I am not always a fan of hearing the truth. Example: my doctor tells me I have low energy because I don’t exercise enough – not because there is something wrong with me medically. I just wanted to hear that there is a quick fix – a pill or something. This news requires that I make an effort to take action. It will alter my lifestyle and schedule and take away a certain comfort I have gotten used to over the years.
It’s the same in counseling. Most people want to hear that someone else is to blame for their problems. They want to shift the responsibility of having to change on to someone else. It might be a spouse or other family member or a co-worker or a friend – anyone besides the person looking at them in the mirror each morning.
I have a lot of compassion for these people. It’s not easy to embrace truth when we have spent a lot of energy building fortresses around our false beliefs. Pulling down these walls requires embracing the grief process which begins with breaking the denial of what is really true – that the problem lies within me.
“I have a problem.”
With those words there is real hope of things getting better. It may bring sadness at first, especially if the realization is the result of a crisis, a serious rejection or significant loss.
- My wife left me because of my drinking
- My boyfriend broke it off because I was too clingy and controlling
- I lost my job because of my anger
- I didn’t speak up and someone else got chosen
- I allow myself to get distracted and I don’t accurately hear what people say
Do you get upset and angry when people point out your shortcomings? Do you beat up on yourself and feel defeated? Or instead do you reflect on their words and try to use them to grow?
A counselor always holds your positive growth as their goal for you – never condemnation. Can you receive it that way even when the truth is painful? I (Dave) was in counseling for three years. Some of those sessions with my counselor were not easy – and others were downright perplexing – but I always knew that he was for me.
God is also intensely for us and corrects us because of His love for us – but we must be willing to receive it for it to benefit us. Any thoughts?
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.
- 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.