References Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud
by Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C
One of the most important lessons during recovery is developing your intuition. Learning how to interpret your own feelings and needs. Knowing when you need to give yourself a break, and when you need a kick in the pants. In his book “Changes that Heal,” Dr. Henry Cloud likens this to the spiritual principles of abiding in grace and truth.
Consider the meeting between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. The Pharisees brought her before Jesus to trip him up in the rocky terrain separating religious law and Roman policies. As Cloud points out, the Romans did not allow Jews to hand down death sentences. The Pharisees’ goal was to catch Jesus either defying the Romans, by encouraging them to stone this woman, or subverting Jewish law by discouraging them from stoning her.
Tempering Consequences with Grace
However, Jesus had a different plan for this woman than what the Pharisees intended. He was not interested in the Pharisees’ games– using strict adherence to Jewish law as a means to lord their righteous over others. Instead, he turned their humiliation of the woman into another example of how the Pharisees had corrupted God’s intended relationship with his people, and how Jesus had come to set it right.
The Pharisees were interested in strict application of religious law. She had done wrong; she deserved to be punished. But Jesus understood the root of their desire for justice– to serve as a demonstration of their own “purity.” The religious leaders wanted to display themselves against her iniquity like a diamond against a black backdrop– the ideal contrast to show off their superior character.
But Jesus turned the tables on them. With his declaration, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” he struck at the heart of every person who was there to feed their own self-righteousness. It was an occasion for everyone present to acknowledge the harshness of black-and-white justice, and to take the opportunity to see the importance of compassion.
Recognizing Unhealthy Behavior
But he also had a lesson for the woman. He told her he was not interested in urging public punishment for her, but she needed to clean up her act, “ Go, and sin no more.”
This is how those in recovery– be it addiction, anger issues, or any other harmful behavior– need to handle themselves. With grace and truth. Acknowledge when your behavior is inappropriate or unhealthy, and instead of beating yourself up about what an awful human being you are, commit to changing it. Shame is not a productive emotion. However, conviction that comes from truth can lead to true repentance and change.
Even more important than recognizing when you need to change your behavior is recognizing when you cannot change it on your own. And that this does not necessarily make you a bad person. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Your weakness might be kicking dependence on a certain substance, while someone else’s strength might be coaching you how to do so.
Christian Counseling for Self-Coaching
If you struggle with getting down on yourself for your missteps during recovery, or with not being disciplined enough, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They will be able to help you discern where you need to knuckle down, and where you need to lighten up with regard to how you treat yourself. Change is difficult, but it is also necessary for pursuit of Christlikeness. As Ephesians reminds us,
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:20-25 NKJV)
“Tulips-The Language of Flowers,” courtesy of Kat, (CC BY-SA 2.0) Flickr CreativeCommon; “bends-in-tree-trunk.jpg,” by Ken Kistler, publicdomainpictures.net, http://goo.gl/d7P8yy