Empathy Skill #3 and #4:

To understand another person’s feelings and to communicate your understanding of another person’s feelings

Read

John 8:21-30

If you’re not comfortable in the world of emotions and not fluent in the language of feelings, welcome to the land of normal. If find yourself there, you’re in good company. You also have an opportunity to learn and grow. The empathy skills we’re exploring today are not easy. In fact, in the scripture passage, we see how quickly you can move from empathy to confusion.

Empathy: Read John 8:22. The Jews are concerned. They’re wondering if something horrible is going to happen. Is he going to hurt himself?

Confusion: Read John 8:27.  They did not understand.

Sympathy: While this isn’t in the passage, I’m including it here because sympathy and empathy are often confused. Empathy is about feeling with people. The concern for Jesus’ life could have spiraled into feeling sorry for him. Sympathy is feeling for people. It does not foster a connection. Empathy is feeling with people. It fosters connection.

Reflect

Consider a moment you were misunderstood. What did you feel at that moment? Were you hurt, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed, or something else? Reference the list of core emotions to push beyond the three emotions, “Happy, sad, mad” that most of us CAN identify.

Respond

Seek today to understand the emotions of someone important to you. Practice communicating your understanding of their feelings. Remember to focus on connecting with the emotion, not the experience to practice empathy. Also, keep in mind if you’re slipping into trying to feel for the person that is important to you. That’s sympathy, not empathy. Keep practicing, even when you don’t get it right. That’s how we learn.

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for meeting me where I am. Guide me today as I seek to be a person of empathy. Remind me when I get it wrong, that you’re there helping me to rise again and try again. Thank you for your patient love, Lord. I’m humbled. Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

What did you do well today in seeking to understand the emotions of someone important to you? What was an empathetic miss? Remember to try again tomorrow!

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Wholehearted Disciple

Each Friday we’ll pause to consider the previous five days, integrating what we’re learning and how we’re seeing Jesus with three questions. As you consider the six myths of vulnerability and how the scripture passages brought these myths to light, respond to the following questions:

Thoughts

What are you thinking as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to each day? Specifically, what are you thinking about the emotions you were asked to consider this week?

Feelings

What are you feeling as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to each day? Specifically, what are you feeling about the emotions you were asked to consider this week?

Actions

What are you doing as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to each day? Specifically, what are you doing about the emotions you were asked to consider this week?

Where is there overlap in your answers? Wholehearted disciples practice uniting what they think, feel, and do. If you’re thoughts, actions, and feelings are not in alignment with one another, keep practicing! You’re on a journey of following Jesus.

What emotion(s) do you need embrace more in your thinking? What emotions do you suppress  feeling? What emotions do you tend to act out in your behavior? (As a reminder, emotions don’t dictate your actions.)

Want to Dig Deeper? – Join the practice of TGIF

  • Who or what are you trusting?
  • For whom or what are you grateful?
  • Who or what is inspiring you?
  • How are you practicing faith?

Pray

Good and gracious God, thank you for a mind to think, emotions to feel, and hands and feet to propel me to act. Guide me in all I say, do, and feel so others may witness your grace. In the name Jesus I pray, Amen.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Day 7 of each week is a “Grace Day.” We invite you to pray the prayer provided and use today to rest and review any days that you may have missed.

Pray

Lord Jesus, you offer me grace upon grace. Thank you. You help me to step out in faith and claim the emotions that I’m feeling. Thank you. You meet me in the midst of what I’m feeling – and what I’m failing to feel. And once again, I’m thankful.

When I am angry, thank you, Lord.

When I am anxious, thank you, Lord.

When I belong, thank you, Lord.

When I am blamed, thank you, Lord.

When I am curious, thank you, Lord.

When I am disappointed, thank you, Lord.

When I am disgusted, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling embarrassed, thank you, Lord.

When I empathize, thank you, Lord.

When I am excited, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling fear, thank you, Lord.

When I am scared, thank you, Lord.

When I am frustrated, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling gratitude, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling grief, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling guilt, thank you, Lord.

When I am happy, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling humiliation, thank you, Lord.

When I am hurt, thank you, Lord.

When I am jealous, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling joy, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling judgment, thank you, Lord.

When I am lonely, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling love, thank you, Lord.

When I am overwhelmed, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling regret, thank you, Lord.

When I am sad, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling shame, thank you, Lord.

When I am surprised, thank you, Lord.

When I am feeling vulnerable, thank you, Lord.

When I am worried, thank you, Lord.

 

Read

Take an opportunity to review any of the days you missed.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

 

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Day 7 of each week is a “Grace Day.” We invite you to pray the prayer provided and use today to rest and review any days that you may have missed.

Pray

Almighty and everlasting God, thank you for the journey. Each day and each week as I pause to celebrate your presence in my life, I am humbled.

Forgive me when I’ve fallen short. Grant me the courage that I need to continue practicing rumbling with vulnerability.

Surround our community with the fortitude to continue stacking trust and vulnerability.

Through your abiding presence, remind me to continue becoming a curious, courageous disciple. Then, help me to use my gifts in our surrounding community to share your love with others. Amen.

Read

Take an opportunity to review any of the days you missed.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

 

Final Thoughts

Thank you for your faithfulness!

The journey to becoming a courageous disciple is filled with joy and frustration and everything in between.

Thanks for staying curious and practicing courage.

YOU are among the brave and brokenhearted.

Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted

by Brené Brown

There is no greater threat to the critics

and cynics and fearmongers

Than those of us who are willing to fall

Because we have learned how to rise.

With skinned knees and bruised hearts;

We choose owning our stories of struggle,

Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we run from struggle, we are never free.

So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.

We will not be characters in our stories.

Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.

We write our own daring endings.

We craft love from heartbreak,

Compassion from shame,

Grace from disappointment,

Courage from failure.

Showing up is our power.

Story is our way home.

Truth is our song.

We are the brave and brokenhearted.

We are rising strong.

The Courage To Love

Read

Luke 8:43-48

Can you imagine the desire to be healed the woman in this passage must have experienced? For twelve years she suffered. For twelve years she sought help. She visited the doctors. She spent her money. She invested her time in finding a cure.

But on this day, reaching out to Jesus, she encountered something – someone – very different.

It’s likely the woman in this passage would have been ostracized. Her life would have been anything but normal. She, like the leper last week, positioned herself in a place of vulnerability to have an encounter with Jesus.

Imagine the woman bringing all the pieces of her life – the hemorrhages, the isolation, the fatigue, the frustration, the stigma, the financial cost – to Jesus.

That was the reality of her life. Small pieces of her story that made her question her ability to not only connect with a community, but have a place in a community. And still, in one touch, she finds what we all find when we bring all of ourselves to Jesus. She finds wholeness (which is different than physical healing).

She put down the armor that kept her isolated and alone.

Throughout this week, you’ll look at the armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism. You’ll contrast armored discipleship with daring discipleship. But first, recognize you’ll have a hard time making contributions when you’re carrying around the weight of our armor.

Furthermore, you can’t grow behind armor.

Perhaps when the woman who was hemorrhaging encountered Jesus, she was finally free to be who God had created her to be. She showed up with all the pieces of her life – all the messy, hard, complicated aspects of her thinking, feeling, and behaving. And when she did, she found that the 1000 ton shield she was carrying fell to the ground, opening her heart to be loved by the One who is love, Jesus.

Reflect

Consider your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Which ones are weighing you down? That’s your armor.

Respond

Pay attention today to the weight of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Seek to lighten the load by recognizing the armor you’re carrying.

As a reminder, we all have armor. This isn’t about not having it. It’s about recognizing what your armor looks like. Practice today putting down your armor. It’s the only way for your relationships with Jesus, one another, and the community you’re seeking to reach to flourish.

Pray

Jesus, thank you for meeting me where I am and loving me for who I am. Thank you for the emotions I feel, the thoughts I think, and the behaviors that move me. Help me to be mindful of the armor I’m carrying and how it hinders me from bringing my whole self to the church and the people I love. Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

What thoughts, feelings, or behaviors did you notice you were wearing as armor today? Did you put down your armor? If not, tomorrow’s a new day. Give God thanks for helping you to see the armor you’re wearing.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Armored Discipleship: Perfectionism

Daring Discipleship: Healthy Striving, Empathy and Self-Compassion

Read

Matthew 5:43-48

Following Jesus most days may seem like you’re living in an upside down world. Living as a courageous disciple is not for the faint of heart, is it?

Read Matthew 5 and tell me you’re not making excuses for why it’s not possible to do what Jesus is asking of you. C’mon I dare you.

Ok, I’ll go first. I can easily make excuses for why it is not possible to do what Jesus is asking in this passage.

The excuses roll through my head like a quick moving spring thunderstorm. (Read the following statements with sarcasm and disdain for greater impact.)

What do you mean, “Love my enemies?” Jesus, don’t you know “those people” are the ones we talk about, not love. My friends post nasty things about “them” on social media, why shouldn’t I? My friends talk about “them” behind their back. Why wouldn’t I do the same? I have to keep my place. “Yeah, I know better. But how am I supposed to survive in this world?”

I am grateful the above example is filled with creativity and not my daily reality. But I hear it all the time. If I’m honest, at times, I slip into this stinking thinking.

Look in the mirror, dear one. Those thoughts might NOT be exactly your thoughts, but you’ve likely been there. Remember, confession is good for the soul. Following Jesus is not for the timid.

Now jump to the very last verse for today.

“Be perfect.”

Let’s not confuse perfectionism with the phrase, “being perfect” that Jesus talks about in this passage. Perfection in scripture is the command to complete obedience and holiness. That’s about being a courageous disciple, not an armored disciple. If we’re following Jesus every day, seeking to become more like Jesus, that’s healthy striving, not perfectionism.

Additionally, Christian perfection as John Wesley talked about it is about being made perfect in love. Again, it’s healthy striving.

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.” Brené Brown, Dare to Lead, p. 80

Before you disintegrate into a full shame storm, let me remind you you’re not alone. If you’ve ever had the following thoughts, you’re not alone. Perfectionism is armor that many people struggle with carrying around, thinking it is helping, but it is actually hurting your ability to be a courageous disciple. Consider this:

“The neighbors must think I’m a loser. The lasagna is runny, the garlic bread burned, the salad dressing was rancid.” And you want me to be perfect, Jesus? I’m not measuring up.

Dear one, put down the armor.

“The team will tell me the presentation can be better. It’s not 110%. I’m going to keep working because I don’t want them to think I’m not capable of doing great work.”

Dear one, put down the armor.

“The house isn’t clean enough for my parents to visit. Your spouse responds, “Honey, we just cleaned yesterday.”

Dear one, put down the armor.

“People think I’m a horrible parent because my child isn’t behaving (….like a grown adult with manners, tact, and grace.)

Dear one, put down the armor.

Newsflash: there’s a reason he or she is behaving like a child. They are a child.

Do you see what armor does? Armor says, “I’m not perfect.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m afraid to fail.” Jesus says, “You are my beloved.”

Perfectionism is all around us. But here’s the good news: Jesus does not expect us to perfect to be in relationship with him. He only expects that our heart is open to love. Healthy striving is about being clear with the people around you about the places you’re susceptible to perfectionism and working together to be clear.

Healthy striving is about asking the a question that focuses on growth and development: “How can I improve?” Its focused on your desire to grown. Perfectionism on the other hand, is focused on others, and seeking the approval of others. “What will people think?” I don’t know of a single example where Jesus says, “worry about what other people say.” Instead, Jesus dares us to lead with love.

Reflect

Where does perfectionism show up for you? How does it show up? How do you distinguish between healthy striving and perfectionism?

Respond

Pay attention today to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and where perfectionism shows up. Seek to shift your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors one step closer to healthy striving. And remember: You are special. You are blessed. You can be who God created you to be…and Jesus isn’t asking you to carry around the armor of perfectionism.

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me as I am and helping me to see how I can grow and become more like you. Thank you for the reminder that I am special, blessed, and I am on a journey with you. Guide me today to be mindful of the places I’m seeking the approval of others instead of you, even as i offer myself to you, Jesus, Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

Check-in with a trusted friend or your spouse about how you did today putting down your armor.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Armored Discipleship: Working from Scarcity Daring Discipleship: Practicing Gratitude

Read

Philippians 1:3-14

Paul is in prison. Prisons in Paul’s day did not provide adequate food, shelter, or care. Any food that was provided came from visitors. Any care he received also came from visitors. I imagine the fear of the unknown, hunger, and loneliness could cause any of us to spiral into grief, sadness, or even depression.

And, yet, Paul is rejoicing with gratitude.

Where we think about scarcity, Paul is reflecting on abundance.

In places where we feel worried about a disciple that is destitute, Paul feels gratitude.

Where we might want to try to fix the situation, Paul responds with thanksgiving.

I’m certain being in prison was not a moment of great joy for Paul. Still, Paul found a way to stay focused on Jesus, the one who is with him in all circumstances. From a posture of vulnerability, Paul communicated with gratitude.

But sometimes, joy and gratitude overwhelm you. After all, both expressions are aspects of vulnerability. When you’re overwhelmed, sometimes you head in a different direction, concocting stories of tragedy, hurt, and/or scarcity.

It can be subtle armor: you’re afraid to celebrate a victory. Why? Because if you do, you’re inviting something to go wrong in the next breath. It’s actually another way to focus on scarcity. I don’t think one minute Paul was grateful and in the next breath, he was devising stories for how his life would end. But, that’s what scarcity does.

So here’s the invitation today: put down the armor. Stop thinking, feeling, and behaving as if resources, joy, and success are scarce. They are not. Gratitude multiplies joy, it does not diminish it. Put down the armor of scarcity and pick up the practice of gratitude. Look to Paul’s example in our scripture today if you need additional guidance.

Said simply, if you want to be a daring disciple, don’t step into a dress rehearsal of tragedy or despair in moments of great joy.

Reflect

Where do you put on the armor of scarcity in order to protect yourself from being vulnerable, caught off guard, or being sucker-punched?

Respond

Live today from a posture and practice of gratitude. Challenge yourself to come up with at least 10 people, circumstances or experiences that you’re grateful for by the end of the day.

Pray

Thank you, Jesus, for walking with me and being my constant companion. Thank you for wrapping your arms around me in deep embrace while challenging me to become more of who you created me to be. For today, for the people I will encounter, for everything I will experience, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

What ten things are you grateful for today? Want to stay present to the joy in your life? Challenge yourself to begin a practice of daily gratitude. It’s the one thing that people who experience joy have in common.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Armored Discipleship: Hiding Behind Cynicism Daring Discipleship: Modeling Clarity, Kindness and Hope

Read

Romans 5:1-5

The theological concept on display in Romans reminds us that the core of our identity as followers of Jesus is this: we are a people of hope.

Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is made up of three parts and it can be learned. Goals, pathways, and agency are the three primary components to hope. Find any passage of scripture that explores hope and you’ll find parallels between CR Snyder’s research and Scripture.

Want to be a daring disciple who lives and leads with hope? Hope involves intentional thinking about goals, combined with the acumen to achieve those goals (agency) and the perseverance to navigate any detours or roadblocks (pathways).

When we have a goal in mind, the acumen to get there and the perseverance to navigate obstacles and setbacks, we experience hope. And here’s the good news: you have the power to choose hope. It can be learned. Doing so will empower you to live as a daring disciple. Additionally, hope is the antidote to despair. How does despair show up in our lives? Often as cynicism and sarcasm. (Head back to Day 1 of this week for a few examples of cynicism and sarcasm.)

Reflect

Pause and consider if you’re living with hope.

Hope is made up of three things: goals, pathways, and agency. Use these questions to consider if you’re living with hope: Where do you want to go? Will you be persistent? Do you believe you can do it?

Clarity around each of these will help you be a person of hope. Explore more about the hope and the hope cycle here. 

Respond

Today, practice being clear and saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Do so with kindness. Then, live into being a person of hope.

Pray

Jesus, you are my hope. Thank you for guiding me on this journey and helping me to navigate life’s obstacles so I can stay centered on you and the promise of your hope. Use me today to be a person of hope in the midst of a hurting world. Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

How did you do today?

  • Were you clear and kind?
  • Did you say what you meant and mean what you said today?
  • Where did you practice hope? (Are you clear about your goals, pathways and claiming agency?

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

Read

Acts 11:1-18

Peter was zigzagging with God in his vision. He was using the rules he knew as a Jewish man to avoid doing what God was inviting him to do. At best, the heart of his conversation with God is a rationalization. At worst, he’s hiding out from encountering the holy.

“Zigzagging is a metaphor for the energy we spend trying to dodge the bullets of vulnerability, whether it is conflict, discomfort, confrontation, or the potential for shame, hurt, or criticism.”*

Was Peter experiencing shame for seeing things in a vision that he knew were against Jewish law? Maybe.

Notice how the passage progresses to Peter speaking clearly and taking action. That’s the daring discipleship response. The truth of the matter is this: Gentiles are included in the family of God. If it were not so, you and I would not be here.

If you keep reading in Acts, you’ll soon see that Peter zigzags once again. Sometimes, the lessons of daring discipleship take time to learn. Be patient with yourself and others.

Reflect

Where or how do you zigzag as a follower of Jesus? As a parent, partner, co-worker, how do you zigzag? Where do you see Peter zigzagging in this passage? How did God speakclearly to Peter to stop that armored behavior?

Respond

Be clear about what you say and take action today. Set aside hiding out, pretending, avoiding, procrastinating, rationalizing, blaming, and lying. Each one of those behaviors (even one) is a drain on your energy and likely outside of your values.

Pray

Jesus, thank you for being clear and being kind. Call me toward courageous action today. Guide my words and actions to be in alignment with my thoughts and feelings. Help me to follow you, Jesus. Amen.

Return

Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

Where did you zigzag today? Where did you choose to speak clearly and take action today? Give God thanks for all of your experiences today.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

 

*Brené Brown, Dare to Lead, p. 110

Wholehearted Disciple

Each Friday we’ll pause to consider the previous five days, integrating what we’re learning and how we’re seeing Jesus with three questions. As you consider the examples of armored and daring discipleship from this week, respond to the following questions:

Thoughts

What are you thinking as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to?  Specifically, what are you thinking about being a daring, courageous disciple?

Feelings

What are you feeling as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to? Specifically, what are you feeling about being a daring, courageous disciple?

Actions

What are you doing as a result of what you read, reflected and responded to? Specifically, what are you doing about being a daring, courageous disciple? Where is there overlap in your answers?

BONUS:

What armor do you need to be aware of in your thinking? What armor do you need to be aware of in your feelings? What armor do you need to be aware of in your behavior?

Where is there overlap in your answers? Wholehearted disciples practice uniting what they think, feel, and do. If you’re thoughts, actions, and feelings are not in alignment with one another, keep practicing! You’re on a journey of following Jesus.

Want to Dig Deeper? – Join the practice of TGIF

  • Who or what are you trusting?
  • For whom or what are you grateful?
  • Who or what is inspiring you?
  • How are you practicing faith?

Pray

Good and gracious God, thank you for a mind to think, emotions to feel, and hands and feet to propel me to act. Guide me in all I say, do, and feel so others may witness your grace. In the name Jesus I pray, Amen.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.