The Cycles (Part Five)
“Nine” Part Series
THE POSITIVE BEHAVIOR
Once you begin to produce “positive behaviors,” the Try-Hard cycle has begun and it will wreak havoc.
You might have decided to try harder because, after an enjoyable weekend with friends, you want to try even harder to avoid the Give-Up cycle. Or you might have just returned home from a weekend at the “National Try-Hard Conference,” which was full of anecdotes and this year’s flavors of really trying hard to succeed. You might be frustrated with the consequences you have experienced in the Give-Up cycle. Or maybe you are simply fully rested up from being in the Give-Up cycle for so long and now are really ready to try harder.
Your behavior now shifts from overeating to under-eating. If you used to neglect reading your Bible, you are now up bright and early to read your Bible. If you previously did not give money to your church, you are now proud to give money. If you deal with chemical abuse or alcohol, you grit your teeth and you abstain. And the list goes on and on.
MESSAGES THAT AFFIRM YOU
You are really doing great now that you have decided to try harder and this has now begun to attract “Messages That Affirm” from the Cheerleaders.
They exhort you with: “You are great! See how capable you are! I knew you could do it!”
Now you should feel accepted. Right? But sadly you don’t because these affirming messages deflect off of your shame grid as illustrated.
Here is where we clearly see the irony of trying to perform your way out of shame. Even as the cheerleaders encourage your performance, messages that are suppose to affirm you collide with your shame grid and the shaming messages take over again.
Deep inside, you think to yourself: “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t say those things about me. I have to keep performing so that they will continue to affirm me. I am really not as good as they say.”
In Philippians 3:1-10, Paul states that he has a habit for the things of the flesh. Paul literally says that he has a mind to place his confidence in his flesh, and he lists all the reasons why this is so natural for him. Paul, however, urges us to place no confidence in the things of the flesh, because the flesh is dead. Rather, place your confidence and glory in Jesus Christ.
Allow me to illustrate. Bill was quite a successful businessman. He owned a growing stock brokerage firm and a mortgage company and both companies produced quite a large sum of monies. Because of his business acumen, Bill was asked to be on multiple boards within his community. Bill was a young believer and full of passion for God. Bill was married to a wonderful woman for a number of years and they both enjoyed their three kids. Bill was also on the board of his local church; this was quite amazing considering that he had only known Jesus for about three years. His local church would recommend other families to him for financial counseling. He had every appearance of being the pillar of the community. Suffice it to say, Bill shined!
Multiple cheerleaders would gather around Bill with predictable comments.
“Bill, you are so full of the Spirit”; “You have such wisdom”; “He is such a godly man”; “God has gifted Bill with such wisdom and the ability to make money.”
Bill began to reject the comments coming from the cheerleaders. They actually became shame to Bill. He knew the truth about himself.
Bill would make comments to himself: “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t say those things about me. I have to keep performing so that they will continue to affirm me. I am really not as good as they say.”
You see, Bill grew up in a strong performance-driven household. Both of his parents worked and Bill stayed home alone quite often. His father was very distant and Bill felt he could never measure up to his Dad’s aspiration. Bill never remembers his Dad ever saying, “I love you, son.” Bill concluded that his Dad loved him because he always had food on the table, and they went on family vacations every year. But what he wanted to hear the most were the words, “I love you son. I am so proud of you.”
Bill tells a story of when he was a gymnast in the eighth grade. Bill had been fairly successful as a gymnast and knew that he was going to win the outstanding athlete award at the father and son sports banquet. Bill was so excited because maybe now his dad would be proud of him.
So the big night arrived and, with a tuna casserole in hand, Bill and his dad went to the awards banquet. As Bill had expected, he won the outstanding athlete award. He thought for sure his Dad would say something like, “that’s great son, I am proud of you”, but nothing! When he and his Dad returned home, Bill got out of the car with the empty tuna casserole bowl. The bowl slipped out of his hands and onto the driveway breaking into many pieces and splattering leftover tuna casserole everywhere. His dad turned around with a look of disgust and said: “Can’t you do anything right?”
Bill grew into an adult and, sad to say, he continued to perform for everyone. He was convinced that if he just tried hard enough, everyone would eventually be happy with him. So Bill carried this sad reality into his business endeavors. When business was going great, all was well, but when business would drop off, Bill would do what ever it took to increase the business, including deceiving his clientele. Performing well in front of family and friends was everything to Bill, and he would do just about anything necessary to keep it up.
At 40 years of age, Bill crashed emotionally and spiritually. Bill was exhausted from performing for the affections of all of his family and friends. Bill could not and would not stay living in the Try-Hard Cycle. After he crashed, Bill entered into counseling, and after two painful years God gave Bill divine revelation into what God thinks of him. Bill was now experiencing healing.
Look for The Cycles (Part Six) post tomorrow.