The Difference Between a Burden and a Load

Every once in a while I come across an article that I love—or learn so much from—that I want to share it with E V E R Y B O D Y. Jennifer Slattery’s  post where she shares another author’s thoughts on the difference between easing someone’s burden and unnecessarily taking on another person’s load is one of these articles. According to Sherri Wilson Johnson, a burden is something that has been placed upon us without any wrongdoing on our part (like a birth defect or growing up in an abusive home). A load, on the other hand, is something you have picked up on the road of life and chosen to carry, even though it has made your way harder. 

We must never do for others what they should be doing for themselves, yet too often we fall victim to our own tendency to be overly helpful and understandably frustrated when loaded down people take advantage of our niceness. When I think of the countless times that I have rescued someone from their own insubordination, I am appalled by mine. Galatians 6:5 tells us that “each one should carry their own load” yet over and over I find myself ignoring this command, not just at my  peril, but also someone else’s.

“We’ve all made mistakes and can sympathize with people who are trapped in a sinful place.” Johnson commiserated. “It is tempting to swoop in and try to pluck this person out of the muck and mire. However, it is not always an easy thing to do nor is it the right thing to do. If this person is stuck or if he is like a stubborn mule, fighting your every effort, then sometimes you must leave him to his own devices. Turn him over to a reprobate mind. Take off your sandals and shake off the dust.”

I am tired of sweeping up after someone else’s stubborn choices. Aren’t you? Galatians 6:7 tells us that “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” so let’s stop getting in the way and take Hebrews 12:1 to heart as we throw “off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and run the race that was meant for us, NOT another sinner, by easing other people’s burdens without taking on unnecessary pain.

To read Sherri’s Article, click on the link below:

Carry their Burden but Not Their Load

Drama Proofing Your Life

Lately, I have been learning a lot about drama and what to do when it is unavoidably forced upon you. One of the more recent resources that I have stumbled across is Ray Kane’s Drama Proofing Your Life series that has been airing monthly on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection program. To give you a taste of how helpful this series is when it comes to understanding and dealing with difficult people, I copied the notes that I took while listening to Part 5 of Drama Proofing Your Life (which aired on February 19th) and pasted them into the space below.

In a drama, there’s a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer. The victim says: “I’m blameless, I’m helpless.” The persecutor says: “I’m right. I’m powerful.” The rescuer or caretaker says: “I can help. I’m special.”

The five factors that make up a drama pattern are:

  1. Intensity
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Unresolved Fear
  4. Anger
  5. Sadness

Drama’s occur when an individual chooses:

  1. not to deal with his intensity (i.e., pain of the past)
  2. to be defensive
  3. not to deal with their fear anger and sadness
Fear is at the pinnacle of the drama triangle. There are more verses on fear than on love in the bible. Whenever I’m angry, 9 times out of 10, it’s because of fear. Anger is our way of growling when we’re afraid.
The fears that create drama are fear of …
  1. failure
  2. rejection
  3. abandonment
  4. death (someone else is going to die, or I’m going to die an emotional death)
Three questions to ask yourself:
  1. How do I deal with my intensity and pain?
  2. How do I deal with my defensiveness that is my ego?
  3. How do I deal with my fear?
The intensity card is critical to being able to disarm the intensity pattern.
Another reason that people create drama (in addition to a lack of problem-solving skills) is because they are defined by the outside-in.
Some people tend to be more outside-in than inside-out in terms of the way they live their life. Generally an outside-in person will look to their environment. They’ll read for acceptance and rejection, for instance. Or they may look for some form of excitement to invigorate them and help them “come alive” by getting some kind of self-esteem (a sense of worth, competence, and belonging) from the drama they are creating; and so they might have a tendency to stir the pot or to be in a go-between type of situation.Kane encourages  us to consider: What are we trying to gain by creating drama or perpetuating drama? Is this the best way to accomplish my goal?Everyone is responsible for their own pain. When a spouse is pouting, withdrawing because he’s hoping to be rescued and playing the victim, he’s not wanting to take responsibility. If the wife disengages without being mean and allows herself to understand what’s going on with her spouse, she can apply knowledge with wisdom and discernment to really grow.More about emotional intensity:
  • Whenever there is emotionally intensity, it signifies that historical feelings and/or experiences are being triggered by current events.
  • Intensity communicates to others that our needs, concerns, or disappointments are not being validated.
  • When we are discounted, our natural reaction is to fight for our rights rather than enter into reasonable and rational conversations that balance our ability to think about our feelings as well as feel about our thinking.
Intensity is a by-product of:
  1. Un-resolved trauma (i.e., we weren’t loved well) expressed through our pain in feeling shame, insecurity, guilt, or believing that everything is wrong with me.
  2. Fear (i.e., failure to meet expectations, rejection of thoughts and feelings, abandonment by someone leaving physically or emotionally, fear unto death where someone else is going to die or I’m going to die or I feel emotional despair)  marked by thinking catastrophically, becoming anxious, or becoming controlling and angry.
  3. Self-Absorbtion is marked by being egocentric or prideful, believing nothing is wrong with me, being selfish and self-centered which ultimately causes one to walk by others who are in pain. The  more self-absorbed a person is, the more ego-centric they are, the more unresolved pain they have, the more trauma they have in their life that they haven’t addressed, and the more afraid they are (but they’re not willing to deal with it).
If you have two people who are engaging in drama, it creates an unsafe but familiar environment where, even if it’s bad, we don’t want to step out of the familiar because it’s what we know. The law of familiarity states that I’m attracted to what I’m familiar to even though it’s unhealthy. We have to choose to want to work on our issues and undergo the process of growth and change.
Drama-proofing your life requires asking these questions:
  1. Are you committed to growth and change?
  2. Do you really want to be healthy?
Although there are true victims who are robbed or forced to do something against their will, generally speaking, people are volunteers because they aren’t willing to take responsibility. The three things Ray Kane measures when he works with people is: 1) willingness, 2) heart & 3) responsibility. Are they willing to engage their heart and take responsibility. If these factors are not present, an individual is not ready to be healthy and will continue to create drama.
What if only one of you is willing to enter the path of growth? Jesus didn’t play into the drama patterns. He was always outside the drama triangle because he took responsibility for his own behavior. When we’re in a drama, we generally feel powerless. Jesus’ power (how he stayed out of the drama) is that he took truth from the father and acted with:
  1. wisdom and discernment
  2. humility
  3. a heart of love and respect (Love is a feeling, Respect is how you show it.)
Truth, communicated with wisdom,  discernment, love, respect and humility is what real power is.If you have a family or work environment where you are committed to be like Christ in being centered and healthy, then the Lord will give you wisdom and discernment with how to set boundaries and how to even stay in a relationship that’s difficult. (If it’s abusive, that’s a whole other ball game.) If it’s not abusive, you take yourself out of the drama by choosing to be healthy and desiring to be more like Christ.In healthy problem-solving:
  1. something happens
  2. skills are applied
  3. solutions are sought
  4. the outcome is evaluated
  5. the next action step is taken.
In unhealthy problem-solving (which is what dramas create):
  1. something happens
  2. the skills needed to solve the problem are missing
  3. there is no search for solutions
  4. feelings of anxiousness and insecurity lead to emotional flooding
  5. aggressive tactics like the ones below are applied in an attempt to restore emotional equilibrium and get someone else to deal with the problem
    • defensiveness
    • using shaming, blaming, critical and judgmental language
    • justifying a position
    • playing the victim
  6. the drama becomes the new issue to be handled and the original problem takes a backseat to the drama that’s been created

We all haven’t been loved well. Because our parents weren’t loved well, we weren’t loved well, and we don’t love well. That’s a given. In our life, the unresolved pain where love didn’t exist (and where love needed to be) becomes an anchor that keeps us from being able to get up to full speed.

Either we’re moving towards Christ or away from Christ. The significant process of the Christian life is learning how to deal with pain because if we don’t transform our pain, we transmit it. And so we have to be willing to engage in a process of growth and change in order to want to be a healthy person, centered in Christ. When I become that person, I then can change my environment.

Skills vs Capacity:

  • Capacity is how much energy I have in my tank to be able to use problem-solving skills to resolve an issue. Capacity will either come from my ego or from my faith. If there is a true heart’s desire to want to connect with Christ in an intimate way, Christ can help to heal the traumas of the past and, as Christ is present in the midst of those traumas, Jesus connects and attaches with the person who is hurting to increase their capacity. That is what it means to be connected with Christ in an intimate way and to experience the fullness of healing when we experience pain.
  • Healthy faith is able to take truth, communicate it with wisdom, discernment, and a heart of love and respect because I’m not preoccupied with trying to look good. Jesus’ power came with his humility, purity and ability to speak the truth.
Over-functioning and Under-functioning Relationships:The over functioning person that wants intimacy and connection more than the under-functioning individual tends to put more energy towards and into inviting the other person who is under-functioning to step up. It’s like spinning your wheels, you feel like a gerbil in a gerbil cage. You have to change-up the dynamic.In a healthy relationship, both individuals need to want intimacy at the same level. Growing towards that ideal means committing to:
  • having a more intimate relationship emotionally
  • learning how to communicate our needs, feelings and pain
  • to learn how to listen, hear and understand
If the under-functioning individual is hesitant to commit to this, then the person is more interested in having you  pursue him than he is in allowing himself to be vulnerable. We can invite people into healthy relationships but, if they are unwilling to do so, we need to be willing to move on and allow the other person to do the same.Can you allow yourself to see your character-disordered person as a gift? We like to see them as the generator of our pain, but they are not. The Lord has us in this place, otherwise we would be someplace else. It is God’s will that we be where we are at right now.Five questions to ask yourself to find out why the drama you are in is a gift:
  1. What is it that I can learn about myself?
  2. What insecurities is it raising inside of me that I need to bring to Christ?
  3. What skills might I need to acquire to be able to set appropriate boundaries?
  4. How might I need to learn how to communicate my needs, feelings and pain in more efficient ways?
  5. How might this experience enable me to develop a much deeper intimacy with Christ?
Recap:Healthy problem solving requires a particular set of skills. With unhealthy problem-solving, those skills are missing. We compensate because we want emotional equilibrium.If I’m not growing by dealing with my pain (which is caused by shame, insecurity or guilt) or dealing with my fears of failure, rejection, and abandonment, then I’m going to compensate by using my ego to be able to counterbalance the insecurity so therefore I become reactive. Reactivity means that I’m being defensive. Defensiveness means that I’m denying a problem exists, discounting and dismissing what others have to say, projecting and making the problem someone else’s as I justify my position, play the victim, and perpetuate the problem by causing the unresolved problem to be buried.If we become reactive and start pointing a finger, there are still four pointing back at us.

When I am willing to deal with my trauma, to deal with my fear, to not be driven by my ego but learn to become more humble, then I can be  reflective and take ownership of my thoughts and feelings by expressing a desire to humbly confess my wrongdoings and turn from my bad habits to pave the way for  negative patterns to be buried dead.If we’re triggered, it’s about our pain. There’s a point at which God hardens someone’s heart, but as long as we’re working on our pain, then we become a safer person to tell someone else that we would like them to work on theirs.

To listen to or download this or other episodes that Ray Kane has presented on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection program, click on one or more of the links below:

Drama-Proofing Your Life Part 1

Drama-Proofing Your Life Part 2

Drama-Proofing Your Life Part 3

Drama-Proofing Your Life Part 4

Drama-Proofing Your Life Part 5

View All Midday Connection Episodes with Guest Ray Kane

A Little More Jesus

It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, sometimes, it just makes me wonder: What’s been keeping a person away for so long?

Was it something I said?

Or something I did?

As a coach, I am trained to listen for two things: The story and the truth. The story is what we say to make ourselves feel better (or worse) about a situation. The truth is rooted in, not perception, but fact. And the fact, in this instance, is that the mind can get pretty carried away without something real to keep it grounded.

I was reminded of this just yesterday when I received an e-mail from a friend who I had not talked to for most of the summer. I’d thought about reaching out to her on several occasions but, because it was her turn to call, I stubbornly decided not to. Immediately upon reading her e-mail and learning about the challenges she’s been facing since we last spoke, I realized two things:

1. I was the person in the wrong.
2. Good friends don’t keep score.

Why is it that what bothers us most about others is the very thing we are guilty of ourselves? Sometimes I think the world be much simpler if we never had to spin stories to hide our hypocritical cores.

The story I spun about my friend was that she had lost interest in our friendship. The reality is that silence does not mean indifference. I, of all people, should know this after taking time off from writing following my father’s death last June. In the six years since publishing my first newsletter, this is the longest that I’ve been away from my craft—and all of you; but with an obituary to write, a slideshow to create, and an overwhelming amount of other projects to tackle as my brothers and I started the long process of cleaning up our Dad’s farm, I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do.

What wasn’t right was my decision to also take the summer off from God. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with Him: It’s just that with everything that was going on, spiritual disciplines always seemed to be the last thing on my mind. And as the dog days of summer wore on, it became clear that the longer I went without studying the bible, the farther I felt from God.

If out of sight is out of mind, then out of mind definitely leads to lack of heart. It’s the one time when absence makes the heart grow, not fonder, but fussier as we lose all compassion for others.

I often joke that I get along great with people as long as I’m the only one in the room. What I don’t say about this philosopy is that it doesn’t account for God. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, silence doesn’t mean absence−just that He has chosen not to comment on our behavior.

I definitely had moments that left God speechless as certain relationships and circumstances left me ranting and raving like an emotional toddler. To make sense of these situations, I listened to self-help audio tapes while driving to and from Nebraska. One batch that I checked out from the library included the title ‘One Month To Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life’ by Kerry & Chris Shook. Although I never got used to the narrator’s deep voice (think James Earl Jones from the Lion King), I was glad that I stuck with the guy for long enough to hear him challenge listeners—myself included—to never give up something that we can’t go a day without thinking about.

What can’t you go a day without thinking about? Do you know?

I asked myself this question in early July and already it was apparent that I can’t go a summer without Jesus. And as someone who was away from home for 47 days last summer, I speak from experience when I say that if you’re feeling far from God, it’s your actions and not your location that needs to change. It felt good to return to my pre-summer ways when life settled down enough to pick up where I left off in my bible. As soon as I did, I was welcomed back with these words from Psalm 16:

5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

How comforting it is to know that, no matter how long or far we travel, our lot is secure as we keep our eyes on the Lord and our behavior in check by putting a little more Jesus in our day.

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

Counting the Cost

While visiting with another mom the other day, I asked if she was getting excited about her family’s upcoming move.

“I’m really going to miss my friends,” she said.

“It’s only two hours away so you can come back on weekends,” I replied, trying to make her feel better.

“And we’ll visit you,” I added.

“That’s right, you like to travel.”

“I don’t like to travel,” I corrected. “I like who we travel to see.”

It’s been said that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. Friends are important to me. So important that I look for reasons to reconnect with the ones who live far away. Those reasons have taken our family to Florida, New York, California, Arizona, and several states in between. If I were to count the cost of those trips, it would pale in comparison to the price that so many pay for never having gone. People like the woman I met shortly after moving to Chicago. We were still getting to know each other when I mentioned that, although our family had no plans to move again, there was a chance that my husband’s company would ask us to relocate in five or ten years. Immediately upon hearing this, the woman exclaimed: “Why would I spend time getting to know you if you might leave me in five years?”

Although her words remind me of the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem where he said “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” I don’t view a friend’s move as a loss. To me, it’s an opportunity to show that person how much she matters. Those who do cross the miles will be relieved to find that one new memory has the power to bridge even a decade of silence. I’ve seen this happen again and again in my own life. Like last year when we traveled to Minneapolis to reconnect with a couple who left Nebraska before Katie and Hollie were born. As soon as we sat down to dinner, the miles melted away and my only regret was that we hadn’t gotten together sooner.

What that trip to Minneapolis taught me (and the lesson that I share with you today) is that Proverbs 27:10 tells us not to forsake others for good reasons—because relationships worth keeping are worth keeping in good condition; and no matter how much time passes, it’s never too late to pick up where you left off with a friend.

When Kids Go Berserk

I attempted to cook something new today. “Your kids will love it!” the woman at church had promised after handing me her recipe for calzones. To my dismay, Katie and Hollie did not share her enthusiasm when I pulled what looked like oozing cocoons out of the oven.

Gross,” they said in unison.

Feeling belittled for my efforts and bloated from eating their portions and my own, I sent Katie and Hollie upstairs so I could clean up the kitchen in peace. A short while later, I was still feeling unappreciated when my oldest raced through the living room, chasing her sister with a plunger.

 “All right,” I said sternly. “If you’ve got that much energy, you can help me clean.”

After swapping out Katie’s weapon for window cleaner, I put both girls to work. All hard work really does bring a profit, I decided as their behavior improved with every polished surface. 

When the work was done, I thanked both for their involuntary service and breathed a sigh of relief: The house was cleaner, my children were quieter, and I felt better as a parent because I took Proverbs 14:23 to heart. We can discipline our children and reap the benefits of better behavior or let them run wild. Having seen the results of both I am a firm believer that when kids go berserk, it’s time to put them to work.

For a complete list of parenting rhymes to remember, visit my Organizing Tips page Guiding Children In The Way They Should Go and remember, it’s never too late to learn from what you live through as inch by inch, yard by yard; what seems impossible is only hard.

What Comes To Mind

One morning while the girls were playing, I tuned in to a reality show called Starting Over. I’d read an article about one of the hosts, Rhonda Britten, and was curious to see how she helped individuals dig out from past mistakes and present circumstances.

In the episode that aired that day, Rhonda instructed one of the cast members to not speak to anyone unless what she had to say was: 1) necessary, 2) true, 3) helpful, and 4) kind. Wanting to share these communication guidelines with my daughters, I made up a rhyme to help them remember:

Only speak what comes to mind, if it’s necessary, true, helpful, and kind.

Less than an hour after memorizing my new communication mantra, I overheard my six-year-old talking negatively to her sister.

“What you said was not necessary or kind,” I said as I patted myself on the back for a parenting job well done.

Much to the girls’ delight, my rhyme was a bit more difficult to call upon after a gas station clerk refused to help me with an invalid car wash code. I also struggled to take my own advice when Katie proved incapable of getting ready for a birthday party, even though she knew we were running late.

Why is advice so much easier to give than it is to receive? I didn’t have an answer as I struggled to keep my cool. What I did have was a reminder to be careful about what I wish for in the future, because I might just get it. And all God’s children (even grown ones) can benefit from rhyming their way to respectable behavior, one conflict at a time.

Belonging By Association

I attended my first PTO meeting tonight. As I walked into the meeting after it had started, I was relieved to find an open seat next to the friend from church who had asked me to attend. The school owned several carnival games that would work well for a fall festival we were working together to organize but, the thought of asking to borrow these games made me nervous. I was not active in the PTO. In fact, I had never been to a meeting before and had declined helping with past PTO events because of family and church priorities.

Thankfully, I had a friend who was very involved in the organization. As I listened to her update members on projects she was leading, I felt proud to be sitting beside her. It was like I belonged at that meeting, not because of anything I had done, but because of who I knew.

This thought reminded me of another time I felt a similar sense of belonging. I was at the cataclysmic end of an awful business trip where nothing, not even the flight home, had gone my way. At my lowest moment, I cried out in frustration because I knew that, no matter how hard I tried, I would never get through life without help from others. At that moment, an inner voice broke through the silence to say that I mattered, not because of what I did, but because of who I was—a child of God.

We all have the opportunity to share this sense of belonging with others as we love family, friends, and even total strangers—not because of what they do for us—but because of who they are, people who matter to God. How wonderful that all roads, even those that pass through PTO meetings, lead back to God.