Tag Archive: character defects


Amendment to my POE

Weight is not valueDear Sponsor,

I got on the scale yesterday and discovered an undesirable weight change has crept upon me. Since I haven’t weighed in several months, I am not greatly disturbed by this discovery, but I am prompted to make some changes in my daily Plan of Eating (POE). My daily calorie intake goal had been 2150, due to my continued weight loss at the standard 2000. Since that no longer seems to be the case, I am dropping to the standard 2000 until things level off.

In practice, I plan to eliminate:

  • the half serving of raw almonds from my typical lunch (75 Kcal.)
  • one half serving of almond butter from typical dinner (100 Kcal.)
  • though the above represents 175 calories, I am committed to reducing the daily target by 150 calories, whether the “typical” meals are on the menu for any given day or not.

I haven’t written much lately, but great changes are taking place regarding my personal development. I was recently reawakened to the existence of my character defect of wrath as expressed by outbursts of rage, harsh criticism, and verbal condemnation. While addressing this defect in prayer, I was convicted that is is correlated to my habit of judgement, for which I am responsible. When I look at these and the way they correspond to my progress regarding food and weight, I am reminded that I cannot control my weight, but I am responsible for my food choices. When I make healthy food choices according to properly administered limits, there is a corresponding body weight change. I cannot merely pray that God remove my excess weight while eating whatever I want whenever I crave it, and neither can I stew in my hateful judgement and expect God to remove my character defect of wrath. I have some habits to change. So, I am addressing each instance of judgment much like I would a craving for food, cigarettes, booze, or any other toxin. I recognize it as judgement, turn from it, turn to God in prayer, and relinquish the craving to His care and control, offering the outcome to Him. So far, it works when I work it.

Another development in my life is the halfway mark in Nursing School. I would never have imagined it would be this difficult. I don’t know how much of my problem is that I am an adult learner returning to school in middle-age, or just that I have become an unteachable know-it-all who refuses to learn the new language of Nursing Academia. I can’t control the first option, but I have full control over the second, so I repeatedly pray that God will make me teachable, that I will study the right materials with focus, retain what I need, and be able to recall with clarity the answers I am called upon to know. I have been counseled by professors that I “overthink” exam questions, but I don’t really understand how overthinking can be a bad thing. I guess what they mean is I over-create details that aren’t written, or imagine what-if scenarios that aren’t articulated in the perfect vacuum of an exam. In my previous career, second and third guessing was routine, any possible outcome or precipitating cause had to be explored, and life balanced on my ability to anticipate the unimaginable. Now, in the world of the Nursing Student, my hyper-vigilance is considered an attention deficit, one I have to rein in or else. As a matter of fact, this very blog post represents a digression from my studies.

Because of that, I can’t really go into detail about the other personal development, but it’s huge. It involves the recognition of abuse in my life, forgiveness offered, and amends being lived out. I really must tell you about it soon.

 

(prayer) Holy Father, make me teachable. Relieve me from the bondage of self, especially as it relates to wrath, and help me cease this habit of judgment since it only serves to alienate me from Your children You put me on this Earth to serve in love. Thank You for progress. Thank You for grace. Help me live so saturated in it that, when I open my mouth or hands to share, Your grace is all that flows out. May Your will be done in every aspect of my life as it is in Heaven.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

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A Harmful Outburst

I am prompted to write due to an outburst of rage, my most damaging character defect. My closing thoughts last night after a rather shallow personal inventory were:

And if they don’t like it they can have a big ol’ bowl of ‘bite-me!’ and a swig of ‘suck-it!’ to wash it down!

Fit spiritual condition? I think not. I warn any who have me on a pedestal to get me off it now, ’cause today’s post reveals a whole lot of crazy in one man!

Frustration, on a bed of fear and vain disappointment, set in a condition of shame and regret was my excuse for lashing out at the faulty wall switch in our dining room, its plastic cover plate, and the surrounding bit of drywall this morning as I searched in vain for a missing item. These materials and my hand suffered harm while the dogs cowered in what looked like helpless terror a short distance away. My anger, now bathed in a new bucket of shame and disgust at this atrocious failure, roared at the frightened animals, but struck an inanimate card table which has been gaining my annoyed attention over the past few days. That table represents the amends I have been paying for years, doing most of the household chores to make up for the years of doing next to none. Erected semi-regularly so I can fold and sort laundry, it occasionally remains in an unwelcome position where it gathers clutter. There it stood this morning as a monument in my living room to a new resentment I harbor for all those whose contributions to the household seem smaller than I deserve. Cluttered and smug, it stood in my way. As I searched its leaves for the fruit I was seeking, I found none and overturned it with a kick. More harm done? Likely. Dang it!

When I finally recognized the shape I was in, took a few breaths, and let a thought pierce the cloudy fog that had enveloped me, I found my missing item and went out the door for a run. I saw the sparkles on the water that I normally celebrate as God’s fireworks show just for me, and they were especially bright today, but I could not enjoy them.

In Your blinding glory, Lord, who can stand? Certainly not me!

My music player was set on my “inspirational” playlist and, song after song, I was reminded of the grace that keeps me, and how none of it comes as a result of me toeing any line or paying any price. None of it comes because I am perfect, without defect, or flaw, but because Jesus is, and was willing to die for me – an angry, fat-headed, compulsive, self-serving, lying hoarder of property, food, and self-will. There was nothing about me that made me redeemable; it was all on account of my Redeemer!

My outrageous behavior left marks for which I am responsible, and my fearful and ashamed condition are the result of lazy procrastination, so I have work to go do. Instead of only studying for a test today for which I am underprepared, I now have messes to clean up and a wall to repair.

Holy Father, today, save me from myself! Thank You for the knowledge that I cannot throw myself, even in a tantrum, out of Your loving care.

Emotional emptiness

IMG_3271.JPGThere is a litmus test for indicating what our primary concern is, and it tattles on me every time I get the hollow feeling in me that I have now. When I am fulfilled it is because I have turned loose of selfish fear and embraced God’s provision and grace. When I am feeling empty, it is because I am clinging to something I either cannot have or am afraid to lose. Fear or faith – those are the only two choices that really matter, and they present themselves at every single crossroad.

Working this current fear all the way through looks like this:

  • I resent (Person X) for intentionally avoiding me.
  • This relates to my personal pride, sex relations, my sense of security, and my fear of rejection and abandonment.
  • How have these emotions displayed themselves in defective character? I have been abrupt, impatient, insensitive, demanding, and generally crappy to live with.
  • What are natural responses to behaviors like the ones I have perpetrated? Repulsion. A person so victimized would be wise to limit interactions with such a hurtful character, and might do well to come up with creative alternatives to spending time with me. This is the very behavior I resented in the first place, and it stings to recognize I promoted it.
  • There is one solution: stop the cycle. The more I react in the natural way, the more of the natural reaction I can expect. This insane cycle requires a supernatural solution. That’s where grace comes in!

Grace reminds me that I have been forgiven a whole lot worse things than just giving somebody a cold shoulder, so I can forgive a chilly breeze when it comes across my cheek, and I can do it without the wounded baby passive aggression that seems to come so naturally to me. It means I should be able to suck it up and be supportive of my wife, who may have something completely not me going on in her life right now and, in her own spiritual sickness, might just need a little quiet reassuring rather than selfish demanding.

Holy Father, today, give me grace to forgive, strength to serve without expecting in return, and faith to believe in a better day.

“The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 68).

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The OCD in me wants to point out that this is my 1000th post, but I don’t feel much like celebrating.

20140726-083952-31192187.jpgLast night while I was trying to sleep after a day filled with failures and character defects in full bloom, it occurred to me that maybe my Tenth Step work needs some help. I opened Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the original AA one.

Before I turned to Step Ten, I finished reading the rest of Step Seven, the chapter my home meeting group didn’t quite get through last week.There I found the one statement in the book to which I was introduced years before my coming to program, and which I still see as the book’s primary highlight (although I am infinitely grateful for the rest of it too):

The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear – primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing those demands. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, “Step Seven”)

That passage was originally introduced to me by a marriage counselor in session. Maybe he sensed I was an addicted person and maybe this trouble is just common to all humans, but my unsatisfied demands were a chain around my neck then and perhaps they still are. My closest relationships are where they most readily reveal that they remain cinched around my throat. The links of anger, hurt feelings, disappointment, and inadequacy pinch and tear away flesh under the weight of fear, and I am powerless, by myself, to cast them off.

Step Ten told me, however, that

…no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, “Step Ten”

The Our Daily Bread devotional today, written by Julie Ackerman Link, was based on a reference to Isaiah 17:1 and 11, and said in part:

Apart from God, the work of our hands will become a pile of ruins. But when we join with God in the work of His hands, God multiplies our effort and provides spiritual nourishment for many.

The devotion closed with a quote from Jesus Christ:

“Without Me you can do nothing.” —Jesus (John 15:5)

Dear Father, today, I confess that I have been running along on my own way without enjoying my fulfilling relationship with You. As I wandered, I began to feel the grip of Self and it’s defective character choking me and my other relationships. Thank You for the reminder. Forgive my selfish ways, Lord, and deliver me from them. I am so helpless without You. Please lead me in Your Way, so I don’t run ahead of myself again. I willingly submit to Your guidance.

Despised? Dance!

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you* on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
Footnotes: *Luke 6:22 Gk cast out your name as evil
(Luke 6:22-23, NRSV)

20140331-094429.jpgSunday, I got a little riled because I felt my name had been cast out as evil when I was identified by one of my character defects during a Bible study. I felt as though I had been singled out as “argumentative” when what was actually happening was that my Bible study facilitator, who was insecure about a writing he brought to share, was soliciting my input as a way to balance it out and to respond to the questions it raised in his own mind. What he actually said was I was “good at arguing” and implied that he meant in defense of Scripture. The beatitudes were even a part of the discussion, though this one was clearly not in my selfish, fearful mind at the time. Had it been, my face should have shown with the radiance of Stephen, but instead I just burned up with hurt.

This reminds me that when fear is near, Self is at the helm of my ship. As soon as I got disturbed I should have recognized that, rather than stewing about it and making matters worse.

When fear comes, and I am conscious of it, I like to play it out to the worst case scenario, and then admit that, even then, God would still be in charge and could use it for His glory. Even in this, the worst case scenario would be that my friend actually did despise me as an argumentative ass and everyone in the room decided to believe him and despise me too. That is highly unlikely, as this roomful of people constitutes the greatest group of loving souls with which I have ever had the pleasure to surround myself. But even so, the Bible says when I am cast out as evil on account of the Son of Man it’s time for a happy dance, not a pity party.

Since I stepped out of the muck of selfish fear regarding that moment, I have received affirmation that my contributions to the class are valued and not despised. The thief was merely trying to steal my joy, testimony, and prayer power that day. I will not surrender them again so easily.

Dear Father, today, help me to remember that it is better to be wronged than to defend my selfishness; better to be unloved than to withhold love; better to be despised for Your Name than to be esteemed by the world for being like it. Help me to lovingly serve all I can today and harm none. Help me to extinguish the insecurities of self that I may be free to selflessly serve You and Yours.