This post is an excerpt of Choosing Change #12: Building Character and Building People. It is also connected to another excerpt, Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological Goals, Activities and Skills)
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Theological) – Printer-friendly version
Thank you for taking time to examine how the integration of these goals, activities, and skills could help you to produce and enjoy the Triangle of Well-being and the experience of good Interpersonal Neurobiology between you and others in your life!
I encourage you to keep these strategies close by and to review them regularly to create the effective linkages that your brain will retrieve when you most need them. By all means add other solution-oriented values, virtues, behaviors, and practices that help you to become productive, proficient, wise and above all, skilled at living (the meaning of the Greek word Sophia)!
So in closing this post, let’s travel to the Study area of your home, where we’ll look at how integrated information is spoken by Jesus and recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) not only facilitates a functional Triangle of Well-being but it also helps to develop good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others.
Remember, a core component in these latter posts in the Choosing Change series that compliments Dr. Siegel’s River of Integration work is found in Matthew 7:24-25, in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (TNIV)
The Agape-oriented suggestions listed below are few in number but are very powerful, and I dare say life-changing when implemented, especially when integrated with Dr. Siegel’s research from the Psychological Goals, Activites and Skills worksheet.
Here are links to the three chapters that contain the Sermon on the Mount discourse: Matthew 5; Matthew 6; Matthew 7. As time permits read through and “study” the three chapters in your Study, taking and applying what you can, to the best of your abilities. There is no judgment nor will there be a test over what you can or can’t do. Just try to integrate and apply the principles for your personal benefit and for the benefit of others close to you. Thank you for your willingness to positively and constructively change your mind and your relationships!
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Theological Goals, Activities and Skills)
As conveyed with the Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological) chart, your overall goal is to upload and integrate into your brain and mind concepts, strategies, and behaviors that will assist you to “keep your boat afloat and moving” in the River of Integration. As outlined in the chart, your sub-goals are to identify, integrate and become good at behaviors that create flexibility, adjustability, connection, flow, congruence, and dependability.
Equally, remember that you’re studying these scriptures to extract principles, guidelines and meaning to accomplish two important objectives. First, to give your brain and mind the opportunity to develop new skills that will help you to be more aware, deliberate, considerate and intentional regarding what you’ll do and how you’ll act on the energy and information that is flowing within your brain and mind.
Second, to assist you to build better and stronger relationships that are therapeutic, life-enhancing, spiritual and which reflect safety, harmony, respect, empowerment, and care.
So let’s take a closer look at the material in this chart. As we did with the other chart, we’ll start with a brief look at what you don’t want to do, which is get stuck on the banks of Chaos or Rigidity. Then we’ll take a look at the behaviors you do want to do consistently, to help you to be successful in your positive and forward movement in the River of Integration.
The Shores of Chaos and Rigidity (Theological)
Here, the upper shore still facilitates Chaos (to borrow Dr. Siegel’s term), as indicated by behaviors that create distress, disorder, trauma, defensiveness, regression, and reactivity. Going forward, the words in bold are not Dr. Siegel’s but are emphasized by me.
From the start, we see that our engagement in actions where we behave virulently (Matthew 5:4; by disregarding the inclusion of sound theological principles intended to help us and others become better people) in addition to engaging in unreasonable and rageful behavior (Matthew 5:21-22), is harmful, traumatic and cause ruptures in our relationships that we’ll eventually need to repair.
In addition, when we engage in speech or actions that project toxic shame onto others or views them contemptuously (Matthew 5:22), which are both stances that devalue others and are a reflection of treating them as if they’re not human beings deserving of dignity and respect, then we’re setting ourselves and them up for chaotic outcomes that will result in emotional dysregulation.
Finally, by creating experiences that trigger the emotions of fear, worry, dread, panic or anxiety (Matthew 6:25-33), in addition to the demonstration of behaviors that belittle, judge, control, or assassinates the character of others (Matthew 7:1-4), means we’ll contaminate or do damage to relationships that are deserving of the practice of harmony, peace, and attunement.
The lower shore of the river is still conceptualized as Rigidity, as indicated by behaviors that cause hurt, confusion, disconnection, neglect, and calamity.
On this shore, relationship damage is caused when we try to shape the impression others have of us (Matthew 6:1-2) by gaslighting their reality and/or presenting ourselves as something that we’re not. Further relational damage is caused by our engagement in duplicitous or hypocritical behavior (Matthew 6:16) because unsafe behavior results in mistrust, and mistrust leads to emotional dysregulation, insecure and disorganized attachments and ruptures in relationships.
Finally, by not being mindful nor implementing boundaries regarding what stimulates or impacts our brain (Matthew 6:22), we open ourselves up to images or stimuli that could potentially traumatize us or others in our family system. Compounded trauma or damage could be done to children by being harsh, inconsiderate or insensitive (Matthew 7:9-10), while careless or entitled behavior (Matthew 7:26-27) in family relationships could create catastrophic outcomes which could adversely impact the legacy you’d like to leave.
If you can identify with any part of getting stuck on either the Chaotic or Rigid shores of the River of Integration, I have a few questions for you:
- What unwanted or unplanned impression might you leave with a family member by not practicing what you preach? What, if any, damage might you have incurred as a result of this stance?
- What impact would be made by allowing rageful or contempt for others to saturate your home environment? What maladaptive schemas have you noticed that’s connected to this behavior?
- What is the impact of anxiety-related symptoms on you and others in your family? What maladaptive schemas modes (fight, flight, freeze, feign) have been employed as a way to cope with this symptomatic behavior?
- What could be the “payoff” for “taking the inventory of others” and/or trying to control them or outcomes in their lives? How are they resisting your effort?
- What’s the function of your engagement in impression management? Duplicity? Hypocrisy? What character defect(s) are you attempting to cover up or distract attention from?
- What have you focused or fixated on (with your eyes, and subsequently your brain and mind) that’s been detrimental to the health in the family system?
- Have you encountered any adverse impact from being exasperating or insensitive to your children? What occurred but more importantly, what repair needs to be done?
- Is there some fundamental or characterological flaw in your behavior that needs immediate attention, and without intervention, treatment or change, you or loved ones may experience devastating consequences?
Thanks for taking a Time-In to Reflect and consider how you got to either the Chaotic or Rigid shore, but now, as you continue with the Theological table, let’s take a look at some of the goals, activities, and skills that if developed and practiced, could assist you to create and/or enhance your Triangle of Well-being along with developing and enjoying good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
As mentioned earlier, you’re encouraged to implement and practice these behaviors to give your brain new opportunities to grow and your mind new skills to develop and master, which tend to facilitate healthier and stronger bonds in your relationships.
Don’t forget to keep an “O-P-E-N M-I-N-D” regarding how these Agape-oriented values and Theological principles, along with the Psychological goals, activities, and skills could help you to travel effectively on your own personal “River of Integration.”
In addition, as you did earlier, remember what you’ll want to focus on, acquire, include and change, because you have goals to set, skills to develop, tools to become proficient with and life experiences to transform.
Finally, I encourage you to remember that you’re doing this because the identified values of flexibility, adjustability, connection, flow, congruence, and dependability are tools that are already in the boat with you, and they’ll be just as useful to you now as when you first became aware of them. So let’s take a look at what insights we can extract in the Theological River of Integration.
Insights from Column #1 in the River of Integration (Theological)
No one gets married or starts a family with the intention of creating hurt, causing harm or inflicting trauma on others that results in unbearable devastation. On the contrary, many have exchanged wedding vows fully intending to live them out for the remainder of their life with commitment and purpose; not by wreaking havoc, fear, rupture or posttraumatic stress experiences upon their spouse or family. Joy, happiness, love, connection and other virtues were on the radar on the wedding day of most, not conceit, abuse, neglect, hardheartedness or violence.
Unfortunately for some, as life unfolded and issues arose, the secure base you dutifully worked on or thought you had eroded and gave way to dishonesty, deception, depression, harm or other unsafe experiences fraught with feelings of anger, pain, resentment, overwhelm, loneliness, confusion, hopelessness or despair.
Do you know someone whose life has been pockmarked with experiences like this, who never asked for, dreamed of, nor planned or wanted to do life or have it unfold quite like this?
Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29 – 37)? Perhaps like me, you too might identify with the all of the roles Jesus described: The Robber (who was an “Unhealed Wounder”), the Religious men (who were hypocritical and behaved unconscionably), and the Samaritan (who functioned as a “Wounded Healer”). It’s hard to believe, but with the complexity of life, we can be all three at once, or at least at various moments in our life. Regardless of our past, hopefully, we’d prefer, strive to be, and live in the role of the Samaritan, who stopped to help someone in dire need of assistance because their life (or death) depended upon our immediate and compassionate response.
This is where I’d like for you to think about entering the River of Integration. It’s my reality, and more than likely, when you seek the services of a Pastor, Psychologist or Therapist, it’s your reality too. You may have experienced (or inflicted) behaviors that caused heartache, trauma, embarrassment, guilt or shame, and someone you know (or that person may even be you) is lying on the side of the road in need of assistance. So I have a question for you:
When others in your life are worried, fearful, ashamed, depressed, hurting, lonely, guilt-ridden, or devastated, what’s your response to their situation?
In one of the first verses in the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus instructing us to impart comfort to those who hurt and are mourning (Matthew 5:4), or who are grieving over losses that are connected to their current life situation. The word for Comfort (Parakaleo) means to “aid, comfort, console, lessen their grief, sorrow or disappointment” via some form of action that resembles and looks a lot like counseling (definition from the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible).
He also asks us to integrate mercy (Matthew 5:7), which by definition means we engage in behavior that alleviates the suffering experience of others. Jesus not only wants us to engage in and deliver a merciful response when mercy is needed, but He desires for the act of mercy to originate from a heart (or state of mind) that has internalized, is guided by, committed to a lifestyle and eventually demonstrates mercy.
It also makes sense that living a life that plants, cultivates, waters, protects, harvests, cooks, then serves up the virtue of Peace (Matthew 5:9) that is nourishing to oneself and to others helps to create an environment where Secure attachments have a chance to grow, versus the growth and proliferation of Insecure, Avoidant, Anxious or Disorganized attachments. Remember, we learn best when our brains and our relationships are calm, nurturing, connected, secure and safe. So when I’m hurting, perhaps I need compassion, when I’m at my wit’s end, perhaps I need mercy, and when I’m rattled because of internal or external strife, perhaps I need to experience peace.
Identifying, practicing, living by and modeling Agape-oriented values that stimulate, add to and enhance the personal and relational growth of your family members is what I interpret Jesus to be getting at in Matthew 5:13 – 16; Matthew 5:19 – 20).
Activities for Column #1 (Theological):
- Think about 2 times in your life when you were hurting and you needed and received some form of comfort, tenderness, kindness, understanding or compassion from another person. Do you recall the words or actions they delivered to you? Jot dot their behaviors and try to demonstrate responses like this the next time someone close to you is hurting and in need of a comforting response from you.
- Think about the last time you engaged in conflict with a family member, then take a large piece of paper and draw a box, leaving space outside of the box to record additional words. This is your “Problem Solving Box.” Inside of your problem-solving box record only the values (List of 442 Agape-Oriented Values) that you’ll draw from and practice when dysregulation, conflict and relationship strife that disrupts peace occurs. On the outside of the box, record those behaviors that you know are out of bounds. Share this with a family member and commit to practicing and doing only your problem-solving behaviors.
- Take a look at the Agape-oriented behaviors in the LoveWorks post (Letter “A” here). Which of the value-rich characteristics would you like to be known and identified with as personifying? Which characteristics will you implement because they’ll help you to co-regulate with your spouse or family member? Which characteristics will you be responsible for modeling because they make positive impressions in your family system? Take time to seek the input of your family, querying them about their needs and wants from you.
Insights from Column #2 in the River of Integration (Theological)
Keep in mind that emotional dysregulation prevents you from experiencing emotional balance, and when your emotional balance is disrupted or dysregulated, you’re prone to engage in behaviors that create conflict and “robs” others of their internal peace.
I think this is one of the prime reasons why Jesus encourages us to initiate reconciliation whenever there’s a rupture in our relationships (Matthew 5:23-24), and to settle these conflictual and adversarial matters quickly (Matthew 5:25), especially with people who may have adversarial feelings and viewpoints with us.
The simple definition of Reconciliation (Katallaso) calls for us “to lay aside any and all wrathful behavior and to simultaneously impart peaceful behavior.” The benefit of engaging in behavior that facilitates calm and peace quickly is twofold:
First, I abort and avoid piloting a plane (er, brain) to an unwanted, unnecessary or dark place that I or my family member would more than likely like to avoid as well. There’s not much good that occurs when I allow resentment, “victim posturing” and self-pity to “hijack” my brain, where typically I crash land on the banks of Chaos or Rigid behavior. It’s a great benefit to me and others if I avoid this occurrence.
The second benefit to settling matters quickly is that I’m not only getting better at practicing and living by values that make sense to me, but I’m also building linkages in my Middle Prefrontal Cortex that help me to retrieve insights, ideas, and strategies to problem solve issues much sooner! This psychological and theological mix helps me to focus on and deliver much-needed values like empathy, sympathy, compassion, and forgiveness immediately, rather than walk by or ignore a wounded family member who desperately needs this therapeutic and curative response!
When I access and implement cortical override strategies like this, it helps me to “be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). The outcomes from employing and living by Agape-oriented principles like this is that I’m going to treat women, children, and men better (Matthew 5:27-28), with one of the most significant payoffs being that I’m safeguarding my marriage (Matthew 5:31-32) because I’m not causing nor ignoring relationship ruptures but I’m providing decisive and intentional responses (Matthew 5:33-37) that rebuild trust and facilitate health and healing. Living in this manner creates a functional Triangle of Well-being and makes for some good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
Activities for Column #2 (Theological):
- Think about a few (serious) matters that you’ve been avoiding and need your immediate attention. Make a short list of the Psychological (Middle Prefrontal Cortex) skills and a few of the Theological suggestions from Matthew 5 that will assist you in your effort to resolve and repair any relationship rupture. Some of the Psychological suggestions could be found on your Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps) list. Feel free to contact a friend, Sponsor, Pastor, Priest, Rabbi or Spiritual guide if you need assistance.
- Set aside some time over the next 48 hours to read Empathy #6: Empathy Facilitates Honor. Jot down 3 – 4 principles that you’ll commit to integrating into your daily way of living over the next 3 months, especially the principles that help you to treat women, men, and children with greater honor.
- Which integrated values or principled and practiced behavior might you need to implement and remain consistent with in order to safeguard your marriage, reestablish safety and rebuild any trust that’s been eroded?
Insights from Column #3 in the River of Integration (Theological)
Some of these spiritual principles may not make a whole lot of sense to you. I mean, what on earth could be the benefit of engaging in behavior that calls for you to “love your enemy, pray for the one who persecutes you and do good to the one who mistreats you” (Matthew 5:43 – 47), especially the mandate to forgive someone (Matthew 6:12, 14 – 15) who hasn’t yet acknowledged or admitted to the offenses that may have caused you deep emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or spiritual hurt, harm or devastation? It just doesn’t make much rational sense, does it?
No, and just like it’s difficult to see the upside in practicing these prescriptions, it could be just as baffling to the other person, the recipient of these value-oriented behaviors. One thing to keep in mind though: Even though we’re called to practice these principles, our ability to successfully apply them is connected to a serious and perhaps lengthy process that deserves considerable thought, deliberation and eventually action, and rarely do these processes occur overnight. Some may take days, weeks, months and perhaps, even years of personal to implement.
One thing I do know is that practicing and filling tall orders like these begin to come into focus and emerge as becoming doable with the consistent practice of my Spiritual Disciplines. Do you remember the list of Spiritual Disciplines recorded in Choosing Change #10: Blueprints and Building Change?
I’m not going to repeat them all here, however, Jesus conveniently references and embeds a few of them in The Lord’s Prayer. Let’s take a look at the Prayer, the spiritual disciplines embedded in the text, and remarkably, how they dovetail with the tenets of Dr. Siegel’s work to help us to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology.
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9 – 18)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Do you see the Spiritual Disciplines embedded in the text? What follows are the ones that come up for me, along with how Dr. Siegel’s River of Integration research helps me (and could help you) to accomplish any goals we set for ourselves and the skills we need to develop to accomplish our objectives to move forward in our own river of integration.
Verse 9: Prayer and Worship – Prayer connects me to my Higher Power, which helps to bring calm and regulation to my internal (thinking, feeling and physiological) states and helps to awaken and open my mind. Prayer also helps me to S.I.F.T. and pay attention to what is going on in my mind, and brings focus to my thinking and listening skills, which is a valuable process that typically informs me about what decisions I’ll want and need to make.
Worship not only helps me to hear from God, but it’s also a reminder that I’m not God, that God is God, and the sooner I remember He’s the Power greater than me who could restore me to sanity, then the sooner I’ll probably see my issues and life situation in a different and typically saner light. Worship also softens my heart and ushers in feelings of compassion, as my mind and spirit retrieve messages of inspiration, conviction, hope, and guidance.
Verse 10: Submission, Study, Reflection, Silence and Acceptance – Submission facilitates humility in me, because if I don’t submit my will, my way and my pride regarding how I see and approach certain life situations, then I know my fear, anger, rage, selfishness, and pride will get the best of me. When that happens, self-will runs riot and be on the lookout for low flying, emotionally hijacked planes; if it stops for you, don’t get on! Without submission and humility, I inflict myself with tunnel vision, and with tunnel vision, I don’t have the expanded vision where more than likely, the answer to my issue is just outside of my emotionally flooded and narrowed field of vision. Submission and Humility helps.
Study is the way I really feel I get to know my God. If he wants me to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27), then I need to know who He is, and studying scriptures help me in this process. Studying scripture, “technical psychology books at bedtime” (as my wife calls it) and other research-based/data-rich material is one of the prime ways that I give my brain and mind the Agape-oriented values, virtues, and behavioral options that are retrieved and acted upon when specific life situations require an informed and mature response.
Reflection and Silence beckon me to pause, be quiet, think and contemplate about what’s going on in my life, my relationships and my environment, and how I’ll mindfully, deliberately, strategically and intentionally interact with the those around me. Reflection tends to change my thinking and my narratives from “Me to We,” and usually guides my thoughts, mental processes and then actions, especially when Reconciliation and Interactive Repair are needed.
Acceptance, another descriptor of Agape, ushers in serenity, because the word means “to take something close to the face or eyes, to carefully scrutinize it, and when it’s been determined credible, then to receive it deliberately and readily.” When I think about my life and relationship with God, He’s never let me down; His leadership, guidance, direction, and provision has always passed “the test.” Therefore, when I feel fear, hurt, pain, anger or devastated, I know He is with me, and I will not be abandoned in my plight midstream, which helps me to accept my circumstances and usually restores power to my soul that looks a lot like courage to take the next right step in the right direction.
Verse 11: Simplicity – When I think of the discipline of Simplicity, other words like contentment, reasonableness, balance, and humility come to mind as well. I also think about Proverbs 30:8 – 9, which reads: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (TNIV). I know each and every day that I’m gifted life on this Earth God is my strength, provider, breath and sustenance. No matter what the situation, He provides the best insight, guidance, empowerment, and stability. Believe it or not, He also helps to focus on keeping it simple!
Verse 12: Confession, Forgiveness and Obedience – The Greek word for Confession in 1 John 1:9 is Homologeo or “same word,” and it describes agreement with someone. When I confess to God, myself and or to another human being, I’m simply agreeing with what they already know about me, or will soon know about me.
Implicit in this process is telling the truth, and you may recall that truth and integrity both come from the same Greek word Alethes. Alethes is a compound word: A (“no, not, without”) + Lethos (“Lethal”). Said simply, confessing or admitting the truth about myself to others is not lethal; on the contrary, it tends to help me and others get better. Why you may ask? Because dishonesty, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and deception are character defects (and in some cases characterological) that tend to weigh a person down, throw them off balance, and may shipwreck them on the shores of either Chaos or Rigidity.
I tend to feel much better when I’m able to get something off my chest in an Adult-Adult conversation, with safe and trusted others, who are committed to helping me versus shaming me; that’s a feature of psychotherapy that makes it so valuable. Speaking of Psychotherapy, Dr. Sigmund Freud used a word found in 1 John 1:9 (Katharos) and called his process Catharsis, or “the Talking Cure.” Cleansing, purifying and curative outcomes, which are all meanings of the term Katharos, are what we hope to experience when we unburden our soul of the guilt and pollution that accompanies carrying secrets or any mental construct that’s a burden to us. The question that’s full of inspiration then becomes how and what is the best way to use my energy since I’ve confessed and subsequently freed up mental space in my mind and spirit!?
Forgiveness (Aphiemi) means to “send forth, send away let go from oneself.” Like confession, the primary benefit of Forgiveness is personal in nature, and secondarily to others. It certainly isn’t a process to enter into lightly, nor begrudgingly. Forgiveness begins with careful deliberation about the offense, the impact of the offense upon you, the “relationship” you have with the offender, and your overall goal(s) connected to the situation, especially as you consider then answer the question “How shall I live?”
From there, my hope is that your connection with your Higher Power will help and eventually heal you as you move through your (seasons of) loss and grief and into a state of willingness to make what will probably amount to a series of decisions to see all involved, including yourself, in a much different light.
Your transformative process and the decisions you make will provide you with the power and ability to reclaim and repurpose your power and energy. Some of the energy expenditure is a reflection of your empowerment to love yourself because you’re reclaiming the space in your body, mind, and spirit to not be consumed by the weight nor hijacked by the memories connected to the offense or the offender.
When this type of empowerment from your Higher Power envelops and inhabits you, more than likely you’ll see the offense and the offender differently because you’ve sent away, let go of, or freed yourself from the weight of the hurt, pain, anger, rage, suffering, shame, embarrassment or entitlement connected to the offense, a weight which you probably thought would burden or consume you forever.
Finally, with the help of your Higher Power, a Power that is greater than you and has helped to restore sanity to your existence, you’re free to make saner, more informed and mature choices regarding what type of relationship (if any) you’d wish to have the offender. Remember, Reconciliation simply calls for you to choose to lay aside your wrathful behavior and to simultaneously impart peaceful behavior to all involved, and your forgiveness process and decision(s) have powerfully positioned you to implement and benefit from the practice of this value. In light of your work and at this point in your life, how would you answer the question: “How now shall I live?”
The discipline of Obedience, especially since it’s connected to the mandate of forgiving others, becomes much easier given the way it’s framed in this verse. Since I’ve been forgiven, and perhaps forgiven much, then it’s asked of me to mete out and demonstrate the same amount (if not more) of behaviors that reflect the virtues of grace, mercy, love, and kindness that’s been extended to me. Doesn’t the feel and demonstration of these characteristics fit better in your hand than character defects like unforgiveness, bitterness or vengefulness?
Some may think that Obedience, especially if it’s linked to a Biblical decree, is akin to you being told what to do where your thoughts, feelings or decision-making ability aren’t involved, and subsequently, may cause you to resist engaging in what could be very purposeful behavior. Have you ever felt like that? I encourage you to think about Obedience as being given the opportunity to do the next right thing that makes sense to you. No one is holding a stopwatch to see when you engage in the behavior nor a scorecard to keep track of your actions. Obedience simply beckons you to employ behaviors that could create a “win-win” for all involved.
Verse 13: Guidance, Choice, Decision – I’ve often repeated the quote “the best defense is a good offense,” and I think the principle fits well with this verse. By all means, I encourage you to pray for and seek God’s protection in your life, but I also think studying and being deliberate and strategic in the application of your Agape-oriented values provides you with Guidance to avoid the wiles of the Enemy.
Implicit in the application of your values is to live a life where the principles of S.I.F.T. help you in your ability to be aware, mindful, strategic and intentional with your Choices, Decisions, and actions. The more you consistently aim at and focus on your goals, then engage in activities that help you to not only reach your goals but develop skilled behavior in the process, means you’ll probably create and experience beneficial outcomes for yourself and others.
Temptation is going to look very different for each person. However, I’d imagine it’ll probably have a “misery stabilizer” look and feel to it where avoiding, distracting and self-soothing behaviors (sex, drugs, overeating, workaholism, gambling, etc.) are factors where the ultimate goal is to cause you to misplace rather than accurately place your energy and passion. If the actions connected to temptation testify to your body, mind, and spirit being emotionally hijacked, where or what is the final destination where self-sabotage proclaims “mission accomplished?”
In addition (in my opinion), another goal of temptation is to get you to sever or renounce what could be an established, functioning and empowered connection with your God, where your ability to love your self and love others is interrupted. When tempted, my hope is that the lion share of your whatever energy you expend is focused on recapturing or renewing your relationship with your God, rather than fixating on the distraction or other feelings connected to the temptation.
Verse 14 – 15: Forgiveness (see Forgiveness in verse 12)
Verse 16 – 18: Fasting – Even though this passage is a few verses beyond the ending of the Lord’s Prayer, Fasting is a discipline that calls for me to abstain from food, electronics, media or other activities that distract me from being able to focus my attention on hearing the delicate and nuanced communication from my God.
When I’ve been able to subtract or bracket distractions from my day it’s amazing how quickly I’m able to hear God inform me regarding what idea He wants me to follow up on, what question(s) to ask, what information should I introduce for discussion or what’s the right amount of empathy or confrontation to deliver.
So the practice of these spiritual disciplines enlighten, empower, inspire, remind and guide me to approach people, life issues or problems with creativity and courage, and to remember that I live in a world that sometimes needs to see “upside down” and uncommon (love) responses in order to not only make sense of life, but to deliver experiences that will heal deep wounds where nothing else could.
Could you see yourself engaging in and delivering a type of love like this to others on a consistent basis? I’d offer to you that when your focus is to live by your Agape-oriented values (Matthew 6:22) then meaningful outcomes (Matthew 6:19 – 20) and evidence your character is being shaped tend to occur. This repetitive behavior is the driving principle behind “S.N.A.G.” (Stimulating Neuronal Activation and Growth) because anytime you’re repeating constructive behaviors for your own Triangle of Well-being and to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology, you’re helping your brain cells to “fire, then wire together.”
Not only do these actions go a long way toward creating and coding new memories in your brain and in your relationships, but they also help you to deliver therapeutic behaviors and healing to those in need of repair, renewal, and growth.
Activities for Column #3 (Theological):
- Read through the List of Spiritual Disciplines found in Choosing Change #10. Which ones help you to clearly see, hear and connect with your Higher Power? Try to spend about the same amount of time connecting with your God that you might normally devote to eating 3 meals a day. Journal what insights you are receiving and what changes or actions you’re led to make.
- The next time you’re upset with a person or situation, practice the wisdom in these two verses: First, acknowledge (i.e., confess) your anger, hurt, frustration or whatever the feeling is, preferably immediately. This is putting the “Be angry but do not sin…” part of Ephesians 4:26 – 27 into action. Pray and confess it to your God. If you feel the surges of emotion 5 times within a minute, then pray 5 times, followed up with the instruction found in Matthew 5:43 – 47. In light of this verse, your prayer may sound like this, “but your word tells me to love my enemy and pray for the one who persecutes me, so…,” then lift the person or the situation up to your God in prayer. Ask for your God to bless the other person(s) involved who may be the trigger to your anger. Remember, just like you can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time, you’ll find it difficult to be angry or spiteful when you’re asking for God to bless the object of your ire as well. Practice this every time you feel your emotion. It’ll be interesting to note what changes occur with your situation or with the other person after a few hours, days, weeks, or however long the surges prompt your use of this prescription.
- The next time you’re tempted, integrate the spiritual discipline of Fellowship, by calling as many people as necessary, sharing with them these four (4) things: First, tell them what you’re thinking. Second, tell them what you’re feeling. Third, tell them what you’re thinking of doing (i.e., how you may give in to your temptation). Finally, tell them what you’re going to do (what purposeful goal or target will reflect the best way to use your energy, then do that). How might you self-sabotage your efforts? What’s the best defense that you may need to employ to overcome the cunning, baffling and powerful actions of the Enemy? Equally, what else do you think your experience is wanting you to learn regarding how to deal with your passion accurately?
Insights from Column #4 in the River of Integration (Theological)
God “hard-wired” within all human beings the need to be valued (Matthew 6:26), loved, esteemed, cared for, understood, protected and respected, among other important intimacy needs. His intent was for Adults to follow His lead and demonstrate this quality of love freely, intentionally and consistently, especially to children, which would help to form Secure and strong attachments within them.
If some of these very important Agape-oriented values and intimacy needs aren’t met adequately through “good enough parenting” by either parents or caregivers, the impact could cause the child to develop Anxious, Disorganized or Avoidant attachments. These attachments, or the ways that children respond to caregivers or others in their lives, begin to shape how they think, feel and interact with others, and could convert into thoughts, feelings or behaviors that are maladaptive in nature in an effort to fend for or fight for their existence or survival.
When these latter type of attachments occur, a child may not feel important, secure, safe, loved, or valuable. On the contrary, they may feel anxious, confused, angry, fearful, ashamed, alone or depressed. These types of feelings may manifest in various types of crises in the life of a child, adolescent, young adult or adult, and one of the crises could be a crisis of faith, where the person may feel mistrust, unloved, devalued or abandoned by their Higher Power.
A crisis of faith is one of the most difficult crises to experience because the self-message uttered repeatedly is “God doesn’t love me because…” (and you could finish the sentence). There could be a litany of reasons and rationales that we could tell our self that reinforce our feelings, and these thoughts and feelings deserve to be explored compassionately.
In light of this, there are no quick answers, platitudes nor magical solutions that could cause a person to miraculously resolve how they see their life experience in relation to their Higher Power. This is why discussing with others what their needs are, then working to reasonably meet their intimacy needs (for no other reason than the fact they’re a human being who lives in your home deserving of inherent and intrinsic rights), could be the most valuable gift given to them by God that may help to resolve their spiritual crisis.
As we’ll see in Choosing Change #13 when we do a walkthrough of your Children’s room, children (and Adults) tend to thrive when their intimacy needs are generously delivered to them, and integrated into the home environment in which they live. So I encourage you to select then display values in the home environment that make sense to you but are also empowering to others. This could go a long way toward creating or recreating the secure base and secure environment that builds necessary and healthy attachments.
That’s why the material in this column calls for you to examine what is important, what is valuable, what is a priority (Matthew 6:33-34), and in what ways are you present and focused on developing and delivering values that are not only therapeutic, curative and corrective in nature but also support awareness (Matthew 7:1-2), connection, vision, purpose, meaning, and growth, among other values.
Equally, I encourage you to integrate values into your day-to-day life where self-awareness (Matthew 7:1-2) helps you to inventory and reproduce the values that promote growth but also help you to inventory, own then correct errors when you commit them. I know that one of the greatest gifts that I provide to my family is that of apology when I’ve committed an offense and self-correction when I’ve traveled in the wrong direction with my behavior.
This is also one of the prime ways that I love myself so that I’m able to love my neighbor as myself: Using the A-C-T-I-V-E model be aware of then interrupt my maladaptive schemas, then implementing the LoveWorks model for course correction.
Activities for Column #4 (Theological):
1) Memorize the “G.A.S. up” principle: In whatever your situations you interact with others in the Living or Dining rooms of your home, especially when conflict or serious conversations occur and are in need of repair, ask yourself…
a) What is the Goal that I want to accomplish in this exchange?
b) What is the Activity that I’ll implement to best help me achieve my goal?
c) What is the Skill that I want to develop for my benefit or to model with others?
When you’ve identified your goal, the activity that’s going to help you achieve it, and the skill you wish to develop or impart upon the conclusion of the conversation, then you’re living intentionally and more than likely will demonstrate behaviors that heal.
2) Schedule some time at the end of your day to reflect on your actions and experiences. If you’d like, journal a few thoughts about which behaviors you’re proud about and wish to commit to memory to repeat again when necessary. Equally, inventory the behaviors that are deserving of more attention that you’ll want to revisit tomorrow where you’ll apply the “G.A.S. up” principle.
Insights from Column #5 in the River of Integration (Theological)
In closing out this post, we’ve looked at behaviors connected to the Psychological side of the River of Integration that create Chaos and Rigidity, as well as behaviors that when implemented, will produce a Triangle of Well-being within us and good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others in our lives.
On the Theological side of the River of Integration, we’ve looked at how the application of virtues, mores, principles, goals, activities, and skills help us to build and impart uncommon spiritual values and behaviors that are simple in nature, promote positive flow in the river but also leave indelible, meaningful and restorative impressions.
So it’s fitting that we close this post with encouragement to practice dyadic communication, which helps us to engage in Adult-to-Adult regulating speech and behavior, which helps us to collaborate (Matthew 7:7) more effectively with others. When this is done, we’re civil and considerate with the words we use with each other, which helps us to remain focused (Matthew 6:34), regulated and creative in our effort to reach our common goals.
By practicing these psychological and theological goals, activities and skills and getting better at it, more than likely our confidence in our abilities to “stay in our lane” will increase, and we’ll also feel good about the life-giving behaviors that we’re delivering to others. Getting better at the demonstration of Agape-oriented values (Matthew 7:22) means we’re “firing and wiring” our brain cells for continued positive activity, and we’re becoming wise, or skilled at living, as is the meaning of the Greek word Sophia.
Finally, the more we choose to change our lives by focusing on and delivering Agape-oriented values means we’re maturing, which means our behavior becomes edifying and “nutritional” to others (Matthew 7:16-17). This means we’re accomplishing our goal to “build others up” (Oikeodomeo) and our diligent behavior will produce exactly what Jesus described in Matthew 7:24-25:
Activities for Column #5 (Theological):
- Take a moment to think about this exact point in your life journey as well as the traveler(s) who are with you at this particular time. What value-laden behavior do you think they need to receive and “ingest” from you that will nurture and nourish their mind and spirit? What behavior will help them to feel secure, safe and serene in your presence? Think about using your spiritual disciplines to plant, grow, harvest, deliver and consume the values that you deem will to strengthen them for the next leg of your journey. Make a commitment to only produce and deliver behaviors that help and heal.
- “Wash, rinse and repeat” for the next few “micro-seasons” (3 – 4 months) of your journey in the river. If you need assistance, make a commitment to seek help in the next 24 hours to accomplish your resolution.
Thank you for reading this incredibly long but I hope rich post on the splendid (and adapted) work of Dr. Dan Siegel. In Choosing Change #13 (Part 3 of 3), we’ll invite a colleague of his, Dr. Tina Bryson, to accompany us on our walkthrough of the Children’s room, as she has integrated Dr. Siegel’s principles with her own and has masterfully applied it in her research and work with children.
We’ll also close out our walkthroughs by looking at your home Office, and the principles that make for good outcomes in your career or ministry, in addition to what your Kitchen looks like, in your effort to feed, interact with and strengthen those in your home.
Also, as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.