Hollywood & Harassment

Image result for hollywood sign

Allegations of sexual harassment, rape, and molestation are being highlighted in Hollywood these past few weeks.  It seems like every day someone is coming out with an allegation against some director, actor, or writer.  Power and prestige have provided opportunities for some to take advantage of, manipulate, and force their wills upon others whom have trusted, admired or sought help.  Some actors and actresses are finally speaking up against such behaviors and it seems that previous tolerance to these behaviors has reached it’s limit (or has at least lowered).  It would seem that the best way many use to address such behaviors is to publicly out and shame the person for their alleged actions.  Perhaps they had once filed a complaint with supervisors or the police and it wasn’t taken seriously.  Yet once it reached the media, it becomes more serious and actions are finally made by the companies in order to save face.  Of course, this is not only is occurring in Hollywood, but we see it in the political world (Moore, Franken, etc.) and even in the church when church leaders  are caught taking advantage of parishioners or leading secret lives of sexual sin (Tchividjian, Haggard).  So what can we glean from such acts or accusations?  How do we process these biblically?  Let me give a few thoughts:

Consider the Heart

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt 15:19 NIV).  These shameful acts from sexual harassment to rape show us the dangers of when we allow idols of power or sexual pleasure to reign in the hearts.  Our self-centerdness (sin-nature) and focus on our own personal pleasure lead to actions that de-value other human beings as being our servants or slaves to do our bidding.  This may start off as fantasy, but eventually it becomes reality as it marinates in our hearts, permeates in our thought lives, and penetrates into our actions.  This is the danger for all of us!  No one is exempt from this!  Considering how Hollywood films are filled with sexual scenes, innuendos, and themes, these accusations can’t really surprise us as many films and TV shows reflect the realities of people’s hearts. Since we live out of our hearts, we ought to reflect on our own hearts and what idols we are allowing to reign, so that we can seek His forgiveness and follow His reign.  When we do so, we do not look at others as our servants, but instead serve them.  Failure to do so may indeed result in a public embarrassment, and even worse, hurts the heart of God.  This is why God sent His Son for us, to free us from our ruling heart’s desires that lead to sin.

Darkness is Exposed by the Light

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible”  (Eph 5:13 NIV).  When living in darkness, darkness becomes normal.  Yet darkness is deceiving because it doesn’t show what really is.  We are, in a sense, blind.  Spiritually speaking, we are even blind to our own blindness.  We can’t see that we can’t see.  We can’t see how we are ruled by our sin nature.  We fail to see how we our enslaved to our sin, but instead believe our enslavement is actually freedom.  Freedom to do as we wish. Freedom to experience pleasure.  Freedom to use others for our gratification.  Freedom to ____________ (fill in the blank).  Many believe that the Christian is enslaved to a dull and boring life, but it is they who may be enslaved to idols they must obey.  The darkness is deceiving, but when light is shed on it, we see things more for how they are.  And if we are humble, we may even see ourselves as slaves in need of real freedom through the light of Christ.  When darkness is exposed by light and truth, we need not be shocked at what the light and truth reveals, but only praise God for exposing the darkness.

Withhold Judgement

“The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17 NASB).  When accusations are made, we assume the accuser is right and just, and the accused is wrong and evil.  The accusations may indeed be true, but they may not be.  Obviously, the more who accuse the person of wrongful acts, the more we question the accused (Think Bill Cosby & Judge Moore).  Prov 18:17 tells us to be wary and withhold our judgment until we hear cross-examination.  Those who cross-examine are trained to find holes in stories and can bring doubt upon the accusations. Typically, this is done when there has been more research and question the motives of the accuser as well.    In today’s social media climate, public perception is the weapon used against people.  A simple accusation becoming public will likely have a significant effect on the person, because reputation is important.  Withholding judgment until there has been evidence, eye witness accounts, and additional investigation would be wise in all situations.

It’s important that Believers not believe everything that is put in front of us, especially if it includes unfounded accusations and negative press.  We are told in Scriptures to be wise in discerning, and also not to be involved in gossip, which is spreading such false information (even if that includes sharing it on facebook!).  Certainly we can be saddened about such accusations, whether they are true or not, and we can sympathize with those who have been harassed or abused, but we need to fall shy of declaring judgment upon them quickly.  Additionally, it is wise to consider our own hearts and our own need for a Savior.  Only when we live in light, will the light of Christ shine brightest in us.

What other Biblical advice would be appropriate in regards to accusations and Hollywood & Harassments?

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Help! I’m Married to a Black & White Thinker

Couple after quarrel

Marriage is both a beautiful picture of the greater marriage between Christ and the Church, and it is a complicated mess because of our sins, differences and other struggles.  As most people would probably agree, we choose people who are a bit different than ourselves.  They possess traits we don’t possess and they can complement our weaknesses or strengths.  One of these differences include our interpretive lenses.  One person in the relationship tends to be more Relational, while the other person tends to be more black & white.  The thinking that once endeared a Relational person to the Black & White Thinker (i.e. concrete, thinking clearly and actual, straight talking, confident, etc.) soon becomes more of a weakness, as the Relational was looking for, well, a close relationship, something with whom some B&W Thinkers struggle.  The more Black & White Thinking that is present, the more difficult relationships will be.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Let’s start with a brief recap/summary of Black & White ThinkersBlack & White Thinkers interpret and think in “right and wrong,” often making judgments about something or someone.  Emotions exist, but they typically see feelings and emotions as either irrelevant to what is right or wrong (i.e. you are to obey the 10 Commandments, it is irrelevant how you feel about it) or, at minimum, subordinate to what is right or wrong.  Negative emotions are also difficult to process and feel because they are abstract concepts, so they are to be avoided (when it comes to all or nothing, nothing is preferred).  Black & White Thinkers typically operate on an action/works/fruit level and look at rewards and consequences as these are all concrete and tangible.  Relational concepts, such as mercy, grace, compassion, empathy, and sympathy are difficult to grasp.  Women who are Black & White Thinkers tend to be more open to emotions and give more credence to relational skills of sympathy and empathy than Black & White Thinking men.

So, in light of all these Black & White Thinking observations, here are some things to keep in mind when married to a Black & White Thinker:

EXPECTATIONS

If you’re more Relational, it’s important to know that Black & White Thinkers are not like you and nor should they be expected to be like you.  They will process things differently, and they may struggle with loving you, but not because of you.   The more black & white they are, the less they may be able to understand the nuances of relationship dynamics or emotions of their spouses or children (it’s a completely different operating system!). If they seek to do better in relationships, they may be able to understand relationship rules (if someone is doing A, you do B in response, but it is not natural).  Unfortunately, the Black & White Thinker may not see or understand the emotional impact of their actions upon their spouse or children, but those who are humble can learn what to do if they do wrong and work to improve relationships.

LOVE

Relational Thinkers tend to show their love for their spouse based on emotions and feelings.  Because they are feeling the love, or feel like loving, Relational Thinkers express love.  Love expressed by Black & White Thinkers tends to be less of the emotional heart connection, but is often expressed more tangibly.  The actions of love may be more like acts of service, such as taking care of your car, doing projects around the house you want done, taking you out to dinner, etc. Their loving actions may not be driven by the feelings of love, but by doing what spouses should do when they love someone.  This is similar to Black & White Thinkers loving God:  For Black & White Thinkers, loving God flows out of obedience (driven by what is right and good) and, I believe, it is accepted by God as love. For Relational Thinkers, loving God flows from a heart that is full of love and gratitude (emotionally driven).  Neither are bad nor is one better than the other.  They are different. If your spouse loves you because it is good, right, and it pleases you, then you can learn to accept it as expressed, and certainly it is OK to push and teach other ways as well. Also keep in mind that they may not speak your love language or be emotionally vulnerable with you or emotionally available to you.  This does not mean they don’t love you, but they may express it through doing things for you, as opposed to identifying with your emotions and connecting with you at the heart level as you desire.  You may need to draw nearer to God and find other people of the same sex to connect with emotionally.

CONFLICT

Conflict, in itself, is often difficult.  At times, conflict occurs when determining what is right and what is wrong.  But when there is conflict between a Relational Person & a Black & White Thinker, both people are looking at the conflict from different perspectives.  What is “right” for a Relational person means you should be considerate of the feelings and emotions of the person, placing the relationship as priority.  What is “right” in the Black & White Thinker’s mind may be what is according to the written law, rule, standard, or expectation (the letter of the law).  If you break the rule or don’t meet the expectation, punishment or consequences must be enforced.  In both situations, the presence of pride and selfishness may also mean that whatever is “right” may be defined by personal desires that have turned into demands.  A Relational person may argue, “You need to give the kids a break from doing their chores!  You’re a tyrant!”  A Black & White Thinker may argue, “You can’t let the kids off the hook from doing what they should be doing.  They need to be responsible and you’re too soft!”  Teaching responsibility is very important, and showing grace and mercy to them is also important in order to have a relationship that is not built solely on works.  At times it will be better to consider the relationship over being in the right.  At times we will need to be in the right and not be concerned with others’ feelings.  Working together to discern what to do when is of utmost importance as too much of either side will cause damage to the relationship and the outcome.

WARNINGS

When pride (self-centeredness) reigns in a Black & White Thinker’s life, the marriage cannot be healthy.  Genuine reconciliation becomes impossible (“I’m not perfect” is not an acknowledgement of wrong), genuine love is never given, and mutuality is non-existent. When the focus of the Black & White Thinker is on self and not on what is good for others, then they will likely try to control others with their anger, so that they do what he or she thinks is best.  This obviously ruins relationships. When this occurs, the marriage is emotionally destructive.  In this case, it would be wise to seek help from a wise Christian Counselor.

Pride (self-centeredness) is always present as long as we have a sin-nature inside of us. So we do not need to be afraid of the pride, only be humble enough to address it and seek after God’s heart so that He reigns in our hearts, and not our pride.

HOPE

There are many Relational Thinkers who married Black & White Thinkers. Yet as both recognize the differences and strengths in the other, you can humbly work together to work through them.  And even if one is not willing to work, help is not too far away.  IT IS POSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO CHANGE if they want to change.  For some, it means a crisis is necessary (I heard rock bottom is a good foundation to build on!).  For others, it is simply a sit down conversation stating that you are upset with the status quo and things need to change.  For those who are not at that point of crisis, the change may simply need to be minor changes in yourself, expectations, and educating yourself about the differences. Then accepting and appreciating what God has given you to help you become more like Him, a spouse who is a Black & White Thinker.

Remember, even though God is Relational, God is also Black & White.  While we are all created in His image, reflecting different aspects of Him is a good thing, and working together to reflect Him as one is also good…challenging…but good.  I hope this will help you understand your spouse just a little better and will challenge you to accept certain aspects of his or her interpretive lens & thinking as a strength, and not a weakness or incompetence.  🙂

For more on Black & White Thinking in Relationships, consider the following:

Black & White Thinkers vs Relational Thinkers (an Introduction)

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

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Differences in Men & Women

Insecurity and Black & White Thinkers

Emotions and the Black & White Thinker

When Black & White Thinking is Ruled by Pride

Is it Right or Wrong?

JLUgraffiti

While driving down the highways, perhaps you’ve come across “Christian vandalism” that has sayings like, “Jesus Saves” or “Jesus Loves U” spray painted on the side of a bridge or a wall of rock.  I always wonder what they were thinking when they did that.  Why would someone break the law to share a message that, although important, shows people that Christians do not respect the law?  Does the end truly justify the means?  Perhaps the Christian vandals believed what was good (or better) was the message, therefore they declared their vandalism, which is legally wrong, was right.  This leads me to the passage of Scripture (Isa 5:20) that states, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”  How easy it is to excuse or justify actions and call them good when they have already been defined as bad (or evil).

How does evil become good and good become evil?  How does wrong become right, and right become wrong?  How does this exchange of morals happen in our lives?  Let me give a few thoughts as to how this happens:

  1. Acceptance of Rationalizing, Justifying & Blaming:  When we rationalize, we minimize the seriousness of ours and other’s actions.  “Oh, he was just tired,” “It’s no big deal.  Others have done worse,” “I wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t do that,” “She made me angry!”“He deserved it!”  “God wants me to be happy, so it’s OK that I leave my spouse.” All of these are rationalizations justifying ourselves or other’s actions, and we accept them as excuses.  When we rationalize, justify, blame, or excuse our actions, we proclaim our actions are “better than” others’ actions, or we declare our actions are acceptable.  As we believe our own rationalizations and justifications, we begin to declare our actions as morally good. It’s OK to break the law and spray paint “Jesus Loves You” on another’s property because maybe somebody will get saved.  It’s OK to personally tear down a public statue because it represented something I never believed in.  It’s right to be rude to people who don’t agree with me because they are dumb.  Sometimes it doesn’t take long to convince ourselves into doing something we know may be wrong for something we believe is right.  Eventually, however, we’ll actually believe our actions are right because our cause is right, too.
  2. Defining what is “Good” and “Evil”:  Who defines what is “good” or what is “evil”? If what is “good” and what is “evil” is simply defined by God, we have a starting point of discussion and interpretation.  If we define what “good” or “evil” is, not God, then our definition of “good” or “evil” must be suspect as we are imperfect & flawed beings due to our sinful or selfish natures.  Since we are not All-Knowing, our perspectives are based on our own experiences, perceptions, and assumptions. We may act on what seems to be right / best for us, but that may not be right / best for others or right / good according to God.  If we can’t agree on what is good, and defining good is subjective (we define our own good), then we will be more likely to stray and turn from what God has defined as evil as good, and vice versa.  Why? Because we’ll be guided by our seared consciences, selfish tendencies, misguided assumptions and interpretations, and personal experiences.  We call evil good and good evil because we’ve redefined these words and decided to trust ourselves and not Him.  In Mark 10:18, Jesus states that “no one is good, but God.”  If that is the case (and I believe it is), then only one who is truly Good can truly define good, not ones who are tainted by sin.
  3. Interpretive Lens: As stated in former blogs on Black & White Thinking: An Introduction (Part 1 and Part 2), our interpretive lenses play a significant role in defining what is right and wrong.  For example, in our political climate, we see how both Republicans and Democrats are guided by what they think is good and right. On one hand, many Republicans are presently guided by following the law, constitution, and following processes and procedures to make laws (consider DACA and immigration – illegal aliens are “illegal”, and congress must change laws, not the president).  Following the laws is what is good and right and best.  Many Democrats are presently guided by hearts of compassion for immigrants and their families. Compassion, love, and sympathy for the suffering is what is good and right and best.  Although this brief explanation is somewhat simplified, both parties (and individuals) act according to what they believe is good, right, or best.  Each side has strengths and weaknesses, but our interpretive lenses (law, black & white thinking, concrete issues/concepts vs compassion, empathy, abstract issues/concepts) play a significant role in what we determine is right or wrong.  Being created in His image means that we have the capacity for both (as He is both law-giver and merciful), but we tend to lean more towards one than the other.   Micah 6:8 gives us a great reminder of what we need to do that is good: He has shown you, O mortal, what is goodAnd what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Both are good, according to God, but we must tread humbly as we discern what is best.

How do you define what is “good and right” versus what is “bad and wrong”?  Would you stand on your own definitions, those of the culture or society, or on God’s definitions?  Do you personally lean towards following laws or standards as good and right or on following your feelings as good and right? Or perhaps being compassionate is right and following laws are therefore wrong?

Many of the conflicts in American society and politics, from kneeling or standing for the anthem or issues such as DACA and building walls, come down to how we align ourselves in determining what is good/right from what is bad/wrong.  As believers, we certainly do need humility and discernment to listen to opposing views and to treat one another with respect and dignity despite any differences.  And perhaps there will, at times, not be a choice between what is right & good versus what is wrong & bad, but instead about what is “better or best.”  One day, perhaps very near for us in America or here already in other countries, there will need to be a choice between obedience to the law (which is largely good) versus obedience to God (which is always good).  We will need to discern and choose the best option, which is to follow God over worldly authorities.  Until that time comes, let’s make sure that the good we believe and know is the good that comes from God alone, and is not defined by culture or by ourselves.

 

Insecurity and Black & White Thinkers

in·se·cu·ri·ty  ˌinsəˈkyo͝orədē/
noun
 1.  uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
  1. “she had a deep sense of insecurity”
    synonyms:  lack of confidence, self-  doubtdiffidence, unassertiveness,  timidityuncertaintynervousness,  inhibitionMore

Insecure _brett ellis

Insecurity is something most of us have faced at some time or another.  It doesn’t matter who you are, your personality, location, ethnicity, sex, etc.  Insecurity is feeling self-doubt and a lack of confidence in who we are (identity) and what we are worth (value). Typically, most of us have felt this in our teen years, or even earlier.  We first look to our parents for security (worth, etc.), then to peers and also to performance.  If our peers like and accept us, or our performance in school or sports or arts gets us recognition & praise, then we feel good and have value.  When considering parents, peers, and performance for our sense of security or worth, we can generally do without one, maybe two of them, but we have a hard time living without affirmation in all three.  We may even grow older continuing to seek worth and approval by continuing to perform well, please parents, or please peers, but eventually performance and people pleasing backfire in relationships.

For Black & White Thinkers who are insecure,  the “all or nothing” thinking plays a significant role in the interpretation of both words spoken to them and events surrounding them. As a result of the “all or nothing” / “right or wrong” thinking, they come to conclusions of negative self-worth.  (Note: As a negative self-worth is present in depression, I recommend reading Black & White Thinking in Depression to understand how some of the thinking occurs.)  Insecure individuals have a difficult time distinguishing between behaviors / actions and personhood.  If you do something bad (actions), this means you are bad (personhood).  And if you are bad, then your sense of worth decreases.

An insecure person generally takes things personally.  Words of instruction or direction may be taken as criticism.  Where Black & White Thinking may occur is when another person says they didn’t do something well, this is interpreted as meaning they did horrible.  If one says they did good, this means they either did great or horrible (if they are perfectionists).  It typically goes to either side of the extreme.  There is no middle ground for many Black & White Thinkers.  

Responsibility & Protection

For some Black & White Thinkers, to accept responsibility for wrong (actions) would mean to admit fault.  Admitting fault or guilt would mean they are bad, horrible, no good and worthless (personhood), and means they are entirely to blame for the issue (100% at fault).  In order to protect themselves, some use blame-shifting, justifying (“I yelled because you disrespected me!“), and may even attack others so as to keep their fragile personhood in tact (0% at fault).  For example, if you try to tell a Black & White Thinker that they did something wrong in a conflict, it is quite possible that they will think you are blaming them for the entire conflict.  Why? Because they are either all to blame or not at all to blame.  If they are all to blame, they are all bad or wrong. There may not be any middle ground.  To take responsibility (or admit guilt or wrongdoing) only for their part (25%, 50%. 75%, etc.) may be difficult to grasp.  So, they may either become down and depressed (feeling blamed for everything) or they may become more verbally aggressive (attacking others who they feel attacked them).  This does not occur in all Black & White Thinkers, only those who are more insecure.

Self-Protection & Preservation is one of key tasks of an insecure Black & White Thinker. Often, feelings of hurt, rejection, grief, abandonment, etc. are too difficult to bear.  Since Black & White Thinkers are more concrete, and feelings are abstract, working through such intangible feelings may seem an impossible task. Additionally, since such negative feelings of hurt, rejection, and abandonment are both difficult and painful to feel,  Black & White Thinking may increase in order to simplify life and nullify feelings.   It’s almost as if the protection mantra is this, “If the feelings aren’t acknowledged or felt, they are not there.  They don’t exist.”*  So life is simplified outside of emotions by refusing to feel, painful emotions are minimized, and the concrete words and actions become more of a focus.

Healing often begins when the negative emotions of hurt, rejection, and abandonment are acknowledged and worked through (felt), rather than ignored.  This is best done after the individual first recognizes that their emotional security (identity, self-worth & value) rests in God’s love and Christ’s actions on the cross, and not on what others have said or done to them, or in their own performance.  In order to work through such emotions, it would be wise to work through them with a trained Christ-centered counselor or a close, trusted friend or pastor.  Being anchored in the Truth of God’s love and grace for them is essential in working through insecurity, as our worth and value must be anchored in the Truth of God’s Word.  As God’s love and grace for us becomes more real, we are able to acknowledge guilt and responsibility because our sense of value and worth is based on the permanence of His love and grace, and not on our inconsistent selves or others varying words or actions.

If you are a Black & White Thinker, please consider how you have dealt with the negative emotions of rejection, hurt, grief or abandonment.  Have you allowed yourself to feel them and work through them, or have you simplified the emotions into anger or ignored them entirely?   Are you able to take responsibility for your actions alone and seek forgiveness for them, or do you blame-shift, justify, or refuse any guilt for words or actions you have expressed?  If so, please also consider that God made you to be both a physical being, spiritual being, and emotional being.  Working through painful emotions is a sign of maturity, and admitting fault or blame does not change your worth or value (it is actually acting in obedience to Christ!) and may even bring you closer to family members.

 

*At times, negative feelings of hurt, rejection, grief and abandonment filter into the one emotion that is acknowledged and deemed acceptable: anger.  Anger can be a lightning rod of emotions where the negative emotions are simplified in the expression of anger.  In such situations, physical confrontations or emotional abuse may not be far behind…

For More on Black & White Thinkers:

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

Emotions & the Black & White Thinker

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)

black-and-white face

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

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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?