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Tis The Season?

Tis the Season?

Tis the season to be jolly? It really should be, but often isn’t. For many who have been separated from their families due to various circumstances this can be a very depressing time of year.

I was moved with compassion last night as I read a post from a mom whom has had her children taken from her home as a result of a sexual offense her husband committed. She had no knowledge of the offense and immediately responded in a proper way when she became aware of it.

Regardless of her efforts, which included divorcing her husband in order to satisfy what she thought Family Services expected, her children were given up for adoption. She has since reunited with her husband because they love one another and unfortunately, that’s all they have at this moment.

Situations like this are not uncommon. The casualties of sin are many. The fallout from these types of offenses affect many innocent people. Sadly, often the well meaning efforts of our justice system create more victims, rather than bring healing and reconciliation.

So I write this blog today to those who dread the holiday season. Those who are reminded each day by the conversations of coworkers and friends that their life is not the same as so many others. Those who roam the aisles of the toy department and the racks of children’s clothes and decide what gift they would buy if they could actually give it. All the while, their insides are torn apart with grief, guilt and disappointment.

To all of you, I have a message. My message will not fix your problem or bring your child back today. It may or may not have any effect on you at all. It is only words on a page. But know this, these words come from my heart.

First of all, nothing ever stays the same. As time moves forward you are drawing closer to the day when the child you lost will make decisions for themselves. The time they spent in your arms will not be forgotten regardless of the distance between you. As they become more and more acquainted with the turmoils of life they too will recognize how easy it is to find yourself in a tempest or even shipwrecked. Time does help heal all wounds.

Secondly, regardless of how alone you feel, know that there are people in your life who care. The nature of the situation may make them feel too awkward to even speak of it. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t feel your pain, wish they could help or pray for you.
It is a fact that often when we need someone we tend to isolate ourselves. We make all sorts of excuses as to why we should just pretend that no one cares or that we would just burden those who do care if we talk to them. Don’t do that!

Recognize the people in your life that want to love you and allow them to do so. Don’t be afraid to express how hurt you are and let them listen to your heart. Allow them to partner with you as you go through this season and be thankful they are there for you.

Thirdly, do something about it. You are not powerless. There are options. Practice your faith. Pray! Give God thanks for the time you have had in the past and the good times still to be had in the future. Ask others to pray for you and with you.

Listen to yourself. Our words are powerful. Make an extra effort to only allow positive communication to come out of your mouth. Build yourself up and encourage yourself. Give thanks for all that you have and add value to others by telling them how much they mean to you and by pointing out their strengths.

Finally, stay busy! Look for ways you can be a blessing to someone else. Volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourself. This is a time of year when many are hurting. You can be a source of healing and help to them and in doing so you will experience an uplift in your spirit as well.

Determine in your heart that there is nothing and no one that is going to break your spirit or steal your joy. You do have a future, and you have the ability to shape that future in a positive way. You are not alone and you are not dead. As long as you have life there is hope!

My prayers are with all of you hurting this holiday season. I pray that the love of God is made real to you and that the void in your heart is filled by His Spirit. I also pray that the joy that is not diminished by circumstance would be your strength and ever present in your life! God bless you!

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The Power Of Family Counseling

THE POWER OF FAMILY COUNSELING

Often the efforts to alleviate the problems caused by a sexual offense through therapy are focused almost entirely on the offender. While there is little need for discussion regarding the value of sex offender counseling, it will not encompass all the damage that has been caused to the family unit.

Every family member will be affected for the rest of their lives by what has occurred. Even those members that separate themselves from the rest of the family will carry with them the anger, hurt and feelings of betrayal. Therapy in a situation such as this is essential.

Imagine a head on car collision in which every passenger has been left injured and disoriented. One would never consider not seeking medical attention. The damage is too great and the long term effects are too far reaching to not put forth every effort to help those involved.

Family counseling is the means by which the body is treated rather than a particular member. If it is to function as it was designed by our creator to do so, it must be treated as a separate entity.

Each member of the family will face their own set of difficulties and challenges. Each member has their own perspective and ideas surrounding the tragedy that has occurred. Each family member experiences emotions based on how they interpret the offense. And each family member processes those emotions in their own way.

Counseling opens the door for those involved to express their feelings in a safe environment without fear of reprisal. Without the opportunity to do so, those feelings are often stuffed only to resurface later in life in the form of anger, depression, anxiety etc. Counseling allows the family to somehow level the field and attempt to rebuild the relationships that have been the source of stability in the past.

In order for healing to occur the wounds must be exposed and treated. Ignoring the problem only makes it worse. And the longer it is delayed the harder it is to make the choice to do something about it. But it is never too late to start the process.

Warning: IT IS NOT EASY!

The mere task of getting all the family members on board with the idea of family therapy is in itself daunting at times. it usually takes one person who is strong enough to push the issue and not give up to begin the process.

I can tell you from experience that the biggest battle is often getting them to the first session. But often, once they see that there is value is what they are doing and that their thoughts and feelings will be heard and validated, it becomes much easier.

Begin the process by exploring what counselors are available in your area and then do diligence to discover how they have helped others similar to yourself. Decide when would be the most convenient time to schedule so that all the family members can attend and make an appointment. Sit down with the family members and express how important you feel it is to attend counseling, and ask them to commit to just one session.

Then pray! Pray that the session will be beneficial enough to encourage them to try one more time. Hopefully that one more time will turn into several more times and your family will begin to experience the long overdue process of healing. The thought of doing something like this may be scary, but the thought of doing nothing should be even more frightening.

I would love to hear about your experiences regarding family counseling. Please comment!

Happy Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Happy Thanksgiving! There is a lot to be said about the subject of giving thanks. And that is what I would like to blog about today.

Some of my blogs in the past have focused on the trials of being married to a sex offender or having a sex offender in the family. Without a doubt, there are many challenges that are faced each day as a result of that issue.

However, today, I want to challenge you to consider the positive aspects of your life in spite of the difficulties. I once read a quote by a minister by the name of Adrian Rogers. He said that life is like a railroad track with two rails, one positive and one negative. Each day we chose which rail we will focus on. Our train is going to move in the same direction regardless. But our attitude determines the quality of our ride.

I was active in my drug and alcohol addiction for thirteen years. In the last twenty six years of sobriety I have faced numerous obstacles as a result of my poor choices early in life. I could easily bemoan the fact that certain goals can never be achieved due to the consequences of my actions. Or I can move forward with the awareness of what I gained from those experiences.

I am a counselor and minister because of the poor choices I have made. I have greater insight into the problems of others because of the poor choices I have made. I also have a much greater appreciation of relationship, faith, freedom and sobriety because of the poor choices I have made.

I would give almost anything to undo the hurt I caused my family. I would love to be able to regain the wasted years I squandered. And it has taken years to both forgive myself and regain a sense of self worth and dignity.

But truly I would not be the man I am now had I not gone through all of the pain and self inflicted misery. I probably would not be married to the most amazing, supportive and inspiring woman on the planet. I would likely not have the two beautiful, Godly, loving daughters that I adore with all my heart.

I would not have had the opportunity to see what God can do with a wretch like myself. I would not have had the chance to meet and possibly touch the lives of thousands of people who were in need of someone transparent enough to crawl down in the pit they reside and let them know that they once lived there also.

Consider today what you have gained from your struggles. How much stronger are you now than before? Consider how much more resolve you have to succeed in life in spite of society’s opinion, and how much more secure you are knowing that opinion means much less now than before.

Most of all be thankful for life itself. each new day brings the opportunity for a fresh experience, new insight, new relationships, and a deeper awareness of the goodness of God.
I pray that you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day and every day after that will reflect an attitude of gratefulness. From my house to yours, “HAPPY THANKSGIVING”!

Unforgiveness (Part 4)

Unforgiveness (Part 4)

 

Thus far, my comments on the subject of forgiveness have been very therapeutic in nature. But today, I want to speak on the spiritual aspect of forgiveness. I believe that man is comprised of body, mind and spirit. If we ignore the spiritual health of man, he can at best only be 2/3 well.

 

Unforgiveness blocks joy. As a pastor I have had the privilege of leading many people to Christ. There is always one reaction when someone sincerely asks The Lord to forgive their sin. That reaction is joy! I have never led a person in the sinner’s prayer and been met with a frown on the face of the new convert.

 

The reason for that response is that they have absolutely nothing in their life blocking the joy that flows from knowing they are forgiven, and that all is well with their soul. That sense of having a clean slate is indescribable. It is as though a new day has begun and they are starting fresh.

 

But how do you forgive people that have hurt you so badly and REALLY mean it? I believe that it can begin with prayer. I remember a time when someone I attended church with cheated me out of a sum of money at a time when my wife and I were struggling financially.

 

I became very angry and bitter. I vowed to just forgive the man for the sake of keeping unity in our church. But that is easier said than done. As a matter of fact the anger and bitterness only increased as I continued to ponder what this “Christian” had done to me.

 

I soon left the church thinking that would solve the problem. It didn’t. I was even more angry and was making my wife miserable as well. Because you see, Unforgiveness affects the people closest to you. Your relationships all suffer because you can not truly be yourself while someone else controls your thinking and emotions.

 

Eventually I went back to the church thinking that would undo my wrong. But alas, it too fell short of my quest for relief. Finally, in my desperation I prayed and asked God what it is He wanted from me. After all I was the victim!

 

God impressed on me that I needed to pray for this man. My first thought was, “You bet I will!” I could think of all sorts of suggestions as to how God could punish my offender and “help” him to see the error of his ways.

 

But then The Lord gave me some clarification. I felt The Lord telling me that I needed to pray that God would bless this man! “Are you kidding me” I thought. Bless him? I was way more into cursing him! But I was so tired of the anger, bitterness and strife that Unforgiveness was causing in my life that I was willing to try anything.

 

My first attempts were prayed through clinched teeth. “Lord, bless (his name)”. This only occurred a couple of times when I came to a revelation. God knows my heart. So if I am going to pray this prayer, I have to really mean it or the whole act of prayer is a waste of time.

 

That is when the process of forgiveness really began to occur. I slowly and sincerely began asking God to help this man in every area of his life, even financially. And as I prayed for him and meant it, I also forgave him.

 

That took place over 25 years ago and I still see that man approximately once per year. He has never acknowledged his wrong to me or reimbursed my money. But I can honestly say that I am able to greet him, embrace him and know that in my heart all is well.

 

I am not saying that this is the only way someone can forgive, but it is one way. I share this story with you not to press upon you a specific belief or way of thinking, but to let you know that there is a way out of your pit that someone else dug.

 

I would love to dialogue with you about this blog or your situation if you care to comment.

Forgiveness (Part 3)

FORGIVENESS (Part 3)

Once a person has made the commitment to begin the process of forgiveness, the next step begins. What is it that you are endeavor ing to forgive?Too often the hurt and negative emotions associated with the infraction clouds the particulars of what has actually occurred.

All you know is that you have been injured, betrayed, and suffered loss without cause. But it is impossible to forgive the pain you feel. You must identify the source of that pain.
Only then can the process truly begin.

I would encourage you to sit down with pen in hand and begin listing all the infractions that you feel have been made against you. I was lied to, I was betrayed, I was manipulated, I was coerced, etc.

Do this until you feel that all your efforts have been exhausted and that there is nothing left to mention. Next, rewrite that list placing the indictments in order from least offensive to most offensive.

The act of doing this is very therapeutic. You are literally identifying the source of your pain and transforming them from a swirling mass of hurt into something tangible that you can see with your eyes and handle with your hands. You are taking control of something that has been controlling you for much too long.

Once your list is formed and organized, then take time to ask yourself a very important question. “Have I ever done this to someone?” For example, “Have I ever lied”, “Have I ever betrayed”, “Have I ever manipulated” etc.

The process of forgiveness becomes easier when you can identify with the offender as a flawed human being that has encountered the same pitfalls as yourself, at least to a certain extent. I feel that if you can honestly say that you have made the same mistake yourself, then you should consider that offense a nonfactor and move on to the next one.

At least for me, I have a hard time justifying holding a grudge against someone for doing something that I have done myself. That is not to say it should have been done or that it doesn’t still hurt. It just means that I don’t have the right to consider it as grounds for not forgiving.

As you slowly work through the list and disqualify the least offensive you will arrive at the place where the real work begins. You will find yourself staring at the core of the problem where the greatest amount of pain derives.

Facing the monster is much better that merely smelling his breath or hearing his roar. It is here that you will discover where your efforts for forgiveness must focus.

But the good news is that by going through the process that I have described you have already taken huge strides towards completing it. You have identified the source of your pain and you have made it something that you can do with as you wish.

Forgiveness (Part 2)

FORGIVENESS (Part 2)

It is my opinion that forgiveness is a process. We may be able to resolve minor infractions with the words “I forgive you”, but not the type of injury that is incurred from sexual abuse. The feelings of betrayal, anger, emotional pain and loss are not soothed so easily.

The first step in the process is quite simply the decision to even consider forgiveness as an option. Because after all, it is a choice that a person has the option to make, or not to make.

It has been said that forgiveness is a gift for the person who has been offended and not for the offender. I believe that to be true, but there is none the less a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that you hold in your hand the power to unwrap that gift at the time you determine most beneficial (if ever).

Perhaps the first move is to take in consideration the pros and cons of forgiveness. What benefits will you receive from putting to rest the nagging ache in your heart dwarfed only by the rage that accompanies it. It could be that the need for retribution and retaliation is the most driving force in your life and what motivates you to face each day with a determination that you will not be defeated.

How much space has the bitterness and anger taken up in your heart and how is it affecting your sense of well being? Are your relationships currently feeling the brunt of the attacks that took place in the past? Do you feel stuck emotionally and fear that contentment and joy are luxuries you just can not afford? Do you see others drawn into your pain because it is the only way they can get close to you?

As a counselor, I can say that you have every right to experience all these feelings. I can empathize and relate to your pain. I can support you in every decision you make regarding them. I can assure you that you did not deserve to be placed in the position to experience them. But I can not dictate what you will do about it. That choice is yours alone.

I have had the opportunity to work with both offenders and victims. I believe that the greatest loss a victim feels is the loss of power. Power to control the level of safety in their environment. Power to determine what occurs in their own body. Power to voice their disapproval and cry out for help. Power to maintain a sense of well being. Power to control their own life.

In considering the option of forgiveness, please consider the fact that in a very real sense the elements you likely find most damaging are being perpetuated by your choice not to forgive. Joy, peace, healthy relationship and healing are all in a holding pattern awaiting your instructions. You are in control.

Most of all, the thing I would think is most disturbing about victimization is the fact that someone else is controlling you. Unforgiveness allows that person to maintain control even though he is not physically in your life any longer. He does not deserve that type of influence in your life.

The first step is CONSIDERATION. Take time to consider what life might be like if true forgiveness were to occur. How would it affect you and those around you? Is it time to possibly begin that process?

The choice is yours alone. This blog is not in any way meant to “evangelize” or coerce you to rush into an area you do not feel prepared to go. As I said, forgiveness is a process and there is a time for everything. The question is, is it time for you?

Aside

“FORGIVENESS”…

“FORGIVENESS” Part 1

 

The subject of forgiveness is one that often emerges in sex offender treatment. There is an immense amount of guilt involved in the commission of a sexual offense. 93% of sexual offenses are committed by a friend or family member of the victim. As a result, the dynamics of the family are drastically changed and huge loss is incurred.

 

Families are often torn apart due to the children being relocated by the state to foster care homes. Marriages are put to the ultimate test as the spouse of the offender deals with what many would describe as the most grievous act of betrayal, an act of sexual infidelity with one’s own flesh and blood. The offender himself is ridden with guilt as the reality of the damage and devastation he has caused becomes evident.

 

The phrase “forgive and forget” is just another fantasy with no chance of becoming reality. What has been done can never be forgotten. But can it be forgiven? Is it possible that life can somehow move forward without the stigma of perpetual guilt attached to it like a barnacle on the bottom of a ship?

 

As a person of faith I have strong beliefs about the subject of forgiveness. I am a Christian. I personally believe that Christ came from heaven to free mankind from the guilt associated with the many sins we so easily commit. I also believe that in the eyes of God there is no sin more heinous than another. Finally, I believe that an all knowing God would be aware of every infraction we have accumulated by our selfish behaviors.

 

All that being said, it would appear to me if an all knowing God (who is perfect in every way, and fully aware of every mistake we make) is willing to forgive us, we should give consideration to our own responses as well. If someone forgives me of a million dollar debt it would seem unjust for me to have a friend summoned to court over a few hundred dollars owed to me.

 

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not in any way suggesting that I have the right to force your hand in this tedious process, or even worse, use guilt itself as a motivator. I likely have opened a proverbial can of worms with this article. Many of you reading it right now are experiencing emotions such as anger, hurt and indignation. And it is impossible to explore this subject thoroughly in a short blog.

 

However, one thing is certain. Forgiveness is a choice. If you forgive yourself or someone else it is because you made the choice to do so. It is also a process. It doesn’t occur merely be saying some words or writing a letter because it is a matter of the heart and mind.

 

These are very controversial statements. I would like very much to explore this subject deeper over the next few blogs. I realize that many reading this hold different religious beliefs than myself and I respect that. I want nothing more than to dialogue with you regarding your current position in this matter.

 

I am eager to hear your thoughts about this very sensitive issue. I believe that the first step in the process of forgiveness is sometimes merely considering it and having a discussion about it. Let this blog spot be a launching pad for some of you who have felt confined by the gravity of guilt and long to fly free as a bird once again.

 

 

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