By Leah Lively, Crosswalk.com
While you will face many challenging people in this lifetime, the most difficult person you will have the most impact on is yourself.
You may want to influence others to improve their behaviors, but the only person you have the most control over is yourself and your own personal growth. When you focus on your own emotional healing and growth, you will begin to recognize patterns in how you react to situations.
Something that you may have once reacted negatively to, may now cause you to look at through a different lens, one of growth.
It is easy to want to point fingers and hold others accountable. While others are certainly responsible for their behaviors, the more time you focus on your personal growth, the actions of others make less of an impact on you.
Let’s look at five ways to know you are healing and growing emotionally:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Yolya
1. Instead of Reacting Negatively to a Situation, Ask Yourself Why
Ask yourself, “Why do I feel ___________ (angry, sad, etc.)?”
“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” Psalm 26:2-3 ESV
In this verse, David is asking God to help him look within his heart and mind. He trusts God to show him where he is wrong and what thoughts need to be changed.
There is an increased amount of tension in our world.
Everyday stresses in addition to the chaos of current events have created a society of people with emotions running high. Whether you hear a comment from a neighbor with a differing point of view or read a controversial social media post, you want to respond immediately out of your emotions instead of pausing for introspection.
God will always give you a different perspective. Something that elicits anger may be a result of your own insecurities. A feeling of jealousy may be discontentment in your life.
God can help you discern what you are feeling then help you work on the “why” behind that feeling. Trusting in God’s steadfast love can help you when you are feeling insecure.
Believing in God’s faithfulness brings contentment into your life when you know He will always provide for your needs.
Whether you need to step away and journal about the incident, or simply take a deep breath--giving yourself a moment to respond instead of react is a sign of emotional maturity.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/bingokid
2. You Communicate Your Feelings and Needs to God First before Processing with Others
“Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.” Psalm 55:1-3 ESV
David was king of Israel, but prior to that role, he learned to go to God in his grief and pain. He communicated his fear and anger to God before acting on his feelings resulting in wise decisions.
When your emotions are out of control, phoning a friend who will understand your plight is often the first choice. We want someone to commiserate with often leading to gossip and escalating the situation.
Talking out your emotions with God helps you avoid saying words you may regret. While your first impulse may be to text a friend and tell her your feelings, journaling a prayer or talking to God helps diffuse your emotions to think more clearly.
Although it takes a bit more faith and imagination, God can validate your feelings better than anyone. He knows you, inside and out. He gave your His Spirit so that he can experience what you're experiencing, as you're experiencing it. No friend could match that!
Once you take time to be seen by God, you will have a better grasp of your feelings and wil be less likely to make the situation worse when the time comes to address your feelings with the offender.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/palidachan
3. You Have Healthy Boundaries in Your Personal Relationships
“And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.” Nehemiah 6:3-4 ESV
Nehemiah was commissioned by God to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. He was building a physical boundary to protect Jerusalem from invaders. As they were working on the wall, surrounding enemies would come to distract, mock, and discourage the workers. He calmly let the mockers know that he would not be engaging them physically or emotionally.
Nehemiah had a task to complete and would not allow anyone or anything distract him from that goal.
Healthy boundaries are a characteristic of a person who is growing emotionally. You determine what and who you will allow to influence your emotional health.
If a relationship causes you unneeded stress and is toxic to your well-being, it may be time to control the influence that person has over you.
Dr. Henry Cloud in his Boundaries books describes boundaries as a “property line.” You “own” your feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.
Boundaries keep others from crossing into your emotional property line.
Having boundaries with activities that cause unneeded stress are also important to your emotional growth. If spending time on social media causes your emotions to flair or reading the news drives you into a depressed state, placing boundaries on those activities would be essential to your emotional health.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/VitezslavVylicil
4. You Have Trusted Friends Who Can Hold You Accountable and Provide Wisdom
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
Mary and Martha were fortunate to have a wise and honest friend like Jesus. Martha’s intention to serve Jesus and their guests well was not the problem. The problem was her focus was on doing for Jesus, and not being in a relationship with him.
Jesus carefully, but truthfully reminded her of what her priorities should be and not slight her sister for choosing correctly.
A friend who knows you are striving for emotional health can make you aware of behaviors that may not reflect that goal. You need the maturity to accept constructive criticism knowing their intention is not to harm, but to help you on the path to maturity.
Friendships based on truth and wisdom are difficult to find. Having a friend who will let you know when your attitude or perspective needs to shift is something to cherish.
Seek out friendships with women you admire, and let them know that your life to them is an open book, and that you welcome their wisdom. Watch for the deep bond that forms and all the ways you will grow!
After you have processed your initial emotions with God, seeking the advice of a friend who is not afraid to hurt your feelings, shows you have the emotional maturity to accept their words and use them to grow.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images
5. You Have Self-Awareness of Your Weaknesses without Claiming a Victim Mentality
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
Paul was once a religious leader who persecuted Christians to the point of imprisonment and death. God spoke to him and told him he was wrong.
Through persecuting followers of Christ Paul was also persecuting God himself. Paul lived the rest of his life knowing he had caused suffering to hundreds of people. Paul did not blame God, fellow leaders, or anyone else for his behavior.
God forgave him and Paul pursued a life of sharing the forgiveness of God with others, never once feeling sorry for himself, but understanding that in his weakness, God strengthened him.
We all have flaws and are “works” in progress. You cannot expect immediate maturity, yet you also cannot spend your days mourning every mistake and influencing others to see you in a constant victim-like state. This places the blame for your behavior on others and not on yourself.
An emotionally healthy person understands that he makes mistakes regularly, yet knows with God’s help, he can improve. It is easy to make others feel sorry for you, but growth happens when you take your mistakes, determine in the next situation your behavior will be different, then follow-through.
A wise pastor once said, “The only problem you have is you.”
While we all tend to attempt to change the people around us, the only real influence you have for change is within yourself. When a challenging situation arises, reflect on your reaction.
Ask God to help you understand your feelings. Process those feelings with God to help diffuse your emotions and shift your perspective.
Set boundaries with other people and activities that have a negative impact on your emotions.
Remember you are responsible for your own behavior. Set boundaries to keep your behavior within your control. Cultivate a few friendships with those who can speak to you with honesty and wisdom to keep you accountable on your path to emotional health.
Finally, give yourself grace in knowing that you are a work in progress. You will make mistakes, but do not become victim minded. Like Paul, accept your weaknesses, but know that God can strengthen you to effectively handle challenging situations and circumstances that may arise.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Motoki Tonn