How to Recognize Where You Truly Belong

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

Or maybe, for the moment, I’m just feeling humble enough to hear the answer. Either way, on a random Sunday afternoon, I ask my oldest son, Aidan—a teenager with plenty of insights and opinions about our family—what is the most unbearable thing about having me for a father? His answer:

All the sighing.

family belonging

Photo Credit: GeorgeRudy (Bigstock)

My wife corroborates his report. She says I’ve been walking around sighing a lot. I know there’s some truth to it. Plenty. So, I start paying attention to myself. For the rest of the afternoon, I catch myself sighing more than a dozen times. In part, I’m trying to relax, but more often than I’d like to admit, the sighing is communicating something.

It’s communicating that I feel burdened, not by the stress inside of me, but by the stress around me.

So, here’s my son, in the midst of his adolescent search for a place to belong—a place where he is embraced, not because he is easy but because he is worthy—and hoping to find that place with his father. Instead, all too often, rather than finding belonging, he hears a sigh.

How can we recognize the places we truly belong?

We belong where our worthiness is not dependent upon our easiness. We belong where we can be a burden without feeling like a burden. We belong where we can be needy and still feel wanted. We belong where we can be messy and loved, broken and embraced, complicated and celebrated.

In other words, the place we truly belong is where our humanity is not met with a sigh.

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Week 13: Embracing Your Valuable Flaws [Loveable 014]

“Perfection is overrated. Competition makes us common. The game is over. You are here to be unique. You are here to be you. Enjoy the freedom of that.”

In Episode 14 of The Loveable Podcast, we focus on not just accepting, but embracing, our quirks and flaw and idiosyncracies and wounds and weirdness. When shame tells us that our uniqueness makes us stand out and makes us odd, the voice of grace responds, “Yeah, and you’re beautiful and beloved.”  

the loveable podcast episode 14

This week’s episode addresses the following topics:

  • Why grace embraces us not in spite of who we are but because of who we are.
  • A heartwarming story that illustrates how grace “returns us to ourselves.”
  • The role that embracing our imperfections plays in receiving grace.
  • How grace can transform any shameful thought with one six-word phrase.
  • How hearing the voice of grace restores our sense of playfulness.
  • Why hearing the voice of grace is a prerequisite for finding true belonging.
  • How failing can help us to embrace our worthiness.
  • Why discussing grace in community makes us more aware of the voice of grace within us.
  • An exercise to help us overcome the self-rejection of our most unique and valuable parts.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “The Life-Changing Difference Between Shame and Guilt.”

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Week 12: The Voice of Grace [Loveable 013]

“Grace isn’t just acceptance of the status quo. Grace contains the status quo—all of our struggle and pain and mess—and embraces us and values us anyway. Grace demands that nothing be changed for love and connection to happen, and that kind of love has power.” 

In Episode 13 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about how to listen for the voice of grace within us and, perhaps even more importantly, how to recognize it once we’ve heard it…

loveable podcast episode 13

This week’s episode addresses the following topics:

  • Why trying to be happier doesn’t work, but trying to be human-er ultimately makes us enduringly happy.
  • One key difference between the concepts of sin and shame.
  • Why you might need a media detox and what media is doing to deprive you of one.
  • The value of identifying a handful of practices from the podcast and practicing them regularly.
  • Why discovering our worthiness isn’t about trying harder but, rather, about listening more closely.
  • How grace can transform us without trying to change anything about us and, indeed, because it doesn’t try to change anything about us.
  • What it looks like to listen for the voice of grace inside of us and why hearing it there is essential for the health of our relationships.
  • How to avoid turning the concept of grace into an excuse for abusive behavior.
  • Six hallmarks of the grace of voice, so you can recognize it when you have heard it.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “Embracing Your Valuable Flaws.”

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An Old Man’s 7 Resolutions for a New Year

As we age, it seems, life presents us with two options: denial or humility. And, in my opinion, if you decide to trade-in your denial about your limitations for a little bit of humility, you might as well fold some of that humility into your New Year’s resolutions…

funny new year's resolutions

Photo Credit: Gustavo Frazao (Bigstock)

This year, I’m going to stretch.

I’m not going to stretch because I’m training for the 2020 Summer Olympics or a marathon or a Tough Mudder, or even a 5k. No, these days, at the ripe old age of 41, I’m not stretching out of ambition, I’m stretching for the sake of prevention. I’m stretching so I can walk into the grocery store without a limp. So I can ascend a flight of stairs without pulling a hamstring. So I can roll out of bed without throwing out my back.

When I was younger, my New Year’s Resolutions were usually, in some way, related to conquering the world; now, as I age, my goal is a bit more ordinary: I just want to continue functioning in the world. So, if you’re like me and time has humbled you—if you now realize that mind-over-matter is a privilege of youth and, in the end, matter always wins, by eventually changing form—here is a list of New Year’s Resolutions for you to consider.

After all, it’s a worthy goal to be an upstanding citizen, but the older you get, the more you need to focus on simply standing up…

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Week 11: Choosing Which Voices to Listen to Around You [Loveable 012]

“Maybe growing up and growing healthy is as simple as discerning which voices to allow in, and learning how to keep the rest of the voices out.”

In last week’s episode, we began to focus on the voice of shame all of us hear on the inside of us. Now, in this twelfth episode of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about what to do when we hear that voice on the outside of us, too, coming from the people around us.

loveable podcast episode 12

This week’s episode includes:

  • Several personal examples of small and ordinary but powerful ways to redeem the painful and frustrating parts of our story.
  • A conversation about how to handle shame messages when they come from family and friends, especially during the holiday season.
  • How to set assertive boundaries from a sense of worthiness, rather than aggressive boundaries from a sense of defensiveness.
  • What it looks like to digest criticism through the filter of our own worthiness.
  • Why it is important to limit the shame you expose yourself to from others while you work to heal the shame already inside of you.
  • Why shame keeps us small and how our lives become bolder when we quit listening to it.
  • Three visualization exercises that will help you begin to develop healthy emotional boundaries.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “The Voice of Grace.”

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The Past Makes Us Human (or, The Best Blogs & Books of 2017)

The past makes us human.

Every winter, our dog bounds around in the first snowfall of the year as if it’s his first time. There’s a good reason for that. For him, it likely feels like the first time. He probably can’t remember last year’s snowfall.

I write a lot about being present—about being mindful of this moment—and there are all sorts of joyful gifts in that. Just ask any dog. However, our ability to remember, to venture into the past, is one of the things that makes us distinctly human. And memory is a gift, no matter how many strings—like regret, guilt, grief, and sorrow, to name a few—might be attached to it.

What is the gift of remembering?

best books of 2017

Photo Credit: sidarta (Bigstock)

The gift of remembering is that moment at the age of nine when, after a twelve-hour car trip on the eve of Christmas, you pulled into your hometown, big, thick snowflakes falling from the sky like a blanket, covering the ground, muffling the world, while your grandparents waited for you on the front porch, backlit by the warm light of a home you’ve longed to return to.

The gift of remembering is, for instance, being able to take the feeling of homecoming with you wherever you go.

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Week 10: Why Shame Is the Beginning of Your Story (Not the End of It) [Loveable 011]

“There is a place inside of you where a better voice is telling a better story about you. Let the next chapter of your story be about listening for that voice.” In Episode 11 of The Loveable Podcast, we define shame, describe how it can be recognized in our experience, and explore how the concept of story can become an essential tool for transformation…

loveable podcast episode 11

This week’s episode includes:

  • A conversation about how to recognize the signs that you are growing and healing.
  • A parenting discussion about how we accidentally show kids they are not worthy of help, and the importance of humility in parenting and dialogue with our kids.
  • How to be peaceful, even when you’re angry, scared, or sad.
  • Some helpful ideas for questioning the social narratives that keep us anxious and ashamed.
  • The key difference between being “broken” versus “blocked.”
  • Ways to recognize both subtle and intense signs that you are feeling shame.
  • The importance of sharing your experience of shame with others.
  • An exercise you can do that will help you envision a life more free from shame.
  • A discussion that cautions us against believing we need to live an “epic” story to be good enough.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “Choosing Which Voices to Listen to Around You.”

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How to Show Up to Your Life

We traveled together, this young boy and I.

We were in the back of a hired car, on the way to the airport. I was scheduled to give a national radio interview the next day, and I was mostly looking forward to the adventure. Flying isn’t my favorite thing to do, but the weather was good and I had plenty of margin in my schedule for unforeseen delays and unpreventable problems.

But my little traveling companion was a mess.

inner child

Photo Credit: Koca777 (Bigstock)

He was worried about what might happen, what might not happen, and everything in between. I tried to ignore him for a while, but that seemed to make him more scared. So, I tried to convince him there was nothing to worry about, that nothing would go wrong. Nope. Too smart to be fooled by platitudes. My efforts were making his anxiety worse.

He was close to panic.

Then, I told him, no matter what happened, I’d take care of him. I told him he could relax, because even if things went wonky, I’d handle it. I told him it’s okay to be anxious, because when you’re a kid you lack control over almost everything and you pretty much can’t protect yourself from anything. But, I told him, you can relax if you want, because I’m in charge now, and I’ll make sure things turn out as well as they possibly can. I simply invited him along for the ride. And do you know what happened?

Slowly, he calmed down.

I embraced him and we walked through the airport together and got on the plane together and found the rental car together and checked into the hotel together and, believe it or not, we went on the radio together. The studio was a little intimidating for him, but I told him I couldn’t do the interview without him, because in a lot of ways, he’s wiser than me. Wiser in a way only kids can be. Once again, I invited him along for the ride. And he did great. We did great.

It turns out, we work really well together.

I wish I would have reassured him like that years ago, because that scared little boy has gone on a lot of adventures with me, always afraid, always wishing he could just go home and hide under the covers. But I guess I couldn’t really do that sooner, because the truth is, for most of my life, I didn’t even know that boy existed.

You see, that little boy is the little kid in me.

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Week 9: What to Do When Your Heart Feels Like a Jungle [Loveable 010]

“Embracing your worthiness is up to you and you alone—we cannot truly receive love until we have embraced that we are worthy of love. However, we all need someone to walk with us as we do so. We don’t depend upon this person for our sense of worth, but we can lean upon them when the going gets tough.”

In Episode 10 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about what to do when the healing journey gets a little too messy to walk alone…

the loveable podcast episode 10

This week’s episode includes:

  • A conversation about how to learn from your pain, attend to your anger, and short-circuit your panic attacks.
  • A discussion about how emotional pain expresses itself in the body, and how practices such as yoga can help us to relearn our relationship to it.
  • Another way to approach prayer, especially when your praying feels unhelpful, or even counterproductive.
  • An encouragement about the cyclical nature of healing and growth.
  • Why asking for help is an expression of a sense of worthiness.
  • How to find a good therapist when you don’t know where else to look.
  • A helpful (pun intended) list of reasons we resist asking for help, and even resist receiving the help we’ve already asked for.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “Why Shame Is the Beginning of Your Story (Not the End of It).”

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Week 8: The Small Gate and Narrow Road Back to Your True Self [Loveable 009]

Emotional healing and spiritual growth are not about eliminating our pain; they are about approaching our pain. Rather than moving away from our pain, we learn how to move toward it, enduring it, learning from it, transforming it, and eventually moving through it, to where we find our true self.

In Episode 9 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about pain and playfulness and everything in between…

the loveable podcast episode 9

This week’s episode includes:

  • A case study of how to observe our thought stream, rather than getting swept away in it, and an example of how this can expand our experience of the present moment.
  • The connection between shame, playfulness, and our true self and how to use playfulness to disarm our shame.
  • How embracing our worthiness can quickly lead to becoming less lonely.
  • A better, healthier way to relate to “the future.”
  • The difference between reacting and responding, and how to cultivate wiser responses.
  • Suggestions for increasing the frequency and regularity with which you become mindful of your thought stream and practice observing it.
  • Reflections on how faith can fruitfully evolve over the course of a lifetime.
  • A discussion about why moving toward our pain rather than away from it is healing.
  • How attending to our pain can improve our civic discourse.
  • A practice for using your body to practice approaching your emotional pain.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “What to Do When Your Heart Feels Like a Jungle.”

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