When Pain Makes You Lonely

Sat and cried with a few people in pain yesterday.
Things in your life, if they don’t belong there, though small can slowly etch a canyon in your soul or widen the chasm in your marriage.
Things like secrets, addiction, grief, the things you believe about yourself or what someone told you when you made a mistake.
And this emptiness or pain can be debilitating.
Even if you look fine on the outside.
Even if you have to keep going or keep up appearances.
(For your kids, especially for the kids’ sake)

And it’s a pretty scary beak spot to find yourself choosing between letting the pain or the ways you numb define you.
We find ways to cope and not deal with the pain that enters into our lives through the inconsiderate or purposely malicious words and actions of others.
But it’s confusing when they come from those who love us.
And the hole in our heart, the gap in the marriage, the distance that it creates between us and other people can just creep slowly into our lives and become an excruciating numbness.
All from unintentionally holding on onto or nursing secret pain.

I think one of the saddest things about addiction is fooling yourself into thinking that it doesn’t affect anyone else but you.
And I also think we mistakenly believe about evil and pain is there always has to be someone to blame and often that someone just has to be us.
(There’s no one to blame for the long slow loneliness of cancer or dementia.)

If you’re in pain or lonely today I hope you experience some freedom or healing soon. And whatever that takes, whether it is being brave enough to face it and ask for help or share what you’ve been hiding, I pray that you find it.

Put premartial counseling on your wedding to do list

Truth is, for many couples the stress and planning of a wedding the last 2-3 months before the wedding are distracting to the work of premarital counseling.
Fodder for working on communication, conflict resolution and expectations for sure but it can dominate the time and focus on other areas.

It’s hard to look back or go deep while looking forward.

That’s one of the main reasons I recommended couples come back to counseling after getting married.  The best premarital counseling happens after getting married in a sense because you have space and time to work on things. Or once the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon fade you start to get into the challenges and work of starting your married life together.
So, I encourage you, if you’re planning a wedding soon or even not so soon, put premarital counseling on your wedding to-do list along with buying the dress, finding the photographer, picking the caterer and scheduling the DJ.
If you’re getting married later this summer, I encourage you to find a counselor ASAP and schedule it before it gets too crazy.

Here’s a video blog on the different topics newlyweds need to work through to get off to a good start.

Here’s a list of Christian counselors in the Portland and Vancouver area.

You can schedule premarital counseling with me or my group at A New Day Counseling here.

On marriage and being great together

“Let’s be great together.”

It’s a statement that’s been on my mind all week as my wife and I prepare to talk to our church friends this Sunday about marriage, about our marriage.

I talk about marriage every week with my counseling clients. But it’s not something I have the chance to do with my wife.

She sent me a list of things that she wants to share, things she’s learned, things she does, things she thinks will be helpful. When I read it, it was a reminder of what is great about her, about the moments when our life is great.

Not perfect but great.


“Let’s be great together, babe.”

We don’t often say that.

But it’s essentially what we hope for when we asked or answered the question

“Will you marry me?”

It’s essentially what we said we stood up in front of God, our family and friends, chose each other and said “I do.”

We want to be a great husband, a great wife, for our spouse.

We offered our best and promised our life.

We want to be a great parent, deep down inside, even if we aren’t bold enough to say it out loud.

Our confidence, motivation and desire to be great gets stolen away somewhere along the way.

We settle for less.

When it gets hard, we lose hope. We have our tantrum when things don’t turn out the way we wanted.  Or we withdraw.  Or turn to work or the kids.  Or our smartphones and social media.

We start to believe that the pain and loneliness in the present are stronger and more real than the promise and the love at the start.

We’d settle for healthy or an end to the loneliness or pain.  We might scoff at the idea of “great” when it feels so miserable, so broken.

We might scoff at the idea of “great” when it feels so miserable, so broken.

But if we shoot for great, we might get it.
We certainly won’t get there if we don’t attempt it.

Doesn’t she deserve me trying?

Doesn’t he deserve me trying?

Don’t we, deserve the effort?

It’s where we started, with the promise of “I do”.


“Will you go to counseling with me?”

It’s not a question we think we’ll ever have to ask or answer.

It’s scary to say “I will.”  It’s scary to think, they’ll tell you “No”.

But you were scared on your wedding day when you said: “I do.”

You promised that day to be faithful.

In as many words you promised that you would do what it takes.

It’s not a guilt trip to hold you and your spouse to your promise, to honor the covenant they made.

One of the best, hardest things about marriage is when your spouse calls out your best.

There can be more than one beginning to marriage when you walk out of the church hand in hand after saying I do.
And when you walk into the counseling hand in hand and say I still do.


Here are a few things that can help you make the most of counseling if you choose to go.  Things to tell yourself.  To prepare.

I will go.

I want to make this work.

I will go to learn, to understand.

I will try.

I will be honest.

I won’t attack you.

I love you.

I want to love you again.

I will do what it takes.

I will look for what works, not what won’t.

I will work.

I will listen.

I will be patient. 

I will look for my part of the problems and take responsibility.

I will change.

I will talk about my hurts and fears.

I will apologize as needed.

I will forgive if necessary.

I will try to trust you more.

Let’s go be great, again.


This post was inspired by the Sunday School class series our church is doing on marriage “Real Stories, Real Hope”

This was an awesome post on marriage I read this week by Seth Haines.

Here’s another post I wrote on making the most of marriage counseling if you choose to go.

Here’s a post for if you aren’t sure how marriage counseling could help.


How To Not Raise Entitled and Enabled Kids: The E’s of Excellent Parenting

Had a fun break with the family for Spring Break.  On the five-hour trip back home, we had a good conversation about parenting.  It started out with the ideas of Entitlement and Enabling vs. Empowering and Equipping your kids. And we ended up thinking of a bunch of different ideas that started with the letter E.  We hope you enjoy it too.

Entitlement.  As parents, we don’t set out to raise entitled kids but it’s easy to justify giving your kids privileged or special treatment by saying you love them and want whats best for them.

Enabled. One of my professors on parenting explained enabling your kids as doing something for them that they could do themselves. Another aspect of enabling your kids is letting them get away with not suffering the consequences of their behavior.  Again, it’s easy to justify this by telling yourself that you want to love and protect your kids.  You want them to know that you always have their back or that you want to show them God’s grace or faithfulness to them.

The problem with this is you as the parent can end up feeling responsible for everything. Raising entitled kids can be exhausting, excruciating and embarrassing.  How does it feel when you are at work or working on a group project and someone on the team doesn’t pull their weight, do their share?
It’s exhausting.  You can end up resenting the other person. Well, it’s the same when your kids don’t pull their weight around the house.  You can end up feeling like you are doing everything (because you are), feeling unappreciated and bitter.

Empowering.  It’s not unloving to require and train your kids to work hard, give their best effort, be diligent and finish what they start.  It’s not cruel to ask them to do things with excellence.  To do chores.  To work for what they get.  To set goals.  To delay gratification.  It’s actually empowering to your kids to give them freedom and responsibility around the house and gradually more as they get older.  A child 8-10 years old could start to help out with laundry.  They certainly could be doing their own laundry by middle school and especially in high school.  It’s actually honoring to them to not give them special privileges, just because.  It’s fine to give them gifts and to show you love them in special ways.  But when they start to expect or feel entitled to have things, or always have things their way, it’s no longer special.  It becomes common.  And it actually sets them up for disappointment and failure later in life because you aren’t teaching them how the real world works.  Their teachers and professors aren’t going to give them special treatment.  Their boss at their work place is going to expect them to work, to problem solve, to take responsibility.

Equipping.  Not enabling or entitling your kids doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it’s doesn’t mean you won’t protect them, that you are leaving them to fend for themselves in the cruel, harsh realities of the world.  Parenting with excellence means you take a coaching and equipping mindset to working with them.  You provide the tools, resources they need and you also train them on how to use those tools.  You explore, process, experiment, debrief and work through things together.  You still have their back and at the same time, you are equipping them to stand on their own, to risk and put themselves out there in different areas, to be brave.

Expectations.  Having healthy expectations is a part of growing and stretching your kids to reach their potential.  As parents, we don’t want to put too high expectations on our kids but what I’ve seen a lot of parents with too low expectations.  Often, parents in the interest of protecting their kids from failure, disappointment or rejection, set the bar low.  Kids are often capable of so much more than we think.  I was watching a jiu jitsu video that talked about the metaphor of a “Goldilocks tension” and I think it applies to expectations.  We don’t want expectations that are “too cold”, too low, and we don’t want expectations that are “too hot”, too high.  We want to set expectations that are “just right”.  Expectations that are too low, lead to boredom and missed potential and growth.  Expectations that are too high, put an adverse amount of stress and pressure on your kids and that can stunt their growth as well.

Empathy.  So, how do you know if your expectations are too high, too low or just right?  You do that by listening and listening well with empathy.  One key to empathy as a parent, is focusing more on what your child may be experiencing and less on what they are doing, on their performance.  And you’re not the only one who needs empathy, your kids do too.

Emotional Intelligence.  Empathy is one of the pillars of emotional and relational intelligence.  EQ has been shown to be more of predictor of a person’s success than intelligence. Delayed gratification is another pillar.

Endurance vs. Expedient.  It’s hard to empower and equip your kids, it requires a lot of trust and courage. On both your parts.  It requires patience because it will be messy.  Things won’t go smoothly at first, things won’t get done as well and as quickly as you would just doing it for them.  But you won’t always be there for them, they will have to grow up and do things on their own someday.

It’s sad, very sad when I’ve seen teenagers treat their single mother with contempt.  Their mother did/does everything for them and these kids had no gratitude for the sacrifices their mom made (or at least they didn’t express it).  It was sad for the kid but also the mom.  She poured out herself, bent over backwards, to love and provide for her child and her child barely could stand her.  They had no respect for her.  They either struggle with selfishness or self-hatred or both.  I’ve seen entitled young adults who struggled with anger and resentment at their parents because they feel ill-equipped for life.  They haven’t had to problem-solve or bear the weight of responsibility and get overwhelmed by the demands of adulthood.  And they struggle with imposter syndrome and feeling behind in life.

So, don’t just give into what’s expedient, what’s easy.  As the kids get older, don’t continue in the habit of taking the path of least resistance.  Learn to be mindful and intentional about your long-term goals with them. And be patient, consistent.  Get help and support if you have to.

Enforce.  One way to be patient and consistent is with enforcing consequences and discipline.  It’s easy to justify being lax with discipline and consequences by telling yourself you are being caring and compassionate and loving.  But often being exhausted and wanting to avoid the stress and upset of conflict is the main reason for not enforcing consequences.  It really isn’t about what’s best for the kids, it’s often what will feel best, for you, in the moment.

Expose and Eliminate the Elephants. Instead of avoiding conflict, instead of building resentment or emotionally manipulating your kids with passive-aggressive indirect behavior, it will benefit you and them to expose and eliminate elephants, to call out entitlement, laziness, disrespect, and other behaviors and attitudes that may be poisoning your relationship and family life.  It’s easier to do this when those negatives are baby elephant size, not full grown elephants.  But even if they are huge, be brave and start to work on it. Sometimes, just the act of exposing them, shrinks them.  If you call it out, then everyone has a chance to be aware and take ownership of making it better instead of it being your solo project.

Example.  Might daughter suggested this one, besides enforcing consequences and making rules and throwing your weight around, she recommends parents need to be good examples of what you are trying to teach and require of your kids.

Energizing.  If you start to be more intentional about equip and empower your kids you will replace exhaustion with energy because you will no longer have to bear all the weight of responsibility for how your kids and home are doing. You will not have to wrestle so much with resentment, bitterness, worry and hurt feelings.

Encouragement.  This is hard work. Remember, your kids aren’t bad.  They may need some maturity, course correction, training and equipping, but they need encouragement and acceptance most of all.  You will need encouragement when they changes you are attempting don’t seem to be working, when you have a bad day, when it seems to be getting worse instead of better.

Enjoyment.  Lastly, implementing and being more intentional about the positive E’s for parenting will not just allow you to experience excellence in parenting.  It will allow you to enjoy the experience of being a parent, of being in a healthy mutual relationship with your kids.

The Power of Metaphor

Have you ever noticed that it’s really hard to change your emotions with positive self-talk?
One of the reasons is there’s often something even more powerful at work, and it’ll take more than just refuting propositional statements with positive ones.
Another force that shapes our emotions is metaphor.

One of my mentors told me we live and die by our metaphors. Metaphors are word pictures that we have. It’s the framework and the lens through which we interpret our experiences. And they shape our experiences. They can become our experiences. Our metaphors can be powerful forces for positive or negative in our life.  If we picked the wrong metaphor then we build a really strong foundation and framework to hang our experiences, feelings, and beliefs on. It becomes the house we live in.

One of the key things to remember is to capitalize on the power of metaphor is that we get to choose our metaphors.
We don’t get to choose our circumstances and experiences but we choose the metaphor in which we place those experiences.

If I picture myself on the ocean in a rowboat during the black of night during a raging storm and I’ve got 40-50 foot waves crashing over me. My family is with me but I’m the only one rowing! For some reason, they’re just sitting there, like dead weight. And not only are we in the middle of this storm and I’m the only one rowing, now there’s a hole in the boat. Water’s leaking in, we’re taking it on and not only is my family not bailing out the water it was their neglect that caused the hole and the water coming in in the first place.

To top it all off, we barely surviving and barely hanging on, I hear an airplane in the distance and it starts taking runs on us, firing its guns. We’re just completely exposed and alone.
I’m the only one keeping us from capsizing but there’s a shield in the boat. It can shield us from the bullets! But no one else is taking it up. I’m yelling for help, but no one is listening. Or now one can hear me above the roar of the waves. They’ve just given up.

In order to protect us from the attacks from above, I have to make the decision to either take my hands off the oars or raise the shield to protect myself. Either way, I have to do it on my own.

Can you imagine the stress being in that situation?
This may not be the picture you have when overwhelmed or under stress.
But you may have a work picture like that a metaphor for what you are going through. You may even have a metaphor for your life.
With this metaphor, in a sense, we are putting ourselves out on that water, out on that boat. It may not be literally where we are but it can become our emotional and mental reality.

Picture the same type of life circumstance but what if I don’t picture myself in a storm. What if I view this as a stage in a video game, as one challenge of many. And I realize that the storm will end, that I’ve got unlimited lives and I can hit the reset button or the pause button. I could go pizza, step away, get some sleep, wake up the next morning, pick up the controller, unpause the game and play a little bit more.

Even better, what if I picture that I’m in the Battle of Helm’s Deep. That I’m not alone, I’ve just been momentarily separated from my family. It’s not that they don’t care, that they left me to myself, they just have their own orcs to fight and they are battling to rejoin me. We’re in this together. And the sun will rise and Gandalf will show up with reinforcements, in just the nick of time.

Two cognitive distortions are Catastrophizing and Discounting the Positive; choosing a negative, destructive metaphor is cognitive distortion on steroids because it adds the power of story and creativity to it.

If you struggle emotionally, if you paint yourself into mental and emotional corners that are painful, I encourage you to take a look at the metaphors you may be building. Rebuilding and renovating them may make a huge difference in your life. It will not change how you view your circumstances and life, it will change your view of yourself within them.



“Things are totally out of control!”

How many times in the last seven days alone have those words, or words similar to them, popped into your head? For me, it’s been at least a few times. Conflict, chaos, change. These things tend to leave many people spiraling, feeling a profound sense of powerlessness; a tiny raft adrift on the raging seas.

The scary thing?  In many ways, we are. Life is big, ever-changing, and so often, it’s out of our control. Are you feeling at ease, here? No? Me neither. This sense of discomfort, this dis-ease, has a lot to do with our definitions. Language is important here, as it is with all things, so I want to define a crucial term: control. Let’s come to a working definition, so that we can figure out what we can control in this largely uncontrollable world.

For me, control is: what you DO, with what you THINK and FEEL, right NOW.

A narrow definition, to be sure, but understanding all the things we can’t control can be rather freeing. So, quickly, what exists outside of this definition? Are you thinking about it? The weather. Yep, a lot of people think this one first. We can’t control that. It has nothing to do with our thoughts, feelings, or actions in this moment, so it’s out. That’s an easy one. Some harder, deeper ones exist, for sure. Here are three, and then at the end of this post we’ll talk about what to do about them.

The past and the future.

The past is easily understandable from a logical point-of-view. The past has already happened, and we can’t change it. Yet, in my work as a therapist I see plenty of people trying to do just that. What does it look like? It looks like the person continually punishing themselves for the mistakes they’ve made. It looks like shame, wherein people reduce the sum total of who they are to the mistakes and harmful choices they’ve made. They say, “I’m an idiot.” “I’m a horrible person.” “I’m not worth loving.” It’s ok to admit it if you’ve said these kinds of things about yourself. Many of us do, at times. When you beat yourself up over past mistakes, you might be attempting to control your past by staying in it and punishing yourself.

How about the future, though? I’ve had many clients tell me they believed they were capable of controlling their futures. It doesn’t take much tugging at the strings to see this idea unravel. What’s to stop the tree across the street from smashing down onto your house during the next storm? Without insurance and great friends who would put you up for a while, you, yes you, could see yourself homeless. Scary thought? Yes. But to attempt to control the future through excessive worry is disheartening, maddening, and at the very least, exhausting. We can’t control an unknowable future. For those terrified over the uncertainty following the presidential election, this may be exactly where they currently find themselves.

Our thoughts and feelings.

If some people argue that they can control their futures, it’s nothing to the people who tell me they have control over what they think and feel. Or, that they should have control over what they think and feel. “I shouldn’t get so worked up.” “I should be over this by now.”

I submit to you that sometimes, thoughts and feelings are outside of your control. Both are the result of complex chemical processes that operate outside of conscious awareness at times. Both are dependent on the kind of sleep you had last night. Many of your thoughts are responses to things that are so quick you might not even notice them. How can that be under your control? No, it’s our response to our thoughts and feelings that is ours to determine. It’s why the opposite isn’t true either. “I wouldn’t have said that if I wasn’t so upset.” Sadly, no. Getting mad might not always be under our control, but the way we get mad is ours to decide.

Other people.

This is one of the biggest ones. Wouldn’t we all like to be able to control someone in our lives right now? Go on, admit it. If you’ve ever been in a fight with a loved one, desperately trying to get them to see it your way to no avail, you may very well have been trying to control them. To change their thoughts, feelings, and actions to suit your liking. If I’m honest, there are people I’d like to control right now. One very important person, in fact. Hint hint, he has a comb over. But I can’t, and you can’t. And when the people we can’t control have very real power over our lives, it can be a scary prospect.

Feeling warm and fuzzy? Again, me neither. So where does that leave us?

What can we do about this? An answer comes to us from the many 12-Step programs. They have a saying, a prayer if you will:

“Lord, 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.”

Can we control the election results? No. Can we control our families? Nope. Can we control our futures? Sadly, we can’t. But there are things within us and around us that we can control, and there are things that we can influence. You can’t control the President, but you can write or call your congressperson. You can vote, you can get involved.

You can’t control your past, but you can work on forgiving yourself. You can’t control your family or loved ones, but you can control your actions toward them, your responses to your thoughts and feelings as you relate to them. It involves becoming aware of these things, challenging these things, and that’s hard work. But. It. Can. Be. Done.

You can’t control the future, but you can influence it. Influence involves doing what you can, within the realm of what you can control, to affect something that is outside of your control; being ready to accept the results if they don’t go your way.

Ask yourself this question: What can I control in my current situation? What do I need to try and influence? What do I need to accept? To answer these questions is freeing because it allows us to spend less time on things we can’t change. So go. Be free. May you find the wisdom to know the difference.

This is a guest post by licensed professional counselor and author Collin Pearman. His novel, A Timeless Abandon, deals with themes of faith, loneliness, politics, depression, and making difficult choices in dire circumstances, set against the science-fiction backdrop of a beautifully-rendered world.

A Parenting Book Your Husband Would Read

I’ve written a parenting book.  It’s at the rough first draft stage.  I don’t even have a title yet but I think the sub-title might be “A Parenting Book Your Husband Would Read.” It’s a mixed martial art and Brazilian jiu-jitsu approach to parenting, on surviving and winning the battles of parenting.

It started out as a silly fun idea, a book to give to my friends at the gym.  I thought it might be 50-60 pages.  But as I wrote I became more serious about truly being helpful and it ended up being over 180 pages and 96K words!  I’m getting it ready to send to an editor.  Here’s something I shared with my Facebook friends as I neared the end of writing:

Writing self-help sounds cliché and people won’t trust you if you aren’t willing to share your stories.
I’m trying to finish my last two days of writing strong when I realized this.
This book on parenting is actually a book on overcoming fear.
And yesterday as I tried to pour out my best words and figure out what’s the best thing I could write to encourage you in your battles, I circled back to best part of our story: my incredible wife, my amazing kids and our faith. And I broke down driving home grateful for them and for God’s love and grace.
See, my biggest battles are not out in the world, at work, online, in leadership – my biggest battles with fear and insecurity have been within the walls of our home and in my own head and heart.
And it’s been amazing to look back at what our family has been through and look ahead with clearer eyes and a braver heart.
I want the same for you guys.
So, I’m battling guys, to keep up the pace and get this book to you. Tomorrow I’ll write my last entry and then spend the next 4-6 weeks prepping to send to editor.

In the meantime, don’t give up.
Don’t give up on your marriage.
Don’t give up on your dreams.
Don’t give up on yourself.
Don’t give up on your kids.
With God, all things are possible.

Over the course of daily writing over two months I got into the habit of writing so I wrote this morning too.

An undealt with past affects your children’s future because your past impacts what you trust,
what you fear,
how you cope
and what you believe about yourself, life and others.
You choose how to respond to your past,
your kids didn’t.

You need to be brave and face your past because our kids won’t just end up battling their fears,
they end up fighting ours too.

What are the battles you’re facing as a parent these days?

I hope my book will help you.

If you’d like updates on the book and the blog, I invite you to subscribe by entering below.

On asking God: What should I do?

I went on a leadership retreat for our church last month. We spent a lot of time talking about discipleship, being a disciple a Jesus. And exploring what that means, what it looks like for our church this next year.
We didn’t want to come up with another program, something to make us busier with religious activity.

One thing that I’m always concerned about how to encourage people to live out their faith without it only being motivated by a sense of duty. And what I realized today was letting go of doing something out of duty doesn’t mean giving up something that’s hard to just do what comes naturally or what is easy.

Sometimes letting go of doing things out of a sense of duty is extremely scary.
Doing things out duty is actually kind of easy, everything is spelled out for you.
Listening for what God is leading you in means defending something mystical. Something that seems foolish. Something you can’t quantify or put on paper.

You have to risk disapproval.When you stop and listen and replace the question “What should I do?” with “What do I sense God saying to me? What is God calling me to do?”, you have to wait on God.

You have to slow down.
You have to be patient.
You have to give up controlling others because the answer isn’t one size fits all.
You risk being different, stepping out of line.
You risk being seen for who you are, you risk exposing the passions and longings of your heart.

You will seem foolish, people will misunderstand and assume things about you.
They’ll think you are being judgmental and self-righteous and impractical.
They may even try to put you back in your place.
(All this and this isn’t even addressing your own negative self-talk or self-limiting beliefs!)

Sometimes we are so afraid to ask “What do I *want* to do?” or believe that what we should do is always different than what we want to do. I think the better  question is “Who does God want me to be?” not “What does He want me to do?” but “What life does He want me to live?”

The cool thing is, there is a hard, lonely and scary way ahead that if you choose it, could lead to life instead of boredom and death.

What Good Will It Do?

This week has been an eventful one for our nation.  A new president was inaugurated and celebrated or protested on social media or by participating in marches and events.

There’s a question that gets raised in different ways but you’ll see it:

“What good does it do?”

Sometimes it’s raised as a critique, the implied answer or point being made that it doesn’t.  Sometimes it’s asked honestly, seeking understanding; maybe even by the person attempting the action.

Will it do any good?  Does it make any difference?  Why do it?”

The question reminded me of two quotes.

“Do for one what you you wish you could do for everyone.” – Andy Stanley

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi

We can only control what we can control. And we can only offer small, humble offerings to others into this world. We may not be able to help hundreds or thousands of people. But we can join with hundreds and thousands.  We can choose to give our all and give a hundred percent to the person right in front of us.

Regardless of the outcome.

What good does it do? We don’t have to wait to see the outcome to answer the question for ourselves.  I believe the good that is done is done regardless of what follows because no act of love or courage is wasted. The act of choosing is what makes it worth it. We grow by choosing. Even though we don’t see the fruit of the choice that we make. It’s just like loving our kids, it’s worth it. It can help to be hopeful about the good it could do, what might result.  But in the long run how they respond and what results isn’t really entirely up to us.  What matters is that we chose love.  That we don’t stay stuck or powerless or victimimized or silent. 

This morning I remembered the story of the young man who came upon an older man throwing starfish back into the ocean.  He asked what difference does it make, there so many. And the elderly man replied, “It made a difference to that one.

That’s what I do with counseling. As I was driving into the office, I thought,
“Oh, today I’m going to drive in and throw some starfish back into the ocean.”

But then I realized.  My clients aren’t starfish.  I’m not saving them.

The clients that I see are also on the shore line and I join them there. The shoreline between the crashing raging ocean their past and the shoreline of their present and future. And they can’t move away from their past, they feel stuck on this shoreline.

They feel bog down by their pain, by their choices. By what has happened to them. And this shoreline is littered with their pain and their wounds.

They’re faced with the questions:  

Is it worth it?

Why do I have to face all this? 

Why do I have to go there?

What good will it do?

And just like the original story, it might not make the difference for everything but in that moment, for today, it’ll make a difference for that one, for that hurt, for that wound, that memory.  It’s not everything, but it’s a worthwhile start.  You won’t know where it will lead, until you’re brave enough to start. 

If you don’t know where to start, we can start with the one that you’re holding, right now, in your hand. 

We can begin there.

When You Have to Change On Your Own


Getting healthy is threatening to others. The sabotage and criticism won’t just come from “haters”, it could come from those closest to you.

Carl Rogers once said this about change:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

There’s another paradox to deal with when it comes to change:

Sometimes you can’t do it alone and sometimes you have to.

I was shoveling snow in the driveway this sunny winter morning and I was reflecting on the phrase “The people that love you the most…”

The people who love you most will understand.

The people who love you most have your back.

The idea being that the people that love you most will support you, no matter what. They will be there for you. They’ll cheer you on. They will have your best interest in mind. They’ll be so happy for you.

The fact of the matter is that the people who love you the most often don’t want you to change. And they won’t always support your change and growth. Sometimes they’ll even sabotage your efforts to change.

You’ll see this when someone who announces that they are signing up for the gym and wanting to lose weight and their friends, spouse or their kids say “Yeah! That’s great!” And then turn around and bring home a cheesecake for them to eat. You’ll see this with a couple where the husband says he will do anything and everything to save their marriage or be a better parent but won’t take the time to go to counseling or attend the parenting workshop together.

Why is that?

See, the thing is the people who love you the most sometimes love the current version of you. They’re comfortable with the way you are. It’s familiar. You’ve found a homeostasis, a rhythm, and way of life, a pattern or a cycle that works for them and has worked for you. On some level. Even if it’s not healthy. The status quo is the best kind of security blanket; it is especially warm and fuzzy because you made it yourself.

Whether it’s intentional or not, they’ve played a part in who and where you are today. They’ve done that by either colluding with you and the way you are by allowing what’s gotten you where you are. Or by not confronting you, holding you accountable or shielding you from consequences of your behavior.

Or maybe they’ve tried confronting you and giving you feedback and they’re tired. And now that you want to change, they are frustrated. They don’t trust you, they’ve heard it all before. It may even bring up some bitterness or anger they haven’t wanted to feel.

They may love you but they may not actually believe in you. That could mean they don’t believe in your potential or your ability to change and be something other than what you are. Or that could mean they don’t believe your word. Maybe they’ve heard you talk and think about making changes and they’ll believe it when they see it. In the meantime, they’re not going to get excited or be hopeful; they’ve been disappointed or burned too many times. If that’s the case you can’t really hold it against them that they’re not super excited that you’re wanting to get healthy.

There’s another dynamic in place that can sabotage change: even if you don’t say anything, those who love you the most, those who are closest to you, may feel the pressure to change. Even if you say they don’t need to change or even want them to change, you will inevitably influence them toward change.

Getting healthier involves changing:

the rhythm of your life,
the habits you make
the things that you sacrifice for
your priorities
the way you spend your time
the way you spend your energy
the way you spend your money
That’s going to have a direct impact on them, depending on how close they are to you. While you would hope that they would be happy for you, if you start to change and get healthy, it can highlight their insecurities or areas in their life where they may need to change or could change and get healthier.

And people can get defensive about that. Because change is scary.

What if you change? What if you change the way you see yourself?

Changing what you believe and see in yourself can be a threat to those who love you because if you see yourself in a different way then maybe you’ll see them in a different way. And maybe you won’t like what you see. Maybe you’ll start to believe that they’re not good enough. There’s something wrong in the relationship. When you start to get healthier, it can be empowering. You can start to shed limitations – external and internal – and start to dream and open up your mind to new possibilities. For those close to you, they may not like the new directions you want to go. Or they may like the direction but they may feel like they aren’t ready to go there with you.

What if you change how you see me?  What if you don’t like what you see? Will you want me anymore? 

No one likes to feel like they’re not good enough. And no one likes to be left behind.

The battle to lose weight and go to the gym is not so simple. When you consider the ones who love you the most.

You’ll see three types of reactions from people when you want to change.

  1. support
  2. some people try to talk you out of it
  3. silence
    You’ll see this when you want to make improvements to your physical health when you want to make mental health or relationship changes. Or changes with your spiritual growth.

So don’t be surprised. Don’t be discouraged. And don’t let criticism, sabotage or lack of support deter you. Stick to the changes on the growth that you want, whether that’s eating healthy, getting active, going to counseling or going back to church.

Change can be lonely. You can’t do it because it feels good and you can’t do it for affirmation from other people. Not only will it not feel good, you may even feel worse. You may feel physically sore and achy, your ego may take a beating and you may even feel isolation and anxiety as you make changes in the ways you relate to others. You may even choose to spend less time with friends who don’t support the changes you are making.

This past week I talked with a couple. The husband needed to eat healthily and get more exercise. And he blamed his wife for not being able to do either. Sure, it would be nice if his wife went to the mall with him so he could walk or cook different meals. But she doesn’t need to change in order for him to change and get healthier.

If you want to change, grow, get healthier – you have to do that for yourself. You have to take responsibility and you can’t blame other people for your lack of progress or lack of change. Yes, one of the reasons you may want to get healthier is so you can be there for your family, to see your children get married or meet your grandchildren. But that can’t be the primary reason or only reason.

We care for what we value. If you start without considering your worth and why doing the work of growth and change is worthwhile, you won’t last long.

When it comes to change often the people you need to make the change aren’t the ones who love you the most, they are simply the ones who can and will help you.

Three things that can help if you notice that those close to you are unsupportive or sabotaging your efforts to change.

1) Talk to them about it. Check whether or not this is going on. Don’t assume what you’re experiencing is them sabotaging you, do it in a soft way not making a final judgment. Communicate you are trying to understand and give them a chance to think or talk about it. They may not even be aware that they’re doing what they’re doing.

2) Besides talking to them about it, invite them to make changes too. Understand that if you’re already taking action on changes, you might be several steps ahead of them in the process. Be patient. If you have talked about change and not followed through in the past, own up to that and apologize. Validate that their skepticism is legit.

3) Honor their autonomy and respect their differences. They don’t have to change at the same pace. And they don’t have to change in the same way. Invite them in and support what they would like to change. There may be things that you each need to work on separately.

If you listen well, make the invitation openly and genuinely (instead of manipulating or controlling them) you will greatly improve your chances of being able to brainstorm, problem solve and come to agreements and action plans about things that you can work on together.

If they decline the invitation to make changes, then you’ll know that you gave it a good shot and you’re still free and responsible for the changes that you want to make. You can’t blame them or hold them responsible for what you need or want to do.

One key thing to remember, just because they’re not ready now doesn’t mean they won’t be open to it in the future. So handle that conversation well and they might leave the door open to talk about it again in the future. It might help to even ask them if it’s okay if you check in with them about it in a month or two.

If you are making changes or getting to ready to make changes this year, I want to encourage you to keep going.  Stay tuned for more blogs on habit change and sticking to your goals.