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.

Are You Making Your Kid Angry?

Technically, no one can “make” you angry unless you give them that right.  While it may seem as though the actions of another person are “making you angry”, in actuality it is your set of experiences, emotions, beliefs, and ideals that cause you to get angry.  For instance, one person may become angry at being cut off while driving while another person may not even notice the action.  The difference between the two people is one person took the action as a personal offense while the other person did not.  The person cutting you off did not “make” you angry; rather you became angry because of how you perceived their action.

So while another person can’t “make” you angry, you can “make” your kid angry.  Why the double standard?  Because your kid is a child and you are an adult.  With maturity comes the ability to temper or control your responses which is the idea of having “self-control”.  But for a child, they have not reached this level of maturity and are unable to demonstrate self-control so they display immature behavior which is characterized by a lack of control over their responses.  Literally, you can “make” a kid feel a certain way because they are not fully in control of their responses.  Therefore, as the adult, you are responsible for “making” your kid angry.  Ephesians 6:4a warns, “Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.”  But just how are you “making” them angry?

Not listening.  Easily hands down the number one complaint kids have about their parents is that they don’t listen to what they are saying.  Too often as a parent, you are trying to get your point across and don’t stop long enough to make sure you understand your child’s point of view.  Then, because they are a child, often they really don’t know what they are really thinking or how they are feeling, so they default to anger.  No, they are not able to speak clearly, they are a child.  No, they are not able to counteract you point by point, they are a child.  But give them some time and soon as teenagers they will become more and more like you, not listening and counteracting you point by point.

Assuming the worst.  Just to make things more complicated, kids don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say.  While this is a nice lesson to teach them, assuming the worst motive or attitude about your child sends a subtle message that they are not valued or their opinion is not valued.  This brings on anger in your child just as you get angry when someone assumes the worst about you.  When you assume the worst about your child, they interprets this as “I am no good”, “I can never do anything right”, or “I am to blame for everything”.  The negative consequences of a child learning this at a young age is that it will not leave them as an adult.  For the rest of their lives, they will struggle with a positive self-image which you helped to foster.

Seeing yourself in them.  When you see your child behaving and speaking just like you while making all the same mistakes you made, there is almost an immediate angry response on your part.  It seems to come out of nowhere, one moment you are able to speak calmly and the next you are flying off the handle.  There is no rhyme or reason except that you were triggered by a past event or mistake and watching your child suffer through the same mistakes you made is more than you can handle.  The problem is that your child doesn’t understand your anger and they instead internalize it.  They become angry with themselves for “making” you angry.  In the moment, you child is not likely to respond badly but give them a couple of years and the resentment will build and turn to intense anger.

Ok, so you have made a few mistakes or more likely, made more than a few mistakes in “making” your child angry but it is not too late.  You can stop “making” them angry by simply doing the opposite of what “made” them angry.  You could listen to what they are really saying, you could assume the best about your child, and you could divorce your behavior from your child’s behavior.  After all, they have their own journey to make based on their own decisions and it is not necessarily the same journey you have made in life.  The decisions they will need to make in the future are made best when not heavily influenced by anger from their parents.

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 Some People Don’t Know Who They Are

Have you ever watched someone struggle with answering a simple open-ended statement such as, “Tell me about yourself”?  They seem to get lost often looking like a deer caught in the headlights and respond with confusion, “Well, what do you mean?”  Or “What do you want to know?”  Occasionally they may even give with overly generic statements that by the end you still have no idea who this person is in front of you.  Their struggle is not because they don’t know how to answer as much as it is because they really don’t know who they are and how they fit in with society.

These adults have not yet mastered Erik Erikson’s fifth psychosocial stage of development called Identity vs. Confusion.  During the years of twelve to eighteen, most teenagers begin the search for who they are in comparison to the other adult and peer influences in their lives.  Around twelve years old, a teen develops the cognitive ability to critical think instead of just rote memorization.  All of the information the teen has learned is now being simulated into their life.  This is why the most frequently asked question by a teen is, “Why did I need to know this for my life” especially when it comes to something they are not interested in such as trigonometry, biochemistry, or metered poetry.

The Psychology.  Developing a sense of identity requires all of the years between twelve and eighteen and cannot be accomplished early.  It is not until the teen has reached past eighteen that a person is able to properly assess whether or not they developed a strong sense of who they are.  Understanding who you are means that you can identify the characteristics, traits, talents, gifts, and interests that distinguish you from the other members of your family or your peers.  Not only can you identify these things but you must also be comfortable and appreciate your uniqueness.  A person who is confused takes on a similar personality to a parent or peer instead of developing their own or they take on a personality designed for them by a parent or peer.  In either case, they do not develop their uniqueness nor take pride in it.

The Never Ending Teen.  A common belief that came out of the 1970’s generation is that a person needs to “find themselves”.  While this is true, it should be done during the teen years and be completed just prior to entering into adulthood, it is not supposed to be a life-long exploration.  The never-ending teen is one who goes to college to have a good time and leaves still having a good time only to move back home when the money runs out usually without any prospect of a career.  They are in a state of confusion as to who they are, what they can contribute, how they fit in, and were they are headed.

The Adult.   Even sadder is an adult who still struggles with these issues twenty or forty years later than they should.  The adult remains confused and frequently blames society, parents, spouse, children, or anyone else for the shortfalls in their life.  This is not to be confused with a mid-life crisis which is entirely different as a person reflects on their life and frequently makes major changes because they are unhappy with the direction they are headed.  Rather, this is a lack of direction from the beginning or a lack of desire to even have a direction.

The Cure.  In order for a person who is confused about their role in life to continue on that journey into adulthood, there must be another person enabling them.  This person makes excuses for them, indulges them, minimizes their behavior, or likes them just the way they are because they are more easily manipulated and controlled.  So to change the confused adult, the adult who is enabling them needs to stop.  Otherwise, the confused adult will have no motivation to change their behavior.  Once this has happened, the confused adult can begin the hard work of figuring out who they really are.

The good part is that God did create everyone for a purpose so the confused adult is not on a pointless journey into never-never-land.  An adult who can identify their special gifts and talents and who knows how to use those gifts and talents contributes well not only to their family but to society.

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.

Why Some People Struggle With Intimacy

Have you met a person who only allows you to know so much before they push you away for no real reason?  Just when you thought you were getting close, they seem to pull back to the beginning of the relationship refusing to go any deeper.  If you challenge them on it, you will be met with such resistance and denial that in the end you might start to believe you are crazy.  Well, you are not.

Interestingly enough, a person who struggles with intimacy can be married, single, divorced, widowed, have children, have friends, be involved in a church or their community.  They can look like the most involved active fun person to be around but in reality it is all a front to keep you at arms’ length.  Erik Erikson’s sixth psychosocial stage of development is Intimacy vs. Isolation which occurs during the ages of eighteen to mid-thirties.  During this time period a person usually explores the idea of being intimate with another person but marriage is not necessarily an indicator if they have learned true intimacy.

The Psychology.  All of the psychosocial stages naturally build on each other just like steps on a staircase as each positive trait that is reached helps to support the positive outcome of the next.  But in the case of this stage, it is strangely essential that all of the other stages have positive outcomes for a person to reach true intimacy.  Some people do not want a positive outcome, preferring to mistrust another person over trusting them, and instead are more satisfied with isolation instead of intimacy.  The cost of intimacy in this example would mean they have to trust another person and this cost is too high of a price to pay.  So they pull back in any relationship that requires them to trust another person.

True Intimacy.  Intimacy and sex are not the same thing.  Intimacy is when you can be completely transparent before another person in your thoughts, actions, emotions and beliefs.  Even though you may have a fear of rejection, abandonment, shame, guilt, doubt, or insecurity, you are still willing to set the fear aside because intimacy is more valuable than the fear.  Contrary to many beliefs, the ability to give intimacy is not dependent on the other person’s response or character; rather it is dependent on the heart of the person giving it.  Sex is designed to be a reflection of that intimacy, a special act that you reserve only for your most intimate partner.

True Isolation.  In contrast, isolation is the choice to separate, segregate or seclude oneself from others.  Usually this decision is born out of fear from a traumatic experience either they personally encountered or one that they witnessed.  The likely result is that the traumatic experience also created a negative result from the corresponding psychosocial stage thus reinforcing the belief that isolation is preferable to intimacy.  For instance a child who is molested during the psychosocial stage of Initiative vs. Guilt feels guilty for the molestation even though they are not responsible for the act.  This guilt as an adult tells them they are not worthy of intimate relationships and therefore should prefer isolation because it is the safer option.  A person can still get married and have children even when they have chosen isolation over intimacy but the closeness or attachment is never developed.

The Cure.  So how can a person who has chosen isolation learn to be intimate?  They must want it enough to process whatever trauma they experienced or witnessed and be willing to heal from the past.  They cannot do this for another person; rather it must be a choice they make for themselves because they value intimacy over isolation.  A relationship with God is very helpful during this process as learning to be intimate with your Creator is foundational to learning to be intimate with others.  Strangely enough, it is actually easier to be intimate with your Creator over another person because He created you and knows you already.  Thus it requires less work on your part because you are already transparent to Him.

Once the foundation of intimacy has been laid with your Creator, the healing process can begin and intimacy can be learned.  It is quite a relief to live your life with someone for whom you do not have to pretend to be anything but what you.  Again, your willingness to be intimate is not dependent on their response, but rather it is a gift that you freely give.

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.

The Power of Unforgiveness

Angry Penguin

Angry Penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

College towns are hard to get around just on foot because of the distance between classes and dorms, so as a college student, I took up bike riding.  One day while riding in the street, granted I was riding in the opposite direction of traffic which is strangely prophetic of my college years, my wheel got caught in an old railroad track causing my bike to twist and overturn.  As my head was falling to the ground, I looked up to see a car headed straight for me.  Suddenly, my life literally flashed before my eyes with all of its highs and lows.  Thankfully the car stopped just before it reached my head and I suffered only a sprained ankle and a fractured arm.

Take a moment and imagine the highs and lows of your life right now, what images or people would pop into your head?  More than likely there are high moments with people and places of great excitement, joy, and love.  More than likely there are also low moments that are still causing you some residual anxiety, stress or anger.  One of the reasons those low moments leave residual emotional scars is because of unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness of past events or people can be powerful and destructive even to your current relationships.

Quick to anger.  if you find yourself quick to get angry over little issues, taking too many things personally,  or to blowing things out of proportion to their significance, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Anger is a powerful emotion that often has its roots in past rather than current events.  Our unresolved past events especially those events that were traumatic in nature creep into our current anger outbursts.

Biting sarcasm.  If you find yourself using biting sarcasm which is sarcasm that takes a dig at another person and find them not laughing or nervously laughing, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Biting sarcasm is anger’s close cousin and it is an effort to mask true feelings of anger and resentment.  Perhaps quicker than an angry outburst, biting sarcasm can destroy a relationship because it is a back-handed attack.

Malicious gossip.  If you find yourself needing to talk to several people about the same issue or person over and over to get just one more perspective, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Gossip is talking about someone behind their back.  Some even go to the lengths to justify their gossip by saying they were just trying to inform or protect someone else.  This is still gossip and your present relationships go on guard each time you talk about someone else behind their back.

Dreaming of revenge.  If you find yourself daydreaming of getting back at someone or seeking out ways to outdo someone else to prove you are better, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Revenge comes in many forms and it does not always have to be physically harmful to another person.  Just wanting a person to get what they deserve, lose a relationship, have financial hardships, or feel pain is vengeful thinking.  Your present relationships will then be in fear of retribution rather than feel your love.

Unforgiveness is powerful in that it gives you the false sense that you are in control.  By harboring the negative feelings, a person can feel like they are in charge.  But sadly, the person or event that caused the unforgiveness is really in control and in charge as you are merely reacting to the person or event.  Take charge of your own life and don’t allow someone else or something else to control what you are doing or how you are reacting.  Better yet, turn your life and your unforgiveness over to God and allow Him to take care of the person or situation.

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.

Saying Good-bye to a Loved One

Every once in a while God gives us the opportunity to say good-bye to a loved one before they pass away.  You may have experienced moments such as this in the past or may be going through it right now.   Either way, it is still difficult to endure.  Nevertheless, these are rare precious moments to be treasured as gifts from God.  Not everyone has the opportunity to say good-bye to a trusted friend, a close family member, a loved one, or a valued mentor.  Some must deal with the shock and loss all at once, but sometimes God graciously grants us an opportunity to say goodbye.  This is a gift that can be used as part of the healing process of letting the person go.  In the moment, such times are difficult to endure, but in the end they are a blessing and are very often helpful in healing from the loss.

In some cases we avoid saying good-bye because we don’t want to admit the end is near.  We don’t know what to say in the moment we see the person or we fear that we will say the wrong thing.  All of these concerns are valid and should not be minimized.  Yet, if we are honest with our feelings and examine each concern separately, we can find the seeds towards healing.

Not wanting to admit the end is near.  Yes there is always hope and God can, and often does, work miracles in the most hopeless situations.  In some of these situations, He performs miracles way beyond our expectations and beyond even our prayers.  In other situations, there is no miracle, there is only waiting for the end of a cherished life.  But the waiting does not need to be wasted; instead it can be used as an opportunity to bring closure to the many lives it affects.  Accepting that a person we love is near death does not mean that we are without hope, rather it means we are facing all of the possibilities and allowing God to choose the best one.  The seeds of healing lie in the continued hope and promise of God that the person we love, as a believer in Jesus Christ, is about to meet their Creator and spend an eternity with Him.

Don’t know what to say.  Spend some time thinking and praying about what you will say before you see the person.  This is not a time to rehash old arguments, talk about the mundane, or discuss the latest medical decision.  Rather, this is a time to extend love by asking for forgiveness if needed, expressing how much the person has meant to you by specifically telling them what they have done for you or given you, and allowing them to speak to you.  When God calls you to spend time with someone before they pass, it is more about allowing them to heal, and at the same time enabling you to heal as well.  These are additional seeds of healing during a difficult time.  The memory of these moments will enable you to know that you have allowed the person passing the awesome opportunity to say what they wanted to say to the person they wanted to say it to.  This is ultimately a gift of peace.

Saying the wrong thing.  Fear is a powerful distracter from doing the things God has called us to do, but you can have victory over fear.  It is an emotion that is useful in situations of potential danger but not useful when we allow it to parallelize us and stop us from completing what we know is right.  If you are unsure what is right, pray.  God in His wisdom will give you an answer.  Just be careful to accept the answer and not wait for another answer that you really want!  Most of the time, the answers come in the most unlikely of places so be open to listening to the Holy Spirit.  Don’t allow fear to stop you from doing what you should do, instead use the fear to propel you to be sensitive to the person and their family during a very difficult time.  The sensitivity you show them and their family is the seed of healing as it demonstrates compassion and love beyond circumstance or feeling.

It is truly a privilege to witness both the beginning and the end of life as in both we become more aware of the awesome power of God mirrored through His creations.  While the passing of a life is sad, for the person will be missed, the knowledge of their salvation is the hope we can continue to bring the generations yet to come.  This is the beginning of healing from our loss.

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.