Following the Signs
In Alcoholics Anonymous, they teach that you’re most likely to fall off the wagon when something is amiss. “Remember HALT,” they say, “and never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When you’re in one of those states, recognize it and take steps to do something about it before you slip up.
I don’t think it’s just alcoholics that need this kind of warning. I think we all need to remember similar kinds of things. I’ve heard leadership speakers and behavioural economists lately talking about our limited supply of willpower, and when it’s run low, we just automatically default to easy choices, perhaps out of sheer exhaustion.
We all have certain things that signal that we’re in a rough place. For some, it’s as simple as boredom (that may actually hold true for everyone) where for others it may be as extreme as suicidal thoughts or a bulemic purge. Those can act like warning lights for our hearts.
I remember once hearing about a decision that some folks had made that was not simply poor but damaging and affected my and my colleagues’ workload. I suddenly had an urge to turn and bang my head against the cabinet in frustration. I mentally paused in that moment and thought, “This doesn’t seem like a fitting response to someone else’s blunder. Why am I suddenly urged to hurt *myself*?”
It was a warning light to me. My mental dashboard was flashing something at me, and I needed to pay attention to it. As I prayed over it, I began realizing that when I was frustrated with others, it had become habit for me to turn that frustration back on myself. I was too scared of what the other person might do if I were angry with them directly, so I expressed my anger against my own person. This, of course, neither solved the problem, nor did me any favors. I needed to find an alternative as well as some way of dealing with the internal conflict and tension.
God built consequences and sort of warning systems into life and our souls. Boredom, frustration, depressive thoughts, overeating, compulsive shopping, lashing out at people or withdrawing, sexual temptation, obsessive behaviors, etc. They’re all signs that something is amiss in us. They’re signals that it might be a good time to stop and take stock of what’s going on in our hearts.
Once we’ve stopped, we can connect with God and talk with Him about what’s led us to that place – to feel or act that way. Sometimes it’s easy (say, I’m hungry). Sometimes, it’s more complicated. But here’s a place where the Holy Spirit likely wants to untangle some things in our hearts.
With some idea of how we got there and what’s going on underneath, we can begin building with God some means of remedying the real problem below. We may need to express pent up feelings, find trusted friends or counselors to connect with, confront someone (perhaps with the support of trusted friends) or talk about something in your relationship with him/her.
What might be some of the signs that your heart uses to signal that something is wrong? Are you open to God showing you what others might be? Are you open to Him showing you what’s happening in your soul, and are you willing to work with Him to do what is needed to be made whole?