When Stress Squeezes In ... Character Oozes Out

I was standing frozen outside of my mother’s hospital room and it felt as if time stood still. All I could hear was a loud roar in my ears, end it felt like someone had turned all the lights off. I was struck with dizziness and nausea. I had just heard the words, “I think your mother is stable enough for you to take her home, and she has about a week to live.“

How could that be? She had conquered cancer once, we had stood in faith, and now we were counting the days? Without even a groan or a sound, giant tears were puddling on the floor by my feet. I’m not sure what else the doctor said, but I knew I had to walk back into that room with hope, a smile, and faith. I knew that would require a miracle.

Several years earlier, when my husband had chosen another relationship over our marriage, I had felt something similar. At that time, I wanted to be angry with God. I wanted to call the other gal and yell at her for destroying my life and my marriage. I wanted to make him hurt the way he had devastated me, so I had vowed to myself that I would ruin him financially in a divorce. (Yes, I’m ashamed of all of that … just being real)!

I was pouring all of that poison out to my mentor, who validated my deep grief, and after offering some comfort and hope, she spoke some words that dramatically affected my life. She said, “When difficult times, hard times, unfair times, devastating times, or crises press in or squeeze in, our true character oozes out.”

I was totally silent, because I had no idea what to say… what to think… or how to feel.

With great compassion, she said, “You see, Neecie, all of those things that you just shared make total sense. And you probably have a right to do every single one of them. But I don’t believe that is truly who you are, or the heart of your character.” Somehow, and thankfully, my arrogant anger was deflated.

She asked me to consider what she had said carefully and prayerfully before taking any action. I agreed to do so, despite the fact that had I desperately wanted to lash out at the beginning of our conversation. Sad to say, after careful consideration and being completely transparent with myself, what was oozing out was actually a reflection of too much of my character at that time. I was both desperately ashamed and totally determined to do whatever it took to become and do things differently.

I immediately began looking at my character. I will share that journey with you. But before I do that, I would like to invite you to look at what is oozing out on a daily basis as we all navigate a difficult time. I am certain there are some very honorable and beautiful things oozing out. But it might be a good time to inventory things that you might wish weren’t oozing out that are indicators of your character.

I’m writing this at the time when we’ve all been self quarantining as a result of COVID–19. People aren’t accustomed to spending large amounts of time together (outside of joyful vacations) are finding themselves struggling. Many are struggling financially. Many relationships are severely strained. It is a difficult time, and stresses are pressing in.

If you read this at another time, there are plenty of people under pressure at this time, and experiencing difficult times, totally unrelated to COVID-19. This is something that will apply to any season that you are being pressed in on or stressed over difficult hard, hard times, challenging times.

Perhaps you are struggling more than ever with addictions. Perhaps your business is experiencing huge difficulties. Perhaps something you had hoped for and planned on fell through. Perhaps the love of your life that God gave you has turned away or walked away. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one. Perhaps you’ve received a bad medical report. Whatever difficulty or stress you may be experiencing, I invite you to look at this: As these things press in on you, what is oozing out?

Don’t forget to notice positive things oozing out. After the devastating end to my marriage, when my mentor had challenged me to look at the toxins oozing out, she instructed me to first make note, and be grateful for, the positive things oozing out. At first, I found it difficult to find anything positive oozing out. But after reflection, I found a few positive things. Things like this:

  • Although what he had done was wrong, I did not want to have any impact on his reputation or to expose him in a horrible  or destructive light.
  • I did reach out for help from my trusted friend and mentor before acting foolishly.
  • Although I spent plenty of time yelling at God (how could you let this happen?), accusing God (you didn’t have my back!), and blaming God (you could have stopped this, but you didn’t!). But between those episodes, I did cry out to him for help.

Next, I needed to tackle the toxins oozing out.

In order to begin to address the toxins oozing out of my true character, I remembered what I had taught for many years about character. I taught the “Be Mindful” piece that said this:

         Be mindful of your Thoughts, because they become your emotions.

         Be mindful of your emotions before they become your actions.

         Be mindful of your actions, for they become your habits.

         Be mindful of your habits, or they become your character.

         Be mindful of your character, because it determines your destiny, and whether or not you live a purposeful, fulfilling life.

This set the foundation for how I began to address these things and make much-needed changes. I will walk you through step-by-step, in case you have noted some things oozing out of your character that are less than admirable.

  1. I began by examining my habits. I started the process backwards. I already knew I didn’t like much of my character. So I started with habits. How did I accomplish that? I considered my daily rituals by asking myself a series of questions.
    1. What did I do when I got up first thing in the morning?
    2. What was I doing to care for my health?
    3. What was I doing to nurture my relationships?
    4. What was I doing to grow personally?
    5. How was I using my time?
    6. What was I feeding my heart and mind? (TV, Facebook, etc)
    7. Who was I spending time with?
    8. How was I managing my finances?
    9. What was I doing to grow spiritually?
    10. What was I doing reach out and live purposefully?

I would recommend that you do what I did, and journal extensively on each of these questions. 

Thankfully, I had a mentor/coach to review these with me. I would recommend that you find someone to look them over with you as well. Normally, you can find a theme. However it’s not unusual to find it difficult to identify the theme ourselves, because it’s like we cannot see the forest for the trees.

I realize that the common theme for me in my habits was that I had lost my consistency. Consistency is one of the hallmarks of every person who lives a rich, fulfilled life. I had become inconsistent with working out, inconsistent with my spiritual growth, inconsistent in many areas.

I love Trent Shelton, a former NFL player. I had the opportunity to hear him speak this week in an online training. One of the things he said rang so true. He said, “Every champion is consistent.” He further explained that when people say they are struggling with consistency, that’s not quite true. Many of us are consistent with things we hate. We hate our jobs, but we get up and go every day. Why? Because we will not get paid if we don’t show up. And too much inconsistency will likely cost us our job. Athletes may not enjoy pushing their bodies to the limit. But they do it consistently to excel at their sport. The truth is, if we have enough “fire in our belly” (the benefits of doing something consistently) and “fire on our backside” (what we will miss out on or lose if we aren’t consistent) … we will be consistent!

I began to write the habits that I needed to improve or develop in order to upgrade my character. Then I identified the “fire in my belly” and the “fire on my backside” for each one of those habits. Make note: I didn’t start “tomorrow,” or “next week,” or “after the next holiday.” I took massive immediate action and did one thing to address every single one of the new or renewed habits I had identified.

2. I began examining my actions. I asked myself questions such as these:

  • What actions do I need to add that will support the habits I just committed to?
  • What actions do I need to stop or delete from my repertoire, that do not support the habits I just identified as crucial for building my character?

To accomplish this I reviewed my new or renewed habits. Then I wrote three things that I needed to say NO to and three things I needed to say YES to daily in order to facilitate building those new habits with better actions.

 3. I noted what emotions I was choosing and living from. (Another step back in the “Be Mindful” piece above).

For me it was helpful to go back and read through my journal to identify some of those emotions. Through my journal and self-reflection, I found myself dwelling on and living from states such as: frustration, devastation, fear, faith, hope, and dismay. Yes, my emotions had been all over the place. Of course I wanted to keep the faith and hope alive, but I began to examine how I might rein in the others.

I accomplished this by writing letters to fear, devastation, frustration, and dismay. I told them:

  1. What had happened that allowed me to invite them in
  2. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual impact each of them had had on me
  3. That I was willing to experience them for a maximum of 90 seconds
  4. Then after 90 seconds, I would practice gratitude
  5. I would address the situation that instigated their arrival from a place of resourcefulness and strength
  6. That I no longer needed nor welcomed them to take residence in me\

4. I began to examine my thoughts, along with the meanings that I had assigned to things that occurred in my life. Because those were the factors that led me to inviting these debilitating feelings in.

I chose the top 10 situations/experiences that I believed I had allowed my thoughts (and subsequent perceptions and interpretations) to allow or invite debilitating feelings and emotions to take up residence.

After writing out the 10 situations, identifying the disempowering thoughts and beliefs, I went back and went through each situation and assigned an empowering meaning. In turn, the empowering thoughts and meanings invited a very different set of emotions to emerge.

I have to say that this fourth step was one of the most liberating and freeing moments of my life. The darkness lifted. The fog in my mind lifted. The weight on my shoulders lifted. The helplessness disappeared. Hope and faith arose within me, and were joined with new powerful emotions and feelings, like: determination, courage, peace and many others.

5. I made a commitment to myself for a weekly review. I set a time (which for me is every Sunday evening) to review my week. During that time, I do these things:

  • Review my thoughts, feelings, actions and habits
  • If I’ve experienced stress or difficulties, I evaluate what oozed out
  • Note any thoughts, feelings, or actions, that do not support advancement and growth in my character

You may say, but that’s a lot of work! yes, it was.

The result?

Standing in the hall at the hospital, in a moment of deep grief (which was totally understandable) I felt something very different ooze out. Yes, my heart sunk that my mother would not be with us much longer. But I took a deep breath of courage and determination, and decided that every day she had left here on this earth would be another beautiful day that she, my sister and I shared. I decided I would walk into that room, and tell her the great news that she was going home. She smiled and gave me a great big hug.

Was I sad? Of course! But what oozed out was determination. To plant flowers in her garden’s for her to enjoy. To spend every day loving on her and enjoying her. To have the courage and faith to believe we had longer than a week. And indeed we did. We had almost a month.

Gratitude oozed out. I was thankful that we were able to take her home to our “pink house“ which she had designed for us several years previously. We had pink furniture, pink walls, pink carpet, and it had “Sissie Moore’s” signature on every square inch of it. Throughout each day I would just be grateful that for the first time in her life, she had had the opportunity to create the home that she had always wanted. 

What a difference between that and what had oozed out years earlier when faced with divorce. The difference? I had addressed on my character in the way I described. If you are reading this in a time of challenge, I would like to invite you to do the same.

At this current time of COVID-19 and sheltering in place, I’m sure that things you are not proud of have oozed out. But you can change them. You have the time now!

You will have more challenges and hard times in the future. Stress will squeeze in on you. Those are things that we cannot control. But we can begin today to take charge of what will ooze out of us. 

I am very sad about this virus that has effected each of us. I heard it said that 100% of people will be effected by the corona virus. Not 100% will contract the virus, but 100% of mindsets will be affected.

I hope you will choose a mindset that will serve you well, be a good model to your children, your family, and people who you care about. One that will cause you to emerge with gratitude, and more prepared than ever to do what you were created to be and do here on this earth.

As for me, I’m loving life! I’m helping as many people as I can, mostly on zoom conferences. I’ve planted my flower gardens, and I have done a lot of work to move my business forward. I am joyful and at peace, even in this difficult time. I hope you will join me in that place.

Sending you lots of love, many hugs, and big prayers to take this time to set a beautiful character in place.