Tag Archives: Family

Life balance: If you need wisdom, ask…

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

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A Frenchman,  looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting. “Excusez-moi, parlez vous Francais?” he tries. The Americans stare at him.

“Parlare Italiano?” No response. “Hablan ustedes Espanol?” Still nothing. The Frenchman drives away.

The first American turns to the second and says, “Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”

“Why?” says the other. “That guy knew three languages, and it didn’t do him any good!”

I guess it is okay for me to make dumb-American jokes since I am one. American, I mean. Uh hmm.

Big decisions, even if they seem small to other people, are stressful. To know the better and best way to go, asking the one with the answers makes sense!

James 1:5-8 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

When I’ve asked God for direction, resulting confusion means I do not like his answer. Waiting for the other eeny to make moe leaves me perplexed.  Lack of inner peace, tells me I’m not following his guidance.

Obedience to God simply means trusting him to have the best answers, and taking his word for it. If a choice to become involved or not in a person’s life or in a cause or service project has you worrying about the cost of time, energy, emotions, etc., pause to answer the following questions.

Grounding questions

  1. What is your goal? Positive, meaningful connections need validation, love that acts, and sincere, non-critical acceptance. Are you providing these things in relationships? Are you too busy to connect meaningfully with people in your sphere?
  2. How will accepting another role affect your family? Self-sacrifice without considering others who will be affected may be ego-centric.  Do we have the right to force sacrifice on unwilling family members?
  3. Ephesians 6:7 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…” People may be assuming, begging, or sweetly inviting you to participate in their vision. Some have a great plan for your life! Do you know what is God’s will?
  4. Ask, is this act of service in YOUR wheelhouse?
  5. What role do you play in this person’s life, or in this service project?
  6. Are you balancing self-care and rest with self-sacrifice? Rest without self-care may be a symptom of depression. Self-care without any self-sacrifice could be selfishness.  Self-sacrifice without rest or self-care is possibly martyrdom.
  7. Are you setting “boundaries” out of apathy or avoidance?  Do you consider Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act”?
  8. Are you over-committed now?

Here are a few options for over-commitment

→ add a time limit to your commitment      → gather a team to finish faster     → change the duty to suit your yeses (different time/day, etc)      → delegate a replacement person    → pay for it to be done by someone else     → Say, “This is more than I thought I was signing up for”     → Say, “This is interfering with other obligations (or health)”     → bite the bullet, take responsibility for over-promising, and walk away     →count your financial and time investment as loss and move on

Today’s Helpful Word  

Acts 6:2,3 – delegating

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, [some Jews who were active in Greek culture] among them complained against the [traditional] Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

 

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

If Someone is Hurting You, Does He or She Love You?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

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In Christine’s search for love,  trouble never had difficulty finding her. She fell for the lie of love from strangers and family. Finally she married a man who said his love was for forever, yet even then was knowingly deceitful.

Is it any wonder Christine does not know what real love is?

Love is not, Love is

Love is not a claim of love. Love is not warm fuzzy feelings.

Love is a choice to care about another person.  Love is an action, it is truth, it never fails.

That is not to say we do not let loved ones down. We will because we are human. Love is a continuous desire to not fail, and does not disappear when times are rough. Love stops doing what is wrong and learns to do what is right.

Fuzzy warm feelings may disintegrate; love will remain. It may look different, but is active and true. For example,  a broken marriage does not have to end in bitterness.

Love is not martyrdom or playing the doormat. It is not giving someone everything they want. Love stands up for what is best.

3 test cases

(1) Her husband calls. Audrey hesitates to answer the phone because she knows what will come of it. Her unemployed status has disappointed him. He will assume the position of her boss by informing her exactly how she is failing.   

Does he love her?

(2) Andrew  ducks every time he walks through that door.  His mother used to hide behind it and swat him when he returned from school.  She passed away last year, and the duty of cleaning up her estate fell to him. Even after several months he continues to  tense for a sprint at the sight of that door.  

Did she ever love him?

(3) Anna  enjoys her adult children and rejoices in their independence. She made mistakes as a parent,  yet was willing to listen to her children’s points of view.   No one had been swatted from behind doors, or insulted for mistakes. She grins as she recalls all the spilled milk.  No one had been made to feel a fool.

Did she, does she love them?

My opinion: According to a professional source, the first two stories are examples of people loving the best they know how. I disagree. Story three matches that description better.

I am not willing to call abuse love at all. While no one loves perfectly, love is not selfish. Damaging behavior committed in a reckless and thoughtless manner is selfish. Not considering another person’s pain (or joys) is selfish.

Warm fuzzy feelings may come and go, yet ignoring a person’s plea to stop treating them a certain way because it hurts them,  is definitely selfish.

What do you think? 

Today’s Helpful Word  

Romans 13: 8-10

 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor…

Biblical definition of love           In Christ we are loved forever

God’s love in our dark times 

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

 

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*all names have been changed

Dear Supports, The Line Between Concern and Control is Not So Fine. Here are 10 Differences

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

people sitting in front of wooden table
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

A mother in her late sixties consistently criticized her forty-something son’s job hunt, marriage, and child-rearing. In turn, her daughter-in-law sent her accusatory letters telling her to back-off. 

Over many years, a variety of people had tried to tell the elder woman that her controlling attitude was damaging to her family relationships and ability to work well with others. For as many years, her stubbornness told a different tale; she knew she was right. 

Finally, after losing two careers and a lifetime of closeness to her children, she asked, “What am I doing wrong?”

She asked me. Her question stirred a thoughtful process that led to the following ten-point general comparison between concern and control. 

As supports of anyone who struggles with mental illness, abuse, or addiction, our role is often uncomfortable. We have to make a decision, deep in our character, as to whether we will respect each person’s freedom to choose. After offering what help is reasonable, will we let go?

Two supports in my own struggle with major depression showed opposing attitudes. One said,  “God brought us together so I can fix you.” The other said, “You are powerful, Nancy. You can get through this.” 

Which one do you suppose is still my friend?

Control versus Concern- what is the difference?

1. Concern wants to extend love above all else. Control desires results above all else.

2. Concern is humble and eager to learn. Control knows the answer.

3. Concern actively listens and validates with genuine interest.  Control does not listen.

4. Concern offers hope based on knowledge, insight, and wisdom.  Control offers pat answers, quick-fix solutions, or false hope based on incomplete understanding of a person and his or her needs.

5. Concern accepts responsibility for one’s own life, and patiently leaves others to take responsibility for theirs. Control criticizes, manipulates, and tries to force its will. 

6. Concern offers help when asked, or asks before helping. Control assumes ways to “fix” a situation or person with or without consent.

7. Concern respects the privacy of others.  Control shares what is told in confidence, and  wants in on gossip and rumor.

8. Concern feels some worry, yet also experiences peace by letting go. Control repeatedly expresses frustration and disappointment at slow or unwanted results.

9. Concern feels empathy, pain, or grief, but does not have to own what is not one’s problem. Control takes personally another person’s troubles. 

10. Concern of a Christian believer points people to Jesus. Control is self-worship that can blind others to God’s miraculous power. 

This is not about perfection, it is about growth in love. We all can pass between concern and control at moments. However, making the mistake of living as a controlling person harms relationships and damages those for whom you care so much.

Today’s Helpful Word  

James 3:13-18

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…  

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

 

 

3 Ideas to Turn Around Your Post-Thanksgiving Crash

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

q8p4W06An emotional crash following Thanksgiving is probably as common as turkey dinners. These crashes come in different strengths.

For one, the crash may last a few minutes and have little more than an extra piece of pie to blame. As blood sugar levels bounce around, we can feel a little moody. 

Another person may sense strongly the disappointments of yet another family gathering. Having entered the holiday hoping for a new and improved experience, one may leave believing nothing will ever change. This crash ranges anywhere between sadness to major depression to despair. 

Then there is the host, who after weeks of preparation is left with great memories and the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” This let-down is about tiredness, a decline in adrenaline, and perhaps the return to a less-than exciting routine.   

Whatever the source of our emotional crash, we have the power to turn it around!

  1. Take care of your body. TLC (tender loving care) never hurt anyone. Rest, eat right, and stretch and exercise. Pace yourself. Allow some of the so-called urgent matters to wait for a few days. 
  2. Take care of your supportive relationships. If you are peopled-out, perhaps send a simple text to a friend expressing your love and intention to hibernate for a day or two.  Reach out to those who are most valuable to your sense of well-being. Offer them the light of joy too. 
  3. Take care of your mind. Fill your thoughts with good memories, doable plans for the future, and positive distractions. Ideas about next year’s Thanksgiving do not have to be decided today! Instead, hope may rise as you consider meeting a goal at work, or seeing a friend for lunch. What produces life and strength in your thoughts? Embrace that.

Our emotional crash after Thanksgiving does not have to own the coming days and weeks. Stay in the moment, taking one day at a time, and enjoy today. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

Pumpkin by JULISCALZI on rgbstock.com

 

Embrace Your Today Family

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

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Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang are some of my favorite people. This Thanksgiving, my table is adorned with all of them. A picture of the infamous Charlie Brown Thanksgiving meal hangs on the wall.  My intention is to serve little snack cups with samples of Snoopy’s cuisine: popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans, and toast.

Though members of the Peanuts gang had relatives and homes, they chose to spend holiday time together. To the main characters,  Lucy, Linus, Sally, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen, Franklin, Violet, Charlie, Snoopy, and Woodstock, this group was family.

Some of us have little to no family with whom to spend Thanksgiving or any holiday. Perhaps family memories and members have faded to the past. Strife or tragedy may have prevented a sense of family at all. Most likely, the culprit of broken ties is a mix of distance and time.

We have, or can build, a Today family.  Temporary families dot my past. My family of origin briefly existed. Visits with extended family were short and far-between. My friends became my family followed by my (now ex) husband and children.

Everywhere I’ve lived or built a social circle, “family” has included persons both related and unrelated to me. One option is to look back and bemoan the loss of many of these relationships. Embracing a Today family sounds like a happier choice.

This year, I have invited relatives not seen in about 10 years. Jon and Tim, my sons, will also be joining us. Last year, two women had dinner here, while for a couple years prior I sat around feeling sorry for myself.

See the progression? Learning to look after my needs is an arduous task. In doing so, others are also blessed. It is worth the anxiety (where will everyone sit?), the money (lots of food!), and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I encourage anyone without a technically-correct family to celebrate the family you have today. Friends, neighbors, shut-ins, people at the homeless shelter  – all can be members of your family if you reach out in courage.

And you will be their family too.

three smiling women beside man holding smartphone

Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 4:19

“We love because he first loved us.” 

 

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*photo of friends: rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Embrace Love from the Heart. Teach it to Your Children

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

I’ll never forget Mr. Hammer.

As a tyke of merely four years, Mr. Hammer’s white hair, cane, and wicker porch rocking chair spelled out his age. Old. Very old.

On one of many escapes from my house across the street, I went to his door and knocked. He invited me in.  We had a nice chat over lemonade. I asked if anyone else lived there and he showed me a picture of his wife and son- both killed in a car accident years earlier.  I knew he was lonely and wanted to be his friend.

Then from outside we heard my name called, loudly and repeatedly.  Mr. Hammer peered through his screen door, turned to me and said, “You had better go home, child.  Please come back and visit.”

“I will!” Reluctantly I stepped onto his porch and returned to mom who was walking up and down the sidewalk looking for me.

That was the last time I ever saw Mr. Hammer.

After a good yelling,  I was told never to talk to him again. Why? “Because we do not know him,” came the final answer.

Born to Care

For three years I felt guilty until someone told me he had died. It’s disappointing to think my family couldn’t have met him rather than destroy his and my hopes due to fear.

When JFK was assassinated, I only understood a man had been hurt.  Our city hospital was nearby. Running toward it, intending to help the man feel better, I screamed in anger and disappointment when dad snatched me up and wouldn’t allow me to go. I was only two.

Perhaps caring about others is a trait with which one is born.  Maybe this tendency can be scourged by hardship and fear. Then again, it was relatability that drew me to Mr. Hammer. He needed  a friend and so did I.

Go for it

Whatever the nature or nurture debate about this may be, let me encourage you to embrace your desire to help, or to support someone else who does – especially children.

Yes, we must take care to have our needs met. Living to serve at the continued expense of our physical or mental health is unwise. Nevertheless,  what a pity it is to shut down any part of the love this world so desperately needs.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

Want to Share Your Mental Health Story? Be Wise

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

For any of us who have struggled with mental illness and gone public about it, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Unfortunate stigma has people believing that 1) suicide attempt survivors are violent; 2) anyone with a mental illness is unreliable; and 3) living with a mental illness means one could “go off” at any time. 

If I were hiring and believed all the above, it would be natural to hesitate. It is tough to explain the truth to potential employers when no one will offer an interview. 

Trust is difficult to regain. I have friends and family who still believe that people with mental illness are likely violent. It is disappointing because i thought by now they will have heard me and smashed such stigmas.  

The founder of a ministry, a therapist,  agreed to a meeting to discuss if  I could play a role in his work.  Immediately he asked about my diagnosis and before I could tell what marketable skills I offer, His facial expressions and body language moved from potential employer to fixer.  I knew I was wasting my time. It was condescending under the circumstances.

Would I go back and keep my mental health history a secret? My story came out  in 2013. Some people treat me differently. It’s been tough finding work.  If you Google me you get mental health issues and my story.  There’s no hiding now. 

Good has come of it too! How could I weigh personal losses against the value of a life? Some faces are unforgettable, like the ones who tell me I’ve given them hope.  In my best estimation (because who can really know) I think at least one person is alive because of my openness. I’ve seen family members improve in their support of struggling loved ones. So many have read my blog and heard my radio interviews, there is simply no way of knowing the result. 

If you have or plan to go public with your mental illness,  good for you! We need more voices. However, think carefully before you do. Due to a few generously honest celebrities,  the national conversation has begun.

Be wise.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

Christmas and Your Mood Disorder: How to Redeem the Day

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

A few minutes ago, in the local drug store’s parking lot, a woman smiled at me warmly as she stepped out of her car.  We are strangers, yet around here people tend to smile more at each other during the late autumn months.

About two hours ago, I left church where songs of praise to God and our Lord Jesus were joyful, and the sermon, inspirational.  A larger crowd than usual greeted each other with welcoming attitudes.  I am new there, and only three of today’s hellos were by name. However, that is not what mattered.

What is special about Christmas time  is that briefly, society takes on a sense of obligatory friendliness. This is not to say it is insincere. In fact, I think the holiday season gives us permission to reach beyond ourselves in ways that may seem out-of-place the rest of the year.

A similar phenomenon may occur when a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder are part of our reality. There may be predictable times of the day, week, month, or year that our symptoms tend to flare up. One of those may be holidays.

In the middle of episodes, our emotions are heightened and we see only how we feel. The truth of people’s best intentions can bypass our notice. That warm smile from a stranger may seem like mockery. Greetings at church (if we venture out at all) can feel hypocritical. After all, why don’t these people hear us screaming desperately for help? Why does no one care?

Truth is, as much as family, friends, church leaders, therapists, and even strangers may want to be there for us, they cannot see beyond our masks and walls. Meanwhile, Jesus is already aware. He sees us, knows our every thought and pain, and loves us still.  He does not reserve his welcoming stance for his birthday. Year ’round, every minute of the day, he is available to anyone who is ready to turn to him for salvation, wisdom, and change of heart.

I speak as one who lives it. In those times we sense emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, or feel out-of-control, the answer comes from that baby in the manger. He is no longer a child, but is the King of kings.  Heaven is his home, yet he lives in human hearts. He is not an illusionist,  a philosophy,  only a good teacher, a liar, or religious fantasy.

He is the Redeemer.

Jesus is the redeemer of my major depression. In the pit of despair,  I sought death while he offered life. My eyes focused on pain, while he extended his hand full of promise. He did not reject this daughter who lost her way emotionally. Instead, as I barely hung on yet believed in my Savior, he guided me to the right helpers.  Over time, through these people and his Word, he met needs I did not know were unmet. He allowed me to go to the bottom so the whole of my spirit could be healed.

It took time and is not done yet. That is okay.  Mood disorders are tough. Their roots run deep. Learning to manage them may take years.

As for now, this Christmas Eve and Day tomorrow, you and I can turn to the Savior whose birthday we celebrate.

Allow the King to redeem your Christmas.

Today’s Helpful Word

Forgetting “Ghosts” of Christmas Yet to Come – Are You Expecting Nothing to Change?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

A critical and anonymous letter hurt  me  twenty years  ago. There was no name, leaving possibilities wide open. Suspicion of my neighbors, fellow church members, and acquaintances flooded my mind. There had to be some way to combat what the unkind message was doing to my peace of mind.

Perhaps responding with the opposite attitude would lessen the blow. Within an evening,  I wrote five anonymous letters of my own. They were specific to each recipient, and thanked them for what they offered to the world. I told them not to worry about my name because God asked me to show them his love.

Knowing five people were growing gladly suspicious, wondering who among their circle of friends appreciated them so, made my hurt disappear. It still makes me smile to remember that day when kindness overcame hate. The nasty anonymous letter’s words are forgotten.

Perhaps negative messages have hurt you as well. Family history and other relationships helped shape your outlook. Memories of personal failure and regrettable behavior also mark your ideas about the future. True enough, pain and trauma may seriously influence how you go about making decisions. That does not mean you are trapped.

We give power to the past over our choices. It does not own us. 

One sentence,  so recognizable and yet seemingly ignored by those outside of twelve-step groups, sums up our powerful hope in a prayer. The first sentence reads, “God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and  the wisdom to know the difference.”*

Another version of that prayer goes something like this. “God,  please grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.” 

By the time greedy Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol had been visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present, and yet to come, he was ready to change his future.  The first action he took was just the opposite of greed. He bought a turkey for one of the families his selfishness had harmed.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, so confront the ugly past with the opposite. Forget the expected, and overcome evil with good. 

Today’s Helpful Word

*The Serenity Prayer

“Ghosts” of Christmas Present – Are You Pretending Everything Is OK?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Sometimes our enemies join us at the Christmas dinner table. 

Even Scrooge, the miserly uncle in Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, eventually sat down with his abused employee and family. Before the Cratchets understood he was there on a kind mission, they were distrustful and afraid.

The same is true of us around those who are against us. We feel uncomfortable while denial, rationalizations, pretending, and fears circulate through our bodies and minds. Once in a while we find comfort, however most often we are tense.

Someone suggests forgiving the past, and we are immediately lost in the confusion. What is forgiveness? Am I to trust this person again?  Maybe secrets are best left buried. 

Forgiveness is not endorsement of terrible behavior. It does not mean giving up healthy protective barriers, either. Forgiveness is a process that frees us to see the complete picture and set ourselves free of the pain that anger and resentment cause.

Forgiving ourselves.   

Forgiving  who  has  harmed us.

Forgiving who will not acknowledge wrongdoing.

Forgiving who has passed away.

Forgiving who continues to cause harm.

It can take time. Some people seem to pass through it in an afternoon. Others, like me, take longer. I had to put behavior behind my words and deliberately pursue change. 

The key was to name the loss, lay responsibility only where it belonged,  give up looking for an explanation, and acknowledge the whole story.  I could begin to see myself as once victimized and no longer a victim. 

Denial and pretending keep us stuck. So do anger and resentment. One therapist said,“Bitterness is the poison we drink while hoping someone else will die.”

Jesus said in his famous Sermon on the Mount,  “… love your enemies.” Holding someone accountable for their choices is one way of loving them. It gives them opportunity to repent and change.

Forgiveness is not all roses and tulips; sometimes it takes painful acknowledgment that grave sin has taken place. Once we rid ourselves of denial, and dig up those bitter roots,  planting the seeds of Christmas peace can begin.

Today’s Helpful Word