084 Personal Growth: What Are Triggers?

SHOW NOTES:

Disclaimer:  Today’s topic is sensitive in nature.  We will be discussing topics that may be difficult for some listeners, such as trauma, death, and things that elicit very emotional responses. Listen at your discretion. 

Trigger is a buzzword these days.  It seems to be a part of this decade’s zeitgeist. Being “triggered” is a notion popularized by today’s media and culture.

From a clinical standpoint, triggers are a serious consideration. For someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, grief, etc. the word trigger is not a trite term. 

Today, therapists Vincent and Laura Ketchie of Relationship Helpers examine triggers.  What are they?  Where do they come from?  What should we do with them?

Things we see, things we hear, things we touch, even the day of the year can be a trigger for some of us. These can ingrain and store certain memories in the body, bringing us back to how we felt during a traumatic situation of the past.  We can have emotions from the past in the present moment due to triggers. 

A trigger is something that pushes the “rewind” button in your body—transporting you back to a different time.  You begin to feel what you felt during that time, your body feels as if it is back in that time.  You experience that same emotion and physical feeling or maybe you zone out. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is seen often in someone who has experienced a trauma and they have had difficulty coping with that trauma.  They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety). Those suffering from PTSD may struggle with functioning at work and/or home. 

They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety).
They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety).

An example could be a combat veteran who has lost a friend in uniform. He may struggle with the sudden sounds of fireworks or watching a movie, or something that reminds them of the person they lost.  Whatever the trigger, his body and mind is sent back to that moment where he lost his friend. His mind and body are responding as if he is back at that traumatic situation. 

A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis can occur over countless types of traumas.  It is not specific to combat. People with PTSD often have anxiety attacks. Some have panic attacks. Be sure to check out our episode on how to tell the difference between an anxiety and panic attack.

Laura feels there are varying degrees of response to stimuli. She shares her experience with PTSD, finding that being in the presence of a very direct trigger could elicit a strong PTSD response. She mentions, however that there could be lesser triggers. Rather than having a full-on panic attack, a sufferer may have milder responses. 

There are many layers to the situation of a trauma. There are many things in your environment, at the time. Some things that may have not seemed to be all that significant during the trauma could still be a trigger. In essence, there could be some very direct triggers that causes extreme responses, but there could be some more subtle ones that cause a response as well. 

Obvious things such as the sight of blood or the sounds of gasping for air could be pretty direct, but others such as the air temperature or the lighting could be more subtle triggers. Triggers can be subtle or obvious.

If you are having difficulty understanding why you are having some mild anxiety symptoms, it may be helpful to identify any subtle triggers that you may have. 

Acknowledging these triggers is important because your trigger-response behavior may be affecting your relationships now.  You may be irritable, standoffish, blowing up with your spouse. You could be hesitant about things without knowing why. 

Anniversary Triggers

For some that struggle with triggers, they may not know today’s date, yet are still triggered by the anniversary of a trauma on that date. This person’s body and mind still transports them to that time, even without direct awareness of the day. 

Grief is often associated with anniversary triggers. The date of someone’s death or the date of a breakup are both examples of possible anniversary triggers. 

Holidays and birthdays can be very natural triggers. Sometimes we get triggered days before the anniversary. He or she may become irritable days before the anniversary.  They may seem depressed, leading up to that day.  Or, they may experience depression and irritability at any time or frequently. 

It is important to be aware of your triggers, but also to give yourself grace. Don’t put too much on your schedule around an anniversary. You need to know how you best cope. You may need to schedule some fun activities around an anniversary to get you through that time. Don’t overcommit yourself or put too much stress on yourself if you know this is going to be a difficult time. 

Visual Triggers

T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people.
T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people.

When someone experiences trauma, usually the most concrete things are visual. We are very visual people. 

Vincent describes a story about our professor, Dr. David Ludwig.  He shared that he had difficulty with a very specific shade of blue cloth.  One day he was sitting in the choir loft during a church meeting. The choir was wearing blue robes.  On this particular day his father, the pastor, was being criticized by someone in the congregation. They were threatening to let him go from the church. Dr. Ludwig was embarrassed. He continued to look down and to the right, staring at his robe.  Now he finds himself feeling that sense of shame sometimes if he looks down and to the right at something blue. He had made an association of shame with that color. 

T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people. The visual paired with audio can be very stimulating and stir up emotions, sending someone back to a traumatic situation. 

Physical Triggers

Sometimes we don’t consider how physical touch can set us off. The body keeps memory of things that have happened to it.  Someone who may have been held down by the shoulder by an attacker may have difficulty being touched on the shoulder later. 

Some people struggle with having their personal space impeded or struggle with being cornered because of a past trauma. They may have difficulty handling a situation with a person with a poor sense of personal boundaries. Being crammed in an elevator may be hard. Standing in line at a theme park or being crowded may cause this person to have feelings like they did when they were abused or attacked. 

Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers. 
Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers.

Getting your haircut, going to the dentist and/or doctor, having a massage all could be difficult because of the close proximity of another person who is touching you. 

Some people don’t realize that a physical reaction to being touched could be connected to a trauma. Triggers are not a cut-and-dry, black or white thing. For instance, a rape victim is not going to be only triggered by sex. Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers. 

Having a very broad understanding of triggers is important because each person’s experience of trauma is different.  No two people or traumas are alike. We can’t say that this person’s trauma is that person’s trauma or that this person’s reason for having PTSD is that person’s reasons for having or not having PTSD. It’s a very individual experience. 

Verbal Triggers

Sometimes what is said or not said can be a trigger.  Tone of voice can be a trigger. A certain language or dialect could be triggering. 

If someone has been assaulted and their assailant had a deep voice they could be triggered by the sounds of deep voices. It could be the kind of words their attacker said. T.V. and movies could be difficult to watch because of these types of triggers. Songs could be difficult to hear. 

Triggers and Grooming

Grooming is the process that a pedophile uses to establish a trusting connection with a child. (Be sure to check out our interview with Tracy Lamperti on How to Protect Your Child From Pedophiles to learn more about preventing child molestation). The pedophile may have used certain tactics to make the child more comfortable with him or her.  These could become triggers later. 

People who have been molested as children may struggle with figures of authority because their trust in authority has been broken. 

Miscellaneous Triggers

Cologne, perfume, laundry detergent smells may all be triggering for some people. The sense of taste can be triggering. 

Certain textures and tastes can be disturbing for some people (especially those who have experienced childhood sexual traumas.) 

Conclusion

We’ve never really walked in another person’s shoes.  It is good to broaden your understanding of trauma and its affects on people.  Being aware of triggers and how they impact people is very helpful in improving your relationships with others. 

If you have suffered from trauma, being in the here-and-now and having an awareness of your triggers is helpful in coping with day-to-day activities. 

Out of hurt we have a tendency to shut out others. Acting out of hurt can shut us out from being able to support others and have relationships with others. Sometimes hurt people make the assumption that they are the only ones who have hurt this bad and that no one can understand. Regardless of whether someone near you has experienced the hurt you’ve experienced, there are people that want to support you. 

If you have a “difficult” person in your life, they have probably experienced trauma. Being caring and empathetic will take you much further in trying to be in relationship with that person than being defensive and dismissive.  

Have patience with people and with yourself. Be aware of what’s going on and ask God to help you to step back and gain understanding.

083 Personal Growth: Is Self-Care Selfish?

SHOW NOTES

Self-care seems to be buzz words these days.  Many industries have devoted themselves to the idea of self-care. But is self-care selfish? With our culture becoming more and more me-focused have we gotten too focused on self and less on others?  What really is self-care?

We have to be very careful in how we answer this question. As therapists it would be irresponsible not to.  In some Christian circles the concept of self-care is frowned upon. Again, we have to be careful.  Yes, we are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily, but how we deny ourselves is an important discussion.

Laura Explains This Cultural Concept To Vincent

At the onset of today’s episode, Laura explains to Vincent that a large portion of the self-care industry seems to be geared towards women.  Vincent assumed that self-care was more along the lines of good hygiene.  It is a bit funny to hear the difference between what a man considers self-care and how a woman views it. After helping Vincent see that self-care goes beyond taking a daily bath, Laura engages him in discussion on activities that women and men find entertaining. 

We delineate the difference between selfish behavior and self-care by using Vincent’s example of what many men find fun:  sitting in a deer stand for hours on end.  Laura asks “are you doing it to the neglect of your family or are you doing it because you need to refuel?”  Vincent prefers to use the words “leisure” or “fun time” over “self-care.”  Laura feels that self-care is not just fun.  (She gives the example of waxing.) 

Dangers of Too Much Self-Care

Laura has seen the impact of women self-medicating with what started as an occasional glass of wine to wind down in the evening to drinking that has increased over time. It started out as a mindless activity that has gotten out of control. AND it is a slippery slope that is becoming more socially acceptable.

On the face of it, I (Laura) understand why some Christians denounce the concept of self-care.  If it is taking you away from time spent better with God or serving others, then, yes, self-care could be thought of selfish.

However, having worked with troubled individuals for years, I (Laura) think(s)  that a message of self-care being selfish is unhelpful. This message could be particularly harmful to those struggling with codependency.

Codependents have a tendency to live in the extremes.  They often feel responsible for others’ feelings.  They can’t be happy unless others are happy. 

Harmfulness Of Putting Self-Care Down

Here’s why telling people self-care is selfish could be harmful:  For the struggling codependent, they are so unhealthily focused on others that given the message that self-care is selfish just reinforces an already negative belief they have:  I don’t need to take care of myself. 

I’m caring for others better by not spending time on myself. This lack of self-care ends up hurting others in the process. 

Legalism is also common in codependency.  Seeing self-care as selfish can be a result of a harsh view of reality. Having worked with codependency we see so many people operating out of dry wells that will end up needing others’ care because they are not taking care of themselves.

The irony is that the mindset is often “I can’t do this for me right now because I’ve got to take care of so-and-so” and yet the codependent wears herself out and the very person that she was trying to care for will end up having to care for her. 

Codependents often struggle because they have put themselves in a position above God.  In their attempts at trying to make others happy, they get in God’s way. They often find their worth and value from being responsible for others’ happiness.

Meanwhile, it does not occur to them that they are getting in God’s way.  Many times, it takes a Christian therapist, pastor, family member or close friend to point this out to them, however sometimes codependents figure this out on their own.

The Best Self-Care

Some of the best self-care is time spent with God.  Drawing upon His strength will give you what you need.  Reading His word and learning about Him will help you through your day. 

If not, you run the risk of trying to do things out of your own strength and self-reliance.  This also means you may be serving others out of guilt, not out of a Christlike position. Be care not to fall into the trap of defining yourself by what you do.

If we’re serving others but doing it from the wrong motivation, it builds our ego. You could feel very guilty and blame yourself often AND your ego could be quite large and prideful. 

Gender Roles and Self-Care

Vincent has noticed an imbalance of work between the genders.  He describes how in the 1950s there was a very traditional view of man’s work and woman’s work and how that has changed since. Women have seemed to take on more work overall, still trying to do the homemaking and work full-time jobs.  Meanwhile, many men still feel that their wives should do most of the homemaking along with their jobs. In effect, many women are burnt out.

One common issue is that many families have divided tasks to indoors for the women and outdoors for the men.  This is problematic because usually indoor tasks are a daily activity whereas outdoor ones usually are not. Add children to the mix as well as the assumption that the woman will be doing the brunt of the childcare, and then you have an even greater imbalance. 

With more stay-at-home mothers taking on “work-at-home” jobs and businesses, it even furthers the amount of work women have taken on. Men, however, have had less variation in their roles.  There are some stay-at-home dads and work-from-home dads, but for the most part women’s roles have developed more variations.

Communication issues in marriages often arise out of assumptions.  It is very common to see a couple struggling over household work and duties, especially when they have not clearly communicated who is going to do what. Operating off of assumptions causes a lot of friction in relationships. 

Vincent mentions how the traditional household of the 1950s may have not necessarily been right, but that it was clear.  These days many couples are not clear on what is expected of one another. 

Mindless Activity

With the amount of work we are taking on, what are we doing to ourselves? Often, we find ourselves with a window of time between when the kids go to bed and when we do. 

This window of time is used many times for very unintentional activities.  This is where self-care can become problematic (see Laura’s discussion of alcoholism above.) On-line shopping, gaming, overeating, and social media all become mindless activities that create debt, emotional and/or physical problems. 

Why Are We So Busy?

Is it time to re-examine your goals in life?  Do expect to make a certain dollar amount or acquire certain status symbols? 

Laura feels that Western culture promotes excess. If you have a job, you over-work. If you’re a mother you are a soccer mom, a Pinterest mom, you do, you do, you do. If your kids are in sports they are on travel teams and play four games a weekend, not counting the practices and games during the week. Some parents count this as “leisure time” for themselves, when it really contributes more to the hamster wheel effect running ourselves ragged. 

Physical exhaustion can lead to poor decisions.  One such decision is eating.  Exhaustion can mask itself as hunger.   

Did You Do Your Homework?

As couples counselors, we give homework to our clients. Vincent describes how difficult it is for many couples to complete his homework assignment of four thirty-minute conversations per week. 

Overwhelmingly the excuse for not completing the homework is that they do not have the “downtime” to do it. 

God & Self-Care

If we view our bodies as temples, we have to care for them to be able to go out and serve.  Caring for our literal bodies helps us to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

Spending time with God allows us to be fueled by the Holy Spirit and not motivated by false guilt. 

God created us to be relational.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants to be our source of strength. He wants us to put our dependence in Him. We can do this through prayer and time spent reading the Bible.  He also gave us a wonderful creation to admire Him through. 

God also desires in us to have relationships with others.  We can incorporate this into our self-care routine.  Enjoying the company of positive people can go a long way. 

Self-care could mean watching a beautiful sunset and saying, “Wow!  Thank you God for allowing me to see that.  Your creation is beautiful.” 

Self-care could be going on a hike and marveling at how peaceful and still God’s handiwork can be. 

Self-care can be soaking in a tub, taking care of a world-worn body whose feet have walked far to carry the good news. 

Self-care can help us to appreciate.  It can prepare us to go out into the world refreshed for the next day of witnessing. 

Anything done to the extreme is unhealthy. Striking a balance is key. 

What can you do this week to take care of yourself?

080 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Peacemaking

SHOW NOTES

Today we challenge your view of what makes a person a peacemaker. We’re not talking about the person that avoids conflict or doesn’t “rock the boat”.  We are talking about the person who RESOLVES conflict through healthy communication and interactions. 

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Each week for the last several weeks we have focused on making “A Better New Year’s Resolution.” Instead of making diet and fitness goals, we are looking to improve our character.  Each episode is about developing a character trait. This week’s episode is about becoming a peacemaker. 

Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. This person does not stir up fights. They have a lot of courage. 

1.) Not the person who is passive & doesn’t rock the boat.

This is someone who addresses conflict. They are very thoughtful. When they speak, they are intentional. Ravi Zacharias, a leader in apologetics, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do some peace talks.

He had the opportunity to meet with an Israeli leader and a Palestinian leader. Both of the leaders had lost children to terrorism and fighting that had occurred due to the conflicts. 

He aligned with the both of them by saying, “It must be difficult to lose a child. You have sacrificed your child. What pain you must be going through.”  In doing so, he showed them that he was trying to understand them both.

In the middle of this discussion, he presented the Gospel.  He talked about God the father and how He sacrificed His son. He was able to use this opportunity to present the Gospel.

Most people would cower in a situation where they are between two warring foes, not Ravi Zacharias.  He was able to communicate THROUGH the pain that both fathers were feeling. It takes a lot of courage. Be sure to check out our BRAVE episode if you’d like some extra help on mustering up your courage.

2.) They work to find a solution which means compromise or setting healthy boundaries.

We are marriage therapists, we often see couples stuck in their ways.  Once they have been stuck for a while, hearts begin to harden.

Areas such as household duties and parenting are common problem areas for hardened hearts to develop.  An “I’m right, you’re wrong attitude” begins to emerge and they begin to operate out of that as a default mode. 

Sometimes even pet peeves can grow into a hardened heart. Your heart hardens onto these opinions and it becomes extremely difficult to compromise. 

It is painful to break these ideals. A peacemaker is able to adjust. They are flexible.

3.) They have empathy.

A peacemaker wants what is best for all involved.  They are able to see how others think and feel.

Being a peacemaker is not being passive, however.  A peacemaker is not someone who just keeps peace by postponing conflict.

Postponing conflict is like putting anger in a pressure cooker.  Being passive is like participating in building a bomb. Vincent calls it being an “emotional bomb-builder.”

Weeks, months, years pass and the anger errupts, and it is much worse than it needed to be if had been acknowledged in the first place. If you need some pointers on addressing the “elephant in the room” be sure to check out our episode where we interview Jill Martin

4.) They resolve conflict.

Resolving conflict requires several different components. 

Atmosphere

A peacemaker is able to gauge the atmosphere and to set the atmosphere. They can set the tone, or help to set the tone.  They know when to address a problem. 

To help you learn how to gauge the atmosphere, pay attention to your five senses. For instance, if everyone is cramped into a hot, crowded car, it’s not best to try to bring up a problem.

Also beware of distractions. If someone is hungry, it is loud, the tv is on, the kids can hear, etc. it’s not a good time to try to bring up a contentious issue. A peacemaker makes or finds an appropriate atmophere. 

Focus on the Problem Not the Person

A peacemaker is able to extract the problem from the persons involved. They do not identify the other person as the problem. They do not personalize the situation. 

Be Honest & Direct While Using Tact

A peacemaker may plan out what they are about to say—scripting it.  Organizing your thoughts is helpful to make things come out in a healthy way. 

Try sandwiching it.  Use positives before getting to the actual issue.  Do things to align yourself with the other person.  Being able to empathize, using feeling words, goes a long way.

Examples may include “That must have really hurt when…” or “You must have felt really frustrated when…” Another important comment to make is “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

An example of using the “sandwich technique” would be:  “I really appreciated it when you helped Tommy with his science project, but it upset me when you told mom what I told you about the problems my wife and I are having. When I told you this in confidence, it really upset me.  I didn’t want mom to know.  It hurt my trust. I value our relationship.  I want it to be healthy.  I needed to address this with you so I wouldn’t hold resentment towards you. I would want you to tell me if I’ve done something to hurt you, as well.” Notice how the peacemaker ends on a positive note. 

In conflict, you need to show the other person that you understand them. Don’t tell them, “I understand.”  SHOW them you understand.  This means using emotion words, for example:   “it must have hurt to…”

This helps you to connect to the other person. It deepens the communication and connection. They will know that you understand them. It helps the peacemaker come up with a concrete plan.  You’re able to work towards boundaries. 

Peacemaking is not a one time deal.  It is a process of forgiving and leaving the door open for more dialogue in the future. It may mean expressing a boundary, such as “next time you bring up the problem, I’ll say ‘I don’t want to hear that…it’s not appropriate.’” Be clear and concise, and follow through. 

Conclusion

Being a peacemaker is not a common quality. We hope that you have found today’s episode helpful in working on conflict resolution in your relationships so that you can become a healthy peacemaker! 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

079 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Genuineness

SHOW NOTES

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Do you feel like you are wearing a mask?  In today’s episode, the hosts of Relationship Helpers, therapists Vincent and Laura Ketchie discuss peeling off the mask to reveal the genuine you. 

Before a child reaches the age of two, you see a person who is the least likely to lie.  Of course as the toddler years emerge, lying starts.  But prior to this stage in human development, what you see is what you get. 

At some point, however, we begin to lie.  Usually it starts with little “white lies” to get what we want. Disingenuous behavior eventually gets us in trouble as children, as later it does adults.  It creates conflict in our relationships because of a lack of honesty or forthrightness.  When we are not genuine in our relationships, we end up in constant struggle. 

How to Become More Genuine

1.) People can’t mind-read you

If you are not assertive (direct, clear) with others, it becomes a guessing game. It’s a timeless experience, a couple wants to order takeout, but they play the “I don’t know what I want…” game.

The other spouse makes a suggestion and the one spouse says, “Well, I don’t want that.”  And round and round the conversation goes, taking up time and leaving them both hungry. It’s like a dance; dancing around the point: getting the food. 

This behavior leaves the spouse who asked the question frustrated. It sets a bad tone.  

If you want to improve the health of your relationship, it’s important to remember not to frustrate your loved one by being passive and indirect.  Expecting someone to read your mind is detrimental to your relationship. 

2.) Be honest with yourself

Not only do we need to be honest with others, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to have an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. If you recognize that you are passive, be proactive about changing that behavior.

Remember that your passivity will frustrate your loved ones unless you do something about it. This means seeking out opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone. 

When you take the risk of putting yourself in opportunities where you could fail, you grow. Some people may look back on their lackluster sports attempts and feel negatively.  Rather than choosing to focus on how poorly you performed, consider other takeaways. 

For instance, if you have two left feet, you may consider how you were as a team mate. Look at the strengths you had. Maybe you would have been a better strategist, coach, cheerleader or supporter?

In Proverbs we are told that it is wise to accept correction—that a fool hates correction.   Study the correction you have received.  Look at how you have received the correction.  You may need to take an honest look at how you perceive yourself. 

3.) Don’t be aggressive 

Don’t confuse being genuine with “telling people like it is.”  Aggressive people often think that they are genuine. Although they are speaking “their truth” they are bulldozing the relationship.  It’s not helpful. 

Being genuine means you have an awareness of others being equals—seeing each person on an equal playing field.  You are valuing their needs and wants but at the same time you are able to express your needs and wants. 

4.) When people ask you about yourself, you tell them.

This also means that when someone asks you “how are you?” you are able to say something other than “fine.”  Fine many times is a blanket statement.  Think of the word fine this way—Feelings Inside Not Expressed.

Next time someone asks, try being honest. You don’t have to dump on them, but you can be honest. If life has been difficult, say things haven’t been easy lately. 

5.) Be honest & direct in a calm, relaxed manner – Speak the Truth in Love

We’ve just talked about when things aren’t okay and how we tend to not let people know that.  On the other hand, sometimes we don’t let people know it when things are going well. 

Is there some sort of excitement you’re not sharing with others?  If so, you could lift someone’s mood.  Not sharing your good news may be robbing others of an opportunity to be happy (and happy for you.)

One of the biggest obstacles to being genuine is a fear of conflict. Some people are passive and generally are people-pleasers.  Yet others are aggressive, and believe that they are telling their truth when in fact that are doing it in unhelpful manner. 

The Bible asserts that we should “speak the truth in love,” meaning that we do not avoid being truthful (passive), BUT that when we do confront someone that we do it with love (assertive).  

Assertiveness Versus Aggressiveness

Please do not confuse assertive with aggressive.  Assertiveness is done with regard to everyone having value.  Aggressiveness says, “I’m going to speak my truth how ever I can and no matter how it hurts others.” Speaking truth without love is judgmental. 

An example would be a husband and wife are riding home.  The husband is driving but his driving makes his wife nervous.  She could say, “Are you trying to get us killed?!?” Which would be aggressive and probably create a fight.

OR she could say, “I appreciate that you’re driving tonight. Could you slow down some?  It’s making me nervous. I appreciate that you’re driving, you do have better night vision.”  In the second example, compliments are being used to soften the criticism. 

What the Bible Says…

In Ephesians 4: 22-24 Paul says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Here we have Paul telling us to be the people God created us to be, our genuine selves! He wants to be who He made us to be and for our character and actions to match this persona.

A person who does this appears consistent. They are a person of their word. When they tell you their opinion or talk about their feelings, you know they are being truthful because they have a history of being consistent.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” A genuine person promotes the unity of the body of Christ. 

This means that they are able to create calmness and peace amongst others with their assertiveness.  They are good, healthy communicators who visibly acknowledge the value of others. 

Conclusion

We hope that you feel encouraged to be a more genuine person.  When more people do, there is less conflict and misunderstandings.

Be sure to checkout our other episodes in this series “A Better New Year’s Resolution”, where we describe more ways to help you to build character!

078 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Patience

SHOW NOTES:

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Need more patience in your life? In this fifth part of our series “A Better New Year’s Resolution,” the Relationship Helpers discuss how to become a more patient person.  If you have been following this series, you’ve probably noticed that we are not focusing on typical New Years resolutions such as weight loss and diet.

Instead, we are more interested in looking at changes that come from the inside. Be sure to check out our episodes on being more friendly, cheerful, generous and brave if this is your first time joining us.

Many people feel they have a short supply of patience, however life demands patience.  The gestation of a baby takes about ten months.  Getting an education takes many years. Great things usually require time, effort, persistence and patience.

Our culture has bypassed the need for these traits in many ways. With the advent of same-day deliveries and grocery-pickups, we don’t even have to shop in the traditional sense anymore. 

Standoffish at the Supermarket

Laura shares a recent in-store grocery shopping experience. She admits that she was in no rush and realizes that others were. She completed her shopping and went to the first checkout aisle. She was not the first person in line. 

It became very obvious to her that the young cashier working the line was new to his job. He was being very cautious and careful, and was having some difficulty with things. She tells us that these kind of things don’t bother her because she tries to put herself in others’ shoes and so she felt for this cashier.  She reminds us that WE ALL have been the new person at some point in our lives. 

He completes the transaction and it’s Laura’s turn.  She has a sizeable cartload of groceries. Laura noticed a lady behind her in line as she’s checking out.  The woman is shifting side to side; she’s not handling the situation well. Her body language is communicating her displeasure. She’s even talking to the cashier before she’s even the next customer in line. 

Oh No! The Coupon…

As the cashier finishes ringing up Laura’s groceries, Laura produces a coupon for formula.  Now these coupons are run like travelers checks and are not like your typical bar code coupons.  Laura always dreads giving them to cashiers because she knows that running them is a little more complicated from the many times managers have been called in to complete these transactions in the past. The cashier calls in the manager.

Meanwhile, the customer in line is still stewing. She has to wait as the cashier finishes the transaction, complete with printing out a two-foot sales receipt accompanied by all of the grocery store coupons attached to the print-out. Laura proceeds to fold up the wad of receipt tape to head out on her way and she hears the lady behind her say to the cashier, “Can you just hurry, I’m in a rush.” 

This bothered Laura because she realized how the lady was hurting her cause.  Her tone of voice, the body language she used, and desire to rush the job was not going to make the cashier work effectively. Her behavior was not going to get her through the line any faster because he was learning.

Haste Makes Waste…

When you try to speed up someone like that, they are more likely to make more mistakes. If you are patient with people, it can really go far. People perform better when you approach them with kindness and patience.

In fact in the scenario Laura mentions, this woman may have actually slowed her checkout process even more BECAUSE of the aggressive way she acted. The cashier could have rung something up twice, charged wrong, or missed something, thus slowing her chances of getting out fast even more.

If she had taken a few breaths and considered the young cashier’s situation, she may have gotten out faster.  Instead, she emanated pressured, nervous energy. 

MORAL OF THE STORY:  Next time you’re in a checkout line with an associate in training, or you’re working with children or senior adults, give them time and patience.  A little can go far!

How Do I Become More Patient?

1.) Slow Down

Part of being patient is learning how to slow down.  As therapists, Vincent and Laura work frequently with people who need to learn this habit. They often give their clients the homework of “SLOWING DOWN”. This means slowing how fast you talk, how fast you walk, slowing your thoughts, etc. It forces you to listen.

Laura feels that if the woman in the checkout line had slowed down to listen and pay attention, she would have realized that the young associate was new to his job. 

We become more observational when we are more patient.  We’ve talked in other podcast episodes about being present and in the moment.

When you’re patient, you are more present. You notice more things because you are not allowing your busy or nervous behavior to overwhelm your senses.

In James 1:19 we are told to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. When you do as this scripture says, you are being more patient, but you also notice more things.  You notice more of what others are saying and doing because you are not trying to formulate what you’re going to say next while the other person is talking. 

2.) Expectations

God’s time versus our time are two different ends of the spectrum.  One of God’s qualities is His patience.  Think about how much grace He gives us. Wow. We’re all just living in grace. 

Vincent feels that one of Satan’s tactics is to get us going too fast. Laura mentions how God is timeless and how we as humans measure time. 

Almost everything we own has time marked on it somehow. Vincent feels that Satan uses our culture’s sense of busyness to throw us off course.  David Jeremiah once mentioned, “B-U-S-Y is being burdened under Satan’s yoke.”

What would happen if we did not put worldly expectations on ourselves, but instead considered doing things on God’s time?

Laura finds that a suffering prayer life can really harm us. She knows this from personal experience. If we don’t put God first, we are acting out of our own will and now His. 

Frank Laubach gave this morning prayer: “Lord, what are you doing today that I can help you with?”  If you’re too busy to pray, you don’t give Him the opportunity to work through you. Mr. Laubach’s prayer says two things: 

1. God is at work in the world. God doesn’t wait for us to act, but invites us to join in on what is already going on.

2. There are some things God is doing that we aren’t expected to do. Every disciple has their own assignment. 

You will be missing out on God’s blessings when you don’t pray. 

3.) Allowing God to work things out in His time

We have a tendency to tell God what to do … “God this is what needs to happen…” We really are sabotaging God’s process.

Ironically, sometimes we pray for things from our own knowledge, when God has even better ideas for us. We just need to listen to Him and study Him to see how He is working for the better in our lives. 

Abraham is one of the early examples in the Bible of someone sabotaging God.  God had told him that he would be a father of a great nation. 

Out of his impatience, Abraham gets another woman pregnant, rather than patiently working through God’s timetable and waiting for his own wife to become pregnant. His wife Sarah, is just as guilty of sabotaging God in this instance because she okayed Abraham impregnating Hagar. 

Stanley Arnold

Stanley Arnold said, “Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution.” Mr. Arnold’s profession was consulting with businesses to overcome problems.  He developed his motivation early on. 

In school Mr. Arnold struggled with the long jump.  While the other students were able to jump far and stick their landings, young Stanley would fall backwards.

He was embarrassed about his jumps so he practiced at home. He discovered that he could always stick his landing if he jumped backwards, so he continued to practice jumping backwards. 

One day he asked the gym teacher if the students could try a backwards jump.  To everyone’s surprise, Stanley could do it better than everyone else! He was the “back jump” champion! His problem contained the solution and because he was patient and studied the problem, he used his strengths to solve the problem.

4.) Taking time to appreciate things – aesthetics, God’s provision, gratitude

Stanley Arnold had a gift and recognized it. In the late 1880s, oil companies made money selling kerosene.

The byproduct of kerosene is gasoline. There was tons of gasoline made during kerosene’s heyday. It was viewed as waste. It took patience for the oil companies to discover the uses of gasoline and profit from it.  

5.) Allowing others to learn, grow, & figure things out for themselves

Patience of others allows new cashiers to learn their jobs. Good teachers recognize this. They allow students, to a certain degree, to teach themselves rather than forcing it.  They facilitate students to teach themselves. 

John Wesley was not the greatest preacher.  George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards were the ones great at preaching sermons. John Wesley, however, had foresight. His strength, which took patience, was building communities based on theology. His teaching method became the foundation of the Methodist Church.  

This kind of work means being able to allow others to fail. Great teachers and great parents know this. Giving people the space and the grace to learn how to fail is important. 

Look at Thomas Edison and his hundreds of attempts at making the light bulb.  He did not give up. Vincent mentions that Edison tried many different things and failed most of the time, but that is not what he is known for. The same is true for Babe Ruth.  He was the strike-out king, but was known for his home runs. 

6.) Creates calmness & peace 

You can be a model of peace in a chaotic world. You can respond and react calmly.  You can take the time to listen. You can take the time to see that you do not have a forced, rushed answer or reaction. 

You do not have to be a reactive person. A fast food drive through mentality has influenced our culture in the way that we think, but we do not have to let it. 

Vincent describes the Constitutional Conventions and how Benjamin Franklin would attend. He did not talk much at them. When he did talk, people took note.

At the time, he was considered a star. His presence made an impression on people. He was the embodiment of hope. He was the American dream.  He was the prime example of what a successful self-made man looked like.  During that time most successful men were aristocrats.  Franklin did not have that sort of privileged upbringing. 

Franklin was in his eighties at this point, and did not need to bother himself with anything, yet his presence at the Constitutional Conventions was extremely helpful.  He had a calming effect on the fiery atmosphere of the discussions surrounding the establishment of our fledgling country. 

George Washington was also in attendance.  He was another calming influence during the volatile meetings.  Prior to the Constitutional Conventions, George Washington made a calm, but encouraging statement when he appeared during the discussions of whether the colonies should rebel by wearing his ornamental soldier’s uniform. He knew how to send a message without even saying anything at all. 

Benjamin Franklin said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.”  This was so for George Washington as he played a figurative role in the assertion for our independence, and eventually became its commander in chief through his calm, steady influence. 

Other Quotes About Patience

A Dutch proverb states, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”  The vast majority of the attendees of the Constitutional Convention were college educated. George Washington was not. His patience and his presence, however, were imperative to the outcome of the rebellion of the colonies and the establishment of our country. 

The Count de Buffon said, “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius.” For the most part, the American Revolutionary War was won not through battles, but through strategic retreats. The survival of the colonies was built on the patience of George Washington’s shoulders. 

Proverbs 25:15 says, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” In light of our discussion of the birth of our country, this makes sense. 

Romans 8: 25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  God is present, we just need to recognize what He has done. 

Conclusion

We hope today’s episode has encouraged you to slow down, to listen, to adjust your expectations, to consider God’s timetable over your own, to put God’s will first, to allow God to work through you, to lead through being an influence, and to be an example of calmness and peace.