November 23, 2016

Take Your Life Back by Arterburn and Stoop

When we live re-actively, we allow everything that happens to us to impact our self-worth. We don't respond to situations when our lives are out-of-control. Instead we react without thought. We're in danger of constantly watching what's happening with other people and measuring our satisfaction based on how fairly we feel we've been treated compared to them. When this happens, we are forever at the mercy of whatever is going on around us. We react to whatever scale of comparison we've established as meaningful. To change this instinctual reaction and instead respond thoughtfully to situations is a difficult change to make. However, it does bring freedom when we're willing to spend the time addressing our inner wounds and learn how to respond in healthy manner in order to "take our lives back".

No matter how many self help books we might read or how many things we might try to do on our own, it's nearly impossible to feel we have any control in our lives if we allow our circumstances to rule us. In Take Your Life Back, Arterburn and Stoop talk about the story of the prodigal son in scripture and how it shows that God can use the difficult times in our lives to bring us to the point of surrender. The elder brother in this story felt his situation was not fair and as a result, turned his disappointment and frustration inward, which only led to bitterness and anger towards his brother. Like the son in this story, if our souls are filled with this kind of negative emotion, we don't have any room left for love or gratitude. We are then in bondage to our own sense of entitlement and allow others to run our lives when we constantly respond to their actions.

 Any type of change is hard. And dealing with emotional pain is difficult. That's why many of us love to get lost in some kind of distraction so we don't have to deal with pain in our lives. But as a result of this avoidance, people can't get to know who we really are because we have a false self that we portray to others. The real self is one we keep locked away for fear of rejection or further wounds. Issues that result when we don’t address our relationship wounds and how impacted we are by the actions of others can include codependency, narcissism and even tendencies of borderline personality. Being willing to do the work to Take Your Life Back is needed for abundant living.

 And that’s just Part I of the book!

 After taking us through some of the problem behaviors we may bring on ourselves, Arterburn and Stoop then talk about how we can learn to be responsive rather than reactive. “Instead of reacting automatically out of our woundedness, we begin to see and believe that we have choices”. But we can't do this alone; we have to build connections with other people that can help us grow. Changing the way we think is the core message in Romans 12:2. This transformation also comes out of relationships with healthy boundaries where we are able to say no and ask for what we really want and what we really need. It requires letting go of the any resentment we may have built up over time. By going through this healing process, we remove the roadblocks that have kept us from other people and kept us from moving forward.

 Overall I thought this was a great book. It’s some pretty heavy stuff, but covers a lot of issues I see so often in the people that I'm counseling. Their 12 Steps of Life recovery process highlights the specific processes that are required for people to receive healing. I think this is a very good message for pastoral counselors or even for clients who do have some insight in the wounds that they've developed over time. My one caution is for people who have serious mental health concerns or unresolved trauma. I don't think they should go through this book alone. Even though the book addresses issues and talks about some of the things to do as part of the the healing process, it's not an extensive guide about healing. My fear is that some people would open up these wounds and not know how to address them on their own. So my one caveat is for people who are dealing with serious trauma from their past; they are best served by walking through this with a trusted pastoral or licensed counselor. But overall it is a good book that I recommend to people who work in care ministries in church since it provides information on the origin of issues that clients may struggle with.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale for free in exchange for an honest review.

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