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“If” Versus “Because”

People often seek therapy to find relief from anxiety and depression brought on from stress. The field of psychology offers many great treatments for these issues. People feel stress because they may fail at their job or feel depressed that someone has rejected them. Failures and rejections are painful and can cause anxiety or depression.

Sometimes the stress that comes from failure and rejection is not the real problem. The real problem is the meaning failure and/or rejection places on one’s worth or value. If I believe I am valuable only when I perform well or if certain people accept me, then I am worthless if I fail or am rejected.

Why is this? One way to look at it is to ask how you finish this statement. A person is valuable if______________. For example, “If they are productive in life or if they are loved and accepted by family or a spouse.” People start defining the “ifs” early in life. The definitions are made by parents, caregivers, peers and even the church. The “ifs” set our standards (shoulds) and our standards tell us what we have to do to be valuable.

How would God finish the statement? He would erase the “if” and put in a “because” in its place. He says, “A person is valuable because I made them—period!” No “ifs” “ands” or “buts” about it. Imagine your life if you knew that to be true. What if you did not have to live up to the standards to believe you have worth only IF you perform a certain way, or IF you get approved by certain others? What would failure or rejection look like if they did NOT have any reflection on your value as a person? Failure then turns from “I’m a failure” to “I failed to do this specific job as well as I would have liked.” A rejection by someone would no longer mean “I’m rejected because I’m worthless.” Now it means “It hurts knowing the person I care about is choosing not to accept me, but I am still valuable.”

Ridding ourselves of the “ifs” and embracing the “because” is a process that can happen. It is a process that a therapist can help a person learn to go through. A good place to start is by challenging the “should” in your life.  Maybe ask yourself, “Why am I trying to meet this standard?” “Who put it there?” Maybe it is one of a long list of “ifs” that have been put in your life that you think make you valuable. But if you are already valuable “because”, then that if “should” not be there.

– Dave Chatel, MA, LLP

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Crossroads Counseling PLLC   2018