Archive for the ‘lies’ Tag

How I Cope   3 comments

PAIN

Before I share how Kimberly and I grew in our wonderful, painful, scary and supportive relationship, I need to give some context regarding our perspective on coping mechanisms.  

All of us are wounded because we are born into a broken world with broken people and broken relationships.  In order to survive emotionally we develop methods for protecting ourselves.  These include the happy face, the sad face, the angry face, the cute face to hold off the dis-grace of others.  We use control, manipulation, confrontation, and every other form of avoidance (procrastination, withdrawal, acquiescence, drugs).  The list goes on.  We use these methods unwittingly, settling into a pattern that works best for each.  Many children would be emotionally destroyed if they found no means to cope.

I was at one time convinced that coping strategies were evil because they shielded us from the truth and taught us to live a lie.  They do shield us from the truth, but this is not necessarily an evil.  As Jack would say, “You can’t handle the truth!” or in Jesus’ words, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  Our coping mechanisms act as crutches, and if we see them as such, we can slowly mend and get back on our feet.  The problem comes when we either deny the injury and pretend we have no crutch or stop going to physical therapy because it is too painful and decide we’ll just sign up for a disability pension.  I used to try talking people out of their coping mechanisms, kick their crutches out from under them so to speak, until I realized how powerfully beneficial these protective shields are.

My major coping mechanism for feeling better about myself is trying harder.  I thought I was practicing discipline, obedience, godliness, but increased effort was really my means to block a sense of shame and unworthiness.  I only discovered this truth because my method of coping didn’t “work” sufficiently–I still felt too much like a failure.  The more energy I used to escape my negative feelings, the more I realized it wasn’t working, that I could never make it work.

Once I realized that this was a coping mechanism, I tried to “overcome” it.  It was a lie that I had to cast out…  only it had stopped deceiving me once I recognized it for what it was.  When I realized it was a crutch, I could use it as a crutch.  For instance, I feel inordinately bad about failing to meet expectations (the inordinate part is a major clue).  When I did not recognize this as a coping strategy, it controlled me subconsciously.  Now that I realize it is a crutch, I am tempted to throw it down, but the problem is not so much my behavior (trying harder) but the reason behind it–working to earn my worth.

The Dark Hand of Shame

So my second temptation is to maintain my hard effort while changing the underlying thought patterns, but the effort itself supports the wrong mindset.  I am running late for a meeting, and as I drive I tell myself, “It’s okay.  Everyone is sometimes late.  Calm down,” but all the while I am driving like Jehu.  I find that I can’t maintain the same level of diligence without operating out of a sense of urgency, a drivenness that comes from my insecurities.  The more I try to give myself a break, the less I meet expectations, and the worse I feel about me.  These voices of condemnation have indoctrinated me and shaped my feelings, and barring a miracle, it will take a long process of reorienting my perspective.  In the meantime I do not have the emotional resources to simply stop all effort to meet others’ expectations and hold back the resulting flood of shame.  I would be overwhelmed by the voices against me feeding my shame.  My coping mechanism allows for my frayed emotions to be soothed as I slowly push into my fear and break free.

So I take baby steps, put a little weight on the foot.  I put in a little less effort while working to offload the shame that I would normally feel, turning a little more towards grace.  I share with others my fears so that their power is reduced.  I find gracious people to support my faltering faith.  And slowly I find myself growing whole from this deep wound.  Healing of long established problems, both physical and emotional, takes a lot of time, gentleness to the injury, support and protection.

Posted October 5, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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The Lies that Bind   1 comment

When I was struggling with a deep sense of inadequacy and shame as a pastor in Arlington, a friend recommended a counseling couple.  As I sat with them in their living room, they explained that my poor self-worth came from believing lies, especially lies about God.  That may have been true, but it only made my sense of humiliation worse.  Not only did I feel shame, but I was wrong for feeling shame.  It is hard to hear, “You are deceived,” and feel positive about yourself, and “The God you worship is a false god,” is not particularly comforting either.

If this couple had identified with and shown empathy for my struggles, it would have made a huge difference.  They could have said, “We have all been tricked into believing lies foisted on us by family, church, and culture.  We are the victims of these deceptions.”  This may have really been their thought, but I could not get past the shame of living a lie.  When I asked Kimberly, “Doesn’t my anger or sadness or fear point to something that should not be in my heart, some skewed perspective for which I am guilty?” the question itself seems to invite a shaming answer.

“Well, did you know these beliefs were false?” she asked.  “Did you deliberately avoid the truth?  When you were at last shown the way did you run from it?”

“No,” I said, “I set my feet to it, not perfectly, but as best I could in spite of the fear and pain.”

“Yes, something is in your heart that should not be there, just like Somali pirates should not be on oil tankers, but you are no more guilty of it than the ship’s captain.  You did not create this darkness, but are rather victimized by it.  Don’t shame yourself for these lies which deceived you, but have compassion on yourself for the harm you still suffer because of them.”

Such soothing words of grace!  If I keep shaming myself for my struggles, it will push me away from God’s grace.  I’m afraid that if I openly admit what a mess I am, God will agree and put me on the bench till I get my act together.  Instead he embraces me and says, “I’ve been waiting for you to discover your wounds and show them to me so that I can begin to heal them.”

Emotions often reveal the unhealthiness of my heart.  If I rebuke and punish myself for this junk, I become more lost in the mazes of my shame and more afraid of the truth.  I’ve discovered that when I show myself compassion, like a child who is sick, the truth loses its monster mask and I am much more able to open my heart to it.  The truth comes to me as a companion and help rather than a testy and impatient headmaster.

Posted August 6, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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