How Controlling People Use Guilt and How to Set a Boundary Against it

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How Controlling People Use Guilt and How to Set a Boundary Against it

By Dr. Henry Cloud

No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message. It’s likely you even heard one or two before in your life.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?”

“It seems like you would care enough about the family to do this one thing for us…”

“You know that if I had it, I would give it to you.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. People who say these things are trying to make you feel guilty about your choices. They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time and/or resources and about having a life separate from theirs.

Probably everyone is able to some degree to recognize guilt messages when they hear them, but not everyone is strong enough to not succumb to them. Here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket for when these situations arise.

1. Recognize they are guilt messages and are given in an attempt to manipulate and control.

2. Know that guilt messages are really just anger in disguise. The guilt sender is failing to openly admit their anger at you for what you are doing.

3. Guilt messages hide sadness and hurt instead of expressing and owning their true feelings.

4. If guilt works on you, recognize that this is your problem and not theirs. If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you.

5. Do not explain or justify. Only guilty children do that. We do not owe guilt senders an explanation for our actions.

6. Be assertive and interpret their message as being about their feelings. For example, “It sounds like you are angry that I chose to …”

The main principle is this: Empathize with what distressed people are feeling, but make it clear that it is their distress. Remember, love and limits are the only clear boundaries. If you react, you have lost ownership of your boundaries.

If you would like help with setting up a healthy boundary, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?

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What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Types of Boundaries

There are several areas where boundaries apply:

  • Material boundaries determine whether you give or lend things, such as your money, car, clothes, books, food, or toothbrush.
  • Physical boundaries pertain to your personal space, privacy, and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when? How do you feel about loud music, nudity, and locked doors?
  • Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions? Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming rigid? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.
  • Emotional boundaries distinguish separating your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s. It’s like an imaginary line or force field that separates you and others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming or accepting blame. They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally. High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries require clear internal boundaries – knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others.
  • Sexual boundaries protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.
  • Spiritual boundaries relate to your beliefs and experiences in connection with God or a higher power.

Why It’s Hard

It’s hard for codependents to set boundaries because:

  1. They put others’ needs and feelings first;
  2. They don’t know themselves;
  3. They don’t feel they have rights;
  4. They believe setting boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; and
  5. They never learned to have healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are learned. If yours weren’t valued as a child, you didn’t learn you had them. Any kind of abuse violates personal boundaries, including teasing. For example, my brother ignored my pleas for him to stop tickling me until I could barely breathe. This made me feel powerless and that I didn’t have a right to say “stop” when I was uncomfortable. In recovery, I gained the capacity to tell a masseuse to stop and use less pressure. In some cases, boundary violations affect a child’s ability to mature into an independent, responsible adult.

For the full article, go to the original source.

For help with establishing healthy boundaries, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Toxic People

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If you would like help with handling yourself around the toxic people in your life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or life coach.

My Response is My Responsibility

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My Response is My Responsibility

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

There is a story that has been told of a Christian Frenchman during World War II who had been harboring Jews before the Nazis eventually captured him. German soldiers brought him before an S.S. officer known as “The Torturer.”

At that moment, the peace of Christ came upon this Frenchman who manifested on his face the serenity of the Lord. However, the S.S. officer interpreted that tranquility as a snide look and screamed, “Get that smirk off your face. Don’t you know who I am?” The Frenchman said, “Yes sir, I know who you are. You are known as ‘The Torturer.’ I know you have the power to torture me. You have the power to kill me. But sir, you do not have the power to get me to hate you.”

Inner Freedom

This Frenchman reveals a weighty truth: other people cannot control my inner world.

Yes, they can physically torture me and kill me, so in that sense they can control me physically; however, they cannot dictate what I think, believe, and feel. I am free within. They cannot control my spirit. They cannot control me spiritually.

I possess a God-given right to rule my own inner responses. No one can make me hate them. No one can force me to have contempt for them. That’s my choice for myself. They cannot make that decision for me.

The Nazi did not have the right to rule over the Frenchman’s inner world. In the spiritual realm, the area of the human spirit, even the Gestapo had limitations.

But what brings a person to this place of freedom? How does a person discover their right to rule their inner response?

It begins with subscribing to this axiom: my response is my responsibility.

I am certain that years earlier the Frenchman had accepted the axiom that his response was his responsibility. He did not mope and pout, “My response is your responsibility.” He did not hold others responsible for his reactions. Instead, he discovered how to become free in his spirit even though others failed him and mistreated him.

But Isn’t My Response Other People’s Responsibility?

The Frenchman knew if he believed that others were responsible for his responses, then all of his emotions would be controlled by those around him. In effect, they’d be the master of his emotions. If they were mean and unjust, he’d be unhappy. If they were anything less than good toward him, he’d be unhappy. To give all power to other people to be responsible for his responses meant he was a hopeless and helpless emotional victim around those who were uncaring and mean-spirited. If others failed to love and respect him then he was destined to be miserable.

A woman wrote, “I have been incredibly frustrated in my relationship with my husband and truth be known I blamed most of it on him. Not because I think I am a saint but because I did believe that if he loved me properly then everything would be ‘as it should.’” She made her husband lord of her emotions and happiness.

Of course, when we assign that kind of power to others, we make them our gods. Thus, when we are unhappy we have only one recourse: blame and blaspheme this person who has become our god. Eventually, we are unhappy over how unhappy they have made us! We doubly resent them.

When our response is others’ responsibility, we have no choice but to be depressed since our god did not come through for us.

But Are We Robots Without Feeling?

A doctor can strike a certain place on our knee cap and our leg jerks up involuntarily in what we refer to as a knee-jerk-reaction.

That raises the question on an emotional front: When a man is cut off on the road, is his road rage a knee-jerk-reaction that he cannot control? Should he blame his raging reaction on an involuntary emotional explosion? Can he claim that he can only stand by as a helpless witness to his own madness?

Though there are amoral and involuntary emotions like sadness, grief, confusion, wonderment, amazement, and even anger, we are referring to those emotions that step over the line. For example, our anger is not righteous indignation (a proper form of anger) but unrighteous anger that surges from within us because of a lifetime of choosing to get angry when things don’t go our way.

As an employee, my bitterness permeates the e-mail reply to a demotion from the boss.

As an employer, my harshness pervades the luncheon meeting with a worker who continues to neglect their duties yet draws a paycheck.

As an adult son, my contempt peppers the conversation with my father who refuses to pay for the college tuition.

Each blames the bitterness, harshness, and contempt on the other person. Each believes their reaction is mostly involuntary. The other person caused the anger.

A Profound Truth

Please hear a simple yet profound truth: People do not cause us to be the way we are; they reveal the way we are.

They are not responsible for our responses but reveal our responses.

The Nazi officer did not cause the Frenchman to refrain from hate but revealed the Frenchman’s decision to refrain from hate.

As for the fellow with road rage, the other driver who cut him off did not cause his rage but revealed his rage.

Had it not been the bad driver, it would have been the fast-food server who got his order wrong and overcharged him. Slamming the steering wheel, he would have floored it as he did a screeching U-turn back to the restaurant. And, if it had not been the fast-food place that got his order wrong, it would have been his dog at home who knocked down the gate between the kitchen and living room and who proceeded to chew the wooden leg on the couch. He kicked the dog into the other room.

This man is an accident waiting to happen.

Sadly, in each instance, as an enraged person, he blames the driver, server, and dog. Red in the face, he screams, “I would never blow my stack if drivers drove well, servers served well, and dogs behaved. Life sucks.”

Why this belief? He has chosen to live his life spiritually under the belief system that bad circumstances cause him to be bad. Though he’d never agree that he is a poor little victim, this is exactly what he believes.

He would change the famous nursery rhyme. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Humpty Dumpty was pushed.

As for the road rage, the truth is the situation simply revealed his character flaw. He possesses a self-righteous mindset and out-of-control anger. This is not righteous indignation but an unrealistic expectation that everyone around him needs to be perfect (like he is) when it comes to doing what is important to him at that moment in time. If they are not perfect in this situation, he goes ballistic in a conniption.


If you would like help with your responsibility for your responses, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

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Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

By Nichole Schwarz

There is nothing better than hearing the sound of children laughing. Seeing your son confidently climb the ladder to the tallest slide. Getting a giant bear hug from your daughter.

Ahh…the joys of parenting.

Unfortunately, with the joy, there are also the hard times. Arguments, yelling, conflict and competition. Failure, disappointment and challenges.

Many parents feel very uncomfortable when their kids experience “negative” emotions – sadness, frustration, anger. We feel a strong desire to save them from these feelings and bring them back to happiness again.

Instead of rescuing our kids, we need to empower them! We need to let our children feel their feelings!

This is not easy.  It often takes time to see that you can still be loving and supportive without giving in or rescuing a child from a difficult emotion.


  • Identify the feeling: Imagine your daughter is lying on the floor of her room sobbing.  She says that she can’t move because she is so tired. She is demanding that you pick out her clothes for the day. Take this opportunity to explain the feeling she is experiencing is called, “exhausted.”
  • Empathize with their struggle:   Feeling big feelings can be overwhelming.   Both you and your child may feel the urge to just “make it go away!” Children can learn that even strong feelings will pass.   Show your support for their struggle by saying, “Trying a new skill can be frustrating!” or “Sometimes it takes a while to feel calm again.”
  •  Brainstorm alternative solutions:  Managing big feelings can be hard work! Prepare ahead of time by making  a list of ways to manage big feelings. Create a cool-down spot, practice calming skills, or make a plan.   Talk with your child about their ideas for managing big feelings, ask for input and put it into practice.
  • Look Beyond the Behavior:  Your kids aren’t going to like feeling their big feelings. They liked being rescued! You may notice an increase in behaviors at first. You may be tempted to give in or try to get the big feelings to stop. Instead, provide comfort, encouragement, and empathy as they feel the feeling.
  • Find a new way to communicate: Whining or demanding  may have  allowed your child to avoid uncomfortable feelings in the past.  Teach your child a different way to get their needs met.  You may need to feed them  the lines at first, but eventually, you can ask your child: “Can you think of a different way to ask me for help?

Remember, if your child is experiencing frustration, disappointment or anger, it does not mean you are a horrible parent.   In fact, sometimes it means that you have set an appropriate boundary for your child.

It may take time and practice to become comfortable seeing your child experience these big feelings. If this continues to be a struggle for you, please seek help from a mental health professional. Sometimes, things in our history make it very difficult to feel comfortable with big emotions – our own, and the emotions of others.

Labels and Respectfully Confronting Friends

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Labels and Respectfully Confronting Friends: Ask Joy

By Joy Eggerichs Reed

Hi Joy,

I have a dude friend who I really respect and appreciate, but who often complains about how lonely he is and how “all women suck.” It’s really frustrating to hear over and over again, but I’m not sure how to approach him. If I confront him at all he gets defensive.

On one hand, I can understand that he’s coming from a place of hurt and pain. On the other hand, I hate to hear him putting females down and not taking responsibility for his own actions. I really want to be respectful towards him, but every attempt seems to fail! Helpppp!


My Response:

You are a great friend, Brittany!

You’re seeking to understand how to graciously confront this guy, even when he probably doesn’t deserve your empathy after all his put downs towards females. (That’s the unnerving part of grace— giving someone a gift that they don’t deserve, but that gift can also be the thing that transforms a person.)

Communicating happens most effectively when we can get to the root of why someone is behaving a certain way.

When we find that pesky little talon buried in the ground, it can often lead to empathy on our end.

The root for this dude? His pain. I’m guessing he’s been burned by some ladies…

Sometimes when we’ve been wounded by people, it’s easier to put a label on them because it helps us make sense for why we feel so hurt.

When we give a label, we feel less confused… 

She may say, “Oh, of course he never called me back. That’s because he’s a lying lunatic.”

Or he might say… “Yeah, she couldn’t be trusted. Crazy is written all over that face.”

Sometimes we even take the more concerned approach to labeling…

Where she’ll say,“I mean, it makes sense— look at the family he comes from.”

Or he’ll ask… “You know what happened to her when she was younger, right?” 

I would even argue that labels like this can be beneficial for someone’s healing.

They can be the catalyst for someone getting help, and a starting point if they hear someone lovingly say, “You were abused.” “You were manipulated.” “You were betrayed.”

I think the gauge for figuring out if the label is right or wrong is to figure out who the label is for.

If the label is motivated out of a hope for genuine healing—for ourselves and for others—then the label is good.

If we label in order to make sense of our own pain, or to make us feel less crazy, less confused and more in control, then our motivation is wrong. That type of labeling can permeate our spirit if it goes unrecognized.

Recently my father said, “Bitterness is like taking a poisonous pill and hoping the other person will die.” He wasn’t the original person to say that, so when I googled it, I found similar quotes from Nelson Mandela and actress Carrie Fischer.

(I’m gonna go ahead and let Princess Leia get the credit.)

If labels don’t lead us to deeper grace and understanding, then they probably just do what you sense your friend is doing— putting the blame on others instead of taking responsibility for his own part to play.

He will get defensive if you challenge him because he probably feels safer staying upset. His generalizations of women help him feel justified in his hurt. If he let down his defensiveness for a moment, he might have to face his hurt and that scares him.

Now, do I suggest you read him the above paragraph and tell him he is scared of pain and on the verge of a break down? No.

You hold great power and effectiveness in how you challenge him.

So here is what I suggest:

1. Go to worst-case scenario—he may not listen to you. You may need to consider dropping it because he might not be at a place of receiving feedback. (Remember, he’s a free agent.)

2. 2 Timothy 1:7 is truth I cling to as a believer when I need to confront people on tough topics.

3. A pseudo scenario to play out in your head:

 “________, Can I talk to you about something I’ve been thinking about?”

(Give him a chance to say “yes” or “no.” If he says “yes,” then he already has a posture that invites your words, as opposed to you just stating your thoughts from left field.)

“I’m obviously your friend because you know I think so highly of you.  I respect how you _______, _______ and ______.”

(Insert acts of service you see him doing, his work ethic or how he treats his family or guy friends. Because remember, “respect language” is not respecting someone’s behavior, like grace, it’s a gift. Recognizing that many men respond to language like this can lead them to them to trust that you are really for them.)

“Because of the type of man I know you to be, and the man I assume you desire to be, I feel like you can handle me challenging you a little. I’m not sure you realize it, but you have been super negative about women lately. It feels like you think all women suck and in case you missed it, I am a woman.”


“I know you’ve been burned by some of “my kind,” (smile, laugh or keep it light in a way that you guys are familiar with) but that attitude you hold towards women seeps through you. I appreciate you letting your guard down with me, but I think if others heard you they would see a misrepresentation of the man I know you to be.” 

(Pause… he might say something…)

“So my request and challenge is to maybe try and shift your perspective. Try looking at women through the lens of women like me, instead of the women who have hurt you. I think you will find that they might even become more attracted to you because they won’t get the impression that you think they suck as human beings. (haha.) I mean, who wants to date a guy who thinks all women are crazy?!?”

(And then just go crazy.)

End scene.

From my crazy-labeled heart,


Three Questions to Filter Your Words With

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Three Questions to Filter Your Words With

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

A filter is any device that removes unwanted material. For example, an oil filter for a car lets the good oil pass through while blocking the crud and removing impurities. The muck and guck are detrimental to the engine and undermine the effectiveness of the motor.

Some of us need a filter on our speech when we communicate. When we lack a filter we undermine our effectiveness in communicating with people, whether those are family and friends, coworkers and neighbors, or acquaintances and strangers.

What is this filter? It consists of asking three questions before communicating in person, over the phone, or in writing.

  – Is that which I’m about to say true?

  – Is it kind?

  – Is it necessary?

When we do not ask these three questions, we oftentimes end up saying something that is untrue, unkind, or unnecessary. This is comparable to letting the muck and guck pass with no filter.

In the Bible we learn that we are to speak the truth in love, and there is a time to speak and a time not to speak. Speaking necessary truth in a kind way is basic to all communication between people.

We also have an eternal motive to filter our words. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” Our useless and empty comments do not slip by the heart of our heavenly Father.

Communication consists of informing, affecting, or persuading. By that I mean, we inform the mind, which we might call the FYI. We affect the emotions, or affect the affections. This is the heart-to-heart sharing. And the final reason to communicate is to persuade the will, which we might refer to as the sale’s pitch or action item. In other words, we are trying to influence the other to do something.

Let me give some examples of people who did not filter their statements. I want you to see what they did right but also where they erred.

(For the rest of the helpful article, go ahead and click over to the original page.)

If you would like help with your filter or how to deal with other people and their lack of a filter, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How to Forgive When It’s Hard to Forget

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How to Forgive When It’s Hard to Forget

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Help Button“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me (Dr. Cloud) at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against her. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness. And just as God has offered forgiveness to everyone, we are expected to do the same (see Matthew 6:12 and 18:35).

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again (see Matthew 3:8; Proverbs 4:23).

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be. As the proverb says, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship” (see Proverbs 12:26). Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.


Tips for Parenting Teens

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Group Of Teenage Friends Standing Outside

Tips for Parenting Teens

By Franklin County Children’s Services

As teenages approach independence, they need their parents more than ever to offer guidance and help them make good choices. Help your teen become a caring, independent and responsible adult by following these tips from the Mayo Clinic:

Show Your Love: Spent time with your teen, listen to them, respect their feelings and give them justified praise.

Minimize Pressure: Don’t pressure your teen to be like you. Allow them some degree of self-expression.

Set Limits: Be specific and consistent, but also be reasonable and flexible. Grant your teen more freedom as they prove they can handle responsibility. Explain your decisions.

Enforce Consequences: Ask your teen to suggest a consequence for their actions. Impose additional responsibilities and restrictions if necessary.

Set a Positive Example: Your actions generally speak louder than words. If you set a positive example, your teen will likely follow your lead.


If you would like more help on parenting your teen or teens, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach.


Parenting Tips on Kids & Technology

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Girl social network profile

Kids & Technology: Staying Safe

By Franklin County Children Services

Technology is a wonderful thing – if used responsibly, that is. To keep your kids safe, here are some parenting tips on using computers and cell phones wisely. If you don’t currently have internet in your home, this is something you should definitely look into. Simply search for something like ‘internet in my area‘ and you should be able to find a cheap provider. Although the internet does have a dark side, as long as you and your children are careful, it can be a great tool.


Be involved. Spend time online with your kids and get to know what websites they’re visiting. This will keep an open line of communication – not to mention you’ll learn a lot from your tech-savvy children! Another idea: consider installing filters to block inappropriate websites, which can be done via your internet provider so that your child doesn’t know and feel that you are trying to be too controlling over their freedom.

Teach boundaries. Kids should never reveal personal information about themselves online without your permission.

Cell Phones…

Safety first. Make sure your kids don’t give our their phone numbers to strangers. Also, make sure they never drive while talking or texting.

Teach responsible use. For a lesson in money management, have your kids keep track of their minutes and pay their bills each month to learn budgeting. Responsible text messaging is another critical issue. Texting in class, at the dinner table or especially, while driving, is always a bad idea – as is sending obscene or inappropriate photos. This is an increasingly serious problem known as “sexting.”

When it Comes to Using Technology…

Establish rules for use and consequences for breaking them. Set time and place boundaries, for example: Absolutely no phone use during class or no Internet time until homework or chores are done.


If you would like more help in parenting, technology, &/or boundaries, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with one of our coaches or counselors.