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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Forgiving the Unforgivable Act


Extraneous situations are the normal mode of life. Everyone experiences the same horrible things.

We have all been and will be transgressed to the point of experiencing an unforgivable act against us. We will all be hurt beyond that which we can, of ourselves, recover. We all experience resentment for those things done against us.

So, the unforgivable act is a very common phenomenon. Indeed, we may now be able to see we are just as culpable as the next person – we have committed unforgivable acts, and no one have we transgressed more than our Lord.

It is to our benefit to understand and accept this. God knows it is good for us.

Our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. Even despite our unforgivable acts for which we continue to commit against God, we have this grace, when we have accepted the Lord Jesus’ finalising work on the cross as payment for our sin.

Again, it is to our inexorable benefit to accept what we could not do for ourselves.

But How Do I Actually Forgive the Unforgivable Act?

Forgiving the unforgivable act, having understood our own culpability in having committed our own unforgivable acts against God, is not a hard thing when done by faith, to join our will with God’s.

By our will we have strength, particularly if, by our will, we follow God’s lead.

Jesus forgave his transgressors during his Passion. Many of those who transgressed our Lord were his friends; his disciples, no less. Imagine being betrayed by those you love; those who love you. But Jesus knew it was human nature to betray and be betrayed. Although he never betrayed anyone, he knew beforehand that betrayal was part of his path.

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

In essence, those who betray us, who speak and do unforgivable acts against us, they do not know what they are doing, not truly. We, ourselves, have so often not understood how we have transgressed others – we have missed the point from their viewpoint.

They don’t understand the consequences of their actions, just like we haven’t understood the consequences of our actions when we betrayed people.

So actually forgiving the unforgivable act is as simple as understanding the weight of hurt another person might experience as we have experienced it, because we did it to them.

***

Forgiveness is not hard when we see it from another person’s viewpoint. We are not the only ones betrayed. Everyone has been betrayed.

Forgiving the unforgivable act seems to make no sense, but it is the only action in the midst of hurt that does make sense. When we can forgive the unforgivable act we derive the peace of God’s righteousness for having obeyed his will through love.

© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Feeling Supported By Supporting Others



Churches, it can seem, are full of people who feel unsupported, and even let down by their pastors. A classic irony is pastors often feel just as unsupported. Feeling unsupported is linked with isolating behaviour, which leads to depression. We must continue, continually, to thrust ourselves into the loving of lives. When we support others we often feel most supported ourselves.
So many things in the faith act upon reversals. The last in the kingdom are often considered first, the leader is servant of all, the shepherd searches for his one lost sheep leaving the ninety-nine safe in the sheepfold, and the returning prodigal son is welcomed with unparalleled delight.
We can know the support of God as we sacrifice ourselves in support of others, but this is an experienced phenomenon, and it can only be experienced by faith.
This is such an important thing to know; to know it and hence do it.
If we know this truth, and we consistently apply it, we will, without any doubt, never need to be isolated again. Never will we need to be resentful about the lack of support we have. Never again will we need to fall for the lie: we are unappreciated and unrecognised.
The truth is there are plenty of times in life when we feel unappreciated and unrecognised; unsupported.
But when we journey with such feelings, and we ask God, “Lord, what am I to do in response to the way I’m feeling?” our Lord will inevitably give us some relational work to do.
There is always someone we can support. There is always someone we can look in the eye, smile with, and welcome with open arms. As we focus on the other person, God does something in our soul to heal us; we certainly have less focus on what we are missing out on as we focus on what the other person might need.
Of course, what we ponder here is such a basic gospel truth.
We become isolated at our own peril. We resort to bitterness instead of taking the easier route in the long run, which is to get over our pride – a process taking a very short time, painful yes, but not a pain that endures like the products of bitterness do.
***
Unappreciated, unrecognised, unsupported. There is only one way to improve these outcomes; resist and reject pride and get involved. This is to throw ourselves into the loving of lives.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Longing for Connection and Closeness


There is a longing for connection and closeness in everyone. This truth can be powerfully known in the needs of an elderly person with advanced dementia, but their need merely speaks of a common need that functional adults can so easily repress.

There is a need in you and me for connection and for closeness.

Such a need is usually met by a marital partner or a best friend or even a work colleague. And even though it is met in some ways by these, many times this need goes unmet; again, using the example of the elderly person with advanced dementia, they are increasingly shut in to themselves. Connection and closeness, however, would draw them out, as it does to us.

In the therapeutic arrangement, where we enter a process of healing, which is simply the process of understanding and acceptance, we have this connection-and-closeness need met.

The more we can truly embrace and accept the need for connection and closeness with our fellow human beings, the more we will truly become the unpretentious and alive people of God. More and more God will fill us with understanding for truth. More and more we will be truly enlightened, but only in correlation with other humanity as we connect and attain and maintain closeness.

God has made us in such ways as to thrive in the company of togetherness, but shrivel in isolation. Isolation doesn’t seem to harm us when we have our faculties, but that is a delusion that we don’t often pick up on. Isolation as a default is bad news.

This may be demonstrated in the fact that, whilst we might need our alone time we may quickly get bored of ourselves and indeed lonely. And if we didn’t get lonely, we might look at some other behavioural or attitudinal lack to demonstrate selfishness, because selfishness is often an indicator of isolation. Selfishness is never good news.

When we see ourselves as more similar to the broader humanity that God created than different, we agree with the truth; we are not as unique as we think we are, especially regarding our very human needs.

When we embrace the need of connection, and we overcome our selfish desire to isolate, we are blessed to live in the company of others; they bless us and we bless them and as we bless them we, ourselves, are blessed.

***

Isolation is a great travesty, especially in this day as it happens more and more. Human beings have a need, a longing, for connection and closeness. When we do things to connect and become close with others we are blessed as they are blessed.

© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Transcending the Parent-Child Role In Marriage



Nobody enjoys being told off, corrected, or receiving unfavourable news, and it’s even worse when we receive it from a spouse, especially by the way it typically occurs – in a raging or seething argument. The truth is that almost any human interactive relationship will bear the causes and the effects of parent-child features in the incidence of conflict.
What I mean is that, in transactional analysis terms, when one person criticises another they are acting out of their ‘parent’ role and they are telling off the ‘child’ role in the other person. The natural response to the inner child being told off is to revert to their own parent role and tell the other person’s child off. What we end up with is an emotional interaction, where conflict abounds and the chances of a productive resolution becomes scarcer by the second.
In any event we argue over too many petty issues in marriage, because of the deeper principles of engagement that are transgressed. In simple terms, we do not respect a part of the other person that commands respect, and in respecting this other person’s inner child, we love them. And it is easy for them to love us back. The deeper principle is not the matter we argue over, but whether we feel loved, respected, valued, and accepted.
It is very hard to fight the person who refuses to fight, but it is very easy to fall into the temptation of fighting someone who has not respected us.
We need to get to terms of mutual respect, especially in the mode of conflict, where each person talks to the other in such loving respect that adult speaks to adult.
The parent-child paradox is an irony for the pure fact that the parent role in our communication is actually one inherently childish. Whenever we communicate to someone in a way to tell them off we are acting disrespectfully, selfishly, and immaturely.
Whenever a married couple commit themselves to speaking with each other and to each other with mutual respect – in calm and palatable terms, with care taken in the language used, and be individually responsible for their behaviour – they have committed themselves to rising above the parent-child in each of them. Their commitment is to adult communication behaviour. It has to be a personal commitment as much as a mutual commitment.
***
Marital communication is respectful and loving or it falls short of the mark. It relies on two mature people being committed to communicating maturely. When both refuse to take on the parent-child role, both are free to be adult. Respect and love for each other is tested most of all in their communication.
The opposite of the parent-child dynamic in a marriage relationship is the love and respect of unconditional acceptance. If we can unconditionally accept anyone it should be our marriage partner.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

The Four Horsemen of Relationship Apocalypse



Since my own separation and divorce, it has always astounded me when people who have suffered a marriage breakdown have not been able to see themselves as part of the problem. It almost always takes two people to fail at marriage, though one may initiate the separation or divorce, and the other may be blindsided. I believe it would be a rare case that only one party was guilty of destroying a marriage—though in situations of aberrant abuse, it is usually one person that destroys the marriage. Many more marriages fail for neglect or for a ‘silent’ abuse in the emotional realm.
And when we consider this important emotional realm in marriage, we are helped in identifying and attending to the Four Horsemen of Relationship Apocalypse.
There are four clearly destructive forces involved in marriage: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These four factors, identified by John Gottman, are the watch points for our marriages and in our relationships generally.
The Four Horsemen and Their Antidotes
The first horseman of relationship apocalypse is criticism. There is the harsh tinge of overt personal attack in criticism. It would be better to be constructive by using the “when you/I felt/I would rather you … from now on” formula. By being constructive we separate our partner from the source of the problem. We should focus on the issue and not personalise the issue by attacking the person.
The second horseman is defensiveness, which is one partner or both refusing to take personal responsibility for issues in their marriage. It would be better for both partners to accept responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and their actions. When both partners are mature enough to own their thoughts, feelings, words, and actions much more marital satisfaction is experienced.
The third horseman is contempt, and there is hardly a more vociferous and despicable barb against the relationship. We see contempt through insults, hostile humour, and name-calling. Contempt is countered by a culture within the marriage of appreciation. It is a weird irony that those most engaging in contempt are transferring their inner feelings of self-contempt onto their partners. When we appreciate ourselves within, we appreciate others more.
The fourth horseman is stonewalling. Nothing would be so stifling to a marriage than the deliberate blocking of progress within conflict. Would anything infuriate the other partner as much? This sort of passive-aggressiveness needs to be called for what it is. Perpetrators of stonewalling need to become aware that they do it, when they do it, and most importantly why they do it.
***
Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling are the Four Horsemen of Relationship Apocalypse. It would be better to be constructive than criticise, accept personal responsibility than defend ourselves, appreciate the good and not insult our partners, and to commit to addressing our partners’ frustrations rather than actively frustrate them.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed and Fail (1994).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Regeneration Into the Peace of Mindfulness







A waste of life, this we own


If we have only cause to groan.


 


A waste of life, this we fill


If we make no time to just sit and chill.


 


A waste of life, this we share


If we spend no time to try to care.


 


A waste of life, this we extend


If we insist to ever more pretend.


 


A waste of life, this we cease


If we come back to terms of peace.


 


A waste of life, this we throw


If we wake up and have love to show.


 


A waste of life, this we resist


If, by God’s creation, we’ve been kissed.


 


A waste of life, this we affect


If we move on beyond regret.


***


The beauty of mindfulness is a charge laid upon the heart that persuades a life to change tack – from the activity of waste (an attitude of mindlessness) – to the activities of life.


As I stand and write these words, the rain pounding on the roof, with wind rushing all around these premises, there is a soothing within my soul. I cannot help but be mindful of the well-being I am presently enjoying. It is God’s will that we feel such a reality as the present moment.


Nature reminds us of the incontrovertible facts of life. If we will allow ourselves to be swept up in the fire storm of life we will only come to reflect on life as a waste. When do we just make time to just stand and stare? How often do we treat life as a timeless existence?


The paradox enfolds to us; as we deliberately waste time we make something of our lives, but as we try to steal every moment, making no time for peace, we waste our lives.


Those who are wise in the world are making every hit a winner, yet those who are wise in God know that they don’t need to. Not every moment needs to be capitalised on. Not every ounce of energy needs to be expended.


If there is no waste we are wasting our lives. We cannot control everything no matter how hard we try. If we can agree with God, however, that everything isn’t as important as it seems, God will grace us with the ability to accept the eternal nature of life – the laws of creation we cannot influence, but just simply accept.


If we fill our lives up, every moment, we waste our lives. But when we leave space free, what seems as a waste is actually life. Then we have the privilege of mindfulness.


© 2014 S. J. Wickham.







Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Encountering Each Other



Experiencing our feelings, in the midst of relating with another person we like or love, or need to like or love, or want to be liked or loved by, is of commanding importance if we 1) take our desires seriously, and 2) wish to sustain and improve the relationship.
Yet, experiencing our real feelings – our emotions in truth – acknowledging what is going on in the moment, for us and for them – is primary, and it doesn’t take place without intention and effort and training, or the character of giving for that matter.
Another important consideration is the nuance of the present moment which we inherently miss. There is the ‘there and then’ of things, and there is the ‘here and now’ of things. One hinders the encounter; the other helps.
Contrasting the ‘There and Then’ with the ‘Here and Now’
The ‘there and then’ of things is the aspect of being present, but not really yet encountering a situation as really being in it. But the ‘here and now’ of things we are more fully sown in. Time goes by and we hardly factor it in. We lose track of everything apart from being truly free to be ourselves, to listen intently, even as if there were no effort expended, and to respond via an inalienable truth. This is when we encounter each other and have true intimacy. It seems a gift, just the same as it seems quite surreal that there was no guard or fa├žade put up. We have exposed ourselves and become quite vulnerable because the simple fact is they, also, were exposed and vulnerable.
In the ‘there and then’ space we found ourselves within the conversation, but not so much in it. There was the exchange of information, but not so much the truer feelings that could only be exposed as we went deeper into our own desire to connect because we sensed it was their desire to connect. We returned serve because they returned serve. But, whatever the case, we were prepared to initiate because we had faith that they would respond.
‘There and then’ is useful at times when we only need information. But it is useless in the therapeutic relationship, unless it’s used in the initial getting-to-know-you process, or in the genuine familial relationship for that matter.
‘Here and now’ is achieved when we truly enter ourselves into this other person, almost as if praying for them in the moment by asking, “Lord, let me know this person, and let me be as them for this time.”
***
The process of encountering another person is a gift for both them and us. As we encounter them, they encounter us, and a mutuality of intimate and trusting exchange occurs. When we listen and prove our unconditional concern, we invite their trust, especially as we meet such vulnerable sharing with empathy, which creates the encounter where true feelings are unearthed and explored freely.
Encountering each other, being completely present, is for both a divine encounter.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Feeling After Reeling



Etched into the woodwork of the heart, resonating through the soul as if by an eternity of memory in the instant, that reality placed and processed through the mind (far too much!); so difficult to escape from, can feelings be trusted?
Music breaks through the soul’s silence and it speaks in ways to refresh us by being our feelings. Sad music and threads of melody swoon. Feelings are too much for the mind, but quality music and words of truth echo through the crevices of the heart to give meaning. Oh, this pain is palpably real.
Let’s feel our way into the numbness but we cannot bear to venture in the foggy places of the bleak personal history. How do we feel so salubrious when at one with the tunes and words, yet so averse to those closer felt experiences that haunt?
Questions become, for the numb, a vague mystery and the enigma seems helped by things that do not help, but make things steadily worse. A meld of frustration and shame brings the vessel to vacillate anxiously, violently; but to feel is beyond us.
When we are asked by the counsellor, “Don’t tell me what you think; tell me what you feel!” we want to wring their neck. If only we could feel. Feeling of itself becomes the improbable conquest of our being. We feel inadequate because we cannot feel, in a world that would often put us down for feeling. Yet, we know we must feel. It is torment otherwise.
Confusion abounds, and, if we haven’t already given up (yet, how can we?), we borrow upon our already pitiable strength and mortgage those weak threads of hope; a gamble for the virulent strength and hope we need.
Reeling is the state of remaining in suspended animation; completely awash for what to do or where to go and how to take the ensuing felt moments, and paradoxically, how to entreat feeling to make it a home.
***
Feeling is the key to life in a world that abuses, negates, and denies feelings.
Feeling, for the one who is reeling, may seem an impossible task. The reality is it’s captured in the moment of surrender – which is chucking our self-protection away. Feelings can only be employed if we venture upon reality and take it face first, with no sedation and no medication.
At the end of the day, a cold and unchanging light bears down in truth:
Being real
Is being able to feel.
That is to feel
Reality’s deal.
There is nothing like feeling reality at full force to augment healing.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gratitude – the Most Powerful Virtue of All



What’s the one thing that protects our mental and emotional health most? Gratitude. This I learned from AA. Grateful people become generous people. They become fearless. They overcome the world in Jesus’ name.
Grateful people have understood the secret to life. They learn that gratitude is the answer in every situation, no matter how they feel. Gratitude, therefore, speaks for faith; it acts obediently notwithstanding the gloomy look and feel of the situation. It prefers cheerfulness over sullenness; hope and joy over despairing frustration.
Every time I complained in AA I was admonished to be grateful, for what I had, not the least of which my sobriety.
Gratitude reeks of humility, to thank God sincerely for every little thing, for every experience, and for life itself.
Gratitude indwells itself in generosity, because generous people are grateful people. Gratitude has made them generous. The more generous we are the freer we are, because God blesses us by our knowing we don’t need the trinkets of the world.
And what cause for fear do grateful people have? They have no recourse for fear as the world would have them fear. Yet they do fear God in the reverent sense. Such a fear of God is implicit of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
So if gratitude makes us generous people, and if generosity makes us freer, and fear has nothing for us to engage in, then gratitude becomes the great virtue that speaks of kindness, justice, humility, and wisdom, and ultimately, love.
A Very Practical Power
Gratitude is the foremost way of experiencing the joy and delight of life no matter what is happening. Nothing can defeat the grateful person while they are feeling grateful.
As a virtue, gratitude must be the key input for life from the attitudinal perspective. Think about the control we empower for ourselves when we are grateful; we take away Satan’s delight.
Gratitude is like being shipwrecked on a deserted island, yet seeing the land for what it is; a very means of survival. Instead of the many inconsolable things, a decision is made to focus on the things we cannot do without that are there on that deserted island.
***
Gratitude indwells itself in generosity, because generous people are grateful people. Gratitude has made them generous. Gratitude has given them everything they need. By one attitude everything good is within grasp.
People who want for nothing have nothing to want.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stepping Away From the Sin of Comfort



Comfort is no sin, if it has been placed in our hands or it has been put within our grasp as an option, or it is provided by God in pain. But, if comfort is something so alluring that we need to create it – like, there is a need for a particular type of comfort – a comfort that looks away from God – then comfort is a sin. It is a sin that I occasionally struggle with; a first world problem. My comfort inevitably is manifested in food; in things I can taste. Even my personality profile would indicate that the “sensates” are my biggest temptation.
Stepping away from comfort, from comfort eating particularly, is my great and ongoing challenge. I have no other real struggle, but, for me, this burden is enough. And in our society, where food is so prevalent, available, and enticing, you may share my struggle, personally.
This struggle is in many ways an ongoing one until new patterns of habit are formed. And again, the struggle is more about discernment and discipline than it is about rules of engagement, like the new fad diet, which fail all too often. We are to receive those comforts that God has ordained we have, but we are to resist those comforts that we can take for our own – those, for instance, that we cannot afford; those that are unwise or unsustainable; those that affect our relationships adversely.
The struggle is not one of engagement, but it is one of abstinence; and it is very difficult to abstain from food altogether. But God is not asking for that. The opportunity that the Spirit presents is to step away from comfort. Stepping away from comfort is helped by the following steps:
1.      Admitting to ourselves that we have little control over the need for comfort.
2.      Admitting this lack before God and another person propounds the need for God.
3.      Discovering when and why we go to comfort, which requires rigorous honesty.
4.      Determining those, including ourselves, who we have hurt in the process of procuring comfort for ourselves, for instance, if it has implicated spending, it may be that the family that has suffered or it has created conflict.
5.      Were entirely prepared to forego the taking of those comforts – to make the commitment to God and allow his Spirit to lead; to allow comforts to be God designed, ordained and timed.
6.      We devised the plan that we needed to institute in order that we would no longer take our comfort. We made those commitments to ourselves and to God.
7.      One day at a time we determined a fresh approach, beginning each new day, that yesterday was gone, and the only day that counted was this day.
8.      We maintained our resolve one day at a time, and, where we felt ourselves wavering back into comfort, we went back to God and sought him through prayer.
9.      Over all this we received God’s grace, which is the inevitable forgiveness to know that we are broken people needing comfort, which means we need God, and are thankful that we know him and can receive what we need when we ask.
***
Comfort is no sin unless we take comfort, and especially the wrong comfort. Comfort is our human need and God knows we need it. The Lord will provide the best available comfort if we ask him.
The world’s comfort brings pain, but pain brings us to the doorstep of God’s comfort.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 Reasons To Run the Race of Life Well



Life is a race, but it’s nothing about being first to the finish line – the finish line is just that: the place we finish. Because life is a race only with ourselves, and the healthy integration of our circumstances, we have nothing to gain in compromising ourselves, just as we have nothing to lose in getting back on the horse having fallen – which we are bound to do many times.
There are at least five good reasons to run the race of life well:
1.      We have a Prize worth waiting for us at the end: conditional only on belief in Jesus Christ – to believe by faith in grace – is the fact that our resting in eternity, having passed through life, having run the race well, by the pure qualification of our faith, however effective it has been. We really have no idea how good it will be, but knowing how incredibly brilliant the Lord has designed life, can it be any less glorious in eternity? A loving God we shall meet.
2.      We have fewer regrets: continuing to run the race of life well there is much less we would do over. The wisest of lives has this claim: there are few regrets, and these are the things we have learned. And when even our regrets are regretted no more, we have come to an effective acceptance of that which cannot any longer be changed. Peace.
3.      There is the positive impact we make on others’ lives: this is nothing to be underestimated. If we have sown into life by running our race well, we have made a positive difference in others’ lives, too. We have been encouragement. We have been a blessing.
4.      We have made an impact in life itself: not that this is the be all and end all, but there is a certain level of satisfaction spared for the legacy we have left; our own individual mark on the landscape of faith, which clarifies people’s compass for God. The ability to make some impact – even on one person – is a great driver to run our race well.
5.      We save ourselves great pain: when we look back at life from the other end, just shy of the finishing line, we will save ourselves great pain if we have run our race well. There will be an allowance for slipping peacefully into the Presence of God; the best of deaths.
***
Life is a race, but it’s nothing about being first to the finish line – the finish line is just that: the place we finish. Running our race well is the application of wisdom to our purpose in life. There will be fewer regrets and a legacy for having run well.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.