Deep Within

The following was originally published one year ago.  It struck a chord with both men and women and it is a topic worthy of revisiting.  As an introduction, I include the brief statement below, which was written by a real woman who wanted her voice to be heard.  She offered her heart, so that others would be helped.  She entitled this “Look at Me”.

 

“I am your greatest earthly treasure, sitting on the shelf. You pour yourself into things that will be tossed tomorrow. Look at me! Strangers and acquaintances affirm me today and maybe tomorrow but you don’t see my gifts. Look at me! You see my adornments and your hands examine the jewels but you don’t look deep enough to see my heart and mind. Look at me! You praise my efforts but always with a suggestion. Look at me! I am only a whisper away, invisible with tears in my eyes. Look at me! What do I want? I do want you to love my adornments, I do want you to praise what I do and I do want you to know who I am, deep inside of my mind and my heart. Who am I? Don’t look at me but look deep within me.”

 

She wrote this during her darkest moments and from a place of deep pain but it isn’t earth shattering. Too many women struggle with similar thoughts and feelings. She is not a depressed woman.  Actually, she describes herself as happy and striving for contentment. She is an ordinary woman and just like most women, her emotional tank occasional becomes empty. Husbands, this post is not intended to heap more burden or guilt onto you.  I’m hoping that this fills in the blanks for many men.  I know that so many men labor and struggle to understand how to fulfill their wife.  I will boil it down for you.  Love your wife by studying her. Make her your lifelong learning project. There is nothing sexier than a man learning about what makes his woman tick. I know it’s difficult and it requires effort – actually, it requires hard work but please realize that it is difficult for her to let you lead, put you before the children and make your sexual needs a priority? You see, these things are foreign to her, just like it is foreign to you to study your wife.

 

I love how music speaks to our hearts.  There is a beautiful song called Exploring the Blue by Luka Bloom.  He sings – “I go down into the water, and dive as deep as man can go, into those dark places, watch the underwater flow, exploring the blue, in search of you, here I stand by the mountain, look up to the sky, knowing it’s a matter of having to climb, above this place these clouds lie.”  This beautiful song is about a man going as deep or climbing as high as he needs to go, in order to understand and know his woman.  Studying your wife is all about your efforts.  Observe her and verbally affirm her.  There are no flowcharts and at times you may find this to be quite the challenge, but here are a few ideas to get you going.  “I was amazed at how you handled that situation” or “I was watching you from a distance as you spoke to that person.  I loved your smile and facial expressions” or “it really impresses me that you know where to go in God’s word to find the answers”.  Give her specifics – tell her why she amazed you or what it was about her smile and facial expressions that you loved.

 

Most women have a deep need to be understood by those closest to them.  She wants you to see and value her essence.  If you remove the outward beauty and all of the tasks that she completes, you will find her essence. Her essence is her qualities and character. It is her own unique set of gifts, given to her by her Creator.  Is she compassionate? Is she kind and thoughtful – putting others above herself? Is she sensitive to the moods and hurts of others? Does she love others even though she has been hurt in the past? Does her heart of compassion move her to take action? Is she intelligent?  Is she goofy, funny or witty?  Can she find the humor in almost every situation?  Is she as sweet as sugar and yet vivacious and sexy all at the same time?  This is her essence.

 

Look deep within her heart and her mind and appreciate her essence. Praise her and brag about these qualities as well as her physical beauty and the tasks that she completes. As a woman ages, her physical beauty will change, the volume of tasks that she can complete will reduce but it is her essence that will remain and even become more beautiful in time. I know that you love this woman. Give her hope by looking deep within.

Tender Hearted Warrior – Part II

Thank you for reading Tender Hearted Warrior.  After reading the feedback, I felt that a continuation of this post might be helpful.  Specifically, I would like to explore emotional resilience.

 

It is natural for the tender-hearted warrior to become bogged down and weakened by emotional turmoil.  They carry a heavy mental and emotional load but as stated in my earlier post, highly sensitives, also known as empaths, must take care of themselves. Cultivating emotional resilience or mentally strong traits will help you to feel more at peace with your personality and ensure that you will be able to continue blessing others and feel the joy of doing so.

 

Do you remember the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?  Can we all just agree that life is going to give us plenty of lemons?  It’s what we do with those lemons, that makes us or breaks us.  For the highly sensitive, this is going to be a greater challenge but I myself am a highly sensitive/empath, and I’m assuring you that it is well worth the training of your mind.  I have found the following general guidelines to be crucial to my survival.

 

>Realize and accept that life is full of difficulties, set-backs, challenges and pain.  Don’t fear them.  When you get knocked down, don’t stay down for long.  Get back up, brush yourself off and commit to working toward overcoming the pain that you are experiencing.  View the experience as an opportunity to grow as a human being.

>Realize that you won’t be happy all of the time.  Our culture is obsessed with feeling good and being happy.  It’s alright to be sad sometimes, just don’t get stuck there.

>Realize that there is nothing wrong with existing in the mundane of life.  Life isn’t always fun and exciting.  Those boring quiet periods, can be loaded with precious growth.

>Realize that relying on substances such as alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal), or even over indulging on food or spending, cripples you emotionally and mentally.  Get help if you are enslaved by unhealthy behaviors.

>Realize that you can develop alternate habits that are healthy.  Exercise, eating for nutrition, visiting with a supportive friend, journaling, listening to uplifting music, watching comedy or an uplifting movie and learning a new skill.

>Realize that you should not dwell in the past.  This is not the same as remembering pleasant memories.  If you are dwelling or obsessing, you are making deep grooves in your mind that tend to be negative.  Try limiting your obsession sessions to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bed.  Eventually, you will not need these sessions and your mind will be able to recall a pleasant memory without negativity.

>Realize that you should not be jealous of the position, status, possessions or accomplishments of others.  No matter how minuscule, we all have good things in our own lives to focus on.

>Realize that you should not wallow in self-pity or self-doubt.  If you have experienced a set-back, examine it and determine what could have been done differently.  Learn from the experience, commit to doing better next time and move on.  Do not use negative self-talk.  It is helpful to have people in your life that will hold you accountable in this area.

>Realize that it is healthy to have a good balance between optimism and pessimism.  A positive attitude combined with reality, can help you in many ways.  A positive mental attitude alone is akin to lying to yourself – unfortunately, life isn’t always grand or perfect.  When you learn to be content and joyful in the midst of reality, you are steadier when challenges come.  Also this balance enables you to formulate executable plans which can give you something to look forward to.

>Realize that you should spend time remembering the past and looking forward to the future.  This is not the same as dwelling on past hurts and mistakes or fearing the future.  Focus on how far you have come and where you hope to go.

>Realize that this will not be easy.  As a sensitive, you absorb the negative of life, so your brain has tendencies and leanings in that direction.  Accept that you will have to continually practice these guidelines.

>Finally and I believe the most important guideline.  Realize that although we are created with emotions and emotions are not sinful, we should not allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions.  Always, check your emotions against who God says that you are and what God says to do and what God promises in His word.  Your emotions can sometimes mislead you but God never will.

 

Journaling is a valuable tool.  A highly sensitive will easily believe that they are the problem in almost every bad outcome.  Learn to examine yourself and if you have made mistakes in a relationship, job or other situation, learn from these mistakes, ask for forgiveness if appropriate and move forward to the next experience.  In your journal, record what you have learned and what should be done differently in the future.  As you struggle with self-doubt, this record will be useful to keep you on track as you try again.  Also, the highly sensitive is naturally a feeling oriented and deep thinking person.  They will gradually or suddenly slide back into reliving old painful experiences.  You are usually aware of what triggers this slide and I would like you to use this for your benefit.  Make a record in your journal.  You will have three columns.  In the first, include a description of what you are thinking and feeling – the problem, situation or fear.  In the second, indicate whether it is real and confirmed or merely perceived and in the third column describe what action you will take, even if that is committing the item to prayer.  You can be as detailed or brief as you feel necessary.  This helps in separating each aspect which makes the problems smaller in your mind.  Otherwise, a sensitive can have a huge pile of problems in their mind and they become overwhelmed.  When the turmoil has passed, which can sometimes take days or even longer, journal about the success that you have experienced.  These recordings will be valuable to you later, when you experience difficulty and need the hope that things will get better.

 

All of us are a work in progress, but working toward something is better than doing nothing at all – or even worse, trying to cover it with substances or over spending.  Since each of us will experience the ups and downs of living this life, why not sharpen our positive but realistic perspective?  If you find that you become bogged down in emotional and mental mire, I genuinely hope that these guidelines and suggestions will help you to experience relief.

Tender Hearted Warrior

You might have at least one of them in your life.  Some call them earth angels.  These people notice when you’re not quite right.  They have a knack for serving you exactly the way that you need, at exactly the right moment.  They regularly have a fitting word of encouragement or exhortation.  In short, it is as though they spread fairy dust in the lives of those that they touch.  They love deeply.  They carry heavy burdens.  They get hurt by actions that wouldn’t phase another person.  They are like sponges, absorbing the complicated world that exists all around them.  They are called highly sensitive types and most of them have been told that their sensitivity is a personality flaw.  It isn’t a flaw, it is a beautiful personality type and when handled properly, it can bless everyone involved.

 

Finally, there are studies shedding light on this very unique portion of our population.  We are beginning to appreciate that the highly sensitive personality is real and outstanding.  Scientists now understand that the brain of the highly sensitive person functions differently and that these gray matter differences stem from genetic coding which determines how certain hormones are created and transported.  Dear highly sensitive one:  I hope that you feel vindicated.   You are not flawed – you are amazing.  For those that have difficulty understanding the sensitives in your life, accepting them without expecting them to change is best.  Just like it is impossible for you to be like them, they cannot change to be like you.  You may never truly understand them but you can choose to appreciate them.

 

Here are some ways that you can support the sensitive that is in your life.

 

>Realize that they are actually very adept at “reading” body language, tone of voice and other social cues.  If there is a problem or change in the relationship, they will be aware of it but because they don’t have all of the facts, they will be robbed of their peace as they consider the multitude of possibilities.  It is helpful to be honest but gentle with them.

>They will believe that negative behavior is directed toward them and that they have done something to deserve it.  If you are in a foul mood or have an emotional or physical condition that causes you to behave rudely or aloof at times, it is helpful to explain this to your highly sensitive.  They struggle with taking things too personally.

>Understand that they carry the burdens and pains of others.  Their heart can become deeply vested and sometimes they get hurt.  This doesn’t make them weak or mentally ill – they are actually strong and brave warriors.

>Because they are acutely aware of external stimuli, they can become exhausted by everything that they are taking in.  They are also easily disturbed by noise.  They need quiet time, preferably alone, to recharge their batteries.

>They are passionate in almost every area of their life and they usually have a creative aspect within their gifts and abilities.

>They are deep thinkers and they despise wasting time on small talk or stating the obvious.

>They usually don’t fall asleep quickly.  They have a difficult time slowing their mind.  Sooth them at bedtime.  Don’t instigate fights or tickle battles.  Create a peaceful environment for them.

>Realize that sensitives are like sponges.  When people are in conflict around them, they absorb it and it will affect them for hours or sometimes even days.

>Be generous with genuine affirmation.  A sensitive craves affirmation but they also know when you’re insincere.

>Sensitives can become isolated.  Their world is complicated and sometimes painful.  They easily retreat to safety.  Make sure that they are getting out and doing things that they enjoy.

>Value them exactly how they are.  View their sensitivity as a gift and point this out to them.  They live with a tremendous amount of self-doubt and many times they have what I refer to as a weak conscience, causing them to be overly self-accusing.

 

For the highly sensitive, I would caution you in two areas.  First, you are like a sponge and absorb everything, so learn to discern the circumstances that you need to stay clear of.  A quote from Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.”  Second, it is easy to use your gift in the wrong way.  Be aware of your attitudes and tendencies to judge the motives of others or become overly self-focused – these behaviors can turn this gift into a curse.  God created you with this special personality – use it as a blessing to serve others and glorify Him.

A Little Help Getting Unstuck

Experiencing anguish is a part of living life but what does it mean when we continue to feel the pain at an overwhelming intensity level, even after many months or even years have passed?  If this is you, you might be stuck.  Today, I would like to offer you hope.  With a little help, you can get unstuck and begin living a joyful life again.

 

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting that there is an appropriate amount of time to grieve.  Grief is as individual as we are.  There is a point, where we each intuitively know that our grieving is no longer healthy.  At this point, we must find a pathway to moving forward with our life.  Essentially grieving is healthy until it isn’t.  Are you emotionally paralyzed?  Is your physical health beginning to suffer?  Do you no longer believe that you can or should be happy again?  Have you lost and not regained motivation to do the things that need to be done, or that you previously enjoyed?  Can you see little or no progress from when you first experienced the grief causing event?  Don’t despair, there is help available.  Make an appointment with a trained and qualified counselor, and go to your first appointment prepared to be transparent and looking forward to getting better.

 

I’m writing from experience.  This past year was a tough one – a full year of experiencing one relationship failure after another.  Each situation was unique and caused a different level of anguish but when combined together, I was overwhelmed.  I did my very best to work through the process of grieving, as well as making difficult decisions, but I finally realized that it was time to get some assistance.  Vanity is powerful.  I had been able to tolerate the minor panic attacks and a relapse into adrenal fatigue, but realizing that my hair was falling out in great amounts and that I was eating my grief and gaining weight, moved me into action.  I located a qualified counselor and began sessions.

 

How does a counselor help?  A counselor is unbiased.  They won’t allow you to continue to reinforce incorrect thinking.  They will help you to arrive at the vital acceptance of circumstances that you cannot change.  They will help you to see that you have a bright future ahead of you.  Essentially, you have been on an oval race car track.  Your car only turns left and goes around and around but never moves forward.  With the counselors help, you can get off of that track and begin to move forward again.

 

Sharing this with my readers is difficult for me to do but I believe that God has asked me to be authentic with you.  I’m hoping that there is at least one person out there, that might be helped by this post.  I do want to caution you – be aware that not all counselors are helpful and some will interject very non-biblical ideas.  Have your discernment sharpened and look at things through a biblical lens.  I’m happy to report that I am doing much better – I am a stronger woman and full of spunk according to my counselor.  Best of all, I am looking forward to a bright future.  I am learning new things to better myself, have taken on a new writing opportunity for my church, I’m looking forward to my children’s next phase of life and the next season in my marriage.  You can look forward to a bright future too.  I’m hoping that this year will be a blessed one for you.

Telling Yourself Truths

The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? – Proverbs 18:14. Careless words and actions can and do hurt – sometimes they cause pain for a very long time.

 

The woman that dishonestly or unfairly vents her thoughts about another woman to her husband, children or others.  The person that tells only their side of the story, to make the other person look bad. That man that comments about another man’s character being dishonorable. The group that chatters together conjuring up stories of sinful activity.  The person, when asked about someone, reacts with a raised eyebrow or even a very slight derogatory comment.  The woman that excludes another woman from her life or makes another woman feel unwelcome without a genuine reason.  The woman that uses body language to ignore another woman. The person that tells half truths about someone to mislead others.  The young person that gossips, excludes or uses unkind words about a peer or another family. Finally, the person that makes the mistake of listening to one side of the story and allows their opinion to be swayed.  It might seem benign – “after all, it will never get back to the person and so what if it does – they deserve it and it makes me feel better”.

 

It is never harmless.  It always damages the person that has been hurt, as well as the person guilty of the hurting. It can be a firestorm in someone’s life – taking years to recover but just like a forest that has been burned away, if handled correctly, beautiful growth can emerge.  How can beauty come up out of these ashes?  First, when you are believing a lie about yourself or the situation, you must tell yourself a truth.  Here are some examples.  “They are twisting the story” can become “the truth will come out in the end”.  “They are getting away with ruining my reputation or turning other people against me” can become either “I have earned credibility and other people won’t automatically believe this” or “if they don’t know me very well, I shouldn’t be overly concerned about their opinion of me” and ultimately “God’s opinion of me is the only opinion that matters”.  “I feel like women despise me” can become “I have women in my life that value me”.  “There must be something wrong with me” can become “it is not because of who I am.  It is because of how they choose to behave or who they are.”  Second, you have to trust and believe that God is a God of justice and that He will not allow this to go on forever.  Third, if you find that you are obsessing about an offense against you and stirring the pot of stew so to speak, there are techniques to help you manage this.  Try limiting your stewing sessions to five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bedtime.  If your mind tries to stir the pot during the other times of the day – just remind yourself “not now – later”.  Soon, you may not need those sessions at all.  Finally, do not resort to vindictive or childish behavior.    It might make you feel better in the short run but in the long run, it will hurt you.  These healing actions will protect you from bitterness taking root.

 

Women are especially vulnerable to perceiving that another woman’s grass is greener.  Insecurities or jealousy of another woman’s accomplishments, character, personality, physical appearance, husband, children or even a pure admiration that she might receive from men or even other women, can cause an insecure woman to behave rudely, cruelly or even maliciously.  A husband is the leader of his wife and therefore he is responsible to watch for these behaviors.  Keep in mind, she may be very adept at concealing these behaviors from her husband. Husbands, you can make a difference in this area.  She may not want you to, but she needs you to lead her and hold her accountable.  I realize that a peaceful environment is difficult to give up but coddling bad behavior, emboldens it.  Parents, if you notice that your daughter is involved in this type of behavior, hold her accountable and train her up correctly while you still have influence in her life.  This is not innocent conduct and even words or actions that you might deem harmless, may be hurting another human being.

 

Are you wounded?  Maybe others have excluded you, talked about you, lied about you, rejected you and worst of all, at times, maybe it has affected your children.  If you are wounded, then you know the pain that this can cause.  I offer comfort to you – you probably did nothing to deserve this treatment.  I offer encouragement to you – get back out there and find others that have healthy self-images, because they will be able to love you and they will celebrate everything about you.  I offer reassurance to you – that you deserve to have people in your life that will give back to you.

 

We are raised in imperfect homes with imperfect families and often we have insecurities or emotional problems but the Bible tells us to esteem others as higher than ourselves.  When we do, spirits can be lifted – marriages, families and friends built up.  Let’s be willing to be honest with ourselves and take a good long look at our reflection in the mirror.  Let’s search our memories and our hearts.  Each of us could probably find a time when we have been guilty of spreading or listening to careless words, being unkind or not holding ourselves or others accountable.  Would you join me in committing to not being part of the problem as you move forward with your relationships?