Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

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Examine the Layers of Communication

March 25, 2014

layersMy friend Charlie and I had to utilize all our geek abilities, but we finally got the turntable to make sounds as we played the LP slowly. It was the Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. We had heard through a reliable source there were hidden messages in some of the songs. We played it for an hour and then we found one. At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” there was some funky background music and then a creepy voice made an announcement.

Charlie was sure the voice said “I BURIED PAUL”. I believed the ghastly voice said “CRANBERRY SAUCE”. Stephen King I’m not.

Whatever it was they put on the album (John Lennon claimed it was “Cranberry Sauce”…I feel vindicated…), they masked some of their messages deep in the midst of their music. I know they probably did it to create buzz about the album, but that is ludicrous to me. They were one of the greatest rock bands of their day. They didn’t need the gimmicks. Apparently, someone in their decision-making circle felt they did.

This is the picture I lead with to help you understand Layered Communication. As I said in the previous article, Layered Communication is one reason there are so many misunderstandings in human interaction.

If we committed ourselves to single-layered communication as often as possible, we would eliminate most of our fighting.

Why do we hide so many messages within simple statements? There are probably many reasons for doing this, but I find five categories for these reasons.

1. Fear: We fear saying some things so we hide them among the words of another piece of information. This motivation sits at the heart of most passive-aggressive communication. One person is angry and wants the other person to know it. But they don’t want to be seen as angry. Or maybe there are afraid of retribution. Or perhaps they believe the person will reject them when they express their anger. So instead of letting the other person see their anger clearly, they let it color otherwise simple communication. If you’ve ever had a friend say something innocent to you and it didn’t feel innocent at all, you know this practice. Fear drives more layered communication than any other factor.

2. Revenge: We hide some of our communication so we can get even with other people for recent occasions when they have not communicated properly with us. If you won’t be straight with me, I won’t be straight with you. This game can go on for years.

3. Intimidation: People sometimes cloak the information they want to share so that those close to them will feel less confident. For instance, a husband may want his wife to appreciate him more, so he tells her all about the pretty women at work, hoping she will feel like he is a great catch without him having to say it. Unfortunately, this approach often backfires.

4. Calculation: Often, when one person wants to win an argument with another person, they will say things in order to get certain reactions. Then, they have a plan how they want to respond to those reactions. In this way, the layered communication is calculated to bring a certain result.

5. Ignorance: Many times we layer our communication because we are not aware, or have not acknowledged, that those layers are even there. Nothing surprises us more than someone who asks “What do you mean by that?” when we really thought we were being straightforward.

With those motivations in mind, let’s define each of the 8 possible layers that can be added to simple communication:

Emotions: Even those people who are in touch with their feelings often do not know how to express them. So they combine them with other pieces of information. This can be confusing. A person who says their day was fine, but the voice and body language speak “frustration”, can put the conversation on the wrong footing.

Bitterness or Resentment: I won’t seek to define either of these, and though they are different, they look the same as a sub-layer. If you are bitter or resentful, even simple information comes across as complex. Resentment is very hard to talk about, especially with the person we resent. Resentment is a decision where we have decided we cannot change a situation but we will not let go of the hurt. This hurt often bleeds over into many other things we want to communicate. When resentment has been in residence for a long time, it evolves into bitterness. The Bible tells us that bitterness then becomes ” a root which grows up to harm many people.

Sarcasm: This is often the front layer in a conversation. Sarcasm is masked anger. But it is a more societally acceptable way of expressing anger without having to admit you’re angry. This layer shows up to disguise the anger underneath. In this way, it creates a smoke screen and prevents two people from getting further into the truth of their relationship.

Body Language: Social Scientists have studied this layer for decades and still cannot come up with a definitive way to tell how to read the body language of another person. But when a person says one thing and their body seems to say another, it confuses the issue and negates much of what is being said.

False Beliefs: This layer is numerous and often the person who has these is blind to them until they make it to the top layer. For instance, a wife may be frustrated for months that her husband spends little time with her. But because he seems to be working hard, she feels like she can’t bring it up. In a conversation, she blurts out “You hate spending time with me, don’t you.” Then she feels embarrassed she said it this way.

She may be revealing a false belief. Perhaps she believes that everyone will find her to be boring, or unimportant, or that her significant friends are always going to find something better than her. Any of these “universal” beliefs can form a layer underneath what we’re trying to say.

Distraction: We often say one thing while our mind is on another thing. Or, in this distracted world, we have too many things we want to say to other people and we make the mistake of trying to say them all in one statement. This is overwhelming to both parties.

Hatred: After years of not properly dealing with anger and frustration, a person can decide they hate another person. Every time they try to communicate with this other person, the hatred layer is transmitted. This layer will often poison every piece of communication. With hatred, we hurt other people and do not even feel badly for doing so.

After looking at this list, you may wonder if there is any such thing as a simple single-layered communication. In fact, there are many ways we can communicate in single layers and the next article we will discuss how to talk to other people in this manner.

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Understanding Layered Communication

March 22, 2014

Years ago, a man who had been married many more years than I told me some advice about wives.

He said: “If she says ‘Go ahead’ in response to something you want to do–and you notice she isn’t smiling and her arms are crossed in front of her–it isn’t permission, it’s a dare”.

Funny. Wise. Layered.

I owe much of my understanding of the dynamics of interpersonal communication to one of the greatest psychoanalysts of the 20th Century: Dr. William Glasser. What made Dr. Glasser so helpful to our society is he could take complicated subjects and make them so obvious and simple to understand.

Perhaps he is best known for his definition of communication. He defined all communication between two people as this: “It is only information. If you think it is more than that, you are self-deceived.”

Since marriage represents the most intimate dynamics of communication, they are also the most dangerous. If I misunderstand something a stranger says to me, it doesn’t matter that much. But if I make the same error with my life partner, it can be devastating. And after 30-plus years of doing counseling, I can attest that most marriage problems are communication difficulties.

We need to understand three things in order to make all communication easier.

First, what you are hearing is just information.
Second, if you believe otherwise, it is your problem, not the other person
Third, the main difficulty we have with what we hear other people say is that they have layered their communication and we often do not know it.

Let’s look at a standard marital conflict that illustrates all three parts.

Let’s say Jim has had a hard day at work. He was given an impossible task by his boss and it wasn’t going well. He is tired, frustrated, feeling abused and disrespected, and needing to rest and recuperate.

However, as soon as he comes through the door, his wife tells him all about how bad their two boys behaved at the grocery store after work. She never asks about his day, never notices the look of exasperation on his face.

Jim honestly can see that his wife is frustrated. At the same time, he needs support and rest. So, he tries to communicate all of this to Tonya his wife and says, “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” She is hurt by this and storms off to make dinner, slamming cupboards and huffing.

She assumed something Jim was communicating. She assumed wrongly. He was giving information about his desire to avoid more drama and the need to rest. She assumed he was communicating something about their relationship and his lack of caring for her. He gave her information. The rest of what happened was hers.

Taken at face value, his statement is fairly simple. He doesn’t want to talk about the kids at that moment. He didn’t say he would never talk about it. He didn’t say that he couldn’t care less about her feelings. His communication was a case of simple information. Tonya did not understand this or accept it.

This leads us to the second truth about communication. Her emotional reaction was her problem. Any time we react to information being given to us we are responsible completely for our reaction. The other person is only responsible for the information they gave us. In Tonya’s case, she carried the frustration of being the only care-giver that day in the household. She was angry that Jim seemed to be reticent to help her. She assumed his motivations. All of these assumptions and reactions are her responsibility. If she had been wise–and we will talk about how to use this approach with any other person–she would have asked Jim why he didn’t want to talk about it at that moment. She chose to be hurt and that was her choice. Jim did not make her do that.

Now for the most complicated part of this scenario: Tonya reacted to Jim’s dual layers of information with a multi-layered communication response. I define multi-layered communication as any information which is layered with one or more of the following:

1. Emotions
2. Bitterness or resentment
3. Sarcasm
4. Physical body language instead of words
5. Unspoken assumptions
6. False beliefs
7. Distraction
8. Revenge or hatred

Let’s analyze Jim and Tonya.

Jim had two distinct layers of information:

1. He didn’t want to talk about the current situation at that moment
2. He was angry and tired and did not state this up front.

Jim made the situation a degree harder by not giving the second piece of information before the first one.

Tonya had several layers of communication which she put across using passive-aggressive behavior:

1. Anger at the boys
2. Frustration that she was the primary care-giver and Jim did not seem to be interested
3. A desire to hurt Jim for the perceived hurt Jim had laid on her.
4. Perhaps a deep-seated belief that people would not assist her when she needed it.

Tonya only expressed the first layer and let Jim assume the existence of the other layers. Because neither of them had carefully dissected their own layers before communicating, they could not connect with each other mentally or emotionally. This is the type of fight that can linger for weeks, months or even years if not corrected.

In the next article, we’ll dissect the 8 layers and examine how to attempt to give other people information about each one.

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Phantom Affairs

March 14, 2014

phantomAuggie and Tami felt the emotional distance between them. They fought, made up, fought some more, made up less often, fought more vigorously, didn’t make up any more. They didn’t know what the other was angry about, but constantly replayed their own story of hurt in case anyone asked. No one did.

Tami filed for divorce first, but Auggie was willing too. They settled their legal differences amiably and spared the world the bother of having to listen to their public complaints. A year later and they legally didn’t have to contact each other for any reason.

Yet for some reason, they kept in close touch. They met for lunch and endlessly dissected the reasons why their marriage fell into the toilet. That’s when and why they came for counseling. They didn’t desire to resurrect their relationship, but they wanted me to do a post-mortem with them on the corpse that was their marriage.

After meeting three times, I discerned the basic reason for their marriage failure and I shared it with them. At first, they were both confused. Then they denied it was true. It was almost a year later Tami came back and admitted I was right. I don’t know if Auggie ever agreed with me.

Here was their problem. They both had someone else. They both had chosen another person over their partner.

Yet neither of them had a physical affair. Neither of them had met in clandestine circumstances to give their love to another person. But they had still chosen someone else. Once they began doing that, it was inevitable it would ruin their relationship.

We wrongly assume that affairs have to actually involve knowing and interacting with the other member of the tryst. Today, there are multiple warnings about emotional affairs, relationships between married people that do not result in sex. These can be devastating of course. As Laura Berman observes,

Emotional cheating (with an “office husband,” a chat room lover, or a newly appealing ex) steers clear of physical intimacy, but it does involve secrecy, deception, and therefore betrayal. People enmeshed in nonsexual affairs preserve their “deniability,” convincing themselves they don’t have to change anything. That’s where they’re wrong. If you think about it, it’s the breach of trust, more than the sex, that’s the most painful aspect of an affair and, I can tell you from my work as a psychiatrist, the most difficult to recover from.

However, neither Auggie nor Tami were enmeshed in emotional affairs. They discovered some of the alternative ways we can tie our hearts to another person without them being aware we are doing so. Let me outline the most common ways we do this:

Old Flames: A healthy person continues to process their memories long after they have experienced the original happenings. We must do this to be emotionally grounded. We need to understand what has taken place in our lives so we don’t develop the wrong ideas about our history. But when we spend an inordinate amount of time processing past romances–and especially when we do this to replace time spent thinking about our spouse–we conclude that those days were better than these. The current troubles always pale in comparison with these idealistic memories.

Romantic Novels and Movies: One wouldn’t think you could form attachments with fictional characters, but psychology has proven that this is not only possible, but certainly widespread. Yes, there are women who imagine themselves in the arena with Peeta, or men who see themselves as Danaerys’ companion. this explains the almost fanatical appeal of some fan-bases. This intrudes on a marriage when the spouse replaces their affection and admiration for their partner with the character they have obsessed upon. People can also imagine celebrities and read every article about them, taking time and mental energy away from their spouse and pouring it into a famous person.

Pornography: Most people reading this assume porn is all about taking affection away from a spouse. Actually, it is not as common as with the first two examples. Most men use porn as a mechanism to deal with relational pain, especially when they use porn to stimulate themselves.

But there are indeed some men and women who picture themselves with the people in the videos. This causes them to make constant mental comparisons between the porn stars and their partners. As I said, this is not the most common use of porn–it is most likely a pain manager–but it does exist. When a person uses porn to mentally replace their spouse, it can destroy a marriage.

Co-workers, neighbors and professional acquaintances: Throughout life, there are people who treat us well, affirm our value through their words and deeds, and give us comfort when we are emotionally distraught. When they do not receive these things from their spouse, they place even greater value on the person who is willing to give them these things. Though they do not approach them for a deeper emotional attachment, they remember how they gave us something desperately yearned for. Counselors find this happens regularly in the counseling office. Those we counsel with often form attachments based on appreciation for the help we give. Doctors, nurses, teachers, therapists etc. all have to set careful and obvious boundaries so clients do not expect to have inappropriate relationships. But just because there are boundaries, the person receiving help can fantasize about how wonderful it would be to have a deep intimate relationship with their help-giver. Perhaps neither party acts upon this and the two of them maintain a professional relationship. But the one person magnifies the other past the point of help to a much deeper bond. This can be done with people at work, neighbors we have come to know more than casually and family friends.

Horror stories are told of people who assumed someone else felt as strongly as they did in the relationship, only to find out the affection was completely one-sided. The mind has the ability to fill in both sides of the relationship, assuming the kind words and actions are proof of an intimate connection.

Auggie and Tami both had these phantom affairs and had maintained them for a long time. The upshot of this error is that every mistake their spouse made was compared to these phantom ideal people. In their minds, the phantoms would never have treated them this way.

In Auggie’s case, he obsessed about old girlfriends. Tami focused on a man who lived across the street who appeared to treat her with the respect she had always longed for from her husband. Neither of them sought out a romantic partner outside of their marriage, but the phantom partners provided the manure for all of their resentments to grow.

Strangely enough, a year after divorcing, Tami dated the man across the street. After the second date, she realized he could really be a jerk. Coming home that night, she cried over her lost marriage. She began to see how great a mistake she and Auggie had made.

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Dealing with Grief When You Still Have to Work

February 27, 2014

griefI highly recommend this excellent article by Paolina Milana. Very few people can get enough time off from work when they’re dealing with the pain of losing a loved one. This article has some practical and accurate advice. But one thing she says is something I see often when counseling people with recent grief.

Milana remarks,

“The urge to change may hit hard. You always wanted to study gorillas in Rwanda—should you quit your job and go? You never imagined you’d be working 24/7 as cook, maid, babysitter, home improvement maven, and financial manager, without even a dime to show for it—should you divorce your spouse and abandon your kids? Is it too late to run away and join the circus? Know that all of these thoughts are normal. Know, too, that experts strongly suggest not making any major life changes during periods of grief.”

My experience is that during seasons of grief we believe it is time to change everything. This helps to acknowledge that nothing will ever be the same now that this person is gone; but it causes way more problems in the long run. The best idea is to change some minor things and leave one year before any major life changes. Read the entire article for some other great advice.

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Ten Healthy Ideas: Day 6: Pay off Sleep Debt

December 31, 2013

When the golfer Tiger Woods left Stanford and announced he was turning professional, a reporter asked him what he was looking forward to now that he wasn’t going to college any more. He answered: “I will finally get enough sleep.” Apparently Tiger put himself through the same torture test as most college students. He didn’t get enough sleep.

dementIronically, just across campus at Stanford is the world’s leading expert on sleep. Dr. William Dement, a pioneer in the field of sleep research, founded the Stanford Center for Sleep in order to help people the world over understand the importance of sleep. When asked at a major conference years ago what was the number one problem related to sleep, Dr. Dement immediately answered “Sleep debt!”

According to the Sleep Center’s literature, here is what they define as sleep debt:

To make the long story short, each of us has a certain sleep requirement every night that we need to keep us functioning at our optimal level. When we fall short of the minimal sleep requirementwe incur a sleep debt that prevents us from functioning at our best.This debt, if not addressed, can add up over time, very rapidly, and significantly alter our productivity, mood, and even our safety.

Read more:http://www.end-your-sleep-deprivation.com/sleep-debt.html#ixzz2p4rrDkgZ

Almost every person needs a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night. In his book “The Promise of Sleep” Dr. Dement estimates that most people incur at least one hour’s debt per night–many people have more. This growing sleep debt causes many of our worst health problems: auto-immune problems, inability to fight off viruses, hypertension, cell malformation (sometimes resulting in benign tumors), malabsorption of nutrients–which cause many other health problems–migraine headaches, joint problems, sight difficulties etc. Not only that, but researchers have determined that over 100,000 die every year in car accidents because one driver was either sleep deprived or asleep at the wheel.

But I believe there are emotional and spiritual tolls we pay when we don’t sleep enough. Dr. Jack Hayford, pastor Emeritus of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, teaches regularly that the best spiritual warfare we can do is to get enough sleep. He says that the Enemy really is prowling around like a lion seeking whom he can devour. Those who have a lot of sleep debt find they have trouble resisting temptation, become irritable easier and give in more often to resentment. These things all cause spiritual deterioration.

How do you know if you have sleep debt? Here are some of the main signs that Dr. Dement says we need to look for:

1. Do you get drowsy during the day? Drowsiness is not a condition of your environment–such as a warm room or a difficult work situation–but rather of your tendency to not sleep enough.

2. Do you need caffeine to function efficiently? Dr. Dement is an advocate for eliminating caffeine completely. If you need that boost in the morning, you are not getting enough sleep.

3. Do you fall asleep in less than ten minutes? If you do, you have a sleep debt. Sleep debt causes the mind to shut down much more rapidly. Normally, a person who gets enough sleep should be able to fall asleep in about 10-20 minutes on average. In addition, if you wake up tired on a consistent basis, you are suffering from sleep debt. After a good night’s rest, you should not have trouble waking up. Any trouble waking up is caused by your body trying to get more sleep to make up for the debt.

4. Are there parts of your day when you have virtually no energy at all? This is common with sleep indebted people.

You should be getting at least 8 hours sleep EVERY night. If you are not, then the sleep debt is going to take its toll on you, your relationships, your health, your work output, your joy, your walk with God and your peace of mind. Every hour less than 8 hours a night is a debt you need to pay back as soon as possible. Here are six ideas that can help you get back on the right track.

1. Have absolutely hard established bedtimes and waking dotttimes. Dr. Lydia Dotto, author of “Losing Sleep” suggests that even migraine headaches can be eliminated by training our internal clocks when they are going to go to bed. I did this for a year once…not changing my bedtime at all. By the end of that year, I could go to bed and wake up without looking at the clock and it was always at exactly the same time. Our body clocks, once they are trained, are that accurate. When you establish waking and sleeping times, you are making sleep a much higher priority.

2. Turn off the television after 9 p.m. Television watching may be called “vegging out” by many people, but it doesn’t have that effect on us. The television raises your Alpha waves above the level of relaxation. You are always on a heightened sense of alert when you watch the tube. Unfortunately, most people assume they can watch television at night to help them relax and fall asleep. Nothing could be further from the truth. You would be much better advised to read a book, crochet a sock or write in a journal than watch t.v.

3. Do not exercise before bed. With the advent of many new “super-routines” more and more people are focusing on getting in one more workout before sleep. This raises your glandular output too much. The body’s circadian rhythms start to slow down naturally in the two hours before bedtime. If you cut into that slowdown with exercise, it will make it that much harder to get to sleep.

4. Track your sleep and make up for sleep debt. Everyone has nights where they don’t sleep well. (Note: If that is every night for you, talk to your doctor about a sleep clinic. You should be getting a good night’s rest every night and there are doctors who specialize in finding out why you’re not). If you have a night of less-than-ideal sleep, find times during the week to nap. Also, allow yourself to sleep extra on those days you don’t have to get up early.

5. Get rid of caffeine. If you are getting enough sleep, you don’t need caffeine. The caffeine in soda, coffee and energy drinks messes up your biological clock. Of course, because some people have not slept enough for years, it may seem they cannot function without caffeine. That is probably true. But that is like the person who maxes out their credit cards, spends every cent and needs another credit card because they have no more cash. At some point, the madness has to stop. Caffeine is the enemy to enough sleep. Kick the habit.

6. Plan ahead. When I personally started to get my sleep habit back in order I realized my biggest problem is I never planned my sleep well. I would stay up later than I needed to. I never realized that sleep is something to guard, so I didn’t. Planning ahead means that you are home at a decent hour to get to bed at a decent hour, to wake up at a decent hour having procured a decent amount of sleep. Therefore, the planning must start a long time before you want to sleep. If friends want to stay out late and you cannot sleep in, you may be the first one to go home. It may feel like you are the party pooper, but remember that every party needs one and that might as well be you. At least you will be physically and emotionally healthy to accept the ridicule.

Last year, I advised two different people on their sleep debt. Both of them embarked on a project to get enough sleep. Both of them reported better mental health as a result. Additionally, even though neither of them were overweight, they both reported their weight went down as they started to crave healthier foods. It is known that we often crave sugar and carbs when our energy levels are too low. This is often a function of sleep debt as well.

So for all the wonderful things sleep can do for you, get rid of your sleep debt and make sleep a huge priority for 2014.

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Ten Healthy Ideas – Day Four: Habit of Reflection

December 24, 2013
reflection

Reflection

In 2006, a Stanford research team studied two groups of people. One group were self-described as heavy Internet users. The other group didn’t use the Internet very often. The researchers put both groups through a series of tests where they had to come to conclusions by analyzing a very difficult series of statements in a field none of them were familiar with. At the end, they had to make a decision about what course of action they would take. What none of them knew was they weren’t being tested for their decision-making ability, but their ability to mentally stay on task.

Not surprisingly, those who used the Internet a lot were more easily distracted. The researchers found that when they introduced noises, background smells, lights and people moving by the window, the heavy Internet users could not concentrate as well as the light Internet users. At the end of the test, each participant was scored by an independent panel regarding the final decision they came to. Overall, the light Internet users made wiser decisions. 

Here is what they concluded. The heavy Internet users had lost the ability to reflect, to ponder the possibilities. They were more easily distracted and could not keep their minds on one subject. In essence, the could not Reflect

Reflection is the ability to analyze and dissect the events of a person’s life, looking for meaning, purpose and possible courses of action. If a person cannot reflect, they will often act impetuously and unwisely. Unfortunately, most 21st century people no longer take any time to reflect. As Nicholas Carr says in his book “The Shallows”, that our

“online intelligence has weakened our ability to reflect, to examine, to imagine and to analyze. We can maintain more information in our brains and yet we have less ability to make good use of that knowledge”.

74 separate times in the Bible the word “Selah” is found. The word means to “stop and reflect, to see deeply into something”. Most often this word is employed in the Psalms after the writer has made a profound or troubling statement. He wants the reader to stop and reflect on how to proceed now that this truth is presented. This was not hard for someone who grew up governed by the slow pace of an agricultural society. It wouldn’t even be that hard for those who entered our world when there was no television, radio, newspaper or Internet. But now that we have all of those, who has the ability to reflect very long any more.

Ten years ago, I was asked to lead a seminar for young church leaders on the skills involved with meditation and reflection. There were 150 people at the conference and they had four options for their seminar. Only one person chose to attend my reflection teaching. I actually had expected this so my feelings were not wounded too deeply. I told the organizer that the only way we could get people there would be to rename it something that sounded more dynamic. The people of our world no longer desire to spend long moments in reflection. What good is there in completely stopping at various times a day? Actually, reflection and meditation are very helpful to all of us.

Health professionals say that time of reflection each day can lower blood pressure, regulate the body’s ability to fight off disease, eliminate the need for most anxiety medication, reduce the intensity of migraine headaches, help to heal overwrought relationships and reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis. But these are just the physical benefits.

When we have a time of reflection, we can clearly see the patterns of our lives. Recently, I walked a person I am mentoring through exercises where they had to reflect on their life. At one point, the person got agitated and wanted to stop. When I asked them why, they realized that anger was bubbling to the surface and felt overwhelming. I had them focus on what they were angry about. Soon, elements of their marriage relationship came to mind. Piece by piece, this person worked through their anger and sense of defeat. By the end of 20 minutes, they no longer felt the anger. The next day, my mentee called me and expressed shock about something else. They had been suffering with a sense of fatigue mid-morning for several weeks. For the first time in all those days, they felt energized in the middle of the day. They realized that the meditation time had alerted them to an inner anger that was robbing them of energy.

I usually suggest people have at least a ten minute reflection in the morning and the evening. This can be combined with exercises like the Well of Reflection or a few other exercises I am going to mention in upcoming articles. It is good to have a journal around to keep track of insights.

As Socrates so eloquently told us “the unexamined life is not worth living.” When was the last time you examined your life in any depth? Have you observed some subtle motivations that you need to get a grip on? Do you see how your anger and fears are with you more than you would like to admit? Are there dreams you have been shoving down because you haven’t taken the time to process them? How are your relationships really going? Have  you taken stock of your closest friends and loved ones to determine if  you are acting in a healthy way toward them?

All of these are questions that can only be answered if a person takes time to reflect. In order to accomplish a meaningful time of reflection each day, it is necessary to answer the following questions:

  1. What will stand in my way of doing this daily?
  2. What do I need to stop doing so I can reflect?
  3. What do I hope to get out of this?
  4. Why am I not already doing this?
  5. What would be the best time to do this so I will accomplish it every day?
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Ten Healthy Ideas – Day 3: Honor To Whom Honor is Due

December 22, 2013
eric liddell

Eric Liddell in the 1924 Olympics

In the 1924 Olympics, U. S. sprinter Jackson Schultz sent a note to British runner Eric Liddell. Both of them were Christians, and Liddell had refused to run on a Sunday because it violated his beliefs that Sunday should be a day set apart for God. (In the movie, Liddell is seen as finding out about his heat being run on the Sunday as he gets on the boat. In reality, he found out months before and pulled out of the competition before being chosen. But his stance was known throughout the world.)

In his note, sent weeks before the Olympics, Schultz told Liddell how he admired him for standing up for what he believed. Schultz also believed this stance would be the deciding factor whether Liddell won his race–the 400 meters. At the end of his letter, he wrote: “As the Good Book says, “He who honors Me, him will I honor.” History records that Liddell did win the 400 meters and beat one of Schultz’s close friends to set the Olympic record.

But was Schultz right? In the note he sends Liddell he quotes 1 Samuel 2:30, which says:

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”

Schultz apparently believed that if someone takes a stand for God, in the end, God will honor that person. I’m not sure I totally agree. Many who have stood for God have seen their dreams shattered and been made fools of by this world. But I also believe that those who do what God commands will make more out of their lives than those who dishonor God.

I think there is a principle here that would certainly do us well to remember. Our relationship with God is a covenant. It requires both parties to maintain an honorable place in order for all the benefits of the relationship to be experienced.

A covenant relationship is one that is supposed to last for the rest of one’s life. There are very few of these because of that. A parent and child, husband and wife, certain lifelong friendships, God and a believer and fellow members of God’s church are examples of true covenant relationships. One of the great benefits of those relationships is the concept of honor.

The word honor means to  show respect to someone, to show how they are important and special in our lives. I believe there are spiritual things which happen when we honor another person. We strengthen the bindings between us and them and we allow for spiritual blessings to come to both parties. But, of course, the same is also true for dishonor. When we dishonor someone with whom we share a deep covenant relationship, we weaken the ties between us and allow spiritual destruction in our lives. I explore this concept in marriage in an earlier article.

The Bible tells children to “honor their parents”. Husbands and wives are supposed to show honor to their spouses. Friends are to honor deep friendship by telling the truth, giving aid when needed, coming to the rescue, keeping confidence and not betraying one another.

In the case of children, we are told it is the first commandment with a promise:

Eph. 6:2, 3 : “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Honoring our parents releases health and life blessings upon us and them.

Jim suffered from multiple ailments all the time. He had over 40 pills he took each day for one problem or another. As he and I worked together in counseling over a year, our goal was to eliminate most of those medications. During therapy, we identified a number of false beliefs he carried with him and other detrimental elements related to unforgiveness. At one point, he had eliminated a good portion of his drugs. That’s when we came to the hardest part of the counseling journey.

“Mike, I want nothing to do with my kids. They are all whiners and they never do anything but bring me grief. I can’t really stand to be around any of them.” I explained to Jim that it was proper to have boundaries so others cannot hurt us. But I also asked Jim if he had ever blessed his children. He had really never spoken blessings over any of them. Had he praised them? He said they had never done anything worth praising. Had he told others how much he appreciated any of them? Had he bragged about them? On the contrary, he often criticized them to anyone who listened.

I explained to him why honor is important. God sets the example for this. Even though we have all treated God poorly, God never gives up on us. He never stops loving us. And God will never curse us. God will warn us and discipline us as children, but he always wants blessings for our lives. But when we refuse to honor those who are in covenant relationships with us, we allow the enemy of our souls to attack us and defeat us. Our bodies, minds, emotions and life goals are often destroyed. Those who are critical and dishonoring of their loved ones will often pay the price in personal destruction.

Jim decided to begin blessing those around him. He stopped putting down his children and wife to other people. He asked God regularly to bless them. He sent them notes encouraging them and telling them why he was proud of each one. He began to keep a journal and wrote down why he appreciated his wife and each of his kids.

Six months later, he didn’t need any more medications. He has seen a remarkable change in his life since then. As he has honored the people in his life, the effects of dishonor are being eliminated.

This works with people at church, our relatives and friends and our spouses. We may not like all they do, and we cannot endorse wicked and misguided schemes. But we can honor them and their relationship to us even if we have to maintain a few boundaries.

If  you do that, you will see health come to you and them.

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