Category Archives: The Bad Stuff

Don’t let the fire-breathing dragons of life intimidate you into a case of the “I Can’ts”

I’ve had a bad couple of days.  This is mostly what I felt like:

Meet my alter-ego, Mrs. Viking Grumpy Pants.

Blog writing was right out.

However, because I cannot shut this brain of mine off, I have been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend on Sunday.  She didn’t say exactly what was going on in her life, but she did say she just couldn’t take anymore pain and suffering.   She just couldn’t go on anymore.  She wanted to give up and give in.  I did my best to encourage her to not give up, to trust God’s process, and to get back on track.  In other word, she is trying to make some changes and keeps getting knocked down.

Let’s be honest, most of our habits need to change.  Especially the emotional habits that constantly put us on the edge of a cliff.  That cliff you can’t see because you’re too busy making butt impressions on the couch.  Habits grow neurons in our brain that settle in with their favorite treats to watch a movie and refuse to budge from that really comfy couch because  you made an excellent indent where their butt goes.  Habits are familiar.  Habits are comfortable.  Habits are safe.

Making changes is a lot like fighting a fire-breathing dragon.  It’s difficult and it can be painful.  I mean, after all they have that nasty habit of giggling at me when I attempt to hack my way through their hard, scaly skin.  And the fire.  Need I say more?

Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!

When faced with this, it is easy to want to give up.  I mean after all, falling down repeatedly on  your face is a painful (and embarrassing) experience.  Why would any sane person keep doing something that hurts, right?  If you’re not careful, this kind of thinking can give you a case of the “I Can’ts”.  As in “I just can’t do this anymore.”  As in “I can’t face the pain anymore.”  As in “I can’t change.”  As in “let’s just give up and let the dragon eat us, m’kay?” (Ok, that last didn’t technically have “I can’t” in there, but you get my point)

Yes, making changes is difficult and painful, but not impossible.

That’s right I said “NOT IMPOSSIBLE”.  (I shouted that in case you didn’t hear me.  You’re welcome)

It requires work, determination, sweat, blood, tears, grit, toughness and any other “You Can Do This” adjective you’d like to throw in there.  If you keep at it,  you’ll get there eventually.  That dragon does  have it’s weak spots.  You just have to keep looking for them.

Because the pain and difficulties associated with change are a price worth paying to get you out of your butt-impression making half-life.

I promise.

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So, tell me about one of  your fire-breathing dragons…

The post in which I cut enablers some slack. Sort of.

As the result of my “fat cats are fat because they are lazy post”, someone suggested that Fluffy has an owner, or as my friend called the owner, an enabler. And the enabler is to blame.  My response to that is, well, yes, and no.

(side note: Fluffy is a cat.  Fluffy cannot be responsible for herself.  Fluffy’s owner is definitely to blame.)

So, let’s define what an enabler is according to my friend, and yours, the New Oxford American Dictionary:

enable |enˈābəl|verb [ trans. ]give (someone or something) the authority or means to do something : the evidence would enable us to arrive at firm conclusions.

  •  [ trans. ] make possible: a number of courses are available to enable an understanding of a broad range of issues.
  •  [ trans. ] chiefly Computing make (a device or system) operational; activate.

The term enabler is particularly prevalent when dealing with addicts.  And I’m not just talking about drugs and alcohol.  I’m talking about any behavior pattern that serves as a buffer or as numbing agent against psychological pain.

An enabler is someone who gives someone else the authority or means to do something.  In other words, you want candy, an enabler will buy you candy.  They do this for many different reasons.  Some enablers enable addictive behavior because they want to keep the peace.  Some like feeling like they have power over someone else.  Some enable because they feel they have no choice.  Some enable because they feel special and important.  And the list goes on.

The impression I get from hearing other people talk about enablers is that the enabler is to blame for the addict’s problems.  “If only Tom would stop enabling Carrie’s behavior she would stop”  is rather rampant idea.

I believe that is only half true.

In my humble opinion, enabler’s are not solely to blame.  Enabling behavior is only half of the picture.  Here is what enablers are actually doing:

  • Encouraging bad behavior (directly, or indirectly)
  • Supporting bad behavior
  • Helping bad behavior
  • Making it easier for the addict to engage in addictive behavior

Notice I didn’t say that enablers are forcing the addict to engage in addictive behavior.  Because, it’s still the addicts choice.  They still  can choose to do what they want to do.  The addict is allowing the enabler to enable.

I believe enablers and addicts are in a symbiotic relationship.  Each feeds the other BS in a cyclical manner.  Both suffer equally from their sick behavior with similar delusions.  In other words, the enabler and the addict are both to blame.

Encouraging an enabler to stop enabling is still the right thing to do.  They should stop.  But that will only take care of half of the problem.  Be aware the addict will still engage in addictive behavior whether an enabler helps or not.

So, encourage the enablers in your life to stop enabling.   Show them how their behavior is hurting themselves and the person they are enabling.  And, hope for the best

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So tell me, how have  you encourage others to stop enabling?

The Conundrum of Comfort

My computer is about 5 years old.  I have the same screen, mouse, and keyboard. I am used to how the arrows keys seem to stick a little when I push them down.  I am used to the dirt that seems permanently stuck in between each key.  I am used to the fact that the trackball on my mouse no longer works.  I am used to the fact that my mouse pointer frequently “disappears” on my screen.  Not to mention the vertical lines that are randomly spaced on my screen.  I am used to it because this is normal.  And normal can be comforting, no matter how bad normal is for me.  Because it’s what I am used to.  It’s comfortable.  Sometimes I don’t even see the lines when I’m watching something on the computer.

See the lines? Perhaps I should be annoyed.

I really can’t do anything about my faulty equipment because of our faulty financial situation.  Replacing computer parts is expensive (especially because I have a Mac).  Even a new mouse cost $50, which is a huge sum in this house.  That’s equal to a tank of gas, or a few groceries.  So, I tell myself it’s not a big deal.  I do my best to ignore the faults.  I pretend they aren’t there.

My room is pretty crowded what with rather large primates and pachyderms hanging about, making themselves comfortable on my furniture.

Looks comfy. Doesn’t he?

I do the same with my emotions.  I get comfortable with my little faults.  I tell myself that a little selfishness is okay.  An outburst of anger towards my husband may be wrong, but’s it the way I am (right?).  My seemingly impossible-to-eradicate depression can’t be stopped or changed.  Somehow my personality quirks are comforting, even if they are wrong.  The chambers of my heart and mind can be pretty crowded too.

He’s a little hard to ignore.

When it comes to our little faults, we decide that there is nothing we can do about these things, so we get comfortable with them.  We invite them over for tea.  We snuggle up on the couch with our little faults and watch a good movie.  We share our favorite snacks.

But, being comfortable with the little faulty things in our lives just leads to us becoming like a fat cat…lazy. We never work at changing our thoughts and behaviors.  We let the dust collect on the rather large animals taking up space without ever questioning why they are there in the first place.

The opposite of this  is (you know I just had to say it) deciding that things are going to be different.  Making a choice for change.  Believing that living a half-life is not worth the comfort that familiarity brings.  We  have to kick that gorilla and elephant out and lock the doors of our minds and hearts.  We have to decide we want to live a different life.  We have to decide that life is worth living to it’s fullest.

So,  make that first step.  Take inventory of yourself.  Be honest.  Embrace change.

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So tell  me, have you ever seen an 800 lb. gorilla?

Laziness is like a fat cat

I knew a fat cat once.  She had a genial disposition.  She’d let you pet her and would rub her fat little body all over your clothes.  But, she could barely get around on her stubby little legs with that huge belly in the way.

Okay, maybe she didn’t have the beer and TV remote…

She was content to eat food, use her litter box, and pretty much sleep the rest of the time.  In other words, she was lazy.

lazy |ˈlāzē|adjective ( lazier , laziest )

1 unwilling to work or use energy : I’m very lazy by nature | he was too lazy to cook.

  • characterized by lack of effort or activity : lazy summer days.
  • showing a lack of effort or care : lazy writing.
  • (of a river) slow-moving.

2 (of a livestock brand) placed on its side rather than upright : a logo with a lazy E.

DERIVATIVES

  • lazily |-zəlē| adverb
  • laziness noun

ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: perhaps related to Low German lasich ‘languid, idle.’

When  you look at Fluffy here, don’t you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel the urge to smack her owner senseless?  Are you asking yourself, “How could she let herself get this far?”  Do you feel the urge to take charge and put her on a diet?  How about if you look at yourself?  Do you have the same feelings?

If yes, keep reading.

If no, definitely keep reading.

When dealing with our own emotional difficulties, it is easy to become fat and content on the food of our own delusions.  We can pretend that all is well.  We can tell ourselves that changing is impossible.  We can say to the world, “But I was born this way!” and get out our beer and watch some TV.

Because, avoiding the truth is easier.

Deep down inside, we know the truth.  We know that the lazy, selfish manner in which we conduct our lives is not good for ourselves, or for the world we live in.  We know that living in a place of anger isn’t good for our romantic relationship.  We know that isolating ourselves isn’t good for us.  We know that our addiction is probably killing us.  We know that depression is keeping us from engaging in life.

Changing takes work.  It takes discipline.  It takes falling-down-in-dirt-and scraping-your-hands-and-knees-then-getting-back-up-again determination.  It takes recognizing and being honest about our own failures.  It takes will and perseverance.  It takes training.

This is who I’d rather be. Wouldn’t you?

Don’t be like that fat cat, happy and content on the gluttony of your willingness to  just eat and sleep and poop.

And never do anything else.

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Tell  me, do you know any fat cats?

The Paradox of Personality

Yesterday, I found inspiration in home group during our discussion on peace and God’s rest.  Someone was talking about how much they disliked certain characteristics about themselves and how that interferes with feeling any sort of peace.  That’s when a certain little belief I have popped into my brain.  I like to call it the “Paradox of Personality”.  You are what you are, but you are also what you want to be.

Paradoxes. They make my brain hurt…

I think that most people agree that each one of us is born with a certain basic set of personality traits that we inherited from our parents.  The mix that we get is unique to us and creates our own way of relating to our world.  Then life happens.  Learning and experiences happen.  We learn to respond through our personality traits to the world.  And this is where my little paradox comes in.

I believe that personality traits have a good side and a bad side.  Sort of like The Force.  We can use them for good, or we can use them for evil.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you’re a person that does not give up easily.  Let’s say you’re dogged and determined.  We’ll call that quality “tenacious.”  According to the New American Oxford Dictionary tenacious means:

  • not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle : a tenacious grip | he was the most tenacious politician in South Korea.
  • not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action : a tenacious local legend |you’re tenacious and you get at the truth.


This is a good thing, because that means that you don’t generally give up easily.  You stay with the problem longer (clearly you are genius of Einstein’s caliber.  Don’t believe me?  See the quote on the left from dear Albert).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the synonyms for “tenacious”:

  • persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable,resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable,unyielding, insistent; stubborn, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, stiff-necked; rock-ribbed; pertinacious.

Now, let’s divide these synonyms into groups.

Good side:

  • persevering
  • persistent
  • determined
  • dogged
  • strong-willed
  • tireless
  • indefatigable
  • resolute
  • patient
  • unflagging
  • staunch
  • steadfast
  • untiring
  • unwavering
  • unswerving
  • unshakable

Bad side:

  • unyielding
  • insistent
  • stubborn
  • intransigent
  • obstinate
  • obdurate
  • stiff-necked
  • rock-ribbed
  • pertinacious

Do you see the difference?  Tenacious can either mean you are persevering, or pertinacious.  Persevering stays with a problem longer, pertinacious is simply, and foolishly, sticking to their guns regardless of reason or wisdom.  A persevering person knows when to quit, a stubborn person does not.  People who persevere keeps relationships intact, stubborn people do not.  You get my drift?

See?  Good side, bad side.  You are what you are, but are you are also what you want to be.

So, you can either be this guy:

Nanny-nanny boo-boo!

Or this guy:

The I-just-stay-with-the-problem-longer guy.

Because,  you have a choice.  You can choose to use your personality for good, or you can choose too use your personality for evil.  You are not a slave to your own personality.  It’s up to you.  Which do you choose?

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So tell me, do you have a personality trait you would like to flip over and use for good?

When a problem can’t be overcome, it’s time to tango…

You’ve done all you can to overcome your problem.  And yet, day after day, it sits there like a faithful dog.  Waiting patiently for you to get out of bed so it can pounce on  you, lick your face, and leave hair all over your fancy work clothes.

How would you like to wake up to this guy?

Or this guy?

By definition, overcoming is the act prevailing over, overwhelming, or overpowering something.  When we overpower our emotions, we win and can keep fighting for another day.  Once we have won, we can walk away and leave the problem there.

But sometimes, something cannot be overcome.  Sometimes, we have to find a way to cope, to manage, to live with, to work with a problem.  Let me give you an example…

I have mentioned before that I have ADHD and some form of dyslexia. Brain chemistry cannot be permanently changed, it can only be managed.  I can take drugs to help reorganize, reduce, or increase the malfunctioning or missing chemicals.  However, if I stopped taking the medications, my brain would go back to the way it was before.  Medications help, but I still have to manage the emotional difficulties associated with this problem.

When two people tango, someone always leads, and it’s usually the guy.  Each partner has to “lock their frame” by making their arms strong and stiff in a semi-circle.  Like this:

Look spaghetti arms!  Lock your frame!

The leading partner gets to decide where the dancing couple is going, when they spin, or twirl, or dip.  The locked frame, the subtle pressures of the hands, certain movements indicate when the following partner is to move and where.  When managing your problem, you should be the leading partner, not the other way around.  You get to decide when you dip, and twirl, and go left.

But, you have decide that you want to lead, not follow.  You have decide that you want to make progress, not wallow in self-pity, or shame, or whatever you do with your problem.  You have to decide that you want to improve.  That’s the key.

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Tell me, do you have a problem that you have to manage?

Climbing up out of the miry pit of depression

I remember reading a book, a work of fiction, that described a battle between two kingdoms.  The good king was defeated in battle.  One of his son’s was killed.  As punishment for being defeated, he was chained to the dead body of his son front to front, and left there to die.  Sorry.  I know that’s pretty gruesome, but I wanted you to get my point.

This is how depression can be for me.  Chained to a dead part of myself, wishing release would come for me.  It’s like living with one foot in the land of the dead, and one foot in the land of the living.  It is a half-life lived in terror of truly sinking into death.

Some days, I just want to be left alone.  Scratch that.  MOST days I just want to be left alone.  I want to be left alone to think and drown in my own pool of misery.  Me, myself, and I like our little pity parties.  I can get pretty grumpy if it goes too far.  I don’t get much done.  I hid and avoid like the best of them.  I become an emotional couch potato.

But life happens all around me, whether I like it or not.  My son still comes to me in the morning for snuggles and kisses.  He looks to me to succor and support him in these tender years.  He wants me to interact on a deeper level than I’d like to sometimes.  It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s that I sometimes I feel like an empty well: I have nothing to give.  It’s not fair to him to give him my scraps, and then hope he turns out okay.  He may later resent me for “not being there.”

My husband needs support too.  At our best, we reciprocate life to one another.  We share in the deep bonds of marriage.  Empty wells have not much to give into that sort of thing.  Not to mention friends, church, commitments, and so on.  Like I said, life happens, whether I like it or  not.

Some days it’s all I can do to focus on what’s going on around me.  Some days it’s all I can do not feel utter despair and hopelessness.  Some days  it’s hard to believe that life can be better than it currently is for me.  Some days, death would be easier than taking one more step up my metaphorical mountain.

Every day is struggle.  I have to make a choice.  I  have to choose life, or choose to be half-dead, or choose to be all dead.  It’s up to me.  ‘Cause you see, I believe there’s more to life than this.  I believe it can get better.  I believe I can be free of this some day.

Depression is one of the toughest things to overcome.  Depression turns in on itself and becomes an out-of-control tumbleweed of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness growing bigger and stronger day-by-day.  The more you see life through this lens, the more things look bad.  The more things look bad, the more depressed you feel.  It feeds on itself.  It grows exponentially.  One might think there is no way to overcome depression.

They would be wrong.

There are a variety of ways that to overcome depression.  My best, and first action, is get on anti-depressant when it is so bad I cannot see my way out.  I am chronically under-produce serotonin.  Prozac helps to keep serotonin in my synapses longer.  Next, is to seek out some kind of therapy.  Usually, I go to various counselors in my church for spiritual guidance and prayer.  Then, with the help of God and others, I keep working out why I am depressed in the first place.  I keep working at it till I feel good enough to come off the Prozac.  You can choose to manage your depression without medication or therapy.  But you have to be strong-willed to keep yourself at check.  You need to have a strong goal in mind.

These days, I have attempted to produce more serotonin by exercising regularly.  This method seems to be going okay, but I don’t recommend it for those who are inexperienced at managing depression.

Some people meditate.  I pray, which is a form of meditation.  I need to connect with my Divine Healer, with my Source of Life, with the Author of My Salvation.  Right now, Jesus is my Prozac.  I go to God, the same way, my son comes to me.  I seek succor and strength to keep on keeping on when the mountain seems to steep today.

Some people overeat (like me), attempting to fill their hole with food, especially food that falsely replaces the missing neurotransmitters (this is why people like chocolate so much when they are sad).  Some people drink alcohol, some do drugs.  Some have lots of sex.  These aren’t methods that I recommend.  They are false prophets that fill your mind with false goodness.  And it never lasts.  And it just reproduces negativity and despair.

Sometimes I use self-talk to snap myself out of my thick, soupy fog.  Quoting scripture to myself works for me.  Particularly Psalm 42 and the famous Psalm 23.  I literally talk myself out of depression.

Depression can be overcome.  Slowly, steadily, and surely.  Someday, I will get there.

You just have to choose to overcome…and get to work.

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How do you manage your depression?

An essential truth on fear

If you look to the left of this post you’ll see this quote (and a bunch of other worthy quotes, I might add):

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela

I think that this one of the essential truths of humanity.  Fear is a significant daily motivator for many, many people, whether they know it or not.  Fear can define our actions, how we respond, what decisions we make.  The thing is, if most of what we are afraid is based on evidence, some would say truth.  And, we make decisions based on that truth, even if the action we take is slightly ridiculous.  For example:

  • Truth: The subway is a potentially dangerous place.  I may get hurt.
  • Action: Therefore I will walk the 6 miles to work.
  • Truth: I may get hurt on the roller coaster.
  • Action: Do not ride the roller coaster.
  • Truth: My husband beats me.
  • Action: I will lie about my feelings.
  • Truth: My mother says things that hurt my heart.
  • Action: I will keep my distance from my mother.

See what I mean?  Each thing listed is, or may be, true.  And therefore, you do what is necessary to protect yourself, even if it means compromising yourself, your principles, and/or your morals.

I am a person who has lived her life with fear.  Fear of just about anything and everything.  Even ridiculous stuff like “I might fall on the sidewalk therefore I must vigilantly stare at where I am walking, or avoid sidewalks altogether.”  Yeah, I did that.  Here’s another example: Fear would motivate me to act like a loon around people I didn’t know very well because I was afraid of being rejected.  If forced to talk to a new person, I would babble like an idiot all red in the face in sheer embarrassment at my ungainly social behavior.  For me, the safest thing was to avoid meeting new people altogether.  This fear lent itself to tension in  my marriage because my husband is rather fond of meeting new people.  Going to birthday parties of people I didn’t know would cause me a great deal of pre-festivities anxiety.  My husband has done a pretty good job being gracious with my crazy behavior.  But, I could tell he was sad because it was so hard for me.  Because of his desire to be supportive, my behavior limited his ability to be social.

I eventually got over the worst of this kind of social anxiety.  Mostly because, over time, I came to realize the new people weren’t going to hurt (mostly).  I felt like my behavior was wrong and it needed to change.  I had to force myself to calm down and give it a try, over and over again.  I had to force myself to appear to be calm, and have a nice conversation with someone I didn’t know.  This is where Mr. Mandela’s quote comes in handy.  He is saying that it is likely you are never going to stop feeling afraid. If you want to triumph over fear, if you want to conquer fear then do the very thing you fear.  Despite the trembling and shaking and your imagination going into overtime.

To overcome the fear, you have to ask yourself if being afraid is worth the price you’ll pay for allowing yourself to behave in fear?  Is it right to let yourself be bullied by your spouse?  Is it right to NEVER experience a roller coaster ride (well, maybe)?  Is right to walk 6 miles to work, in the snow, uphill both ways because something MIGHT happen to you?  Is it right for me to never form new friendships because I am afraid of rejection?  I have to choose one or the other.  I have to choose fear, or courage.  In other words, it’s my choice.  Mine.  No one else’s choice.  I  have to choose to overcome my fear.  I have to choose to be brave, even if I don’t feel brave inside.  And it’s your choice too.  YOU CAN CHOOSE to do the thing you fear.  That’s right, you have a choice.  Making the choice is point A, doing the thing you fear is point B.  The process of getting from A to B may look messy, but it’s a good messy.

Recently, I walked into a Zumba class at my local YMCA.  I didn’t know a single person in the room.  Not a soul.  It would be easy for me to do my usual wallflower routine and stick to the back and not talk to anyone.  No one was making an attempt to approach me and say, “Hi!”  Which would normally be just fine with me.  But, I would be missing out on making new friends.  Just last week I looked at the woman next to me and introduced myself.  I CHOSE to overcome my fear.  And, as it turns out this person is very kind and warm.  She shook my hand warmly, held it tightly, and introduced herself.  I felt good inside.  And, next time I show up for this class, if she is there, I will probably get a warm, “Hello!” from her, even if she can’t remember my name.  Overcoming my fear was totally worth it.

So, here it is:  Do what you fear.  Then you will be fear’s master, not it’s slave.  You will have unchained yourself from that wall.

Eventually, you will live free.

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So tell me, what are you afraid of and what can YOU do to overcome your fear?

Some inspiration

I ain’t got nothin’ to share today.

So, I am posting a couple of inspirational videos for you to watch.

Be inspired! Don’t give up hope!

For when your bleeding on ground…

We were knee deep in discussion about faith (in God) in my home group yesterday and the question came up about who we could help in shoring up their faith (in God).  The usual comments about how we need each other came up (being challenged by others, needing support, and etc).  And I blurted out the idea that when we have other people in our lives, they can help to cover us in battle while we are down on the ground bleeding.  Those times will come, you know.  You WILL be down on the ground bleeding occasionally.  It’s just part of life.

Ready for the coming battle…

Imagine yourself out on the battlefield of life.  You’ve trained all your life for this.  In your mind, you are strong and brave and ready for a fight.  Then, out of nowhere, a strong and huge beast attacks from behind and  you are down.  You didn’t expect this.  Being attacked from behind seems unfair.  And, now,  you can’t do anything about it.  Now imagine, that you are alone.  You can’t fight back  because you severely injured.  The beast has every opportunity to devour you.  And he does.  Because he can.

This where having friends really comes in handy.

Now re-imagine the same scenario, only this time you have a fellow warrior by your side.  The beast attacks and you are down, bleeding on the ground.  Your friend takes notice and comes to your aid.  Like any good warrior, he/she knows just the right amount of field medicine to stop the bleeding and bandage the wound.  Your friend also has his/her weapon.  He/she can fight back against the beast and protect  you while you recover from  your wound.  Your friend has your back.  The beast can’t have you for lunch, because your friend says, “No!”  Your friend can beat back the beast because he/she has a sword and your best interest at heart.  This gives you the chance to recover and get back up to fight another day.

So, what does this look like in a practical sense?

  • Your fellow warrior/friend is someone you trust because you’ve spent enough time together to really know their character.
  • You can call them up at anytime and tell them your struggles.
  • They will bring you coffee, or take to Starbucks (or another coffee joint of your choice).
  • They will bring you dinner and a movie.
  • They will give  you the box of tissues if you need it.
  • They won’t hate you for being stupid.
  • They will encourage you to keep trying, even when it’s hard.
  • They will tell you to stop being so silly (or stupid, or dumb, or whatever).
  • They will pray for you.
  • Can  you think of other things your friends do for you?

In short, you need friends. And, so do I.  We need each other on our word to a better life.  How else will we take that hill?

Go on.  Get out there.  Find some friends!

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So tell me,  got any friends that got your back?