Recognizing What Holds You Captive

Earlier this week, my husband and I watched the first installment of a PBS drama that focused on the final years of slavery in early nineteenth century colonial Jamaica. As always, the portrayal of the brutality and injustice of slavery was jarring and unsettling.

While we do not experience the type of slavery present centuries ago, slavery still exists. Many are enslaved in ways other than the traditional definition of slavery. Addictions, destructive actions, and voices from the past take control of lives and hold many in a detrimental vise grip.

Is something holding you captive? Following are a few sources of personal captivity:


Most of the time, goals are good, spurring forward motion and challenging us to move beyond what is easy. But when aspirations become the sole focus, they skew perception. Relationships suffer as do other important aspects of your life, such as proper nutrition, exercise, and emotional and spiritual health.

Sometimes, those who are slaves to ambition don’t even realize how much their drive to achieve damages their lives until it is too late. Assess your aspirations in relation to all areas of life. Take time to determine the underlying causes of your push to accomplish goals and if that determination is healthy.


Envy is a captor that negates contentment. Jealousy spawns comparisons and comparisons breed discontentedness. Gratitude for what you have and where you are in life is the antidote for envy. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, realize and appreciate all the ways you are blessed.


Anger is like a time-bomb internally ticking away, waiting to explode and shatter lives. Those who are angry, or living with someone who is, are always on the edge, never experiencing peace.

Proverbs 14:29 (AMP) clearly puts anger in perspective: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding [and profits from his self-control], But he who is quick-tempered exposes and exalts his foolishness [for all to see].

Anger is a peace-robber, relationship-damager, and life-destroyer. The wise take the necessary steps to break the shackles of anger.


When we think of addiction, alcohol and drugs immediately come to mind. But addiction is so much more—pornography, food, spending, gaming, praise, a desire for approval, and other things enter the picture. Like anger, addictions can be conquered and controlled, but not without admission of the problem, determination, and the ability to look ahead to the benefits. Breaking free from addiction is a monumental task, but one that nets enormous rewards.


When I was a teen, I cross-stitched an adage that I have often returned to as an adult: “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday and all is well.”

Worry is a pointless endeavor that doesn’t change anything. Worry creates tension and robs you of valuable time. Many learn worry from a parent or grandparent and never escape the bondage it creates. Replace worry with trust, recognizing you can’t control the future by trying to predict outcomes that may never happen.


Like worry, fear deprives us of living life to the fullest. Those who are fearful expect the worst and consign themselves to a negative outlook on life. Often, fear prevents grasping opportunities and moving forward with God’s plan for our lives. Fear asks, “What if?” Faith says, with confidence, “What’s next?”

The Past

For many, the past is a heavy ball and chain. Regret and guilt for words said, or unsaid, and deeds done, combine to paralyze forward motion. Voices from the past fuel low self-esteem, while negative self-talk compounds the weight. Silencing negative external and internal voices helps you acknowledge strengths and utilize them to break chains of the past and leave them behind.


So many are bound by unforgiveness. They wrongly think they are punishing their offender by refusing to forgive. Instead, they are chaining themselves to the past and halting forward motion.

Forgiveness is the central tenet of the life of faith. Forgiving acknowledges we are all sinners in need of saving grace. Forgiving others, and yourself, frees you from a quagmire and sets your feet on solid ground.

“For freedom, Messiah set us free—so stand firm, and do not be burdened by a yoke of slavery again.” Galatians 5:1 TLV


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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