Acceptance, Approval, Affirmation, and Love

Recently, a friend posted a meme on Pinterest that says “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

I disagree with this statement. I don’t think the writer understands the depth of what happens when people reject LGBTQ people. (Let’s be honest. That’s what they’re talking about here.)

[Note: I talked with my friend about it, and he wasn’t thinking about LGBTQ people at all. I still think the author of the meme was, and that’s what I’m arguing with.]

I hang around Christians and am a Christian and love Christians. But I’ve heard a lot of defensiveness about condemnation of LGBTQ people. They say we should “Love the sin and hate the sinner,” which just comes across as hate. They say you can accept someone without approving of what they do.

And that’s actually true. For example, I have a very good friend who’s polyamorous. I don’t approve of being polyamorous and would never ever do that myself. But who’s asking me? It doesn’t matter in the slightest what I think about my friend’s love life. I care about my friend and love talking with him, and he’s given me plenty of wise insight on relationships – some of which he’s gotten because he’s had to pay extra attention in order to navigate relationships with more than one woman at the same time.

Has being a universalist made me less worried about his soul? Yes, actually it has. Whether his behavior is sinful or not is between him and God – and they can work it out. One thing I’m sure of: His love life in no way blocks him from God’s love for him. And it doesn’t block him from my friendly love for him, either.

Just because I don’t “agree with his lifestyle” or “approve” of what he’s doing – doesn’t mean I need to disapprove of it either.

But let’s talk about LGBTQ folks. What’s at issue here is identity. This is about who they are.

It’s most obvious when you talk about transgender people.

My oldest child is a transgender woman. So there was a day when she told me that she was no longer going by the name I gave her at birth. And she told me that I was wrong about her – that she is not a man but a woman.

Suppose I say, “I love you, but you are wrong. You are deluded. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve changed your diapers and know what’s between your legs, and that’s what makes you male or female. I know better than you.” And I refuse to call her by her new name or refer to her as my daughter.

Or even worse, suppose I say, “I love you, but it’s evil to say you’re a woman. It goes against God’s design.”

Could my child possibly feel loved in that situation?

Never mind that the Endocrine Society – doctors who deal with this – have come out with a statement that there is strong scientific evidence that we are born with a gender – but that gender is determined by what is between our ears rather than what is between our legs. And it doesn’t always match.

But let’s say that I decide that I know better, that since God created humans male and female and I am sure that knowing which one depends on what you can see on the outside of a person, then making the outside match the inside is evil and wrong.

I just can’t imagine that my child will feel loved by me if I insist on calling her my son and call her by the male-gendered name I gave her at birth. If I do that, am I really loving her? Or only the person I think she is, but that matches less and less who she says she is.

How could she possibly feel loved by me if I don’t even call her by her own name? I’m loving my fantasy child, not the child I actually have.

I’ve known many people in my lifetime who have gotten my name wrong, calling me Sandy or Sandra. One person thought my name was spelled Sandra and I was just trying to sound cultured or something pronouncing it “Sondra” – which he refused to do. I usually make the mistake of being too polite to correct these people, but if it persists, I have a hard time feeling like they know me at all. Now imagine if other people don’t even get your gender right.

I keep going back to the writings of Patricia Evans on verbal abuse. She says that verbal abuse is defining someone differently than the way they define themselves, insisting that you know better than they do who they are. Refusing to believe a person when they tell you what gender they are seems like the ultimate expression of this.

A person being treated this way is not going to feel loved.

Someone might say (and I’ve actually heard people say this), I accept your son, but I don’t approve of taking hormones and dressing like a woman. I believe that’s sinful.

I’m sorry, but if you’re not accepting my daughter, then you’re not accepting who she actually is.

With gays and lesbians, it’s also about identity. Being sexually attracted to people of the same gender isn’t something they chose; it’s the way God made them.

Now, you might say that the problem isn’t the attraction but acting on it. You accept the people, but you don’t approve of same-sex marriages.

My transgender daughter is engaged to a transgender woman, so there are those who think I should not approve of my daughter’s upcoming marriage.

Again, this is about her very identity. If people make a point of showing their disapproval by staying away from the wedding or delivering a judgmental sermon rather than a wedding gift – well, my daughter’s not going to feel loved by them.

Now, the main reason to disapprove is because you think the Bible teaches that same-sex relationships are evil and perverted. I’ve studied this issue, and I don’t think that’s a correct interpretation. I think Paul was talking about sexual exploitation, not loving same-sex relationships. So, as it happens, I do agree and approve and I’m happy for my daughter and her fiancé.

I guess part of the question is this: Who am I to approve or disapprove how another adult chooses to live their life? Doesn’t that fall under Jesus’ command, “Judge not lest you be judged?” How about we accept other people for who they are, and let God handle the approving or disapproving?

In fact, in the case of LGBTQ people, I believe that being vocal about your disapproval and calling it sinful can actually do that person harm, telling them that God will punish them if they authentically live the way He created them.

Back to the meme that touched off a reaction to things I’ve been hearing people say ever since my daughter came out – the first “lie” it called out is that “if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them.”

Well, if you only disagree, there’s no problem. But if you feel a need to protest that lifestyle, to get in their face, to loudly proclaim that this person is evil – as some Christians have in fact done to LGBTQ people – well, it’s pretty normal for the targets of that to feel feared or hated.

The second “lie” that the meme claims our culture has swallowed is that to love someone means you have to agree with everything they believe or do. Of course that’s nonsense.

But do be aware that if you “disagree” about someone’s very identity – it’s going to be a lot harder for them to feel loved by you. You don’t even know who they really are!

If you “disagree” that someone should be married to the spouse they’ve chosen – are you really able to make them feel loved? You can say you love them until your tongue falls off, but I don’t know if they will feel loved by you. It will certainly add constraints to your relationship.

It seems like the meme is trying to make black and white something that’s full of nuance. It’s trying to say that it’s possible to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Yes, I can love people I think are sinning. But mostly I’ve found that it’s not my business if the people around me are sinning or not. As Paul says in Romans, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master, he stands or falls, and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

There’s a huge difference between disagreement and judgment. Are you really sure you’re only disagreeing?

Is it compromising my convictions to not worry about whether my friend’s lifestyle is sinful or not? Maybe rather than worrying about whether he’s sinning, I should worry about whether I’m loving my neighbor as myself.

In general, I find that when I’m most convinced someone else is sinning is when I’m least likely to be able to influence them to change. Funny thing about that. It’s almost like it’s not my job to convict other people of sin at all.

I wrote this entire post, and then yesterday I posted a quote by John Pavlovitz that says it more concisely:

One of the things you learn when you walk down the path of being an ally is that people aren’t LGBTQ based on the consent you give or don’t give to them, the approval you provide or withhold. That’s not how gender identity and sexual orientation work. Your acceptance doesn’t give people permission to be anything. It simply allows them to be fully authentic in your presence and to feel loved as they are. It secures people in those places where they should feel fully secured: in their families and friendships and workplaces and churches. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ family members, coworkers, classmates, and friends right now, you may want to ask yourself if that’s because you’ve created an environment in which they would be afraid to share it even if they were. It might be that your words and manner have already told people that they’re not safe to be honest with you. As our society thankfully becomes less and less hostile to the LGBTQ community and as people begin to gradually feel safer in authenticity, more children will come out and more families will have a new reality to reckon with. Those families will continue to seek spiritually and they will continue to need and deserve to be in faith communities where they are fully welcomed. It is one of the reasons the table needs to be made bigger.

I still haven’t touched on affirmation. Affirmation goes a step further than agreeing or disagreeing. Affirming someone is saying, “Yes! I hear who you say you are, and I find that delightful!”

It’s saying to my daughter: “You are beautiful, Zephyr! I’m so happy you are telling the world who you truly are! I’m so happy to have you for a daughter. I believe what you are saying about yourself, and I’m honored to learn this truth about you.”

It’s hugging and congratulating my daughter and her fiancé and rejoicing with them and dancing at their wedding.

And sure, you can love someone without affirming everything they do.

But affirmation sure feels nicer than judgment.

Love and Connection

I’ve been thinking about love lately.

Our pastor preached on “Right Connection” last Sunday. Although I agreed with his points – We are made for connection; right connection with God helps us have right connection with people and vice versa; right connection is incredibly important – a couple of implications from how it came out bothered me a little bit and got me thinking.

In talking about how much right connection with God helps us to connect with people, he mentioned how much a tough marriage affects your whole life and hurts your happiness.

But – I have experience with a tough marriage and heartbreak in marriage, and I have friends in similar situations. Being in a tough marriage does not mean something’s wrong with your connection with God. And I especially disagree with any implication that heartbreak has to destroy your happiness. I mean, by definition heartbreak makes you sad. But – finding joy in other things was a crucial part of healing for me. And being surrounded by the love of friends was also crucial.

So – all that got me thinking about love. I’d also just finished reading Lorna Byrne’s book Love from Heaven. Lorna Byrne says that from birth, she has been able to see and talk with angels. She also says that the angels taught her what the force of love looks like coming out from people. Angels showed her that people are born with a soul of pure love – but with one thing and another, we learn to wrap a band around our hearts and lock up our love.

(You can feel love and peace coming from a newborn – at least one who’s sleeping!)

Now, I believe that loving others is all wrapped up in following Christ. My pastor also preached on Sunday about two passages that affirm this. Jesus said that people will know his disciples by their love for one another. Jesus also said that the two commands that sum up the Law and the Prophets are Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

So why do I know so many Christians who are in marriages that are breaking their hearts? If our faith helps us to love, why does that happen?

Well, to me, the thing about humans loving others is that we get hurt. We fail to be as loving as we should, and in return we are not loved as we should be. Or it may even be no fault of our own – even babies are not always welcomed into a loving home.

What made me want to write about this was a memory that came to me this morning. It was not long after my husband had told me he wanted a divorce. Now I could tell people that I was having marriage difficulties. I told my family, and I told my Sunday school class. And I remember there was a Sunday when three different people told me, “You need to let Steve go.” The first two, I thought were just saying that because they were divorced themselves. But when my wise mentor who’d had marriage difficulties but was still married said so – well, I finally figured out God was trying to tell me something. (I managed to loosen my grip a tiny bit. Actually letting go took years. But the process was beginning.)

Anyway, what I remember about that day was that a woman in my Sunday school class who had been divorced and was standing there with her new husband was one of the people who told me I needed to let Steve go. But she also told me, “You will become hard.” She said that she had become a much harder person during her divorce, and I could in fact see it in her eyes.

I decided in my heart right then that I didn’t want that to happen to me.

And I’m not talking about dating or getting married again. I’m talking about opening my heart to love.

Lorna Byrne says that it’s all the same thing. Locking up your love affects your ability to love anyone. If you let out love in one way, it’s going to help you release love in other ways.

And that rings true.

It’s not even only love of other people, but also love of yourself and love of life.

And that ties in with what Steven Stosny talks about in his books. Among other things, he says that when you value other things or people – even something like beauty in nature – you will feel more lovable. You’ll “access” your core value.

When I was struggling through my marriage falling apart, it helped so much to find other things that brought me Joy. They helped me remember who I really was, what I was about. Sure enough, it helped me feel more lovable and valuable. (That takes a big hit when someone who’s promised to love you until death parts you decides you don’t deserve his love.)

I’m also reminded of the book Deeper Dating. That author, Ken Page, talks about finding your Core Gifts. He talks about expressing your Core Gifts and finding people who are attracted to them, attracted to you.

In a roundabout way, he’s saying the same thing as Lorna Byrne: Loving yourself makes you more lovable and more able to love. Release that love! Don’t wrap a protective band around your heart.

When I think of these in light of what Lorna Byrne is saying, it all fits. They’re talking about loving yourself – and like Lorna Byrne says, that gets you releasing love and more able to love others.

I think following Christ can also help you release love. Connecting with a community of Christ followers can also help you release love. That’s how faith can help in this.

Releasing love is dangerous though. There’s a really good chance you’ll get hurt. Being a Christ follower definitely won’t keep that from happening. You’ll be tempted to become a harder person.

But I do think that faith and loving people can help you open your heart again and love. Believing you have God’s tremendous love for you goes a long way. And actually seeing that love expressed through people – That is gold.

So – that’s what I’ve been thinking about. It’s come out a bit incoherent. But I’m trying to say that Joy in life and Love and Forgiveness are all wrapped up together. Let’s try to loosen that band around our hearts – whatever it is that’s happened to us. And let’s release that love and compassion. Let’s connect with others and refuse to become hard, even though it feels like it’s a lot safer.

And if you harden your heart in one area, I really do believe it’s going to affect your ability to love in every area.

Praise God! He loves us unconditionally, and we can go to Him when loving brings wounds. And try to learn to open up and let out that love again.

Recently, my cousin, who’s divorced, asked if someone who has once given her heart, given her all, can ever get that again.

Now, my cousin clearly loves life. I don’t think she’s wrapping a tight band around her heart. I think she’ll find that love.

And, no, romance again isn’t guaranteed. But I want to learn to radiate Love. I do believe it goes hand-in-hand with Joy and adds so much richness to life. And the thing about following Jesus is that he showers that love on us. He will help us spread that love to others.

Waiting With Grace

I’m thinking about Waiting this week, and about God’s Timing.

God’s Timing is beautiful! I know it well, and I’ve seen evidence of that lately, in a very simple but big way.

In April, I was elected to the 2019 John Newbery Award Committee. A dream come true.

The thing is, four years ago, I was on the ballot for the 2015 Newbery Committee – and I missed being elected by 15 votes! Out of about 800 voters. My disappointment was enormous and huge.

But here’s where God’s timing comes in: This is a much better time in my life. Being on the Newbery committee makes my Empty Nest and Single State an asset, rather than something to be sad about. I’m going to need to spend a whole lot of time reading – and no one will mind.

And I have another reason to be thankful for the timing – my library system is going to pay for my trips to ALA Conferences to serve on the committee. I can safely say that this would not have happened four years ago, for various reasons.

But that doesn’t change how disappointed I was when it didn’t happen when I wanted it to.

And that reminds me of something else I want in my life. Or perhaps I should say someone else I want in my life.

Yes, being single is an asset for serving on the Newbery committee. But yes, I still want to find a new partner to share my life with.

It’s been awhile now since I shut off my online profile. I felt that God was telling me to “Wait on the Lord.”

But this past week, I got into a little bit of a funk about that. There were several reasons. A big one was that a very good friend who is not a Christian said something about not liking to watch me letting life pass me by.

Oh my goodness, that got me defensive! Because I’m HAPPY, doggone it!

Trouble is, he knows me well enough to know that I really do want to have a man in my life again.

And then I argued with him, and he said some things that made it worse. Though eventually, he apologized and we’re good – talking about other things.

But I’m thinking about Waiting.

I know in my heart that I can trust God with my future. And I also am super happy in the present.

It’s interesting to me that it didn’t necessarily help to tell my friend the human and perfectly natural reasons why I don’t want to go back online right now. I’m on the Newbery committee – I honestly don’t want to give it a lot of energy. I’m focusing on reading for the next year and a half. If I try to find someone online, I will have to change my strategy, anyway (I was not having much success with that method) – and that would take a whole lot of energy.

But the truth is, I do feel like God told me that He’s got this – that I don’t have to take charge of this! That this is something He’d like me to put in His hands.

And that’s hard for me to do. When there are things I can do to help find someone – post an online profile, go to meet-ups – am I “letting life pass me by” if I don’t do them?

Well, I don’t believe so.

But there are danger points. I think this particular time is a danger point because I’m so eager to start reading for the Newbery! I got one Advance Reader Copy of a 2018 book passed on to me a few weeks ago, and I was so excited to get started! But now I have nothing. And work suddenly got much less frantic, when the kids went back to school.

I thought I’d ask God for more confirmation that I should still be waiting. And you know what verse I got this time? John 4:50 – “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

What I feel like that’s saying? You KNOW I’ve got this, Sondy! Trust me, and go about your business.

So – I’m trying. In fact, the day I read that verse, I thought I should look back at what I thought Jesus’ words to me were about this – and it turned out that exactly one year before was one of the times I felt God was telling me to “Wait on the Lord” – and did give me a little sign.

And I believe it. I believe this will work out. And even if I’m totally wrong and I never get married – my life is good, and rich and full. I am absolutely sure that I don’t want to marry anyone who will not enhance my life and build me up in my faith. I’d rather be single – because my life as a single person is very sweet.

I just need to remind myself of that now and then!

And then I go back to strategies – The thing about waiting is that being impatient doesn’t speed things up one little bit. In fact, being impatient makes it seem a lot longer.

And my impatient times sneak up on me.

But there are strategies to happily waiting. Being thankful is a big one of those.

And you know what? I bet part of the problem was that since April, I’ve been SO excited and happy about the Newbery, I haven’t even needed to employ strategies to be happy!

So, yes, some of this is probably that I got impatient about getting started on my reading for the Newbery. Getting to read just one eligible book tantalized me. It won’t be long now, Sondy! (And I hope on this weekend to read some last books for grown-ups before my Newbery reading starts.)

This post didn’t turn out to be nearly as profound as I’d hoped. But here’s what I’m trying to say:

I’ve seen clearly that God’s timing is beautiful – in the Newbery committee, as well as other disappointments I’ve suffered.

I believe that God’s timing will be beautiful about finding a life partner, too.

And I do believe God has told me that I can put that one into His hands.

And if I’m wrong about that? Well, my life is very, very good. It’s definitely a win-win situation.

Okay, I’m going to re-evaluate after the Newbery. And ask God. But for now? I don’t have time to pour my energy into finding someone, anyway.

And God’s not mad at me for getting into a little funk. I’m trying not to be mad at myself. I’m also trying to shift gears and notice again just how very beautiful life is right now.

I’ll close with some verses from Psalm 86 —

Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.

Thinking About Love

ValentineToday’s Valentine’s Day.

I’m not in a romantic relationship, and I would like to be — but I reject the notion that this means I can’t celebrate a holiday that’s all about Love.

Think about it — Love is the fundamental heart of the Christian faith. Consider these verses:

Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:37-40

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” — John 15:9-10

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. — I John 3:1

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. — I John 4:7

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. — I John 4:16

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. — Isaiah 54:10

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings. — Psalm 36:7

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. — Zephaniah 3:17

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39

I think it’s fantastic that we celebrate Thanksgiving — a day set aside to honor a wonderful spiritual practice. So why not treat Valentine’s Day that way? It’s a day set aside to honor Love — which is what makes life worth living. It’s what the lives of Christians are supposed to be about. Sure, we can get by without romantic love (though it sure is nice when it comes along), but love itself is crucial. It’s worth taking a day to think about it!

Although I can get discouraged when I think about romantic love, I have so many reasons to celebrate love! Both the love of God and the love of friends and how rich I am with people in my life whom I love and who love me.

This was brought home to me 10 years ago today. It was pretty much the low point in the end of my marriage (or one of the low points). My then-husband was trying to get through to me how very over our marriage was in his mind — by being cruel. (To be fair, it wasn’t getting through my head. Even then, I didn’t understand at all how he could throw away our years together.)

I was scheduled for surgery in a German hospital on Valentine’s Day. It was for a “non-healing wound” on my cervix — how symbolic is that? — and they also found adhesions (scar tissue) in my uterus.

Anyway, I knew my then-husband was not going to be supportive. And it was Valentine’s Day. And did I mention surgery in a German hospital? I felt very alone. So, out of desperation, I asked my friends and family to mail me valentines.

They came through. In fact, the quilted bag I carry to church each week was made by a friend on that occasion. And what could have been a horrible disaster now reminds me of how rich I am in friends and how much I am loved.

Yesterday, I tried to recreate some of that by “sorting” my Facebook friends — talking about the different times in my life where I’ve met people and made lasting friends and tagging people in each time period. (I’ve moved around a lot and picked up friends all over the world!)

But the joke’s on me! After tagging about a couple hundred people — and I just got through relatives, high school friends, and college friends — Facebook won’t let me tag anyone any more! So I guess that means even Facebook thinks that’s more friends than a person can legitimately have! See how rich I am?

And the picture of the bookmark in this post? That was a Valentine given to me today by my lifelong friend Darlene, accompanied by a wonderful note. It was nice that today was a Sunday — I got other hugs and prayers and kind words and was freshly reminded how surrounded I am by love and how very wonderful that is.

Now, lest it sound like I’m gloating: I do have to make a point of reminding myself. There’s no rejection quite as devastating as that coming from someone you love deeply. When they tell you that rejection is your own fault — because you are not worthy of love, or even worse because of ways you actually did fail them — it is so easy to believe the lie that you’re not lovable.

So I’m taking back Valentine’s Day — using it as a day to remind myself:

YES, I am lovable!
YES, I am loved, deeply and truly, by God and by many others.
YES, I get to love as well!

In closing, let me offer this prayer for you, Dear Reader:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:17-19

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Core Value, Loveability, and Loneliness

This morning I came across something that brought a whole lot of things I’d been thinking about together.

It was a “Core Value Bank” I’d written out on a little slip of paper, using directions from Steven Stosny, author of Love Without Hurt, which was originally published as You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore. He also spoke about this when I went to the Compassion Power Boot Camp and in his book Living and Loving After Betrayal.

Let me attempt to explain the threads that came together when I saw this piece of paper.

First, for a few weeks I’ve been reading Dr. Robert Holden’s book, Loveability. An interesting thing he’s said in the chapters I’ve been reading recently is that all love springs out of the belief, “I am loveable,” and all fear springs out of the belief, “I am not loveable.”

Another thread was that I was having a discussion with a friend from church that a primary way to serve God with our whole hearts is to love as God would have us love. But my friend pointed out that a big obstacle to that is that we first need to love ourselves. (See how that tied with what I’d been reading?)

Another thread is that I’m living alone, dealing with an Empty Nest as my youngest son is about to graduate from college, and coping with Loneliness a whole lot more often than I think I should have to. This thinking has been a thread through my recent blog posts.

That brings me to the Core Value Bank. I was reminded of Steven Stosny’s teachings when I looked at it. He teaches that when you’re having an argument with your spouse, a key part of transforming your anger into compassion is to focus on your own core value. This is because the reason you get angry is when you don’t feel valued or valuable. If you remind yourself of your core value, you will be operating from a place of strength and you’ll be able to see the value of your partner and show compassion toward them.

But the interesting thing was that reading over my Core Value Bank this morning — It helped with Loneliness as well! Because isn’t Loneliness all about the fear that I am not loveable?

Now, I strongly recommend Dr. Stosny’s books, but you might not feel you need to read them if you’re not in an emotionally abusive relationship. (If you are, get his book immediately!) So I’ll give a brief rundown on what he has you put in your “Core Value Bank.”

This is from You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore, page 187:

The Core Value Bank is designed as a repository of your core value, a kind of bank account of the most important things. You can think of each of the eight segments as a safe deposit box containing images of the most important things to and about you. The Core Value Bank is itself an image of your internal value. Its contents correspond to persons and things in the world, but it resides entirely within you. It’s always there, ready to give you strength whenever you need it. Each time you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste something in the world similar to the contents of your Core Value Bank, it will remind you of your core value and thereby activate it within you. In other words, you will be motivated to improve, appreciate, connect, or protect. The next time you see a sunset, for example, it will not only seem beautiful, it will remind you of your core value. Put as much content as you can in your safe deposit boxes — you’ll be amazed at how many reminders you’ll start to find in your environment.

The best thing about the Core Value Bank is that you make deposits at the same time you make withdrawals. You will never run out of core value.

So, to be clear: The paper I found today was a diagram with eight boxes where I’d put reminders of my Core Value Bank. The bank itself exists inside me. But thinking of those reminders? It zapped any feelings of loneliness I was having. In my past experience, it really does work beautifully with feelings of anger as well. It honestly does help you have compassion for others.

Here are the things to put in the eight boxes:

Box 1: Basic Humanity. Imagine helping a child in trouble. Dr. Stosny gives different scenarios: A child in the desert when you are both dying of thirst — You would help the child first. A child in a car accident who has lost their mother — You would naturally want to comfort this child. In the box you put the emotions of helping and comforting that child.

Box 2: The most important thing about you as a person.

To sort out what is most important, think of what you would rather have your grown children say about you: “He was always honest, but I’m not sure he always loved us.” Or, “He was human and made some mistakes, but I always knew that he loved us.” For most human beings, the ability to love, protect, and support their loved ones is the most important thing to them and about them.

Box 3: Attachment: Fill in the names of your loved ones. You’re writing their names, but the emotional content of this box will be the actual love you feel for them.

Box 4: My Spiritual Connection: Fill in a symbol (a drawing, mark, or word will do — I used a Scripture reference) of something that has spiritual importance to you. It can be religious, natural, cosmic, or social — anything that connects you to something larger than the self, which, while you are connected to it, seems more important than your everyday, mundane, or selfish concerns.

Box 5: Something Beautiful in Nature: Name, draw, or describe a nature scene that you value — something that you feel is beautiful. (I can think of my lake.)


Box 6: Something Beautiful Human Made: Identify a piece of art, music, writing, or other human creation that makes you feel value. (I tend to list great books. But part of the idea is to put many different things in here. When you appreciate beauty, it also makes you feel valuable.)

Box 7: My Community Connection: List communities you feel connected to. (My church and small group, the folks in the Kidlitosphere…)

Box 8: Compassionate Things I Have Done: List three compassionate things you have done. These do not have to be a Mother Teresa kind of compassion. They can be relatively small gestures, when you helped or comforted someone else, with no material gain to you.

So, that’s the Core Value Bank. (I do highly recommend reading the book for more information and ideas about it — even if you’re not in an emotionally abusive relationship or any relationship at all. But if you don’t read the book, this gives you the idea.)

I hadn’t thought about it in awhile. But when I picked up the paper I’d written reminders on and thought about my Core Value Bank — magic happened.

Can you see how all the threads pulled together? When I remember my own core value, and make deposits in that value by improving, appreciating, connecting and protecting — I’m so much more able to believe that I am loveable. And then I am more able to show compassion and love to others in my life. And I am also more able to spend my time meaningfully when I have a day alone, not fretting about the fact that I am alone.

And another name for Core Value, I believe, is your inherent Loveability.

So the things in your Core Value Bank remind you of the basic truth: “I am Loveable.”

Sunday Songs

Our pastor is doing a series on Finding Jesus, and today’s topic was Simplicity of Identity.

Alyssa got up and talked about all the different ways we find our identity — from our physical qualities, our job, our hobbies, what our friends say, to quizzes on Facebook. Then they showed this music video:

Pastor Ed’s sermon was from John 6. When we read John 6, we can see how secure Jesus was in his identity and how firm he was about it. And Jesus’ identity is firm and secure because of his connection with the Father.

But the point of John’s biography isn’t to help us identify Jesus. It’s to help us find our identity in Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t ask for us to understand him — He wants us to come to him, to eat and drink of him.

In our lives, we have identity indicators and identity anchors. My identity will be secure if my anchor is my connection to Jesus.

The only way to get free from the crippling identity messages that come at us is to find our anchor in Jesus.

I was especially touched by this sermon because before and after they sang a song that was sung at my wedding — “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

But my marriage ended badly, and many messages were flung at me that I was unlovable, a failure, and a cruel person.

But I had honestly prayed on my wedding day, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.” Things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but what a nice reminder that God considers me His Beloved.

Beloved. We are beloved by God. He will never let us go.

Keeping a Record

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared. — Psalm 130: 3-4

Love keeps no record of wrongs. — I Corinthians 13:5

Praise God that He doesn’t keep track of my sins, or my failings.  How easy it is to keep track of how many times other people do us wrong, rather than how many times they do good things.  There’s a feeling that after someone does bad enough things, enough times, you are completely justified in cutting them out of your life.

You might say, “You said such and such a terrible thing three times.  I can never love you again.”

What if we stood that on its head?  What if we kept a record of goods instead of a record of wrongs?  What if we kept track of kindnesses instead of offenses?

I might say to my husband, “You told me you love me 3,473 times.  I can never hate you.”

You stood by me and helped me through the birth of our sons 2 times.  I can never forget you.

You asked me to marry you and shared your life and your income with me.  I can never despise you.

You soothed me when I was sick and in pain 1,023 times.  I can never stop caring about you.

You opened your heart to me 5,471 times.  I can never stop loving you.

You love our boys and take good care of them.  I can never stop respecting you.

My friend talks about a well of good will that her husband built up that couldn’t be emptied when he had an emotional affair.  The well was too deep.

It’s our choice.  We can let the bad outweigh all the good in our minds.  Or we can decide to let the good outweigh any bad that might come along.  It’s not like there isn’t a whole lot of good there to do the job.

And funny thing, keeping a record of the good and thinking about that is a far, far happier and more peaceful result than obsessing over wrongs done.

Praise God!  He looks at the good He placed in us and never, ever gives us up as failures or hopeless cases.