Biblical Keys to Mental and Spiritual Health Part 1 of 4
by Pastor Dan White
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“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).
You can define mental, emotional, and spiritual strength by identifying the things that mentally strong individuals don’t do. Emotionally strong people have learned healthy skills that they have made into healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong with a sound mind.
1. Mentally Strong People Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned.
When a situation turns out badly, mentally strong Christians have learned the skills of self-awareness by taking responsibility for their role in the broken relationship or adversity, praising God in every adversity, trusting the Lord’s power and providence to turn bad into good, and bearing injustices done to them.
You may be responsible for a bad situation. The natural, human response is to blame others for the bad things other people do to us and/or the bad things that happen to us. Before you go blaming someone for your problem or for an injustice done to you, stop and examine yourself. “Examine yourselves … test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). “A man ought to examine himself…“if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Corinthians 11:28, 31).
Learn to praise God in every adversity. The Bible calls this kind of praise the sacrifice of praise. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15-16). The sacrifice of praise means praising God for trials and difficult circumstances and involves trusting the Lord in believing that God is sovereign over your life and has the power to turn bad into good.
Trust the Lord’s power and providence. The great truth of Christ is that He turned bad into good. His death on the cross? He turned that into resurrection and into life forever and ever. He is all powerful. Ruler of heaven and earth. Only He has the power to take the bad that happens to us and the bad that we do to ourselves into good. Into blessings. Into resurrection victory! “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28-29).
Learn to bear injustice. “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. When they hurled their insults at Jesus, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (2 Peter 2:19-20, 23-24).
Know that God brings vengeance. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).
When a situation turns out badly, don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Learn and develop the skills of responsibility, praise, trust in the Lord, and bearing injustice.
2. Mentally Strong People Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone. Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset. They know that it’s not their responsibility to make other people happy or solve their problems.
People pleasers go out of their way to please others as a way to gain approval, affirmation, and friendship. This position is not healthy. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.
It is natural for you to want others to like and accept you. But you are a people-pleaser, you live your life by the opinions and demands of others instead of seeking to please our Lord God. Christ found freedom by desiring to please only one person - God, His Father.
People-pleasers are 'addicted,' not to a destructive substance like alcohol, but to a destructive and painful pattern of relating to others as people-pleasers.
People with several of these patterns have a people-pleasing lifestyle.
Excessive dependence on things or people outside oneself.
Accepting responsibility for others' feelings or actions.
Constantly trying to please others.
Letting others dominate or abuse you.
Neglecting your own needs at your expense.
Difficulty in knowing your own feelings and wishes.
A weak sense of personal identity and loss of touch with your real self.
Difficulty setting realistic boundaries by allowing others to invade your peace and sense of self-worth.
Difficulty admitting that you are in a dysfunctional people-pleasing relationship that causes you great emotional, mental, and spiritual pain.
Excessive efforts to control or change your environment or people in it thinking that a change of environment or changing people will get rid of your emotional and spiritual pain and their emotional and mental pain.
Frequently feeling resentful and bitter because the one’s you seek to please really don’t care a thing about you and are absent when you really need them.
Being very fearful of rejection or being left alone. You feel that you can’t live without that person’s approval and love whom you seek to please.
Relationship problems growing out of a weak sense of who you are in Christ marked by an excessive dependency, and efforts to control, change, or please others.
The goal in overcoming being a people-pleaser is not to become selfish and ignore others. It is to become mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy by being responsible for your own peace, happiness, and well-being rather than trying to make everyone happy and fixing their problems.
“Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
People tend to be selfish. They want to control or even bully you to meet their desires, needs, opinions and goals. You are their pawn on a chessboard. Their desire is self-focused instead of love focused.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
3. Mentally Strong People Don’t Give Away Their Power. They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions, and they have a choice in how they respond. They don’t give others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.
Mentally strong people know who they are and have a healthy view of themselves which is called a healthy self-image. Self-image is not dependent on how I see myself or how others see me. It is not dependent on whether others like me and accept me or whether I like who I am. Mental, emotional, and spiritual health comes from the way God sees us as His child, not condemned, and forgiven free from guilt, shame, and regrets due to past failures.
Mentally strong people have come to the realization that God esteems them highly and thus they don’t give away this power to allow others to control them who try and make them feel bad, inferior, and worthless when a person belittles, ridicules, or mocks them. This God-esteem comes from God’s great love for you making you someone of inestimable worth and value.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1-2).
Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people don’t give away their power by merging their identities and selfhood into those who seek to take them captive, dominate and manipulate them.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Mentally, emotionally, and strong Christians don’t seek to do or be what all preachers or teachers tell you to do or to be even though they quote Scripture. Sometime their teachings can be false.
2 Peter 2:1-3.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
Test what preachers and teachers say you should do and be for the Lord. In your desire to please the Lord and please them “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-2).
Stop being a slave to other people by living your life to please others!
2 Peter 2:17-19.
These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.
No one is your master but Christ. And how do we please our Master? Through living in a relationship of love with Him and praising, worshipping, and adoring Him.
Our Lord and Master listed 8 ways to be happy. He wants us to BE! To be happy. Here is Jesus’ list from Matthew 5 to be happy and to be happy is to have mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Morn with those who morn.
Be content with just who you are — no more, no less.
Hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Be merciful (not judgmental or critical).
Be pure in heart.
Be a peacemaker. Don’t stir up strife but do stand up for yourself gracefully when necessary.
You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you.
No where on this list is the requirement for you to please others or to allow others to control you.
If you learn these lessons and develop these skills, you will never give away your power given to you by God’s grace. You will not let others determine and control you, your mind, or your emotions, and you will stop feeling sorry for yourself when injustices are done against you. You will be on your way to mental, emotional, and spiritual health for 2014!
Credits: I heard Rush Limbaugh mention 13 Things Mentally Strong People Avoid by Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and writer, and published online by Forbes. Access the article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/11/18/mentally-strong-people-the-13-things-they-avoid/
The truths in this article helped me greatly. I underpinned these truths with scripture and my commentary.
The section on patterns of people-pleasers came from http://lifecounsel.org/pub_li_overcomingCodependency.html
in an article by Jason T. Li. Ph.D. If you are a people-pleaser, this article will be of great help for you.
Rev. Dan White is pastor and founder of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA, and a free-lance writer who has been published in secular and Christian media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This commentary is a good review for all of us. The enemy of our souls tries to shackle even people in the church through Scripture twisting hirelings. So, I especially liked this sentence, which summarizes much of what you wrote: "...No one is your master but Christ. And how do we please our Master? Through living in a relationship of love with Him and praising, worshipping, and adoring Him...." Amen and thank you!