Q. I’m not happy with myself, my relationships or my job. Friends and family members are negative and critical and I get my feelings hurt easily. I also get angry when they won’t listen to me or do things my way. Life seems like such a struggle. What’s my problem? What can I do to have a better life?
A. Life is a struggle for all of us at times. However, many of our struggles with others are reflections of the civil war going on inside of us. Much of our unhappiness is due to a lack of inner harmony. For example, one side of us may recognize the need to lose weight and want to do so. The other side of us rebels against this and may even feel “safer” with the extra weight. Similarly, one side of us wants to risk changing jobs. The other side is fearful and holds us back. You can’t control other people but you can change your thinking and your decisions. You can stop the inner war. Ask yourself these questions:
• What is my purpose in life? What are my beliefs and values? Your life will feel aimless or unhappy until you know your purpose. And you will be at war with yourself unless your way of life is consistent with your beliefs and values. Ask God to reveal his purpose for your life.
• Where do I want to be five years from now? If you know your goals in life but are taking no steps toward them you will feel stuck or disappointed with yourself. Prayerfully develop a plan for your life.
• What am I avoiding? We need to face the things that disturb us in order to overcome them. Many of us have inner pain we avoid. Facing it feels risky, but the results are freeing. Write out your hurt and pain or tell a trusted friend or counselor.
• Who do I need to forgive? Bitterness harms us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When we hold a grudge we allow ourselves to be controlled by the past and by someone else. We also need to forgive ourselves and make amends to those we have hurt or wronged. Ask God to forgive you, too. He will welcome your confession.
• What do I lie about? Our pretenses take enormous energy and rob us of our freedom. Telling the truth and revealing ourselves takes courage. We need to accept ourselves as we are and be real. Write about telling the truth and vow before God not to lie or pretend again.
•Do I spend time on the things that are really important? The story is told of a grim, unhappy librarian on a college campus. A colleague, who saw her walking across campus happy and smiling, said "I've never seen you so happy." She replied, "I'm ecstatic. Its spring break and the students have left, so I've been able to get all the books back in the library!"
The librarian had a misperception about her job. She thought her job was to keep the books in the library rather than to loan them out. How often do we focus all our attention on the details of living and forget to spend time enjoying our families and friends and sharing our love with them?
•Where does God fit into my life? The Psalmist says, “My soul is restless until it rests in you.” Knowing God brings inner peace. Our “warring” sides find unity in the divine. Seek Him and you will find Him.
Your answers to the above questions will help you make your life more meaningful and satisfying. As you make changes pay attention to the part of yourself that holds back or sabotages your efforts. Listen to that part of yourself but don’t let it stop you. Talk back reassuringly to the needy, fearful self. Ask God for courage, too.
If you don’t make progress on your own find a Christian pastor or counselor who will mentor you. You might also read Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothchild, or Lord, I Want to Be Whole by Stormie Omartian.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8