Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lies We Believe - Distortion Lies by Robbie Sedgeman

Distortion Lies

Satan specializes in distortion lies.  They are really the only lies he has.  Distortion is taking a truth and changing it into something it is not.  The change can be slight, like making a funny face.  Or the change can be drastic, like looking at yourself in a warped carnival mirror.  Since Satan has never made anything new, the only resources available to him are distortion lies.  He must use what God has already created and twist it to deceive us.  It started in the garden when he tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree.  “‘You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman, ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:4-5)  When they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened to both good and evil, but also to death and suffering.

These lies can be particularly difficult to identify at first because they are interwoven into truth.  It takes some digging to find them.  But as you dig them up, you will discover they become easier to spot.  Distortion lies are subtle and they insert themselves into every crevice of our lives, hindering our emotional and spiritual growth and our general sense of well-being.  So it is important we do the hard work of identifying them.

The less clearly we see the reality of the world – the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.     M. Scott Peck

Magnification:  Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill
Magnification is making something a bigger issue than it really is.  It is taking a $20 event and giving it a value of $200 or $400.  It is taking an event that warrants a little frustration and giving it your full emotional attention, heightening to full-blown anger or rage.

Magnification is much easier to see in another person than in ourselves.  We are quick to identify the real value of an issue when it is not happening to us.  But when we are in the thick of things, it is not so easy.  We are especially prone to magnification when we are lacking a basic need like sleep or food.  And the event is often the last in a long list of small irritations.  We get to ‘the straw that tipped the camel’s back’ and we blow up on the person that just so happened to give us that last straw.  

This type of lie impacts our lives in a very profound way.  An event that has a high emotional value, like the death of a loved one, is devastating.  But how many times do you have an event that warrants those high emotional values?  Not very often when you consider the entire course of your life.  Now how many times can a molehill arise?  Hundreds and hundreds of times a year.  Everyday has the opportunity for many molehills.  When you think of the sheer number of them, you realize that it is these events that most impact our daily lives.  If we choose to make mountains out of them, we can expect to spend most of lives in turmoil.

We also must beware of minimization, which is making an issue smaller than it really is.  How many times do you say, ‘it’s no big deal’ or ‘it’s nothing’?   This can be especially true of those who have suffered from abuse.  We minimize the harm done to us or compare it to the lives of others and think ‘they have it worse than I do.’  That causes us to deny the reality of the situation; thereby perpetuating it.  Both magnification and minimization are unhealthy patterns of thinking.  God calls us to live in truth – “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32) 

Personalization:  Taking Everything Personally
Personalization is overstating the extent to which an event is related to you.  I often remind myself that I am not the center of the universe.  What happens around me is rarely related directly to me.  In my self-focus, though, I see all events through the eyes of how they relate to me.  The reality is that everyone else is doing the same thing.  So, ultimately, people are much more focused on themselves and much less focused on me than I think they are.

Once you understand this, it is quite freeing.  Those people at the next table may be gazing in your direction, but they are probably not discussing your choice of shoes.  Your neighbors may be whispering over the fence, but there is a good chance you are not the topic of their discussion.  More often than not, people are simply not paying that much attention to us.  Here’s a unanimous quote that puts it into perspective:  At age twenty, we worry about what others think of us.  At forty, we don’t care what they think of us.  At sixty, we discover they haven’t been thinking about us at all.

There are times people do focus on us but, but ultimately, someone’s behavior towards you reveals more about the other person than about you.  Your co-worker may have made an accusation against you, but it is likely they were driven to do so by a need to protect their sense of self-worth.  Or your spouse came home yelling about the house being messy.  They may have had a bad day at work and find it easier to express their anger at you rather than addressing the situation at work.  Their angry toward you is not a reflection of you.  It reveals their inability to engage in healthy confrontations in the workplace.

Someone’s behavior is a reflection of their character, not yours.   But when we personalize the situation, we tend to overreact.  When we overreact, we end up compounding the problem.  We still have the initial event to deal with, but now we also have resentment and bitterness. 

A very practical way to combat this lie is to assume the situation has nothing to do with you and identify other possible reasons why the person acted as they did.  If someone missed an appointment with you, your initial reaction may be to assume they do not care enough about you to remember the appointment.  Here are some alternative reasons they missed the appointment:  an emergency situation arose that they had to address; they are habitually unreliable and cannot be depended upon; they try to fit so much into their lives that they do not plan well and forget about important appointments.  All of these reasons are related to the person who forgot the appointment.  They have nothing to do with you.  You may never know the truth of why they missed the appointment, but when you stop taking the event personally, you will be able to make a rational decision on whether or not you want to reschedule the appointment.  When we stop personalizing, we start seeing reality and that sets us on the road to making wise decisions.

Polarization:  Making Everything Black or White
Polarization is all about extremes – fantastic or terrible, always or never, black or white.  “I would be perfectly happy if I were divorced.”  “I always get into the longest line at the store.”  “No one ever cares about me.”  On paper, these statements appear extreme – and they are.  But it is much more difficult to identify extremes in our minds, especially in the midst of the situation, because they are often our defaults.  As soon as someone acts in a way that is negative to us, we tend to think they ‘always’ do that.  It is reminiscent of magnification.  We typically make situations into extreme, big deals when most are not.

In addition to viewing situations in extremes, we also tend to view ourselves and others in terms of extremes.  One particularly destructive form of polarization is scum/saint thinking.  We view ourselves and others as either scums or saints.  The reality is that we do good things and we do bad things.  We are human beings that make mistakes.  Sometimes we even act with intent to harm.  But we can also be caring and loving and self-sacrificing.  When we view people as only one way, we distort the reality of the human condition. 

Polarization leads to unhealthy thinking, which leads to unhealthy behaviors.  For instance, if we see ourselves as scum, and especially if we couple that with viewing others as saints, we condemn ourselves, leading to depression and despair.  Or we may see ourselves as saints.  This leads to condemnation of others, thinking ‘I would never do that.’  We remove the caring, nurturing component from our relationships and replace it with pride and arrogance.  And that easily leads to a fall.  It is like having a blind spot on a car.  If you cannot see what is coming, you may move into another lane and cause an accident.  Similarly, if you have ‘blind spots’ in your character, you will not be alert to temptations and danger areas in your life.  Romans 12:3b says, ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” 

Selective Abstraction:  Missing the Forest for the Trees
Abstraction is similar to polarization except instead of seeing an event in all black or all white, we shorten our focus even more and concentrate on only one aspect of the event.  And it’s usually a negative aspect.  We may have worked hard all day and been successful in many tasks, but at the end of the day, all we can think about is the one task we didn’t have time to complete.  Perhaps we went to a social gathering and we were gracious and kind and personable.  There was just that one instance when we made a joke and no one ‘got it.’  We leave the gathering feeling like a social failure, forgetting about all the wonderful conversations we had and focusing only on the failed joke.

This type of distortion is common to all of us and it is part of our nature to focus on ‘that one negative.’  We need to actively fight against this lie by taking an honest inventory of ourselves and our behavior.  In any recovery or twelve-step program, taking an inventory of ourselves is an important step.  Most people’s tendency, however, is to inventory only their sins and negative behaviors.  But it is equally important to identify our positive qualities and to acknowledge when we have done good things.  A daily inventory, taking into account both our flaws and the good aspects of our character, can help us stay on the right track and help us resist our tendency to focus on the negative.

Overgeneralization:  History Always Repeats Itself
This lie can distort our future, causing exactly what we don’t want to happen – to happen.  This lie tells us that nothing ever changes, that our future is based on the events of our past.  You’ve always been fat, so you’ll always be fat.  You fight with your spouse all the time, so you can expect more of the same for the rest of your marriage.  You’ve always been a worrier and you won’t be able to change that mindset.  You never worked on a computer before, so you’ll never be able to learn now.  You failed the last exam, so you will most likely fail the next one, too.

Overgeneralization can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Let’s walk through that last example - you failed an exam, so you believe you will fail the next one, too.  If you do pass the next exam, you believe it is a ‘fluke’ and you’ll be back to failing again soon.  You are tense, anticipating the future failure.  This makes it difficult to concentrate and study.  This makes you doubt your ability to retain information.  You are so upset about failing that you freeze while you are taking the test…leading to a failing grade. 

The truth is that we can change.  We do not need to be doomed to failing another exam.  The sooner we can identify and rid ourselves of these lies, the sooner we will be able to live up to our true full potential.  With God our past is never final.  As Philippians 4:13 says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

Emotional Reasoning:  Feelings Equals Facts
This may be the most common and dangerous of the distortion lies.  Our feelings are so dominant and so hard to control that they easily become the focal point of our lives.  It starts when we wake up in the morning – do we feel good about the day to come, looking forward to it?  Or is it hard to get out of bed – our joints hurt or perhaps some project is looming before us and we don’t feel like dealing with it.  The day continues with our feelings leading the way.  We are anxious because we’re late to work and the line at the store is taking such a long time.  We know the day will be a bad one.  Then someone lets us go in front of them in line.  OK, maybe the day won’t be so bad – we have a moment of hope and peace.  But then the next event occurs….and on and on.  We become swayed by the wind of circumstances and the day is not our own. 

We need to stand guard against letting our feelings lead the way.  Feelings easily change and if we don’t control them, they will dominant us, making our daily lives unpredictable and chaotic.  The truth is that feelings are important and should not be disregarded.  They are good indicators of the reality we live in.  But they are not the reality itself.  Feeling something does not make it true.  It can feel right to me that 2 and 2 equals 5.  But it doesn’t – it equals 4.  Feelings are not superior to facts.  We can and should take our feelings into account, but wise decisions are made primarily on the facts.

Many of the lies we believe about ourselves come from emotional reasoning.  Our reasoning tells us that since we feel worthless, we are worthless.  We feel incompetent, therefore we are incompetent.  We feel ugly, therefore we are ugly.  We probably do fail at times.  And sometimes we do bad things.  And sometimes we have bad hair days.  But that does not mean we are ugly, incompetent or worthless.  It is very difficult to counter emotional reasoning, however, because we accept our feelings as facts.  And who can argue with facts?  We can – and we need to argue with them.  We need to question our feelings and look beyond them.  Only then can we see our circumstances objectively and start changing our thinking, which ultimately will change our behavior and change our lives. 

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  1 Corinthians 13:12

  1. Magnification – Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill & Minimization.  Are you often triggered by a small event; do you often make mountains out of molehills?  Have you ever minimized a situation?
  2. Personalization – Taking Everything Personally.  Share an event (past or present) that you took personally.  Now assume the person’s actions had nothing to do with you - identify three reasons they may have acted as they did.
  3. Polarization – Making Everything Black or White.  Share a time when a situation you thought was completely negative turned out to have some positives as well.
  4. Selective Abstraction – Missing the Forest for the Trees.  Do you tend to look at the one negative aspect of a situation, ignoring all the positives?  Have you taken an objective inventory of your life, listing both positives and negatives?
  5. Overgeneralization – History Always Repeats Itself.  Is there a situation in your or someone else’s life that is happening as a result of a self-fulfilling prophesy (i.e., it happened like that before, so it will again)?
  6. Emotional Reasoning – Accepting Feelings as Facts.  Share a feeling you have about yourself, another person or a situation.  And then explore the facts and determine whether or not your feelings line up with the facts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

THE LIES WE BELIEVE - Religious/God Lies Part 2


Review from last week…
Lie #1 God's Love Must Be Earned
#2 God Hates the Sin & the Sinner
#3 Because I’m a Christian, God will protect me from pain & suffering

#4  All My Problems Are Caused by My Sins

#5 It Is My Christian Duty to Meet All the Needs of Others

 “A good Christian never says NO.”

        Review Characteristics of Codependency (audio)

Caretaking Versus
Caring For
/ Caregiving
1. When I caretake, I assume responsibility for meeting the needs of others -- even those needs which they should meet without me.
When I care for, I do not do for others what they can and should do for themselves. I do for others what they truly need me to do.
2. When I caretake, I feel responsible for the feelings of others. If they are happy, I take credit; if they are sad, it is my fault.
When I care for, I recognize that my behavior affects others. However, I know that it is their reaction to my behavior that produces their feelings. Therefore, I do not assume responsibility for the emotional states of others.
3. When I caretake, I expect others to live up to my expectations "for their own good." If they do not do it my way, I get upset. When I care for, I make no demands of others. If their behavior goes against my advice, I do not become upset.
4. When I caretake, I often try to control and manipulate others into doing things "my way." If it turns out right, I can take the credit; but if it turns out wrong, I feel guilty or else blame others. When I care for, I do not control. I give others the freedom to make their own mistakes and experience no guilt or blame when they do.
5. When I caretake, I focus so much on the needs of others that I neglect my own needs -- maybe even lose a healthy sense of what my needs are. When I care for, I remain alert to my needs and consider meeting my own needs as important as meeting the needs of others.
6. When I caretake, I see others as an extension of myself.
Therefore, I do not really see them for themselves; I see them for myself. I have lost my boundaries in the relationship. When I care for, I retain a sense of my own boundaries. I can see other people for who they are in themselves.
7. When I caretake, I often feel tired, burdened, and resentful because so much of my personal energy is tied up in the welfare of others.
When I care for, I feel relaxed, free, and peaceful because I have more energy within myself.
8. When I caretake, I do not love others. When I care for, I truly love others.

NOTE -- Codependency should not be confused with unselfish acts of love – that is why the Holy Spirit must be our guide in giving/serving and evaluating of our motives.  DISCUSS

Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More developed this check list:

Do you feel responsible for other people--their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny?

Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings?

Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?

Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others?

Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?

Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don't have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with?

Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems?

Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?

Do you stay in relationships that don't work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you?

Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that don't work, either?

Was Jesus a Codependent?
Many would answer "Yes" based on the following characteristics of Jesus that are typical of codependents:
  • Jesus was selfless.
  • Jesus was a servant.
  • Jesus gave up his life for others.
  • Jesus cared deeply about people who were hurting.
  • Jesus tried to fix hurting people.
All those characteristics fit Jesus; however, Jesus was NOT a codependent. He was able to care, sacrifice, give, love, and help in a healthy rather than a codependent way. Consider the following:
  • Jesus was selfless by giving himself over to God's will but not the will of those he served. Even though he surrendered his own desires to God, he never lost sight of who he was (the Son of God) and what his mission was (to bring salvation to mankind). Codependents lose themselves and their purpose.
  • Jesus was a servant, but he only did things for people that helped them to better themselves. His service was a demonstration of God's love that always pointed them to a better way. He wasn't a doormat, nor was he controlled by the demands of those he served. Codependents are driven by the demands of others.
  • Jesus gave up his actual life for others when it was the appointed time. Prior to that even though he ministered to others daily, he took care of himself. He rested. He took time to nurture his relationship with God and his close disciples. He ate. And, he had boundaries that protected him when people tried to harm him prematurely. Codependents don't take care of themselves.
  • Jesus cared deeply about the people who were hurting emotionally, spiritually, and physically and that concern propelled him to help. However, he didn't allow it to keep him from holding people accountable for their sin; therefore, he wasn't an enabler. Codependents concern for the hurting leads to enabling.
  • Jesus tried to fix hurting people by offering them eternal life and the truth about God, but he didn't try to force them to accept it. When people turned him down, he allowed them to walk away because he respected their right to make their own choices. Codependents try to force people to do what they think is right.
So even though it appears that Jesus was the first Christian codependent, he was not; instead, he was a perfect example of how to care for others in a healthy way.

Take heart.. listen to the word of the Lord... the burdens you bear as it relates to relationships/ especially those that are unhealthy..
God's will and provision:
Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Monday, April 2, 2012

THE LIES WE BELIEVE - Religious/God Lies Part 1


"Our minds are stuck in a rut, a pattern of thinking that is antagonistic to the will of God. Successful Christian lving depends on getting out of the rut and establishing another one that is characterized by biblical values and ways of thinking" ~Doug Moo

Listen to the audio for full lesson....
Lie #1 God's Love Must Be Earned
  Overcoming it:
  1. The Word -- 
Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
2 Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  2. Community
  3. Pay attention to how often God does loving things when you are not necessarily living your life properly

Lie #2 God Hates the Sin & the Sinner
Lie #3 Because I’m a Christian, God will protect me from pain & suffering
Being a Christian means more troubles for two reasons:
-        we are asked to die to our selfish desires & live for God on HIS terms
-        we will be persecuted for standing up for Christ by a world that rejects Him.
Both inescapable realities make it a difficult life to live.

Lie #4  All My Problems Are Caused by My Sins

#5 It Is My Christian Duty to Meet All the Needs of Others

 “A good Christian never says NO.”
The Compulsion to Fix the Dysfunctional Family: Minirth and Meier tell us: "We all possess a primal need to recreate the familiar, the original family situation, even if the familiar, the situation, is destructive and painful" (Ibid., p. 65). Why would anyone want to recreate a painful situation? Because we are compelled by our unconscious minds that actually control (we are told) eighty percent of our decisions (apparently without our conscious knowledge; Ibid., p. 65). But why would we "unconsciously" choose to put ourselves through such pain? Consider the following three reasons given by followers of codependency:
(a) We believe that if the original situation can be drummed back into existence, this time around we can fix it. We can cure the pain. We know we can! The codependent possesses a powerful need to go back and fix what was wrong; he must cure the original pain.
(b) We believe that we were responsible for the rotten original family; therefore, we must be punished -- we deserve pain. Codependents may actually be hooked on misery.
(c) We believe that there is that yearning for the familiar and the secure. Even if the past was painful, at least it was home.
        Characteristics of Codependency
1. External reference. Codependents are focused on other people as the source of their happiness and/or pain.

2. Controlling behavior. Because other people are responsible for the codependent's happiness, codependents attempt to influence these others to act approvingly toward the codependent. Several strategies are employed:
a. People-pleasing. Doing what the' other likes or wants, even when the codependent does not feel like doing it or when it goes against his or her values.
b. Caretaking or enabling behavior. Doing for others what they can and should do for themselves. Taking over the responsibilities of others and lying for others.
c. Approval-seeking. Doing or saying what will impress others to gain their approval -- even if it means exaggerating or being dishonest.
d. Nagging and criticizing. If others cannot be influenced through people-pleasing, caretaking, and approval-seeking behavior, then the codependent attempts to influence them through shame and disapproval.

3. Emotional pain. Codependents are usually afraid of losing the persons upon whom they are focused. They also feel guilty about some of their people-pleasing and caretaking behaviors. They are hurt, angry, and resentful toward others because of the way these others treat them. They feel a sense of inadequacy and failure because they are frequently rejected. And finally, they feel very lonely.

4. Rigid defense system. Instead of openly expressing their inner pain, codependents distort this pain through defensive strategies that minimize the seriousness of their predicament. They deny and minimize their problems, attack those who question them about their feelings, blame others (such as the children) for their unhealthy relationship, rationalize and justify their situation, or simply remain silent about what's going on inside themselves. As a result of these defenses, codependents get no relief from their emotional pain and continue to accumulate fear, guilt, shame, and resentment. They are very miserable inside and frequently resort to addictions (food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, and so forth) to deal with this pain.

5. Delusional beliefs. Codependents believe that the relationship is "not all that bad" and "will get better." Even after being abused many times by another, they think, "This time he really means it!" They also believe that eventually they will be successful at controlling others if they can find the right combination of enabling, people-pleasing, and approval-seeking behaviors.

6. Loss of self As a result of focusing on others, denying themselves, compromising their values, and holding their pain inside, codependents eventually lose touch with their own inner dynamism. This loss of self, in turn, moves them to focus more intently on getting other people to give them what they lack inside, mainly self-esteem and self-love. Because one person cannot give another self-esteem and self-love, the codependent's loss of self only intensifies.

7. Martyr complex. In an attempt to salvage a sense of self- worth, codependents sometimes view themselves as victims and martyrs. Lacking self-love, they use self-pity as a way to assuage their inner pain. When others say, "I don't know how you can live with him; you must be a saint," codependents feel validated as martyrs.

To be continued.... Part 2 .. Next week


1.    As you consider where your religious/ God lies have come from – where/ who do you believe you received your perception from the most? 
2.    Discuss the lies presented tonight and how you personally relate or do not relate to them:
#1 God's Love Must Be Earned
  If you have believed this in the past, how have you or are you overcoming it?
#2 God Hates the Sin & the Sinner
#3 Because I’m a Christian, God will protect me from pain & suffering

#4  All My Problems Are Caused by My Sins

#5 It Is My Christian Duty to Meet All the Needs of Others

 “A good Christian never says NO.” – Discuss the information presented on codependency.  Characteristics, caretaking vs caregiving, was Jesus a codependent?