10 Ways to Quit Comparing and Build Community | Dawn M Owens

10 Ways to Quit Comparing to Build Community Instead

It’s hard to quit comparing to build community. Just last night I was on Instagram and I realized I was doing it, again.

Thankfully, I have learned a thing or two about comparison and how the enemy likes to tempt us with this to pull us away from our relationship with God and with others. So now when this happens, I have the arsenal needed to help me to recognize the devil’s schemes and respond accordingly.

How about you?

Do you know when you have fallen prey to comparison? Have you found yourself putting the phone down and feeling more anxious, maybe even depressed over the view on the screen compared to your life? Does that trigger the need to change your hair, body size, makeup, eating habits, or house? I have been there and done that.

Or are the times that you not only are finding yourself comparing online, but also when you show up to work, or the mommy-date at the park, perhaps at the event you went to last night or the store you were last shopping at in the mall.

It’s not difficult for any of us to get caught up in the trap of comparison. But how do we respond to it when we do.

As an approval addict in recovery, I can find myself caught up in this if I am not aware or careful. Doing so would send me into a downward spiral, and before I knew it, I had torn myself to shreds in my mind. At which point I decided I couldn’t do anything, be anything, or engage in anything because I was less than the person I was comparing myself to at the moment.

However, now that I lead a faith-based non-profit, that temptation to compare becomes even more challenging. Because now it’s not just me, but its just as easy to get caught up in comparing our ministry to another, which is the complete opposite of what God has given us as a vision for our community.

The reality is that for every truth there is about God and His desire for His people, the enemy has a counterfeit. Comparison, aka coveting, is that counterfeit. https://wp.me/p7HNJY-zY #quitcomparing

And the enemy is pretty dang good at it. Coveting is what got him kicked out of heaven in the first place. He wanted what he couldn’t have, and so God said adios to him and a bunch of his friends.

But we do not have to fall prey to that same scheme. We can choose a different path, and in doing so instead of sinning against God (coveting is a sin, which means comparison is too), we could choose a path that brings about unity in the body of Christ and therefore honoring and glorifying God.

10 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

10 Ways to Quit Comparing and Start Building Community | Dawn M Owens

Accept-Repent-Re-Focus

1. Accept what you have done
The first step in stopping any cycle, addiction, or struggle is to accept the fact that you have done the very thing you were trying not to do. Without this step none of the others matter.

2. Repent
As I mentioned before, comparison is just a nicer word for coveting. Coveting, being the 10th commandment is a sin. The quicker we repent, the sooner we can get into right relationship with God. He can use a repentant heart.

3. Re-focus your thoughts
Another issue with comparing is that our thoughts are often running wild. The Word says that we are to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we are set on a path to compare ourselves to others, our thoughts have a mind of their own. They are no longer focused on God, but instead on ourselves.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Prayer is Powerful

 4. Stop comparing and start praying.
I have found that the quickest way to stop myself from comparing, and therefore focusing my thoughts on me rather than God, is to change my focus.  I start praying for the person in which the comparing began.  It might look like this,

“Lord, I love the way you have fearfully and wonderfully made ___________. You have created ________ to be beautiful in the sight of man. I pray Lord for blessing over ___________________ gifts, talents, and passions. That you would give ___________ favor, where ____________needs it. Bless ___________ hands and feet as _________________  does the work that you have called ______________ to do.”

5. Speak God’s blessing over you
We must keep our focus on God and His perspective during this process.  We not only need to pray a blessing over the person we are comparing ourselves with but we also need to pray a blessing for ourselves. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we also start to tear ourselves apart. But we are created in the image of God, He sees us as daughters and sons, and as heirs to His throne. We certainly do not want to speak against who God created us to be. So try this:

God, I thank you that you created me in your image, with your own two hands. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. You know my inmost parts. I thank you God for how you made me and that there is no one else like me, which means I can not be compared to anyone else, I am unique in my own right. Lord, I ask you to keep my thoughts pure, to align my heart with yours, to help me see me as you see me, and to be quick to respond to the Holy Spirit’s voice when He tells me to love who you created me to be and not compare myself to others.

Get to the Root Cause

6. Ask yourself, “Why?”
There may be a reason that you are comparing yourself to others. It may be because of how you currently feel about yourself. It may be that you have become disconnected to God. Perhaps you are harboring anger or bitterness against God, yourself, or another. There can be lots of whys in this scenario, but asking the question will help you get to your root cause.

Join the Movement

7. #Cheerheron
I want to start a new trend. Every Wednesday I am showing women on my Instagram and Facebook accounts that I think my followers should follow. I am using the hashtag #womentofollow, but I am adding the hashtag #cheerheron. Because it’s great to mention women that others should follow, but I want to do more than that. I want to change our culture. I want us to build each other up and realize when we are tearing each other down.  So in sharing that woman to follow, I also want you to speak words of encouragement over her and her calling, (recognizing that God has all called us live worthy of our callings).

Dawn Owens | Live Worthy | Do you have a calling?

8. Celebrate our different gifts and talents
The best part of being in a community is that we are not all the same. Could you imagine what life would be like if everyone looked, acted, loved, served, and thought like you?

Although different can feel difficult, can you imagine how dull and mundane that scenario could be? Oh, I would be over myself fast.

The apostle Paul was extremely passionate about unity in the body, and we know this because he talked about in almost every one of his Epistles. In every message he shared with the local churches he was telling them over and over again, honor each other in the gifts that you have received. Stop comparing one gift, talent, or passion to another. Celebrate the fact that we are all created differently for different purposes.

Balancing Social Media

9. Take a break from social media
The best way for you to stop incessantly comparing yourself to others is to take a break from social media. Yes, you can certainly find yourself in a comparison trap off of social media, but it is not as in your face or this case, screen. If you find yourself in that scenario off-line as much as you do online than I would say stay away from those places, situations, or venues for a time if you are able. Giving yourself a break will also help you give your thoughts a break. Those times will bring clarity and focus.

10. Use your feed as a prayer list
The best way to change the way you think is to go into it with a different perspective. Instead of scrolling mindlessly and finding yourself caught in a trap, use your feed, (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) whatever your social media of choice may be, as a way to pray for others. When we are focused on lifting up friends, family, acquaintances or celebrities, we may or may not know about God, our perspective changes. It’s difficult to compare, covet or have feelings of jealousy when we are lifting up those people to our Father. 

There you have it, 10 ways to help you when you find yourself comparing your life to another.

I have got one more, we’ll call it a bonus, way you can help support someone else and dig into this character flaw a bit further.

You may know that my book Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction just became available for pre-order last week. If not, you want to go check out all the great giveaways and downloads available.

LMON Facebook Pre-Order

Apply for My Launch Team

But now I am inviting women from all over to apply for my launch team. This is an excellent way for you to start learning how your need for approval will affect your relationships. In turn, this keeps us in a place of comparison and effectively taking us out of community. In fact, chapter 6 in the book addresses just that issue.

If helping yourself so you can help others sounds intriguing, then be sure to apply today. We will only be accepting applications until April 2, 2018, and spots are limited.

Join My Launch Team

Questions: Which of the 10 ways was most convicting to you? How will you start to implement it in your daily life?

 

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Why I am a Professed Approval Addict

I am an approval addict. There, I said it.

“I AM AN APPROVAL ADDICT!!!” Goodness, that feels good. It’s empowering to own up to the things we struggle with, don’t you think?

Being an approval addict began as a child, for me and intensified over the years. Now, in the age of social media, it only exacerbates the problem. I have the constant temptation every time I make a post to see if people “liked” my post, left a comment, or the ultimate compliment, “shared” my content with their followers.

Maybe I am the only one to deal with being an approval addict, but my guess is on some level you too are challenged with wanting, really needing the approval of others.

How do I know this?

We were all created with a need for approval. As image bearers of God, He created us with a desire to be fully known, and fully approved by Him. But, here is the good news.

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

Did you catch that last part? Let me repeat it, “God favors what you do.”

He. favors. you. Gosh, I love those three words.

But here is the problem, as much as He has set our hearts to be approved by Him, we get it all mixed up.

We take the desire God gave us for heaven, and we set our sights on earth. #approvaladdict

We warp the pure relationship we could have with Him which is healthy, honorable, and true and exchange it for one that will never be able to fully satisfy our needs.

We seek the approval of those around us. In our homes; at school; in our workplaces and online.

We put more value in what the person on the other side of the screen thinks of us than honoring the God who created us.

In the core of our addiction, we have a slew of challenges wrapped up in packages of people pleasing, insecurity, jealousy, control, and anger, just to name a few. When we let it all pile up we isolate and become depressed. (Fact: People in depression and taking depression related medication have hit epidemic proportions.)

It’s been years since I admitted I had a problem. Since then God has taken me on a journey to learn how to overcome this addiction to approval, and though I am not completely healed, yet…I believe I have some wisdom I can share with you. 

This is why I have written a book called Like Me…or Not: Overcoming the Addiction to Approval which will tentatively be in bookstores this summer (2018).

So why would a self-professed approval addict, ever go through the intense approval-seeking, platform building and editing-process of publishing a book and announcing this inner-struggle to the world?

You.

You are the reason why I am professing I am an approval addict to the world.

You are why I just spent the last year pouring out my heart over what was once 65,000 words, now chopped down to 57,000 words and by the time my editor at Worthy-Inspired gets through with it, it will be less than 50,000 words. (Talk about having to be willing to let go of your need for approval. Ouch.)

You are also why I am subjecting myself to the daily temptation of seeking approval by posting online, writing blogs, finding speaking engagements, and sharing some of my most vulnerable moments with the world.

I am doing all of this because I know there is strength in vulnerability. We can find unity in our weaknesses. And that maybe, just maybe, as I share my struggles you can feel the freedom to share yours.

Why I am a Professed Approval Addict @dawnmarieowens #approvaladdict

Does any of this sound interesting to you? Great! Because now, I am going to need your help. It’s one thing to write the book. It’s another feat to find an agent to represent you, and then to get a publisher that is interested in publishing the book. As if that is not enough, now I have to figure out how to sell the book.

But, that’s where you come in.

So, here is what you can do to help. If you aren’t already, start following me on one of my social media platforms through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I also am starting to have a presence on Pinterest.

You will also want to sign up for updates because I know you want to be up-to-date on all the new book information. So stop reading now, and subscribe to my blog emails. You can do that on the right-hand side of the page. That’s all I need you to do for now. (Unless of course, you would like to happen to share some of my blogs, my posts, my tweets, or pin images to your boards.) The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone that I can that I wrote a book and help others know they can find answers if they read it.

The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone I can that I wrote a book about overcoming the addiction to approval and how it can help others know they can find answers if they read it.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share with you the back story of how God opened up the door for me to get my book published and how I had to battle my approval addiction at every turn.

Even if you don’t ever want to publish a book, I promise you’ll learn a few things from my missteps, which will help you not only understand more about your need approval. But, it will also teach you how to deal with those everyday challenges us approval addicts need to learn how to face head-on.

Let’s start off our journey together nice and easy, shall we? Tell me who you are, where you’re from, and why you feel like approval addiction is an important topic for us to cover in this day and age. Share below so we can all engage together and we’ll know none of us are alone.

Want to check out my last few posts?

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It

5 Ways to Lose Hope

9 Ways to Love an Addict Even When It Hurts

Trying to love someone in active addiction is hard. Frustrating. It can be downright heart-wrenching.

In fact, apart from God, it is impossible. 

Because here’s the deal, the person you once knew (the sober person) they are gone. You are dealing with someone completely different. Someone who has now decided to partner with darkness and who is in bondage to an ugly, flesh-eating, family-destroying, brain deteriorating drug. That drug has now consumed them, every bit of them: mind, body, and soul. The only thing they now care about is getting their next high, their next fix, their next drunken stupor and who you are and what you meant to them no longer matters.

Trying to love someone in addiction feels about the same as picking a rose from a bush. You know there is beauty at the end of it, but your going to have to go through a whole lot of pain to get there.

As we discussed in last week’s post, you need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy…full of compassion, love, and forgiveness if you are going to have a chance at loving them well. The only way to do that is through the Spirit of God, because it is God who taught us to love in the first place.we-love-because-he-first-loved-usIn Galatians 5, Paul is sharing with the church in Galatia about their freedom and how through their freedom they can either choose to walk by the Spirit or by their flesh. In 5:13 14 he says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What does it mean to live by the flesh?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Now before we start judging those around us let’s take a look at some of these that related to us loving our neighbors in addiction. Last week we talked about forgiveness because we were angry at the people who are in addiction…that can easily be also viewed as hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions, or factions. We also may had to confess our anger with God for what has happened. When we put up anything before our worship of God, we are in the sin of idolatry. Idolizing “little gods” that we put in the place of our Almighty God is truly not hard to do. I know this because I do it. It is also why God made sure to make it second of the 10 Commandments.

So now that we can see that we all fall into one of these categories of walking in the flesh .(I didn’t even get into the other ones…that is another post in and of itself, just remember there are no rankings there. Witchcraft was right next to hatred, and factions came right before drunkenness and orgies. Hello!) Let’s be reminded why it is of utmost importance to have the Spirit of God as we seek to love those in addiction.

The very next verse explains it all:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Because the fruit we need to bear is from the Spirit of God there is no way to truly love someone unless His Spirit is in us.

In the Galatians 5:22 verse, it says “fruit of the Spirit,” not fruits of the Spirit.

One of the things I love about God is He is can be very mysterious.

When we think of a fruit we think of a singular item. But when He defines “fruit of the Spirit” He multiplies it. So instead of us bearing only one kind of fruit we bear nine.

Because of this I don’t believe the fruit of the Spirit has a specific order to them, one is not greater than another, they are all equal. However, for the purposes of this post, I am going to pull them out one-by-one in a way that will help us all learn how to love our neighbors in addiction.

FIRST FRUIT: SELF-CONTROL

If you are going to love, nah, scratch that, when you are loving someone in active addiction, you are going to have to learn the word, “No.”

So, let’s start there. Repeat after me, “No.” Good, say it again. “No.” One more time like you really mean it. “No.”

Yeah! High-five! How did that feel?

In order for you to love someone in active addiction you will have to set boundaries. And the best way for you to start that is realizing you will have to say, “No.”

Boundaries are good and healthy. God sets up boundaries for us in order to help us, guide us, and set us free. It is just like how we set up boundaries for our children…go to bed by 8, up by 6, don’t eat too much sugar, save your money, don’t touch the hot stove…these are all boundaries we set for our children to help them stay healthy and not endanger themselves…right? Most of the time it’s because Mom/Dad needs rest and a sugar-high kid can drive you nuts , and who needs more Legos to step on, and the stove just hurts, right? You get me? Ok, good.

Boundaries are a form of self-control. By setting up boundaries around us, we are telling others what they can and cannot do. By saying “no” to the person who has chosen alcohol/drugs over your relationship you are communicating to them, “Your destructive choices are not going to determine how I live my life.” When we respond this way we are exhibiting self-control. And in doing so, we are also loving them. We are loving them because we are also no longer enabling them by giving into their every need. When we enable an addict, we can basically start digging thelatishaeditedir grave. The last thing an addict needs is for you to give into everything they ask for because once they know you’ll give it to them, they’ll just keep coming back. if they know you’ll give them money, they will give you every excuse in the book to get more. if you will continuously get them out of jail, not only will you chance losing everything, they’ll continue to make the same poor choices, cause they know someone will always bail them out.

You want to know why addicts continue to cycle in and out of their addiction, in and out of homelessness, in and out of jail? Enabling is a big part of that equation. Exhibiting self-control on your part can help them to hit their rock bottom. From there they can start healing. That in essences, is one of the most loving things you can do.


Enabling = death. Boundaries =life.


SECOND FRUIT: GENTLENESS

How about gentleness?

The definition of gentleness is: Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

When an addict is spinning out of control and they are angry at you and the world around them your response in gentleness can disarm them. It gives them less reason to keep responding to you in that manner. It can also restore them and keep them from continuing to sin.

Galatians 6:1 says, ” Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

And no one needs you too falling into temptation cause then things just go from bad to worse. In this case, you may not be tempted to use drugs or alcohol, but you may be tempted to get angry right back at them. You may want to use your own set of manipulative techniques to try and get them to stop using. Either way, responding with gentleness is yet another way you can show love to your neighbor in addiction.

THIRD FRUIT: PATIENCE

We live in a society of now. Of have it your way, when you want it, how you want it. And nothing will teach you patience like addiction, I can promise you that. I have driven in snowstorms that should have been a 30 minute trip that took 7 hours and honey, that is NOTHING compared to the patience you’ll need to love someone in active addiction. I can’t tell you anything more than the straight out truth…this is your reality. There are no silver bullets, there is no perfect prayer to pray, fasamberting will change you but I cannot promise it will do anything for them. The only healer I can point you to is Jesus and His timing on this is often way different than ours.

But to exhibit patience you will have to stop trying to control the person and the situation. Trying to control them may even make it worse. You have to let them go. As scary as I know that sounds you have to them let go because the only way for them to ever get clean is if they hit their rock bottom. You don’t know where that bottom is. I don’t know where that bottom is. Only God knows. We need to trust Him with their deliverance. Patience speaks love to an addict because they know loving them can be hard. But when you respond to them with patience, you are saying, “I love you even in the midst of what you are going through and being here for you is more important than what I want for you.”

FOURTH FRUIT: PEACE

Which is why you are also going to have to ask God to give you supernatural peace. A few weeks ago, I talked about how important it is to have peace and suggested how you can obtain it. But here is the gist of it…you don’t have peace because your worry, anxiety and fear are ruling you. And listen sweet Mama, I am talking to you again, with my tender eyes looking at yours, and my hand on your hand…I know why. I know why you worry. It’s because that is your baby and you still see that sweet baby insides the drug that has consumed your child.

But you must remember that sweet baby grew up and starting making their own decisions and forgot all the things you taught them. All they care about right now is them. So just as I explained in my last post that no matter who we are, we are going to have to forgive them, God and yourself, now we need to take care of our hearts and give over that anxiety, worry and fear to God.

 “Do not worry about anything but in everything with prayer and petition, give thanks to God. And the God of peace who surpasses all understanding will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Because when you are trying so hard to love someone who can no longer conceivably love you back, you need your heart guarded by the only one that can truly protect it. Can I get an Amen?

Guarding your heart with peace is yet another way to love a person in addiction because your peace overflows into their lives. When you are feeling peace, you speak peace into them, you pray peace over them, you respond to them with peace and in doing so, they will start to experience that peace and want it for their own life.

FIFTH FRUIT: FAITHFULNESS

Next up, is faithfulness. You be faithful to that person. You be faithful in prayer. And when you pray you pray for big things, believing big things knowing that you serve a God who is BIG. Ephesians 3:20 speaks so well to this…for He can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. Circle that person up in this scripture verse. You dream up who that person will become and you start speaking that over their life. You don’t focus on where they are now but rather where they will be when they are fully restored.

” For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 3:20)

I speak this to the girls we minster to in the jail whenever I get the chance to. You know why? It speaks hope. It reminds them that God already knows what their good works will be, He already prepared them. And I challenge them with this…

“Will you dare to walk in those good works you were already purposed for or will you continue in the lifestyle you are in? Will you choose to allow the devil to continue to steal, kill and destroy (as he has already done so well) or will you choose a life of abundance.”

patienceBut here’s the deal. I have said those words to hundreds of women. But only a few have actually take me up on it. The rest, I am still waiting on. Because being faithful means never giving up on them, it means loving them, even if its from a distance. Faithful means  believing God for their healing,  pursuing them letting them know you are there when they are ready, and most importantly praying for them daily.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools you have. Do not downplay its effectiveness in this situation. I have pleaded on the behalf of women who relapsed that the Lord would spare her life and if she would not get clean, that she would be placed back in jail. I would beg God to keep her from the grave.

Jail may not be the place that you would want to be, but I can promise you this, when you are stuck in addiction and spiraling out of control, it can feel like the hand of God pulling you out of your pit and saving you from destruction.

We must choose to be faithful through the Spirit as it does not come naturally to us. And as we do, we will show those in active addiction our love for them.

SIXTH FRUIT: KINDNESS

Which brings me to kindness. The Bible says, it’s by His kindness that He calls us to repentance.

Job 6:14 says,  “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. We are to show kindness as He has shown us kindness.

Our kindness, when faced with adversity, draws people to God. Cause it begs the question, “Why?” Why would you show me kindness when I have done these things to you? You cannot show kindness to someone you are angry at. You can’t show kindness to the person who frustrates you. It’s only through the Spirit that you can show kindness to those who are difficult to love. Don’t forget that Job, the author of our verse above was being mocked by his friends for the trials he was going through. This is Job’s response in the midst of that. Can you show kindness in the midst of your trial? Is there someone you can show kindness to who is trying to overcome their addiction?

SEVENTH FRUIT: GOODNESS

And we must point them to the goodness of God. If all you ever do is remind them of His wrath, His discipline, of Hell, you mind as well say your final goodbyes. They will run to the hills and they may never look back. More than anything they need to know that they have a God who loves them regardless of what they have done. One of the ways they can know that is how you show them.

stfrancisassisi

 

EIGHTH FRUIT: JOY

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, this one may be the hardest one to exhibit when you are trying to love someone in active addiction. There is absolutely nothing joyful or joy-filled about this situation for anyone involved. In fact, its the exact opposite. It can be down-right heart wrenching to watch someone you love destroy themselves. So why in the world, would I even consider using the fruit of the Spirit with this included in it to explain how we can love people in addiction?

Because you can’t love someone in active addiction in your own strength. It is absolutely physically impossible. In our own strength we will become exhausted, frustrated, angry, depressed, bitter, enraged, lonely, or just completely complacent. I have heard people say that it feels like torture to not know whether or not their loved one is alive or dead.

That is why we need to rely on God. When we do He reveals to us how we are to respond to challenges such as these.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3, NIV)

Consider it pure joy?! Really?! Why in the world would we want to consider trials, such as trying to love our neighbors in addiction, as pure joy. Has James lost his mind? I actually think James actually learned a huge spiritual secret in how to live. It’s in the next few verses we see that not only can we learn perseverance (also known as patience…I think we talked about that one already) but James says that we can also become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James knows something, we can all learn from and that is if we focus in on our situation we’ll find nothing but grief and despair. But if we look beyond it, realizing that it’s not going to change anytime soon, but instead we can change…well, then mayyoull-need-to-choose
be then there is something to this. You and I have to choose to go on, even as our neighbors stay stuck in their addictions. Even as they become more and more destructive. And with those choices, we can choose joy or we can choose sorrow or anger or defeat. But know this: your choice either way will not change their sobriety, but it will determine how you live and whether or not you are capable of truly loving them.

Consider it pure joy….because you will persevere, you will be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Including with it the ability to love.

NINTH FRUIT: LOVE

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I like to save the best things for last. And this piece of our fruit is most certainly the juiciest of all. I know, I know I am contradicting myself. But I can do that, it’s my blog. Here is the proof in the pudding. We cannot love our neighbors in addiction without the Spirit because the Spirit produces love. It’s plain as it can be.

And this love is the greek word “agape” which is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Paul could have used one of the other four versions of this word, but he chose the one that he knew spoke of the love of the Father. And that is exactly the kind of love we are to have as well.

Selfless.
Sacrificial.
Unconditional.

This means listening to them, taking time to hear their struggles and empathizing with them, offering them a shoulder to cry on, allowing them to share their hurts, apologizing even when you may not have done anything (not to encourage their behaviors but to let them know you see their pain), apologizing when you have done something.

What if you said, “I am so sorry i have been enabling you all this time, I didn’t realize how hurtful that has been for you to be able to heal and stop using. I am going to do my best to help you make your own decisions and not do things that you can do on your own.”

Loving is putting their emotions before yours, even when you are hurting. Loving is sacrificial in that you would choose to love, over choosing to judge. This does not mean sacrificing EVERYTHING you have to try and save them. Remember there is only ONE SAVIOR and His name is Jesus.

These are the nine fruit of the Spirit and it is with this fruit that we can fully, completely, selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditional love our neighbors in addiction as ourself.

Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, trying to love your neighbor in active addiction can feel like you are inflicting more pain on yourself. What do you do to self-care when loving them gets too hard?

 

 

Can Community be the Cure to Addiction?

During the last four years, I have spent most days learning how I can come alongside people who have found themselves addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Although, I had my days of partying, and fairly hard at that, by the grace of God, when He set me free of that lifestyle, I never looked back.

But because of that, I often found myself in either one of two camps of thinking: I either thought that Jesus can just heal their addiction and if the person had enough faith to believe, the need for the drugs/alcohol would be taken away or I couldn’t understand how they could get addicted in the first place.

Although I enjoyed at times going out with friends for drinks, any drug I took never really impressed me enough to want to do it everyday. In fact, when I was on the really heavy stuff after a surgery, I wanted to switch to extra strength Tylenol as quick as I could.

But God has done a few things in my life that I want to share with you today, especially to those of you who keep those in active addiction or recovery at arms length simply because you don’t understand. I too have been there, some days can still find myself there, and therefore can completely empathize with you. But because I have heard story after story of why people use drugs, read books on it, watched documentaries, and most importantly prayed and sought the Lord on it, I have a few thoughts for you and me (I’m still preaching to myself) about how we can all better respond to this growing epidemic that is leaving a line of bodies in its tracks.

Side note: To those of you who are reading this that are in active addiction (and I hope you are reading this) and those who are walking in recovery, I pray this article helps to build bridges for you to have people come along side of you. I am a cheerleader for you and with God’s grace, an advocate for you. So if I get something wrong, I hope you know it’s not intentionally, but I am always open and willing to learn. Teach me what I need to know.

Now, to those of you who, like me have looked at an addict and thought…”Why? Why would you do such a thing to your body? Why would you do this to your friends, family, loved ones? I don’t understand why?” I hope this encourages you and helps you to maybe consider seeing things from a difference perspective.

I start by saying this to you. The reason why an addict uses has nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

If you’ll stick with me, I promise you I’ll explain why that is true.

Last week, I told you in this blog post about my friend Sherry. Sherry is just one of many women in my life who are recovering from addiction. Each one of them have their own struggles to overcome. But just as I tosherry_blogld you about Sherry, I believe these people to be some of the bravest people I know. They have chosen to daily let go of a lifestyle that had a huge grip on them to follow Jesus in sobriety. They are re-inventing themselves through the identity that He has given them.

As I have walked with them, God has revealed some things about me that has helped me to relate. One is that I too am an addict. No, I’ve never needed to go to rehab for drugs or alcohol, but I have found myself addicted to other things. Years ago, I was addicted to shopping. Any chance I got, I wanted to go shopping and purchase the latest and greatest finds. I loved it. The thrill of the spending, I felt powerful being able to buy things I wanted but just like an addict the aftermath of it left me feeling ashamed, empty, and powerless.

I have learned that I am also in recovery from being an approval addict. I find myself on many occasions seeking and needing the approval of others. Though God has brought me a long way on this, I still find myself refreshing Facebook to see who “liked”, commented, or shared my post. I still check to see how many people read my blog and I still pray every time that I write only for God and not to tickle the ears of the people reading.

Over the past few years I battled with another form of addiction, sugar. There were times where I would dream about it and think about where I could get my next “sugar fix.” Sugar is cheap and easy to find, it was also easy to hide because I could purchase it, consume it, and no one would know otherwise. The evidence was easy to cover up and it didn’t alter my state for anyone to know what I had done.

I think if each of us took a moment to think about those things in our lives that we crave outside of the Word of God. Those things that we need, that we have to have, that we cannot get enough of…even things that may seem to be healthy, we’ll realize it’s not difficult for us to be addicted to something. And from these experiences I learned and hopefully you can too, empathy. Or let me say it this way, compassion.

Romans 9:15 (ESV) says, this… For he (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

What does it mean to have compassion? It means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Synonyms are pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow, feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

When you feel these things for someone it opens your heart up to them, it helps you get into their shoes, and it helps us to love them right where they are at.

To be honest with you…I don’t care which camp you come from. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that addiction is a sin, a disease, mental health issue, or genetics. God doesn’t make exceptions to the rule. We are to love regardless. Regardless of why the person has gotten caught in the addiction.

And to love people, sometimes you have to do it the same way Jesus did it for us, sacrificially. It’s easy to love someone you believe is doing everything the way you think they should. It’s not so easy when they aren’t.

John 15:13 says “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”nogreaterlove

When we have compassion on them just has our Father had compassion on us, we can love people sacrificially.

But this is where we have failed. Instead of having mercy and compassion on our sick, we condemn them. Instead of loving them we shun them. I can’t tell you how many people over the last four years I have heard tell me that a local church told them they were no longer welcome there. They were told to take their tattooed bodies somewhere else. They felt judged and not loved.

Some of you are thinking…well, maybe they felt that because of the way they were dressed, they shouldn’t have worn that to church. Or maybe, you are coming up with a rebuttal to their tattoos, or their life style or something else, but I plead with you. Please STOP. Just stop.

For some of us that way of life is foreign. It’s such an extreme from what we believe it’s hard for us to understand. Stop trying to understand it. You can’t. You’ve never been there. You don’t understand the hurt they have felt, you can’t get to a place to make it make sense. This is not compassion, it’s the complete opposite.

With compassion you respond with “I’m sorry this has happened to you.” You sit and you listen. You don’t pass judgement off of your own experiences. You listen to hear theirs. You open your heart to hear what they have to say and what may be behind what they are saying.

Because there is more to people than the mask that they put on. I cannot repeat that enough. We all have hurts, we all have wounds. We all have learned how to cope with them differently. If you listen to recovered and healing or healed addicts enough, you will hear a common thread.

“I used to cover up my pain. I used to heal the wounds in my heart. I used because I knew no other way to cope with the hurt.”

Do you hear that folks. These are our wounded. Our heartsick. Our hurting. And they need us to love them, to have compassion on them, to be in community with them.

A couple of weeks ago Crossroads, our church in Cincinnati, showed this video and it opened up my eyes to a whole new important piece in the addiction puzzle.

Take a moment to watch this.

How’s that for a wake-up call Church?  What people need is community, and a compassionate one at that.

They need a safe place to be them with all their baggage, and their hurts, and their pain. They need community who will love them, encourage them, pray with them and lift them up even when they stumble. If I have learned anything from my addicted friends it is this…they will relapse. And sometimes when you absolutely least expect it. For sometimes no reason at all. It can be frustrating and challenging.But we need to be like the father of the Prodigal Son. We need to have our arms wide open waitingon them to come home.

what-people-need-is-community-and-a-compassionate-one-at-that

Now, I know that there are some of you arguing all of this as you read because your thinking…I did that. I did that and they overdosed. I did that and they are still using. I did that and all I got was hurt.

Please hear me on this, I get it. I didn’t say this was easy. But I want to say this as gently and as lovingly as I can (because I know some of you are sweet Mamas who have lost their loved ones or may feel like you are going to)… right now you can’t love them the way they need to be loved. Right now, you need healing. You are hurting.

And in that scenario, “Hurt people only hurt people.”

You will do more damage than you will do good because you are angry. What you want them to do, they did not do. You are angry at them. You may even be angry at God. You could even be angry at you.

This brings me to the point I was making above, the reason why they use has nothing to do with you or may have everything to do with you.

So to help us all, no matter what situation you are in with the person in addiction in your life, I have some steps for you to consider.

First, you need to start to forgive them. Forgive the person for not living up to your expectations. For harming themselves and the people around them. For not loving you the way you needed to be loved, for whatever transpired between you two. I don’t know and can’t list every scenario here. You know the situation. You know the why. Your job now is to start the process of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You being bound up in unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does nothing to help them. In fact, it only gives more power to the enemy to defeat you and them and anyone else in your life it has affected.

Second, you need to forgive God. He is a big boy. He can take whatever offense you may have brought before Him. You may blame Him for the addiction. You may blame him for their recklessness. You may blame him for their death. But you must remember that we have free will, each and every one of us. When someone willingly subjects themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, they are exercising that free will. No one can stop them, but them. Their choice to begin is just as much their choice to end it. I don’t like it anymore than you do but it is true. So I ask you to consider, letting God off the hook for your own sake. He is still God, on the throne, seated high and exalted. Your not forgiving Him does not stop Him from being who He is. It hurts you more than it does Him. So forgive Him so that you can move on and be free of the bitterness and anger you are holding on to.

Third, forgive you. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you may or may not play a role in why the person is using right now. You may be the perpetrator of their wounds or you may not have anything to do with it, but realize you are powerless. You may have enabled them to use again. Whatever the situation is, again, you need to forgive yourself.

Jesus Christ died on a cross, sacrificially, for each of us so that we may be set free from all of our sins. I’ve heard it said before, When you keep unforgiveness in your heart, you put yourself in a cage and hold onto the key.” it’s self-deprecation and again it helps no one move forward in this situation.

mckenziehyde-compassionverse
Stacey Hyde reconciled with her family.

What a person in active addiction or walking through recovery needs is YOU. You having compassion for them, loving them, encouraging them, praying for them, and speaking truth to them.

So start this process with you. Seek forgiveness. Break yourself free from your pain so that you can receive the healing you need.

Why? Because healed people can help heal people. People who are healed, forgiven, loved and full of compassion freely give what they have recived.

That is the greatest gift you can give to someone in addiction. A healed you.

Now that we have gotten to the end of this post I feel like there is more that I need to share to equip you to love those in addiction and recovery well. So, with that, we’ll continue this topic next week.

Join me when we’ll start to talk about how you love an addict so that you are not enabling them but rather empowering them to take ownership of their addiction in the hopes of them moving forward.

P.S. If you are ready to get help, please contact me or The Link of Cullman County. We are happy to help you get where you need to be to start your journey to sobriety. If you are not in Cullman,AL please call your local church, non-profit, recovery, AA, ALNON to get help.

I know I hit on some things in this post that people are going to want to talk about, so please comment below on and let’s model compassion for each other as we seek God to help us love those people in active addiction and recovery around us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why YOU Can’t Fix Anyone

For the next few weeks I want to talk about something that I am super passionate about. I tell you this up front because if you don’t know me personally, that is my cue to you that you might want to ready yourself for what I have to say.

If you know me…well, you already get the point.

I’ve shared with you how I have the opportunity every day to get up and go to a “job” that I love at a place called The Link of Cullman County.  I put the word “job” in quotations because for me this is much more of a calling than it ever is a job. I am a steward of a vision that is not mine, but God’s. He allows me to serve my community through, what I believe, is an incredible mission to love those on the margins, in the fringes, can seem invisible, and often times forgotten.

However, though it is my call to lead this vision in Cullman, Al I truly believe with everything in me that it is every believer’s call to also be involved in this vision. You may be thinking…

“Why? I am not passionate about serving the poor, the marginalize, the underserved like you are… I love animals, or conservation, or finding a cure for cancer.”

All of those things are of utmost importance, but if you’ll give me a moment of your time I’ll share with you how God has place at the center of His heart for humanity to love one another as the primary goal.

Let me start by telling you a story about a friend of mine that I have known for more than three years now. Her name is Sherry. When I first met Sherry, she was an inmate in the Cullman County Detention Center and I was her Jobs for Life™ teacher. Jobs for Life™ is a biblically based jobs preparedness class that teaches the unemployed and underemployed the value of a job and how God created all of us for work.

Sherry looked like she was in her mid-fifties but she’s in her early 40s, she has a very husky voice which is from years of smoking cigarettes and the crack pipe. She looked “rough.” She spoke “rough.” She asked very blunt questions and though she was trying hard to follow after Jesus, she still had a lot of issues to overcome. She could only read at a 4th grade level. Sherry’s only legal job over the last twenty years or so was working at a Burger King for a few months. However, her resume included prostitute, stripper, madam, and drug dealer. The second week of class she let me know that her and her former partner were both in the class, but that they have accepted Christ as savior and decided their relationship did not honor God.

She also had leadership skills, charisma, and the ladies around her always showed her respect…though that may have been out of fear.

But she was hungry for Jesus, and for that she earned my respect.

Sherry was not easy for me to love. We were as opposite as they come, everything about her screamed, “FIX ME!” And I thought I knew exactly how I was going to accomplish that.

But everything I thought I could do to make her “right,” God showed me was completely wrong.

All the expectations I had for that relationship I had to throw out the window, God has shown me over and over again…I didn’t need to fix her, I just needed to love her.

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul (our assumed author) talks about putting our love into action.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

So what is Paul saying here? He’s sharing with us some really great advice on how to engage with the people who we rub shoulders with in every day life…

our family,
our friends,
our co-workers,
the woman in the checkout line in Walmart who has a cart full of food, kids running around her hips and food stamps in her hand,
the man with the tattoos, gauges in his ears and shaved head,
the guy with baggy pants and the hooded sweatshirt,
the lady wearing the latest and greatest trends and
the young adult who looks like he hasn’t bathed in a week.

He’s saying to us get into people’s lives, love them where they are and for who they are.

See Paul knew something about humanity…we see people from our own perspectives which is mainly a view of what is on the outside. And because we don’t always like what we see, we want to fix them.

We want to give them what they need and send them on their way.

But here’s the thing, there is more to us then the mask we put on.

In Genesis 1:27 it says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We bear the image of God. We were sandwiched into creation, Adam before all of the animals and Eve as the crown of all creation.

We are His image bearers, created in His likeness. We are the most precious in his sight.

In v. 11 of our Romans text it says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  

So if we take the idea that we are made in the image of God and that we are to be devoted to one another, honoring one another above our selves, we can clearly see we are to HONOR the image bearer.

Honor which means to give high esteem and respect.

We are to give high esteem and respect to the image bearer. The image bearer who was born into a family with a silver spoon in their mouth, the image bearer who has different color skin then your own, the image bearer who may be physically impaired or mentally delayed, the image bearer whose family can’t keep the lights on or the water running and therefore has poor hygiene, the image bearer who sleeps on the park bench (yes, even in Cullman, AL), the image bearer who sells their body to help pay the bills, the image bearer who looks like they are all rough and tough on the exterior but has learned to build the walls to stop the hurt from drowning them.

You see in the eyes of God we are all bearers of His image and therefore loved by Him and His command to us is to honor one another above yourselves.

In honoring …we engage. We love in the ups and downs of life. We don’t give up. We pray and we DREAM BIG and fall hard on the Lord.

We cry with each other, we rejoice with each other, and we mourn with each other. We do not repay evil for evil, rather we love our enemies.

This is why I say to you, to love the homeless, the prostitute, the incarcerated, the marginalized, the poor, the destitute, is just as much your call as it is mine. There is no getting around it.

So I want you to consider today, how you are  showing honor “above yourselves” to the image bearers around you.

My challenge three years ago was to learn how to love Sherry as an image bearer.

Today Sherry is out of jail and has nearly three and a half years sober under her belt. She is working three jobs to support herself. She gives back to organizations she believes in, organizations that gave to her like us, like the rehab she attended for 6 months. She attends church every Sunday and is engaged in a small group. She is constantly recruiting people to attend church or meetings with her. She’s graduated from the IOP program through the Mental Health Care of Cullman. She is being reconciled to family members and constantly sharing Jesus with nearly every person she meets. She is one of the bravest people I know. And I am so honored to be her friend because she regularly challenges me to go deeper with Jesus and to love people even more than I think I already am.sherry-and-dawn

Looking at us, you’d still say we couldn’t be more opposite, but we are both image bearers of God. She is my sister in Christ, we share the same Heavenly Father and we are both still trying to figure out how to become more like Jesus. So different on the outside, yet so very much the same. 

God is calling you and me, regardless of what we do, to honor the image bearers around us. So for the next few weeks we’re going to explore some of these issues in more depth. How do we show love to those who have no homes. What does it look like to show honor and dignity to a woman who earns money by selling her body? Can we share the gospel with an addict? Does God care about the incarcerated, don’t they deserve what they have received…and more.

So stick with me cause we are going to journey through this together. Learning how to love those that are hard to love because they may be so different than ourselves.

My challenge to you is how can you start to do that this week? How can you not just love the ones that are easy to love and show honor to the ones that are easy to show honor to, but how you can place those in “lowly place” above yourself so that you are loving as your Heavenly Father has loved to you?