What does it mean to be forgiven?

It’s Monday Grace!

I was pretty young when I started full-time ministry as the solo pastor in a church with well over 300 members. Just 23. I had a lot to learn about people. One thing I learned was that many of those who claimed to be believers had a serious fear of dying.

Oh, I understood the pain part. No one wants to go through pain and suffering. And I understood the sadness of bringing pain and upheaval to a family. We don’t want our families to suffer. But Christians should not be afraid of dying.

Finally, I began to realize that many people expected to be judged when they died. Somehow, they got the idea that their sins would be presented for everyone to see, and they would be shamed and condemned when the truth was revealed. Then, they worried that the Lord would not accept them.

My first ministry was in a mainline church where the gospel had not been presented or believed for a long time. I could understand that fear of exposure among people who didn’t even know what it meant to be a Christian. But then I moved to an evangelical church and found the same thing. Still, people were afraid of the judgment. One woman told me that she was afraid to go to sleep because she might wake up at the judgment. She didn’t want everyone to see the things she had done.

Well, if that has been you, I have some great news today. Christians have already been judged! Your sins are already forgiven! You are righteous before a holy God! All because of Jesus.

When did you come to Jesus? You might not have a certain date, but there was a time before and a time after. However you define the time of your salvation, when you came to Jesus a deal made. Even the Scripture speaks of it as almost a legal transaction.

He went to the cross long ago for you. His blood was offered as the sacrifice to wash away your sin. That was done long before you were born or had any idea of your need. When you came to Him in faith, seeking His forgiveness, He was ready. The work was all done. All He wanted was your willingness. Your sins were washed away, separated from you forever. That was the deal God made with His people.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Colossians 2:13

Your sins are gone. You are forgiven. It’s a done deal. That’s good news!

But, you say, what about the sins I still do? Well, why do you do those things? I say that with tongue in cheek. We all still do things that are sinful. But, listen, those things are not put on our account. They are instantly removed from us. There are no eternal consequences because we are already forgiven.

But, that’s a dangerous message, some say. People will just go out and sin in any way they want expecting that they are already forgiven, they say. Yes, some might. But most will be humbled by such love. Most will begin to understand that sin no longer has to be part of their lives.

Besides, there are still consequences for sin, earthly and temporal consequences. There are still many reasons not to sin. And I have noticed that those who live under constant condemnation and in continual fear still sin. Even those who have believed that there is a remaining spiritual punishment for sin still sin. So, the message isn’t really all that dangerous.

No, the message of God’s amazing love and forgiveness is life-changing. I have seen strong and defiant men humbled by a God who washes them clean. I have seen people changed from the inside out when they finally realized that there was nothing to fear. I have seen people face death with joy and expectation when they no longer feared the judgment.

To be forgiven means that God’s love is more powerful than your sin and more welcoming than you or I deserve. It means we are finally free and clean and accepted. We are so greatly loved.

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Never Embrace Failure

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I have never been much of a hugger. As a child, I often felt trapped by the hugs of aunts or older ladies. My parents were not particularly physical in their expression of love. I did love to hug my mom and my grandmother; something was different about that. But hugging others always seemed odd.

Now that I have grandchildren of my own, I do want to hug them. I want to hold them and not let them go. My own children are long past that kind of physical connection, but time with the little ones seems so precious and so fleeting that I want to slow things down with them. I have to face the fact that my hugs might be a way to control my time with them. Perhaps that’s what I felt from others as a child.

To “embrace” means to “bolster” or “clamp.” No, I don’t usually think of it that way either. But the idea of a brace, something that provides support so another thing won’t move, is taken from the upper portion of the arm. When we wrap our arms around someone, we lock them in a hold designed to keep them.

Okay, maybe you don’t hug that way. Neither do I, when I stop to think about it. If the little ones want to slip away, I let them. But I do like holding them.

So, all of that is probably the wrong way to get into this post. I just have to ask:

Why do you embrace your failures?

If embracing is a way of hanging onto someone or something, a way of clamping it into position, then why would you embrace failure? Some of us do, don’t we? We remember our failures so much better than our successes. We think about them more, and we support those memories with clamps and braces. The stigma of our failures is never allowed to slip away.

I can remember stupid things I said from over fifty years ago. I have replayed embarrassing moments of my life over and over and over. If you tell me that I have done well with something, I can tell you about a dozen failures. But why?

No, contrary to what it might seem, I don’t love my failures. I don’t hold them for any positive purpose. I actually don’t want them clamped to me forever (and they won’t be!)

We rationalize our embrace of our failures. We say that we want to be sure not to do that again. We want to learn from our mistakes. We want to stay humble. Blah, blah, blah. All of that has been accomplished, but we still hold our failures tight.

So, what is it? Why do we embrace (clamp, cuddle, hold, grasp, cling, hug) our failures? Perhaps it is because they revealed something about us that we don’t like, a pain that we can’t or don’t want to understand. The simple truth is that we are not what we would like the world to think we are. We make mistakes. We make stupid and sinful decisions. We hurt others and ourselves. We often don’t accomplish the great things we would like.

Maybe we think that we can control the effect or consequences of our failures if we hold them tightly. Maybe that will make it so others can’t use them to hurt us. There are people who love to learn about our mistakes so they can bring us down and manipulate us. And, frankly, they usually learn about our failures from us because we carry them so closely.

Listen: if you let your failures go, others will not be able to use them against you, at least not as powerfully. It is your heart they are after. The fact of your failure is nothing. The effect of your failure on your heart is everything. When the abusers squeeze into the framework you have build to clamp your failure to your heart, they will use that to control you.

So, let your failures go. Yes, they were real. (Although, as I said in the last NF post, we may not even fully understand what failure or success is.) Yes, they hurt, maybe both you and others. Yes, you want to avoid the same thing in the future. Acknowledge all of that and let them go. You don’t need them next to you. You don’t need to share those things with others. You don’t need to keep punishing yourself.

You and I fail. That is one of the most common and most normal facts of life. We fail. So, let’s move on.

What should you do when someone brings up a failure from your past? Move on. You don’t have to argue or cry or apologize or freeze or run. You have already admitted that you fail. You have already felt all that you need to feel about that particular failure (and more). You can’t go back to undo it. Just move on. Walk away from the person who keeps bringing it up. Say or think that it has already been acknowledged. Then move on.

The truth is that you have no failures in God’s eyes. I know that’s not what some preachers say. But the forgiveness of God extended to everything you have ever done. It also extends to everything you will ever do. You are not your own Judge. You don’t have that place. Only One judges, and He loves you enough to let you move past any failure or sin.

And, remember, that thing you consider a failure might well be the thing God “used for good” in your life or in the life of someone else.

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What does it mean to have a new identity?

It’s Monday Grace!

I know someone who has a secret Facebook name. Under that name, he can post controversial things, criticize others, and admit to thoughts and actions he would never admit in real life. He calls it his “alter-ego.”

My kids have mocked Batman by saying, “Hey, wanna know my secret identity?” Almost every super-hero has a secret identity. Two identities. Really?

No. If you choose your alter-ego, it is just an extension of who you are, just a revelation of that which you keep hidden. If you have a secret identity, it is still you. It’s just one you don’t want the people around you to know.

It is possible, of course, to have a false identity. Many people are not what they portray themselves to be. One of the most amazing things I encountered in my experience with legalism was how people would claim to be one thing while really being another. Some could look you right in the eyes and lie about their values and perspectives. A false identity was promoted and valued, while the real person hid thoughts and actions. The only thing real about the false identity was the real person’s desire to deceive.

No, that’s not the same as having two identities. It is not possible to have two identities. The truth is that any portrayal of yourself contrary to who you really are is either deception or confusion. You are who you are.

I am who I am. God said that to Moses. The first law of logic is the law of identity. Whatever the subject, it is what it is. It cannot be something else. God is who He is. He exists as Himself. That simply means that He is real.

And so are you. You are who you are. The term “identity” comes from a Latin root that means to repeat, to say or do the same thing again and again. My mom, when we played cribbage, used to say, “No matter how many times you count it, you won’t get more points.” It is what it is.

So, how can a person have a new identity? The Bible makes it clear that we have a new identity in Jesus. We are not what we used to be. We are not who we used to be.

Some people teach that believers have two natures, one good and one bad. Sometimes the good wins, and sometimes the bad wins, they say. There is nothing in Scripture to support that, and it doesn’t even make logical sense.

No, we are one identity. You are who you are. But, listen: you can forget who you are and fall back to what has become a false identity.

At the end, in the day of judgment, you will find that you are and have been only one person with only one nature. Because of Jesus, there is no sin defining you. You are inseparably connected to Jesus because His life flows in you. There is no other life in you, just His. Somehow, you are still you, but the life in you is His.

Yes, this is a mystery, but it is also an amazing blessing. It simply means that I am not what the world sees, with my compromises and failures. Even when I do things that are called sin, I remain inseparably defined by my relationship with Jesus. Nothing can change that.

What happened is described in Scripture.

6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
Romans 6:6-9

When we were united with Jesus, we went to the cross with Him and died with Him. Then we rose with Him to new life. We are, in fact, new creations—new identities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17

Simple, right? Well, not really. In fact, it is an unfathomable mystery. But it is true.

And no matter how many times you look at yourself, you are still that new person in Jesus. You are who you are.

So, don’t let anyone tie you to your sinful past. That isn’t who you are. And don’t even let anyone tie you to the sinful acts you do today. That is just you forgetting who you really are.

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Never Measure Success

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(For My Grandchildren)

It has been my experience that many of the times I think I have done well few people seem to notice or acknowledge that success. Instead, much of the praise I have received has been from things that I thought could have been done much better. That, and my growing understanding of how the Lord operates in my life, suggests to me that I shouldn’t put a great deal of stock in success. In fact, I may not truly understand what success is.

If success is when I feel good about myself, I open myself to the flattery of manipulators. In the beginning of the narcissistic relationship, for example, the abuser may speak all kinds of praise. “You are so smart!” “You are so attractive!” “You are the best.” It feels good to hear someone suggest that you may be superior, or at least that you have done well.

These words resonate with our desires. We work to do well and appreciate praise. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Often, the words of praise are sincere and kind. Sometimes, they are meant to bind us to the abuser. Because they feel good, we want more of them. We open ourselves more and more to the manipulators until we can’t separate from them. And they give us just enough praise and appreciation to hook us.

After that, of course, the narcissistic relationship is anything but kind and supportive. The abuser becomes critical; in minor ways at first, but increasing in both frequency and severity. That criticism hurts us deeply because we have come to look to the abuser for affirmation. Like the drug dealer, the narcissist gives praise only for the purpose of creating and sustaining the addiction.

Now, this may sound contrary to much of what is normally taught, but I would suggest that we would benefit from not measuring or worrying about success. In other words, not be success-driven people. Instead, we should be content with doing whatever work is before us.

Boring. I know. We have been taught to measure success. We set goals and strive to accomplish great things. It makes life more fun, more exciting, and more fulfilling. What few acknowledge is that the drive to succeed often leads us to compromise both the work and our hearts. When success is the goal, and results are the measure, we can miss a lot.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with seeking to do well. Nor is there anything wrong with trying to advance yourself in work or life in general. It is, in fact, an offering to the Lord to do our best with whatever is in front of us. Doing well, even seeking to do your best, is not the problem. The problem is measuring success according to worldly standards.

Are the rich somehow better people? Are those who rise through the ranks the best people in the company? Is the fastest or the strongest or the smartest the best? When I put it in those terms, success looks a little different. In fact, success often comes at the expense of others.

When we see success as the primary goal, we usually mean some kind of competition with others. But there are too many things involved in success for us to say that something or someone is best.

What is a successful life? Could someone be successful in life and be considered a failure by the world? I have heard people say that Jesus was doing great until He angered both the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders. He failed His mission, they say, and suffered on the cross because of His failure. We know better, of course, but you see the point.

Your measure of success is the same. What you think of as failure may be only a step in God’s plan for you or others. It might not be failure at all. The Lord says He uses “all things for good” in our lives. That has to include our failures.

So, don’t worry about success. Just do what the Lord leads you to do, and trust Him for results.

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What does it mean to be separated from God?

It’s Monday Grace!

Neither you nor I will ever be separated from God. Is that plain enough? It doesn’t matter what the preachers have said, or your mother, or your ex-friends, or anyone else. All that matters is what God Himself has said. Nothing can separate you from the Lord who loves you.

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:34-39

Who would be the only one who could separate you from God? Jesus, right? And it was Jesus who died for you, who lives and makes intercession for you. In other words, Jesus is for you, and it doesn’t matter who is against you.

Once you are joined to the Lord “by grace through faith,” no one can separate you from Him. Jesus is the link between you and the Father.

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19:6

Okay, I know that the context of that statement has to do with marriage, but the principle behind it is still the same. It was God who initiated the relationship with you and God who accomplished it for you on the cross. God has joined you with Himself through Jesus. And no man, not even your preacher, can separate you from Him.

Some teachers and some others feel that they need to keep people in fear for their salvation. Maintain good behavior or you might be kicked out of the club, they seem to say. If you aren’t good enough, you might become separated from God and lose your salvation.

I have been accused of being a “once saved always saved” teacher. Those words trigger rejection in the minds of many people. But I never teach that. Instead, I teach that salvation comes from the love of God in Jesus as a gift to those who will receive. If it comes as a gift, you didn’t do anything to deserve it in the first place. If it remains a gift, then your behavior won’t get it taken away. The point of your salvation is the love of God in Jesus, not your behavior.

So, are there people who are separated from God. Of course. All of us were separated from God in the beginning. Sin separates us from God. That’s the simple message of the gospel. But the rest of the gospel is that Jesus came to overcome sin, to wash us clean, and to reconcile us to God. Anyone who comes to Jesus in faith will receive the gift of reconciliation. That is only good news!

But even those who do not have faith, who reject the gift Jesus came to give, may not be as separate as some think. The Lord is always ready to welcome the lost, always looking in love on the sinner. It is not God who has separated from them, but they who have separated from Him. He is patient, full of love, ready to forgive, ready to welcome anyone who will come to Him. Not as far away as some might suggest. Even from the worst sinner.

You might feel separated from God, based on your behavior and your wrong thinking. Others might not know that you belong to Him for the same reasons. You might not experience the blessings and the power that you would have if you walked with Him, but if you come to Him in faith you will never be separated from Him.

If no power on earth or in heaven can separate you from the Lord, then you will never be separated from Him. Rest in His power and His love.

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Don’t let them touch you

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(Continuing the series: “For My Grandchildren”)

From the time you were little, your parents and others have told you that people were not supposed to touch you in certain ways. Certain parts of your body were yours alone, and others were not supposed to touch them. This was especially true regarding people who were not your parents or doctors.

You didn’t understand this at the time, but the reason was that touch is a powerful action that breaks down boundaries. Once a boundary is crossed, it is far easier for someone to cross it again. Many teenagers felt this as they dated and experienced relationships.

As an adult, you may have begun to understand that even “innocent” touch can be manipulative and intrusive. There are people who use touch to control, and it works. From shaking hands to an arm around the waist, touch is used by adults to compromise boundaries and push past objections.

So, the first part of this post is to give you permission to be both aware of those who touch and to avoid these manipulative touches. It is more than reasonable to suspect those who touch in odd or seemingly inappropriate ways of wanting to control you. It is also within your rights and responsibilities to reject that touch.

But there’s more to this. The chances are that most of the negative touch you will experience will not be physical. Instead, the manipulators will try to touch you in much deeper ways. Narcissists and abusers want access to the hidden parts of your heart, the places that are yours alone.

I have said in the past not to share your secrets openly. That probably seems obvious. After all, it ceases to be a secret once you tell someone. But there are people who have developed serious skills for learning your secrets. They will ask about embarrassing times in your life or relationships you regret or mistakes you made. They will do it in normal conversations or in times when you open yourself to them with the expectation of confidentiality. Then they will use that information to manipulate you.

So, don’t allow them to touch your private thoughts or memories or fears or regrets or anything else you hold for yourself. Your boss, your neighbor, your pastor—these and many others should be considered as people who don’t need to know these things. (I once knew a pastor who made it a point to have counseling sessions with everyone in his congregation. Those who joined were required to counsel with him. Then, he would use that information to manipulate them. He would even refer to these things from the pulpit.) Just as you would not allow them to touch you physically in compromising ways, so you should not allow them to touch your heart in those ways.

There are certain people and certain times when we need to share secrets. Sometimes we need to seek good counsel, but good counsel can be trusted. Once a counselor breaks your trust, in any way, find someone else.

Of course, we all share deep thoughts and embarrassing information with our intimate partners. Just as we allow them to be the only people who physically touch private areas of our bodies, we also share those secret places of our hearts.

And sometimes we are betrayed. And it hurts a lot.

It is far more challenging to deal with a spouse or lover who does not respect your privacy. But if you find your spouse misusing the intimate trust you have shared, you are right both to call out the offense and to hold back in the future. In fact, you might consider treating the situation much the same as inappropriate physical touch.

Some people who would never think of allowing a spouse to fondle them physically in public don’t know what to do when their spouse publicly refers to embarrassing mistakes or life situations. There are spouses who will tell others about personal compromises or refer to regretful memories for the purpose of manipulation or control. Not their own compromises or regrets, of course, but yours. It is a powerful method of breaking the will and independence.

Now, I can’t tell you what to do in your situation. What I can say is that you are right to feel just as violated when your secrets are revealed as when your private physical places are abused. I will add that you have the right to avoid, to protest, and to stop both types of abuse.

If you are not married to the person who is taking advantage of you physically and/or emotionally, you should seriously consider ending the relationship. In fact, the person who touches you where and when you do not want will almost certainly abuse your secrets. This type of control is difficult to challenge and end unless you insert distance in the relationship.

In other words, don’t let them touch you.

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What does it mean to fall from grace?

It’s Monday Grace!

If you listen to some people, you will think that the Christian life is like a giant treadmill with occasional holes for people to fall through. Under the treadmill is another treadmill, one much more difficult. The higher treadmill is grace, and the lower one is law. So, if you are not careful, you can fall from grace to law and lose the blessings grace gave. At least, that’s what some teachers seem to suggest.

But, of course, that doesn’t make much sense. How can you fall off a treadmill that doesn’t exist? How could you lose something that you are not trying to hold onto? Grace is a gift God gives you through Jesus, not some privilege that can be taken away and reinstated over and over.

Paul talks about people “falling from grace.” These are Bible words. But the idea that a person could be under grace one day and under the law (the only other choice) the next, and then back again, is silly.

Instead, people who “fall from grace” stop walking in grace. A friend of mine was walking through his workshop and tripped over something on the floor. He fell and broke his arm. In other words, he stopped walking and found himself on the floor in pain. That’s the kind of fall Paul is talking about.

Scrounging around on the floor in pain isn’t a bad image of a believer who has ceased to walk in grace. The believer has a choice of how to walk, not who to be. Note that, because it is important. We may walk through life as a person who is unsaved and under law, but a believer is still under grace.

So, when a believer decides to live like an unbeliever or neglects the joys and privileges of grace, that believer finds lack of progress and pain. They have fallen.

I realize this brings up all kinds of questions about people who claim to be believers but act in hateful ways. Are they saved? Are they under grace? What and when will they suffer? These are questions only the Lord can fully answer.

But the point here is you and me. What happens to us when we choose to ignore the blessings of grace? When we fall and struggle with inability and pain? Do we lose our salvation? Are we back under the law, striving to be good enough to be saved? No! Our position is secure in Jesus. We are still who we are, even when we are lying on the floor not walking at all.

And for that we are grateful. What it means for others is not ours to decide or debate. For us, it means that we can get up, shake ourselves off, and get back on the path. Why? Because that is our path, walking with Jesus.

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Take out the Trash

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

(I am traveling again.  This post fits with the series For My Grandchildren and, I hope, will encourage you.)

I have said many times here that you should not tell the narcissist your secrets. Your dreams, your regrets, your fears—these are things the narcissist will use against you. So don’t tell him/her. The problem is that you usually don’t know someone is a narcissist until after you have exposed yourself. They are deceptive and persistent. They know how to ask questions and apply pressures and gather information. They work to get these things out of you long before they show you who they really are.

The best way to protect yourself is to do some regular housekeeping. Last week we talked about protecting your treasures. Don’t put your dreams and hopes out there for people to play with. They are yours, and they are special. Put them somewhere you can see them often, but others can’t get them. Hopes and dreams and special loves are treasures to be kept.

But fears and regrets are something else. Why are you storing them at all? Most of us store stuff that should be thrown out. We keep reminders of our failures, souvenirs of our pain, and things that make us afraid. Why? Partly because we don’t want to risk others finding them, I suppose. So we tuck them away, hide them, and use our time and energy to keep them away from others.

Believe me, the narcissists will find them. The only way for the narcissist not to find your regrets and fears is for you not to have them at all. If there is nothing there to find, the narcissist can’t use it against you.

Okay, I know. We all have fears and regrets. We do. My dad used to say that the person who said he didn’t have any regrets probably lied about other things as well. We all have fears. But these are things for us to overcome, not treasures to be kept in our hearts.

As you rebuild after the narcissist, or to protect yourself against the narcissist, you need to take out the trash. The trash consists of things that had a value once, but no more. Think of them this way: your fears show you the areas of your life where you feel vulnerable. They had a purpose. But when you deal with those areas, find ways to become strong and not feel vulnerable, then those fears no longer have value.

For example: What if you fear handling money? Take some basic accounting classes. Read some budget books. Learn some basic math. Take small steps until you feel more confident. Once you realize that you can handle money better than most people, you no longer have to be afraid.

Regrets are the sore spots that remain after we do foolish or wrong things. If you tried to jump over the chair and missed, you might have a bruise on your shin to remind you not to do that again. That’s the purpose of a regret. Just as you do not need a continuing bruise to help you remember not to try to jump over the chair, you do not need continuing regret to remind you of stupid things you did. Learn and move on. We all do dumb things, the advertisement says. No sense in keeping the pain around.

If you teach your children to learn from their mistakes and then move on, if you teach them to face their fears and grow in the areas of their vulnerability, then you prepare them for a life mostly protected from the narcissist. The normal manipulative tools of the narcissist (shame, intimidation, etc.) simply won’t have any effect on them. No one can do this perfectly, of course, but why not give them the best chance you can?

And why not do the same for yourself? Look your fears straight on and find ways to overcome them. Learn the lessons your regrets came from and stop holding them close to your heart. When you do this, the narcissist has so much less to use on you. Yes, narcissists are persistent and ruthless, but there is no reason to give them the tools they need.

Now, anyone can do this, but Christians have divine help. Our God stands strong against the things we fear. Our Lord affirms us when we fail and does not require us to hold onto our regrets. We know that we are loved and forgiven and accepted. Even when we sin, He still loves us. So we learn our lessons and move on with our lives. We face our fears with the confidence of someone well-protected.

I know that a few words in a blog post can make these things sound easy. I don’t want to suggest that they are easy. But I do want to assert that they are true. Regrets and fears are not things to hold in the safe place of your heart. Instead, find the ways to overcome them. Then throw them out with the trash.

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Monday Grace

It’s Monday Grace!

(I am traveling again. It might be a great time to post a reminder of why a guy who writes about narcissism would also write about grace.)

That’s right! A new day of the week with a new message of encouragement for you. Each Friday I write about some aspect of narcissistic abuse, hoping to keep the message positive and encouraging. But talking about the struggle can be draining in itself. And, frankly, once a week isn’t enough to deal with all I want to give. I want to talk about the love and practical help God has for you in Jesus. I want to give you something to hold onto as you step into the week.

There is a good message for all of us. Even in the midst of the daily grind, the struggle, there is hope and promise. In fact, there is joy. Those who look to Jesus find a real Person who loves them. One who will never leave and cannot be taken away. We all need love.

Now, as I have said many times in the past, I am a Christian pastor with a Christian message. I know that some readers have been burned by churches and Christians. That breaks my heart. I have suffered abuse from those who claimed to be God’s people as well. I understand that the trite and simple words often fall short in the light of the practice of many Christians. But I have found a way past the jargon and the phoniness to a real relationship with Jesus. I have found that love.

So, even if you can’t imagine ever returning to church, you are welcome—even encouraged—to read these simple posts. Even if you think most Christians are so full of themselves that there is no room for the Holy Spirit, you will find encouragement here. I won’t pretend to be something I am not, but I will offer you welcome and understanding. Here you can sit in the back row and slip out whenever you want. Here you are welcome to take what you can handle and leave the rest.

Some people have been lying. They say that God is angry with you. They say you don’t measure up. They say they have something you can’t have. They look down on you and want you to believe that God thinks like they do. Their brokenness and compromise is hidden in their attitude toward you. But they lie.

You are important. Right now, just as you are. I believe that God loves you. You are a unique creation made for relationship with Him. It is not His goal to punish you or make you miserable. He wants to show you His love. He is with you and knows your struggle. You are not alone.

I pray as I write these posts. I pray for you. I pray that you will find encouragement for your day and your week. I pray that you will know a little more of the truth. I pray that you will feel just a little more loved. Join me, please, in praying for others who read.

Check out our website, http://www.gracefortheheart.org, to find articles and posts that will tell you about this ministry and the heart of God for you. And watch right here, next Monday, for a new edition of “Monday Grace.”

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Let Yes be Yes and No be No

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Recently I had the opportunity again to remember the value of boundaries. Setting limits for others in your life is not only acceptable, it is important. If you don’t, you will wish you had.

But you should expect those boundaries to be tested. This is especially true if you have allowed something in the past that you no longer want to allow. People will whine, bargain, accuse, or argue to get you to change your mind. Users and narcissists will simply ignore your boundaries and do what they want.

Yet, you will know that you have set the boundary even when it is disrespected. At least you will have tried. You may not be able to control the actions of others, but you can control the permission you give.

You will have a lot more difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries if your yes isn’t really yes and your no isn’t really no.

Users look for people who try to be nice. They seek those who are able to be compromised. If you can’t say no, someone will use you. You will be hurt and abused, and that other person will get what he or she wants. You have to learn to mean what you say.

And that means that you have to say what you mean. If you want to say no, don’t say maybe or someday or give any sort of opening. Users will hear only your opening and seek to stretch it to get what they want. Even friends can be confused when you don’t say no simply and clearly.

I accept that this is a problem for me. I don’t want to hurt or disappoint people. I tend to give in rather than face conflict. So, I need to remind myself that others will use that fact to get something from me that I don’t want to give. When I am not okay with that, it is at least partly my own fault.

In other words, when I feel that I should say no, I should say it and stick with it. I can pray for guidance, then do what I think is right. If that means I have to say no to someone or yes to something, then I should feel free and confident to do that. Otherwise, I may communicate the wrong thing, and others may take advantage of my apparently weak commitment to my position.

Now, as I said, narcissists and abusers will use your reluctance to say a firm yes or no as an excuse to ignore your desires. But friends may do the same thing. When you tell a friend something bluntly, he or she might not be used to that frankness. But without it, he or she might misunderstand. And misunderstandings hurt on both sides.

So, when you want to say no, say it. When you want to say yes, say it. Don’t redecorate your words so they sound nicer because you will probably make them weaker.

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