Setting boundaries with toxic parents

boundaries with toxic parents

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Someone recently wrote to me asking the following question. I have changed this person’s name to protect their privacy:

When you’re an adult and one of your parents have always made decisions that corrupt the whole circle of the family, and they continue to make the same choices, when is it okay to walk away? I know honor your mother and father is important, but where’s the line when their actions are bad, not just for me but my family? I have found truth in knowing I will never have the daddy I’ve always wanted, but his actions are so bad and downright obnoxious. Signed — Gale

Hi Gale, thanks for writing, and for a great blog post idea. I feel like I have a fairly clear grasp of your question, except for what you mean by “walk away.” Are you talking about cutting off all contact with your father forever, or just choosing not to go over to his house anymore? It is just your father, or is a mom or step-mom involved too? This is a boundaries issue, but the severity of the action you take is, of course, determined by the severity with which his/their choices have affected you and your family.

You can, and should, protect yourself and your family from toxic choices made by others.

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Depression and anxiety are not spiritual issues

hope -- depression and anxiety

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Depression is not sin. It is also not just “being sad.”

In a March 5 post, Amy Viets of the blog Depression’s Collateral Damage, wrote:

Depression is an illness so terrible and stark that no one would actively seek it as a means to grow in the spiritual life.  And with such a burden to bear, when priests and ministers talk about how a person can find relief if they only ask and turn it over to God, it makes my hair stand on end. It’s not that easy, that simple.  All a platitude like that serves to do is to make the depressed individual feel that for some reason he is not good enough, is not really letting go, is not trusting God. Often for the depressed person an even worse downward spiral occurs as a result.

Source: Depression’s Collateral Damage

Calling depression sin is damaging to the depressed person

I could not agree more. I highly encourage you to follow the source link above and read the post. Christians who say or suggest that depression is a spiritual issue do so largely out of ignorance, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging. I addressed this issue to a smaller extent in my post about my own struggles with depression and anxiety, and I often feel compelled to set people straight about it on Facebook when I see various comments made about it.

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How to break up with your church, prt. 4 (of 5)


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…continued from How to break up with your church, prt. 3

4. Common characteristics of those who have broken up with my church in a loving, healthy, and classy way

  • They set up a time to meet with me and affirm their love and respect for me, and that they look forward to meeting with me. Notice that this would be impossible if they had been gradually building up a list of complaints or grudges against me, so it begins with relating in healthy ways to begin with.
  • During our conversation, they share their “journey,” from coming to Wildwind Church and being excited, to eventually realizing maybe they need to move on. They honestly share their change of circumstances, how their hearts/situation/needs have changed, and then non-critically share why they don’t feel Wildwind is the place for them anymore. Sometimes, though not always, they even express regret for not talking to me sooner, or other mistakes they may have made. The point is, they are honest, but vulnerable and open. I see their hearts and, whether or not I agree with their decision (sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t), I respect both that it is theirs to make and the way they are making it. I am filled both with regret over losing them, and with deeper love and respect for them, and this often becomes the basis for great fondness and affection between us that continues long after they are gone.
  • They express love for our people (and often for me), and appreciation for the relationships they have enjoyed. They affirm the value of Wildwind Church, and their respect for our calling and our work in the community. No pastor (except very toxic ones) needs to hear that he/she is perfect, or that their church is the best place for everyone. But everyone wants to be spoken to respectfully and lovingly and be appreciated for their work. This is true for all loving people as they attend, and true for all who lovingly leave.
  • They often share ways in which I, and/or my church, have impacted their lives and express an understanding that, for a certain season, Wildwind was the place for them. Most pastors understand seasons, that they come and go. Remember, most churches are right place only for a season even for the pastor.

Do not be concerned that you may be too gentle, and your pastor may fail to learn whatever lessons there might be to learn in your departure. No matter how kind and loving and reassuring you are, your pastor will probably ache when you leave. Even if you take great pains to assure them they have done nothing wrong, they will question themselves for a while. The sweeter and more loving and gentle you are, the more your pastor will respect you, love you, and miss you when you are gone. The meaner and more angry you are, the happier they will be to see you go. Who wouldn’t feel that way?

Some might think, “But I’ll be so angry. I’ll have so much I want to say.” I would ask whether you’ve had a conversation with your pastor already. If not, why have you waited? There is little point in saying those things now that you have already decided to leave. If you have talked with your pastor already, then your pastor already knows how you feel. Consider that he/she either did not agree with you about the situation and decided not to take action, or agreed and wasn’t able to take action for reasons only he/she knows as the leader, or agreed and is planning on taking action but now isn’t the time, or perhaps is still considering it. There are probably other possibilities, but these are the main ones.

In any case, what value will there be in venting your anger, frustration, or disappointment? Will you feel good about yourself after the conversation? If you see your pastor at dinner in a few weeks, will you be able to shake their hand and wish them well with a clear conscience? Regardless of why you left, won’t you still want the pastor to think well of you and not struggle to look you in the eye? Won’t you want to be proud of the way you conducted yourself, even if your pastor fell into the group of pastors who do not handle this stuff well? Do you ultimately want to leave a legacy of love, or of anger and negativity?


21 reasons you should ditch Facebook and switch to Google+


For well over a year I have been trying to get my friends — heck, anyone within earshot — to set up a Google+ account and give it an honest try. Every time I post on Facebook about how people need to switch, someone asks me to be specific about why. This post exists to answer that question as specifically as possible so from now on I can just direct people here instead of continuing to write down the same reasons over and over again.

#1. The first and most important reason you should switch to Google+ is because it gives you more control. Facebook users constantly complain about how frustrating and messy the security and privacy settings are. That is because the security and privacy settings are in fact frustrating and messy — there’s a real problem there. Google+’s settings are much easier to understand, implement, and monitor. You will know more intuitively what is being seen by whom and what isn’t.

#2. Recently, as part of an effort to increase Facebook’s revenues, Facebook capped the number of friends who can see any one of your posts. This is frustrating for someone just using Facebook socially, but for those trying to reach audiences and and fan bases, it is down right maddening. On Google+, all of your “friends” (G+ calls them “circles”) will be able to see all your posts. Why else are you spending time collecting groups of friends on Facebook, other than wanting to reach them with your posts? Don’t you want to know all your friends at least potentially can see everything you’d like to share with them?

#3. When you close your Google+ account, you take all your data with you. Your Facebook data belongs to them forever and ever. Google+ allows you to easily download everything you’ve ever posted, and then you can delete your account completely. If that were the only difference between Facebook and Google+, that would be reason enough for 900 million Facebook users to ditch it and switch over.

#4. Games are handled better. I despise Facebook games. I don’t play any of them, and am constantly getting invitations to play the games my Facebook friends are playing. Google+ has similar games, but you either play them or you don’t. You will never have to tolerate a barrage of game invitations, nor will you ever be notified that so and so just earned a cow in Farmville.

#5. Google+ handles photos far better. It integrates nicely with the Google-owned service Picasa, and gives you a huge amount of control over the posting, editing, and sharing of your photos. Facebook doesn’t even come close. If you’re a photo person and haven’t checked out Google+, you would love it.

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Avoiding a Muffin-Top Life

muffin top

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The Muffin Top — Self Absorption

I realized this morning that I have become self-absorbed. When I first got sick a few weeks ago, it was all about having “time for myself” and wanting to rest and recover fully and not being burdened by the expectations of others. Somewhere along the way, that became complete absorption with myself, until my issues, my struggles, and my life just began to build up and spill over the healthy limits normally set for them like a muffin top on my life. I didn’t do it on purpose. In fact I was just trying to follow doctor’s orders and take my recovery seriously.

This has happened before, at other times when I have been sidelined by my MS and its challenges. It begins with some significant life event that, in itself, feels — at least initially — like a sacred experience. Bad health has a certain seriousness to it, and I experience that seriousness as sacredness — a time when I can get quiet and draw near to God. Only I very easily may not. I might just sit around watching a lot of television, feeling overwhelmed, and waiting to get better. In fact that has often been the pattern for me.

Letting it all go

This manifests itself in a complete abandonment of any schedule whatsoever. I stay up too late, eat too much, watch too much TV, sit too much and, in this case, probably spend way too much time online. Muffin top. This naturally spirals into depression at some point. I almost completely neglect the disciplines of my normal life such as time set aside for quietness, meditation, and spiritual reading. I feel like I”m “on vacation” only it’s a really terrible, self-indulgent vacation.

Reigning in the Muffin Top

There are certain things we (you and I) do in life not because we must but because they frame our lives properly and become containers for all the other things. If you wish to avoid a muffin-top life, then no matter how sick you are or what else is going on, there must be a core set of practices you essentially stick with. Below I am going to list what I will do to avoid a muffin-top life.

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