The holidays are here! Yes, it is the time of the year when we spend increased time with our families—during which we can become stressed out at the mere thought. In fact, many people go into the holiday season wondering how they are going to survive. I was one of those people. Spending time with my family has been great at times and miserable at others. There was a time when I dreaded the holidays and going back to my hometown. However, as I grew in emotional intelligence, I changed my thoughts and began to manage my emotions, which helped me to set clear boundariesand respond instead of react. Nowadays, I tend to thrive during the holidays! So how can you move from surviving to thriving emotionally this holiday season?
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Increase the focus on yourself. People will tell you that it is selfish to think about yourself too much, which is true. But it is also unhealthy to not think about yourself enough—because other than God, no one knows your needs better than you. So, if you need time to yourself away from your family, your in-laws, your “different” cousins, or the general craziness, then take it. Let people know in advance that you may need some “alone time” (I call it “Michelle time) and then when you need it, take a walk, take a drive, or find a quiet place to unwind. Also—take a nap (or naps)! Sleep is instrumental in helping you cope better, feel better, and interact better with others. So get a good night’s sleep and take some naps. Remember, no one else will make that time for you, so just do it.
Release the burden of others’ emotions. When I need “Michelle time,” sometimes people are supportive and sometimes they are not. I used to get upset because others felt mad/hurt/upset at my need for space. Now, I release that—it is their issue, not mine. Once on vacation when Michelle time was over, I noticed one of my family members acting as if I had purposefully hurt them by taking time for myself. I, however, did not react to that (or respond to it). I ignored it. Now, had I done something wrong, I would have addressed it and apologized. But restoring my soul with much-needed alone time does not qualify as wrongdoing, so I released the issue and acted normally—and eventually, that family member did too.
Pray. Pray. Pray. Few things have gotten me through the insanity of family gatherings like prayer. I have noticed that when I pray for my family members, I am the one who changes. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” If you are anxious about this holiday season, cast your emotions onto God in prayer! He hears you, and He will answer because He loves you. How do I know? Because my responses are more grace-filled, I am more receptive to others, and my emotions are more balanced—because of God’s grace and mercy in answer to my prayers.
Remember: it starts in your mind with your emotions! Take some steps this season to move from surviving to thriving emotionally—and learn to enjoy the holidays with your family!
What are some ways you have learned to thrive emotionally during the holidays?
A few years ago, I had a crush on a colleague of mine named Ed. (That’s his real name—he deserves credit for this one.) Ed and I were both student ministers serving at different churches, and I had no idea what to do about my crush. If you know any prophets, you know that prophets HAVE to tell people where they stand with them. So in true pushy prophet girl nature, I sent him a birthday card (it was NOT his birthday—humor) in which I let him know I had a crush on him.
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Ed sent me an e-mail in return that was quite simply the sweetest rejection I had ever received. In it, he noted that he had been in my situation before, and he wanted to be as grace-filled as possible in letting me down. He also promised that there would be no weirdness between us as friends. I was disappointed, but I don’t even remember if I cried: what I remembered was that I felt accepted and I felt grace, even in the midst of being rejected.
Thinking about all the rejection that I’ve personally faced is tough, but that one grace-filled acceptance reminded me of three keys to handling rejection—whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end:
Remember that rejection is not always personal. In my story, Ed was in a new relationship that he wanted to see through. (FYI: that relationship became his marriage.) Sometimes, it’s not the circumstance for you. But remember my previous blog about God accepting you? Well, He also knows what’s best for you and has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). And that job, that person, or that circumstance may not be what is best for you now, but God knows what is and He is saving you for that.
Weave grace and acceptance into rejection. The way Ed handled me was filled with grace and acceptance. Why? Because he had been in the same situation before. We have all been rejected in our lives, and we know the pain it can cause. So if we want to be emotionally mature adults, we should strive not to cause that kind of pain but instead to deliver acceptance and compassion to others (Ephesians 4:31-32). So remember rejection feels like and aim to improve the experience by asking God for His compassion to help you—whether you’re giving or receiving it. Pay acceptance and compassion forward.
Use both rejection and acceptance to grow and move forward. In my case, I was not ready for an Ed (a boyfriend). I looked at myself and began to see ways that I could improve my communication, my emotional health, and a number of things that God needed to work on in me. So is there something you could improve about yourself? There is a God who accepts you, just as you are, but He doesn’t want to leave you that way. Truly accepted people become truly accepting people (Cloud and Townsend), and we should keep growing in Christ to build up ourselves and His church (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Experiencing rejection can be a time for growth, but it can also be a time to experience grace and acceptance. In fact, choose to make acceptance the norm in the midst of rejection. You can say no and deny others when necessary, but the challenge is, can you do it with grace and compassion?
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The earliest memory I have is one that I have relived many times. I am standing at the front door—no more than five years old—where my dad has come to get my sister to spend time with her. The problem: I am his daughter, too, but he doesn’t acknowledge that and leaves me behind. It was not the first time, nor was it the last time, that I felt rejection. That one moment, seemingly stuck forever in my mind, flavored the way I looked at the world and how accepted I felt—by others and by myself. I learned far too early to reject others before they could reject me—and I have spent most of my life fighting a spirit of rejection.
Rejection is a regular occurrence in our lives today. It is easy to feel rejected by the myriad of social media actions that create false acceptance in our lives. Did someone “retweet” you? How many “likes” did your status update receive? Did that person “love” your picture? Did someone “pin” your story on their board? If not, does that affect how you feel about yourself? Do you then try even harder to get acceptance through these false mediums?
Surely God shakes His head over humanity and our deep misunderstanding of what acceptance truly is. He has told us in “eternal ink” where our acceptance should come from and how we can get it. To change our mindset and feelings about being rejected, we must know what His Word says about it:
God will never reject you. Psalm 27:10 says “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” It does not matter how many humans have rejected you and in what way they have done it. God will take you in and He will not forsake you, reject you, or throw you away—no matter what you have done.
God chose you. It is more than just NOT being rejected—the truth is that you are accepted and chosen by God (John 15:16; 1 Peter 2:9). Though there are different theologies behind the term “chosen,” this simply means that God has always wanted you. From the beginning of time, He chose you and desired you and wanted a relationship with you. Think about that for a moment: the God and Creator of the entire universe chose you personally to be His beloved. And God does not make mistakes. Shouldn’t walking in that reality change how you view the rejection or acceptance of others? (Yes, it should!)
God appointed you. He did not just choose us and leave us. He then appointed us, calling us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He appointed us to be His spokesmen to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). He appointed us to bear fruit that would last so that whatever we ask in His name, we will receive (John 15:16). These amazing truths tell us that God wants us so much, He has special assignments for us. No human acceptance could ever compete with this glorious truth.
Even today, I struggle with remembering that other people’s rejection of me is not what matters; what matters is how God feels about me. And though I sometimes struggle, I remind myself–and that little girl–that God loves me and is constantly pursuing me, and that He is the only One who will never reject me and always accepts me—just as I am.
What are some Bible verses that help you overcome feelings of rejection?
I am not sure when it started. Likely, it began when I sought out a “safe” place to go when my sister was out of control or when I was hurt from an interaction with someone. Whatever the reason, I would retreat into my special place of solitude and happiness: I would daydream.
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Some of the daydreams were simply of the future: what I would become, how I would handle this situation or that, who I would have in my life—and these were characteristic of my younger years. It was not long after I hit double digits in age, though, that my daydreams became sexually explicit in nature as I fantasized about a man who would love me and care for me. It was just a daydream, I reasoned. There was no reason to worry, no sin in dreaming, and no motivation to stop. I was not hurting anyone. However, I did not realize at the time that I had built a stronghold in my mind.
Google defines a stronghold as, “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” It also is defined as “a fortress or a place of security or refuge.” In my case, the daydreams and fantasies in my mind were places of security or refuge for me—a place for me to seek safety and shelter when I felt I might be attacked or hurt. What I did not understand was that God Himself wanted to be my fortress, the place where I ran for safety when I felt scared.
Throughout the last six years, I have made great strides towards renewing my mind and making God my fortress. Here are a couple of sledgehammers to help you begin breaking down any strongholds you may have in your mind:
Accept that you have strongholds in your mind. If you do not believe that you have them, you will not be able to fight them. Your strongholds may look different from mine: maybe you try to control situations by planning them out in your mind before they happen. Maybe you retreat into your mind when you are around unsafe people. Maybe your mind stronghold says you need a drink to help deal with a situation. Whatever your stronghold, accept that you have it, and take it to the Lord in prayer.
Acknowledge that only Jesus can give you the power to overcome strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We are fighting against more than simply our flesh, which means we will need more than our own desires to break down these strongholds. The great news is that if we admit that we are weak and need Him, Jesus will come running to be our divine power.
Admit your strongholds to a friend. I have had many accountability partners throughout the years, and that was a great step in helping me overcome some of the strongholds in my mind. Admitting my “stuff” to someone else was very difficult—our pride says no one wants to hear about our sins, and that no one else struggles with these things. However, the Bible assures us that when we admit our struggles to others and pray for each other, we can be healed (James 5:16). That healing from the Lord comes in many different forms, including acceptance from others.
We all have strongholds in our mind, but God is faithful and just to begin tearing them down—if only we will start with acceptance.
What are some ways you have broken down strongholds in your mind?