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Procrastination

You know the feeling……….it’s like that old pair of shoes that you continue to hang onto……they don’t do anything for you, but you just can’t seem to let go…..they’re familiar to you….they are a “known” factor…..they’re what you’ve worn for such a long time…..

So it is with procrastination.  We try and try, but despite our best efforts, we just continue to do it. We put things off to the last minute, deal with the stresses that are involved, sometimes miss deadlines, sometimes disappoint others, and then promise ourselves we’ll do better next time around.  We say to ourselves that something has to give…..and yet…….the next time rolls around and (put on your shocked face here) we repeat the exact same self-defeating behavior!  In short, we experience……….Groundhog Day!

So how do we stop the process of procrastination?  The first step is to realize why we’re doing it.  Everyone is unique and people procrastinate for different reasons.  Some of those reasons are task related (external) and some of those reasons are more within our own psyches (internal).  When a person procrastinates due to a task specific reason – that reason goes away when the task is complete.  However, when someone procrastinates due to an internal reason, that behavior is tougher to deal with.  It requires much more effort to conquer.  Sometimes, it may even require counseling or coaching.

Some of the most common and tougher reasons behind the behavior of procrastination are:

  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Tendency to Cram
  • Tendency to Become Overcommitted

The best way to conquer procrastination is to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it.  Once you discover the mindset behind the behavior, then you can begin to change that self-defeating mindset, which in turn will then change that problem behavior.  Simply put, behavior follows a change of heart and mind.  If hearts and minds don’t change, the behavior change may still happen, but will not be sustainable.

Let me share an example with you.  I don’t live to exercise. I don’t daydream about it. Really.  I don’t wake up daily and go, “OH THANK GOODNESS….I GET TO EXERCISE AGAIN TODAY!!!”  It’s just NOT who I am.  Guess what?  I’m ok with admitting that to you.  Having said that to you, I will also tell you that, in fact, I exercise regularly.  I have finally conquered the behavior of putting it off or ignoring it completely.  I did this, though, when I took a dose of my own medicine.

I realized that I needed to change my mind about why I thought it was something I should accomplish.  For me, doing it because “they” say it’s good for you, wasn’t reason enough.  First of all, who are “they,” anyway?  Does anyone ever really know that esoteric group of people to whom people endlessly refer?  I think not.  So if I do something, or adopt a behavior simply because a group of people I can’t identify say it’s a good idea, then it probably doesn’t mean as much to me and I most likely won’t sustain that behavior long-term or integrate it as part of my daily routine.    I needed to do two things…understand and identify with the value of the actual health benefits of doing that behavior (exercise) or change my paradigm about why I think that behavior brings value to my life.

After really thinking about exercise, I surprisingly found that just the obvious health benefits alone weren’t enough to convince me to do it.  After all, I’m well-read and have an open dialogue with a great physician.  I trust her when she tells me that exercise will have a great impact on my overall well-being by increasing positive endorphins and increasing my metabolism, etc.  The trouble is, however, that I’ve known  these things all along….and yet……..I still haven’t acted by changing my behavior.

I began to realize that I had to find another perceived value….something that I could identify with that really and truly mattered to me.  Then I remembered the scriptures that tell us that our bodies are not our own.  In fact, the Bible tells us that our bodies were purchased for a high price and that because of that they are not our own.  Further, scripture tells us that our bodies are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of the living God dwells within us.

I realized that by not taking care of my body, I am in direct opposition to my own fundamental belief system and the example that I want to set as a Christian involved in an active walk with Christ.  If I believe the Bible, which I do, ….then why would I not take care of my physical being?  I realized that I needed to make a change, and that reason tapped into my own internal value system.  Because of that internal consequence search and a freshly identified value, I have been able to make a sustainable change in my life.  Guess what?  “They” were right, too.  I feel better, I sleep better, I’ve lost weight, and I have more energy.  Who knew?   “They” did.  I just had to find my way to the same conclusion by finding my own perspective on why exercising was important as a regular part of my lifestyle.  YOU can do it, too, ….whatever “it” is that you’re procrastinating about doing.

A Perspective on Giving

It should be with us all year,… but it isn’t….it’s brought to the forefront of our minds around this time each year… “It” is the idea of what’s truly important. 

For a brief moment in our otherwise hectic year, we pause momentarily to think about others.   It seems that we tend to spend more time than usual thinking of our friends and our loved ones.  Somehow, amidst the hustle and bustle of commercialism, we actually stop – albeit it briefly – and focus on the value and meaning of the relationships that are the closest to us – the ones within the context of our conscious world.

But what about the relationships to our family as the Body of Christ?  What about our call to take care of the needy and the downtrodden among us?

“For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11.

How are we associating value to those relationships?  ARE we associating value to those relationships?  Have we become so involved in our own lives that we are desensitized to the needs of others around us….the needs of people we don’t even know?

When is the last time that you thought about the needs of someone not immediately related to you …..Someone that you don’t even know?  Many of us think we can’t “afford” to give money – we’re barely making ends meet in our own families.  I think we’re missing the point if that’s the stance we take.  One of the most valuable things you have is your time.  When is the last time you volunteered your time to help someone in need?  When is the last time you used your spiritual gifts to serve others in a ministry?  Do you know what your spiritual gifts are?  They aren’t for you – they are for other people.  They may be for people you don’t even know personally….yet.

The bible tell us that we are called to be “salt” and “light.”

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16

As such, we need to set the example of giving and caring for others.  It doesn’t have to be monetary.  It can be a gift of our efforts or of our time.  In many cases, that means more to the person on the receiving end anyway.  In any case – it means getting beyond ourselves and sometimes out of our comfort zone to realize we are part of a larger family – the Body of Christ.

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak.  And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” Acts 20:38

If you haven’t “given” in this type of manner, I encourage you to do so.  The feeling you’ll have afterward is indescribable. The reward you receive isn’t temporal – it’s far greater. You are doing what you’re called to do as a child of the most high God.  You’re following the example set before you by Christ, himself.

What one thing can you do, this month, to give back to your community and to those around you in need?  How will YOU choose to be Salt and Light?

Christians and Forgiveness

If we’re honest with one another, …and I certainly hope we are (otherwise it’s just a waste of time for both of us)…… Forgiveness is a tough nut to crack for many Christians.  In fact, it just so happens that God is working overtime with me right now on this very subject.  I suppose we could say that I’m speaking about some struggles that are close to my own heart at this very moment.

We all know that we are supposed to forgive.  We know that Jesus, when asked by Peter how many times we are to forgive a brother who has sinned against us, responded with a number that seems to indicate “without limit.”  He was trying to get across the idea of forgiveness as an act that’s necessary repeatedly and consistently with/for each other.  The issue with many of us, however, is that when left on our own to complete the act of forgiveness – we confuse that with issuing the offender a pardon – and then true forgiveness doesn’t happen at all.  We mask it and move on, still harboring our grudge, and feeling that we are slighting ourselves if we somehow manage to “let go” and show mercy to the other party.  The truth of our situation couldn’t be more opposing to our actions.

So what does the Bible say on forgiveness?  According to the Bible, forgiveness should be offered, but not in a way that denies that a sin or a transgression has happened. The Bible also tells us that because we are flawed and sinful human beings, we don’t have the moral right to hold grudges or bitterness toward others who have trespassed against us. In fact, we’re supposed to pray not just for us in our efforts to forgive, but for the other person – the one that trespassed against us!!  Think about the Lord’s Prayer…

If we desire peace and emotional balance, forgiveness is a necessary first step for us to take.   If it helps, remember the scene when a group of Pharisees and scribes accuse a woman whom they’ve brought to Jesus of the sin of adultery.  They are pushing that she be stoned to death and they want Jesus to sanction that course of temporal justice.  Jesus responds by suggesting that the “person who is without sin” step up and cast the first stone. Amazingly…………the crowd seems to disperse, one by one by one by one…….until finally, there is none left.  Jesus asks the woman, “Woman, where are those accusers of you? Has no one condemned you?” The woman then responds “no one.”  Jesus replies to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”    In that story, Jesus issued forgiveness while still acknowledging that the sin was real.

So far, we’ve talked about forgiving others,……..but what about forgiving ourselves?  How do we even begin to do that when we know that our sin or transgression has wounded the people around us.  In many cases, we’ve so deeply wounded the people we claim to love the most that we aren’t sure HOW or even IF we will ever overcome the situation.

Let me share with you some common lies I believe that we tell ourselves, when we as individuals stumble.  These lies are dangerous and can keep us from ever allowing God into our unique situation to begin the healing process that involves forgiveness of all parties involved:

The lies

I am not worthy of love from Christ nor man.

I am not worthy to be forgiven by Christ nor man.

I cannot do anything that has value in this life.

I have no value as a person, husband, wife, sister, brother, mother, etc…

I have nothing to contribute in this life or to the kingdom.

I will never be happy – I don’t deserve it and I’m not worthy enough to have it.

I will never know true contentment – there will always be this emptiness and unfillable void.

I sinned, therefore there is no hope – I am destined for a life of nothing but sin.

My sin is who I am and I will never be better than that or different.

My sin is what defines me and worse, it’s what is expected of me by those around me.

Christ can’t use me for His glory because of my sin.

Now let me take a moment to flip those lies inside out,  and rephrase  them with what I believe are some spiritual truths that can help us overcome a “spirit of unforgiveness” towards ourselves, as well as others.

The Truth

Christ loves me no matter what – it’s not about being worthy of His love – I can never achieve that through works….I’ll fail and come up short every time if I try that  – Besides, ….He doesn’t use a performance scale to decide whether to love me or not.

I am forgiven by Christ, even though man may choose not to forgive me.  We are called, according to the forgiveness shown us by Christ, to forgive others. I am capable only through His grace to forgive myself and others who have sinned against me.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who gives me strength and provides for my every need.  Because I am created by God, I have value.  I am able to actively contribute to His kingdom through his ordained use of my talents, my spiritual gifts and my efforts to be Christ-like in my behaviors.  I can be salt and light with His direction and through the Spirit.

I acknowledge that my happiness does not come from outside sources: not other people or things.  My happiness/fulfillment  is through my relationship with my savior, Jesus Christ.  Only He and He alone can fill the void within me caused by past hurts and unhealed wounds.  He won’t heal me, however, unless I give Him reign to do so.  I need to turn everything over to Him.  He knows about every single thing that I think and everything that has caused me pain and all that I am harboring in my heart.  His love for me never changes and it endures forever.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Although I have sinned, I am forgiven upon repentance.  God’s mercy is fresh every morning.  Though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  Isaiah 1:18   I am redeemed by the blood of the lamb.  My sins are forgiven.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed my transgressions from me.  Psalm 103:12

I am not defined by my sin. God gave me life.  I am defined according to His holy purpose for my life.  He made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex….  The Lord will work out His plans for my life… Psalm 139:13-14, Psalm 138:8  Even the very hairs on my head are numbered.  No detail of my life is too small for Him.

I believe that the only way we can offer forgiveness to others, as well as to ourselves, is to bring God into the situation…whatever it happens to be and whomever it happens to involve….and however much pain we are in at that moment….

“O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!”  Jeremiah 17:14