Newspaper photo of Donald Trump

How to Take Your Life Back from the Inauguration

By now you know we’ve got a major event happening in our nation this week: the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Now, many Americans are excited about this. They bought into Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” and can’t wait for him to get started. Others, however, are somewhat less than excited.

I understand this is a subject that brings out a lot of strong feelings. That’s really the reason I’m writing this: for all of us, Republican, Democrat, or whatever political stripe, to move beyond what we’re feeling and start thinking about how we’re relating to each other. So whether you think Donald Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or you think he’s the devil in an ill-fitting suit, I’ve got some words of advice for you.

Take Your Life Back, the book Dr. Dave Stoop and I recently published, teaches those who are “stuck” in the pain of traumatic loss that there’s another way to live. We show people the life you want isn’t “out there” somewhere, or dependent on your circumstances, or what others around you are doing. We want people to know that real and lasting change is achievable, not through who is president, but through how we think. Take Your Life Back teaches that no matter what pain or loss you’ve experienced, there’s a rich, vibrant, fulfilling life still to be lived.

To get there, however, we must learn to move beyond the pain of traumatic loss, past all the anger and sadness, into the realm of acceptance. There we can effectively deal with the new reality that faces us. If you opposed Donald Trump, you’re probably experiencing a loss right now. I believe the principles contained in Take Your Life Back can benefit those who are struggling to accept our new president. You can have experience a rich, rewarding life even with a new occupant in the Oval Office. Here’s how to get there:

  1. See the reality. The first thing you must do is accept the fact that you’ve experienced a loss. Push past the denial and come face to face with the harsh reality that the “story” you imagined you’d be living just isn’t going to happen. For those anxious about a Trump presidency, this can be a hard pill to swallow. But here’s the truth: Donald Trump won the election. He won it fair and square according to the rules our nation has in place and no amount of wishing things were different is going to change that. The alternative is to live (at least for the next four years) in a false reality filled with anger and bitterness over “what might (or should) have been.” That route might be emotionally satisfying on some base level. It might feel good to vent, but it won’t equip you to respond effectively to the events of the next four years. What’s more, that anger and bitterness will likely bleed into your personal life and affect how you relate with family and friends.
  2. Express yourself. Contrary to some on social media who might be telling you to “shut up and accept it,” it’s okay to express the feelings you’re having. This is a real loss for you and a real grieving process. Don’t let anyone convince you you’re just a “snowflake” and need to “get over it.” Don’t get me wrong, though. At some point, you’re going to need to move past this, not for the sake of anybody on Facebook, but for your own well-being. You can’t stay stuck in this part of grieving. But allow yourself the freedom to express the disappointment, regret and even anger that you’re feeling.
  3. Grieve the loss. Once you’ve faced reality and allowed yourself to express the negative emotions, now you’re ready to grieve. For many of you, inauguration day will be a profoundly sad day. Likely, you supported President Obama and are sad to see his term come to an end. You had a vision for a much different future that just isn’t going to happen, at least in the short term. That’s a kind of death to be experienced, so it’s perfectly understandable to feel sadness. Go with that. Have a good cry if you need to. It’s okay. But as with any step in this process, don’t get stuck here either. To do so is to subject yourself to a life of continued sadness and depression. Sadness over loss is a natural part of the grieving process; but if you don’t choose to get to the final step, it can overwhelm your life and your relationships.
  4. Accept the new life and move forward. Notice, I’m not saying “move on.” This isn’t about just aimlessly wandering to tomorrow. No, it’s about coming to terms with the new reality and living in it responsively, not just reactively. It’s about arriving at a place where you can make wise choices for yourself and in your relationships, not based off the negative emotions that control you, but on the new vision for your life you’ve created.

Donald Trump is becoming the next President of the United States. That’s an inescapable fact. His authority doesn’t extend to being dictator of your emotions and your life. You still have control over that and no policy or executive order can take that from you. If the reality of a Donald Trump presidency is robbing you of the peace and joy God wants for your life, then it’s time for you to take your life back.

A note to Trump supporters

To those excited by a Trump presidency, understand that not everybody shares your enthusiasm, probably even some of your friends and loved ones. Understand they’re going through these phases I listed above. If you truly care about them, give them the space to do so.

Getting into political discussions with them or trying to engage them when they’re venting isn’t going to change the way they feel, and it will likely damage your relationship. There’s probably nothing you’re going to say to make them like Donald Trump more. Maybe the best thing you can do is just let them vent and continue to love them.

Even though you’re excited about what President Trump might do for the United States, don’t let that enthusiasm damage important relationships in your life. You’re going to need these people a lot longer than he’s going to be in office.

Find out more about Take Your Life Back, and about the Take Your Life Back intensive workshops being offered in 2017. Resolve to make this year the one you say goodbye to a reactive life and move toward all that God has planned for you right now!

 If you would like to give to New Life and help support our ministry, call us at 1-800-NEWLIFE, or click here to examine all the ways you can help others take their lives back.


Person using smart phone

4 Things You Can Do to Take Your Life Back from Social Media

Last time I wrote about how we can take our lives back from politics. Today, I want to highlight one of the sources of our political addiction, social media. Most people would agree that our public conversations have become increasingly more divisive. Much of that divisiveness is happening on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These remote, sometimes anonymous channels offer us the ability to say hateful things we’d never dream of saying to someone’s face.

Proverbs 6:16-19 gives us a list of seven things the Lord hates…not frowns upon, but hates! I find it interesting that “a person who stirs up conflict in the community” is listed right alongside “hands that shed innocent blood.” Of course if we read the entirety of the Bible, we know just how important unity is to God’s plan for us. So while shedding innocent blood is a pretty obvious thing to hate, we need to remember that when we use our words to stir up conflict among people, we’re directly opposing God’s ordained plan for His creation. And He hates that!

In the New Testament, Paul tells the Ephesians not to engage in obscenity, coarse jokes, or any kind of “foolish talk.” Instead he says we should be speaking words of Thanksgiving. The preceding verse warns against sexual immorality and greed, and the following verse says that these kinds of people are “idolaters” and have “no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.”

Let the seriousness of those two passages sink in. Playing fast and loose with our words is pretty serious business in God’s eyes!

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, while designed to enhance our communication and connection with each other, have been turned into storehouses for the seeds of discord. Many spend inordinate amounts of time searching for just the right image or meme that will “stick it” to some person or group they oppose. Sometimes that’s just some good-natured ribbing, but too often it’s hateful and mean-spirited. Instead of increasing our connectedness, these channels are driving a wedge between people. Instead of being a means for building and connecting, they’re being used to tear down and divide.

Now let me be clear: that’s not the fault of Facebook and Twitter…the blame resides with us! We’re the ones misusing and abusing social media. With that in mind, it’s time for each of us to take stock in how we’re using social media. Is it causing you to miss out on God’s grand provision for you? Here’s a little quiz to help you decide:

1. Is social media owning too much of your time? No matter if it’s discussing politics on Facebook or posting recipes on Pinterest, if social media is actually replacing one-on-one human interaction with your family and friends, then you’re spending too much time there.
2. Has it cost you in a relationship? Have you had to “unfriend” or “unfollow” somebody because of something you or they said? Would that now make you less likely to have a healthy in-person interaction? That’s a problem according to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24. This unresolved disconnect that originated on social media could not only be killing a relationship, but inhibiting the effectiveness of prayer for you both.
3. Is it distracting from your ability to connect and share Christ with others? Does what you say about politics, your favorite sports team, an entertainer, or some other event help or harm your credibility with others. And I’m not talking about just those who would agree with you. Think about everybody who would read your words. Now scroll down your posts for the last week. Would somebody who shares a different viewpoint than you do see Christ in what you posted? Would they be more or less likely to listen to you on matters of faith? If they needed help or support, would your posts make you someone they would trust to reach out to for help?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to take your life back from social media. It’s negatively impacting your ability to be the person God has called you to be. And while you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube with regard to things you’ve already said, there are some positive steps you can take going forward to make things right.

1. Audit your social media and delete any posts you think might do damage. Notice I didn’t say “offend.” You’re allowed to have an opinion. That’s OK. But if you’re not speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) then it doesn’t matter how right your opinion might be. Delete these posts and cut your losses.
2. Set reasonable time limits on your social media consumption. Social media isn’t “evil” in itself. It’s how we use it. Set some time limits that won’t interfere or infringe on your time being productive with family, friends or at work. Strictly enforce them and reward yourself with something else you like to do when you meet your goals.
3. Stop following or mute sources that feed negativity. These are triggers. They’ll not only drag down your attitude, but likely you’ll get drawn into combat there, destroying any progress you make in goals 1 & 2. Instead, choose to follow sources that will build up your faith and equip you to live well (like New Life).
4. Watch what you say. One of the benefits of social media is, unlike face to face conversations, you do have a greater ability to filter your content. Typing your words requires more thought than just saying them out loud, and before you click “send” you have a chance to review what you want to say. Use this time wisely to double check and make sure you’re saying exactly what you want to say.
On this note, the Rotary Club has a time-honored list of guidelines that should govern our words. I think they’re consistent with what the Bible teaches and pretty wise:
• Is it the truth?
• Is it fair to all concerned?
• Will it build good will and better friendships?
• Is it beneficial to all concerned?

Social media can be a tremendous technological advancement that can truly shrink our world and build bridges that connect us. And yes, the First Amendment gives you the right to speak your mind, but as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:23, just because it’s your right doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to everyone.

We need to let that Christ-like value guide our decisions about how we interact on social media, not just the legalistic standard of the Constitution. If we can do that, we can take our lives back from social media, making ourselves and the platforms better for it.

If you’re ready to take your life back from social media, or any other source of pain that’s keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.


2016 US election

Take Your Life Back from Politics

This is being published today, but I'm writing this piece a little over a week out from the election. I’m willing to bet that this is how a lot of people feel this morning: disappointed, tired, anxious about the future…and that’s those who voted for the winner!

We’re now on the other side of what can only be described as an 18-month political “bender.” We’ve made ourselves drunk over the past year and a half on accusations, slander, hyperbole and partisan pot-shots.

And like the binge drinker who wakes up the morning after a few too many shots, we’re not happy or fulfilled. In fact, we wonder “how did we get here?” We try to piece together the decisions that led us to this place and events just don’t seem to add up. We start to wonder about the choice we’ve made while our faculties were impaired and the reality of what awaits starts to slowly seep in…and we’re terrified!

Well, we can’t change what we’ve done. We’ve got to live with that. What we can change is the kind of thinking and behavior that put us here. We CAN take our lives back from politics, both individually and as a nation. Here’s how:

 

  1. Admit that we have a problem. We do. As individuals we’re far too willing to sacrifice our own wills and decision making to partisan organizations. Those can be the Democrat or Republican Party apparatus, or the media organizations that serve them. We lap up the unhealthy stuff they feed us on cable TV, the internet and social media. We allow our minds to be melted into the “us v. them” mentality that lines their pockets with our cash. We stop thinking about principle and fall in line next to “our guy” (or gal), overlooking obvious fatal character flaws that should prohibit these folks from serving as the local dog-catcher, much less the leader of the United States. But we make excuses because “the other” is dangerous. Our candidate might be flawed, we say, but he/she is the lesser of two evils. Well, that’s still evil.
  2. We turn our problem over to God. The biggest reason we got into this mess in the first place is because we forgot what words get capitalized. We put a “G” in front of government and a “g” in front of God. We thought, “if we just elect the right people and appoint the right judges, we can legislate God’s will into existence." That model just doesn’t exist in God’s Word! If we’re going to recover from our addiction to politics, we have to turn the power back over to God. Only He can change people’s hearts. If America is truly going to be great again, we have to make God great again.
  3. We have to get away from those things that trigger our addiction. Like the substance abuser whose doctor informs him of the damage done by years of abuse, we can’t be all that surprised that we’ve reached this state. We spend countless hours listening to hateful, divisive rhetoric on talk radio and cable TV and compound that by reading blogs and social media filled with hyperbole and one-sided “news.” Is it any wonder after inputting all that garbage that our minds have been negatively affected? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 that we’re to think about “whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy.” Does that sound like political rhetoric to you? If we’re going to take our lives back from politics, we’ve got to make a clean break from the sources.
  4. We have to replace the bad with good. We can’t just walk away from politics altogether though. We can't quit cold turkey. We do still live in a democracy that demands our participation, and that should be an informed participation. So we have to find news sources that aren’t partisan. They’re out there, believe it or not. And we have to start parsing the information we get, not on whether it fits our preconceived partisan ideas about what’s “good” or “bad,” but on whether it fits God’s eternal standards for what’s right or wrong. If a candidate from our party is on the wrong side of God’s standard, then we have to stand against that candidate and insist on better.
  5. Get some balance in what you consume. We can’t binge 24/7 political news. It’s just not healthy. We need to be spending time in God’s Word, first of all. That’s going to give us the spiritual nourishment and basis for wisdom that we need to be good citizens. Then, when we’re looking for other information to “consume,” we need use Paul’s standard from Philippians. New Life publishes positive, uplifting content every single day. Publications and sites that are dedicated to building people up, not tearing them down should be getting all our clicks and hits.

Now I’m sure some are reading this and saying, “Steve, this is a pipe dream. You really think me doing all this will make a difference?” Yes, I think it will make a yuuge  difference…to you! You’ll become a better-informed citizen who makes better decisions come election day (and every other day!); and whatever the results, you’ll not live in fear or anxiety because you know who’s really in control!

And imagine if all the people who call themselves Christians in this country did this, Democrat and Republican. What if the millions of Americans who profess Christ actually demanded our leaders behave in a Christ-like manner? (And no, I’m not talking about a faith litmus test or demanding candidates attend a particular church).  What if we told our candidates, “we expect you, at the very least, to practice the fruits of the spirit. If you want our vote, it won’t be won by how you vote on gay marriage or your position on abortion. Our votes go to the candidates who best demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the public square. Those aren't partisan and they shouldn't be negotiable. Make that the starting point, then we can talk about the issues.

We can take our lives back from politics. And if we do, what a world we can make.

 

If you're ready to take your life back from politics, or any other source of pain that's keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.