Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gentleness Without Being a ‘Doormat’

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”

~Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV).

Against some things we find it incredibly difficult to let go. The list that the Apostle Paul provides in the preceding verses to those above (verses 19-21) is a good sample of those things in life we find it hard to let go of—unless we have the Spirit alive and throbbing with effect within us, which is usually a temporary condition.

Staying spiritually sound is obviously a prayerful effort of resting in God’s grace.

Specifically Gentleness

Let’s take the issue of gentleness in the balance of not being a doormat, for good instance. In the context of the Fruit of the Spirit passage, “gentleness” means meekness or forbearance.[1]

It’s hard to differentiate this “meekness” or “forbearance” from that of being a doormat. But it very much depends on what we constitute being a doormat is. If we’ve truly placed ourselves (our flesh) on God’s altar of sacrifice our ideas of being occasionally treated as a doormat will have changed. Human beings do occasionally inflict pain on one another. Where we must depart though is when it becomes violence or abuse; then we’re to extricate ourselves or at least prepare ourselves for that.

But, what about gentleness? Can we be gentle and still avoid being a doormat?

Well our success depends on how shrewd and assertive we are. Recall that Jesus said:

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

~Matthew 10:16 (NRSV).

Some of the people in our worlds might be those wolves, as we’re to be sheep, sent from the hand of Jesus. Innocence is gentleness. But to counteract this forbearing meekness we need to also be wise as serpents. That means it’s not only acceptable, but commendable, to assert—in gentle ways—action to respond to being treated like a doormat.

Jesus was never a doormat in ways that he meekly gave way to others beyond his very own God-anointed will. Jesus’ meekness always served the greater will of God.

Do we see the difference?

Meekness (or being a doormat) can actually benefit the kingdom of God in certain circumstances; but it must occur in forbearing (or strong) ways. God is the one providing the inner strength to bear up but, again, not in situations of abuse.

Perhaps we’re called to be assertively meek.

Grace – the Higher Law

A law above the law; this is what we need.

When we achieve the Fruit of the Spirit suddenly we’ve realised—that very moment—that we’re no longer pinned to the world. We’ve sprung above it! We’re a law a cut above the law, for we’ve reached God’s standards of grace. The trick then is maintaining it.

Grace has a lot to say about our perceptions of being that doormat.

Perhaps we can picture grace as standing in the other person’s shoes and willing to forgive whatever they dish out. It doesn’t mean, however, that we have to stay around for more of the kicking.

We forgive as we shake the dust from our feet.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Wesley J. Perschbacher (Ed.), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), p. 342.

Monday, November 29, 2010

On the ‘Other Side’ of Disappointment

“‘They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”

~Jeremiah 1:19 (NIV, 2010).

What is a tenuous moment for Jeremiah is also a moment whereby a prophet was born. He says at his calling, “Alas, Sovereign Lord... I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). Twice God reaffirms to Jeremiah that he will go with him and rescue him.

Of all the prophets perhaps it was Jeremiah who needed this most. His was to be a most depressing and discouraged ministry.

This is, of course, the most wonderful encouragement for us, because we’ll go through many times during our lives when we’ll feel incapable of overcoming the issues against us. Just knowing God’s there during our ‘Jeremiah moments’ is a victory all its own.

A Vital Truth - Seeing ‘Over’ the Range

Our most natural default is to see the mountainous issue right before us and to, in some way, cower because of it. The issue has such influence over our reaction.

Yet, we somehow often negate what’s on the other side of the steep mountain range which attends as almost insurmountable. We don’t see the gentling green and streaming valley below that awaits us as we conquer the issues coming at us in our present moments or immediate futures.

And still, it is there, the majestic valley.

Why we isolate the issues in fear is quite a remarkable prospect, as it reveals how important our wellbeing is to us. This is natural. Our best response, though, is to think spiritually and not naturally.

Thinking Spiritually

God is always with us; for us and never against us. It’s a truth that commands our attention—to sit up and take notice of—if we’ll only have the situational awareness.

This is a general life principle as much as it’s a spiritual truth.

Anytime we reject the sense of defeat where we have recourse for recovery, and take a different tack, not letting go, we’ll find that beautiful green valley location on the opposite side of our mountainous problems, eventually.

What we have to do is keep the Presence of God broadly in mind and deeply at heart as we venture on. With this mindset we don’t resent our pain so much and we’re not reticent to it nearly as we were. We know things will turn for the better of their own accord—to God’s timeframe. And we trust this timeframe.

Best of All...

Perhaps most important to recognise is the general truth that if we do wait, accepting our disappointments the best we can, we’ll stand most certainly to be blessed, and most often via means and devices completely unexpected. These are the best kinds of blessings.

When God is for us, nothing really that threatening can be against us—not in comparison to God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grief and Adjustment – It Is What It Is

One thing we never get too far away from in life is change-engendered-grief. Adjustment to new circumstances is a necessary skill to ward against the pain longer term such that we can eventually reach a place of acceptance and, ultimately, healing.

A big part of this process is accepting that reaching acceptance is, of itself, a journey. We will want to skirt past much of the hurt, disappointment, betrayal and frustration we feel because it’s painful.

But, we cannot get to acceptance that way.

It Takes As Long As It Takes

There is hardly a truer mystery known to humankind.

The processing time we need to reach a good place is like the proverbial piece of string—just how long is it? We can only answer that one, genuinely, from our 20/20 hindsight. Sad as that fact is, we’re better off actually, especially as we consider the time taken to properly adjust is saving us the ongoing grief caused from chronic denial.

For too many people the tug of denial is mighty strong. They go its easy-hard way, but they will come to firmly regret their reticence to invest in courage to go through the difficulties now.

Getting to the final acceptance of a thing takes as long as it takes—our patience is being tested. But being patient is just being realistic. It’s coming back to being realistic, time and time again.

The Hard-Easy Way – the Better Way

Like so many things in life, the better way is harder initially. It requires courage from us to go the way of truth. Sure, the truth stings—as it usually does—but only for a time (even if that’s an extended time).

In faith we’ll outlast this pain. We’ll go on past it unto our own healing—God’s initiated and facilitated healing.

With each interceding day—and each of the smallest conquered victories, which are the pains that we’ll absorb under God’s terrific power—we’ll add to our acceptance-power, for that great day of ultimate revival is surely coming to us.

Faith – Now for the Future

God only knows now what strength is being laid at our feet for our tomorrows. In faith, then, we know that as we sow in tears we shall reap in the delight of joy, later.

Perhaps the best thing is we can know the hope in this at an intellectual level before we retrieve it at the heart level—before it becomes a true ‘felt’ reality for us.

Praise is due God for going before us now, and preparing a ground that we will stand firmly on, countering many things with good effect that perhaps today are beyond us.

Grief and adjustment may be what they are, but patience and self-grace—which is ordered for us by our Most High God—is issued over us, now. Our spirits are stilled to enjoy this peace that surpasses all human understanding.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bold, Savvy and Now!

“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no person. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”

~Alice Morse Earle.

There is no more important a fact than the above.

The fact of the present sheds new light on the moment, which lands us still on the cusp of time as we’re creating history.

Yes, history-makers we all are. Today we’re writing another page in our personal and interpersonal history books. How that page is written, and what its content is, is almost entirely up to us. Nobody else will control it as much as we will.

Yesterday – Nice, But Not Where It’s ‘At’

Whether we enjoy looking back or loath it, it doesn’t matter. It also is a gift, but it’s not the present, so it has a distinct disadvantage to us if we choose to remain there, or skip back there, unless for joy we go back with intention—that too is enjoying the present.

But, if we go back beyond our own volition, we’ll swap something we have possession of—the present moment—for something we no longer have possession of.

Tomorrow – It Probably Won’t Happen ‘That’ Way

Down-payments on worry for what ‘might’ happen are simply buying stock of low or even worthless value. The currency we use is our valuable attention and our psychological state. This is much more value to us in the present moment.

Yet, we’re probably so apt to worry that we either won’t notice it or we’ll feel useless to stop it. We have the opportunity to re-train ourselves back—repetitively so—into the living moment.

Being Present – Living Linearly

Time is a linear thing. The present moment always is. When we step back into the regrets of the past or the worries of the future we forego the linear nature of time. We don’t flow with it.

Being present can be helped by focussing the senses. Actually seeing what we see, hearing what we hear and smelling what we smell will reinforce to us the beauty of life that stands apart from any of the other negativity we’re presently facing. It can only augment our outlook. Circumstances are not all there is.

Can there be a better thing than living boldly, with savvy—and now—enjoying the present moment?

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Practice of Faith for Our Circumstance

Faith as a practice is an important denial. Never denying feelings, however, it denies fear for courage, the lie for truth. It chooses to give and enter into life even when there’s every reason to take and withdraw. The only exception is for necessary Sabbatical where operant faith rests and recovers.

We discuss faith so much and from so many angles, yet faith—the verb—is an inordinate thing.

Subscribing to faith in things is, like worship, something we all do. We cannot help but trust in things, be they our own abilities and capacities, other people, or God.

This is, however, where good faith is separated out from not-so-good faith or bad faith. Good faith is backed up in truth. It is therefore enshrined in wisdom, which is demonstrating actions as having efficacy from the view of hindsight, or in review, afterwards.

Holding Extraneous Moments in Tension

Faith is the great skill, and very timely, when all of sudden life looms noisily.

That is, when things begin to bombard us and there is only ‘work’ and no joy in that work, we begin to lose our moment’s hope. At this point we have to manufacture hope. We either deny the escarpment of fear that rapidly encroaches—doing so via courage—or we let it perhaps begin to overwhelm us. The former has us manufacturing hope successfully; the latter not so.

Holding our moments in tension in Emotional Intelligence terms is harnessing ourselves and our social challenges, and meeting them one-by-one.

From one successful moment of practiced good-faith-in-circumstance to another, and then to another, sees us build our confidence so that we can actually bridge this mounting tension, and sustainably so.

Where Faith Meets Wisdom

“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

~Matthew 11:19 (NRSV).

It is a principle of wisdom from Matthew 11:19 that wisdom is vindicated by the later recognition of its action—that it is found later as effective. We can usually only tell from afterwards how wise the action was and whether it was based in ‘good faith’ or not.

Good faith is the agency to wisdom as a method for living life.

It can be seen here, then, that both good faith and wisdom—so far as them being action-oriented—are highly temporal in nature. They involve momentary trust. So, it’s up to us to join our moments-of-trust together so we live an effective faith.

Using Good Faith as a ‘Simple’ Method Through Life

There’s never a better supplement to the mode of good faith as a simple approach to life.

This method is naturally not attracting extraneous noise, for it knows and appreciates the quiet life. That is not to say that the quiet life means less work or less challenges. It just means there’s more ability to focus on what’s most important.

Living a good faith is mostly about keeping things simple and living dedicated to the truth as much as possible.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

God’s Got Something Better In Mind for You!

Have you ever had one of those times when you felt God whisper to you in your disappointment, “Don’t worry, I’ve got something better in mind for you,” and believed it?

Well, we shouldn’t make a practice of doubting this sort of ‘Word’ from God. But, sometimes in our biggest disappointments God’s somewhere in the background of it all saying this very thing. “Don’t worry, you’ll see!” will perhaps be the broad message as we’re advised to enfold our faith over our circumstances.

God’s Leading Us There

Of those challenges we fail against, those ones we’ve not been prepared for, or those that are currently beyond us, have we ever thought that God’s exposing us to these to take us beyond where we think we can currently get to?

It’s an absorbing question.

Many believers will think that God’s not putting them up against challenges in life that are too much for them. Could it be, however, that the nature of this God-willed life, as it’s revealed to us day by day, is to coax us to new heights and new endeavours?

It’s threateningly new.

It’s okay to fail.

Indeed, it’s a revelation to fail and to come to a sudden realisation that we’ve survived it. We brush ourselves off from our fall in the dirt and we inspect for scrapes and worse. Yet, apart from a hurting heart—which we can soothe with the gentle, logical mind—we’ve come out of it basically unscathed and, additionally, we’ve actually learnt something.

A Vision Months, Years and Decades Away

Most people reading this have several years to live, even possibly multiple decades. Whether we like it or not, God’s plan for the totality of our lives means some things we covet now we will not attain yet, or perhaps ever.

There are things also that God has in mind for us, but we’ll have absolutely no conception of them. And we’re not supposed to.

If we really believe we’ve heard from God, that call to our hearts, the passion that’s inherent in just who we are and who we’re becoming, then it’s incumbent on us to carry through with this vision indefinitely—even to the point of never losing hope.

The Occasional Disappointment

Being let down every now and again is normal in life. The amount of times we see these disappointments as blessings-in-disguise is rare, however.

But, perhaps that’s our challenge—to see more potential for the bigger, brassier handled doors that are opening to us in the midst of those that are slammed shut against our faces.

God has a plan.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Never Explain, Never Complain

For direction in life and purpose to meet all the wiles that inevitably come, the four-worded title above—one which is attributed to both Henry Ford II and Benjamin Disraeli—is quite a boon for wisdom that can only benefit us.

We necessarily picture ourselves as being assuredly confident and assertive from the outset. It’s a vision. If it’s not where we’re at right now it doesn’t matter. It’s where we’re headed if we desire assertiveness enough.

Never Explain

When we’ve made a decision, sided with a project, backed some venture or gotten on-board in some other way, we’re required to need to explain the whys and wherefores to those enquiring. That’s only sensible and practical.

Where the process derails, however, is when criticisms come. Criticisms here are termed uninvited slurs or non-constructive feedback—or feedback we can do without. It’s not stubbornness that meets this ‘feedback,’ but wisdom.

If we feel we don’t need to explain the motive, rationale or reasoning of our actions all will go better. The petty complaints will cease eventually of their own accord.

So, there is a vast difference between explaining the details of decisions so people have the information to understand it, and justifying the decision to sceptical or belligerent others (who’d be sceptical and quarrelsome anyway). We just don’t go to the latter if we can help it.

Never Complain

Where we made a decision or accepted one, there is no recourse to complaint, only learning.

I’ve very often said that there are three “C’s” with which we should be wise not to engage in. These are compromise (i.e. of standards), comparison (i.e. self with others) and complaint. Complaint in this way is salaciously vicarious—it’s the sort that gets us nowhere but to the outcome of despair and it’s problematic for others too.

The truth is, whatever we run with we must accept, if, that is, we’re to be fair with others and certainly with God also. Life rewards the responsible and the diligent.

There are times when ‘complaint’ is necessary and even advised, but it is our manner of complaint that sets us apart. We learn to complain with integrity, and not in a whinge-worthy manner. Our complaints don’t reveal within us weaknesses, but strengths. Our complaints are advocacy-based; they’re not about protecting our personal rights as such. Our complaints are weighed and considered and they’re certainly infrequent.

But generally, we do not complain. We, instead, get on with the living of life. We keep moving forward.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010



It is hard to be grateful when we’re tired, hungry or depressed. In fact, it would be unfair for us to harp on at ourselves to be grateful when we quite apparently aren’t.

Likewise, for others; why force anything?

Real gratitude is nothing about faking it. It comes from the heart, always.

There are times when we’ll feel grateful and others when we won’t. We can only hope to feel more consistently grateful.



The gardening metaphor is transposed here to decision-making, to reduce stress.

The quicker we decide to act, therefore achieving the action, the quicker dissonance is relieved, and the burden is dropped.

Pre-imposed on this, of course, is the role of discernment; to making the right decision at the right time, and to execute the decision in the right way.

When we engage in these simple behaviours requiring a disciplined self-diligence we waste less time worrying. Connecting all our actions in this way makes for a flow whereby there is really very little to consume our attention other than the direct path of living.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.



Let’s never assume that ‘weird things’ never occur because they quite plainly do. There are many inexplicable things in life. We cannot ever hope to understand it all.

The irony is, angelophanies and theophanies often occur to the direst sceptic. We can just imagine how much amusement God might get (to think of him anthropomorphically) from seeing 180 degree turnarounds.



This idea of copyright is not so much about the ownership of a string of words as it’s an ownership of what was said.

God owns the words and it is only he that will allow us to string them together in the first place. Our duty, when using the words of others, then, is simply to copy them down right.

Copy-right is hence more about correct and due quotation. And that’s all.



We may be attuned to body language. This is what people are ‘saying’ via their cues and gestures.

But just as important is what the body language is not saying. Let’s not read too much into what people are or are not saying non-verbally.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Four Most Important Health Inputs

These four individually and combined will take us further than anything else of proportionate value. They’re the most poised and deft wisdom activities. Sleep the best you can, eat well, exercise and accept the things you cannot change, and the rest of life will go well.

Success in life is about getting the inputs to it right. It’s not about a focus on outputs or outcome. Those generally only either impress or depress us. There’s no steady middle ground in them.

Sleep Well

Do you know a grumpy person? Chances are they’re tired.

Probably the most important general life input is sleep. Given adequate, good quality sleep our physical, mental and emotional equilibriums will often then manage themselves.

If we have developed a sleep debt we need to be patient in getting back on track. It can take several months to again sleep well. But the wait is always worth it.

Eat Well

Want alertness? Eat a green apple, some protein, nuts or vegetables. Want to ward against depressive feelings and thoughts? Eat chocolate. Want to sleep. Try carbohydrate-dense food or dairy products.

Whatever we put into our bodies we become. If we manage our diets well we augment our sleep and we can at last improve a thing we all think a lot of; our self-image that’s cast from our physical manifestation—the person looking back at us from the mirror.

Exercise Well

Consistency is the message here. The more regularly we exercise, and the more we build it up so we’re gradually getting fitter, the more overall contentment we’ll gain in life.

For many people, especially men, there’s also the added benefit of it supplementing our anger management strategies. Exercise too wards against mental ill health as we command the body to produce more endorphins—the body’s very own ‘happy’ drug.

Accept Well

Perhaps the most important of all, and something that can facilitate the others, or the ‘want’ to do the others, is to just accept life on life’s terms.

There are many things we do not like. But will that dislike change things?

When we get this one right—more or less, because it’s going to be a lifelong struggle, but one that gets joyously easier—we’re suddenly getting life right, weird as that sounds.

On one level we’re happy and content as we use our minds to teach our hearts that caring is okay, but too much is a problem.


The four combined are a wisdom-set. They are the very simplest of things, yet they indelibly give us power for life.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Can I Let Go of Guilt and Forgive Myself?

This is a perennial question for some and a poignant obstacle for others. Others still have no idea where to begin. Feelings of guilt and thoughts of condemnation are programmed so solidly within both heart and mind. But there is always hope for healing!

Jim Diamond’s pleading voice resounds in the 1982 hit, I Won’t Let You Down. “PhD,” the band, was a one-hit-wonder. But, never mind, because the song gives us a good clue regarding our approaches to guilt and its opposite: the achievement of self-forgiveness.

Before we get started it must be said that processes for healing pertaining to guilt are usually gradual and they often involve a journey. This is because guilt feelings come from guilty thinking patterns quite tightly wired into us, and these come from our beliefs about ourselves—many, if not all, of which were founded in our childhoods.

Predisposed to Condemnation?

The sentiment of the PhD song is riveting. From our childhoods we’ll have a given propensity (or not) to come under others’ or our own condemnation. If we were treated as guilty for ‘transgressions’ when we were too young to actually know better it’ll most likely be a scourge to us. We’re dogged, perhaps, by a generational curse.

A parent who’s inflicted condemnation on one of their children has more than likely had their very own condemnation issues to deal with. It’s a vicious cycle.

If we can genuinely see ourselves predisposed to condemnation and otherwise given to feeling the sting of others’ wrath—like it crushes us—or we often people-please, there is good news ahead.

Two Issues – Acute and Chronic

In health terms we have two conditions, the acute and the chronic.

So far as guilt is concerned we have two types. Firstly, there is guilt for an action we did or didn’t do—the ‘acute’. We feel remorseful for what we should have done. The second type is about a more general rendition of guilt—the ‘chronic’; perhaps as a result of the way we treated someone over a longer period. This second type of forgiveness is obviously more pathological in nature. All that means is we’ve got more work to do.

But work is not something we should shirk.

This is because every effort we put in at this end of things will be blessed mightily, and we’ll be the direct beneficiary, with others close to us blessed indirectly also.

Getting to Know and Accept Ourselves

Our world is either full of problems or it’s full of opportunities—it depends on our outlook and perspective. It does us no good at all to only see problems.

If we choose to see life from the funnel of opportunity we can readily see that mollifying guilt is an exercise in the mastery of self-knowledge and acceptance.

Let us acknowledge this: you are a lovely person. You are a good person, despite your brokenness, which is a thing we all share. You are just as loved by God as the President, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, your pastor and Bill Gates is.

If it is our most earnest objective to achieve this sense of mastery of self-knowledge and acceptance, and we pray to God for it, we will surely achieve it, eventually. This is our way to getting rid of guilt once and for all.

It is our resilience that will get us there!

Letting go, however it’s achieved, is our golden ticket to healing. As we accept ourselves, which includes copious portions of honesty, in the midst of all things we’ve done, including considering today as a ‘new slate,’ we’re renewed for the moment.

Developing a habit of that is the fun part.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: to the EzineArticles.com reader who asked this question of me. My prayer is that I’ve done some credible justice to the question in answering.