Wednesday, September 30, 2009


How our patriotism can hinder our walk with Christ

By: Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

No….I’m not anti-American. Really, I’m not. My father was a WWII and Korea veteran, my oldest brother fought in Vietnam and my other brother has served in Iraq for the most part of four years. I’m proud of each of them and believe in what they did and are doing. Truly, in so many ways, America is the greatest country in the world. Yet….as I review the traits that will lead people to say we are “great Americans” I cannot help but notice that many of them are the opposite of what God wants from us. Let me show you what I mean:

-Great Americans are known to be fiercely independent…yet Jesus spoke of being in total submission to the Lord……being a “slave” to Him and dependent on Him to meet our needs.

-Great Americans are known to take “pride” in all that they do…yet scripture speaks of pride coming before a fall….and that we are to be humble and put others ahead of ourselves.

-Great Americans are encouraged to work for what they want and pursue their desires…yet Christians are commanded to “die to self” and, as Oswald Chambers says, “give up the right to self”.

-Great Americans are taught to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps!”…yet the Apostle Paul rejoiced in his weakness because that was when Christ’s strength could shine.

-Great Americans are also taught to “take the bull by the horns” and get things done!....yet the Bible speaks of “waiting on the Lord” and listening to Him in leadership.

Again, I’m not trying to be anti-patriotic at all. I love America and am glad I live here. But I can’t help but echo the words of Philip Yancey when he writes,
“I understand more clearly than ever before that my ultimate loyalty lies with the kingdom of God, not the United States.”

I don’t think Mr. Yancey’s goal is to be un-American any more than mine is. Yet, when one really does some soul-searching and takes a hard look at what it really takes to be a servant of Christ, one cannot help but notice that the view is far different than what many of us are taught as children. And yet, in my own life, my tendencies to “do my own thing” and “be my own man” have certainly been a barrier when it comes to submitting to God and knowing Him in an intimate way.

And, for me…that has to change. You see, I’ve done my own thing for years. I’ve ran with creative ideas and bulldozed my plans in pursuit of what I wanted, of what I thought was best. I’ve always been good at coming up with my own ideas for life and then prayed that God would bless them, never dreaming that maybe I should prostrate myself before Him, learn to listen better, and ask Him what HE wanted for my life. In many ways, I’ve been a very good American…..but not the type of Christian who allowed God to mold me into who HE wanted me to be in His kingdom.

And what has all that gotten me? Temporary luxuries. A sense of pride in myself; pride that CERTAINLY led to a fall. A roller-coaster ride of short-term popularity, humiliation, short-term popularity, and obscurity. These traits have led me to take bold chances…only to find myself feeling the sting of failure as often as the taste of success. Mostly, my life has mirrored the journey many a ship has faced across an ocean with moments where the sea felt calm and hope abounded and other moments where the waves crashed against the sides of my life, threatening to drown me in foam. There have been times of victory as if my ship has discovered some new land and there have been seasons of storm that truly brought me to the verge of splintering into pieces and sinking to the depths. Without submission to the Lord and letting Him lead, life has been rudderless and with little sense of peace.

So, again….that has to change. And I’m working on it. I’m striving to be less aggressive and a better listener to the One who truly does “know it all” and has a plan for me personally. I’m trying to be less rigid and more malleable, like a piece of clay should be. I want to rely less on my own senses and more on His omniscience and flawless wisdom. And I struggle with it, daily. But….being a good American….I’ll keep trying, although TRYING harder to SUBMIT has a weird feel to it. But, my goal is to know God and be HIS man, HIS warrior, HIS slave, HIS child… in reality and not just in words.

Can one be a great American and a submitted Christian at the same time? I believe so. In fact, if you REALLY want to know, I believe that the only way for America to TRULY be great again is if her sons and daughters remembered what it was like to follow Him.

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 twenty 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. For more information, please visit Aaron at

Friday, September 25, 2009

LEADERS: Don't Forget The Hope

by Tim Sanders

In my line of work, finding the ultimate definition of leadership is to find the holy grail.
I've heard an assortment of good definitions over the years, but during a 2008 interview with USA Today, AMEX CEO Kenneth Chenault came up with the best one I've heard so far. For his definition, he took words from a leader who experienced great success and failure -- Napoleon: "The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope."

That's a GREAT way of thinking about leadership. This simple definition gives you two clear mandates to carefully balance: Reality (the way things are) and Hope (the way things can be). By focusing on both, you are able to be candid, yet inspirational.

Leaders who, like Chenault, follow this credo will hit their financial goals, and build an emotionally sustainable business along the way. Without hope, you have follower burn out and revolt. Without reality, you have idealism and no results.

So the trick to leadership, then, is balance and not just vision or charisma. Is hope part of the emotional comp plan for the people that work for you or follow you? Are you the reality king/queen or the 'big idea person'? You've got to own both of those roles to succeed.

Best-selling author Tim Sanders says it's not just what you do, but what you think about and how you make others feel. Tim is the author of "The Likeability Factor" which can help you learn to boost your "L-Factor" and achieve your life's dreams. Find out more at

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Anxiety in Schools

Don’t Let Pressure Squeeze You Out”

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

Anxiety comes in many forms…especially in the school system. It lurks around as social phobias, it is ready to pounce in the form of test anxiety, it ambushes us in our fear that we won’t perform like we should. In this day and age, anxiety has become a harbinger of negativity to our kids, from the beginning days of elementary school all the way up to high school and beyond. Students who are charming, intelligent, funny, and totally competent somehow believe that they are ugly, boring, stupid, and incapable. Why? Why would a student who obviously has the ability to do well NOT do well? We can eliminate intellectual ability with most of the students I work with. I find that the students who struggle most with anxiety are kids whose IQ’s are above-average and even up to genius level. If it’s not intellectual functioning, what is it? More often than not, anxiety turns out to be a combination of the inability to identify and express accurate emotions combined with feeling the lifelong pressure to “live up to one’s potential”. Of course, there is also a genetic tie to a predisposition towards anxiety as well. However, the following are some common external factors I see as I treat students with anxiety of many kinds:

1. Unrealistic Parental Expectations: Now….parents BELIEVE their expectations are appropriate. They know how smart their child is and expect them to use that intelligence to the utmost. However, what many parents don’t take into account is that living up to expectations also has to do with emotional maturity. Just because your child is very smart, doesn’t automatically mean it will be easy for them to be disciplined, organized, and motivated to excel. Without these other factors, intelligent kids just become frustrated and begin to panic in any situation where they know they must perform or be verbally scourged for not performing. Many of us as parents push our kids way harder than we should. Kids mature and develop at different rates. Pushing them too hard, too fast, is counterproductive to them actually reaching their potential.

2. A Tendency to Compare Themselves to Those Around Them: These comparisons might be academically, socially, or in any other ways. Kids compare the way they dress, how funny they are, how athletic they are and how well they do in grades. Healthy competition is one thing but this trait can go way overboard and become an obsession and obsessions lead to anxiety.

3. Thinking Too Much About Things One Cannot Control: Kids worry so much about the future or about what might be on the FCAT or what might happen if they don’t do well on the FCAT . Their minds begin to race about all the “what if’s” of life and THIS is a huge factor in anxiety. Again, parents often fuel this by their own worries about the future of their children. Yes….it is good to have goals and pursue them but the idea that life revolves around these things can only lead to anxiety, frustration and anger.

4. A Build-up of Emotional Pressure: So many kids fail to develop their awareness of internal emotions, especially vulnerable emotions like fear, sadness, disappointment, etc. These kids tend to bury or suppress these emotions and the result is a volcanic-like gradual rise in pressure. These buried emotions/feelings often manifest themselves as anxiety, depression and anger.

These are a few of the causes I have seen in anxiety. The list is not exhaustive by any means but it’s a start. Let me also offer a list of suggestions as to how parents can help their children cope with and overcome anxiety:

A. LAY OFF! Okay, that was a bit harsh. But, truly, parents….more and more…..parents have pushed their children to excel and “perform” at younger ages than ever before. It’s sad when I have 1st and 2nd graders with high levels of anxiety. The trend to start pushing our children academically even at the ages of 3-4 years just astounds me. Of course, I am all for parents who work with their children at young ages to learn and grow. But that’s different than “pushing” them harder and harder and shaming them if they don’t reach those standards. Parents, let’s all strive to be not only age-appropriate in our expectations but also take into account the maturity levels and emotional development of our kids. There are early and late bloomers, and that’s okay.

B. Teach them to Relax: Again, we live in a society that encourages “busyness”. It’s great to be productive but we must learn to relax again….let our bodies recharge so we can actually be more productive in the long-term. This trend translates to our children as well. We must teach our kids to be quiet and still without filling that time with video games or work or “productivity”. It’s okay to just sit still or read a book or be quiet and watch the sunset. In fact, teaching kids certain relaxation and breathing techniques can go far in helping them to deal with test anxiety or even in sports performance anxiety.

C. Be Quick to Encourage: Try to catch your kids when they do well…at ANYTHING. Whether it be a good grade, a chore they completed well, or just a good attitude, try to lift them up so they realize you are noticing these things as well.

D. Increase Self-Awareness: Remember those buried emotions I mentioned earlier? We must free our kids to discuss negative emotions that may be eating at them from a very early age. Teach them how to identify and express them in healthy ways (talking, writing, art, etc). If kids can “get it out” then there is less pressure that builds and, consequently, less anxiety.

E. Encourage Positive Self-Talk: If you or your kids beat yourselves up often about failures or mistakes, stop it! J We talk to ourselves all the time, whether it is verbal or in our own mind. Learn to encourage yourself as much or more than you get onto your own case. I’m not advocating touchy-feely moments when you look in the mirror and say, “people LIKE me” as the "Saturday Night Live" skit used to mock. However, I am saying that most people beat themselves up far more than they encourage themselves and this can only lead to frustration, depression, and anxiety.

We all face pressure in life. Seriously….there is pressure to perform in school, at work, in relationships, and beyond. Life exerts enough pressure on us. Let’s try to stop adding even more pressure to our kids and to ourselves. Set high standards for your kids but also encourage them at high levels. Be patient with their development and be realistic about how hard you should push. There are too many ultra-talented kids who are letting pressure squeeze them out of the good things of life.

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. For more information, please visit Aaron at or