Feeling Second Best

       If you struggle with feeling second best, pinpointing life-events that Favoritismshaped this perception come easy. Maybe, you felt the least growing up in your family, or the last to be considered in social events. Perhaps you were always second choice in relationships, or passed-over for a job promotion–whatever the situation, coming in second (especially multiple experiences) can leave an impression on the heart that lasts a life time.
       People deal with the effects of being bypassed (or discounted) differently. One person might be inclined to fold on an opportunity too soon because they don’t want to deal with losing to someone else. Another person might be inclined to aggressively pursue an opportunity in efforts to come in first place. Either way the motives are stemming from the same place; that nagging fear of not quite measuring up.

       What can be done for the dilemma of feeling second best? Firstly, it is good to be aware that the “emptiness” felt in this struggle is normal. However, trying to fill that space with the wrong kind of reassurance leads to an even greater void. This is why it is important to recognize that the deep sensation of emptiness is not a reflection on you or your value. It has nothing to do with the real you, only the perceived you in someone elses faulty perception. Which brings us to our second point, more often than not, it is not you, but something off in the heart of the favorer. 

       A favorer is easy to recognize. They tend to favor superficial things or people for superficial reasons. You may have all the necessary qualifications and still be overlooked simply out of shallow preference. It is good to remember that the word superficial has the meaning of lacking depth. Therefore, not only is the recipient being favored for a reason that lacks substance, but the favorer themselves are lacking in depth of an important character, “But if you show favoritism, you sin…” (James 2:9). Remember, someone else being favored over you never takes away your true value, but is generally an indication that the favorer needs a heart adjustment. We have all been here at some point “favoring.” Our “feeling second best” can serve as a reminder to resist the favoring of others for superficial reasons.

       Consider David the shepherd boy in the Bible. Even the prophet Samuel (a man of God) erroneously miscalculated his value, favoring the impressive. When God called Samuel to anoint His choice for a new king from among Jesse’s sons, David was not first, second, or third …but eighth choice in Samuel’s estimation. My goodness! talk about not measuring up!

       Do you remember what God said to Samuel regarding this error of judgement?

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7)

       The Scripture is replete with similar scenarios. Consider for yourself the great men and women used of God. Were they not second choice in the world’s eyes? What about Gideon? How about Joseph? Think about Esther, and don’t forget the impoverished Mary. And the list goes on.

       Based on God’s Word we can confidently assert that not measuring up by the world’s standards is never a deterrent. In God’s economy it is rather a catalyst for great things. Extraordinary adventures await those who are overlooked in this this world!

“…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

(1 Cor 1:26-29)

74153141_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7757254Joy and peace come from learning to walk in the design God has for our thinking. Every day we battle with old thought patterns and emotions that hold us captive. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking leads us step by step; taking us deep into truths that set us free to live into a new narrative, one of confidence and purpose—the story we were meant to live.

Anxiety Defined

Anxiety is define as a painful uneasiness of the mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. It produces an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension, often marked by sweating, tension, and an increased pulse. Frequently, self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with certain situations prompts anxiety.

This type of apprehension can stem from childhood traumas and fears, even if a person does not remember the individual circumstances or instances. It still plagues their present-day life with overwhelming waves of anxiety. _89876529_m2451312-depressed_woman-spl

People who struggle with anxiety feel limited and bound by this emotional state. Many times a person who is in the middle of an anxious episode becomes immobilized. This can cause social, relational, and occupational challenges which may compel a person to live within limitations to avoid pain and uneasiness.

A very restricted life often feels like the only option for the person with this struggle. Although, they desire and dream of it being otherwise, they are quickly brought back to reality by impending concern. It is a continuous and weary cycle. 

The realization that person cannot overcome this trial on their own is correct. Self-help techniques offer no lasting remedy. Whatever the source of the original trouble, the problem can always be traced back to one root issue: the frailty of the human spirit. 

What feeble people we are! Sadly, many do not realize it. But the one who struggles with anxiety knows it with all certainty–and this is a wonderful posture of the heart to start the healing process. The truth is that we are but dust. Our very next breath for survival comes only by God’s constant provision. It is God who upholds the weak–something we are by design. 

Do not long for worldly confidence. Those who are filled with self-assurance are headed for great disillusionment. Anxiety’s presence simply means we realize the feebleness of our human state. This posture of the heart and mind can be the humble beginning of great change that can be discovered only through the strength of the Holy Spirit. God is pleased to show Himself strong on behalf of the weak in this world. 

The Scriptures teach that … “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong …”(1 Corinthians 1:27). 

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, there is help, hope, and divine strengthening to be had. The Bible tells us that young Timothy struggled with timidity, but he was emboldened by the Spirit to do great and brave things that otherwise he would have never been able to do. 

74153141_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7757254Joy and peace come from learning to walk in the design God has for our thinking. Every day we battle with old thought patterns and emotions that hold us captive. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking leads us step by step; taking us deep into truths that set us free to live into a new narrative, one of confidence and purpose—the story we were meant to live. 

When We Think We Have Nothing To Offer

When the bible talks about the parable of the talents we might initially think it’s referring to “performance”. Although the mind naturally gravitates towards manifestations of achievement, the bible is not speaking in these terms when giving instructions on how to live or give. Being good steward of our talents is not an increase of works, but increase of our conscious connection to God, and the choices that flow from that connection in everyday life. A perfect God working through imperfect people through grace–if not for grace we could not even have this mental and spiritual acumen at all.

For example in the story of Rahab…her actions by our standards of Christian morality would seem tainted at the very least. In her lauded works of faith we find great Rahabmoral discrepancy. She was first off a prostitute, not a typical vessel one might see carrying out divine plans of faith. Secondly, while performing this holy endeavor she blatantly lies and deceives when confronted. Where is the moral fiber in this story? Wouldn’t we say of Rahab that she came up short in deposit of talents in the spiritual bank?

Indeed not. Rahab pictures perfectly for us the stewardship of conscious connection to God. What we see pouring out of her life is faith-works wrought through grace. The grace God had given her opening her mind to His reality. It was a work done inside her heart. Knowing very little about theology of the Hebrew God–she simply believed. That belief in turn spurred in her actions moved by her conscious connection to the Living God. Faith! A sure conviction that He was, indeed, true.

Interesting that God would use such an rough, uncouth, and imperfect person in bringing about the rescue of his people–redeeming her own soul at the very same time.

This is not a random story that happened to make it into the bible–but the way God is pleased to work. He chooses the broken and least of the world, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” (1 Cor 1:27-29). True acts of faith showcase God, not us. A talent that puts us on stage can’t multiply. Sure, Rahab may have turned over a new moral leaf in life after these historical events took place. But those are not the things listed of her in the hall of faith recorded Hebrews 11. God did not give Rahab the idea that she had to get her act together in order to be used mightily of Him. It was all a part of His grace reaching down and opening up her heart to Him. Seeds of grace God planted in Rehab’s that sprung forth and multiplied… Dare I even say that we are even a direct product of this faith-work.

Absolutely! This is our spiritual lineage–she is one of the matriarchs listed in the geology of Christ. So the next time you feel like you aren’t good enough, a failure, or any other critical judgment that comes from the world…Think of Rahab. Or, if we should think of ourselves more highly than we ought, polished with all the right Christian trimmings…let us again think of our dear mother Rehab. It’s only when God through the work of Jesus begins to reveal to our heart His complete love and acceptance of us that our faith becomes activated–and instantly we become a good steward of a sure and certain truth that we can take to the spiritual bank.

Two Sides To Every Story

It was during a bible study in the book of Daniel I became struck with the stark reality—there are always two sides to every story. This realization flooded my mind as I read about two dreams; King Nebuchadnezzar’s and Daniel’s both of the same event. The dreams were prophesy about kingdoms that would rise and fall. However, the kingdom’s leader looked different in each dream. One dream described the leader as a head of gold (King Two Sides To Every StoryNebuchadnezzar’s dream) and in the other (Daniel’s dream) a vicious lion. They were dreaming the the same dream, but with very different descriptions of a main character. But why? Keep in mind both dreams were initiated by God.

The American Commentary offers a plausible explanation, “The image with its glittering metals portrays the world’s kingdoms from humanity’s viewpoint—impressive and great, whereas the beasts depict these earthly kingdoms from God’s perspective—vicious and destructive.” What a great reminder that God is keenly aware of both views—our earthly perspectives, what we see with our physical senses, as well as, the higher truer view which we discern with our spiritual sense by God’s revelation.

He uses both to unfold the marvels of life’s mysteries. In other words, there are always two perspectives occurring at the same time of the same event. An example of this might be a trial that is happening in your life. Let’s say a person you love has betrayed you. This makes you hurt/angry at the person from a temporal perspective. From a higher perspective Gods sees that Satan’s influence is behind it. You see and feel the wounds from a flesh and blood loved-one, but God sees the satanic influence that has generated it in the first place. You have valued your loved one like gold so it’s painful. That’s a valid perspective. But, the truth is a vicious lion has made his way into the story. You aren’t battling your loved one but an opposing force bent on causing a division.

So, let’s consider this question… in the two dreams in the book of Daniel was the character a head of gold or a vicious lion? It was both. But the second was a truer reality of the first from a higher perspective. In our humanness we will often get stuck on only the human side of a view because that’s what we see. But remember—there is always a simultaneous event occurring, an unseen reality that warrants our consideration. And when we contemplate both views it changes our perspective. Drawing from a higher eternal perspective helps us in our ability to deal with the personal pain of a trial. God’s view is always a more trustworthy perspective.

Yes, we still hurt because someone we valued as gold has let us down, but we realize we are not really fighting the person to the degree we thought, but the influence driving them. Ephesians describes it this way “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

 

X Marks The Bully

      October is Bullying Awareness month. We have made it to our last installment on Bullying Awareness. Our goal in this segment is to place a mental X mark on bullying behavior. The last few months we have talked about some of the often overlooked characteristics of a bully: bullies play the victim; bullies crave superiority; bullies demand loyalty, and bullies discredit those they perceive as a threat. teen-bullying-2

      Placing a mental X mark on bullying behavior is powerful tool. It does more than just identify bullish tendencies, it becomes a flashing sign designating danger. You would be surprised at the practical value this has in counteracting bullying. One of the main reasons bullying continues is because we have the human proclivity to lose sight that someone is, in fact, a bully. This is because the bullying process manifests similar effects to the Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages display an alliance or empathy for their captors. It is a brainwashing that happens through abuse of power and indoctrination. The name comes from a town in Sweden where a botched bank robbery in 1973 turned into a 6 day hostage situation. Instead of seeing their captors as criminals the victims began to bond in an effort to survive. The psychological dynamics cause an almost spell-like hold. They even defended and became protective of their captors. Although many violent captive situations are facilitated by bullies—thankfully, most bullies are not lawbreaking kidnappers.

      Interestingly, studies show that elements of Stockholm Syndrome can overflow into other areas of life where abuse of control and influence are evident (bullying). We can find it in the work place, home, schools, etc. For example a domestic abuse victim chooses to stay in toxic circumstances. Here are similar criteria as defined in Stockholm Syndrome:  Perceived Threats—a bully makes a victim believe that making waves, or challenging the norm could ostracize them (they’d be on the outs).  Small Acts of Kindness—a bully (who otherwise discredits) shows small acts of kindness to keep a victim loyal.  Isolation From other Perspectives—a bully shuts down any attempt from others to influence those under their control (this is how it’s done, period).  Perceived Inability to Escape—a victim feels stuck and tries to make the best of the situation.

      It is a captivity of sorts. This is why the mental X mark has value. It keeps the reality in focus that the controlling person is, indeed, a bully. Visualizing a bully’s behavior with an X is an empowering reminder that bullies are master manipulators. It reminds us not to be spell bound by it. It also opens opportunities to connect with others who are gaining awareness that a bullying situation is in progress. People feel enabled when they sense blinders coming off of others. This is key because it changes the “me” to “we” which then neutralizes the Isolation From other Perspectives. Discussions can now take place as to how a particular bully is holding a group or person hostage, so to speak. Collaboration is an effective way to bring unknowns out into the open in order to address avenues of change. This counteracts the Perceived Inability to Escape.

       You may have several people in your life that come to mind when thinking about placing a mental X as a bullying reminder. Sometimes it’s people we love and care about. They are in our families, neighborhoods, churches and government. Sometimes it’s us.  Kindness and compassion goes along way in redirecting a bully who is open to change. Meanwhile, get your mental pen out and draw a big X on any bullying behavior holding you or others hostage.

Understanding Insecurity

Insecurity has the meaning of being unsure, unstable, shaky, apprehensive, or lacking in self-confidence. There are many environments that can cultivate these types of feelings. It can come from a difficult upbringing, unsettling circumstance, mistreatments, to individual fears. Sometimes these feelings are steady and other times they wash over us in a wave of emotion. They often cause exaggerated fears and misunderstandings. Sometimes they propel us to act in a self-protective manner shutting others out: rejecting before being rejected. Other times they have the opposite effect, causing a person to work overtime for acceptance.

People who struggle with insecurity find themselves vulnerable to all types of unhealthy situations. This makes it all the more important to quickly identify the characteristics of insecurity and take great strides to seek change.

Those of us who struggle with this emotion can generally look back on our lives and see the path of destruction (both mild and severe). The journey will often include making poor choices in friendships, as well as, making poor decisions within those friendships. Those who battle with insecurity often create flimsy boundaries, and have trouble communicating with those closest to them.

When a person who struggles with insecurity feels threatened, that threat can often turninsecure-woman-600x399 into a wrongly perceived reality. Though it may not be true reality in the actual sense, to them it is reality–only wrongly perceived. For instance, if something happens where a person feels threatened or is suspicious of a possible threat, they may perceive the matter erroneously. This will subsequently set in motion a natural defense mechanism in the heart that is hardly even recognized by the person themselves. Poor choices automatically flow forth because they are birthed out of insecurity and the wrongly perceived reality that accompanies it.

Insecurity can manifest itself in many ways. Consider this example: Sally feels threatened because another woman is talking with her boyfriend. Sally becomes suspicious and jump to a wrong conclusion based on her insecurities. Then Sally makes the choice to voice the suspicion without knowing the motivation of the other woman–or her boyfriend–or the circumstances involved. This, of course, sets into motion a flurry of negative repercussions. The other woman’s reputation is called into question. Also, Sally’s boyfriend cools his relationship with Sally, seeing this as a red flag. Sally has caused turmoil due to her incorrect perception of reality, which is based on her insecurities. She may even ask, “How did this all happen?”

Using the same scenario an insecure person may be compelled to take an opposite course of action. Here is how that might look. Although Sally sees a woman talking frequently with her boyfriend she does not ask him who the woman is, but chooses instead to ignore the situation. She believes that the fault is hers–that she simply needs to try harder to win her boyfriend’s affections and that regardless of how much she hurts because this may be the best relationship she can ever hope for. However, he continues to be in relationship with this other women and even receives phone calls from her while out with Sally. Two years after Sally has married this man, he tells Sally he’s leaving her. Can you guess why? That’s right–for the other woman. In this scenario, Sally’s wrongly perceive reality (based on insecurity) caused her to put the blinders on, ignore red flags, and remain in an unhealthy relationship.

In the same way insecurity affects the way a person sees others, it also affects the way they see themselves. They may feel as though they are worthless, even to extreme degrees. In their mind nothing about themselves is appealing. Oftentimes this will manifest itself in choices such as lack of personal hygiene, wearing ill-fitted or unclean clothing, not taking care of home environment, or engaging in unhealthy activities.

On the other hand, it go to the other extreme and cause a person to focus too much on themselves, their appearance, their home, and their social life. This person builds a facade of success, masking a deep fear of being found deficient.

Is there a way out of this vicious cycle? By the grace of God, a person cannot only be freed from insecurity’s destructive influences but can emerge as a person of great spiritual strength and grace. Only Christ can do this work in the heart. The first step in the healing process is a recognition of emotional and spiritual poverty, as well, as the inability to overcome in their own strength. Daily looking to the Lord for a renewed heart and mind is a great place to start. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking invites us on a journey of reshaping our minds with God’s powerful life-giving narrative.

74153141_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7757254

Joy and peace come from learning to walk in the design God has for our thinking. Every day we battle with old thought patterns and emotions that hold us captive. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking leads us step by step; taking us deep into truths that set us free to live into a new narrative, one of confidence and purpose—the story we were meant to live.

 

Bullies Play The Victim

      As Bully Awareness Month approaches (October) we bring you September’s segment, “Bullies Play The Victim”.  Over the last few months we have examined several characteristics of a bully. It’s apparent that dealing with a bully can be both lengthy and complicated process.
      One of the biggest complications arises outside the bully themselves—that being the circle or community where the bully holds clout. A collective group can take on a bully’s agenda feeling fully convinced that they are doing a good thing. This stems from the often over looked bullying characteristic of a “Bully Playing The Victim”.women_sunset_silhouette_dark_black_sun_warm_dawn-603578.jpg!d-2
      Playing the victim is arguably one of the most powerful strategies a bully can utilize because the emotional charge it generates to fuel support. With this maneuver a bully is able to turn the table on their own victim. This happens in the court rooms regularly—lawyers often defend guilty clients by casting them as the victim. When the jury deliberates we see the complications surface. Although they were initially influenced by the client and the lawyer, it’s no longer about just them, it has now grown into a community of people whose emotions have been tampered with. The primary goal all along was to cause the jury doubt towards the real victim by inciting sympathies for the guilty party.
      This can manifest itself in all types of real life bullying scenarios. Many times a bully, because of a broken background, actually does feels like a victim. They have a hard time separating out their acts of bullying with feelings that they are being victimized themselves. Especially if on lookers do not show support of their efforts of control. This compels them to heighten their pseudo victim platform. The bully capitalizes on their victim’s emotional expressions to do this. It becomes tactical in that to provoke an emotional response from their victim, will make their victim look foolish. This in turn garners speculations that they themselves are the ones are being mistreated. Bullies manipulate to gain false credibility by these emotional instigations. On top of this they derive a measure of satisfaction in goading their victim into an emotional response—it shows vulnerability, and for a bully exposing vulnerability is empowering.
      Dealing with a bully can be extremely tricky, especially when it comes to the community dynamic. If you can answer yes to any of these questions you might be dealing with a bully or a group of people who are under the influence of bully’s “victim mentality”.
1.    Is there someone you know who is trying to keep control by using a victim status?
2.    Do you sense a growing division or rallying of sympathy for someone who has a history of being bullish?
3.    Is a person in your life displaying any of the previous discussed characteristics of a bully: discrediting, demanding loyalty, a need for superiority, or leveraging of a victim mentality?
      When helping someone who is being bullied one of the best things we can do is employ logic rather than emotion. No matter how emotionally destabilizing a bully’s actions or remarks can feel, remember they are trying to push the buttons of emotion to build their personal “victim” platforms. If we can identify and recognize this pattern it will help us to replace our emotional reactions with intellectual reason and acumen.