas of discipline is not physical but mental.  If you have identified the voice as coming from someone else and now see that the voice is setting unrealistic expectations, then why do you continue to listen?  While you are responsible for your own actions, beliefs, thoughts and even emotions on occasion, you are not responsible for other people’s actions, beliefs, thoughts and emotions.  Everyone is responsible for themselves just as you are responsible for yourself.  Trying to take responsibility for others will exhaust you and leave you frustrated as your efforts did not help the other person to move on but created an unnecessary dependency.  Your feelings of guilt in this case appear because the very person you were trying to help has not improved but has gotten worse and you feel guilty for their irresponsible behavior.  Stop rescuing others, there is only one Savior and it is not you.

Some cultures and religions more than others encourage feelings of guilt as a way to cause you to conform to their arbitrary standards.  But this is not the way of Jesus.  He did not use guilt to motivate change, rather He used love.  And that precisely is the cure for excessive guilt: love.  The definition of love is taken from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  Love and guilt are not the same thing; rather love can be used to conquer and overcome feelings of guilt.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Embracing Grief When You Have Lost a Loved One

Out of the blue, you receive a message that someone you loved has passed away.  Perhaps it is a sibling, a longtime friend, or close co-worker, he/she is close to you but not one of your immediate family.  Whatever the nature of your relationship, the timing of their death is so unexpected that you can hardly believe what you are hearing.  And yet you know intellectually that it is true.  Your emotions do not catch up to the reality quick enough so your response is distorted by a numbness of disbelief.  You are left hanging, not knowing what to do or how to respond.  Your relationship with the immediate family is close so you feel this pull to be with them but are unsure of how to act, what to say or who to speak with during this time.

The climate of our present culture is one that has lost touch with the art of maintaining intimate relationships. Media influences such as Facebook, texting, and video gaming all of which do more to disconnect relationships rather connect serve instead to keep intimate relationships at arm’s length.  While on the surface it may seem as though we are connecting to old friends or distant relatives by befriending or sending a message, the lack of two-way face-to-face conversation keeps the relationship at this distance.  During the times of a crisis such as the loss of a loved one, the distance then becomes a temptation not to act and to remain safely away.  But this is not an example of loving your neighbor.  So what is?

Time.  As hard as it is, one of the most loving acts of kindness is giving your time.  Just spending time with the immediate family can be a source of great comfort in a time of great loss.  One of the many temptations during this time however is to remain detached and self-protective as you embrace your own loss, but that is a selfish act.  Selflessness is the willingness to put aside your own emotions and become involved in caring for those whose loss is even greater.  Time demands that you are physically present offering to remain as long as needed to care for the suffering of another.

Listen.  During your time with the immediate family, do not enforce your own agenda or your own views of the loved one who has passed.  Rather, listen to the family speak allowing them the freedom to become angry, bitter, sad, and emotional.  Don’t argue or dispute what they are saying, just allow them to ramble.  The explosion of thoughts which plague your mind during this time are even more intense for the immediate family so let them just speak.  Some feel the need to narrate the story of their lives, some feel the need to just sit in complete quiet, some feel the need to be around people, and some feel the need to give instructions.  Whatever their need, be there to listen without judgment or correction.

Embrace.  There is no way around this.  Once you physically make yourself available and spend some time listening to a person grieve, you will become emotionally and intimately involved in the grieving process.  This act defies the nature of our culture which preaches that it is “all about me” and invites you to embrace an intimate moment which is about the one who has passed away and the ones who are left behind.  While it is scary to allow yourself to be so involved, it is an act of kindness that demonstrates fully the love of Christ.

To the outside world, such behavior of giving your time, listening unconditionally and embracing grief sounds draining and normally it is if you are doing such acts on your own strength.  But if you rely on the strength of Christ, there is far more than you need.  John 7:38, “Anyone who believes in me [Jesus] may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  These rivers of living water are nourishment and refreshment in times of great challenge and great need which are available to all who believe in Jesus.  When you give of yourself during a time of loss, you are really giving the love of Christ of which there is an endless supply and far more than you need.  This is one of the many demonstrations of loving your neighbor which becomes a light to all who see.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Healing from an Abortion

Charlotte's Newborn Session

Charlotte’s Newborn Session (Photo credit: Christine ™)

This is a wonderful heartfelt letter from a mother to her aborted son.  The “F Word” is forgiveness and in it she asks for forgiveness from her son.  If you have struggled with how to heal from an abortion and find yourself thinking about how old your child would be or what he/she would be like, then this letter is an excellent example of a portion of the healing process.  You can heal from abortion.  You can be forgiven.  But you can neither be healed or forgiven if you don’t acknowledge the pain and seek help.  Hopefully this letter will inspire you.

The F Word, Part 2: A Letter to Aiden.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

We Wish You a “Mary” Christmas

It’s that time of the year again when the list of things to be done grows by the minute, plans are changed again and again until the last-minute, and stress over finances, family, and friends is at an all time high.  There is too much to do, too much to see, too many places to be, and far too many expectations to be met.  The demands of work, family, friends, and even church push us to a panic frenzy to meet and exceed those demands but at what expense?

When did this season, the season of joy, the season of celebration, the season of giving and the season of bonding become the season of anxiety over unmet expectations and financial pressure, the season of depression over the loss of loved ones, and the season of trampling over others to make a purchase?  “Merry Christmas” is not so merry anymore.  Rather than trying to put the “Merry” back into Christmas, I would propose a different type of “Mary”.  Jesus refers to Mary in Luke 10:38-42 when he informs Martha that she is worried and upset over the details of preparing a meal while her sister Mary sits a listens to Him talk.  She has chosen the better path, one of quiet listening instead of hurrying around.

 Has anyone seen my calendar?  Take a moment to glance over your calendar right now and see just how full it is with events, parties, and special gatherings.  If it is like mine, it is frightening and double booked for several nights and events.  With all of this running around there is not much time to sit and reflect on the true purpose of Christmas and even less time devoted to spending with just your immediate family.  But you can choose the Mary way instead of the Martha way by adjusting your calendar to spend more time with the most important people in your life.

Can you ever have enough Christmas decorations?  Yes Christmas decorations are fun and do help to put you in the mood for Christmas but when you find yourself angry at your spouse for not helping with the outside lights, frustrated at the kids for breaking a favorite ornament, or annoyed at the cat for destroying the bottom of yet another tree, they are adding to your stress level.  Decorations are meant to be fun but if they are not, then don’t add them.  Martha would be decorating and redecorating, Mary would not.

Of course we are doing another family picture with Santa!  Family pictures are frequently exchanged this time of year and they are always full of smiles and happy faces but life is rarely full of smiles and happy faces.  In fact, I have yet to know of a family who does not go through some struggle in any given year yet we pretend that everything is fine.  This is most hurtful to those who have lost a loved one in the last year and are still struggling with grief.  Martha tried to live up to everyone else’s expectations by preparing a great meal, but Mary chose to focus on the one person that mattered most, Jesus.

This year, take some time to evaluate your traditions and expectations.  Read the section in Luke about Mary and Martha and ask yourself, are you more like Mary or Martha?  Then make the better choice.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.