Surviving the Crisis

Since we all experience losses in our lives, we need to learn how to accept what we cannot change and grow through the crisis. How well we handle any crisis is determined by how we process three mental constructs. The first is permanence. The speed of recovery is greatly affected by whether we think the consequences of the crisis will have a short-term or long-term negative affect on us. The loss is permanent, but it doesn’t have to affect us permanently. There is the potential to grow through every crisis. Suppose your new employer is very irritable. It is a short-term problem if you think it is just a passing mood, and it will have little effect on you. But it is a long-term problem if you think the person is always irritable. You can respond to this crisis as follows: “I’m going to ignore him.” That is denial. “I’m going to be irritable back.” That is anger. “I’m going to try appeasing him.” That is bargaining. “I’m stuck with this irritable person whom I can’t change.” That is depressing. “I’m going to quit this job.” That is resignation. “I’m going to love him and learn how to live with him.” That is acceptance.

The second construct is pervasiveness. You will recover slowly if you think your whole life is ruined. If you experience one loss-you are not a loser. If you fail to accomplish one goal-you are not a failure. If you get laid off at work-you are not unemployable. It is natural to grieve for what we have lost and it is an important part of the recovery process. However, a prolonged depression due to losses signifies an over attachment to people, places, and things that we have no right or ability to control. The martyred missionary, Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”

The third mental construct is personalization. Blaming yourself for every loss will keep you in a rut. If you experience loss in one area, don’t generalize it into a total crisis. Keep it specific. If you experience a crisis today, don’t allow it to affect you tomorrow. Keep short accounts. If the world is disintegrating around you, don’t accept the blame when it’s not appropriate. If you are suffering the consequences of a bad decision, then change what you can, minimize your losses and move on. Such losses often cause us to evaluate who we are, especially if our identity was tied up with what we lost (i.e. job, or spouse). A crisis can deepen our walk with God and solidify our identity in Christ. Losses also precipitate the need for new relationships and change of scenery. These changes are probably necessary for our growth in Christ, but they would not have been made if not forced to do so.

Dr. Neil

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