Neisha-Ann Thompson, Ph.D

"Give me a Word to sustain the weary; awaken my ear to listen." - Isaiah 50:4

Tag: relationships

Step Into The Light

As we bask in this the first day of a new year, I wanted to share a Word that has been on my heart concerning the Body of Christ.

John 3:20-21For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
1 John 1:7 … If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

These scriptures confirm two things: (1) we can’t fellowship with each other while in darkness, and (2) it is as we walk in the Light of God’s Word AND fellowship with one another, that our sins are cleansed.

For 2015, God is calling for His Body to be united in love, and for this to happen, we have to first be willing to be exposed and vulnerable with each other. The scriptures are clear – the reason we don’t have fellowship with each other – the reason so many broken relationships exist in the Body of Christ – is because we’re not walking in the Light (i.e. truth, authenticity, integrity, love, etc.). Fellowship in the Light involves vulnerabilities and exposure; and takes great courage and strength.

The Bible refers to “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ref. Ephesians 5:11), clearly signaling to us that nothing done in the dark will bear fruit. Our relationships cannot develop in darkness (i.e. dishonesty, dissimulation, denial, etc.), as true fellowship is hindered and blocked where there is no Light.

Our fear of exposure (and the possible rejection that often comes with exposure) as we attempt to form meaningful relationships, is completely understandable. Perhaps this is why we choose to remain in the dark and consequently why relationships in the Body are suffering. We fear being exposed, when in reality we all are naked, and have been, ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (Ref. Genesis 3:6-7). “Darkness” for us can be compared to the proverbial “leaves” that Adam and Eve used to cover themselves back then. And just like them, our covering up and hiding (in the dark or via “leaves”) has resulted in broken fellowship in our relationships with each other and with God. Furthermore, all this hiding and covering up has, as the scripture suggests, prevented our own sins from being cleansed (1 John 1:7b).

My friends, it’s time to be ALL God has called us to be in EVERY area of our lives! I challenge you, as you move into 2015, to step into the Light. Know that everythingabout you — that being in relationship could potentially expose — has already been covered by the blood of Jesus. We can embrace our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ knowing that our sins are being covered and cleansed as we walk together in the Light of His love. Let 2015 be the year of the Body of Christ truly reflecting Ephesians 4:16 – “being joint and knit together by what every joint supplies…. causing growth of the Body for the edifying of itself in love!

Prayer: Lord, give us willing hearts to risk the vulnerability that comes from walking and fellowshipping with each other in Your Light. Let us know today that You will cover what “leaves” and “darkness” cannot, and that You will cleanse us as we reveal ourselves to You and to each other. Father, as You restore in 2015 ALL we’ve lost (Joel 2:25-26), we thank You for restoring relationships in the Body of Christ. Amen.

YIC,
Neisha

The Soul Yearns For Authenticity… Don’t Starve It

Authenticity does not conceal real feelings to keep up a false identity. Transparentbehavior is comfortable being real.” – Excerpt from Wisdom Hunters Devotional

It has been said that “the best predictor of current or future behavior is past behavior.” In other words, you get a sense of the way people will behave and respond to a particular situation by examining their behavior patterns over time. While I agree with this perspective, I also realize that the complexity of human behavior involves so many motivating factors that this thought cannot be taken as doctrine. What I think is even more important than a pattern of behavior is the authenticity of the behavior.

There Can Be No Authenticity Without Transparency
Any behavior/act, even if unauthentic, can become a pattern if it is positively reinforced and/or if the purpose of the behavior (or motive behind it) is accomplished. For this reason, we cannot assume an individual’s behavior is authentic (true), regardless of how often they behave in a particular manner. After all, many of us have become pros at the “roles” we play and the masks we wear. What aids true authenticity is transparency. In your relationships, how transparent are you about your feelings, motivations, fears, doubts, hopes, expectations…? Authenticity can become a behavior (character) pattern if transparency is regularly practiced. Now, I know that this may be challenging because trust has to be established before transparency can occur. And unfortunately that’s one of the biggest issues in relationships today: lack of trust.

It Takes Trust To Be Transparent
How can I be transparent with someone I don’t trust? And how can I be truly authentic with someone I can’t be transparent with?

There is a level of vulnerability that we risk every time we are transparent and whether or not we continue in transparency is based on the response we get to this vulnerability. Have you ever shared your feelings with someone…your genuine feelings/motives/expectations (however trivial or insignificant)…and they were dismissive, nonchalant, or unresponsive? How did it make you feel? I think if we used our past experiences of being hurt to positively guide us in how to treat others, our relationships would get an extreme makeover. If I remember how it felt to have my honest feelings dismissed or ignored, then I’ll be more mindful the next time someone trusts me enough to be vulnerable and transparent with me about their feelings. That’s the first step towards building a safe place of trust.

Authenticity is a Process Aided By Vulnerability
Instead of covering up or hiding your feelings in response to someone’s hurtful response to your transparency, try to press forward in remaining true to the process of authenticity. I’m not implying that you share your heart in reckless abandon with everyone you come in contact with; but rather, don’t allow one person’s harsh response (or lack of response) to block your progress through your process. The truth is someone’s negative reaction to your transparency is often a reflection of their own inability to face the unpleasant areas of themselves. I’ve found that our wounds often remind others of the wounds they’ve suppressed and tried desperately to forget. In dismissing you, they’re really dismissing the parts of themselves they haven’t yet accepted and can’t yet tolerate. So, stay true to your own process.

You Win Some, You Learn Some
Everything we experience in life serves as a lesson. If we focus more on the lesson than the pain, we’ll never lose. More importantly, keep your eyes fixed on what you want to accomplish for you and don’t allow outside influences to hinder that process. For me, authenticity is the desired goal. I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin and in claiming all the parts of me – ugly and beautiful. If I bring my authentic self into a situation and I am not received, that may impact the dynamics of my interaction with that particular person, but it will not prevent me from moving forward in authenticity. Don’t allow one person’s negative response to change you. Self-actualization is a journey and the more authentic you become (i.e. the more your real and ideal selves align), the closer you are to your desired goal…. the discovery of the you that you truly are, underneath it all. That’s the only you worth really sharing with others.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be our true authentic selves. The men and women You created us to be. Help us see that even though we risk vulnerability every time we’re transparent, we indirectly forfeit something far greater when we choose to not be authentic – a deeper level of intimacy with our significant others. And though the choice is ultimately ours, please help us to choose Your way. Amen.

YIC,
Neisha

Taking Inventory…

The beginning of a new year is often accompanied by a time of reflection and self-evaluation. We tend to reflect on what we’ve accomplished over the past year and those areas of our lives that still need improvement. In my own reflection, my focus has been on my associations and connections. How are they influencing me? Have I grown as a result? How have I influenced them? Have they grown as a result? It’s important to assess this as your selfevaluation is most directly impacted by your connections. Let’s discuss this idea…

You are who you attract. If this statement is accurate, that means I can examine my “circle” to get a good sense of who I am. You see, we often complain about the shortcomings and weaknesses of those we are connected to, without realizing that they are a reflection of us. It is impossible for us to be closely connected to people who are our polar opposites – after all, it’s our similarities and commonalities that bring us together. So, for example, you cannot be someone who believes in the value and character trait of honesty, but simultaneously be closely aligned or connected to a circle of thieves or liars. That’s incongruence between who you say you are and what you attract. It’s self-deception at its highest. The old proverb says, “Show me your company and I’ll tell you who you are.” The reality is, there are unexplored areas of weakness that may reside in you that allow you to: (a) be attracted to dishonesty and (b) attract the dishonest.

We have to be willing to do the hard work of going deep into those unexplored places of our hearts and lives and take personal responsibility for everything that is there – even the negative stuff. We can’t blame others for weaknesses or shortcomings that we continue to tolerate and in some cases, enable. The fact that we tolerate and enable what we dislike or what has proven to be of no benefit to the friendship/relationship says more about us than it does the other person(s). Which raises the questions: Have we been tolerating/enabling these negative traits in our connections? Or have our associations/connections just been reflecting the negative traits hidden inside of us?

The Word of God tells us in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils and man became a living soul. So for Disciples of Christ, we should resemble the One who has breathed into us. It’s just like the movie plot for Catwoman (starring Halle Berry), where an Egyptian Mau cat breathed into Halle Berry’s character and she in turn developed catlike abilities. In examining our connections, we have to reevaluate who we are allowing to “breathe” into us. We cannot attach ourselves to people who may in fact be feeding our own weaknesses and/or even weakening our areas of strength. “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33); and “He that walks with the wise will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer destruction” (Proverbs 13:20).

So, the question is, where’s the balance? How do we connect with the right people, while helping those who may be struggling with some of the same things we have struggled with or are struggling with? I think the key is what (Who) has your heart, attention, time, and commitment. Jesus Christ helped as many people as He could while on earth, but He had a very small inner circle that consisted of men who reflected His values and were on one accord with His mission. I think the issue is that God sometimes brings people into our lives for us to learn and grow from them, and/or for us to teach them what we know….. but we get attached to the “assignment” and try to extend it beyond its current lifespan. Instead of fulfilling the assignment, many times wefraternize with the assignment and this is often where we get in trouble.

While we’re still in the beginning stages of this New Year, let’s spend some time in self-examination and evaluate the people we’re connected to, how much they are reflecting our values, and whether or not they are merely “fulfilled assignments” with whom we continue to fraternize. The choices that we make in our associations and connections should never betray the integrity of who we are. It’s time to take inventory.

Prayer: Lord, show us ourselves and give us wisdom to discern our current connections. Help us to release fulfilled assignments and realign us with the people You have divinely ordained for our growth and development in You. Let this be a year of divine connections! Amen.

YIC,
Neisha

© 2020 Neisha-Ann Thompson, Ph.D

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