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We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us!

pogo quoteWe Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us! “If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin! You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.”

That statement is from a blog I recently wrote called “Grow thick, armor-plated skin.” And I discussed ways to deal with the barbs, criticisms and judgments directed toward us from others.

However, I realized there’s another, perhaps even more important, truth related to growing thick, armor-plated skin. We need to protect us from us! Or, as the cartoon strip “Pogo” declared in 1970: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.”

We can be our own worst critics, thinking and often saying things like:

  • “I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, talented enough, etc. Basically, “I’m not good enough.”
  • “It’s not going to happen for me, no use in trying.”

Examples of this type of thinking go all the way back to Biblical times. Moses was chosen by God for a special task—to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And one of his first tasks was to confront Pharaoh. But Moses said, “since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?....O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Basically, he was saying: “God I can’t do that. I don’t have what it takes.”

But Moses had a job to do and God wasn’t going to let him talk himself out of his assignment – he needed to speak up and lead the Israelites to the Promised Land!

We, like Moses, have something to do here on earth, a purpose for our lives. And we must not let those inner voices, fears or doubts stop us!

Lisa, a young lady in one of our counseling training classes, declared she was very shy and privately let me know that she could not speak up in class. She kept saying she had stage fright, she wasn’t good with people, etc. (She probably identified with Moses!) While I respected her wishes and did not call on her, it was interesting to see what began to happen. She came to every class, sat quietly and absorbed every word.

Gradually you could see her becoming more comfortable and then one day it happened! She raised her hand and made a comment!

From that day forward, she began to come out of her shell like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She responded to the class challenge to “step out of your comfort zone” and today, she is teaching in a foreign country, a confident, well-spoken ambassador for God and the US. She has developed thick, armor-plated skin for herself!

Let me share some of the principles Lisa learned in class:

  • Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

Albert Einstein stated: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Steve Furtick, Christian author, puts it this way: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When you compare yourself with others, you are indeed acting as your own worst enemy.

Instead, celebrate you and your unique assets, abilities, strengths and gifts. Write down five of them right now to get started! You can also study what God says about you in the Bible. I have a list of 38 scriptures declaring who you are. If you’d like a copy, send me a note.

  • Think and speak differently

Here are three declarations I make each morning:

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

“I feel happy; I feel healthy; I feel terrific!”

“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better!”

  • Declare your progress, not your limitations

“When I read or hear something new that will help me, I write it down and practice it as soon as I can.”

“I’m developing networks in my field.”

“Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’m going to keep trying.”

“God, I’m going to do the best job I can do, then leave the rest to you.”

When you (1) stop comparing yourself with others, (2) think and speak differently and (3) declare your progress, not your limitations, you will certainly develop thick, armor-plated skin for yourself.  As you do, it will change how you deal with adversity, set-backs and discouragement.  Instead of being “your own worst enemy” and feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, you start becoming “your own best cheerleader!”

            Decide today that even if long ago someone made you feel “not good enough,” you are determined to meet the enemy and defeat him.  If Moses and Lisa can do it, so can you!!

Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin - A Success Principle

                                    Success Principle:

knight2

“Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin”

           If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin!   You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.

          That was really brought home to me by an email I recently received:

“Dear Barbra, I have just received a revelation of why I get depressed and it is thrilling! While my intellect is at the graduate college level, my ability to withstand offense is very childish.”

The writer goes on to say, “Offenses collect on me like lint and I have buried their effects in the roots of bitterness. All the while smiling and ‘praise the Lord,’ never letting anyone know.”

John Bevere found this phenomenon of “taking offense” so troubling, he wrote a book entitled The Bait of Satan in which he discusses how Satan destroys lives and ministries because people are so easily offended.

Obviously, my writer is not the only one who struggles with the ability to withstand offense! However, if you wish to be successful, it is imperative to grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin.

“The higher your heights, the greater number of detractors you will have and the sharper their attacks will be.” Paul Brunson noted in his article, “20 Successful Habits I learned Working For Two Billionaires.” (Oprah Winfrey and Enver Yucel)

“How do you actually develop that thick skin?” you may ask, because this is one of those principles which sounds amazingly true but exceedingly difficult to develop. As seems to be the case in any principle I share, I’ve had to learn the hard way how to apply that theory!

As the e-mail writer experienced, I too put on a mask of confidence for years but would cry myself to sleep many nights because I worried that someone didn’t approve of me or didn’t like what I had said or done.

I remember the day I walked down the hall and noticed two nurses with their heads huddled together in a whispered conversation. As I grew near, they looked at me and immediately stopped talking. I, of course, just knew they were talking about me! And, of course, it obviously wasn’t good, because they stopped their discussion!

For the rest of the day and into the evening and even the next day, I worried about that incident. (I obviously had not yet developed armor-plated skin!) However, that was a turning point in my self-development. I instituted two rules for myself which may help you as well:

  1. Assume the best until you know the worst. Until I actually hear someone say they don’t like me or hated what I had to say, I’m going to assume they like me and anything I’m doing.
  2. If I can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, I have to take action.
  • Assume the best until you know the worst:

I found out later the two nurses were talking about a confidential family matter –

which of course had nothing to do with me And I have discovered along the way, that’s usually the case. People are not nearly as interested in us as we assume they are. . I’ve known people to obsess over a comment like a dog worrying a bone, and they’ve carried offenses for months or even for years!

When you grow thick, armor-plated skin, you learn to let those incidents bounce off you without ruining your day. Without that protective skin, your physical, emotional and spiritual health all suffer. Medical research reveals 80-90% of illness is related to stress!

  • If you can’t let something go within 24 hours, take action.

For me, that usually means talking to the person involved – “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about the other day. I was just wondering if I have done anything to offend you.”

The worst that can happen is you discover they really intended to be offensive. Usually, however, they’re just what we used to call being a busy-body, trying to run your life instead of taking care of their own business! “Oh, hon, you should never wear your hair that way!” “Why don’t you have more kids?” “You can’t even do your job right!” On and on it can go.

As you begin to grow that thick, armor-plated skin, something interesting happens. Instead of feeling attacked, you begin to step back and think a bit more logically. Why might that person be saying something so offensive? Generally speaking, it comes from a place of insecurity or hurt. The well-known saying, “Hurt people hurt people” is really true!

You might ask yourself, “Is there any truth to what that person said?” “Hmm, should I really get another hairstyle?” If the answer is, yes, you take action in that direction. If the answer is “no, I like myself the way I am,” you just realize that person is coming from a place of unhealed hurts which is their problem, not yours.

Action then takes the form of asking God to help you love them anyway, and/or forgive them.

Guess what? It can happen! That same writer observed in the e-mail: “I’ve seen people say hurtful things to you, and you don’t seem to be bothered.”  And if I did it, you can do it – you too can grow thick, armor-plated skin!

The bottom line to growing thick, armor-plated skin? Two rules:

Rule 1: Assume the best until you know the worst.

Rule 2: If you can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, take action.

Learn to know who you are, like who you are and never let others distract you from your purpose and goals. You’ve got a job to do while you’re here on earth, and you need to Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin so you can do it!

Yes! I said No!

noHow to Say NO!  Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away

 No! – A simple, two-letter word. Should be easy to say, right? No! In my experience, this small declaration of independence is often the result of a hard-fought war within the mind. Victory can be won, but the battles are tough!

Dr. John Townsend, author of the book Boundaries, says that “No” is the Christian curse word – that’s a pretty strong statement but with so many believers who “can’t say no,” I can see why he would say such a thing! Let me give you an example:

A young man recently confessed he had been asked to be a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, greeter, deacon and part of the leadership team at his church. He had a wife and two small children and oh by the way, he also worked a full-time job!   While he enjoyed each aspect of his involvement at church, it soon became obvious his priorities were messed up!

He wanted to say no, he needed to say no, but he said yes anyway. As a result, he had begun to feel used and resentful; on his way to burn-out.

He, like many of us, needed to learn how to say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away.    What do I mean by these terms?

blow upBlowing up! – We “take it” and “take it” and “take it,” until we can’t “take it” any more! Like the young man above, we take on too much! From a place of resentment we explode in anger, and usually the relationship is blown up as well!

Wimping Out – We don’t want to agree, but we also can’t quite get up the courage to say no. So we excuse ourselves by muttering things like: “If I don’t agree, they’ll be mad,”

“They’re in a bad place right now.” “They need me.”

“They won’t like me.” We can find plenty of reasons to “wimp out!”

Running Away - When you try to avoid the other person, change the subject or come up with a bunch of excuses. These are often the people who burn out and stop doing ANYTHING, going from one extreme to the other.

                                                 The question then becomes:

 How do we say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away?

 Pass the “P’s” Please

 A couple of “P’s” can help: -- Planning and Practice. Let’s talk about Planning first:

Planning – If you haven’t been very good at saying “No,” you will need to be prepared; get some tools for your toolbox. Here are three: Tool #1 – Keep It Short and Sweet

Don’t explain, but keep your “no” short and simple. Too often, people feel obliged to expound on why they need to say no. However, the longer the story, the more others can find reasons why that doesn’t work (for them!)  “Oh, don’t worry,” they’ll say, “it won’t take that long,” “it’s just for this time,” etc. etc. etc.

I recently called to cancel our TV subscription. You know what’s that like, right? They have specially trained people to talk you out of cancelling and often, you wind up signing up again!

I was prepared this time, however, with something I call

Tool #2 – The Broken Record Technique 

Me: “I want to cancel our TV subscription.”broken record

TV Employee: “Oh, what brought you to this decision?” (ready to counter any objections I might offer)

Me:Broken Record” – repeated same thing: “I just need to cancel our TV subscription.”

After a couple of other efforts to get more information from me, the employee said, “well, it’s your decision. We’re sorry to lose you as a customer.”

Yes! I was able to say No!

Tool #3 – Learn a New Phrase – “Let Me Get Back To You”

             Suppose you’re asked to add something to your already full schedule and you know you don’t have time. However, you’re filled with anxiety when you even contemplate “disappointing” them.   It’s important not to use this as a “wimp out;” which can drive you to say, “Sure, I’d be happy be help! Instead, you pull out Tool #3 and say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”

Within 24 hours, call and say, “I’m sorry; I checked my calendar and I can’t do that. I wish you all the best!” If necessary, use Tool #2 – Broken Record – and simply repeat what you’ve already said. Then, pump your fist and say, “Yes! I was able to say No!”

Ok, you’ve Planned and you’re Prepared; the next step is to Practice. We can have very satisfying conversations in our heads that don’t translate to our tongues very well. When you practice, familiarity brings comfort and confidence.

Practice using each of the tools listed above:

  • In front of a mirror
  • With someone else
  • Writing down exactly what you want to say

Then – enjoy the freedom which comes from Learning To Say No Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away!