How to Forgive: It’s Hard, But It’s for You

Part 2 of 3-Part Series

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18: 21-22). Wow, that’s a heavy burden. From our human perspective, it just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Someone sins against you 77 times, and Jesus tells you to forgive them every time. On the surface it might seem unreasonable, yet when Jesus commands this, He’s looking out for YOUR best interest.

Forgiveness: It’s Your Gift

When you deeply explore the “why” behind Matthew 18: 21-22, you’ll come to realize the benefit isn’t for the person receiving forgiveness but for you. Forgiveness doesn’t help the sinner, instead it helps the one who was sinned against. When you hold onto the pain, it only hurts you. Jesus wants you to be free from the hurt and pain, so he is commanding you to forgive as many times as is necessary so that you can be set free.

Why Forgive

Why Forgive? We forgive to be MOST like Jesus. His last and most important human act was to be the sacrificial lamb and take our sin when we stand before God in judgment. Forgiveness can be challenging, and especially when those who’ve sinned against us won’t even ask for forgiveness. How can we more easily forgive and set ourselves free of our hurt?

Forgiveness is not dependent in any way on another person. You are 100% in control. Forgiveness is not predicated on whether someone asks for forgiveness. Your forgiveness is simply a choice that releases your pain—an intentional surrender to your own negative emotions and hurt.

Setting the Stage for Forgiveness: Your Belief System

Forgiveness comes more easily when you believe the 4 following truths:

  1. You are 100% responsible for what you think, say, and do. When you make excuses, blame, and criticize, what you’re saying is there’s something better that you’re not willing to go after. That “better” may be forgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and not the other person. Are there times you tell someone you forgive them, but you still feel hurt. Why? Because forgiveness is not something that you give someone, it’s something you give yourself.
  3. Forgiveness sets you free. Give yourself permission to let it go, because it doesn’t serve you a useful purpose.
  4. Forgiveness allows you to get closer to God. When you’re obedient to God’s commands, you are drawn closer to Him. You achieve a higher spiritual position than before.

Steps to Forgive Those Who Hurt You

Step 1: Align your belief system with the 4 mindset principles. Have the right mindset toward forgiveness.

Step 2: Ask God to help you maintain a forgiving mindset

Step 3: Confess your sin of unforgiveness up until that point. Yes, you are a sinner of unforgiveness.

Step 4: Speak aloud your forgiveness of the person by specifically naming the behavior, and then speak blessings over the other person who has sinned against you.

Step 5: Remind yourself that this is a journey and give yourself a pat-on-the-back that you’re moving in a positive direction

Establish Healthy Personal Boundaries

Honoring God with a spirit of forgiveness doesn’t mean that we have to continually expose ourselves to negative people and situations and a cycle of repeated forgiveness. Neither are we to shelter. We are to be in the world sharing the Gospel, and when we do, we will be exposed to those who will hurt us. Consider establishing healthy personal boundaries that help to safeguard you physically, mentally, and emotionally, so that you have the mind and spirit to bring Kingdom to earth.

Scriptures to Pray On

  1. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  2. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)
  3. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
  4. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
  5. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37)
  6. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to sever times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and ministry. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Why Forgive? When It’s the Hardest Thing You May Ever Do

Dear Lord, help me forgive…

Part 1 in a 3-Part Series

We live in challenging times, but this has been true for centuries. And as I often share, “No one gets a struggle-free life.” Do you feel oppressed with personal suffering or emotional pain caused by either your own actions or those of others? Simply said, “I believe you can minimize it or caste it out quickly after you feel it.” The secret lies in forgiveness—yes, a difficult task for most people.  

Ten years after professing my belief in Jesus as my personal savior and the Holy Spirit setting up camp in my heart, I have been on an incredible life journey where God has brought me some insights on how to manage the mudslinging and pain that come each day by living on this earth. This 3-part series explores forgiveness: why forgiveness is important, how to forgive, and then my own personal testimony of forgiveness and its impact on my life.

You Are Not Alone

Do you sometimes feel like one of the walking wounded? Do you feel weighed down with feelings of hurt? The answer lies with not just having a belief in Jesus but also tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit—a gift that comes with your salvation. Jesus gave us a friend in the Holy Spirit while we live on earth, until we sit in judgment before God, and Jesus steps in and says to the Father, “I take the sin on behalf of my brother [or sister] who stands before you.” 

How You Can Be MOST Like Jesus

When Jesus truly dwells in your heart, you’ll be inspired to be like Jesus. The Bible gives us testimony and insights into what it looks like to be like Jesus. Yes, have you studied Jesus’s ultimate act and what it means for us still living an earthly life?

On some level it’s hard to imagine that God would send His only Son to earth to be brutally tortured and crucified, so He could take the sin away from all who professed in Him as their personal savior. Jesus’s final act was both the symbol and powerful truth of FORGIVENESS of sin when we all—Christians and people of other faiths—stand in God’s judgment. If you want to be MOST like Jesus, you must forgive others as God forgives you through the power of Jesus Christ; otherwise, you just don’t get Jesus at the heart level and what He did for you.  

Your Forgiveness and Jesus

Forgiveness is so important that Jesus commands us to do it more than 77 times if necessary (Matthew 18:21-22). Scripture also implies that what stands between us and God is our sin and lack of forgiveness (Matthew 6:15). Consider Jesus’s last words spoken before it died and went to heaven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When Jesus could have said anything to the crowd or the Father, He chose those words. Will you follow in his footsteps?

What unforgiveness are you holding onto? Who do you need to forgive? Let Jesus stand before our Maker on judgment day and slide the forgiveness card in front of God and say, “I take his [her] sin, I paid the price.”

Give me Jesus…

Pray Upon These Forgiveness Scriptures

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1)

But if you do not forgive others that sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Part 2 will give you insights on how you can forgive when it’s difficult


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and ministry. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Conflict: How to Move from Anger to Love

christian-fregnan-W5Vf2fiDvss-unsplashHow many times has someone said or done something that you chose to respond in anger, whether you held back or expressed your emotions? Did you notice how I phrased it as a choice? Most people blame other people for what they feel such as “He made me mad when he said or did…” When you choose to exercise a 100% responsibility mindset, you’ll realize that you own your feelings and your choices.

How does one own their negative feelings and move into a place of peace and safety? The path starts with anger and moves through hurt, fear, remorse, forgiveness, appreciation, and finally ends in love. People commonly get stuck in the fear stage, because it requires personal awareness, humility, and at times uncomfortable decision-making to make it all the way to love. They are required to process their feelings (anger, hurt, and fear) and then move into what can feel like difficult choices (forgiveness, appreciation, and love).

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Example: From Anger to Love

Moving toward remorse requires you to claim responsibility for what you created, contributed, promoted, or allowed to happen. You may not feel practiced or skills, but you can start now. Let’s take an example of how this process might work.

ANGER: My mother makes me angry. Every time I talk with her, she tells me all the things I should be doing with my life and how I’m not making good decisions. She doesn’t realize it, but we’re talking less and less, because she doesn’t have anything positive to say.

HURT: I’m hurt that my mother doesn’t have enough faith in me to make good decisions. I wouldn’t say that all my decisions are the best, but compared to others, I’m holding my ground, and I’m willing to live with their consequences.

FEAR: I’m afraid if I say anything to my mom about the way she is hurting me, I’ll hurt her feelings, she’ll get defensive, or worse yet, it will damage our relationship. I also don’t want her thinking I’m a failure.

REMORSE: I regret not saying anything to her about how I feel. I’m not honoring our relationship by not being respectfully truthful and allowing the distance to grow in our relationship. I own that, and it’s gone on for too long.

FORGIVENESS: I forgive my mother. I know she worries about me, she loves me, and she has the best intentions. Unfortunately, she doesn’t understand what her comments are doing to our relationship, because I haven’t shared my feelings with her. How could I blame her for something she didn’t know?

APPRECIATION: I appreciate my mom. Some people have mothers who don’t even care. I’m lucky to have a mother who cares enough to share what’s on her heart.

LOVE: I love my mom for all that she does for me. Because I love her, I’m going to share my feelings, give examples so she understands what I’m referring to, and then put in appropriate boundaries for our conversations so we can have a positive relationship.

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About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Four Ways People Cope with Their Emotional Pain

unresolved pain

No one gets a struggle-free life. Not the wealthy, the beautiful, the kind, the religious, the talented, the powerful, or the famous. There’s no insurance policy or anything you can say or do that will protect you from hurt and pain during your lifetime which begs the question, “What will you do with your pain?” How will you cope when people intentionally or inadvertently disappoint you? Hurt you? Abuse you? Usually, people respond to emotional pain and hurt feelings in four common ways.

Medicate

A majority of people who fall into the walking wounded category assuage their pain by choosing activities that numb or provide a temporary escape. Pleasure behaviors provide relief from the feelings of emotional pain by flooding the body with dopamine. Over time the frequency of escape usually leads to dependency and then eventual addiction with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex to name a few. Anything can become an addiction when its continued practice interferes with relationships, finances, work, and health, or brings physical harm. The addictive behavior is a means of numbing pain, but as the body adjusts to higher levels of dopamine, more and more of the addictive substance is required to get the same high. An addiction provides short-lived relief from pain and usually also brings other unintended consequences.

Retaliate

Some people respond to hurt by physically and verbally lashing out at others or creating a hostile atmosphere where others walk on egg shells. In many cases, close family members take the brunt of the abuse of a person who has adopted a spirit of retaliation. As the old saying goes: misery loves company. The unspoken attitude is “If I hurt, everyone else should hurt too.” In the extreme, some people may either withdraw or intentionally seek revenge disguised as justice. Unresolved pain usually leads to more destructive behaviors with the hope that these behaviors will make the person feel better. Revenge is never an effective medicine for healing pain.

Motivate

Still others become super motivated by their pain to prove other people wrong. It’s the I’ll show you response. For example, a child who is hurt by a parent’s comment, “You’re so dumb, you’ll never amount to anything,” may focus all their energy in proving that parent wrong regardless of the toll it takes on his or her life. Although many people have achieved incredible worldly success through this underlying driver, it usually still results in unhappiness, anger, and holding the pain of rejection.

Ruminate

Those who choose to deal with their pain by wallowing in it are usually invited to join the “woe’s me” crowd. They talk about their problems over and over again to anyone who will listen, hold people hostage in conversation, and appear not to want to solve their problems. They aren’t able to move on, because they can’t get past the hurt, and in many cases, their view is that it is everyone else’s fault. When told to make lemonade from lemons, they will give a laundry list of reasons of why they can’t. Over time, they alienate people by draining others’ energy.

A Better Solution

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

How do you solve the pain problem? God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit are partners who can help heal hurt in the heart. When you truly focus in growing a personal relationship with God, three things tend to happen. You (1) become less concerned by others’ judgment, (2) feel more intense love from the Father which pales in comparison to your earthly relationships, and (3) begin to more deeply understand your personal worth through the Father.

” [God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

2 Corinthians 1: 4-5


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in ministry, leadership, premarital/marriage, and finances. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Self-Confidence: How It’s Revealed in Your Relationships

While conducting one of my Building Better Relationships workshops, an attendee asked me, “How can I give my girlfriend the self-confidence she needs?” Depression or mental illness was not a factor—just low self-confidence, which had supposedly manifested in her not expressing what she wanted, arguments, silent treatment when she didn’t get her way, a general feeling of discontent, and lack of action toward going for what she wanted in life. My reply was, “You can’t give your girlfriend self-confidence. She has to earn it for herself.” *

Self Confidence3

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the realistic, positive belief that you can influence your world—that you have the abilities, personal power, and judgment to overcome obstacles and get what you want in life. You trust yourself and what you can do!

Self-confidence can only be developed from within a person. No amount of participation trophies, positive words, or kind gestures can build self-confidence, because these are only externally applied props. Although these supports are enjoyable rewards, they are only cheer-leading tools, and for some, these tools are meaningless and have no value.

You can’t ask, beg, or pay any one any amount of money to do the hard work that it takes to build your self-confidence. What spouses, partners, friends, and family can do is be supportive by providing encouragement, brainstorming, and feedback which is akin to helping a person help himself. You have likely heard the expression—do with and not for.

When does Self-Confidence Start?

Building self-confidence starts in infancy when parents decide to what degree they will respond to their crying baby. Crying is an infant’s only tool to influence his world and get what he wants. Assuming his physical needs are met, how much should parents coddle their infant and when should they allow him to self-sooth.

Self-confidence continues to grow when a toddler ventures out to explore the world away from the view of his parents. Although children need to know they can run back to their parents as a place of security, they also need their parents to challenge them and let them make and learn from their mistakes. Children who believe they have some mastery of their world tend to have the highest self-confidence. Some kids break the mold and seem to have a genetic contributor that gives them resiliency. Even adults who didn’t have an idyllic childhood can grow their self-confidence.

How to Grow Self-Confidence

The only times I’ve seen self-confidence grow in adults is when they attacked adversity head-on, worked hard, worked smart, and never gave up on improving themselves and their situations. When they hit a wall, instead of turning around and giving up, they instead figured out a plan of approach to get to the other side. They found a way of either digging under it, blasting through it, crawling over it, or stepping around it.

When you get to the other side of the wall, look over your shoulder, and can honestly say to yourself, “I did that,” that is the point when your self-confidence climbs another rung on the ladder. Self-confidence increases when you believe if you put your heart, mind, and soul towards something you can accomplish it, and you proved it to yourself when you got to the other side of the wall.

Role of Family and Friends in Building Self-Confidence

When spouses, parents, and friends do for you what you should be doing for yourself, they are robbing you of the opportunity to grow your self-confidence. When they rescue you from the consequences of your decisions or actions, they are again robbing you of a teaching opportunity that can grow you. They may not be stealing a piece of you, but they are starving you of what it means to be a fully functioning, resilient, and ultimately happy individual.

The next time someone wants to bail you out or do something you know you should be doing, I would suggest you say, “No thanks. I can do it, but I sure wish you’d keep checking in on me. I may need your support, and this is what support looks like…”

*Note: Men suffer as well as women from poor self-confidence.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Trust: Do You Have It and How to Build It


marcos-mayer-8_NI1WTqCGY-unsplashDuring premarital/marriage coaching, I frequently discover that the topic a couple is arguing about is not the root issue that needs to be resolved. What they need to repair is the distrust that has either slowly crept or jumped into the relationship. Most couples identify violations of trust with the “big stuff” such as having an affair, drug addiction or alcohol problems, and hiding or secretly spending money. By all accounts, these behaviors are clearly violations of trust. However, what most couples may not realize is that the “small stuff” over time has the same ability to create distrust and insidiously undermine the relationship or marriage.

Without trust you can’t build anything of sustainable value. Trust is the foundation on which strong relationships are set and a critical element in any committed relationship. People can tell you whether they trust someone based on their feelings, but they may not necessarily be able to define the characteristics and behaviors that build trust.

Trust in a relationship is akin to the foundation of a house. You’re building a home. You know a solid foundation is important to stabilize the structure and allow it to withstand severe weather conditions. After the concrete is poured, you take the foundation for granted. You focus your attention to the other features of the home such as the number of bedrooms and baths as well as the size of the kitchen. You expend a great deal of effort designing the small details and decorating the interior. Your money and energy are overwhelmingly poured into creating a warm and comfortable home, while you fail to appreciate that the foundation is protecting it all.

Fast forward several years, and a crack forms in the foundation. Your house is not in jeopardy yet, but unchecked, the first crack gets bigger, more cracks appear, and some settling occurs. Now the house has cracks in the floor tiles, walls, and ceiling. The house is looking worn and possibly unsafe to live.

In many cases, people choose not to fix the underlying problem but patch it so it doesn’t appear so obvious. In extreme cases, you may decide to sell the house—get out and start over, building the same house all over again on a different property. The TRUTH—you need to deal with the foundation—TRUST.

Trust has many components, any one of which can undermine or strengthen the relationship.  Brown (2017) has deconstructed trust into 7 major components that must be practiced and reciprocated over time to build trust which are:

  • Boundaries: Communicating and honoring clear expectations
  • Reliability: Doing what you say you will do again and again [Note: It’s important to understand your limitations and not over-commit]
  • Accountability: Making a mistake, owning it, apologizing, and making amends
  • Confidence: Not sharing with others what is shared in confidence
  • Integrity: Practicing, and not just professing values, in which you may have to choose courage over your comfort or right over fun, fast, and easy
  • Non-judgment: Helping when another falters and being vulnerable to ask for help when needed [Note: One-sided help sets the giver up to feel superior over time]
  • Generosity: Believing in good intentions when the behavior is a mistake

Which ones do you live out regularly, and which components do you need to practice and reciprocate over time to build more trust?  I would encourage all couples to get honest with themselves on which trust factors they struggle with and to share this revelation with their partner. You can then develop a specific action plan to improve in that area to build more trust.

Trust is not a black-or-white issue but one which is measured on a continuum. Where does your relationship ride on that continuum? What are you willing to do to move it in a more positive direction? Improving trust takes time, patience, and thoughtful words and actions. You must trust the process that will take you from where you stand today to a more trustworthy relationship in the future.

Reference

Brown, B. (2017). Super Soul Sessions Video: The Anatomy of Trust. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewngFnXcqao


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Change Your Relationship with Money and Change Your Life

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Your Money Relationship

Money can be a difficult topic to discuss because of our emotionally complex relationship with it and how we use it to create meaning in our lives. We need money for the necessities of life such as food, water, clothing, and shelter, but we also use money to achieve status, security, enjoyment, and control over our world.  How would you describe your relationship with money?

We typically have dreams involving our lifestyle, career/job, relationships, community, and faith. These areas of life are all connected and usually supported by a financial plan that prioritizes and balances income, spending, and savings. Two big questions we should all be answering for ourselves are: (1) What budget do I need to implement to help me achieve my goals, and (2) What financially based behavioral changes do I need to make to create the life I want? If you haven’t seriously thought about these questions in the past, answering them could be an intimidating task.

What is Financial Coaching?

If you need help creating a financial path out of the woods, a coach can be the partner who helps you to see the forest through the trees. Financial coaching is a partnership where clients learn financial skills, increase financial savviness, set goals, shape a financial strategy, and execute an earning/spending plan that helps them achieve both their short- and long-goals. A coach and client co-create the plan and brainstorm ways a client can successfully execute it.

Coaches also support their clients by identifying and fostering behavioral changes that will result in sustainable performance. The client’s money habits and goals need to be aligned and working in concert. Financial coaches keep their clients focused on positive financial behaviors while making allowances for missteps as these new money habits take form.

How Can a Financial Coach Help Me?

You will likely find yourself sharing the financial details of your life under a confidentiality agreement. Your coach will need an accurate picture of your financial situation and an understanding of your current behaviors/thinking that will either support or undermine you from reaching your goals.  You will co-create strategies to address risks that may disrupt your plan.

Coaches monitor your progress, provide feedback, and make referrals as needed. Your financial coach will teach, encourage, support, and challenge you as you strengthen your financial stewardship.

Some clients may be financially savvy on the mechanics and skills of budgeting and long-term planning but only lack discipline.  In this case, a financial coach can still provide value by helping the client: (1) determine underlying sabotaging practices and their causes, (2) identify positive long-term financial behaviors, (3) practice new behaviors until they become more comfortable.

Your Next Decision

No matter what stage of life or age, it’s never too late to pause and decide to live out a new financial plan that excites you and gives you long-term peace of mind.  As someone once shared with me, “It’s ok to be old, and it’s ok to be broke, but it’s a terrible thing to be both old and broke.”  Don’t let lack of financial planning have you regretting your earlier choices.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, life coaching, marriage, and finances.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best version of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her websites at www.shinecrossings.com and www.shinecrossingsministry.com

The Power of a Simple Thank You Letter

Sandra Dillon: July 22, 2017


pen and paper 1In December 2011, I started an annual tradition to select at least three people who had the most influence on my life that year and to write them a hand-written thank-you letter explaining why they had such an impact.  That year, one of my chosen few was Anthony Spagnoletti, who is the owner of an auto body repair shop in The Woodlands, Texas, who brought me to Christ.  On a Friday afternoon, in June 2011, Anthony changed my life by shooing away his employees and handing off his customers to spend two hours talking to be about God and providing answers to my questions about unexplainable events that were happening in my life.  When I left his office that day, all Anthony knew for sure was that he had sacrificed several hours of his valuable time to have serious conversation about God with a woman whom he had just met hours before.

I never had any contact with Anthony after I left his body shop until he received my letter in December.  Actually, I assumed he received it and hoped that I would hear from him again, even if it was just a thank you for the thank you.  No word!  In April 2012 while driving back home from a weekend in Austin, an email appeared on my iPhone which began with “This letter is long overdue…”  Anthony wanted to let me know that my thank-you letter had made an incredible impact on him and come just at the right time.  He was questioning God and his purpose, and my letter affirmed everything he knew God to be and why he was put on this earth.  I changed Anthony’s life that day with my simple thank-you note.

Wow!  I assumed Anthony would enjoy hearing that his two hours spent with me was worth the investment.  That long-ago Friday night, I thought about everything that we had talked about.  I then slept on it, and the next morning while lying in bed, I prayed “The Prayer” and asked Jesus to be my personal savior.  The Holy Spirit came in a way I cannot explain, and my life was changed forever.  I wanted to thank Anthony for giving me that gift.  What I could not have imagined was that I gave him an almost equal gift in return through the simple gesture of writing a hand-written thank-you note.

I wanted to share this story and encourage you to think about those people in your life who have made a difference.  Next, take the time to write and express your gratitude.  If they left an edible mark on your life, do they not deserve that little bit of your time to put your thanks on paper?  You never know what impact you might make on them in return!

There is a post-script to this story which shows how the impact can live on!  In July 2017, my husband, Darin, returned to Anthony’s body shop to get his rear bumper replaced. Over the course of some chit-chat, Anthony told Darin that my letter sits safely tucked in the Bible he reads every day.  He shared that this letter is the best gift he ever received. My note of thanks is not a one-hit wonder but a lasting legacy for one Godly man. Knowing that my letter continues to have a daily impact inspires me to continue writing those annual thank-you letters and encourage others to do the same.


Reclaim Your Life by Creating Healthy Boundaries

Create Healthy BoundariesDo you feel less joy these days?  Does it feel like everyone else owns a piece of you and there is nothing left?  Do you dream to have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so you can reconnect with yourself?  Is your life a harried record of accomplishments and yet never-ending to-do lists? Would your personal profile be listed in the dictionary under the word “busyness”?  You may sadly chuckle and infer these questions are tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that an answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a sobering reminder of how stressed and anxiety-ridden many are as they run, not walk, on the treadmill of American life.  Unfortunately, the solution is not as easy as advertised by the late 1980’s commercial “Calgon, take me away!” in which a woman, surrounded by a chaotic home, says these four words and is then transported to a relaxing bath in a quiet room.  If only the solution could be solved so simply by the purchase of a few bath products and an evening soaking in the tub.

What’s the solution?

The solution is within your power to implement.  Personal boundaries!  They are the critical component in designing the life you want.  “Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work” (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries affect how we relate to others, how we feel emotionally, and how we perform at work.  When you understand the impact of boundaries and choose to define them for your life, you will reconnect with your identity, find more joy, and create a healthier and more satisfying life.  The necessity of personal boundaries has emerged as a counter force to the crisis that has developed from an increasingly structureless society that values the integration of work-life, despite the rhetoric that we need to have more of a work-life balance.  American culture and work have eroded the time and space boundaries we need to focus on the priorities we value most.

How did we get here?

So how did we get to this place of exhaustion and dissatisfaction?  Work structure has changed from the typical 9 to 5 hours of operation to one in which we are to be available 24-7, where working in the evenings is just an extension of the normal work day.  Work has penetrated our home space by either design or creep.  Bortolot (2015) states that the home office is now one of the most important residential amenities.  Even if one can physically separate his work environment within the home, he may not be able to mentally escape work.  How many of you have tried to relax in the evening, only to feel the nag of work penetrating your thoughts?  Do you compromise by opening up your laptop while watching your favorite TV sitcom?  Although society praises the multi-tasker, they are usually pulled in so many directions, they struggle to enjoy anything other than the satisfaction that comes from crossing off more items on their to-do list.  Keim (2012) showed that high multi-taskers performed poorly at filtering irrelevant from relevant information, had diminished ability to mentally organize, and experienced difficulty in switching between tasks.  Keim (2012) concluded if you do two things simultaneously, you will not do any of them at full capacity.

Although our lives have all benefited from technology, the tragedy is that it has also enabled the violation of our time and space boundaries.  Personal cell phones allow access to you at all times.  iPhones and computers give instant access to data and connectivity to work.  Email has expanded our network so strangers can now reach into our personal world.  Although email was initially described as a productivity enhancement, anyone with an email address is now accessible at any time by any one.  Email and voicemail can be blessings, but without personal boundaries, you may feel email is a curse because of the pressure to respond to communication, even if unsolicited.  By definition most people are losing control over their most precious resource—their time.  Money can be earned, won, spent and lost, but time is a finite resource.

TolerateBoundaries help us define who we are and form a structure in our lives that allows us to regain control (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries protect your time, space, and relationships so that you can positively influence your world. Our society does not naturally provide the support that helps us to create and live out healthy boundaries.   Cloud (2008) asserts that “the irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control—other people, circumstances, or outcomes—that in the process they lose control of themselves” (p. 21).  The only thing you can control is yourself, so consider the decision to take control of you.

How do I reclaim my life?

  • Understand what a boundary is and what it does

A boundary is a demarcation of where you end and where someone or something else begins.  Boundaries define ownership and who controls what does and does not go on in that space.  More importantly boundaries define who is responsible for and accountable to protect that space.

  • Understand what boundaries provide and how they serve your needs

Boundaries provide the structure that helps to define our character and personality, because they describe who we are, what we want, and how we feel and think.  Clear boundaries provide security and benefit self and others, because they are not ambiguous, are predictable, and signal what we will and will not tolerate. They help to contain chaos, because one who is clear on boundaries will step in to make sure chaos is effectively dealt with.

  • Define what you feel, think, and desire

Boundaries differentiate us from others and teach us how we are unique individuals in feelings, attitudes, behaviors, limits, thoughts, and choices.  What are the things that you value most in life?  How would you ideally want to live your life?  What do you want to make a priority?  What are your vision, mission, and goals?

  • Identify the holes in your boundaries

Rebuilding boundaries is about reclaiming your power.  Power drains have numerous sources as described by Cloud (2008): need for security, need for approval, need to be perfect, need to have others see you as ideal, need to overidentify with other people’s problems, need to rescue, fear of being alone, fear of conflict, need for harmony, fear of differing opinions, fear of anger, fear of feeling inferior, fear of someone’s power, inability to say no, inability to hear no or accept limits, inability to tolerate failure of others, hero worship, lack of internal structure, and dependency to name a few.  You should identify the holes in your boundaries and address them.

  • Communicate who you are to others

Set limits consistent with your vision, mission, values, and goals and communicate them to others.  You empower others by allowing them to decide and live with the consequences defined by your boundaries.  By default, you will no longer try to control others’ decisions and actions, because you can live with the outcome of whatever decision they make. Communicating and living within your boundaries is a form of respecting others and also provides a healthy model for them to emulate.

  • Act on your boundaries

Live each day in accordance with your boundaries.  When you are in control of your boundaries, you become a more integrated person, gain greater respect for yourself, and become more respectful of other people’s boundaries.  Boundaries allow you to influence others’ behaviors toward you, which by default makes you feel whole and more in control.

What is the cost of boundaries?

Having boundaries comes comes with a personal cost.  In order to have full control, you need to have the freedom to control those aspects of your life where you have boundaries. You can only leverage them if you are not dependent on any single person or entity for survival, because the one to whom you are dependent may decide to invoke their boundaries and put you in an untenable position.  As you work on defining your personal boundaries and areas of weakness, you should also take inventory of your life to understand where you have weak capital.  Has poor financial stewardship put you in a position that you could not weather a job lose for several months should you decide to invoke your boundaries?  Would a work dismissal cause you undue hardship?  If so, you may need to save for an emergency fund to build that capital.  What about the young adult, still living rent-free with his parents, who does not like his imposed curfew?  He is not free to come and go as he pleases as a fully functioning adult, because he may be asked to pack up his belongings and move out.  His first step should be to build his financial capital so he can either re-negotiate rent for more freedom or secure other living arrangements.  Before invoking boundaries, you must end any dependency and be able to live with the boundaries that any other individual may choose to impose on you.

CAUTION:  Establishing boundaries for the first time may come with some emotionally charged responses from others in your life.  You may likely find that those people who have boundaries respect you more, and those people who do not live with boundaries will resort to behaviors that will test the strength of yours.  Think of the parent who has told his toddler no.  Toddlers use the word no to try to establish their boundaries.  When they do not get their way, they step up with more emotional persuasion.  Next may come yelling, screaming, and possibly throwing things to get their way.  They may fall on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  They may say, “I hate you,” as a means of hurting you into giving in.  When you are firm on your boundaries for long enough, a toddler will eventually wear themselves out and move on.   You may have to repeat this cycle a few times; however, when a toddler knows his parent is firm on a boundary, compliance prevails in the long run.  This same principle also holds true for family, friends, or work relationships.

References

Bortolot, L. (2015). Four trends in home office design. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248061

Cloud, H. (2008). The one-life solution: Reclaim your personal life while achieving greater professional success. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keim, B. (2012).  Is multitasking bad for us? Nova Science. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a life, premarital/marriage, and business coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.