Encouragement, Life Coaching

Get Lifted Or Get Left Behind

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:12‭-‬14 NLT

The start of a new year is often a time of introspection and life evaluation. Crossing into the year 2020 is not just a time we consider our choices over the past year, but we are compelled to review the entirety of the previous decade. No doubt, in doing so, we take note of not only our points of reminiscent celebration, but also our regrets.

Regret is a natural response to our recall of perceived error. However, our actual response to regret is much more critical than the response of regret itself. We respond to regret at three different levels, and on each level of response there are two different modes of interaction. The response levels of regret are psychological, physiological, and physical. The modes of interaction within these levels are either active or passive.

The psychological response to regret comes about during the thought of the perceived error and its effects. When these thoughts arise, we can either control the thoughts (active) or allow the thoughts to consume us (passive).

The physiological response of regret is triggered when the attitudes and emotions generated by our thoughts begin to rise. They can range from anger to sorrow, disappointment to remorse, and from self-pity to heartbreak. These attitudes and emotions will cause us to feel certain things the body (hunger, headaches, heat, etc.)? Now when these physiological responses to our regret occur, we can either acknowledge them (active) or ignore them (passive). Whether we engage these physiological responses actively or passively, the fact is, they are still occuring. Yet, when we actively engage them we can both monitor and manage them.

The physical response to regret is triggered by the physiological response. If we move from the psychological response to the physical response without acknowledging the physiological responses, we could subconsciously become controlled by our physiological responses (passive), rather than making sound choices to properly manage physiological responses after fully engaging our thoughts, feelings and attitudes (active).

The more active we are within each level of our response to regret, the more information we gather about the error, the effects and ourselves. We could even discover that what we were perceiving as an error was merely a misunderstanding or circumstantial event. This can be extremely beneficial in developing new patterns of behavior and new solutions that can move us from darkness to discipline. We get to determine whether regret is a memorial of past failure or a motivator for future success. We choose whether our regrets become generous guests or a rent free roommates. As engaged guests, regrets usher us into inner dialogue that can teach how to make better choices, how to manage current conditions, and how to move forward. As uncontributing roommates, regrets become expensive liabilities that leave us isolated in our past, unable to move forward and unaware of the benefits and opportunities that surround us in the present.

In this life, regret will come for each of us. However, regret is something we either live with or learn from. If we learn from it, it lifts us. If we live with it leaves us stuck. I choose to get lifted.

Encouragement, Faith, Health, Life Coaching, Men, Relationships, Uncategorized

Holding Back The Tears

While growing up as an adolescent, I can remember a time when my mother was in the hospital and rehabilitation for 5 months after being diagnosed with an illness that affected her nervous system and temporarily paralyzed her from head to toe. This was a disease that had only been diagnosed in one other person in the United States, and that person eventually gave up on recovery and passed away.

My mother and father had divorced 4 years earlier. My father took a job with the Army National Guard and was residing 155 miles away from my home town, and my mother was now hospitalized in the same town where my father resided. Already affected by the trauma of divorce, now I am approximately 3 hours away from both of my parents with separation anxiety at an all time high because of not knowing if my mother would ever return home or be back to normal, and being bounced from one aunt’s home to the next.

In the midst of all of this, one day after school and preparing for an activity at church, one of my relatives, whom I had a great admiration and respect for, decides that it is necessary to have a conversation with me about the emotional health of my family during this very challenging season. She looks at me sternly and says to me that all of my siblings are going to be sad and cry because of my mom’s condition and the stress of her recovery. She then closes the conversation by saying, “They can cry, but you…you can’t cry.”

20190808_113042_0000Not having a male figure who could counter her statement, I took it as Gospel and trained myself not to cry; not only in that instance, but never. Fast forward 5 years and I am on the front doorstep of my girlfriend’s house at 9:30 PM. Her parents on their way to sleep and we are discussing something sad and emotionally charged. Then all of a sudden…WHAM!!! I start crying. I mean bawling uncontrollably. In my imagination, I am standing outside of myself looking at myself, saying,

“Bruh!!! What the…hey man! Stop it before I pull ya man card!”

My girlfriend is at a loss as she is trying to console me with the expression on her face as to say, “Seriously!?!? My parents window is right next to the doorstep and you are doing this right now?” I am looking at her through tear-drenched eyes, wailing, unable to speak, and shrugging my shoulders like, “I don’t know what the hell is happening right now!”

That was the weirdest, most embarrassing and uncomfortable moment of my life, and I have never shared that story until this very moment.

As an adult I have often visited those doorsteps in my mind, asking God what that moment was all about. A few years ago, I finally put the conversation with the relative and the moment on those front doorsteps together. I had, for 5 years, suppressed any emotion related to grief or sadness, and in one vulnerable instantaneous moment, five years of emotion comes pouring out at the most inopportune time.

I wonder how many men are conditioned to hold in emotions until they break? To any of the men who may be reading this and saying, “I would never break like that.” Maybe not, but you have probably broken in other ways: spending uncontrollably, sexing uncontrollably, eating uncontrollably, fighting uncontrollably, working uncontrollably, flirting uncontrollably, drinking uncontrollably, being uncontrollably lazy and uncontrollably participating in other addictive and destructive behaviors. Many of these things may very well be the outworkings of years of suppressed emotions, all because someone gave us a false sense of masculinity to the extent that we are leaking masked hysteria, because we refuse to cry.  This leaking is causing confusion in some and unrest in others within our atmosphere. The strangest part about all of this is that we can’t explain why we keep doing it.

But what does crying have to do with my behavior and interpersonal behavior? The tears of a man cleanses him. Studies show that tears produced from allergies and irritation are more than 90% water, but tears produced from physical and emotional pain has more than 70% toxicity. This implies that the poisons produced in our bodies due to pain a removed through our tears. This could be an explanation for the reason women statistically outlive men. This can also be applied spiritually and soulishly as much as it can be applied physically. Crying is often displayed in scripture as one “pouring out their soul”.

In Psalms 126 the psalmist is reliving one of the most amazing moments in the history of his people; when they were experiencing the most freedom they had ever experienced as a nation. So free that it felt unreal. As he progresses through the Psalm we notice that the psalmist implies that the victory of freedom was produced through the delivery of tears. He exclaims that the more tears are allowed to flow, the more we find joy being produced in our lives. I find it interesting that he compares tears to seed, which could indicate that crying should be a normal response to the pains of life that causes tears to flow in small consistent amounts, rather than occasional floods.

As men we may need to consider whether or not we are producing fruit joy through the seed of our tears, or producing confusion and unrest through through emotions that leak through uncontrollable behaviors. I am not recommending going around crying about every negative thing we encounter, neither would I suggest trying to play catch-up. I would, however suggest adhering to the instruction of Peter and let’s begin honestly pouring ALL of our concerns on God because he is concerned about what concerns us (I Peter 5:7).