Five Things to Do When You’ve Really Messed Up

Earlier this week I messed up big-time! Over a couple of days, I experienced a bunch of frustrations. As each irritation crossed my path, I tossed it into the pot and where they all simmered together in a type of Frustration Stew. Then I took that bubbling cauldron into a tense meeting and proceeded to boil over and make an embarrassing, hurtful mess of things.

Photo courtesy of Joe Gardner

We all have the capacity to mess up, to say or do hurtful things, to act irresponsibly. It is the inevitable fall out of letting our human nature have the reins rather than submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

In the fifth chapter of Galatians, the apostle Paul contrasts the result of habitually letting one’s sinful nature reign versus the fruit of abiding in the Spirit. Let’s just say, I harvested some discord, fits of rage, dissensions, and factions Monday night rather than love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

You’ve Messed Up. Now What?

When we blow it, there are five steps to cleaning up the mess we make. If we move through these steps thoughtfully, deliberately, and with humility and earnest repentance, we can begin to set things right. These are the five steps I’ve been working through this past week.

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Why You Should Trade Counterproductive Comparisons for Empowering Emulation

What if comparing ourselves with others didn’t have to lead to beating ourselves up, feeling inadequate, and despairing of ever being good enough? I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and can quickly become paralyzed by a sense of coming up short when I compare myself with others. But this week, God reminded me of an important truth. Patterning our lives after good examples can help us mature into persons of confidence, joy, and purpose capable of fulfilling the calling God has for us.

Photo courtesy of iStock © justinkendra

How wreath envy and seeing a friend reminded me of a profound truth.

I’m one of the least crafty people you’ll ever meet. For this reason, I usually avoid Pinterest like the plague as I am more apt to produce a “Pinterest fail” than replicate Pinterest perfection.

Earlier this week, I lugged out the Fall decorations, and surveyed the stockpile. I had hoped to find a wreath for the front door, but came away from my assessment realizing much of my supply was broken and pretty shabby after many years of use.

As there was no budget for buying a wreath, I realized I would have to use what I had to make one. I reluctantly went to Pinterest for some ideas. I found oodles of beautiful wreaths—none of which I was capable of replicating perfectly.

In the midst of this wreath envy I stopped to meet a friend for an unrelated appointment. As I drove away from that encounter with this woman I greatly admire and try to emulate in many ways, God reminded me of the power of having a good example to follow.

Patterning our lives after a role model doesn’t mean we must look exactly like the person we emulate—we are unique creations after all. But by following the good examples of others, we can cultivate strengths, shore up weaknesses, and become aware of aspects of ourselves that don’t serve us well so we can eliminate those.

Emulate, don’t replicate.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “what if I don’t try to replicate one of those wreaths I liked on Pinterest, but instead identify attributes I liked about my favorites and emulate those aspects?”

An hour or so later, I had ripped apart the old decorations, salvaged the parts that still looked decent, tossed the rest, and applied ample amounts of hot glue. The result, a wreath for our front door from things I thought were ready for the trash. It’s not Pinterest perfect, but it serves its purpose and make me happy when I look at it. Here’s a photo of my wreath.

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How Our Past Can Be Used By God To Help Others

FREE Infographic: The Art of Self-Disclosure will help you share safely and effectively!

LiveFree Thursday I’m excited to be part of Suzanne Eller’s #LiveFree Thursday linkup. The following post ties into her prompt, ‘Our scars are beautiful.’ Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #LiveFree. Check out Suzanne’s post as well as all the other authors participating in the linkup.  And grab the FREE INFOGRAPHIC I’ve made you about the Art of Self-Disclosure. It will help you safely share the fruit of your beautiful scars.

Did you know the flavors detectable in a wine vary according to the environment in which the grapes grow? Check out the back of a bottle sometime and see how the wine maker emphasizes how the growing conditions give the vintage its unique taste. The effect changes based on things like the composition of the soil and exposure to sunlight, fog, or ocean breezes. Even the elevation at which the grapes grow impacts their flavor. And in God’s vineyard it is no different. We all take in the events, attitudes, and other influences in our environment, and our fruit reflects them.

What is our fruit?

Several Bible passages employ the metaphor of fruit when discussing the manifestations of our discipleship. The results or demonstrations of the love and mercy that overflow from our bond with Christ are examples of our fruit.

In John 15, Jesus used the metaphor to describe his relationship with his disciples and what would result from this special bond. Here, Jesus is the vine and those who follow him are the branches growing out of that vine. As we abide in Jesus, the Holy Spirit reveals our gifts and talents which combine with our particular life experiences to generate fruit unique to our bough. This outgrowth is exactly what the master Gardener (God the Father) designed us to make and that pleases and glorifies him.

Will My Rotten Past Produce Rotten Fruit?

Considering the impact our life experiences have on the characteristics of our fruit, perhaps you worry yours will be tainted by the negative things in your history. Here is why you need not let that concern you.

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The Danger of Anger and How You Can Avoid It

Churning with anger, John “Muggsy” McGraw deliberately put his spikes into the face of Tommy Tucker as he slid into third base. The third inning came to a stop as the two traded punches. Then the benches of McGraw’s Baltimore Orioles and Tucker’s Boston Beaneaters cleared and every player in the majestic South End Grounds ball park joined the melee. Before long, the 3,500 fans were going at it and a fire started under the right field bleachers which engulfed the wooden stadium. The blaze raced through Roxbury, Massachusetts and consumed over 100 buildings that May afternoon in 1894, leaving nearly 1,000 families homeless. Oh, the danger of unchecked anger.

God’s Way to Avoid the Dangerous Effects of Our Anger

Anger is not wrong. In fact, it can be godly. However, if we are not careful and intentional about what we do, say, and think when angry we can reap a whole heap of disaster.

God knows the perils of humans wrestling with such strong feelings and he provides practical counsel to us in the Scriptures about how we can best avoid anger’s danger.

While there are many passages that relate to this topic, let’s focus today on Paul’s advice in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. Running through this eloquent letter is the theme of God’s plan to unify all things in Christ.

In the first three chapters, Paul explains the theology behind this plan of unity in Christ. Then, beginning in chapter four, he exhorts the believers to put their theology into practice in their daily lives, even—and maybe especially— in the messy, difficult moments of life.

It is in this context that we find his instruction about how we are to handle our anger. Read what he says with regard to anger in verses 26, 27, and 31, then let’s take it apart and apply it to our lives.

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A Marriage Makeover for Stressed Out Parents

“How can my husband and I get our love and friendship back? I feel like my four year old runs the entire house. We haven’t had a date in three years.” A reader posed this question recently. It reflects a situation Matt and I experienced and see all to often. But there is a solution!

Using the process outlined in this post, we recaptured the love and intimacy we enjoyed before the endless demands of parenting took their toll on our marriage. You can enjoy your own marriage makeover by applying the process to your relationship.

Photo courtesy of © David Pereiras Villagrá

I’ve also made you a FREE Marriage Makeover Checklist to help you work through this process.  Click here to get your copy emailed to you instantly.

In the question above, one statement jumped out at me: “I feel like my four year old runs the entire house.” That’s where we will begin.

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When We Divide, God Multiplies

About a week ago, I attended the memorial service of a true servant of Christ. I first met Carl when I was about 12 years old. Over many years, I witnessed him quietly going about the work of the Gospel. Few others embody servant leadership the way Carl did. Last week, I sat worshipping God and celebrating the life of this great man among the church family in which I grew up. I looked through tear-filled eyes at so many people who held a special place in my heart and in my spiritual journey. I reflected back over the nearly thirty years I had spent in that congregation and the nearly six that have elapsed since I left. I realized, even when we, in our humanness, divide, God is busy multiplying.

You see, almost six years ago, I left my church home after a sharp disagreement between me and a dear friend and fellow worker in God’s kingdom. At the time, I felt like my life was being ripped in two.

A friendship of over a decade ruptured. A rock solid faith suddenly felt unstable. To be totally honest, I did not want to step foot in a church again.

But, God had other ideas. He pressed upon me that I must get back into a community of believers. I’m so glad I obeyed him.

Today, in my personal Bible study time, I listened to Beth Moore teach on the sharp disagreement that led to the separation of Paul and Barnabas. God got real personal with me. Acts 15:36-41 hit too close to home, especially after recently being in the setting of my own Paul and Barnabas situation.

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Four Things We Can Learn From Peter’s Failure and Jesus’ Response

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I was so certain I had finally conquered this weakness. Yet here I was again, confronted with my big, fat failure. I felt like such a loser—especially since just a short time prior I vowed I wouldn’t mess up in this area again. As I emerged from the stupor of denial and rationalization, I found myself soaked in shame and regret.

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The last thing I felt like doing was preparing a Sunday School lesson. “I’m such a train wreck, God. How can I possibly go into that class and teach. Maybe I should just quit.

But, I couldn’t quit the day before class, so I flopped down on the couch with my Bible and flipped open the Sunday School booklet to the next lesson. As my eyes took in the topic, my stomach churned with anxiety.

If you’ve been reading my blog long at all, you know God asks me to teach and write from my struggles more than from my strengths. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the topic for the lesson: failure.

Some failures you can experience privately. But when you lose or gain weight it is out there on display for the world to see. I thought I had finally won this battle when I lost 40 pounds a couple years ago. I remember declaring I would never allow myself to gain back all that weight.

Yet here I was with all 40 pounds back in place. And it wasn’t the first time I had done this. Failing once is bad enough, but to fail repeatedly in the same area is excruciating. The shame and self-reproach (and possibly the reproach of others) debilitate us from fulfilling our purpose if we stay stuck there.

Everyone fails, but how we respond to our failure will determine our future.  Let’s look at an example in Scripture and don’t forget to request the free reminder sheet I’ve made for you.

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The Art of Self-Disclosure: Knowing What to Share, When, and With Whom

I shared in a previous blog post, Don’t Hide Your Crazy, the importance of sharing our untidy stories and struggles as a means of helping others. In today’s post we look at an important corollary: we must discern what, when, and with whom we share. That’s where it can get tricky. Some may consider those two concepts mutually exclusive, but they actually go hand in hand.

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I’ve struggled with this issue for most of my life. At times I’ve been so afraid of letting my real self show that I would only relate to others on a very superficial level. That left me lonely and feeling as if I was the only person wrestling with the kinds of thoughts, feeling, and experiences I was going through.

Then, there was a period where the pendulum swung to the opposite extreme. I would indiscriminately blab my deepest, most personal experiences and thoughts to anyone. That bit me! I learned, after being burned a few times, why that is a reckless way to share.

The key isn’t a one-size-fits-all level of self-disclosure. Rather, it is a process for intentionally determining the best level of disclosure for the current situation.

By “best” I mean the level at which you are being authentic, sincere, and able to be of help to the person(s) with whom you are communicating. It also means, the level at which you are emotionally and physically safe and at which you are not sharing information the other person doesn’t need or want to hear.

Divine Self-Disclosure is Authentic and Discerning

God gives us a wonderful example of self-disclosure in the way he revealed his glory to Moses in Exodus 33:18 – 34:8. In a moment of great need, Moses asked to see God’s glory: a full revelation of God. The Lord explained that Moses could not see the full glory of God and live. Instead, God revealed as much of himself as was beneficial to Moses. When he met with Moses on Mt. Sinai, he revealed to Moses his divine nature and his plans for the covenant relationship between God and his people. This revelation sustained and refreshed Moses so he could handle the enormous challenges he faced.

Later, Jesus would similarly reveal his divine nature on a mountain to a small group of carefully chosen disciples (see the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36). Notice how he entrusts this revelation to them and how they respect that trust by honoring the limits Jesus placed on their sharing of the experience. Again, the revelation would equip the recipients to fulfill their mission and calling.

God reveals God’s self in an authentic way in each of these examples. He also models the use of discernment and discretion in both accounts. While these examples don’t provide us a cookie-cutter formula for determining how much of ourselves we should reveal in every situation, there are some principles demonstrated in these stories which will help inform our decision-making process.

From my study of scripture and my own experience, I’ve developed a process I use when trying to determine what to reveal, when, and with whom. The process involves assessing three things. You might find it helpful to print out the infographic outlining the key steps of the process. To get a copy sized to print on letter-sized paper, just click the button or image below.


Send me that infographic, please!

I’ll go over these steps in more detail during the remainder of this post.

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Are You a People-Pleaser? Then this post may help…

A Recovering People-Pleaser's Antidote to Striving and Strife

Last week my son was knighted in an awards ceremony at school. He was given this honor for displaying the virtue of compassion. Just after I proudly posted the photo below on Facebook, I came across a post from a friend whose child (in a different grade and class) had not been given an award. My friend was hurt and angry because her child had been passed over in favor of kids she felt didn’t earn the honor.

While my friend seethed, her child responded with grace and mercy toward the children her mom saw as undeserving. In fact, my friend went on to say she learned much from the attitude displayed by her child.

As I read through the differing opinions in the comments below her post, I reflected on why we do the things we do.

Are we striving for the rewards given by people or are we motivated by our desire to please God?

I must admit, I struggle with this more than I would care to admit.

My son being knighted as part of the Early Act First Knight Character Development program.

As a recovering people-pleaser, I must consciously work at not courting the approval of others.

It feels so good to have people like us (whether by clicking a little social media button, or by showering us with words of approval, awards, or attention).

It feels terrible when someone criticizes or tears us down—even if we deserve it. And when someone else gets the attention I feel I deserve, all kinds of strife results.

So, what is the solution? It’s actually simpler than you’d think.

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Help! I’m in a Small Group and I Can’t Get Out!

Sooner or later it happens to almost everyone: you feel trapped in a small group that no longer meets your needs. AWKWARD!

Despite knowing you need to leave, you stay because you worry about what might happen.

  • “Will my friends understand?”
  • “Will leaving hurt their feelings?”
  • “What do I do if they beg me to stay?”
  • “What if they get mad at me?”

Photo based on © ImesCreative (Click on this image to get your Boundaries Basics Cheat Sheet!)

While understandable and common, these fears are calmed by taking five simple steps to leave well.

Leaving is the right choice, right?

Before we jump into how to leave well, let’s make sure leaving is the right solution. Sometimes, fleeing really is not the answer and we need to put our big-girl/guy pants on and do what is necessary to stay and make things right and healthy.

Too many times, I’ve seen people leave over a simple misunderstanding, slight, or something that could have easily been addressed had it been brought to the attention of the leader or the offending party. Be sure you have given yourself and the group a fair opportunity to address your needs.

  • Are you clear as to the purpose of the group, your purpose for being in the group, and what gap, if any, exists between those purposes?
  • If it isn’t a difference in purpose, is there another type of problem? Is it the group, someone in the group, or you (or some combination) that is responsible for the problem? Can the problem be solved? If so how?
  • What would need to happen for the group to be effective for you again?
  • How much control do you have over effecting that change?
  • What steps, short of leaving, could you take to effect change?

With that being said, sometimes leaving is the appropriate solution. In those cases, how you leave can determine the  success of the transition and stave off hurt feelings and damage to relationships you formed while in the group.

Need help coming up with a strategy to leave a group that no longer meets your needs? I’d love to coach you through the process. Click here to book a free consultation session with me and we’ll have you on your way (guilt-free) in no time! BOOK YOUR FREE COACHING SESSION NOW!

How to Leave Well

If resolving the issues proves impossible, put your efforts into leaving with integrity and grace using these five steps. 

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