Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person

The chaos of the world can be overwhelming for those who are deemed to be highly sensitive. A highly sensitive person (HSP) reacts differently to the environment around them. Most of the time an HSP will be someone who is highly particular about details.

They want to know the cause and effect of any given situation. The emotional intelligence of someone who is an HSP is much higher than most of the people around them.

It is possible for highly sensitive people to learn how to excel in life with their sensitivity. By understanding themselves and their reactions, a highly sensitive person can thrive just as they were designed to.

HSP is a personality trait that is connected to the way the brain engages in sensory processing. This means that a highly sensitive person can thrive and grow in a lifestyle that accents the gift of sensitivity.

Most people who find they are highly sensitive have done this by becoming more aware of how they live life in comparison to others. Self-identifying as an HSP means that you have an inner awareness of your increased response to people, places, and things around you whether they are positive or negative.

What it looks like to be a highly sensitive person.

Because you are highly sensitive, you experience the world differently than others. You can notice things others don’t. You are sensitive not only to words, sounds, or sights that you hear from others, but you are also awestruck when it comes to the beauty of God’s creation. You have a deep level of emotions and thoughts, which causes you to appreciate the value of being alone to rejuvenate your soul.

The characteristics of being a highly sensitive person affect you positively and negatively. They cause you to react differently because of exposure that can overwhelm your senses. Here are just a few of those behavioral characteristics.

  • Big crowds tend to overwhelm you. Not because you are shy, but because there is so much going on at once. A highly sensitive person will take on the emotions around them and this causes them to become exhausted.
  • Changes and transitions cause you to experience anxiety. You are not comfortable when you feel like you are out of control. Because of change and not being able to get everything done in your normal way, you feel a loss of confidence.
  • Criticism affects you deeply. Because you do not like to experience the negative, you will use any means to avoid criticism. People pleasing becomes your way of avoiding being criticized.
  • Changes and conditions in your body is more noticeable as an HSP. You tend to be aware of the taste of food as well as the pain of headaches in a more heightened way that others.
  • Because of all the energy it takes when you are in a chaotic place, you find that you need more downtime.
  • Many may think you are shy or an introvert because you have a hard time performing any type of task in front of others. Public speaking puts you on alert for criticizing yourself. As an HSP you do not want to be criticized, so you feel like you will fail when you perform in public.
  • Medication, caffeine, and pain are a few things to which you are highly reactive You may have to take less medication than others because your body reacts differently to the dosage that most people can take. Caffeine is much the same.
  • Because you notice so much more around you than others, you tend to overthink and worry about things others have not even considered.

This is not a complete list, but it is the bulk of what types of behavioral characteristics a highly sensitive person will exhibit.

The goodness of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

When you accept that you are a highly sensitive person, you can find inner peace and completeness, knowing God can use your gift of enhanced sensitivity to bring Him glory. You can use this to thrive as you relate to the escalated senses that you have. Productively using this trait means that you have come to understand how it relates to your environment.

How can I use being an HSP to help others?

Emotional Intelligence. When it comes to being highly sensitive, your emotional intuition is higher than normal. You find that you can get an internal feeling about the room you are in and the people around you.

You have a deep thought life and you hold the emotions that go with those thoughts. It is in this inner peace that you truly know the Spirit of God. As you are in tune with this you are also able to understand the spiritual need of others.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. – 2 Peter 1:2, NIV

Heightened Intuition. High sensitivity comes with heightened sense of intuition. This means that you will have a heightened awareness of the things around you. Because of this you find yourself aware of those around you and how they are feeling.

You step in with the support they need encouraging them to seek the hope that we don’t always see. You bring the love of God to those around you in a way that builds their faith.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7, NIV

Emotions run deep. As a highly sensitive person, you will find that your sense of compassion and empathy runs deeper than you would like to experience sometimes. You can become engulfed with heartache for those around you.

On the other end of the spectrum, you will also find that you can be overcome with joy. This aspect of being an HSP is how you can positively impact those around you in a way that they know the truth of God’s word.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32, NIV

Appreciation for creation. Most of the time a highly sensitive person will have a deep appreciation for the beautiful things around them. Whether it is music, art or the simple creation of the wind and leaves, you can get lost in the tranquility of seeing the beauty of God’s creation and gifts. Because of this you are able to find goodness and joy in the small things. This trait allows you to help others see the goodness of God even when they are hurting.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV

Details are never hidden. A highly sensitive person will always see the things that most people miss. Because you are paying attention to everything around you, there is very little that you don’t notice.

This characteristic helps you see what is going on in your environment. You tend to make any space a safe and loving place. God designed you to see the things that others do not so you can help in ways they are not able to see.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.Proverbs 2:6-8, NIV

How do I cope with being highly sensitive?

There are many things that you can do to help you cope with your sensitivity. It doesn’t have to be a bad experience. By understanding the traits of being a highly sensitive person, you can apply those to every aspect of life in a way that will help you thrive.

Understand it as a gift. We know that God has created each of us as unique individuals. Being highly sensitive is no different than being mechanically inclined. It is a gift that can be used to help others truly see who God is and how much he loves them.

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills –  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.Exodus 31:2-5, NIV

Honor what it is and be mindful. Take into consideration how you can see the creation of God. Because you notice the in depth beauty of the world you live in, you can share it in ways that others cannot. Give thanks that you are able to notice the beauty that many take for granted.

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. – Psalm 105:1-2, NIV

Rest and appreciate the time to reflect. Being highly sensitive can sometimes lead to exhaustion so it is important that you learn to rest. During these times of rest, reflect on the goodness of the gift and connect with God. Take time to hear what God is saying to you. Listen for His still, small voice of instructions for your life.

for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:10-11, NIV

Being highly sensitive does not have to be a negative part of your life. You can thrive and live a very fulfilled life by understanding the trait and how to apply God’s Word to your life. If you feel overwhelmed and need someone to talk to you as you navigate using your sensitivity in a positive way, reach out to a Christian counselor. There are many who are willing to help you create a faith-based plan to become a thriving highly sensitive person.

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Counseling for Spiritual Development: Faith in the Storm

We can all recall times in our life when our faith was tested and we fell to our knees and asked, “Why is this happening to me?”

The reality is, we are offered two choices when something goes awry, 1) let our frustration turn to anger and steal our joy, or 2) get on our knees and ask God to use this situation for good.

  • Maybe your bills are behind, and you feel completely defeated.
  • Maybe your best friend just told you she is moving 2,000 miles away.
  • Maybe you felt so certain of your career calling and now that calling feels so foreign.
  • Maybe your parents are now in an assisted living facility or have asked to move in with you to help with long-term care.
  • Maybe your spouse is deployed or is a first responder struggling with PTSD.
  • Maybe you have a child with special needs and feel so tired and overwhelmed, you do not know where to turn.
  • Maybe you have been battling thoughts of depression but are so overwhelmed and filled with guilt, you do not know how to ask for help.
  • Maybe you are the parent of a newborn trying to figure out how to function with no sleep, emotions are overwhelming and foreign, and have an unfinished to-do list that could reach the moon.
  • Maybe you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and feel like you are succumbing to the darkness and do not know how to let the light back in.

Take a long, deep breath. Put your hand over your heart and remember that God created you. He created you, loves you, and wants the very best for you.

As you walk through whatever obstacles are on your current journey, take to heart these reminders of God’s plans for you:

God’s Word says He will not abandon you.

Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

  • You might feel alone in the waiting room as you await test results.
  • You might feel alone as you hear the words, “You experienced a miscarriage.”
  • You might feel alone if your spouse is struggling with PTSD.
  • You might feel alone as you long for that pregnancy test to finally read “positive.”
  • You might feel alone as you walk the entryway to knock on the door to have a long overdue conversation with someone you have been distant from/angry with.
  • You might feel alone in the shower as the tears stream down your face after a terrible bout of depression.
  • You might feel alone as you sit with a pile of overdue bills, wondering how in the world things are going to be okay.

Rest assured, dear one – you are not alone.

  • God is in the waiting room, ready to hold your hand.
  • God is present for the awkward and uncomfortable conversations, ready to set the tone and soften hearts.
  • God is with you while your spouse is deployed, ready to give you a peace that comes only from Him.
  • God is with you as you battle anxiety, ready to comfort you and strengthen your faith and dependence on Him.
  • God is with you during the middle-of-the-night rocking and feeding sessions with a newborn, ready to give you the strength to endure another sleepless night.
  • God is ready to comfort you during those moments of defeat.
  • God is ever-present through every season and feeling that we endure.

Affirmations for faith

Write these down and memorize them as a reminder that God is right there with you through this tiring season:

  • I can take things one step at a time. (Matthew 6:34)
  • I know God’s love and spirit will guide me through this uncomfortable season. (John 16:13)
  • I am thankful for the gift of today. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • I know that God loves and cherishes me. (Isaiah 54:10)
  • I believe in God’s endless possibilities for me. (Luke 1:37)
  • I am open and willing to receive all the ways God wants to bless and teach me. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

We must arm ourselves with God’s Word to build faith.

If there is one thing that we can be certain of, it is that Satan wants us to feel defeated. He wants us to wallow in the guilt and frustrations that come our way and make us feel inferior. He wants us to feel depleted, alone, and insignificant.

1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

  • You are not alone.
  • You are not too broken.
  • You are not damaged goods.
  • You are not too weak.
  • You are worthy of love.
  • You are special, unique, and beautiful!

When Satan tries to whisper lies, you need to be dressed in your “spiritual armor.” Spending time in God’s Word, memorizing Scripture, having community with other believers, and spending time talking to God are all powerful weapons to stand up and ward off the lies Satan tries to tell you.

If this feels overwhelming, take baby steps.

Read the Bible.

Download a Bible app and start by looking at the verse of the day. There are unique plans you can search by topic (anxiety, depression, hope, healing, etc.). This is a wonderful and guided way to get in the Word without feeling too overwhelmed with where to start.

Find an accountability partner.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” It is essential to have other believers to encourage us, pray for/with us, and walk alongside us in life. The world is dark, and we need to find rays of sunshine wherever we can. Serve with your accountability partner. Have in-depth and authentic conversations where emotional barriers are torn down. Attend a Bible study together.

Try the “one step” mindset.

When life and circumstances feel overwhelming, take the one step approach. Take things one day at a time. Approach the person you feel distant from with one conversation. Start tackling your debt one bill at a time. Start trying to reconnect with your spouse one intentional moment at a time. Chase your God-given passions by simply taking the first step – sign up for the class, sign up to serve, or start writing a book by just sitting down for one hour at a time.

Address the things you have been ignoring.

I think we all have a desire to simply “leave things alone” and from there, the problems will disappear. While God does have perfect timing for our life and circumstances, we must trust Him with the process by surrendering our worries to Him. We must choose healing for our past wounds.

The baggage from your past can range from unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms, to negative self-talk, to enduring the pain and shame from trauma. You do not have to walk this road alone. Do not let Satan tell you that the things that have happened to you are keeping you from following God’s beautiful purpose for your life.

Moving forward in faith.

You can begin this new journey of moving forward instead of hiding your past.

Start journaling. Write down the things you are thankful for, looking forward to, and the things that have been holding you down and trying to steal your joy. You might find that writing it down really helps you process your thoughts and reset your focus.

Remember that you are not alone. God is with you, and He puts people in your path to help you move forward in your faith and healing journey. Today is the perfect time to schedule a counseling session with a counselor at our office who wants to help encourage and equip you to move forward with a faith that can withstand the storms of life.

Find the glimmers of hope. No matter what storm you are facing right now, look for the glimmers of hope – the meal that someone drops off, the kindness of a random stranger, the timeliness of a message at church, the anonymous gift card that is left in your mailbox. Find the glimmers and try to send some glimmers to those around you.

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Breaking Free from the Perfectionism and Anxiety Cycle

It is one thing to strive for excellence in our lives. But when the exertion turns into the quest for perfectionism, it becomes a beast that can drive our motivations and cause difficulties in our work-life relationships. Anxiety can rise and cause a vicious cycle. But you can break free from the perfectionism and anxiety cycle with a Christian counselor’s help.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a person’s concern with flawlessness accompanied by critical self-evaluation and hyper-concern over others’ evaluation. It can lead us to be overly critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. Alternately, perfectionism can push us to do our best as we strive for maximum performance.

The trick is to be aware of when we tilt too far and begin to demand expectations from ourselves and others that are impossible to meet. No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. Mistakes help us learn and grow. Failure opens doors to new opportunities.

Some of the behaviors associated with perfectionism are an excessive concern for mistakes and errors, critical self-evaluations, and unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism concerns itself with the discrepancy between one’s expectations and performance. If we struggle with this, sometimes we project an image of flawlessness, which compounds the problem because we know deep down we are not flawless. This internal battle can create anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a sense of uneasiness, dread, or distress. Normal levels of anxiety help us notice danger to keep us safe.

We will ask someone to hold a ladder while we climb it. We recognize that it’s good to teach our kids basic safety skills in the kitchen. These are good expressions of a healthy level of anxiety. Disorders occur when distress impedes our ability to function at work or in our relationships.

Anxiety will often reveal itself in through physical symptoms such as gasps for air, a rapid heartbeat, or insomnia. Sometimes what we refuse to think about in the daytime keeps us up at night through worry loops. In these loops, we repeat the same what-if questions like a broken record playing the same part of a song. Too much anxiety raises our cortisol levels and blood pressure, which affects our physical health.

We can become anxious when we dwell on the uncertainties of the future. We don’t know what the future will hold and anxieties about it can overwhelm us. Real events can trigger an anxious response too. Some doctor’s visits don’t carry good news. Inflation is a real problem. Family conflicts can break our hearts and contribute to anxiety. Our desire for a conflict-free life can drive our levels of anxiety up.

The perfectionism and anxiety cycle.

Perfectionism and anxiety work together to create unhealthy patterns in our lives. They have a cause-and-effect relationship. Perfectionism drives us to chase unreachable goals which lead to anxiety. An uptick in anxiety can drive us to extreme self-criticism, a sign of perfectionism, which leads us to more anxiety. Self-criticism with perceived failure heightens anxiety.

Fears of criticism from others increase anxiety in work performance or hold us back in social situations. We might stifle our opinions because we’re afraid of potential criticism. This builds anxiety within us and drives us further to perfectionism. This perfectionism and anxiety cycle plays on our fear of failure.

Anxiety and perfectionism can lead to low self-esteem where our desire for flawlessness can cause us to believe that we don’t have good to offer others. These thoughts can cripple us and set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which can lead to an overly defensive reaction when someone offers us feedback on our work performance or in our personal relationships.

What does the Bible say about perfectionism and anxiety?

When we consider what the Bible says about perfection and anxiety, we can be left confused and riddled with guilt. We know we’re not to be anxious, yet we struggle with it. Then we wonder how to not be riddled with anxiety. Later, we read that we are to be made perfect in Jesus, but we know we’re not because each day leaves evidence of our imperfection. How do we make sense of these words?

Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:38, ESV

This statement from Jesus came at the end of a section from The Sermon on the Mount. He opened that sermon series with a list of Beatitudes, followed by how the law was fulfilled, and how to deal with anger, divorce, oaths, and retaliation.

Jesus’ sermon turned their beliefs about these issues upside down. He did not command them or us to be perfectionists. Instead, He tells us that one day we will be complete, but in the meantime to grow and mature in His ways.

For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14, ESV

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers are considered perfect in God’s eyes. At the same time, we experience sanctification—cleaned up, made new, set apart as holy—while we walk with Him through our days.

Perfectionism isn’t the goal, obedience to God and focus on the day when He makes us wholly perfect in our eternal home is. In the meantime, the work of Jesus in each of us has the full power to bring about life transformation.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Peace sounds far off when we’re in anxiety’s grip. But the command to not be anxious about anything can feel impossible when our heart races and stomach flip-flops. It’s in these moments when the rest of the passage lays out a plan for us to consider.

Supplication means to humbly petition. It’s difficult for a perfectionist who struggles with anxiety to admit flaws, but there is great peace and power when we recognize that we are not and cannot be perfect. We can bring our requests before the Lord in prayer and receive the peace He gives.

How to cope with perfectionism and anxiety.

When you explore your personality, you will begin to understand your God-given nature. When we understand it and how to use it in an appropriate manner, we grow. We can identify our tendencies and then take a moment to reset our expectations for ourselves. This helps release the anxiousness that arises when we don’t meet them.

We can learn to be flexible and less perfectionistic when we realize that God made us different from each other because He has an individual purpose for us in the body of Christ. When we lay down our unrealistic expectations of what that looks like and seek Him with our whole heart instead of perfect outcomes, we experience release from the persistent cycle of perfectionism and anxiety.

When we have a heart that is right before God, the perfectionism and anxiety cycle begins to break. It’s possible to portray perfection in what we do or how we look, but that distracts us from what God wants to accomplish in our hearts.

Perfect in heart means that we grow ever closer to the Lord as we put into practice the Biblical knowledge we already have. He covers our mistakes with His forgiveness and is interested more in our obedience than our contribution to perfect outcomes.

The desire to want to do everything well honors the Lord, but when we find our worth in what we do rather than in who we are in Christ, we experience perfectionism and anxiety. God calls us to find our worth in Him and allow Him to mold and shape us to reflect His glory in our lives. He provides a way for us to let go of the anxiousness that comes because of our misplaced understanding of perfectionism. We can rely on Him to help us overcome.

If you need additional support for perfectionism and anxiety beyond the contents of this article, please contact our reception to set up an appointment. It would be an honor to meet with you.

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Self-Improvement as a Lifestyle, Not a Resolution

When New Year’s Day rolls around, people all over the country set resolutions for self-improvement. But unfortunately, by the end of February, many of these resolutions are thrown by the wayside, and people return to the same habits they have always had.

But self-improvement is not an event. It does not happen a few months into the year. Instead, improving yourself is a lifelong journey to be better, do better, and attract better. Making self-improvement habits stick must become a lifestyle, not an end goal.

Lasting tips for self-improvement

You have probably heard that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit; however, some research suggests that habit-forming takes longer to become a lifestyle. Read through the list of self-improvement tips and choose a few you would like to implement this year. Give yourself at least a month or two to apply a suggestion before adding a new one. Then, make embedding these habits part of your overall lifestyle for lasting change.

Create a bedtime routine.

Never underestimate the power of routines. You can have a smoother morning by using your evening as a preparation period. You may want to start your routine as soon as you come in from work. Depending on your home and family, you could quickly do your evening chores, pick your outfit for the next day, and prepare breakfast and lunch. Then, do something relaxing to help you unwind before bed that does not include digital devices.

Transition into a morning person.

Once you have laid the foundation with your bedtime routine, consider getting up a little earlier each morning. You can accomplish more in the long term if you work on your goals for a short amount of time each morning. For example, if your new self-improvement habit is to exercise more, carve out 15-30 minutes three to five mornings a week to fit it in. You can achieve anything if you buckle down and focus for this short time before everyone else wakes up.

Journal your thoughts.

Journaling and reflecting on your day serve two purposes. First, it allows you to “dump” the day’s stresses onto the page. Journaling gives you an outlet to let things go so that you can start the day (or the next day) with a clearer head. Second, journaling gives you a moment to reflect on what you have learned, who you are grateful for, and what you need to forget. It is a moment of appreciation for the life God has given you.

Listen to a podcast or audiobook.

Never before have we had access to experts at our fingertips. You do not need to rub shoulders with the greats in a particular industry to learn from them. With easy access to audiobooks and podcasts on thousands of subjects, you can learn from the best and on the go. Make it a goal to listen to at least one podcast and audiobook over thirty days. The more you listen, the more you will challenge your memory to recall details later.

Kick procrastination to the curb.

Procrastination is a time waster and is often rooted in fear, the fear of man. We are fearful of rejection and disappointment. When we cannot complete a task on time or do not know enough about a subject, we procrastinate to avoid experiencing pain or discomfort. But procrastination and fear of man will stop you from making lasting changes. When you are procrastinating on a task, give yourself a pep talk and make yourself do it. Even if it is for only five minutes, you will have rallied against the resistance. Next time, go a little longer.

Learn something new.

Is there a subject about which you have always wondered? Maybe it was a topic you did not necessarily want to study for a career, but it was an interest. Now is the time to take steps to learn about it. For example, learning a foreign language, how to play a musical instrument, or martial arts.

You are not after mastering this interest, but allow yourself to be a novice. When you lead with grace and embrace your mistakes, then you will experience freedom in doing something you love.

Acquire new skills for your career.

Acquiring new skills can make you valuable in the marketplace. The career you have chosen needs people with high-quality skills to run smoothly. What skills do you need to acquire? Do you need certifications in software programming? How are your communication skills?

Figure out what you need to learn to make you a valuable team member and an essential employee. You can find courses and certifications online in thousands of subjects. Then, use your new skills to ask for a promotion, raise, or find a new job.

Make your goal your lifestyle.

Often, we set goals, but we fail to walk the talk. We want to lose weight but stop daily at a drive-thru. We want to save money but spend every dollar. We want to earn a certification to help us attain a better job, but we spend our evenings binge-watching a series. It happens to everyone. However, you must make your goal your lifestyle. You have to make conscious decisions for your future self to do better.

Challenge yourself.

If you worry that making lifestyle changes for self-improvement are too daunting and overwhelming, use the baby-step approach. Challenge yourself to make one change for 30 days. Issue yourself a thirty-day challenge to etch a new habit into your mind. For example, if laying out your clothes the night before will save you thirty minutes in the morning, try it for thirty days. Once a new habit forms, move on to another challenge.

Declutter your environment.

Physical clutter also clutters the mind. When you surround yourself with chaos and piles of unwanted things, it becomes difficult to think clearly. A cluttered environment brings out stress and anxiety. Your sleep is disrupted, and you maydevelop insomnia. In addition, you are less likely to invite anyone to your home. Try decluttering in short periods of 10-15 minutes, so you do not become overwhelmed.

Make short to-do lists.

You can control your day, or it can control you. Decide that you will focus on what you can manage and leave the rest to God to handle. Create a short to-do list each morning (or the night before) to give you a roadmap to follow.

Prioritize the items that must get done and keep it short. Long, detailed to-do lists can lead to frustration and burnout. Next, choose the toughest task on your list to accomplish first to get it out of the way. Is it making a phone call or completing forms online? Tackle that first.

Move outside your comfort zone.

To stretch and grow, you must operate outside of your comfort zone. This is a scary place to be, and you may want a counselor to help guide you. But the best opportunities are often on the other side of that fear, way outside your comfort zone. Ask yourself what tasks make you nervous.

What action could you take, if you were not afraid, that would significantly impact your life? Pretending not to be scared may work, but enlisting the help of a licensed mental health counselor could make the process easier. Plus, it would provide needed support and encouragement.

Get help when you need it.

A part of self-improvement is recognizing and seeking help when you need it. Making choices and following through can be difficult at first, but the more you fight against the resistance to return to your old habits, the better off you will be. Reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment with a personal development counselor to make a plan to accomplish your goals and grow your skills.

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How Much Exercise is Too Much? Confronting Overexercise

If you were to do an informal poll among medical professionals, they would likely say that many of us who form the broader public wrestle with not doing enough to be healthy and stay in shape, and we could use a bit more exercise. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re aware of that, and we know that exercise will do us a world of good.

Exercise has many benefits, such as boosting your mood, burning calories, increasing your levels of energy, and overall leaving you feeling better about life and yourself. The benefits of exercise are widely known, though we may not always take advantage and avail ourselves of them.

There is another side to this though, which doesn’t get addressed as often, and that is the dangers of overdoing exercise. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing – too much exercise can have negative results, such as causing exhaustion, injuries, depression, and addiction that overtakes other areas of life. And so, while it’s important to get some exercise to ensure your health, knowing when you’re overdoing it and when to pull back makes sense.

How much exercise is too much?

Every person is unique when it comes to what their body can handle in terms of exercise. Depending on your age, physical history, and other factors, what you can manage in terms of exercise will vary.

Given such a wide variance between people, one of the more important pieces of wisdom regarding overexercising is to pay close attention to your body. When things aren’t going as they should, your body will tell you. With that in mind, below are a few ways you can tell when you’re taxing yourself through exercise a bit too much.

Not enough rest. When you work out, you need to give yourself time for rest and recovery. That way, your body can heal and make the most of the gains made during the workout. If you’re not having enough rest and recovery time after and between your sessions, that’s a good sign you’re overdoing it.

When you put in a good session, you may feel a little tired and sore, but you’ll also feel energized. However, if you’re feeling fatigued between and even during your sessions, that may signal that you’re overdoing it and not giving your body time to recover.

Insomnia. One of the benefits of working out is that it helps with your overall sense of well-being, and you tend to sleep well. Struggling to fall or stay asleep isn’t a problem when you’re getting the right amount of exercise because it promotes sleep, and so insomnia may signal that you’re overdoing it.

When you’re hurting your body. Whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, walking, dancing, lifting weights, or some other form of exercise, feeling a little sore after a good bit of exercise is par for the course. There is a significant difference between that good kind of soreness that shows you’ve worked hard and lingering soreness that doesn’t disappear after a day or two.

Also, you may be overdoing it if you feel sore only on one side of your body, or in one muscle group or joint in your body. If both legs run a marathon, it doesn’t make sense for only one knee to be in pain long after; that indicates you may have done some injury to yourself.

The presence of actual injuries sustained during your workouts may also suggest you’re overdoing it, especially if the injury came about because of the increased intensity of your workout. When you exercise, don’t increase intensity all at once; work up to your goals steadily over time, for example by adjusting and seeing if your body can handle it over two weeks, then increasing it in the third week.

Your body gains fat and you become more susceptible to illness. Taking in the right amount of exercise tends to help us by boosting our metabolism and immune system. However, if you overdo it, the symptoms can show up in that it’ll compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to things like colds.

Overdoing exercise can also result in a disrupted ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol, leading to your body holding on to fat. If you find your health deteriorating and your metabolism taking you backward, it may be that you’re overdoing your exercising.

When you lose a good balance. Exercising a lot, whether that means it occupies a large chunk of your time, or it occupies pride of place in your life, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overdoing it. However, if you begin organizing your life around exercise, you may have a problem. This can manifest in many ways.

Some people become laser-focused, scrupulously measuring their caloric intake, and treating food simply as fuel for the next workout; they don’t enjoy their food as food. In other cases, overdoing it can look like working out when it’s inappropriate, such as when it’s snowing or raining and you insist on going out, or if you miss important life events because you must get your workout in.

You’re irregular and do too much at once. With exercise, slow and steady wins the race. Many people find working out unpleasant because they don’t do it regularly, and when they do it, they want to fit in as much of it in one shot as they can. That can make for an unpleasant and potentially dangerous workout.

If you find yourself dreading your once-in-a-while workout, it may be appropriate to ask yourself why that is. It may be that you’re doing too much all in one go, and if you find yourself in knots trying to fit different types of workouts/activities into one session, you may be overdoing it.

When your performance level drops. As slow and steady wins the race when it comes to exercise, we find that over time we get stronger, more capable, more flexible, and so on. If you’ve been working out consistently for a while, but you find your performance getting worse and not better, you may be overdoing it and not giving your body a chance to recover. Pull back a little, give yourself room to rest, and it will likely lead to a performance boost.

Focusing on one type of workout/movement. When we find something that works for us, we typically stick to it and push it to its limits. This may not be the best idea. A runner can work hard on their running, but if they don’t do proper stretching and flexibility training, their overall gains may be compromised.

Someone who focuses on strength training may do just that, leaving other areas such as flexibility or cardio-fitness languishing. A person who does yoga may be flexible, but their overall strength may need some improvement. If you find that your focus is only on one thing, you might be overdoing it and inadvertently lowering your overall performance. You need to do a mix of things to develop flexibility, strength, endurance, and cardio fitness.

What do I do if I’m overdoing it?

In general, getting the right amount of exercise is good for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. But if any of the above-mentioned signs of overdoing it sound familiar to you, what can you do about it? As mentioned earlier, the key thing is to pay close attention to your body and heed its cues. If you’re feeling tired or sore, you may need to pull back and create rest and workout days.

When you intensify your workouts, do so in small increments and give your body time to adjust to the change before making further increments in intensity. In general, having days set aside for rest and recovery is a good idea. If you want to move during your rest days, you can still use your time and do active recovery, which may mean stretching or walking. If you only do one type of exercise, consider diversifying it to improve your overall fitness.

Injuries are common during exercise, and sometimes you may feel sore for a few days while your body heals. However, see a medical professional if you’ve injured yourself and it doesn’t seem to be getting better even with rest. Working out boosts your mood, so if you notice that your moods are being altered negatively when you work out, and afterward, talk with a mental health professional so that you can address any potential issues such as depression.

“Workout”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba,, CC0 License; “Exercise Group”, Courtesy of Gabin Vallet,, CC0 License; “Measured Fork”, Courtesy of Diana Polekhina,, CC0 License; “Keep Climbing”, Courtesy of Bruno Nascimento,, CC0 License

How to Address Negative Body Image Issues in Women

Negative body image issues in women are common. They can hold you back from living a full, positive life. These issues are worth addressing with a counselor.

You may have thought, felt, or done these things if you have negative body image issues:

  • Looked in the mirror and didn’t like something about yourself
  • Took issues with your nose, lips, eyes, or any other body part
  • Stepped on the bathroom scale with bated breath wondering what the numbers would say, and feeling like that reflected your worth
  • Wished you had a slenderer body, a fuller chest or fuller lips, a smaller waist, longer legs, or any other change that is largely out of your control
  • Wondered why you have all those thoughts about your image
  • Convinced yourself that a nip here and a tuck there would fix your problems
  • Compared yourself with others and wondered why you are doing so
  • Thinking about the ideal body, nose, waist, or chest size and how it applies to you
  • Wondering who determines and sets the body image standards against which you often measure yourself

These thoughts can be exhausting and discouraging. That’s why it’s good to learn about negative body issues in women and how you can overcome them.

Understanding Body Image

Body image is defined as “the mental picture one forms of one’s body as a whole including its physical characteristics and one’s attitudes towards these characteristics.” Various studies and surveys show that more women than men are likely to be affected by body image issues.

There seems to be a social worth that attaches to women’s bodies. This is probably because different cultures have always had opinions on what it means to be an ideal woman physically.  Because beauty is largely a social construct, there is a particular complexity that comes with body image. Not only is a woman limited to reflecting on how she feels about her own body but often, she also wonders how other people perceive her.

In some cultures, women’s fuller bodies are seen as ideal and attractive. Yet in other cultures, the thinner and slender a woman is, the more attractive she is deemed to be. Despite this obvious difference in definitions and perceptions, the standards are more subjective rather than objective.

These ideals are often perpetuated by the traditional media including television and magazines, the beauty and fashion industries, and social media. How a woman perceives herself is shaped by a myriad of sources, including what her society pushes and portrays as being the ideal body. Depending on each woman’s societal and media interactions, and her personal interpretation and understanding of such, she can either have a positive or negative body image.

Negative Body Image Issues

Negative body image can best be described as having an extremely unhappy and intensely dissatisfied view of one’s physical appearance. Due to the attention that is placed on women’s bodies and what it means to be beautiful and physically attractive in contemporary society, women start forming perceptions of their bodies at rather young ages. Often without realizing it, a woman internalizes those beauty standards to which she is most exposed.

A woman may start having internal conversations about whether or not she is attractive, worthy, and acceptable. These conversations will sometimes start to deepen and increase as her body undergoes natural changes and as she interacts more with the outside world.

For example, if she was teased about her looks or received negative feedback about her body parts or her weight, skin tone, or hair, she might start harshly criticizing herself and wishing her body or specific body parts were built or shaped in a certain way.

Likewise, if you spend most of your time immersed in traditional or social media you may find yourself comparing yourself with the “perfect” people that you see there and wondering why you are not like them. You may even start thinking of ways that you may attain such looks.

Signs and Symptoms

Although this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the common signs and symptoms of a negative body image:

  • Low self-esteem stemming from comparing yourself with other people whom you view as having the ideal body or physical features
  • Obsession with mirrors for purposes of scrutinizing oneself and finding more fault
  • Spending too much time on social media for purposes of trying to keep up with beauty trends
  • Harsh and judgmental comments about one’s own body
  • Investing an extreme amount of time, effort, and money in trying to change your image
  • Resorting to drastic dietary and exercise regimes or cosmetic surgery to attain the “ideal” body

4 Ways to Improve Body Image

Here are four ideas to help you improve your body image issues on your own. But if you need more help, a Christian counselor can show you how to address these issues on a deeper level.

Be kind to yourself.

You can start by being kinder to yourself and avoiding some of your known triggers of negative body image. Stop comparing yourself to those perfectly curated people you see on television or social media. Limit the time you spend on social media. But while you are there, unfollow the pages of people who portray unrealistic beauty and body goals. When you feel tempted to compare yourself with others, say one kind thing you like about yourself instead.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercising, getting enough sleep, and seeking help from qualified healthcare practitioners and counselors. This will help you preserve mental, emotional, and physical health. Consider pursuing different hobbies which do not involve screentime. Try to surround yourself with people that keep your focus on other important life aspects instead of just physical looks and fashion trends.

Embrace your body.

Contrary to what popular culture will have you believe, there is more to a woman’s body than just being admired, Embrace your body and all its capabilities because, by its very nature, the human body is amazing regardless of its color, size, or shape.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 NIV, “I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” As a Christian, you should intentionally focus on that verse because your body is a testimony of God’s greatness.

While it is true that society, media, and the beauty and fashion industries have a lot to say about women’s bodies, there are enough scientific facts that can be used to push back against some of the unrealistic ideals that are often forced on people’s faces.  The following are examples of biological facts about women’s bodies that need to be normalized:

  • Genetics play a significant role in how people look and there is no fighting them.
  • Women’s bodies undergo different changes due to puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and other hormonal changes.
  • Sagging breasts are natural as they lose elasticity due to aging, multiple pregnancies, and hormonal changes.
  • Some girls and women develop acne due to hormone changes during puberty and adulthood.

Repeat these truths to yourself when you need to embrace your body just the way it is.

Do not forget who you are in Christ.

It is important to reflect on Romans 12:2 NIV, Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Instead of chasing after the often-unrealistic man-made standards of beauty that constantly change, it is more fulfilling as a Christian to focus on God’s will for your life. You must never forget who you are in Christ and that you are called for a greater purpose.

The battle to develop a positive body image can be difficult. If you or anyone you know is struggling with body image issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a coaching appointment. I would be honored to walk this journey with you.


“The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography,, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Sage Friedman,, CC0 License; “Reaching”, Courtesy of Rowan Kyle,, CC0 License; “Abandon”, Courtesy of Nathan McBride,, CC0 License 

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness

Depression as a Christian seems contradictory since the Bible promises us peace and joy. Peace and joy are very different feelings when compared to a depressed mood. We can have peace in our hearts about the future and our current situation. We can have the joy of the Lord through our salvation. However, our mood may tell us that we are sad even though there is no identifiable reason to be sad.

This is where I like to implement distractions. I may know in my mind that there is nothing to be sad about. I may have a wonderful life, a great spouse, successful children who are walking with the Lord, but I still don’t feel good, and I lack the desire to participate in things I once found interesting. The enemy tries to discourage a person and pressure them to feel guilty about these feelings. Naturally, we tend to look inward for the reason.

The goal is to immediately use Scripture to fight those automatic negative thoughts (fiery darts) that the enemy shoots into our minds. Find certain Scriptures that speak to you in the specific area in which you are struggling. Write these down on a small piece of paper to carry with you until you memorize them.

Do not allow these darts to enter your long-term memory. Short-term memory is anything under thirty seconds. If you rehearse something, a telephone number, a name, a time, or a phrase using certain rehearsal techniques they will convert to long-term memory. The trick here is to get to those fiery darts immediately with Scripture you have previously memorized.

Repeat God’s word to yourself and get his promises into your long-term memory. Carry your Bible around with you wherever you go. Put it in your purse, carry a small Gideon’s Bible in your back pocket so you can get used to using your sword. Keep seeking, keep knocking. Don’t grow weary.

Another reason we may continue to be affected by feelings of sadness is that we may have conditioned ourselves to be in this state. People find it comfortable to sit in darkness, wallowing in self-defeating thoughts. Though it’s not necessarily a desire to feel depressed, we may experience a physiological response (physical response throughout the body) to a depressed mood.

When we feel tired, we prefer to lay in bed to get some additional sleep. We feel hungry so we find something to nourish our bodies. Working through depression feels unnatural because our emotions or our bodies may prompt us to do things that will keep us remaining depressed:

  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Depression has many faces and many different presentations, and the sufferer may experience a variety of symptoms. As Christians, we may think that the Lord would relieve us from these feelings if we were in His good graces. This is false. There are instances where we may be experiencing guilt, shame, sad mood, and difficulty sleeping due to unconfessed sin. If we continue to live in a specific sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and prompt us in this way.

Do not mistake this for condemnation, however. Christ sent his Holy Spirit to us to encourage us and to convict us of sin. Conviction is meant to prompt us to repent, not to condemn us. The Bible says that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Out of love, we turn back to Christ knowing that his plans for our lives are far better than our own.

The enemy has effective methods of making us feel as though we will never measure up, leading us to feel beaten down by the world and our sin. Don’t grow weary of doing good, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).”

A thorn is a struggle or an ailment that the Lord has not freed us from so that He may be glorified through us. This is not to be confused with a stronghold. A stronghold stems from a certain sin we continuously fall into (i.e., binge-eating, sexual sin, continuous anger outbursts, slander/gossip, pride, lying, or substance use.)

Jacob experienced a thorn following his wrestling with God. Paul had a thorn that he was forced to live with, the nature of which the Bible does not reveal (however, many Biblical scholars think it may have had something to do with his eyes). A thorn may also be the loss of a child, the death of a spouse at a young age, a physical ailment, cancer, and even mental illness. The propensity to experience depression may also be a thorn.

It may keep us clinging to Jesus, running back to Him for continual support because we realize that during periods of intense depression, He is the only way we can make it through the day. Ultimately, Jesus wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to spend time in His word and rely on Him.

This does not mean that the Lord is devious and crafty, but He permits these ailments so that we will cling to Him. We live in a fallen world and as fallen creatures we do not fully understand His methods. We may not know why He would allow a young child to die prematurely, but we trust in His essential goodness and love. We constantly fight a spiritual battle with an enemy who is much smarter than we are, so we reach to Jesus to guide and strengthen us moment by moment during times of depression.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18

One biblical truth you can hold fast to is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t lose faith or become discouraged when the storm rages between your ears. Cling to the hope that though you may be sitting in darkness, the Lord is your light (Micah 7:7b).

If you are in grip of mental health difficulties such as these depressive symptoms and would like to speak with someone to help identify the problem in a more clear and identifiable way, please reach out to a counselor for guidance and encouragement. We have a team of mental health professionals that will provide a hand to help you walk through your spiritual wilderness. You don’t have to go through this alone.

“A Walk in the Woods”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk,, CC0 License; “Skeleton Keys on Book”, Courtesy of Carolyn V,, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra,, CC0 License; “Victory!”, Courtesy of Svyatoslav Romanov,, CC0 License

What Does the Bible Say About Anger?

Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about anger?” If so, this article is for you.

Anger is an emotion that everyone experiences, but it’s also an emotion that is viewed quite negatively. There seems to be a consensus in society that anger is straight up wrong but this is a misguided perception. To classify anger as inherently wrong is like saying that everyone who struggles with anger issues is “bad” or even “evil.”

That’s just not the case. Most people don’t get out of bed and “decide” to get angry for no reason. Anger is an emotion, and like all emotions, it’s usually provoked by something.

So, what does the Bible say about anger? The Bible talks about two kinds of anger: righteous anger and unrighteous anger. It’s important to remember that God expresses anger in the Bible and if anger is an emotion that God expresses, then it’s impossible for it to be evil.

God’s anger is in response to injustice, which makes it righteous anger. Christians can also become righteously angry about injustices. God’s anger is justified because it’s a demonstration of His love and the pain that He experiences when His children are hurting themselves and others.

It is unrighteous anger that is sinful. Flying into a rage over something that is not injustice is when anger issues become more serious. This kind of anger can lead to a lot of problems in relationships, employment, and school and can also lead to legal action.

What Does the Bible Say about Anger?

If you’re struggling with anger issues, then the Bible is a great place to turn for help and advice. We’re going to look at five verses about anger the Bible, to get God’s perspective on how anger should be handled.

Don’t Let Anger Control You

And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32 (NLT)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is really direct about the consequences of being controlled by your anger. When your anger issues are in control of you, you’re opening yourself up to attacks from the enemy, Satan, who is always looking out for weak spots that he can exploit.

What does it mean to not “let the sun go down while you are still angry”? Well, this part of the verse is talking about how you can settle into a state of constant, bubbling anger that rapidly becomes feelings of bitterness and resentment. As we discussed earlier, anger in itself isn’t a sin, but holding onto it and allowing your anger to fester is not healthy.

Paul goes on to give some practical advice (although in practice it’s not quite as simple as it sounds) about getting rid of “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander.” I don’t think there’s an expectation that as a Christian you will never get angry, but this verse exhorts you to take control of your anger by practicing kindness and forgiveness just as God practices kindness and forgiveness towards us.

Don’t Be Quick to Respond in Anger

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.James 1:19-20 (NLT)

In the heat of the moment, getting excessively angry can cause a whole heap of trouble. If you’re naturally quick-tempered, you’ll know how easy it is to say something in anger and immediately regret it. The trouble is, once you’ve said it, you can’t take it back, and hurtful things said as an angry outburst can tear relationships apart.

If you’re prone to flashes of temper, then heeding the advice in this Scripture on anger can help you to manage your anger issues. When we respond in anger, we’re often foregoing the “quick to listen” part of these verses. Taking the time to listen to the other person’s perspective instead of immediately flying into a rage can allow you space to consider a more godly reaction.

You don’t have to agree with someone else’s views, but nor do you have to become angry. When you’re slow to speak, you have a better chance to choose the right words that can convey your views without causing a massive argument. Unrighteous anger is almost always a knee-jerk reaction. Practice righteousness by carefully considering your response, instead.

Follow Jesus’ Example

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area, he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” – John 2:13-17 (NLT)

Jesus’ anger in the Temple is a great insight into what righteous anger looks like. It’s easy to justify your own anger issues as being righteous, but this passage of Scriptures about anger might cause you to reconsider whether your anger really is righteous.

Getting angry about injustice and wrongdoing in the way that Jesus did is okay. Jesus was consumed by anger because of the disrespectful way that the people were behaving in the Temple court. It was God’s house and they were using it as a marketplace. By doing that, they were insulting God and Jesus had every right to fly into a rage, given that He was preparing to die for them.

If you find yourself trying to justify your anger as being righteous, you need to search your heart to see whether this is really the case or if you are looking for an excuse to be angry. Jesus was angry on behalf of His Father, and his response was to berate the people for turning the Temple into a den of thieves.

Getting angry on behalf of someone else can be righteous but it’s not an excuse to behave inappropriately. Notice that Jesus wasn’t angry about something that was done to Him. You may feel that it’s justified to be angry if you’ve experienced an injustice, but the Bible really talks about righteous anger being about injustices that happen to others. It’s hard to have a righteous perspective when you’re the victim.

God’s Approach to Anger

The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.Numbers 14:18 (NLT)

As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be more like God (or Christlike), so it makes sense that we should follow God’s example when it comes to anger. This passage in Numbers reminds us that although God does get angry, it takes a lot to make Him angry.

If you have anger issues and find yourself becoming very easily angry, you might want to spend some time thinking about how God would react in your situation. Or, even more poignantly, what the world would be like if God was more hot-tempered.

This passage also takes into account that although God doesn’t get angry easily and He is filled to overflowing with love for his children, and He forgives our transgressions, He is just in dealing with those who are unrepentant. This leads to the next verse.

Revenge is for God to Take

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (NLT)

When you hold onto anger, it quickly becomes resentment and bitterness and can lead to a desire for revenge. If someone has hurt you deliberately, then it’s natural to feel that you deserve some kind of recompense, in the form of revenge. However, the Bible is firm in reminding us that it is not for us to take revenge.

It can be tough to surrender your desire for revenge and trust that God will ensure that ultimately justice is served. No matter how difficult it is to let go of your anger and resentment, not doing so will only hurt you more. Holding onto anger can cause depression and anxiety not to mention giving the devil a hold over you.

Christian Counseling for Anger Issues

When you’re struggling with anger issues, it’s helpful to explore what the Bible says about anger, but you may also benefit from getting in touch with a Christian counselor. Christian counseling gives you the opportunity to discuss your problems with anger with a trained professional who will bring a Biblical perspective (not only a psychological one) to each session.

Working with a Christian counselor, you can explore more Scriptures about anger and discuss your feelings about the Biblical understanding of good and bad types of anger. You’ll learn tools to help manage your anger in a more godly way and have a safe space to discuss the underlying issues that may be affecting your anger issues.

Featured photo:
“Wandering,” courtesy of Priscilla du Preez,, CC0 License

How to Reach Your Leadership Development Goals

If you’re a leader or a manager in your company, you might be discouraged by this statistic: 50% of managers eventually fail in their position. How can you avoid becoming part of this statistic?

You might start by setting goals for success, so you don’t end up losing your job or getting burned out and quitting.

If you look at the New York Times bestseller list, you’ll see an entire section of books about business and professional success. Books by successful people are often favorites because we want to find out how to replicate their success in our professional lives.

But, maybe there’s an alternative. Perhaps we can learn more from failure than success.

When you read a book by someone like Bill Gates, you’re reading a very rare story about someone who made it to the top, but we can learn valuable lessons from leaders who failed. When a senior executive flounders, an organization can lose millions of dollars, and both the individual and the organization experience impact to morale.

Principles for Achieving Leadership Development Goals

So, what are some of the fundamental principles for achieving leadership development goals—ideas we can see in success stories and failures? Let’s discuss three of them.

1. Good Relationship Skills

Leadership isn’t about a single-minded drive to the top. Instead, it involves successfully managing your relationships with superiors, colleagues, and staff. Being a good leader also includes strategic networking, effective conflict resolution, and consideration of other people’s needs.

As believers in Christ, we can see that he was the ultimate servant leader and set the example for us. We should strive to be servant leaders, even in our secular careers. Although we should want our organizations to succeed, people always come first. Strong relationships and caring actions can make a lifelong difference, whether or not you experience dazzling financial success.

2. Self-Awareness

Robert Hogan and Rodney Warrenfeltz are organizational scientists who studied factors that influence self-concept. Self-concept is defined as “an idea of the self-constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others.” How you see yourself can really impact the way you do your job and lead others.

Here are the three influencing factors Hogan and Warrenfeltz identified:

  • Healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem is related to resilience; when you have inner confidence, you’re more likely to learn from failure than remain in defeat. This is partly why people with healthy self-esteem can bounce back when faced with setbacks. They also tend to exude positive energy and are not easily irritated.
  • A positive attitude towards authority. These individuals are compliant, easily managed, and have excellent social skills.
  • Self-discipline. A self-disciplined person can control his or her impulses and appetites, focus on the task at hand, and go along with accepted procedures.

As you consider these factors, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve to be a better leader and asset to your organization.

Sometimes leaders don’t consider that the way they act on a personal level within their company needs to be congruent with the way the organization presents itself to the public. Both internal and external values should be aligned for your organization to be trustworthy, and to keep you as a leader in sync with your company’s identity and goals.

3. Humble Confidence

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

There are several characteristics in a leader that increase the likelihood that they will end up failing. Many of these characteristics can be strengths if they are balanced and not extreme, while others are inherently unhealthy.

Here are some examples:

  • Excessive self-confidence, self-esteem, or boldness
  • Habitual risk-taking
  • Being exploitative
  • Wanting to be the center of attention
  • Acting out in strange or unusual ways

Yi Zhang and N. Anand Chandrasekar research organizations in Asia surveyed leaders and found that when asked to rate characteristics that they would need to lead others effectively, these individuals said that every single trait should be strong.

However, the researchers found that it’s not helpful to try to be too strong in every area as a leader; that perspective is correlated with leadership failure. They concluded that leaders who have less of a particular strength can actually be more effective in the long run.

Sometimes, leadership abilities that seem to be assets in the short term end up becoming liabilities in the long run. For example, having high self-confidence and overestimating your skills can make you seem brave, confident, and charismatic in the beginning.

But, eventually, others might see that you are entitled and have trouble acknowledging your mistakes. There are traps inherent in a prideful attitude. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5 Practical Steps to Achieve your Leadership Development Goals

1. Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses

What areas of leadership strength and weakness are you aware of in yourself? Once you’ve made a list, talk it over with your colleagues, supervisor, and/or customers. This kind of feedback is known as 360 feedback. It allows you to identify and eliminate weaknesses that are personal blind spots in your work habits and performance.

How do you address your weaknesses?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Make a concrete plan for how to solve the weak areas daily.
  • Keep a record or journal of your progress.
  • Check in for more 360 feedback in three months.

Asking for possible negative feedback is never enjoyable, and you’ll probably feel vulnerable, but it can help your team connect with you on a more human level and improve your relationships.

When an organization has strong ties, this fosters a climate of empathy and forgiveness of mistakes. This type of atmosphere improves morale, provides a sense of safety, and can lead to personal and organizational growth.

360 feedback is not without its dangers or limitations. Sometimes organizations already have a built-in negative group-think despite your job performance, and there’s not much you can do to overcome it by inviting personal feedback. Sometimes requesting feedback may lead to workers ganging up on you, hurting your chance at a promotion. If the climate at your work does not allow for objective feedback, asking for it won’t accelerate your growth.

If you’re not sure whether 360 feedback would be helpful in your situation, make sure you provide a confidential avenue to receive requested feedback, and that is not used during performance reviews. It should also be constructive, focused on solutions, and a regular part of office culture rather than an unusual, one-time event.

2. Consider the Company Culture

How do you adopt the culture of your organization while being yourself? This doesn’t mean that you just allow the company to influence you; it says you reflect on your part in the culture and how you can be an authentic and cooperative influence in your company.

Take a moral inventory of your workplace behavior. Does it reflect your values as a Christian? Do you act in ways that do not line up with your faith or corporate values and procedures?

As you think about this topic, discuss it with your close peers. Can you work together to improve? As a leader, make sure you regularly communicate values with your team, and how those values align with your organization’s standards. You might meet periodically with other departments, or invite performance evaluations from superiors.

3. Meet with a Christian Coach

Sometimes leaders are motivated by personal gain, rather than a good work ethic and a desire for success. What are some wrong motives/behaviors in leadership?

  • Exploiting others
  • Wielding power
  • Desiring personal recognition
  • Wanting to get ahead at all costs

These motivators might be subtle in the beginning, and then start to grow out of control. If you realize that your motives are sinful, it’s time to step back and evaluate where you are and how you can get to a healthier place.

If you’ve discerned that you need to have healthier motives, consider working with a Christian coach who can hold you accountable and help you reach positive leadership goals.

4. Take Charge of Stress

Stress is the enemy of success. Maybe you have an image in your mind of a successful CEO burning the midnight oil and being a workaholic. But the truth is, this will just lead to burnout.

Sometimes stress is linked with feeling competitive and individualistic. Instead of that mentality, focus on collaboration. Work not only as a team but expand to include other departments if your job allows.

When work is inevitably stressful at times, try to see the big picture and implement healthy coping mechanisms, possibly with the help of your Christian leadership coach.

All the good ideas don’t have to come from you. Cultivating gratitude and humility goes a long way towards stress reduction. Does your company have stress management resources? Again, Christian counseling can not only help you meet your leadership goals but help you manage stress and stay emotionally healthy.

5. Share Authority and Equip your Team

Organizational psychologists Chappelow and Leslie offer valuable suggestions on how to equip your team for success:

  • Use your to-do list to create individualized job responsibilities for members of your team.
  • Rotate those responsibilities as often as you can, based on individual skill levels. This means that each team member will learn new skills and have the opportunity to overcome challenges.
  • Set team goals and monitor them on an ongoing basis. Do your personal leadership goals align with those of your department and the organization as a whole?
  • Use rewards to boost morale. These can be both tangible, such as pay raises and bonuses, or intangible, such as praise and recognition.

As you focus on your personal leadership development and organizational health and achievement, you will find yourself accomplishing goals and moving towards success.

“Lifeguard Training”, Courtesy of Margarida CSilva,; CC0 License; “Humility”, Courtesy of Matthew Henry,, CC0 License; “Masai Mara,” courtesy of Pawan Sharma,, CC0 License; “Teamwork,” courtesy of,, CC0 License

How the Enneagram Personality Test Can Encourage Personal Development

Personality tests can mesmerize you with the possibility of understanding yourself – or someone else – better than you do now.

The Enneagram has been used for hundreds of years and remains one of the most popular personality typing systems. In ancient times this system was shrouded in secrecy, but today anyone can have access to it.

One version of the Enneagram is often used in spiritual formation programs. It consists of an exploration of personality types through the grid of Christian growth. It is sometimes implemented in the Christian counseling setting and has proved to be a valuable tool for self-understanding in the clinical context.

The word personality relates to the word for mask in Latin. As children, our personality develops as we learn to interact with our world, as we connect with others, and as we try to avoid pain.

As we get older, our behavior becomes so habitual that we think it defines us. We might think the personality is who we really are, but our identity actually resides under the mask. Unlike the way we present ourselves to the world, our true identity is revealed when we let our guard down.

When we work through the Enneagram personality test, we can start to figure out the patterns to our personality type and the perspective we have on life. This way, we can connect with our inner self.

If you’re familiar with the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, you’ll know that system specifies 16 types of personalities. By contrast, the Enneagram describes 9 types, each of which can be compared to a characteristic of God himself, since we are created in His image.

The book, The Road Back to You, was written by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile to be a Christian primer on the Enneagram. The authors share how this system can help us get to know ourselves better:

“What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others. As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history.

We’ll continue going through life on autopilot doing things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us. Eventually, we become so accustomed to making the same mistakes over and over in our lives that they lull us to sleep. We need to wake up.”

Waking Up to Who You Really Are

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?Proverbs 6:9

The famous theologian John Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

To really get to know ourselves in the context of the world around us, we have to understand:

  • The perspective we have on the world,
  • What experiences and influences have shaped our perspective,
  • And how our worldview is different from others’.

When a child is born, their identity remains brand-new and untarnished. As that child grows and develops, her experience in her family of origin will strongly influence her perspective on life and the world around her.

As that child grows older, the first step in understanding herself happens when she realizes other people have different perspectives than hers, mostly based on their own family environment.

Since we are all sinners, all family relationships involve some level of brokenness and pain. Some people experience this brokenness much earlier or more intensely than others do, but it is there at some level for everyone.

So how do we cope with the inevitable pain of living in a fallen world? Each of us develops our own ways of responding. Eventually, our responses become habitual and so deeply ingrained we think they define us.

However, our response to a broken world doesn’t fully describe our core self, but our provisional self. We might manage just fine with these patterns of relating, but eventually, we start to uncover the ways in which our coping mechanisms are failing us, usually in our late twenties or even later. At that point, we can start the journey of discovering our true self underneath our ingrained patterns of relating to the world.

“Your True Self is who you objectively are from the beginning, in the mind and heart of God, “the face you had before you were born,” as the Zen masters say. It is your substantial self, your absolute identity, which can never be gained nor lost by any technique, group affiliation, morality, or formula whatsoever.

The surrendering of our false self, which we have usually taken for our absolute identity, yet is merely a relative identity, is the necessary suffering needed to find “the pearl of great price” that is always hidden inside this lovely but passing shell” (Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr).

Discovering Your Enneagram Type

So what are these nine types we’ve spoken about? The types are grouped into three triads, also known as “instinctual centers.”

The first triad is called the gut/instinctual triad, containing types 1, 8, and 9. The core emotion is anger.

The second triad is called the heart/feelings triad, containing types 2, 3, and 4. The core emotion is shame.

The third triad is the head/thinking triad, containing types 5, 6, and 7. The core emotion is fear.

How do you figure out where you fit into these types? There are several methods you can use, and you can find them online, although not all are of equal quality.

No matter what your test results are, they can’t offer a definitive analysis. They’re just a starting point for discovering and exploring your type.

Figuring out your type can actually be somewhat difficult because it can involve getting to know yourself at a deeper level and unveiling personal truths that may cause discomfort. Have you heard the quote, “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” (author unknown)? The same can be true for figuring out your Enneagram type.

Talking to a therapist who uses the Enneagram in a clinical setting can help you uncover your type and use this tool for self-understanding to make improvements in your emotional health.

The Nine Types: What Are They?

The following list describes each one of the types and how that particular characteristic can be a reflection of the image of God in us. No type is inferior to another, and none of them are inherently bad.

  • Type 1, the Perfectionist, reflects God’s goodness and rightness.
  • Type 2, the Helper, reflects God’s love and nurture.
  • Type 3, the Achiever, reflects God’s hope and radiance.
  • Type 4, the Romantic, reflects God’s creativity and depth.
  • Type 5, the Observer, reflects God’s wisdom and truth.
  • Type 6, the Loyalist, reflects God’s faithfulness and courage.
  • Type 7, the Enthusiast, reflects God’s joy and abundance.
  • Type 8, the Challenger, reflects God’s power and protection.
  • Type 9, the Peacemaker, reflects God’s peace and oneness.

What Happens After I Know My Type?

When you’ve nailed down which type you fit into, that’s just the beginning. Knowledge alone can fascinate, but it won’t necessarily lead to change. The more you learn about your type, the more you can observe yourself and how you act in accordance with it.

Thomas Merton wrote: “Sooner or later we must distinguish between what we are not and what we are. We must accept the fact that we are not what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is. We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty, but also in its great and very simple dignity: created to be the child of God, and capable of loving with something of God’s own sincerity and his unselfishness.”

We’ve identified a core emotion for each type, and along the same lines, each type has a different focus of attention:

  • Type 1: What’s wrong? What needs to be improved?
  • Type 2: How can I meet other people’s needs in order to get their approval?
  • Type 3: Which tasks can I accomplish to receive praise and recognition?
  • Type 4: What’s missing?
  • Type 5: How can I detach and remain an observer so I can protect my personal boundaries and privacy?
  • Type 6: What can go wrong? What is the worst-case scenario?
  • Type 7: What is fun and stimulating?
  • Type 8: How can I take control to protect myself and those around me from vulnerability?
  • Type 9: How I can meet the wants and needs of others in order to keep the piece?

Knowing Yourself

How can we apply the Enneagram personality test into our lives as we live out our Christian faith? As we abide in Christ, we grow to be more like him. We can’t change on our own. The Enneagram provides a lens through which to view the process of transformation.

Quiet becomes a key component of this process – a quiet heart, a quiet spirit, a quiet path toward God. Each one of the three triads provides one version of quiet that can help on the path of transformation:

Stillness: For the gut/instinctual triad

In The Sacred Enneagram, Christopher Heuertz writes, “Stillness interrupts the addictions of gut people and prompts a reevaluation of their drive.” Stillness requires intention; it’s the opposite of frenetic busyness.

If you are in the gut/instinctual triad, and you stop all your activity and get still, you can reflect on the ways you connect your identity and worth to everything you’re busy doing. You might find that you tend to be overly controlling of your circumstances. Stillness can open your eyes to self-discovery and lead to transformation.

Solitude: For the heart/feeling triad

Heuertz writes, “Solitude teaches us how to be present – present to God, to ourselves, and to others with no strings attached.”

If you are in the heart/feeling triad, you may struggle with over-dependence on other people, whether connecting to them or comparing yourself to them. You need solitude because, with your emphasis on relationships, you may struggle to break free of unhealthy patterns when you are around other people. Solitude can unlock the door that keeps you trapped.

Silence: For the head/thinking triad

What are your true desires? What do you fear? What do you sense God is saying to you? If you are in the head/thinking triad, you probably have a busy mind full of active thought, and quieting your inner voice can help you connect with God’s voice and understand your true self.

Again from Heuertz: “The Enneagram shines a light on what obstructs our essence from emerging and opens our path to God. The quiet practices discussed above allow God to begin moving us back towards our true identity.”

The Enneagram helps with self-discovery, but it also helps us understand each other. We can develop compassion as we realize how differently others perceive the world. We can learn to be better listeners as we hear others’ perspectives without judgment.

The simple act of listening improves relationships immensely. How do other people think and respond? How do they live in their minds differently than we do in ours? The beauty of the Enneagram is that it allows us to walk in someone else’s shoes and realize the inherent value in other perspectives.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

The Enneagram in Daily Life

At the end of the day, you can choose from a variety of personality tests, but hopefully, you can see the unique approach and worth of the Enneagram. It doesn’t just help you put a label on yourself or other people; it offers a way forward to finding your true, authentic self as you were created to be in the image of God.

When you have support on this journey, you’ll probably make even more progress towards positive change. Growth takes time and self-awareness, but as you continue learning more about yourself and others, you can deliberately change unhealthy patterns and realize your own internal biases and your unique perspective on life.

Most importantly, you can grow in compassion for yourself and other people. For example, the Enneagram personality test can be used in couples therapy to help spouses understand each other better and grow in mutual sympathy and love.

You might feel unsettled the first time you observe yourself acting out some of your type’s negative patterns. If you’re committed to growth, you’ll have to work on those patterns and face the truth about yourself.

But the freedom of self-discovery lies in the potential for transformation. We can get to know the root of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and we can start to let go of unhealthy habits so our true identity can flourish.

Now What?

As you demonstrate humility and willingness to change, God can transform you far beyond what you could imagine. Please reach out to one of our Christian counselors if you would like help taking the first steps of self-understanding through the Enneagram.

Recommended resources:

  • The Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile – A good primer for beginners.
  • The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz – A spiritual perspective on discovering your true identity as a Christian.
  • The Typology podcast with Ian Cron – A series devoted to exploring the nine Enneagram types.
  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr – Rohr is one of the most well-known voices in Enneagram circles, and in this book, he writes about the path of transformation for believers.
“Reflecting Enneagram”, Courtesy of Rob Fitzel,, Used by Permission; “On the Lion”, Courtesy of Jeremy Renke,, CC0 License; “The Road Ahead”, Courtesy of Vlad Bagacian,, CC0 License; “Passage”, Courtesy of Hasan Almasi,, CC0 License