“In order to grow, I need to be hard on myself.” If you’re prone to surprising mini attacks of anxiety, agitation or fear (whether you’re good at hiding it from others or not), you may have an underlying belief something like this one.
You try to motivate yourself by making a mental list of the ways you fall short in your work/career, marriage, friendships, parenting, prayer life, volunteer service, or even self-care. But I’m wondering: How is that working for you?
Just this week during several calls with life coaching clients this topic popped up. Although I didn’t say so during the coaching calls (after all I’m committed to holding each coach-ee’s agenda!) I can identify. Definitely.
In his helpful book, This is Your Brain on Joy, Dr. Henslin shares how respected physician and author Dr. Amen often speaks of “automatic negative thoughts” or ANTs. These ANTs include what he calls “Guilt Beatings.”
It happens when we’re “being overrun by thoughts of ‘I should have done. . .’ ‘I’m bad because. . . ‘ ‘I mustdo better at. . .’ ‘I have to. . .’ Guilt is powerful at making us feel bad. It is a lousy motivator of behavior.”
STOMPING ON ANTS
Yet we can stomp on our shame-producing ANTs. Here’s Dr. Henslin’s suggestions:
On my 13th birthday I opened a gift from a friend and found a book of prayers. Each time I read one my desire to pray grew. (Yes, I was a normal teenager with peer problems and flighty episodes!)
Years later after receiving several lovely wedding gifts of towels and household supplies, I unwrapped a devotional book titled Streams in the Desert, a compilation of daily thoughts and scriptural insights.
Then during my slide into burnout flamed by trying-too-hard-to make-it-all-just-right, I received another gift—this time from an employee. It was the book, My Utmost for His Highest.
Throughout my life reading devotional books has enriched my alone times with God. Sometimes I read several devotions and study scripture for an extended period. Other times I only read one short devotion before I scoot out the door. Some days I have no time to read at all.
Books Have Changed My Life
Yet as I digest the words others have written about what it means to follow Christ, I’m inspired to stay committed to my decision to be a woman after God’s own heart (as imperfect King David was. Acts 13:22)
I still have the daily prayer book I received as a teenager. Recently I scanned the prayer-notes that I jotted in the margins. I chuckled when I noticed that even as a teen I often felt overwhelmed and self-critical. God proved patient and graceful with me then as He is now.
Reading devotions and inspirational messages causes me to want to spend time in prayer, to listen to God and rest in His presence. When I read something that catches my attention, I jot my response or question on the page. Then later I go to the Bible to confirm or challenge what I read.
Reading Draws Me to God
When I’m feeling numb and don’t know what to do I open a devotional book and gain support to move forward. Reading devotional material has been such a vital part of my spiritual journey that I’ve wanted to pass on the joy to others. As a result I’ve written several devotional-type books.
I love how God is teaching the overwhelmed and self-critical teenager who grew up to be an overwhelmed and people-pleasing adult that He loves and cherishes me whether I read the right books or pray just the right prayer or have perfectly consistent faith. He knows my genuine desire to be intimate with Him and serve others. And God continues to teach me through the written words of others who love Him, too. I guess I get caught reading quite a lot!
Rich Inspirational Reads
Here’s a list of devotional type books that have made a big impact on me.
What inspirational-type book has impacted your life?
Processing life–with the good, painful, and disappointing–is an annoyingly slow procedure at times. Although the growth process is always worthwhile, sometimes it takes me to frightening places where I feel unfamiliar emotions, think uncomfortable thoughts…and well, just plain hurt.
My stomach aches. My head throbs. My body gets tired. I find it takes courage to let myself experience these things, acknowledge my reality, and move beyond my conditioned attitudes and behavior–to GROW as a person–mother, wife, friend, writer, coach, business owner and child of God.
Although process isn’t always fun and I want God to hurry up sometimes, it helped me immensely when I realized that God could have sent His Son to accomplish His redemptive work during a weekend retreat. Perhaps then Jesus would have escaped much of the prolonged discomfort.
Instead God chose for Jesus to arrive as a baby, become a teen, and confront young adulthood. The faultless Son of God left perfection with His Father to face earth’s reality: sickness, death, abuse, and unbelief.
As I realized that God sanctions process, I began to relax and accept that progress takes time. And now as the years march by (hmmm, actually it feels more like they’re racing!) I want to remind myself again.
When I take substantial steps forward and then something happens to trigger old response strategies and I fall back, I have the option to pause where I am and begin again. Because God sanctions process. I love that. How about you?
You and I are surrounded by society’s message to hurry up and live. Combine this with the inner pull to avoid pain and we may begin to believe the false philosophy that faster is always better and that hardship is to be avoided at all costs.
Growth and life satisfaction can occur for you when you identify a need, develop a strategy to meet the need, and then delight in the outcome. Growth IS rewarding. Butit doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process.
God sanctions process and He gives us lots of examples. Here’s one: A butterfly starts as an egg, becomes a caterpillar, then goes through the pupa stage before it emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Even then, it can’t fly until blood is pumped into it’s wings.
What’s another example of how God endorses process and gives us permission to enjoy life’s developing beauty? Leave a comment and continue the list here.
1. Butterfly process
2. Here’s a hint:
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.