Baby Steps

Dear Christian Counselor,

How do we gain confidence?

Bob Wiley (pseudonym)


Dear Bob,

The short answer is: step by step. Confidence is the result of small victories strung together until you believe you can overcome the next challenge. It can be built into us as children, it can even come as the result of one great triumph, but in most cases it is grown gradually over time by doing the things we fear and seeing God’s faithfulness in our weakness.

what about bobThis is a project you can intentionally undertake. Start by finishing this sentence: “I would like to have confidence that I ____________________.” Next, make a list of five to ten smaller steps leading up to that goal. For example, if you want to have confidence that you can be a marine biologist, you might start by reading a book about fish or by keeping a goldfish in a bowl. (“Baby steps, Bob.”)

The second piece of the puzzle is developing good coping mechanisms to help you along the way. It’s not about getting rid of your fear first; it’s about doing life despite your fear.  What are the healthy things which renew your spirit and courage both before and after you take on the next challenge? Think along the lines of phoning a friend, taking a hot bath, using properly prescribed medication, listening to music, deep-breathing, or spending time in prayer. I usually ask my clients to make a list of ten good things which comfort, restore or inspire them. Then as you start to mount the steps on your “confidence ladder,” use your healthy coping skills to combat the natural setbacks or fears you are trying to overcome. I would strongly advise enlisting the support and prayer of a good friend on this journey. May God give you the vision and the courage to become everything He has dreamed for you.

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6)

Angry Parent

Dear Christian Counselor,

I am a mother of 3, redeemed by Christ nine years ago, but every day I fail to live that promise. I have this temper that comes out and hurts my kids. Am I really saved? Then why do I keep repeating this sin with the littlest things, like spilt water, a loud voice etc.? After snapping I am disgusted by it, and I always repent to God and my kids. How I thank God for not giving me serenity in sin. His mercy is there, but I want to experience His victory. I pray each time that His sovereign power protects my kids from me.

I’ve read so many books about parenting, and I’ve been crying out to God each morning to experience His presence and the hope He has given me. Every day I fail in my greatest mission — to reflect Christ to my kids. How can I shepherd them if I always scare them away? Most times I feel that I don’t deserve to be a mother… Why can’t I take care of his gifts well, and why can’t I always be joyful with these? We are talking about being good stewards of what God has given us. And I’m failing big time. Please remember me in your prayers.

Mad Mama


Dear Mad Mama,

I want to answer your most important question first: I do believe you are saved. The Apostle Paul called himself “the chief of sinners” in one of his last letters (I Tim. 1:15). Conviction and remorse are signs of the Holy Spirit’s work. If God wanted to give you an instant victory, He could do that, but being saved doesn’t usually mean we stop grappling with sin – it means we have help for the struggle and forgiveness when we fail. If you can set this question at rest, and stop beating yourself up, it may help you find a bit more patience.

It seems you have taken some good, practical steps, such as reading parenting books and starting your day with reminders of God’s love. Because these things have not helped you substantially, I believe you need to find the root of your anger (see James 4:1-2a). You may be carrying a burden from the past which explodes at an inappropriate target. Finding peace within does not mean blaming others for your temper; it means leaving bitterness behind and redeeming your story. I would suggest finding a local, Christian counselor to help with that process. You might try calling Focus on the Family which has a phone counseling ministry as well as a counseling referral database:

To reach Focus on the Family’s counseling service by phone, call 1-800-A-Family (232-6459) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor or chaplain to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you. You may also reach our counselors online by filling out our Counseling Request Form.

I want to add a few more hands-on suggestions:

  • First, offer your children an abundance of praise. If you give them plenty of intentional encouragement and loving kindness, it will help counteract your angry outbursts.
  • Second, you might try working through Carter and Minirth’s Anger Workbook noted on our resources page.
  • Finally, I would urge you to take very good care of yourself, finding rest in small ways throughout the day, reducing or eliminating activities which drain your reserves, asking for assistance when you need it. No one else will do this for you, and lowering your overall stress will help you when you encounter parenting challenges. Sometimes I find that Christians have a hard time saying “no” because they feel it would be selfish. You must learn to do this for the sake of your kids, so that you have the capacity to love them well over the long haul.

set of vector icons of religious christianityIn closing, I am asking everyone who reads this letter to say a prayer for you and your children. Perhaps that’s the real gift God has for you here.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

imageDear Christian Counselor,

I have decided to break up with my boyfriend. We have been dating online for 4 months and have gotten emotionally close. He loves me and wants to marry me, but I do not want to pursue a romantic relationship any further. I want to be as gentle and loving as possible in this process because I know what it’s like to be on the other side. I need help in what to say, what not to say, and how much I should say. Can you help me? Thank you!

Agapephilia


Dear Agapephilia,

Your desire to be kind and honest in this situation is admirable. I also commend you for being aware of what you want. No doubt, it is difficult to end a relationship with someone. Your best bet is to go with your inclination to communicate with kindness and honesty. Focus on what you want to let him know. You never have to share more than you feel safe sharing, even if it means repeating what you’ve already said.

It might help you to practice with an empty chair or a friend in order to become more confident in communicating your message. Some people like to write down key points or even to script the entire conversation. You could then read that message over the phone to him.

With all of this said, he will most likely still feel hurt regardless of how gently you deliver your message. You cannot rescue him from that feeling. You also do not have to apologize for your decision. It might take him some time and the help of friends to grieve and process the end of your relationship.

Lastly, decide ahead of time what you want your relationship to be like after you break up. Some will disagree with this, but I recommend making a clean break. That means no communicating or staying friends until both parties have the opportunity to heal and move on. Be mindful of family or friends you can talk to afterward about the breakup. God’s love will be there for you, as well as your ex; neither of you need to walk through this alone.

–Jessica