eo Insights

Life starts with what you believe


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What’s In Your Pop Can?

I recently learned that a client was coping so much better with the pressures happening in her life, so of course I asked ‘What is helping you to cope?’  She replied ‘I’ve gained an ability to recognize triggers, I have a strategy to evaluate my thoughts before they affect my behaviour and my faith is helping me to set up boundaries to resist the feelings that I’m going to collapse whenever something unexpected happens.’

Wow!  For someone whose external troubles have not diminished since the day we met, her new-found internal fortitude is helping her to stay strong until life changes!   I was so proud of her (and I had to write down what she just said!)

Her words reminded me of one of my favorite illustrations.  The illustration of the pop can.

When a pop can is empty, it’s easy to crush.  Anyone can do it.  And as the external pressure increases, the can will begin to take on the shape of the forces that are being exerted against it.  On the other hand, when the pop can is full, the pressure that comes from the surrounding environment cannot easily crush or destroy the can.  The pressure from the inside resists the pressure from the outside.  It remains recognizably true to it’s original shape and design, although it might sport a few dents that indicate it endured some pressure.

This illustration is a lot like life.  When we’re empty of vision, strategies and faith we can be easily crushed, often taking on the negative characteristics of the environment our life exists in.  But when we’re full, the pressure of life still comes and yet it is fruitless to change us in any significant way.  Our internal strength withstands the challenges occurring without.

The famous Greek philosopher Socrates once strongly stated ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’  Although his words may seem a little harsh, I agree.  Taking time for personal examination can make life more meaningful.   It provides opportunity to clearly see what’s inside, make changes where necessary and strengthen potentially weak areas.  Taking inventory of the contents of our life allows us to replenish depleted areas before the challenges of life take their toll.

Most days I see the tragic effects of a life not examined.  I’m usually very quick to say ‘you’re not crushed yet!’  The truth is, it’s never too late to start!  So…..if today were examination day, ask yourself very sincerely  ‘what’s in my pop can?’


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Something Seriously Wrong With Weddings

It’s that time of year when numerous starry-eyed pre-marital couples make their way to my office to complete their obligatory counselling sessions, in hopes of obtaining the ‘thumbs up’ toward a blissfully-long, happily-ever-after life together.  While I do listen intently about the exciting wedding plans, it doesn’t take long for couples to realize I’m not that crazy about their wedding.  (What I really care about is their marriage!)  As a matter of fact, I think there is something seriously wrong with how weddings are marketed in our modern culture.   My philosophy of weddings and what they are about  goes something like this.

Weddings should be enjoyed, not just endured.  Yup.  While I do anticipate some stress and the need to invest a tremendous amount of energy and detail (and no doubt, cash)  into my three daughters’ weddings some day, when it comes right down it it, I hope the experience is fun and the event is relaxed enough for everyone to have plenty of laughs and good times to be had by all (including myself)!

Weddings are about blending families and not just a bride and groom (it’s not all about you!).  Make it about family.  Make it about getting to know each other better and make it about accommodating each others needs as much as possible.  After all, since the rest of the marriage is going to be about knowing and accommodating, you might as well practice with the wedding!

Wedding vows are serious.  Vows are not sentiments of love, romantic words or inspirational thoughts.  Vows are sacred oaths; to solemnly swear, pledging to keep promises made, forever.  Vows are made from the heart in the presence of God and witnesses hopefully sincere enough to keep the couple accountable to them.  They start with ‘I promise’ and end at the time of death, with every day in between presenting a serious opportunity to make them a tangible reality.  Even if it means swearing to your own hurt.  Seriously.

The wedding party is a celebration of a couples commitment to each other.  It’s a great time of honoring and blessing new love, hope and purpose.  Please, please, please…..do not dredge up embarrassing stories of past love, mistakes made or secrets the newly-weds should know about the other.  The wedding is not the time or place for that.  Celebrate, honor, bless.  That’s the rule.

The wedding guests are guests.  They should act like guests and be treated like guests.  Mutual feelings of respect, love and appreciation will be remembered much longer than the table centerpieces or take home favors.  (As a matter of fact, forget the favors and give the money that would have been spent to a charity).

Weddings are about a marriage, not just a day.  I always ask my pre-marital couples to estimate the number of hours they have spent in preparation for their wedding.  For most, the number is somewhere around 200-300!!  Then I charge them……yes, I impose a duty upon them, to invest that same number of hours into their marriage prior to  the celebration of their second anniversary.  This is not time working out or at the movies together.  This is time spent reading books about marriage, attending marriage conferences or workshops, or talking about ways to make their love stronger.   It’s amazing what a task (and expense) that seems to present, and yet…..

The wedding can be big, small, in a church, in a park, at a hotel, in the morning, at noon or night.  The size, place or time really doesn’t matter.  What matters is all the above!

Finally, if at some point in the wedding planning, you realize you’ve made a mistake, that something just isn’t right and you seriously question the whole thing, don’t just keep pressing on though the ‘thumbs’ are down.  Be brave enough to talk it through with someone you trust and if necessary……. call off the wedding!  Believe me, it’s much easier to call off a wedding than to call off a marriage.


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The Power of Imbabazi

It seems impossible that a woman, who had been repeatedly raped and left for dead, could ever rebuild her life in the same community as her perpetrators.  And how could her perpetrators live in peace, being reminded every day they see her, of the atrocities they committed against her? How could her child conceived from this crime face his neighbour, should he learn of the circumstances surrounding his conception?

In an attempt to rebuild life after the appalling horrors of the 1994 genocide, Rwandan’s on all sides of the injustices are realizing they need the power of imbabazi in order to heal.  Imbabazi (pronounced im-bah-bah-zee) means forgiveness.

English writer and journalist, G.K. Chesterton said this of our western view of forgiveness. ‘The Christian ideal of forgiveness has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.’   For sure, anyone who has ever been offended finds the concept of forgiveness a challenge to embrace. Yet, in Rwanda, the healing property of imbabazi is proving to be a therapeutic intervention capable of overcoming the deepest of emotional and relational wounds.  As Meg Guillebaud explains in her book ‘After the Locusts’, Rwanda is experiencing how costly forgiveness is restoring their lives.

The truth is forgiveness is not cheap. It is painful and it has agonizing conditions including strict restraints around what it is and is not.

Forgiveness is not……

  • Saying it doesn’t matter. What happened matters. It was devastating and life changing. Forgiveness never minimizes what happened.
  • Pretending it doesn’t hurt. Repressing pain is not a healing strategy. Forgiveness cultivates the hope of emotional and relational freedom even while experiencing pain.
  • Something to be commanded. It is not a moral obligation. We choose to forgive out of gratitude for the times we have been forgiven.
  • Forgive and forget. We will never forget our personal history, but when we forgive, the perspective of our history changes.
  • Excusing others. Forgiveness does not absolve moral responsibility or consequences. Wrong is always wrong even if you’re forgiven.
  • Automatic reconciliation. Forgiving someone does not mean that person has access into your life again. Trust and safety might need to be restored, which takes time.

Forgiveness is……

  • Refusing to take revenge. When we forgive, we cut the emotional ties that want the other to ‘get what they deserve’ confident that vengeance rests in the hands of God.
  • A daily act of the will and not the emotion. We rarely feel like forgiving. It takes tremendous courage to make the decision to keep no record of wrong.
  • Facing reality. Denial or glossing over the truth will never result in forgiveness. It takes the acceptance of reality to truly forgive what has happened.
  • Accepting ourselves. Self-blame can cause us to feel that somehow we deserved what happened to us. Self-acceptance plays a role in true forgiveness.
  • Recognizing God’s love and justice. It’s part of human nature to feel hatred and revenge. True forgiveness opens our eyes to love and justice beyond normal comprehension.

Rwanda continues to recover from the unspeakable wounds of the genocide. By their remarkable example, we could reason that, imbabazi, once tried can be found sufficiently capable.