If You Had a Friend Who Spoke to You the Way You Speak to Yourself, Would They Still be Your Friend?

Thoughts are like the streets of a city, and you get to choose which street to drive on, even a street that’s full of pots holes and hazards.

I never pay attention to my thoughts, I walk through each day stepping from busyness to busyness. Sure I spend more time being lonely and depressed than I do being happy and fulfilled. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Then a friend asked me, “If you had a friend who spoke to you the way you speak to yourself, would they still be your friend?”

Speaking to Myself

I stopped. I listened. It was hard. I couldn’t listen for long. Busyness kept distracted me.

I stopped again. I listened again. I surprised myself by checking in during the times when I was in autopilot. It was still hard.

It shouldn’t be this hard. But for me, it was. You see. It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear what my thoughts were telling me, I just didn’t want to hear them. They were a part of the fabric of my life that I had been ignoring for so long, they had blended into the background static.

Then I listened to that static, the thoughts slowly emerged. I deeply sighed.

I heard my thoughts, saw them, felt them, and I heard the words of others echoing in my head. “I can’t tell you the number of times that people come up to me and tell me that I’m a terrible writer. It’s either that, or they can’t make eye contact with me. My boss telling me to not help people. I’ve even had people refuse to talk with me again after reading what I’ve written. I’ve lost friends, and jobs. I have zero value to anyone in this world.”

That inner voice is a parrot who never stops.

A still small voice emerged. “Thoughts are like the streets of a city, and you get to choose which street to drive on, even a street that’s full of pots holes and hazards.” My thoughts were definitely running on a badly maintained road.

The still small voice led me to Ephesians 6:10-13.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, relying on his mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the devil’s strategies. For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. For this reason, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to take a stand whenever evil comes. And when you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm.”

The Lord’s thoughts, which we have written down for us, are in a much better place.

Now I fight to take every thought captive and bring them to a better place, as measured by my heart and the bible. I choose to be a follower of Christ, and that starts with my thoughts.

I can’t tell you that’s it’s been easy, because I’d be lying. Still, since traveling on this path, I’ve had greater peace, greater happiness, and a much cleaner heart that has the ability to hear the troubles of others and help them in a meaningful way.

Isn’t that what’s life’s about? Working together to make this world a better place for everyone?

Thoughts. Step 1.

 

The Power of Perspective

It’s all a matter of perspective.

As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought that I was being rejected from something good, I discovered that I was actually being re-directed to something better. That jarred me, really made me stop and realize how much negativity and defeat my own thoughts were assaulting me with. I now know that I always have a choice of who to listen to.

Here is a video about the power of perspective.

I can choose to see my experiences from my own limited, battle weary perspective, or I can choose to see my experiences through empathetic, wise, winning, and peaceful eyes. As Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Who would I rather listen to? I’m still struggling to find my way. Yet there’s another here who’s overcome the world. Who would I rather listen to? Who would you rather listen to?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

TJCooper

Sympathetic Waterfalls or Empathetic Power

“We specially created this office to be open and inviting. All should now be imbued with a team spirit and be happy and productive. Thank you.” Guy smiled that permanent toothy grin that he held in his back pocket for “special” occasions, neatly straightened is slightly untucked button-down blue shirt into his slacks, clipped his high-end pen with the thick ergonomic grip next to his backup pen and onto his company notebook, and padded quickly and efficiently out of the packed company meeting room, never meeting another person’s eyes.

I watched him go, forcing empathy as I turned back to the last image of the 150-page PowerPoint presentation that we had just endured. National Geographic’s photograph of the Waterfall at Canyon George in Oregon with a thought attached.

Sympathic Waterfalls

Image credit: http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/805/cache/waterfall-canyon-gorge-oregon_80569_990x742.jpg

That image feels just like this company, I mused. The quiet underpinnings of those who “knew that the boss didn’t care”, of those who hated what they saw as unfair treatment, of those sympathized with icy words, are all but waterfalls from islands of immovable rock in this company. They are dangerous obstacles, hiding hidden snares from those who had places to go. They look. They analyze. They offer endless opinions. They incessantly wine about the horror of it all. Yet, they never move, never grow beyond it, never achieve what they were meant to achieve, and always find another person that they can blame.

I cannot stand still as I do with unfeeling sympathy, or be blinded by hatred and blaming and complaining. Empathy walks in another’s shoes, understands the challenges, while not necessarily agreeing.

I must move. I must move with the currents of empathy, see through the hardened eyes of an out-of-touch boss, and discover the hidden obstacles that he too must navigate. Does that not provide me with more information to ensure a better journey? Does that not allow me to stack more skills that are available for me to use? Does that not allow me to give kindness to another, who may not deserve it, as that is how God has always treated me.

I am a follower of Christ. I must trust that the leader that I have committed to follow has already gone down this path. I must trust that He will take care of me. I must trust that He can open my eyes to new ways to travel though life’s painful and challenging current. I must trust that He will put people in my path who have the eyes to see the obstacles that I cannot see. I must trust, knowing that trust is an action, not a noun. And empathy opens my eyes, with each new step building my trust and hope.

Now, I am not a victim of an uncaring boss, am not an immovable rock of complaints about a situation that I do not like, am not a waterfall that hides snares from other travelers. I am a conduit of empathy moving to the destination where I long to reach. I am HIS follower.

TJ Cooper

Would you rather spiral up or spiral down?

The choices: Spiral up to enhanced relationships, decreased worry, decreased anxiety, and less depression. Or, spiral down into a world filled with anger, knowing that anger focused inward is depression. 

Anger is an interesting emotion. It is built into our nature, just like love. In psalm 7:11 anger is used to denote God’s displeasure with sin. However, in James 1:20 it states that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Anger can help us to see where change is necessary. However, the stronger our anger becomes, the more we focus on protecting ourselves and the less we see any good at all. The stronger our anger becomes, the more our logic turns off because we are only focused on protecting ourselves. Therefore, intense anger hurts our abilities to come up with high-quality decisions. Intense anger simply does not bring about the changes that we long to see. It’s propose is to hurt other people and tear them apart.

The most interesting thing about anger is this. The more we feed the anger that we all naturally feel, the greater our anger will grow. Like any muscle, the more it’s used, the more it grows. And, the greater our anger grows, the more it tears our minds and our body’s apart. Causeless, excessive, or protracted anger increases our worry and anxiety and decreases our ability to have a balanced viewpoint. Worry and anxiety are killers. Intense anger does not solve our problems, or anyone else’s problems.

The bottom line is this. Choosing to let our anger grow is choosing to spiral down into a negative life. Having unchecked anger is liking drinking poison. The only thing our unchecked anger is doing is destroying ourselves. 

What can we do? Choose to change. Choose to spiral up.

Alex Korb, PHD in his book The Upward Spiral states, “It turns out that positive life changes actually cause positive neural changes—in the brain’s electrical activity, its chemical composition, even its ability to produce new neurons. These brain changes alter the tuning of your brain’s circuitry and lead to further positive life changes. For example, exercise changes the electrical activity in your brain during sleep, which then reduces anxiety, improves mood, and gives you more energy to exercise. Similarly, expressing gratitude activates serotonin production, which improves your mood and allows you to overcome bad habits, giving you more to be grateful for. Any tiny change can be just the push your brain needs to start spiraling upward.”

Therefore, instead of spewing out anger like a raging volcano … 

Why can’t we walk around where we live, and purposefully look for the good and be thankful for it?
Why can’t we find the things that we are grateful for and build on those things? 

Why can’t we use the talents that we have been gifted with and build something beautiful in our own neighborhoods?

Why can’t we be the change that we long to see? After all, that IS the example that Christ set for us. 

Picture: choosing to see the amazing things that surround us

We can only ever see what we are focused on. Some focus on the past, some on the future, some try to change what is around them. Some people live their whole lives never seeing the elephant right in front of them. What amazing things are right next to you right now? An amazing spouse? Amazing friends, family, activities? Chose to see, be thankful, and let them know.

 
Photo credit: onebigphoto.com

Prepare to be amazed!

A thought: this is how I see it. How does God see it?

This is what my life has felt like for the past year.  

Photo credit nationalgeographic.com 

This past year brought me layoffs. It brought me people who called me a friend and then turned their backs on me. A Christian even encouraged me to lie and steal (I refused).

What’s worse than that? My story is common. The number of people who are suffering is staggering. The number of people who are hanging on by their fingertips is heart stopping.

Where is God in all of this? 

Should I really pray for God to take away all of the hurts and pains? That’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time on this past year. I certainly have enough aches and pains that I do not want.

Then God let me figure it out. And I will be forever-grateful.

How can I show empathy without knowing the pain?

How can I show kindness without knowing what it feels like to shunned?

How can I show love without knowing what it feels like to be hated.

I’ve tasted the pain first hand. For every ounce of pain that I’ve felt, God has been there – giving me strength to make it through. No, that’s not accurate. God gives me the strength to help others through those tough times. To help the people that are in the same challenging places as me. Suddenly, the pain doesn’t hurt so much. My circumstances haven’t changed. But my focus has.

Now I look up and see the God has brought me to a wonderful place. A great job. Great friends. And the ability to serve.

How often do I have to keep learning that God is big enough to take care of my every need!

The Lord is my Shepard! 

Worthy of all my trust.

Worthy of all of my hope.

Worthy of all my love.