Archive for the ‘12 Step’ Category

“The Price of Nice” by John Bradshaw

Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Recovering Agency: The Price of Nice
Author: John Bradshaw
Publisher: John Bradshaw Media Group
Genre: Non-fiction, psychology
Year Published: 2008
Length: 100 minutes
Binding: Audio CD
ISBN10: 1573882259
ISBN13: 978-1573882255
Price: $70.00

Many of us remember John Bradshaw through his two PBS televised series on the family and “Inner Child” therapy (entitled “Bradshaw on the Family” and “Homecoming” respectively) with fondness. Some of us had an epiphany, others had fodder for new jokes, and still others had both. I was in the last category. At first I found in Bradshaw an endless mine for jokes (“My family was so out of control you could have used it for a wind chime”, “My inner child punched your inner child in the nose”, etc.)  but many years and several family traumas later found it to be a rich well of wisdom . . . and some really silly “out there” New Agey junk.  With Bradshaw one has to have one’s discernment filters up to separate the wheat from the chaff. Thankfully the audiobook being reviewed here is, in this reviewer’s estimation, mostly wheat.

Those familiar with those earlier Bradshaw works will remember that he repeatedly introduced the concept of the price of nice in them both. However, he didn’t go into much detail on it, nor did he give the antidote for the problem. “Problem?” the reader may be asking at this point, “How can being nice be a problem?” As the product description from Mr. Bradshaw’s website explains:

“The price is of nice is about your own life, and not really being connected with others,” says noted New York Times Best Selling Author John Bradshaw“Nice people often finish last in many ways.”

In this powerful lecture, THE PRICE OF NICE, psychologist and Emmy nominated talk show host John Bradshaw, exposes the hidden and frequently destructive forces behind the façade of being the “nice guy”, a people pleaser and co-dependent. This lecture is for people who use “nice” as a disguise to cover shame. John Bradshaw uncovers the dishonestly, selfishness, and resentments that builds as a result. He explains how to heal from co-dependency.

From our earliest years, we learn that we are rewarded with acceptance for being “nice” at the expense of being denied the expression of our true feelings or being who we really are. Ultimately, we become the actor in a role of being the nice guy or sweetheart. John Bradshaw explains how such behavior can destroy relationships and intimacy by never being honestly connected with others. It creates an intimacy vacuum where the victim is the nice person

In its ultimate destructive form, it erupts into rage or spontaneous acts of violence or it can be internalized in the form of emotional or physical illness. John Bradshaw offers practical insights into how we can learn to be kind but firmly direct about how we feel and find that place in our lives where we can be who we are. This series provides excellent resources and will help the listener understand how toxic, and potentially dangerous, a person who is, on most levels, “too nice,” can be. Ministers, counselors, therapists and anyone in helping professions could gain much understanding from the material found in this series. The problem with being overly nice is that it is a mask for stored internal rage and it is at the same time rage producing.

And as he explains in the lecture, nice behavior eventually has a price for both the nice person and the people involved with him/her. It is alienating, indirectly hostile, and self destructive because:

1. The nice person tends to create an atmosphere such that others avoid giving honest, genuine feedback. This blocks emotional growth.

2. Nice behavior will ultimately be distrusted by others. That is,it generates a sense of uncertainty and lack of safety in others who can never be sure if they be supported by the nice person in a crisis situation that requires an aggressive confrontation with others.

3. Nice people stifle growth of others. They avoid giving others genuine feedback,and deprive others of a real person to assert against. This tends to force others in the relationship to turn their aggression against themselves. It also tends to generate guilt and depressed feelings in others who are intimately involved and dependent on them.

4. Because of chronic niceness others can never be certain if the relationship with a nice person can endure a conflict or sustain an angry confrontation. If it did occur spontaneously, This places great limits on the potential extent of intimacy in the relationship by placing others constantly on their guard.

5. Nice behavior is not reliable. Periodically the nice person explodes in unexpected rage and those involved are shocked and unprepared to cope with it.

6. The nice person by holding aggression in, may pay a physiological price in the form of psychosomatic problems and a psychological price in the form of alienation.

7. Nice behavior is emotionally unreal behavior. It puts severe limitations on all relationships and the ultimate victim is the nice person him/her self.

Mr. Bradshaw explains in the lecture that the antidote for nice behavior isn’t being mean, it’s being authentic. This can be a scary proposition for those of us who have become accustomed to using “nice” as a defense or coping mechanism. In particular, those recovering from a religious addiction may come to find that the “Be ye nice!” 11th Commandment of far too many of our faith communities has become so embedded in their theology and religious worldview that it’s painful to knead it slowly out of the tangled up knot that they’ve created. Very often from these individuals, we will hear the protest that to not be “nice” isn’t Christlike (or whatever religious terminology that’s used to justify using niceness as a hiding place and aggression suppressant). To those folks I offer this:

800px-El_Greco_016_edited

El Greco, “Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple” (circa 1600)

Jesus wasn’t Christ-like
Jesus was incredulous.
He was exasperated.
He was furious.
He insulted.
He ridiculed.
He told of coming judgment.
He exorcised demons.
He said he was God.
He said he had final authority given to him to judge the living and the dead.
He said he had power over life and death.
He scared people.
He confused people.
He repulsed people.
He wouldn’t answer questions asked by the local authorities.
He stayed away three days knowing Lazarus would die, and then wept when he showed up to his tomb.
He supplied the party wine.
He preached fire and brimstone.
He used satire and mockery.
He frustrated his mother.
He told his apostles they had new names when he met them.
He used frustratingly vague metaphors and parables to purposefully judge a stubborn people (fulfilling Isaiah), and then later told the hidden meanings to the apostles.
He chose a forerunner who looked and smelled like a crazy hobo, and who badgered the local mayor over sexual and marital ethics.
He healed people on the Sabbath just to tweak the religious elite.
He monitored financial giving and gave live commentary on it.
He said the world hated him and his followers.
He told people to eat his flesh and drink his blood and let them walk away misinterpreting.
He had incredibly awkward and blunt conversations about spiritual things 15 seconds into meeting a stranger.
He let a presumably sensual woman wipe his feet with her hair.
He told a female stranger that she had five husbands.
He went out to eat with creepy guys who preyed on families via financial extortion.
He went to the most significant religious structure local to him and said he would destroy and rebuild it, speaking of his own body and predicting the destruction to come.
He said he existed before Abraham.
What is “Christ-like” about any of that?[1]

Based on the example of Christ alone I would suggest that Bradshaw is onto something: Christ was always authentic even though He wasn’t always “nice”. I would propose to my fellow recovering religious addicts that it’s far better to be authentically genuine than inauthentically nice. Perhaps being truly Christlike, simply means being yourself – that is the new creation spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17 under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. I can’t help but wonder if that was what Paul was really describing in Romans 8 and Galatians 5 when he wrote about “walking in the Spirit”. The incarnated Christ exemplified “walking in the Spirit” and showed the full range of human emotion and behavior – including aggression and directness in that walk.[2] Simply put, the price of nice is too high if it means compromising truly Christlike behavior isn’t it?

In the end, I found “The Price of Nice” to be an enlightening and liberating audiobook – and one with significant biblical support to boot.[3] I suspect that you will too.

John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw

NOTES:
[1] Aaron Shafovaloff, “Jesus wasn’t Christ-like” And for those wondering this isn’t in the Bradshaw lecture, I’ve added it here to support my point.

[2] I tackled the subject of the biblical case for aggression in my review of Andy Stanley’s book “Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” entitled, “Three Hits and a ‘Whiff'”.

[3] For those who are unaware, John Bradshaw was raised Roman Catholic and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology. Due to the rather overt New Age and Post Modern nature of some of his teachings I’m uncertain what where he stands theologically today – though in my opinion, he seems to be leaning toward the old heresy of Christian Pantheism – though I could be wrong.

As I said in the introduction, one must always have one’s discernment filters up to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Bradshaw. I always find an abundant of gems in his work but sometimes I have to push aside some pockets of New Age rubbish to get to it.

BACK TO TOP

Almighty God,

I am loved with everlasting love,
clothed in eternal righteousness,
my peace flowing like a river,
my comforts many and large,
my joy and triumph unutterable,
my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation,
my sense of justification unclouded.

I have scarce anything to pray for;
Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven
and my supplications are swallowed up in praise.

How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election
when based upon thy Word
and wrought inwardly within the soul!

LockedDoorWithLight

I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner
thou hast loved,
and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee,
else I would never get to heaven.

I wrong the work of grace in my heart
if I deny my new nature and my eternal life.

If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption,
I would sink into nethermost hell
by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove;

If Jesus were not by the power of his Spirit
my sanctification,
there is no sin I should not commit.

O when shall I have his mind!
when shall I be conformed to his image?

All the good things of life are less than nothing
when compared with his love,
and with one glimpse of thy electing favour.

All the treasures of a million worlds could not
make me richer, happier, more contented,
for his unsearchable riches are mine.

One moment of communion with him, one view
of his grace,
is ineffable, inestimable.

But O God, I could not long after thy presence
if I did not know the sweetness of it;

And such I could not know except by thy Spirit
in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst
elect me,
call me,
adopt me,
save me.

I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Fred W. Anson
A review of Andy Stanley’s
“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You”

Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and son of Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Andy is also the author of several books including “How Good Is Good Enough?” which I read several years ago and, I thought, a solid vernacular treatise on grace versus works. He has an engaging, approachable style and his theology is sound – which, I suppose it could be said, is hardly a surprise given his pedigree, training, and life experience.

enemies-of-the-heart-andy-stanley-i10“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” was published in 2011 so this review is admittedly late to the game. Never-the-less I found that prior reviews had missed an important – but blatant – weakness in this book that this reviewer felt worthy of consideration.

The four “enemies” are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy which Stanley unpacks like this:
Guilt = “I owe you”
Anger = “You owe me”
Greed = “I owe myself”, and
Jealousy = “God owes me”

The book is short, concise, engaging, thought provoking, easy to read and practical. There’s much sage wisdom here grounded solidly in Biblical truth.

What’s missing – though it’s admittedly a minor irritation – is balance. While the author lightly, and it seemed to me somewhat grudgingly, acknowledges that transitive guilt, greed, and jealously in some contexts and in moderation can be good, even healthy, I could find no admission in the book that this is equally true of anger. Rather, the author seems to have bought into the false modern Christian doctrine that anger is always sin. If so, may I introduce you to Sinner #1, His name is God Almighty:

God’s anger was kindled [against Balaam] because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
— Numbers 22:22, ESV

“Then my [God’s] anger will be kindled against them in that day [that God’s people worship other gods], and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured.”
— Deuteronomy 31:17, ESV

“They have made me [God] jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.”
— Deuteronomy 32:21, ESV

“But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
— Ezra 5:12, ESV

“In the temple he [Christ] found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
— John 2:14-16, ESV

I will spare the reader any more proof texting but suffice to say the Bible is full of references to God’s anger. Simply put, God gets angry, yet doesn’t sin, and even speaks openly of His anger as if it’s a good, normal, and healthy thing.

Further, and some of you might want to sit down for this one, no where – again, no where – in the Bible is anger defined as sin. In fact, Ephesians 4:26-27 (which Stanley cites in the book) states plainly, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Did you catch that – the Apostle Paul states plainly “be angry”. That’s mind blowing stuff if you, like me, were raised to believe the false doctrine that anger is a sin. Think about it: If anger is in fact sin, then Paul is giving the Ephesians flawed, even reprobate, counsel.

Rather, the Bible is clear that anger, like guilt, greed, and jealousy can lead to sin if it’s not processed in a righteous manner. What God models for us in the Bible is that anger is normal and healthy when something of value is threatened or requires protection. That’s why we see God getting angry with Israel over their idol worship in the Old Testament and why we see God the Son getting angry over His holy temple being transformed from a sacred space into a common strip mall in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Put another way, would you be sinning for getting angry if a bully starts beating up your child on the playground for no reason? Or at a pickpocket trying to take your wallet? Or at a vandal spraying graffiti on the side of your house? Or at your spouse flirting with another person in front of you? Or, or, or . . . see my point?

So it’s clear that when expressed in healthy, transitive ways anger is normal, productive, and even godly. It’s only when it becomes chronic, permanent, or gets expressed in sinful ways that the problems begin.

I saw this first hand when I was a DivorceCare counselor at a local church. On one hand, many of the Christians there (including me, I confess) would have benefited greatly from this book because they were holding onto and expressing their anger in ways that were unproductive: Needlessly extending legal action out of spite, drawing their divorcing spouses into conflict, damaging community property, making a “scene” in public, using the children as weapons in their war with the other party, choosing to hate and distrust all men/women, etc., etc., etc. Their anger fueled sin was easy to see, easy to understand  and easy to identify. Yet believe it or not, they were actually the easy ones to counsel to a place of balance.

Far harder were the Christians who had been told that anger was a sin and, as a result, they refused to fight for their marriage, their children, their property, or even their basic, inherent rights as a person created in the image of God. These poor souls would simply let their aggressive divorcing spouses roll over them like a steamroller and do nothing. In some cases they had marriages worth fighting for yet they wouldn’t fight! And no amount of logic, reason, or prayer would convince them that there is, “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7&8, ESV) In their mind tearing was sin, speaking was sin, hate was sin, and war was sin because they all involved anger.

And this is the nuance that Andy Stanley “whiffs” on badly in this book. In his quest to make his point it seemed to me that the author got it right in three cases and struck out on one – normal, protective, transitive, even godly, anger. In fact, had he made this distinction I would have no complaints with the book.

Never-the-less, and regardless this flaw, this is a book that I heartily recommend with this suggestion: Whenever the author uses the words, “guilt”, “anger”, “greed” or “jealousy” simply insert the clarifying adjective “chronic” in front of each of them.

HeresToThePast

by Fred W. Anson
They say that if you don’t have any regrets then you’re probably not trying hard enough. If that’s true then I often wonder if I’m trying too much because I have a lot of regrets. In fact, after I joined the Facebook groups for my old High School and the Nazarene Church that I grew up in I spent the first couple of weeks apologizing to everyone.

Then a funny thing happened, I realized that most of the people that I thought I’d so offended back in the day either didn’t remember or didn’t care any more. So essentially I’d spent all those years needlessly beating myself up, avoiding others, and taking side streets shadowed in shame when all I needed to do was show up and be myself.

The truth of the matter is I’d been lied to and had squandered much of my life as a result of it.

Actually, I should have known all this since Michael and Stormie Omartian warned me in song way back in 1978 . . .

Ms. Past
(click above to hear song)
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’s such a wicked lady,
Ms. Past, she’s always there a waiting,
She’s the Devil’s favorite tool,
She’ll play you like a fool,
She’ll try until she rules.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’ll always try to feed you,
Ms. Past, she’ll say He never freed you.
But don’t fall for her disguise,
And look back in her eyes,
She wants you paralyzed, by all she knows.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

And there’s certainly no doubt that I’ve been a “tool” allowing Ms. Past to constantly sting and restrain me with fiery darts of regret!

In the end, I most certainly want to learn from the past but I don’t want to be bound by it.  After all, as Larry Norman observed, “Your life’s a play you can’t rehearse.” And mistakes are actually a blessing in disguise since, if you learn from them, you can avoid making the same ones again, again, and again.

What’s more, human development experts (not to the mention the Bible) tell us that mistakes are one way (actually the main way) that humans grow and mature in a number of areas.  So, that means that occasionally we’ll pick up a regret or two in the process:

If you don’t, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
And if you do, don’t look back, just let it go.

SeasonsOfTheSoulAlbumCover(from the album “Seasons of the Soul”)
Lyrics by Stormie Omartian, Music by Michael Omartian
© 1978 “See This House” Music, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved.

Heavenly Father, I need Your Holy Spirit to help me not think and live according to my old ways. I place my childhood fears and bloodline curses behind me and ask You to cancel them. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I choose not to be enslaved to them any longer!

Today I lay aside my fear of facing the pain from the spirits of pride, bitterness, lying, self-exaltation, rebellion, witchcraft, and the occult. I choose not to walk in these any longer. When I am tested by these deceiving spirits, I want to respond in godliness. God, please remove any mental strongholds and to help me think and see clearly.

I choose NOT to listen to other spiritual voices. Instead I choose to listen to Your voice. From this time forth, I will NOT trust in lying spirits nor the spirits who claim to offer me protection from evil. I close every door to Satan. I will not seek a false defense to shield myself from wrong, exploitation, or harm. I look to You, Lord Jesus and place my trust in You to protect me from the harm of well-meaning people and from demonic spirits. Jesus, I choose You to be my Savior and Holy Spirit, I choose You to be my defender.

Lord Jesus, please forgive my sins. I confess that I have NOT loved rightly. I have resented others. I now recognize this as sin and confess this to you now. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. By Your blood, I forgive them as You have forgiven me. I am sorry for my sins. I confess and renounce them, known and unknown. By Your blood I am cleansed of my guilt, my shame, and my regret. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, and that You rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father. You now sit at His right hand. With repentence in my heart, I ask You, Lord, to deliver me from the snare of the fowler and to set me free. Your truth is a shield to me. Under Your wings, I seek refuge.

Lord Jesus, I claim Your promise in Psalm 91:14&15: Because I have set my love on You, You will deliver me. You have set me on high because I have know Your Name. I will call on You and You will answer me. You will be with me in trouble. You will deliver me and honor me.

Amen

98622[1](adapted from “Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit” by John Paul Jackson; pp. 166-168)

I think that 2013 may well mean that it’s time
(I can hear the calling – do you?) 

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley

It’s time for the dead and gone
Time for the broken ones
to live again
It’s time time for the dead to rise
Time for the wings to fly
to live again

I can hear the calling
I can hear the sound of rain
Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to sing
Time for the walls
to ring
With the songs of freedom

It’s time for the numb
to feel
Time for the wounds
to heal
With the songs of freedom

It’s time time for the tide
to turn
Time for our hearts to burn
with a desperation
It’s time it’s time for a sacrifice
It’s time that we paid the price
for our generation

Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the numb
to feel
It’s time for the wounds
to heal
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time that we paid
a price
It’s time for
a sacrifice
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for children
to return home
It’s time for the prodigals
to come back
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time to break down
the walls
It’s time to see them all
fall down
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities
and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley) 

I’ve felt the pressure of temptation
I’ve heard the screaming lies of accusation
I know the world can be distracting
But if I keep one foot there
I’m just acting

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

I’ll felt the weight of condemnation
And how the devil twists my situation
My brother if you feel defeated
Let me remind you friend
That you’ve been cheated

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

 (from the album “Hand To The Plow” by Paul Clark; words & music by Paul Clark)