Identifying Goats, Part Three


8. “Goats” have a negative versus positive attitude. Their glass is half empty.

From the old TV program Hee Haw:
Gloom despair and agony on me deep dark depression excessive misery. If weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all.

Gloom despair and agony on me.  The theme song for some people’s lives. They have allowed this tape to play over and over again in their head until it’s all they see or believe.  They desperately need you to manage their lives, to make them happy, to fix their problems, to be miserable when they are miserable—-they need you, without qualification or reservation—- over and over again. Sensing their need and not wanting them to be miserable, we rush to their side. We cannot fail to be influenced, whether for better or worse, by the people we choose to be a part of our lives. If constant drama and trauma and pain are a part of a friend’s life, and they expect you to experience each one with them without seeking a way to break the pattern, you will become exhausted and your own attitude and spiritual well-being will be affected.
Good company builds up our hearts.

Good company encourages us to step outside the box.

Good company is not threatened by our success.

In reality, healthy individuals help us to progress toward Christlikeness.

As you spend time with individuals, deciding whether or not the relationship will be good for you, you have to remember it takes time, objectiveness, seeking counsel from your friends who are spiritually grounded, to determine the health of a relationship. Sometimes it even means you may lose the relationship.

Take inventory of your relationships:

  1. Am I more loving since entering into this relationship or becoming more detached from family and friends?
  2. Am I more honest, or am I becoming compliant?
  3. Am I more forgiving or more idealistic, overlooking faults and concerns?
  4. Am I maturing or regressing?
  5. Whose needs are being met?

9. Unsafe people gossip instead of protecting your confidentiality.

There is nothing more painful or hurtful than having our most trusted information betrayed by someone to whom we had entrusted ourselves. In my counseling practice I have seen individuals who are incredibly wounded because someone violated their confidentiality or trust. The wounds are deep, often leaving permanent scars.

A gadabout gossip cannot be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity will not violate a confidence.” Proverbs 11:13, MSG
Mean people spread mean gossip, their words smart and burn.” Proverbs 16:28, MSG

10.Unhealthy people are highly self-centered and self-obsessed.

They have an “ I versus We” perspective on life.

They see or hear no one else.

They are bad listeners and give little no consideration to what others have to say.

They are inconsiderate and have little compassion.

They will cut off conversations and bring the focus back on themselves.

It becomes their earnest desire to be seen and heard more than anyone else, making them oblivious to the opinions, suggestions, and advice of others.

Any conversation they participate in either pertains to them or eventually turns back to them.

They view others as a means to get what they want.

They have a tunnel vision which starts from and leads back to them.

They are driven by the fear of losing control.

Last, they tend to be moody and unpredictable.

They may be nice one minute and the next minute explosive.

The ten characteristics described in the previous posts are just a few of the unhealthy types of people we encounter on a daily basis. Whether or not we choose to enter into, or continue in, relationships with people who live within these patterns is a determining factor in our own mental, spiritual, and even physical health. In our next post, we will look at why healthy boundaries in relationships are so important to our own health.

Identifying Goats, Part Two


Here are four more characteristics of identifying the “Goats” in our lives.

4. Unhealthy and Unsafe people have no problem with lying versus telling the truth.

Have you met someone who you thought “you knew,” only to find out that person was not even close to the person you thought they were? Deception is a strong tool Satan uses to manipulate and to destroy us. Deception can destroy and weakened us spiritually and emotionally.  These individuals are selfish and self-centered. They use lying as a deceptive strategy to cling to and manage lives and relationships for their own personal gain. If one person in a relationship is a liar, the relationship will not grow or prosper.

But no one who traffics in lies gets a job with me; I have no patience with liars.” Psalm 101:7, MSG

5. Unhealthy and Unsafe people will demand your trust instead of earning your trust.

“Goats” feel they are entitled to your trust.

You will often hear statements like these:

“You just do not trust me.”

“Why are you questioning me about where I was or who I was with?”

“You do not believe me.”

“I really don’t need this, this is your problem not mine.”

And the more you try to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the more defensive the individual gets. They have a superiority of being above any question or explanation you ask. If you really want to upset them, ask them to prove their trustworthiness.

The only Being in the universe we can wholeheartedly trust is God Himself. People can earn trust in our lives by proving themselves to be trustworthy and Christ-seeking.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart, don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He is the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6, The MSG
6. Unhealthy and Unsafe people are self-righteousness instead of humble.

They are charming and delightful– as long as things are going their way.

Unsafe people rarely identify with fellow sinners and their struggles. Why? Because they see themselves as somehow above all of that, almost to the point they project  an “I am better than you” attitude. It will be very difficult for you to be on even ground with these individuals.  Sadly, some individuals who proclaim their Christianity have this type of mentality about sin in general.  They talk about other people “in the world” as if they are somehow not able to identify with them and their struggle with sin.

7. Unhealthy and Unsafe individuals will not be consistent in their behavior; they may appear stable for short periods of time, but they have longer periods of instability.

How does it make you feel when you try to help someone, only to find that all your efforts have been in vain?

What happens when what you do is never enough? Regardless of how many solutions you offer, none quite fits their needs. No solutions will lift them out of their misery. Look in the mirror and realize, “You cannot heal this person. Only God can heal and only individuals can choose to change.” Do not feel guilty about his or her dysfunction.
Important Note: There are legitimate burdens, overwhelming circumstances in which people genuinely need help.  Who we are and how we act are very closely related.  There are unhealthy characteristics in all of us that may be hidden for a period of time, but not for a life time. They will eventually leak out of each of us.

We should all be open to a little character audit, especially from the people we care about. Accountability is needed for personal spiritual, mental and physical health. It improves who we are and creates healthier relationships.  

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.  Let the Word of Christ – the Message- have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room  in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing; sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives, words, actions, whatever, be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Colossians 3:15-17, MSG

Identifying Goats, Part One


So what does a Goat look like?

Here are three of the characteristics Paul gives in 2 Timothy 3.

1. Individuals who think “they have it all together.”

These individuals will never admit any weakness. We know that relationships and friendships are built on confessing our weakness and vulnerabilities. Individuals who think they have it all together often will leave you feeling disconnected, weak, giving you the feeling you are beneath them.

There is often an implied superiority in the one who seems to have no need for other individuals. There is an imbalance in the relationship, and you often take the weaker role because this person will not allow you to be strong. You become dependent on the “strong one” because the weaker individual is attracted to the stronger one.

James 5:16 says, ”Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed (HCSB).” There is to be an equality in Christ-centered friendships that allows us room for give and take as we bear one another burdens and work together through the daily joys and sorrows of life. When one person dominates a relationship, that is a warning sign that there is an unhealthy imbalance in the relationship.
2. Individuals who are religious instead of spiritual.

Religious individuals are dedicated to God, Biblical knowledge, appearing strong and having it all together.

The question is: do they really know God?

Do they allow themselves to open up about their struggles, their sinfulness and imperfections?

Are they truly relational individuals?

There is a difference between people who are religious and people who are spiritual. Spiritually healthy individuals draw us closer to being the people God intended us to be. These individuals demonstrate character traits that are good enough that their very presence on our lives is positive.  These individuals are accepting and honest and are very much present in our lives. They help us bear good fruit in our lives.

We are intended to be in relationships, healthy relationships. God designed us first to be in a relationship with Him. Proverbs 13:20: ”Become wise by walking with the wise, hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces (MSG).”

Proverbs 14:7: “Escape quickly from the company of fools, they are a waste of your time, a waste of your words.”

Proverbs 14:12-13: “There is a way of life that looks harmless enough, look again- it leads straight to hell. Sure these people appear to be having a good time but all the laughter will end in heartbreak.

Galatians 5: 25-26: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implication in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Goats often push those around them to become more religious, to follow more rules or to become more like them.

Sheep walk with us, mutually encouraging one another to become more like Christ.

3. Individuals who have no problem saying “I am sorry” but never change their behavior

These individuals avoid working on their problems. Instead of dealing with the issues in their life, they shut off any awareness of their own problems and of the God who has the power to transform.

You will often notice:

  • Statements like, “I don’t have a problem, I can change.”
  • These individuals often avoid complete submission to God or His will
  • They refuse to own their imperfections
  • A refusal to forgive others
  • A lack of a hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • A lack empathy
  • They blame others

True confession and repentance involves simply accepting responsibility and then committing to a change in behavior. Those who apologize but always explain or justify their behavior are not interested in glorifying God, but glorifying themselves.

Goats talk a good talk, but don’t change.

Sheep continually allow the Holy Spirit to make them more like Jesus by admitting shortcomings and allowing them to be strengthened in Christ.

Do You Have Goats in Your Life?


Have you ever asked yourself these questions:

  • Why do I keep being attracted to the same friends?
  • Why do I choose people who let me down?
  • Why is my boss so critical, what have I done?
  • Why do I attract irresponsible people?
  • Why am I drawn to the wrong types of people, what is it about me that attracts them, what do I have written across my forehead?  Why? Why?

Some of the reasons may be:

  • Fear. We act on the need to reach out for a relationship; we are afraid to say “no,” afraid to set boundaries from fear of rejection.
  • We are stressed, need companionship, someone to listen to our problems– and even our joys and successes.
  • We see an individual who appears to have wisdom, understanding, and empathy, and they often appear to offer guidance and soft place to fall.
  • We lack the ability to say “no” to our destructive impulses.
  • We do not like to hear other people tell us no, even if it is in our best interest.
  • We seek instant gratification.
  • We are “fixers.” We can make them better. “They need me,” we tell ourselves.
  • We are easily manipulated and controlled.
  • We want intimacy and closeness, and do not consider the cost failing of to ask ourselves, “Whose needs are being met?”
  • We fear of abandonment.
  • We do not like confrontation and we lack the skills for resolving conflict.
  • We choose to be a victim, consciously or subconsciously, instead of choosing a purposely, passionate, Christlikeness that exercises self-control.
  • We battle addictions and compulsiveness ourselves.
  • Our life is disorganized with a lack of commitment to God.

Proverbs 14:15 says, ”The gullible believe anything they are told. The prudent lift and weigh every word.”
Proverbs 14:30 says, ”A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones.

Often our desire for companionship, or our own unhealthy past experiences, cloud our judgment and prevent us from making godly choices in relationships. But by studying God’s Word concerning people and relationships, we can learn to be wise, sound minded, and in control of our emotions as we build godly relationships.

So what does a Goat look like? From 1Timothy we identified 19 characteristics of unhealthy individuals. In the coming days we will look at 10 of those characteristics.

Deferred Hope, Misplaced Hope


Ever wanted something, hoped for something, even though you knew, deep down, that it was unlikely or impossible?

I have. More than once. And it’s hard.

I’ve hoped for a relationship that isn’t mine to have.

I hope for friends who have blown up their lives to have a change heart and return to the Lord.

I hope that relationships that have drifted apart and changed for unknown reasons will be restored.

I hope I can be a successful advocate for the single moms I’ve come to love in a village in Uganda.

I hope I have “Teacher of the Year” days every day and that I love and teach my students well.

I hope for an e-mail from God that maps out the next 30-ish years of my life for me.

I hope for a lot of things that end in deferred hope because the hope is uncertain, misplaced.

See, hope is anxious expectation.

Like a kid at Christmas; they don’t know exactly what they’re getting, but they know they’re getting something and it’s gonna be good.

Uncertain hope is no hope at all. It’s the inconsistency upon which we build crumbling dreams and broken hearts.

Maybe you’ve experienced deferred hope, too. Maybe it had to do with a relationship, or a job, or any variety of things. Maybe you’ve made up stories in your head of what it might be if it was finally a reality one day.

Hope in the face of hopelessness can be the rope we hang on to in impossible situations. Healing. Salvation. Restoration. God things. Hope pulls us through.

But hope in the face of hopelessness can also be the rope we use to hang ourselves.

Hope in the face of hopelessness is not the problem, but the object of our hope may be.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Prov 13:12

Hope deferred can be misplaced hope.

If your hope lies in someone or something that may or may not ever actually be yours, that uncertainty can eat away at your soul.

What’s the simple, Sunday school answer to the problem?

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:4-5

But there is so much more to these verses than God, The Granter of Wishes.

When we delight in the Lord, He is the desire of our heart. And when He is the desire of our heart, no hope can be deferred, because all we have in Him is ours now.

So how to we heal a heart sick from deferred hope?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Ps 42:5-6

Sometimes that means grieving the loss of that misplaced hope and realigning our hopes and dreams with God’s will for our lives.

Sometimes it means just giving it to Him as a the protector and keeper of your heart.

When our hope is in God, our hope will never be deferred. Our desires are altered and then fulfilled as we delight in Him and He is our tree of life.

Have you ever experienced a hope deferred? How did your heart heal?

The One Where I Defend Heretics


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

You read that title right. I am defending heretics. In fact, I’ll take it a step further; I like heretics.

At least I like our modern day heretics.

See, 1,700 years ago, a heretic was a person who taught things that were contrary to Scripture. We burned them at the stake.

Today, the title of heretic is given to pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with the person who is handing out the title. We burn them on the Internet.

Why do I like heretics?

Heretics challenge us. Spend too much time talking with people who agree with you and soon you’ll start thinking everyone agrees with you. One of the best (and worst) things about the Internet is that conversations are now open forums. You say something in an unclear way, without context or without thinking, and someone is going to call you on it. Fast.

Heretics make us continually check our thinking and, in turn, the way in which we communicate. When I have spent too much time with people I assume agree with me, I find myself saying things like, “You know what I mean,” or “Surely SHE knows I’m not talking about THAT.” Or, when people do disagree, I immediately discount their opinion, thinking, “If she knew where I was coming from, she’d understand.”

When you’ve spent so much time with the same people, it’s easy to take for granted that you know each other, and it’s really hard to recognize the expected changes and growth in one another. One thing I have learned the last few years is that even with the people who agree with you the most, there is eventually going to come a time when you will disagree.

And when you disagree with the people who have “always been around” sometimes you find out that you’ve been assuming much more than you’ve been communicating. You’ve not been sharpening one another like iron, you’ve most likely been taking one another and your assumed agreement for granted. And when assumptions and expectations are challenged, a lot of pain can occur.

This is why I like heretics.

Those who vocally disagree with you do more for your sharpening than anyone who simply exists in your sphere of influence but never actually influences you.

We have developed this image of mentoring and Christian relationships that is soft and fluffy and emotional unity, and that’s not the completely biblical picture of Christian living.

Have you ever actually seen iron sharpen iron? It’s loud and violent and hot.

We’re told in Hebrews to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Spur. Like you spur a horse. Agitate those around you to break out of their routine and assumptions and consider just how apathetic they may have become.

To edify is more than writing a pretty note to a friend telling her you’re praying for her. Edify is a construction term. Construction is dirty and sweaty. It’s hard work.

Heretics sharpen us. They sharpen our thoughts and our communication. They force us to cling tightly to Christ while we learn to hold our labels and our heroes very loosely. I’ve learned in the last few months that I’m not nearly as “conservative” as I once was. And I am ok with that. The term has changed and I have changed, but if I had not been engaged in hard conversations with people I assumed I disagreed with, both theologically and politically, I would have kept sharp lines of separation drawn, and I would have missed out learning a lot about myself, about God, and about those who see the world differently from me.

So if heretics are the people who disagree with me, then I love heretics.

I love that they challenge me to put away my stereotypes and sweeping generalizations and force me to get to know individuals, appreciating our points of agreement while respectfully examining the points at which we disagree.

I love that their sweeping generalizations, the ones that cause me to say, “I hold to that label, but I do NOT hold to that belief!” cause me to pause and consider my own heart and my own convictions.

I love that heretics allow the complex nature of Christ to shine before a watching world. When others see us engage in civil discourse concerning issues about which we passionately disagree and we walk away from the conversation edified, the world marvels, “How is that possible?” And we have an opportunity to share with a watching world the hope that is within us.

Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that unifies. Not our political beliefs or our theological platforms. Within orthodox Christianity, there is plenty of room to disagree, and even in our disagreements we have room to display the unity of Christ.

Do I have those people in my life who encourage me and love on me and wipe my tears and cheer me on? Absolutely, as everyone should. But I have also begun to develop an equally precious group of friends with whom I agree on very little theologically or politically. But what we do agree on is the fact that we have room to learn from one another. None of us has the monopoly on all truth, but the best part is that we are all more interested in being loving and holy than in being right.

So I would encourage you: find yourself a heretic. Invite someone into your life who doesn’t agree with you on everything and enter into a sharpening relationship. Challenge one another with the intention of building and growing. You just might find out that you love heretics, too.