“Meet a woman who lost 250 pounds by giving up all thediets,” read the promo for my first television interview centered around my memoir, Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying To Earn God’s Favor.
It’s true. I don’t consider what I do as dieting. Dietsnever work. The way we use the term diet in our culture means it is a short-term, highly restricted way of eating. It’s not something we intend to continue for the rest of our lives.
It’ll just be until we lose 20 or 40 or 100 pounds and then we will go back to the way we’ve always been eating.
I know this all too well. I once weighed 430 pounds, but I was a really successful dieter. I lost 100s of pounds through the years going on every diet imaginable. And they all worked until I started eating foods containing processed sugar and flour again. Then I’d gain the weight back plus more.
I had an idea of what I needed to do to lose weight. When I’d pray about it and ask God to help me with this “mountain of flesh,” He’d always give me the same plan. Stop eating sugar. Eat more lean mean, fruits and vegetables and eat less bread.
I never thought I could do the first step and stop eating bread so I’d search for the latest weight loss pill or supplement or go on another diet. I’d vow this time to make it work. However, they were just words.
A goal was always motivational for me because the reward after losing 100 pounds was to go back to eating whatever I wanted. It took no time at all to regain the weight plus more.
After being told I would die in five years if I didn’t lose weight, I eventually had a gastric bypass. I lost weight but I was angry that I couldn’t eat what I wanted. After a little over a year I found I could eat sugar again and so I started gaining weight again. Once again I found myself in morbid obesity headed back towards my highest weight.
This was more distressing now. I’m greatly altered my body. I’d tried the last magic known to man. I did not want to live this way and yet I couldn’t seem to stop eating.
The aha moment came when it hit me after hearing a 25-year sober alcoholic talk about how to get free of alcohol he had to stop drinking alcohol. “Alcohol is essentially liquid sugar,” he said. This may seem like a duh moment to you, but for me it was monumental.
I never drank alcohol and never wanted to be an alcoholic. Now if what I was hearing was true, I was the same as an alcoholic only I was a sugar-holic. Since the meeting was a harmful life patterns group, open to those with all addictions, I asked the question, “Could a person be addicted to sugar.”
The presenter said he wasn’t sure of the mechanics of it, but a person could be addicted to anything they feel they can’t live without. I always said, “I could never live without sugar.” I knew in my heart I was addicted to sugar.
I began the journey by stopping my trigger food, which was candy, and then making the switch to giving up processed sugar. I substituted fruit in it’s place. Yet fruit has fructose, but it is much healthier than processed sugar because of the water and fiber content.
After giving up processed sugar, I learned how items made with processed wheat flour turn into sugar in the body. I gave up white and then wheat flour and finally all items with gluten.
It’s been a journey for sure. Altogether I’ve lost over 250 pounds from my highest weight.
Giving up what you crave sounds difficult at first, but when you set your mind to do what’s right for your life for the rest of your life, you will find God’s power is available to help you through. He won’t do it for you, but He will provide power to propel you forward.
The difference about the way I eat now is I’ve switched the way I look at food. I will continue to eat this way for the rest of my life. I am eating for my health, not just for weight loss. If I never lose another pound I will continue to eat this way. I feel better than I ever have.
I’m hearing more about the addictive qualities of processed sugar and flour these days. I’m glad.
However, I hate to hear supposed weight loss experts tell people they can eat whatever they want and lose weight. This may be true of people who have small amounts of weight to lose.
After being morbidly obese most of my life and knowing many who have not been able to kick this problem, even with gastric bypass surgery, I’m sure the majority of the obesity issue has to do with processed sugar.
Making that lifestyle change and sticking to it will make a major difference in anyone’s health.
How to make a lifestyle change.
1. Know Your Why: Why do you want to be healthy? Why do you want to live? It has to be more important than eating your favorite dessert.
2. Know Your Dreams: What are the things you dream of doing that you can’t do now.
3. Know your trigger foods: What are the things you crave and want constantly. Clean your house of these things and tell yourself what you can eat instead. Drink more water. Many times you are hungry instead of thirsty. Have some go-to snack foods, fruits, vegetables and protein that are easy to take with you and easy to snack on. Make sure you have plenty of lean protein throughout your day.
4. Know your emotions: When do you eat? Is it when you are happy, sad, bored, lonely, depressed, overwhelmed, tired? Write out solutions to what you can do to address each of these instead of eating.
5. Know your mindset: Your mindset is health. Know what takes you away from health. Know what you need to do to stay on track. Write out solutions to those things. Keep them handy. Refer to them often.
6. Know your temptations: What situations are most tempting? Is it parties at work, holidays, watching TV? Think through each of these. If you mess up, get right back on track.
7. Know your Higher Power: I make no bones about saying my Higher Power is God. Connect with Him. Ask Him to remind you of your goals, to encourage you and support you. Know that He wants you healthy to complete your assignment on the earth today.
That’s it in a nutshell. Now go out and change your life.
What part of changing your life do you think will be most difficult?
Teresa Shields Parkeris an author, blogger, editor, business owner, wife and mother. Her book, Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor is available on Amazon in print, Kindle and Audible HERE. This story is from her blog, teresashieldsparker.com.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing…And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” –1 Corinthians 13:3,13
Remember these words: Emotions make great slaves but terrible masters. Are the emotions of your life – especially the emotion of love – mastering you? Do they govern your life? Are you a total slave to your emotions? Or, do you transcend your emotions and make decisions that cause your emotions to follow you?
The first step to controlling the emotion of love is to know that love, primarily, is an action. When you put your hand on someone’s shoulder and say, “Can I pray for you?” Or, when you say to someone, “Hey, can I give you a glass of water or something to eat?” When you help out the poor, when you help those who are struggling, when you see somebody working in the cubicle next to you and you say, “How you doing?” and he says “Fine,'” but you can tell he’s not, and you say, “No, really. How are you?” That’s love. When you live with grace and forgiveness for those you around you, that is love. Men, when you buy flowers for your wives, and women, when you bake cinnamon rolls for your husbands, that’s love.
Love is an action. It’s what you do for people. Love is something you can have for a complete stranger, because love is care for human good. So, if you say to a person, “I love you,” that means you care about their wellbeing even though you don’t even know them.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I relinquish the mastering of my emotions to you. I no longer want to be a slave to them, but to be a servant only of you. Take my feelings of love for others and help me to stabilize those emotions through actions of love. Amen.
Devotion: Have your emotions ever felt out of control? What happened to stabilize them? Did God play a part?
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing…And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” –1 Corinthians 13:2,13
It’s love that’s going to carry us through 2014. And, it’s love in action that will help bring others closer to God during this new year.
Paul is the apostle of love. As he shared the message of the love that we ought to have for one another, he emphasized that it is paramount, the most important thing, the thing that transcends every moral code, higher than any claim that anyone makes. Nothing that the different denominations, groups, and religious sects claim matters if they don’t have love. Without love, nothing matters.
One of the most insightful things that Paul shares with us about love is that love is not an emotion. Love is an action. Love is what you do. People may say, “Oh, I get this feeling of love in my heart and I nurture it. Then, if it blossoms enough, I will love someone in action.” However, that’s not the way at all.
I remember talking with a woman who was a volunteer for New Hope, our 24-hour phone and online counseling ministry. She said, “You know, one of the hardest things about working for New Hope is, as I end the call, when I have to say, ‘God loves you and so do I.’ I don’t really know this person, so how can I say ‘and so do I’? Right? I don’t know the person from Adam.”
What she expressed is what many of us think about love, that love is an emotion that you feel for someone after you get to know him or her. If you get to know a person who’s charming enough, perhaps good looking enough, or funny enough, then you will love them. That is, until the moment they are no longer charming, funny, or attractive to you in some manner. Therefore, that love then becomes only a reaction to a person’s performance.
That’s not what love is. Love is an action.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to express love to others as you express love to me – with no expectations and no conditions. Let my love toward others be an act of worship toward you. Amen.
Devotion: How would you describe the differences between emotional love and love in action?
The French emperorNapoleon Bonaparte observed that you can tell a great deal about people by what went on in their life, and the world, when they were twenty years of age. Expanding that idea, most adults love to listen to the music that was popular when they were fifteen to twenty years old. There is a continuing connection between the music that moved us when we were at an emotionally-heightened age — like adolescence — and the music we still love. All music is emotional, but especially the music connected to important experiences — like salvation.
That may account for why people love Christmas music. Part of the reason is the anticipation that builds up all year. But a better reason is that our salvation is an emotionally compelling experience. It seems that musicians and lyricists have done some of their best work through the ages when writing songs about one of history’s most important events, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
We sing with joy and tears at Christmas for good reason — salvation came to earth 2,000 years ago and opened the door of eternal life for all who believe. Nothing could be more emotional and worth singing about.
Jason Bradshaw grew up in a middle-class home. He was the oldest of three kids and was the only son. His parents loved each other. But when Jason was 12, tragedy struck their family. Jason’s father was killed in a car accident. The family was devastated, and Jason’s mother grieved for several years.
As Jason got older, his mother poured her life into him. He was the apple of her eye, and she often saw her husband in him as he got older. “He looks much like his father,” she thought to herself. His mother doted on Jason, and sometimes Jason reacted to what felt smothering to him.
Jason’s mother often prevented Jason from doing things that normal boys of his age do, for fear of him getting hurt or even losing Jason. Gradually, Jason began to feel controlled and manipulated by his mother. This developed into a love-hate relationship with his mom. On the one hand, he knew he was now the male head of the family and wanted to care for his mom, but he hated the control he felt.
Jason began to date girls as he got older and found that he sometimes masturbated to relieve the stress and pent-up desires he felt inside. He also found himself on the internet checking out pornographic pictures. He didn’t know why he did this. He just thought it was normal for boys his age.
Jason went on to college and kept a distant relationship between him and his mom. He wanted to respect and care for her, but he wanted to keep his distance and gain his independence. Jason got engaged after college and things were great with his new wife. However, over the next several years he found that there was conflict in his relationship with his wife.
Sometimes he felt the same feelings he felt when he was growing up with his mother. That feeling of control gave him a sick stomach. He often reacted to his wife when those feelings swelled up inside, “Stop trying to control me,” he would say. His wife was surprised at these reactions as she was only trying to connect emotionally with Jason. She wanted to be a part of his life. Jason pulled away each time he felt these feelings.
When Jason and his wife visited his mom, his wife noticed that Jason’s personality often changed when the three of them were together. Jason’s wife felt like a third wheel. It almost felt like Jason was married to his mother instead of her. This caused arguments among them and Jason often demonstrated a very unloving spirit to his wife. Jason would always defend his treatment of his mother, often at the expense of his wife.
This pattern continued for many years into their marriage. Finally Jason’s wife decided they needed professional help. Jason reacted negatively to the idea and felt the only problem they had was his wife kept trying to control him and she needed to stop. However, reluctantly, Jason agreed to go to counseling.
Jason, to his surprise, discovered in the counseling that the reason he reacted to his wife’s “control and manipulation” as he perceived it, was due to something that happened in his childhood that related to his mother. The feelings he was feeling were the same feelings he felt when he was a teenager growing up. In essence, Jason was shocked to discover he was subconsciously viewing his wife as his mother. As the truth of his situation unfolded, Jason was able to recognize why he reacted to his wife this way.
Today Jason and his wife are happily married. However, many couples who have the same symptoms often result in divorce. This same scenario happens when a father divorces a wife. The mother is often left emotionally bankrupt and she seeks to meet her emotional needs from her son. However, a son is not made to emotionally bond with his mother and the pain that is caused within him must be released through some form of sexual expression. That is one reason Jason turned to sex to relieve his emotional pain.
Compounded with this is the legitimate need for Jason to have an emotional connection with a female, but because of his negative perception of his wife, he often sought that emotional connection through women at his workplace or in other social settings. He was often seen as a flirt with women but Jason denied such behavior. This too is rooted in the mother-son bonding relationship.
There is a crisis in marriage today. Research reveals the Christian divorce rate is higher than non-believers. There are many reasons for this, but one of those reasons is rarely spoken about. It has to do with the inappropriate bonding between a mother and her son during his adolescent years.
Many men never emotionally bond to their wives because of the impact of being emotionally bonded to their mothers during their adolescent years. The reason many men are not able to bond with their wives is often due to mother-son bonding that takes place during adolescence.
Dr Paul Hegstrom explains in his book, Broken Children, Grown Up Pain, that “a husband without an emotional bond to his wife sees her as someone who sleeps with him, cleans the house, takes care of the children, and works—he doesn’t see her as a real, living, emotional person.” As a result, the husband is often distant emotionally to his wife, but he does not recognize this in himself. However, his wife definitely knows it. She tries to connect on an emotional level only to be perceived as trying to control him. This leads to conflicts in the relationship.
If the father and mother are not bonded to one another, the mother will often bond to the oldest son. This can happen as a result of an absent father, either physically or emotionally. If a wife is not getting her emotional needs met through her husband, she may attempt to draw this from her son. If the parenting style is weak in emotional validation, giving words of love, or shaming of the child, these combinations will eventually surface through problems in the marital relationship in adulthood.
Resolving an Inner Conflict
When mothers bond with sons during adolescence, the son rebels against this bonding because he is not wired to bond with any female once they get into adolescence without some form of sexual expression. When they should be growing independent from their mother during this time, they find themselves in bondage to their mother’s emotional control. This all happens subconsciously.
Gordon Dalbey, author of Healing the Masculine Soul, explains that “beyond the basic fact of initial physical dependence upon the mother, the quality of that bonding experience also influences the son’s later relationships with women. If the boy’s maternal bond was painful (perhaps his mother didn’t want to conceive and thus rejected him) or inappropriate (perhaps she was seductive toward him), the boy may later associate physical bonding to a woman with pain and anxiety.
He then may become compulsive about sex—either as the freewheeling playboy who is incapable of commitment, or the demanding husband who fears being emotionally vulnerable to his wife. Given the biological and emotional intensity of the mother-son bond, only someone whose intrinsic identity with the boy exceeds that of the mother can draw him away into individuality and adult responsibility. Clearly, only the father meets such a requirement.”
If unresolved, the young male will seek to rebel against this bonding and control they feel subconsciously. They will have a love-hate relationship toward their mothers during late adolescence. This can lead young males to masturbate or get into pornography or have premarital sex in their adolescent years as a means of dealing with the emotional pain of that bonding from the mother. The male will eventually pull away from the mother as a result of seeking to become independent from her. This can be traumatic for the mother.
These feelings are often felt subconsciously as the son grows into adulthood. Often an unconscious vow is made to themselves: “I will never be controlled by a woman again.” This personal vow can go with them into future dating and marital relationships. The wife will often feel like their legitimate input is being viewed as criticism by the husband and he is resistant to talking with her at an emotional level. The husband will often shut down or rebel against his wife’s input.
Dalbey explains that “when a boy reaches puberty, filled with the powerful physical stirrings of his emerging manhood, the father’s role becomes critical. If at this point Dad doesn’t call the boy out and away from the mother to bond with his masculine roots among men, those stirrings are overtaken by his natural bond with the mother, becoming bound up in her and thus unavailable later to the woman he loves.
“Without the earthly father to call the son out into manhood, the boy grows up seeking manly identity in women—whose voices seem to call him to manhood through sexual conquest. Masculinity grows not out of conquering the woman, but only out of conquering the man—and not another man, as in war, but oneself.”
Dalbey explains how this can further affect the man’s identity: “Enmeshed with his mother, he may find that his heart is unavailable to another woman to walk with him later as a wife in his life calling (Gen. 2:24). Unable to bond with either a woman in marriage or a man in healthy friendship, he then may fall prey to homosexual impulses.”
This is why moral failure can happen even among the most mature Christian men. Despite a commitment to a disciplined Christian life, they have never resolved their inner toil rooted in mother-son bonding and he eventually loses the battle. This is actually God’s grace designed to take the male back to the source of his pain to become healed.
Fear of Dependency
Paul Olsen, declares in his book, Sons and Mothers, “What a man is frightened of, more than anything else in the vast possibilities of living experience, is dependency, regression to a state in which he becomes an infant in the care of his mother—a mother later unconsciously symbolized by almost all women with whom he comes in contact.”
If the son has had any male to male sexual exposure in his childhood, this issue is compounded. Subconsciously he will seek to prove his heterosexuality by bonding to other women outside the marriage. When a dad abandons a son emotionally and physically, he is left to gain that validation elsewhere, often through a female or even another man. If the boy has any male-to-male sexual exposure he will grow into adulthood leaning toward homosexuality or he will have to prove his heterosexuality to himself by getting his validation from women.
The popular comedy TV sitcom series Everybody Loves Raymond is a classic portrayal of two sons who have been doted on by their mother and conflict consistently arises between the loyalty of the sons at the expense of their wives. The father is emotionally bankrupt and emotionally abuses the mother. The mother seeks to get her emotional needs met from Raymond, the favored son. Many of the situations are quite humorous, but sadly, are portrayed very accurately as to the depth of the problem.
Ken Nair, author of Discovering the Mind of a Woman, cited a perfect example of this when counseling a couple and the husband was reacting to his wife’s treatment of his wife. “I’m thinking of a situation where a wife said, ‘On Mother’s Day, you made sure that your mother got to sit at the head of the table and was waited on first.’ He retaliated, ‘Well, it was Mother’s Day!’ His wife defensively said, ‘I’m a mother! In fact, I’m the mother of your children. But that doesn’t seem to carry any weight with you!’ He illustrated his deafness to her spirit by saying, ‘I’m not going to stop loving my mother just to make you happy!’”
This man always gave deference to his mother’s needs at the expense of his wife’s. The husband was never emotionally bonded to his, but was still bonded to his mother. When this happens the husband will pull away from his wife because he subconsciously views her as his mother who he believes is trying to control him. Whenever a son’s behavior changes in the presence of the mother and the wife feels like a third wheel, you can be confident there is a mother-son bonding issue that exists.
This usually results in the son bonding to other women outside the marriage in a subconscious attempt to deal with the pain of the mother-son bonding. He is often a flirt with other women usually unknowingly. Subconsciously he is meeting an emotional need in himself to prove his manhood through other women.
John Eldredge shares a very personal account of his discovery of similar deep rooted issues he described in his book, Wild at Heart. He discovered what happens when a man cannot offer himself emotionally to his wife. “If the man refuses to offer himself, then his wife will remain empty and barren. A violent man destroys with his words; a silent man starves his wife. ‘She’s wilting,’ a friend confessed to me about his new bride. ‘If she’s wilting then you’re withholding something,’ I said. Actually, it was several things—his words, his touch, but mostly his delight. There are so many other ways this plays out in life. A man who leaves his wife with the children and the bills to go and find another, easier life has denied them his strength. He has sacrificed them when he should have sacrificed his strength for them.”
On that sunny afternoon, as my husband and I took a fitness walk along a row of car dealerships, I never dreamed we would be cruising home in a brand-new red Saab convertible. The car just seemed to fit the day. After all, this was Southern California, where sunshine and fancy cars abound.
It is also a place where many judge you by what you drive. Of course, we already owned a prestigious foreign convertible, but it had become a real headache with its never-ending expensive repair bills.
As we negotiated with the Saab salesman to purchase the car, we abandoned the idea of a trade-in because of the tremendous loss we would have had to take on the market value. Besides, we had driven my husband’s car that day, and the problem car was at home. We would just have to sell it on our own.
After several hours of waiting while the salesman repeatedly checked “with the manager in the back,” we drove off into the sunset basking in the exhilaration of having purchased a new toy.
It took only a few days for us to face the sobering reality that we now had three cars to insure and maintain. Plus, the monthly note was so huge that it rivaled the note on a rental property investment!
It took us much longer to sell the headache car than we had anticipated. We finally admitted that we had made an emotional purchase. We had bought the Saab out of frustration with the old car plus a desire to maintain a certain image.
I take no pleasure in sharing this story. In fact, I experienced a great deal of guilt over the transaction because I am a certified public accountant and am assumed by most people to be frugal with myfunds.
My husband is also an astute financial manager. Even though we have never made a purchase we could not afford, emotional transactions simply do not reflect good stewardship of the moneyGod entrusts to us.
After a year, we sold the car and invested in a single-family home, which ultimately yielded a handsome return. God graciously redeemed our mistake.
Unfortunately, the Saab was not the last of our emotional spending.
The problem with an emotional purchase is that it doesn’t eliminate the emotion that motivated it, nor will it bring any lasting satisfaction. Isaiah the prophet asked, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Is. 55:2, NIV).
Spending to pacify an emotion is like being given an anesthesia but never getting the required surgery; you get temporary relief, but the problem remains.
I did some honest soul-searching about the car acquisition and concluded that many of my purchases emanated from my basic personality temperament. As a hard-driving, goal-oriented person, I found that my acquisitions were a way of saying, “I’ve made it.”
I wanted to be recognized as a success without having to say a word. After all, I abhorred braggarts, egotists and others who openly exhibited pride because of their possessions.
Having counseled singles, seniors and soulmates—and having observed their spending habits—I have concluded that everyone must come to grips with their emotional view of finances before they attempt to master the mechanics of money management. I can lecture until I’m blue in the face about the importance of having an emergency cash reserve or contributing the maximum amount to the company’s matching retirement plan or getting out of debt. But despite my admonitions, a single overriding emotion can cause anybody to abandon sound financial judgment.
Here are seven emotions that may cause you to spend in an unwise manner and some ways to deal with them:
1. Stress. “You deserve a break today,” declares the popular McDonald’s fast-food slogan. If you are constantly confronted with stressful situations, you do need to find relief—but not through spending.
My husband and I purchased a 32-foot cruiser boat with the hope of finding relief from our stressful schedules. The boat show was held at the marina, so we experienced on the spot what it would be like to chill out on our own boat. Just the thought of leisurely weekends cruising around Southern California’s harbors was enough to seal the deal.
It wasn’t long before the boat itself became a source of stress. Whoever said, “The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he purchases it and the day he sells it” was right!
In my book 30 Days to Taming Your Stress, I list 30 ways to address stress, including controlling your finances, setting boundaries, exercising, releasing unrealistic expectations, delegating, saying no and a host of other actions. There are numerous choices available to you to reduce stress—other than spending money!
2. Anger. Shopping may help you work off a little steam; however, if you peel your anger onion, at the core of it you may find you are angry with yourself. Perhaps you tolerated someone’s bad behavior, failed to speak up, put yourself at risk, disappointed God or indulged in a number of other regretful acts.
Before you run to the mall, get in touch with why you are feeling the way you do and deal with the root of the issue. Repent, if necessary, or confront the people involved.
If face-to-face is not possible, then write a letter expressing how you really feel about what has happened and what changes you desire. Ask God to give you His words and His wisdom so that you can be direct, honest and godly in your approach.
3. Boredom. Television and Internet shopping companies thrive off the boredom that drives buyers to indulge their fantasies. The best way to combat boredom is to invest time in meaningful diversions that move you toward your goals or make life better for others. Here are a few suggestions:
Take a crafts class or other class of interest at your local community college. They are usually low-cost and short in duration and are a great way to meet new people with common interests.
Host or teach a class at home on a subject of interest to those in your circle of interaction.
Volunteer with a church or other charity to visit nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages or shelters. I used to get great satisfaction from just combing the hair of elderly people who never received any visitors. The staff will welcome your support, and the patrons will never forget your act of kindness.
Keep a supply of blank notecards. Send a word of encouragement to someone who needs it (for example, your minister, a college student, a mom with small children or someone who is ill). Helping others is personally rewarding and usually requires little more than your time.
Even if your expenditures seem to be minor, beware. Those frequent discounted purchases can really add up.
Anne, a receptionist, visits the 99 Cents Store when she is bored. She rationalizes that her spending is relatively harmless since the items cost so little. She doesn’t want to face the fact that her regular $5 to $10 purchases exceed a few hundred dollars during the course of a month.
Remember that boredom spending is just a temporary cure. The thrill of the purchase will fade in record time, and then you’ll need another fix. This vicious cycle is sure to keep you in a financial pit.
4. Depression. Recall the last thing you purchased with the hope that it would cheer you up? Did it? If so, for how long?
I know I’m treading on sensitive ground here, but if you are depressed, it may be because you have become the center of your world; you have focused all your attention on how things are affecting you. If you dare to step out of the spotlight and shine it on someone else, you’ll find amazing results.
See the list above for possible activities that may refocus your attention. Also, consider getting a psychological evaluation by a medical professional.
5. Insecurity. When you are unsure of your inherent worth as an individual, you may buy things you think will impress others. One of my counselees, Lucy (not her real name), drives a pricey BMW but cannot afford to go out for Sunday dinner even at an inexpensive restaurant.
“I want a car that’s a good investment,” she lies to me and to herself. The truth is that her entire self-worth is wrapped up in sporting the car around and being admired for owning it. It is her only asset besides her clothes.
If you are like Lucy, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to stop living a lie and to begin spending at your affordability level. Value the intangible assets that you bring to the table such as a sense of humor, integrity, dependability, perseverance and so forth. Don’t be like Haman, the insecure Persian official who needed the king’s horse, the king’s robe and association with a noble prince to feel honored (Esth. 6:7-9).
Rather, adopt the mindset of the Proverbs 31 woman: “She perceives that her merchandise is good” (v. 18, NKJV). This woman was not dependent on outside validation; she knew inwardly that her merchandise (what she brought to the table) was good.
6. Frustration. Thwarted plans, unmet expectations or other unfulfilled desires can send you running for mall therapy—unless you have totally embraced the truth of Isaiah 14:27: “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (NIV).
God intends marriages to be emotionally safe relationships of love and respect, in which both spouses can experience a life of peace and joy together. But in this fallen world, too many marriages have become damaged by sinful attitudes of cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and indifference.
If your marriage has become emotionally destructive, you don’t have to suffer passively in it. God will give you the courage and strength to find your voice in your marriage and stand up to abuse or neglect. Here’s how you can find hope in an emotionally destructive marriage:
Take an honest look at the state of your marriage. Reflect on what your relationship with your spouse is currently like and ask God to help you discern whether it’s simply disappointing (as all marriages are from time to time) or truly destructive to your emotional wellbeing. An emotionally destructive marriage includes an ongoing pattern of abusive or neglectful attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing you down or inhibiting your growth. In a destructive marriage, your spouse will usually not be aware of how much his or her destructiveness is affecting you, fail to take responsibility for it, and fail to change. Consider various aspects of your marriage, such as: your friendship, your sexual relationship, how you handle differences and conflict, how you make up after a fight, your finances, how you make decisions together, and your spiritual journey. In any of these areas, does your spouse regularly deny, criticize, or crush your personhood, dignity, or freedom of choice? If so, your marriage has become emotionally destructive.
Keep in mind that all healthy marriages contain three essential ingredients. One of those ingredients is mutuality, which means that both spouses are contributing qualities of honesty, caring, respect, responsibility, and repentance to the marriage so that it can keep growing stronger. Another is reciprocity, which involves sharing both power and responsibility in the marriage as both people give and receive. Finally, freedom is another essential component of a healthy marriage. That means that both spouses are free to be themselves, make choices, give input, and express feelings without fear of being badgered, manipulated, or punished.
Express your feelings about your marriage to God in prayer. God already knows how you feel in your marriage, but He wants you to pray about your feelings so you can sense His great love for you while you communicate with Him, and so you can listen to the guidance that He’ll give you through His Holy Spirit about what you can do to move toward safety and sanity.
Center yourself in God, not your spouse. It’s dangerous to let the opinions of your spouse – an imperfect human being – determine what you believe about yourself. You should only look to God to define your identity and determine your worth. Make a frequent habit of reading and meditating on the Bible to absorb its truths about what God says about you. Put your marriage in its proper place by making God your first love. Then when your spouse disappoints you or devalues you, it won’t crush you because you’ll be centered in what matters most: your relationship with God.
Build a strong core. Ask God to help you develop four core qualities that will help you be strong while dealing with an emotionally destructive marriage. Commit yourself to truth and reality by not giving in to wishful thinking and seeking real evidence of change in your marriage. Open yourself up to growth, instruction, and feedback about your marriage from caring and trustworthy people. Be responsible for yourself and respectful toward your spouse without dishonoring yourself. Finally, be empathic and compassionate toward your spouse as a suffering sinner just like you, without enabling him or her to continue to disrespect or abuse you.
Start a dialogue with your spouse about your marriage by asking three key questions. During a time when you and your spouse can relax and focus on a good conversation, ask: “Are you happy?” “What do you see as our most important goal or challenge as a couple if we’re going to improve our relationship?” and “What kind of spouse and parent do you most desire to be?” Then listen without criticizing, to encourage your spouse to think more deeply about these issues.
Prepare yourself to confront your spouse. Before you confront your spouse about abusive or neglectful behavior in your marriage, prepare wisely. Develop a safety plan that details how you’ll escape and where you’ll stay if your spouse tries to hurt you. Document when, where, and how your spouse says or does something emotionally destructive to you. Copy financial records, phone records, and other documentation that proves your spouse has engaged in deceitful or illegal behaviors. If your spouse physically harms or you or your children, file a record with the police, get medical attention right away, and make sure that official photos are taken of the injuries. If your spouse damages your property, take photos to show the damage. Tell some wise and trustworthy friends or family members what has been going on in your marriage and ask them to support you when you confront your spouse. Consult with a lawyer to learn about your legal rights and liabilities should you decide to leave your spouse. Open your own bank account and credit card without your spouse, so you’ll have to access to money that your spouse can’t take away.
Confront your spouse about specific destructive behaviors you want stopped. Travel separately to meet your spouse in a public place (so you can escape to a safe place if your spouse becomes destructively angry) and clearly spell out the changes you’d like to see happen in your marriage. Don’t allow your spouse to distract you from what you’ve planned to say by pulling you into an argument. Simply tell your spouse what specific changes you want to see, as well as what specific consequences you will enforce if he or she refuses to make those changes.
Ask God to guide you as you decide whether to stay or leave. After you determine whether or not your spouse is willing to make the changes you’ve requested, stay in close contact with God through prayer as you figure out how to proceed. If your spouse is abusive and simply will not repent and change, you should leave your marriage in order to protect yourself and your children. Holding onto your marriage at all costs is dangerous and not God’s will for you; while God does hate divorce, He also hates seeing one of his beloved children (you) be destroyed by abuse. If your spouse is willing to do the hard work of making genuine changes to his or her attitudes and actions (backed up by solid evidence), pursuing healing and growth, and being accountable to others (such as a counselor and a support group), then reconciliation is possible at the right time, as God leads you.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.