November ushers us into a season when we are more intentional about reflecting on all we have to be thankful for. This year, especially, let’s keep that tradition and place our focus on gratitude, kindness, and joy.
And I am very grateful for you! As an expression of thanks, here’s a small gift—an excerpt from my latest devotional, Find Joy.
When Anika and Kevin adopted a young boy who had been traumatized from birth, they quickly learned that he had a lot of rage, anger, and sadness—and it was daily going to be heaped onto his new mom.
Thankfully, Anika found a support group of similar moms that met every week or so. Suddenly, sanity! These women intimately understood her journey and could help navigate the choppy waters. For several years they shared stories, tears, groans, laughter, advice—and supported each other in hardships that would be difficult for an “outsider” to comprehend.
One day, when her son was seven years old, Anika heard about an initiative I had developed called The 30-Day Kindness Challenge, which helps improve your relationship with any person in your life. She instinctively felt God calling her to do it for her son. But she was a bit panicked about one of the main requirements: for 30 days, you say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else! What about her support group? How would it work if she couldn’t say anything negative about her son and their struggles?
Despite her misgivings, she went ahead with the challenge . . . and had a deep, convicting realization at the next support group meeting.
Anika realized that talking negatively about the experiences with her son had not actually been as healthy or as helpful as she originally thought. Instead, she had been feeling . . . pleasure. She hadn’t been bringing forward these stories to get sober-minded advice and prayer as much as for the pleasure of saying, “You would not believe what happened yesterday!”
She had been using that time with her friends to express her own anger and stoke the fire of discontent, and—if she was truly honest with herself—a deep worry that things would never change.
When we’re angry, we think it is healthy to vent or “let out a little steam” from the kettle so it doesn’t explode, right?
Wrong. Neuroscientists have found the truth is the opposite. When we “vent” in that way, we are actually activating an interconnected anger system in the brain. We’re actually turning up the heat!
Sisters, ironically, when we “vent,” it isn’t the bad feelings that are leaving us. It is our joy.
Anika realized she did indeed need to share about certain difficulties with her son. But when she reported it neutrally, as if she were sharing a news article, she eliminated the angry pleasure she had been feeling. She found herself genuinely seeking advice and also feeling less angry toward her son. A surprising, sweet joy began filling her heart. She really did love her son. And for the first time in a long time, she felt hopeful that things could change for the better.
* Excerpts taken from Shaunti’s newest book, Find Joy: A Devotional Journey to Unshakable Wonder in an Uncertain World from iDisciple Publishing
Have you already received your copy of Find Joy? Please leave a book review on Amazon!
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And check out her latest book (co-authored with her husband, Jeff), Thriving in Love and Money. Because you need a better relationship, not just a better budget.
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This article was first published at Patheos.