Entries with tag acceptance .

Help! I’m a People-Pleaser

Confession: I am a people-pleaser. As a child, I didn’t want to disappoint my parents or teachers. In friendships, I’ve always been the one who worries if I’ve upset someone. And in my relationship with God, I battle the fear that I’m not doing enough to grow closer to Him. Being a people-pleaser for me is worrying about or trying to make everyone happy with me. And it’s so tiring precisely because this goal is impossible to achieve.

 

And though I mean well - I tell myself I do these things because I value my relationships - at the root of my people-pleasing are several issues that actually hinder the relationships I’m so valiantly trying to protect.

 

1. Control

 

When I worry about keeping the peace around me, there is an underlying assumption on my part that peace depends on me. When I worry about the thoughts and concerns of others, I’m hoping that I can change what they think or what they are concerned about. What I see then is that my people-pleasing is an issue of control; specifically, it’s a fear of losing control over the world around me.

 

No one likes to feel out of control. No one likes to feel that others are controlling them. So instead, we take the reins and try to insure that others are happy. Oddly enough, our sense of control is controlled by others. And ultimately, our trying to manage our world leaves us feeling anxious and out of control.

 

The good news is that we have a God who is all-powerful and who is able to bring peace into our worried lives. What we need is to recognize that trying to control our lives doesn’t work because we’re really powerless over these things. God, on the other hand, is not. We can get past our people-pleasing by abandoning ourselves to God and letting Him guide us instead of us trying to control all of the minutia around us.

 

2. Validation

 

Behind our desire to be in control of our lives is an aching desire to be accepted and validated. We worry what others think about us and this causes us anxiety and stress. Our sense of identity is so wrapped up in others’ lives because we fail to keep proper boundaries in our relationships. We don’t want to hurt others feelings, we don’t want to be disliked, we don’t want to feel judged. We listen to the lies we tell ourselves instead of listening to and seeking out our validation from God.

 

It isn’t before our friends or parents that we are going to have to give account of our lives, it is before Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:13).

 

We’re so used to trying to earn others approval, we might even try to earn His, too. Jesus teaches us to not to live our lives trying to prove ourselves and our righteousness (Matthew 6:1-6,16). As Christians, we have no need to seek out acceptance from the world around us. “You have died,” Saint Paul tells us, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Despite our imperfections, God has reconciled Himself to us and has adopted us as His own (Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 1:5).

 

3. Fear

 

If I’m trying to control my relationships by keeping the peace, and I’m looking for validation in others, then fear is probably motivating my actions. I’m afraid of being alone or afraid of being rejected, and therefore I try to keep others happy. I might be afraid to be assertive or to hurt others feelings because I can’t handle the rejection that might come from it. But really, how can one truly live a life motivated by this sort of fear?

 

There are different sorts of fear in our lives. On the one hand, there’s the fear of God that we experience when we recognize we are in the presence of the Living God. But then there’s the fear of discomfort and the fear of dealing with life that keeps us running from life by living in fear. Instead of living our lives motivated by fear of losing our relationships (with people or with God), we are called to live according to the self-sacrificial love of Christ, our God who is love (Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 4:8).

 

*****

 

Recently, I found a fun article called “The Definition Of Hell For Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type." According to the article, the worst imaginable thing for a person of my Myers-Briggs type, ESFJ, was that, “Someone you love is in dire need of practical help and you can’t give it to them. Worse yet, they think you’re refusing to help them out of pettiness and they’re mad at you.” Well, that’s spot on! It’s almost as if being a people-pleaser is wrapped up in how I’m wired to interact with others.

 

Though it might take work to stop being a people-pleaser, it’s even harder to try to make everyone else happy. If this is something we struggle with, we will need to work to see how we are motivated by a desire to be in control, by a need for validation, and by fear. Instead of trying to control our world, we will recognize that God is better at running the world than we are. Instead of looking to be validated by others or to prove ourselves, we will seek out a stronger relationship with God.

 

And instead of fear, we will live motivated by love.

 

In what ways do you struggle with trying to make others happy? Is this something you’re willing to change with God’s help?

 

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Strength in Weakness

There are times in our lives when following Christ doesn’t come naturally to us. Maybe prayer doesn’t come as easily, or following after our temptations seem more appealing to us than following after Him. In these moments or periods in our life, it’s hard to see anything besides our own weakness and insufficiency. Why not just give up or accept that this being a Christian thing is just too tough in 2016?

 

Because when we are weak, Christ is strong! His grace is sufficient for us. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

But how do we make the connection between intellectually understanding that God is bigger than our problems and our weaknesses and actually believing it? How do we let God make a mosaic of our broken pieces?

 

Here are three things we can do to find strength in our weakness.

 

1. Acceptance

 

Before we can let God into our lives and let Him take care of us, we have to accept the situation at hand. We have to acknowledge what our weakness is, what our current stumbling block is, what cross we are carrying or what thorn is in our flesh (Mark 8:34, 2 Corinthians 12:7). We have to accept what mistakes we have made, what decisions weren’t the best.

 

But acceptance doesn’t mean focusing on the problem.

 

It’s so easy to immediately start to despair when we see something that needs improvement in our lives or think we have to jump up and start on some self-improvement technique. It isn’t our job to fix everything, it isn’t on us to make ourselves perfect or strong. We just have to acknowledge what needs fixing, to accept where our weakness lies instead of pretending it isn’t there, so that God can provide the strength.

 

2. Letting go of the past

 

What’s done is done. We have to accept that, too. But then we have to let go of it. The Church offers us the sacrament of confession as a tool to help us let go of the past and move forward with God’s grace as our strength. Confession goes against everything we think we should do: acknowledging what we’ve done wrong and admitting we can’t fix ourselves. And unlike our natural instinct to keep doing what harms us, confession actually works!

 

One of the most powerful tools to bring others to Christ is giving a witness to a life transformed. Instead of providing an image of a perfect life, the Christian witness is to God’s power in our lives to heal and to transform us. The Church doesn’t need more perfect people, it needs more imperfect people desiring to be made whole.

 

If we are living free from the burden of our past, by letting go by turning to God in confession, others will be drawn to the Church too - they will see weak people becoming strong in Christ.

 

3. Gratitude

 

When we keep focusing on our limitations, it’s hard to see the good already in our lives. The cross is a reminder of how God can take something negative and make it a source of joy. Around the feast of the Cross in September, we hear scripture readings that remind us that Christ is the source of our joy and gratitude. Instead of “folly”, the message of the Cross is the “power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And the hymns of the Church remind us that “through the Cross joy has come into all the world.”

 

So how can we focus on gratitude instead of our current struggle? We can remember the joy of Pascha. We can thank God for the opportunity to be a part of the Church which offers us God’s grace and healing. We can be grateful that we have the rest of the Body of Christ to lean on when we believe the lie that we’re all alone.

 

Gratitude helps reorient our thoughts from only seeing our weakness to seeing how God is already supporting us by His steady hand.

 

*****

 

We’re imperfect people, but God desires to know us anyway. We don’t have to deal with our imperfection alone, we have Christ as our strength and the Church as our fellowship. He can strengthen us in our moments and days of feeling down about ourselves or our ability to live the Christian life. When we accept our need for His help, and by letting go of the past, we can rest in gratitude for what God is already doing in our lives.

 

What are you struggling with today? How can your weakness be an opportunity for God to show His power in your life? What is something you are grateful for today?

 

Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Three Things in Common Between the Twelve Steps & Orthodoxy

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we looked at all of the Twelves Steps and how they parallel with Orthodox Christian teaching. It’s my hope that many of you saw how much the Steps resemble the ancient practices of the Orthodox Church. Now that we have looked at the specific workings of each of the Steps, let’s take one final look at three principles we can all take away from this reflection.

1. Watchfulness & Vigilance

The experience of those working the Twelve Steps has shown that addiction involves what is referred to as an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. An important component in recovery, then, is keeping watch over one’s thoughts that tend towards an obsession on one’s addiction.

Similarly, in Orthodox Christian practice, watchfulness is vital to the spiritual life. Instead of accepting and participating in our destructive thoughts, we can choose to let them pass. Some compare guarding our thoughts to watching a train go by without feeling we have to jump on, or watching a bird fly by without letting it roost on our head. Temptations seem to come out of nowhere sometimes. But we have a choice to either latch on to them or to let them pass by.

Keeping watch over our thoughts helps us to put this into practice. Watchfulness requires vigilance and self-awareness. This teaches us that the spiritual life is an active (not a passive) process.

2. “One day at a time”

One of the most commonly heard expressions by those working the Steps is “one day at a time.” This expresses not only a desire to live in the moment, but also a reminder to let go of the past and to stop worrying about tomorrow. Addictions take years to develop, and recovery must be given time as well. In moments of temptation, the thought of never having one’s drug can feel unbearable. “One day at a time” takes the focus off of “I can never have ___ again” and reorients the person back to the much more manageable present moment.

This same lesson is given by Christ when He said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). It’s so easy to beat ourselves up over our past failures or to despair over our ability to carry our crosses tomorrow. But we can only repent today; we can only encounter Christ today. So, we each have a choice to make. I can be anxious about whether or not I can do this or that, or I can live one day at a time and ask for God’s help.

3. “Abandon yourself to God”

This phrase, “abandon yourself to God,” from the book Alcoholics Anonymous is an important concept for those working the Twelve Steps. The active practicing of the Twelve Steps directs the addict to abandon himself to God in his daily life. This begins with the concept of surrender and is built up through regular prayer. The Serenity Prayer reads, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Repeated throughout the day, this prayer is a reminder to turn to God in order to accept life on life’s terms: to accept reality instead of trying to escape it.

Instead of focusing on the addiction or the sin in our lives, this principle of abandoning ourselves to the will of God reminds us that God can do what we cannot. Abandoning ourselves to God is an active work. It reminds us that knowledge of the Steps or knowledge of Orthodox teachings does not suffice. We have to put that knowledge to work by turning to God in all that we do. 

*****

There is much that could still be said on the common ground shared by the Twelve Steps and Orthodox Christian practice. Jesus Christ often elevated the lives of known sinners and non-Jews as examples to emulate because of the quality of their personal repentance and dependence on God. Similarly, we can all find courage, strength, and hope from reflecting on the experience of recovering addicts today. Their healing and recovery reminds us to practice watchfulness, to live one day at a time, and to abandon ourselves to the care of God as paths to our own healing.

How do you practice watchfulness in your daily life? Do you struggle to live one day at a time? Have you abandoned yourself to the care of God today?

 

Sam is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Kimmy Schmidt and Why Being Unbreakable Is Broken - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

In April, Netflix released season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy Schmidt is Tina Fey’s follow-up series to the highly successful, critically acclaimed 30 Rock, of which I am a huge fan (By the way, would you believe me if I told you Tina Fey is Orthodox? She at least had an Orthodox wedding!).

The show follows Kimmy, an upbeat if out-of-touch kidnapee played by Ellie Kemper as she attempts to re-enter normal life after 15 years of being involuntarily held in a bunker by cult leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (played flawlessly by Jon Hamm). Even after 15 years, Kimmy’s spirit is indelible. She remains “unbroken” through the bunker and even as she moves to NYC and deals with the ups-and-downs of adult life.

At first, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seems to be about the triumph of the human spirit, but as the show progresses, we see that underneath Kimmy’s bubble gum exterior is actually a little girl who is hurt, afraid, and dealing with the trauma of being forcibly removed from her family.

In the first season, the otherwise optimistic and people-pleasing Kimmy occasionally experiences flashbacks to the bunker and lashes out in rage, while in the second season, this anger manifests itself in “emotion burps.” Ultimately, the message is clear: Kimmy has managed to appear “unbreakable” because she has learned to swallow her emotions (apparently causing some indigestion). She has tuned out her own needs by attending to the needs of others.

Coming from a background in clinical psychology, I appreciate the show’s nuance of human emotion. Emotion can be big and scary, and often, numbing out, simply not feeling bad feelings is a great temptation for a lot of us. People-pleasing can also be an ineffective-yet-powerful way to escape one’s own pain as well.

When we experience loss or disappointment, it’s really tempting to pretend that we “don’t care” or that we’re “over it.” We want to be able to “leave the bunker behind us,” so to speak, but as it turns out, you can take the girl out of the bunker, but you can’t take the bunker out of the girl.

As if the bunker weren’t a big enough problem, as Kimmy progresses through therapy in season two, Andrea, her therapist (Fey) leads Kimmy to see that the root of her rage, the real cause of her people-pleasing is her mother, and her “oh, brother...world-famous abandonment issues.” These issues, Andrea tells her, will only keep causing relational problems for Kimmy until she finds her mom and “deals with her for reals.”

Again, the therapist in me loves this. It has “attachment theory” written all over it. It is true that we carry relational models (such as Kimmy’s abandonment issues with her mom) all throughout life, and we often need to have those models reworked and healed. While these are things that can often be reworked in non-parental, emotionally corrective relationships, Andrea is right: they have to be faced.

Heeding the advice of Andrea, Kimmy sets out to find her mom in the season two finale. When she finally finds Lori-Ann Schmidt (Lisa Kudrow), she intends to confront her mother, but by the end of the episode realizes, “There’s nothing I can say that will un-kidnap me or fix my childhood...I have to accept that.” And herein lies the triumph of the human spirit: acceptance.

Frequently we live in fantasies of our own devising, imagining a better life - “If only I made another $10,000 annually! If only he’d call me back! If only Arrested Development hadn’t been canceled!” All of these thoughts move us out of the present and fragment our hearts - indeed, in our desire to have an unbroken life, we tear ourselves apart, looking into the past with regret, imagining a different future with longing. It is all quite violent to the human soul.

In Christ, we see this reality made poignantly manifest in the Cross. He accepts suffering for our sake. And he does it because we suffer. He takes on our suffering to show us that the path to new life, the path to redemption is in the voluntary acceptance of our own brokenness. It is by entering the brokenness of death that Christ obliterated its power.

He broke brokenness by Himself being broken, and He emerged truly unbreakable. And He, along with Kimmy Schmidt shows us that we need not fear brokenness, we need not hide it. But rather we need to accept it as the condition upon which our salvation rests.

We must turn to Christ in and through our brokenness if we are to have any hope of emerging from the tomb and sharing in unbreakable eternal life.

Photo credit:

Kimmy Main Title: Paste Magazine

Scared Little Girl: Depositphotos

Acceptance: Depositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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