Confessions of a Verbal Processor

PostitnotephotoI am a verbal processor and sometimes that gets me into trouble. I have to speak out loud to work things out. This can be good and bad at the same time. For those who are introverts, reasoning with a verbal processor can be a nightmare. And for people like me, working things out with an internal processor can be a frustration. But since I’ve come to learn that I am only responsible for me, I need to rein in my processing to meet the other person halfway.

My counselor has said to think of it this way, speaking to the other person in post-it-note form. Everything that I need to say in a moment of heated debate I should try to fit it into a post-it-note and then breathe. Do you know how small those notes are? Too small for a verbose wordsmith like myself…sigh…but God has been whispering to me the wisdom of heeding the counsel of James 3 (great chapter, look it up) and learn to use my tongue wisely, even when I am upset!

This has come after months and years of frustration with the internal processors in my life. I am sad to say, that the paragraphs that follow are a story of what happened when I didn’t rein in my tongue and I let loose. This incident happened over several months ago and I talked it out in my journal into a blog post hoping that it would become a spiritual marker of truth and healing for me.

I am just now opening up the vault of “ugly” with you today in hopes that it will be an encouragement.  And that as we journey together in learning to bless with our tongues, we can bring words of healing instead of destruction in the moment.  So here goes….

I was angry,

I was feeling lonely and tired.

I did something that I am not proud of.

I am ashamed.

I am undone.

I am sick to my stomach.

I let words slip out of my mouth that should never cross my tongue in anger.

It was an extreme moment, and in that nano-second I crossed the line and chose to speak words that kill instead of words that could give life. I was horrified and tried to clean up the mess I just made. I tried to take them back. But words can never be taken back. It is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, it’s messy.

I stepped back, took a breath and humbly tried to apologize, admit I was terribly wrong and no matter how justified I felt, I had no excuse. That’s the funny thing about anger, our anger may be justified, but what comes out of our mouth is critical to determining the difference between choosing words of wisdom or foolishness. My pain leaked and out came foolishness. No matter what stirred up my anger I have to take responsibility, it’s called admitting I was wrong even though I was feeling devastated and hurt myself.

It was a wake-up call for me. The words rushed out like a volcano erupting and I realized that deep inside my heart something was terribly wrong. As I reflected later, I realized that I had not been honest with myself and with the other person. After weeks of nursing hurt and pain it spilled out like a toxic poison because I hadn’t dealt with it. I thought I was doing them a favor by holding back and just trying to deal with the hurt myself. You would think after living a half a century I would get it. Being honest with others and myself is always the right choice. Keeping hurts inside and pretending that something is okay when it is not, is a climate for disaster. A small seismic volcano begins to brew until one day, you just blow up and meltdown.

So here is the heart check I am learning of what Proverbs says, An honest answer is like a warm hug. Proverbs 24:26 (Message)

Really?

Being honest is like a warm hug?

I love that. Here’s another nugget of wisdom from the same book, Proverbs 28:1, Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions. Such great truth and I am soaking it all in post 24-hours of my meltdown. This next one I think I will write out on a 3×5 card and post it on my mirror so I can look at it every morning. There is one who speaks rashly, like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18. This truth needs no explanation, it is visual.

So what’s the moral? Heart check-three things:

Number one: Don’t let hurts or wounds sit and simmer. Deal with them.

Number Two: Be honest and truthful in love, even if you are afraid to share it with the other person. I am a recovering people-pleaser and I don’t like to make waves. I am afraid of waves, I want others to like me 100% of the time. How vain is that? But that is not possible, it’s not even realistic, because I am a sinner, saved by grace and I fail each and every day.

Number Three: When you are angry, remember we have a choice. Choose words that heal or better yet, walk away, count to 10 until you calm down so your words are laced with love and truth not acrid poison that can damage the relationship.

Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love. Leo Buscaglia

How to Lead with Courage: A Lesson from the Cowardly Lion

A favorite childhood memory is sitting with my sister in our pajamas curled up with our blankets and watching our favorite characters in the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.

The Cowardly Lion was faced with the greatest challenge of his life in the forest he had lived comfortably for so long. By his own confession he was a great coward and this was his moment to shine. He was asked by his traveling companions, the Tin Man and Scarecrow to risk life and limb to rescue Dorothy and her dog Toto who had been captured by the awful wicked witch of the West. He told them sheepishly with a burst of courage, All right, I’d go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do. His friends replied, What’s that? To which the Lion said, Talk me out of it.

Can you relate? Once you have had a burst of courage to do the impossible, have you asked God or your friends to talk you out of it? When is the proper timing to blast through looking fear in the face as a leader to accomplish what God might be asking? Is it waiting until everything falls into place? Is it shouting from the forest and engaging others to do the job for you? How do we know when and where to move ahead? Are there just some people who are born with guts and determination?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’ You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

I would like to add that you must do the thing that you know you cannot do apart from God’s amazing strength. That is the pre-requisite, to do what you know you can’t possibly do, that my friends is real courage.

The Bible is full of examples of cowardly lions just like you and me who looked fear in the face and acted with God infused courage. I have a feeling if we wait for courage it will never come. But like the Cowardly Lion discovered, he did have courage when he acted on his fear.

I have to admit, I have been the Cowardly Lion too many times to mention.

I’ve prayed for courage.

Instead of gaining courage God says move.

Take a step.

I am with you.

Trust me.

My motto is this, don’t wait for the fear to go away, do it afraid. That is courage in all its glory.

Adapted from an excerpt from my book Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive, New Hope Publishers 2013 

Alone and with No Hope

photoI’ve heard scores of people talk about 2014 with various descriptions. They may choose a one-word, a phrase or a sentence.

Some have deemed the new year as the year of___________, and then they fill in the blank with words like…

Breakthrough

Prayer

Promises

New Beginnings

Adventure

How would you fill in the blank?

I have found that for myself, I usually fill in the blank with great enthusiasm. I start thinking about that blank for the new year in December. I think choosing a one-word for the year instead of New Year’s resolutions is brilliant!  I usually start the first few weeks of the new year energized, ready to close the door on the previous year and turn the page into the new one. I chose my word, OFFERING. I painted a collage in my journal to mark it, I was ready for 2014!

And then it happened,

I got stuck.

Life piled up.

I withdrew. (That’s why no blog post this past week!)

The drudge and routine crept into my thoughts threatening a black cloud of doubt that didn’t even make sense.

One simple day of annoyances turned my attitude from seeking to practice greater gratitude in 2014 to upside down defeating thoughts. Sounds silly doesn’t it? I don’t really have ANYTHING to complain about, AT ALL!  But the annoyances of a water leak under the house, slightly burning my hand with boiling water, and leaving one day without my wallet transferred to a tsunami of defeating thoughts.

Fortunately, I saw the signs and I knew if I didn’t change my perspective fast, my heart could end up feeling alone and with no hope. I defaulted into my melancholy pity party of “my life isn’t what I hoped it could be right now.”  Simple negative thoughts turned into darker thoughts of dwelling on past mistakes, failures and missed opportunities. Pushing my chair away from my computer and the project I was working on, I sat staring at the wall and took a moment and did a self-analysis.

I was overwhelmed.

Tired.

My schedule had been crammed, going non-stop for weeks and had come to an abrupt halt.

God was pushed suddenly out of the picture because my feelings spoke deception and I listened too intently.

I took a deep breath and decided not to listen to my runaway emotions too closely.

I burst out, a loud cry at my desk, tears seeping, asking God to help me get past my stuck feelings. The outburst surprised me. I know myself too well, keeping everything in bottled up not talking to God about it so he could help me change my perspective. At that moment, I knew better not to trust myself but rather to trust God.  I had to choose. I was tired, which led to my black thoughts and feelings. After I got it all out, I sensed God saying, go take a nap. I obeyed. When I woke up, I couldn’t believe how my attitude changed.

Feeling alone and no hope because of runaway thoughts is not a place to pitch a tent and campout. It leads nowhere and can keep you and me from choosing joy and gratitude. It paralyzes and demotivates. I confess, I lost a few days because of it before I got a grip. It is so ridiculous because there is so much real pain and hurt everywhere, I don’t want to stay stuck, I want to make a difference and bring hope to others.

Here is my solution.

Take a step back and breathe!

Ask yourself some obvious questions. Am I tired? Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I sad? Am I _______? Fill in the blank.

And then ask yourself WHY?

The answer to the why usually leads to the clues of why we might just feel a little bit alone and on the road to dismissing hope from our lives.

Alone and with no hope is a bold-faced lie. We are not alone, ever! God promises that He is with us, every second of everyday. Hope is embodied in a person, God himself, Jesus His son and the comforter, our Holy Spirit.

I can prove it! Here it is right in Hebrews, it is so beyond believable, a description of hope using Abraham as an example. I had to give you the whole context. As I read it right now, a rush of hope infuses my soul, because hope is God and hope has the power to wash over my cryptic thoughts and renew them with love and peace.

Remember when God made His promise to Abraham? He had to swear by Himself, there being no one greater: 

“Surely I will bless you and multiply your descendants.” And after Abraham had endured with patience, he obtained the promise he had hoped for. When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end.

In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise.  So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath.

These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.

That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) Hebrews 6:13-19 (THE VOICE)

Did you catch what the writer says?  We who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.

Are you coming? Let’s run to God so we can practice and seize that hope!