Category Archives: values

Tuning Out The Interference

interference

Last night as I was driving home I was listening to a Christian music station. As I approached a particular intersection in town, as usual, there became interference from a decidedly not Christian radio station. I thought “What a great metaphor for what can happen inside our heads.”

You are going along in life “tuned in” to positive and godly thinking and all of a sudden you hit something that jams up your mental processes and causes confusion. It becomes more and more difficult to hear the “station” that you intentionally selected. The competing station might be seductive or easier to listen to because it requires less from you. As you listen it gets louder and eventually drowns out what you were listening to. It puts doubt in your mind about the value of staying with your original choice.

I know that you have experienced what I am talking about many times. So have I. We have made good choices based on rational and inspired thinking only to start wavering. We might attend a particularly great conference and make promises to ourselves about how to incorporate the things we’ve just learned. We drive a stake in the ground. But as time goes on the stake loosens. What can we do?

The solution to interference

Like what I did last night, the first thing we can do is either change stations or turn it off and shut down the unwanted input. The longer I wait, the worse it gets. We do not have to entertain unwanted or confusing thoughts. We can intentionally distract ourselves with “thought shifting” techniques like listening to positive music, or reading or watching something that gets us refocused. Yes, I know that can be difficult, especially for those who tend to be obsessive thinkers. But it can be done – it just takes more intentional effort.

Second, if our thoughts take us down a dark alley where we might choose to act out in an unwanted or destructive manner, we can call a trusted and supportive friend (or sponsor for some of us). Hopefully they can talk us into staying on track with our better self.

Third, we can stay away from risky situations. It is amazing how many people put themselves in difficult circumstances and then wonder why they failed or are unduly tempted. Bars and dance clubs are particularly bad places for people who struggle with alcohol or lust or foul language. We must be smart.

And lastly, we shouldn’t isolate from the positive influences in our lives.  Don’t miss church unless it’s unavoidable. When people tell me they can worship God without going to church, I can agree with them – a little. But we cannot serve God without being around His people. We cannot win at soccer by ourselves – we have to have a team to compete in the game. We can appreciate the game from home, but we aren’t players. It’s the same with church. We need our “teammates” to encourage us, challenge us, support us — and once in a while smack us upside our heads.

8 Changes I’ve Made as a Church Counselor

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I was thinking about how my perspectives and behaviors have changed since being a counselor – and specifically a Christian counselor practicing in a church.

Although I do not officially carry the title of pastor, I often am seen this way. It may partially be my age, but it is more likely the “office” which I hold. I have, at different times, been addressed as “Pastor Dave” and ‘Father Dave” (as in a Catholic priest).  It always reminds me that we who work in a church setting carry a responsibility that goes beyond any specific job title. Like it or not, we are held to a higher standard as representatives of our church and more.

  • I stay aware of my visibility in my church and in the local community. I don’t always know who is watching. That means that my “at work” and “off work” behavior must match. That would be a good definition of operating with integrity. I want to be viewed as sober in all of my actions.
  • There are parts of my life that I must keep to myself. All of us hold passionate beliefs about some subjects, but I must be careful about what I express. It is not appropriate for me to share my political viewpoints publicly. It could make some people feel very unsafe and mistrusting. It is the same with social issues that are “hot button” topics.
  • I work hard to be a good listener. That requires listening at a deeper level than I had been used to. I watch more carefully to people’s body language and nuances of speech. I try to understand what the speaker needs from me: a platform to vent, empathy or advice. I must concurrently listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
  • I have to watch every word that comes out of my mouth. I no longer have the luxury of uncensored conversation. People will weigh and judge my words. Because I can be viewed as an authority they often take what I say very seriously. I have had people quote my words back to me many years later.
  • I have stripped my speech of cursing and extreme adjectives. I must be “wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove” in my communicating. I want to be an encourager and build people up in love.
  • My educational focus has changed. I realize that continuing to grow as a counselor requires an ongoing pursuit of relevant knowledge. I must be aware of cutting edge trends as well as solid Biblical counseling principles.
  • I treat social media as if the whole world is reading my posts. The metrics that I get back from this blog show that there are many readers beyond our borders. Automatic language translators make that possible. Hello China, Korea, UK, Russian Federation, Brazil, Ukraine, France, Germany, Spain. Canada and many more.
  • I get to wear jeans and wear a beard to work. Flip-flops are optional.

 

Being “Brutally” Honest, etc.

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Lest you think I am going soft, let me say right up front that I believe in honesty in relationships. It is one of the character qualities that those who seek husbands and wives most value. It is the foundation that trust is built upon.

Where I am taking exception is with the word “brutally”. I know that people throw this word around to get across the idea of “the most honest version” of a story. I’m all over that. But there are people who are brutal in their honesty. And when they are they miss an important character quality: kindness. Rather than consider another person’s feelings, they blurt out “truth” and wound them, often unnecessarily. This sounds more than a little bit selfish to me.

Sometimes the truth hurts, and the pain caused is unavoidable. Empathy helps to cushion the blow, and kind people think out their approach and try to be honest, but gentle. However, there are others who take grim pleasure in hurtful truth telling. They may think they are only being honest, but they are actually just acting self-righteous. This truth without grace is simply meanness – not a good character quality.  I think of this well-known passage from the Bible that talks about loving others as the highest value. I suppose you could say that it is lovingly honest.

1 Cor 13   If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

When searching for a mate, character (as in being honest, etc.) matters. Character decides what happens during crises, conflicts, temptations and trouble. Too often, certain character flaws are overlooked or minimized because our heart (feelings) overpowers our head (reality). One or two good character qualities do not make a person of good character. You have to look at the whole package. Of course, you have to be a person of good character to expect to attract a person with good values.

If you have been reading our blog for any length of time, you know that we bang on this theme of values and character a lot. Why? Many, if not most counseling issues stem from the breakdown of good values and character (The Bible calls this sin). When we improve character, we improve relationships, families and communities. Yes, it’s a big deal.

I would encourage you to take an inventory of your character qualities (good as well as needs-to-improve). Are you kind, patient, honest, generous, God-loving, trustworthy, loyal, sober, diligent, responsible, forgiving, helpful, even-tempered, etc? Does this list describe the kind of person you would want to do life with?