“It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” –Leo Roskin
People with unhealthy character impose guilt messages in an effort to control and manipulate others.
These people are angry , lack self-control, and live with many fears.
Regardless of the negative person’s real problems, if I let the negative remarks affect my thinking and my choices, I am a victim as well. God designed us to be victorious no matter our life circumstances. God wants our thinking to be centered around Him because He knows that is how we can live victoriously, regardless of our nitty-gritty details. If we allow the negative attitudes and remarks of others to control our thinking and actions, we are slaves to that negative, and our thinking is not centered around God. This is sin, and in it we will not live victoriously. We are not only designed to live victoriously, but we are designed to be free from the chains of sin. It has no power over us unless we allow it. We can choose to remain centered around God and speak life to the person who is spewing anger and death.
In response to attacks from others, we can scrap and scrounge to fight for ourselves, or we can call for help from a much more reliable power source than ourselves. When David fled King Saul and hid in a cave to stay alive, he praised God. Psalm 57 shows how David felt in his situation, and it shows his powerful response.
King Saul was full of pride and power. When he said jump, strong men jumped. When he set out to have someone murdered, he could consider it accomplished. But he didn’t count on his scare tactics and mental manipulation to fail in his pursuit of David. He counted on tripping up a scared, panicky David. But David had trust in God and prior training to keep his mind focused on where his strength came from. As a young shepherd, he had slain many wild animals responsible for killing livestock and men alike. Then he took down and cut off the head of Goliath, the mighty Philistine whose size, reputation and use of fear tactics were enough to cause all the mighty warriors in the Hebrew army to cower with knees knocking.
“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let thy glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down: They have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, And thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: Let thy glory be above all the earth” (Psalm 57:1-11).
David was under attack and had to flee for his life. He was scared and knew he was in danger. His response to his situation no doubt comforted him with God’s presence and strengthened his resolve to stay focused and clear-headed as to not become an emotional and mental victim as well as having to preserve his physical life by hiding in the cave.
Just as David chose a powerful, empowering response to his situation, we can choose this power as well.
King Saul was angry, lacked self-control and lived with many fears. He knew that David was appointed by God to be the next king of Israel. King Saul was jealous of David’s relationship with God. What if David had responded differently to King Saul’s tactics and attacks? What if David had not turned to God and praised God as he did? Do you think the outcome would have been the same?
Think of a situation in your life that is troubling you right now. Identify what the problem is, or the stimulus, if you will. Then consider several options of how you can respond to that problem, and predict to the best of your ability what would be the outcome of each possible response. You likely have prior experience to pull from to help you accurately predict the outcomes of your possible responses.
I learned a powerful concept from Stephen R. Covey’s teachings that he came across in a book in a university library: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” This concept greatly shifted my paradigm of life, just as it did for Covey. I realized the complete power I had over any response I gave in any situation. I employed this in my relationships as a parent, spouse, daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, coworker, and friend. It was empowering to realize the liberty I had in how I choose to respond to any comment and any situation.
The human endowments that reside in the space between stimulus and response, according to Covey, are self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. According to Covey, the synergy of these endowments is necessary for quality of life.
Self-awareness is defined as “our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.”
Conscience is defined as what “allows us to sense when we act or even contemplate acting in a way that’s contrary to principle.”
Independent will is defined as “our capacity to act.” Covey further says this regarding independent will: “While environmental or genetic influences may be very powerful, they do not control us. We’re not victims. We’re not the product of our choices. We are ‘response-able’—able to respond beyond our moods and tendencies.”
Creative imagination is defined as “the power to envision a future state, to create something in our mind, and to solve problems synergistically. It’s the endowment that enables us to see ourselves and others differently and better than we are now.”
It’s important that we use the creative imagination God gave us to speak life and truth to ourselves.
When George Foreman was training to regain his title as Heavyweight Champion of the World 20 years after he lost the title to Muhammad Ali, he learned to not even hear the negatives anymore. He focused on his goal and worked hard to make it happen. He promised himself that in time he would be the champ of the world. After recapturing his title in 1994, Foreman said when he looked in the mirror he still saw the same old guy turning 50, but he also saw a guy who was able to seize and conquer. He said, “I could never see someone who could not do it.”
The synergy of these four endowments is what produces optimum results. One endowment without the others is out of balance and unable to produce positive fruit. According to Covey, “the development of each of the four endowments and the synergy between them is the core of personal leadership” (59-61, Covey, Merrill, Merrill).
Our responses to people speak as loudly if not more loudly than our original actions. We need to be able to objectively evaluate our attitudes and behaviors and be honest with ourselves as to whether we need to change our paradigms. We need to see if our words and actions align with our principles. We need to recognize our ability to respond beyond our own moods and tendencies. We need to be able to envision and work toward good outcomes, not only for ourselves, but also for others. Clearly we need a lot to be effective communicators seeking win-win outcomes not only for ourselves but for everyone involved. Clearly, it is very possible for us to have, do, and be what is needed. Remind yourself of the example of David or of George Foreman when you feel discouraged or helpless to change the direction of a conversation or relationship. Next week, we will look deeper into how our words drive our attitudes and accomplishments.
What is peace?
Oxford dictionary defines peace as freedom from disturbance; tranquility and a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.
According to www.encyclopedia.com, spiritual peace “includes notions of totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well-being.”
According to www.biblestudytools.com, the biblical concept of peace is “larger than [the English definition of peace] and rests heavily on the Hebrew root slm, which means ‘to be complete’ or ‘to be sound.’ The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning ‘to be complete or whole’ or ‘to live well.’”
According to www.biblestudytools.com, peace, or salom, can be grouped into four categories:
To those with whom God establishes a covenant of perfect peace, it is ensured by His presence. We see this in my motto verse, Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth thee.” As long as we trust God and keep our minds fixed on Him, we enjoy perfect peace, no matter what is going on around us. It’s an internal anchor that steadies us in difficult times.
God gave me this verse during a very difficult time in my life, and it has strengthened and re-centered me countless times. For years, I have had a sign in my kitchen that defines peace (shalom) as “complete fulfillment as a result of God’s presence.”
In Pursuit of Peace
We cannot have complete fulfillment without God’s direction and blessing.
We can run here and there, accomplish this and that, get all kinds of awards, degrees, and certifications, and rise to the top of our field and still not be fulfilled.
Look at Hollywood for worldly success without peace. Billionaires and beloved stars commit suicide as often as do regular people.
They also struggle as much with addictions of all kinds, just as the rest of us.
We all try to fill the inborn void with what we think will make us happy, but we are never fulfilled without God’s presence.
Some people chase success to finally obtain it and find they still feel unfulfilled.
I believe God defines success as peace, or shalom: our complete fulfillment as a result of His presence.
This means an intimate relationship seeking God above all else. It means a life in which prayer is a way of life as much as breathing. Not just talking to God but also listening, seeking His wisdom for every decision we will encounter. It includes interceding for others continuously. It means thanking God and asking Him to open our eyes to see the blessings we have taken for granted. It is constant communion and communication with God. The result is a life of peace and fulfillment in which God is honored above all.
What if we believe in and trust God and try to follow His leading but still feel unfulfilled, numb, struggle with addiction, or still sometimes contemplate suicide?
We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people. It’s easiest to think of it this way: everything and everyone here is messed up. We all suffer, we all get it wrong sometimes, and we all struggle.
So what’s the difference?
The difference is the anchor and lifeboat that is the close intimacy with our Maker, God. Satan attacks every person. He is no respecter of persons, and seeks to kill, steal, and destroy as much as possible because he hates God. He attacks individuals, families, churches, institutions, governments, and more. There is no one or nothing satan doesn’t attempt to intrude and apply his thumbprint.
Turn the Table on Satan
We are empowered to accept that we are attacked, then recognize where and how satan is attacking us. We already know the basic why—because He hates God. Recognizing where we are weak enables us to strengthen that area. But beware if you are confident of your strength in an area; it is likely that there is a weakness of which you aren’t aware, and satan will sneak in to destroy you in that very area of life.
One example of how to turn the table on satan is if you have a momentary sexual impulse not toward your spouse, you know that you need to strengthen your love and commitment toward your spouse. This in turn will strengthen your marriage. How to do this is to pray for your marriage, your spouse, and your affection and commitment to your spouse. You also must walk away from the temptation, taking every thought captive under the authority of Jesus Christ, and remind yourself of your spouse’s qualities that attracted you to him or her. You can also recognize if there’s been a lack of affection and connection between you and your spouse, and then have a spontaneous or planned time of intimacy to rekindle those sparks.
If we don’t recognize the attack and render it useless, it causes division within us and separates us from peace.
The Mind Is a Battlefield
It’s important to guard our minds. That is why we must recognize and remove impure thoughts as soon as they come.
Satan attacks our minds in more ways than just temptations. He attacks with vanity, pride, fears, and insecurities. He wants to steal our focus from God so he can inflate our pride or deflate our joy. He knows that either way leaves us weak and not focused on God. His goal is to distract and deceive us.
We cannot win someone else’s battle for them, but we can be there for them with Godly support and unconditional love, and we are to intercede on their behalf. And we can recognize satan’s attacks on us as we are close to this person.
I remember a long season when Satan was attacking my daughter in many ways. The battle was spiritual and also mental, emotional, and physical, but the decisive movements occurred in her mind. Satan tried hard to distract my prayers and vigilant parenting by attacking me also spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. He threw every fiery dart he could find to sling our way. I know God created my daughter with specific qualities to serve His purpose, and satan has attacked those same qualities all her life to oppress her and prevent God’s will from being done.
Our Power to Have Peace
We have an important role in whether or not God’s will is accomplished on earth. When we are oppressed by satan’s attacks, we aren’t able to know, much less pursue, God’s purpose for our lives.
We are in control of our own peace. No matter satan’s attacks, we have an invitation from God to have a close relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We then have His Holy Spirit within us to strengthen our resolve when our flesh is weak. And we have the mind-blowing opportunity to communicate directly with God, with no in-between. When Christ rent the veil, He made one-to-one communication with God our privilege and responsibility in order for us to live fulfilled lives, full of peace as a result of God’s presence.
If you lack peace or fulfillment, seek God continually. He doesn’t withhold peace from those who are near to Him. Just keep seeking God continually, no giving up and no turning back. A close relationship with God and dependence on Him is all it takes. The flesh is weak, but the Holy Spirit within one who believes and trusts God and knows Jesus Christ as the only mediator for sin, is strong. When we are weak and rely on Him, God’s strength in our life shines through and gives us the victory of peace in Him.
More on peace next week, but for now, here is an extensive list of bible verses and passages about peace:
Proverbs 3:13-18, 24
Jeremiah 29:7, 11-14
1 Corinthians 13:11
1 Corinthians 14:33
1 Thessalonians 5:3
1 Thessalonians 5:23
1 Thessalonians 5:15
2 Thessalonians 3:16
1 Timothy 2:1-2
2 Timothy 1:7
2 Timothy 2:22
1 Peter 1:2
1 Peter 3:9-11
1 Peter 5:6-7
2 John 3