Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Your Body Needs You to Forgive

I'm blessed to have parents who, early-on in life, instilled in me the importance of forgiveness. "They didn't mean what they said." "Your friend is probably just having a bad day."  My mom was, and still is, one who always saw the best in people and chose compassion over anger. So it has always felt very natural for me to let go of unpleasant feelings I've had towards those who have been hurtful or offensive. Throughout my life, this practice has served me well. However, there have been several occasions when I have failed miserably at extending mercy to others and have paid a hefty price for my arrogance. On two specific occasions, my body fiercely rebelled against my repressed anger and landed me in the hospital for surgery. 

In my book, The Secret Side of Anger, Dr. Bernie Siegel states that "One's life and one's health are inseparable. Genes do not make the decisions. Our internal environment does. You internalize anger and it destroys you. Self-induced healing is not an accident."  Our body reflects our internal mood. It is in essence a messenger for our emotional and spiritual selves. 

How can forgiveness protect our physical health?
1. Forgiveness lowers stress levels and the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. For years, doctors have warned us that the number one cause of disease is stress. Therefore, lowing anxiety through forgiveness helps to preserve our physiological well-being.
2. It's not only Cheerios that are good for the heart. So is forgiveness. Those who are more empathetic and compassionate have lower heart rates.
3. Having a forgiving heart may lower both emotional and physical pain. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that those suffering from chronic back pain and chose to let go of their anger experienced lower levels of pain. Less stress (tension) = less pain. Makes perfect sense to me.
4. We all know that anger, stress, fear, etc. can raise blood pressure. Letting go can have the reverse effect.
5. Holding on to grudges can take years off your life. People who choose the path of forgiveness tend to live longer and healthier lives. They are typically happier, more serene, empathetic rather than judgmental, hopeful and agreeable - all affirmative mental characteristics that translate into positive physical benefits.

Medical research has shown that non forgiveness can negatively impact our cardiovascular and nervous systems and that by extending mercy to others those affects can be reversed. Like most life skills, forgiveness can be taught and absolutely must be practiced. Research has revealed that the benefits are significant and long term. Perhaps that's just one of the reasons the Lord instructs us to forgive - to protect the one and only physical body we've been given for this lifetime. 

Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Whether on an emotional or physical level holding onto grudges is just plain unhealthy. It is you, not the other party, who suffers. And don't you deserve so much better than that? Let it go. You will not only improve your physical health but you will rediscover inner peace as well. 

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
If you or anyone you know needs help forgiving, visit  for a very inspiring video. 

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How To Stop Being Angry With Someone

I find it amusing that very often when I'm scheduled to do a radio show or present a lecture I'm speaking on a subject matter that reflects a lesson I need reminded of. Today's show is no exception. I'm one who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. However, occasionally I find myself trapped in a quicksand of ire that threatens my well-being. Such is my current state of affairs. For nearly two decades I've dealt with a very spiteful, jealous, and hurtful family member. Coming to terms with my initial pain (a root cause of anger) took some time but eventually I was able to reconcile within myself and allow the situation to be what it is. Among my early morning prayers is one for this individual's emotional and spiritual healing that is causing them to behave inappropriately. 

In recent years, however, the situation has escalated,. Although it does not directly involve me, it is affecting another family member whom I care very deeply for. The issue is serious and I am without recourse to prevent further damage. The energy I've expended trying to accept this is beginning to wear thin and I find myself seriously agitated over this matter. Intellectually I know that on every level I must let go of my anger. I also know exactly what steps to take and yet I am reluctant to do so. I'll admit that a part of me feels that as long as I continue to verbalize my incense that somehow those with authority will facilitate the change I am seeking. (I do not posses that ability.) Still, things remain status quo and I find myself at a crossroad of choosing whether to relinquish my anger or not. Should I choose to move beyond the anger and restore my sense of well-being these are the steps I can: 

1. Since my anger is generated by my thought process, I can distract myself by replacing anger-provoking thoughts with those that are positive or neutral. I can focus on planning an upcoming event, deciding what my next work-related project is going to be, or simply gazing out my window at the freshly fallen snow.

2. Understanding that no one can make me angry but myself, I take responsibility for my anger and how long I choose to entertain it, how I express it, and when I decide to let it go. 

3. I can apply understanding and compassion to this party's deeply rooted issues. Rather than label or judge, I can be sympathetic to the challenges they're facing.

4. Self talk, my internal dialogue, determines my feelings. I can reflect back to a time when this person was at their best and consider their positive attributes. This enables me to restore affirmative emotions.

5. If I choose to be angry, I can channel it into something constructive - either making the changes  I am seeking, creating good come from this situation, or finding a means to prevent it from occurring again or with another individual.

6. I can put the situation into perspective. Is it worth relinquishing my inner peace and serenity for? Is it wise to allocate precious time and energy to that could be utilized for something more productive? Consider alternative options.

7. Pray. Read Scripture. Repeat affirmations. They work.

8. Remind myself of a time when my behavior was less than stellar. Remember, everyone is on their own personal journey and poor choices are a natural part of the process of spiritual evolution.

There are many factors that determine if and when we choose to stop being angry: the other person's acknowledgement of their wrong-doing, the cessation of the infractions, our commitment and relationship to the party in mention are just a few. Regardless, the choice and power is ours. I need to remind myself that I have no right to interfere with the natural order of things nor the right of each individual to make their own personal choices in life regardless of my approval or disapproval of.  Likewise,  this situation presents a unique opportunity for me to examine my personal issues that cause this to be a problem for me (since problems only exist in the mind).  Perhaps the Universe in all its wisdom is presenting me with a glorious gift of growth. I am free to choose appreciation over anger and do the work on myself that is so desperately needed. In the end, I emerge victorious as God intended. I must trust in my Heavenly Father that all is exactly as it is meant to be for the higher good. Only then will I find peace.

Ephesians 4:26 "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while  you are still angry."

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why Couple's Fight and How Not To

 I enjoy reading advice columns.  Yesterday, a disgruntled woman complained that Hallmark created the upcoming holiday of Valentine's Day to remind singles that they are losers. (I'm pretty sure Hallmark wasn't in existence during the  Middle Ages when this day was first set aside to celebrate St. Valentine.) That being said, most people long to be part of a couple. Many succeed but sadly a good number will ultimately face the demise of their love relationship. Differences once deemed adorable, quirky or interesting become problematic as time progresses. While opposites may attract they are rarely the components that solidify relationships. Conflicts arise and fights ensue. Thus begins the breakdown of trust and affection.

Why do couples fight and is there a way they can live without combat? The answer to the second question is emphatically yes. My husband and I live in a quarrel-free environment. That is not to say that we agree on everything. Oh contraire! We rarely agree on anything but we fight about nothing. Let me explain:

There is a distinct difference between disagreeing and fighting. Individuals have different points of view, different ideas and beliefs, opposing feelings and needs. Conflict (two contrasting ideas) is actually healthy and beneficial to relationships. It challenges us on many levels including enabling us to see things from a new perspective, to expand our knowledge and  embrace new ideas, to fine-tune our communication and negotiation strategies, and to enable us to put things into the proper perspective. . Great debates arise from conflict and innovative ideas are born. The problem arises when ego takes control: it feeds on insecurity and the need to dominate, to win, to prove their position (and therefore themselves) to be superior. The other party, feeling disadvantaged, struggles to regain balance. And so begins a struggle of power and a benign disagreement escalates into a battle.

Here are some suggestions to diffuse a potential argument: 

First and foremost: avoid using the terms "right" and "wrong". A disagreement is just that: two people sharing opposing views. They rarely have anything to do with being right (leave that to issues of morality, not preferences). The need to be right is based in ego and insecurity. Each party's position is as valid to them as the others is. Respect that.

Secondly: see things from their perspective to gain a deeper understanding of their position. Ask questions that will clarify the issue. Practice acceptance of their standpoint and validate their feelings.

Thirdly: query, "What is it that you'd like to see happen? How can I help?"  (Seek a solution.) Directing your attention to their needs and feelings eases the other person's concerns of being treated fairly. An investment of kindness and cooperation pays huge dividends.

Finally: show your appreciation and gratitude freely and frequently every day. Those who truly appreciate their spouses are less likely to nitpick insignificant issues. And those who feel valued and appreciated are less likely to initiate an argument. When important matters need to be addressed and resolved, each recalls how blessed they are to have such a devoted spouse that they easily and lovingly put their partner's needs above  their own.

Remember, too, that a fight cannot manifest without the participation of both parties. Refuse to engage and the battle disintegrates and all that remains is a discussion between two people who love each other deeply. Not only is that manageable but productive and rewarding as well. The threat of potentially stressful situations arising between you is squelched, thus enabling both parties to share a safe haven and fully enjoy their sacred union of love. Now go live happily ever after the way God intended. 

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How to Make a Difficult Conversation Easier

Conversations can be risky at times. The more sensitive the topic, the more delicately we need to approach it while maintaining a truthful and honest demeanor . The subtle balance between being blunt and abrasive or being effectual is one that many are not equipped to navigate.

In my more than twenty years as a corporate trainer, one of the most consistent concerns I've encountered is regarding people's ability to effectively communicate with one another. It's a skill few are taught as young children but one that is critically essential in all relationships. Our choice of words, intonation, body language, and subliminal messages all contribute to the success or failure of our conversations.  The more sensitive the topic the greater the challenge becomes. Informing my boss that I'm leaving the company may be a bit uncomfortable but feasible. However, if the boss is my grandfather who has employed our family for generations in the business, the exchange may be much more complex. Talking to my best friend about her drinking problem or confronting my neighbor about their loud late-night parties can all challenge my conversational capabilities. However, there are things we can do to ease the process of delicate dialogues and ensure greater success: 

First, keep in mind that it is imperative to present your position in a non-threatening manner. The moment one's defenses rise the conversation ceases to be productive. 

Second, remember that the objective of such dialogue is not to prove the other party wrong or incompetent. It is an opportunity for both sides to share opposing points of view or facts with the intention of learning and growing. This must be done in such a way as to enable the other party to see things from a new perspective or perhaps something they may have inadvertently overlooked even if they continue to hold fast to their position. 

Third, remain sensitive and thoughtful to the other person's feelings, needs, opinions, beliefs, etc. Listen carefully for what to say/not say. How the other party reacts and responds to your choice of words, suggestions, and insights will enable you to decide what direction to take. Active listening enables you to better choose whether to reply (and how) or to remain silent. 

Fourth, always validate the individual's position and feelings, whether or not you  understand or agree with them. Simply acknowledge that theirs are as legitimate as yours. A little sensitivity goes a long way. 

Fifth, don't lecture. Instead, ask thought-provoking questions which enable them to find solutions of their own volition. 

Sixth, above all, create an environment of safety for the other party, one where acceptance and compassion reign; one in which they feel comfortable enough to speak freely and truthfully without fear of reprisal. In this way, both parties will have the opportunity to freely and honestly express themselves while maintaining the integrity of their relationship with one another as well as their own dignity. 

While both parties may continue to hold fast to their beliefs, a prolific dialogue enables each to grow with new awareness and expanded their limited way of thinking to embrace new ideas and concepts. 

And in doing so, are given the opportunity to develop a new found respect for one another. And that alone is worth the effort.

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