Unraveling Life’s Knots

IMG_4125In a way, I have to chuckle. In a way, not so much. Untying and unraveling knotted and tangled shoestrings, necklaces, electrical cords, Christmas tree lights . . . and dog leashes are not my greatest skill sets. (One look at my collie’s first leash and you get the picture. Even his undercoat hair is tangled in the knots. Say it isn’t so!) With particularly messy knots, I tend to sigh and tell myself, “I’ll get back to this a little later.” But my little later often turns into an even larger contortion.

Yesterday I was reminded of another type of knot that I sometimes let ball up in my life. I’ll let this excerpt from the March 3 Jesus Calling devotional explain:

I love you for who you are, not for what you do. Many voices vie for control of your mind, especially when you sit in silence. You must learn to discern what is My voice and what is not. Ask My Spirit to give you this discernment. Many of my children run around in circles, trying to obey the various voices directing their lives. This results in fragmented, frustrating patterns of living. Do not fall into this trap. Walk closely with Me each moment, listening for My directives and enjoying My Companionship. Refuse to let other voices tie you up in knots. My sheep know my voice and follow Me wherever I lead. [Ephesians 4:1-6, John 10:4]

The knot of other voices or messages! You know, the messages that dip and loop and fray and tighten in our thoughts. The:

Couldn’ts   “I couldn’t get a job with them. I couldn’t be brave like that. I couldn’t volunteer. I couldn’t handle that relationship. I couldn’t imagine . . . .”
Shouldn’ts “I shouldn’t bother. I shouldn’t go back to school. I shouldn’t ask for a raise. I shouldn’t say how I really feel. I shouldn’t be so impatient. I shouldn’t really care.”
Can’ts “I can’t do this. I can’t stop dating him. I can’t switch careers. I can’t say “no” to my kids. I can’t speak in front of others. I can’t stay consistent with exercise. I can’t live without . . . .

Fortunately, we are not left alone to wiggle and manhandle the messes and messages that snowball their way into our lives. Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling explains how to free our minds from those knot-tying murmurs. Learn to discern the Shepherd’s voice and follow where He leads in your minutes and days.

And about those jumbled cords and dog leashes? Patience, my friend. Patience. I’m right there with you.

** I also highly recommend Dr. Helen McIntosh’s Let’s Talk series on reframing our thoughts. Dr. Helen’s book Messages to Myself is one of the most poignant and powerful books I’ve ever read on identifying lies we believe and unknotting them with truth.

Brave and Resilient Tip #99: Learn to discern the messages that tie you up in knots.

Let’s Talk

No Sticky-Note Words

Q. Some words people say to encourage just seem empty – almost fake. Could you talk about that?

A. Let’s Talk! Yes. You are so discerning! Words are meant to carry meaningful messages. We hope we are giving reflective and non-hurtful messages, but in that effort we can also be guilty of giving seemingly positive but empty messages. Our messages must be tethered to substance and truth, or they are in the category of a sticky note or temporary patch. These messages can be hurtful too if they are artificial, give unasked-for advice, or wound.

I have seen this occur most often when someone is in a difficulty, and friends don’t want them to hurt, so the friends offer common positive phrases that actually wound. Examples are: “I know just how you feel and things will get better.” Or, “Time will take care of this.” Or, “Just think about this (or memorize this).” Slam dunk, hit and run. Hurting people need empathy, not a “get it together” message—no matter how positive it may sound. Positive is not always helpful! In fact, sometimes it feels like the one with the “positive” words is actually talking down to the one who is hurting. The subliminal message is, “I know what to do next and you don’t!” Think about it! Words sure matter…

I hope that you have been chewing on or thinking about your words this week! Thanks to several of you who sent in some Rs to add to my list last week. I have listed them below:

From Martha : Refire. Remain (until you are endued with power from on high.). Relate. Redirect. Refurbish. Reevaluate.

From Jesse: Respect Yourself. Self-Realization. God-Realization. Personal Responsibility. Retreat when in Reaction. Renaissance. Revitalize. Hit the Refresh button often. Return Home (Heart). Respond. Rejuvenation. Relax. Relaxation. Reorganize.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 12: 18 “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15: 2 “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.”

Proverbs 18:13 “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”

Proverbs 25: 11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

James 3:5 “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.


Let’s Talk

Healthy Boundaries for the Christmas Season


Q.  Could you give us your “Top 5 Boundary Blessings” for the season?

A. Let’s talk about helping our hearts to have peaceful memories in this next week and in the next year. Several times this year I have said, “IT MATTERS what messages we take in and what messages we give others.” So, let’s do a quick review of boundary suggestions to bring blessings:

• If your boundaries (setting a limit and saying no) are too weak, you might be enabling the poor choices of others or even your own. We are called to serve others, but not be a Christmas doormat in our permissiveness.

• It is not healthy to assume the responsibilities of others. We rob others from learning responsibility if we take theirs on. Many of us are “fixers” and like feeling important with a rescue, but what is the message to others? Ask for help this season if you need it, and resist rescuing others who haven’t asked for help.

• If your boundaries are too harsh, you might be sending messages to others to not come near you. Could your anger, demands, or fragility be messages to others that create distance this season?

• It’s OK to say “no” to others if you have an “uh oh” feeling. Listen to the quiet voice inside you.

• It’s OK to say, “I can’t do this, but I can do this . . . .” Negotiate! Let your voice be loving and respectful – but firm. Is it hard for you to say no? In some families, the “no” word feels harsh; but if said respectfully, it helps families establish healthy limits. Is your message modeling a healthy verbal exchange for other family members? That’s a gift exchange!

[We’ll continue this theme in January 2014!]

For Deeper Reflection

This season is about messages, as the message of Jesus’ birth pushes back darkness. May the breaking through of finding your own place and voice be like the dawn following a long dark night. Be blessed by the following message, condensed from the December 2013 newsletter of Ransomed Heart Ministries. John Eldredge writes:

Whatever else Christmas might be, it is a demonstration beyond all doubt that God keeps His word – He intervenes. He promised He would come . . . and He came. On a cold night in Bethlehem, in a far corner of the Roman Empire, when His people had pretty much figured the Kingdom would never come, He came. We have to push back all the other holiday messages for a moment and simply let the reality of the Incarnation hit us fresh again. He said He would come, and He did.

He is coming, soon, once-and-for-all. Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. If you haven’t spent time in the woods through the last hours of the night, you might be surprised to know that it tends to get very cold right before the dawn. It can be a bit disheartening for the uninitiated, if you do not know that the bitter chill is merely a sign that things are finally turning, and the night is about to fade away. Dawn is coming, warmth and light and beauty are coming even though it just got colder than it had been all night.

John 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

Romans 13:12  “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”


Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.