5 Ways to Fight the Feeling of Not Being Loved

sad not loved

Image courtesy of kalexanderson via Flickr under Creative Commons License

My clients often report that they don’t feel loved by their spouse. People from abusive or neglectful homes may grow up with a deep sense of emptiness, of being unloved. They will invariably get married pinning all their hopes of love on their partner. When the partner ends up being imperfect, they will be disillusioned and left feeling unloved. The real problem, of course, is not being unloved, but feeling unlovable. This is a much deeper problem that will take serious time and effort to resolve. This post assumes you are married to a kind, caring, well-intentioned person who deeply desires your happiness. If your spouse is not such a person, perhaps they truly do not love you. I will deal in another post with ways to tell if you are truly unloved. Assuming you are married to a person with good intentions, here are five ways to fight the feeling of not being loved.

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Top book recommendations: Spiritual Formation

Prayer space in kitchenPhoto by bsher on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License

Top Books: Spiritual Formation

And so we come to spiritual formation. I have delayed writing this post because I have been trying to figure out how to keep the number of books in this category from overwhelming you, my dear readers. You will no doubt notice I am cheating a little bit with how I am laying these out in comparison with the other categories. This is perhaps my favorite genre to read and therefore I have come across a lot of awesome books in this vein.

1. All books by Dallas Willard, particularly Renovation of the Heart and Hearing God. Years ago I combined my transcripts from undergrad and graduate school and realized I had taken a total of 39 classes in psychology. That is a lot, but in all of those classes and all the years since I have never come across a book that states as clearly and beautifully how the human person is formed (or malformed) than Renovation of the Heart. Hearing God is the best book I have read on what it means to pray and hear something in return and how this works. Dallas is professor of philosophy at USC so his books are fairly dense, but highly rewarding. All of his books are excellent, but these two are  not to be missed. If you are feeling adventurous, take on his masterpiece, The Divine Conspiracy. Willard is the most influential voice writing on Christian spiritual formation today.  

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Moving Your Dream Forward

forward cartoonImage from egenerica on Flickr under Creative Commons License

You can’t sell books or music or anything else if you can’t get an audience. To get an audience, you have to build a platform. That’s hard to do, but at least now it’s possible with the Internet. If I am going to sell my book, I have to build a platform — increase readership on this website, get my name out there somehow. Here is what I did to build my platform today.  

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The Endless Machinations of Ego

I think Richard Rohr is one of the best writers and teachers of Christian spirituality on the scene at this time. He sent out a meditation today which, in my opinion, is his best encapsulation of the endless schemes and machinations of ego. Spirituality is never more dangerous than when it is used to furnish the cavernous mansion of ego. Rohr writes,


We don’t teach meditation to the young monks. They are not ready for it until they stop slamming doors.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh to Thomas Merton in 1966

The piercing truth of this statement struck me as a perfect way to communicate the endless disguises and devices of the false self. There is no more clever way for the false self to hide than behind the mask of spirituality. The human ego will always try to name, categorize, fix, control, and insure all its experiences. For the ego everything is a commodity. It lives inside of self-manufactured boundaries instead of inside the boundaries of the God-self. It lives out of its own superior image instead of mirroring the image of God. The ego is constantly searching for any solid and superior identity. A spiritual self-image gives us status, stability, and security. There is no better way to remain unconscious than to baptize and bless the forms of religion, even prayer itself, instead of surrendering to the Substance Itself. First stop slamming doors, and then you can begin in the kindergarten of spirituality. Too many priests, bishops, and ministers are still slamming doors.

In the name of seeking God, the ego pads and protects itself from self-discovery, which is an almost perfect cover for its inherent narcissism. I know this because I have done it all myself.

I have been a pastor for 18 years. During most of that time I was a teacher of religion. A few years ago I decided I needed to teach Christian spirituality, which is to depart from merely teaching the mechanics and beliefs of a religious system (however good and important and valuable they may be) and move towards teaching time-tested ways of experiencing God personally. Rohr’s words above should be read and studied and contemplated until their meaning becomes perfectly clear because he is right. To slam doors is to continue to fortify the ego. Slamming doors can be understood as all the manifestations of ego — anger that we excuse as justifiable; attempts to force our opinions, ideas and perspectives on others; attempts to force others to change; verbal, emotional, and physical manipulation; endless clamoring for attention and validation from others, along with the depression and discouragement we wallow in when those attempts fail; constant cravings for recognition; comparing ourselves against others; feeling superior to and inferior to others; turning to things like food, substances, and pornography to comfort ourselves — the list is endless. All of these come out of the machinations of ego, and of all these religion is the most dangerous.

Religion is the best possible cover for ego because it hides itself in the things of God. Under the guise of religion I can try to force you to do what I want to because what I want and what God wants are synonymous. I can manipulate you into changing because the change might well be good and necessary and so I can justify any means of getting you to do it. I can whine and complain about whatever I wish and then simply claim I’m not yet spiritual enough to be able to control myself. This is especially dangerous because it looks like humility but it is simply ego finding one more way of justifying itself.

All of this is the endless scheming and machinations of ego. It is garbage.  Shit, as Paul called it. Ego simply has to be faced down or it will continue to be the controlling factor behind everything we do and say. Like Rohr, I know this because I have spent most of my life — even my life in ministry — hiding behind it. Not intentionally. Ego depends on us never seeing it for what it is because as soon as we do we realize it is a shadow — a sham — a falsehood. It is only when we get a glimpse of the ego that we realize for the first time we have lived our entire lives, spiritual and otherwise, in the matrix. And as soon as we see the matrix for what it is, that is the beginning of the end of ego. That will feel like the scariest and worst thing that has ever happened to us, but it is in that moment that — perhaps without realizing it — we have been taken up into the freedom of God.

My top book recommendations: Leadership

When in doubt, wave a flag

Andrew Becraft, “Leadership” September 25, 2006 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Mark Twain said there is little difference between a person who can’t read and a person who doesn’t. So true, and one of the surest signs that a person needs to read is that he/she has no use for it. Similarly, one of the first things you learn when you begin reading is how critical reading is. My next several posts will deal with my top book recommendations in a number of categories. We begin today with leadership.

I’m sick of leadership books. Then again I probably only have the luxury of saying that because I have read hundreds of them. By the time you have read a hundred leadership books (and perhaps far fewer), you realize that leadership is more art than science. Still, there are books that are essential in the field.

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell. For some reason John seems to ignite controversy but I think he’s just blunt, which is, I think, a fairly good way to get at the truth. This book is a must-read. It has the distinction of being the only book on leadership I would recommend to you if I knew you were only going to read one.
  2. Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Now-legendary book about how organizations leap across the chasm that separates good from great. Well-written, and based on solid research.
  3. The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, by Steven Sample. The leadership book for people who are tired of leadership books.
  4. The Servant, by James Hunter. This book is written in an accessible allegory format, for those who prefer fiction. It is a book about the soul of leadership.
  5. Leadership, by Rudolph Giuliani. Although I no longer see as eye to eye with Giuliani as I used to politically, one must give credit where credit is due. Giuliani inspired America with his leadership after 9/11, and in this book he explains that he did it simply by following the same routines he had followed for years. A great book about the habits of an effective leader.
Question: What are your favorite books on leadership? Any in my top five that you think need to be demoted?