How Gratitude Helps Grief

How Gratitude Helps Grief

 

My grandma just died over the Thanksgiving holiday. She was my last biological grandparent and 89 years old. Although my family could long foresee this coming due to her declining health, her death casts a new reality that will take time to adjust for many. Thankfully I was able to travel and visit her this past summer and say my “goodbye” to her then. Maybe I am still processing my emotions, but I currently do not feel like weeping. My feelings may reflect a healthy outlook as I know she proclaimed her love and faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior.

 

I am aware of how I feel in this moment. I also realize that others may feel differently about the same situation, so I must not project my emotions onto them. However, I think that it is possible to bring a healthy balance of grief and an “attitude of gratitude” into any difficult moment. In those many moments of loss (death, job, relationships, etc.), here is how to healthily join grief and thankfulness together:

 

  1. Realize it’s okay to grieve. Psalm 31:9 is a prayer to God noting the physical distress of grieving. This is a natural reaction God gave us (which I am learning for myself!) as part of a healthy process. So don’t try masking your healthy grief by pretending you are not sad in moments of sadness. Proverbs 14:13 warns that “even in laughter” the heart may be grieving! So be aware of how you (and others) are truly feeling.
  2. Quiet your inner rage. Grief and anger are two different feelings. Be discerning to not allow yourself to sin in anger just because you lost someone or something you loved. Proverbs 15:18 warns that a “hot-tempered man stirs up strife” but being calm quiets contention.
  3. Be still and know…your limits! Psalm 46:10 reminds us that we are not God, so we must trust in the One who is God. We can take hope and be grateful when we realize that situations are out of our control and in the capable hands of our Creator and Lord.
  4. There’s hope! First Thessalonians 4:13 proclaims that there is no grief for those of us who have a hope in Jesus. Good news for all of us who have lost fellow Christians here on earth as we know that we will be united again for all eternity. We can be grateful for the hope in Jesus, no matter the current woes!
  5. Blessings are gifts, not rights! I am not entitled to have a certain job, make a certain salary, have family near, or evade death. Instead, I do have the right to rejoice in all things as I know that God graciously gives good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and there is nothing to my merit which earns goodness or adds days to my life. The apostle Paul makes this clear from his dire dungeon when he writes, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
  6. “Attitude of gratitude” is infectious. With my wife’s help, I am learning to not be a curmudgeon when simple expectations don’t go the way I want them to happen. When I can express joy, I find my attitude is more selfless and grateful (not to mention my wife enjoys being around me more).

 

I think I am able to see the blessings my grandma was to our family, and how God worked throughout all circumstances. Ultimately I believe my grief can easily be subsided and healed by looking onward to the residual path of God-given blessings of His goodness. Thank you Jesus!

If you are interested in receiving clinical and biblical counseling, please contact myself or Tish Hedger at Emmaus Counseling

 

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

How porn strips more than clothes

How porn strips more than clothes

I don’t know of anything that has ever been more blatantly immoral yet continues to increase exponentially in usage, than the epidemic of our porn industry. (Even the CDC reports that abortions are lessening in frequency.)

So what’s the big deal? It doesn’t hurt anyone.

Is this just a “religious” argument for morality?

What if porn is used to enhance my partner’s and my sex life?

Great questions. But they’re horribly skewed and illogical at their core. For there is not a single, selfless, good reason that porn exists. Porn does not even suffice one’s “sexual frustrations,” as some may argue. In fact, the viewing of porn does the opposite; it sets one up for future failures.

I do not have a single reference that summarizes all the ethical and mental health reasons to abstain from porn, but there are ample sources that provide such data. From a professional view, I can tell you that I clearly see a link between porn use and the negative effects on an individual’s mood, self-control, self-image, discipline, productivity, view of others, and sexual identity issues.

Pornography is designed to be visually (implicitly or explicitly) tantalizing by revealing more than the acceptable norms and mores in place (i.e. naked bodies are arousing because we are used to the norm of clothed bodies in public life). But does porn strip away more than the object’s clothes?

Yes. In fact, porn changes our neurological pathways in the brain’s functioning to see the person as an object for gratification purposes only. So we no longer see that (human) image as a person, but we then start to objectify real life people as a means to satisfy perverted desires.

The beginning of this detrimental direction is the thought, “What happens in privacy, does not hurt anyone else.” Not at all true. This is not a sin or maladaptive behavior that is simply a vice on a personal level. Porn transcends the visual screen into the mind as a false sense of comfort and you’re trapped thinking that it’s a personal, manageable issue. Here are some ways that porn hurts more than just you:

  • Sweet little lies. Porn gives you what you want (sexual arousal) without asking anything from you (such as responsibility, commitment, morality, etc.).
  • It’s addictive. Like any chemical dependency, porn kick-starts a rush of endorphins in the brain which gives you a boost of pleasure. However, it will soon leave you wanting more, and you will seek it again once you come out of your chemical slump. Addiction takes place as you need it more frequently – or potently (i.e. “hard” porn, BDSM, child porn, etc.) – to suffice your cravings. Porn ultimately dictates your mood, whether you recognize it or not.
  • Porn is your new pet. It will soon take your thoughts and energy away from other important responsibilities and relationships (friends, spouse, family) as you will try to get as much consumption whenever possible, justifying your neglect of other duties. Your productivity in daily activities will wither away.
  • Other as objects. With porn, you get used to seeing others as “objects of pleasure,” rather than human beings. You readily “auto-jump” to the sexualized scenario that porn has previously placed there in your brain with visual cues. Only this time, your neurological pathways are trained enough to conjure explicit images of others (for your sexual arousal) without the prompting of pornographic material.
  • Devalues your sexual being. It does not matter how you identify sexually, but porn does diminish what God created you for sexually (either celibate or sex within marriage). You think that you have the potential to express yourself to the fullest, but porn reduces you to a cheap (virtual) trick.

God did not create us as sexual beings to torment us with what we cannot have. Instead, we are fulfilled in obedience to his outlined plan in how we conduct our entire being – for his glory. Your or my sexual frustrations do not merit the right to find sexual release in deviant ways (via porn). But the discipline of reigning in sexual urges – whether married or single – is a discipline that puts others first and God’s glory ahead of your own pleasure. Our culture tells us that happiness is the indicator to our health. That is false, as it conveys infallibility of feelings.

On a personal level, I can also attest to how my past porn addiction was detrimental; to my mood, self-control, faith, productivity, and family-life. I have hurt my wife in the past with my porn use, but I am extremely grateful to how she has graciously shown me selfless love. Porn caused me to be selfish in the marriage bed and mental playground. Now I find greater joy in how I experience life without that addiction, and the ability to love my wife better when I think of her, not my perverted desires.

If you struggle with pornography, be educated, and seek accountability and counseling. If you know someone who is struggling with porn, be an empathic listener who can encourage the appropriate steps for change.

What are successful ways you have dealt with past pornography?

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

6 reasons to choose counseling

6 reasons to choose counseling

Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone that you are reading this post. It’s understood that you are only inquiring to help a “friend” that you know who is experiencing emotional pain (*wink*). So here is some information that you can take with you to ensure the right decision to move forward in counseling.

Actually, before I get to that, let me say that I’ve “been there, done that.” Even after obtaining my counseling degree and professional license, I wasn’t readily willing to go to counseling myself. Whether it was my childhood scars, emotional calluses, or pride – I would rather offer the advice sooner than declare my need for it. But I can honestly say that after being in counseling as the client, I have a better understanding of my past and present, and how it affects my relationships with others (especially my wife). So if you are anything like me, there is great benefit to seeking out counseling.

Despite the declining negative stereotype people hold against mental health, it is still important that we understand why counseling is beneficial. Mental health practice can be likened to medical practice; not only do you go to the doctor when something is (bio-medically) wrong, but also for your annual check up – to ensure your normal health. Similarly, counseling is strongly utilized not only when emotions are dysregulated, but it can also be a healthy way to “check in” every so often for the sake of your mental health maintenance.

It does not mean that whoever reaches out for counseling is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, nor that a secret intervention camera crew is about to walk through the door. It does mean that the individual seeking counseling has a lot more courage than most of us. Think about the last time anyone bragged to the office co-workers about his upcoming counseling session because he doesn’t feel in control of his emotions. It can be scary to admit to someone else that you don’t know why you feel a certain way, that you’re addicted to porn, your marriage is no longer functioning, etc. Here are some things that may encourage you to choose counseling:

  1. You’re confused. Sometimes our life has us up-side-down without us realizing it. It’s difficult to navigate what exactly we are facing or how its even affecting us on a daily basis. This is a good time to choose counseling.
  2. You’re not Superman. Despite feeling like it some days or having a successful business career, that doesn’t mean that you are able to navigate healthy mental/emotional steps all by yourself in your personal life. Don’t struggle alone, choose counseling to help yourself out.
  3. Your daily life is not the norm. Do you feel low, have irregular sleep patterns, or have atypical thoughts consume your mind? This can be a clue that your mental health is suffering. Get back to your normal health with counseling.
  4. Your relationships are suffering. Are you easily agitated with others whom are normally close with you (spouse, friends, etc.)? Are you atypically withdrawn from social relationships? If this is your pattern, then it may strongly suggest that you should seek out counseling to regulate your daily relationships.
  5. You don’t have fun anymore. When your favored activities no longer hold pleasure for you, then that can indicate your moods are dysregulated. Finding a way back to your happy self again is a good reason to see a counselor.
  6. You’re addicted. Whenever there is something (gambling, sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, etc.) that you find yourself preoccupied by or pouring your resources into, that is reckless and unsustainable. You cannot be healthy when simultaneously not taking care of your present or future well-being.

Although these are valid reasons to choose counseling, it is always easier to have excuses for turning away from mental health. Time, money, projects, and work – all will slide into valuable priorities, but managing your mental health will lead to better management of your resources in the long run. Remember that it takes courage to seek out help. When you find yourself in counseling, it is not a moment of weakness, but rather the epithet for holistic health. You’ll thank yourself later.

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

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