“I’m Sorry, But I’m Not Sorry”: manipulation masquerading as humility and repentance
I’ve listened to many stories told by family members, friends and spouses experiencing hurt and exhaustion caused by the actions of a loved one. The hurt inflicted upon these people, in most cases, is intentional in nature and fueled by insecurity. The damage caused by the insecure party results in real, gaping wounds. Yet, because these friends and family members still desire to be in a relationship with the insecure, often volatile, person; they continue to open themselves up to more hurt in their attempt to set boundaries. Inevitably, the hurt family members experience more pain at the hands of the insecure, while the insecure family member spends the majority of their time focused on their behavioral changes. However, in most cases, the insecure entirely overlooks the needed heart change required for true repentance.
Unfortunately, this intense deed-focus inflicts yet more emotional damage on the already battered and bruised family and friends. The disconnect between behavioral modification and true gospel level heart change manifest in the insecure, is tantamount to an alcoholic who goes to inpatient for 90 days, and immediately upon release declares sobriety. Except, in reality, they thought about drinking every day of their treatment. In the field of psychology and addiction we refer to such individuals as a “dry drunk.” A dry drunk is an alcoholic who is unable to access alcohol, but spent every minute it was unavailable thinking about it. They spent their time focused on the taste of alcohol, and they planned for their next drink. So, while a “dry drunk” might legitimately claim they have been sober for 90 days because alcohol hasn’t physically been in their system for three months, they have missed the treatment’s deeper point. Treatment wasn’t intended to simply address their maladaptive behavior and forbid access to alcohol, it’s intended to address the origins of their alcoholism, their desire for drunkenness, and the insecurities that fuel the core issues in their heart.
The “dry drunk” is an example of manipulation masquerading as repentance and humility. Because the alcoholic was without alcohol for a prolonged period of time, they claim to have changed. Further, they require those that have been damaged by their excessive drinking to act as if this fiction is the truth. By behaving this way, the dry drunk is inflicting yet more damage on their loved ones because a core-level heart change has not actually transpired.
True heart change takes more than abstaining from a behavior or substance.
Saying sorry isn’t enough
People who damage their friend and familial relationships often refuse to examine their hearts on a deep, spiritual level. When insecurity is at the core of what drives the hurting of others, it’s almost impossible for sincere reflection, evaluation and introspection to happen. Insecurity tends to cloud the ability to assess one's own actions and blinds them to how their actions are affecting others. Saying, and meaning, “I’m sorry” must come by way of a Holy Spirit conviction. Conviction leads to humble prayer, followed by contrition, then confession, arriving at repentance, which means gospel-level heart change. Simply saying “I’m sorry” for doing relational damage in word and deed, yet remaining bitter and resentful on the heart level, causes more damage than doing no interpersonal work at all. This delays healing for all parties.
True heart change can only come from God and the Holy Spirit residing within us. We must daily come before the face of God (Corum Deo) and pray through Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
This prayer of humility and admission that we cannot know the full depth and depravity of our own hearts, is the first step in submitting to the authority of God over our lives. The psalmist recognized that even on his best day, he will still have a bitter, resentful, and malicious heart. Therefore, it is imperative that we seek God and ask Him to reveal our hearts. We cannot correct something to which we are blind.
God’s understanding leads us to a contrite heart
Contrition is a necessity for gospel-level heart change. Considering the concept of contrition, my 8-year-old daughter comes to mind. Many times she will not do what I have asked of her. In seriously willful episodes of disobedience, when confronted, her immediate response is, “I’m sorry.” Her face is downcast with expectation of the coming negative consequence and a firm conversation. At age 8, my daughter is often more sorry that she got caught in her disobedience, not that she disobeyed her parents.
Contrition is the knowledge that our behavior was sinful and hurtful. God convicts us and provides an understanding of our sin, what we did wrong and how we are hurting others. Therefore, we face the choice to either reject this conviction and continue functioning as god over our own lives, which further defies God’s truth, or we accept the reality of our sin and the pain we are causing others. By accepting the later, we glorify Christ and He continues to change our hearts.
Change requires constant submission to Christ. It requires a continual acknowledgement that only God is capable of changing our hearts. It requires constant prayer and immersion in God’s word. Change without any contrition or repentance is simply behavior modification.
I invite you to change, by thinking about who’s in charge of your change.
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
When to Report Child Abuse
Reporting child abuse of any kind is certainly a difficult topic. Identifying what passes for abuse can be an even harder one. I have heard stories in the past where a care giver was unsure if what they were seeing constituted “abuse”, so the abuse went unreported. Another reason why abuse may go unreported, is because a family may be trying to protect the perpetrator who happens to be another family member.
Understanding why its important to advocate for children, especially in abuse situations will be helpful in reframing your views on reporting child abuse and child advocacy. Children often lack the ability to advocate for themselves due to emotional and psychological development. When abuse happens in a child’s life it interrupts their emotional and cognitive development. Children are often placed in situations and scenarios they don’t understand, because a parent or caregiver forced them there and by forced, I mean did not factor in their opinion on the matter. Abuse in a child’s life leads to a higher probability that they will have anxiety, depression and possibly other psychiatric symptoms. So understanding that children are unable to advocate for themselves in ways that adults are, should help in changing your perspective on early reporting.
Secondly, understand that when you report you are being protective and preemptive. You are saying, “No” I will not allow this child to be abused anymore” and you then are stepping between the child and perpetrator and helping to prevent future abuse. I understand that many think and believe that if you report abuse to CPS, they will come and take the children away. CPS looks at every case individually. They examine the severity of the abuse, the duration, the type of abuse, the age of those involved, how long people knew the abuse was occurring, etc. CPS wants to make sure that the child is being protected from those who seek to use and abuse them to meet their needs. That is why they exist.
Third, it’s important to understand the different types of abuse that are looked at. According to the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services there are 6 major areas of child abuse and neglect:
You and your kid may not have experienced the above situations, but there are situations that cause parents to ask, “Is this abuse?” and “Should I report it?” I understand your hesitation, especially when the behavior that may be considered abuse is not black and white and doesn’t fit the above definitions. Ask a mental health professional. Take a course in understanding abuse and the signs of abuse. Call CPS and report what you know or suspect. By reporting early, you are ensuring that the child will no longer undergo further abuse, you are advocating for the child’s development emotionally and cognitively and you are helping to potentially decrease the possibility of the child having severe mental health issues later in life.
The bottom line is child abuse is destructive. Children can’t advocate for themselves. Reporting is important. Do not be the person that protects the abuser at the cost of the child.
Early reporting helps the abused and it helps the abuser.
If you would like to read further, check out the link:
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
The Poison of Comparison
Maybe it's worth noting that all of us are guilty of trying to keep up with the Joneses. Maybe you've convinced yourself that you don't care what others think of you or that you are individualistic.
For many of us we spend an inordinate amount of our thought life comparing ourselves to others. We measure ourselves in terms of money, accomplishments and wealth. We delude ourselves into thinking we are Type A personalities and we are just being "goal oriented"
But that's not really what's going on. We are slowly poisoning ourselves through comparison. We must have what is popular and in. We must be liked. We must accomplish. We must be powerful. We must be loved and admired.
How many of us are responsible for creating anxiety because we are trying to create an image that we believe others will like? How insane is that thought?! We create the very cognitive audience to which we bow down and say, "yes masters", I will change my actions, behaviors and even physical image to make you happy.
Who among us is left with depression because the cognitive distortions of what others expect of us are relentless. They are never satiated, because they are often fragments and insecurities that have been given too much power in our lives....by us.
It is not advantageous for you to compare!your life to someone else's. To look upon someone else's existence and believe they have it better simply because they seem to have a more favorable outward appearance. Solomon, credited as the wisest man in history was famous for saying in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. Comparison is nothing new. Yet we are surprised at when it causes clinical anxiety, depression or a variety of mental health issues.
Our desire to please is a core issue that simply isn't being addressed. Be real with yourself and ask tough questions. Am I poisoning myself my constantly comparing myself to others? Am I creating the perfect environment for anxiety and depression to grow?
Not being a people pleaser and being content with what you have and who Christ made you to be is a life long journey. But at some point you have to make the first step and begin that journey.
Stop drinking poison. Look to Christ
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
My goal is to always write from the heart and to incorporate professional knowledge and personal conviction. I have been very passionate and determined to write as much as I can on anxiety when it comes to the Christian faith. This picture of someone having a theology like a vending machine has been something that I have been thinking on for sometime. It hasn't been until now that I have been able to make a connection with that illustration and the very real issue of anxiety.
What do we know of vending machines? They're big metal boxes located in convenient places with a variety of snacks that are a quick fix and will temporarily fill you up. Provided you have the money, you usually have at least 10 different options to choose from. The commitment and price is low enough for many people to not think twice about purchasing a candy bar or bag of chips. After all, it's like what....a $1.25-$1.50 for chips. Nothing that's going to break the bank or cost you lots of time.
What do we know about anxiety? Anxiety can happen for many reasons which include divorce, drug use, abuse, chemical imbalances, improper body functioning, death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc. Anxiety can create feelings of despair, worry, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide. Anxiety can push people into isolation and loneliness. Often times good professional counseling and medication are required for stabilization.
So how does a vending machine and anxiety connect? Helping someone with anxiety, chronic anxiety is tough and there are no easy answers. It takes commitment and sacrifice. Unfortunately, many Christians adopt a "vending machine" approach to helping the person with anxiety. It is easy to give a verse out, pat yourself on the back and say,
"I did my Christian duty. If they don't change it's because they don't want to and aren't trusting Jesus enough."
Vending machine theology doesn't require heavy commitment. It requires minimal understanding of who Christ is, doesn't cost a lot in time and won't be all that sacrificial. This theological approach is not dissimilar from believing in magic tricks. Just say the magic words and you'll get the desired outcome and if no change happens, blame it on the individual you are carelessly throwing verses at. This approach is lazy, unkind, lacks grace and any understanding of what anxiety is and what the person with anxiety is going through.
As a believer in Christ, our duty is to love those who suffer all afflictions and walk with them for as long as we can. Don't just throw verses at someone with anxiety, be in their life, walk with them through their emotions, show them Christ in your actions and words. Be a student of God's word. Understand his character and promises. by doing this you'll be an incredible testament to God's power and grace and a blessing to those with anxiety.
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
It’s that time of year again when kids groan and parents rejoice. The summer has been long, parents have done everything they can to keep their kids occupied and out of trouble. Summers are often filled with lots of vacations, staying up late and kids getting much more freedom than during the school year. By August, most parents are tired and ready for their kid to be back in school and get a “normal” routine underway. This however, can be quite challenging and if you’re a parent reading this you know what I mean. Most mental health professionals and agencies see a spike in the need for services right around the start of the new school year. Often the type of service that is needed is behavioral.
Why is this?
Kids have a hard time transitioning, especially if it’s from doing something they love (i.e. staying up late, playing with friends, vacation, etc) to something they don’t love (i.e. school). The beginning of the school year can really be shock to their system. They have to be up early, eat a full meal, learn new rules, meet new people, understand their academic responsibilities, be disciplined in doing their homework, accommodate to afterschool activities, participate in family time, go to bed on time so they can get a good night’s sleep just to do it all over again. For us parents, this seems like no big deal, because we have had to be responsible for a great many things for a lot longer. We’re used to carrying that weight. But for the average kid, this is A LOT and can be overwhelming.
There will always be outliers and exceptions to the rule. There will always be kids who are more responsible than their age and are able to handle more than their peers; but they can’t be the standard of measurement. Being overwhelmed, stressed and anxious can look different for every kid. Sometimes their stress comes out in verbal and physical aggression. Sometimes they will become more isolated and not open up, giving off the perception that they are depressed or overly sensitive. Certainly these are not the only ways kids will seek to deal with their stress, these are just examples I have seen in my practice.
Kids with behavioral challenges don’t necessarily have a psychiatric issue, they may be just dealing with an overloaded plate.
Things to look for as a parent of a kid going back to school:
1. Are home expectations reasonable?
2. Have you overloaded your kids schedule because you want them to achieve and have lots of memories?
3. Are their academic expectations reasonable? (Talk with their teacher, develop a rapport, communicate what your kid can and can’t handle)
4. What’s your communication style like with your kid? Are you staying consistent with your messages? Are your messages always negative? Are you trying to be more of friend? Are you too strict?
5. Does your kid feel like they can be a kid in your home?
6. Is there a lack of structure in your house? This can be a significant reason why behavior challenges occur. When a school environment has more structure and the home environment doesn’t behavior challenges will happen because there is a sharp contrast between the two environments.
Really the goal here is to be intentional with your kid and better understand what they can handle, what they are good at and what they can grow in.
So you’ve decided to go to counseling...
I want to encourage you that this a good thing. Something that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. Think of it as going to the gym to improve your cardio and overall physical health. Counseling is that thing that allows you to address aspects of your life in an objective environment without the speculation and judgement from subjective relationships. Using the gym analogy again, is it wrong to improve your cardio health? Is it wrong to increase your strength from weight lifting?
Maybe you’ve had a doctor or someone you know in your life express concern for your physical health and tell you to get in the gym. Well going to a therapist should be no different, you get to address distortions, lies and various other mental health issues you may be living with.
Everyone likes being able to be someone that fixes themselves. The reality is you can’t “fix” yourself without help.
Now to answer a question that you may have had, “Am I crazy because I need counseling?”
We all need maintenance in our lives physically and mentally. You don’t need to be ashamed of seeking counseling.
You may have questions as to what to expect in counseling and if you don’t, you should. Questions are good to have for your therapist, because not every therapist will connect with you.
Know what type of issue you have that is prompting you to seek counseling (i.e. depression, anxiety, trauma, grief/loss, marriage, communication, etc.).
Know what type of therapist you work well with and why. Do you work better with a male or female therapist? Do you need a therapist who will listen more or do you need a therapist who will help provide direction?
Know what per-conceived ideas you have coming to counseling with. Often your ideas about counseling will be influenced heavily by friends and family who have been to therapy. If these therapeutic experiences have been negative for your friends or family that will influence how you look at therapy.
Therapy is about working with you and where you’re at, not about fitting you into a prescribed therapeutic box. For this reason, therapy can feel not always linear and may require several session to determine how a therapist will work with you.
Know that not all therapists approach the same issue of depression from the same angle. Therapists like to use a wide array of therapeutic focuses (i.e. Cognitive Behavior Theory, Psycho-dynamic Theory, Family Systems, DBT, etc.) These approaches are not meant to confuse you, but rather frame how the therapist will work with you. That is why it is good for you to ask what the therapist’s approach is. Is it singular or is it eclectic?
I want you to know I support you in seeking therapy for yourself. What you are doing is a courageous and humble thing to do. I say courage, because there is darkness in everyone’s life that can be scary to face and I say humble because coming to therapy is you saying “I can’t do this on my own and I would like some help.”
Keep moving forward, you are doing a good job
ADHD is a diagnosis that has become more prevalent in children, adolescents and teens over the last several years. As of 2011, 11% of 4-17 year olds have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Use of medication to treat ADHD in 4-17 year olds has risen from 4.8% in 2007 to 6.1% in 2011(website, CDC, 2016).
According to the American Psychiatric Association, behavior therapy is considered "first line treatment" for 4-5 year olds with the diagnosis of ADHD.
While some of these statistics may be alarming, helpful or somewhere in between knowing your child in light of a diagnosis of ADHD is important. As a parent you can only focus on your child.
Parents, you would do well to:
Remember, ADHD is a psychiatric diagnosis, it is not meant to be a label for your child. Create a plan with your support network and mental health professionals and implement with as much consistency as you can. Get your child in some form of behavior therapy. If they are in school, they may benefit from a 504 and or an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Talk with a child psychiatrist about the benefits and side effects of medication to treat ADHD.
Finally, you can do this. Set realistic goals for yourself, child and take each day one at a time.
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