Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Dangers of Rushing to Judgment

Friday, April 19th, 2013

CNN at one point identified a suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombing as “dark-skinned.” We were also told the suspect was a Saudi national. It was announced that a suspect was in custody days before that turned out to actually be the case.

It’s understandable that when an act of terrorism happens, news outlets all want to be the first to report breaking news, especially when that news involves identifying who is responsible or announcing that police have arrested a suspect. However, the consequences of reporting inaccurate information can be dramatic. Perhaps the best example of that is Richard Jewell, the security guard first hailed as a hero for spotting the bomb at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and alerting police, then falsely accused of planting that bomb. His privacy was invaded, every detail of his life became public information and fuel for all sorts of speculation, and bombing victims filed civil lawsuits against him.

There’s another rush to judgment that is even more dangerous, though. At least one of the suspects in the Boston bombing has been identified as Muslim, but even before that, members of the Muslim community feared for their safety. Sadly, their fear was understandable, since after 9/11 many innocent Muslims were unfairly judged as potential terrorists, and some were even beaten or killed by people blindly venting their rage and desire for revenge on people who had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorist attack and were horrified by it.

Muslim leaders were quick to condemn this bombing, of course, just as Christian leaders are quick to condemn the bombing of abortion clinics by some who call themselves Christians, or the hateful slogans carried by members of Westboro Baptist Church as they picket funerals and add to the suffering of grieving families.

We need to see people as individuals, get to know them, and form opinions about their character based on their own words and actions, not the religious or ethnic or other groups to which they belong. We also need to have the courage to challenge blanket statements made by friends, family, or co-workers about Muslims, or any other group of people, and learn to not just accept but truly appreciate the wonderful diversity of appearances, beliefs, and practices that exists not only between but also within all of the different groups.

The Destructive Power of Shame

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

I just watched Brene Brown’s amazing TED talk about shame: It was a good reminder of just how destructive shame can be. Shame keeps us from taking risks, from “daring greatly” as she puts it, because we’re too afraid that we might fail, or look foolish, or draw unwanted attention. It convinces us that we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough, or _whatever_ enough. It talks us into playing it safe, settling for what we are confident we can get rather than what we really want.

Shame is insidious. It is relentless. It robs us of joy and keeps us from living up to our full potential. Ironically, the way to overcome it is to openly acknowledge that we feel it, and become willing to talk about those deep dark secrets that shame has convinced us would cause others to reject us if they only knew.

I recently attended a Christian women’s gathering at which the featured speaker talked about the fact that she was sexually abused as a child, by her dad who was a pastor. She shared the fact that her healing began when she first told a counselor about it, and later her husband, and finally her mother and her siblings. Now she helps other women heal by speaking openly about something that is still a secret source of shame for many, letting them know that they are not alone and it is OK to be honest about what really happened.

Whether or not we were abused in any way as children, we all carry some shame, because humans are imperfect and even the best parents and friends inevitably say and do things that hurt us, and because no matter how much we try to play it safe, at some points along the way we will nevertheless have some failures and take some actions we later regret.

We can choose how to deal with our shame, though. If we deny it or try to keep it carefully hidden away, it will always hold us back and we’ll forever see ourselves as less than others, unworthy of love, and incapable of accomplishing anything truly worthwhile. If we freely acknowledge the shame we carry, and are willing to challenge the negative messages it sends us, take risks and “dare greatly,” and share our true selves with others without worrying about what they will think, we will overcome our shame and have more authentic, loving relationships and happier, more fulfilling lives. How will you choose to deal with your shame?

Wanted: a spam filter for my brain

Friday, March 29th, 2013

I was getting so fed up with all of the spam comments on this blog that I stopped writing new posts and didn’t even visit my own site for a few weeks. Thankfully, I have now found a spam filter that seems to be keeping all of those useless posts away, so I’m back to blogging now.

That experience got me to thinking about how nice it would be if my brain had a spam filter, too. You see, I’ve become increasingly aware that I have a barrage of unwanted thoughts that could be considered spam. Some of them are just annoying distractions, like when I can’t get a certain song out of my head, or when I’m trying to pray and instead find myself thinking about my grocery list.

The spam I’d really like to get rid of, though, is more harmful than that. It consists of negative messages that I’ve internalized over the years, messages like “You’re not good enough,” “You don’t deserve to be loved,” and “You’ll never get it right.” With the help of women like Christine Arylo and Amy Ahlers (co-founders of Inner Mean Girl Reform School and authors of excellent books on this topic; see the “knowing and loving yourself” section on the “resources” page of this website for details, http://www.betruetoyourself.com/resources/), I’m learning to recognize those destructive messages as lies, and replace them with truths that I know at a deeper level.

I would bet that you have an inner critic that fills your brain with similar lies. If you have discovered ways to counter those lies and have learned to not just accept but truly love yourself just as you are, please share what works for you in the comments below. If you still believe that those lies accurately reflect the truth about you, please share that, too, and know that you are not alone and there are many different online communities, books, group and individual coaching programs, and other sources of support which you will be led to when you are ready to begin embracing the reality that you are a precious treasure, a beautiful creation of God worthy of love and respect.

A Life of Gratitude: Free Kindle Book & Giveaway

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

For today’s blog post, I’m highlighting the work of another Christian author, Shelley Hitz, because the Kindle edition of her book on gratitude is FREE on 2/27 and 2/28. Gratitude is a key element of a healthy spiritual life and, as she explains, a great way to overcome self-pity and negativity. So…check out her book and let me know what you think.

By Shelley Hitz

About the Book:

A Life of Gratitude: How to Overcome Self-Pity and Negativity

During a season of transition in my life, I found myself overwhelmed with negative emotions like self-pity and a complaining spirit. It was as if a dark cloud had descended over me. I prayed and asked God for wisdom on how to overcome these negative emotions. As I did, I sensed Him leading me to do a 21 day gratitude challenge.

Over the course of the 21 days, God began to change me as I spent intentional time being grateful for all I had been given. I did this through writing in my journal each day and also sending a hand-written thank you note to someone different each day. This also led me to writing out 21 prayers of gratitude and compiling 21 stories of gratitude.

I want to share what I learned with you in the pages of this book which includes:

  • 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge
  • 21 Prayers of Gratitude
  • 21 Stories of Gratitude

What to Expect On Each Day:

  • Read my personal stories, struggles and reflections.
  • Read one scripture and one quote about gratitude.
  • Apply one personal application step from the challenge.
  • Read one prayer of gratitude
  • Read one story of gratitude

Get Accountability and Encouragement

Along with the 21 day challenge, I also started a private Facebook group to provide accountability and encouragement for myself but also for others who decide to join me in the challenge. You will get access to this group as well. It has been amazing to see God at work in each of our lives.

Will you join me on this journey to gratitude?

 

Download on Kindle

FREE on Kindle 2/27/13 & 2/28/13)

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Shelley Hitz

Shelley HItzShelley Hitz is an award-winning and international best-selling author. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing through her books will inspire and encourage you.

Shelley has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley’s main passion is to share God’s truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.

Follow Shelley Hitz
Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Be Your Own Valentine

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day that is enjoyed by some and dreaded by others. Regardless of whether you enjoyed a romantic day with your partner, were disappointed when your fantasies of what your partner might say, do, or give to you to celebrate didn’t materialize, or wished you had a partner with whom you could share the day, I’d like to encourage you to be your own valentine, not just on Valentine’s Day but every day of your life.

Healthy self-love makes healthy relationships with others possible. I am increasingly convinced that we cannot truly love others without first loving ourselves. When we don’t love ourselves, we seek others to meet our needs in destructive ways. We either find needy people to rescue and take care of, so we can feel worthwhile and deserving of their love, or we allow ourselves to be physically or verbally abused because deep down we believe we deserve it, or we find people willing to rescue and take care of us, heroes we can put on a pedestal and praise as saints, but not allow to be fully human, with needs of their own.

Loving yourself is not selfish; in fact, it’s the best way to improve your relationships with everyone else.

What helps you love yourself?

Friday, January 11th, 2013

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a basic teaching of Christianity, emphasized by Jesus himself, but that seems to be something that many of us struggle to do. Ironically, it is often those who seem the most sure of themselves, and may even be thought of as conceited or stuck up or full of themselves, that in reality are the most insecure and feel the greatest need to prove their worth, because deep inside they have a critical voice telling them they are not worthy of love.

I think we all have a critical voice like that, actually. For some of us, that voice is loud and insistent and beats us up for every little thing we didn’t get done, or didn’t do perfectly. It drowns out or minimizes the praises we get from others, and may even drown out God’s voice of love reminding us that we are of infinite worth and are precious in God’s eyes no matter what. It can rob us of joy if we let it.

How do you counter that voice? Are there strategies you have learned along the way, books you have read, affirmations you have said, or other things you have done that have helped you accept your shortcomings and celebrate your successes? What helps you silence that inner critic and truly love yourself? I’ve suggested a few resources here (see especially the “Knowing and loving yourself” category on the right side of that page), but would love to hear from readers about what has worked for you.

Are you ready to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions, or are they just wishful thinking?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Many people start the New Year by making resolutions. It’s an honorable tradition, though the sad reality is that many of those people will make the same resolutions next year. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are generally vague (“I will lose weight” or “I will get in shape”) and don’t specify how one will achieve the goal. The truth is that they usually amount to little more than wishful thinking.

The reality is that meaningful, lasting change takes time and a lot of hard work. It is a process, not an instant event. Perhaps you have heard the story of the man who watched a butterfly struggling to emerge from a small opening in its cocoon. The man saw how much difficulty the butterfly was having, and noticed that it seemed stuck, so he took a pair of scissors and carefully created a much larger opening. The butterfly soon emerged quite easily, but it had a large body and small, shriveled wings and could not fly. What the man did not realize is that the process of forcing its body through the tiny opening is what enables a butterfly to force fluid from its body into its wings and become capable of flight. His attempt to make life easier for the butterfly actually crippled it for life.

How often do we cripple ourselves in similar ways? We want change to be easy, and painless, so we do things like buy pills or powders that promise rapid weight loss without dieting or exercising. We look for quick fixes instead of long-term results. It is only when we are willing to do the hard work required to clarify our goals, make detailed plans to achieve them, actually execute those plans, and adapt the plans as needed until we succeed, that we can reasonably expect to see the results we desire.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? More importantly, what will you do to ensure that you actually achieve them?

Take Time to Reflect on 2012 Before Rushing to Plan 2013

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

As the year 2012 draws to a close, many people are busy looking ahead to 2013. While it’s important to set goals and figure out how you’ll achieve them (see my ebook, The Butterfly Principles: Nine Steps to Transform Your Life, for a step-by-step guide to doing so in a meaningful way that yields lasting results), and the start of a new year is a great time to do so, it’s equally important to take the time to look back over the year that is ending.

What did you accomplish this year? Of which achievements are you most proud? If you have trouble thinking of even a single good thing that you did, then it’s all the more important that you take the time to make a list. If you think long and hard enough, and ask loved ones for input if you’re still struggling to come up with anything, you will find some successes to celebrate. Nothing is too small or insignificant to include on this list! Too often, we minimize or discount our successes. Give yourself credit for what you did well.

Yes, it’s also necessary to reflect on our failures, but most of us do too much of that already. Go ahead and let your inner critic help you make a list of things that did not go as planned, and things that you intended to accomplish but failed to get done, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on these and beating yourself up. Acknowledging our failures is important, but wallowing in them is not helpful. Too often, we magnify and give too much significance to what we did wrong.

Next, what surprised you? This includes both wonderful surprises, like beginning a new relationship or winning the lottery, and unwelcome changes, like being diagnosed with cancer or getting laid off.

Finally, what did you learn in 2012? This can include things you learned about yourself, about what works and what doesn’t, about what you want more of in your life and what you want to change or get rid of…anything at all. Write it all down, so that you can refer back to it later, remind yourself what you learned, and hopefully avoid having to relearn it in 2013!

I hope that you find this process helpful, and are able to enter 2013 wiser and more ready to move forward because you took the time to look back first!

Love and compassion, even for murderers and their families?

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week has left me deeply saddened. Of course, I grieve for the children and adults killed that day, and for their families. I grieve for the others who survived the attack but will be traumatized by it for years to come, and for law enforcement officials, medical examiners, funeral directors, religious leaders, and others who must tend to the needs of others while dealing with their own emotional responses to this tragedy.

I also grieve for Adam Lanza, his mother, and especially their surviving family members, who won’t get the support that all of the other grieving families will. Please don’t misunderstand; grieving for them does not mean I condone his actions, or his mother’s choice to keep guns accessible and teach him how to shoot them. It does not mean that if either had lived I would not want them to be held accountable for their crimes. It just means that I think it is wrong to see them as one-dimensional personifications of evil.

I think it is wrong both because it denies the reality that they were complex human beings, as we all are, with good and bad aspects, and because it lets the rest of us off the hook too easily. Mass shootings have become all too common in the U.S., and as long as we cope with them by writing the shooters off as evil monsters, and blaming their parents for not raising them right, or doing enough to protect the rest of us, we avoid facing our own complicity.

We have become a society that is so individualistic, so concerned about our rights and getting our own needs met, that when we notice someone in need of help, if we notice them at all, we make judgments about them and do our best to avoid them. We decide their family problems aren’t our business, and don’t attempt to intervene. We criticize the media for making killers into celebrities, even as we eagerly wait to hear the latest details about those killers in a vain attempt to make sense of their crimes, and don’t show that same curiousity about the victims. We demand changes to gun laws, but continue to reelect politicians who lack the courage to stand up to the NRA. We bemoan the lack of adequate mental health services, but are equally adamant that we don’t want to pay a penny more in taxes to fund those services. We criticize the violent imagery in TV shows, movies, songs, and video games, yet continue to watch, listen to, and play them, or buy them for others.

What will it take for us to decide to do something meaningful to change the direction our society is headed and reduce the likelihood of more mass killings? Will we continue to point fingers everywhere but at ourselves, or will we realize that each of us can only change ourselves, and that change starts with how we treat each other in our everyday interactions? It starts with caring enough to ask how someone is doing and pausing long enough to let them answer honestly. It includes teaching our children (and modeling for them, since actions speak louder than words) that violence is not the way to solve problems. It involves recognizing how fragmented and polarized our society has become, and learning to engage in respectful conversations with those with whom we disagree. It means choosing to purchase products that teach and encourage compassion and working together, and to support companies that pay a living wage and treat both employees and customers fairly.

None of these actions will necessarily prevent future tragedies like the one in Connecticut, though I do believe that simple human kindness, and caring enough to notice problems and offer help when possible, can make all the difference in some cases. What these actions will do is start to repair the fabric of our society, help us get to know each other as human beings who all need a helping hand at some point, and bring us together to hammer out compromises and maybe even reach consensus on some policy changes instead of attacking each other anonymously on the internet or shouting each other down at protests or political rallies. As Ghandi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Welcome and Help Yourself to my book of Christian meditations FREE 12/16-12/18/12

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Welcome to the Be True to Yourself blog! I hope that this will become a place where Christian women (actually, women and men of all faiths and no faith are welcome, but the content is likely to be most helpful and relevant to Christain women) can experience a supportive and empowering environment.

I find it deeply distressing that some within the Christian church continue to demean women, believe and teach that we are supposed to be submissive, and condone various kinds of abuse. Jesus himself certainly never taught or modeled that. Instead, he spoke respectfully to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (see John 4:7-26), at a time when men normally did not speak to women in public and Jews did not interact with Samaritans. He challenged the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery by saying “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8). He was moved by the weeping of Lazarus’ sister Mary, cried some tears of his own, and spoke and acted compassionately even when Mary challenged him by saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32-35). His first post-resurrection appearance was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and he told her to share the news: “go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:11-18; see also Luke 24, in which the risen Jesus appears to a group of women including Mary Magdalene, and they proclaim the news not only to the eleven remaining disciples but “to all the rest.”). Obviously, Jesus didn’t have a problem with women preachers 🙂

Whatever you have been told and may have come to believe about yourself, the reality is that you are God’s beloved child. Whether you’re called to be a preacher, or teacher, or carpenter, or engineer, or doctor, or lawyer, or stay-at-home mom, or sales clerk, or truck driver, or writer, or artist, or anything else, know that you are precious in God’s sight and that God wants you to love yourself. Know also that your worth does not depend on what you do, but on who and Whose you are.

If you could use a reminder that God loves you and is with you even in your darkest days when you feel alone, forgotten, or unlovable, check out Timeless Truths for Troubled Times, my book of Christian meditations. I’m making the Kindle version available FREE, as my gift to you, from 12/16 – 12/18/12, so give yourself an early Christmas present…you’ll be glad you did!