* Please note this is part of our Unglued Book Study. If you aren’t officially part of the study, we would still welcome your comments! Also, if you would like to join us in the reading of this great book, details can be found here. You can request to join the Facebook group here.

The Prisoners

Writing, reading, and history. Those were my strengths. I’m a humanities girl.

But math? Blech.

Since the first grade, when I struggled with counting sticks and learning to subtract in Mrs. Grizzle’s class, I told myself I was just plain bad at math.

From that point on, I accepted the fact that I just didn’t have a “math mind.” I took it as truth that I wouldn’t ever do well in a math class and I joked about my lack of understanding when it comes to all things numbers.

When I got to college, I was required to take a math class with a tough reputation. It was the one class dreaded by all who were required to take it.

And to my surprise? I loved it. And I got an A. My first-ever A in a math class.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m still a humanities girl. Math still isn’t my strongest subject but you know what?

It doesn’t scare me anymore and I don’t tell myself I can’t do it anymore.

I broke free from the prison of the “I can’t do math” label.

In Chapter Three of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions author Lysa TerKeurst talks about her friend, Christina, who was about to go to prison for a real estate crime. Her friend had a repentant and humble heart but Lysa was still worried she would be considered a “prisoner” for the rest of her life.

“Labels are awful,” she writes. “They imprison us in categories that are hard to escape. I should know. While I’ve never been a numbered inmate in a federal prison, I’ve put labels on myself that have certainly locked me into hard places. Maybe you are familiar with labels too . . .

I am angry.

I am frustrated.

I am a screamer.

I am a stuffer.

I am just like my mother.

I am a wreck.

I am a people pleaser.

I am a jerk.

I am insecure.

I am unglued” (p.32-33)

And I could add “I am bad at math.” What labels imprison you?

Later in the chapter, Lysa talks about her trip to Florence, Italy to see the famous sculpture “David” by Michelangelo. As she was waiting, she saw several unfinished sculptures on display – sculptures that were perhaps carved on the top but the unfinished bottom was still a block of stone.

They were sculptures that had not been set free.

When she reached the sculpture of David, she saw a fully-chiseled sculpture by a master artist.

“O God, chisel me. I don’t want to be locked in my hard places forever. I want to be all that You have in mind for me to be” (p.36).

When we refuse to accept our labels from the past, we open our hearts to be chiseled by the greatest artist of all.

But it’s easier said than done, right?

Luckily, Lysa offers a process to help us dump those stifling labels:

1. Identify the label meant to tear you down. In my case, “I’m bad at math.”

2. Choose to view the circumstance as a call to action, not a call to beat myself up mentally. I will just need to study and try harder than I would in an English or History class.

3. Use the momentum of tackling one label to help me tackle more. I see that I can overcome my “bad at math” label so I have more confidence that other imprisoning labels can be eliminated, too.

What Kind of Unglued Am I?

People typically come unglued and react in two ways – exploding and stuffing.

Exploding is when we push emotions outward while stuffing means we push them in.

There are four categories of unglued reactions:

1. The Exploder Who Shames Herself

2. The Exploder Who Blames Others

3. The Stuffer Who Builds Barriers

4. The Stuffer Who Collects Retaliation Rocks

As I was reading these, with a sinking feeling, I realized a hard truth: I’m all four of these depending on the who I’m with when I come unglued.

And then Lysa said the same thing. Whew. It’s so good to know when you’re not alone.

I can come explode someone who is being unkind or rude then later shame myself for not just turning the other cheek. If I explode on my kids, it’s their fault for why I am coming unglued. If a friend has hurt me, maybe I’ll just keep it in but create some distance and in my marriage . . . oh yes, I’ve gathered some retaliation rocks.

Our goal is to express our emotions and keep our “soul integrity.” On page 52, Lysa describes soul integrity as ” . . . the heart of what we’re after. Soul integrity is honesty that’s godly. It brings the passion of the exploder and the peacemaking of the stuffer under the authority of Jesus where honesty and godliness embrace and balance each other” (p. 52).

It’s possible, friends. We can retrain our brains and build new neural pathways to react with soul integrity when we feel ourselves coming unglued.

We’ll talk more in our chat on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST on the Facebook page but in the meantime, pick any or all of the following questions to answer in the comments:

1. What labels have imprisoned you in the past or currently imprison you?

2. How did you or how can you break free from those labels?

3. What kind of unglued to you most recognize as yourself?

4. Anything else stand out for you in Chapters Three and Four?