Coming in September on Reaching Hurting Women…

Working the Steps: Step 9

Step Nine is a culmination of the forgiveness process: forgiving ourselves / others;  receiving forgiveness from God / others. But before we can forgive ourselves, we must first acknowledge the pain others have suffered because of our actions. 



Healing the Shame That Binds You

by John Bradshaw 

Unhealthy toxic shame learned in childhood and maintained in adulthood, is often the core component of our compulsions, co-dependencies, addictions and drives to over achieve. 

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: Forgiveness

Forgiveness isn’t based on merit but grace. It’s a choice – a faith decision to not hold a grudge/sin against another person any longer… even ourselves. 

Healing Hurts :: Anger

Anger is a wide umbrella word covering many levels of the emotion… indignation, wrath, fury, rage.  How can we deal with this fire we have growing within? 



Removing the Mask

For the last four weeks we’ve been focusing on learning to love and respect ourselves, make healing choices for our lives and preparing to make amends to those we’ve harmed.  We’re going to wrap up this month by consolidating all these topics into one area that is definitely connected to all the above… 

…hiding behind masks.

As the child of an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother I grew up to become an approval addicted people-pleaser with a very low self-esteem. My adolescent friends were all very bright students; always reading books I’d never heard of, talking about philosophy and involved with intellectual and artistic endeavors. Books weren’t really read in my home, much less having conversations about them.

Constantly comparing myself to others while feeling totally unworthy, I looked for love and validation in all the wrong ways. I found it easy to slide behind a mask to be what I thought others wanted me to be in any environment whether at home, school or church.

We wear masks because we’ve never figured out who we are or we’re afraid others won’t accept us when they do. Either way, once we’re form fitted for our life mask it’s difficult to remove.

What does your mask look like? What does it say about who you really are?

  • Ms. Self-Sufficient: I don’t need anyone
  • Ms. Happy Go Lucky: not a care in the world
  • Ms. Unteachable:  the know-it-all
  • Ms.Too Busy: the important person
  • Ms. Barbie Doll: the sexy girl
  • Ms. Country Club: the socialite

Our culture and even the church make it very difficult for us to not wear masks. No one really wants to see other people’s pain. We can watch the evening news for that. So it’s just easier to put on the “happy” face and sweep our troubles under the rug where even we don’t have to see them. The dangers of wearing masks is we start to believe the facade; we forget who we really are.

Are some masks alright? Must we remove all our masks?

The masks we need to remove are those that cause us to present a dishonest appearance to others. To do that we must start by being honest with ourselves; assessing how we are putting ourselves out there for others. Be willing to risk possible rejection by sharing our life and our struggles. 

Sure not every person or even every situation calls for such transparency. But wearing a superficial mask all the time can prevent us from developing genuine relationships. We deny others the opportunity to encourage or be encouraged by us. Prayerfully we can ask God to put people in our path that can help us find our true selves, to press through the fear of rejection, open up and be real about our life today.

There’s freedom in honesty; it brings strong, long lasting relationships. The Christian Community should be the one place where we can remove our masks and be accepted for who we really are. But that’s not always the case. In fact, we are often judged more critically in church. With God’s help,  we can courageously remove our prideful masks, stop trying to be the perfect “saint” and allow the world to see we are really not that different. It can allow us to show God’s power working in our lives.

To be relevant in our world we must stop pretending and face life with authenticity.

What can you do today to be true to yourself?

Don’t let the ideal of perfection rule you. You are free…
“Free To Be Me!”

Loving Yourself for God’s Sake by Adolfo Quezada

Healing Hurts :: SELF-HATRED

This idea of Self-Hatred sounds strange when you think about it. 

Who is going to admit, out loud, to another person, that they hate themselves? Some will, but not most. In fact, millions of women secretly do hate themselves. 

OK, we may not hate everything about ourselves. But can you honestly say you like more about yourself that you dislike? There was a time when my answer to that question was definitely no.

Self-hate often starts in childhood with negative messages spoken or unspoken by our family of origin. The culture, media and our peers encourage this monster who whispers the negative, critical words we hear over and over in our minds. Guilt and shame top it off till we’re overwhelmed with emotions and feelings; the pain becomes so deep it’s impossible to express it in words.

Is there no relief? No release?

What we do with this insidious pain will vary.

How will you act out the negativity rolling around in your head?

For some their self-hatred takes on non-direct, often hidden behaviors like extreme risk-taking, substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling, and promiscuity. For others their self-hatred is more direct and visible with self-harm acted out by skin cutting, skin branding, hair pulling or other forms of self-injury.

What can we say to those we know and love who struggle with this increasingly popular practice? 

How can we communicate to them that they truly deserve to be loved, not just by other people, but by God and most importantly by themselves?

Let’s start by watching these two videos below. I think they have all the answers we need.

God Loves YOU!

God Loves YOU!

If you are reaching for hope and help, I urge you to contact a licensed Christian counselor in your area for personal assistance in overcoming this problem. If you don’t know where to find one, contact a pastor who can help you locate an expert. All the anxiety and problems you are facing can be overcome.

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

VIRTUE: a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.

re-spect: noun 1. a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, their qualities or ability.

VICE: a practice of wrongdoing, corruption of virtue, an unholy habit.

con-tempt: noun 1. the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.

Our family of origin may not have practiced loving behavior. Parents, grandparents, or siblings might have said they loved us with words, but their actions were anything but loving. As a result we began to believe that we were less than valuable, unworthy of love, which led to self-disrespect

Negative self talk sets in and before long our own behavior becomes less than loving toward ourselves and others. Self-destructive habits take on varying forms: substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injury, etc…

At the root of these problems we find a simple lack of respect; which we were never properly taught to begin with. So maybe we can take a step back and learn something for ourselves that most likely our parents never learned for themselves.

The best place to start… The Beginning, with The Creator and His creation.

  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. ~ Psalm 33:8

Respect is godly and a form of reverence for God, the Creator of our universe and everything in it. If we can’t respect Him, we might as well give up. Respect should and must start here.

“We learn very early as we start to know who God is, that He respected us into existence by making us in His image and likeness. Knowing that love is the powerful flowing virtue that gives respect its strength, God’s love gave us breath and the right to be called his heirs and children. He expects us to reflect back to Him what He has given us as an act of reverence in gratitude for His gift of life. He is our sole reason for existence.” ~ Patty Woodmansee

God said His creations are good. Who are we to argue with God? If God said we are good, shouldn’t we believe Him? We must respect His creations and that includes ourselves!

Respect recognizes value. Before we can respect ourselves, another person or material things, we must recognize their value and acknowledge it with appropriate treatment.

Take These Few Steps to Respect Yourself:

  • Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Be honest, don’t harm or insult.
  • Recognize when others disrespect you. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for yourself.
  • Take care of your body. When you make an effort you always feel better about yourself.
  • Get to know yourself. Take time to be alone, find out what you enjoy, pray or meditate. 

Love your neighbor as you love yourself! But first we must love God before we can even begin to love ourselves! 

What will you do to show yourself love today? 

Let’s Love God and Love People with Israel Houghton

Loving Yourself for God’s Sake by Adolfo Quezada
Christian Virtues by Patty Woodmansee

BOOK REVIEW :: Healing is a Choice by Stephen Arterburn


Healing is a Choice: 
Ten Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 
Ten Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them

by @SteveArterburn
Thomas Nelson Publishers 225pp

I had originally planned to review a different book for August, but had problems with the digital photo of the cover. So at the last minute before publishing my monthly preview, I decided, or rather, God decided, this was the book I was supposed to read. I’ve been reading Stephen Arterburn’s work for many years. His books always bring conviction and comfort and this one was no disappointment.

Let’s start with these challenging words from the author:

I am asking you to give up your life as you know it so that you can find the life God has for you. Take hold of your future today and make the choices that will lead to your healing. ~ Stephen Arterburn

With touching personal stories, Mr. Arterburn shows us why we should refuse the lies we’ve been believing and how to make needed changes that will bring healing if we choose to do the work. As always, it’s our choice whether we want to be healed or not.

Here is a sample:

  1. The Choice to Connect Your Life: We must branch out from the “I only need God” mentality; take a healing risk to connect with others who can help us experience life to the fullest.
  2. The Choice to Feel Your Life: We must press past the habit of numbing ourselves. Once we can define and acknowledge our feelings true healing can begin.
  3. The Choice to Investigate Your Life in Search of Truth: Take an honest look at your life in the past, where you are today and where it is leading for the future.
  4. The Choice to Heal Your Future: When we stop dragging our past into our future we lose weight that slows us down and can rob us of a healthy future.
  5. The Choice to Help Your Life: By choosing to reach outside ourselves we can help ourselves have the life God desires for us.

Healing is a Choice is full of valuable information that can help anyone no matter the life situation. As I said before, Stephen Arterburn’s books always help me. Even when I wasn’t looking for help, God knew what I needed. You may think you’ve got life figured out, but God may surprise you like He did me.
Buy Healing is a Choice. 
You won’t be sorry!

Working the Steps: Step 8

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. ~ Step 8

In the previous steps we’ve been focusing on our own stuff. Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our dependency. Step 2 and Step 3: We came to believe in God and made a decision to turn our will and lives over to Him. Step 4 and Step 5: After taking a fearless moral inventory we admitted our wrongs to God, ourselves and to another person. Step 6 and Step 7: We became ready for God to remove our character defects. 

After all the searching and confessing it’s now time to take responsibility for our actions. Much like Step Four’s moral inventory, in Step 8 we will list all the persons we harmed when acting out in our addiction or dependency. In fact, using our inventory list can help us determine who belongs on our amends list.

Reliving past behaviors and looking honestly at how we have harmed others is hard work. But with God’s help we can recall the names and faces, making notes as thoroughly as possible we prayerfully examine each person and our relationship with them. 

Three categories to consider how we may have caused harm to others:

  1. Material Wrongs: Actions that affected an individual in a tangible way ( borrowing money not repaid, withholding money to gratify ourselves, damaging personal property, etc).
  2. Moral Wrongs: Inappropriate behavior in a moral or ethical action or conduct (setting bad example for children, infidelity, broken promises, verbal abuse, lying, etc.).
  3. Spiritual Wrongs: Neglecting our obligations to God, ourselves, our family, or community (avoiding self-development such as health, education, recreation, being inattentive to others in our lives)
Step 8 prepares us to continue the work of making amends. After making our list we are ready to ask God to give us the willingness to make those amends. As God helps us work these steps we will have the strength and the tools to heal our broken relationships. 

Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~ Luke 6:31

Take this journey Step by Step with @Bryan_Duncan

The Twelve Steps for Christians.

Coming in August on Reaching Hurting Women!



Throughout the previous steps we’ve been dealing with our own stuff. In Step 8 it’s time to grow up, consider others and take responsibility for our actions like a mature person.


Healing is a Choice by Stephen Arterburn 

Ten decisions that will transform your life and ten lies that can prevent you from making them.

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: RESPECT  

At the heart of all relationships lies the issue of respect. But if we don’t respect ourselves first we can’t and won’t respect others.

HEALING HURTS :: Self-Hatred

Self-hatred takes on many forms… From drug and alcohol abuse all the way to the most serious problem of cutting. As with all sin, self-destruction has escalated over time. How can we get past the need to inflict pain to feel alive? 

Removing The Mask

Who are we underneath the masks we wear? Do we dare to look? The truth may be painful but with Truth comes healing.  

Look for these articles each Wednesday in August on Reaching Hurting Women!

Healing Hurts :: Creating a Healthy Self-Image

self-image:: noun 

1. the idea, conception or mental image one has of oneself;

2. a mental picture that depicts how we believe others see us (height, weight, hair color, gender, etc.); 

3. things learned by us about ourselves from personal experience or by internalizing the judgments of others.

Basically how do we answer this question:  

What do I believe people think about me?

Many women, including myself, struggle with their self-image. Self-image can be about our body image or our self-esteem, either way they are both related. If we have a low self-esteem it will affect how we see our body image. If we have a poor body image we probably have a low self-esteem. Because they are so closely related, by working on one we help both.

As I was preparing this column the research material seemed to go on and on… blog columns galore, endless books and YouTube videos. It was overwhelming and shows how rampant the problem is not only in the world at large but in the Christian church, too.

Here are some shocking female body image statistics:

  • 7 out of 10 women get depressed and angry when looking at thin female fashion models.
  • 2 out of 5 women would give up 3-5 years of their life if they could reach their goal weight.
  • In the U.S. approximately 7 million girls and women experience eating disorders.
  • 51% of girls between 9-10 yrs old say they feel better about themselves when dieting.
  • 80% of women when asked are dissatisfied with their own appearance.
  • 88% of girls admitted they feel a need to “look perfect.”
  • Young girls are more afraid of getting fat than nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents.

Culture Beauty Standards Then and Now

  • In 1917 the “perfect” woman was 5’4″ and weighed 140 pounds.
  • Today’s average fashion model is 5’11” and weighs 115 pounds.
  • Beauties of yesteryear like Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat by today’s standards.
  • Today the average American woman is 5″4 and 140 lbs

Poor self-image can be the result of many things:

  • Criticisms – Accumulated through childhood from parents or peers.
  • Personality type – Type A personalities are prone to perfectionism and over achieving. 
  • Media influence – Television, magazines, billboards, Internet all push the “perfect look.”

The technical term for self-image used by psychologists is “self-schema.” A schema by definition is a diagram, plan, conceptual framework, or underlying structure. If our schema, our underlying structure is built on what we believe the opinion others have of us, what a shaky foundation that is!  

Is their hope for change? As with most struggles the first things we must check is our inputs.

What ‘s influencing our relationships, our lifestyle, our relationship with God?

What’s holding our framework together today? The opinions of others or the Truth of God’s Word? 

Are we maintaining our self-image at the cost of putting others down in our mind?

What image are we projecting, the happy mask or the reality of who God made us to be.

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself! I challenge you to take note of every negative or anxious thought you have about your body over the course of one full day. You may be shocked at how mean you are to yourself. Stop the meanness! You deserve better than that. 

Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to You, Lord, because You are my mighty rock and my protector. ~ Psalm 19:14 CEV

To reprogram our minds we must replace old thoughts with new ones. Take the anxious negative thoughts you have about yourself and turn them around. Create a series of affirmations and resolve to use them throughout the day. Print them on 3 x 5 cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Read them out loud with enthusiasm and positive emotions. I know it’s hard, believe me. But you can do it, and with practice it gets easier and easier! Here are a few that have helped me over the years:
  • I like myself!
  • I am a positive person and I have a positive life.
  • I am loved by others, valuable, smart and creative.

Remember, God doesn’t make junk! When He created man and woman God said, “It is good.” When we put ourselves down or wish we looked differently we are insulting the Creator of this universe. He made us the way we are for a reason. If we all looked the same what a boring world it would be! 

How to Love The Body You Have Today

  1. Silence your inner “mean girl!”
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  3. Celebrate your body for the marvelous things it can do.
  4. Stop weighing yourself. Focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel.
  5. Surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships with their bodies.
  6. Nurture your inner self with bubble baths, massages, prayer, meditation, inspirational reading.

Watch this powerful video with music by The Barlow Girls. 


VIRTUES & VICES: 6 Steps to Humility

These last few months I’ve been reading books written by revered monks in Christendom: Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Benedict of Nursia, Saint Thomas Aquinas, along with modern Christian mystics Thomas Merton and C. S. Lewis to name a few. I’ve learned that no matter what century people live in, they have the same personal issues and temptations we have today and those start and end with pride and humility.

VIRTUE: excellence of character that helps us live well as human beings; holy habits.

humility: noun 

1. the modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.

Humility is ultimately about our struggle to be fully human; to be rooted in our earthly self vs. deceived by our prideful false self.  

This becomes clear when we look at the origin of the word humble. The root is the Latin word humus, which means “soil” or “earth.” From this follows the practical definition: to be humble is to be down-to-earth. This root connects humility to humanity because to be human is to be made from the humus. After all God created the first man from earth. 

When we examine relationships gone wrong, we usually find a lack of humility or an excess of pride at the root of the problems.

VICE: corruptive habits that undermine our character and ability to live well.

pride: noun

1. an inflated sense of one’s personal status; the love of one’s own excellence.

Pride seen as the original sin is really the root of all vice. If we let it take hold, pride can get us in a world of trouble. 

Pride wants to be “number one,” head of the class, superior to others. Climbing over others in our ambition, we’re often acting out in greed, wrath, lust or other vices. Pride can also be a false front designed to protect an undervalued self.

How can we replace pride with humility?

Like most things connected to the inner workings of our heart, humility isn’t something we can make happen on our own; it’s a process that takes time and must start with God. Here are a few things I’ve learned to help us get started…

  1. Center Our Lives on God: By recognizing God’s presence in our lives and accepting His will, we learn our place in the universe and can embrace awareness.
  2. Find Power in Weakness: Appreciating others in the universe and learning from their wisdom and gifts, we find spiritual direction and gain strength to persevere.
  3. Shed False Images: Acknowledging our faults and living simply, we’re free to drop the masks and ignore the social pressures of consumption and indebtedness.
  4. Bond Our Relationships: Once we stop pretending to be what we’re not, we find the freedom to accept ourselves and others as well; creating harmony in our relationships.
  5. Quiet the Noise: Silence enables us to hear the noise within, brings us face to face with ourselves, tempers our arrogance and makes us kinder to others.
  6. Live in God’s Presence: A gentle presence brings a sense of the sacred to life. When we walk with God others are able to experience our serenity. 

As you can see, humility begins and ends with God at the center of our lives. Unless and until we have His presence present we will be miserable within and without. Humility seems like a simple thing because it’s a common word. Though simple it’s not easy, but so very important to our world.

“Humility connects us to the world and makes the world connected, a good and gracious space. Humility calms us and and calms others. It inspires, assures, enriches and enables. Humility gifts us with happiness and graces the world with peace.” ~ Joan D. Chittister 

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) When Christ came He brought grace. So the humble person who knows the Truth will be given grace. Grace is also another word for favor or reward. Here are a few rewards for our humility:

Wisdom: Humility gives us the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.

Wealth and Honor: The humble person has God’s favor which often means wealth and honor. 
Long Life: A humble person is teachable and more willing to live a healthy lifestyle.

As we listen to The Maranatha Singers let’s ask God to reveal what’s keeping us from being the humble person He wants us be. 

Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up in honor. ~ James 4:10 NLT

Christian Virtue by Patty Woodmansee
Virtue and Vice: A Dictionary of the Good Life by C. S. Lewis
The Heart of Virtue by Donald DeMarco
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
The Rule of Saint Benedict by St. Benedict edited by Thomas Fry
The Greatest Virtue: The Secret to Living in Happiness and Success by Pat Robertson
Biblical Counseling Keys: Pride and Humility – The Prescription for “I” Strain  by June Hunt

Photo Courtesy

BOOK REVIEW :: Feminism: Mystique or Mistake? by Diane Passno

Feminism: Mystique or Mistake? (Renewing the Heart)      

FEMINISM: Mystique or Mistake?
by Diane Passno
Tyndale House Publishers 2000

After all the book reviews I’ve done, this will be my first negative. I’m not sure if it’s my past life as a liberal addict that’s affecting my opinion, but for some reason I didn’t get a lot out of this book.

I ordered Feminism: Mystique or Mistake to aid my research on self-image and identity, which is a struggle for many women. While it did address things related to those issues, there was too many stories and not enough life-changing information to suit me.

Although I agree with much of what Ms. Passno writes, her book didn’t hold my interest. Honestly, I was quite disappointed especially since I had already announced an upcoming blog review. 

Oh well, I guess you can’t like all books, even if they are written from a Christian perspective.