The “Right” Quest

I just finished reading Boundaries For Your Soul by Kimberly Miller and Alison Cook. Chances are, since you’re human and created with a soul, you will glean help for your life when you read this book.

Questions you could ask yourself that would indicate so:

  • Are there emotional parts of me that I don’t like?
  • Are there emotional responses I have that I don’t understand?
  • Is there something I’m burdened with that needs resolution?
  • Do my prayers about these things seem unheard or useless and have left me wondering if God cares?

We’ve all had these questions. These ladies have some help for us in their work.

An example from the last chapter entitled “Boundaries With Challenging Parts of Others” involves some insight based on brain science. They discuss the difference between the “thinking” brain and the “emotional” brain. In their discussion they show how important it is to know the difference and to achieve the balance possible when both brains work together. The quote I found intriguing was actually from another Christian psychiatrist’s, Curt Thompson, book Anatomy of the Soul.

We are more interested in knowing right from wrong (a dominantly left-brain hemisphere function used to cope with fear and shame) than knowing God, which requires the integration of all parts of the brain. Our quest to be “right” – a cognitive activity – can actually keep us from deep connection and a holistic knowledge of God and others.

Oh, how many Christians need to be done with the “right” quest, including me.

See what I mean now? Get your hands on this book and see what other insights await you.

3 Keys in Trying to Do it Right the First Time

My niece has a first coming. In three months, she and her husband will have another mouth to feed (pictured below). But more importantly, they will be first-time parents. She told me, “I can’t deny it. I’m a little nervous.” Yep.

We all have firsts. These come in experiences like our first day in kindergarten, our first time driving on an interstate, our first time praying in a group setting, our first time going for a job interview, or our first and hopefully only time to say, “I do.”

And they keep coming. Life is a journey of firsts. Last year my firsts included planning a sabbatical, running two half marathons in one weekend, researching for a book, and stepping up to the mic in a studio. These were firsts I chose to do. Not all firsts are chosen, though. Remember Noah? Chosen or not, all firsts come with moments of, “I’m a little nervous.”

I was more than a little nervous for my senior recital in college. You can say I chose it because I chose that field of study, but a 30-minute recital singing in various languages wasn’t shared in the catalog description. But I was buoyed by two things: my accompanist was the best on campus and my commitment to doing this right. My goal was to walk off stage thinking, “This is what I wanted to feel and experience.”

So how does one walk away from a first experience believing they did everything they could to get it right? Sounds audacious. Maybe even too lofty. But what’s that saying your probably heard from some mentor along the way, “If it’s worth doing, its worth doing right”? So from my efforts in trying to get firsts right, here are three keys to grasp:

  • Embrace your Emotions

    Your first could bring a myriad of emotions. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Excitement. Doubt. Drive. I encourage you to deal with it all. Why? When someone deals with all their emotions, they grow in dealing with the negative and the positive. You learn your personal lane of balance. Some people are fearless and therefore are going to crash sooner or later; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy fear. Some people are born doubters and are constantly stunting their chance to go further; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy courage. Rather than falsely believing in the futility of balance seeking, we give ourselves a better chance of doing things right the first time when we embrace our emotions.

    • Stand in Your Why

      Convictions, purpose, values, vision: whatever your call them, they give you the stability to go after something for the first time. You must know them and ferociously guard them. Is your why clear? Do your methods live out your why? If you could state your why in five words, what would it be? Yes, your marriage should have a why. Yes, your parenting should have a why. Yes, your first 90 days on the job should have a why. We give ourselves a better chance of getting it right the first time when we stand in our why.

      • Be Fully Present

        Are you a “what-ifer”? Or a “if only-er”? Too much living in the past or for the future can stunt doing things right in the present. Using the example of parenting, research says that the core of who we are is established by age five. If that’s true, the parent concentrating on getting that child into Harvard while they’re in the pottytraining stage may miss some key elements in doing the parenting thing right. Live in the moment. Yes, plan for the future and learn from the past. But give yourself the best chance of doing this thing right the first time by being fully present now.

        Here’s to my niece, the first-time business owners, the first-time writers, and all first-timers! May God bless your efforts in trying to do it right the first time.

        “There’s No Crying in Baseball”

        (This is the eighth post in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

        It’s a movie line. It’s funny. It’s memorable. But it’s not accurate. 

        We may try to maintain an “it’s only a game” mentality in our recreational endeavors. But like it or not, our passions have a way of seeping out. Positive and negative, character and opinions, warts and all. 

        In the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, actor Tom Hanks plays character Jimmy Dugan. Dugan is a washed-up former ball player, who’s now a drunk managing a women’s baseball team. Not exactly how he thought his life would turn out. Dugan didn’t want his players showing any emotion that wasn’t related to the game. He didn’t care about his player’s personal lives. He wasn’t interested in contributing to their lives off the field. Why? Largely because he wasn’t managing his own life off the field very well. Here’s the truth: You can’t lead, manage, or contribute well to a team when you aren’t managing yourself well.

        Suppressing your emotions isn’t managing yourself well. Crying along with other forms of expression is our body’s relief mechanism. Hurt or joy. Confusion or celebration. Frustration or praise. Disappointment or worship. Doubt it? Watch the World Series. Guaranteed there will be tears from these men, both the winners and the losers, once the final game has been played.

        As fans, we understand this, expect it. In a way, it makes these superheroes of their sport somehow more human. We can relate to them more this way.

        What about non-baseball life, the emotions of average life day to day? Many people choose to join Hanks in deceiving themselves into believing this line, “There’s No Crying in Life.” The reasons why are varied: perceived as weakness, doesn’t help the situation, there’s no time, real men don’t cry. These are all based on concern about how you will be perceived by others.

        Perception can feel like reality, but that doesn’t make it true or beneficial. Brené Brown addresses some of this in her book Daring Greatly. She writes,

        “We’ve come to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgment and criticism. We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. Vulnerability is life’s great dare. It’s life asking, “Are you all in?””

        The reality is there is crying in life. Choosing to live otherwise leads to many wrong efforts in dealing with life. Frankly, it’s full of pride and selfishness which tears down a team rather than unites it.

        With my best Hanks impression I’ll say this, “Get over it. Crying is a good thing. Go ahead. Let it out. It’s part of life. Your teammates will thank you. And mostly, so will you.”

        Fruity Fridays: Gentle like Jesus

        (A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

        My Bible reading plan has me in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Knowing it was my turn to write about gentleness and having already thought through some things, it was a natural connection to make between my thoughts and the actions of Jesus as told by these four authors. So first, think along with me about steps we can take toward being gentle, and then consider along with me how Jesus took these steps in three different scenes from the book of John.

        Some things I know that produce the fruit of gentleness in me when I do them are listening, checking my emotions, and putting myself in other’s shoes.

        Listening:

        Very few things put us in a better state of humility than keeping our mouths shut and listening. Avoiding the temptations of interrupting or talking over others leans us into gentleness. Silence welcomes calmness and averts hotheadedness, in both parties.

        Checking Emotions:

        We all have triggers, which means, like it or not, we all have emotions. Knowing our triggers that might lead to harshness is vital to checking our emotions. Having a plan when the trigger goes off will enhance our chances of responding gently. With these triggers, maintaining a gentle spirit through all emotions can seem impossible. But let’s be honest, sometimes a situation calls for bold, powerful reactions. These are rare situations for most people. Our reactions don’t have to be mean-spirited or destructive. If you find yourself feeling like every situation ends in bold reactions, it’s definitely a sign that gentleness is missing.

        Put Yourself in Their Shoes:

        Over the years, this discipline has produced gentleness in me when I’ve most needed it. But it doesn’t come naturally to me. Does it you? So how do you nurture putting yourself in someone’s shoes if it isn’t how you’re bent? A few things come to mind:

        • You can’t be the focus of every moment or thought.
        • While listening, refrain from thinking how you’re going to respond or how you feel about the person or the situation.
        • Force yourself to do things that are out of your norm or that are uncomfortable but represent other’s reality, such as volunteer at a shelter, pause and talk with a homeless person, walk somewhere when you could have taken transportation, go without eating, or live on a fixed income.
        • Meditate on the specific dynamics of a person’s life that impact their perspectives, such as family of origin, education, employment, or religious background.

        Jesus did these things very well. Take for example his interactions with three people as told by John.

        John 3, Nicodemus

        He listened to Nicodemus questioning and trying to understand. He checked his emotions by not dismissing him as another Pharisee who might be after him. He put himself in his shoes as a Jewish leader working out his beliefs about who Jesus was.

        John 4, Samaritan woman

        He actually started this conversation. His gentleness is seen in that move alone. He listened to her question his motives, his common sense, his culture understanding, and her attempts to distract him from her story. He checked his emotions when she tried to challenge him as a Jew, more than once. He put himself in her shoes by recognizing her situation and her desire for something different.

        John 11, the village of Bethany

        This village was hurting. They were mourning the death of their neighbor and family member, Lazarus. Even in his delay, which no one understood, he ultimately showed gentleness. He showed all gentleness is found in the purpose of glorifying the Father. Through his listening to the mourners, checking his own emotions, and putting himself in their shoes, he turned hearts of sadness and unbelief into joy and conviction.

        There is power in gentleness. May we be gentle like Jesus.

        Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (book review)

        Looking in the mirror-sometimes you like what you see, sometimes you don’t. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a look in the mirror of how you deal with emotions.

        The daily challenge of dealing effectively with emotions is critical to the human condition because our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand (chapter 1).

        Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves have done more than just put a mirror in our emotional face. They’ve given us something to do when we walk away from the mirror to improve the next look in the mirror. They provide access to the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal which reveals your standing in four skills making up your EQ: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. 

        EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs. It’s the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence (chapter 2).

        After succinctly giving the big picture of EQ, the four skills, and how to develop a personal EQ action plan in the book’s first four chapters, the final four chapters offer 66 strategies of what you need to say, do and think to increase your EQ. Most likely, your EQ is raised just by reading this content. 

        The only way to genuinely understand your emotions is to spend enough time thinking through them to figure out where they come from and why they are there (chapter 3).

        When you don’t stop to think about your feelings – including how they are influencing your behavior now, and will continue to do so in the future – you set yourself up to be a frequent victim of emotional hijackings (chapter 6).

        What you see in the EQ mirror is most likely the product of skills that don’t come naturally to you. If you desire to improve these skills, this book and the resources at the author’s website give you what you need to like more of what you see in the EQ mirror. They recommend reading this book and reviewing the skill development strategies at least once a year-a good recommendation.

        Feedback: What do you know about EQ and how important would you say it is?