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If you missed my interview with Robert Shryoc, Founder and CEO of Stonegate Center, a recovery community for men struggling with addictions, you really should take time to check it out. On the program, we talked about some of the lies we tend to tell ourselves when we are stuck in a negative cycle, habit, or addiction. You do not want to miss it! You can tune in to the program by clicking here.

Tonight on the program, I am revisiting a topic that I posted several weeks ago: the three people that you need in your life to succeed. I got such a good response from people about how helpful they found it that I decided to do a radio show about it. If you happened to miss the post, you can read the original below or tune into the program tonight on KCBI 90.9 at 6:30pm or 10:30pm CDT, or click on the link here after 7 pm to hear it in it’s entirety. Also, be sure to tune in next week as well. I will be talking with Stephanie Coker, a licensed social worker who has both personal and clinical experience working with those who are emotionally fragile. Stay tuned for more great guests and topics in the months ahead!! :

So, there you are…reeling at the news, a look of utter shock undeniably written all over your face. That exciting opportunity for which you had trouble falling asleep the night before is now the shattered hope that will keep you up tonight!

The work you put into the dream – the planning, the time, the networking, the energy – all seems now like a complete waste of time. And what hurts the most? The whole thing would have worked out if not for the interference of other people! Why couldn’t they catch the dream? Why couldn’t they get the vision? Why couldn’t they see in me what I know I have to give?

People will tell you, “Well, it just wasn’t meant to be?” Is that supposed to be comforting? I mean really…if it wasn’t meant to be, then why did I kill myself thinking it was? Why couldn’t somebody have seen that earlier, told me, and saved me a whole lot of trouble? If it wasn’t meant to be, then what is meant to be? Is there any point, any good that I can take away from this defeat?

My response? No doubt…there is!

Now, I’m not going to go into a bunch of platitudes about “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” or “this will build character in your life.” I know these are true, but they usually don’t help much in the face of such a tremendous disappointment. Instead, I want you to focus on the original passion that led you into this seemingly lost endeavor in the first place. I can almost guarantee you that it wasn’t about money, power for power’s sake, popularity, or pure pleasure. It was always about people. You had something that you wanted to give, something to contribute, a need to know and be known, a need to accept and be accepted, a hope to empower and be empowered. You haven’t lost faith in the dream…you’ve lost faith in people!!

So what do you do? How do you keep this disappointment from completely tainting your love, faith, and hope in others and making you a bitter, cynical person?

Let me suggest that you start by envisioning three people in your mind. Keep these people with you through the trial. Give them a face, a name, a legacy, and a future with you. They are as follows:

  1. The person you are striving for: This is the person that more than likely you started your mission to reach. I asked a factory worker installing seatbelts in automobiles who he was striving for. He said, “That little girl, just like my daughter, whose life will be saved because of me.” A teacher recently told me it was “that kid who really can succeed but everyone else in his life keeps telling him that he cannot!” Who are you striving for? He or she will be the one who gets you back up on your feet when you face a roadblock on the way to your dream. If you do not have someone like this in mind, create them. Be as detailed as possible. Give them a name. Envision their face before you when you are feeling discouraged. No venture in life will succeed if you are pursuing it for purely selfish gain. Your work will be so much more satisfying, even in times of failure, if you are striving for another.
  2. The person you are striving with: Somewhere in this world, there is someone who has gone through or is going through exactly what you are. They need you! They need your story! If you hole-up in isolation and coddle your hurt, keep it to yourself and refuse to share it, you will miss out on the connections you could have made with people who want to give and receive strength for the journey. Your heart will overflow when you meet them: a kindred spirit you might never have known otherwise. I interviewed a woman who said, “I thought I was all alone, but a whole world opened up to me when I opened up to it. It was like walking through a fog of loneliness for so long and then suddenly stumbling upon a campfire, burning bright and hot, surrounded by people celebrating a journey not yet finished but sure to end well. They were ready to walk along with me. My heart glowed for the first time!”
  3. The person you are striving toward:This isn’t as simple as a WWJD bracelet with which you snap your wrist each time a problem arises. It is, however, visualizing that one individual that you want to be and asking yourself how your pain can make you more like him or her. I’ve been reading a kids version of Pilgrim’s Progress to my children at night before bed, and so for me right now, I’ve been visualizing the character, Faithful. He’s the one who entered the town of Vanity Fair and was dragged into the courts by the town’s people. Despite all the tempting and laughing and brutality he experienced for being different, he stood strong in his mission, even to death. That’s who I want to be. I know I’m not perfect in that regard. I know I have a long way to go with lots of setbacks, but I keep that story in my mind and it helps. What about you? Who do you want to become? Perhaps he or she is a real person or a fictional character that embodies all the qualities you long for. Tell yourself that this setback is an opportunity to become more like them and determine to be that same person others aspire to be. It will make all the difference.

Questions: How do you keep from getting cynical about life and love when you’ve faced a hurt or setback? Are their ways that you have found helpful to keep you motivated? If you had someone in mind to strive for, with, and toward, who would they be?

 

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Tonight, on For Christ and Culture, I interview Kevin Gilliland of Innovation 360, a treatment program designed to help individuals struggling with overcoming addictions and mental illnesses. I encourage you to tune into the program, which aires on 90.9 KCBI, at 6:30pm and 10:30pm CST. You can also listen on your own time any time after 7:30pm CST by clicking here.

On the program, we discuss the struggles that many parents have in successfully launching their teenagers and emerging adults from the home. How do we motivate our kids toward a healthy change of mind and equip them to struggle well?

Based on our discussion during the program, here are my top 3 answers:

1. Find out what currently motivates them.  What are your teenager’s interests, passions, or desires. Open up the conversation with them and work to figure out what makes them tick. You may be thinking, “Well, nothing seems to motivate my kids. All they want to do is sit around and play video games.” This does not mean they are not motivated. It means that their is something about sitting around playing video games that is motivating to them. Find out what that is and you are well on your way to helping them succeed in other areas.

2. Begin to let them struggle. Part of the reason why a teenager sits around playing video games all day is because there is nothing or no one challenging them to do anything else. As parents, because we love our children, we fear the possibility of them facing pain. What can happen is without knowing it, we begin to pick up the slack for their decisions and so they do not have to face the inherent struggles of life. This fosters their complacency and makes them more sensitive to minor challenges. Think about it. If you lie on the couch all day for days on end, your muscles atrophy and lose their functioning. If this behavior (or lack thereof) goes on long enough, you may find yourself lying on the couch not because you want to but because you can do nothing else. If we do not let our kids struggle, they will not have the strength to face greater and greater challenges as time passes.

3. Check your own motivations. If you are unable to step back and let your son or daughter experience the challenges inherent to a life well-lived, you have to confront the reasons why. What struggles would you have to experience in order to launch your son or daughter? Perhaps it is loneliness, fear of failure as a parent, embarrassment, the fear of more work in the future if they come back battered and bruised. Whatever the struggle, you must acknowledge how your fear of facing it may be influencing the decisions you are making with your kids.

Ultimately, we all desire hope. Hope that we will succeed in the struggle. Hope that the pain will be worth the reward. To struggle well, you must have hope that the challenges are worth the risk. Remember, God does not cause pain without allowing something new to be born. Remember this the next time you step back and allow your son or daughter to experience some pain in their lives. Do not feel guilty. Check your motivations and recognize that ultimately, you want what is best for them. If you want them to grow, you’ve got to let them struggle. Struggle well!!

Question: What are the challenges that you have had to overcome and what tips can you give someone who is seeking to struggle well through life?

Please sign up for the blog by clicking the link on the left hand column that says subscribe, follow me on facebook at David Livingstone Henderson, MD or twitter @DaveHendersonMD. Also, if you are interested in more information about Innovation 360, you can check out their website, www.i360life.com.  

How are your fears keeping you chained to the same old destructive patterns in your life? Are you ready for real freedom? Then you will want to tune in to the show tonight on 90.9 KCBI at 6:30pm or 10:30pm CST or listen online after 7:00pm by clicking here.

This evening on For Christ and Culture, my special guest is Michelle Borquez, author of the book, God Crazy, and creator and host of the women’s conference, The God Crazy Freedom Experience. Michelle will be talking to us about what true freedom looks like and how her personal journey of redemption led her to become a powerful advocate and coach for women struggling with the pressures of a superficial culture. When the glitz and the glamour fades, Michelle knows how to find true satisfaction and freedom in relationships, the most important of which is our relationship with a God that loves us completely. If you are interested in signing up for her upcoming conference here in the Metroplex on April 17th, 2014 at 7:00pm, click here. It will be at North Point Church in Fort Worth. Tickets are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot today.

For those of you who don’t know Michelle, God has used her mightily. In 1999, she founded “Shine”, a general interest women’s publication highlighting articles on fashion, travel and health. As Editor-in-Chief she interviewed well known leaders, such as First Lady Laura Bush, Anne Graham Lotz, Michael W. Smith, Kurt Warner, Chuck and Gena Norris, Beth Moore, and many others. Shine published 9 years with over 40,000 subscribers. In 2005 Michelle hosted and co-produced I-Life Television’s “SHINE with Michelle Borquez” on INSP that aired internationally for two years. Michelle is also Creator, Producer, and Host of the recently released, 8 week DVD series for women,” Live Again After Divorce” available at liveagaindvd.com and is host for Beth Moore’s “Loving Well” Television Special and national spokesperson for “GLO” Bible. She has authored numerous books, “Live Laugh Love Again,” “God Crazy” “Overcoming the Seven Deadly Emotions” “Forever God Crazy,” “God Crazy Freedom”, and the “God Crazy Freedom Series”.

Question: What’s your story of redemption? Sign up for my blog and email me your story and I may feature it on a future blog post. Help encourage others who may need your words of hope in their life! “It is always the deepest mine, the darkest cave, or the loneliest desert that holds the richest treasure…”

Twitter: @DaveHendersonMD

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We have come to the last “P” in our series on the four P’s of Conflict. As a reminder, the previous three are Power, Preservation, and Purpose. The last is PERCEPTION.  Have you ever had a misunderstanding? Conflicts of perception result in two ways. The first is when two people entrenched on opposing sides of an issue fail to understand intellectually and empathically the positions of their opponent. The second is when we question or misperceive the intentions and/or character of the individuals involved.

Example 1: The perception – “Man, she is so pushy. I just don’t get why she makes such a big deal about politics. I mean, really! Is God in control or isn’t He?” The response: “Why does he refuse to pull his head out of the sand?! If we don’t stand up for what is right, who will?” The conflict: activism vs. passivism. Note that both sides probably have valid experiences that shaped their philosophies. Their emotions flare because they can’t or won’t understand the other.

Example 2: The perception – “That guys house is lavish! He must be one of those shallow socialites who have to one up everybody else!” The response – “Oh no, it’s one of those “holier than thou” vow-of-poverty types who relishes condemning others for enjoying a few of life’s modern comforts.” The conflict: Theology of stewardship. Here, both individuals are in the wrong because of their misperception of each other.

Think about how often our mistaken perceptions of the ideas and character of others create disunity and confrontation in our relationships. “He’s just lazy, she’s just stubborn, they are selfish, snobby, etc.” The rifts that result have damaged our families, our schools, our churches, our businesses and more. But even if our perceptions are correct, we fall short of resolving conflict if we do not seek to understand what has made each of us the way we are and work to empower each other to change. This being said, I’d like to give a few tips on dealing with conflicts of perception:

Regarding Cues: Clarify what’s communicated. We communicate verbally and nonverbally. Both are susceptible to misperception. Effective conflict resolution requires identifying and clarifying social cues. Fritz Pearls, the father of Gestalt therapy, was a master at picking up on the nonverbal cues in conversations. He would often ask clients to exaggerate certain shifts in body position to heighten clients’ awareness of hidden emotions. We certainly don’t need to be this confrontational in our everyday relationships, but we can ask for clarification when the messages we are receiving don’t add up: “You say you’ve forgiven me, but you cringe when I try to touch you. Is there something more you’ve not told me?” “I notice it’s been hard for you to make eye contact during our conversation. Is there something I can do to make you more comfortable?” Understand that some people will chose to remain unengaged. They will resist such attempts for transparency, but don’t be deterred. Your attempts at clarifying will serve you well in the long run.

Regarding the Past: Know but Don’t Go!  As human beings, we like to categorize people and situations. This mental referencing is a natural way to improve our efficiency in dealing with common situations. You might think of it like the autocorrect on your phone when you text. But sometimes we make initial assumptions based on past experiences that are incorrect. We must stay judgment and give people the benefit of the doubt if we are to resolve conflict. Know your past experiences, but avoid drawing conclusions from them until you have all the facts from the current situation!

Regarding Motives: Trust but verify! We all know the passage in the Bible that says, “People look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) This is certainly true during conflict. We can never really know the motives of others, but to engage in conflict effectively, we must have some faith in people. Otherwise, why bother? If you have trust issues in a particular relationship, deal with that first. Then address the specifics of the conflict. If the pattern of someone’s behavior points to an overriding desire for Power or Preservation, then seek outside help from a counselor or trusted mutual friend. If you’ve been burned in the past, bring healing to your wounds by acknowledging and learning from the pain. Don’t surrender to a life of isolation!

Questions: How has your perception of a particular problem affected your relationship with people in your life? What happened when you took the time to clarify your misperceptions? Did it help to resolve the conflict?

Conflict is inevitable. The end result is not. How we handle conflict can make or break our careers, our friendships, our families, and our relationship with God. Knowing why we engage in conflict can help us to determine the purpose for it and the way to address it. I have found four overarching causes of conflict, what I call the 4 P’s: Power, Preservation, Purpose and Perception. I’d like to explore each one of these in the next several posts. 

Power. Power is our desire to control people and circumstances. Because we all have a will, the assertion of our will eventually infringes on the will of others. This is not necessarily a problem if two people are focused on the issue that must be resolved. Our wills become a problem, however, when we are unwilling to sacrifice them, when we make the fulfillment of our desires the ultimate goal rather than the resolution of the conflict at hand. There are times that we should stand strong, refuse to back down, and assert ourselves for a just cause. All too often, however, the assertion of our wills is over “who should do the dishes this time” or “I don’t like my bosses way of filing performance evaluations.” Many of us just don’t like to be wrong and we will avoid admitting it at all costs.

 So how can we address the first P (Power): 

  1. Examine your motives. Why are you engaging in the conflict? Is this battle really worth fighting? What will be at stake if you lose? Your reputation, your rights, your sense of control? Are you focused on resolution or on winning? Being aware of your motives will help you to gage whether or not you should take your stand.
  2. Be willing to yield. We usually enter conflict thinking that we are in the right. Still, we must maintain a teachable attitude or else we fall back into arguing just to win a fight, not to resolve a difficult situation. Remember, your perspective is only one side of the coin. If you cannot acknowledge that other people might have a different view, one from which you could learn, then you will be missing out on the true value of conflict. Iron sharpens iron.
  3. Acknowledge authority. I think we all struggle with this one. Who is in charge? Ultimately, conflict is resolved by one person submitting to the will of another. This is why we have government, family, church, and business structure. We all answer to someone. If you are ever in doubt, submit to the higher authority. Ex: if your spouse asks you to do something illegal, submit to the society’s rules. If the government wants you to do something immoral, submit to God’s authority. I recently had someone ask me, “So what if I could get in trouble either way.” Well, then decide which side you’d rather get in trouble for following! It is important to note that most people’s final authority is SELF. If this is true for you, remember that in conflict, you might win the battle for SELF, but the casualties of war will leave you all alone with only your SELF. In that sense, you’ve lost either way.
  4. Clean up after yourself. Conflict has a way of leaving a mess of hurt feelings, broken trust, and defeated spirits in its wake. We usually focus on power in the midst of conflict, but we can also have power in the aftermath of conflict by taking the initiative to restore, revitalize, and empower those with whom we have had the conflict. The message must be clear. “I value you, despite our disagreement.” Perhaps you have been beaten up by conflict and that message has not been conveyed. Find another source who can fill you up and let you know that you are loved!

 What have you found to be helpful when dealing with the inevitable power struggles that arise in relationships? How have you handled your own desire for power as it confronts that desire in other?

“I’ve never told this to anyone but you.” For me, this is the saddest statement a client can make to me. So many individuals and families feel a deep sense of loneliness and isolation, even those who are connected with the local body of Christ. They feel lost when it comes to finding an authentic community that will walk with them through their hurts, their failures, and their triumphs.

At a roundtable discussion this weekend in Katy, Tx, we were challenged to consider how the church can better support the nuclear family in dealing with the dysfunction that every one of us has hidden behind our white pickett fences, manicured lawns, and pristine porticos. For me, there are several solutions, all of which were reinforced to me in a message given at our church this Sunday. The passage was Hebrews 13:1-6. Here were the summary points I developed from what I heard:

1. Host intentionally (vs 1-2) – We have become so program-oriented in our culture that we delegate the responsibility of fostering community to an organization, namely the church. I have said this often, but churches are not to be the locus of community. The home should!! Churches need to teach their members what it means to be hospitable. Some of the most authentic people I have known are those who open their homes to strangers. This may feel awkward at first, even terrifying, but the rewards are so worth it. If you want to open up to others and them to do the same, then open your home. Be intentional about the informal moments of life. You just might entertain (and be entertained by) angels.

2. Heal wholly (vs 3) – When working with those struggling with depression, I often find myself saying, “Look beyond your own pain.” Not only is this good for distraction, but it increases a sense of purpose that many depressed individuals lack. When one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. Therefore, to heal ourselves, we must heal others as well. Hebrews tells us to visit those who are in prison. What prisons do we find ourselves in? The prisons of addiction, loneliness, bitterness, pride, doubt, guilt, painful memories. Who is your family helping to heal? What ministries does your church have to the poor, the widows, and the fatherless. This is pure and undefiled religion! It’s time to stop consuming as families and start serving as families.

3. Honor Absolutely (vs. 4) – In this life, there are absolutes. Marriage is one of them. If you want to honor the family (see it remain strong and healthy), then honor marriage. Marriage is the foundation of the family and the family is the foundation of the rest of society. Churches are responsible for encouraging fathers to be the spiritual leaders in their home, mothers to nuture and support, and children to honor their parents. But what other absolutes do you stand for? Does your family share any convictions? Our postmodern world is always questioning and never answering. Some people may resent you for your convictions but stand by them. In doing so, you will help to establish a community with clear boundaries, one that will give a true sense of belonging to those who choose to join.

4. Hold loosely (vs. 5) – Dallas is the city of the Jones’s…and everyone is trying to keep up with them. Why are we surprised, then, when our churches do the same thing? We look at the membership rolls, the size of the auditorium, the media equipment, the revenue, the clout of our members, the entertainment for our children and we call that success. If this is the case, then what is the  church teaching the family? Listen: coming to church in jeans and t-shirts is not a measure of how accepting a church is. If we want families to learn contentment, then we better start showing it in our church! If someone has a song to sing to the Lord and they don’t hit all the right notes, is that a crime? If a man has been spoken to by God this past week, do we silence him because he does not have a seminary degree? Is it right to hire outside consultants to teach us how to use psychology to manipulate the minds and emotions of our congregations to give more money to the mega-building fund? Perhaps if we stopped flaunting and fleeing consumerism in our churches, we might see our families follow suit.

5. Herald confidently (vs. 6) – as we honor God individually and as families, we can proclaim confidently “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Authentic community is so because it has nothing to fear from the outside. It can speak its message clearly and directly with open arms…no hidden agendas, no alterior motives, just truth in love. That’s the kind of community I want to be apart of!!

Question: Where have you found authentic community? What are the qualities or attributes that make it so?

The Balswicks decribe Marriage as a covenant relationship consisting of four pillars: commitment, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. All of these are inter-related, starting with commitment. When two people are commited to each other in covenant, they both must develop deeper spirits of grace toward one another as imperfect beings. This grace provides greater freedom/empowerment knowing that you will not be kicked to the curb when you stumble, even fall. Grace also allows for deeper intimacy as couples share their struggles with one another. This deeper knowledge and emotional connection fosters more grace and empowerment and strengthens the commitment of the couple as one.

There are obstacles that keep us from building these strong pillars in our relationships. When we set aside our commitment to another person and instead seek instant gratification, when we suppress grace and maintain unyielding expectancy, when we substitute empowerment for mutual codependency, or when we react defensively or dishonestly avoiding intimacy, the foundation of our relationships will crumble.

My challenge for you today is this: Give a specific example of how couples can either strengthen or weaken each of the four pillars of oneness.

In the Balswicks’ book, The Family, they list four different ingredients for a strong family:

Cohesion – the ability of each member to recognize his/her individuality and the uniqueness of other members, but still come together to function as a single unit.

Adaptability – the ability to be flexible but maintain stability in the home.

Communication – the ability to clearly present emotions/ideas to family members as well as rightly interpret those same emotions/ideas as presented by others in the family.

Role Structure – Clearly defined roles for each member with well established (but not inflexible) boundaries between them.  

 Questions: Which of these do you think is most important for a family to survive? How have you seen these qualities work within your own family and in other families you have observed? What are the consequences when this kind of structure breaks down? (Please avoid naming names 🙂

photo courtesy of www.concurringopinions.com

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I am a board certified psychiatrist, author, speaker in private practice with Southwest Clinical and Forensics in Dallas Tx. I also serve as an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I have a passion for helping people through painful circumstances, be they physical illnesses of the brain, psychological conditions of the mind, social problems of everyday life, and/or spiritual crises of faith and worldview.

Disclaimer

All information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a professional evaluation or treatment. If you are experiencing emotional distress, please contact a mental health professional. Dr. Henderson cannot respond to inquiries about prescription refills, or medical or psychiatric emergencies over the internet. If you are a patient in need of assistance, please contact Dr. Henderson’s office directly, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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