Cultivating a Positive Body Image

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we may find ourselves satisfied and happy with what we see. In the last few years, as selfies and other cameras have gotten higher and higher definition, and in the last few years of the pandemic, as we’ve had to look at ourselves in online meetings, we’ve become more aware of our looks.

That awareness can be a good thing if it is met with an appreciation of what we see, but it can be frustrating and even devastating if we don’t like what we see. That freckle or the slight crook in our smile, our skin tone or hairline, the shape of our nose or of our legs – it’s possible for us to begin looking at these things and wanting to change them because we aren’t happy with them. There is, however, another way to go, and that’s to cultivate a positive body image towards yourself.

What is body image?

Your body image simply refers to how you perceive your own body and your assessment of your physical appearance. It encompasses your emotional responses, your attitude, beliefs, and perceptions of your own body.

If you have a negative body image, that means you feel dissatisfied with what your body looks like. When you compare yourself to other people or to the standard that you believe society holds concerning our bodies, you feel you compare unfavorably.

A negative body image can lead a person to have a distorted image about certain parts of or their whole body, and it can often lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. It means that you’re literally not happy in your own skin and probably walk around wishing you were someone else.

When you have a positive body image, on the other hand, it means that even when it doesn’t match other people’s ideals, you accept your own body for what it is and feel comfortable in it.

That doesn’t mean that you never want to look a little different; on some days, you might wish you could change how you look, including the desire to lose a bit of weight or have a bit more definition. But a positive body image means that on most days you feel confident and are happy with the way you look.

There are several things that influence our body image, and it goes beyond what we see in our bathroom or hallway mirror. How we perceive ourselves is a complex combination of our beliefs, the experiences we have in life, the generalizations we make, and the influence of our culture, friends, family, the fashion industry, and popular culture, as well as the social and other media we consume.

By conveying positive and negative messages, all of these can combine to shape our views on what is beautiful, ideal, and acceptable, as well as what is not, thereby affecting how a person sees and relates to their own body. These different influences encourage us to adopt certain beliefs about bodies – those of others and our own – and often we end up possessing idealized images of the body that are often unrealistic and usually unattainable.

If a person suffers an illness or undergoes an accident that changes their appearance, that can make them reconsider their body image and generate a negative body image. Having breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy can affect a person’s body image, as can having a skin condition such as acne or eczema, or having a limb amputated due to an accident.

When a person has certain experiences such as discrimination based on their race, body size, or age, that too can undermine their confidence and deliver the message that they are not worthy of respect or that they are somehow lacking something and do not measure up.

Cultivating a healthy body image

There are a lot of cultural voices that militate against having a healthy and positive body image. As our broader culture has become more visually oriented, mediating our communications and interactions in increasingly visual ways, whether through our portable devices, our televisions, laptops, and so on, we are constantly bombarded by images from across the globe.

We upload hundreds of millions of photos online on various social media platforms, and that’s to say nothing of the millions of videos that are uploaded on sites like YouTube. A decade ago, around 2012, more pictures were taken every two minutes than were taken throughout the entirety of the 1800s, and that number has only continued to grow.

The point is, that we see a lot of images, and those play a huge role in shaping our self-perception. We see what gets likes, retweets, and what gets reposted, and that shapes our value system. The body positive movement has helped immensely to ensure that a greater diversity of bodies get coverage in our different forms of media, but it is still grossly disproportionately skewed toward the supermodel and hunk side of things.

We are exposed daily to images of people we don’t know, whose lives are glamorized, and have that sheen of unreality that makes them all the more desirable and simultaneously unattainable.

To cultivate a healthy and positive body image, here are a few things that you can do:

Avoid comparisons. When we compare ourselves to other people, we can land ourselves in a bad space. On social media, and other forms of media in general, people put their best selves in their feeds, offering that up for consumption by the public. That snapshot of a person’s life is all we get, but we can make a meal of it, comparing the entirety of our lives with that one moment.

We should avoid comparisons with others in general because the grass usually looks greener on the other side, and it stirs discontent within us. It’s even worse with social media, because we become hyper-focused on these snapshots and slices of a person’s life, and we can easily begin to feel uncomfortable about our own bodies, leading to distress and ill health.

Exercise, but for fitness and not appearance. Just as avoiding comparison can help us avoid the trap of measuring our lives on the basis of appearances, it is far better to work out for your health than it is to look good. If, in working out to get fit, more flexible, and so on, you start to not only feel good but begin enjoying how you look, that’s a welcome bonus.

A study in 2015 found that people that exercise for functional reasons such as getting fit and staying healthy tend to have a more positive body image, while those that pursued exercise to improve their appearance felt less positive about their bodies.

Exercise in general makes you feel good, boosting your mood and making you more aware of what your body can do, and that’s a great thing. But when it’s aimed at looking good, that can detract from the many benefits of working out. Get a workout in and focus on the amazing things you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

Appreciate what your body can do. Your body is there for you. With it, you can laugh, create, dance, embrace your loved ones, feel the breeze or the surf, and enjoy the feel of grass and the smell of flowers. These are all wonderful gifts, and we can turn our minds to appreciate the many things that our bodies can do.

It’s true that we often take our bodies for granted; we only really notice them when something gets hurt or stops functioning as it should. The rest of the time, we don’t notice it except to notice what might not be the right size or shape.

Instead, a healthier way to go about things is to appreciate all the things your body can do. Do yourself a favor and curl your toes in bed, give yourself a nice big stretch, lift your child or hug your loved one. Take a look at the things you can create, at the problems you can solve with your body and mind, and celebrate them.

Learn self-acceptance. You are who you are, and your life is what it is. Perhaps it doesn’t need a filter, whether in posting only your best photos or in applying a literal filter to your pictures to look other than what you really do. It also helps to embrace positive self-talk such as reminding yourself that you are wonderfully and fearfully made by God, and therefore precious in his sight (Psalm 139).

Get comfortable with yourself. Being comfortable with yourself may mean doing something as simple as finding clothes that are comfortable and help to make you feel good about your body.

More than ever before, there are fashionable and varied choices out there, and unless your job has a strict dress code, you can be eclectic in your fashion choices to arrive at what works for you. You can also do something nice for your body, including daily self-care, or getting a massage and a haircut to take care of your body.

Keep your eyes off your body and on the Lord. One of the downsides of the body positive movement is that it continues to place an emphasis and focus on bodies. While they are an important gift that we need to take care of, there’s more to life than our bodies and what they look like. We are served well by keeping things simple for ourselves.

Paul reminds his young protégé, Timothy, that the pursuit of excess and riches can bring sorrow, saying, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6: 7-8 NIV). We can become so focused on what our bodies look like, whether they conform to some ideal, that we neglect to attend to what our bodies are for – God’s glory.

In another letter to the believers in the city of Corinth, Paul wrote, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” and he goes on to say, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 19-20 NIV).

Instead of being overly concerned with our bodies, about what we wear and eat and what size we are, we can rather pool our energies into developing our character and being the sort of people God desires us to be. We can focus on others and their needs, and how we can serve them well as we work for the kingdom.

Talking about the kingdom of God may make people think of ethereal, floating existences where bodies don’t exist or matter. The Christian faith is not a disembodied faith that is uninterested in bodies. Bodies matter immensely, but excessive or misapplied focus on them is decidedly unhealthy.

If you need specific encouragement for any issues you have about body image, consider meeting with a Christian counselor. There may be unresolved problems behind the way you see yourself, and a caring counselor can help you heal from the past and overcome your hang-ups.

Photos:”The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Runners”, Courtesy of Fitsum Admasu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Cultivating a Positive Body Image

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we may find ourselves satisfied and happy with what we see. In the last few years, as selfies and other cameras have gotten higher and higher definition, and in the last few years of the pandemic, as we’ve had to look at ourselves in online meetings, we’ve become more aware of our looks.

That awareness can be a good thing if it is met with an appreciation of what we see, but it can be frustrating and even devastating if we don’t like what we see. That freckle or the slight crook in our smile, our skin tone or hairline, the shape of our nose or of our legs – it’s possible for us to begin looking at these things and wanting to change them because we aren’t happy with them. There is, however, another way to go, and that’s to cultivate a positive body image towards yourself.

What is body image?

Your body image simply refers to how you perceive your own body and your assessment of your physical appearance. It encompasses your emotional responses, your attitude, beliefs, and perceptions of your own body.

If you have a negative body image, that means you feel dissatisfied with what your body looks like. When you compare yourself to other people or to the standard that you believe society holds concerning our bodies, you feel you compare unfavorably.

A negative body image can lead a person to have a distorted image about certain parts of or their whole body, and it can often lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. It means that you’re literally not happy in your own skin and probably walk around wishing you were someone else.

When you have a positive body image, on the other hand, it means that even when it doesn’t match other people’s ideals, you accept your own body for what it is and feel comfortable in it.

That doesn’t mean that you never want to look a little different; on some days, you might wish you could change how you look, including the desire to lose a bit of weight or have a bit more definition. But a positive body image means that on most days you feel confident and are happy with the way you look.

There are several things that influence our body image, and it goes beyond what we see in our bathroom or hallway mirror. How we perceive ourselves is a complex combination of our beliefs, the experiences we have in life, the generalizations we make, and the influence of our culture, friends, family, the fashion industry, and popular culture, as well as the social and other media we consume.

By conveying positive and negative messages, all of these can combine to shape our views on what is beautiful, ideal, and acceptable, as well as what is not, thereby affecting how a person sees and relates to their own body. These different influences encourage us to adopt certain beliefs about bodies – those of others and our own – and often we end up possessing idealized images of the body that are often unrealistic and usually unattainable.

If a person suffers an illness or undergoes an accident that changes their appearance, that can make them reconsider their body image and generate a negative body image. Having breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy can affect a person’s body image, as can having a skin condition such as acne or eczema, or having a limb amputated due to an accident.

When a person has certain experiences such as discrimination based on their race, body size, or age, that too can undermine their confidence and deliver the message that they are not worthy of respect or that they are somehow lacking something and do not measure up.

Cultivating a healthy body image

There are a lot of cultural voices that militate against having a healthy and positive body image. As our broader culture has become more visually oriented, mediating our communications and interactions in increasingly visual ways, whether through our portable devices, our televisions, laptops, and so on, we are constantly bombarded by images from across the globe.

We upload hundreds of millions of photos online on various social media platforms, and that’s to say nothing of the millions of videos that are uploaded on sites like YouTube. A decade ago, around 2012, more pictures were taken every two minutes than were taken throughout the entirety of the 1800s, and that number has only continued to grow.

The point is, that we see a lot of images, and those play a huge role in shaping our self-perception. We see what gets likes, retweets, and what gets reposted, and that shapes our value system. The body positive movement has helped immensely to ensure that a greater diversity of bodies get coverage in our different forms of media, but it is still grossly disproportionately skewed toward the supermodel and hunk side of things.

We are exposed daily to images of people we don’t know, whose lives are glamorized, and have that sheen of unreality that makes them all the more desirable and simultaneously unattainable.

To cultivate a healthy and positive body image, here are a few things that you can do:

Avoid comparisons. When we compare ourselves to other people, we can land ourselves in a bad space. On social media, and other forms of media in general, people put their best selves in their feeds, offering that up for consumption by the public. That snapshot of a person’s life is all we get, but we can make a meal of it, comparing the entirety of our lives with that one moment.

We should avoid comparisons with others in general because the grass usually looks greener on the other side, and it stirs discontent within us. It’s even worse with social media, because we become hyper-focused on these snapshots and slices of a person’s life, and we can easily begin to feel uncomfortable about our own bodies, leading to distress and ill health.

Exercise, but for fitness and not appearance. Just as avoiding comparison can help us avoid the trap of measuring our lives on the basis of appearances, it is far better to work out for your health than it is to look good. If, in working out to get fit, more flexible, and so on, you start to not only feel good but begin enjoying how you look, that’s a welcome bonus.

A study in 2015 found that people that exercise for functional reasons such as getting fit and staying healthy tend to have a more positive body image, while those that pursued exercise to improve their appearance felt less positive about their bodies.

Exercise in general makes you feel good, boosting your mood and making you more aware of what your body can do, and that’s a great thing. But when it’s aimed at looking good, that can detract from the many benefits of working out. Get a workout in and focus on the amazing things you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

Appreciate what your body can do. Your body is there for you. With it, you can laugh, create, dance, embrace your loved ones, feel the breeze or the surf, and enjoy the feel of grass and the smell of flowers. These are all wonderful gifts, and we can turn our minds to appreciate the many things that our bodies can do.

It’s true that we often take our bodies for granted; we only really notice them when something gets hurt or stops functioning as it should. The rest of the time, we don’t notice it except to notice what might not be the right size or shape.

Instead, a healthier way to go about things is to appreciate all the things your body can do. Do yourself a favor and curl your toes in bed, give yourself a nice big stretch, lift your child or hug your loved one. Take a look at the things you can create, at the problems you can solve with your body and mind, and celebrate them.

Learn self-acceptance. You are who you are, and your life is what it is. Perhaps it doesn’t need a filter, whether in posting only your best photos or in applying a literal filter to your pictures to look other than what you really do. It also helps to embrace positive self-talk such as reminding yourself that you are wonderfully and fearfully made by God, and therefore precious in his sight (Psalm 139).

Get comfortable with yourself. Being comfortable with yourself may mean doing something as simple as finding clothes that are comfortable and help to make you feel good about your body.

More than ever before, there are fashionable and varied choices out there, and unless your job has a strict dress code, you can be eclectic in your fashion choices to arrive at what works for you. You can also do something nice for your body, including daily self-care, or getting a massage and a haircut to take care of your body.

Keep your eyes off your body and on the Lord. One of the downsides of the body positive movement is that it continues to place an emphasis and focus on bodies. While they are an important gift that we need to take care of, there’s more to life than our bodies and what they look like. We are served well by keeping things simple for ourselves.

Paul reminds his young protégé, Timothy, that the pursuit of excess and riches can bring sorrow, saying, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6: 7-8 NIV). We can become so focused on what our bodies look like, whether they conform to some ideal, that we neglect to attend to what our bodies are for – God’s glory.

In another letter to the believers in the city of Corinth, Paul wrote, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” and he goes on to say, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 19-20 NIV).

Instead of being overly concerned with our bodies, about what we wear and eat and what size we are, we can rather pool our energies into developing our character and being the sort of people God desires us to be. We can focus on others and their needs, and how we can serve them well as we work for the kingdom.

Talking about the kingdom of God may make people think of ethereal, floating existences where bodies don’t exist or matter. The Christian faith is not a disembodied faith that is uninterested in bodies. Bodies matter immensely, but excessive or misapplied focus on them is decidedly unhealthy.

If you need specific encouragement for any issues you have about body image, consider meeting with a Christian counselor. There may be unresolved problems behind the way you see yourself, and a caring counselor can help you heal from the past and overcome your hang-ups.

Photos:”The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Runners”, Courtesy of Fitsum Admasu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Bible Verses About Relationship Problems

Relationships can be complicated to navigate even though they are a gift from God. When they go right, they can be encouraging and uplifting. When they go wrong, they can be hurtful and confusing. Bible verses about relationship problems will offer you guidance on how to proceed when you are struggling in a relationship.

The Bible has solid advice for you whether you need advice for a romantic relationship, friendship, or work relationship. Here are several verses that will apply to different types of relationships. You can learn what Scripture has to say about relationship problems as you study and meditate on verses.

Bible Verses About Relationship Problems

The Bible provides examples of all types of relationships. Family relationships partnerships, friendships, and romantic relationships are reported in scripture. The life of Jacob has lots of stories about family dynamics. David and Jonathan enjoyed an amazing friendship. Boaz and Ruth have a beautiful romantic relationship. Paul and Barnabas are an example of a partnership.

This is where God offers principles so we can navigate the complications of relationships. The relationships that existed in Bible times are just as challenging and difficult as our relationships today. When you view relationships through the lens of the Bible, you can learn many truths about how God wants you to handle relationships.

Scripture can help you no matter what type of relationship problem you’re facing now. You can study biblical principles in Bible stories to understand how God values relationships and ways that you can make your own relationships better. While you read the following verses, ask God to show you how you can properly apply them.

Love at All Times

A friend loves at all times. – Proverbs 17:17, NIV

Love is the most important ingredient of a lasting relationship. We must love each other at all times, not just when times are good. Some people will support you when times are going well, then leave you when times are not going well.

That’s when you can look to God, others, and a Christian counselor for help in connecting with people who will love you well no matter what is going on in your life. You can also learn more about showing unconditional love to all the people in your life when you get encouragement from others.

Relationships Are for Sharpening
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Friendships are meant to sharpen us. To sharpen a knife, you must grind it against hard metal. The motion of grinding against the other hard metal smooths tiny grooves in the knife and it makes it sharp again. This is what friendships are intended to do for us.

They are meant to smooth away our imperfections and improve our service for our intended purpose. Friends who do this for you will speak the truth in love. The constructive criticism will help you grow to be the kind of person God wants you to be. You can also be this kind of friend to others to help your friends be the best they can be.

Forgive Each Other

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9, NIV

All relationships need forgiveness. Each one of us is imperfect, and eventually, we will fail other people. Likewise, others will fail us. When you choose to forgive, you promote love in your relationships.

Otherwise, if you dwell on the hurt, you could experience separation or division in your relationships. Whether you have been hurt in your relationships, or you have been the one who hurt other people, forgiveness is the key to healing.

Refrain from Arguments

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. – Proverbs 18:19, NIV

In your relationships, you will most certainly run into disagreements, but you can choose not to argue. You may have grown up with an unhealthy conflict style that creates more problems. Whether you withdraw, explode, or allow feelings to leak out in passive aggression, these methods perpetuate problems instead of providing solutions.

By being direct yet loving, you can handle conflicts with others with greater respect. In this way, you can avoid offending your friends and build bridges in your relationships.

Betrayal Destroys

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. – Psalm 41:9, NIV

If you have experienced the pain of betrayal, you know how David felt when he wrote this psalm. The pain is intense when you open your heart to someone who later rejects or betrays you. If you don’t handle your feelings after betrayal in a healthy way, you can suffer from bitterness and resentment. If you need help getting over rejection and betrayal, you can speak with a caring counselor.

Serve Others

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13, NIV

We are free from sin and death when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is wrong to use our freedom in Christ to mistreat others and serve ourselves. God wants us to serve others in our relationships. To be like Jesus, we should always consider other people’s needs before our own and give selflessly. To learn how to do this, study Jesus’ example in the Gospels.

Love Like Jesus

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34, NIV

Jesus loves us perfectly and he wants us to strive to love more wholeheartedly. On the night before he died, he chose to wash the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas who would betray him.

Though Jesus knew his disciples would desert him in his greatest time of need, he continued to serve them in love and forgive them. Only God can empower you to live this way in your relationship, even pouring the love of Jesus into you so you can truly love others the way Jesus did.

Don’t Pretend

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9, NIV

God wants us to love authentic in all our relationships. He does not want us to hide behind masks of pretense. Others know when we are faking our love for them. To truly love others, you must set your mask aside and be real, taking risks and being vulnerable. True and lasting connection is only possible if you decide to start and not hide behind a mask. A Christian counselor can help you learn to love courageously without pretense.

Lay It Down

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13, NIV

You don’t have to literally lay down your life to demonstrate great love for your friends. However the greatest love requires sacrifice, and you will need to train yourself to make your relationships the best they can be.

When you put other people first, you need to sacrifice such things as time, money, emotional energy, or personal preferences. Doing this shows that you are loving the way Jesus did.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

These Bible verses can guide you in your relationship problems. However, if you feel stuck in a relationship issue with your romantic partner, friend, coworker, or partner, you may benefit from additional help offered by a Christian counselor. Your counselor will listen to you and provide specific guidance for your unique relationship problems. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our offices to make an appointment today.

Photos:
“Sunset on the Mountain”, Courtesy of Roberto Nickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Ryan Franco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Swans”, Courtesy of Nick Fewings, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Friendship Matters: The Definition of a True Friend

What is the definition of a true friend? In our increasingly lonely society, friendship matters more than ever. In this article, we’ll probe both of these ideas and give you tips on looking for a true friendship.

Making friends is something we typically learn to do when we’re young. In one sense, it’s easier to make friends when you’re younger for a variety of reasons. You’re at the same stage of life, occupied by and involved in pretty much the same things; you probably live close to one another, and you see each other quite often because of school and other activities. All this makes it possible to make friendships within your peer group.

These commonalities become more complicated the older you get. The guys you play ultimate frisbee with may be married or unmarried, divorced or widowed, unemployed, or have significant work. They may have kids, but also maybe not. Some may be Ivy League-educated, while others didn’t go far with school. They may live close to you, or much further off.

You may or may not be in the same economic bracket. Some may be believers, while others are staunch atheists. You may have people across the political spectrum in one team. In other words, there may be one point of intersection – ultimate frisbee – with a thousand and one other points of potential divergence. You can still make friends there, but it’s a bit trickier to manage than in grade school.

Americans of working age are often quite busy, finding themselves consumed by their work. The recent pandemic certainly did not help in our opportunities to retain and make new friendships, and in recent years there’s been an increase in friendlessness, particularly among young American men.

According to a recent study by Survey Center on American Life, “Americans report having fewer close friendships than they once did, talking to their friends less often, and relying less on their friends for personal support.”

According to that study, around 36% of young men reach out to their parents first when they’re dealing with a personal problem, compared to around just 17% in 1990.

Because of Covid, “nearly half (47%) of Americans report having lost touch with at least a few friends over the past 12 months” with almost 59% of women saying that they fell out of contact with close friends during the last 18 months or so. It’s never been more important to cultivate friendships and to understand what a true friendship is.

The Definition of a True Friend

These are some of the most important elements of a true friendship:

Common interests 

A true friend is a person with whom you have things in common. While friendships certainly do develop between two or more unlikely people, what we often find is that the group shares things in common, and they are able to carry on as a group by cultivating those things.

One of the most articulate expressions of what friendship is and how it grows was explained by C. S. Lewis. In The Four Loves, Lewis says,

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”

Friendship can be forged because you love the same authors, sports, movies, food, and many other things. That seed can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Mutual support

One of the ways a true friend shows up is that the focus isn’t solely on them, but your relationship has a strong core of mutual support. It’s a poor friend indeed who keeps the focus on themselves, or who makes the foundation of the friendship their own needs.

A true friend is there to bring out the best in you, just as you do in their life. You stand with one another in your seasons of need, joy, and mourning. Friendship is a mutual appreciation society – you appreciate the things you have in common with one another, and you appreciate each other.

Presence

Friendships can get complicated by distance. But one of the joys of a true friend is that they make a gift of themselves and their presence in your life. There is a huge difference between relating to someone through a screen versus them being physically present.

While we can gain much from our online acquaintances, there’s something about an embodied presence that simply can’t be replicated. When you’re going through a tough time, a text or facetime call from a friend will do in a pinch. However, their presence in the room with you is priceless. There is something irreplaceable about being together with your friends, about giving one another the gift of our presence.

C.S. Lewis also gives us this gem of a quote: “In a perfect Friendship, this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.

Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”

The pandemic has certainly made it harder for us to be present for and with one another, but it has hopefully highlighted that it is more important than we could have ever known. We can be creative in how to be safely present with others in this season, but we have an appreciation for why it’s important to be present for and with our friends, to enjoy being in the same space as them.

Accountability and loving truth-telling

Proverbs 27:6 (DRA) reminds us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” A true friend may wound us with their truth-telling, but we must remember that when the truth is told to us in love, there is no more precious gift we can be given. A true friend isn’t there to simply hype you up and sanction everything you say and do; they also challenge you to be a better version of yourself.

This vision of friendship is something we can better appreciate if we understand how it’s possible that God is using our friendships to make us into better people.

Again, Lewis’ The Four Loves helps us out here, “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart.

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

Our friends can help to keep us accountable and bring out the beauty in us, and we do the same for them.

True friendship seeks other likeminded souls

Our hearts often want to cling to good things in a selfish way. We don’t always like to share, and that’s a common human foible. A good friendship, and a good friend, will not curve in on itself and become self-serving. Instead, we find that we enjoy meeting other like-minded people and bringing them into our circle. if we are secure in ourselves and our identity, bringing others into our friendship circles is something that brings delight.

What’s the reason for this? One last bit of wisdom from C. S. Lewis on this subject:

“In each of my friends, there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love to divide is not to take away.”

A true friend isn’t selfish in their love toward you. They know that the love of others can bring you more fully into yourself, and so there is always room for others.

Need help cultivating true friendship? You can meet with a Christian counselor for individual advice based on biblical principles to help you find a true friend.

Photos:
“Friends in a Field”, Courtesy of Melissa Askew, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Posing for the Picture”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Chat”, Courtesy of Prisiclla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

Relationships are beautiful, but slightly fragile things. We thrive when we’re in meaningful relationships with others, and that is how it should be. Our relationships are a major part of what allows us to flourish, and likewise, when our relationships are out of joint, we find that our life loses color. That’s when we need to learn what to do with a broken relationship.

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

It can take years to build a relationship with someone – a long-cherished friendship, an open and mutually supportive parent-child connection, or a solid and fulfilling marriage. However, the unfortunate reality is that what takes years to build can be undermined in a matter of mere moments.

Whether through a betrayal of trust, unkind words spoken in anger, or the failure to meet expectations, a relationship can end up facing serious challenges. Though sometimes the damage done is hard to repair, relationship challenges can often be overcome in healthy ways.

The older you get, the more you come to understand how precious relationships are, and their fragility as well. Broken relationships are a sad fact of life, but thankfully we aren’t left without options for what to do if things go south. Whether you are the one that has made a mistake that leaves a relationship in shambles, or you’re the one that is on the receiving end, here are a few things to consider about a broken relationship.

Recognize how brokenness is a part of life.

The world is a messy place. It’s not okay that it’s a messy place, but it’s just the reality. Part of the messiness of the world and ourselves is that our relationships are less than perfect, just as we are less than perfect. Disappointment and heartbreak are just some of the seasons we can expect in life (Ecclesiastes 3).

Sara Teasdale wrote, “It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.” The messiness and brokenness of our world hurt, and our hearts will be broken many times in our lifetime, but there is one small comfort in the face of all this – we can learn and grow even amid these painful experiences, and our hearts can become more resilient and wiser.

This means that broken relationships aren’t the end of us – they don’t close our doors to other opportunities, and they certainly aren’t a unique occurrence. While it can be devastating and hugely challenging to suffer from a broken relationship, we don’t have to be overwhelmed and entirely undone.

Try to find out what happened.

When a relationship breaks down, it may come as a complete surprise to you. Or, in some cases, perhaps you know or can make a good guess at what happened and how things fell apart in your relationship. Perhaps you can pinpoint the precise moment when things crumbled and the relationship was changed forever. While it may seem like dragging yourself through unnecessary pain – doing a post-mortem of your relationship can help you in several ways.

Taking time to discern what happened can help you in making a meaningful apology and in changing certain things if that’s what’s needed. For instance, If you betrayed your friend’s trust by telling someone else a secret, you can take several steps.

You may need to work through what you did, why you did it, and exercise empathy for the other person. These steps will help you understand on a deeper level what went wrong and how you find yourself in your present predicament. When you make your apology, all these things are elements to consider.

Knowing what may have gone wrong will alert you to things you should avoid in other relationships. We want to grow as people, and one way to do that is to learn through our own mistakes. Whether you’re the one responsible for the broken relationship or not, we can learn important lessons about ourselves and other people in the wake of a disruptive event in the relationship.

You may need to adjust expectations, communicate needs more clearly, or establish clearer boundaries with others. These are valuable ideas to ponder because they help us understand ourselves and our relationships better. Understanding why this particular relationship broke down can help you get back on track more securely, or it can help you better cultivate your other relationships.

While it’s important to understand what happened and how things fell apart, we must also recognize that understanding what happened does have its limits. In Mend my Broken Heart, Jocelyn Soriano wrote “Yes, I understand why things had to happen this way. I understand his reason for causing me pain. But mere understanding does not chase away the hurt. It does not call upon the sun when dark clouds have loomed over me. Let the rain come then if it must come! And let it wash away the dust that hurt my eyes!”

If you’re the one who has been betrayed and hurt, understanding what happened and why may be cold comfort. Sometimes, understanding helps us come to grips with our new reality, but it can only go so far.

Ask for forgiveness.

We all make mistakes. But we don’t all make the same mistakes in the same way, nor are we consistent in dealing with others the way we would want to be treated. This makes for messy relationships, self-righteousness attitudes, and often an unwillingness to change.

Asking for forgiveness is one important way to try and restore a broken relationship. When you acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, recognize how you’ve hurt the other person, and can clearly see ways of doing better in the future, that can create room to repair a broken relationship. An apology might not fix everything, but it’s a great starting point.

If trust was broken, it may be a long road to get back there again, if you can manage it. One of the ways an apology is powerful is that it lets the other person know that you’re on the same page about your behavior. They now know that you know that what you did was wrong, and for them that can be an important step in finding healing.

If you’re the one whose trust was violated, you can consider what your options are, including extending forgiveness to the person that hurt you. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). This verse is a powerful reminder of our own brokenness and need for forgiveness. It allows us to empathize with those who have sinned against us.

Forgiving the other person might not mean that things completely reset, but it does mean that you’re choosing to let go of any resentment or bitter feelings toward that person. It’s a way to begin the work of rebuilding the relationship, should you so choose.

Additionally, if you’re the one who was hurt, you might need to redraw or restate your boundaries with other people. Every healthy relationship requires healthy boundaries, and when one or more of those are violated, that situation can provide you with an opportunity to either restate or redraw those boundaries as needed.

Pick up the pieces.

You need to decide for yourself how the relationship is important to you and what you’re willing to do for it. True friendships, familial relationships, and other meaningful connections with others aren’t easy to find or replace, especially if they’ve been the work of years to cultivate.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t move on from these relationships if they are harmful, but it does mean we need to weigh carefully what we do with them. In some cases, walking away may be the best thing you can do, while in others working on things is what wisdom dictates.

Take time to heal and process what’s happened. Picking up the pieces of a broken relationship is hard work, whether you’re picking up those pieces to try and put them back together again, or you’re picking them up to set them aside.

Whether you’re the cause of the broken relationship or not, when a significant human connection falls apart, it hurts. If you need help processing a broken relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trustworthy individual such as a friend, family member, spiritual advisor, or trained Christian therapist.

Photos:
“Just Married”, Courtesy of Nikita Shirokov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Daisy from Below”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Ronak Valobobhai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible”, Courtesy of Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Knowing the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships take various forms, and they go through their own peaks and valleys, just as with the rest of life. In a marriage, for instance, the couple might move from the honeymoon phase and into a season of financial hardship that tests their ability to resolve conflict and problem-solve. Some couples will struggle with that, while others will deal with the conflict and difficult circumstances in a healthy manner.

Again, couples go through all sorts of things, and many healthy relationships will face challenges, sometimes with mixed results. However, the mark of healthy relationships is that they don’t remain in a state of conflict, nor do they endlessly repeat the same mistakes without learning or growing from them.

In other words, difficult seasons will come, but healthy relationships weather those storms through mutual respect, affection, good conflict management skills, and so on.

In other relationships, what’s lacking are these same hallmarks of a healthy relationship. These toxic relationships are a hotbed of simmering conflict – one or both partners are in constant fight or flight mode, and they are not happy or fulfilled. There can be toxic patterns in a relationship, but a toxic relationship is one in which those patterns are a feature, not a bug in the system. Below are a few signs to look out for that might point to your relationship as being toxic.

Emotional detachment in a toxic relationship.

In a healthy relationship, the partners are emotionally connected and vulnerable to one another. They share themselves, offer one another validation, and show that they care for each other in various ways. Emotional detachment can happen for a season, say for instance if one partner is in a time crunch at work. However, sharing one’s feelings with their partner is what makes for a healthy relationship. Emotional detachment can happen in various ways, including:

You don’t celebrate each other’s wins. In a healthy relationship, the couple supports one another and celebrates their respective wins. If the atmosphere in the relationship is one where your wins aren’t celebrated, and possibly where an air of competition reigns, that could be problematic.

Negative spontaneous emotional reactions. Your partner’s gut-level impressions of you, such as whether they like you or find you interesting, or whether they think you are competent, or how you might compare to other people – all these can point to the health of your relationship. A relationship dominated by spontaneous negative emotional reactions is a cause for concern.

Lack of self-disclosure. Relationship health is supported by emotional self-disclosure, where you are vulnerable with, listen to, and mutually support each other. Sharing your important feelings within the relationship matters, as does listening well and being responsive to such self-disclosures. If this interplay of sharing and listening well is absent from the relationship, it is cause for concern.

Few positive non-verbal behaviors. We speak with more than just our words. We can use touch, our faces, our bodies, and the tone of our voices to communicate alongside our words. A relational environment where there are few positive non-verbal behaviors such as smiles, laughter, hugging, etc., might point to an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

It’s also important to ask yourself if the dominant tone of your relationship is one of affirmation or criticism. Of course, we don’t always get things right, but if your spouse is constantly criticizing you – how you dress, how you look, speak, act, and so on, that’s not a healthy situation. Emotional detachment, if it becomes a habit, signals the deterioration of a relationship, and it needs to be addressed.

A lack of safety in a toxic relationship.

In a relationship, it’s important for you and your children to feel safe. Safety can be emotional or physical safety. With emotional safety, do you feel able to express your emotions without feeling judged or like you’re failing somehow? Do you feel like people care how you feel, and that your emotions are taken into consideration?

Physical safety can be compromised if you’re threatened with violence, or if resources such as food, clothing, health care, and shelter are held at ransom. Relationships marked by the lack of safety are likely toxic.

No boundaries or boundaries are repeatedly violated

Boundaries are important for the health of any relationship. Boundaries signal that each person has their own personality and needs, and respecting those boundaries shows consideration and promotes individual integrity. Boundaries can center around finances, privacy, use of time, friendships, sex, and much else.

If in your relationship you either don’t have boundaries or the boundaries you set are violated repeatedly, it may signal a toxic relationship. Each relationship needs boundaries to prevent it from slipping into codependency or other similar dysfunction, and when boundaries are violated, there need to be consequences. Repeated violations of reasonable boundaries display a fundamental lack of respect that needs to be remedied.

Constant cover-ups in a toxic relationship.

Spouses often cover for one another. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including not wanting them to look bad, or wanting to spare them from something uncomfortable or humiliating. There is a line between that and covering up bad behavior for them so that they escape accountability, or so that truth about them doesn’t get out.

If you find yourself often covering up for your partner because they were drunk, rude, physically, or verbally abusive, and so on, that points to a toxic relationship dynamic. You shouldn’t be part of their personal PR and cleanup crew, and covering up for them reveals unhealthy (possibly codependent) dynamics in the relationship.

Lack of freedom in a toxic relationship.

In a meaningful relationship with our significant other, we should feel the most accepted and loved within that space. When we are with our friends, these are supposed to be the people that get us, that understand our weirdness and welcome us, nonetheless. In our family, that space above others is where we ought to feel appreciated, loved for who we are, and feel that our best interests are high up on the agenda.

If you feel that you don’t have freedom in your relationship, it’s possibly problematic. Possibly problematic because sometimes we want more freedom than we ought to get, like a teenager wanting to stay out way beyond what their parent thinks is wise, or if a spouse wants the freedom to commit adultery.

Rather, the freedom in mind here relates to things like feeling the freedom to be yourself, to make mistakes, to be with people such as your friends and family. It’s a problem when you’re constantly criticized for being who you are, if any mistakes you make are closely scrutinized while those of others aren’t, or if you get isolated from people such as your family and friends.

You should be able to meet with your family and hang with your friends, but when your partner wants to isolate you, it’s a sign of toxicity and may be a prelude to other abusive behaviors.

A lack of mutuality in a toxic relationship.

At the heart of a relationship is what you do for each other. You celebrate one another; you are there for one another during your tough times; you rebuke one another when there is a need for it, you forgive each other for mistakes that you make, you take on responsibilities to help one another flourish, and you each make compromises for the sake of the other.

If you find yourself in a situation where this is flowing in one direction, that could be a sign of a toxic relationship. A lack of mutuality in a relationship is a cause for concern that you should take seriously. There ought to be a healthy give and take within the relationship, and while things are never balanced equally, there should be some level of reciprocity in how you do things in your relationship.

It cannot be that only one person constantly needs to be forgiven, that one person is the one who makes the compromises, or that only one person needs rebuke. A relationship is the coming together of equals, and that means each of you must receive dignity, respect, and consideration.

Conclusion

If you detect these signs of toxicity in your relationship, having a conversation with your partner about them can help you begin addressing the issue. With the help of a couple’s therapist, you can turn a toxic relationship around, but it needs you both to show up and put in the work.

Photos:
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Shelby Deeter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I give you my heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Reaching Your Goals with a Personal Coach

Our best work is done in times when we feel a sense of purpose. This incorporates our will, our passions, and our best thoughts. It provides us with a sense of meaning for our lives.

Some may remember the older Disney cartoon that showed a businessman unhappily going to his mundane job with bags under his tired eyes. Just going through routine motions every day has drained him.

Life is more enjoyable when it includes meaningful activity. This can be during work or outside of work and the purpose is to engage with the people around us. Many people are not satisfied with their current jobs or life path, and personal coaches can help them reinvent themselves so they have some sort of meaning and a better sense of purpose.

What is it that you want?

In other words, ask yourself what your objectives are. Often, we take opportunities to participate in a type of project inside or outside of work without asking ourselves if that is truly what we want. This could be because we are going to get paid well, or we want prestige, or because someone we view as “important” is involved.

When we fail to ask ourselves what we really want, we start relying on impulses and aimless choices. Consequentially, our sense of purpose is diminished. As the business saying goes, “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit every time.” We must find our magic wands and put our desires down on paper, including things that may seem impossible or silly.

By asking yourself what you want, you can pinpoint your desires and then work to create plans that will help you reach your goals in life. This can be viewed as a form of being kind to yourself. A personal coach has the ability to help you figure out your desires and comprehend the complexities they entail.

Goals should be divided into fantasies, wants, and needs so that we can determine what is important and which things have the likelihood of success. For example, saying “I need to have a car so that I can get to work and then get home” is a need.

“I need an expensive Mercedes-Benz so that I can get to work and then get home” is a want (and possibly also a fantasy!). Obviously, we need some form of transportation, but expensive transportation exists as a luxury, and you may only need a nice car when you are taking a very rich client to lunch.

An example of a fantasy is, “I need somebody to provide me with a car,” which basically implies you want a car but do not want to put in any work to pay for it. Fantasies often share this dynamic.

Other examples include, “I have strong aspirations to become a famous singer, but I am not willing to leave my tiny hometown” and “I would like to speak another language but I would rather not have to learn it.”

The first implies that I want to become a celebrity even though it’s nearly impossible to do so in my small rural hometown, and the second one implies I want something but have no desire to actually learn it.

Aiming for everything will probably produce the same results as aiming for nothing. A huge step in the difficult process is really narrowing down your focus. You must work on the things that are most important because we all have a limited amount of willpower, time, money, and energy

For this, personal coaches can help with the filtering process. To an extent, we are postponing some of our dreams and a logical second opinion might help the decision-making process.

What is the process?

Once we form an understanding of what we want, we create a plan that includes action items or tasks. For example, the process of getting a car would be, “Get employed, earn enough money for the car, and then buy the car.” It isn’t difficult and you should be flexible.

If you hit a roadblock in your process, look and see if you can find a workaround to it. If not, it’s probably time to reevaluate that goal. As an example, “Get employed” can only work when someone has a reliable means of transportation, so a way to work around that may be, “Get employed, figure out public transportation, earn enough money for a car, etc.”

If public transportation is sufficient in your area, you may decide to wait to buy the car to save the money you would need for the gas, insurance, and maintenance that would come with it. Break down the path you need to take to reach your goal so that it will become more clear to you.

“Receive a Master’s of Business Administration and get employed as a middle-level manager” is an extremely broad goal. Instead, perhaps consider, “Find a college, get student loans, apply, complete courses, receive a degree, apply for mentorship programs at well-known companies, take whatever job I’m offered, work towards promotions.”

Of course, these steps could change over time, but it is best to have a reasonable, logical path that you can get started on. This process of evaluation can be made even better if you have a personal coach who can guide you and act as an unbiased sounding board.

Break Down the Plan

After you have narrowed down your path to one main focus, it is time to connect with a personal coach who will help you add details to the process. The purpose of the main focus is to ensure that you do not have competing objectives with steps that are mutually exclusive (e.g., “enroll in business school” vs. “receive an MFA in animation”).

Certain goals have the ability to run concurrently, however, this only works when the steps are also able to run concurrently. If your goal was to “learn to play the guitar” and your steps might be “purchase a guitar, find a great teacher, schedule sessions with the teacher.”

Perhaps a better breakdown might be “Do research to find the best inexpensive guitar, purchase one, make room for it, research guitar teachers, choose one and call to schedule sessions, dedicate some time to practice every day, and assess progress after three months.”

You have the option to break it down however you would like, but try not to spend too much time planning because it may lead to inaction. Often, it seems that execution is more difficult than planning, but you actually have to perform the tasks you created to reach your ultimate goal. If you tend to lack execution but are great at planning, see the sectioned titled “The Enemy Within” below.

Action always requires expense. If we want to accomplish something, we must expend our emotions, time, effort, mental energy, and finances. Everything costs something. If we want to come up with a clear plan on how we can meet our goals, we need to consider the cost, which includes the cost to our loved ones.

A person once wanted to become a screenwriter. He asked what his wife what she would say if he wanted to relocate to Hollywood, and her response was, “I would miss you.”

Everything we partake in costs something, whether it be energy, technology, money, and more. When you are making your plan, you must ask what the cost is financially as well as to yourself and loved ones.

You must also consider opportunity cost. This is the road that is not traveled. When you pick one path, another one cannot concurrently be chosen. For example, say you have $50 to spend, but you want two things that each cost $40. You have to pick one.

The thing you opted against can be classified as an opportunity cost. This is an important concept to remember when making decisions so that we don’t get blindsided suddenly at the last minute wondering how things would have turned out had we chosen the road that wasn’t traveled.

The Enemy Within

We often have the desire to go forward in a specific direction, but the moment we try to move forward, something stops us. A friend mentions a new job that we might be perfect for, and the friend’s positivity encourages us to find a slew of Help Wanted advertisements related to that job. When we are ready, we pick up the phone, but then we freeze.

Perhaps a teacher tells us that we possess a special gift. For a triumphant moment, we imagine being highly successful, performing in front of cheering crowds and winning awards. After that, though, the internal dialogue starts, the logistics of it and how they won’t work, our imperfections, all the reasons that we are not good enough.

Unfortunately, we all leave our dreams behind at times. Debilitating and demeaning thoughts hold us back and halt our creative processes. Many of us are afraid to fail or actually gain success, or family members or friends may be very critical towards us and hold us back as well. We need to leave this playing field in order to move past criticism and towards success.

It’s important that out of almost seven billion people, you happen to be the only you that exists. You should apply that to whatever your craft is and it will be made unique. We are concerned about people’s opinions and whether or not they will pay for our crafts and like them, but this is actually immaterial even though it might affect our ability to make a living.

Come up with personal affirmations that make you feel good, and actually use them. You can say things like “I deserve happiness,” “I am allowed to make choices,” “I am amazing and a reflection of God’s image.”

Overall, we have the ability to make choices that can change our lives. We can leave the past in the past and live freely knowing the future is yet to be decided. We must live in the present so that we can move to the following step.

Of course, it is vital to understand that some of the self-assessments we make are legitimate. People on talent shows such as American Idol often never had someone tell them they aren’t that great at singing. Instead, loved ones and friends always encouraged them and said that they totally had a talent for music.

Additional Help

We have an emotional grid that has been formed by good things as well as traumatic things that we have experienced, and what matters is what we decide to do with those things. Sometimes, we need to analyze the past so that we can move forward and have the ability to achieve and receive great things.

As we have all heard, being criticized by our parents during our childhoods can be debilitating and very hard to overcome. If we have had a series of embarrassing and humiliating setbacks, they may seem to confirm our fears regarding our inability to succeed.

It can be of great value to seek help from a counselor who is licensed in mental health. This person can help you move past dark places that you have been, events that have traumatized you, places where you may have failed, or places where you were neglected and lacked the proper nurture. This person can work with you to reframe the negative narrative and help you move past trauma and towards health and emotional growth.

When our mental states and emotions are integrated, we have a higher chance of being able to pursue our aspirations and goals. It’s hard and you will realize why is it referred to as “emotional work.” This concept differs from the concept of personal coaching because it is more about understanding the past and the ways that it is interfering with your ability to move forward.

The ultimate goal is to continue trying to make an improved version of yourself so that you can have a purpose and take action to move forward toward your goals, whether you are focusing on a specific path or improved health and emotional growth.

Final Thoughts

Scripture tells us that we lack things because we don’t ask for them. In other words, we lack God’s blessings because we don’t ask Him to give them to us. We can expand that by saying we lack what we want because we don’t ask ourselves what we actually want and we don’t ask ourselves “what’s this about?” when we begin to feel scared or inadequate.

Moving forward tends to be easier when we maintain a mature, adult-like position and don’t let our fears cripple us. We must remember that the past has already ended but the future isn’t written yet, so we must live in the present. We have the choice to do what we want with this information, and our choice determines what direction we will move in.

It is good to have aspirations and goals, and it is okay to ask for some assistance every now and then. We do not have to be alone in all of this, and personal coaches can give you perspectives to ponder that will lead to success.

Photos:
“Thinking,” courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Arrows in Waiting”, Courtesy of Laura Crowe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Money”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Long Distance,” courtesy of Chris Lawton, tookapic.com, CC0 License

How to Overcome Job Burnout

For many hardworking people today, it is common to experience job burnout at some time in their career. The increasing workload, complex demands at home (especially as the kids get older), and the monotony of routine cause workers to feel that what they are doing is not worth it.

People experiencing job burnout describe it in different ways. Some feel like they are in a panic or even “lost” as they are no longer sure about what it is they are doing.

This affects their current duties as their panicked feeling causes them to doubt their work routines (even if they have been at it for a long time!). This may also affect their thoughts about the future as they are now unsure about their career path, causing sleepless nights.

For others, burnout results in a lack of motivation. They feel “lost” like the panicky people; however, the response is more of indifference and even disgust about what they do. This creates thoughts of quitting because they just don’t care anymore (many students fed up with their class and teacher can easily relate to this feeling!).

Taking the First Steps to Beat Job Burnout

In today’s world, people applaud the idea of always being busy – at work, at home, and even in the community. When one is busy, it means that one is hardworking; one has initiative; one has ambition.

People, however, were not meant to be working non-stop. In Scripture, God implemented a day of rest for His people to reflect, pray, and rest. It was true for people then and it certainly applies to people now.

Here are the initial steps to take to overcome job burnout:

1. Acknowledge your current situation in life. Know that you do deserve to have a job that you like yet still have quality time with the family. But tell yourself that healing must start now, that life can be better for you and your family with God’s help.

2. Recognize that boundaries are needed to help you manage both your job’s difficulties and ensure family time.

3. Understand that being burned out is not unusual as many people will experience something like this at some point in their life (to varying degrees). And know that God sees your need and is just waiting for you to ask for His help.

4. Take the necessary steps to slow down and live life the way God meant you to.

Don’t Just Dream…Do!

For many people, their idea of goal-setting is to dream of where they want to be in five years’ time or so. While it is good to have dreams, they are still NOT concrete. Without the steps needed to achieve them, they remain as wishful thinking.

When young, it might not feel so bad as there are still many more years to accomplish them. But when you have been working for quite some time, not being able to achieve these dreams is very frustrating and can contribute to burnout.

Aim for More Joyful Living

In order to overcome burnout and prevent future episodes of such, a person should have the following:

Vision

A person needs to consider where they want to be, what they want to create, and who is it all for. Without such, whatever they are doing will eventually seem meaningless. Happy people work with a purpose knowing that the things they do, big or small, are done for a reason.

For example, if someone envisions having their own restaurant one day, they may see their current task of washing the dishes as understanding the small details of the business. In the future, they will know if their future employees are doing the job correctly since they have already experienced it.

Resilience & Mindset

People who have either overcome burnout or learned how to avoid it know what it takes to set firm boundaries for both professional and personal time. This includes developing a strong support group in times of crisis (e.g. friends or mentors one can count on for direct help or emotional support) and the ability to say “no” when there is too much to handle or if it contradicts your goals.

But burnout is not just about too much workload, it also depends on whether what a person is doing is within their strengths and desires in life. If what they do makes them happy and takes them a step towards their purposes in life, then they will be happy and productive in what they do. To do so, they must have the proper mindset.

Having the right mindset means knowing your purpose, your strengths and weaknesses, and being honest about your own effort in achieving your goals. Questions like “Why am I here?”, “What do I love?”, “What do I do best?”, and “Am I really giving my all?” are important to reflect upon to ensure that effort and time are not wasted.

The right mindset also means giving oneself the permission to seek a better life – something that many are not able to do because of low self-esteem, family demands, or socio-cultural expectations.

Intention

Big achievers do things with intention. These intentions are manageable goals that are part of their overall plan which is usually seen through, either by themselves or with the right help. Without them, one’s dreams may be impossible to achieve.

These intentions, however, must include mini-goals for a good work-life balance. This may include setting a time within the day for exercise and rest; blocking out days of the week for family and personal time; and allotting time within the month to see old friends.

Activation

Big achievers then activate their plans – they actually do it. Instead of procrastinating, they may work with others (e.g. personal coach) or do so on their own to set concrete timelines for these intentions and big goals.

Big achievers know that if they do not take that first step then everything is still but a dream. Achievers also realize that there is no one to blame for failure but themselves, so they take that responsibility and do what needs to be done to reach their target.

Transformation

Finally, achievers transform. Life is dynamic. The successes of yesterday do not automatically repeat themselves. A person needs to transform, knowing that this is not a one-time thing. In order to do well, one must be willing to adapt. This may mean intentionally learning new skills; enhancing your network, or choosing to cut back on things that are no longer helpful to you (e.g. bad habits).

Transformation also includes overcoming fear. A big reason why people do not want to change is that they feel comfortable where they are and are simply awaiting their “big break.” This, however, means a person becomes stagnant while the competition around them becomes better. A person must be willing to get out of their comfort zone, and this means conquering their fears.

Always Include God in the Equation

“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.” – Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

Sadly, in the midst of busyness, people often forget about God. Plans are made without Him; and in times of stress, people run to one another for comfort but not to Him.

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus was making his way to visit Mary and Martha:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Though Martha knew the importance of being with the Lord, listening to Him, and taking time to know Him more, she was immersed in the preparations while her sister prioritized Jesus.

It is good to work hard. But at times, Christ wants everyone to sit at His feet and experience the peace that only He can give. Without this, burnout is sure to occur. Hence, it is important that part of one’s intentions is to regularly schedule time for prayer, both personal and corporate, and Scripture meditation. If a person’s spirit and direction are not renewed, then life’s complications will definitely feel overwhelming.

Christian Counseling for Job Burnout

The above-mentioned advice can be done on one’s own. However, some people require a helping hand, a coach to get them back on track.

If you or someone you know needs help in transitioning out of job burnout, contact a Christian counselor soon. With the help of an encouraging voice, Scripture, and prayer, you can refocus your life priorities so that your goals may be achieved.

Photos:
“Young Girl Crossing Hands,” courtesy of Splitshire.com, AMANDR 20160413 SplitShire-6661-2; “Working,” courtesy of Bench Accounting, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Higher Goal”, Courtesy of Joshua Earle, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Serenity,” courtesy of Jojo Nicdao, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License