Acceptance and Commitment Strategy for Christians: Addressing Life's Ups and Downs with Evidence Based Strategies and Biblical Examples

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In the previous blogcast episode, I talked about the simple strategy that Paul demonstrated in Phillipians .  Do go back and review that when you are able if you didn’t read or listen to that one yet.  

Then today – I will share the second strategy, and then I will wrap up with a biblical example.  This second strategy is called Acceptance and Commitment, and it can be applied to any negative emotion, but especially depression, anxiety, fear, and issues of doubt.  It’s different from cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy is good, but it’s actually hard, and it can be hard to implement on your own. It's hard because you have to be aware of your thoughts, and you often need someone trained to help you pull up the thoughts that you are having. You also have to identify the not-always conscious scripts that are running in the background of your mind. Then you have to learn how to reframe those thoughts more positively, and then you have to practice thinking those new thoughts. It’s very effective and there is more research on cognitive behavior therapy than any other therapy strategy; but it is hard. What I mean is - that it is definitely not always intuitive. So, I love this Acceptance and Commitment strategy, and even though it was developed by secular psychology, it is clearly demonstrated by what several biblical characters modeled for us.


The first thing has to do with Acceptance. This means taking a step back from your day and all its activity,  and just being aware of what you are feeling. For example,  “I’m starting to feel really down. I’m starting to feel tired,  starting to feel unmotivated.” Then you take time to accept those feelings. You don’t have to talk back to the thoughts. You don’t have to say to yourself, “Oh,  I shouldn’t be feeling tired and sad or unmotivated or scared.” You just accept it. You think about it. You validate it. These feelings are real for me at this time. I am feeling down.” You allow yourself to sit with the negative emotion as long as you need to.  You tune into the indicators that God has given you through your emotions.


Here is the next step, the important, transformative step. After you give yourself time to feel all of those feelings - and actually think about the negative thoughts you are already having - then you move to the next step – a very powerful step. You tell yourself, “Yes, I feel this way, and I accept that I feel this way; and I am still going to choose to act within my value system anyway.”


That is it. Well there is actually more to it than that. There is a whole acceptance and commitment therapy training that’s been developed around this strategy.  I’m just explaining the very surface of it. If  this hits home with you and you want to learn more you can read up on it or find a Christian counselor or therapist who practices Acceptance and Commitment therapy.  Again, you take the time needed to accept that negative thing that you’re feeling. You let yourself feel it.  You allow yourself to experience it.  We are not trying to squash the feeling. We are accepting it, acknowledging that it exists. Then after we have accepted it and acknowledged it; it breaks the power over our behavior. That is when we consciously decide,  “I’m going to choose to act or respond in a way that is congruent with my values.” 


One of the best examples of this in the Bible is the Psalms of David.  When you look at his psalms, David writes and sits with his emotions and his feelings first. When he writes,  “I am downcast in my soul!,”  he is acknowledging his emotion first. Then after he has taken the time to explore the emotion and the thoughts around the emotion; he then flips from acceptance to a commitment. He moves on to “And I still choose to believe in God and to trust God. I still know that there is nothing better than having God with me.”


There are more biblical examples: Elijah, Solomon, Hannah, Mary, Paul, and even Jesus - all give us examples of acceptance and commitment. I will have to save those examples for another time or for the book and journal I am currently working on.  I find it fascinating that the Bible models this for us beginning 4000 years before psychology began developing its theories. It's even more interesting to me that the process of exploring and developing those theories led right back to methods exemplified in the Bible by David and Solomon and Elijah.


When applying these strategies I’ve shared through this Emotions Series, you will maintain better mental health, and you will also strengthen your identity and values. So yes, this is something to use and to teach your children and teens. When you choose to act within your values, you actually reduce what psychologists and counselors call “cognitive dissonance.” Do you know what cognitive dissonance is? It is when a person becomes aware that the way they are behaving or the direction they are heading, or the life they are living or the thoughts that they are thinking are not in line with their true values.  Cognitive dissonance is not always at the forefront of our awareness, but from a spiritual perspective it is a disconnect between our physical selves and our spiritual selves. I believe you might even say it’s a disconnect between our physical selves and our souls.


So review this and use these strategies, and teach them to your pre-teens and teens. They will enjoy the process too, and they will learn that it feels good to make a decision in line with their values. They will also learn, “When I make a decision that is not within my values, it doesn’t feel good; but when I decide within my values – it feels good!” As I talked about in the blogcast episode just before this one -  Do we want natural dopamine or do we want “blah” and sadness and spiraling emotions?


Before I close, I again want to remind you where you will find a link to my books. One book which I want to highlight is titled Closer to God: Simple Methods, Starting Today.  If you enjoyed these teachings on very simple strategies that can help you take charge of your emotions and your mental health; then you will also like the book title Closer to God: SimpleMethods, Starting Today.  A link to the book may be found at the website, The paperback and kindle versions of the book may be found on Amazon, and the Kindle version may be accessed for free if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited.

Finally, if you have missed any of the writings or episodes in the "Emotion Series," you may find a list of all the episodes, in the order they were released here:

The Emotions Series on Gospel Life Learning


Sherry Elaine