The Gift of Changing Your Mindset

We started basketball last week.  In the gym of the local YMCA, Carter and eight other boys run around, dribble, pass and shoot. A good number of the kids on the team were in the spring’s baseball league, so we aren’t too far outside our comfort zone.  Carter loves the game.  Anything that allows a constant flow of movement is paradise.

Tonight, near the end of practice, Carter slipped and lost the ball to another player.  He fell and, as he stood up, started crying and saying he hurt his arm.  I walked him over to the side where he got a drink and rested for a minute.  The coach (a friend of mine) came over to try to get him back into things.

It took some convincing.

I sent the coach a text message afterwards to get his opinion on practice in general.  He said that Carter is great, if he could only figure out a way to change his mindset.

My son, blessed with coordination and athletic ability at age seven, can’t take conflict and failure.

As I typed that sentence, I realize he sounds a lot like his old man.

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As writers, failure and rejection is a part of life. Google famous authors and you’ll find their rejection stories, grand novels passing through a hundred publishers before finding the right one. Writers in second and third careers before their break and release onto the market.

Failure and rejection has meaning.

The story of Peter is one in the Bible that always fascinated me.  He was told, by Jesus, that he’d deny him three times.  Imagine the one you would die for telling you that you’ll turn your back in a time of trouble. The accusations fly and Peter, as predicted, makes his denials.

In the midst of pressure, he walks away. He takes the route of believed safety.  When he life goes sideways, he chooses to walk away rather than stand firm. We know it doesn’t end there, though, as he is reinstated by Jesus and lives out his life to face a martyr’s death like each of the other apostles.

The tipping point is the choice to get back in the game. When Carter cries, he’s reacting to failure, to the fear of not meeting expectations or making someone happy.  When he wants to walk away from the game, the shame (and shame must be strong at seven) wins.

I know that feeling, every time I put off editing another chapter, writing another post, or crafting another email.

There is nothing as exhilarating as living in your flow, playing the game, moving towards the end goal. This week, consider your mindset and make a change.  List out those things you are putting off, whether in business or personal life. Start getting them done one task at a time.

It is a gift that can change your 2016 for the better.

~Matt

Not Ashamed

Today is my wife Valerie’s birthday. I am so blessed to have her in my life. She’s an amazing wife and mother. This morning, I took the boys to church so she could have a break and unpack as we returned from Connecticut yesterday. It was a powerful service with a message I needed to hear about overcoming shame. Pastor Eran Holt, one of our youth pastors, delivered the message and, as he spoke, every word connected with my personal experience.  He mentioned struggling with shame connected to his temper.  The minute he told us how shame sounds, the voice was amazingly familiar. Shame says:

“You didn’t just fail, YOU ARE A FAILURE.”

“You don’t just have a problem, YOU ARE A PROBLEM.”

“You didn’t make a mistake, YOU ARE A MISTAKE.”

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Pastor Eran used one of the most powerful moments in the Bible to illustrate his point and it is one of those moments that always gives me chills.  He read the account of Peter’s three denials of Christ and the crowing of the rooster after the third.  I always imagined Peter getting confronted about his faith and his hurried denials. We read this and think, no, not us, we wouldn’t deny him.

Yet, there are those comfortable following Christ at a distance.

Shame creates this distance.  It keeps our eyes focused on the ground as we carry our baggage. Shame tells us we are not worthy of God’s love, even though he loved us before we knew him, before we were formed in the womb. Shame weighs us down. Some find identity in their pain.  As a writer, I’ve felt the sting of failure. I spent every year after losing my job in 2008 telling myself I was a failure. I looked at Val and the boys and the voice of shame shot to my ears.  It told me I wasn’t a good father and I failed as a provider and a protector. I wasn’t emotionally connected. Every bill that we struggled to pay was like another chain of shame hung around my neck.

Pastor Eran provided two ways to overcome shame:

1/ Look Up: The direct answer to our shame is the cross.  It was the ultimate sacrifice to free us from conviction. The Holy Spirit is our defender, our advocate, and he steps to our side and frees us with grace. The sacrifice was made years before we were created and it is new each morning. Raising our eyes to the cross is not always easy as the weight of addiction, failure, struggle, and pain can be unrelenting.  As Jesus said, his burden is light.  Look to the cross and be reminded of his unfailing love.

2/Let Go: Drop the bags. Lay your shame at the foot of the cross. Know that God has plans for you, that your mess can be your ministry, that you can be used to change the lives of others. Know that you are not defined by your struggles. The hardest part of this is when we take our pain as our identity. We see ourselves as failures, addicts, and mistakes, not as free and beautiful children of God.

One mantra I’ve always held as a writer is to just keep writing. Failure and rejection provides a chance to create a newer and better story, find a better idea, and make a better product. Life is full of learning opportunities. Our mess can be our ministry. God can recharge our lives and give us a fresh start. He will provide and his grace is new each morning. We can be free of shame, drop the chains, and keep our eyes on the cross.

So, as you go into this week, recognize the voices you hear. Identify shame and block it out. Remember to look up and let go and experience the grace that is waiting to transform your existence.

~Matt