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February 21, 2012

Getting the “More” We Really Want

Four steps to overcoming that feeling of being held back

No one wants to be held back in life. Yet the reality is, some statistics suggest that more than 70 million people say they are.

Even as I think about the words held back, they take me back to third grade. Every day during my second grade year, a cute boy would chase me around the playground. But by the third grade he’d disappeared from our class.

“Why isn’t he in our class anymore?” I wondered out loud to my friend.

“Held back,” my friend whispered, telling me of his failing grades. The shame of the definition was so great, her usually loud voice had been quieted.

My young heart sank, and not just because I enjoyed the chasing boy’s attention at recess. The stigma those two words carried felt heavy.

As an adult woman, I’ve felt that same feeling as I’ve thought about different aspects of my life. Many of us carry with us that stigma of being held back, limited, stifled.

It happens in our jobs. We want positions we never get, and we feel limited, overlooked, ignored. It makes its way into our ministries: we desire growth we don’t see or things we plan don’t yield the fruit we have labored for.

In our personal lives, our hearts desire to do more for God, to feel more necessary to his kingdom work. Yet the moments when we do bravely take a few steps forward, our fears may rise up to pull us back down again.

We feel held back in our marriages and with our kids, in our art and with our worship. We have holes inside us, and their void holds our attention.

And yet God didn’t create us to be held back. He created us to love fully, live radically, and thrive limitlessly. He designed our hearts to desire more out of life than just doing what we’ve always done and resting in our strivings.

In the times I’ve felt held back, I’ve discovered that—while there’s no magic formula for walking out our faith in the midst of limiting circumstances—there are ways that help us push through to get the “more” we really want.

1. Be open. Often we’re held back because our own pride and closed ears and minds keep us from moving into the freedom of being everything God designed us to be. As difficult as it may feel, we can have that freedom when we keep ourselves open to hearing truth, facing truth, and daily walking in the truth of the God’s Word. When we cradle our truth, protecting it from being out in the open, we set our lives up to be limited by the things we hold secret, but that ultimately hold us captive.

2. Own your stuff. Hearing the truth is one thing, but just hearing isn’t enough. What we do with that truth is what really matters. After we’re open to facing our truth, we have to be willing to own our stuff, which includes committing to have a strong dedication to honesty about the things that have hindered us and held us back in life. No excuses, ugliness and all (remembering that we all have our “stuff”).

3. Seek wholeness. Fortunately, we don’t have to be stuck at owning it. Openness and ownership of our truth will create an environment in our hearts to move forward. It isn’t enough just to know and acknowledge our limitations or struggle. We have to take a step in the direction of soul wellness through concentrated prayer, diving into the Word, even seeking wise counsel from an outside source who can help put things in perspective.

4. Repeat the process. In most of life, we don’t handle something only once and never have to deal with it again! We continue to move forward in our lives when we replace our negative habits with positive ones. And that, of course, takes time, patience, and a whole dose of forgiving ourselves when we don’t quite get it right. By repeating the process of openness, ownership, and movement toward wholeness, we form habits that make limitations much harder to stick.

By the power of God who can be trusted to make all things in our lives well, I am learning to dedicate my life to pursuing things that only make me better. In this way I pray to defy the limits that have long held power over me, choosing instead to have the abundant life Jesus offers.

What about you?

Lisa Whittle is an author and speaker. Her most recent book is {w}hole. For more on this project, check out www.wholethebook.org.

Related Tags: courage, Fear, freedom, Goals


Thank you for this article. It (surprisingly) brought memories to the surface, I hadn't thought about for years. My Dad, who was an alcoholic, placed unbearable limitations and boundaries on me that to this day create a fear of the unknown for me. The other is that I failed grade 5 and when school started in Sept. we were to get into our old ranks and each was called out to different class rooms. I was left at the end, and grade four students were called out to enter my ranks. I was so ashamed before the whole school. Fear of failure, then, has become major in my life. I have written these things down so that I can journal them, forgive those who have hurt me, and allow God to set me free from my limitations, failures and shame. Thank you so much, Dianed

Wow Dianne....those are my exact issues I'm "dealing"with both stemming from childhood. And me being an entrepreneur where failure, unknown, and rejection is unavoidable to some degree...God is really taking me to a deeper level in trusting Him & knowing Him and believing Him; so again He's taking all the burden off of ME and saying you don't have to trust your ability or knowledge...your relying on my strength that can be seen when you are weak. So I'm replacing my fears & inadequacy with Him. Stay strong sis!

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