Spiritually Speaking answers personal questions and concerns from a spiritual perspective. Local religious leaders taking part in the discussion include Rev. Elaine Cho/La Cañada Methodist Church; Pastor Jon Karn/Light on the Corner Church; Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian/Holy House Ministries; Rabbi Simcha Backman/Chabad of Glendale; Rev. Steve Marshall/Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church; Levent Akbarut/ Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge; Anthony Kelson RScP, Laney Clevenger-White, RScP, Gary Bates, RScP, Sandra Shields, RscP, Kim Winders, RScP and Rev. Beverly Craig/Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta; Carolyn Young, LCSW; Rabbi Janet Bieber/Jewish Community and Learning Center of the Foothills; Rev. Mark Yeager/Verdugo Hills Four Square Church; Sharon Weisman/ atheist/agnostic/secular humanist/free thinker; Holly Stauffer/Postulate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church; Rev. Mary Morgan/Center for Spiritual Living – Redondo Beach; Reese Neyland/ Lifeway Church in Glendale, Senior Ministry Leader; Pastor Dabney Beck; Pastor Tim Beck, Joan Doyle, Pastor Randy Foster/Christian Life Church; Pastor Bill Flanders/First Baptist Church at La Crescenta; Joshua Berg/Humanist Celebrant; Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey/Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills; Lucinda Guarino/Leader, Social Responsibility, Spiritual Services, YMCA of the Foothills; The Rev. Fr. Kirby Smith/St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church; Rev. Terry Neven, Laura Neven/The Gathering, Karen Mitchell/Global Truth Center and . We welcome your questions and comments. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responses are offered from the perspectives of individual clergy members, which may or may not be in agreement with other respondents of Spiritually Speaking nor the editor and staff of the Crescenta Valley Weekly.
Question: We have a really good friend who is well educated, has a great job, is immaculate about her appearance and fun to be with. Still, her self-esteem is in the pits. Whenever we give her a compliment she always replies with something degrading about herself. Just one example: When she completed her master’s degree, we gave her a party. The guests were marveling at how she managed to complete the course of study and graduate with honors while working full-time. Her response was “Oh, anyone could have done it; that wasn’t any great accomplishment.” And we can tell by the tone of her voice she really means it.
Is there anyway we, her caring friends, can help her understand what an amazing woman she is?
~ Friends Forever
Dear Friends Forever,
It seems that every one of us know someone who struggles with lack of self-esteem to one degree or another. The fact is, most of us feel inadequate in one or more areas of our lives. It might have to do with our physical appearance, intelligence, background or abilities. Each of us needs to find ways to feel better about ourselves. One of the ways we can do that is to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and are quick to affirm us.
How fortunate that your friend has you and the others who care about her and want to help! The quandary that you face with your friend is not a new one. Studies conducted by Dr. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago have shown what he calls “the negativity bias” of the brain. Our brains are actually more sensitive and responsive to unpleasant news. That’s why personal insults or criticism hit us harder and stay with us longer. And it takes twice as many affirmations to overcome a negative comment or even negative self-talk. Oftentimes our self-esteem (or lack of self-esteem) and our negative self-talk stems from our childhood and how we were treated by our significant relationships growing up. If we believe what we were told, we will base our actions and decisions on a foundation of lies and never discover our true beauty.
I think there are several things you can do to help your friend. First, help her discover how God sees her. Jesus Christ tells us to find our true worth in him. In Ephesians 2:10, we are told that we are “God’s masterpiece.” God loves her completely and unconditionally, and he designed her for a purpose! The way she looks, thinks, and acts is part of his special plan for her. Encourage her to look to the One who designed her and called her his “masterpiece” to find out who she really is. When she begins to explore the truth of who God made her to be, she will be set free from the chains of negativity to experience a meaningful life full of joy, full of peace and full of value!
Second, she needs to continue to surround herself with friends like you who will stand with her and help her fight the struggle against a negative view of herself. In the Old Testament King Solomon said, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 TLB) Fortunately she has good friends who appreciate who she is and want to support her.
Finally, help her focus on her eternal character. Jesus said the only things that matter are eternal – like loving God and loving others. Love is our purpose and calling on this earth. When she spends her time getting to know God and becoming more like Him, negative thoughts about herself will dissipate. She will become more joyful as her focus turns outward to helping and encouraging others.
Each of these steps will help her see herself as God sees her and then her self-negativity will be replaced by a radiant joy that will reflect the love of Christ to everyone around her – especially to you and your friends.
Pastor Randy Foster
Dear Friends Forever,
Seeming to “have it all” is an interesting thing. Your friend’s education, career, looks and great personality do not indicate what goes on in her internal world. What she thinks about, feels emotionally and ruminates on inside her mind is a much bigger part of what therapists call “sense of self” than the attributes others on the outside see. So while some individuals look like they have it all together and have everything going for them, how they actually see and feel about themselves comes much more from their internal working model that is developed early on in life; events and treatment she may have been exposed to as a child.
When someone is beautiful, intelligent and has a dynamic personality, they may be very insecure inside because they had a dad who shamed them, a mom who neglected them, a caregiver who beat them. Other contributing factors may be events that a person may never tell others that left a lasting internal message that “I deserved this” or that “I will never be good enough.” These thoughts shape how a person really sees himself, although others may see a person who excels in all areas of life.
These are called attachment wounds and lead to the way people feel about themselves. It takes therapy to work through these types of thoughts, heal and really see and feel differently about yourself. Outside of personal therapeutic work, as a friend, you can say factual statements to counteract her self-depreciation or comments that dismiss her accomplishments. Specific statements such as, “Nancy, it is only a small percentage of individuals in the world that attain higher education,” or statements like, “Nancy, you are more successful than most, please just accept the compliment.”
After awhile, make comments shorter, “Nancy, the correct response is ‘thank you.’” If these statements lead to a deeper conversation, you could suggest professional therapy, because in no way are friends equipped to heal friends. It does take professional assistance and longterm therapy to heal these maladaptive thoughts about oneself. The best you can do is provide a context for that recommendation to get brought up through conversation.
Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Question: After cooking and hosting all of our family events for almost 40 years, I’d like to step aside and let some younger family members take charge. The problem is I don’t know how to go about telling them because everyone is used to me arranging everything. My husband and I are still willing to have family gatherings at our home because we have a large house and no one else does. I don’t want to just say, “I’m done cooking and it’s up to someone else.” I’d like to be more gracious about it. I do have to say that other family members bring side dishes, but I do the main part of the food preparation.
Any suggestions are most welcome.
~ Tired of Cooking
Dear Tired of Cooking,
Wow!! Forty years of doing all the main part of all the holiday cooking! You deserve a rest! I gave up years ago but my husband loves to cook so it wasn’t too hard to give up!
Since hinting never works, I believe in always being clear about what you want. And if you don’t soon you might start being very resentful … if you already aren’t. Your family probably won’t like what you have to say because who doesn’t like mom’s cooking?
I like to use email in this kind of situation because it gives people time to think about what was written. You could say something like, “Your dad and I are getting a little older and preparing the holiday dinners are getting harder and harder for us. We still would love to have everyone over for Easter dinner and we will provide drinks and dessert [or whatever you are willing to do], but we would love for you all to provide the rest. Let me know what you will be bringing. Thank you for being so understanding!”
Who could say “no” to this? Saying a little prayer before you click on “send” won’t hurt! Once you get back the replies, you can be even more direct if no one says they are bringing the ham.
Carolyn Young, LCSW
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Dear Tired of Cooking,
There is graciousness in truth when spoken from need or the heart. It is clear your love for your family, and having them come together, is important to you and a source of happiness. Otherwise you would not have done it for 40 years. It is perfectly okay to ask for help the best way you can and, at the same time, to share with your family how important it is for you that these family meals and get-togethers continue even though you find it too much to do it by yourself anymore. As the Bible says, you must ask in order to receive. So give them the chance to support you on this. Ask them in your own way, and in the best way you can. You may be surprised to find that the love you have for them will be reflected back to you when the opportunity to allow its expression is finally given permission by you.
And if you find it too unbearable to openly ask, you can try this spiritual technique. But first a bit of background as to why it works. Ernest Holmes, the founder and author of the Science of Mind, said it is important for us to recognize and realize that we live in a Spiritual and not a material world. Now what does that mean? He was trying to help us understand that causation does not begin in the physical world. All causation begins in the mental or spiritual world. We think, feel and imagine a thing, and it takes shape and form in the physical world. Indeed, Holmes goes on to state that what goes on in our outer world is nothing more than a reflection of our inner world. In other words, our outer world mirrors our inner world. So a very simple way to change outward circumstances is to imagine what you want. Your imagination is your third eye, and from it you can create the outward realities you desire. Just before you go to bed, relax and imagine that what you want is already accomplished, finished and complete. For example, you could imagine family members preparing the salads or grilling the steaks. Make these pictures as vivid as possible. Smell the steaks and the charcoal, hear the cutting of the vegetables on the board. Picture the family gathered around the table laughing. Make it so real in your mind that you actually feel you are really there and it is really happening. Have them tell you, face-to-face in your imagination, how happy they are to be able to take over this work from you and continue this family tradition. Imagine you agreeing with each of them and saying how happy you are as well.
Do this for several nights until you really feel it is real, then wait for the miracle. For whatever we create on the inner with imagination, feeling and belief will manifest outwardly in its exact wondrous way.
Anthony Kelson, RScP