Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

Remembrance of Wrongs

June 22, 2018

Do you carry grudges? Do you dwell on past hurts? The times someone metaphorically stabbed you in the back? When someone promised and didn’t fulfill or broke a contract?

We’ve heard forgive and forget. But can we really forget? More importantly, do we continually think of them?

John Climacus says, “Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind.”

Whom do you know with a ruined life because of the poison in the mind that just cannot get over the wrong done? I hope that isn’t you–or your spouse.

John also says, “The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent.”

Think on that sentence. There is deep meaning.

Such is the ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.

Freedom From Anger Is A Step Toward Divine Ascent

June 21, 2018

Anger reveals itself everywhere these days. I just listened to a teaching on Zephaniah. She talked about handling the truth. Like the line from A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson asks “What do you want” and Cruise replies “I want the truth” and Nicholson rebuts “You can’t handle the truth”.

If the prophets in Zephaniah’s time told the king the truth, the king killed them. Zephaniah was lucky. He only got life in prison.

Someone makes an assertion that is blatantly a lie, or maybe to be kind, a mistake. Someone else points out the facts. Wow! Just wait for the bombs to quit going off.

I have a policy on social media. If someone reposts those angry and usually inaccurate memes, I mute them. My emotional health is soooo much better.

But let’s look at ourselves. Do you remember the last time you were angry? Really angry?

I can. And I’m ashamed of the moment some 10 years or so later. Anger springs from many things. Often a sense of inadequacy.

John Climacus has an observation, of course. The first toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart if stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing. Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.

As we climb the ladder of Divine Ascent, “On the eighth step the crown is freedom from anger. He who wears it by nature may never come to wear another. But he who has searched for it and won it has conquered all eight together.”

Pride Creeps In and a Fall Ensues

May 16, 2018

I’ve been contemplating the sin of pride lately. Pride is an insidious thing that creeps into us posing as a friend only to take over our lives driving us from God.

You can pick up a book of psychology or get The Ladder of Divine Ascent by my old friend the 6th/7th Century monk John Climacus, also known as St. John of the Ladder.

Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God’s help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God, It is the root of blasphemy.

I think John didn’t like pride. Note some of the symptoms we can see such as anger, hypocrisy, lack of compassion.

Many men have crossed my path who were captured by this passion. Proclaiming to be evangelical Christian (and they may well be, not for me to judge), they were captured by this enemy, pride.

An old man, very experienced in these matters, once spiritually admonished a proud brother who said in his blindness: “Forgive me, father, but I am not proud.” “My son,” said the wise old man, “what better proof of your pride could you have given than to claim that you were not proud?”

A person must usually experience a fall, an event that brings many things to light, in order to realize the extent to which pride has entered into life. John says recovery is hard.

A help to the proud is submissiveness, a tougher and humbler mode of life, and the reading of the supernatural feats of the Fathers. Even then there will perhaps be little hope of salvation for those who suffer from this disease.

If we find ourselves needing to be in charge, in control, often angry, judgmental toward others, it is time to go to prayer and seek God’s help to end these passions before they grab us too deeply. Or find a good friend or advisor. Ask if you are showing signs of pride. Seek help.

Aware of Ourselves

May 4, 2018

The most common angelic greeting in the Bible? When a human meets the divine, what does the divine say?

“Don’t be afraid.”

Fear sometimes is right there with us. The first emotion upon meeting a stranger in the night in an unfamiliar place. We face an imminent weather event–tornado or hurricane, for example.

Sometimes fear is insidious. It enters quietly, like a thief in the night. We don’t know it’s there.

But fear influences our thoughts. We fear change. We fear the unknown. Worse, we project our fears on other humans who become the personification of those fears.

Fear breeds hate. We grow to hate those other humans–those other children of God.

We don’t even realize it. These evil emotions don’t just greet us like the angels in the Bible do. “Don’t be afraid.” They sneak in and capture the heart and mind.

Awareness brings things to light. So much of the theme of the Apostle John’s writing concerned bringing light into the darkness.

Sometimes in meditation and prayer, we must listen to God expose these thieves who have crept into our life and captured it.

Fear and pride–two things that will corrupt your life. Bring the light of the world to shine in those dark and web-infested corners, expose them, and expel them.

The light is called awareness. Pray often that God will expand awareness within us.

Getting Rid of Things From Your Life

September 20, 2017

In my reading yesterday, I came across some thoughts from a guy who is a bundle of nervousness. Somebody my therapist daughter would make a career from.

Side note: notice the reading part. I saw an article the other day about how reading rewires your brain in a good way. Did you know that your brain is not a static instrument. It is constantly changing. You can feed it information and experiences and it will grow in size and complexity. Or you can starve it, and it will shrink leading to bad things later in life. So, deepen and expand your reading. It’s a good thing.

Anyway, the guy was talking about shedding his life of things that no longer mattered. While at it, someone raised his anger. Then he thought, that’s something else I should get rid of. Anger.

Anger rises naturally. You can’t always stop it. But you can decide to get over it. It is up to you. Do I let it control me? Or, do I assume control over it?

Do you know anyone consumed by anger? Not very pleasant people, are they?

I’m ashamed of myself for years after I lose my temper and give in to the emotion.

The Apostle Paul put it this way–anger lets the devil set up a staging area in your life. Sort of like those construction sites where the contractor piles up all the materiel that will be used to construct the building. We need to be careful lest something negative build up in our lives.

I prefer to the best of my ability to fill my mind with only things that will help it grow–grow in knowledge, grow in understanding, grow in compassion, grow in love.

Things that are designed solely to provoke negative emotions such as fear and anger–those I banish. Think TV news for one.

We See Your Heart Reflected In Your Face

July 14, 2017

He experienced a late-in-life conversion. Or maybe it was an epiphany. It was something. 

He quit his job. Started a ministry. Was religious.

Funny thing. He never smiled. His face was in a perpetual mild scowl. There was neither joy nor peace reflected in his face.

Rather than attract people, his countenance rather pushed people away.

Do you ever observe people and try to tell from their appearance/posture/face what their personality is like? You look and think, Whoa, I wouldn’t want to be married to that person!

Or like a salesman only out for the next sale who smiles with only his lips? Those are dangerous people.

Or there is the super attractive person. Well, attractive until they open their mouth.

How great it is to meet someone who smiles. Who greets you warmly. Who, even when they are concentrating on something else and you see them, still have an appearance of restful contentment.

There are people who think Jesus was political. Or to be a Jesus follower we must be political. And pursue politics of divisiveness. 

But Jesus turned all that stuff on its head. He criticized those for their outward displays of being religious–who smiled with their lips and not their eyes. He said it’s all about the state of the heart. And Paul later listed the fruit you’ll show and feel when you are in the spirit. Peace and joy–these should be reflected in a follower’s appearance. Not hardness, divisiveness, scowling, frowning.

Makes me afraid to look in a mirror.

Defining Your Emotions The First Step In Dealing With Them

July 11, 2017

My granddaughter noticed something about me. I forget just what at the moment. But she asked if I were disappointed about it. I said, no that doesn’t describe the emotion. She proceeded to ask about six other emotions that were similar yet different.

For an eight-year-old, that is a good vocabulary of emotions. One of many indicators of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to define an emotion with greater depth than just “bad” or “good”.

Defining terms for problem solving has played a large part in my career. I’m in a meeting (or worse these days is getting caught in an interminable email chain) and find people talking around a problem. I’d attempt to shift the focus first to defining the terms. “What do you mean by that?” I ask. 

I might be interviewing someone. I move among many different technologies with many different buzzwords. Sometimes I just have to call a time out and ask, “We’d better make sure I understand how you’re using that word. Just what do you mean when you say that?”

It helps when we are emotionally out of balance. I love how the ancients treated emotions like a family tree. Something like insecurity is the mother of anger, for example.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify just what it is that causes the emotional pain or reaction.

Maturity is the ability to take the next step and not only define your own emotion but also to deal with it. Reading the news, Facebook feeds, watching people in public places, I’d say that most of us could use a good dose of emotional maturity.

The Light of the World

June 8, 2017

John has long been my favorite Gospel. We associate John with spiritual–perhaps the most “spiritual” of the Gospels rather than historical or apologetic–and with love and with vision. His gospel is literary weaving metaphors such as the play of light and dark, playing of the word “I am” which has rich theological tradition.

I talked about his powerful opening and how it plays like the opening of his scripture (Genesis). And how first God had to separate light and dark before he could proceed with the rest of creation. And how Jesus came (returned?) as the embodiment of light.

We can think of light penetrating the darkness. You hear something drop in the night. You grab the flashlight you always keep by your bed. You switch it on. The beam of light penetrates through the darkness exposing what was hidden.

Our conversations reveal our inner thoughts. Thoughts that if exposed to light would shame us. As “good Christians” should we be thinking those thoughts. With the light of Jesus exposing those thoughts, are we humiliated? Or defiant?

I heard a conversation yesterday. It disturbed me. I am too easily disturbed by conversations. But I have to admit that when they described someone, the thought “Darwin Award” did enter my consciousness. And it didn’t just flit in and then drift out. It stayed for a full minute or two. That’s a long time for a thought. Please forgive me for I have sinned.

We cannot stop our thoughts. We can choose what thoughts upon which to dwell. We do become what we think about. If the light of the Spirit penetrates the darkness of our soul, what is exposed?

Is it time to practice a discipline of choosing the thoughts we dwell on with intention? Time to focus on things above (as Paul puts it)?

She Walks in Beauty

May 10, 2017
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
Lord Byron

“Discover what makes you beautiful!” shouts a sign outside a store amongst the clamor of the Las Vegas strip.

The picture shows three overly made up young women with lips so bright red and painted to be so large that they appear to take over the entire face.

Obviously, I’m no judge of beauty by any current fads going around. But trust me, that wasn’t. But I know from reading ancient literature that women have been adorning themselves in order to attract attention or feel more beautiful for thousands of years.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. –Proverbs

Maybe that was what Paul was thinking when he wrote that he preferred that women cover their hair in worship out of respect for God.

Regardless, pictures lie, but we all know a beautiful person when we meet one. The woman Byron described was wearing black in mourning, but her beauty transcended clothes and adornment. Beauty truly does come from within.

How Do You Use Social Media

April 19, 2017

“All it takes is a tweet from one angry mom.” Overheard on a sports talk show.

One of the best services we can perform is to get involved with youth sports. Coach, referee, manager.

Working with kids at all ages can be satisfying if done with the right end in mind. And that end is human development. Kids are taught responsibility, team work, to perform when people are watching. They get to run and jump and learn a skill.

I’ve devoted 30 years to refereeing soccer and teaching and mentoring new referees. I’ve seen kids at 13 grow into 16s who can make decisions, control their emotions (tough at that age), manage people situations. I keep hoping one will eventually be refereeing on TV, but even so, they’ve become better people because of it.

But I’ve seen the worst beginning when I was about 16 and umpiring baseball and softball in my hometown.

And I thought–why would someone want to coach these days. Or even referee. After all, it only takes one tweet from an angry mom. Or one Facebook post from that angry mom. And your reputation goes down the toilet. People pile on whether they know anything or not.

Social psychologists, I suppose, study why people sitting alone somewhere with Internet access just spout off with any emotion that crosses their awareness. Face-to-face is harder. Online is easy.

I remember when TV came along and the pundits were talking about how this new communications medium can lift the collective intelligence and knowledge of the population. And we just keep sinking to new lows with every new way of communicating.

We could do things that are motivating in a positive way. We could build people up. We could be sympathetic to the plight of people.

Or, we can just bask in raw emotion and “let it all hang out.”