How to Hate the Sin We Love

heart of stone-fleshSin is fun.  It is is exciting and may even be exhilarating.  Sin promises happiness, escape, and pleasure, and its promises are even true!  Well, just for a little while.  If sin was boring or didn’t offer any “rewards”, no one would want to do it.  And when we habitually sin, we do so because we love it (& ourselves).  We enjoy it.  We choose it over others, even God.  We may remember it in fondness and miss it when it is gone.  But we also know from God’s Word that sin is evil and to engage in it, even just once, brings death (“The wages of sin is death…”). Yet we can’t love God and love sin simultaneously, so how do we hate the sin what we love?

First, let’s consider a few verses in regards to hating sin:

Psalm 97:10  Let those who love the Lord hate evil…

Proverbs 8:13  To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

 Amos 5:15  Hate evil, love good;

Isn’t it interesting that God needs to tell us to “hate evil“?  Our hearts are certainly “prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love.”  We are prone to love things we ought not to love, but to hate.  And we are prone to hate things we ought to love, or at least are better for us.

Recently I spoke to an addict who has been having a difficult time staying away from drugs.  He knows he needs to “say no” but he continuously says “yes” to them and he didn’t know why.  Besides the chemically addictive part in the drugs, there was also another reason why he went back.  He loved the drugs.  He loved what they did to his body and mind.  He believed its promises of escape and enjoyment.  He loved the drugs (and himself) more than he loved his family or God.  He asked me, “So how can I hate them and love my family more?

This leads us to the question, “How do we hate the sin we love?”  “How do we hate what we have affection for, what we strongly desire, and what we turn to in our struggles and stress?”  “How do we deny ourselves and love God and others more than ourselves?” At this point, I would love to come up with three proven strategies on how to do this.  I would love to share with certainty that it is a simple process of “just say no,” pray more or say certain prayers, and say “yes” more to God.  Although all these things may prove helpful at times, they won’t change your affections or desires, and they won’t permanently change your actions either.  Why?  Because outward actions will not change inside problems.  Our affections and desires (what we love and hate) stem from the heart, and our hearts can only be changed by the One who created our hearts.

In Ezekiel 11 and 36, God speaks to the Israelites and he tells them, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”  Hearts of stone are hearts that neither love God, nor love the things He loves. Instead, hearts of stone loves the things he hates: sin.  In order to love God more and love the things he loves (and hate what he hates), we need hearts of flesh.  This is a surgical procedure only the Great Physician can do.  The changing of the heart is God’s domain.  We can’t change our hearts or remove our sins.  We can’t make moral decisions and actions and expect our affections and desires to turn 180 degrees.  We may have tried, but eventually, we are guaranteed to fail.

So, what can we do?

In changing our hearts…nothing.  But we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of our hearts changing.  We cooperate with Him by faith through 1) Acceptance of His love and mercy, 2) Brokenness over our sin, 3) Commitment to pursue what God loves (put off own sin and put on God’s law), and 4) recognize, believe, and see things from God’s perspective.

1) Acceptance of His love, truth, grace & mercy – Accepting is not an action, it is believing.  It is believing that His love is greater than our sins.  It is believing that His laws are motivated by His love and that they are good and for our benefit and His glory.  It is believing that God’s favor is upon us, not because of what we have done, but because of who He is.  It is believing that He forgives you and He will give you strength to carry on.  Our belief, however, is tested by our doing.  We will do what we believe.  So, since His laws are motivated by love and He wants the best for us, will you put this belief into actions by following them?
2) Brokenness over our sins – Unless we recognize and believe we are broken, we will not recognize our need to be fixed, and we will not see our daily need for a Savior.  Brokenness is not hanging on to guilt and shame, but a grieving period where we recognize our wandering hearts and actions (sins) have placed Christ on the cross (Ps 51 – “Against you alone have I sinned“).  Brokenness recognizes that we have caused sorrow to others and to God and essentially places ourselves in the hands of God to fix.  Without brokenness, we will still love what we ought to hate.
3) Commitment to pursue what God loves – Romans 8 speaks about making decisions that are in line with the Spirit of God as opposed to the flesh.  Whichever nature we feed will reap its own benefits or consequences.  If we continue to make decisions from the flesh (which is what God hates), then we often will reinforce further decisions of the flesh.  If we make decisions from the Spirit, we will reinforce further decisions of the Spirit.  Our commitments to pursue what God loves (in the Spirit) often involve accountability from others, limiting our opportunities to sin by recognizing times or places of weaknesses and taking action, and studying His Word.
4) See from God’s Perspective – Isa 5:20 states that many “see evil as good and good as evil, light as darkness and darkness as light, sweet as bitter and bitter as sweet.”  In other words, we’re seeing things all wrong.   One person I spoke to who had an affair saw the adulterous relationship as good and godly because they prayed together, felt better when they were with each other, and enjoyed their time together.  Yet this person was deceived because it was an adulterous relationship. Evil became good because it felt good and there was “good” in it, but the adulterous relationship was really evil.  The Truth (with a capital “T”) of God must always trump the truth of feelings.  It is easy to deceive ourselves, so we need to see from God;s perspective.

Hating the sin we love is an impossible task to do alone.  We truly need transformed hearts and minds, and such transformation cannot occur by our own actions or will, but instead by the love, grace, and mercy of our God.  Our hearts of stone need to be replaced with hearts of flesh by God himself.  Our minds need to be transformed by His Truth. Our affections and desires need to be transformed by His Spirit.  And all of this is done through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Hating the sin we love is possible only when we love the One who hates sin.  Therefore pursue Him with all your heart and mind, and let Him “who began a good work in you carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php 1:6).

Aside

Black & White vs Relational Thinkers: An Introduction (Part 2)

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For Black & White Thinkers vs Relational Thinkers, Part 1, click here.

It’s been 6 months since I wrote the first blog on Black & White Thinking.  After receiving some feedback from others and speaking to many people in counseling on Black & White Thinking and Relational Thinking, I thought a few additional thoughts were necessary to gain a better understanding of the two.  I was asked by a few people if I thought that Black & White Thinkers were all wrong, and whether I plan to write more about Relational Thinkers.  Well, I do plan to write more about Relational Thinkers… in the future.  Regarding the other question, I’ll need to do a little explaining about whether Black & White Thinkers are all wrong (FYI – they are not):

It’s important to distinguish between Black & White Thinking and Black & White Thinkers.  Black & White Thinking is a thought process that can be done by everyone.  Often times, those struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and anger have Black & White Thinking.  The either-or and all-or-nothing thoughts are often present in everyone, but Black & White Thinking may not be prevalent in those individual’s lives.  Black & White Thinkers, however, perceive, interpret, respond, and interact to all of life’s situations judging between right and wrong, correcting others, going all in or all out of situations, and typically focus more on actions rather than heart issues.  Black & White Thinkers tend to be more concrete, placing emphasis on what is physical, can be physically observed, facts, figures, laws, standards, details, etc.   Many Black & White Thinkers have a difficult time understanding abstract (and relational) concepts of love, emotions, feelings, grace, etc.  All of this is part of their makeup and is not “wrong,” but different than Relational Thinkers (To declare Black & White Thinkers as wrong would be being Black & White!).  It’s my hope that seeing the differences between the two and identifying which type of thinking is most prevalent inside of you and others will help readers become more like Christ.

But perhaps it would be better to come up with a different term than Black & White Thinkers.  Let’s take a look at another way of understanding Black & White Thinkers vs Relational Thinkers and how a better understanding of each leads us to Christ.

Black & White Thinkers are essentially Old Testament Thinkers (OT Thinkers).  OT Thinkers process events and speak according to certain law, standards, or truths (concrete) as set by God, society, or self.  The observable actions (or inactions) are interpreted, or judged, as being right or wrong.  Many Black & White Thinkers even value people according to what others bring to the table.  If they don’t work or do what they should do, then they are de-valued in the eyes of the OT Thinker.  Any relationship, including a marriage, seems to turn from being lovers to an employer – employee relationship.  The Old Testament emphasized God’s standards and laws that were to be followed, explained how Israel broke the laws and were punished, and how they needed to turn from their wicked ways.  These Laws of works declared that we should obey the laws and when we do, things will go well, but when we don’t, we must make amends, sacrifice, or be punished.  Although there were many laws to follow, the law demonstrated a simple standard to follow and we must do it.  There is little regard for feelings or emotions because they didn’t matter, only actions mattered.  It simplifies life into a Nike slogan, “Just do it.”  The Old Testament, however, is not silent about a God who is Relational and who showed mercy, patience, kindness, and grace; but this is not emphasized as much as it is in the New Testament.  The purpose of the laws was to show that they cannot be obeyed fully, and to show us our need for Jesus.  Like the Old Testament laws, Old Testament Thinkers (often seen as Pharisees in the NT) who simplify their lives by living under standards or a law and impose standards upon others have a need for a Savior.  Jesus in the Gospels, who is the fulfillment of the law, is exactly who Old Testament Thinkers need. This Jesus met all standards and demonstrated the Relational side of God.  While living by the standards / law, he demonstrated continued love and grace to others, and all while holding onto Truth.  Jesus did not condemn or judge others for their actions (though he did call out the Pharisees on more than one occasion), but simply valued them for who they are (created in God’s image) and not by what they did.

Relational Thinkers are less “law and truth” focused, and are focused more on showing love and grace (abstract).  If Black & White Thinkers are more Old Testament Thinkers, the Relational Thinkers are more New Testament Thinkers (NT Thinkers).  Since relationships with other people are of the utmost importance, all words and actions ought to consider relationships more than anything else (for some, considering feelings more is more important than considering truth).   In addition, the importance of emotions and feelings are elevated since they are necessary for good relationships. A Relational focus in the NT begins with Jesus Christ being sent into the world because of God’s love for us and his desire for us to spend eternity with Him.  This Relational focus of love continues in Jesus’ life and death and is also emphasized through Paul’s letters as he instructs his readers to show love and grace to others.  Although the emphasis of the NT may be on Relational matters of love and grace, the NT is also built upon the Truth/laws of the Old Testament.  NT Thinkers who overemphasize love and grace or emotions and feelings miss the necessity of Truth as defined in the OT or seen in the book Revelation.  If truth is considered, NT Thinkers sometimes elevate love and emotion as truth, and downplay the Law or Truths in the OT. NT Thinkers ought to continue reading the New Testament which points to the same Jesus who stands on Truth and who judges the nations according to His Truth.  Although feelings, emotions, and relationships matter greatly, they cannot diminish the importance of Truth.

In Summary:

NT Thinkers place feelings, love, and relationships as priorities and tend to be more sensitive to the emotional needs of people, while OT Thinkers tend to place truth, standards, and conformity to such “laws” as priorities.  OT Thinkers‘ focus on law, standards, and truth which are not anchored in the love and grace of Jesus will result in broken relationships, conflicts, and Pharisaical living.  NT Thinkers’ focus on emotions, feelings, love and grace which are not anchored in the Truths of the coming Jesus and His judgment through the law will result in a license to live by feelings and cheapen grace by continuing to live in sin.  Whether we are more inclined to be OT Thinkers or NT Thinkers, both types of thinking point us to our need for Jesus Christ, who is both Relational (Love/grace) and Black & White (Truth).  Living by Grace/Love and Truth are necessary in our lives.  It’s not enough for us to speak truth into someone’s life, we need to speak it in love.  It’s insufficient to speak in love to someone if we are not speaking truth.  Both are necessary.   When we turn to Christ for our forgiveness, follow Christ as our head, and continue to seek after Him in love and truth, we will begin the journey to become like Him.  Are you ready to get started?

 Other Black &White Thinking blogs:

Black & White Thinking in Depression

Black & White Thinking in Anxiety

Black & White Thinking in Anger

Black & White Thinking Christian

Black & White Thinking Through a Biblical Lens

Grace and the Black & White Thinker

Emotions and the Black & White Thinker

When Black & White Thinking is Ruled by Pride

 

 

 

I’m Just Not That Motivated: Part 2

unmotivated cartoon

It’s been 4 years since I’ve written Part 1.  No, it wasn’t that I was unmotivated to write a Part 2, but I noticed that since the original “I’m Just Not That Motivated” had quite a few clicks, I thought it deserved a sequel.  Hopefully a blog sequel will be better than a sequel to the movies.

In the original blog, I explained that we are naturally motivated to do what we want.   Yet when we choose love for God or others, this motivation can certainly carry us a distance. This blog will not be about motivating ourselves to love, but about overcoming the obstacles that prevent us from doing what we ought.

There are times where we know what we ought to do.  It’s practically right in front of us, but it is out of reach simply because there is an obstacle in the way.  Until that obstacle is removed, it is impossible to reach it.  So, we have a choice:  either remove the obstacle, try to go around it, or give up (or delay) doing what we ought.

Our obstacles can be distracting activities (games, social networking, or entertainment keeping us from work), sinful activities (pornography) or even people (keeping us from doing what we ought).  The problem with these obstacles is that they don’t seem like obstacles at all.  We like them. We may even feel we need them. They don’t feel like they’re obstacles because they bring us joy, laughter, and reward. They may even be addicting.  As a matter of fact, whatever we are supposed to do seems more like the obstacle from doing what we want. Yet it looms over us and beckons to be done.  “Oh, I really need to get to that…maybe a few more minutes or a few more chips…or whatever.”  Ten minutes later.  Twenty minutes later.  Thirty minutes later.  And so on….  We delay more and more.  We procrastinate and create a crisis so that we have no choice but to remove the obstacle…or fail entirely.

When the obstacle becomes the main attraction and that which we ought to do becomes the interruption, our esteem plummets as we fail to do what we ought, and at times, our relationships suffer as well.  Sometimes it feels like we just can’t help ourselves.  We’re stuck.  We’re addicted.  We’re unhappy.  And we do it again.  It reminds me of Paul’s words, “I do the things I don’t want to do.  And what I do want to do, I don’t do…  Who will save me from the miserable wretch that I am? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!” (see Romans 7:14-25).

Removing obstacles is such an easy concept, but so difficult to do because we’ve developed an apparent need for them.  The more important the obstacle is to us the more difficult it is to remove. In addition, our constant use of them, has behaviorally trained us to keep going back.  So, how do we remove these obstacles in our lives?  Here are a few thoughts:

1.  As they say, “admitting it is the first step.”  Admit you have a problem and seek some help and support.  Some of us don’t have the internal motivation or gumption to say “no” to the distraction when it comes and we need help and accountability. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help from God or others.  We were not meant to live our lives alone without help.   If it’s a sin issue, confess it before God and seek His forgiveness and then set out a new course without the obstacle.

2.  Challenge and change your perspective.  We need to see the obstacle as that: an obstacle.  An enemy.  Since the more you love it the more difficult it is to remove, you need to teach yourself to see it for what it is (stay tuned for a future blog, “How to Hate What You Love”).  In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, a Senior demon is writing to his nephew (Wormwood) training him on how to help a Christian slide away from God.  Listen to his words, “You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked’.  Activities where we waste our time are part of the tactics the enemy uses to distance ourselves from God. We truly need to see these obstacles for what they are.

3. Make the decision to get rid of it permanently and stay committed to this decision. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, at 50, decided to train for the Spartan races.  I asked how he had the resolve to eat well and train regularly for it.  He said this, “I made the decision to do it and told myself, ‘I will not waiver.’  When I became tempted, I told myself that I already made the decision beforehand and stuck with it.”  He remained firm in his commitment and followed through.  The decision was already made, so future temptations to give in to laziness or other activities were reduced.  He followed through with his training and succeeded!  Job did something similar when he made a covenant with his eyes so he would not look lustfully on women (Job 31:1).  He made a promise or commitment and followed through.  Set a goal for yourself and don’t depart from it.

4.  Decide if there needs to be a Permanent or Temporary Removal. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (I Cor 10:23).  Some things need to be removed from our lives permanently (Heb 12:1, Mt 5:30).  These are things that are sinful, idols, and that keep us from a close connection with God.  Other things can best be removed temporarily or best if limited, such as distraction that keep us from a goal.  These obstacles simply get in the way of us doing what we need to do.  We would either need to a) remove them from our location, or b) remove ourselves from their location.  Either way, it is best to keep a distance from distraction.   While you are working, keep your electronic device in a separate room, in the car, or at home.  If at home, limit your time and perhaps set a timer and make the predetermined decision to stick to it.

5. Continue to ask yourself, “Do I want to change?”  Do you want to feel better, succeed, or have better relationships?  Do you want to honor God, do more for Him, and live to love others?  If we truly want to change, we will go beyond minor skirmishes and do all out nuclear war against such obstacles or struggles.  Keep this question in front of you (Do I really want to change?) at all times to help gauge where you are.  Changing is not simply a behavior change, but a heart change.  And only the Lord can change the heart.  Therefore, pray.  Pray something like this: “Yes, Lord, I want to change.  Help me to love what you love and hate what you hate.  Help me to say ‘no’ to the things that keep me from you, and ‘yes’ to the things that honor you.”

Well, there you have it.  Here are some suggestions for removing the obstacles in our lives so that we can do the things we ought to do.  The more we love these obstacles, the harder they are to remove.  And the more we love them, the more likely they are to be idols in our hearts and lives.  Try to go a few hours without them.  One day.  Three days. Seven days. Maybe even one month and see how it goes.  Ask for accountability and help and seek Him during this time.

What other suggestions do you have that have helped you in removing obstacles?

Re-Blog: Reading Your Bible Relationally


NOTE: As I’ve been working through a Black & White Thinking Series, this blog caught my eye on how Black & White Thinkers may read the Scriptures – informationally. Though we all may do this, it is a good reminder how reading the Scriptures relationally can draw us nearer to the heart of God.  This blog was written to Pastors, but can be for all of us.
– Fred Jacoby

“One of the temptations for pastors is to engage the Bible only for sermon preparation.  Because we preach most every week, we are always looking for fresh content for our preaching.  As a result, one of the challenges for pastors is reading the Bible personally as a Christian rather than simply reading it as a pastor looking for sermon material.

Today I want to share a practice with you that has been very helpful in my journey.  First, let me give you a little background.  I grew up in a Christian home where the Word of God was loved and studied.  There was great respect for God’s Word.  And to this day I believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

And most of my life, I have approached the Bible informationally, not relationally.  When I approach the Bible informationally, my goal is to elevate my knowledge.  But when I approach the Bible relationally, my goal is to elevate my affection and love for God.

Growing in knowledge is important, but knowledge without relationship is dangerous.  That was one of the big issues Jesus had with the Pharisees.  They had biblical knowledge but their heart was far from God.

In recent years, when I sit down with my Bible, I try to remind myself that this is not just a book with great truth and accurate information.  Behind the book, is a personal God.  I am meeting with the God of the universe, not just reading a book.  And he wants a relationship with me, which makes the Bible different than any other book ever written.

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) says

‘For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.’

The Word of God is alive and powerful because God is at work in it and through it.  He energizes His Word and applies it to my life.

So, before I start reading Scripture, I usually start with a simple prayer… ‘Lord, today I want to meet with you and I want to deepen my relationship with you.  So, speak to me.  I am listening.’  I am reminding myself to read the bible relationally, not just informationally.  As a pastor, my default mode is to come to the Bible looking for truth that I can use in a sermon.  The irony is that I can come to the Bible looking for truth and actually be disconnected relationally from the truth-giver.

There is an old story about a group of at a dinner gathering.  At the dinner was a well known orator.  That night he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm.  He masterfully recited that most well known of Psalms and everyone in the room was impressed.  There was also an older pastor there that night and someone asked him if he would also recite the 23rd Psalm.  But instead of the people being impressed, they were moved.  Afterward, someone commented, the orator knew the Psalm and the pastor knew the shepherd.

I don’t want to be a pastor who simply knows the psalm.  I want to deeply know the shepherd.

When my wife and I started dating 40 years ago, we were in college. The problem was that we lived 600 miles apart.  And, it was before the days of cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging.  We were poor college students but we were in love and had a deep desire to connect with each other.

So, we worked out a plan.  We would do all we could to see each other once a month.  Then, we would call each other once a week.  That was all we could afford.  But, every single day we wrote a personal letter.  For over a year, every day I wrote a letter to Connie and she wrote a letter to me. I was the envy of all the guys in my dorm because I received a love letter every single day.

When I would go to my mailbox each day and pull out that letter, I want to tell you that I never read them informationally.  I always read them relationally.  I never did a greek word study from her letters.  I never created an outline for teaching.  I knew that behind those words on the page was a person that loved me and that I was in relationship with.

That’s how I want to read the Bible.  So, in all your efforts to grow your church and preach great sermons, don’t forget to pursue a love relationship with God.  I suspect there are some of us who need to return to our first love.  We need to be reminded that our first priority is the Great Commandment before the Great Commission.

A minister once asked Mother Teresa how to best live out his calling… ‘spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be all right.’  This week may you grow in adoration of the Lord Jesus.”

A Poem: Dependence

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DEPENDENCE

To be dependent & needy, is there any worse thing

than to be incapable of handling most everything.

I know that I should do all that I can

because that is what defines the measure of a man.

To be self-reliant and live on my own…

To spend my money or to take out a loan…

To pay it all back or give to the poor

because they all need help from those who have more.

But sooner than later the tables all turned

I can no longer do things I had once learned.

My body’s grown weak. I barely can stand.

I’m forced to redefine the measure of a man.

Ashamed of myself I can no longer be

a motivated, grateful, self-reliant me.

How could life come down to all this?

Frustration and pain, I’m in the Abyss.

Yet what good does it do to question my God

or beat myself with this iron-heavy rod?

When I pity myself I get only worse

and place myself in center, in first.

The reason for being has always been to love

This has been our gift from our God above.

So if I am here to help others to care

My existence, at least, is simply to be there

To give opportunities for others to reach out

and see beyond themselves, beyond their doubts

I am, after all, not only my own

But am here to be used by the Living Stone

If my dependence alone helps others to love

than I hope they succeed by His strength above.

I pray that I can go through all of this well

give glory to God and give thanks in this hell.

May I encourage you as I play this Job role

It’s the least I can do for this life, to Him, I owe.

Author: Fred Jacoby

 

Emotions and the Black & White Thinker

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Texting your emotions through emoticons (emoji’s) is easy.  Expressing your emotions well can be a little more difficult.  Working through your emotions, on the other hand (acknowledging, them, allowing yourself to feel them and then express them)…well, this is tough.  We are complicated.  We are physical beings, mental beings, emotional beings, and spiritual beings.  Every part of us interacts with every other part of us and the end result is us.  A complicated mess.  Our emotions alone are complicated as we may feel multiple emotions at the same time.  The death of a loved one can bring about feelings of sadness for us, happiness for them if they are in heaven, fear of moving forward without them, and anger that they are no longer here.

I’ve had numerous conversations with Black & White Thinkers who admit that emotions are often uncomfortable, unwelcome, complicated, and confusing. Depending on how one was raised, emotions may be more like an enemy.  You avoid them, you kill them, or you stuff them deep down inside never to see the light of day.  They are neither welcomed nor something you work through.  As the “All or Nothing” thinking reigns, difficult emotions are often pushed to the ‘nothing’ category.  Negative emotions such as hurt, pain, rejection, fear, loneliness, sadness and grief may be at most acknowledged, but are never allowed to remain on the surface.  Black & White Thinkers typically don’t like the nuances and abstractions (intangibleness) of feelings as they are complicated and confusing.  They will either choose to feel or not to feel, or perhaps simplify by overlooking the multiple emotions and funneling them into one emotion, such as anger. Yet if a Black & White Thinker wants to have healthy relationships, all emotions are necessary to understand, feel, and express in healthy ways.  Why? Because healthy relationships require emotional connections such as compassion, empathy, love, and joy. And these emotional connections with others come only when one works through the difficult emotions themselves.

For Black & White Thinkers, there are some differences in expressing emotions for those raised in relationally detached homes versus those raised in more affectionate homes. Those raised in affectionate homes (positive relationships) seem to function in relationships better as they were allowed to express their feelings and encouraged to work out their feelings within relationships.  Those who have been raised in relationally detached homes (abusive or emotionally stunted relationships) tend to distance themselves from most emotions and are unable to work through them well.  Because of the inability to work through the emotions, the ability to sympathize or empathize lessens, resulting in difficult relationships.

Sadness:  For those who grew up in relationally detached homes, sadness is often seen as being weak or foolish.  You deal with it by “sucking it up” and moving on, not allowing oneself to grieve or feel sadness.  The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps!” mentality is how to cope with sadness.  Any feelings of hurt or sadness may be forced below the surface and never dealt with or is solely expressed only through anger.  For Black & White Thinkers who were reared in affectionate homes, however, sadness is allowed and support is typically offered, though it may not be accepted.  Since Black & White Thinking is typically all or nothing, sadness may also be pushed to the “nothing side” and refused to be felt since it is uncomfortable.

Happiness:  If a Black & White Thinker is raised in a relationally detached home, joy and happiness would likely never be found within relationships, but typically found in either pleasurable activities or through performance in (school)work or sports (ie. success and physical pleasure).  Therefore, hard work and success is often valued and feelings of pride in self-accomplishment would equal happiness. This often frustrates spouses who seek happiness through a relationship with their spouse. Being raised in more of an affectionate home may help a Black & White Thinker recognize the importance of relationships and value people more, leading to happier relationships.  (Note from a Biblical Counselor:  There is nothing in Scriptures that states God wants us to be happy or that that should be our goal.  Happiness is often a result of placing Him first in our lives and relationships.  For more on this, click here!)

Anger:  Anger is easier to feel and express than hurt or rejection.  It’s simpler.  You express it, let it out, and then you feel better…mostly.  Often, anger can be the “go to emotion” for many people.  If you are a Black & White Thinker growing up in a detached home, anger may have been the only emotion that was observed and felt the most.  In physically and emotionally abusive homes, anger is the ruling emotion and the expression of it was likely seen on a regular basis.  Some have vowed never to physically hit others like they had been hit, but the inability to sort out and work through other emotions or recognize the importance of relationships continue to bring about a different kind of abuse.  Emotional abuse.  This is when the emotion of anger continues to reign and the expression of it is used to control another person so that they do what you want.  When anger is expressed poorly, however, the impact on the relationship is profound.  The spouse may begin to live in fear of the person as their anger, intimidation, and control sets the relationship on a disconnected and downward spiral. For Black & White Thinkers who have been raised in affectionate families where abuse was non-existent, anger certainly exists, yet it often does not reign.  Anger is felt when situations are perceived as bad or wrong, and it may be expressed in either unhealthy or healthy ways, but anger may also not be dealt with or it can be ignored. From observation, I would say that most Black & White Thinkers who have been raised in affectionate families are more likely to work out their anger within the relationships than are those who have not been raised in such families.  There are more likely to be apologies and forgiveness for actions and expressed anger, which helps relationships succeed.  (For more on Black & White Thinking and Anger, click here.)

Truth be told, as a more Relational Thinker, I am tempted to do the very same things. Ignore the negative emotions and maybe they will go away.   If Black & White Thinkers and Relational Thinkers are to mature emotionally and relationally, emotions ought to be admitted, felt, processed, and worked through to some extent in order to have healthier relationships.  For Black & White Thinkers raised in detached homes, this would most likely require the help of a trained counselor and a willingness to change.  Most are not willing to change or recognize a need for change unless their relationship with a spouse is either at or past the breaking point, and then it may be too late.  It is not uncommon to see a spouse (typically a wife) leave her Black & White Thinking husband because of his emotional disconnection and abuse, only to find that when the relationship is threatened, the husband is now willing to change.  But the wife has already been too hurt and hardened her heart towards her husband.  Addressing these issues before it gets to the breaking point could save the marriage and allow for a better life and relationships.  Though I have seen some extremely detached Black & White Thinking individuals change to the point of saving their marriages, it required humility, brokenness, the willingness to work through emotions, and conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit.

 For More on the Black & White Thinker, Click on the following Links:

The Black & White Thinker: An Introduction

The Black & White Thinker: An Introduction (Part 2)

Black & White Thinking Through a Biblical Lens

Grace & the Black & White Thinker

The Black & White Thinking Christian

Is Black & White Thinking a Mental Illness?

Black & White Thinking in Depression

When Black & White Thinking is Ruled by Pride

Black & White Thinking in Anxiety

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Men & Women

Black & White Thinking in Anger

When You are Disappointed in Yourself

sad man

“I can’t believe I did that…again.  I am so stupid! Why can’t I stop!  Why did I say that?  Why did I do that?  You’d think I’d know better.  Loser.  Idiot.  Stupid.”

If we talked to others the way we talk to ourselves, would we be called bullies or abusers?  Self-criticism and self-condemnation are frequent occurrences when we mess up in speech or actions.  The thoughts of messing up or failing quickly turn into name calling and character attacks.  A simple “I can’t believe I did that” turns into “I am stupid.”  The focus goes from a criticism of the action to an attack on the person.  We may then judge ourselves to be incapable and unworthy.  Being disappointed in ourselves often leads to anger towards ourselves.  Anger turned inward often leads to depression.

Being disappointed in oneself is fairly common.  As long as we’re human and imperfect, we’ll mess up.  We’ll fail.  We’ll make poor decisions, and we’ll do it over and over again because we think it’ll be different this time, we forget, or we don’t care.  It’s no wonder that the Scriptures liken us to sheep, the world’s dumbest animals.

Why do we find it so hard to accept that we fail often?  Why is it equally as hard to differentiate between failing and being ‘a failure?’ Losing and being ‘a loser?’  Doing something stupid to being stupid?

If you’re disappointed in yourself often, here are a few things to consider:

  1.  Expectations:  What did you expect when you messed up?  Most people would agree that “nobody’s perfect,” but that doesn’t mean they believe it.  Or perhaps we would agree that we aren’t perfect, but we should meet a certain set of standards. We should do better, be better, or perform better means that we shouldn’t mess up, fail, or do a bad job.  We should learn from mistakes and shouldn’t make them over again.  Whenever we do what we shouldn’t, we are disappointed with ourselves because we fail to live up to our standards.
  2. Accepting Reality:  Failing is probably the one constant that we fail to accept.  We say, “I can’t believe I did that!”  Well, why can’t you believe you did that?  Do you think that you are incapable of messing up?  Do you expect that you wouldn’t or couldn’t mess up?  We ought to “think soberly” about ourselves and neither think too highly of ourselves nor too lowly, but instead to be realistic (Rom 12:3).  We are not the “me I want to be,” that is, the ideal me.  We have to accept who we are, and that means accepting that we are imperfect beings who make bad decisions at times, who choose to sin, and who fail in actions, words, and relationships.  Accepting this is important.
  3. Worth & Grace:  We make “worth statements” when we are disappointed in ourselves.  If we call ourselves names (“Idiot”) or condemn ourselves (“I’m so stupid”), we are judging ourselves and essentially declaring our worth (or worthlessness).  Instead of focusing on the action or decision (“that was dumb” or “I could have done that better“), we may focus on our personhood (“I am so stupid“)… and believe such statements.  We assume such judgments about ourselves are truth, and so our disappointment with ourselves turns into anger, then depression. Yet if our worth were to be found in our actions (successes or failures), not many of us would have much worth in ourselves as we make mistakes, poor decisions, and sin on a daily basis.  Although it’s appropriate to be convicted over sin, our condemnation has fallen upon Christ, therefore we do not need to condemn ourselves (Rom 8:1).  We would also do well to have the same mindset as Paul who states, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Cor 4:3-4).  He does not judge or condemn himself, but recognizes that responsibility belongs to the Lord.  He has learned to live by grace, which is to give and receive favor that is not based on actions, neither is it earned by successes or limited by failures.  His worth is defined by God’s favor, and not his own actions or words of other people.

I never knew how difficult parenting would be.  I’ve made poor decisions. I’ve been self-centered in many decisions.  I haven’t always loved well.  I haven’t always shown Christ to my children.  I look back and wish I could have a do-over, because maybe it would be different.  And so, I live with regrets and disappointment, knowing that I have failed in many ways.  And yet, even if I could have a do-over, I also believe I would mess up in both similar and different ways.  Why?  Because I am imperfect.  I am a sinner…and God hasn’t completed His work in me yet.  This is hard to accept, but accepting it is a must.

When we deal with disappointing ourselves, identify your expectations (recognizing the words “should” and “shouldn’t” will give you a clue!), accept the fact that you are a work in progress who remains broken, imperfect, sinful, and unfinished (Phil 1:6), and believe that your worth is not defined by your failings or your self-declarations (“I’m stupid”), but through faith in Christ.  Speak the Truth to yourself (Truth is defined by His Word, not your feelings), and stop listening to yourself.  Only then will we begin to overcome our disappointments in ourselves.

If you found this blog helpful, feel free to click on these links for more of the “When You Are Disappointed…” Series.

When You are Disappointed with Your Life

When You are Disappointed with your Spouse

When You Are Disappointed in God