7 Secrets to Real Freedom by bo sanchez

November 28, 2017 | Author: Pauline Joanne Arceo | Category: Judas Iscariot, Sin, Forgiveness, Psychotherapy, Jacob
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7 Secrets to Real Freedom: How to stop hidden addictions written by Bo Sanchez...


7 Secrets to Real Freedom Discover What You Really Need Do you have a hidden addiction that is stealing your life away? Have you heard of the great Houdini? As a young boy, I loved reading about him. Houdini was probably the most famous escape artist in the world. I’m not sure if the story I’m about to tell you is part legend and part history, but I find it utterly fascinating. Houdini boasted he could escape any jail cell in less than an hour. One day, a small town in the British Isles built a new jail cell and they were proud of it. “Come give us a try,” they said to Houdini, and he agreed. He walked into the prison cell bristling with confidence. After all, he had done this hundreds of times before. Once the jail cell was closed, Houdini took off his coat and went to work. From his belt, he got a flexible but tough ten-inch piece of steel. He knelt in front of the door and started working on the lock. At the end of 30 minutes, his confident expression had disappeared. At the end of an hour, he was drenched with perspiration. After two hours and totally exhausted, Houdini literally collapsed against the door. And the force of his weight was enough to push the door open! Because in reality, the door had never been locked. It was locked only in one place: In his own mind. This meant only one thing. It was firmly locked. Because whatever your mind says is locked—is locked. Even if it isn’t.

You Can Be Free! Friend, you can get rid of your bad habits. You can be free from your addictions. The Bible says, you have been called to live in freedom.[1] I should know. I’m a recovering sex addict—jailed in compulsive pornography and sexual fantasies for years. Yes, even as I was serving God and preaching. Like Houdini, I tinkered with the “lock” of my jail cell and lost hope because I couldn’t unlock the door. (For my full story, read my book, Your Past Does Not Define Your Future. You can get it at www.shepherdsvoice.com.ph I’m making an audio book and E-book of this same book very soon.) One day, I had a powerful realization. I discovered that the door wasn’t locked—except in my mind. I realized that at any time, I could push hard and the door would swing open—and I could simply walk out. And stay out! And that’s what I did. My friend, you can get rid of your addictions. Here’s the truth: 70% of people get rid of their own addictions on their own. You see, there is no ONE singular way to get out of an addiction. There are many ways to get rid of your destructive bad habits. (We will examine all these ways in awhile.) But before I explain them, let me answer a very important question.

What Is An Addiction Anyway? I try to avoid technical words (my brain freezes up), so let me share with you my simple definition of an addiction. It’s any action that (1) you do repeatedly, (2) can’t stop doing, and (3) that’s harmful to your life. Let me tell you a story my golfing friends like to tell. They say golfers love their golf more than anything else in the world… One day, two guys were playing golf on a sunny day. In the distance, they saw a funeral car pass by—with a train of cars following it. One of the golfers stops playing. He bows his head for a moment of silence. The other golfer was very impressed. He said to his golfing partner, “Wow, I didn’t know you’re religious.” “Not really,” said the other golfer, resuming his putting. “After all, I was married to that woman for 28 years.” There’s nothing wrong with golf. It’s a healthy sport. But that widower was clearly addicted to it. All of us agree that alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsive gambling are serious forms of addictions. But I’m sure that most of us reading this article don’t have these more obvious addictions. But what about hidden addictions? They too destroy our life and the lives of our loved ones…

Do You Have A Hidden Addiction? Here’s a list of common hidden addictions that harm us… “I eat compulsively” This is the Number One way we try to feel better. I know of someone who eats at the slightest discomfort of life. If she’s angry, she eats. If she’s depressed, she eats. If she’s anxious, she eats. The truth however is that she isn’t really hungry for food. She is hungry for something else. Unless she sees this, she will continue snacking and pigging out, endangering her health. “I eat too much sweets, ice cream, chocolates” I listed this separately just to impress upon you that chocolates is the Number One “Quick Fix” that people crave for when they are going through painful emotions. When a choco-addict feels hurt, or sad, or angry, or worried, she’ll spontaneously reach for her stash of choco bars. She has them on her desk, in the Ref, on her bedside table, and in her bag—for those “just in case” emergencies. Again, there’s nothing wrong with sweets. (I love dark chocolate and ice cream.) But in excess, it’s harmful. More importantly, you won’t address the real, deep hunger inside you if you keep popping candies in our mouth. “I go yo-yo dieting” A few years ago, my friends were crazy about the “After Six” diet. And then, “Atkins” took over the dieting crowd. Soon, “No Carb!” became the battle cry of millions of women. After that, “South Beach” conquered the world by storm. (My friend says that he’s into the “North Park” diet. For a moment, I thought he was serious, until I realized that his favorite Chinese restaurant was named North Park.) Personally, I don’t believe in quick diets. I believe in changing one’s eating habits permanently. I believe in changing one’s lifestyle forever—not just for 10 days or 30 days or 3 months. That means eating right and exercise.

By the way, the thin-like-a-broomstick super models found in Fashion magazines comprise only 3% of the world’s population. So I presume 97% of those reading this article have a body structure that resembles clunky vacuum cleaners rather than broomsticks. And it’s okay! You see, the goal is not to look like these super models and weigh less. The goal is to love your body (no matter what body structure you have) and be healthy inside and out. If you don’t watch it, dieting can be an addiction, and its severe form is the next item I’ll discuss. “I starve myself” I met a young girl who was exceedingly thin. She was so thin, she could stand sideways and be invisible. Yet when I talked to her, she told me, “Uncle Bo, I’m so fat!” She grabs her reed-like arm, touches non-existent fat, and says, “See?” This young woman has Anorexia Nervosa. Starving herself (to death) is the only way she can control her seemingly uncontrollable life. Bulimia on the other hand is when a person gorges himself with food and vomits it all out. I know of others who are addicted to dieting pills and are harming their bodies. “I shop too much and have buying binges” Lots and lots of women shop to feel better. They feel happy, beautiful, and alive when they buy a new shoe, a new stocking, a new blouse, a new perfume, a new watch… But if this is done repetitively and excessively, it’s a destructive habit. Do you want to know if you’re a shopaholic? Check your house. Is it full of stuff that you don’t use? Count how many shoes you have. Do you have 30 pairs that you haven’t used in a year? Do you have as many bags that you also haven’t used in a year? Many people are drowning in debt because they can’t control their shopping. In reality, deep within, a shopaholic isn’t looking for “something”. There’s an emptiness that can’t be filled up by a dress, a scarf, a bracelet, or a new pair of high heels. Ultimately, they’re looking for something they can’t buy.

“I compulsively smoke” Today, I see a lot of young people sitting in Coffee Shops—but instead of sitting inside where there’s air-conditioning, they sit outside under the sweltering heat of the Philippine sun—because they want to smoke. Isn’t that absurd? Today, I also see young people standing outside their offices during their breaks—again underneath the hot sun and breathing in the pollution of our smoke-belching buses—because they want to smoke. I tell you, it’s illogical. But like the golfer in my story above, addicts don’t think logically anymore. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances in the world today. It’s a chemical that gets into your brain and at the first inhale, fights fatigue, suppresses appetite, and lifts your mood. It’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that smoking can cause lung cancer, painful emphysema, bad breath, ugly teeth, dark lips, but to a smoker, who cares? “I get angry, yell too often, and throw temper tantrums” For a rage-aholic, anger is his all-around tool. He uses it for every situation. It’s the only tool he knows how to use. When he’s afraid, he gets angry. When he’s worried, he gets angry. When he’s sad, he gets angry. I compare anger to a hammer. Using anger for everything is as silly as using the hammer for sewing a shirt, drawing water, healing a wound, and cooking food. It simply won’t work. If you need to sew a shirt, you need a needle, not a hammer. If you need to draw water, you need a pail, not a hammer. Because of this, anger-addicts are ineffective parents, spouses, friends, and business partners. Some of them argue too much, pick petty fights, and leave a trail of broken relationships. Others are more quiet and demure outside their homes because they bottle up their anger with their friends and in their workplace, but unleash their toxic anger on their kids.

“I complain a lot” It’s a silly bad habit. (But come to think of it, what bad habits aren’t silly?) You fill the room with your negativity. More importantly, you fill your life with negativity. And it attracts more of it, so you multiply the stuff you can complain about. Believe me, no one would like to be with a complainer except fellow complainers. “I worry too much” God gave us the ability to panic for emergency situations where we need to act quickly. But for a worry-addict, almost every situation is an emergency situation. So throughout the day, she’s in constant panic mode. If the angeraddict person uses the hammer for everything, the worry-addict uses a needle for everything. She “needles” every situation, looking for what may go wrong, always imagining how everything will go wrong. And because our fears are powerful, we end up creating the imaginary monsters into existence. “I drink too much coffee (or cola).” I know a human being (yes, he’s a human being) who drinks 10 cups of coffee every single day. My other friend drinks 6 cans of diet cola every single day. Because it’s diet, she argues that it’s no longer bad for her. I told her that because she’s drinking too much artificial sweeteners, she may end up with artificial diabetes. I was kidding, but I still think it’s not a wise thing to do. “I sleep too much” Naps are great for your health. But you know, sleep has become an addiction. Usually, too much sleep is a sign of depression or being overwhelmed by our problems. These people don’t want to wake up in the morning. And during the day, they want to crawl back in bed, under their covers, shielding themselves from the seemingly hostile world around them.

“I watch too much TV” Telenovelas should be watched in moderation. But the problem is that Telenovelas are designed to be addicting. They always end with great cliffhangers: The child will finally know who his real father is, or the young woman will now find out if she’s pregnant or not, or the man will finally meet the man who killed his mother 20 years ago… Studies suggest that if you sit down in front of the TV set for 3 hours each day instead of spending time with your spouse or your kids or other endeavors, there is a probability that one is addicted. (I’m talking of normal, active people who have jobs, families, etc., not aged, bedridden, or sick people.) Another sign that you may be addicted is if you have a fantasy relationship with some stars you watch on TV. This is normal for kids, but not very normal for adults. “I clean the house compulsively” I know a mother who cleans her house the way nuns clean their convents, except that she does the work of 15 nuns all by herself. When I visited her home, I discovered everything was polished, sparkling, and perfectly clean. I wondered if germs thought twice of stepping on her floor because it was too clean. She’d spend the entire day scrubbing floors, washing curtains, dusting furniture, and picking up after her kids. Everything was in order. Even the kids had to be clean and pretty all day. (I pitied the kids.) Why was she like this? Because if the house wasn’t perfect, she felt people will talk against her. Bottom line, she was a very insecure person. In reality, I felt that she wanted to clean something inside her, but couldn’t, so she just went about cleaning her house instead.

“I compulsively lust” One day, a young father of two kids confessed to me that he watches 2 to 3 hours of internet porn a day. He says he has to wake up at 1am, while his wife was sleeping, to watch his pornography. “I hate it, Bo. I hate what it’s doing to me. I wake up groggy the next day and curse myself for doing it. But I can’t seem to stop…” I told him, “I know exactly what you feel. I experienced that too, except that back in my day, we had no internet. I would wake up at 1am to open my porn magazines. If I had none, I would walk out on the streets and search for them.” But I told him that I got out of it, and so can he. Anyone can. This is the reason for this 8-Part series of articles. “I work too hard” Working hard is good. But when your family and your health suffer, you automatically know that it’s an addiction. The problem with workaholism is that it’s rewarded. People pat us on the back and tell us that we’re dedicated, loyal, and industrious. We get bonuses. We get promoted. Let me tell you a very sad story. There was one popular Christian leader who travelled the world expanding his ministry for the poor. One day, his wife called him up and said, “Come home immediately. Your daughter committed suicide.” Thankfully, it was a failed attempt. But instead of going home that day, he instead went to Vietnam to continue his ministry work. A few years later, that daughter committed suicide again—and succeeded. This Christian leader died years later, fired by his own ministry leaders, estranged from his wife and children. His mistake was that he was addicted to his work. There are many other hidden addictions. Compulsive gossip. Phone calls every hour of the day. Daily trips to the beauty parlor. Even religious addiction—for people whose families are breaking apart because they spend their entire time in church. Etcetera.

Why Do We Have Addictions Anyway? From a superficial perspective, addictions provide an escape so you won’t feel your painful feelings. And what are these painful feelings? Hurt: “I feel rejected.” Depression: “I feel low”; “I feel old”; “I feel ugly”; “I feel fat” Despair: “I feel my life is meaningless” Guilt: “I feel I’m bad”; “I feel I can’t meet the needs of my husband/kids” Anxiety: “I feel worried that bad things will happen” Fear: “I feel afraid that I will get hurt” Hate: “I feel angry at myself”; “I feel angry at others” Shame: “I feel I’m not worthy to even exist” Let me share to you my own personal experience. For years, the predominant feeling that ruled my life was shame. I didn’t know it was shame. I got so used to this feeling, I thought it was part of life. I would wake up with this “bad” feeling already. All I knew was that I felt extremely sad. And my thoughts were always about my mistakes—real and imagined. Like a guy who only played one DVD in his DVD player, and did nothing else except press the “rewind” button, I simply paraded my past mistakes before me. And then I’d imagine how this person doesn’t like me, how that person is angry at me, how this person is rejecting me. And I would feel “it” in my gut. It was my constant companion, never leaving me. Years later, I finally identified what I felt. It was shame. I was ashamed that I existed. I was ashamed that I was alive. Can you imagine waking up each morning with this feeling? That was my life.

And so to escape my shame, I drowned myself in testosterone. I got into Porn. At least, these girls were smiling and disrobing to me. They must like me. My sexual fantasies were the same—these women were attracted to me. For a moment, my shame disappeared. But, after indulging in porn and masturbating, my shame deepened. How could I, a servant of God, do such a thing? But I kept doing it for years. I threw myself into work—work that would make the world like me. My approval addiction was even more powerful than my sex addiction. But twenty years ago, I took my first steps towards healing. It was a long journey. (If you want to read the full story, you can read my book,Your Past Does Not Define Your Future. It’s available atwww.shepherdsvoice.com.ph. I’m making an audio book and Ebook of this same book very soon.) What Is Your Core Need? At the bottom of all addictions is this statement: “I don’t love myself.” At the core of an addict’s heart is an empty Love Tank. Every addiction is a hunger for love. He doesn’t like himself. He doesn’t value himself. He doesn’t love himself. That is why I believe that only love can heal an addiction.

How Do You Get Rid Of Addictions? There is no one way to do it. But why do these various ways work? All of these work as long as they fill up our Love Tank. Once our Love Tank is filled, we realize we don’t belong to the jail cell and stay out. Here are some of the ways of pushing that jail door… Spontaneous Maturity There are people who got rid of their bad habits by growing up emotionally. In their younger years, they took drugs and abused alcohol. As they grew older, got married, and had kids, their self-identity changed. They kicked their addictions and grew in self-confidence. Somehow, their Love Tanks were filled in the process. Not all experience this maturity. I know of a 56-year old man who’s been taking drugs for 40 years now. Marriage didn’t change him. Kids didn’t change him. Spiritual Conversion My friend Tim is a classic story of spiritual conversion that healed his addictions. After attending a Life in the SpiritSeminar, he stopped smoking and drinking the very day of the Seminar—cold turkey. Prior to that day, Tim was a heavy smoker and drinker for 30 years. What happened on that day? Aside from the power of God, he felt these vices no longer fit his new identity. He saw himself as God’s son, no longer an alcoholic or smoker. Emotionally, he liked the new Tim. Ultimately, God’s love filled his Love Tank. However, not all people who go through our Seminars experience this instant freedom. And like everyone else under the sun, even Tim continues to battle other hidden addictions. So what else can we do?

“Go Back to Your Past” Psychology I’m going to commit a crime. (Forgive me.) This is terribly simplistic, but I believe psychology is divided into two major camps—those who believe healing comes from the past and those who believe healing come from the present. I know it’s more complicated than this but let’s imagine it’s not. Followers of Sigmund Freud are in the first camp. They’ll insist that for you to get free from your addictions, you need to go back to your past and deal with your unresolved issues. To do that, you need a trained psychotherapist to listen to you as you explore your unhealed wounds. I used to believe that this is the only way to really help a person change. Not anymore. My belief is now more nuanced. Personally, I believe that psychotherapy works, and it’s NOT because of the brilliant, earth-shaking insights that one derives from psychotherapy. (These insights help, but I don’t think they’re key to our healing.) Instead, I believe psychotherapy works because of something quite simple: That another human being is listening to you—and that human connection fills up your Love Tank. Why do I believe so? From experience, when another human being listens to you, doesn’t judge you, and loves you, you get healed. That’s why Christian Psychologist Larry Crabb says that the Christian Church should be the best place of healing in the world. Why? Because it should be the most loving place on earth—where listening, acceptance, and respect is practiced. (Two “shoulds” that aren’t happening!) I still believe that “Go Back To Your Past” Psychology is great for diagnosis. But there lies its weakness. Now that I know my sickness, how will I heal it? After I found out that because I was sexually molested at age 8 and 13, I was more open to sex addiction, now what? The question remains the same— how do I cure it? I still had to deal with my present reality. And here lies the strength of the second division of psychology…

“Deal With The Present” Psychology The other “division” of psychology doesn’t believe that this “unearthing of the past” is the key to healing. It helps, but isn’t essential to healing. Instead, they believe that the real cure is dealing with the NOW. For example, Reality Therapy pioneered by Dr. William Glasser helps people identify what they want in life and practice their power of choice. The entire Positive Thinking genre made popular by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale falls in this category. Even NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is included here. And many more. These approaches believe that by changing your present thinking and acting upon your choices, you change your life. 12-Step Group Approach Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the entire recovery movement have touched millions of people. Today, you can almost be sure that there’s a support group out there for your addiction, whatever it may be. From Narcotics Anonymous to Sex-Addicts Anonymous, from Food Addicts Anonymous to Shopaholics Anonymous. Some of its most staunch practitioners believe it’s the ONLY way to help people, which again, I disagree. But when it does work, why does it work? Sorry for saying this again, but I believe that the program helps you fill up your Love Tank. The effort you give in attending meetings are baby steps towards recovery, making you gain self-confidence. The power of a loving community surrounding you fills you with love as well. Practical Approach A friend of mine stopped smoking by jogging, sucking menthol candies after meals, and staying away from smoker friends. His wife and kids were also very supportive. He swears by this route, and I don’t doubt him. I think every time he took a baby step towards his goal, he felt good about himself. This feeling translated in greater self-respect, which meant that his Love Tank was getting filled-up.

My Approach? All of the Above! In other words, I believe in the Spiritual-Psychological-Positive-GroupPractical Approach. Because I will use anything that will fill up a person’s Love Tank. Walk Towards Your Freedom Now For the longest time, you’ve been in a prison cell. You’re tired. You’re desperate. You’ve been tinkering with that impossible lock on the door. But in reality, there is no lock. You think there’s a lock, but there’s none. You’ve been deceived. Cheated. The lock is in your mind, not in the door. What is that lock in your mind? I call it your “homing instinct”. That means an unconscious part of you would like to stay in that dirty prison because you’ve become used to it. It’s been your home for years. Something within you—the defeated you, the failed you, the unloved you—wants to go back to that dungeon. A part of you feels that’s what you deserve. This drive within you is called the “homing” instinct. Hurting people recreate their home, no matter how painful those homes were. But as you fill up your Love Tank, as you value yourself more and as you receive love from God and others, you realize that you deserve a new home. You realize that you don’t belong there anymore. With a full Love Tank, your “homing” instinct no longer drives you to your past home. Instead, it drives you to your future home. You begin to develop a “vision” instinct. I’ll discuss more on this in the next parts of this series.

Focus On Your Ambition, Not Your Addiction Do you have a hidden addiction that is stealing your life away? Are you a logical person? Let me ask you 4 questions to test your powers of logic (I’m sure you’ve seen these before): 1. Question:How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator? Answer: 3 steps: 1) Open the Ref; 2) Put the giraffe in; and 3) Close the Ref. 2. Question #2: How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator? Answer: If you answered, 1) Open the Ref; 2) Put the elephant in; and 3) Close the Ref, that’s not correct. Here’s the right answer. It now takes 4 steps: 1) Open the Ref; 2) Remove the giraffe; 3) Put the elephant in; and 4) Close the Ref. 3. Question #3: Lion King called for a meeting of all the animals. One of them couldn’t make it. Which one? Answer: The elephant, of course. He was stuck in the Ref. 4. Question #4:There’s a river that’s home to lots of crocodiles. How would you cross that river safely? Answer: Just swim through it. Because all the crocodiles are attending a meeting with Lion King. How did you fare? Are you a logical person? Let me share with you a story in the Bible about someone who didn’t think too logically…

The Illogical Thinking That We All Do Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. But Esau was considered the eldest because he went out of the womb of his mother first. One day, Jacob was cooking some stew. Esau arrived from hunting and was exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved. Give me some of your red stew.” Now Jacob said something absolutely nutty. He said, “All right, but you’ve got to do one thing first. Trade me your rights as the firstborn son.” You get an inkling on how jealous Jacob must have been towards his twin brother. But what was nuttier was Esau’s reaction. He said, “Sure! Now give me that red stew now.” Jacob said, “You’ve got to swear first that you’re giving me your birthright…” “Yeah, yeah, yeah… whatever! I swear! Now give me that lentil soup…”[1] Now why would Esau exchange his birthright for a single bowl of red stew? Was his brain taking a vacation on that day? Was it on a Caribbean cruise or gone shopping in Hong Kong? Didn’t Esau know what his birthright meant? Being firstborn meant a position of privilege. Being firstborn meant great honor. And yes, being firstborn meant a huge inheritance—where he can buy a swimming pool filled with red stew if he wanted. Why was he throwing all that for a bowl of red stewtoday? Friends, this is a great picture of what addiction is. (By the way, I’m not saying Esau was addicted to red stew. I’m merely using his story as an analogy.)

The Foolish Exchanges We Make I met a man who threw away his entire family for drugs. Years ago, he had a great job, a nice home, two kids, and beautiful wife. Today, because of a bunch of chemicals he was snorting through his nostrils, he destroyed his life. He’s lost his job and his home. His kids hate him and his wife is seeing another man… Why exchange all that for another whiff of shabu? There’s no logic. It’s a foolish exchange. One day, a woman asked for my help. She said, “My husband is a compulsive gambler. He stole money from his office and used it to gamble. His boss found out about it and is pressing charges. My husband’s going to jail!” Why exchange a great job for another crack at the blackjack table? Again, it’s a foolish exchange. The list goes on. · A chain-smoker, exchanging his health for another nicotine fix. · A porn-addict, exchanging his dignity and mental-monogamy, for another testosterone fantasy. · A woman that gives her body to yet another man, just so that he would love her, exchanging her self-respect for a fleeting embrace. · A government employee taking a bribe, exchanging his honor for cash. After years of doing it, he no longer feels any guilt, his conscience virtually dead.

One Power Skill Of Mature People On a superficial level, the problem is impatience and impulsiveness. And boy, do I know impulsiveness. Like Esau, I catch myself wanting it now—no matter what the cost is to my future. Like Esau, I want my red stew now, whatever my “red stew” is. For me, it could be internet porn, sexual fantasies, and the approval of people. (For my full story on how God healed my addictions, read my book, Your Past Does Not Define Your Future. It’s available throughwww.shepherdsvoice.com.ph I’ll also be releasing the Audio book and E-book version very soon.) Impulsiveness means I prioritize my short-term wants over my long-term needs. This takes us to that very important, essential, powerful skill that all mature people have: The ability to delay gratification. You can’t be emotionally and spiritual mature without it. It’s impossible. Delaying gratification is the power skill of champions. In any field! Because there’s a huge reward in front of them, champions sacrifice today so that they can get their reward tomorrow. Do you want to become a champion? What great reward are you aiming for? What is your holy ambition?

Anatomy of An Addiction Before I talk more about holy ambition, let me review what we covered in my last article. On a deeper level, the problem of addiction is this: 1. Real Need è 2. Painful Feelings è 3. Addiction Deep inside, there’s a (1) real need. And that real need is an empty love tank. Bottom line, the addict doesn’t love himself. The addict doesn’t value himself. The addict doesn’t respect himself. Sometimes, he is conscious of this desperate need for love. Many times, he isn’t aware of it. It’s all unconscious. My personal interpretation of the Esau-Jacob story above is that Esau didn’t value his birthright becausehe didn’t value himself. He didn’t value his future. Once again, let me state my central point: I believe that every addiction is a hunger for love. That’s the real need behind every addiction. Your hunger of love produces the second part of the equation: (2)painful feelings—such as depression, anger, fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc. To escape these painful feelings, the addict will pick a preferred anaesthesia. That anaesthesia is the third part of the equation: (3) addiction. It could be gambling, drugs, and alcohol. It could be workaholism until one’s family breaks down. Or shopping until five credit cards are maxed out. Or food until one becomes obese. Or dieting until one becomes very sick. In order for an addiction to get healed, the real needs must be met. The love tank must be filled. Thankfully, you can do that in many ways as we discussed in my last article. In getting rid of their bad habits, I share to them one of the most powerful—and controversial—principles…

Don’t Focus On Your Addiction… Bear with me. Do this exercise for me. Say out loud “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant” for five times. Ready? Go… “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.” “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.” “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.” “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.” “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.” Let me ask you a question: What are you thinking of right now? A Pink Elephant, of course. People who want to overcome their addictions end up focusing on their addictions, and it simply won’t work. When a smoker says, “I won’t smoke anymore!” 300x a day, guess what fills his mind? Smoking his favorite Marlboros, what else? When a compulsive eater says, “I won’t eat!” 300x a day, guess what fills his mind? Eating his favorite cheeseburgers and chocolate sundaes. When you focus on your bad habits, you enter into a vicious cycle that buries you deeper into your addiction. You end up depressed and helpless, draining your love tank even more, making you open more to your addictions. Look. I’m not saying you deny that you have an addiction. In fact, acknowledging that you have an addiction is the first step to healing it. By admitting you’ve got a problem, you solve 50% of your problem. But you see, there’s a big difference betweenacknowledging it and focusing on it 24 hours a day.

A Simple Principle of The Universe Let me share to you a simple, powerful, universal principle that has guided me in my daily life: What you focus on grows! Let me sidetrack a bit and explain this principle to you. I know some people who focus on the bad things in their day. They wake up in the morning feeling lousy. “It’s a terrible day,” they mutter. They ride to work complaining about how hot it is. They wade through the traffic complaining about the crazy drivers on the streets. They arrive at their office complaining about the work load on their desks. They complain about their boss, the low pay, the slow internet, the over time, the terrible food at the cafeteria, and how cold the air-conditioning is. I pity them. Because the more they complain, the more they feel miserable. Sooner or later, they experience more problems. (Remember, what you focus on grows.) First, they may get sick. The Bible says a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.[2] Medical studies have shown that most of our physical diseases are psychosomatic. A negative spirit may create ulcers, hypertension, and other diseases. Simply because our bodies are blueprints of our emotional life. Second, they may lose friends. Because no one wants to talk to a whiner. About her, they’ll say, “She’s depressing and it may be contagious!” Third, they may lose their job—or at the very least, a promotion. Someone who doesn’t have passion in his work will not be rewarded. 200 CEO’s were asked what’s the number one ability that they look for in their employee, and most of them said, “The ability to work with others.” It’s not technical skills, but relational skills that’s prized in companies. Okay, my digression is enough. How does this apply to your hidden addiction?

Focus On Your Ambition Instead of focusing on your addiction, focus on your ambition. “Ambition” has a negative meaning today, so let me purify this word. By ambition, I mean your vision for your future. By ambition, I mean the dreams that God has placed in your heart. So instead of saying, “I’ll stop smoking” 300x a day, say instead, “I’ll be healthy and run the marathon” or “I’ll be healthy and be a Class B badminton player.” Instead of saying, “I’ll stop eating”, say, “I’ll be healthy, weigh a healthy120 pounds, go to the gym three times a week, play badminton twice a week…” Instead of saying, “I’ll stop shopping everyday,” say, “Starting next month, I’ll save P5,000 a month, erase all credit card debt by December 2007, and start investing in a mutual fund by January 2008, and accumulate P200,000 by June 2010.” When you focus on your addiction, it depresses you. When you focus on your ambition, it fuels you with passion. And what happens when you do that? As you take baby steps towards fulfilling your ambition, you value yourself more. You gain confidence. You gain self-respect. Little by little, love is being poured into your Love Tank. The cravings are still there, but they lose its urgency and intensity.

Make Your Dreams MAGIC Dreams Each Sunday, I preach to almost two thousand people in Valle Verde Country Club (Beside ULTRA) in Pasig, Metro Manla (For more information, call Tel (632) 7259999). Each Sunday, I teach them how to dream. So I wrote a Novena to God’s Love Prayer Booklet and gave it to each of them. In that Novena, I ask people to write 7 dreams that they will pray for everyday. Believe me, people were excited writing down their dreams! And as they pray for them, I ask them to also take baby steps towards fulfilling them. (Can I make a plug? I’m mailing the Novena to God’s Love Prayer Booklet for FREE to all KerygmaFamily members who give a monthly Love Offering to our ministry. If you’re not yet a member, log onto www.kerygmafamily.com now!) In the Novena, I also give instructions that their dreams should be….MAGIC! By MAGIC, I mean… M- Measurable Don’t just write, “Have a happy family”; Write instead, “Have a happy family by having separate weekly dates with my spouse and each child starting August 2007”; Don’t just write, “Have more money”; Write instead, “Earn an additional P10T each month through a sideline by December 2007.” A - Ambitious Again, I use “ambition” without its negative meaning. By “ambition”, I simply mean dreaming big dreams! Small dreams won’t excite you. But even if they’re ambitious, let your dreams also be attainable at the same time. G - Godly Never dream from greed or selfish ego. They will make you empty and miserable. Instead, discover the dreams that God has placed in your heart. The fulfilment of these dreams should ultimately help you love God and others more. (And don’t you notice? G is at the middle. God should be the center of our dreams.)

I - Imaginative Put details in your dream. Make it graphic. Don’t just write, “Own a house by 2009.” Describe what kind of house you want. “Own a 2-bedroom white house with a small garden in Laguna by 2009.” C – Complete Have dreams that touch the most important aspects of your life: Spiritual, Family, Financial, Physical… By succeeding in all areas, you attain Life Balance. Wise Exchange, Anyone? Yesterday, I read a beautiful story. One day, a little girl named Jenny was with her mother in the grocery store. She saw a toy pearl bracelet worth P20. She became giddy with excitement and asked her mother to buy it for her. “Are you sure you like it?” her mother asked. “Yes, Mommy! Please, please, please buy it for me!” So the mother bought the toy pearls for little Jenny. Jenny’s father, who loved her very much, read a bedtime story to Jenny each night. One night, after reading to her, he asked her, “Jenny, do you love me?” “Of course I love you, Daddy,” she said. “Can you give me your pearl bracelet?” he asked. Little Jenny pouted. “You can have my princess doll, Daddy, but not my pearl bracelet. That’s my favorite.” Daddy smiled, “That’s okay Jenny, I love you.” He kissed her good night. Seven days later, after another reading session, the father asked again, “Jenny, do you love me?’ “Daddy, you know that I love you,” the little girl said. “Can you give me your pearl bracelet?” he smiled. “No Daddy, please. You can have my brush, my violet pen, and my red hair band. But not my pearl bracelet!” He chuckled. “That’s okay, hon. I love you,” and kissed her goodnight.

But a few days later, a teary-eyed Jenny came to her father and said, “Daddy, I love you very much,” and placed in his hand her toy pearl bracelet. Her father gave her a big hug and said, “I have a very special gift for you, little girl.” He pulled out from his pocket a beautiful velvet case with gold lining. He opened it, showing to her a genuine pearl bracelet.“This is yours. No more toy pearl bracelet for you, my princess. You deserve the real one.” Friends, this is the kind of wise exchange that God wants to give to us. Not foolish exchanges that the “Jacobs” and the “Red Stews” in our lives are offering to us. Instead, God wants to take what is cheap and fake in our lives (our addictions), so that He could give us something much, much better (our holy ambitions). Give up your addiction. Give up what is counterfeit. Give up what destroys you. Give up what pulls you away from God and life and happiness. Like Jenny, you deserve better.

Love The Sinner And The Saint Within Do You Want To Get Rid Of Your Destructive Bad Habits? Love Yourself. Would you believe? I’ve been preaching for 27 years now. And in the first fifteen years of my preaching ministry, from 1979 to 1994, I never once preached about “loving yourself”. If you doubt me, look at my preaching notes and you’ll find nothing of this idea. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Why? Because I felt that loving oneself was another way of saying “selfishness”. So if you told me that I would one day write an article about loving yourself, I would call you nuts. “Blasphemy!” I’d say to you with the vehemence of a snorting bull. That’s how I interpreted what Jesus said in the Bible,“If you want to be my disciple, carry your cross, deny yourself, and follow me.” Because Jesus wanted us to die to ourselves, how could I tell people to love themselves? Isn’t that the very opposite of what Jesus wanted us to do? Here was my belief then: The SELF was the enemy of GOD. So why love it? So I told people to forget their own needs—even their basic, valid, legitimate needs. For if Jesus gave His life on the cross for us, how can we not do otherwise?

I Was Trying To Love God— But I Felt Miserable. What Was I Doing Wrong? But along the way, I got into trouble. I was trying to love God, but it was as though I was bumping on a brick wall. I failed and I couldn’t understand why I was so miserable. I’d given up everythingfor Him, so why did I feel empty and disconnected? And here was my bigger problem: Why was I still enslaved by various hidden addictions? Along the way, I also met a lot of good people like myself. Good, wonderful, spiritual people who wanted to follow God all the way. But they too were mired in hangups and addictions that made them discombobulated. Was Christian life this… bad? What was wrong with us? And then there were my special “visitations of God”. Supernatural moments in prayer that blew me away. These were specific times when I felt God pierce through my belief system—where He would just love me. No ifs, no buts, no conditions. He would love meas is, where is. I would feel so loved, I couldn’t understand it. And to my horror, it was as though He was inviting me to love myself as well, as is, where is.Naturally, I couldn’t understand it. It went against my rigid legalistic theology and so I would “cast out” that inner voice. Wasn’t I the enemy? Wasn’t I the sinner that needed to be disciplined, chastised, and punished? What was this idea of “just loving myself as is, where is”? Heresy! But as the years went by, I began to understand. It took another ten years—from 1990 to 2000—for this healing to happen…

Deny Myself? There Was No SELF To Deny! Slowly, I understood why I couldn’t love God. How could I deny myself when I didn’t have a SELF? How could I die to myself if nothing was alive in me? How could I give up if there was nothing to give up? Let me explain: Deep within, I was so broken. I never valued myself. I never felt good about myself. I was filled with shame. So to cover my shame, I’d try to be good. To fill up my need for love, I tried to love God. But the more I tried, the more empty I felt… Today, I realized that I can never give what I don’t have. I can’t love God—or anyone else for that matter—if I didn’t first love ME. My favorite verse in the Bible? We love because He first loved us.[1]That is so true! The only way I can love God is if I receive His love for me. And it is His powerful love that will reconstruct me. Only then can I love Him. This is the lesson we get from Judas Iscariot… Why Don’t We Pray To St. Judas Iscariot? Have you ever asked this question? Probably not. Because in your mind, you take it for granted that Judas is rotting in Hell. Because he betrayed Jesus big time. I beg to differ. Whether or not Judas is rotting in Hell is another question I dare not answer. But I have an answer to the question why Catholics don’t pray to St. Judas Iscariot. No, it’s not because he betrayed Jesus. Because if you open your Bible, you realize it is filled to the brim with betrayers and murderers and adulterers and liars and deceivers and connivers and cheats… The reason why Catholics don’t pray to a St. Judas Iscariot is simple: Because Judas didn’t

allow God to love him. (By the way, I’m not sharing to you something I picked up from the Catechism or from a doctrine. This is merely my very strong personal belief.) That was precisely the message of the story of Peter’s denials. He betrayed Jesus too (and three times at that!), but ended up the first Pope. Why? Because Peter loved the sinner and the saint within. He repented, forgave himself, and went back to God. Judas didn’t. Instead, he killed himself. The Bible says,So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.[2] Judas didn’t become a canonized saint not because he betrayed Jesus. Judas didn’t become a canonized saint because he didn’t learn to receive God’s love. Thus, he never learned how to love himself.

Are You Killing Yourself? In my last article, I said, Don’t focus on your addiction. Because when you focus on your addiction, you end up in despair. And despair is the end of the road. Like Judas, many people commit some type of suicide. They may not kill themselves physically, but in their despair, they kill their dreams, or they kill their relationships, or they kill the blessings that God wants to give to them. You need to acknowledge your addiction (don’t deny it), but you don’t have to meditate on it. Your eyes should be on God’s love for you. Focus on God’s dream for you instead. And you can do that if you love yourself. Loving yourself means loving the sinner and the saint within you. You’re a mix of the good and the bad, and you need to love that mix.

Unless You Love Yourself, You Jump From One Hidden Addiction To Another Unless this happens, your addictions may never go away. When we don’t love ourselves, our love tanks cause painful emotions to rise. So we may stop one addiction only to replace it with another, perhaps a more hidden addiction. I know of some former drinkers and smokers who, after removing these vices, unconsciously replaced them with more acceptable addictions, like workaholism and religious legalism, or a food addiction or TV addiction. If you want to get rid of a destructive bad habit, you need to love yourself. How should you love yourself? How should you love the saint and sinner within? Let me share with you four powerful ways of loving yourself that will change your life forever: 1. Forgive Yourself 2. Accept Your Weaknesses 3. Feel Your Feelings 4. Trust Your Needs Let me share these with you one by one…

1. Forgive Yourself For years, I would fall into habitual sexual sins. And when I did, I had a hard time believing that God would still forgive me. I was filled with disgust. I was so fed up with my sin, I figured He was fed up with me too. I projected onto Him my disgust and imagined that He was tired of forgiving me again and again. Yet every time I prayed, something in me would say, “God isn’t like that.” And deeper in my heart, I would hear His voice say, “Bo, nothing you do can ever diminish my love for you.” These words burned within me. I searched the Bible and found these words…and claimed them for myself. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.[3] I am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins.[4] If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[5] Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[6] Ultimately, it was this incredible love that healed me of my addiction. Can You Be As Forgiving To Yourself? In one large gathering, a young woman came up to me and asked, “Can you hear my confession?” I shook my head, “I’m sorry, I’m not a priest.” But I saw desperation in her eyes as she told me, “But can I still confess my sins to you?” “I can listen to you, pray for you, but I can’t absolve your sins,” I said. She said, “That’s fine. I just need someone to talk to…” We walked to a corner of the hall and she poured her heart to me, sharing her guilt to me. As she did so, I felt an urging from God to tell her, “My dear friend, God loves you more than you can ever imagine,” and she began to cry almost uncontrollably.

She said, “Bo, I know God loves me. But I don’t love myself. I know God forgives me. But I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.” Through the years, I’ve met many people like her who already asked for God’s forgiveness, but can’t seem to forgive themselves. Even if the Bible says, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,[7] it’s funny how people aren’t merciful to themselves. So I told her, “Then you’re very proud of your sin.” Her eyes bulged, obviously shocked. “What did you say again?” she asked. Are You Proud Of Your Sin? I told her, “You fall into pride on three counts. First, you seem to think that your sin is bigger than God’s love for you. That’s pride. Friend, God’s love is bigger than your sin…” “And second, you seem to think that your moral standards are higher than God’s standards. That’s pride. Allow Him to love you in your brokenness. And give yourself permission to love YOU. And third…” “Did I hear it right? Give myself permission to love me?” I knew that those words were new to her. “Yes! And third, all this time, you’ve been focusing on your sin. Am I right?” She nodded. “You think God wants you to grieve and wallow in guilt? You’re wrong. When you focus on your sin, you’re not focusing on God. Focus on God. Focus on God’s love for you. Or you fall into despair.” I began to think of Judas and how despair killed him. The Bible says Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.[8] How do we fall? Let me count the ways…

What Happens If You Don’t Forgive Yourself If you don’t forgive yourself, you may have these problems… o You’ll have unresolved guilt nagging you o You’ll always be recalling past failures o You’ll be pessimistic and negative, or even suffer from chronic depression o You’ll be seeking revenge toward yourself at different times o You’ll manifest self-destructive behaviors. o You’ll be disrespectful towards yourself o You’ll be indifferent toward yourself and your needs o You’ll be defensive and exhibit distant behavior towards others o You’ll be controlled by your fear of failure, rejection, and non-approval o You’ll have an emotional vacuum in which little or no emotions are shown o You’ll be suspicious about others’ motives when they’re accepting of you o You’ll experience chronic hostility, sarcasm, and cynicism It is a sad life! Make a decision now to forgive yourself now.

Before Anything Else, Discern: Are They Real Sins Or Imagined Sins? Before we even forgive ourselves—or even ask forgiveness from God—answer one question. Have you really sinned against God? Or have you just failed someone else’s standards? Sometimes, we can set up our selves for big-time guilt by making lots of rules that God never wanted us to make. For example, in the 1980’s, I used to teach my community members this spiritual regimen: To pray one hour a day, read the Bible one hour a day, and read other spiritual books one hour a day—for a total of 3 hours a day. I also encouraged them to go for daily Mass, daily Rosary, and an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I was still a young teen then, and I could certainly do all of that, but I was oblivious to the fact that my members had jobs and kids to take care of. Boy, did I set them up for a very long guilt trip! (Forgive me, Lord.) None of them could ever measure up to my standards. But those rules that I made were just mine, not God’s rules. (Leaders need to be careful not to set people up to discouragement, or we rob them of joy in their life with God.) I also remember a woman who felt guilty for disappointing her husband again and again. She would constantly ask for forgiveness from God for being a terrible wife. But when she described her husband to me, I instantly knew that he was the problem. He wanted his clothes to be pressed in a particular way, his egg cooked in a particular way, his newspaper laid out on the table each morning in a particular way. And if his wife will not do it in this particular way, he labelled her as a disappointing wife. Not true! I told her that she has not sinned and there was nothing to ask forgiveness from God. But if we have indeed sinned against God, then let us take these next two steps… Forgive Yourself Now! Let’s pray. Place your hands on your chest.

Step #1: Ask God For Forgiveness Lord, forgive me now, in Jesus name. Forgive me for all my sins and failures. I believe You love me. I believe that Your love is bigger than my sins and failures. Today, I receive your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me! Step #2: Forgive Yourself Today, I make a choice to forgive ME. I know that God has forgiven me. I don’t have to be perfect for me to love ME. I am a very good person because God made me very good. As God loves me, so do I love ME. I no longer need to condemn me. I am forgiven by God, and I forgive ME, in Jesus name. Amen. Let’s now move to the second step of loving yourself…

2. Accept Your Weaknesses What’s the difference between forgiving yourself and accepting your weakness? Answer: We only forgive ourselves for our sin. We don’t forgive ourselves for being weak. Because being weak isn’t a sin. It’s part of being a human being. Let me give you an analogy. I know of some parents who scold (note: scream) at their kids for being noisy and playful. At moments like these, I want to intervene and say, “Mother, listen to yourself. You’re actually angry at them for beingkids?” That’s what we do too to ourselves. Because we are our harshest critics. If you want to love yourself, you need to celebrate who you are—your strengths and weaknesses combined. Especially your weaknesses! Fire Your Inner Parrot Let me tell you a story. On her way home, a woman was walking on the sidewalk. She saw a parrot in a pet shop window. Upon seeing her, the parrot said, “Lady, you are really ugly!” Shocked, the woman walked away in a huff.

The next day, she walked again on the same road. She saw again the parrot peering through the pet shop window. And sure enough, when the parrot saw her, it said, “Lady, you are really ugly!” The woman couldn’t take it anymore. She barged in the pet shop and told the owner, “Your bird outside has been telling me that I’m ugly. You better do something about that parrot. When I walk here tomorrow, and that bird says the same thing about me, I’ll sue you!” The owner was very apologetic and said, “It won’t happen again, Ma’am.” The next day, she walked home on that same road. Once again, she sees the parrot, and the parrot sees her. She stopped and with an icy stare asked, “Yes?” The bird, strutting back and forth, cocked, “You know.”

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Love Yourself Friends, many of us have an inner parrot that tells us, “You’re ugly.” We have an inner parrot that we carry around within us, cruel and rude. We actually don’t need the devil anymore to accuse us and damn us to Hell. Because we do it ourselves. These feelings of shame drive us to our addictions. Friend, fire your inner parrot. (Better yet, fry him with olive oil, a little garlic, and chilli.) Start telling yourself the truth: That you’re God’s child and beautiful beyond imagination. And that God will use even your worst weaknesses. Remember: You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

Your Weakness Is A Gift In the Bible, St. Paul boasted of his “Thorn in the Flesh”. It was his weakness. Bible scholars don’t know what it was, but here are some intelligent guesses: o temptation o persecution o sexual desires o physical appearance o epilepsy o eyesight trouble o chronic malaria fever But whatever it was, about this weakness, he said these immortal, mind-boggling words. “At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”[9] How can your weakness be gift?

Your Weakness Blesses You In 3 Great Ways First, my weaknesses humble me. It makes me depend on God even more. And I see how He uses me mightily despite all my weaknesses! That is why the Bible says,God chooses what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.[10] Second, my weaknesses make me more merciful towards others. I believe that someone who easily judges others hasn’t yet accepted his own weaknesses. If he had, he wouldn’t be judgmental. But because he hasn’t, he projects his self-anger towards other people.

Third, my weaknesses bond me with others in a way that nothing else can. When I share the story of my past and my addiction to someone else, I disrobe my defences and become vulnerable to him. In this way, I also give permission to that person to disrobe his defences as well. Friend, thank God for your weaknesses, your struggles, and your problems. They are great gifts that will bless you and others. Let’s now go to the third way of loving yourself.

3. Feel Your Feelings A long time ago, I didn’t feel my feelings. I didn’t bother with them. If they became intense, I shunned them. To me, all desires were sinful. And all emotions were just part of the “flesh”, not of the “spirit”. Feelings were the enemies of God. At the very least, they were bothersome things that distracted me from doing God’s will. No wonder I was in such an internal mess! Because when we don’t feel our feelings, we treat ourselves with disrespect! I was acting very rudely towards myself. My Love Tank was empty because I wasn’t loving myself enough to even listen to my feelings. Remember: Feelings are the windows of the soul. When I wasn’t feeling my feelings, I didn’t have a clue what was happening inside me. Again, self was an enemy of God, so why bother? Just focus on God’s Word, and viola, everything will be solved, right? How wrong I was. Because God was speaking to me through my most negative emotions, and I wasn’t listening.

Identify Your Feeling; And Identify The Source Of Your Feelings Sometimes, I can’t even identify what I was feeling. I just knew it was a bad feeling—that’s why I was running away from it. I didn’t know if it was sadness or fear or worry or anger. But when I run away from my bad feelings, I run away from myself. Today, I know what to do. I sit down, be quiet for a while, and identify what I feel. I don’t just go rushing about in my busy day. When I identify it, then I feel the feeling. I feel it before God’s Presence. I also try to identify the source of these feelings. Why am I feeling this way? Is there any action that I need to do? Sometimes, this first step of “feeling my feelings” is all that’s needed. I don’t have to do anything else. By feeling what I feel, I respect myself. By feeling what I feel, I heal myself. It may take time for the painful feelings to pass, but ultimately, I rise from it whole and peaceful. Sometimes, I have to do something else. Perhaps I need to surrender to God. Perhaps I need to do something concrete, like talk to someone or solve a problem. In the End, You Still Do What God Wants You To Do No, I’m not supposed to follow my feelings blindly. That’s from the crazy guys that preach, “Do what you feel. If you feel like punching someone, then punch a pillow or wall. If you feel like screaming, then go inside your room and scream like hell. If you want to get drunk, then drink…” I don’t buy that strategy.

I didn’t say, “Do what you feel.” I said, “Feel what you feel.” When you feel your feelings before the Presence of God’s love, in the end, you still do what God wants you to do. But you allowed yourself to feel your painful feelings, to validate them, and to listen to its inner messages. This is a very important step of loving yourself. Remember what I said about the immediate cause of our addictions? Because we want to escape our painful emotions. But by entering into our painful feelings with boldness, we realize that they’re not as terrifying as we feared them to be. After awhile, we no longer need our addictions. Because we no longer need escape routes from our painful emotions. Finally, we come to the fourth step of loving ourselves. 4. Trust Your Needs I don’t know about you, but I’ve been taught by my brand of religion not to trust my feelings—and not to trust my needs as well. Because I figured my desires are most likely from the flesh, not from the spirit. The message I received was this: “Fear yourself. Fear your desires. Fear your selfishness. Don’t trust yourself. Instead, trust God. Trust your group. Trust your leader. Trust the system…” (This is the reason why there is so much spiritual abuse happening in religious groups.) Oh, what a terrible thing to believe! Priests, preachers, and pastors love to emphasize this message: “Don’t trust yourself!” Directly or indirectly, they will ask their members to simply rely in the leaders’ wisdom and decisions. Unintentionally, they produce people who are infants in their emotional and spiritual growth. Instead of freedom, religion shackles us to immaturity. (God calls us to be childlike, not childish.)

God Trusts You— When Will You Learn To Trust You? Instead, we need to hear a new message. What message? That You’re made in the image and likeness of God![11] That you’re not just good. You’re very good![12] So trust yourself because God trusts you. He trusts you by calling you His child. He trusts you by planting His Kingdom in you. He trusts you by dwelling within you. He trusts you by commissioning you to be His presence in the world. He trusts you to love the way He does…” Wow! (Believe me, when I pray, when I read the Bible, when I listen to God’s voice in the depths of my heart, I say “Wow!” many, many times.) And one way of trusting yourself is to trust your needs. Not your sinful needs. (That’s what you need to deny.) But your legitimate, valid, and God-planted needs. Meet those needs. Even your need for joy. Some people view all pleasure as bad. Their unwritten motto: “If it feels good, it must be bad.” That’s not true. I believe life was given by God to be enjoyed to the full. To be savoured with delight. So taste. Breathe. Relish. Dance. Sing. Live! When we enjoy life, we allow others to enjoy as well. (Ever wondered why some religious people are so stuck-up, they don’t allow anyone to enjoy life?) Love yourself!

What is Draining You? Get Rid Of It If You Can. I don’t intend to write a complete list of how you need to care for yourself. (I’ll do that in another article.) But here’s a question I want you to ask yourself:What is draining you? What person, thing, activity, group, habit, situation, and places in your life drains your joy and life and energy and holiness? What sucks your happiness? If you can get rid of that draining thing, do so! By doing that, you’ll grow up and have more life and energy for the right things that God wants you to do. In other words, I’m asking you to set your boundaries. Let me list the probable “draining” things in your life… 1. Take care of your emotional health. o I spend a lot of time with “emotional vampires”—people who are so dependent on me, or those who are exceedingly negative, or those who emotionally manipulate me… o I still hang on to a dead-end romantic relationship o I don’t have close friends o I watch too much TV o I don’t have time just to rest and reflect, to read and plan 2. Take care of your family life o My relationship with my spouse and kids is shallow o I have a long-standing conflict with a family member o My home environment is chaotic o I feel I’m not a great mother (father, son, daughter…) 3. Take care of your professional life o I don’t enjoy my job o I feel that I’m not fulfilling my mission in my job

o I feel that my core gifts can be used elsewhere o I can no longer work with my co-workers o I don’t see a future in my career 4. Take care of your physical health o I don’t eat the right food o I don’t sleep enough o I don’t exercise enough o I have a vice that’s robbing me of my health 5. Take care of your financial health o I let “parasites” depend on me instead of letting them stand on their own o I have huge debts o I pay my bills late o I don’t know where my money is going each month o I don’t have savings and investment plan o I know I won’t have enough for my retirement and old age 6. Take care of your spiritual health o I’m in bondage to an addiction that’s draining me spiritually o I focus on my sin, not on God’s love for me o I don’t spend time with God o I lack a faith community of friends to support me o I feel I’m not following my own moral compass o I feel I’m not serving God and others If you checked any of the items above, do something about it! Ask for help. But don’t get drained to the point that there’s nothing to give anymore.

Love The Sinner And The Saint Within We’re tempted to only see the sinner in us. Remind yourself that there’s a saint in you too. Last July, I had a few birthday parties among close friends. It has been our tradition that we honor birthday celebrants—so it was my turn to be in the hot seat. I have to be honest with you. It’s always unnerving to be honored by friends for an hour—but after awhile, I felt my Love Tank filled up. For example, one friend recalled how I helped him during a time of need. (I did? Really?) Another friend shared how she was so touched by my compassion. Another friend honored me for how I stood by him even when everyone else rejected him. I wish the Preacher In Blue Jeans camera was on! Too bad it wasn’t. No, not so that you would hear their honoring. But so that I could replay them and I could hear them again— especially during times of self-doubt. When I feel bad. When I feel I’m not worthy. (Yes, I go through those times.) This is a universal experience. Let me end by sharing a beautiful story I read in theChicken Soup series…

Remind Yourself That You’re A Saint Within One day, a teacher asked her students in class to write the names of the other students on a piece of paper. “And leave space between each name,” she instructed. When they finished, the teacher said, “Underneath each name, I want you to write the good things you see in that person.” Immediately, the kids busied themselves with the task and took the whole class to finish it. The teacher took the papers home and collated the material. On one piece of paper per child, she wrote all the positive qualities written by their classmates. On the next class, she handed out the papers to the kids. They were very happy to read the letters. “Wow, am I really this person?” some of them gushed.

Many, many years later, the teacher received a phone call. One of her former students, who had become a soldier, was killed in battle. Would she want to attend the funeral? She went and saw many of her former students condoling with the bereaved family. As she stood beside the coffin, looking at the lifeless body of a young man in uniform inside, a middle-aged woman approached her. “Are you my son’s grade school teacher?” “Yes,” she said, “you must be his mother. My deepest condolences.” “I’d like to show something to you,” the mother said. “My son had this inside his wallet when he died.” She pulled out a worn-out piece of paper. It was obvious that it had been folded and unfolded many times. Even before it was opened, the teacher already knew what it was. It was the piece of paper that contained the list of positive qualities his classmates saw in him. Kept and read all through the years. By that time, her other students had gathered around both of them. A young man beside the teacher said, “Uh, I carry mine wherever I go too.” A woman from behind said, “I still keep mine. It’s in my diary.” Another man said, “I display my list on my desk at home.” Another woman said, “It seems like all of us kept that paper all these years!” The teacher was moved beyond words. Why would a simple piece of paper mean so much? Because here’s the truth: Life can be rough. At various time, it can even be cruel. Every time we fail, every time we receive criticism, every time we get rejected, we doubt our worth. We doubt our goodness. We are very desperate for love.We need to love the saint within us. Friend, love yourself. Each day, celebrate your positive qualities. Celebrate your goodness. Celebrate your beauty. Thank God for how wonderful He made you. Love the sinner and the saint within.

Shape Your Outer World Before It Shapes You How To Say NO Toxic People In Your Life. As a teen, I was part of a tiny Catholic youth group. In that group, I was called “St. Francis” because I loved Lady Poverty, wore the crummiest shirts, the most horrid brown sandals, and prayed in the chapel the whole day. (Actually, I slept most of the time, but that’s just a secret between you and me.) One of my friends was called “Brother Leo” because he imitated me, the way the real Brother Leo imitated his master, St. Francis. If I prayed in a particular way—with my eyes closed, my hands clasped, my head bent down and tilted to the left—he’d pray in the same way. If I wore an ugly shirt because of my love for poverty, he’d wear the same thing. Because I was good-looking, he’d try to be good-looking. (Haha.) One day, his family left for the US for good, and we lost touch… Six years later, he returned for a visit. The old youth group was excited to have a little reunion. So we met up with “Brother Leo” again. When I saw him at the reunion, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nor could anyone in the room. Brother Leo was wearing a loud purple shirt with a gold band around his neck. And in thick slang, he greeted us, “Hey Dude!” That wasn’t so bad. While all of us were picking up our jaws from the floor, he said, “Let’s go out and look for a real parteeeh. Let’s look for some chicks! Man, I love girls!” The transformation was unbelievable. Where was the prayerful, quiet, humble, pure guy that we knew? Here’s what I learned from life: We need to deliberately shape our outer world before it shapes us.

What Are The Two Most Powerful Forces That Shape Your Life? It was Charlie “Tremendous” Jones who said thatYou will be in five years the sum total of the books you read and the people you are around. I believe the two most powerful forces that shape our life are our relationships and our media. I repeat: If you know that your outer world shapes you, make a decision now to shape your outer world. Because you can! Here’s a story of someone who didn’t use this power… The Story Of A Wise King That Wasn’t So Wise After All The Guinness Book of World Records says that no one beats King Solomon when it comes to wives. The guy had 700 wives with 300 concubines. Believe me, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on Valentines Day. The chaos! While walking around his palace, he’d say to one, “I love you Leah,”; And to another, “I love you Rachael,”; And to another still, “I love you… uh, Melissa or Melanie?” Here’s what the Bible says: King Solomon loved many foreign women… They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. (How many of you know that just because you’re romantically in love with someone DOESN’T mean that you’re supposed to be with that person?) As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…[1] The wisest man on Earth didn’t choose his relationships well. If you don’t want to commit his mistake, let me share with you 3 powerful steps to create your outer world.

The 3 Powerful Steps To Re-Create Your Outer World I guarantee you. If you do these 3 steps, you’ll not only be free from enslaving habits, you’ll actually grow yourself and fulfil your greatest dreams. Step #1: Say No to Toxic People Step #2: Say Yes to Terrific People Step #3: Control Your Media Let me explain these steps one by one…

Step #1: Say No to Toxic People There are many types of Toxic Persons, but let me focus on 6 types that you should avoid: Toxic Person #1: Those who encourage your addiction Toxic Person #2: Those who constantly hurt you Toxic Person #3: Those who control you through force Toxic Person #4: Those who control you through manipulation Toxic Person #5: Those who pass their responsibilities to you Toxic Person #6: Those who whine about life and invalidate you Do you have Toxic People in your life? God says,Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.[2] Let’s heed those wise words! Let’s find out if you have Toxic People in your life…

Toxic Person #1: Those Who Encourage Your Addiction You know this story very well because it happens too often. My friend “Jim” was a drug addict. He entered a rehab for a year. In that entire year, Jim didn’t touch the drug. He went back home a new man. Not a few days after, an old friend who used to take drugs with Jim visited him at home and offered him shabu. Jim said no, “I don’t take that anymore.” But as the days progressed, he kept on meeting his old friends. After only three months, Jim snorted shabu again—and his addiction was more severe than before. Question: What caused his downfall? Answer: He shaped his inner world, but he didn’t shape his outer world. He needed a new set of friends. He needed a new itinerary. He also needed new hobbies, new music, new activities… It’s pretty obvious. If you’re an alcoholic, stop hanging out with friends who drink. Hang out with new friends who don’t. If you’re a gambler, cut friendships with other gamblers. Hang out with people who don’t gamble. And so on. Many people don’t use their power to choose their friends. They just accept the people who call up, visit, and appear on their doorstep. Big mistake. Don’t do that. Jesus says If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.[3] Go out and choose the kind of people you like to become. (More on this later.)

Toxic Person #2: Those Who Constantly Hurt You Do you avoid danger? If you see a rabid Doberman, foaming in the mouth, sharp fangs exposed, racing towards you at top speed, would you run away as fast as Flash? Or would you stand there with a smile, stretch out your hand and say, “Here kitty, kitty…” I bet you’d run faster than you ever did in your entire life. Unless you have a death wish. The Wise Book says a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple (foolish) keep going and suffer for it.[4] Here’s a sad fact. After my years of counselling hordes of people, I’ve realized many have a death wish when it comes to choosing their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, business partners, spiritual leaders, organizations, and friends. Because they choose abusers. They get physically abused. Verbally abused. Emotionally abused. Spiritually abused. And after an abusive relationship breaks up, they jump into another abusive relationship. Insane, I tell you. But after 27 years in ministry, it’s more common than you think. I have only one explanation for this crazy phenomenon: Victims like being victims. Why? Perhaps because they want to pay for their sins. Or perhaps they feel they deserve the punishment. Or perhaps they feel superior to the abuser. Or perhaps that’s how they get the empathy from other people. But this is sick. Let me shout this to the rooftops: Get rid of all abusers in you life!

Don’t Just Stand There—Do Something! If your spouse is an abuser, get away as far as possible from him or her. I’m not saying get a divorce right away. But don’t live in the same house with an abuser until the person gets help and gets healed. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is an abuser, what are you doing still sticking with that person? You should have left the first time abuse took place. If your organization, fraternity, club, prayer group, or church demeans you, manipulates you, drains you, abuses you—why are you still there? Look for a group that blesses you and nourishes you. If your business partner steals from you, cheats on you, or disrespects you—get out, sell out, and find another business partner. Remember: When you’re with an abuser, you create more inner pain, and inner pain can produce more hidden addictions. Jesus says, Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.[5] You are sacred. You are the pearls. So don’t throw yourself to dogs and pigs. Some people however may not be obviously abusers, but they abuse you in a less obvious way…

Toxic Person #3: Those Who Control You Through Force There are people who control you through subtle aggression. They intimidate you. They’re bigger. They’re louder. They’re scary. They’re bullies in nice clothes. The Controller could be your husband. Or your grandmother. Or your friend. Or your boss. Let me tell you a story I read recently… One day, a young guy was walking on a dark street. Suddenly, out of an Acacia tree, an old man wrapped in a black robe appeared. His eyes were fierce, his face pale, his beard unkempt. He pushed a black book towards the young man and ordered, “You need to read this book! Buy it for P700.” The young man was shocked and mumbled, “I don’t have P700…” But the elderly man spoke with a louder voice, “You need to read this book! Give me P700.” So with shaking hands, the lad fumbled with his wallet and handed P700 to him. The mysterious man placed the black book in the chap’s hand and said, “Whatever you do, never look at the last page. Or you will regret it.” He then walked towards the field behind them and suddenly disappeared! The young man went home, shaken to the core. In the evening, he started reading the book. It was all about ghosts and werewolves and vampires! After awhile, he grew tired, closed the book and went to bed. But he couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning, the young man could only think of one thing: What was on the last page of the book? What will I regret seeing there? Finally, he couldn’t take the suspense any longer. With every ounce of courage he could muster, he grabbed the black book. With trembling fingers, he opened it to the last page…

And when he saw it, at once, waves of regret filled him! The last page was empty. Except for a small note that said, “P49.50, National Bookstore.” Friend, never get intimidated to do what you don’t want to do. Because often, you’ll get robbed.

Toxic Person #4: Those Who Control You Through Manipulation There is another kind of Controller that doesn’t do it through aggression but through manipulation. In an even more subtle way, they will control you. My example is Delilah, the girlfriend of Samson. The Bible says Samson loved Delilah. But it doesn’t say that Delilah loved Samson. Instead, Delilah used Samson. Delilah needed Samson. (When will we realize that need is different from love?) As you read the story, you realize that Delilah never loved Samson at all. Remember, “Controllers” are “Users”, and Delilah was a Controller. (Do you know of any “Users” in your life?) One day, Delilah was approached by her Philistine leaders. They wanted to capture Samson but couldn’t because of his magical strength. So they offered her 1,100 Shekels from each of them if she could discover the secret of his supernatural strength. So she went to Samson and asked, “How can anyone capture you?” First, he lied. Samson said, “If you tie me with brand new ropes, I’ll be as weak as any man.” And while he slept, Delilah tied him up with brand new ropes and called the soldiers of the Philistine leaders to capture him. But like snapping thread, Samson broke free from the ropes and chased after the men. Wasn’t that enough proof for Delilah’s deception? If I were Samson, I would simply have said to her, “Delilah, you’re a snake. You don’t love me. This relationship is over. Get out of my life!” But Samson didn’t do it. He tolerated her. And so Delilah sat on the lap of Samson and with a pout and a hurt look, she said, “You don’t love me, Samson…” (Her finger probably toying with his hair.) “But I do!” Samson said defensively.

“No, you don’t,” she purred, “You lied to me. You haven’t told me the secret of your strength.” (Controllers like turning the table and pointing your mistakes, while hiding their glaring mistakes.) Finally, out of exasperation, Samson says, “Okay, okay! Cut my hair and I’ll be as weak as any man.”[6] And while he slept, Delilah cut his hair. We know the end of the story. Samson was captured, his eyes gouged out, and he was imprisoned until he died while pushing two pillars. Because Samson loved Delilah, he was desperate to believe in the lie that she also loved him. But she didn’t. Who are the Delilahs in your life? Here’s the truth: Samson may have been romantically attracted to Delilah, but he really didn’t love her. If he really loved her, he would have told her off and shooed her away. That was the kind of love she needed.

Toxic Person #5: Those Who Pass Their Responsibilities To You One day, a woman was chatting with her neighbor. “I feel really good today. I started out this morning with an act of unselfish generosity. I gave a five hundred Peso bill to a bum.” “Wow, you gave a bum five hundred Pesos?” her neighbor asked, “My gosh, that’s a lot of money. What did your husband say about it?” “Oh, he thought it was the proper thing to do,” she said, “my husband said, ‘Thanks.’” Many people are just like that woman. They have bums in their lives, and these bums are friends and family. In other words, they are hosts to parasites. Remember: In biology, parasites can’t exist without a host. So the reason there are parasites is because there are people who like to play the role of host. Are you a host to a human parasite? Someone who depends on you for money? Or for housing? Or for your service? The human parasite isn’t a quadriplegic lying down in bed with a feeding tube stuck to his throat. The parasite is an otherwise healthy human being that simply wants you to be responsible for his life, period. He doesn’t want to take responsibility for his own life. He looks to you for his sole salvation. If you don’t help him, he’ll die. Deep inside, you feel used. You really want to say “No more!” but you can’t because you feel guilty. In the process, you have lost your boundaries. When you do, there is so much inner pain within, and you escape through your hidden addictions. Bad news: You think you’re doing good, but you really aren’t.

There’s A Difference Between Feeling Good And Doing Good Giving to a parasite makes you feel good. But that doesn’t make it good. (Yep, there’s a difference.) It assuages your guilt. But in fact, you’re causing more harm than good. You’re really a thief. You’re stealing their self-worth. More than that, when you take away the bad consequences of their irresponsibility through your constant rescuing, you take away the fuel that would have forced them to change. Some justify helping a parasite by quoting Galatians 6:2 when St. Paul says, “Carry each other burdens…” But 3 verses later, St. Paul also says, “Each one should carry his own load.” That means if a parasite asks for your help, the best way to help him is to say ‘No’. I give a lot. Dole outs are fine when there’s a real emergency. But I stop giving when his daily life becomes an emergency. Because most of my giving is focused on teaching people how to fish, not just giving fish. I give when I know the person will learn how to stand on his own two feet one day. Finally, there’s a last type of Toxic Person you need to avoid…

Toxic Person #6: Those Who Whine About Life and Invalidate You There are people who are constantly negative—and they suck your energy dry. Believe me, after talking with them, you feel as though the sky is darker, the world is uglier, and life is more miserable than ever. Whiners complain about everything. The heat. The cold. The boss. The money. The government. On and on and on. It never stops. Whiners are bad, but invalidators are worse. Invalidators are whiners too, but instead of just criticizing the world, they specialize in criticizing you. When you mention a plan, a dream, or an original idea, you’ll hear an invalidator say, “You? Do that?” He’ll roll up his eyes, shake his head, and smirk. These pompous know-it-alls believe they know you and your future more than God. Before an invalidator, you’ll always remain small. Size up the invalidator’s “friends”, and you’ll discover other “small” people who bow down to his majesty. Whiners will steal away your joy. Invalidators will steal away your dreams. If you don’t watch out, they’ll infect you with their virus and you’ll become a professional cynic like them. Whiners and invalidators are losers. If your friends are losers, get a new set of friends. I’m not saying that you dump them. God wants you to love them. But you don’t have to hangout with them. Instead, hangout with people who respect you. And people who inspire you. And people who put their energies to build up rather than destroy. And people of life and beauty and love.

By The Way, Are You The Toxic Person? Avoiding toxic people is difficult. Avoiding being the toxic person is even more difficult. What if you’re the abuser, or controller, or manipulator, or parasite, or whiner, or invalidator? Ask people close by for their honest feedback. If they say, “Yes,” own up to your behavior, quick. And get to work! (What you’ll do is beyond the scope of this article, but I hope to discuss that another time.)

Step #2: Say Yes to Terrific People What is shaping you now? The Good Book says, Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.[7] If you’re with terrific people, then these terrific people are sharpening you…. Terrific Person #1: Those Who Nourish You Emotionally Terrific Person #2: Those Who Nourish You Spiritually Terrific Person #3: Those Who Nourish You Intellectually Terrific Person #4: Spend Time With God, Who Else?

Terrific Person #1: Those Who Nourish You Emotionally There are really only two types of great people in this world. The first type of great person: After talking to him, you walk out impressed at how great that person is. You are dwarfed by his greatness. Here’s the second type of great person: After talking to him, you walk out impressed at how great you are. You walk out a giant yourself—as big or even bigger than that great person. Hang out with the second type of great person. Hang out with people who make you feel important, respected, and worthy. One of my mentors has a powerful way of making me feel important. He’s a true blue, genuine Billionaire. But he treats me like I was more important than he is. It’s the small things that he does that make me leave his presence believing I’m special. The way he listens to me. The way he respects my opinion. The way he doesn’t laugh at my silly questions. Even common sense courtesy and respect. For example, after our meeting in his office, he’ll walk with me to my car. He won’t leave me until he knows I’m in my car and ready to go. Small things that tell me I’m a great man. Look for people like that.

Terrific Person #2: Those Who Nourish You Spiritually You’re a soul with a temporary earthly existence. Thus, your most important need is to be spiritually nourished. That’s why I preach at the FEAST every Sunday. (Join us at Ballroom at Valle Verde Country Club, beside ULTRA, every 7:30am or 10:00am, whichever you prefer.) I believe that many people are spiritually malnourished and they need God’s Word in their lives. But more than knowledge, a spiritual leader should feed you with God’s love. How? By his own love for you. He doesn’t teach you because of pride. He teaches you because of love. That’s where I want to grow—and boy do I have a long way to go. When a spiritual leader believes he’s better, holier, and more righteous than anyone else in church, be wary. A good spiritual leader knows his faults and acknowledges them before everyone. Look for your source of regularly spiritual nourishment. Terrific Person #3: Those Who Nourish You Intellectually Do you have dreams? Who are the people in the world that have already fulfilled your dream? Hang out with them—and pick their brains. Listen to their talks. Read their books. Attend their seminars. There are two kinds of teachers. The first kind of teacher has a lot of book knowledge and nothing else. The second type of teacher has experiential knowledge, with mud on her shoes, blisters on her hands, and scars in her heart. She’s someone who teaches from her battlefield experience. Look for the second type of teacher. For example, if I want to grow my organization, Light of Jesus, to the next level, I had to search for the second type of teacher: Those who actually built huge organizations.

So one day, I visited Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai to learn from him. Bro. Mike and I may have different styles and beliefs (and different fashion tastes too), but as an organizer, no one can match his ability to gather one million people in Luneta. Bro. Mike has been so kind and gracious to me, sharing his vast experience. You may not like his red barong, but if you can build an organization as big as El Shaddai (probably 8 million members),I guess you can wear any kind of barong you want. And would you believe? I’m also learning church-building strategies from Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, now heading 3-million members in only 22 short years. I don’t agree with his theology. When we’re together, my Bishop friends and I debate with him about his doctrines. (We regularly meet because we’re all members of the Presidential Council for Values Formation under Malacanang, working for the country.) But that doesn’t stop me from admiring Pastor Apollo’s excellent leadership skills. So when we meet, aside from theological debate, I sit down with him and learn his church-building strategies. Pastor Apollo has been very gracious to me too, and I’ve learned a lot in the area of church growth. I also have financial mentors who are millionaires and billionaires. I have family mentors who have great marriages and are fantastic parents. I have spiritual mentors who live with profound love and holiness and inspire me to do the same. Go and get terrific people in your life. Don’t Get Derailed When Your Old Friends Become Jealous I’ve expanded my inner circle of friends. Sometimes, my old inner circle becomes jealous. They say in Taglish, “Bo, others ka na.” They say that I have replaced them. No, I have not. I’ve not replaced my inner circle, I’ve just expanded it.

My inner circle now includes leaders, preachers, businessmen, real estate investors, bishops, computer gurus, marketing experts, educators, authors, etc. In fact, if you want to keep on growing, you’ve got to keep growing your inner circle of friends. There’s no other way. One last thing: Check the net-worth of the people you hangout with. Most likely, you’ll mirror each other’s average income. If you want an increase in your income, hangout with people who earn, save, invest, and give more than you do. Learn from them! (Let me pitch my seminar this November 3, 2007, How to Be Truly Rich Seminar. For more details, call Beckie at Tel. (632) 7229562. Learn how to be financially free! I urge you call now before you run out of seats—because we always have to reject applicants for lack of space.) Terrific Person #4: Spend Time With God, Who Else? Need I say more? Jesus was committed to daily prayer: And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he (Jesus) went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.[8] But here’s the problem: Many people don’t worship God, but a caricature of God. If you really examine their God, He’s cruel, legalistic, insecure, and tyrannical. We need to change our image of God, because we become exactly like the God we worship. In the end, we too will become cruel, legalistic, insecure, and tyrannical. (Have you ever wondered why many religious people are poor reflections of the love of God? This is the reason.) We’ll discuss more of this in another article very soon.

Step #3: Control Your Media Remember the two powerful forces that shape your life. First are relationships. Second is media. Like relationships, say “No” to toxic media and say “Yes” to terrific media. When it comes to media, remember one very important thing: You have very limited time. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, has exactly the same amount of hours a beggar has. When it comes to time, we’re all equal. So if you watch dumb, useless, mindless, inane TV shows like those broadcasted today, you’re throwing away precious time—and money. Time that you should have used for more inspiring media. People wonder why there’s no growth in their life. One probable answer: Because they waste so much time in front of the TV set. Noonday shows. Showbiz gossip. Telenovelas. I urge you to read inspiring books instead. Or watch great movies. Or listen to terrific talks. If you want to grow, control your media. Conclusion: Are You The Good Samaritan? I know. The most controversial part in this article is saying “No” to Toxic People. But let me insist that one of the reasons why we have hidden addictions is because we’re escaping from the inner pain of having no personal boundaries. We keep on saying yes to toxic people, we’re actually losing control of our lives. This lost of control is maddening and subconsciously drives us to where we seemingly feel have control—our hidden addiction. When we drink, or smoke, or lust, or shop constantly, or eat compulsively, or become religiously addicted, we feel some semblance of control. (Obviously, it’s fake. We really have no control over this area as well.)

Friend, you need to set boundaries. Or the world will conquer you. If you grew up listening to sermons about the Good Samaritan[9] in Church , you were trained to help people and feel guilty when you don’t. Remember the story? A guy was robbed and left dying on the road. A Priest and a Teacher of the Law passed by and didn’t bother to stop. The Samaritan however stopped, bandaged his wounds, took him in an inn, and paid for all his expenses. Wow, what a loving man. But we usually take for granted a very important part of that story: After helping the wounded man, the Good Samaritan actually left him with the inn keeper because he had to take care of his own business! He didn’t forget his own life! How could he keep on helping if he doesn’t keep earning from his business? Here’s another lesson: The Good Samaritan also asked help from others–the innkeeper. Because you don’t help alone. You’re not superman. Friend, be the Good Samaritan. Because the Good Samaritan didn’t love others only. He also loved himself. My friend, if you want to create a new inner world, you need to create a new outer world. Jesus said, And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins. God is giving you new wine for your life. Make new wineskins!

Redefine Yourself! Unless You Change Your Self-Portrait, Your Life Will Never Change! I was only a kid then. But to this day, I can never forget our old electric fan. If you’re my age, you’ve probably seen those monsters: An electric fan made of pure 100% steel and heavy as a boat. And with blades that could chop your head off. One day, we switched it on, and the blades made so much noise, you’d think there was an army helicopter right inside our home. That was when my cousin Chuck dropped by and volunteered to fix it. He was known in the family as a “jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none” kind of guy. We should have focused on the “master-of-none” part. Because after he “fixed” it, the noise was totally gone—but so was all signs of life. Our fan was now dead. “Chuck, you killed it!” we told him. “Well at least, it’s quiet now,” he said, “and we can sell this junk!” That was when my Uncle Tom came ambling through the door. “He’s good with his hands,” my father said. So we asked him to check what was left of our fan. Uncle Tom took it apart, and after almost two hours, put it together again. He plugged it—and with bated breath—we saw the blades moving again! And without the noise too. But no wonder, because the blades made one complete spin every…60 seconds! It was so slow, we wondered if it was now a clock. That was when one of my sisters asked, “Who made it anyway?” Someone said, “Hitachi.” Another sister of mine said, “Then let’s bring it to Hitachi. If they made it, I’m sure they can fix it.” Once in awhile, my sisters can say sensible things too. (Just kidding. I’m the only boy in the family, and the youngest too. So I have the license to tease them.) True enough, we brought it to Hitachi, and in a few days, the fan was running perfectly.

You Have A Self-Portrait In Your Heart; Many Times, It’s A Lie. In your mind, you already have an image of who you are. It’s a Self-Portrait. And it’s so incredibly powerful; it actually determines your entire life. This Self-Portrait—how you define yourself—comes from your collective experience of your failures and successes. It also comes from how other people treat you. And it comes from how you’ve treated yourself all these years. That’s why your Self-Portrait could be a lie. It’s like asking my cousin Chuck and my Uncle Tom to fix you up. They don’t have your blueprint. They really don’t know who you are. Because they didn’t make you. Go to your Manufacturer instead. Delve deep within you and you’ll see your label stitched to your soul: “God’s Own, Made in Heaven.” He’s got your blueprint. He knows all your working parts. He knows you more than you know yourself. Because He made you, He possesses your most accurate Self-Portrait. Friend, in your heart right now, you carry a Self-Portrait—a way of looking at yourself. Question: Where does it come from?

My Self-Portrait Was A Lie Years ago, I had a raging pornographic addiction[1]. At 3am, I would wake up and roam the streets, looking for my “fix”— pornographic material. (There was no internet porn at that time, so I had to scrounge for cheap porn magazines.) That was who I was many years ago. In my mind, I had only one Self-Portrait: I was lustful. I was uncontrollable. I was sick and ugly and shameful. And stronger than my sexual addiction was my approval addiction. Desperate to fill in my hunger for love—and desperate to escape my inner shame—I was desperate that people like me. I’d bend over to get people to love me, no matter what the cost. I was a pathological People-Pleaser. And I was miserable as hell. Yes, I failed in the past. Too many to times to count! Oh, I shouldn’t be here writing to you now. Yet here I am, authoring books and preaching to thousands. I’m leading four organizations and a worldwide ministry. I’m a successful entrepreneur running my little businesses. I’m a happy family man with a lovely wife and two great boys. I shouldn’t be enjoying all these. I should be in the dumps. Destroyed. Hopeless. Lost.So what happened? In a phrase, I changed my Self-Portrait. Because every time I came to God in prayer, He wouldn’t agree with my rotten Self-Portrait. He would insist on changing it. Each time, He would tell me I was wonderful, beautiful, loved, and powerful beyond my wildest imagination. He also told me that it didn’t matter how much I failed. Surprisingly, He didn’t even look at my failures at all… Let me share with you my three giant Lessons on Self-Portraits: Get your Self-Portrait from God, Not From Anyone Else Keep Focused on your Divine Self-Portrait No matter what happens, never give up your Divine Self-Portrait

Lesson #1: Get Your Self-Portrait from God, Not From Anyone Else Change the Self-Portrait you carry in your heart. Because you will act according to your Self-Portrait, whether it is true or not. It could be a total lie (“You’re evil, you’re selfish, you’re ugly, you’re poor…”), but because you believe in it, you’ll be faithful to it and manifest its reality. That’s why when you change your Self-Portrait, you actually change your life. Remember: God’s Portrait of you is very different from the Self-Portrait you carry about yourself. While yours is usually based on your past, His portrait of you is always based on your future. So He paints a Portrait of you that is always beautiful and amazing and lovely. How do you get your Self-Portrait from God? Listen to His quiet voice within you. What does He say in your heart? And what does He say through His Word? And what does He say through the Church? He says many things about you, but let me re-visit these 3 simple but powerful Portraits. I’m a Child of God I’m a Friend of God I’m a Champion of God This is who you really are. Remind yourself of these 3 Self-Portraits, and your life will change!

Your First Self-Portrait: You’re More Important Than The Universe Because You’re A Child Of God I’ve shared this story before, but let me share it again. Every Saturday night is sacred for me. Because that’s when I go up to my “cave”, my tiny home office at the back of my house, to prepare for my weekly talk for the next day. (By the way, you’re most welcome to join us. I preach at the FEAST every Sunday at Valle Verde Country Club, beside ULTRA, in Pasig. Choose between two sessions—7:30am or 10:00am. You’ll be very blessed! For details, call Tel. 632-7259999). One Saturday night, I arrived from Pampangga. As I drove home, I had my plans all set up. After kissing my wife and hugging my kids, I’d make a beeline towards my cave, shut the door, and prepare for my talk. But my plan was not to be. Because as I entered my home and hugged my kids, my 7-year old said, “Daddy, can you play with me?” “Sure!” I found myself saying automatically, hiding any sign of reluctance from my voice. You see, through the years, I’ve had a lot of practice saying “Yes!” even if all I wanted to say was, “No! Can’t you see I’m busy?” As a father, I’ve made it my policy to always say “Yes!” when my son asks, “Daddy, can you play with me?” Because I know that a day is coming when my son will no longer ask that question, “Daddy, can you play with me?” He’ll grow up fast and will have other things to do. So while he asks that question, my answer should always be “Yes!”

God Always Says “Yes” To What Is Best For You So I sat on the floor and played Pokemon with him. As I held the tiny Pikachu figure in my hand, I began to think of the thousands of people who would be listening to me at the FEAST the next day. I also thought of the thousands more around the world who would be listening through TV, Radio, and the internet. So what was I doing there sitting on the floor with this yellow plastic mouse-like creature in my hand? Answer: Doing my most important ministry, which is, loving my son. At the end of the day, my son is more important than the thousands of people who listen to me. Simply because I’m his Daddy and he’s my son. Why did I share this story to you? Never forget that you’re God’s Child. In His heart, you’re more important than the entire universe. When you call on Him, He’s there. When you pray, He’s listening. When you ask, He gives you the best version of what you’re asking for. (Not necessarily what you ask for, because you sometimes ask what is second best.) You’re His Child. Bask in His love for you! Each morning, wake up and shout to the universe: “I’m a Child of God!”

Your Second Self-Portrait: God Talks To You Each Day Because You’re A Friend Of God One day, a man came up to me and asked, “Did you come up withKerygma?” “Yep,” I said, “Started it way back in 1990.” “And after that, you published 6 more magazines, Didache, Gabay, Companion, Sabbath… what are the others?” he asked. “Fish, our teen magazine, and Mustard, our kids’ magazine.” He grabbed my arm and asked, “Bo, can I ask you a question?” “Shoot,” I said. “Where do you get all your ideas? Aside from the magazines, you launched last Preacherinbluejeans.com and Kerygmafamily.com… Man, I’m serious. Where do you get all your ideas?” To tell you honestly, I couldn’t answer him. Because I felt my answer would have sounded cocky. I wanted to tell him, “I’m a friend of God and He talks to me.” Not with bolts of lightning and peals of thunder. But through ordinary, beautiful inspiration. Why? Because He’s my friend and friends talk to each other each day. Wait a minute. In case you’re thinking that I’m putting myself on a pedestal here, read my next sentence: If you look back at your life, you’ll realize that God has spoken to you too. He has been guiding you throughout your life. Because He’s your friend too. There’s nothing special about me. I fart. I snore. I sleep with my mouth open. I leave my dirty socks on the floor (Sorry, Sweetheart). We’re all Friends of God. You’re God’s Friend. And God likes talking to you. Jesus says, No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.[2] Each morning, shout to the universe, “I’m a Friend of God!”

Your Third Self-Portrait: You Can Do All Things Because You’re A Champion of God Whenever I face a problem, I speak these mighty words out loud: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me[3]. Let me tell you a story that happened just three months ago. Three months ago, I was worried. Because we bought an Audio System for the FEAST worth a staggering, mind-blowing P2.4 Million. (It has the power to fill huge stadiums.) And I also promised the guy who sold it to us that we would pay him in three months time. Frankly, I didn’t know how in the world we could pay him in three months. Let me tell you why: Last year, our group, Light of Jesus, built more than a hundred houses for the poor in our Gawad Kalinga village in Montalban, plus more than fifty houses for the poor in He Cares, a street kids ministry. At the same time, we also built a P9M building for our Light of Jesus Center. Because of these wonderful projects happening all at the same time, our pockets had now holes in them. So three months ago, when I signed on a promissory note that we’ll be paying P2.4M for the Audio System, it was utter insanity…

My Friends Are Getting Used To My Insanity But after all these years, I’ve gotten used to my insanity, and so have my friends. I figured I didn’t have a choice either, as our weekly FEAST was growing in number and we really needed the beefed-up Audio System. So after I signed that piece of paper, I went on stage and spoke to our FEAST audience. “Friends, we need to raise P2.4M in three months for our Audio System.” The crowd in front of me looked at me with a huge question mark on their faces, waiting for a punch line. They probably thought I was joking. When they finally realized I was serious, I heard someone in the front row whisper, “Is it the full moon? Bo isn’t thinking straight again.” After my announcement, we passed the offering basket for the Audio System. True enough. On that day, we collected the humongous, astronomical, gigantic sum of… (drum roll please)… P12,000! Wow, if this pace kept up, I calculated that we’d reach P2.4 Million in, oh, fouryears. Man, we needed a miracle. During those three months, I don’t know how many times I said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’m a Champion of God! And as the weeks went by, the miracles came. First, the wonderful man who sold the Audio System slashed his price to P2.0M. He said he no longer wanted to make a profit from us. (Bless his soul and business, Lord!) Second, a lot of people began giving sacrificially. Even friends from abroad sent their donations faithfully. And today, the Audio System has been fully paid. In 27 long years of my ministry, God has never failed me yet. Each morning, shout to the universe, “I’m a Champion of God!”

Lesson #2: Focus Your Eyes On Your Divine Self-Portrait Ronni is a good friend and a very successful businessman. When I asked him why he’s so successful, he told me a very peculiar reason: He said that when he was growing up as a kid, his father prohibited them from talking about gossip around the dinner table. They couldn’t talk about showbiz actors, their neighbors, or the usual trivia that people talk about. Instead, they always talked about business. Imagine being a 5-year-old boy. And all around you, people are talking about how to increase sales, how to satisfy customers, and how to market your product! As a child, these daily family conversations around the dinner table painted a powerful picture in Ronni’s mind about who he would become one day. Subconsciously, he already knew he was going to be a successful businessman. Today, Ronni owns two companies worth millions. (By the way, if you want to meet Ronni, he’s one of my financial mentors. Join myTruly Rich Financial Coaching Program and you’ll meet him. However, we only accept graduates of the How To Be Truly RichSeminar. For more information, call Beckie at Tel. 632-7229562 Tuesdays to Fridays, 9:00am to 6:00pm) For years, Ronni’s father made him focus on a powerful Self-Portrait. And it has become a reality. Friend, you have to learn how to focus. Don’t focus on the negative things happening in your life. Accept it, yes. Acknowledge it, yes. Don’t deny it. But don’t dwell on it, meditate on it, and analyze it to death. Instead, focus on what God is telling you.

Because as you eat around the Banquet of Life, your Heavenly Father likes talking about how great you are—and how great you will be. Listen to Him. Focus on His Words. And be blown away by how beautiful you are in His eyes.

Lesson #3: No Matter What Happens, Never Give Up Your Divine Self-Portrait When I think of Self-Portraits from God, I think of Joseph in the Old Testament. Because Joseph had a dream about who he was in God’s eyes[4]. In that dream, he saw the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him. This became his fantastic SelfPortrait. He saw himself as a Child of God, Friend of God, and Champion of God. And through all the trials of his life, he held on to this Divine Self-Portrait. Joseph kept on rising after each fall, even if others kept putting him down. Consider this list of failures: Joseph was thrown into a pit. Joseph was sold as a slave. Joseph was falsely accused of rape. Joseph was thrown into prison. Joseph was forgotten in prison! Through all these, Joseph must have asked, “Lord, what about that vision, the dream, that Self-Portrait that you gave me? Was it fake?” But Joseph never gave up. Each time failure struck him like a lead pipe hitting his head, he held onto the SelfPortrait God gave him in his heart. He believed that he was going to be a winner. For we walk by faith, not by sight.[5] And in the end, Joseph’s Self-Portrait came true. He became Governor of all of Egypt. Let me tell you one last story of another electric fan…

Use The Power Of Pictures In Your Heart When he got married, Rudy was so poor, he couldn’t even buy an electric fan. He and his wife were renting a tiny room for P90 a month. And this tiny room got warm during summer, and without a fan, it got really hot. But even in his poverty, Rudy believed in his dreams. He was also a great believer in having pictures to remind him of his dreams. So he did the ridiculous. He got a newspaper, cut out a photo of an electric fan, and pinned it on their wall. And each time he saw the photo, it reminded him of his great goal in life (at that time): That he’d be able to buy an electric fan for his beloved wife. Whenever he saw beads of perspiration on her forehead, he’d go to the photo, and “press” the switch of the fan. He focused on his dream. Four days later, Rudy heard a knock on the door. When he opened it, he saw his neighbor holding an old electric fan. The neighbor said he was moving out and wondered if Rudy wanted to buy his old fan for P50. Rudy was overjoyed. “Yes!” he said. In four days, the real fan now the replaced the photo. The next photo he pinned on the wall was a beautiful white van. Foolish, right? How in the world can a poor man who couldn’t even buy an electric fan now dream of buying a van? But he kept on dreaming for that van and worked hard. The white van came. And so did the larger homes. Both here and America. Today, Rudy is a multi-millionaire. Because he had pictures that guided him through his journey. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, Rudy is also one of the financial mentors in my Truly Rich Coaching Program.I hope you can meet him one day.) Having photos work!

Hang In Your Heart Your Divine Self-Portrait But I’m asking you not just to hang a photo of an electric fan on your wall. Use the power of pictures for a more important task: Hang a photo of yourself in your heart—the kind of person God wants you to be in the future. Like Rudy, I want to you focus on that photo—your Self-Portrait—and dream big dreams. See yourself as a holy person. See yourself as a loving person. See yourself as a successful person. And see yourself as a “truly rich” person. Redefine yourself. Now.

Get Rid Of Toxic Faith Does Your Religiosity Worsen Your Hidden Addictions? Find Out By Looking For The 5 Symptoms Of Toxic Faith. Is your Faith Toxic? Instead of healing, it kills. Instead of blessing, it harms. Instead of giving, it robs. No, I’m not talking about your Brand of Religion. You could be Catholic, BornAgain, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. It doesn’t matter. In each of these, you could have Toxic Faith. It’s not the Brand of Religion, but the poisonous way you carry out your religion. It poisons you and it poisons others around you. One of the clear signs that it’s Toxic Faith is that it fuels our hidden addictions. I know of a significant number of religious people who are addicted to sex, alcohol, food, anger, materialism, and obviously, to religion itself. In recent years, sex addiction has become a huge problem among religious leaders. I should know. As a 13-year-old boy, I was molested by a religious leader. And in the process, I became a porn addict. I wanted to run away from the pain within. I didn’t want to face my internal problems. So I sought solace in my religious activities. And in pornography. This is my story. But this is also the story of many people in the Church…

The Facts That Tell Us There’s Something Terribly Wrong In the US alone, there are 4,392 priests being accused of sexual abuse. The problem is so acute, that in 2007, the Diocese of Los Angeles alone already paid $660 Million to over 500 victims of sex abuse. In total, the American Catholic Church has already paid over One Billion Dollars to sex abuse victims—and the numbers continue to grow. But these statistics don’t compare to meeting a victim. To come face to face with a person sexually violated by a religious man. I was a 13-year old boy when I went with my youth group to San Pedro, Laguna. We gave a Life in the Spirit Seminar in the parish. By evening, all of us retired to a private home. In the middle of the night, I woke up to discover a naked man on top of me. He was my religious leader. In my shock, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t shout. I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I saw the bedroom empty. I walked to the living room to see the most repulsive sight I have ever seen. I saw my youth group in a circle praying their morning prayer, with my religious leader at the center, playing the guitar and leading them into prayer. My leader was not a priest, but he looked like one. He loved wearing a large crucifix around his neck. He liked carrying a big Bible wherever he went. He preached well. He prayed well. He sang well. He also molested boys well. I never told anyone what happened to me that night. But one day, one of the friends in that youth group asked me, “Did he touch you?” Immediately, I understood. “Yes, he did,” I said. My friend said he was abused as well. We found out that he had molested almost all of us in the youth group like we were little plastic animals in a firing range. Please hear me out.

I still believe the majority of our priests are wonderful human beings and holy men of God. But the problem is real and leaders can no longer sweep it under a rug. Catholics and Protestants—We’ve All Got Problems Sex scandals among Christian evangelists and pastors are not any different. How can one forget the scandals of big names like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and most recently, Ted Haggard? Jim Bakker, President of the Praise The Lord (PTL) empire, was accused raping his secretary Jessica Hahn and paying her $265,000 to remain silent. Jimmy Swaggart, the biggest televangelist when I was growing up, called Jim Bakker on Larry King Live a “cancer in the Body of Christ” for his sexual indiscretions. He also exposed Pastor Marvin Gorman of having an adulterous affair with one his parishioners. In retaliation, Pastor Gorman hired a private detective to follow Swaggart, who photographed him leaving a motel with prostitute Debra Murphree. Swaggart tearfully spoke to his church and apologized. But in 1991, he was found again with another prostitute, Rosemarie Garcia. Ted Haggard, senior pastor of a 14,000-member church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was accused of enjoying the services of Mike Jones, a male prostitute for 3 years and takingshabu to heighten the experience. Ironically, before this, Ted Haggard condemned homosexuality very strongly in his TV appearances. Again, let me make this clear: I also believe most pastors and preachers are wonderful people and great servants of God. But these scandals call us to look deeper into our soul. Because whatever made Swaggart, Bakker, and Haggard fall is lurking within all of us. No exemption. Why do religious people have hidden addictions? There are many causes. One of the major ones is Toxic Faith.

The 5 Symptoms of Toxic Faith What is Toxic Faith? How do you know if you have Toxic Faith? Frankly, this requires an entire book to explore (and I’ll probably do that one day), but here’s a brief exploration of this very explosive, highly controversial subject.

Find out if your faith is Toxic. Let me describe five symptoms of Toxic Faith: · You have a Distorted Image of God: He’s Judgmental · You have a Distorted Faithfulness: You’re Legalistic · You have a Distorted Image of Self: You Feel Condemned · You have a Distorted Faith: You Practice Hyper-Faith · You have a Distorted Faith System: You’re Spiritually Abused Let me describe each of them one by one…

Symptom #1: You Have A Distorted Image of God: He’s Judgmental One day, a man came up to me and said, “Bo, I’ve been feeling guilty. I feel God is angry at me today…” “Angry at you? Why?” I asked. “Because I missed my prayer time today. I’m afraid that He’ll punish me and cause bad things to happen today.” Friends, I know that feeling very well. Because for years—no, decades—I used to feel this way. Yes, I once had Toxic Faith. (And if I’ll be honest, I still feel its residue in my soul.) Toxic Faith is based on a distorted image of God. For 20 years, I worshipped a judgmental, wrathful, vindictive, vengeful, and legalistic God. Though I would never admit that then. During that time, I was even preaching on God’s Love! Why? Because our intellectual image of God is very different from our subconscious image of God. The latter is much deeper and more difficult to change. A person with Toxic Faith will imagine God telling him, “Aha! You missed your prayer time today. Tsk, tsk, tsk. What an ungrateful creature you are…” I used to pray daily because of fear. Do you know how absurd that is? Imagine a father calling up his son by phone and growling, “Ingrate! How dare you forget me? You don’t visit me anymore. I’m warning you. I’m going to put a curse on you if you don’t visit me right this minute…” We call those fathers abusive monsters. And yet I imagined God to be like that. Today, I still pray daily, but I do so because I love to pray. He blesses me, nourishes me, and fills my heart with love. If I do miss my prayers, He doesn’t throw lightning bolts on me. When my image of God changed, my whole world changed as well.

Why does Toxic Faith worsen addictions? Remember what I said in an earlier chapter: Any addiction is a hunger for true love. I want to be loved, and because I can’t find real love, I search for a palliative. An anaesthesia, to cover up the pain. When my image of God is judgemental, legalistic, vindictive, and vengeful, what was supposed to perfectly address my hunger for love (God’s Love) makes the hunger more acute.

Do You Worship The Judgmental, Wrathful, Vindictive, And Vengeful God? According to Toxic Faith, God is judgmental, wrathful, vindictive, vengeful, and legalistic. If a person has a distorted image of God, your subconscious beliefs are as follows… (Check if you have any of them.) · “God will love me only if I behave.” · “God hates sinners and is angry with me.” · “He wants to punish me. He’s written down all my sins.” · “God is never satisfied with me.” · “If I sin, God will throw me to Hell forever.” · “I’m now sick with cancer. God is punishing me for not being good enough.” · “Our business flopped. God must be punishing me for forgetting Him.” · “We just met a car accident. You know why? We failed to pray…” When you have Toxic Faith, it seems as though God is preoccupied with your sins. All He does the whole day is waiting for you to make a mistake. He’s also fickle and moody: When you don’t sin, He likes you. When you do sin, He doesn’t like you. Their entire relationship with God is based on shame. He has ever-increasing demanding standards, like a target that keeps on moving, and they can never quite satisfy Him.

Symptom #2: You Have A Distorted Faithfulness: You’re Legalistic My friend “Melanie” believes that God wants her to pray at the exact time everyday— 5:00AM. She’d feel very guilty if, because she woke up late or had to do something else, was forced to pray at 5:30AM. To Melanie, that wasn’t honouring God. Toxic Faith produces very faithful people, but its expression of faithfulness is distorted: It’s legalistic and painfully scrupulous. Legalism in itself is an addiction. To confirm whether Melanie had Toxic Faith, I checked for two signs: Did it lead to shame or to self-righteousness? (In other words, it’s either she felt shame herself or she shamed others.) When Melanie was able to keep her 5:00AM prayer each day, she felt good about herself. She felt God accepted her and liked her—so she liked herself too. But she looked down on others who didn’t pray, who prayed late, or who prayed shorter than her. She became self-righteous. “You’ll grow up too one day,” she’d say condescendingly. When Malanie was late with her 5:00AM appointment with God, she was filled with shame. She felt God frowned on her. She felt bad about herself. She was an ungrateful, undisciplined, insect before God. She is the modern-day Pharisee that needs to hear again Jesus’ words: What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.[1] St. Paul has powerful words for the legalist and the scrupulous: So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.[2]

I’ve found this to be true. I recall a Bishop who was known to be very strict on others, almost rigid in his exacting ways, was exposed to have a mistress on the side. It was unimaginable when the news broke out. How could that be? The external rigidity was a subconscious projection. He was trying to control what he couldn’t control within. When Jimmy Swaggart was exposing Jim Bakker’s and Marvin Gorman’s sexual sins on national TV, he was really subconsciously exposing his own sexual sins which he couldn’t accept. When Ted Haggard was condemning homosexuality in the political arena and on television, he was condemning the homosexuality he couldn’t face within himself.

Are You A Religious Addict? Legalism can be an addiction. Rigidity can be an addiction. Religiosity can be an addiction. You can be addicted to anything. As long as it can give you an escape from your inner pain. And religion is the easiest thing to be addicted to because it’s something acceptable and highly admired. How do you know if you’re a religious addict? If instead of facing your past wounds or resolving personal issues head on, you ESCAPE from your inner pain by drowning yourself in religious activities—prayer, bible reading, doctrinal studies, ministry meetings—then most likely you’re a religious addict. Let’s move to the third symptom of Toxic Faith.

Symptom #3: You Have A Distorted Image of Self: You Feel Condemned A person with low self-worth will be damaged by Toxic Faith. I have talked to many whose language expresses a very negative picture of themselves. They say something like this, “I’m bad. My body is bad. I’m ashamed of myself. God wants me to disregard my feelings (because it’s of the flesh) and give up my valid and legitimate needs (because that’s selfishness).” Toxic Faith will never allow us to love ourselves. Instead, it will urge us to call ourselves a wretch and a worm—and urge us to treat ourselves that way. Some people actually pray in this way: “Lord, I’m a worm, a despicable, ugly, sinful worm. I don’t deserve your love. I’m so repulsive in your sight. I’m a beast, a infestation, a virus, a wretch like no other…” Don’t get me wrong. I love singing that classic song, Amazing Grace, which goes, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… It’s a beautiful song, but someone with a distorted self-image will focus on the “wretch” part and will not look at the other beautiful parts of that song. Same goes with the prayer after the Rosary, Hail Holy Queen. One part says, To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears… Someone with low self-worth we latch onto those words like a leech and live on them for eternity. “I’m a banished child of Eve, sighing, mourning, and weeping…” But before we’re children of Eve, we’re children of God. How could we forget that? Toxic Faith will distort how you look at yourself. It will also distort the very beliefs you believe in…

Symptom #4: You’ll Have A Distorted Faith: You Practice Hyper-Faith I’m a preacher that gives hope to people. It’s my mission. Every Sunday, I preach to a people that are tired and burdened from the daily grind of life. In our dark world, we need hope badly. So I tell people to dream big dreams and pray for them everyday. I tell people that they’re surrounded by God’s abundance—and at anytime, they can tap into that overflowing resource for all that they need. But there’s a thin line that I dare not cross: The realm of Hyper Faith. Hyper Faith is a common ingredient of Toxic Faith. Hyper Faith preaches, “If you only have faith, all your problems will be solved. If you just believe and pray, God will fix everything magically.” That’s not true. I tell people that while they’re breathing, problems are a part of life. They don’t disappear just because we’re close to God. But in every problem, God will accompany us. Real Faith heals, but Toxic Faith kills. How? Let me give you a few examples…

When You Don’t Get Healed, Is There Something Wrong With You? My friend “Ren” has cancer. For some time, she’s been praying for healing. One day, she was prayed over by a Pastor of the Hyper-Faith variety. After praying over her, this Pastor declared to her with the authority of an Old Testament prophet, “The only reason why you’re still sick is because you lack faith.”

Ren was devastated. She felt guilty. Sad. Confused. And angry. She felt guilty that she had little faith. She was sad that she couldn’t make it grow after all these years. She was confused because she didn’t know what to do. And she was angry at God that He was giving her healing but placed it beyond the reach of her small faith. But what was the truth? I knew Ren. My friend hasgreat faith. She trusted in God even in the midst of her sickness. But Hyper-Faith will not allow that. If You Want To Be Wealthy, Just Tithe? This is their belief: If you’re close to God, you’ll be healthy and wealthy. You’ll never get sick and you should never be poor. I don’t teach Hyper-Faith. Instead, I preach real hope. I also preach the practical things that people need to do to reach their dreams. Some people call me a Prosperity Preacher. I’d rather that they call me a Practical Preacher. Because not everything happens just by praying. (People criticize me for that too. They say I’m too practical. Oh well, you can’t please everyone all the time.) For example, some preachers say that tithing is the key to prosperity. I once read an entire book of financial prosperity, and for 11 chapters straight, the author just talked about giving and nothing else. But here’s the big question: Why is it that there are people who tithe and remain poor? Lack of faith again? Here’s why: Because tithing is only one of the keys to prosperity. There are other practical keys that one has to do to become prosperous. Like what? Like living simply; And saving regularly; And learning how to invest and knowing where to invest; etc… That’s the stuff that I love to teach people. (Note: If you want to learn more about how to receive financial blessings, attend my How To Be Truly Rich Seminar on November 3, 2007, 9am to 12noon. I want as

many people to learn how to reach financial freedom, so we made it very affordable. Your learning investment is P475 only per person. Call Beckie at Tel. (02) 7229562 (Tuesdays to Fridays, 9am - 6pm) or email her at [email protected] Once you graduate from that, you can apply for the Truly Rich Financial Coaching Program.) That’s another distorted belief of Toxic Faith: Having true faith means not doing anything but waiting on God to do it for me. Let me give you other distorted beliefs…

Other Distorted Beliefs Of Toxic Faith Have you heard this before? “God will find me a perfect mate and give me signs that it’s him or her.” No, He won’t. He’ll ask you to think and use yourmind. I met a woman who’s married to an incredibly irresponsible guy. He doesn’t have a job, lies to her constantly, and is addicted to gambling. “We met in the prayer meeting,” she said, “and when he courted me, I prayed to God if he was the man for me. I knew he didn’t have a job when I met him, and couldn’t keep one for a few years. So I asked for sign from God. And He gave them to me. So I thought it would be a great marriage…” So what if you met in a prayer meeting? That means only one thing—that he’s charismatic. But is he responsible? Is he honest? Is he faithful? Use your mind, sisters! Find out for yourself. Don’t depend on supernatural signs. Look for natural ones! The mere fact that he couldn’t hold a regular job for years was a natural sign to choose someone else! Here are three other insane beliefs of Toxic Faith I have no time to explain: · A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain. · I should accept everything that happens to me as God’s will. · If it’s not in the Bible, it not true or relevant. There are others, but let me now go to the fifth symptom…

Symptom #5: You’ll Have A Distorted Faith System: You’re Spiritually Abused Toxic Faith is usually supported by a Toxic Faith System. Which is spiritually abusive. I must confess that my community, Light of Jesus, had, at one time in our history, elements of this Toxic Faith System. Why? Because I was the leader of the group, and I had Toxic Faith. When the leader of a group has Toxic Faith, he creates a Toxic Faith System in his group. I think any religious group is open to such tendencies, and we need to be very careful. (I have asked for forgiveness for being spiritually abusive from my community many times.) To find out if your group, family, community, ministry, organization, or church has a Toxic Faith System, look for these 7 Elements: 1. The Leader claims special access to God and maintains control and authoritarian rule Only he or she (or they) can make decisions for the group and the individuals within the group. You can’t question this Leader or you’re seen as questioning God. You need to totally agree with the Leader or get out. 2. The Leader is punitive, judgmental, and castigating There is a constant purging from the ranks. If you ask a question that is deemed questioning his authority, you’re labelled a rebel, someone with a critical spirit, and will be removed. 3. The Leader isn’t accountable to anyone This is very dangerous. Even the Pope has a College of Cardinals and Bishops—and his teaching authority is linked to them. 4. No real Communication between Leaders and Members Someone or some people—the Leader’s inner circle—shield the top Leader from what the members are actually saying or experiencing.

5. Members feel it’s their group “Against the World” The members feel that their group is in the cutting edge of God’s work in this sinful world. That their group is the best. That their group is especially chosen by God as either the only way of Salvation, or at the very least, His hand-picked SWAT team against evil. Other groups simply cannot compare. 6. Members are suffering But in reality, members are suffering. Emotionally, they’re burned out; Physically, their tired; Financially, they’re not growing (the organization may be getting richer, and the Leader is getting richer, but the members are not); and spiritually, they’re stagnant—because their highest loyalty is not to God anymore but to their Leader and the System. 7. The priorities taught to members are as follows: · Submit to the Leader at all times. · Don’t ask, don’t doubt, don’t think. (This is what submission means.) · Never express feelings except positive ones. · Don’t trust outsiders. (Just listen to ourteachings.) · Don’t do anything outside your role. · You need to give money or else. · Protect the image of the organization at all costs. Jesus said, Beware of the false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[3] False prophets don’t have to be cultic leaders or strange guys who call themselves Messiah. When any leader-a priest, a bishop, a pastor, a lay leader-robs people of their ability to think, controls them by his use of guilt and fear, manipulating them to strengthen his power or to enrich himself, he is a false prophet. When a Leader creates his own exacting standards and tells people that unless they follow them, they’ll not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he is shutting Heaven’s gates to them. About them, Jesus said, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you

hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.[4] God, a Woman, and a Tiger Let me end this chapter with a beautiful story. One day, a young woman went to the mountain Hermit seeking help. “I need a potion for my husband’s depression,” she cried to him. “He came from war and doesn’t speak to me. He doesn’t listen to me. I try to caress him but he brushes me aside. I serve him food and he pushes it and angrily leaves the room. He then goes up a hill and just stares out to sea… Oh kindly sir, make me a potion so that I could give it to my husband and heal his depression!” The Hermit closed his eyes and thought for a long while. After what seemed like a very long time, he then said to her, “I will make a special potion for your husband. But it needs a special ingredient. Get me a whisker of a live tiger.” The woman was shocked. “Sir? I cannot get that…” “But if you want your husband to get well, you will,” said the Hermit. The woman ran home, prepared a bowl of food, and carried it deep in the forest— where a tiger lived inside a cave. She placed down the bowl of food at the opening of the tiger’s cave and called on the tiger. “Tiger, I brought food for you. Come and eat!” But the tiger did not come out. The next day, the woman came again with a bowl of food and called on the tiger to eat. But the tiger did not come out again. She kept doing this everyday, and tiger was getting used to her voice. After one month, the tiger would peek through the opening, but he still would not eat her bowl of food. After two months, the tiger finally left the cave and felt secure looking at the strange woman giving him food. After three months, the tiger would finally eat the food as the woman watched from the distance.

After four months, the woman could actually sit beside the tiger as he ate. After five months, the woman could wrap her arms around the tiger as he ate. She was now a friend and he was totally at peace with her. After six months, as the woman caressed the tiger and as the tiger playfully rested his head on her lap, she whispered to his ear, “I hope you won’t get angry, but I will get something from you—for my husband whom I love.” She then snipped one of his whiskers. The tiger did not even flinch. After which, she ran to the Hermit and said, “I now have the whisker of a live tiger! Please make the potion for my depressed and angry husband…” The Hermit took the whisker from her hand and threw it into the fire behind him. “Nooooooo!” the woman screamed, “why did you do that?” “You don’t need a potion,” the Hermit said, “because you are the potion to your husband.” “I don’t understand,” the woman asked. “What is more fierce? A tiger or a man? A tiger of course. But for six months you learned how to tame his anger. You were able to bring him out of his cave. With patience. With care. With love. Now I want you to use all that and bring your husband out of his cave and heal his depression.” Do You Know The Difference Between Toxic Faith And Real Faith? I share you this story because I believe that God is like that woman. We are that tiger. We are in darkness. We are in that cave. Like that woman, God comes to us with a lot of gentleness and a bowl of food. The food of His love. The food of His grace. He will not force us to eat His food. He will not impose His power, His rule, His authority over us. Instead, He will wait, patiently and gently, for us to learn to trust Him. Day after day, week after week, month after month—year after year. When we are ready, He will feed us.

When we are ready, He will wrap His arms around us. That’s the difference between Toxic Faith and Real Faith. Toxic Faith imagines God as a Judge that condemns and forces us to follow Him, using threats and intimidation. Toxic Faith requires that His followers do the same— impose, judge, label, pull rank, and intimidate. Real Faith is very different. It imagines God as a woman patiently waiting for the tiger to leave his cave, so she could feed him and caress him. Real Faith requires that His followers do the same—love, forgive, share, care, bless, and serve. I choose Real Faith. Real Faith heals my addictions. Toxic Faith worsens them. Choose Real Faith.

Take Charge! How To Stop Blame And Find Your Personal Power Warning: You will be shocked. These next three stories will make your jaw drop to the floor in total bewilderment that these absurdities actually happen in real life. Story #1: Mrs. Kathleen Robertson of Texas was in a furniture store. She tripped over a toddler and broke her ankle. So she sued the store owners. The store owners were surprised because the misbehaving toddler was Mrs. Kathleen Robertson’s own son! But she won the case and was awarded $80,000. Story #2: Carl Truman of Los Angeles was stealing hubcaps from a Honda Accord. He didn’t realize that the driver was inside the car. As the driver drove off, Carl’s hand was caught under the tire. What did the thief do? He sued the owner. The court awarded him $74,000 plus medical expenses. Story #3: Terrence Dickson of Pennsylvania robbed a house and was leaving through the garage. But he found himself locked in the garage. Because the family was on vacation, he was trapped there for 8 days, living on a case of Pepsi and dog food. Yes, Terrence sued for the undue mental anguish he experienced during those 8 days. And would you believe? He won the case to the tune of $500,000. Absurd? All these true-to-life stories tell you one thing: People like to blame others for their own mess. And society supports this bankrupt pattern of thinking!

My Sixty-Four Million Dollar Question Are you blaming others or are you taking charge? Here’s what I learned in life: You can’t do both. I urge you—stop complaining about your mess and make things happen! In John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward, he asked the question, “What is common among all successful people in the world?” 1. Is it their Family Background? Many came from great families, but others came from broken families too. 2. How about Education? Sure, there are many college graduates who became successful. But there are a number of very successful people who didn’t even graduate from high school. There are 222 Billionaires in the entire world, and 10% of them are college dropouts. (Including the richest man in the world, Bill Gates.) 3. Is it Religion? I wish I could say that only those who are real disciples of Jesus are successful in life. But that’s not true. Because there are also devoted Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus who lead lives of love, excellence, and abundance. And Atheists too! If it’s not these three things, what then is common among all successful people? You Can Be Successful! The only thing that’s common to all successful people is how they respond to failure: They take charge. Every successful person in the world responds to failure positively. They bounce back. They don’t whine, complain, or blame. Instead, they stand up and fix it. They take responsibility. Unsuccessful people, on the other hand, are Expert Blamers. You’ll also discover that all addicts are Expert Blamers.

They will never take charge. They will never say, “I’m in charge. Depending on what I choose, my life can be very beautiful or very ugly.” Because addicts believe that others are to blame for their problem. Expert Blamers blame three favorite things… 1. Another Person 2. The Devil 3. God Find out who you blame the most…

First Favorite Thing To Blame: Another Person Adam and Eve represent all the Unsuccessful People in the world. Because they were Expert Blamers. When God asked, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”[1] In other words, the woman is to blame! And if you study history, men have always blamed women for everything that has gone wrong in the world. (I think the scientific word for this phenomenon is Jerkhood.) What’s the truth? Many of the problems of this world are really a problem of manhood. Larry Crabb says the same thing. He says the world is in a catastrophic mess right now because of one sin: The silence of Adam. (That’s the title of his intriguing book.) He says Adam didn’t protect his wife Eve. Instead, Adam remained silent. He should have said, “Sweetheart, what are you doing talking to that slimy Mr. Snake? I’m your husband and I will not just stand here while he’s lies to you and robs you. I will protect you. Stand back while I whack that creature on its head.” Men have not taken responsibility for the spiritual life of their families. Men have not been aggressive enough to care for their wives, their children, and their communities. What do men do? They earn the money and do nothing else. Thinking that’s all there is to being a man, they live their own little selfish life with a beer bottle in one hand and a TV remote on the other.

When You Blame Other People, You Give Them Your Power And Become Powerless One day, I had the uncomfortable task of confronting a guy—a member of our community—when we found out he was having an affair. Without warning, I visited his home. “What happened, my friend?” I asked him. Immediately, he knew I knew. Like a cornered cat, he became defensive. “Bo, if you knew my wife,” he said, “you too would commit adultery. Each day, I’d come home from work tired and exhausted, and I get nothing but a nagging wife upset about this and upset about that. Every single night!” That was not all. After blaming his wife, he began to say, “And you know why I fell, Bo? Because of you…” “Wha…?” Shucks, I wish someone took a photograph of my facial expression at that precise moment. “Bo, I’m a member in your community,” he continued, “But you don’t call me. You don’t visit me at home. You don’t follow me up. That’s why I fell…” He was Adam resurrected. With that kind of blaming mindset, he would never change his life.

Second Favorite Thing To Blame: The Devil Can I tell you one of my original bedtime stories? (If you’re a father of hyperactive boys, you probably have your own made-up stories as well.) It is about The Legend of Mugaboo. One day, in an otherwise pleasant forest inhabited by many happy animals, an eerie sound was heard. From a cave up on a cliff, all the animals could hear a menacing voice. “I’m Mugabooooo! I’m Mugaboooo!” the voice said again and again. All the animals scampered in fright like mice on a shiny kitchen floor. The little birds took flight, the monkeys climbed to the tallest trees, and even the lions hid in their caves. “Bring me fruits now!” the same voice ordered, “Or else!” The animals went to the opening of that cave, trembling in fear, bringing apples, oranges, berries to Mugabagoo. And the next day, they heard the same voice again. And the animals would bring fruit to the cave on the cliff again. And the day after that, it happened again. Thus began a ritual that lasted for many years. The Turtle Who Wasn’t Afraid In that same jungle was a spunky little turtle named Benedict who wasn’t afraid. (Just in case you don’t know, that’s the name of my son. That’s “Story-Telling Strategy 101 for Parents”.) Because he had doubts about the Legend of Mugaboo. He wondered why each day, his parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts were slaving themselves collecting fruit for this monster. “Has anyone ever seen this beast we are all afraid of?” he asked. So far, no one has ever told him that they had seen the monster. But everyone had a scary story to tell. The monkeys spoke of terrifying shadows inside the cave that shifted like the wind. The deer and antelopes spoke of hearing eerie footsteps in the night. And the bears,

tigers, and lions spoke about how large and fearsome Mugaboo must be—possibly a bear, tiger, and lion put together! And as these stories circulated, Mugaboo’s power grew stronger by the day. That was when Benedict said, “Enough is enough. I will go into this mysterious cave and see what Mugaboo looks like.” When Courage Sets An Entire Forest Free Early one morning, Benedict climbed up the cliff and crept into the cave. Except for its funnel shape, it was a normal looking cave. And except for halfeaten fruits inside, he found it empty. So he pulled his legs and head back into his shell, and waited for the monster to appear. After two hours of waiting in the darkness, he heard footsteps. And immediately, he felt a cold chill run through his spine. Mugaboo had arrived! And then he heard the words he always heard each day, “I’m Mugaboooo! Give me fruits now!” But this time, from inside the cave, the voice didn’t sound so menacing at all. In fact, it sounded oddly familiar. Benedict popped his head out and was shocked to see a little squirrel shouting to the top of his lungs. And then he understood why. Because of the cave’s unique funnel shape, it made the cave a giant megaphone. Everything said here—even the slightest whisper—was amplified throughout the forest. Benedict knew the squirrel’s name too. And it wasn’t Mugaboo—But Kookoo, a squirrel already known for his mischief. So Benedict, from behind the squirrel, shouted also to the top of his voice, “I’m Kokoo… Oops! Er, I mean, I’m Mugaboo!”

Kookoo turned around in shock to see the turtle behind him. His secret was now gone! Fearing for his dear life, Kookoo darted out of the cave—and out of the forest— never to be seen ever again. Benedict crawled out of the cave amidst the cheering animals, chanting “Benedict the Great!” Because of courage, the forest was free again. The Devil Is Running On Borrowed Power In the Garden of Eden, these words were spoken:Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” After all these centuries, nothing much has changed. People still say, “The devil made me do it!” There are people who find the devil hiding behind every corner, tempting us, oppressing us. People like blaming demons for everything—a flat tire, a migraine, a sick child, a divorce, a loss of job, a business failure, an adulterous relationship. But here’s the truth: Just like Kokoo, the Devil operates on borrowed power. Whose power? Yours. Unless you give your power to the devil, he will have no power over you. Because his power is based on a lie. Because his power is based on your fear. The more fear we have of him, the more power he has over us. Friend, here’s the truth: You have power over the devil. Why? Because you’re a child of God. Chisel this on stone: Blaming the devil for our problems is useless. Stop doing it. In fact, he likes that you blame him. By making himself bigger, he has power over your life. Instead, be like Benedict the turtle. By your courage to take charge, you will free yourself—and others as well.

Third Favorite Thing To Blame: God Adam said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”[2] What was he saying? That God—who created the woman—is to blame! Here are true-to-life scenarios… A single woman emailed me. She told me she was having an affair with a married man. She ended her letter by saying, “May tampo ako kay Lord (I have a grudge against God). Why did this happen? Why did God allow me to fall in love with this man?” I wrote back to her, “God gave you the ability to fall in love with anyone when He made you a human being. But no, God did not make you fall in love with this married man. You chose that to happen.” A man came up to me and said that he has been smoking for 30 years and now has emphysema. He asked me, “Why did God make me sick?” I told him bluntly, “God did not make you sick. Cigarettes do.” A young woman cried to me one day, telling me she was 3-months pregnant by her boyfriend—who was now nowhere to be found. Her parents still didn’t know. She then asked me, “Why is God punishing me? Why did He give me a baby?” I told her, “God isn’t punishing you. Sex makes babies.” A married couple asked me for prayers, “Bo, we’re heavily in debt. And we’re mad at God. Why is He abandoning us?” Later on, I discovered that they liked eating in fancy restaurants twice a week, and they liked wearing designer clothes, and they liked driving a beautiful car—all bought with borrowed money. I told them, “God did not make you poor. You’re financially poor because you’re financially illiterate.” When you blame others, when you blame the devil, and when you blame God, you’re saying, “I’m a helpless victim of circumstance. I’m not in control. I’m not in charge.”

Learned Helplessness When I was in Indonesia, I rode an Elephant for the first time. What an experience to be on top of that beautiful animal. But here’s what amazed me more: How could a 6-ton beast be held captive by a flimsy rope tied to his foot? All he had to do was sneeze hard enough and the rope would snap. But like a tiny puppy, the elephant would just stay there. Later, I found out why. When the elephant was a tiny baby, that rope was strong enough to hold him captive. At the beginning, little jumbo pulled and pulled against the rope—but all in vain. Finally, the baby elephant concluded that all effort was useless. So even when he grew in size and power—and can now actually cut that rope with a careless jerk of its foot—it won’t. Why? Because the rope isn’t tied to its body. The rope is tied to its mind. This phenomenon is called “Learned Helplessness” and it doesn’t only happen to elephants. It also happens to human beings. After many failed attempts, we give up. And we blame the rope for our misery. Friend, what are the ropes in your life? Remember: It’s not tied to your body. It’s tied to your mind. So you can’t untie it in reality without untying it in your mind first. You can do that only through the opposite of Learned Helplessness…

Learned Power! If there’s such a thing as “Learned Helplessness”, then there’s the phenomenon of “Learned Power”. God has supplied you the power to change your life—you just have to discover it within you. Learned Helplessness happens one day at a time. Learned Power happens one day at a time too.

But many Christians will tell me, “Bo, that smells like ‘willpower’ Christianity. That doesn’t work. We need to depend on God alone.” I’ve also met Christians who tell me, “Bo, I’ve tried my best to stop my sin. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried ‘willpower’ Christianity and failed miserably. So I’m now just surrendering everything to God…” Hey, that’s fine—if “surrendering” means depending on God. He is the source of all blessings. But listen well: God’s infinite blessing will have to flow through a channel, and one of His major channels is through your will. Because God works through your choices. And by the mere fact that He gave you freewill, don’t you think He wants you to use it? Or is it some sick tool He gave you to prove that no matter how much you use it, it won’t work? (Gosh, if that were true, God is cruel.) The Bible says that you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world[3]. I believe that. And I believe that includes the power to decide to change your life one day at a time. Break The Rope One Strand At A Time If I tied a single strand of thread around your two hands, would you be able to break free? In a snap, right? But what if I tied your hands with one hundred strands of thread—would it be as easy? No it won’t. Brute strength would be useless. You need a strategy: You need to cut one piece of thread at a time. It’s the same thing with a bad habit. You have to do it one day at a time. Tomorrow, do the same thing. And the next day, do it again. And pretty soon, you’ll be cutting the last strand. Friend, you’re not helpless. You can change your life!

You can change your Spiritual life. You can change your Family life. You can change your Physical Life. You can change your Financial life. Starting today!

If You’re Not Going To Blame Others, Should You Blame Yourself? Nope. God is not in the business of blaming people. God is in the business of loving people, forgiving people, and giving people abundance. If you have a fault, accept it. If you have sinned, admit it. But never condemn yourself! Instead, take responsibility. Take charge! When you take responsibility, you don’t blame and condemn yourself. Because condemnation won’t heal you. Judging yourself won’t heal you. Taking a guilt trip won’t heal you. Shaming yourself won’t heal you. Only love will. And by taking charge, you love yourself. Shaming Doesn’t Work I find this ugly habit among unwise parents: They like shaming their kids. When they scold their little ones, their favorite word isMahiya ka! (Shame on you.) Hindi ka ba nagiisip?(Don’t you know how to think?) And when these unwise parents punish, they do so with the whip of shame. They shout at their kids to humiliate them. They shout at their kids in front of others to increase their shame. In their anger and frustration, they want to make their children feel embarrassed.

Parents, listen carefully: Shaming someone does nothing to make that person better! It doesn’t work when we do it on our children. It doesn’t work when we do it on our friends. And it doesn’t work when we do it on ourselves. A Different Kind of Examination of Conscience For years, each night, before going to bed, I would do what the Church called an “Examination of Conscience”. I would scan my entire day to see if I committed any sin. I would then ask for forgiveness and go to sleep. For years I was doing this practice, but deep within, something was telling me there was something lacking. Today, I discovered it was God speaking to me, telling me that my Examination of Conscience was pathetically incomplete. Today, I now realize that if it’s a complete, full-bodied, authentic Examination of Conscience, I should first search for the times when I did right before I search for the times I did wrong. When was I good today? When did I reflect God’s face today? When did I love others today? When did I love myself today? When was I able to serve and give and share? Because that’s how God thinks about me. He’s not a Platoon Sergeant preparing his troops for a military parade, inspecting for lint on my uniform and mud in my boots. Like the Father who welcomed the prodigal son who came home from working with the pigs, He embraces my dirt, my mud, and my pig stench. He puts a royal robe around my shame. He throws a welcome party for me. He loves me. And then He’ll give me a bath. He’ll remove my dirty. He’ll remove my mud. He’ll remove my stench. We’ve got it all wrong. The primary focus of an Examination of Conscience is not sin. The focus is receiving love. And that love will heal my sin. Because what we focus on grows. If I focus on my sin only, it grows. But if I focus on my good, the good grows in me. And it grows so much that it replaces the bad within me. Let me end with these powerful words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frighten us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. –Marianne Williamson

Allow Love To Heal You Conclusion: You’re God’s Very Own. Let me share with you a story that blessed me deeply. I read it from the Chicken Soup series,but let me paraphrase it for you here. One day, Abbie, a social worker, received a call from an orphanage. Could she find foster parents for a particular baby, they asked. Abbie visited the orphanage and saw a cute little baby standing on the crib. The baby smiled at her and she smiled back. When she knelt down in front of the infant, it was only then when she discovered that the baby had no arms. The person in charge of the orphanage asked Abbie, “Do you think there’ll be parents who would want this child?” For the next four months, there were many couples that visited that orphanage, looking for a child. But no one wanted Baby Freddie. One day, Abbie got a call from a Mr. and Mrs. Pearson. They said they wanted to adapt a child. She paid them a visit. “We don’t have much money, but we have much love to give,” the couple said. “Any preferences?” Abbie asked. “A boy,” Mrs. Pearson said, “my husband will play basketball with him. He’ll be good for a boy. How long will it take before we can adapt a baby?” Mrs. Pearson asked. “Well, perhaps in a year,” Abbie said. “Isn’t there a baby we can adapt now?” Mr. Pearson asked. Abbie sighed. She opened her bag and pulled out the photo of Baby Freddie. “He’s an adorable child,” she said, “except that he has no arms.” The couple looked at the photo for a long time. It was Mr. Pearson who spoke first. “What do you think?” he asked his wife. “Football,” she said, “He can play football with you.” “Sports isn’t really that important,” he said. “No, it is. A boy needs to have a sport.” They kept on talking as if Abbie wasn’t around.

Finally, Abbie interrupted, “Do you want the baby?” Mrs. Pearson said, “Want? Want the baby? Abbie, you don’t understand. This baby is ours!” Abbie brought Mr. and Mrs. Pearson to the orphanage. She presented Baby Freddie to them. And Mr. and Mrs. Pearson saw him, rushed to him, and embraced their son in their arms.

He Sees You Differently I’ve met a lot of people who believe they’re like Freddie. Do you feel defective? Deformed? Lacking? Deep within you, you think that you’re not normal. That there’s something wrong with you. Well, God doesn’t agree. He’s like Mr. and Mrs. Pearson. He doesn’t think you’re defective at all. He says, “You’re mine. You’re my child.” Today, allow God to embrace you. And in that embrace, be healed.

I remain your friend, Bo Sanchez

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