Resolutions Backed by Faith AND Science - Kyle Hanawalt
Happy New Year everyone - welcome to 2019. I wonder if anyone else here has already done that thing that happens every new year where you are writing the date and realize you wrote the last years date, so you try to manipulate that last number to look like the new year.
SLIDE Sadly for all of us, 8’s don’t become 9’s too well.
SLIDE And of course we have finished the first week for our New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if you did one this year, but it seems to be as good as any time to try and cut something out of your life or add something in. I know someone who is starting this year off by not drinking I know someone who decided to become vegan at the beginning of a year. I once had the fail resolution of trying to learn a new language. And of course the most popular resolution is to start exercising or lose weight.
SLIDE Although we see in influx of these types of efforts at this time of the year. I think the truth is that we all throughout the year have some desire to change. To grow - become more like the people we wish we were.
And if you’re at all involved in or curious about spirituality, as we are here at BLV, the question becomes of course: how is God involved when we think about things like growth, changing, resolutions?
Unfortunately, I think a lot of religion has communicated God’s involvement in our change in a sort of shaming way. Like, God really wishes you were doing better. So, come on - shape up and stop letting God down. I wonder if you have ever come across that shaming implicit message of stop letting God down?
But I’ve experienced something different.
God has played a major role in my most positive life changes and that has felt really welcome, not like God is shaming me at all!
I want to tell you more about that, but just to say, if you’ve ever felt this shaming message of “shape up” with regard to God, you’re not alone. The history of the way a word Jesus used, “repent,” sort of explains why… I actually have a fairly negative connotation with repenting today. I tend to associate with the most shaming and judgmental versions of religion. SLIDE Like repent or burn SLIDE What is interesting is that actual word that Jesus uses, metanoeó, which we translate as repent, in Jesus’ day meant - to change. A change of mind, or belief, or direction. The interesting part to me is that over time as we’ve kept translating this word from the Bible into other languages, first latin, then french, and finally into english. The word keeps picking up more and more negative connotations to the point that today - according to webster's repent is much more than to change, it is Feel deep regret or remorse. And synonymous with being ashamed.
I honestly think that the way the meaning of repent has evolved prevents many of us from seeing just how powerful this message is from Jesus.
The message is that God helps us change, god helps us find the health, depth, meaning, connections we long for in life.
It means that Jesus is in the business of transformation
And this feels like great news to me because as I sit here in this new year and think of all the things I want to change, I feel I need some help.
I mean I think we live in a world today we have the power and opportunity to change more things about ourselves and our lives than we ever have. Want to lose weight - you can join a gym or do crossfit, or you can sign up for nutrisystem to help you eat better. Want to learn a language, we got rosetta stone. Want to read more - you can get books to read right on your phone Want to start meditating - there are apps that help with that Want to start dating - there are dating sites for that. Want to move - check out domu Want to learn to cook - check out a cooking class at the chopping block And the list goes on Which is a great thing. I think having the opportunity for change things is significantly preferable to not have the ability to change. However, I often wonder if humans were ever really meant to have available the options for change that we have today. Like think of someone who lived 3000 years ago living in northern europe. Learning japanese just wasn’t on the table. Today - if I really wanted to I could learn japanese And all of that opportunity for change actually just feels really overwhelming to me I think I have just come to the conclusion that I just need some help if I am actually wanting to change anything.
Because Lasting and meaningful change is really hard.
This all makes me think about something I referenced in a talk I gave about a year ago.
Something from The APA, The American Psychological Association. They highlighted the 6 most common reasons we that we struggle to change.
We rely on negative emotions for motivation. While it’s understandable to think that strongly felt negative emotions like regret, shame, fear, and guilt should be able to catalyze lasting behavior change, the opposite is true. Negative emotions do not motivate lasting change, they actually have a paralysing effect, working against lasting change
Knowing is not everything. We think that just knowing that a behavior is bad will lead to us changing. In fact just knowing something or having new information very rarely will lead to change on it’s own. To point back to the opening video, the rational side of our brain is significantly over matched by emotional part of our brains.
We try to eat the entire elephant in one bite. Change is a big thing, no matter what it is, it’s almost never possible to take all of it on at once. We often fail to change because we underestimate the process. Change very rarely happens over night and we forget that failure is usually a given and it’s probably going to be more than once. The time-tested change process models all factor in failure as part of the process, and encourage those who would change to see failing as a step, not as the end of the process or an excuse to stop trying.
We neglect the toolbox. Call them tools or devices or supports, whatever you like; the point is that we need certain reliable go-tos to support sustained change. Changing our diet requires, at minimum, that we find the knowledge about healthier ways to eat and a practical plan for making it happen. We all need a toolbox of such supports to rely on during the long haul. Some of the most common tools that we neglect are the people in our lives, involving a buddy or asking for support from a community are two of the most helpful things that can sustain real change in our life.
We don’t actually want to change. We will not find success if we are only changing because we think we should, or because of outside pressure. We actually have to want to change or see the value of changing ourselves. External pressure to change just doesn’t work, any change it produces is usually short lived. Think of people who want their significant other to change, “if they really loved me they would stop doing that thing,” The reality is that it isn’t about how much or little that significant other loves them, its about whether that significant other truly feels the desire to change for themselves. And finally the most common reason we fail. We try to change too many things. If you can commit to changing one behavior long-term, and really make it stick, that’s commendable. But trying to take on multiple behaviors at once is a surefire way to send all of them into a ditch. The internal resources we rely on to make change happen are limited — attention, self-control, motivation, etc. Trying to change too much places unrealistic demands on those resources and dooms our efforts early on.
Well that is great - I know why I so often fail, but how on earth do I actually succeed in changing.
Well, According what is known in psychology as the Stages of Change Model. All lasting change happens in stages Precontemplation, An unconscious processing that a behavior is becoming problematic. You have no intention to change the behavior, but something inside you is becoming aware this might not be ideal Contemplation, You are now actively aware that your behavior is be problematic and thus you begin considering the pros and cons of changing the behavior. Preparation, You have now decided that you will change the behavior and begin thinking through a plan to do so Action You actually take the step of changing the behavior, you begin following through on your plan for behavior change Maintenance. You are living in the behavior change and using supports to maintain that change. Relapse Almost every behavior change comes with some form of relapse. And you can relapse at any stage. This should be seen as a step toward change, not failure. After relapse you then reenter the cycle at one of the first three stages. (I love that this is part of the model! Feels so true to every experience of change I have experienced)
Now that is a lot of work. No wonder we can’t manage changing more than one thing at a time. And so it becomes important to make sure we are spending our energy in the right areas, that we are trying the change what is actually the best thing to change as that particular point and time.
This gets me thinking about a famous passage from the Bible -- something Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome -- especially that first step of what psychology calls Precontemplation. But from a spiritual perspective I might call it the Holy Spirit. That unconscious processing, something working and churning in our brian that comes even before our own mind’s effort to contemplate. SLIDE From Romans 8 26 The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
SLIDE Man, I love that. I just think of those stages of change. Like, I have no clue which area of needed change I should start with, and what should be on the backburner. But, the Holy spirit searches our heart. Even as we don’t know, he knows us.
Because the truth is-
You have like at least 8 things wrong with you right now. Like at least 8 things you should definitely change.
Some of us have more. I currently aware of like 12-15 areas for change in my life. But, we can only work on one or maybe two areas of change at a time
And God knows how we work, he understands human behavior.
My frustration is far too often religion can position God as a taskmaster- That he will lay out all the things he requires of us, all the things he wants us to change, and then holds us to task as we do them But, that is not at all the God Jesus showed to people. That is not at all the God I have found helping me find change. Like I think about the area of change I feel like God is leading me to work on right now. A few years back I did some counseling which was really helpful in understanding myself and my deficits better. One thing that came up in that was that I have a difficult time knowing what I want or need at any given time. And then I have an even harder time communicating what they are. So, what happens is that my needs don’t get met, because I was not in touch with what they were and then also never communicated them to those around me. I then get angry and resentful that my needs are not being met, which is totally unfair to the people in my life because I never told them what I was needing. While that was helpful to understand, but nothing really came of it - it kind of fell to the back burner.
That was until about 6 months ago.
I was on a walk and praying - and while I was praying I felt like this deficit of mine came up. It felt like it was sitting at the top of my brain. I felt this sense, that I attributed to God, that I need to get in touch with what I need and what I want more, and then get better communicating those needs and wants to those around me. Now, this sense did not feel shaming. I didn’t feel like “God Kyle, get your act together.” it felt far more compassionate. Like God was wanting me to like my life more - Like he wanted me to get better at this deficit, not because I was a terrible person, but because he thinks I’m awesome and wants me to actually get me needs met in life. The thing that strikes me about this is that I didn’t feel this urgency to address this when I first became aware of it, and I think that’s because God knew I wasn’t ready to deal with this yet. And being honest, up until that very moment where I feel like God highlighted this deficit of mine, this was not what I think I would have picked as the part of me that needed to change. I would have thought what needed to change were the places about myself that I felt the most self conscious or the most anxious Places in my life that other people mention the most Places in my life that I think my parents would most want me to change. However, I can say that it is clear to me that this absolutely the right thing for me thing to work on So, in this new year, I wonder if what the right change for you might not just be the loudest thing in your head, but rather might be something far more compassionate.
And so, what I want to leave you with here today is an encouragement to create space and look for God’s help in tackling whatever change you might be needing.
Here’s what I want you to try:
This week - set aside some time each day to be quiet. Some people find it helpful sit in one location. Others find it helpful to be moving - so walking can help. The goal is to try to quiet you mind enough that you might find some clarity on what ONE area of change is the right area of change for you right now. Make your goal to, by the end of this week, identify ONE area. Just one.
I find it helpful to get out all of the noise in my head first. This is all my todo list. My anxieties, the hopes, wants, and dreams I have. I find it helpful to get those out. At times I just started by acknowledging those in prayer. Other times I have found it helpful to write all those down, so that I know that they are there, but I can like physically put them aside. Then I just try to pay attention to my thoughts. Is there anything that feels like it is being highlighted or standing out.
There was something a pastor once said to me that was helpful to me in this process. God is the SLIDE encourager not the accuser If you want to hear God speaking to you through your thoughts and feelings, Pay attention to the encourager in your head not the accuser As thoughts pass through your head - ask how does this make me feel? That’s how we know something is God or not. It’s not that so much what is being communicated. It’s how the things said will feel to us. Does it feel toxic or fear-based or condemning or shaming or like you’re small? Not God. This is bad for your health. Or does it feel life-giving, supportive, understanding, empathetic, loving, for your benefit? That sounds a lot more like God. This is good for your health. God does challenge us to change. God does correct and redirect us at times, but he never does so in a toxic way. The God Jesus shows us is always the encourager of our change, not the our accuser
And in the end I think if we feel connection to a God that is not threatening but loving, the change and resolution and growth stuff more easily falls into place -
My hope for everyone here is that you would find God to be with you, in this as a loving, supporting and compassionate partner helping you find the change you need in life. And in turn that the symphony of voices filling our heads with the countless things we really change and the anxiety that goes with that would just be little quieter, lessened.
If you would stand with me I would love to pray