Wednesday, June 27, 2007

“ET TU, BRUTE?” Don’t Let Betrayal Bury Your Heart By: Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

“Et Tu, Brute?”

These are the words of Caesar after he realizes his best friend and confidante was a party to his assassination, as written in Shakespeare’s well-known tragedy. Translated, this phrase means, “You too, Brutus?”

Wow! Only three short words but one can feel the genuine surprise and heartfelt pain that only surfaces when a person is betrayed by someone they believed they could trust. If there are situations that cause more pain than this, they are few. It is the husband who comes home early from work to discover his bride in the arms of another. It is the fluttering pain felt in the pit of the stomach when you stand alone, surrounded by laughing peers, and notice that your best friend is joining in with the laughter. It’s sharing your heart with someone you love only to have that person grossly mishandle it and allow it (or cause it) to shatter into pieces.

It is betrayal. And its effects on us are devastating and potentially lethal to our hearts. If we are betrayed severely enough, or often enough, we make a vow to never be vulnerable to it again. We silently swear that nobody will ever get enough of our heart again to do significant damage. And so we put up our walls, bury our heart or, at least, we lock it away in the dark, cold lockbox found in the basement of our souls.

From then on, life is different. Our security measures have worked like a charm.
Hallelujah! Insults are barely felt. Breakups sting but only for a moment before we move on to other relationships. Criticism irritates us but we wash it away with a few drinks after work. No doubt, locking our heart away like the damsel in the guard tower has done the trick; we are so numb that the sorrows of life seem more like a low drone in our ear than a loud symphony. We have effectively dulled the emotional pain of being vulnerable. Isn’t that awesome?

Then why does life seem so empty? Why do we feel so isolated?

Because, in the act of dulling our pain, we have also clipped the nerves that allow us to experience the greatest of joys. Just as an antibiotic arbitrarily kills the good bacteria with the bad, so burying our heart and protecting it from pain also disables our ability to fully love and to be loved. Truly, in our attempts to be free of pain we have actually constructed for ourselves an emotional dungeon, complete with manacles and heavy wooden doors and iron bars to boot. Instead of indulging in the sweet fruits of intimacy, we settle for the watery gruel that is
periodically pushed under the door to our cell.

The truth is that when we bury our hearts to escape betrayal from others, we actually betray ourselves and sabotage our ability to deeply connect with anyone.

How many of our hearts can relate to the awful feeling of isolation in the midst of so many people? Loneliness certainly does not require being alone, does it?

For those of you who have been wounded by the arrow of betrayal and have buried your heart because of it_______take heed, you are not alone.

When I say that, I’m not even referring to the millions of other men and women on this planet who have felt the knife of betrayal slice through their hopes and dreams.

I’m referring to God.

Yes, God the Father. I’m talking long before Judases’ kiss of death rested on the cheek of Jesus. I’m talking about the time before God had even breathed life into Adam’s nostrils. What I’m thinking of is the time when His most beautiful creation, to date, renounced his beauty, gathered together a heavenly army, and rose up in order to overthrow the throne of the Father. I’m talking about Lucifer, who we now call Satan. I wish we knew more about why the most magnificent of God’s angels would throw away his position and rock the very foundations of paradise. It makes me sad to think about it. And, if it makes me sad.......me, who have only known Satan as a liar and an adversary........how much sorrow must it have brought to the heart of God, who knew Lucifer as a beautiful creation, a master musician, the epitome of heaven’s beauty?
“Et Tu, Lucifer?”

If God reacted like many of us; burying His heart and vowing never to risk love again, there would have never been a garden in Eden. We wouldn’t be debating this subject because we would not have existed.

Instead, God created humans, and not just robot minions, programmed to love and follow Him no matter what. Wouldn’t that have been the safe choice? Instead, He created us with the freedom to choose whether we would love Him or reject Him. What a risk!

And when Adam and Eve betrayed His heart, ate of the fruit, and brought sin into the world? Did God bury His heart and say, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”? No. He kept pursuing relationship.

And when mankind became so evil that He destroyed everyone save Noah and his family? Did He give up? Nope...He sent a rainbow as a gesture of His continuing love and promises. It beats a dozen roses, doesn’t it?

And when the people of Israel continually gave their hearts adulterously to other gods? Did He lock himself away in the remote places of heaven and throw away the key?

No. Instead, He came to earth as a tiny baby, only to die violently on the cross; the ultimate pursuit of our hearts.

And what about the moments when I have personally betrayed Him in thought or deed? How about all the lustful, unforgiving, mean-spirited, self-centered moments in my life when God entered the room of my heart only to tearfully look at me and ask, “Et Tu, Aaron”? Does
He throw me out and vow to never let me hurt Him like that again?

Bless Him, He does not. And, because He continues to risk His heart in order to fully love me, He reaps the reward (and so do I) of those moments where He and I are truly intimate........connected.

And so to all of us who are not living, or loving, fully from our hearts; to those of us who have been hurt and have promised to never allow it again; to that same crowd who also ache and yearn in loneliness; who desperately want to release our hearts from the prisons we have banished them to and allow them to embrace the ecstasy of intimate relationships.......to us I say..............take the risk. Open the cage door. Endure the pain associated with failed relationships in order to eventually bask in the sunlight of love and intimacy.

I know it’s scary. I know the fear can almost take your breath away. God knows how excruciating the pain of betrayal is-He really does. And yet, I would risk it all for a place at the table reserved for lovers. To dine at the feast of true intimacy with God, and with my friends, and with my children, and with the wife I love.

For all of us who can relate to what Caesar must have felt when he inquired hurtfully, “Et Tu, Brute?”: I challenge you to let your heart live and love again.

God did.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together. Contact Aaron @ 407-647-7005, http://www.lifeworksgroup.org/.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

“Which Would You Rather Be: Your Child’s Parent or Friend?” Lyris Bacchus Steuber, LMFT

"Who first introduced you to cigarettes and marijuana?” I asked. "My parents," reported Jake, a fourteen year-old client of mine. This might sound shocking to you but can be on the extreme of what parents are indulging their kids in today. One of the most common questions I get from parents who bring their troubled teens to therapy is, “What can I do to get my son or daughter to like me again?" This often comes from a parent who has been on the receiving end of statements such as "I hate you”, or “you don't understand me." So in an effort to get their teen to "like them again" parents will often become over-indulgent and too permissive to the extreme of indulging their teen in every video game system or designer handbag.

If you are a parent struggling with wanting your son or daughter to like you, you need to first give up that notion that they should. Teenagers like celebrities, sports cars, movies and video games. Teenagers should respect their parents. Yes, they should love them too but they may not always express it during the period in their life when they are questioning their parent’s values and searching for their own identity.

What teens need the most are values, acceptance and boundaries. Does your teen know what are your family's values, what are the social causes you champion, and whom you admire? If they do not it is time you start sharing these with them. Teaching values takes intentionality. When watching Entertainment Tonight take the time to ask you daughter what message might the current 20-something celebrity be sending teens by wasting away to 98 lbs or checking themselves into rehab after months of constant partying and drinking. You also teach values by practicing what you preach. If you don't want your son to start smoking then seek help for yourself to stop smoking. Let your teen see the struggles you may face when trying to conquer this addiction. In the end, he or she will be proud of you.

Second, teens need acceptance. Do you remember the music you listened to as a teenager and clothes and hairstyles you wore? For me it was Bon Jovi and Calvin Klein Jeans. Your teen may be experiencing the same thing as they are searching for acceptance in today's society. Give them the opportunity for healthy self-expression while at the same time helping them think critically about their choices. Don't freak out if they are wearing their hair long or are listening to music of which you only hear noise. Have them tell you the rationale behind their choices. Ask them if they would rather spend $80.00 of their allowance on the latest basketball shoes or be able to keep the gas tank filled in the car for them to use on the weekends.

Boundaries are one thing teenagers will never admit they want but it’s something they all need. Boundaries are like fences. They keep things in and keep things out. Ask yourself what things you don't want your teen exposed to and from what things you want them protected. In a 2003 study on teenage drinking funded by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Joseph Califano shared that a third of sixth to ninth graders obtain alcohol from their homes. If you suspect that your teen may be indulging in behavior that may lead to dire consequences tell them to stop. If not, you have to let them experience natural consequences. This may include suspensions, traffic tickets or going to drug court. The law will ultimately hold you responsible for your teenager's behavior and in some cases have fined parents or have taken away their rights.

If you think your teen might start rebelling once you start requiring changes in their behavior you are correct. Your will needs to be stronger than theirs. Don't give up. When many people reflect back on their teenage years they are often regretful of what they put their parents through. If you are strong enough to be your teen’s parent and not their friend, you can know that your they will come out the other side with a healthier view of the world and themselves.

Written by: Lyris Bacchus Steuber, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in helping children and adolescents cope with divorce, family violence, abuse, grief, school problems, depression and anxiety. Access more counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

10 Ingredients for Healthy Teenage Dating by Lyris Steuber, LMFT

Do you remember when you first fell in love? If you are a teen you probably remember how you felt when your boyfriend first told you he loved you or the rushes of emotions you felt when you first came out together as a couple around your friends. Finding first love in high school is a regular part of teen-age life though your parents wish you could delay it. Most teens move from relationship to relationship very quickly. Within a matter of weeks or months they fall in and out of love without the relationship becoming very meaningful. However, some relationships do stick for the better but sometimes for the worst. When asked what they are looking for in someone to date most teenagers will say, “Someone who likes me and I can have fun with.” Sadly, most teens don’t always know what to look for in a healthy relationship.

20% of American Teenage girls reported that they have been hit, slapped or forced into sexual activity by their partners. Still more have experienced the emotional abuse of put-downs, being cursed at or being controlled. If you are questioning whether or not your relationship is a healthy one see if it has the following:

Trust: Trust means that you and your partner are not possessive of each other. While you spend time together you also can spend time apart without the other person becoming suspicious.
Self-Esteem: People who have healthy esteem value themselves and believe in themselves. This in turn helps them to believe the best about the other person.
Non-violence: People in healthy relationships do not hit, bully, threaten or coerce the other person into doing something they don’t want to do.
Personal Responsibility: People who take personal responsibility do not blame others for their mistakes and are able to take responsibility for their actions and feelings.
Non-abuse of drugs and alcohol: Alcohol use by teens is a strong predictor of both sexual activity and unprotected sex. A survey of high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is high or drunk. Drugs and alcohol should never be a part of your relationship.

Boundaries: Having good boundaries mean that one does not force his or her partner to engage in any kind of physical affection that they are not comfortable with.
Separate Identities: Although you may have lots in common, you had your own likes, dislikes, friends, and interests before you started going out. Be sure to maintain them. Neither of you should have to give up your friends, drop out of activities, or change your sense of style to make the other person happy.

Good Communication: Make sure that you and your partner can freely express your opinion, feelings, needs and ideas and have them respected. People in healthy relationships do not use words to hurt each other, curse or put each other down.
Equality: Do you feel that you always have to compromise what movie you want to go to or what concert to attend? In a healthy relationship both people take turns choose what to do, where to go, whom to hang out with. If not the relationship can become imbalanced or turn into a power struggle.
Fun, fun, fun: Yes, you two should be having fun. It is too early to think in life to think about the long term and to make significant plans for the future. You both should enjoy spending time together and with your friends.

Teen relationships can be wonderful but also intense. If the relationship feels like a burden it’s time to have a talk. If your partner isn’t making you feel good about yourself it may be time to reconsider. If you are single, take time to evaluate your own readiness for a relationship against the qualities listed above. Also, take time to develop a variety of friendships and observe how people treat each other and themselves. If you are having trouble in your current relationship seek guidance from a teacher, parent, counselor or another adult you trust. They may be able to help guide you in making choices that will be best for you and your partner.

Written by: Lyris Bacchus Steuber, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in helping children and adolescents cope with divorce, family violence, abuse, grief, school problems, depression and anxiety. Access more counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Mentoring Matters- What I learned from Jerry Falwell By Dwight Bain, Founder of the LifeWorks Group

The death of the Reverend Jerry Falwell on May 15, 2007 brought a flood of emotions to my mind… since he was one of my first mentors and for a season he was my pastor. You see, I was a student at Liberty University in the early 1980’s, a school I chose in part because of the leadership and communication style of Dr. Falwell. I saw how effectively he was able to carry a positive message to the community through media platforms and wanted to learn how to do the same. I admired his courage to stand on biblical principles to teach what he strongly believed to be God’s truth on traditional values.

By God’s grace, and the help of a lot of friends I was selected to a leadership position as student body president of the graduate school and seminary, which allowed me to have a great deal of behind the scenes access to Dr. Falwell. I saw that he was a visionary, totally focused and goal directed no matter what the circumstances. He was a tremendous mentor who made a huge impact on my life. Here are some of the key success principles I learned from his life that made a positive difference. I hope that these life application lessons may be useful in your own success journey as well.

Here’s what I learned from his life

1) Have a vision and keep moving forward, no matter what
I wish we could sit down together so I could tell you some amazing stories of how this man faced impossible odds and incredible challenges, yet with courage and faith. Yet I never saw him discouraged, at work, at the University or at home. You and I would do well to know the vision for our life and press on, no matter what comes against us. To know where you are going and always press on is a key to lasting success.

2) Continually be training the next generation of young leaders
Dr. Falwell was passionate about training young people, in fact, he often called us “young champions”. This positive empowering of young leaders modeled the great teaching style of Socrates, Plato and of course, the teaching style Jesus Christ used with the twelve disciples. Clearly, no one lives on this planet forever, so it is essential to be equipping others to carry on the work if you want to make a positive and lasting difference in the world. This is a timeless principle seen in the Bible, as well as in the greatest thinkers throughout history and it’s a principle that you and I can put into practice with the young people in our lives today.

3) Bring multiple points of view to the table for discussion and debate
As students, we were in chapel services at least three times a week to learn from conservative leaders like Dr. Falwell, as well as world class leaders from every walk of life, including government, pro sports, and business. We sat at the feet of leaders like President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George Bush, Sr., Senator Ted Kennedy, US Rep. Jack Kemp, Legendary Dallas Cowboy’s head coach, Tom Landry, Art Williams, Lt. Col. Oliver North, Dr. John Maxwell, Rev. Rick Warren, and dozens of Christian leaders and entertainers from multiple denominations around the world. Dr. Falwell believed in bringing both sides to the table to learn how to communicate with people who might be very different in their belief system yet were equally passionate about communicating their message.

4) Don’t back down from controversy
Many times people of faith are afraid to deal with controversial subjects, because they equate being a Christian with only being nice, polite and kind, which can be another way of saying ‘too scared to speak out on things that matter.’ Dr. Falwell didn’t see it that way, since he believed that the stronger your convictions, the more passionately you should communicate them. He never backed down from discussing controversial subjects with anyone, anytime, anyplace, anywhere and taught us to not be afraid to speak up for our beliefs while always trying to connect and communicate with others. If you believe it to be right, you have to speak up, yet in a winsome way that others can hear. That doesn’t mean shouting, and it doesn’t mean silence. It means know what you believe and then find a way to communicate and reach out to others in the best way possible to make a positive difference.

5) Teach and reinforce the message
Reverend Falwell would often preach and teach the same biblical life application principles to reinforce the message until we ‘got it.’ I’m grateful to God for having listened to countless messages from a world-class leader who was completely dedicated to the success of his students. Listen to one of my favorite Falwell quotes, written down during a chapel service around 1983.

“Here are some things I have learned along the way: There are no quick fixes, no real bargains; no permanent solutions except salvation; not many forever friends; few repeat performances. Remember God is with you in defeat as well as in victory.” ~ Jerry Falwell

This brings up the final lesson I learned from mentor so many decades ago.

Do things now that will live on after you are gone

This is the power of building a positive legacy, and it lives on in the lives of the thousands of graduates of Liberty University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and the Liberty Bible Institute. Dr. Jerry Falwell is gone, but his message lives on. I was blessed to have a mentor early in life that believed in me. I do things today that my mentor taught me to do almost a quarter century ago. I’m a better person and more effective leader because of the few years of working for and sitting under the teaching of Dr. Jerry Falwell and I honor him and his legacy today because of his investment into my life.

Who do you look to for leadership?
The question I leave with you today is an important one. Who is your mentor? If you don’t know the answer because you don’t have one, start looking today for men and women who are boldly working for positive change in their part of the world and find a way to get to them. You need a mentor you can believe in, and when you find them, plug in to the value that they can add to your life. Once you find them, the process is simple. Listen all you can, learn all you can and then eventually lead others in what your mentor trained you to do… make a positive difference. That legacy that never dies, because it is carried on throughout the generations in the hearts and actions of people who were blessed to know why mentoring matters. I’ve learned that from men like Elmer Towns, Steve Brown, Pat Williams, John Maxwell and Jerry Falwell.

What names are on your list and how are you working toward positive change because of the influence of your mentors? If you need a safe place to get started, know that I’m here to teach and coach you with what I learned at the feet of some great men. Mentoring matters today because it changes you to work for a better world tomorrow.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is founder of the LifeWorks Group in Orlando as well as a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture for Jesus Christ. Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Ouch! That Word Hurt! by Deedra Hunter, LMHC

I have never had sticks and stones hurled at me but- words? A half century ago it was called “teasing” and no one paid much attention to it. Today, we call it bullying and the practice of it is getting a lot of attention. Why? Because words do hurt, and can cause long term psychological problems known as post traumatic stress disorder. If you or a loved one has ever been bullied you know how much it hurts and how those painful memories seem to always be lurking in the background of your life.

What is bulling? Bullying, like other forms of abuse, is about power and control. The bully will name call, abandon, scare, threaten, and manipulate.

What does the bully look like? Perhaps you think a bully looks tough and mean but not necessarily. He or she may be good looking, well dressed, and extremely well mannered. The bullies who are beautiful, friendly, and charming are the most dangerous because they catch you completely off guard. They also are clever never to have witnesses around when they batter thus making it very hard to convince an outsider that abuse is going on. Their goal of power and control is accomplished. You feel depressed, unworthy, insecure, vulnerable, and defeated. You become afraid to speak up for yourself and are now completely at the merci of this unpredictable bully. You have lost your life.

What to do? Recognize you are in the grip of a bully and have the courage to break free. It starts with talking to someone you trust, calling an abuse hotline, getting counseling, or joining a support group. It is never too early and it is never too late to reclaim your life. The wounds to your soul cut just as bad and go just as deep as any that have cut your skin. Verbal abuse hurts and only you can decide you’ve hurt enough.

Written by: Deedra Hunter is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has also published a book called; Winning Custody: A Woman’s Guide to Retaining Custody of Her Children.


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1850 Lee Rd. Suite 250, Winter Park, FL 32789
407-647-7005, www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Brains and Butter by Deedra Hunter, LMHC

Every month the leading magazines feature a new diet with an old promise – loose weight fast! Thousands have renewed hope this one will work and this time will be different. Of course, they “fail” again and the cycle continues. Could there be something more to this problem? We blame ourselves for lack of willpower but, as the eating disorder specialist for the LifeWorks Group, I have always suspected the chemistry of the brain propels us to overreact as much as our emotions do. Will power is a very over-rated, over-relied on virtue. According to the recent issue of Time magazine my suspicions have been correct. This is a must read for all of you who want to become better informed with the newest research concerning why we eat what we do, when we do, and how much we do.

Written by: Deedra Hunter is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has also published a book called; Winning Custody: A Woman’s Guide to Retaining Custody of Her Children.