Guilt-free!

Guilt.  It is something that plagues each one of us.  Show me a person who does not experience guilt and I will show you someone who is either dead or a sociopath.  It is not pleasant to be weighed down with guilt.  It is oppressive.  It is suffocating.  It is distracting.  I wonder how much time we spend each day battling guilt.

I encourage people to be free from guilt.  A person calls me with emotions connected to some distant event.  They are tormented by what ifs.  Or, there is that strong people-pleasing tendency in many people that suffers guilt whenever a person seems to be disappointed by that person’s actions or response.  Oftentimes, people do not want to be free from guilt.  It provides an identity for them.  The tricky part is that we oftentimes don’t realize there are different forms of guilt with each requiring a different response.  Discerning the exact nature of the guilt is helpful to knowing how to remove it.

Good guilt.  God uses this guilt to change and convict us.  It is good for us.  Good guilt is an emotional response to the conviction that occurs in our hearts when we do something bad.  We lie to someone resulting in guilt.  The guilt remains until we confess to God and if necessary the other person.  In the event we do not confess, our consciences grow hard.  We should not suppress this guilt.  It benefits us.  Its purpose is to keep us close to God.

False guilt.   Imagine someone invites you to coffee.  Yet, you are not able to attend because you have something else planned for that time.  When you talk to the person they lament how much they would have enjoyed getting together with you.  The person expresses disappointment.  As you get off the phone you feel guilt.  This is false guilt.  You did nothing wrong.  You legitimately could not make the appointment.  This guilt arises from someone else making you feel bad over some expectation.  This guilt is not helpful to us.  It prompts us to be people-pleasers by making sure we never disappoint someone.  Run from this guilt!

Identity guilt.  Identity guilt attacks the character of a person.  Some people have a narrative in their mind that nothing they do or say is good.  Typically, they have been beaten up in life; therefore, they begin to believe they are worthless.  In their minds, they begin to think their existence is a waste.  As a result, they do not seek help from others.  They do not socialize.  They are depressed.  This guilt focuses on blessings and self-worth.  They do not believe anything good should happen to them because they are “worthless.”  When something good does occur, they feel guilt because they do not believe they deserve it.  This guilt is very damaging as it assaults our identity in God.  God creates us as beautiful.  God celebrates our uniqueness.  Blessings are poured on us because He loves us.  We should celebrate this not feel bad about them.  Discard this guilt from our minds!

Guilt comes in different forms.  They key is determining how best to respond.  Good guilt leads to freedom and joy; false and identity guilt results in bondage.  Christ became guilt so that we would not have to remain in it.  Sadly, we continue to wallow in it even through freedom is available.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:22

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Civility. I think not.

I strive to teach my kids civility and decorum.  There is an expectation of a certain gravitas when in public.  Manners are important.  It is good to be polite and kind to those around you.  Even if it is a stranger that person is worthy of dignity.  Every person is a human being with feelings and opinions and value.

Respect is essential.  Both my wife and I were raised in homes where one respected their elders and those in authority.  This same mentality we have instilled in our kids.  You refer to an adult as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Even if there are qualities you do not admire in a person, you keep those opinions to yourself unless a moral issue is at stake.  It is a joy to see these qualities take root in them.

We have had numerous conversations in our home about appropriate language.  One of the reasons we discourage profanity is that it makes a person look less intelligent.  Choose words that reflect your education.  Furthermore, do not attack a person’s character but rather interact honestly and even disagreeably with their ideas.  We want them to display leadership – qualities to which others will aspire.  that others will aspire to.

Sadly, these qualities have been absent from the presidential candidates.  I have been watching the political process with great interest this year.  The proposals are diverse.  The candidates are galvanizing.  I am very curious as to how this is going to shake down in a few months.  Eager to hear some substantive dialogue I turned into the Republican Debate on Saturday night.  Based on previous debates my expectations were not sky high as I figured there would be some fireworks.  However, I was disgusted at the juvenile discourse on display.  I could only stomach about 20 minutes of the debate.  I decided to watch some mind-numbing program rather than continue to grow frustrated at what was on display by our “national leaders.”  I told my daughter that it was something I would expect from a 4th grade class (well probably not even that).  Interruptions.  Insults.  Screaming.  The word “loser” was used dozens of times.  Character assaults were common.  I would not have been surprised to see someone throw a tantrum and go storming off the stage.  Sadly, the audience was no better as it seemed they were encouraging this deplorable behavior.  I don’t even think this behavior would be tolerated in kindergarten.

Wow.  One of these individuals could very well be our next president.  I might have been looking at someone who would represent the United States around the world.  These are the individuals that I am supposed to say to my children, “This is true leadership.  This is how you conduct yourself in public.”  My daughter loves to debate.  I would love to be able to watch the interactions and discuss how engaging, thoughtful, and informed the responses were.  Rather, I am showing her clips as to what not to do.  Sad.  Tragic.

Where are the leaders that we can look up to?  Unfortunately, this void of true leadership is not simply reserved for politics.  Whether it is athletes or famous musicians, it seems one has to look pretty hard to find a leader that shines with integrity, self-sacrifice, and restraint.  Scripture encourages leaders to be people of respect – individuals that model character and godliness in our communities.  Perhaps, there is an opportunity for the church to shine with true leadership in the absent of it in the world.

It’s a commercial. Extremism vs. Persuasion

I am always amazed at the bizarre nature of some Super Bowl commercials.  A strange baby/monkey/puppy creature topped my list.  It is hard to believe that a company chose to use that as their shining moment on primetime TV.  Hyundai’s “First Date” with Kevin Hart (I can see myself responding as Kevin Hart did) and Helen Mirren’s warning to not drink and drive were my favorites.

One commercial created some controversy.  Doritos aired a commercial showing a woman having an ultrasound while her husband ate chips.  As he moved the chip around, the baby responded to it.  It reached for it and even attempted to exit the womb when the Dorito was thrown across the room.  It was funny.  It was clever.  It was a commercial.  Yet, there has been outrage since its airing by pro-abortions groups.  They state the commercial “humanized” the fetus.  Apparently, they did not like such human features and movements by a baby while still in the womb.  Regardless of the fact that I think fetuses are human, I think their response is ridiculous.  I don’t believe that the parent company of Doritos was intending to make a political or moral statement.  They were looking to make a clever commercial that would promote their product.

The reaction has made me wonder when convictions become extremism.  I think this is an extreme reaction to a commercial.  On the other side, there are most likely Christians who are overreacting to some humanistic commercial.  Granted, I am a big proponent of convictions.  A person without firm beliefs is someone who waffles throughout life.  Furthermore, every person is entitled to a set of values from which to frame their life.  My worldview is built upon my Christian faith.  This foundation informs how I approach life.  I believe my convictions are true and right.  I stand on my values even if it means great sacrifice.  I have no difficulty sharing my beliefs with other people.  To be honest, they really wouldn’t be convictions if I am not willing to public advocate for them.

Extremism on the other hand takes it a step further.  It demands that another person believe like you do.  An extreme person gets irritated if you disagree with them.  In some cases, they look at you strangely believing you are an idiot for not agreeing with them.  Or, they become quite aggressive with you in the hope to force you to adopt their position.  In contrast, a person with convictions strives to persuade you.  They are very different things.  If I have strong convictions I should persuade but I have no right to demand.  Persuasion preserves humility that another person’s feelings and opinions matter; extremism dismisses another person’s feelings and opinions.  Persuasion views another person with human dignity; extremism views others as opponents.  Persuasion is open to dialogue; extremism seeks conquest.

When I look at the ministry of Christ, I see persuasion.  He offered eternal convictions but did not force them on another person.  This demeanor contrasts with the Pharisees who demanded allegiance to a specific set of beliefs and values.  Yes, in my opinion, the reaction to the commercial is an example of extremism.  Yet, I am reminded that there are times where my convictions, if not bathed in prayer and grace, can easily lead to extremism as well.

Compartmentalization: Good or Bad?

Compartmentalization is a good thing.  Oftentimes, it is what gets me through the day.  I am able to experience a difficulty and put it in a box for another time.  Or, if I am enjoying a day off, I can place all my ministry responsibilities in the mental drawer listed as “church” and close it for the day.  In fact, I have a drawer for just about everything.  From my understanding, this is not unusual for most men.  In fact, there is a running joke that men also have an empty box.  We open this box when we don’t want to think about anything.  This is box most associated with watching sports or fishing.  The mind goes blank.

Compartmentalization is a bad thing.  It is harder to make broad connections to divergent issues since everything is in a separate box.  Sometimes, it is hard to empathize with someone as I think “Just close the box for the day.”  Or, and most tragic, I bottle up issues that should be processed.  I close the drawer for another day without realizing that the emotions are still in my heart.  The issues bubble and percolate up during parts of the day.  I find myself irritable or frustrated, only to realize that the closed box is rattling in my soul.

In thinking about the human tendency to compartmentalize life I realize that it is quite humanistic.  It is a means by which I can control the disturbances in life, e.g. stress, problems, or frustrations.  I file it nice and neatly.  I close the door.  I lock it away.  I control it.  Yet, life is not so clean.  Stress manifests itself.  Frustrations spill over to family.  Life goes sideways.  I can try all I want to control life but at the end of the day I really can’t.

A better option is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the boxes.  I should allow all areas of my life to be influenced by the calming, convicting work of the Spirit.  I shouldn’t control them but allow God to control them.  I shouldn’t close them up for the day only to open them when I want to.  I should keep them open so that the Spirit can work in me.

Yet, is it not sufficient simply to allow God to work in each box.  I need to be open to Him connecting the boxes.  Life is integrated.  Work influences family, family influences church, church influences friends.  Therefore, if we have stress at work it will impact the other areas of life.  Rather than seal them off, we should allow God to work across the boxes for our good.  We should be open to someone encouraging me at church so that it can then spill over to work.  Be honest with your spouse about frustrations in life so that he or she can be an agent of God in those situations.  Don’t simply vent about them; invite the connections so that God’s transcendent spirit can work through all of life.

Life is holistic, not segregated.  No wonder we are stressed out in life.  We are attempting to spin as many plates as possible without them touching let alone breaking.  We should hand them over to God.  Some of them might break, most will not.  Yet, the process of surrender will allow us to see God’s movements through all of life.  The end result is freedom as we hand control over to someone who has the authority and power to most adequately deal with them.  And in return, we experience the joy of a life connected to the Spirit that desires to transform and weave His purposes throughout.