Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A GREAT AMERICAN BUT A POOR CHRISTIAN: 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.

Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Llifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or www.legacycounselingservices.org

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recession hurts most when you are Married to an Unmotivated Man

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach;
With Linda Riley, LMFT & Certified Sex Therapist

Right now you know a woman working at least two jobs, (not counting parenting children and running a household), who is married to an unmotivated man. It may be a co-worker, a sister, a neighbor or friend at church, but you know this woman. Here’s what you don’t know.

She’s hurting more now than she ever has before. Why? Because recession hurts the most when you’re married to an unmotivated man.

These women have a major problem, they believe they really love the guy on the couch who just can’t or won’t keep a job. This causes another major problem, because they don’t want their children to suffer or do without the basics, like new shoes, school supplies or playing little league. And so they do the only thing they think they can do- they work, and work and then they work some more. Work is all they do because an average family needs 60-80 hours of income to take care of their home budget, which means that both parents are working 30-40 hours per week, or one person is working two jobs just trying to keep their family afloat.

Obviously not every man who is temporarily out of work is an unmotivated man who makes life miserable for his wife. In fact, a highly motivated man will always find something to do to support his family during tough times so his wife usually feels emotionally secure that he will provide for her and the kids. This article isn’t about guys who dig in during tough times to live out the words of their wedding vows to be there, ‘in sickness and in health, for richer- for poorer’, no this article is about a very different kind of marriage, and one that gets much worse during difficult economic times. Let’s start by looking at both of the major problems this exhausted woman faces, and then a third problem that is often overlooked.

1. Lazy men or just Losers?

First, what’s up with the guy on the couch who isn’t providing enough income to meet the needs of his family- what makes guys like this so unmotivated? Well, some guys are just lazy- they grew up without any self-discipline, or self-respect and they just won’t keep gainful employment.

Their mother’s didn’t do them any favors since some guys never grow up, and marry someone to take over where their mother left off… they expect hot meals, clean clothes, healthy children, the bills to be paid and someone to function as an attractive personal assistant- but they refuse to give back to the relationship. This type of marriage isn’t a partnership at all, it’s sort of like the medieval system of a master and peasant, and the woman is basically expected to be a slave to meet his every need. 100% about him- and 0% left for her.
Then there is another group of unmotivated men, simply put, the ‘losers’. They may have failed in their education, or failed in their career aspirations, and have just given up on finding a good job to meet the needs of their family. Some guys in this group will go out to work at a job well below their potential just to avoid feeling like a failure again, which is better than nothing, yet eventually the bills will overshadow the gap in their income, leading to another major financial failure if they don’t change.

Often women want to make excuses for their husbands continual failures, or blame it on his low self-esteem, but there comes a time in life where a man has to step up to the plate to become a man, which often means him going out to seek some help from others so he doesn’t have to not fail again. However, many times he just keeps repeating the same mistakes, which just dumps more problems onto his wife to fix while he escapes by watching sports on TV.

It should be noted that sometimes a man is unmotivated because of substance abuse issues. Potheads, alcoholics and porn addicts don’t think about providing for their family, they think about themselves. Sometimes what may look like a motivation problem is actually due to bigger psychological or substance issues, which would take professional intervention, diagnosis and treatment. The problem is that addicts don’t usually seek help until they crash, and if they are enabled by others, they can stay addicted for years while creating terrible pain and hardship for those around them.

The last group of unmotivated men aren’t lazy or losers they just never learned which career path to take so they take the first job available. They may work hard for years, but will struggle to get ahead because they haven’t found career coaches, leaders or mentors to guide them in moving up the career ladder.

They end up being unmotivated because they feel the desperation of being alone yet often are just too afraid to seek out help to discover their career strengths, so they slowly sink financially, while watching other more motivated guys get ahead.

An interesting problem is that this guy might actually sabotage any efforts to try and help him because he feels so hyper-sensitive about even discussing how he is trapped in a dead end job. He may fight against those who reach out with good advice on making some positive career changes to experience the financial freedom to provide for their family in a stable way. Oddly enough, even though it’s their greatest fear, they can often be so prideful that they don’t let anyone come alongside to help them face it with courage and so they stay stuck in a downward career spiral, leaving the growing financial burden on their wife. Their fear of making a career change hurts the people they say they love the most.

Good guys – or unmotivated men in disguise?

Many of these guys may appear to be clean-cut, all-American, likable husbands and fathers who volunteer at church, mow the grass, don’t act mean, hateful or abusive, but they are still married to an exhausted woman. This is because recessions are tougher when a woman is trying to bridge the financial gap in their family budget by overworking to make up for the areas where their husband is unmotivated to change.

2. How much is enough?

The second major problem this woman is facing deals with a combination of expectation and entitlement. There is tremendous pressure placed on parents to ‘do the right thing’ for their kids, which often is interpreted as being forced to provide the latest and greatest cell phone, elaborate birthday parties and expensive forms of entertainment for their kids. It is not a sign of bad parenting to say ‘no’ to things you cannot afford it’s actually a sign of strength and will help a child learn that you can’t have everything you want. Part of being a responsible adult is learning how to control and manage financial impulses.

This situation can create a downward spiral of spending because some moms try to over-compensate for the lack of parenting from their passive husbands, then add the guilt she may feel from being gone so much of the time trying to make more money to pay the bills and you have a recipe for a spoiled child, strained marriage and pending financial disaster. The financial reality that some activities can’t be done in a given month may be hard to deal with in the short term, but it’s a lot better than collecting massive debt to create an artificial lifestyle to keep everyone feeling happy for a while. Some women live in continual fear that the credit card lifestyle they secretly use to fill the gap of living with an unmotivated man will one day come crashing down, so they keep this credit spending hidden like an addiction inside, hoping every day that she will make it to the mailbox before her husband discovers her secret.

3. Hidden roadblock to living with an unmotivated man

Mark Twain said, “If the truth hurts- it should.” Women married to an unmotivated man often don’t want to hear the truth about their husband. They may fiercely defend his lack of employment, his bad luck with bosses, speak up about how he loves the kids but just doesn’t have time for them, because once they openly acknowledge that their husband is an unmotivated man, it makes it real, and once it’s real, it means that something has to change.

It’s hard to face this reality, and it’s hard to confront a man they care about, so to avoid the risk of hurting his feelings they just carry the burdens inside. Another common way women avoid making their husband uncomfortable is by secretly asking their parents for money to make it another month, and grandparents are suckers when it comes to providing for the needs of their daughter and grandkids… so it goes on month after month until someone runs out of cash. No more cash means things eventually will crash.

Recessions quickly force things out into the open that might have gone unnoticed in a better economy. Unmotivated men are a big one. Exhausted women feel desperate when they reach the end of their financial rope… without access to lines of equity, retirement accounts or the inability to get a family loan from parents who may be financially stretched from a deflated stock portfolio or undervalued real estate market. When she runs out of options a woman has to face a painful reality. Get honest about the problems caused by the unmotivated man in her life and then confront them boldly, or silently find some negative way to cope, (like overeating). She will slowly and silently drown in her sadness if someone close to the situation doesn’t step in to ask some direct questions and offer real help.

This isn’t about blame shifting or attacking a man’s character as a human being, it’s about the basic financial reality of a shared financial partnership to run a family together. It’s about sharing marital responsibility instead of dumping everything onto an exhausted women going through life alone like a single parent, (except she just happens to be legally married to a non-producer who financially drags her down).

Sadly, it may take an exhausted women feeling completely overwhelmed to finally take action and say, ‘listen Mister- I desperately need help running this household and it’s time for you to grow up’. A husband-wife partnership requires both people yet some women are so used to the dysfunction of living with an unmotivated man that she is almost numb to the idea that things could ever change.

Change requires Confrontation

No one likes conflict, but this type of relationship problem can’t improve without direct communication and confrontation. Most women won’t be able to do this alone, because most women have tried many ways to get their unmotivated husband to change and it didn’t work. So if talking to him doesn’t work, a woman has to have some back-up to confront in a way the unmotivated man can begin to hear. This may come from a parent, a trusted friend, pastor, counselor or career coach.

Be sensitive to this tired woman, she needs someone to help her turn her husband around, but she doesn’t need to be judged or criticized- she does enough of that against herself every day. If you want to really help her, don’t blame, just point out the realities of the situation and ask how you can help. There is a biblical principle that says, “in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom and safety.” And this woman needs both… wisdom and safety, so be kind as you move forward to gently, but firmly offer help.

Sometimes it may involve the unmotivated man having someone come alongside to create a step by step approach of accountability that includes building confidence through attending men’s groups, leadership events, personal development seminars, career coaching or church retreats on learning new skills as a healthy husband and father. The information for unmotivated men to change is available- it’s out there. He still has to be the one to go out and seek it.

Often he won’t begin to change until being hit with some very hard realities. The most severe that he may lose everything of value to him if he doesn’t take bold action to turn things around for his family before it’s too late.

Leading families in partnership together

He has to move from being an unmotivated man to becoming more self-disciplined as a leader for his family, and if you say that word very slowly, you will discover the real answer to solve many of the problems of an exhausted wife… she needs someone to ‘lead –her’. Not a boss lording over her- she needs a partner. She needs a motivated man who wants to build a great family by her side, no longer like a married ‘single parent’ no- now as partners building memories, instead of being in misery.

When a man learns how to be a motivated leader things can turn around rapidly, and no matter how deep the recession, if a husband and wife are working together they will not just survive it, they will thrive from the blessings of being partners pulling together through the toughest of times, instead of slowly drifting apart.

Someone you know is the woman in this article. May these words challenge you to reach out with God’s love and a gentle heart to let her know that she is not alone and that she can count on you for support as she takes action to finally end the crazy problems that come from being married to an unmotivated man.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. -
"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To receive this valuable weekly resource subscribe at www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005.

About the authors-
Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice over 25 years with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is an author and member of the National Speakers Association who partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference.

Linda Riley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Sex Therapist, woman's support group leader, divorce recovery expert, and guest lectures for medical staffs around the country. She is a radio and television guest, with over 25 years of experience in marital conflict and intimate communication.

Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting their counseling blog with over 300 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

The Four Relational Germs

By Dr. Howard Markman & Dr. Scott Stanley

We discovered through over 20 years of research there are four main risk factors (germs) that can lead to divorce. In our book, Fighting For Your Marriage, we share how to greatly increase the chances of staying in love and in harmony by avoiding these four negative patterns.

Here are the four main "germs" that can produce too much anger and possibly lead to divorce:

1. Withdrawal during an argument.

Here one mate closes the other person out after an argument starts. For example, statements like:
"I'm not talking about that any more, it's too hurtful.""I'll just leave the house if you continue talking about this. End of discussion; it's over.""That subject is not open for discussion."

2. Escalating during an argument.

Here, the argument can get ugly. Escalation is when a person starts defending or trying to win an argument. Here, he or she volleys back and forth with shame and defensive statements. For example, shouting, blaming each other, using degrading names directed at your mate and trying to win the argument instead of cooperating as a team to solve the disagreement. Statements like the following might be used during escalation:

"Don't you ever accuse me of that again!""It's your fault that he talks to me like that, you're a great example!""Forget it then. Go out with your friends, see if I care! Stay out all night, you like them better than me anyway."There is usually an over use of the word "you" in an accusatory manner.

3. Belittling each other during an argument.

Here, one mate accuses the other of being "dumb" or "stupid" in their thinking or feelings. Somehow, one mate is trying to belittle the other and prove that he or she is better than the other is. This is the most destructive potential divorce risk pattern. It is also the opposite choice of honor.
"That's the dumbest statement I have ever heard.""When will you ever get it right?""You've been thinking from the wrong part of your body."

4. Having exaggerated or false beliefs about your mate during an argument.

Here, one mate may believe that the other is trying to ruin or weaken the marriage on purpose.
"You're always including your family. They've been between us our whole married life!" "You don't see it do you? You're too negative and it's driving me away!" "You say you're sorry, but you keep doing the same mean things over and over. You'll never change!" The major problem with this fourth germ is that what humans believe about another, they tend to see and hear even if it isn't true. In other words, what you believe about another person (positive or negative), you will find evidence of that belief in everything he or she does or says.

Excerpted from “Fighting for your Marriage” by Howard Markman, PhD & Scott Stanley, PhD
Find this book and others to build your relationship at http://www.smalleyonline.com/

Losing Love and Sex while Married

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Why do so many people lose love and sex while losing their marriage? Research shows many different factors that lead to relationship failure but let’s make it personal and explore some hidden reasons that move couples from ‘happy ever after’ to over to shattered dreams and hatred.

Jessica and Phillip have been dating six months. They spend long nights together talking about how good things are for them. It feels like they have shared their entire life’s history with each other, so Phillip eventually asks Jessica to marry him. They feel so “in love”, that she instantly says “yes”! Soon they are off to see their pastor for premarital counseling. They discuss finances, children, careers, houses, and in-laws as they map out what it would be like as they begin their lifetime together. One summer day they stand before God and their friends in a little church to say “I do”. Ironically, less than a year later they were in a counseling office complaining about all the things that are wrong with each other.

What went wrong?

Many couples wonder how they could have spent so much time together before the wedding and then completely miss the challenges that show up after the ceremony. They enthusiastically began the journey toward a lifetime of intimacy but get discouraged and sidetracked along the way. Many couples lack a true understanding of the deepest needs of their partner, including an understanding the important issue of communication, trust, romance, sexuality and how these factors all relate to marital intimacy.

I believe that God created men and women to be in an intimate relationship. In Genesis 2:18, God recognized that Adam’s deepest needs were not being met and said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Humans were created with needs that could only be met through an intimate relationship. God designed us to long for and receive love and acceptance from others. This begins in childhood when we look into our mom or dads eyes and their face reflects love and acceptance back to us. As infants, we should receive nurturing from our parents to meet our physical and emotional needs. If our needs are met in loving caring ways, then we grow to feel secure and loved and accepted. The problem is that many people are raised in families that don’t know how to love and nurture and reflect God’s love because of their own wounded emotions. It’s like the old saying…

Hurt People – Hurt People

Many people don’t even know what is wrong or missing in their lives or relationships but still spend a great deal of time and energy looking for it. That’s why people who are single spend so much time searching for someone to spend life with. Having someone accept us in a dating relationship leads to the normal expectation that we are going to get that deepest longing fulfilled in marriage a relationship can only be as healthy as the people in it.

Sex does not equal intimacy

Many people equate sexuality and intimacy. Nothing could be further from the truth! The physical intensity of experiencing sex is only a reflection of one part of a relationship. You may be asking, “How could a couple like Jessica and Phillip ever learn about intimacy and how to meet each other’s needs?” Well they have to start through understanding each other. Then they need to communicate their needs to each other. And frankly for most of us it will be impossible to really connect at the deepest level of a relationship, which is about trust, not sex.

Building a spiritual and emotional connection is the best way to meet your partners needs, because God can give you the strength to reach out in love to your mate even if your own needs are not currently being met. If Jessica begins to meet Phillip’s needs then Phillip will be “able” to respond back and begin to meet Jessica’s needs. It may seem backwards because our culture demands that we get our own needs met before we begin to meet someone else’s needs. Take care of yourself first, and if there is any energy left over, then reach out to help your partner. The truth is someone has to start the healing process toward marital connection, especially when things aren’t going well, and that someone is usually the healthiest one, which may be you!

There are countless books that deal with identifying our deepest and most intimate needs. They list the qualities of acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, attention, comfort, encouragement, respect, security, and support. Take a moment to look over this list and pick out your own top three needs. Then guess your partner’s top three needs. Intimacy is described as “in-to-see-me”. If you take a risk and become vulnerable then you can share who you really are, and what you need. Once you feel safe enough to share those needs and feelings with your partner you will begin to experience intimacy in the relationship. Greater emotional and spiritual intimacy is the hidden key to achieving greater sexual intimacy. It starts on the inside psychologically and then flows into the physical. Basically deep intimacy starts in the brain before it ever flows into the feelings of romance or sexuality.

How can I communicate my deepest needs to my partner?

A very useful communication tool is the “I Message”. It goes like this. “I feel hurt when you talk to me in that tone of voice because it’s disrespectful and it doesn’t seem like you care about my feelings.”

“What I need is for you to approach me using respectful words or hugs. Using an “I Message,” communicates your deepest needs without attacking, blaming, criticizing or creating an argument. It is an appropriate way to share your deepest needs, which is the key to a more intimate relationship.

So, what is intimacy?

It is more than sex, and more than just being open with each other. It is learning to communicate at the deepest level of feelings, opinions, dreams and hopes about the future. It is about building closeness through the world of ideas, sharing moments of beauty, creating a playful and flirty life together, whether it is a date together or working on daily tasks. It is being able to face struggles, differences, problems and pain together and growing closer for having shared the experience. Many couples, like Jessica and Phillip, begin by sharing hours of talking, but their conversations are about surface events, entertainment or other peoples’ actions and opinions. Sometimes couples share their opinions, but unless they share their honest emotions and hopes for the future, they have not really experienced the depth of intimacy in communication needed for a fulfilling relationship that will last through riches and poverty, sickness and health, until death ends a lifetime of love.

If you long for this type of an intimate relationship or are experiencing difficulties in your marriage- don’t’ panic. I believe God designed marriages to succeed, so if you really want to have the best relationship possible He will show you the way. If things aren’t going well you may need some outside help because if you knew how to fix it on your own, you would have already done it. I challenge you to get help before you or your partner gets discouraged to the point of despair and gives up. There are professionals who can help you get back on track to enjoy an intimate marriage and the love of a lifetime that you deserve.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group eNews (Copyright, 2004-2010), receive this valuable weekly resource by subscribing at www.LifeWorksGroup.org "About the author- C. Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Too Damaged to Love Again?

By Linda Riley, LMFT and Certified Sex Therapist

Stories of trauma and pain are part of my normal day as a therapist. I hear about hurt that starts in early childhood for some and continuing throughout life for others. Have you ever wondered how early childhood pain or trauma affect ones capacity to love? And to those who have been seriously hurt, is it possible to be so damaged emotionally that you actually can't love again?

To start answering that important question, let's look at the research. There seems to be a significant increase in the number of people in our culture who exhibit narcissistic personality traits. They learn to deal with their hurt by over loving themselves. While there may be a difference between traits of a narcissistic personality and full fledged narcissistic personality disorder, it is getting harder to diagnose and distinguish. When I was a graduate student narcissistic personality disorder was commonly believed to be present in only about 1 % of the population. The other day I ran across a recent statistical analysis that suggested we are now looking at 1 in 25 people with narcissistic or self-loving personality disorders. This obsessive self-love creates huge roadblocks in real loving relationships. Consider the narcissistic traits I most commonly see in clinical practice:

1. The lack of empathy towards partners
2. Manipulation and exploitation of partners
3. A sense of entitlement which results in unrealistic expectations of partners
4. Inability to recognize and take responsibility for unhealthy behaviors and choices, which means projecting all the blame on partners
5. A diminished ability to love.

Lack of empathy can start early

I recently attended a conference on Cyber-bullying where a child Psychiatrist stated that the real problem of those who bully or manipulate others was the lack of empathy in children and teens. They appear to lack the ability to feel the hurt, pain and fear of the kids they were bullying. The field of Infant Mental Health has demonstrated through brain scans of infants that empathy is something that first develops from the infant-mother bond. If for various reasons there are problems with this bonding process, attachment disorders develop. How do we teach empathy if it isn't learned or developed in infancy?

In our culture today many children are raised in day care centers or left with a variety of child care providers which are not there long enough for any significant attachment to occur. To love another one must first experience being loved. In the past when kids were raised with lots of extended family around to pick up the gaps in connected relationships; like aunts, uncles or grandparents. With so many people around to show love there was more likelihood that a child would experience a secure attachment with a primary caretaker. The problem is that if this connection never takes place, then the child will have difficulty attaching or bonding to their significant other as well as to their own children. Consequently, this is passed on from one generation to the next. People literally can get further and further apart emotionally since attachment isn't an automatic process from just being born into the same family or having the same last name.

Keys to relationship connection

At the very core of connection is ones ability to empathize. Good marriages and healthy families are all about connection. The inability to empathize with others also results in a lack of an integrated sense of self. If a person is missing a solid sense of who they are they tend not to develop a real sense of self-awareness and may feel they are either all bad or all good. Many things can disrupt this bonding process. A mother who is depressed or emotionally not available herself raises a child that doesn't learn to connect very well emotionally, (just like their mom).

If an infant or child is exposed to high levels of fear and stress, like many abused or neglected children, than this can possibly predispose a child to a latter need for recreational drugs or produce an aggressive or self-destructive child. The skills necessary for achieving an intimate relationship are both the ability to be self-aware enough to be in touch with your own feelings and than be able to relate to the feelings and experiences of the intimate partner. Lacking these skills leaves one with a diminished ability to both give love and receive it.

Microwave Love misses out on real Intimacy

We live in a fast paced culture and the result is we want everything to come as a quick delivery. Love takes time to develop; it is not a process that can be accelerated. Loving someone deeply requires taking the time to truly know them. It takes honesty, it requires some risks and it takes a tremendous amount of trust. Yet many people think they can just fast forward the process like some steamy scene in a romance movie and begin a real relationship with sex instead of communication. It is doomed to fail because microwave love misses out on real intimacy. Like Frank Sinatra advises in his classic song lyric, “Lets Take It Nice and Easy” and that lovers need to slow down and “take all the steps along the way”.

Could it be that we hurry through love, rush relationships, speed up sex, and race through life in general because we are all too wounded to be willing to take the risk of loving someone deeply? Or could it be that our culture has just lost the ability to love because we have become too narcissistic and self-centered? Hurrying through life keeps us so busy that it steals the important solitude that we need to be healthy and whole, both psychologically and spiritually. In other words it keeps us from fully feeling our emotions of loneliness and emptiness. Maybe that's why some people stay so busy and never take a minute to slow down, because if they did it would mean getting honest about what's missing in their life and that would be too painful, so it's off to another busy activity to avoid getting real.

Giving up on love before it's over

The other day I was talking to a man who has gone through a series of unsuccessful relationships and he actually used the word “DONE” when he was describing how he felt just before ending a relationship. Just simply “I was done” like when you are done with something and you throw it away because it is no longer useful to you. It just struck me as strangely sad that he was referring to a woman that had loved him. She loved and he wasn't able to feel it anymore. Just another sad ending that is common when someone gives up on love before the relationship is over, and when that happens usually both people are going to get hurt in the process.

As a therapist who specializes in relationships; I frequently witness how diminished people’s capacity to love is these days. Everyone claims they want someone to love, yet so many mindlessly walk away from love. They just move on to the next relationship or what appears sometimes to just be another “victim” of failed love. What are they looking for I wonder? Why can’t they see the value of the person they are with or the relationship they are in? Why aren’t they willing to stick around and make the effort to create something beautiful and lasting? What happened to “real” love and “real” commitment?

Losing your heart- one broken relationship at a time

I watch so many people take their partners for granted and under-value a relationship that should be meaningful. For many this is a warning sign of a failing relationship, which I realize means they are losing another piece of their heart. Sadly many people don't know that with every breakup they lose a part of their heart, but they don’t slow down enough to actually feel or grieve the loss of their own intimate connections.

How many pieces of your heart can you lose and still retain the ability to deeply and fully love? The answer is not as much as you think because the more break ups, the more scars and the more scars, the harder it is to open up next time. How ironic, our culture is always drawn to watch great love stories but are we are often too cowardly to write ourselves into the script. How about you? Do you have the courage to open your heart and really love, or are you too damaged, wounded or narcissistic to love again? You get to choose the level of intimacy in your relationships. I hope you choose love.

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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To receive this valuable weekly resource subscribe at www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005.
About the author- Linda Riley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Sex Therapist, woman's support group leader, divorce recovery expert, and guest lectures for medical staffs around the country. She is a radio and television guest, with over 25 years of experience in marital conflict and intimate communication between the sexes.

Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting their counseling blog with over 300 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Crazy in Love- or Driving each other Crazy?

by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator



Have you ever wondered why so many couples are crazy in love and can't wait to get together, and then drive each other crazy and can't wait to split up? I sure have and developed some key factors to use in tracking marital connection or marital conflict. Below are the most common factors that can lead to marital crisis. As you read through this list, think about your relationship or perhaps the relationship of your friends and co-workers. Get real- get honest because the future success and fulfillment of your marriage is at stake. Once you identify key areas that need attention then you can focus on the importance of working through those issues now so you can find peace and intimate connection instead of the risk of growing distance which can lead to a miserable life or even divorce.

Financial & Career
-Conflict over spending issues (unresolved spending conflict can linger for years)
-Excessive debt (credit cards, late payments, IRS, low FICO, student loans…)
-Excessive lifestyle (house, cars, entertainment, travel, recreational vehicles…)
-Business success or failure (especially with family or home based business)
-Inability to maintain stable employment (or seek job training to increase options)
-Lack of income or feeling used financially by spouse who doesn’t contribute
-Excessive business travel or weekend work that prevents relationship time
-Workaholic or exhausted from the driven need to accomplish greater success
-Married to their job instead of to their marriage partner

Emotional
-Anger issues (sarcasm, resentment, criticism, bitterness, passive-aggressive, etc.)
-Rage, violent temper or episodes of violence (including unresolved past fights)
-Stress or burnout (including chronic physical problems or stress related disorders)
-Suffocating emotions (jealousy, low self-esteem, insecurity, codependency, etc.)
-Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, prescription medication, eating disorders, etc.)
-Gambling, pornography or other addictive and secretive behaviors
-Criminal behavior, illegal activity or forcing spouse to participate in any unethical acts
-Immaturity, ego or selfishness, including the compulsive need to always be ‘right’ or win
-Loneliness, rejection, phobic disorders or social isolation disconnected from family or friends
-Mental, psychological or psychiatric problems or failure to seek professional help for these issues
-Violation of treatment plan or meds to regain emotional stability (e.g. ADD, bi-polar, OCD)
-TV addiction to escape reality (soaps, sports, sitcoms, shopping, news, movies, etc.)
-Internet addiction to avoid relationship (chat rooms, IM, virtual relationships, email pals, etc.)
-Video or computer games to escape reality and relationships (role playing games, online gaming)

Relational
-Communication problems, misunderstandings, total silence or failure to listen
-Intimacy problems, sexual frustration, sexual distance or lack of sexual desire
-Emotional affair or continual flirting for attention from the opposite sex
-Sexual behavior with another person outside of the marriage relationship
-Sexual behavior with a fantasy image or virtual relationship (sexual addictions)
-Unrealistic expectations of marital role or marital responsibilities for each partner
-Power & manipulation (or controlling behavior with spouse, children, family or others)
-Abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual or threat of abuse with spouse or children)
-In-law interference or extreme conflict and dysfunction from extended family system
-Abusiveness toward pets or other people especially if threats of a weapon are involved
-Parenting struggles (child management, blended family issues, absent or controlling parent)
-Household management of chores & clutter or the failure to respect the time & schedule of others
-Unresolved legal conflicts (past support or custody issues, business disputes…)
-Feeling overwhelmed & exhausted from trying to make the marriage work alone

Spiritual
-Religious differences or lack of worship together through a shared house of faith
-Dishonesty, lying, misrepresentation, half-truth, ethical violations or other breeches of integrity
-Attacking, disrespectful, disloyal, rude or hateful toward other faiths, cultures and belief systems
-Not living consistent with personal values and morality or failure to work on character flaws
-Trust violations, since trust is the foundational element for any successful relationship



Bottom line- in light of these many factors, when should you absolutely get help for your marriage?


___When children become the exclusive focus of the marriage

___When one marriage partner dominates or controls the other



___When blaming, shouting, sarcasm or threats become commonplace

___When drugs or alcohol abuse is an issue



___When physical or sexual abuse occurs

___When sexual or financial issues are ignored or are a constant battleground

___When trust is violated over money, morality or unexplained absences



___When affection and kindness to each other ceases



___When outside factors (job stress, child issues, financial crisis) increase



___When it is easier to discuss feelings with someone of the opposite sex other than your marriage partner

If you see three or more of the above factors, then it may be time to call a professional to prevent greater problems. You can talk to a LifeWorks Group counselor on the phone now at 407.647.7005. There is no cost for a brief consult to discuss your situation and the call is completely confidential.

(Permission to reprint providing you leave contact information - 407-647-7005) www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lord, I Want The Adventure…or Do I?

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

I wrote, recently, that I have been in a spiritual funk. I know, the word “funk” is not very technical but it’s hard for me to fully explain what I’m dealing with. After three years of drawing closer and closer in my walk with God, I suddenly have come upon a new period of “wilderness”, of testing. Umm….this one caught me off-guard. I wasn’t ready for it. I thought that I would just continually move towards knowing the Lord better, praying for Him to make me a warrior for Him and that all would be hunky-dory. So, when suddenly my prayers felt distant and my time in the Word felt hollow; when my finances were less than my bills; when fasting produced little immediate results, I did what any self-respecting “warrior” for God would do: I panicked. I freaked out. I became fearful and began to doubt my ministry, my calling, my heart, my relationship with God, pretty much everything. I began to look for ways to take matters into my own hands. My family needed more finances so, surely, God would want me to look for a 2nd job, right? Hmmm…..maybe….but not if He wanted me to learn more about faith and walking with Him when things aren’t certain. Not if the Enemy began to notice that I’m truly serious about being God’s man and so started an even harder campaign against me than ever before.
But, I want to be a warrior! Or, do I? I want to be in the adventure, God! Or, do I? I want to forego the mediocre life of religion and follow you into the wild unknown, Father! Or, do I? Do I, really? I think I do until times like this happen and the world seems dark and I cannot hear Him and I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future and I wonder how I’m going to feed my children or pay the light bill or……(sigh)…until things get hard. I’m quite the warrior, eh?
Presently, I’m reading a book by Dan Allender called, “To Be Told” and he talks about how every great story has conflict, tension, trouble. Without that, the story wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? I mean, if Frodo could have just marched right up to Mt. Doom, dropped the ring in the lava and went home to the Shire, that would have been FAR less interesting than the adventures he had. If Rocky could have gotten his title shot against an old, fat, boxer who couldn’t throw a punch anymore instead of Apollo Creed, there wouldn’t be much to watch, would there? In Les Miserable’s, if Jean Valjean, could have just lived a normal life instead of constantly being hounded by Javert, where would the adventure be? So, Allender emphasizes how the same goes for the story God is writing in our lives. There MUST be conflict and tension and hardship for the story to be compelling. He calls these moments “inciting incidents”. I love this line from his book: “And inciting incidents will always intensify our desire to listen to what the story is telling us—unless the inciting incident happens in our own story. Often, when it occurs in our life, we want the story to be resolved and the problem solved—and quickly! We love stories as long as they happen to someone else.”
Sad, but true. For me at least. I love the IDEA of being a warrior for God….of being part of a great adventure against the forces of evil that work against all that is good in our world. I WANT to be that man. But, when hardship hits me right where I live, I falter. I shrink back. I waffle. And I hate that about myself. I LOVE a good story, except when I’m in the middle of it. Then, fear rears its ugly head and I struggle.
But, let me tell all of you something. I’m not going to quit. I am not going to settle for the ho-hum life of religion. I’m not going to stay down under the barrage of spiritual ballistics being sent my way. I’m going to keep praying, keep fasting, keep reading the Word and someday I believe God will mold me into the true warrior I want to be. I believe He will because He needs more warriors. He needs more of us who strive with our hearts to face the fears that life throws our way. He needs warriors who hang in there in the face of adversity, believing that He will bring in the cavalry when we need it most, even when all seems lost. He needs men and women like the ones we see at “Helms Deep” in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”. The warriors who knew they were outnumbered and were destined to lose that fight. The ones who were tempted to lose heart as they saw the battle going against them. The same warriors who fought anyway. Who decided that, if they were going to go down that they might as well go down fighting. But, remember, just as they prepared to swing their swords for the final time…..just as all hope of victory faded before them, Gandalf appeared on the mountains above them…and he was not alone. The cavalry had arrived and they swooped down from the side of the mountain into the fray, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. I LOVE that scene.
But, that would have never happened if the warriors who were holding Helms Deep had given up and surrendered. Had they lost hope and lowered their swords, all really WOULD have been lost.
So, friends, I’m going to keep battling. Not because I’m trying to be a hero but because I want to be God’s man, even when I don’t like how that feels. Even when it means hardship and uncertainty. Even when it means facing the unknown and risking failure. I just cannot go back to just being another pew-sitter. My heart won’t allow it. And, so…even when discouragement pulls at my soul like a parasite, stealing my courage and threatening to empty my heart into despair, I must keep fighting and look to the Lord to sweep down off his mountain, with His angels at his side and believe that He will bring victory out of what I feel is a sure defeat.
He has done it before, you know…on a lonely hill when Satan must have believed he had won and that he had condemned the human race to sure destruction….when he nailed the hands and feet of the Lord to a tree, he must have thought victory was his. Until the 3rd day….
So, friends, I cannot say all is well with me. I cannot say that I will go home and my checking account will suddenly be full. I cannot say I am not afraid. I can only say I’m going to keep fighting and have faith that God will show up. My hope is that you will take up the banner and stay in the fight. If you have lost heart, I pray you will find the courage to keep going. If you have been wounded in the battle, I pray the Lord will tend to your wounds and that you will fight on. If you believe the fight is done, remember Helms Deep…or, better yet, remember the Cross. Victory will come for those who hold out to the last.
So, Lord….I really do want the adventure, even when it hurts. And, because I do, I’ll keep fighting until you bring in the cavalry, or should I say Calvary?

Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or www.legacycounselingservices.org

What Motivates a Man?

Written by: Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC


I’m sure that many of you who are reading this would LOVE to answer the question of what makes a man do what he does. I would dare say that this is a burning question in the hearts of many of those readers who might be, well...........of another gender. Just as men often question why females act the way they do, women have to wonder why on earth the men they love handle life in the strange and mysterious ways they do. Certainly, there are many facets and underlying factors in what drives a man to pursue life in a particular manner. I mean, we’re truly not the simpletons we are painted out to be, are we? (Notice I am now writing in 1st person, as I fit into the “male” category). Actually, “simple” is the last way I would describe my fellow comrades. In being truthful, every man is different and every man is unique; each of us develop our ways of coping from a combination of natural temperament and the environmental factors we were exposed to as we developed. It would not be fair for me to say that “every” man is motivated in the same way. HOWEVER (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), I do believe that there are some common factors between us.

In my research and experience in working with men of all ages, I see a common thread of a man’s need to do something important or to be something significant. I believe that, deep down, every man wants to make a difference; to even be considered GREAT in some way.

General George Armstrong Custer said it plainly: “In years long-numbered with the past, when I was verging upon manhood, my every thought was ambitious-not to be wealthy, not to be learned, but to be great. I desired to link my name with acts and men, and in such a manner as to be a mark of honor-not only to the present, but to future generations.”

In the excellent western mini-series, “Centenniel”, McKeag asked the great trapper Pasquinel, why he was so obsessed with finding gold in the mountains of the new country. McKeag wondered why Pasquinel couldn’t just be satisfied with the beauty of the untamed wilderness. Pasquinel’s response? He said he searched so diligently for the gold because he wanted to be more than he already was. He wanted to be more than just “Pasquinel the Trapper”.

Although “greatness” means different things to different men, I do believe that most men deeply long to be significant in their own eyes and to those around them. Even Jesus’ disciples fought over who would be the greatest in the kingdom; they argued over who would sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in heaven. Whether men pursue wealth, power, fame, or just to be known as having the nicest lawn in their neighborhood, something drives us to be greater than we already are.

But what actually makes a man great? This is a very difficult question to address. However, it is a very pertinent question; one that is worthwhile both in asking and in the pursuit of an answer. I cannot answer this question fully at this time. However, I believe that Jesus set us on the proper course. Jesus taught that, to be great, means to be less. He said that it is the last who will be first. How confusing! Doesn’t this go against all of the ideas of “greatness” that we are exposed to in our culture? Well, in a way it is but I believe that it is not as different as I once believed.

I believe that true greatness comes when a man is in intimate relationship with God. I don’t mean that he knows ABOUT God. I don’t mean that he simply talks to God. I mean.......I believe a man will make a significant mark on our world when he learns how to truly KNOW God. I love the book, “The Papa Prayer” by Larry Crabb. He does a wonderful job of challenging the ways we view prayer in our society. Most of our prayers involve thanking God for things that we wanted and that actually occurred or our prayers have to do with asking God for lots of different things; both the godly things and the selfish things. His premise is that the goal of prayer should be relational, not petitionary. He convincingly argues that prayer should be about knowing God intimately, listening to Him more than talking ourselves, and allowing God to powerfully work through our lives and into the lives of others. When we know God, we are able to hear His voice, know His will for our lives, and pursue those plans with confidence. It does not mean life will be easy. On the contrary, with greatness OFTEN comes adversity. It is naive for us to read about the great men of history and only focus on their moment of greatness. Almost always, enormous hardship is an integral part of the lives of those men. The truth is that we want the “greatness” without the “hardship”. This is an unrealistic expectation and often leads to men who are disillusioned when the rough moments do come (and they will). In fact, when men face hardship and adversity and persevere through them it sets up a great backdrop to the victory that God brings later.

I truly believe this: that men who give themselves totally in relationship to God, can expect the Lord to lead them into paths of great adventure, great trials, and great significance. It is when we want to maintain our own control of our lives and refuse to submit to the Lord’s will, that we forfeit our best opportunity for greatness. God wants to use us in His plans for this world. He desires men who are willing to face the dangers and difficulties of this world. He searches for men who want to know Him intimately and let Him take control. Look at what he did with the apostles. Were their lives easy? Ummm........no. Were they always comfortable? No. But they were the catalyst for a movement that truly changed the world. They were great men.

Guys: greatness and comfort rarely go together. God wants to know each of you. He wants to know me in a way I’ve never let Him. He wants to use us to be significant in His kingdom. He won’t force any of us to do this. But he invites us to come. And, although I have been a poor example of a man who would let God all the way in, I desire to become that man. I want to know God and be able to hear His voice like Moses did, or David did, or Paul. I want to know Him so well that I can courageously face whatever He has in store for me. I want to be known as a “friend of God”.

Do you know why? Because, secretly, I want to be great. Shhhhhh.........don’t tell.

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
posted by The Lifeworks Group 5:03 PM

Thursday, June 10, 2010

STOP PUTTING THE CART AHEAD OF THE HORSE

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

A Sons Need To Feel Valuable To His Father

My last article focused on the growing issue of mother/son conflict and the response I have gotten has confirmed the trends I am seeing between moms and their boys. However, it is important for me to note that the relationship between fathers and their sons is still primary to emotional health and the overall development of boys.
In this article, I want to caution all of us dads out there to make sure we don’t put the “cart ahead of the horse”. You know, make sure first things are first when dealing with our sons. This is a sensitive area because the truth is that many of us guys don’t have a clear idea of how to build a healthy relationship with our boys. The reason for this is because many of us had fathers that were equally uncomfortable in the process of building intimate relationships. It is so true that many of us grew up with dads who were much more comfortable in their roles at work than they were in their roles at home. In general, men have more difficulty than women in developing intimate relationships. This is a well-known dynamic that is common in marriages and in parenthood. Women tend to be more verbal and have a much higher value for relationships than men do. This is certainly not across the board (my wife has often urged me to stop talking... haha), but it is fairly common in the relationships between men and women. The truth is that, if this is not dealt with, that same dynamic carries over into the man’s relationship to his sons. To make matters worse, those sons often struggle themselves with the idea of emotional intimacy and the building of relationships. Therefore, it is not unusual for a father and son to have little idea how to reach out to each other. So, many men just pull away and leave the sons to fend for themselves in the pursuit of manhood. Some men spend time with their sons but do so in a vacuum of silence; neither male knowing what to say. So, in this case, the two males may fix the car together but never say a word more than “pass me the wrench” or “let’s go in for dinner”.
Now, one of the biggest problems occurs when a father demands achievement from his son before he has built a relationship with his son. One of the fundamental truths about boys is that they strongly desire to feel valued by their dads. Believe me, they pine for it. Especially during middle childhood and into early adolescence, most boys will go out of their way to get the attention of their dads. However, if the father has not reached back for his son; whether it is out of self-centeredness, busyness, or a perceived inability to do so, the boy may begin to rebel against his dad. This is often where problems arise.
Many times, a father expects and even demands high achievement from his sons. Often, it is because the father truly wants his son to experience a better life than he himself has lived. Lots of fathers have come to realize the importance of a good education or they want their sons to excel in athletics because of their own unmet needs. It sounds cliche, but it’s true that many fathers want to live through their sons. There is a plethora of men who reach a point in their own lives where they become disillusioned with how far they have come. Thus, they want their sons to achieve at higher levels than they have. It is at this point that they really push their sons to get good grades, or practice incessantly for sports. Men are “fixers” by nature so when the son gets into trouble the first thing many men turn to is stronger discipline. The idea is that they can force their sons to shape up. Boundaries get tighter, privileges are taken away, and arguments become louder.
Here comes the rub: If a son does not feel truly valued by his father, he will (more often than not) resist the father’s attempts at discipline or guidance. Conversely, if a son feels valued by his dad, he is much more likely to take his dad’s advice to heart and, eventually, take the right path. When I say we, as dad’s, need to stop putting the cart before the horse, I mean we must work (and it is definitely labor for some of us) to develop an intimate relationship with our sons BEFORE we drive them towards achievement.
I was lucky in this regard. My dad was a great guy and showed me that I was loved. Now, he was not perfect and I certainly have my own “father wounds” that I’m working to deal with, but I never doubted that my dad loved me. In fact, I lost my father just over a month ago and it has left a void that will never be filled this side of heaven. As I grieve over the loss of this mammoth figure in my life, I am challenged to make sure that my own sons know that I love them as much as I felt loved by my own dad. I didn’t always listen to my dad’s advice and I definitely made bad choices in my early adulthood, but I always returned to my father’s example and legacy. Why? Because I felt loved by him and, in return, he was a man I adored and revered on a grand scale. My life will never be the same here on earth now that he has gone to be with the Lord.
Fathers, don’t we all want our sons to respond to us like that? Don’t’ we want our sons to love and respect us enough to try to carry on our family legacy? Don’t we want a strong bond with our sons?
If so, we must strive to build that relationship with them. I know it’s hard for some of us. I know it may even be uncharted territory for some dads out there. But it is so worth it to blaze that trail. When we are older, don’t we want our sons to proudly come to us with their successes, failures, and hearts? Don’t we want our sons to feel so valued by us that they can’t wait to have sons of their own to pass on that legacy? I know I long for that more than anything and I’m working to make it happen.
For those of you who aren’t sure where to begin, here are some suggestions on how to build a relationship of value between you and your sons:

1. SPEND TIME WITH HIM. I know this sounds elementary but “time” is something that doesn’t just free itself. We have to MAKE time for our sons. I try to encourage fathers to spend 20 minutes of time with their children, each day, as much as possible. You will be amazed at how much this bonds you with your son AND helps you with discipline later on.

2. DO THINGS THAT HE LIKES TO DO. Bringing your son along with you to do things you want to do is great; but only if you balance that by sacrificing your interests in order to enter his life and interests. This is a part of the “20 minute” rule I mention above. When you spend that 20 minutes with him, let him lead the play or the interaction. Is it always fun to sit on the floor and play with trucks? Is it just a blast to go out in the yard and try to play ball with your son, only to have him play it the wrong way? No. It’s not always fun for us but it IS fun for them and, when they see that you will do things that they like, it will go a long way in building that feeling of value between you.

3. LISTEN: DON’T LECTURE. It’s okay to offer wisdom to your son. They need that. BUT, they won’t respond to it if they don’t feel like you are paying attention to their feelings or thoughts. Again, I know we guys like to make things better but, sometimes, we need to just be quiet and really pay attention to what our sons are telling us about themselves; their hearts, their fears, their lives. I have never met a boy that didn’t want to be truly KNOWN by his father.

4. SHOW HIM HEALTHY AFFECTION: I know.............many of you just groaned at reading this sentence. I, myself, just had an urge to go pump some iron or hit something really hard, just to prove that I’m still manly after such a taboo suggestion. But, honestly, our sons need us to touch them in appropriate, encouraging manners. I don’t mean that you have to embrace them constantly, although would that really hurt us? I mean...............pat them on the back often, squeeze their shoulder while you talk to them, high- five them, play-fight with them (yes, girls, we see this as affectionate), wrestle with them. And, yes, sometimes just give them a hug or even a kiss. If we are honest with ourselves, didn’t we all want to receive affection from our dads?

5. TEACH HIM HOW TO DO THINGS. Don’t be so impatient that you just work to get things done as fast as possible. Take the extra time to show your son how to build a cabinet, how to manicure the lawn, how to fix a car, or how to hit a baseball properly. No boy is born with the knowledge to do any of these things. We must show them.

6. WORK ON YOUR OWN ISSUES. If you have trouble reaching out to your son or your wife or anyone, get help from someone. Is it really more manly to alienate your family than to ask a professional how to improve those relationships? Wouldn’t you rather grow in this area than end up divorced or estranged from your kids? I know I would.

7. BE SUPPORTIVE OF HIS INTERESTS. This is similar to #2, but it expands the meaning. As your son becomes involved in sports, or band, or debate, or the scouts, or whatever...........show him support. Even if it is an activity that you wouldn’t do, show him that you support him no matter what. For instance, where I grew up, well, ahem..........our view of soccer was............hmm.........(cough, cough)..........that it was not so............what’s the word?...........manly? :) Yes, I know it is the world’s favorite sport but it wasn’t in Beverly, Ohio! :) However, if my son chooses to go down that destructive path, who am I to stop him??? :) Seriously, your son is unique. God made him that way. Encourage him to be the man God made HIM to be; instead of pigeon-holing him into who YOU want him to be.

8. EXPOSE HIM TO HEALTHY MALE FELLOWSHIP. As he grows older, take him with you outings with your guy friends. Send him to basketball camp to learn from a strong coach. Get him involved in his youth group. The more godly men he is around, the better his chances to develop into a godly man himself.

9. BE WORTHY OF HIS RESPECT: Be a good leader in your home. Be a loving husband. Take care of yourself. Let your son see you doing things that you are good at and you like to do. Exercise to stay healthy. Be a man that faces his fears and handles the hardships of life with courage.

10. TEACH HIM TO KNOW CHRIST. There is no greater lesson he can learn. If you continue to grow in your relationship with Christ, make sure you teach your son how to do the same.

Guys, I know that building relationships is harder than excelling at your job. At least, for most of us it is. It takes courage. It takes effort. It takes making yourself vulnerable. It takes time. And, truly, it takes desire. But, boy, is it worth it! Dads, your son needs you so much. He desperately desires to feel valued by you. No matter how old he is, that longing is still in his heart. I pray that all of you who are fathers will resolve to build that relationship with your son and, THEN, encourage them to achieve. Anything else............is putting the cart in front of the horse........and we all know how effective THAT is.

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

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Monday, June 07, 2010

BUT HE’S STILL MY BABY!

A Closer Look at Mother/Son Conflict During Adolescence.

Oh, how things can change. Maybe it’s all in my head but I am noticing a dramatic shift in parent/child conflict lately. It used to be that I would work with teenage guys and their big issue would be with a demanding and overbearing father. The common problem was that their dad was always wanting to control them and was in their business all the time and that these boys never could live up to their dad’s expectations. I would see lots of anger come out in these boys but, in this scenario, there was also a strong underlying sense of pride in their fathers and the urge to relate to them in a powerful way. I would have to say that this scenario was the norm for a long time. I believe I am noticing a real shift in the issues I see now amongst adolescent guys. Not that there are no controlling or overbearing fathers anymore. This is still a fairly common issue that I deal with in the counseling room. But, there has been a subtle but very noticeable movement in our culture. I dare say that the winds seem to be “a’changin”.
Now, at least as often as the above scenario and maybe even more so, I have noticed that there seems to be more and more conflict between mothers and sons. Seriously, this has become a staple in my work. I cannot tell you how many times a family comes to me and the major fighting and behavioral problems are between the son and the mother; especially when the son gets to be around fifteen or sixteen years old. The boys come to me with lots of anger and frustration, as well as shame and guilt in many cases. The mothers are full of hurt, rejection, and frustration. And, oftentimes, dad is not sure what is going on, when it really started, or how to fix it. Most of the time, the family history shows that the son was usually very close to his mother, mother was very involved with son and his activities, and life was harmonious.........until now. (Dramatic music here)
So, why the shift? Why does a loving and dutiful son suddenly become so angry at his loving and attentive mother?
Obviously, as with any emotional issue, there are lots of reasons that come together to spin a complex web of trouble. For the sake of brevity, let me submit a few of the more common reasons that I see.
First, I believe we are reaping the consequences of becoming a more and more fatherless society. Too many boys are growing up in homes that are void of a dad. This can mean that the father is not there physically, due to divorce, death, or apathy but it can also mean a home where dad resides but is not emotionally involved with the rest of the family. In dealing with the former scenario, I cannot remember a time when I have met more boys that have less contact with their fathers. Seriously, whether I have been in the classroom, on the athletic field, or in the counseling room, I have met countless young men who haven’t even met there dads. It is heartbreaking to hear boys, in false bravado, joke about the fact that they were twelve before they met their dad, or that their father is in prison so they’ve never been together or that dad has decided to live far away and there is little contact. Young men joke or laugh about these things, not because they think it’s funny, but so they don’t show how much this deeply hurts them. Many teenage boys have some contact with their fathers but it is not consistent or meaningful. Children of divorce need to feel valued by both parents, even the one that is not the primary custodian. It bothers me deeply to see so many fathers that neglect the essential role they play in the development of their sons.
Because of this cultural dynamic, mothers are in a position where they have to step up and attempt to play both parental roles on a daily basis. God bless them for this! Please be sure to know that I am not scolding single mothers or blaming them for all of these problems. I hope the above paragraph was clear in showing that I firmly believe that, in many cases, the fault lies with the fathers who are not fulfilling their God-given responsibilities. However, when a home is fatherless, it leaves a boy with a void. It is a void in a young man’s search for what it means to be a man. Eventually the boy will strive for manhood and, without a strong father to emulate, he will have to find his own way. Because he will be learning as he goes, he is prone to mistakes and awkwardness that can often include things his mother will not understand, and it will lead to conflict.
The home with an overly passive father is also prone to mother/son conflict. If a father is physically present but is not a strong presence, mom will often take the lead role in the home. As the boy grows, he will want to look to his dad to figure out how to become a strong man. If dad is not a strong person, the boy will be confused about manhood. A son might even resent his dad if the young man sees that his father allows his mother to control him or push him around. The boy might also resent his mother for doing so and, in his heart, the young man might vow never to let his mom treat him the way she treats his passive father. The young man will still strive for manhood (all boys do) and might see rebelling against his mother as the best way to show he is strong.
Finally, boys often reach an age where they believe they MUST get out of from the shadow of their mothers. This especially happens when a son has always been coddled or protected by his mother. When a boy is young, this is great for him. His mother provides him with compassion when he is hurt, provision when he is sick, and shelters him from the harsh realities of his world. However, when a boy is on the edge of manhood, he wants to be dangerous and strong. A young man will want to prove that he is no “mama’s boy” but is a budding man to be reckoned with. If the mother resists this need for independence, the son will resist in return. If the mother REALLY resists the need for the boy to leave her side, then the boy will REALLY strive to pull away. Sometimes, a young man will go to great lengths to do things he knows his mother will hate and not approve of.........not because he necessarily wants to do them but simply to show that he is his own person. At this stage boys are like soap in the palms of their mothers; the more she tries to grab him, the more he will work to slip through her fingers. If a mother takes this as personal rejection, the seeds are planted and the situation is ripe for conflict.
Moms, if you can see yourself in this type of situation with your sons, let me offer just some bullet points of advice:

1. Research the masculine psyche. There are lots of books on the subject of boys: “Wild at Heart”, “Bringing Up Boys”, and “Raising Cain” are excellent resources for helping you to understand the needs and motives of young men. Read them with an open heart and mind.

2. Work to UNDERSTAND your son: not CONTROL him. It doesn’t mean you stop being a parent. Just be a parent that values your son enough to listen.

3. Remember your main role as a parent is to prepare your son to be an adult that can make his own decisions; not let you make them.

4. Look in the mirror: How much of the conflict is due to your own insecurities or need for control?
5. Allow your son to face the consequences of his actions. Don’t save him all the time. If you don’t allow him the freedom to make his own mistakes, he can always blame you when things go wrong. Let him have enough rope to hang himself sometimes. He’ll learn faster.

6. Be consistent and fair in discipline and setting boundaries and consequences, based upon your son’s age.

7. If possible, encourage his father to take a more active role in your son’s life. He needs his dad, if possible.

8. Expose your son to healthy male role models: teachers, coaches, youth leaders. Obviously, we want to be careful about this but a boy needs examples to follow.

9. Work on your ability to “let go”.

10. Be loving and graceful when he fails. Try to resist the urge to say, “I told you so”.

Being a mother is not easy. I realize that, in spite of my limitations (you know, that I’m a man). However, the truth is that being a young man is not easy either. There are lots of reasons that mothers and sons end up fighting. In fact, there are more reasons that we can cover in this article. However, I just want to remind you that there are even more reasons for mothers and sons to work out these conflicts so that they can remember how much they love each other and how valuable each of them are.

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

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Yoke’s On You: Slavery to Sin or Freedom in Christ

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

God has really been speaking to me lately. Yes, really. Amazing as it sounds for a man who has been a Christian for 31 years, I am just now learning that God still speaks to us, if we will only listen. For years, I don’t think I fully believed this…..that we could really hear the Lord’s voice. I just thought that God only spoke through the scripture….an attitude that results from being raised in “the age of reason” where anything of the heart is portrayed as na├»ve at best and, at worst, a trick of the devil. It never dawned on me, until recently, that this attitude does not fit the God portrayed in those very scriptures. A God that actually states, when choosing David as king, that He looks MOST to the heart, while man looks at the externals. A God who continued to speak to and through the disciples even after Christ ascended to His throne. The question I never asked myself is, “why would He stop now”? Well, I’m not sure why it took me so long (I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake) but I’m overjoyed that God is showing me that He does continue to speak to us, if we will learn to listen. I thank God for the writings of men who really knew Him and walked with Him. Men like Tozer, Lewis, Thomas a Kempis, and others. It is so refreshing to begin to really know God….not just know about God. I can see why God told Moses that nobody could look fully at Him or they would die because just going into a deeper walk with Him and hearing His voice has been almost overwhelming to me at times. How awesome that He is available to us!
One of the areas that He has really been working with me on is what it really means to be free in Christ. As a therapist, I see Christian men and women every day that truly are still slaves to their anger, their habits, their vices……to their sins. I look at the church in general and I still see so many people who look as if their yokes are truly heavy, not light as Jesus promised His yoke was. I even look at my own life and history and wonder why even my life has felt like such a heavy burden over the past few years. If Jesus’ yoke is light, if we are to truly experience freedom in Him, why is it that many Christians seem to lack that freedom?
Well, God is still working on me in understanding all of this more fully but I’ll tell you what He has shown me so far…
It is simply about where our focus is.
I have written previously about my opinion that much of the church’s teaching focuses on behavior control, or of how we can overcome certain sins we struggle with. I cannot tell you how many messages I have heard over the years on “3 steps to overcome sexual temptation” or “4 ways to tame the tongue” or “the 5 practices that enable us to be more obedient servants to God” or things like that. We certainly mention that Christ wants a personal relationship with us but even that teaching is intertwined with making sure we have devotions every morning (and we all know that God is more present early in the morning  ) and that we read a certain amount of scripture each year and other “behavior-oriented” teachings. But what I’m hearing from God is that this preoccupation with behavior is why we are remaining slaves to sin. It’s the focus. The tunnel-vision. I really cannot think of a better word than, once again, PREOCCUPATION. When we focus our hearts and our eyes on our behavior, on how we mess up, or even on trying NOT to mess up, this enables Satan to keep us shackled to sin. Even focusing on NOT sinning keeps us in slavery to it. Can we deny this, really? On one hand, if we are focused on our sin because we are indulging in it, then we know that we are allowing ourselves to be chained to that behavior. Few would argue with me on that point, I’m sure. We see this in those who are stuck in the addictive cycle, whether it is to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or sexual affairs. Much of their lives revolve around where they will get their next “fix”. It is blatant slavery to that sin. But, my friends, listen to me. When most of our focus is on how we will NOT sin, it still enslaves us. The truth is that we can only stop sinning through sheer willpower for so long. No matter how hard we try, we will eventually mess up. This is why the world needed Christ, because we were hopeless in ever trying to live up to the standards of the Law.
Yet, what God is showing me is that, much like the Galatian church, we are still trying to do our best to live up to the “standards” of both the Old Testament Law (the Ten Commandments) and a new law we have set up, based on New Testament principles of behavior. So much of our focus, both in and out of the church, is on how we can obey those commands. Even the world places this pressure on us. For instance, if a high-profile minister is caught in sin, the world jumps on his inability to live up to the very standards he teaches about. But that’s the point! We cannot live up to those standards. By trying to do so we are emulating the Galatian Christians, who were trying to get new converts to obey the Law even after accepting Christ. Even worse, by focusing on how we can keep these standards and by teaching others the same (and that it is actually possible) we mirror the very leaders that Christ was the most harsh with, the Pharisees. Christ said they placed a HEAVY yoke on the people, one that they were unable to bear. Without meaning to, I believe that many of us as leaders, preachers, teachers, elders, and laymen are doing the same. By focusing on behavior, we are placing a yoke on people; a yoke of shame (believing they are bad at their very core) caused by an emphasis on standards that we will never be able to live up to. This is slavery, pure and simple, because we are teaching people to either focus on what they are doing or we are teaching them that they are shameful beings, incapable of ever being who God wants them to be. This is a focus of bondage, and it is why most Christians have no clue about what it means to be free in Christ.
The freedom that Jesus spoke of is when our focus is completely different. That freedom is found when we focus our hearts on walking with God. It sounds so simple and yet rarely do I see it taught in detail. What does it mean to daily walk with Christ? How do we hear His voice? What does this relationship really look like? I fear that this kind of in-depth focus on our walk with God is glossed over because many of us as leaders aren’t really walking with Him ourselves. I don’t mean that as an attack at all. The truth is, as I noted to begin with, I am only just now beginning to walk with Him on this level. I’m confident that this article is incomplete and imperfect because these are truths I am just now beginning to understand. I’m hopeful (in that confident hope we can have in Christ) that He will continue to flesh out what all this means in the coming months and years. Yet, for now, what He is showing me is that freedom comes when we stop worrying about and focusing on our behavior and, instead, focus on our walk with God. Freedom is when we learn how to “give up” our hearts to Him and submit to His work in our lives. It is when we learn to slow down and be silent before Him, enabling Him to speak to every part of our lives. It is when we learn what it means to hear His voice…….a journey that does not seem natural to many in this age of “cognitive” religion.
You see, this is where the freedom comes in. When we focus on Him and learn to submit, HE will take care of our behavior as a natural result of walking with Him. As a counselor and as a minister, I am less concerned about people’s actions and more concerned about their heart. I know that a pornography addict, for instance, cannot control his impulses for very long in his own willpower. But, if we can work on turning his heart’s focus to his relationship with God, then I know that God will work on the healing and transformation of that heart……and his behavior will change as a result. The “freedom” is in the submission…….the releasing of our will and heart to God. That is the lighter yoke…..that we allow God to carry the burden of changing our hearts and behavior. That we allow Him to remove our shame (there is no condemnation in Christ) and we begin to see how valuable we are to Him. The freedom is in our heart’s knowledge (not just head knowledge) that we are so valuable to God that He desire’s to walk with us moment-to-moment in spite of our sins (thanks to Christ). The yoke is light because HE is carrying us….we are not carrying the yoke ourselves.
The illustration that comes to mind is when Peter stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. Remember, it was when his focus turned to external things (the waves, the wind, the circumstances) that he began to sink. He could not, no matter how diligently he tried, do this on his own. However, when his focus was on Christ, he was able to walk on the water. It was all about his focus.
The same is true for us. No matter how hard we work at it, we can never control our behavior for long. Even Paul testifies to this in Romans as he describes his own struggle with sin and behavior. However, Paul writes that we are no longer “slaves” to sin…not that we no longer sin. That is a powerful distinction that should free us up from shame and bondage. But only if we teach people how to walk with God. Only if we stop focusing so much on sin-control and more on hearing God’s voice and submitting to Him. Not just that people should have this kind of relationship, but showing them how to live in this way, day-by-day.
We really can lead people to freedom in Christ. We can show people how to escape the chains of addiction and sin. Not that we have the freedom to sin but that, because of finally realizing our value to God, we are free NOT to sin. We can lead people to this by changing our focus, and theirs. By giving up our need for control, submitting in relationship to Him, and letting Him carry the burden of changing us.
Until then, the yoke’s on us.


About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at the LifeWorks Group, Inc. in Winter Park, Florida. He has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people 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. To learn more about the LifeWorks Group, Inc. please visit, www.LifeWorksGroup.org.