Fr. Mina Shaheid

Orthodox Christian Counseling

Setting Goals for Success Celebrating the Coptic New Year

Goals, goal setting, goal striving and goal attainment are quintessential components for success and personal growth.  Since change is often an extremely difficult process it is imperative that the proper goal setting strategies and methodologies be utilized prudently and effectively.  Setting a goal produces an impression of urgency that results in the motivation of individuals to exert energy and make an effort to reduce unwanted behaviors and replace them with desired goals.  Although individuals may yearn to attain a specific outcome yet unless they are committed wholeheartedly to their goals and devote affect, cognition and behavior they will not be able to attain it.  The goals that individuals choose to attain convey their cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, emotional and social pursuits.

A comprehensive and methodical integration of goal setting strategy possesses a plethora of beneficial impacts on performance and functionality.  Research postulates that 90% of the studies with goal setting had a powerful and continuous effect on behavior (Larsen and Engel, 2013).  Goal setting is a cardinal advancer of behavior and encompasses essential components, such as intentions, tasks, expectations, deadlines, purposes, results, aims and objectives.  Goals impact choices and decisions and direct attention to actions that are goal-oriented and goal-relevant while disregarding other actions or activities that are not goal-oriented or goal-relevant.  Goal setting is effective because it directs attention, organizes efforts and improves diligence.  Proper goal setting leads to new methodologies and multitudinous possibilities.  Additionally, goal setting is perceived as a multifaceted and knowledge dependent tool that provides resolutions on a complex level that is appropriate for the diversity and the complexity of each individual’s need (Larsen and Engel, 2013).

Goals can be defined as mental depictions or illustrations of favorably desired results to which individuals are devoted or committed.  Mann, Ridder and Fujita (2013) purport, “A goal relates to a discrepancy between a current state and a desired state, which is thought to motivate efforts to decrease the discrepancy” (p. 490).  Goals direct the individuals’ focus and attention to the essential components of skills that are not typically attended to.  Self-regulation is delineated as the different methodologies by which individuals pursue and achieve their desired goals. Goal setting is a quintessential tool for the improvement and the correction of any part of life.  Goal setting is comprised of the determination to the desired goal and a criteria that governs its progress and success.  Oftentimes goal setting is effortless, and does not require much time or resources to create.  However, goal setting requires goal striving, which involves the execution of the actions necessary for goal attainment.  Goal striving requires a plan to deter impediments and eliminate distractions or disruptions that prevent goal attainment.

Proper goal formulation is an extremely important requirement for goal attainment and successful execution of desired goals.  Mann, Ridder and Fujita (2013) postulate, “Without the proper goal formulation many good intentions are doomed to fail” (p. 489).  The formulation of goals without the cognizance of their processes and strategies results in diverse challenges and difficulties when presented by unforeseen impediments and hurdles throughout the road to goal attainment.  Goal abandonment can be the result of faulty goal setting and the lack of adequate goal striving skills.  Mann, Ridder and Fujita (2013) purport, “When difficulties in a goal pursuit are experienced, individuals are faced with the dilemma of either increasing their effort and staying committed to the goal or disengaging from the goal” (p. 490).  Researchers endeavor to establish strategies and methodologies that strengthen goal commitment and serve as deterrents as roadblocks appear.

Collins (2009) provides a seven step goal setting process to help individuals attain their desired goals.  The first step is to define and select an end result and a desired outcome.  This step requires clarity and specificity.  The second step is to write down the specific goals on paper.  At this point these goals are provisional and can be altered later in the process.  Larsen and Engell (2013) postulates, “Goal setting is a dynamic, ever changing, complex process, and the method itself has to be flexible” (p. 69).   In the third step individuals can partner with pastors, coaches or mentors in order to brainstorm about additional potential goals.  Step four requires individuals to decide which goals they choose to pursue and recast them as SMART goals.  In the fifth step individuals order their goals based on priority.  Individuals prioritize their goals from the most realistic goals to the end result.  Step six requires goal setters to note their progress and write down indicators that will distinctly convey when the desired goal has been attained.  Finally, the seventh step is to write the goal list on paper.


Retrieved from Liberty University by Fr. Mina Shaheid (2017)

Larsen, C. and Engell, C. (2013). The art of goal setting. Sports Science Review, 23(1-2):49-76.

Mann, T., Ridder, D. and Fujita, K. (2013). Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology Journal, 32(5):487-498



True Love

Jesus Christ spoke a parable about a wise man who built his house upon the rock (Matthew 7).  Since the rock is the foundation of the house, the house stood firm and was not destroyed by the tumultuous and vigorous storms.  It is evident that this is the same rock that Christ purports He will use to build His Church (Matthew 16).  For this reason the Church of Christ stands perpetually victorious as the gates of hades are unable to vanquish it.  In brevity, Jesus Christ Himself is the rock and the foundation.  He is the despised stone that has become the primary cornerstone (Matthew 21).  Similarly, when a man and a woman are united in matrimony together they begin the construction of their new spousal home.  Their house is constructed upon a foundation and is also comprised of a rooftop that lays upon four foundational walls.  In this figurative example the foundation is Jesus Christ, who is our rock, the ceiling is the virtue of love and the four walls are sacrifice, time, commitment and discipline (Nasr, 2010).

We direct our focus mainly on the ceiling of the new home.  Consequently, there is no successful marriage without love.  Although people marry for a plethora of reasons yet without love marriage will always possess the potential for collapse.  Nasr (2010) postulates that unconditional love between a husband and a wife is the adhesive that keeps the marriage together.  Similarly, Thomas (2016) postulates that love is the cornerstone of the Christian marriage.  Undoubtedly, there exists several depictions and interpretations of love.  Golemi (2016) purports that media influences render a false representation of love, which encapsulates the element of love with unrealistic standards and expectations.  Furthermore, romantic love has become the primary illustration of love for many of today’s couples.  Romantic love can generate many powerful feelings and emotions, however, once these feelings and emotions subside and digress many relationships come to an end.  Maxie (2016) posits that romantic love is too fragile and irrational, and fails to serve as a foundation for a lasting marriage.

True love, that is sacrificial love, is the primary element of a successful marriage.  Paul the apostle instructs husbands to love their wives in the same manner in which Christ loves His Church (Ephesian 5:25).  The true marriage is the highest expression of human love between the perpetual bridegroom and his perpetual bride.  Unfortunately, many couples and newly-weds fail to recognize and comprehend the true meaning of love.  Christ’s love for His Church led Him to the Cross.  Sacrifice is the foundation stone on which true love is built upon.  Paul the apostle teaches that love is not self-seeking and is not self-focused (1 Corinthians 13).  This concept of love encourages each spouse to focus on the well-being and interests of the other.


Golemi, N. (2016, July 24). Re: DB2a [Online forum post]. Retrieved from

Maxie, A. (2016, July 23). Re: DB 2a- Marrying for Love [Online discussion forum post]. Retrieved from

Nasr, C. (2010). Mastering the art of marriage: Staying together when the world pulls you apart. Chesterton, IN: Conciliar Press.

Thomas, M. (2016, July 24). Re: DB2a [Online forum post]. Retrieved from







Forgiveness Therapy: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Recent research on forgiveness therapy (FT) establishes a correlation between forgiving an injustice and the improvement of anxiety and depression.  Studies have exhibited that the concept of forgiveness is an essential element for psychological, physical and relational health.  Reed and Enright (2006) purport that participants in an FT study experienced significantly great improvement in depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress symptoms, self-esteem, forgiveness, environmental mastery and finding meaning in suffering.  Magnuson and Enright (2008) purport that forgiveness has been associated with lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, less tonic eye muscle tension and lower skin conductance-level scores.  To forgive is not to reconcile or condone but it is to offer mercy to someone who had committed an act of injustice.  Ultimately, forgiveness is a choice to let go of resentment and to react with goodwill and compassion toward the offender.  FT postulates that anger is justifiable as an initial problem-solving response to a serious offence, however, persistent resentment can debilitate a person’s emotional health and decision making processes.

Forgiveness is an integral tenet of Christianity.  In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the forgiveness of sins.  However, forgiveness of sins is contingent on the forgiveness of one another.  Jesus says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, New King James Version).  Paul the apostle writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  Paul also notes, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Jesus was not merely a preacher of words but He was a doer of works.  Jesus showed us the greatest act of mercy when He offered Himself as sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  During His crucifixion Jesus prayed to the father requesting forgiveness for His oppressors.  Luke the apostle writes, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’” (Luke 23:34).  The Lord’s incarnation focuses on the forgiveness of sins and redemption from eternal damnation.  Jesus was born to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).  Not only did He teach the multitudes regarding forgiveness but he accepted the wretched and granted forgiveness to the sinners.

Physical and mental health are also contingent on the forgiveness of sins.  Prior to healing the paralytic man Jesus declared that his sins were forgiven.  Matthew the apostle writes, “But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, then Jesus said to the paralyzed man ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house’” (9:6).  In the book of Chronicles God speaks regarding the forgiveness of sins and healing.  It is written, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Although forgiveness is a core tenet of Christianity yet it is an extremely difficult task to master.  In certain instances forgiveness is a very difficult concept to fathom.  Certain treacherous actions and betrayals result in deleterious effects that possess monumental negative responses.  It is not easy for individuals who were physically or psychologically abused to forgive.    Resentment, anger and revenge are among the normal feelings that resonate from the painful betrayal of trust.  The serious negative psychological and emotional outcomes of abuse are detrimental.  However, through a relationship with God all things are possible.  God grants healing and through Him we can do all things.  The first step for abused individuals to forgive their oppressors is to pray for them.  Jesus says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Significant studies purport that forgiveness therapy fosters improvements in psychological health to a significantly greater extent than alternate therapy (AT), which is a focus on anger validation, assertive limit setting and interpersonal skills.  Reed and Enright (2006) posit that spousal psychological abuse is portrayed as a hurtful betrayal of trust.  This grave disloyalty results in severe negative psychological outcomes for the abused partner.  The negative psychological consequences of spousal psychological abuse include depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, learned helplessness, and a continual unbearable resentment of the offender.

The main purpose of spousal psychological abuse is to cause emotional pain to the spouse and create an uneven distribution of power in the relationship.  Reed and Enright (2006) identify seven categories of spousal psychological abuse, which are criticizing, ridiculing, jealous control, purposeful ignoring, threats of abandonment, damage to personal property and threats of harm.  Reed and Enright (2006) propose the Enright forgiveness process, which consists of four phases.  The four phases of the Enright forgiveness process are uncovering, decision, work and discovery.  In the case of abused women, FT fosters the recovery of valued personal characteristics, such as benevolence and empathy.  FT helps emotionally abused women to assess the injustice of the abuse, consider forgiveness as an option, choose to forgive, perform the difficult task of forgiving, find meaning in the offence and discover psychological release (Reed and Enright, 2006).

Additional research confirms that religion and spirituality have powerful impacts in life.  Individuals with a religious or spiritual framework for life are empowered by a sense of persistence against hardships and trials (Crawford, Wright and Masten, 2006).   This framework lays the foundation for resilience and the ability to meet transcendent goals.  Spiritual and religious individuals are more apt to cope with life stresses by practicing certain virtues that are associated with a better physical and mental health.  From a Christian worldview Jesus is hope and through him coping is made possible.  In many cases the integration of therapy and Christian doctrine would be the most effective.


Retrieved from Liberty Univeristy by Fr. Mina Shaheid

Crawford, E., Wright, M. O., & Masten, A. (2006). Resilience and spirituality in youth.  In E.C.     Roehlkepartain, P., King, P. E., Wagener, L. & Benson, P. L. The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 355-367). Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Magnuson, C. M. & Enright, R. D. (2008). The church as forgiving community: An initial model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 36, No. 2, 114-123

Reed, G. L & Enright, R. D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress of women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 74, No. 5, 920-929






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