Sunday, January 10, 2016

Are You Too Cautious?

September 23, 2014

I love speaking at retreats and camps. I was blessed last weekend and want to thank all the participants and co-workers from Herald's Family Rebuilding Center (HFRC). I also want to thank James (my husband of 39 years) for being my chauffeur, tech support, and real life prop for object lessons on Understanding Self, Handling Emotions, Resolving Conflicts, and Communicating Love.
Most couples would agree with me that "Falling in love is easy, but maintaining a close relationship is not." What I used to consider as "suffering" and "constant grinding" due to our differences have turned out to be God's way of shaping and molding us.

Growing in relationship with self, others, and God often means we have to step out of our comfort zone. I definitely had times that I was too cautions to try something new (or just different).

As you know, I was born and raised in Hong Kong so my native tongue was Cantonese. Because James came from Taiwan, we conversed in English when we met. It might be one of the reasons that we never argued during our three months of dating.

After marriage, James was brave enough to ask me to teach him Cantonese. While I was happy that he cared enough to speak my language, I was offended whenever he pointed out that my tone of voice and pace of speech sounded like scolding. I would defend myself when criticized. Of course my natural tendency was to stick to my strengths, and avoid showing my weaknesses such as speaking Mandarin.

When I started going to church in 1989, I found the courage to start speaking Mandarin. I still remember one sister's negative comment about my Mandarin. It hurt, but I am so glad that I focused on God's love and acceptance.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf educator, said: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Sometimes it's wise to be cautious, particularly when physical safety is at stake. However, when we play it safe simply to protect our ego or heart, we may close off possibilities that could bring us greater joy and fulfillment. Life is what we make of it, shaped by our choices. What are you choosing? Answer "true" or "false" to the following statements to discover if you are too cautious.

Set 1

1. Life doesn't feel safe. I'm content with things as they are and prefer to stay in my "comfort zone."

2. I'm afraid something bad will happen if I veer off my usual course. I feel safer and more confident when I stick to what I already know.

3. I frequently worry "what if...?" If I can't be certain of the outcome, I won't take the risk. Being rejected, looking stupid and failing are not options.

4. I know there are business and personal opportunities I've missed out on because of being so risk-averse.

5. My fear of the unknown is paralyzing. When I look at my life, I have many regrets about things I didn't do.

6. I feel bad about myself for being so cautious. I think of myself as a coward and I expect that others see me that way, too.

Set 2

1. I am committed to growing myself bigger than my fears. It's not that I'm not afraid; it's just that I am more committed to my goals and know the cost of playing it safe.

2. Developing courage is like building a muscle. The more I practice taking risks, even small ones, the more empowered I feel.

3. When I have a goal or dream that feels big and scary, I minimize feeling overwhelmed by "chunking it down" into more manageable, short-term steps.

4. I enlist the support of those who can help me move beyond my comfort zone to a more fulfilling life.

5. When I take risks, I trust I can handle whatever comes. If I fall, I know that I can get up again. I don't conclude that I shouldn't have tried or that I'm a failure.

6. My biggest successes have come when I've taken a big leap of faith.

If you answered True more often in Set 1 and False more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn some effective ways to move beyond your comfort zone to live a more fulfilled life. You could call me if you'd like support in exploring this further but here is some food for thought.

Christians or not, we all face uncertainties and have to take risks sometimes. Being cautious is normal, understandable, and often time necessary. However, when it comes to intimate relationships in marriage and family, being too cautious and defensive may lock us into negative destructive patterns. We need awareness and desires for positive constructive interactions if that's what we want.

Because God loves us and He is faithful, we can take risks like Peter walking on water, and like queen Esther approaching her king because, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..." (1 John 4:18)

Start examining your fear that is holding you back. Are you afraid of failure and weaknesses? Like Apostle Paul, we can trust that "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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