Ownership Is A Powerful Tool


Recently we finished teaching a six week staff group on relational health. Among the feedback we got was a suggestion that we also tackle the topic of ownership. Succinctly put, “the more people take ownership of their lives and situations (rather than passivity or entitlement) the better.” Thanks, Tom.

In a recent repost I defined mental health as the degree to which one was willing to take responsibility for one’s own life. I have been realizing that we as counseling  professionals are very good at searching for indicators that connect the past to the present and predict possible outcomes in a person’s life. However, real success in therapy comes when a person’s awareness of their underlying emotional influencers turns into positive changed behavior. And maturity comes when a person is willing to accept the realities in their lives and stop blaming others. In other words, they take ownership of their lives no matter what they were handed by their circumstances.

Ownership means abandoning a victim stance and instead adopting one of personal power and responsibility. Instead of expecting that someone else will solve my problems, I take positive action towards that end goal. If I expect that someone else should rescue me from my challenging circumstances, I am surrendering my life to a totally unknown outcome. I am at risk of becoming stuck and possibly depressed or angry. You will notice that I did not include fear as a risk. Fear and anxiety always accompanies ownership. It is a certainty.

We often talk about “family of origin” issues in counseling. Sometimes a client will realize that their emotional triggers or maladaptive behaviors come from the family they grew up in and use that as an excuse to blame and stay stuck. It is likely that they were loved and raised as best a parent knew how, even if poorly or hurtfully. There are situations where this isn’t true, but the majority of the time it is.

Suggested steps for taking ownership:
  • Investigate the major influential events in your life (“earthquake” events)
  • Connect the dots – make any necessary connections to those events (where events produced losses)
  • Decide not to surrender and be controlled by negative life events.
  • Grieve any losses and repent of any sins
  • Reinterpret your life through the lens of God’s grace
  • Activate your power in a positive manner (take action with courage)

Any thoughts?

Are Emotions Driving Your Decisions?


I have been having a lot more peace this election cycle because I have been for the most part ignoring it. Several years ago Nan and I gave up our television cable , which is the only way we can receive the broadcast stations – no antenna works up here where we live. I also don’t spend much time in my car anymore, so I am not tempted to tune into talk radio.

Is this because I am apathetic towards politics?

No, it is because my beliefs and convictions are not based on the emotional intensity that surrounds the process as the race heats up. It reminds me of an auction where people make foolish bids in an attempt to be the winner of an item. Or perhaps it is like the process of buying a house where there are multiple offers and people will over extend themselves or over pay in order to avoid the feeling of loss.

The truth is that a good buyer determines the worth of an object before the bidding starts and won’t exceed a set limit. The educated home buyer will ignore the professional staging of the property (which may include rented furniture and “window dressing”) and focus instead on the essential elements. And the astute voter considers the principles and long term goals of the political party platform rather than the individual candidate. In each of these cases extreme temporary emotions should not determine the decisions made.

How about in relationships?

In the same vein, relationships cannot be chosen or rejected by the intense emotions that will crop up now and again for every couple. In the heat of the moment we must be aware of the presence (or lack) of foundational good values that is essential for the relationship’s success. To some degree relationships are defined by the frequency, intensity and duration of the conflicts that occur, but we must determine whether the skirmishes are mostly superficial or if they are deep-seated and destructive. Both can damage the relationship, but the corrective work that needs to be done is very different.

A marriage commitment is serious, and we approach counseling differently with a couple who comes to us in a dating relationship vs. an established marriage. It is sort of like when Nan and I were considering purchasing the business I was working for. As an employee I was “dating” the company. But as an owner I was married to it. As an employee I could benefit from the profit. However as an owner I had to generate the profit. That meant I had to believe in the elemental soundness of the entity. I couldn’t just bail when it didn’t feel good and I got scared, frustrated or bored. And I can assure you that I felt all three and more during the 27 years of ownership.

The bottom line is this: it takes maturity and stability in our convictions to make good choices. We must guard against making decisions based on “sound bites” and temporary feelings. Instead, we must be people of substance.

Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

It Matters Who Influences You


Throughout my late teens and twenties and into my early thirties I hung around a lot of pretty accomplished musicians. We were committed to playing music and pursuing “feel good” experiences. We were serious about the music, career and friendship, but lacked life direction and had rather short term plans and goals. Along with the positive focus were also destructive behaviors with potentially disastrous consequences.

Then when my forties were in full swing I started meeting with a group of about a dozen guys on a weekly basis (mostly) that lasted about twenty years. This group was composed of men from both our church and others. The common theme was unity in our purpose to grow and mature spiritually.

The contrast between the two sets of groups is stark. You might dismiss my earlier group’s lack of focus as simply typical of our youthful age, but that would not be entirely accurate. My spiritual group had guys of a variety of ages over the years, and some were quite young. The difference was the guiding values that motivated each group.

These days as I counsel I often ask myself “Who is influencing this person?” Sometimes I ask the question to a person outright, and sometimes I just ask the question in my heart. The answer to this question will have a lot to do with the direction the sessions will take. Are the influencers fueling anger, bitterness, and resentment, or are they encouraging and giving support for godly values?

My earlier group of friends would have given me advice like:

“You don’t have to put up with that.”

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

“Go for it. You won’t get caught.”

My latter group would say:

“Have you owned your part?”

“Have you gone to the mat and done everything you can do?”

“Don’t give up. You’re the right man for the job.”

“You’re following your feelings, not God.”

Sometimes we have to cut ties or at least censor the content of our conversations with those that are pressing us to adopt ideas that are in conflict with our beliefs and values. It’s really hard to resist asking well-meaning people for their advice when we know they will offer support that moves us away from our places of pain. But pain has a nasty habit of finding us by a different route when we try to avoid it.

Perhaps you can relate?

Are there outside voices you need to mute?