Voices in My Head

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is”

Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

Do you talk to yourself? Granted, some of us may actually talk out loud to ourselves, but all of us have quiet conversations in our heads. If you stopped to pay attention to what you think about yourself and what types of thoughts float through your mind all day long, would you say those thoughts are negative or positive? Do you dwell on your weaknesses, problems, or inability to overcome circumstances (even those things that are out of your control)? Or do you give yourself grace in your weaknesses (note: this does not mean making excuses for bad behavior)?

According to Proverbs 23:7, we become what we think about ourselves. And, if we are negative, we will ultimately project that negativity onto those around us. According to  Luke 6:45  our words come from the overflow of our heart. So if you tend to be negative, embrace the antidote of good attitudes and godly thoughts and renew your mind (Romans 12:2) to eradicate negative thinking that results in negative speech.

One way you can do this is by meditating on scripture. Who does God say you are? Replace any negative thoughts you have about yourself with the things that God says about you. Eight verses about your identity in Christ are featured in this fun set: Identity in Christ Cards.  Print this set of cards and commit them to your heart!

Are You Emotionally Intelligent?

Knowledge is power, and when it comes to anger, knowledge is peace. Because anger is a secondary emotion, if you study yourself closely, you can learn the primary emotion or emotions that trigger your anger. And, when you understand what triggers your anger, you can manage it before it becomes destructive.

Consider an angry moment you had recently. Why were you angry? What primary emotion (frustration, fear, disappointment, jealousy, insecurity, pride,…) led to your anger?

When you realize what most often triggers your anger, you become self-aware, and when you act on your anger in appropriate ways, you become self-managing. Self awareness and self management are two of the components of emotional intelligence. The other two components are social awareness (understanding how the people around you feel) and relationship management (successfully interacting with others, regardless of the atmosphere in which those interactions take place).

If you feel you are not highly emotionally intelligent, the good news is you can change that. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves wrote a book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, that includes strategies to help you increase the four components of your emotional intelligence.

Jesus was the most emotionally intelligent person who ever walked the earth. His empathy and compassion served as the antidote for anger, and when he did get angry, it was for a righteous reason (the breaking of God’s law), and was always displayed in a God-honoring way.

To learn more about the characteristics of emotionally intelligent people, you can read this article. Study yourself a bit and learn ways to manage your anger, all for the goal of living out Philippians 1:27a: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Depress Your Anger Button

“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Proverbs 21:19 (KJV)

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9 (NIV)

It really is a wonder that my husband and I ever got married. For the majority of the year that we dated before getting married, we argued a lot. It really didn’t take much for either of us to get angry with the other person. In fact one evening I remember getting out of his car mad and slamming the door as we said goodnight. I figured we would talk again the next day. But that didn’t happen. Instead I received an e-mail saying our relationship was over. We had both dug in our heels, and the irony is neither of us can even remember what it was about. So, what was the root cause of our anger? After all, we knew we loved each other. We just couldn’t get along.

Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning it is always caused by another emotion – fear, insecurity, frustration, jealousy, disappointment, embarrassment. In our case, we mostly felt disappointment or frustration because of our expectations. Basically, we had assumed the other person would think the way we do, and without communicating that expectation, disaster occurred. For example, during our first year of dating, I envisioned a romantic gift for my birthday, like jewelry (engagement ring, especially) but was given a case of root beer, a bag of Jelly Bellys and a humorous worst case survival handbook (which included helpful information on how to survive a blind date, a flaming Christmas turkey or a runaway golf cart). Bert knew I liked these treats so that’s what he got for me. He wasn’t in the wrong, but my expectations put him in the wrong in my mind, and boom, disappointment and anger ensued.

When I realized I would have to communicate and, as one wise person told my husband, lower my expectations, my anger button would get pushed less often. And, yes, the advice of low expectation is vital; this doesn’t mean lowering your standards, but instead it means having reasonable expectations of another person. Don’t set the bar so high that the other person will always fail and disappoint you.

I’m happy to say our first year of marriage was excellent – we argued much less than we did when we dated and the gifts I’ve received since that time have been really wonderful – let’s just say my jewelry box is now heavy laden with bling.

And over the years, we have strived to keep anger low, even though there are still times it rears its ugly head. Keeping anger low in a household is vital because anger is contagious. Spouses and children feel it, and they will most likely imitate it.

Solomon exhorts us to be patient rather than quick-tempered (Proverbs 14:29), and as wives to respect our husbands instead of nagging them. Otherwise, our husbands may want to run from us – to the wilderness or to the attic (Proverbs 21:9, 19)! These colorful Proverbs emphasize the importance of peace in a household; they say it is better to be alone with nothing than to be with a person who constantly spews complaints and insults. Peace is of utmost importance!

James 1:19-20 reiterates excellent advice:

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Let’s make a pact to remember the importance of our spouse. Consider the things that make you feel angry, and learn ways to avoid them or work through them. Listen first, and then communicate in a loving and respectful tone. Knowledge is power, and in this case it is peace, too!

Give It Over!

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

This past week in our Bible study we talked about the meaning of time. Time is one of those abstract terms that is hard to define, but each person has their own thoughts on what time means. A few of the insights we came up with as a class included:

  • Time is a gift.
  • Time is full of potential.
  • How we spend our time reveals our priorities: we find time for what is important to us.
  • Time gives us perspective: we can learn when we look back on time.
  • There is finite time on earth, but heaven will be timeless, for eternity.

As I was considering the way I spend my gift of time and trying to determine if I am indeed “numbering my days aright so I might gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12), I thought of Proverbs 16:3. This proverb encourages us to give our burdens and concerns to the Lord. If you are overcommitted or feel like you simply don’t have enough time in the day to complete the tasks set before you or there are too many interruptions that prevent you from completing the things you want to do, give your worry to the Lord. If you are lonely and the days go by slowly, give your loneliness to the Lord. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Give it over to him.

When you let go of your worries and trust that the Lord loves you and will take care of you (Matthew 6:25-34), you will have success as Proverbs 16:3 promises. This success comes in the form of peace and joy because you will be grounded in God’s purpose for your life. The key to finding your purpose and spending your time wisely is being sensitive to God’s voice in your life. You do this through spending time with him daily. Even reading one Bible verse for five minutes can make a huge difference. Pray often- you can pray anytime and anywhere. Pray while you’re washing dishes or doing laundry. Pray while you’re out on a morning walk or sitting in rush-hour traffic. When a worry comes to your mind, talk to the Lord about it right then.

Don’t wish your days away, but instead remember the past, live in the present and pray about the future. While we can enjoy remembering past successes and learn from past failures, we should not dwell on the past. Live in the right now! And even if you are not happy with your “right now” situation, realize that if you commit your way to the Lord, success will come. In doing this you are pressing on to the prize of heaven in the future, as Paul says in Philippians 3:14.

Proverbs 3:6 exhorts, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Commit every decision, worry and action to the Lord, and your time will indeed be used wisely.

 

 

The Busy Balance

“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”
Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”
Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)

There are two extreme camps when it comes to time management. The first group includes those who are punctual, calendar-oriented and diligent to finish all tasks (you know, the people who love to make lists and check off each item). The second group includes those who are habitually late (they run on their own timetable), work on goals when they feel like it (their motto is “Who needs planning?”) and are often described as just plain old lazy (usually by the members of the first group).

For most of my life, I have been a member of the first group – diligent and driven by time, but to a fault. In the past, I found myself working tirelessly to get things done, checking off the items on the calendar and making sure every minute of the day was used efficiently. I can remember a time when in my head I would schedule when going to the bathroom would fit in! I would panic if I thought I was going to be late to an appointment and often speed to get there. I would also put time pressures on my husband and daughter because, of course, there were things that needed to be checked off the list and there were places to be, school and church being the hardest to get out of the door to. Obviously, this stringent work principle proved to be as detrimental as laziness.

While we are meant to do work as Genesis 2:15 explains, there is a point where all work and no play is not beneficial. On the flip side, Proverbs 13:4 warns us that all play and no work is equally detrimental because it leads to poverty. This poverty (lack of anything, not just material things) comes quickly through laziness according to Proverbs 6:10-11.

So, where is the balance between working hard and finding time to rest? After all, the Lord gave us an example in Genesis 2:2 when he rested on the seventh day of creation. My solution is to:

  • set boundaries and do not overschedule yourself. Remember sometimes you have to say, “No” to things. Just because you can do something does not always mean you should do it. Be sensitive to what God calls you to do, not what other people ask you to do. Look at your weekly activities. Why do you do them? Consider your passions and your purpose in life. As Christians, our main purpose is to bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7). Do the things you do fulfill that purpose?
  • have realistic expectations on what you can accomplish in a given time frame. Consider your limitations and realize that interruptions are possible. Give yourself a break on these things. Schedule in rest or refreshment as part of your day.
  • ask for help when you need it. God made us to have fellowship with each other, and helping each other is part of fellowship. When you ask for help, you give someone a chance to be a blessing.

Consider what is most important to you – the work in front of you that will be there tomorrow or the people in your life who need you now. I’m confident in saying that you will never regret spending time with someone special in your life rather than finishing a task that can wait until later.