Tag Archives: grace

Giving Grace To Yourself When Change Is Slow

Have you ever struggled to change a habit, attitude, or thought process and wondered, “Why can’t I just change this in my life?” Maybe you wish to think different thoughts or feel differently about a person. Maybe you want some cravings to go away. But it just seems you aren’t improving as you hoped.

Without excusing your flaws or ignoring bad patterns that need change, you may find that giving grace to the challenge of change actually helps you make the change more quickly.

Consider this silly example of change. The seminary where I work poured a new walkway between my small building and our main classroom building. Now, instead of a step up to get in the building, it is all level ground. I have used this walkway for fifteen years as I walk from my car into the building and for the past two as I have walked between the two buildings.

Here’s the problem. I am almost falling down every time because my brain wants to step down when leaving the building and to raise my leg up higher as I enter the building. Either I am tripping as I leave, stepping down only to find that there is no step or I am entering gingerly trying not to look foolish. My body and brain have one expectation and unless I concentrate, I keep doing what I have always been doing, which no longer works.

If this is true about a walkway change, it stands to reason that other more emotional and relational changes would be even harder to manage. Consider some of these

  • the loss of a loved one: coming to terms with someone who is no longer there
  • trusting someone who has shown themself in the past to be trustworthy
  • trigger fears in public spaces after a trauma
  • eating habits after years of over or under control of food
  • having a positive thought after years of negative rumination upon waking
  • avoiding porn when bored
  • choosing a soft response when angry instead of yelling

So, change is hard. How does giving grace to myself help me? 

Imagine for a minute that you make a mistake. Now, consider both of these self responses and how it would impact your capacity to keep working at change:

  1. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why are you such a failure. You are a waste of space and energy in this world. Lots of people change, why can’t you? You say you are a Christian but I fail to see any maturity. 
  2. [sigh]. Change is so hard. You’ve been thinking and responding to this situation like this for decades. So, it’s not surprising change comes slowly. Good thing God is gracious. Lord, I may not be able to stop the first thought but thank you for helping me catch myself just a bit sooner. Now, deep breath, try again, here is what I want to think/do/say…”

Which of the above two examples of self-talk will help you move forward and which one leaves you stuck in a perception of failure?

Notice the problem that keeps us stuck longer is shame (and our responses to it) more so than our particular changes that may be coming slower than we want. Sometimes pride is the barrier more than the behavior we want to change.

Today, watch your self-talk and instead of beating yourself up with shame talk, just acknowledge the flaw/failure/sin and remind yourself that right now, you can choose a different response. See how that influences your attitude and your energy for change.


Filed under addiction, christian counseling, christian psychology, Uncategorized

The grace of restriction?

I admit it, I hate restrictions. I like the freedom to do what I want. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it all the more. Have you ever wanted to NOT “keep off the grass” just because the sign was there? Or, have you thought you should be able to handle saying no to a great temptation all by yourself?

In working with men who have done things that have caused their loved ones or church community to trust them less, I sometimes see significant push back when it comes to natural consequences or restrictions put in place to protect the man from himself.  These push backs come in the form of

  • But I said I was sorry. Why won’t you forgive me?
  • You don’t believe in grace. If you did you wouldn’t keep me from having free access to the church (said by a convicted sex offender)
  • I shouldn’t have to have someone checking up on me or controlling my Internet access. If I don’t control myself and say no, then I’ll never learn to do it myself.

This last one is a bit murky. On the surface, the man is accurate. If he doesn’t learn to manage his own impulses, the moment he isn’t under restriction, he’s likely to act out. But here is the deeper issue. He doesn’t want restrictions because he sees them as painful reminders of his past transgressions.

Let me suggest that grace comes in the form of limits and restrictions. A man who abused his power as public school teacher and sexualized a child has served his time. He loves children and “only” offended once. He wants to work with kids in his church and is angry that the church has said no. “But I’m gifted with helping troubled children and I’ve had 15 years of great reports and plenty of parents who tell me they would trust me with their children. Why can’t I do what God made me to do?”

Now, there may be some explanation as to how this man might not ever be a threat again. And yet, might he also realize that restrictions from certain populations of people might actually be a grace to him–a freedom from temptation, from deception, from stresses that formerly led him down a path of fantasy and rumination about being a hero to children?

I haven’t worked this out fully in my head but I do think there can be much grace in restriction. I certainly see my children receiving a grace from not being allowed to watch certain shows or have unfiltered Internet access.

What grace have you received from a restriction? Was it both a blessing and a suffering?

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Filed under christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, deception, Psychology