Tag: character

The Blame Game

point2Blame came into humanity early. The first recorded blame shift is in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake. (Gen 3) We shouldn’t be surprised that blame finds its way into our every day lives. We can’t deny that we have pointed our fingers at others, especially at those who have wounded us. Whether or not we are justified in our accusations is irrelevant. Blame is completely useless.

Blaming Doesn’t Solve the Problem
Even if the blame has been shifted, the issue at hand still remains. The problem you face will not disappear because you have pointed your finger at someone else. Blaming your parents for your baggage won’t set you free. Blaming your spouse for your misery won’t make you happy. Blaming your kids for your stress won’t bring you peace.

Although we cannot deny that the poor decisions of others have affected us, holding onto the idea that someone else is responsible for the struggle inside yourself will never bring resolve. Blaming never solves a problem, it simply sustains it. It creates a larger trench between the problem and the solution. Nothing is solved when no one takes on their own responsibility. Even bystanders hurt in the act have a responsibility to face.

Blame Doesn’t Free You From Responsibility
Every person is responsible for their own actions, and that includes reactions. Bitterness is a reaction. Hatred is a reaction. Refusing to move forward is a reaction. All three of these reactions do not manipulate the other party to repent, they instead only torture us to our grave. Saint Augustine said, “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Blame is ultimately resentment, and resentment is poison to our souls.

When we have been mistreated, when we have been led astray, when our expectations have been unfulfilled, we have the responsibility of choosing our next steps. It is our responsibility to forgive. It is our responsibility to speak up in love. It is our responsibility to move on and heal. No one else can do these things for us, no matter how much blame we put on them.

Blame Does Not Deepen Relationships
If your goal in life is to never have deep relationships, blaming others is a great way to reach that goal. A pointed finger keeps everyone at arm’s length. The blame you hold against your spouse, your kids, or your parents will destroy your relationship, and ruin any chance of deep intimacy.

Not all relationships should be deepened. There are some relationships that need boundaries, and some relationships that need to be completely severed. But realize that the blame you hold onto will create a wall between you and the person on the other side of your pointed finger. If this is a person you love and long to be closer to, you will need to let go of your resentment.

When Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake, no one escaped the consequences. Regardless of who was at fault, every person involved felt the impact and was held responsible for their actions. Blame will never give us the freedom we desire, only forgiveness will. When we let go of the blame, we can solve the problem at hand, move forward, and strengthen our broken relationships.

Love is Not Jealous

envy2“Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I think jealousy, boasting, pride, and rudeness go together in this verse for a reason. When jealousy looks us square in the nose, it is easy to treat others rudely in order to feel better about ourselves. We retreat to our pride in order to hide our insecurities.

I have an example from my own life of this. Unfortunately, envy is something I struggle with constantly. My insecurities can overthrow me in an instant. A long time ago, while hanging out with a group of friends, a lovely young lady made my ex-boyfriend some lemonade. I knew the two of them had very little interest in each other, but I was still mending from the breakup and my insecurities took over. So when he praised her for her thoughtful gesture, I matter-of-factly blurted out that my guy friend next to me had made me dinner earlier, and he was a great person too. It was random, awkward, and didn’t produce whatever desirable results I thought it would. Although my guy friend did deserve recognition for his kind act, so did the woman who was kind enough to make lemonade. It really wasn’t that I wanted to praise my friend publicly, but more like show off the fact that I was loved enough for someone else to do something nice for me too.

Jealousy taints love in its selfishness. When we see something we desire in the hands of someone else, we turn to pride and judgmental behavior. Think about it. How often do you gossip about that girl at your church who is nothing but joyful and sweet, especially on the days when you’re miserable? How often do you complain that your spouse does nothing nice for you when you see someone else’s spouse do something wonderful?

It is hard to love others when we are insecure about ourselves and fail to trust in the great things God has promised us. Instead of appreciating others or rejoicing with others, we separate ourselves from them and put up walls built out of pride. Love is not jealous because love should have no walls. Those walls only slow us down, they never protects us like we want, and they keep us from the authentic relationships that we crave.
Verses to Meditate On
James 3:16
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

Proverbs 14:30
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Romans 13:13
Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.

Love is Kind

SONY DSC“…Love is kind” 1 Corinthians 13:4

In the times when I was suffering the most, there were two things that helped me through: the Word of God and the kindness of others.

The first time I got my heart sincerely broken was in freshman year of high school. I forget what event had occurred, but I remember that it resulted with me crying my eyes out in a bathroom stall during class period. I heard a knock on the stall door and a concerned voice ask, “Hey, are you okay, hon?” When I opened the stall, I found a sweet high school girl on the other side. She handed me a tiny plastic stocking filled with candy, asked me what was wrong, and then – in a public school bathroom – prayed over me. Two weeks later, I ran into her at lunch break, and she asked me how I was doing, genuinely concerned.

That is the sort of kindness that sticks with you. That is the sort of kindness that gives you strength.

Kindness isn’t just doing something nice for someone else, although that is certainly wonderful on its own and is highly, highly encouraged. But kindness penetrates a person’s soul when it shows concern for their well-being. Sometimes saying, “How are you? How can I pray for you?” is the kindest act there is.

When was the last time you treated your spouse with that sort of kindness? Doing your wife’s taxes or doing your husband’s laundry are wonderful and kind acts, but that is not the sort of kindness that is gives strength to their souls. What do they need? What weighs against their heart? What are they struggling with? Do you know? Do they know that you care about those things?

And as for single individuals: are you showing that kindness to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you show that kindness to those who don’t know Christ? Do you call those who are going through a rough time and ask how you can pray for them? Do you have sincere concern for their well-being?

I adore the stories of Jesus feeding multitudes of people. Jesus cared that His people were fed physically, but even more so, He cared that His people were fed spiritually. In those times of deep suffering, we all need that spiritual strength. We all need the type of kindness that goes beyond a physical need, and meets us at our core.

Verses to Meditate On
Proverbs 11:17
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Philippians 2:4-7
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.

Lurking Darkness

darkheartGrowing up, I always thought I would enter into marriage as easily as princesses in fairy tales did. It seemed like a simple enough formula:

Step 1 – Don’t date any guy other than the one you will spend the rest of your life with
Step 2 – You’ll know “the one” when you meet him
Step 3 – Spend the rest of your life with that person

So you can imagine my dismay when I entered adulthood and found a trail of broken relationships behind me. Not only was my fairytale formula not as simple as I had anticipated, but now I had the extra challenge of cleaning up all the pain, confusion, and heartache that came with those failed relationships.

And I still struggle with the feelings my past has left me with. There are many times I have asked God, “Why did I have to go through all that heartbreak in the first place? What was the purpose?”

After a long time of asking, my questions received a reply: Your broken relationships show the darkest parts of your heart better than anything else.

That’s the truth, isn’t it? Our attitude towards people in our past shows hidden darkness that lurks in our hearts. Our disdain for our ex shows our bitterness. Losing our crush to someone else shows our envy. Anger towards someone for what they did years ago shows our unforgiving nature.

Past pains should not be denied or glossed over; our feelings need to be addressed, and sometimes it can take a very long time to mend. But for a moment, consider: what do your broken relationships reveal about you? Does bitterness, anger, or envy lurk within you? Are you trying to hold onto the past or are you looking forward to the future? Have you truly forgiven those who have hurt you?

We cannot change the past, but we can change our perspective on it. Failed relationships are, unfortunately, part of this life despite whatever relationship formula you have come up with. We cannot change what others have done; we cannot force them to apologize or take responsibility for their actions. But we can identify the darkness in ourselves and receive God’s help in cleansing us of our imperfections. We have to face the darkness the past shows in us, or else the future will always be tainted by our bitterness, and we will end up holding ourselves back from finding real joy in the present.

Verses to Consider:
Ephesians 4:31-32
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.

Philippians 3:12-13 (emphasis mine)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

Psalm 26:2
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.

The Box

box2Has someone ever tried to put you in a box?

Not literally, but metaphorically. Maybe your parents or someone you dated had a specific vision for you, and you found yourself trying not to step out of the boundaries of their expectations despite your own goals or feelings. Or perhaps you created a box for yourself – one that consists of a very strict list of who you should be and who you shouldn’t be in order to gain approval and acceptance.

I believe that all of us at one point has attempted to alter ourselves in order to fit into The Box that others have created for us. We fear rejection and opposition to who we truly are, so it seems only logical to become who people tell us to be in order to be accepted.

I’ve had a lot of experience with The Box. After a bad breakup with a guy I had turned into an idol, I spent most of my time thinking, “If I was only like this, he’d still be with me.” The thought was torture. I spent a lot of time rejecting who I was, and hating any woman who exhibited traits I thought I should have. In addition, I couldn’t be myself because I thought there was something wrong with who I was.

I spent a lot of time attempting to reprogram myself until the Lord revealed to me something spectacular: When God designed me, He had no intentions for me to be anyone else. He sculpted me. He created me to be exactly who I am for His purposes. The time I had spent trying to be someone else was hindering His plans for me. God accepts and loves who I am – He doesn’t want me to be anybody else.

The same goes for you. You were not designed to be someone else. God created you from His own custom blueprints. He rejoices in who you are, not for who you think you should be.

There will always people who will reject us. Even Jesus was (and still is) rejected. Jesus didn’t have one flaw in Him, but people insulted Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him. If anyone knows what it’s like to be rejected for who they are, Jesus does.

Don’t torture yourself by trying to shove yourself into The Box. You do not belong there. You are meant to be the wonderful creation God designed you to be. Although it is tempting to try to be someone else for the sake of affection and acceptance, it will not benefit you. You will eventually feel trapped and enslaved by expectations. Instead, be who God has created you to be. He delights in your existence; not for who you might be one day, but for who you are today.

Verses to Think About:
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Psalm 139:13
You [God] made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Isaiah 49:1,3
The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name… He said to me, “You are My servant, Israel, and you will bring Me glory.”

Time of Patience

wait3Patience seems like more like a skill than a natural ability. It feels like an endurance test. And waiting is a frequent occurrence in relationships:

  • Waiting to meet the love of your life.
  • Waiting to marry the person you love.
  • Waiting for your spouse to break free of bad habits.
  • Waiting for a rough patch in your relationship to pass.
  • Waiting for the chaos to end.

It’s not easy. Patience is difficult, especially when you think things should be a certain way and they aren’t. Sometimes we even get impatient with God. We can wonder why He hasn’t taken care of our problems, or why He hasn’t fulfilled our desires.

But life isn’t about rushing through the rough or empty patches as quickly as possible. Each rough patch has a purpose. It has a design. It’s meant to refine us and build our character; to show us God’s hand in every detail. God doesn’t make you wait because He’s not paying attention or because He thinks your problem isn’t important, but because He wants to do something in you during that time. A lot of people in the Bible waited, but God delivered to them great things.

Don’t make waiting a passive activity. Consider it an opportunity to deepen your relationship with Christ, and to focus on the things that need your attention and prayer. While waiting to meet the love of your life, focus on your other relationships. While waiting for your spouse to break free of bad habits, pray for them and work on your own bad habits. While waiting for chaos to end, be still and know that He is God.

Remember that waiting and dwelling are two different verbs. Dwelling on an issue will rob you of constructive focus, but waiting is opportunity to get something else done in the meantime. Patience is difficult, but if we trust and delight in the Lord, it will ultimately be less painful and far more rewarding than going on without Him.

Verses to Think About
Romans 12:12
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Romans 40:1
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. ”

James 1:12
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Potential

cageRepeat after me: “I have the potential to make a decision that will screw up my relationship.”

People like to talk about potential, but only in the positive sense. We tend to bring it up when talking about people with a lot of knowledge or skills.

How about negative potential? Do we ever think about that?

I personally think a lot of drama and unfaithfulness could be diminished if people were honest about their potential. Instead of saying, “I can go out to dinner with this girl even though she isn’t my wife. I would never cheat on my wife.” you should say “I shouldn’t be in an intimate setting with someone of the opposite sex because I’m capable of anything.”

We’re all capable of anything, good or bad. Paul even went so far as to say “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

We all have the potential to do something highly stupid and disastrous. That’s why we need to set up boundary lines – boundary lines that aren’t close the edge, but are far enough away that we can’t even see the other side.

People don’t like boundary lines; it makes them feel fenced in. But the reality is that boundaries fence in the things you shouldn’t be getting into. Think of it like the zoo: You’re not in a cage while the animals circle around you, but instead, the animals are caged while you walk around freely. The threats are caged in and off limits, not you.

Galatians 5:16 explains the best thing to do with keeping your “potential” in check: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

When we turn to God first, He directs us in a path of good results. He’s not trying to suck the freedom out of your life by setting up boundaries and telling you to flee from temptation. He’s trying to keep chaos from taking over your life.

So why aren’t you turning to Him? He knows your potential. He’s there to help. He wants to save your relationship as much as you do.

Verses to Meditate On:
Matthew 26:41
Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!

1 Cor 10:12-13
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

2 Timothy 2:22
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.