Letting Go and Movin’ On

March 19, 2008

monkeytrap.jpgI never tire of the story of how an elusive monkey in Africa gets captured. He reaches into a hole in a tree or through the neck of a large bottle and grabs hold of a handful of nuts that he loves. But then his clenched fist prevents him from removing his hand from the bottle. That which seemed to provide fulfillment of a treat, holds him in position ready to be collected as a captive. Better said, the tenacity of his will and his refusal to “let go” of his grasp thwarts his freedom. My monkey friend provided the opening story in my lecture last night for The Meadows entitled “Letting Go and Movin’ On.”  The material came together fairly well, but became memorable by the responses of the audience. So I thought I’d fill in the handout here with some audience responses.  We talked about what it means to let go of destructive thoughts and habits so we can move on in our personal growth and maturity.

Movin’ on means letting go of something.
Holdin’ on means staying the same.
Holdin’ on to the past guarantees that the past goes forward with you.
Grabbin’ hold of something new. That’s where the future’s at.

A. Let go of what? Why?
1. Things and “stuff” that holds up our standard of living
2. A job that is limiting and draining.
3. An ex-spouse
4. Old habits, old routines, old childish patterns of relating,
5. Addictions
Is it causing a problem?
Are you wanting replace it with something better?

B. What holds us back?
1. Need for control, need to be right.
2. Resentments, anger, unforgiveness.
3. Fear of the unknown, need for the familiar
4. Rationalizations

C. What does moving on require?
1. Vision of the goal – If I let go and move on, what will it look like? Feel like?
2. Focus on the higher ground – Like a toddler’s focus on warm, dry, clean panties.
3. Negative attitude toward lower ground – e.g. “Sugar is a poison, not a treat.”
4. Community – Someone to provide motivational feedback, to encourage.

D. Stages of Change – Where are you? (See March 14, 2008 blog post)

E. Putting it all together (worksheet)
1. Pick one thing that you feel is stuck and from which you would like to move on.

2. Identify your motivation to change according to the six stages of change.

3. Identify three ways you rationalize holding on to the old pattern.
a) ______________________________________________

b) ______________________________________________

c) ______________________________________________

4. Describe the vision of your goal.

5. Describe the virtues and the healthy feelings when you goal is reached.

6. Identify the toxic characteristics of the old pattern you have been in.

7. Identify and start to perform the disciplines necessary to move on

8. Report your progress and struggles and slippage to a trusted community

9. When you slip back, identify triggers, motives, convictions, and go to #5.

Simply put, while you’re putting off the things that are bad for you, discipline yourself to pursue the things that are good for you while you keep the ultimate goal in the forefront of your mind. Then be flexible about setbacks. From a spiritual perspective in the New Testament, Colossians 3:1-17 teaches this very thing. In the Old Testament, Jacob provides an example of this principle by throwing away the idols from his household and then purifying himself (Genesis 35:2). In Paul’s personal letter to Timothy, he tells him to instructs the brethren to let go of their “riches” in the present world and replace them with good works for God that can store up treasures in heaven. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Attitude Undergirds Behavior

August 10, 2007

foundation-pour.jpgEach new school year, the Counseling Department at DTS sends a newsletter to the students majoring in Biblical Counseling. I was asked to write an article for this issue that would be relevant for both new students and returning students. A common ground I think for both students and anyone in the field is the foundation of attitude. So I’m including the article below.




Attitude precedes behavior. Attitude trumps behavior. Attitude lingers after behavior is done. Foundational to all the theory and skills you will learn this year in your counseling course work is the way you think about other people and your role in their lives. So without taking another class, the most basic part of your preparation for counseling has begun. When Paul began to discuss how the Ephesians ought to apply the theological principles found in Ephesians 1-3, he first exhorted the readers to embrace the attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. Only then did he describe how they ought to “walk.” This article will show why the attitudes of humility, gratitude and respect are necessary foundation blocks on which to build your theory, knowledge and skills.


Humility positions you to serve and to lift others to a higher calling. We are challenged to imitate Christ’s humility in Philippians 2:2-11. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Those who are hurting don’t need pushing or pulling; they need lifting. They need orientation and encouragement.


Gratitude connects you with the true source of your effectiveness. If everything you experience in your counseling can be explained by your talent, your training, and your planning, you will be pleased and gratified. But when you see thinigs happening beyond your explanation, your excitement will explode and your gratitude over God’s grace will swell. It is God who “able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Courinthians 9:8). To receive God’s grace that enables you to contribute to another person’s personal growth is like swimming into the rip tide of God’s will. Good counseling has little to do with applying the right theory. It has everything to do with how our effectiveness reaches beyond what we do by virtue of who we are and to Whom we are related.


Respect prepares you for listening and responding. The study note associated with 1 Peter 2:17 in my Bible “Show proper respect to everyone . . .” explains “because every human being bears the image of God.” The counselor who takes off his shoes at the entryway to someone’s life has qualified himself to further invitation. Counseling should not be defined as giving advice that is based on a situation. Counseling is hearing the context from which a person perceives his world, clarifying the meaning of the pieces of that person’s world, joining with them where they are through empathic responses and suggesting possible paths to higher ground. Jesus never discounted anyone who was hurting and no condescending attitude can ever lead anyone to higher ground toward godly living. One way to foster this attitude of respect is to ask yourself, “If I had been raised under the same circumstances as this individual, would I be doing as well as they?” But for the grace of God, I doubt that I would.


When you bring the attitudes of humility, gratitude and respect to the counseling room you are ready to build. No, these conditions are not sufficient by themselves, but without them, no amount of training will be worth your time. But these are the necessary foundation blocks that allow the knowledge, theory and skills to bear the fruit of effective counseling.

Fathering: Traditions and Innovations

March 18, 2006

The basic requirements of adequate fathering remain constant throughout the ages. Each age, however, presents its own challenges that require new thinking to contribute effectively to the development of our children. Read the rest of this entry »

Providing Emotional Immunity to Drugs in Your Children

March 18, 2006

Addiction is a relationship with a mood-altering substance. Addictive behaviors replace a person’s capacity for intimate relationships. Drug-proofing you children must require more than demanding that the public schools and police “do something” and conduct “Drug Education”. Why do some children seem to have an immunity to the temptations of drugs, while others succumb to its lure with little resistance? Drugs fill a void. They relieve emotional pain (temporarily). The underlying unmet needs of your children must be identified and understood in order to eliminate to vulnerability to drug use. Before there was “peer pressure” or the illusion of “safe drugs” or “safe sex”, your children were designed and created with intrinsic needs. In addition to the “God-shaped hole” in each of us reflecting our intimacy need vertically for communion with God, there are ten “soulish” or emotional needs that constitute horizontal needs for intimacy with other humans. Meeting these needs is the best way to “drug proof” your children. It is also the only way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Addiction Recovery

March 18, 2006

One question I have never gotten a satisfying answer to is “How does one person revolutionize and set his life straight while another person working the same twelve steps in the same group goes flat?” The answer, I think, is a spiritual one and has something to do with my observations about human nature in general and some addicts in particular. Read the rest of this entry »


March 18, 2006

No one procrastinates in all areas. Most of us procrastinate in some areas. Some of those areas are insignificant; others are disastrous. For example, putting off cleaning the garage may be rather insignificant, but delay in making a mortgage payment could have more far-reaching negative consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Reconciling a Marriage After an Affair

March 18, 2006

Seven issues of concern to the therapist working toward the reconciliation of a marriage torn by an affair are discussed. They include (1) options for the marriage, (2) ensuring closure of the affair, (3) trust, (4) amount of disclosure by the offender – the term used here to refer to the unfaithful partner, (5) forgiveness, (6) individual issues, and (7) renewing physical intimacy. God’s high view of marriage is set forth as motivation for the Christian therapist to favor reconciliation over other options for the marriage. Read the rest of this entry »

Forgiveness: What it isn’t and how to do it

March 18, 2006

In taking revenge, a man is equal to his enemy; in forgiving, he is superior. While vengeance may feel more satisfying to a person’s sense of justice and power, forgiveness elevates that person to a higher level of freedom, grace, maturity and healthy living. Read the rest of this entry »

Christianity, Morality, and Counseling

March 18, 2006

This is an age of relativism. You hear, “Truth is whatever you perceive it to be.” Or “What is true for me is not necessarily true for you.” Or, “There is no truth beyond what we ourselves perceive.” While, in many ways you and I may see the same event in two different ways (i.e. two personal truths) , there is absolutely truth that does not depend on our perception for its reality. Read the rest of this entry »