Category Archives: denial

I’m Just Being Optimistic

force-mutiplier

I was in a checkout line at a department store behind a woman who had a basket full of clothes and other items. After the clerk rang up the purchases, the woman presented a credit card. Denied! She pulled out a second and then a third card. Both denied. Then she asked the clerk to try the first card again. Was this woman being optimistic?

No, she was in denial of reality and didn’t want to accept it.

I wonder how many times a day this same scenario is repeated? Maybe you have even been there. Or perhaps the issue isn’t financial, but some other refusal to accept the truth that is right before your eyes.

For an addict, breaking denial is the first step towards recovery. This is not news – we all know this. But there are other perhaps more subtle ways in which we deceive ourselves.

  • We keep applying for jobs we are not qualified for hoping someone will hire us anyway.
  • We abuse our automobiles or our bodies and hope they will last forever.
  • We stay in an abusive or violent relationship hoping that this will be the time his sincere apology will really mean a change. (Good luck with that one!)
  • We ignore deadlines and trust that somehow there is a way around the penalties.
  • We hide bills from our spouse and believe everything will turn out OK in the end.

I love optimism. It is a predictor of success in many areas of life. Optimists tend to draw people towards themselves that want to help them reach their goals. (People tend to shy away from perpetual pessimists.) But optimists do not operate outside of reality.

Optimists will:

  • Keep applying for jobs that they are qualified for knowing that one will come through eventually. Or they train for the job they really want.
  • Maintain their health and possessions knowing that it will make a difference in the long run.
  • Leave a bad relationship knowing that a better one is bound to come along.
  • Embrace deadlines as a challenge to get things done and feel satisfied.
  • Share the hard things with their spouse, like bills, and believe that together they will make necessary changes and work things out.

A true optimist sees life with a hopeful perspective. But they do not live with unrealistic expectations. Denial is not their friend, but an obstacle to avoid.

Being in denial of our own mortality is the easiest and most dangerous position of all. However, the reality of the hope we have in Christ Jesus gives us the ultimate reason to be optimistic. If you want to know more about this hope, check out the messages at cachurch.com.

Pine Needles and Excuses

From a distance, everything looked serene, like one of those magazine covers that make you wonder why you live in the city (maybe you don’t, so empathize with me). It wasn’t until closer inspection that I could see hundreds of thousand of pine needles building up on the landscape. Pine needles, dry and flammable – and this during an extreme fire warning with wildfires close by. What a great metaphor for our lives.
If you look at the picture above, what you probably don’t see is the extra inches I am carrying around the belly-button. (Okay, maybe some of you can.) And you can’t hear that my breathing is a little too labored. That takes examination much closer up.
A good friend of mine, Dr. Bill Dyment generously sent me a copy of his new book that he co-wrote with Dr. Marcus Dayhoff entitled “Fire Your Excuses”  It only took a couple of chapters to realize that this book could change a person’s life. I immediately recognized all the excuses from listening to clients in the counseling room. Unfortunately, I also acknowledged many of them from my own life and how they produce feelings of shame. 
Consider this book an invitation to take a close up look at your life.


Do you have a ready list of excuses that you pull out regularly?
As a kid, I hated doing yard work. I was somewhat overweight, unmotivated, and it was a power struggle between me and my dad. So when I looked at the acres of pine needles I needed a breakthrough. Using some tips from the book I approached the task.
  • I first had to adjust my way of thinking. I was thinking negatively, and I realized it was an emotional component left over from my childhood. Once into the raking, I actually enjoyed it. Dealing with a past hurt or struggle might be your first step. 
  • I couldn’t finish it all in the time allotted, so I tackled what I thought was the most important first, not just the most noticeable. That turned out to be the stuff closest to structures. What is the most significant area of your life that needs attention right now? 
  • I set goals and stuck to them. I didn’t allow myself to be distracted. I didn’t overdo it, so I wouldn’t get discouraged. You might need to have a coach to help you set realistic goals, and a team to push you when you want to quit. 

Is this what the book is about? Well, actually it’s just a little corner of it. It’s about dealing with all the areas of life where we are likely to make excuses: blind spots, health, finances, time management, career, social connections, serving, and communication. So many of these areas are hard to face alone, but not facing them is like leaving those pine needles to build up until disaster finally comes and the loss is terrible. There is even a free assessment online to help you get started at FireYourExcuses.com.  

DABDA – The Grief Process

When we think about grief and grieving, we often think of the death of someone close to us. But that is not the only kind of grief that we experience. As a matter of fact we can go through grief when we experience any kind of loss – and the more significant the loss, the deeper the grief.

Some of the losses are tangible, as in the death of a person or pet or the loss of a job or relationship. But other losses are less tangible, like the loss of security, or our youth, or our mental sharpness. All of these losses matter, and if not dealt with, they can build up in us and take their toll.

Sometimes we think we shouldn’t feel these losses as deeply as we do, or feel them at all. But this is not a helpful attitude. Neither minimizing nor denying their existence will offer release. Only in admitting the pain and moving through it will you be able to be free of the hold it may have over your life.

Grief must be shared. It cannot be released in isolation. You must seek a safe, compassionate person or group of persons who are willing to walk with you through the pain. Walking with a person means doing more listening and less talking. It takes maturity to do that well, but what a gift it is. James 1:19 says to be quick to listen and slow to speak (and slow to anger). How appropriate that is when applied to grief.

The traditional steps of grief are: Denial(of the loss), Anger(at the loss), Bargaining(to restore the loss), Depression(at the weight of the loss) and Acceptance(of the loss) – mostly in that order and mostly applicable to all forms of loss. Hence, the acronym DABDA”.

I have found that many people will often cycle between anger and depression. The cycle goes something like this: the inability to reverse the loss leads to anger which leads to a feeling of powerlessness that results in depression. Then a person may become angry at the depression until the powerlessness over the loss once again overtakes them and returns them to a state of depression.

If we grieve in a healthy way, we eventually accept the loss and move on. If we do not, we may find ourselves stuck. At this point it might be wise to seek additional help.

All of us experience losses of different magnitudes. If we haven’t yet experienced a significant loss, rest assured it will happen if we live long enough. The goal is to be prepared to accept and give comfort as needed, and to develop resiliency by grieving well.