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Attachments 22

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Attachments 22

(Because of the consecration and the 30th Anniversary, I was forced to suspend the Attachment series.  But now that God has wonderfully blessed us to glorify Him in commemorating both events, we need to finish what we started.

So, this is the last message on the topic of Attachments and Attachment theory.  Last time, we were working on the “The Corrective Emotional And Relational Experience.”  We had covered the first four steps of this process:  Step One:  Remember Your Story; Step Two:  Recognize Your Pain and the Need for Healing; Step Three:  Reframe The Meaning Of Your Story; Step Four:  Repair Your Story—and Your Damaged Relationships and Emotions.  We move on to the next step.  You can follow along with me on page 276, in your Attachments book.)

Step Five:  Reconnecting

Clinton and Sibcy wrote at the beginning of the book, “we believe God created people for relationships, for attachments to those they hold dearest.  Thus, the ultimate destination in this healing journey is to build better, more enduring relationships—relationships that are rich, satisfying, and intimate, that help you grow stronger, that fill you with a sense of purpose and meaning, that inspire you to act with grace and mercy to the world around you, and that strengthen your spiritual awareness and enhance your ultimate relationship:  your relationship to God.”[1]

       “Of course, such relationships have conflict and even smatters of pain.  But, healthy relationships ultimately grow from and through conflict.  In fact, participants in the relationship actually begin to see conflict as an opportunity for growth.

       Attachment injuries and soul wounds break the ties that bind those relationships together.  They erode our willingness to trust others.  In some cases, where the offender is repentant, has sincerely apologized for his or her wrongdoing, and has promised to turn from his or her damaging ways, reconciliation and forgiveness are possible.  But when repentance doesn’t occur and reconciliation isn’t possible, our forgiveness should be given.  In this section, we want to suggest that reconnecting starts with forgiveness.”[2]

       In an upcoming series, I am going to work through the steps of forgiveness and reconciliation using a book entitled:  The Five Steps To Forgiveness.  But, for now, let’s work on what is before us!!!

       “When we’ve been betrayed by someone close to us, someone we trusted to make our needs a priority, an attachment injury forms, a wound that bleeds anger and oozes resentment directed toward the offender or oneself.  To move on and grow, to forgive, we need to work through these feelings.  David Stoop, an expert on forgiveness, describes three paths to forgiveness.  Two are destructive, while only one actually leads to resolution and reconnection.

       The first destructive path is denial or self-blame.  On this path we do one of two things:  We tell ourselves the injury didn’t really happen, or we acknowledge that it happened but blame ourselves for the injury.”[3]  We often clam up!

       “Where denial paves over the wound and pretends it doesn’t exist, self-blame says there is a wound but I’m at fault….  Self-blame comes with the added burden of responsibility, a burden that can be a real anchor to drag along.

       The second destructive path is bitterness.  Here our emotional feet get mired in the event; no matter how hard we try, we can’t move on from it.  We keep reliving the event, continually asking ourselves, ‘Why me?’  This incessant search for an answer that never comes only leads to intense anger and smoldering resentment.  (We often blow up!)  Replaying the event comes from our need to understand the world we live in, and from a need for justice.  However, since there’s no acceptable reason for someone to hurt you, and there’s no godly way for you to seek justice, you’re left trapped in the past.  Just like the path of denial, the path of bitterness eventually leaves you feeling hopeless and depressed.

       In some ways, we believe these two false pathways to forgiveness mirror two forms of insecure attachement:  The avoidant attachment style is rooted in denial, and the ambivalent attachment style is stuck in bitterness.”[4]  What we need to do is grow up!!!  But, growing up is work and it consists of actions.

       “The third, and constructive, path to forgiveness consists of eight steps:

       1.  Place blame appropriately.  You don’t act like the injury didn’t occur, you don’t blame yourself, and you don’t make excuses for the offender.  You’re honest about what happened and how it hurt you.

       2.  Grieve.  When you grieve, you appreciate what was lost….  In grieving there is usually vacillation between anger and sadness; both are important to the grieving process.  (I talked about this Sunday, as the proper response of a biblically mature woman.)

       3.  Empathize.  Empathy is the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective.  As an emotion, it helps us cooperate, to act with compassion and mercy, and to restrain aggressive impulses.  Empathy is critical to forgiveness because it helps us look at offenders in a different light.  We try to understand their history, background, and life experiences, not to give them excuses or to let them off the hook, but simply to try to understand what could have motivated them to do what they did.”[5]

       I have found empathy to be one of the least developed and most difficult abilities to develop.  In this church, many people think they have empathy, when in fact what they have is sympathy.

“Sympathy is the spontaneous response to another’s emotional experience, which wells up as the other’s pain evokes memories of similar hurts in the past.  It is a co-suffering:  one sufferer knows just how the other feels by connecting parallel injuries through projective identification.  Sympathy is a kind of projection of one’s own inner feelings upon another, for in judging that your suffering is understandable because I have suffered in similar fashion, my emotion is felt to be one with yours.”[6]  This is good, but it is not broad enough.  It is based upon the perception that your suffering is my suffering, i.e. that all suffering is alike.  This is true from a universal perspective, but untrue from a cultural and individual perspective.  “In sympathy, I know you are in pain and I sympathize with you.  I use my own feelings as the barometer; hence I feel my sympathy and my pain, not yours….  My experience is both frame and picture.”[7]  This is best shared face-to-face!

“Empathy is sharing another’s feelings, not through projection but through compassionate active imagination.  Empathy is an intentional affective response rather than the spontaneous automatic reaction of sympathy; it is the choice to transpose oneself into another’s experience in self-conscious awareness of the other’s consciousness.  Thus is it enriched by similarities between the observer and the observed, but it is based on differences.”[8]  In empathy, I empathically make an effort to understand your perceptions, thoughts, feelings, muscular tensions, even temporary states.  In choosing to feel your pain with you, I do not own it; I share it.  My experience is the frame, your pain the picture.”[9]  This is best shared side-to-side as each observes the object or event and then checks back with the other.

       “Keep in mind that there’s another side to empathy.  As you come to understand the background behind the other person’s ‘sin,’ you realize that you have sinned against others too.  Maybe not in the same way, but you have wronged others  Which means there are others out there who deserve to be angry with you.  You’re not pure.  Self-righteousness is hard to maintain when you’re not as righteous as you originally thought.  You need to be forgiven too.  Denying this reality puts you in the same class as the unforgiving servant in one of Jesus’ parables (see Matthew 18:23-35).”[10]  Self-righteousness and unforgiveness make it difficult to be empathetic.

       4.  Forgive.  There are two acts of forgiveness.  The first is being willing to partake in the forgiveness process, to go through the pain, to take steps necessary to achieve a forgiving heart.  The second act is to extend forgiveness—which may be easier said than done.  Several roadblocks can prevent it.  The three most common misconceptions about forgiveness are:  (1) ‘If I forgive, it means that I’m condoning the act.’  No.  Forgiveness begins with righteous anger, an acknowledgement that the offense was wrong and that it hurt you.  (2) ‘To forgive means I must forget—and I can never forget.’  This is also false.  Forgiveness does not mean you forget anything.  You just give up the right to replay the event, and you stop wishing for revenge. (3) ‘If I forgive, I become a doormat; I’m saying it’s okay for people to walk over me.’  This is blatantly false.  While you don’t hold the injury against the offender any longer, forgiveness does not mean you give him or her, or anyone else, a license to walk all over you.  As you will see, to forgive is different from reconciling.”[11]

       5.  Consider reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a one-way process.  It requires you to give up your anger and your desire for revenge.  Reconciliation, on the other hand, is a two-way process in which the other person is willing to apologize for his or her wrongdoing and to commit to not doing wrong again.  Even so, you want to be cautious until trust is earned.

       6.  Make peace with yourself.  Unyielding rage toward someone not only leaves you bitter and resentful, it locks you into a chronic pattern of self-doubt and self-criticism.  Forgiving others frees you to forgive yourself.  (This is why we don’t graph ourselves in the Grief Recovery Program.  You will normally free yourself, as you forgive, grieve, and free others!!!)  You learn to care about yourself in an honest and genuine way, and you learn to trust yourself and your ability to love others.”[12]

       “7.  Learn to trust again.  Attachment injuries and soul wounds shatter our ability to openly trust others and lead to isolation and emotional defensiveness or to excessive clinginess.  Forgiveness helps us free up emotionally so we can face closeness again.  Since we’re no longer so afraid of being hurt, we become more courageous and willing to try again.  This isn’t a speedy process by any means, but it is a potentially rewarding one.”[13]

       “8.  Reconnect.  The final step comes when you plug back into the world of relationships.  You allow yourself to love and be loved.  If you’re a parent, you reconnect with your children, honestly acknowledging your shortcomings, your distance, your criticism.  You make a commitment to connect deeply and warmly.  Your message to your loved ones is simple:  Above everything else, I love you.  If you are a spouse, you recommit to your marriage.  You consciously love your spouse, and you become very intentional about taking the necessary steps to improve the quality of your marriage.  If you are single or divorced, you commit yourself to no longer being isolated but to reconnecting with others—healthy people who are able to love you in return.”[14]

(Long before I read Attachments, and probably before it was out, I gave you a similar five step process.)

Be aware of the amazing truth that forgiveness is the same process as the grief process.  Its object may be slightly different, but God has shown me that they are the same processes.

       First, let me give you a motto:  “To fix it, you’ve got to face it!!!”  “How do you do that?”

Step #1:   Frame it.

We cannot face something that we have not even acknowledged.  So, first we need to acknowledge the fact that someone or something has disappointed us, let us down, or hurt us.  We need to frame that pain.

Step #2:   Face it.

We need to face the pain head on.  We need to avoid denial or deflection and face the fact that someone very important to us has failed us.

Step #3:   Feel it.

Facing the fact that we have pain and fully feeling our pain is not the same thing.  We need to plumb the depth of our pain.  We need to go down the roller coaster of pain to the bottom.  We need to grieve our pain.  We need to fill up our buckets with the tears of loss.  This drives us to God and God alone!!!  He is the only One that can sustain us in true grief.

Step #4:   Forsake it.

Once we have fully felt your pain, really grieved it, cried it out, we can forsake it.  We forsake the pain and release the person from their debt against us.  When we release that person, we release ourselves from the negative bondage with that person.

Step #5:   Feast about it.

Once God has brought us through the valley of the shadow of death, we need to feast about it or celebrate what God has done!!!  Henry Mitchell, in his dynamic books on preaching, proves the point that celebration and experience are critically important to intuitive learning.  It is our intuitions that change our feelings and our behavior.

Working Your Way to That

More Wonderfully Fulfilling Place

“Well, you’re here.  You’ve reached the end.  We’ve worked hard to give you a good look at relationships and the attachment styles governing them.  Our hope is that you’ve seen your own style within these pages and that if your style isn’t secure you’ve decided to change.  To help you, in this last chapter we’ve given you a map that defines the pathway to healing and helps you construct a platform from which to launch yourself.  We hope you take advantage of both.”[15]

       If you feel comfortable working on your own, good.  But, if you don’t, please seek help right away from our pastors, or Grief Recovery facilitators, or Sunday School teachers, or Christian Counselors like Pam and Gene Ecrement, or our lay helpers being trained in Barnabas.

       “As you work your way to that more wonderfully fulfilling place, don’t forget:  God created us for relationships.  Why?  Maybe so that we’d have enough practice in them that we would yearn for a healthy, intimate relationship with Him.  It’s upon that relationship, our relationship with God, that every good element of our lives, especially all our other relationships, is based.  Which means that concentrating on that relationship (i.e. our relationship with God) would be the principle focus of our lives.

       Thankfully, if our relationship with God is healthy and intimate, if it compels us to love others in godly, selfless ways, it will also help us fashion healthy, intimate earthly relationships, particularly with our husbands and wives.  And when our relationships are in order, they bring us fulfillment, safety, and comfort, and they fill our cup to overflowing with love and contentment.  They also act as a firm foundation from which we can launch ourselves into the other aspects of our lives—our jobs, our churches, our hobbies, and our friends.

       If you take on the challenge to change, you’ll never regret that decision.  Life is short.  We hope you’ve decided to start changig your life in the instant this page is turned.  May God be with you every step of the way!”[16]

Homework:    Attachments (finish the book).

       God has been giving us prophetic words of wisdom during each of these session and I want to end this session with another of God’s words to us.  I believe God would want us to know what He said in

Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB-U), “‘The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; ‘Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’”

1 John 4:11 (NASB-U), “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

John 13:34-35 (NASB-U), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. [35] By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Make the decision; do the work; rely upon me; and I will love people through you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in a way that will change the world!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 276.

[2] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 276.

[3] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 276-277.

[4] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 277.

[5] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 277-278.

[6] David W. Augsburger, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1986, p. 27.

[7] David W. Augsburger, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1986, p. 31.

[8] David W. Augsburger, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1986, p. 27.

[9] David W. Augsburger, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1986, p. 31.

[10] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 278.

[11] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 278-279.

[12] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 279.

[13] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 279-280.

[14] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 280.

[15] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 280.

[16] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 280-281.

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