The Bookshelf Story

My husband made a beautiful bookshelf for our homeschool room. It was made from old rotting bookshelffurniture that had previously been something very different – something with a very interesting story. This bookshelf, which currently contains curriculum that educate, enlighten, and prepares my children for their future was once, a long time ago, pews from my husband’s grandfather’s church. In fact, his grandfather, who had been the pastor of a church, hand-made each pew and placed a wooden cross on the side of each.  He was the son of an alcoholic, but he and his wife became Christians and decided to serve the Lord by pastoring a church near their home. Unfortunately, my husband’s grandmother, a lovely Christian lady, got cancer at a young age and died. My husband’s grandfather then turned his back on God and followed the ways of his alcoholic father and his father’s family. This once pastor became an angry bitter drunk, who gave up on preaching and on God. Although it appears to be a story of lost hopes and dreams, of anger and pride, of lost relationships, and ruined families, it is actually a reminder of the peace, strength, comfort, and goodness of God.

One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalms 73, which talks about this bookshelf – well maybe not exactly. Psalms 73 starts with, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me…” The psalmist acknowledged how he felt which was basically, “Your good to everyone else, but not me!” Then he went on in agonized prayer, “My feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” He observed how good the wicked seem to have it, and that they have no struggles, they’re healthy and strong, and free from burdens and ills. Even though the wicked are proud, violent, callous, and oppress the weak, they are carefree and wealthy. He complained that he had been innocent in heart and deed, yet had been plagued by problems and punishment. Does this seem fair? The psalmist didn’t think so and neither would most of us.

When I look at this beautiful bookshelf my husband built from his grandfather’s old church pews, I don’t think about the unfairness of life, or losing the one you love at such an early age, or a life wasted in anger and alcohol, I think about the rest of Psalms 73. In verse 16-17 the psalmist tells us, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God…” Let’s stop there for a second. Entering the sanctuary of God – a holy, consecrated place where we know and feel God’s presence, His peace, His comfort, and His strength is a life-changer. Entering the sanctuary of God is referring to a “place” we can go that isn’t an actual building or physical place. And until we enter the sanctuary of God, we can’t know who God really is. We can know stories of God, and we can “accept” God into our heart and receive salvation, but entering the sanctuary of God takes us to a new place in our relationship with the Holy One. Hebrews 8:2 mentions this sanctuary as, “…the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” To enter His sanctuary we make a choice to enter a place where we give all of ourselves – heart, soul, spirit – to God and cling to the place of His glory and power. When we truly and earnestly seek Him, our body will long for Him as it would thirst in a dry and weary land that has no water (Psalms 63). And then we get to experience being with the One whose love is better than life, who satisfies our soul, and who is our help. Psalms 73:17 encourages us, “…till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” The psalmist understood that the wicked would receive judgement – their ruin, destruction, and terror. But he finished up with recognition of who God is in his life. He was comforted with knowing that “Earth has nothing I desire besides you…God is the strength of my heart…But as for me, it is good to be near God.” God doesn’t promise an easy painless life, but He promises to strengthen, comfort, and love us. He doesn’t take away all our problems or bring back our lost loved ones, but He promises He will never leave us. As Psalms 73 tells us, “Surely God is good…I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge…”

Hours before my husband’s grandfather’s death, he repented to God, acknowledged Him, and received Christ as his Savior again. So when I see this bookshelf and think of its story, I’m reminded of the hope that God offers to us no matter what our situation, and the help when we’re in trouble, and the comfort when we lose those we love, and the strength when we feel we can’t go on, and forgiveness for a lifetime of defiance.wooden-cross

Psalms 73 – Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Understanding a Hero

On August 24, 1759 – 257 years ago, a hero was born, who would change his country and was such an extraordinary man that I believe we could still learn a lot from him today. At first, William Wilberforce was just an ordinary rich boy born in a time when the rich frolicked and played while the poor barely made it. However, that changed when he became an Evangelical Christian. As a follower of Christ, William Wilberforce felt that his life shouldn’t be wasted drinking and gambling anymore, but should be about helping others. He spent the rest of his life fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves, including the poor, single mothers, chimney sweeps, orphans, juvenile delinquents, against cruelty to animals, and most notably against slavery. Serving in Parliament, Wilberforce used his government position to change a nation and the fate of slaves.

By the late 1700’s, around 35,000-50,000 Africans were captured each year and shipped in terribly inhumane ships across the ocean to the West Indies to become slaves for British businesses and profit. British economics had come to depend on slavery. Even though William Wilberforce understood the politics and economics of England, he knew that these African men and women needed to be free from this terror. Using his position in Parliament, he brought up many resolutions, first to stop the slave trade and eventually to emancipate all slaves in the British Empire. Tenaciously, Wilberforce fought for 44 years against slavery while seeing only a few victories and hearing his battle was finally won and slaves would be free only three days before his death. Although we can celebrate this man’s life and victories of freeing thousands from the cruel and injustice business of slavery, learning how this man fought his battles may be important to us as well.

Whether someone agreed or disagreed with his causes, Wilberforce was always friendly to that person, at least outside of Parliament. He could reason, argue, and fight for his causes, yet socialize with the same people he had just disagreed with hours earlier. He had high Christian moral convictions after his salvation, yet he could feel comfortable around people who did not share his convictions. Why is this important to those of us in the United States over 250 years later? If we think back to our own history of emancipation of slavery and compare our fight to William Wilberforce’s fight, we will remember that our history included a war – a war that killed more US soldiers than World War 1 and World War 2 combined. In the years leading up to the Civil War, there was much hatred of North against South, state against state, and neighbor against neighbor. The North hated the South and their way of life that seemed to require slaves. The South hated the North’s opinions and their way of life that depended on appalling working conditions of factories and child labor. Ironically, in all their hate of the South and their practice of slavery, many Northerners actually did nothing to help African-Americans. While there were many exceptions – many men and women who gave Black men, women, and children homes, jobs, education, and hope, most of the North would not hire Black men to work any job except those that no one else wanted to do. Much of the North did not want Black children to be their child’s friends and did not welcome Black families into their churches. So, while the North fought for their cause they actually had no love for the people behind their cause. Naturally, this hateful attitude and Civil War did not lead to happiness and justice in a nation ripped apart by war. Instead, it brought more hopelessness as freed slaves had few educational and job opportunities (on both sides of the Mason-Dixon). Unlike William Wilberforce, the US’s motivation was hate for the offender of the cause, not love for their fellow man.

Comparing the 1860’s US to today’s US, I don’t see much difference in attitude. We aren’t fighting slavery anymore, but we are fighting. We are divided by many issues, which is only going to get worse as elections get closer, and we’ll be constantly reminded of how different we are. Unfortunately, most people seem to care more about winning the argument than about the people behind the cause. It is human nature to believe that trying to understand those who oppose us is to betray our cause, but that’s actually fighting devisively, with hate and disrespect. Let’s not be more in love with our cause than we are our brothers and sisters.  Wilberforce took the time to love and respect those he disagreed with, understand their point of view, and then explain without being condescending.  If we loved those we disagree with like he did, we could possibly make good, lasting, and positive change. Let us gain the attitude of William Wilberforce – to love our fellow man, help those in need, understand those who are different, and respect those we disagree with.

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WHM146809 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), 1794 (oil on canvas) by Hickel, Anton (1745-98) oil on canvas © Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK German, out of copyright

The Line

In my last post, I introduced the idea of a mental value chart. When people first meet, they evaluate each other based on outward appearances (race, attractiveness, clothing, perceived social status…), and place the person they’ve just met on their personal mental chart according to the value the evaluation has given them. We’ve all probably had the experience of feeling devalued by another, and not understanding why they feel the way they treat us. Although my previous post didn’t go into detail, it also mentioned that we can move around on other’s value charts according to their own unique values.

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There is a line in the middle our value charts.

Because we are human, we all make mistakes, and we all fail. We understand that about ourselves and others, but when our failure crosses a certain major boundary in friend’s or family’s value system, then we fall below a line in their value chart. Or when we fail often enough to lose the esteem of our friends and family, we fall below their line. We each have different standards and things that are important to us, so what matters to someone else may not matter to us, and what one person considers a failure, may not be a big deal to us. For example, most people wouldn’t care that I just gained a couple pounds, but a fitness enthusiast might disapprove of me now. Someone who is a cleanliness fanatic would certainly throw me at the bottom of their value chart if they saw how messy my house gets sometimes. On a more serious note, when others see us loose our temper, treat people inappropriately, or judge and gossip, we often loose value in their sight, even though we are all human and have all done those things on our bad days. And those who have high moral or religious codes may get offended when we do something that they consider wrong. Although our character is not always what it needs to be, our value doesn’t change when we fail and certainly not because of other’s opinions.

When we are above that line our friends have more understanding towards us, excuse our mistakes and failures, appreciate us, recognize or praise our effort and accomplishments, and generally respect us. But I’ve found that it is very painful and confusing to be devalued by our friends, family, colleagues, or any other we’re in relationship with who once seemed to hold us dear, especially when we’ve been high on their value chart but come crashing down to below the line. Falling beneath this line, we are suddenly treated differently. When this happens their expectation of us changes from good, success, and significance to failure, inadequate, and unacceptable. Once we’ve reached this low spot on their value chart, our opinions or desires may not matter to them anymore. Likely, they will question our motive. If they once considered us kind, they may now think we are manipulative. If they thought of us as intelligent, they may now believe we’re a know-it-all. If they considered us good looking, now we’re vain. If compassionate, now a push-over. A hard-worker is now doing trivial tasks. If they once felt sorry for us for having a rough past, they now feel we just need to get over it. Falling below the line, especially when we’ve once been above it, is confusing and can feel hopeless.

When we find ourselves below their line, we need to identify how it makes us feel. Don’t give in. Don’t give in to their thinking that you are worthless. And don’t become what they think of you, by becoming bitter, taking offense, retaliating, or treating them as they treat you. If you have a character issue, deal with it, but not by allowing yourself to think negatively. Actually, this can be a blessed time (even though it absolutely doesn’t feel like it at the time), because you can use this experience to help search yourself and dig into who you are and what you believe. Experiencing this myself when others judged the way I did some things, I was able to strengthen my faith in Jesus because I sought what God said instead of depending on other’s opinions. But it took time. I had to evaluate where I was wrong, where I was right, what I believe about myself, what I believe about God, where my value comes from, and what I need to learn. Falling below other’s line can knock us down, but doesn’t have to make us feel down forever.

God doesn’t have a value chart – He has a book of life which He wants us all in. He loves us and wants us all free to know His love.

Ephesians 3:18-19 New International Version (NIV)

18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Find Freedom From the Chart

Relationships are a wonderful pexels-photo-large-1thing, but they can be pretty tricky sometimes. One thing I’ve noticed is that people seem to put others on little mental relationship chart, which graphs them by value. Those who are higher on the value chart are regarded more positively. In contrast, those who are lower on the value chart are looked at negatively. (Although we can move people around on this graph, that is a different topic that I would like to discuss at another time.) Right now, I would like to expose the effects this unknown secret value chart has on relationships and behavior towards others.

When meeting for the first time, unless there is a vision impairment, humans can’t help but notice appearances. Unintentionally, they judge a person based on what their eyes see, and without realizing it, place new acquaintances on their value chart based on how they dress, their perceived financial status, their attractiveness, their body type, their race, body decoration such as tattoos and piercings or hairdos, and many other factors.  Because we are all so different, people view individuals in a particular way depending on their own desires, interests, taste, values, past experiences, and aversions, which means that we may see the same person and value them very differently. For example, some hate tattoos and will instantly place a person with tattoos low on their chart, but others love tattoos and will place that same person high on their chart. First impressions go a long way to determining where we are initially placed. Besides physical appearance, some things that can influence chart placement are attitude when first met, where we met, what we were doing, etc.

Obviously, it is wrong to devalue others, and so placing us on this unheard of chart is not virtuous or respectful. Treating us based on where we fall on a value chart, people expect more from some and react to our failures unequally and with less help, mercy, or compassion than needed. People treat us according to their expectations, not according to our actual character. What is going on in our country now is a disturbing example. Even though our nation is currently educated enough to know that the color of our skin does not determine our intelligence, our trustworthiness, or our integrity, we have a  race war going on.  Suddenly, when someone reaches in their back pocket, it is assumed, quite possibly because of the color of their skin, that they are acting violently and must have a weapon. All of a sudden, a cop is assumed to be abusive and repressive, either because of skin color or because of the authority he or she represents. People seem to believe that those who are lower on their value chart will behave worse, and thus they interpret their acts negatively, which is toxic to our relationships – and our nation.

Have you found yourself at the bottom of other’s value chart? Have you felt that others always expect you to fail or interpret what you do negatively. It can be very painful. At times, the best thing to do is walk away from the situation, but that is not always possible. If you are in this circumstance, please find someone who will value you and who you can talk to. Go to counseling if you cannot find a person you can trust yet. While we need others, we ultimately need God to give us value. Without Him, we have no hope. The Bible tells us about Jesus’s great love for us. Even while we were sinners He died for us so we can be alive in Him.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, for by his spirit we are free. If only we could see as God sees.

1 Samuel 16:7 affirms, “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

If you have found yourself at the bottom of other’s value chart, please find freedom and encouragement. And let us also work hard to rid ourselves of our value chart that we put others on.

 

The Chair

Recently something happened to one of my sons that helped me to see another aspect of the Punishment Mentality that I’d like to share. My 10 year old son was taking a once a week class somewhere locally. Sitting still is difficult for him, so he is punished often by certain teachers. And yes, I have taught him to sit still when appropriate (weddings, funerals), but he doesn’t learn as well or enjoy the class as much while sitting still, so he often chooses to move around, fidget, or bounce in his chair, or under his chair, or around his chair… In this particular class, there was a little wooden chair which had been there for a few months even though it didn’t quite fit the rest of the room. When one of the teachers was questioned about why this little wooden chair was in there, he said that it was a naughty chair just for my son. It wasn’t a normal, discipline chair for the class, it was specifically for my son. As soon as my son entered the class room each week, he was told by this teacher, “Here’s your chair for when you misbehave.” Before he could even cause trouble, he was reminded that he was trouble.

Has someone put a naughty chair in your life? Are you living in fear of this naughty chair? Are you treated like you’re trouble even before you do anything? We are often judged by our past, because no matter how good we are, our past consists of mistakes, failures, sins, or other actions that people disapprove of. We’re condemned and blamed for things we’ve done wrong, or even circumstances beyond our control, or that aren’t our fault, or for deeds that we don’t feel or know are inappropriate. In expectation of our offenses sometimes people, even those who love us, treat us as though we are a disgrace, which is how my son was treated in this class. But its time to get out of the naughty chair, and live life free of harmful expectations.

When living life from a naughty chair – or from other’s harsh expectations, there seem to be two reactions to life. People get what they expect. If others expect us to be bad, we rise to the occasion.  My son, whom this chair illustration is about, behaved worse and worse in this class once the naughty chair was named for him. Seeing ourselves through other’s eyes, we lose touch with our better selves and become the failure others see. Interestingly, my other son’s reaction to the naughty chair would have been completely opposite. He would have sat quietly, contemplating how he could be more obedient and ardently follow the rules. However, this reaction of trying hard to please our accuser and avoid conflict only causes us to live lives of fear – fear of failure, fear of punishment, fear of risk. Allowing ourselves to feel as though there is a naughty chair with our name on it, is harmful and unhealthy.

For our mental well being and our future, we need to make the choice to be free from the naughty chair. First, we need to remind ourselves of our value, and if we don’t know our value, seek it. Focusing on our strengths not our weaknesses, we can begin to see ourselves for who we are supposed to be, not who someone else expects us to be. Live grateful. As we examine our lives, we can be grateful for where we are now, because we have made a lot of good choices, done a lot of good, and it could be worse.  No matter how bad of decisions we’ve made, there is hope. If appropriate and safe, confronting others about how they make us feel could help, but we need to be prepared that they may not  understand or be capable of change. Ultimately, we need to live in forgiveness. Forgiveness of ourselves, and accepting the forgiveness of Christ. He is the one who gives us all true value, He is the one who paid the price so we can get out of condemnation, or the chair. He is the one who gives us all hope.

ghosts-gespenter-spooky-horror-40748-largeLet’s get out of the chair and start living life.

Invalidating Deeper Into Punishment

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It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” – Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Continuing the discussion of Punishment Mentality, I would like to take a look at yet another aspect. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Punishment Mentality has to punish when a wrong has been committed. Often we punish with anger, withdrawal, avoidance, gossip, backbiting, betrayal, abandonment, physical violence…the list could go on. Yet, I’ve found another form of punishment that may not be quite as obvious.

Let them alone, they are blind guides. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall in to a pit,” – Matthew 15:14

People hurt people, not always physically, but they wound our heart and soul. Whether intentional or not, people can injure us deeply. Recently I was involved in an activity in which several people did something to a group of women I was in, that I felt was dishonoring. The activity caused several of us to be tossed to the ground while onlookers laughed at our humiliation. Since I have been writing this blog on punishment mentality, I quickly observed that my immediate responses were wrong. If I allowed myself to stew in my indignation, especially at the instigator of this prank, I would have entered punishment mode. Rage would have increased. In anger, I would have built up resentment, which would have led to bitterness and affected my relationship with these people. When I realized that I couldn’t give in to anger, my next reaction was to deny that this activity hurt me and excuse their unkind behavior.

In order to live free of Punishment Mentality, we need to learn to feel.

When we are hurt, we need validation – sometimes even just from ourselves. Validate means, “to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of.” We need to recognize events and people who hurt us. Saying “we shouldn’t feel that way,” we invalidate ourselves or others. Tragically, this also says we aren’t worthy of respect or honor or whatever it is that has been taken. By now in my life, I have learned that often initial feelings and thoughts are not always correct, but we can’t properly evaluate a situation or deal with the people and incident if we have not first allowed ourselves to feel. Once we assign value to our thoughts, then we can attend to our situation

Blessed is the person who has others in his or her life who give validation. 

The use of invalidation is a form of Punishment Mentality. Because a wrong was done, someone has to be punished, but for various reasons we may not want to punish. Instead of confronting, forgiving, and readjusting our situation we have to find other means of dealing with this wrong. But when we try to excuse the wrong by justifying what was done or changing our memory, we invalidate our feelings and our need for value. We may not want to retaliate or cause problems, or we may not feel important enough to bother with. Whatever the reason, invalidating our feelings doesn’t lead to peace, but leads us deeper into Punishment Mentality and into shame.

Invalidation is a form of Punishment Mentality. When we try to excuse the wrong by justifying what was done or changing the memory, we invalidate our feelings and our need for value.

Camping in False Belief

light-forest-trees-morning-medium.jpgHave you ever gone camping? What’s the first thing you usually do when you get to the campsite? Find a good, safe, dry place for a tent. Obviously, a bigger and more permanent structure would need even more thought and planning in the placement of its foundation. What about our beliefs in God, which are of much more importance than where we place our head at night? Usually we “camp” in one of two places. Believing in an angry God or believing in a soft God, we fail to know God’s real and actual fabulous character.

In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face   –  “Grace Wins” by Matthew West

Many find themselves in the camp of belief in an angry God, who looks down from heaven ready to strike with lightning bolts. What is the truth? In God’s point of view, sinners are entirely dead in their wrong doing. God opposes sin because He is holy and righteous. Because the wages of sin is death God disciplines and rebukes us when we commit an offense, but we need to understand it is because of His love and desire to help and nurture us. Changing our understanding of God’s discipline, we can come to know Him as a God of love, not a furious and disappointed God.

Then, there are others who are in the camp of belief in a weak God who would never discipline or send anyone to hell. God is a God of love, so let’s look at what His compassion really is. Since Jesus came from heaven to earth and lived as a man, He empathizes with our weaknesses and temptations. By dying on the cross, God, in His grace and mercy saved us. God gives us the gift of eternal life in heaven, because of His extravagant love for us. Confidently we can now enter his wonderful presence and draw near to Him with a pure and cleansed heart. As the Scripture says, we unswervingly hold on to the hope of a faithful God who is not weak, but is kind.

And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt – “Grace Wins” by Matthew West

Where do you find you’ve “camped”? As I’ve come to develop a deeper relationship with God, I realize that while He is a loving, compassionate, forgiving God, He also hates sin. Because I’m forgiven of my sin, I know freedom from living a life of condemnation,
and I know the joy of having a God who cares about me and looks at me with favor not irritation. Let’s reject “camping” in false belief and start living the truth that God absolutely loves us and has the ability to forgive and cleanse us from all sin.

IMG_8556God is loving! God is joyful! God enjoys us

I have to be honest and tell you that this idea of “camping” in two different and opposite views of God came from one of my husband’s sermons. His version was much better than mine, and if it were online somewhere, I would have just put a link to it, instead of making you read my rambling reasonings. But since I don’t have access to that talk, I have written a short summary of his sermon, and hope it helps. I believe that having a correct view of God will help us on our journey of overcoming Punishment Mentality.

 

Awareness

chains-19176_960_720.jpgContinuing on the topic of the Punishment Mentality, I would like to take a deeper look at how we punish others. Punishment Mentality is responding incorrectly to failure by punishing and blaming.

Here are some of the ways I’ve observed punishment being inflicted on others, and most of these I am guilty of. Twisting the idea of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” many use the silent treatment as a weapon of punishment. At other times the opposite – nagging, is used to let the offender know that they aren’t enough. We often treat people who have wronged us with contempt. Since I’m more of an avoider type of person rather than a confronter, I tend to withdraw and ignore people or situations where I have felt wronged. But I’ve also seen harsh language, anger, and violent behavior used. Gossip is also a form of punishment, because we conclude that they have done something wrong and s0 deserve others to know about it. Too often, we judge and condemn those who fail to meet our standards. Making sure they know they’re wrong, we insult the offender through obvious attacks or through subtle, snide remarks. Anything that puts others down in order to make ourselves feel superior to the one who failed can be used as a weapon of Punishment Mentality.

Many years ago, someone falsely accused my children of some wrong behavior at a certain event. My children were blamed for something that was not their fault. Fearing that my children were going to become victims of more lies, I emotionally withdrew from this event and the people involved in this incident. I gave the silent treatment to those people, arrived late and left early to anything having to do with this event. Did it help? Did I show them? Is the problem resolved as it should be? NO! Even though my thoughts at the time were to protect my children, my motivation was punishment. Nothing good has come from my reaction to this incident, except that I learned what NOT to do.

So how should we react to those who let us down?

  • Awareness of Punishment Mentality seems to help us think situations through differently. Being aware may not completely cure the issue, but it can help to bring understanding to our reactions and the reactions of others towards our failures.
  • Accepting the forgiveness God gives us is also key. If He forgives us our sin, we ought to forgive others.

There are other strategies that I have learned. Although it is a process I have not perfected, it has helped me to treat others who have wronged me better and with less punishment. I hope to share more later, but as Robert S. McGee says in Search For Significance, “Rather than being objective and looking for solid, biblical solutions to our problems, we often resort to either accusing someone else or berating ourselves.” Being aware of Punishment Mentality and accepting God’s forgiveness is a great start to overcoming Punishment Mentality.

Has this discussion helped you identify Punishment Mentality at work in your life, either as something you do, or something that has been done to you? I would love to hear your story.

Satisfaction

IMG_20160524_090131I would like to share a little about being free from the punishment mentality. In my last post, I wrote about punishment mentality, which has to have someone to blame for all offenses without the motivation or possibility of positive change. (If you want to visit that post – https://camehome.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/exposing-punishment-mentality) It is not about responsiblity, it is about blame. In future posts, I would like to expose this mindset further, because it reaches deep into our lives often leaving the destruction of broken relationships, doubt, hopelessness, self hate, and more.

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Don’t want to be punished by this guy!

If I look at my past, I could easily get down and feel worthless. I was a cutter, bulimic, suicidal, hateful, socially awkward, and many other undesirable traits and sins. When bad things happened in my life, I found someone to blame, often myself. But did knowing that I am an awful person help me to change? Not at all!

In order to see real hope and change, I believe we need the antithesis to the punishment mentality. I believe freedom from this harmful mindset is satisfaction. But not just any satisfaction. The satisfaction that I’m talking about is a satisfaction that comes from knowing that Jesus, who is God, came to earth, lived a sinless life, and then laid his life down on the cross. And when he did, all of our sins were attached to him. So when he died, he took on the punishment for all of our sins. So how does that help us to be satisfied?

When we realize the power God has to forgive sins, and when we are satisfied with that, we can begin to lay down our own need to punish, whether it is ourselves or others. Then we can deal with our wrongs and the wrongs of others in an appropriate way. There is much more to learn in order to be free from the effects of blame, but I believe the first step is satisfaction.

It wasn’t until I learned to be satisfied with the forgiveness of my sins and the sins of others that I could let go of the past. Now that I live a life of satisfaction, I have learned how to make positive change without the lingering effects of “I deserve this”.

If you are wondering if you are capable of being forgiven of your past and living a life of satisfaction, please know that you are. You don’t have to wait until you are good enough to come to God. In the Bible, 1 John 4:9 tells us that God showed his love for us by sending his Son that we may live through him. And verse 10 tells us that, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Verse 19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”  So we see that we don’t have to earn his love, because he loved us first, and sent his Son for us while we were still sinners. Today is the perfect time to receive the forgiveness of sins. I hope that if you have not already asked God into your life and received this wonderful forgiveness, you will do so today. Romans 10:9 says that, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Please pray today and receive complete forgiveness and live a life free from the effects of a mindset of punishment and blame.

Exposing Punishment Mentality

It’s been my observation that the USA is the greatest nation. Our country strives for justice, which is a wonderful concept. Hearing of a politician enticed by bribes makes us angry for justice. Abuse enrages us. Murder is not tolerated. While Americans can’t stand to see victims treated unfairly, many other countries do not share our values. Bribes are an acceptable practice of politicians. Victims of abuse are blamed instead of the abuser. In some countries murder is acceptable, or at least overlooked by authorities.

What makes our country great, can also cause problems. We as Americans love justice, but unfortunately we also have a culture of punishment. Although justice may seem to go with punishment, it really doesn’t. Discipline is the act of trying to correct the wrong by bettering the offender. Punishment just punishes. While this may seem to be a legal problem only, it is not. The USA has a culture of punishment, and one of the effects of the punishment mentality is that when there is crisis, we must find someone to blame.

Remember the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina? While many people were still trapped in New Orleans, the news media focused on who was to blame for the catastrophe. Remember the accusations against the president, the mayor, the governor, and others – all while people still needed to be rescued? That might be important in days to come, but at that moment the focus should have been on helping those in need not criticizing. I’m not blaming the media, because the media is only the reflection of the culture that it serves. But this shows the punishment mentality. We have to find someone to blame in every crisis.

This may seem to be just a national problem, but it is even more damaging in our personal lives. We all face crisis in our lives. So how do react? Do we find someone to blame? Do we blame our spouse, our family, ourselves? I believe our culture of punishment has caused much damage to us. I believe it has caused us to live in fear, in shame, in doubt, and in denial. It is my goal to further explore this punishment mentality and to expose the lie that it has planted in our culture.