Have you ever been scared with a sense of impending doom? Your chest tightens as your heart pounds from the jolt of adrenaline that is pumping. You experience dizziness, sweaty palms, tingling, and the jitters accompany a choking feeling where you can neither swallow nor speak, affecting your breathing. This is likely a panic attack. A look at today’s headlines when political, economic, and human relations seems to be out of control can do that to you. How do we guard our hearts? Difficult times can bring out the worst in us if we don’t take some simple steps to safeguard our minds.
The Apostle Peter, too, lost his self-governance and panicked when faced with exposure as Jesus’ follower (Matthew 26:74). Peter recollected that Jesus prophesied these three denials by him. Before we criticize Peter for his laps in good judgement let us look at criticism and its effect on our minds.
I recently came across excerpts from the work of Dr. David H. Fink, a neuropsychiatrist and author of the book “Release from Nervous Tension” published by Simon & Shuster June 17, 1943. In his work with the Veterans Administration, he found thousands of people who were mentally and emotionally “tied up.” During his research for a cure for their nervousness, he studied two groups: the first group was made up of thousands of people who were suffering from mental and emotional disturbances: the second group contained only those who were free from such tension, thousands of them.
In this study, Dr. Fink found that among those in his research group who suffered from extreme tension had one trait in common--they were habitual faultfinders, constant critics of people and things around them. Those who were the least faultfinders were free of such tensions. In this case, faultfinding became a prelude or mark of their nervousness and detriment to their mental health.
Not many of us take kindly to criticism. Yet almost daily, peers, supervisors, spouses, friends, and self evaluate us.
Practice Kindness to Self
“…be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” is the entreaty from Paul to the early Christians (Ephesians 4:32). Practicing gentleness to self is a simple yet profound concept of the Christian fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). After all, how will it be possible to be gentle with others when we are not gentle with ourselves?
Compassion has been a buzz word of this last decade sparking movements and marches to demonstrate solidarity in this belief, but do you practice Compassion to self? So, consider this: tenderheartedness means having a “pitiful,” tender regard for your weaknesses. Then try extending that “tenderheartedness” to others. Less criticism of self and/or others will fashion a world where we are living the fullness of our being. Get out the inner trumpets and proclaim, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14).
But how do we achieve this? Not without the help of the Holy Spirit. The molding and making of the most tender parts of the our hearts are works only the Holy Spirit can do. To have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to create this new reality and tender care, we need to have Jesus. Without Jesus, we can do nothing (Philippians 4:13).
Here is how it works. Once you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, He sends the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help you to be like Christ. With that work, Jesus then leads you to the Father.
Jesus warned us through His Word, to prepare for a time just before His Second coming that will be difficult on body and mind (2 Timothy 3:1). We are living in that time right now!
Getting ready for Christ’s Coming requires mental preparation as well. Let us leave all criticism of self and others in this preparation period. “When one is being criticized in the presence of other people a big part of the distress is associated with the sense of being shamed in the presence of other people. The criticism then takes on a collective quality where the judgment causes one to feel isolated into a shamed corner.”1 Peter witnessed the difficulty Christ was enduring and perceived difficulty for himself, and a sense of doom. Peter later testified that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:3). Yes He sends help our way, lifting us out of our corner of shame to stand gloriously for Him.
Yes, difficult times are here and ahead of us. The remedy for such anxiety comes directly from our Savior Himself, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1). Believe that Jesus is completing in you His work of preparation to go home and be with Him!
All scripture taken from the King James Version.